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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 ...

Article

Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

farmer, patriarch, and founder of the Sully County Colored Colony, Dakota Territory (South Dakota became a state in 1889), was born in slavery, probably in Tennessee, and was freed at Emancipation. He married Mary Elizabeth Bagby Blair, reported to be half Cherokee. With their six adult children they founded South Dakota's only successful black agricultural colony. Five years out of slavery the family was farming near Morris, Illinois, about fifty miles southwest of Chicago. With substantial personal property, they held their land “free and clear.” An oral tradition among South Dakota African Americans suggests that Blair's successful bloodline of fast horses, his unseemly prosperity, and his interest in expanding his lands aroused jealousy among his white neighbors in Illinois, prompting him to consider relocating to Dakota Territory.

Sully County, just east of present‐day Pierre, South Dakota, opened for settlement in April 1883 The following year Norval Blair ...

Article

Jacob Andrew Freedman

farmer and entrepreneur, was born near Canton, Mississippi, the only child of Wesley Rutledge and Anne Maben. Rutledge was the nephew of William H. Goodlow, the owner of the estate where Anne Maben was a house slave. Wesley worked as the manager of the house for his aunt and uncle. At birth Bond was given the surname Winfield, and at the age of eighteen months he was sent with his mother to Collierville, Tennessee, where they lived until he was five years old. Subsequently, they were sent to work on the Bond farm in Cross County, Arkansas. In Arkansas Anne Maben met and married William Bond, who gave Scott Bond his surname.

The family remained on the Bond farm until the conclusion of the Civil War when only months after gaining her freedom Anne Maben died leaving Bond in the care of his stepfather Bond his stepfather ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was born in Charles City County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Brown, and his wife Sarah Brown. (The elder Abraham Brown called himself “Abraham Brown, Jr.” in a 1789 will, but Abraham Brown, Sr. was his uncle, not his father). The Browns were descended from William Brown, born around 1670, sometimes referenced in Virginia court records as “William Brown Negro.” Arthur Bunyan Caldwell, in History of the American Negro and his institutions, briefly refers to the family history being traceable back to England, but provides no details.

The Browns had been free for over a century, and many had owned enough property to be taxable, when Abraham Brown was born. Several had owned title to enslaved persons; Abraham owned three in 1810. His father at various times owned both slaves and indentured servants, including one John Bell, indentured in 1771 Abraham Brown Jr ...

Article

Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property holder, and slave owner, was a resident of Natchez, Mississippi. Nothing is known about her early life. Her status at the time of her birth, free or enslaved, as well as her parentage, is undetermined. Butcher lived in Natchez for at least twenty years of her life and accrued property during that time due to a relationship with a white man, John Irby. She then came close to losing it when another white man, Robert Wood, attempted to wrest it from her by exploiting her vulnerability as a free woman of color.

In 1834John Irby wrote his last will and testament which clearly named Butcher as the administrator of his estate which consisted of the White House Tavern surrounding land buildings two horses and buggy household and kitchen furniture his bank deposits and two slaves Alexander and Creasy Two years later ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

freed slave and successful landowner, was either born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in the very earliest days of the French colony, or he arrived there as an enslaved young adult. Because his name, Doclas (sometimes spelled Docla) is not French, it is presumed to have an African origin.

Doclas was baptized into the Catholic Church as an adult slave of the white French Derbanne family on 26 September 1737. Three days later, he married Judith, another slave owned by the family. Little is known of Doclas's years as a slave, although he probably served the Derbannes in many capacities. When the Spanish acquired Louisiana from France in 1763 the Derbannes s prominence in trade and local government disappeared with their connections to colonial authorities so they switched to agriculture Nicholas probably worked in the tobacco fields for which the area was famous The Derbannes eventually rewarded Doclas s ...

Article

Eric Gardner

The oldest child of Harriet Bailey, Downs was born enslaved to Aaron Anthony, the overseer for Colonel Edward Lloyd, a wealthy planter on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Like his younger brother Frederick Douglass, Downs probably saw his mother only intermittently, as Anthony regularly hired her out; Downs was reared by his grandmother Betsey Bailey and the extended kinship network of Bailey's relatives and children. Douglass's autobiographies relate only two stories of Downs's childhood, both of which speak directly to the complexity of a child's life as a slave. When Douglass was brought from his grandmother's cabin to live on Lloyd's plantation, Wye House, in late 1824, Downs tried to comfort the frightened six-year-old with gifts of peaches and pears. Days later, Downs—only eleven years old himself—was savagely beaten by Anthony.

When Anthony died in 1827 his slaves were divided among his heirs Douglass was sent to ...

Article

Michael P. Johnson

cotton-gin maker and planter, was born a slave in Fairfield District, South Carolina. His father was probably the planter Robert Ellison or his son William, and his mother was a slave woman whose name is unknown. Originally named April, the biracial child received exceptional treatment. His master apprenticed him to William McCreight, a white cotton-gin maker in Winnsboro. From 1802 to 1816 Ellison worked in McCreight's gin shop, learning the skills of gin making from a master craftsman. During his training, he learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic bookkeeping skills. He also became well versed in interracial social skills, as he met scores of planters who came to negotiate with McCreight for gins. These encounters provided him with a valuable network of strategic acquaintances and contacts. Ellison's owner, William Ellison, allowed him to work extra hours and eventually to purchase his freedom on 8 June 1816 ...

Article

Michael P. Johnson

Ellison, William (1790–05 December 1861), cotton-gin maker and planter was born a slave in Fairfield District South Carolina His father was probably the planter Robert Ellison or his son William and his mother was a slave woman whose name is unknown Originally named April the mulatto child received exceptional treatment His master apprenticed him to William McCreight a white cotton gin maker in Winnsboro From 1802 to 1816 Ellison worked in McCreight s gin shop learning the skills of gin making from a master craftsman During his training he learned reading writing arithmetic and basic bookkeeping skills He also became well versed in interracial social skills as he met scores of planters who came to negotiate with McCreight for gins These encounters provided him with a valuable network of strategic acquaintances and contacts Ellison s owner William Ellison allowed him to work extra hours and eventually to ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...

Article

Liz Stephens

cowboy and trail-driver on the Goodnight-Loving Trail and close associate of the cattleman Charles Goodnight, was born a slave in Summerville, Mississippi, and later moved to Parker County, Texas, with the family of his owner and probable father, Dr. William Ikard. Bose Ikard's mother was named King and was also William Ikard's slave. Though the Texas Historical Commission lists Ikard's birth as 1843, and Ikard's own headstone lists 1859, a probable year of birth was 1847, the same year as that of William Ikard's “legitimate” son, with whom Bose was largely raised.

Ikard's association with Goodnight arose from their proximity as neighbors in Parker County, working in the same industry. With a move from Mississippi to Texas in 1852 the Ikard family became part of the primary industry of the region, cattle. The sale of one female slave, possibly Ikard's mother, to another neighbor, Oliver ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, freeman, and successful agriculturalist, was either born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, or arrived in the French colony as an enslaved young adult. He may have been born in Africa, as Pacalé is not a Catholic name, while the name Yves would have been given at his baptism. In some records he is called Yves dit Pacalé—Yves known as Pacalé. He was baptized on 2 January 1736 as the son of Jean Baptiste and Marie, black slaves of the white French Derbanne family. Little is known of Pacalé's years as a slave. The period of the mid- to late eighteenth century was one of great change in Louisiana; the state was a French colony that in 1763 became Spanish making Natchitoches s role as a frontier post with Spanish Texas redundant The area s economy transformed from defense and trade to plantation agriculture focusing on the ...

Article

Jacob Doerfler

Revolutionary War soldier, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, to unknown parents. On 19 August 1753 he was baptized in the Norwich First Congregational Church. Quy was an enslaved African American. Until the Revolutionary War, his master was Daniel Brewster of Norwich.

Libbeus Quy was recruited into General Israel Putnam's Third Regiment, probably between May and April of 1775. He was one of a few African Americans who served in the Patriot cause in the Revolutionary War before 1777. It is not known whether Quy served in place of his master, a common practice in the Revolutionary War. But it is known that Daniel Brewster did not enlist in the military. Quy served under Colonel John Durkee in the Third Company, and in May 1775, the Third Company marched to and camped around Boston, Massachusetts. Quy was stationed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until December 1775 when the ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born the son of an African slave named Hannah and a white father in James City County, Virginia, on the farm of Nathaniel Hankins. Two years later, when Alexander Hankins inherited his father's 400-acre farm, he also inherited the slaves that worked it and their families, including the infant Edward. Married before the war to a woman, also a slave, named Grace, Ratcliff continued as a slave until one day in early 1864 when he “laid down his hoe in the field” and walked the distance to Yorktown to join the Union camp there as a contraband (Virginia State Senate Joint Resolution, 484). He joined the 38th U.S. Colored Troop Regiment (USCT) when it was organized in Virginia on 28 January 1864 thereby becoming a free man and hoping that soon his family would also be free ...

Article

Thomas R. Wolejko

slave, sharecropper, and artist, was born in Benton, Alabama, on the plantation of George Hartwell Traylor, from whom Bill acquired his surname. His parents' names and occupations are not known, but they were likely slaves on the Traylor plantation. Although Traylor recalled 1854 as his date of birth (he could not read or write), the 1900 U.S. Census for Lowndes County recorded his actual birth date as two years later.

After the Civil War, nine-year-old Bill continued to live and work on the Traylor plantation, eventually becoming a sharecropper. George Hartwell Traylor died in 1881, leaving the plantation to his son, Marion. On 13 August 1891 Bill married a woman named Lorisa (some sources refer to her as Laura). At the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, Traylor had fathered nine children: Pauline (1884), George (1885), Sallie (1887 ...

Article

John Saillant

, slave, farm laborer, plaintiff in a civil suit, and freedman, was purchased as an infant in 1754 along with his mother and father, Dinah (b. c. 1735) and Mingo (b. c. 1734), by James Caldwell of Rutland District, Worcester County, Massachusetts. As a freedman, Walker married Elizabeth Harvey in 1786. The date of his death is unknown; an 1812 public record in Barre, Massachusetts (part of Rutland District that was incorporated separately in 1774 and renamed in 1776), refers to Walker as deceased. Prince Walker (c. 1762–1858), another freed slave who lived nearby, may have been Quok Walker's brother.

Sometime in Walker's youth Caldwell promised him his freedom, to be granted when he was in his mid-twenties. However, Caldwell died intestate when Walker was a minor. Caldwell's widow, Isabell inherited at least some ...

Article

Carolyn Warfield

forced tobacco laborer, was born in Walnut Bottom, Henderson, Kentucky, the son of a slave woman and a free man; the latter was a Federal soldier in the siege of Petersburg and Richmond during the Civil War (1861–1865), carpenter, and land owner. Warfield identified his mother as Anna Warfield and his father as George Williams. Anna was living on the Kentucky farm of Marylander Richard Warfield when George was born. Eastern soil depletion drove many farmers and planters westward to Kentucky for fertile land, where slavery provided a free source of workers to cultivate the labor-intensive tobacco crops. Rich bottomlands formed by the confluence of the Green and Ohio Rivers were ideal for western Kentucky's tobacco economy. Annually the Ohio River flooded and revitalized the soil. When Richard Warfield died 1838, George was sold to William Beverley Beverly at the time his estate was ...