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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

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Bertis English

political activist and journalist, was a slave who belonged to an influential antebellum lawyer from South Alabama. Little else is known about his life prior to the Civil War; however, it is known that during the early years of the Civil War, Berry was sent to toil in a hazardous saltworks that the Confederacy operated in Clarke County. Berry survived three years of intense labor there, and he emerged from the ordeal more experienced, as well as more militant, than many of the other African Americans he knew. After moving to the Gulf Coast city of Mobile, Berry became a member of the vanguard of black leaders who would help the state's black masses achieve legal and psychological freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War.

The Union victory and the federal effort to alter the legal status of black people deepened white Alabamians resistance to change State lawmakers were ...

Article

The son of a Kentucky plantation slave and a state senator, Henry Walton Bibb was born a slave in Kentucky. His repeated attempts to escape bondage were successful in 1842 when he fled to Detroit, Michigan. By then his first wife, whom he married in 1833 and with whom he had a daughter, had been sold again. Bibb turned his energies to abolitionism.

In 1850 Bibb published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of an American Slave. That same year Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Laws, which forced him and his second wife to flee to Canada. A leader of the African American community there, Bibb founded the first black newspaper in Canada, Voice of the Fugitive, in 1851.

See also Abolitionism in the United States; Slave Narratives.

Article

Joseph P. Reidy

Bradley, Aaron Alpeora (1815?– October 1882), Reconstruction politician, was born in Edgefield District, South Carolina, the son of unknown slaves on the plantation of Francis Pickens, a prominent politician. Little is known of Bradley’s youth and early manhood other than that he was a shoemaker for a time in Augusta, Georgia, and that he escaped slavery and made his way to the North, apparently during the 1830s. He lived for a time in New York and in Boston. In the latter city he not only met abolitionists but also studied the law and eventually became a practicing attorney.

The Civil War opened new horizons. Bradley returned south late in 1865 and settled in Savannah, Georgia, intending, it seems, to open a law practice and a school. Drawn inexorably to the public arena, he began to champion the cause of freedpeople who were resisting President Andrew Johnson ...

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Alice Knox Eaton

slave narrator, novelist, playwright, historian, and abolitionist leader, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of a slave mother, Elizabeth, and George Higgins, the white half-brother of Brown's first master, Dr. John Young. As a slave, William was spared the hard labor of his master's plantation, unlike his mother and half-siblings, because of his close blood relation to the slave-holding family, but as a house servant he was constantly abused by Mrs. Young. When the family removed to a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri, William was hired out in various capacities, including physician's assistant, servant in a public house, and waiter on a steamship. William's “best master” in slavery was Elijah P. Lovejoy, publisher of the St. Louis Times, where he was hired out in the printing office in 1830 Lovejoy was an antislavery editor who would be murdered seven years later for refusing ...

Article

Eric Gardner

politician and activist, was born into slavery in North Carolina. Both he and his mother, Susan, were owned by the wealthy Thomas Burke Burton, who moved to Fort Bend County, Texas, from Halifax County, North Carolina, in the 1850s. Most accounts claim that the slaveholder favored Burton, taught him to read and write, and, after the Civil War, sold land to him; some accounts claim that Burton supported his former owner's wife when she was widowed during Reconstruction.

On 28 September 1868 Burton married Abba Jones (sometimes listed as Abby and sometimes as Hattie). The couple had three children, Horace J., Hattie M., and an unnamed child who died in infancy. Susan Burton lived with the young family until her death c. 1890.

Propertied, literate, and articulate, Burton quickly became active in the local Republican Party, the local Union League, and larger Reconstruction efforts. In 1869 ...

Article

Kimberly Springer

educator, writer, and activist, was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley, a slave. There is no consensus regarding her father, although he was most likely her mother's owner, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, or his brother, George Washington Haywood. Anna exhibited a love of books and a gift for learning early in her childhood. Hannah was hired out as a nursemaid to a successful local lawyer, whose family most likely assisted her daughter in learning to read and write. Most important, however, was Anna's mother herself, who although illiterate, encouraged her daughter's education.

In 1867 Anna was one of the first students admitted to St Augustine s Normal School and Collegiate Institute a recently founded Episcopal school for newly freed slaves At age nine she found herself tutoring students older than herself and decided to earn her teaching credentials At St Augustine s ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Mixed‐race American sea captain who, as a champion of the abolition movement, journeyed to Britain in 1811 to meet sympathetic friends from the African Institution. Cuffee (also spelt Cuff, Cuffe, Cuffey) was born in Massachusetts to a manumitted slave, Cuffee Slocum, and a Native American, Ruth Moses. A committed Quaker, Cuffee was impassioned about the redemption of Africa: he aligned himself with the Colonization Society of America and the idea of a return to Africa of free African‐Americans. To this end, as a means of cutting off the slave trade at its source, Cuffee made two trips to Sierra Leone (see Sierra Leone settlers). To discuss his views on abolition and colonization with friends from the African Institution, Cuffee sailed to Britain, docking in Liverpool in 1811 Here and in London he met fellow abolitionists including the Duke of Gloucester who was president of the African ...

Article

Douglas Hales

politician, labor leader, and community leader, was born one of eight slave children in Austin County, Texas, to a prominent white planter and politician, Philip Minor Cuney, and Adeline Stuart, a slave of mixed race birth. In the decade prior to the Civil War Cuney's father began manumitting his slave children, sending Norris Wright and his two brothers to the black abolitionist George B. Vashon's Wylie Street School for Colored Youth in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During the Civil War Cuney left school to work on riverboats on the Mississippi River. Following the war he joined members of his extended family in Galveston, Texas, where he entered politics. One brother, Joseph, also earned an enviable reputation in Galveston. On 5 July 1871Cuney married Adeline Dowdy who was the progeny of a white planter and slave mother They had two children Maud who attended the New England Conservatory ...

Article

James Sellman

Frederick Douglass was more than a great African American leader. He was, in the words of his biographer William S. McFeely, “one of the giants of nineteenth-century America.” He was a man driven by his anger at injustice, McFeely observed, a man who “never ran away from anything”—except the bondage of slavery. Even in that, he took flight not simply to escape but to engage. After gaining his freedom, the former slave turned in his tracks and confronted the institution head-on.

Douglass played a prominent role in nineteenth-century reform movements, not only through his abolitionism but also in his support for women's rights and black suffrage. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he stayed true to his principles, remaining steadfast in his commitment to integration and civil rights. Douglass was militant but never a separatist. He rejected the nationalist rhetoric and latter-day conservatism of black abolitionist Martin Robison Delany ...

Article

Curtis Jacobs

was born in the French colony of St. Domingue, probably during the second half of the eighteenth century. The details of Flon’s genealogy are unknown due to the lack of personal information about people who experienced the transatlantic slave trade and slavery. She was the goddaughter and principal assistant to Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first ruler of the independent republic of Haiti, which suggests she was the daughter of enslaved Africans.

Flon was an enthusiastic supporter of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), during which time she served as a nurse, in a non-combatant but supportive capacity. Her unique place in the history of the revolution during the colonial war of independence (1802–1803), precipitated by the revocation of the decret du 16 pluviôse an II, an attempt to reestablish chattel slavery that resulted in the abduction of Toussaint Louverture.

The design of the Haitian national flag occurred ...

Article

Julie Winch

businessman and social reformer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Forten, a freeborn sailmaker, and Margaret (maiden name unknown). James's parents enrolled him in the African School of abolitionist Anthony Benezet. When James was seven, his father died. Margaret Forten struggled to keep her son in school, but he was eventually forced to leave at age nine and work full time to help support the family. His family remained in Philadelphia throughout the American Revolution, and Forten later recalled being in the crowd outside the Pennsylvania State House when the Declaration of Independence was read to the people for the first time.

In 1781, while serving on a privateer, Forten was captured by the British and spent seven months on the infamous prison ship Jersey in New York harbor.

After a voyage to England in 1784 as a merchant seaman Forten returned ...

Article

Scott A. Miltenberger

Little is definitively known of Amos Fortune, who lived in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Purportedly an African prince sold into slavery at a young age, Amos spent fifteen years as a slave of the Boston bookbinder Deacon Fortune. In the course of his servitude, Amos learned to read and write and converted to Christianity.

In 1738Ichabod Richardson, a tanner living in Woburn, Massachusetts, apparently purchased Amos and began to train him in his profession. In his will, Richardson granted Amos his freedom in 1768, but two years passed before Richardson's heirs lived up to the promise, in fact requiring Amos to purchase his freedom. In 1778 he purchased the freedom of another slave, Lydia Somerset, and married her; within a few months, however, she died. A year later Fortune purchased and married another woman, Violate Baldwin in ...

Article

Elizabeth Freeman was born either in New York or Massachusetts, the daughter of parents probably born in Africa. She apparently became the slave of Pieter Hogeboom of New York quite early. The only trace of her parents is Freeman's bequest to her daughter of two articles of clothing—a black silk gown given to Freeman by her father as a gift, and another gown that supposedly belonged to Freeman's mother. During her lifetime and even after her death, she was known as “Mum Bett” or “Mumbet,” a name derived from “Elizabeth.” Lacking a surname for most of her life, she sued for freedom under the name “Bett” and adopted the name “Elizabeth Freeman” after winning her lawsuit in 1781.

The proposed dates for her birth, which range from 1732 to 1744 are derived from an estimate carved on her tombstone suggesting that she was about eighty five ...

Article

Gabriel  

Douglas R. Egerton

slave and revolutionary, was born near Richmond, Virginia, at Brookfield, the Henrico County plantation of Thomas Prosser. The identity of Gabriel's parents is lost to history, but it is known that he had two older brothers, Martin and Solomon. Most likely, Gabriel's father was a blacksmith, the craft chosen for Gabriel and Solomon; in Virginia, the offspring of skilled bondpersons frequently inherited their parent's profession.

Status as an apprentice artisan provided the young craftsman with considerable standing in the slave community as did his ability to read and write a skill perhaps taught to him by the plantation mistress Ann Prosser As Gabriel developed into an unusually tall young man even older slaves looked to him for leadership By the mid 1790s as he approached the age of twenty Gabriel stood six feet two or three inches high and the muscles in his arms and chest betrayed nearly ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

fugitive slave, abolitionist, Union spy, and state senator, was born in Smithville (now Southport), Brunswick County, North Carolina, the son of Hester Hankins, a slave, and John Wesley Galloway, the son of a white planter who later became a ship's captain. In 1846 Hester Hankins married Amos Galloway, one of John Wesley Galloway's slaves. Abraham Galloway later recalled that his biological father “recognized me as his son and protected me as far as he was allowed so to do” (Still, 150), but John Wesley Galloway did not own Abraham. Abraham's owner was Marsden Milton Hankins a wealthy railroad mechanic from nearby Wilmington who may also have owned Hester Hankins Abraham considered Marsden Hankins a fair master but he was less forgiving of Hankins s wife who was overly fond of the whip Abraham apprenticed as a brick mason and as was common ...

Article

Carol Parker Terhune

abolitionist and social leader, was born in New York City to free parents, James and Dorothy Gardner. Her father was a shipping contractor who made sails for large vessels. About 1845, while Gardner was in her teens, her family took up residence in Boston, Massachusetts, and opened its own business. Gardner attended the Boston Public School for Colored Children (also known as the Smith School, after the white businessman Abiel Smith, who donated funds). She was educated by leaders in the antislavery movement and developed an appreciation for their cause. The school was also used as a meeting place for the “colored citizens” to discuss issues of concern in their communities. During Gardner's time in Boston's only “colored” grammar school, Boston's African American community was fighting tirelessly to abolish colored schools and end school segregation using the Roberts v. Boston case as the catalyst Gardner ...

Article

crystal am nelson

community leader and musician, was born Occramer Marycoo in West Africa. Although his country of origin is unknown, a 1757 ship manifest shows that he was brought to America at the age of fourteen. He was on one of that year's seven slaving voyages that brought a total of 831 African slaves to Rhode Island. Gardner was one of the 106,544 slaves brought to Newport, Rhode Island, between 1709 and 1807. Caleb Gardner, a white merchant and member of the principal slave-trading team Briggs & Gardner, bought the teenage Marycoo and baptized him into the Congregational faith as Newport Gardner.

The forced exposure to Christianity aided Gardner s rise to a leadership position in the New World He quickly learned English from daily Bible studies with his master who freed Gardner after overhearing him pray for emancipation Upon gaining his freedom Gardner combined his new religious fervor with ...

Article

Thaddeus Russell

Prince Hall was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, the son of a “white English leather worker” and a “free woman of African and French descent”; his birth date is sometimes given as September 12, 1748 (Horton). He was the slave of William Hall, a leather dresser. At age seventeen, Hall found passage to Boston, Massachusetts, by working on a ship and became employed there as a leather worker. In 1762 he joined the Congregational Church on School Street. He received his manumission in 1770. Official records indicate that Hall was married three times. In 1763 he married Sarah Ritchie, a slave. In 1770, after her death, he married Flora Gibbs of Gloucester, Massachusetts; they had one son, Prince Africanus. In 1798 Hall married Sylvia Ward. The reason for the dissolution of the second marriage is unclear.

In March 1775 Hall was one ...

Article

Debra Jackson

Little is known of his boyhood years. He was apparently born free, unfettered by slavery, and secured an apprenticeship to a carpenter. Some scholars have suggested a family connection between Alexander Hamilton and William Hamilton, apparently based on a passage from the obituary of William’s son Thomas in the newspaper the Anglo-African on 10 June 1865. In praising the leadership qualities of the deceased, the author notes his “grandfather lies in Trinity Churchyard, perforated by the bullet of Aaron Burr.” Signed “Types,” the obituary is unlikely to have been written by Thomas’s brother Robert. Additional scholarship is needed to determine a more conclusive statement on this question. Historian Donald Yacovone, an editor on the Black Abolitionist Papers, has stated that the Hamilton family had an “unwavering belief that they had descended from the Founding Father” and first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury (personal communication to the editors, 8 Mar ...