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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

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

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

Kevin Mulroy

Seminole Maroon leader and Mexican army officer, also known as Juan Caballo, John (or Juan) Cavallo, John Cowaya, John Coheia, Gopher John (beginning in 1826), and Juan de Dios Vidaurri (during and after 1856), was born in the Florida Alachua savanna west of Saint Augustine. His father is believed to have been of mixed American Indian and Spanish heritage and his mother of African and American Indian descent. Until his early thirties he was considered a Seminole slave. His surname is a translation of that of Charles Cavallo, his Indian owner. Cavallo might also have owned Horse's mother and been his father.

The Seminole Maroons were mostly runaways from South Carolina and Georgia plantations together with slaves captured by Seminoles from Florida plantations and some free blacks Some were considered Seminole slaves but servitude among the Seminoles was based upon tribute and ...

Article

Lynn Hudson

Mary Ellen Pleasant arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, probably sometime in 1852. For the next fifty years, she worked as cook, accountant, abolitionist, and entrepreneur in the bustling town on the bay. Histories of the West describe her as madam, voodoo queen, and prostitute. Pleasant herself requested that the words “she was a friend of John Brown’s” be printed on her gravestone, indicating her own desire to be remembered as an abolitionist. She was the target of what one historian has called an “avid conspiracy” that sought to silence her, and it was said that she harbored the skeletons of San Francisco’s elite in her closet.

The folklore about Pleasant reveals conflicting stories of her background (some say she was from Georgia, others Virginia), but Pleasant herself claimed she was born in Philadelphia She described her mother as a free colored woman and her ...

Article

Michael F. Hembree

abolitionist and activist, was born in New York City, the son of Edward Powell, a slave. His mother's name is unknown. A passport application later described Powell as “of mulatto colour but of Indian extraction.” He apparently received some education before becoming an apprentice sailor and spending several years at sea in the 1820s. By the early 1830s he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, an active whaling port, and established a boardinghouse for sailors. He married Mercy O. Haskins of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1832; they had seven children.

Powell readily embraced the immediate abolitionism of William Lloyd Garrison and participated in the immediatist movement from its beginnings in the early 1830s He signed the constitution of the American Anti Slavery Society and joined the New England Anti Slavery Society Powell s abolitionism emanated from a deeply held religious conviction that slavery was a sin and ...

Article

Barton A. Myers

abolitionist, activist, soldier, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennysylvania, to William and Mary Stephens, free African Americans who had fled Virginia's eastern shore in the wake of the Nat Turner rebellion. Little is known of Stephens's early education, but he likely attended a combination of segregated primary schools in Philadelphia and the Sunday school of the First African Baptist, a fervently abolitionist church that his parents attended. Prior to the war Stephens worked as a cabinetmaker, a skilled position that offered him elite status in the urban Philadelphia black community.

Stephens's antebellum exploits included a wide range of civic and political activities. In 1853 he helped found the Banneker Institute, an African American literary society and library, honoring Benjamin Banneker the African American scientist and inventor While working with the society he met influential white leaders including General Oliver Otis Howard later head ...

Article

Mamie E. Locke

abolitionist, businessman, and moral reformer, was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of a white merchant and his black domestic servant. Very little is known about Whipper's early life or education. In the 1820s he moved to Philadelphia, where he worked as a steam scourer. In March 1834 he opened a free labor and temperance grocery store next door to the Bethel Church in Philadelphia. Whipper supported the temperance movement. He condemned liquor for its destructive effect on Africa and believed that alcohol consumption induced Africans into selling their brothers and sisters to slave traders. As a supporter of the antislavery movement, he also kept a supply of abolitionist books and pamphlets on hand for customers.

In 1835 he moved to nearby Columbia, Pennsylvania, and formed a successful business partnership with the black entrepreneur Stephen Smith Their eventual holdings included a lumberyard a merchant ship on ...