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Sharon E. Wood

former slave, entrepreneur, steamboat worker, nurse, and church founder, was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1801 or 1804. Although her father was a white man and also her master, his name is unknown. Her mother, Lydia, was his slave. While she was still a child, Baltimore's father sold her to a trader who carried her to the St. Louis area. Over the next few years, she passed among several masters, including the New Orleans judge Joachim Bermudez, working as a house servant for French, Spanish, and Anglo-American households in Louisiana and eastern Missouri.

In New Orleans Baltimore joined the Methodist Church Her piety so impressed one preacher that he purchased her then allowed her to hire her own time and buy her freedom Baltimore worked as a chambermaid on steamboats and as a lying in nurse According to tradition it took her seven years to earn the ...

Article

Jonathan Morley and Cassandra Adjei

City with historic links to the slave trade. The first guns to be exported to Africa in 1698 were manufactured in Birmingham, renowned for its metalworking; this triggered a growth in the city's industries, and by 1766, 100,000 guns a year were shipped, as well as other tools of the slave trade: manacles, chains, branding irons, thumbscrews, pincers, muzzles, and instruments for prising open the mouths of recalcitrant slaves to make them eat. Cheaply made flintlock muskets, the guns were often dangerous to their users, and contributed to the militarization of the continent: it has been estimated that 20 million went to Africa by 1907.

The city's Lunar Society (a group of freethinkers and radicals) included members who were vehement abolitionists. Thomas Day, from Lichfield, was co‐author with Joseph Bicknell of the poem The Dying Negro (1773 a famous tract that spoke of a ...

Article

Boston  

Paul Finkelman

Boston, sometimes called the “Cradle of Liberty,” was the birthplace of the American Revolution. Before the Civil War the city was home to the most radical and vocal opponents of slavery, a (usually safe) haven for fugitive slaves, and the largest city in which blacks had full political and legal equality. For blacks nineteenthcentury Boston was a place of promise and hope, but it was not always a place where promises could be fulfilled or hopes realized. Even in Boston there was racism and segregation.

The first black known in Boston arrived in 1638. Most, but certainly not all, slaves in the Massachusetts colony were urban, living in Boston, Cambridge, and Newberryport. In 1750 slaves constituted 20 percent of the Cambridge population Slave owners tended to be merchants and artisans who used slaves as laborers and skilled workmen The maritime industry was also the destination of many Boston ...

Article

Susan B. Iwanisziw

commercial painter, artist, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only known child of Jeremiah Bowser from Maryland and Rachel Bustill, daughter of the prosperous black abolitionist and educator Cyrus Bustill. The intermarriage among the region's free black Quaker families headed by Cyrus Bustill, Robert Douglass Sr., Jeremiah Bowser, and David Mapps created a dynamic force that benefited all African Americans and particularly spurred David s personal growth and accomplishments Jeremiah a member of the Benezet Philosophical Society served as a steward on the Liverpool lines and later it seems he was the proprietor of an oyster house near the intersection of 4th and Cherry Streets where David Bowser first hung up his sign as a commercial painter Later the Bowser family moved to the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia into a house at 481 North 4th Street where Bowser remained for the ...

Article

Diane L. Barnes

James Needham Buffum was born in North Berwick, Maine, to Quaker parents. Buffum trained as a carpenter and established his own business as a house contractor in Lynn, Massachusetts. He grew wealthy through his business pursuits, which he expanded to include activities as a real estate speculator and financier. Dissatisfied with Quaker positions on reform, Buffum became an advocate of immediate abolition and a strong supporter of William Lloyd Garrison. Having independent means, Buffum traveled widely in the company of Garrison, Frederick Douglass and others on the antislavery lecture circuit He withdrew from the Society of Friends and adopted a radicalism that rejected established religion and politics as tools available to the abolitionist Garrison mentioned Buffum frequently in his correspondence often calling him my true hearted friend Buffum joined a variety of antislavery organizations serving as chair of the finance committee and as a vice president ...

Article

Barbara McCaskill

escaped slaves, abolitionists, teachers, entrepreneurs, and autobiographers, were born into slavery in antebellum central Georgia. William recalled little of his father and mother, who, along with a brother and a sister, were sold away “at separate times, to different persons” by his first master, a merchant named Craft (Craft, 8). Ellen was the daughter of Maria, a mixed-race slave, and James Smith, a white planter from Clinton, Georgia. Like her mother, Ellen was raised as a house servant until she was given, at age eleven, as a wedding present to her white half-sister Eliza, the wife of Robert Collins, a wealthy businessman and railroad builder in Macon, Georgia. While Ellen was serving as a lady's maid and seamstress in the Collins mansion, William was brought to Macon by a bank officer named Ira Taylor.

William was much in demand for his carpentry skills as his first master ...

Article

David F. Herr

abolitionist and businessman, was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of John DeBaptiste, a businessman, and Frances “Franky” (maiden name unknown). Although the details of DeBaptiste's early life are uncertain, he appears to have traveled to Richmond, Virginia, as a youth, where he learned to barber and where, perhaps in 1829, as a free black he first helped a slave escape. While still in Virginia, he married his first wife, Maria Lucinda Lee, a slave, and bought her freedom. DeBaptiste subsequently remarried and had two children; his second wife's name is unknown. As a young man he demonstrated strong loyalty to his family, who remained in Fredericksburg. On two separate occasions in the 1820s he financially secured the property of two sisters when they faced significant debt.

Between 1836 and 1838 DeBaptiste moved to Madison Indiana where he barbered engaged in a number of other ...

Article

David F. Herr

DeBaptiste, George (1814?–22 February 1875), abolitionist and businessman, was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of John DeBaptiste, a businessman, and Frances “Franky” (maiden name unknown). Although the details of DeBaptiste’s early life are uncertain, he appears to have traveled to Richmond, Virginia, as a youth, where he learned to barber and where, perhaps in 1829, as a free black, he first helped a slave escape. While still in Virginia, he married his first wife, Maria Lucinda Lee, a slave, and bought her freedom. DeBaptiste subsequently remarried and had two children; his second wife’s name is unknown. As a young man he demonstrated strong loyalty to his family, who remained in Fredericksburg. On two separate occasions in the 1820s he financially secured the property of two sisters when they faced significant debt (Fitzgerald, p. 53).

Between 1836 and 1838 DeBaptiste moved to Madison Indiana where he barbered ...

Article

Leslie H. Fishel

George Thomas Downing was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father's Oyster House was a gathering place for New York's aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith's school on Orange Street and, with future black abolitionists J. McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, and Charles Reason and Patrick Reason, the African School #2 on Mulberry Street. He completed his schooling privately and in his mid-teens was active in two literary societies.

Before he was twenty Downing participated in the Underground Railroad and worked with his father to lobby the New York legislature for equal suffrage. In 1841 both were delegates to the initial convention of the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners one of many organizations formed by African American males to fight for the elective franchise in New York ...

Article

Leslie H. Fishel

abolitionist, businessman, and civil rights advocate, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father's Oyster House was a gathering place for New York's aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith's school on Orange Street and, with the future black abolitionists J. McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, and Charles Reason and Patrick Reason, the African School on Mulberry Street. He completed his schooling privately and in his mid-teens was active in two literary societies.

Before he was twenty Downing participated in the Underground Railroad and worked with his father to lobby the New York legislature for equal suffrage. In 1841 both were delegates to the initial convention of the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners one of many organizations formed by African American men to fight for ...

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

James Forten was born into a free black family in Philadelphia. When he was eight he began working alongside his father at a sail loft owned by Robert Bridges. While working with his father, Forten attended the Quaker abolitionist Anthony Benezet's school for free blacks. With the death of his father, Forten, at age ten, ended his formal schooling and worked in a grocery store to support his mother.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Forten convinced his mother to let him fight. He joined the crew of the American privateer vessel Royal Louis as a powder boy Captured by the British he languished on a prison ship for several months before being released Following the war he spent a year in England and upon returning to Philadelphia worked as a sailmaker s apprentice for Bridges s firm There he invented and perfected gear that made ...

Article

Julie Winch

abolitionist, businessman, and Civil War soldier, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fifth of nine children of James Forten, a sailmaker and Revolutionary War veteran, and Charlotte Vandine. He was named for the white craftsman who befriended his father and gave him his start in business. Of his siblings, Margaretta Forten, Harriet Forten Purvis, Sarah Forten Purvis, James Forten Jr., and William Forten became active in the antislavery movement. Robert Forten received his early education at a school his parents and other affluent black Philadelphians established because of the failure of the city's board of education to provide adequate schooling for their children. Eventually Robert and his brothers transferred to the Pennsylvania Abolition Society's Clarkson School, although they may also have studied with the private tutors their parents hired to teach their sisters at home.

Growing up Forten developed a wide range ...

Article

Martha I. Pallante

Horace Greeley's formidable editorial, journalistic, and oratorical skills in espousing abolition, temperance, and other reform causes influenced audiences at the national level. According to his biographer Don C. Seitz, “No rival American journalist ever created an influence that penetrated so deeply.”

Greeley was born on 3 February 1811 and during his sixty-one years pursued a life that remains something of a study in contradictions. The son of the failed New England farmers Zaccheus and Mary Woodburn Greeley, he rose from his poverty-stricken roots to the top of the journalistic profession in a manner that marks him as an archetype for Horatio Alger's rags-to-riches characters. Like the title character of Alger's Paul Prescott's Charge, Greeley “battled bravely with the difficulties and the discouragements that beset him in early life” to attain the pinnacle of his profession.

In contrast to his professional success disappointment marked Greeley s personal life As ...

Article

Kate Clifford Larson

preacher, farmer, and Underground Railroad agent, was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Although details of his early life and parents are unknown, he probably spent his childhood and young adulthood laboring for white masters in Caroline and Dorchester counties, eventually settling near the town of East New Market with his owner, Henry Nichols. Of mixed race background, possibly American Indian and African descent, Green was eventually manumitted in 1832 by a provision in Nichols's will that required Green be sold for a term of five years and then set free. Green, however, purchased his own freedom within the year.

Green married an enslaved woman named Catherine, also known as Kitty and they had two children who survived to adulthood Though Kitty and their children were owned by a different man it appears that they were allowed to live with Green in ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

William T. Hamilton's parents are unknown, although his father was rumored to be Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. secretary of the treasury. In 1796 the teenaged William made his first mark in a letter to John Jay, the governor of New York. Skillfully blending his own thoughts with those expressed in the English poet and abolitionist William Cowper's “Negro's Complaint,” Hamilton informed Jay that he could not help but shed a tear for those fellow blacks remaining in slavery (a phrase indicating that Hamilton was free at the time). Hamilton asked how Jay could proclaim America the land of freedom and equality when “almost every part of it abounds with slavery and oppression.” Hamilton beseeched the governor to end slavery. Such conflation of poetry and antislavery arguments would appear frequently in Hamilton's writings.

As an adult Hamilton became a carpenter and part of the nascent free black community ...

Article

Roy E. Finkenbine

fugitive slave, abolitionist, and entrepreneur, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of slave parents whose names are not known. Separated from his family by the slave trade at age ten, he was eventually owned by five different masters. The first, a Presbyterian clergyman, traded him for a pair of horses. The second, a clock peddler, took Hayden along on his travels throughout the state, exposing him to the variety of forms that the “peculiar institution” could take. About 1830 he married Harriet Bell, also a slave. They had three children; one died in infancy, another was sold away, and a third remained with the couple. Hayden's third owner, in the early 1840s, whipped him often. These experiences stirred his passionate personal hatred for bondage. He secretly learned to read and write, using the Bible and old newspapers as study materials. By 1842 when he ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

minister and blacksmith, was born in Leonardtown, Maryland, the son of Jane and Thomas Henry, slaves of Richard Barnes, the largest slave owner in the district. It is thought that Henry's maternal grandmother, Catherine Hill, had been purchased by the Barnes family on a return trip from England and the Caribbean. Thomas's parents were domestic servants of the Barnes family, which owned tobacco plantations and other business interests. Before his death in 1804, Richard Barnes had stated in his will that his slaves were to be freed; one unusual stipulation he added that suggests a special closeness with these individuals was that the manumitted slaves take the name Barnes.

Thomas, however, did not gain his freedom until almost twenty years after his master's death, because John Thomson Mason a nephew of Richard Barnes and the executor of his estate exploited a growing number of ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born in rural Deptford Township, near Woodbury, New Jersey, Isaac Tatem Hopper was raised on a farm. His parents, Levi and Rachel Tatem Hopper, split between the Presbyterian and Quaker faiths, Levi practicing the former, Rachel the latter. Isaac joined the Society of Friends at the age of twenty-two. He became a staunch Whig after observing British looting of farms and resolved to fight servitude after hearing sad tales from black men of the slave trade and of flight from slavery.

Hopper married Sarah Tatum, a neighboring farm girl, in 1795. That same year he joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and taught black children and adults in a Quaker-sponsored school. In 1797 he began advising blacks about legal opportunities for emancipation in Pennsylvania as well as hiding runaways from southern states He combated slave kidnappers and struggled against the practice of buying them running by which agents ...

Article

Colleen Cyr

barber, orator, and activist, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Mary Ann (Campbell) and George W. Jeffrey. George's father was one of the first trustees of the Cross Street African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church of Middletown that was formed in 1828. Middletown's small black activist community shaped the life and work of George S. Jeffrey. There were several intermarriages between the Jeffrey family and the family of the Reverend Jehiel C. Beman, Cross Street AME Zion's first minister. Jeffrey's maternal aunt Clarissa Marie Campbell Beman founded the Middletown Colored Female Anti-Slavery Society. Citizens of color of Middletown, including his grandparents, uncles, and father, petitioned the Connecticut state legislature seven times between 1838 and 1843 over such issues as repealing the “Canterbury Law” (which effectively restricted young women of color from attending the boarding school founded for them by Prudence Crandall ...