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Article

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

John William Templeton

The black businessmen William Alexander Leidesdorff and Andres Pico were both born in 1810 with something the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and millions of other Africans in the Western Hemisphere could not claim: their fathers' names. Leidesdorff took that birthright from the Virgin Islands to the far ends of what was to be the United States: Hawaii and California. Pico was able to rise to the highest political and military offices in Alta California because members of his family had already served as military commanders and established their own ranches along the Pacific coast.

West was the direction of freedom for thousands of African Americans who labored long and hard in the abolition movement with Douglass or who simply sought to avoid the segregation prevalent within the boundaries of the United States They found vast areas where blacks were not only welcomed but also were in command of physical political military ...

Article

Susan Bragg

tailor, store owner, and newspaper editor, was born in Pennsylvania, to parents whose names and occupations are now unknown. Little is known about Anderson's early life except that he was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, ultimately gaining appointment as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge for the State of Pennsylvania. Anderson migrated west in the waning days of the California gold rush and in 1854 set up a tailor shop and clothing store in San Francisco. There he plunged into the city's small but energetic black community, a community linked by both the mining economy and by shared protest against injustices in the new state of California.

Anderson soon became a regular contributor to political discussions at the recently organized Atheneum Institute, a reading room and cultural center for black Californians. In January 1855 he and other prominent African Americans joined together to call ...

Article

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

Erin L. Thompson

Major movements of the black population within the United States began with the importations of the slave trade and continued with the movements of runaway slaves. After they were emancipated, many blacks moved to the North and West to find economic opportunities; some, disappointed, returned to the South. Blacks have also migrated to the United States from other countries, notably those in Africa and the Caribbean.

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

Mary Anne Boelcskevy

singer and actor, was born Ada Scott in Kansas City, Kansas, the daughter of H. W. and Anna Morris Scott. (Some scholars list her as being born on 1 May 1889 in Junction City, Kansas.) Nothing is known about her education, except that she began piano lessons at an early age. She also started singing in the local church choir, developing the voice that the historian Bruce Kellner calls “full, rich, and mellow” (Kellner, 55). Indeed, musical ability ran in Brown's family: Her cousin was renowned ragtime pianist and composer James Sylvester Scott.

Brown's professional life began in 1910, when she became a performer at Bob Mott's Pekin Theater in Chicago. Barely out of her teens, Brown also performed in clubs in Paris, France, and Berlin, Germany. In the early 1920s Brown joined Bennie Moten s band which was considered the Midwest s preeminent band During ...

Article

Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, businessman, and writer, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, the youngest of fifteen children of Eliza and Edwin, who were slaves. Burton and his mother remained on the plantation after Emancipation as paid laborers, and he continued working at the “old homestead” after her death in 1869 until he was sixteen, at which time he left following an altercation with the owner.

In 1880 Burton was “converted to God” and subsequently experienced an insatiable desire for learning. Despite discouraging comments from those who thought that twenty was too old to start school, Burton was not dissuaded and determined that nothing was going to prevent him from getting an education except sickness or death. Burton worked for one more year as a farmhand in Richmond, Kentucky. One January morning in 1881 he put a few items in a carpetbag and nine dollars and seventy five cents in his ...

Article

James Brewer Stewart

Causes

Military and Diplomatic Course

Domestic Effects

Changing Interpretations

Article

Class  

Graham Russell Hodges

The discussion of class among African Americans in the centuries before the industrial revolution encountered significant conceptual difficulties Did class as the philosopher Karl Marx described it exist among a people who were almost entirely enslaved African Americans were industrial laborers in parts of the early United States but the vast majority were agricultural workers whose skills and statuses seem superficially to have been interchangeable At the same time the great transformation occurring in white society from feudalism to capitalism entailed the commodification of money land and labor African Americans lives were inextricably entwined in each of these changes Undoubtedly exploitation helped create the capital value of landowner and merchant African Americans also made themselves African American slaves can be viewed as the first true proletarians in America A leading scholar of early African American business argues cogently that race not class was the key variable for African Americans Examination ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

former slave and landowner in central Texas at a time when few southern blacks owned land, was born a slave in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1826. The literate son of a slave mother and an Irish slaveholder father, Collins was freed in Alabama and traveled to Manor, Texas, in the mid-1800s as a skilled carpenter.

At the time he left Alabama, Collins was likely one of an estimated 500,000 free blacks in the United States in the decade before the Civil War. Free blacks were never a large population in Texas; in the 1860 census they numbered fewer than 400, but may have been twice that many. Free blacks, nevertheless, made a significant contribution to the early history of Texas. When Collins arrived in Manor, Texas, in 1863, however, he was re-enslaved.

He may have married his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Harrington at a Methodist church in the Austin ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

The term cottagers refers to farm workers and their families in a labor system common during the age of gradual emancipation from 1780 to 1830 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Under a contractual arrangement, laborers who were frequently, but not exclusively, former slaves agreed to work for commercial farmers. Contracts helped large landowners obtain badly needed labor at all times and at various wage rates—ordinary tasks, for example, earned less than harvest work. The key for the landowner was a constant supply of semidependent labor.

In return the system allowed some landless laborers and artisans to avoid poverty and eke out a meager subsistence The landowner provided them with lodging fuel the means to raise some of their own food and inexpensive access to farm animals often cows Laborers were paid wages that were established more by custom than by true market forces The cottager expected to pay ...

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

Steve Strimer

self-emancipated slave and teamster, was born in Libertytown, in Frederick County, Maryland. The best evidence suggests that his father and mother, like Dorsey, were slaves of Sabrett (sometimes known as Sabrick) Sollers, though Sollers himself is several times mentioned as Dorsey's father. He had three brothers, Charles, William, and Thomas. Dorsey contended that his grandfather was from England and that he was, by rights, a free man. His escape from slavery is remarkably well documented for a case where no written narrative was produced.

Dorsey married Louisa, who may also have been a slave of Sollers, although several sources claim she was a free woman. She may have been manumitted by her second owner, Richard Coale. The couple had three children, the first of whom was Eliza, born 4 November 1834.

Dorsey was to have been freed upon the death of his owner ...

Article

Peter Eisenstadt and Graham Russell Hodges

Work has always characterized African American life in the Americas From the first arrivals in the 1610s blacks came or were brought to the New World to labor During the seventeenth century Africans in North America initially free but later largely enslaved were important workers in subsistence economies In the eighteenth century as the American economy matured enslaved blacks labored in staple crop agriculture in seaboard trades or as skilled assistants in small scale industry During the American Revolution a significant fraction toiled in the military services while most continued in their former roles After the Revolution with the massive growth of the cotton industry many blacks in the South became agricultural workers with a few in urban areas turning to the arts while in the upper South enslaved people worked in cereal agriculture Blacks in the North faced a long term crisis as rising immigration from northern Europe forced ...

Article

Stacey Pamela Patton

Elleanor Eldridge was the last of seven daughters of Robin Eldridge, an African native, and Hannah Prophet, a Native American. The young Robin Eldridge was captured along with his entire family and brought to the United States to be sold as a slave. Later, in exchange for service in the American Revolution, he and his brothers were promised their freedom and two hundred acres of land. Though they were granted their freedom as promised, they were paid for their services in the worthless old continental currency and were therefore never able to claim any land. They did, however, eventually save enough money to purchase a small plot in Warwick, Rhode Island, where they built a house. Elleanor Eldridge was born free in Warwick.

When Eldridge was ten her mother died and against her father s wishes she went to work for her mother s employers Joseph and Elleanor Baker ...

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

Richard S. Newman and Roland Barksdale-Hall

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with African American entrepreneurs and their businesses from the Colonial period through 1895 The first article discusses the first African American entrepreneurs through 1830 and their long term impact while the second article discusses the successes failures and obstacles of African American entrepreneurs ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

building foreman and caretaker, U.S. mail coach driver, Montana pioneer, also known as Black Mary or Stagecoach Mary, was born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee. Information about Fields's parentage and early life remain unconfirmed, although James Franks, whose grandparents knew Fields in the late 1800s in Montana, writes that Fields was the daughter of Suzanna and Buck, slaves of the Dunne family, owners of a Hickman County plantation. The Dunnes sold Buck immediately following Mary's birth. According to Franks, the Dunnes allowed Suzanna to keep her daughter with her in quarters behind the kitchen, and Mary enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood, even becoming friends with the Dunne's daughter Dolly, who was about the same age as Mary. This arrangement, Franks writes, lasted until Suzanna's death forced fourteen-year-old Mary to take over her mother's household duties.

Whether or not Franks s account is accurate it is ...