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Diane L. Barnes

The American Missionary Association formed in 1846 in Albany, New York, as an alliance of Christian abolitionists who chose not to associate with the existing missionary agencies operated by various Protestant denominations. The spark for the formation of the association dates to the plight of the Amistad captives in 1839. This group of Africans enslaved in violation of international law successfully revolted against their captors aboard a Spanish slave ship—but ended up on trial in the United States when the ship drifted into a harbor on Long Island, New York. The well-publicized trial led many northern abolitionists to push mainstream missionary organizations, including the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, to assist the Amistad voyagers in their return to Africa but the organizations refused The frustrations of these Christian abolitionists led to the formation of three groups the Union Missionary Society the Western Evangelical Mission Society and ...


Darshell Silva

a Quaker, was born a slave near Rancocas, New Jersey, and was sometimes known as William Bowen or “Heston.” His owner treated him well, and Boen was allowed to learn to read and write. As a boy, Boen was afraid of dying during an Indian attack because of all of the stories circulating among the neighbors about others that were killed by Indians. Whenever he worked in the woods alone, he was on constant guard for Indian arrows. He felt he was not yet ready to die until he accepted what was within him that made him do good and reject evil, as the Quakers he was growing up around had done. The Society of Friends is a Christian sect founded by George Fox in 1660 that rejects formal sacraments a formal creed priesthood and violence They are also known as Quakers and are recognized by their plain speech ...


Penny Anne Welbourne

Born a slave in Rancocas, New Jersey, William Boen belonged to a Quaker master. As a young man he met and became friends with John Woolman, the Quaker minister known for his continuing efforts to end slavery. It was most likely Woolman who encouraged Boen to attend worship at the Mount Holly Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends. Anecdotes and Memoirs of William Boen, a Coloured Man, Who Lived and Died Near Mount Holly, New Jersey. To which is Added, The Testimony of Friends of Mount Holly Monthly Meeting Concerning Him was a memorial written by Quakers from Mount Holly for Boen, who was a member of the Society of Friends from 1814 until his death in 1824 The authors of the memorial stated that although they rarely felt called upon to record the virtues of any of this afflicted race of people they thought Boen ...


Trevor Hall

a free black Spanish family who lived in Seville in the early sixteenth century and migrated to the Spanish Caribbean in 1515 The family was composed of a mother father and two children whose first names are not recorded While Spanish documents recorded nothing about the father s profession the Bonilla family had enough money to pay the passage for four to sail to the Americas Most Spaniards who sailed to the Caribbean in the early sixteenth century also transported European manufactured goods food and even livestock all in high demand among Spanish colonists in the Americas Nothing is known of the Bonilla s transatlantic crossing however at that time most ships sailed from Seville to the Spanish Canary Islands and then navigated southwest to Hispaniola modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic Despite the scarcity of information about this family the Bonillas were part of the broader migration ...


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 ...


Henry B. Lovejoy

Free black creole of the Lucumí nation, and leader of the famous Mutual Aid Society of the Lucumí Nation of Santa Bárbara, remembered among modern-day practitioners of Cuban Santería as Ṣàngó tẹ̀ dún.

Little documentation exists for Maria Francisca Camejo, and from birth she could have been enslaved or free. The name “Camejo” was common throughout Spain’s empire, and to this day remains popular in the tobacco-growing region of the Piñar del Rio region in western Cuba. Since the eighteenth century, if not earlier, this family engaged in tobacco production for the royal monopoly based at the factory in Havana. By the 1790s a branch of this family residing and trading tobacco in the capital city likely owned María Francisca as a domestic slave. Camejo identified as Lucumí, but baptism records from the early nineteenth century indicate she identified as a “black creole” (morena criolla Like so many ...


Willard B. Gatewood

educator and clergyman, was born a slave in the District of Columbia. His mother was Laurena Browning Cook, but his father's identity is unknown. His mother's sister, Alethia Browning Tanner, was clearly a dominant influence in his early life. Although she was a slave, her owner allowed her to hire out her own time, and by operating a profitable vegetable market in Washington, D.C., she acquired the money to purchase her own freedom as well as that of her sister and about twenty-one other relatives and acquaintances, including her nephew. Freed at the age of sixteen, Cook apprenticed himself to a shoemaker in order to earn the money to repay his aunt.

He completed his apprenticeship in 1831 but abandoned shoemaking because of an injured shoulder. He secured a job as a messenger in the office of the United States Land Commissioner where a white employee, John Wilson ...


Deborah Garfield

Born to slaves, Lucy Delaney cherished her St. Louis childhood. Like Frederick Douglass and Harriet A. Jacobs, however, she soon witnessed the breach between its “joyful freedom” and slavery's later realities. When owner Major Taylor Berry, who had arranged for the family's emancipation, was killed in a duel, and his widow died, the family remained enslaved. With Lucy's father sold South, mother Polly fiercely urged her two daughters’ escape. While Nancy fled to Canada and Polly to Chicago, the latter returned to bondage to protect Lucy. Polly successfully petitioned the St. Louis courts for her own liberation, and later for Lucy's in 1844 Visiting Nancy in Toronto Lucy wed Frederick Turner soon to be killed in a steamboat explosion her second marriage to Zachariah Delaney in St Louis endured at least forty two years When their four children died young Delaney tempered her mourning with a liberationist ...


Eric Gardner

African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, activist, and Freemason, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Robert and Hannah Dickson. Little is known of his youth. His Virginia-born parents died before he reached adulthood, though he was able to attend school for a time and learned barbering. Accounts of Dickson's early adulthood blend myth and revolutionary promise; the root of most such accounts appears to be anonymous reports included in late-nineteenth-century black Masonic and neo-Masonic ritual books that were either written or influenced heavily by Dickson. These reports claim that Dickson found work aboard a steamer in his late teens, traveled across the South, saw the horrors of slavery, and began raising a hidden army of slaves awaiting his call to revolt. The army supposedly grew as Dickson interacted with free blacks in the Midwest, which he reportedly traversed between 1844 and 1846 By the 1850s there were supposedly several ...


Charles Rosenberg

the son of a Revolutionary War veteran of the same name, was born in Wolcott, Connecticut, and served as the first clerk of the African Ecclesiastical Society in New Haven. Although sparse and sometimes conflicting accounts in published literature have confounded records of the father and son, recently genealogical research in Tompkins County, New York, has clearly identified and distinguished the two from original records.

On 18 July 1756 “Prince, the negro servant child of Samuel Riggs & Abigail his wife” was baptized, according to church records in Derby, Connecticut. Although the word “slave” was not routinely used during that period, he was a servant “for life,” valued at £50, and was inherited at Rigg's death by his daughter Abigail, married to a Reverend Mr. Chapman. Duplex enlisted 18 May 1777 in one of the Connecticut regiments commanded by Colonel Sherman and Colonel Giles Russell formed to fight ...


Frederick Douglass visited England as part of two trips to the United Kingdom, speaking against slavery and encouraging abolitionism for eighteen months from 1845 to 1847 and for six months from 1859 to 1860. On both occasions Douglass benefited from being outside the United States. The first visit coincided with the publication of his Narrative, which revealed details of his life that would have enabled the Auld family to find and re-enslave the runaway. The second visit was made shortly after John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, when Douglass was implicated as an accomplice in planning the raid and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Douglass landed in Liverpool on 28 August 1845 with James Buffum, an abolitionist from Lynn, Massachusetts; because of racial prejudice, they had been consigned to steerage class on the steamer Cambria Acting as a lecturing agent for the Massachusetts ...


Donna Tyler Hollie

former slave and Mormon pioneer, was born in Anson County, North Carolina. Nothing is known about his family or early childhood. At age ten, Green was given as a wedding gift to James Madison and Agnes Love Flake, wealthy plantation owners in Anson County. In 1841 the Flakes relocated to Kemper County, Mississippi, taking Green and other slaves with them to clear and work the new land. Two years later, the Flakes joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as did several of their slaves, including Green.

The church, commonly known as the Mormon Church, was founded by Joseph Smith, in Fayette Township, New York, in 1830 Many of the group s tenets and practices they voted in a block they were antislavery and they took over land that Missourians did not wish them to have made them extremely unpopular Consequently the members ...


Alice Knox Eaton

labor organizer, was born in Richmond, Virginia, to parents whose names and occupations are unknown. Harris left school at the age of eight to work as a childcare worker and later as a cook for white families in Richmond.

Little is known about her life until she reached her forties and began working as a stemmer at the Export Tobacco Company in Richmond quickly noting the unhealthy working conditions long hours and low pay The average salary for a tobacco laborer in Richmond was approximately six dollars per week some factories had no cap on the number of hours worked per day and workers had nothing but kerchiefs wrapped around their faces to protect against tobacco dust that filled the factory Upon hearing that the Congress of Industrial Organizations CIO was organizing workers she brought sixty women from Export to the next union meeting and volunteered her services Labor ...


John Fabian Witt

minister, schoolteacher, Union League organizer, and Liberian emigrant, was born into slavery near Yorkville (later York), South Carolina, probably the son of a light-skinned house slave named Dorcas Hill and a man brought as a slave from Africa to South Carolina. At the age of seven, Hill contracted a crippling disease that he called “rheumatism,” but that was probably polio. His owner's five-year-old son, Daniel Harvey Hill (the man who would later famously lose a copy of Robert E. Lee's battle plans while serving as a Confederate general at Antietam seems to have come down with a mild case of the same disease at almost the same time But Hill got the worst of it He was never again able to walk His legs shrunk to the diameter of an average man s wrist His arms were like those of a small child His fingers ...


Patricia J. Thompson

anti-slavery activist, was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of the Reverend Samuel Snowden and his first wife, Nancy Marsh, from Monmouth, Maine.

Isabella grew up as a free black woman in a home in which her father was both a well-known preacher and an anti-slavery activist. When she was eight years old, Isabella moved to Boston with her family when her father was called to pastor the growing African American congregation which was then a part of the Bromfield Methodist Episcopal Church. Her father often assisted runaway slaves, and her home was a refuge for those from the South seeking asylum.

Isabella eventually married Henry Holmes, a barber in Boston. They had at least one child, Emily Otis, who was born c.1833 and married Charles H. Stephens from Newport, Rhode Island, on 29 October 1854 Nothing more is known about Emily and Charles and ...


Elizabeth A. Russey

Baptist minister and politician, was born a slave in Beaufort, South Carolina, to Jack and Dora (Pooler) Houston. His master, James B. Hogg, was a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia, and brought him to live in Savannah at an early age. Houston, raised as a house slave, was baptized at the age of sixteen on 27 June 1841 and became an active member of the First African Baptist Church in Savannah.

Houston hired out his own time in Savannah, earning fifty dollars per month as a carpenter and working as a butcher in a wholesale meat business. Sailors in the Marine Hospital in Savannah taught him to read and write while he was employed there. Houston married his first wife, whose name is unknown, in 1848. In addition to singing in his church's choir, Houston was appointed as a deacon 3 November ...


Richard J. Bell

Methodist preacher and seaman, was born in the port town of Old Calabar, in Nigeria, West Africa, to Margaret and Hambleton Robert Jea. At age two Jea and his family were captured in Old Calabar and transported to America on a slave ship. With his parents and several siblings he was immediately sold to the family of Oliver and Angelika Tiehuen, members of the Dutch Reformed Church who owned land outside New York City. This knowledge comes from Jea's narrative, The Life, History, and Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher, written and published in 1815; it is the only source of information about most of Jea's life and travels.

The newly enslaved family was set to work as field hands and quickly felt the hardship of poor conditions and physical abuse Jea found little comfort in the message of obedience and humility preached to ...


John Saillant

Around 1816 he published two books, a Collection of Hymns and his Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings; from the latter is derived virtually all available information on his life. The autobiography, which was undoubtedly embellished in some of its particulars, recounts Jea's birth in Africa, his childhood in colonial New York, the abuses he suffered under slavery, his manumission, his family life, and the travels and religious exercises of his maturity.

Jea reported that after he became restive under slavery around the age of fifteen he was baptized in a Christian church a circumstance that he claimed to use to compel his master to liberate him He told of preaching in North America Europe and the East Indies as well as of marrying three women in succession one Native American one Maltese and one Irish His children all preceded him in death Like many early African American authors Jea ...


Steve Strimer

Methodist minister, abolitionist lecturer, and self-emancipated slave, was born to slave parents, Grace and Tony Kirkwood, at the Hawes plantation in Hanover county near Wilmington, North Carolina. About 1815 he was sold to a storekeeper from whom he took his surname. After his escape to Massachusetts, Jones became a tireless speaker on the antislavery circuit in New England. The principal source of information for his early life is his widely circulated slave narrative, The Experience of Thomas H. Jones, Who Was a Slave for Forty-Three Years. First published in 1850, his book went through at least nine printings.

Thomas succeeded in learning to read despite the disapproval of Mr. Jones, the storekeeper. Thomas was converted to Christianity around 1824. He attended services at a neighboring plantation against the objections of his irreligious owner. Upon Mr. Jones's death in 1829 Thomas began to ...

Primary Source

Archbishop John Joseph Hughes (1779–1864) oversaw the explosive growth of the Catholic population of New York in the nineteenth century, fueled by the influx of Irish immigrants. At the same time, a growing community of African American Catholics sought access to the newly established schools and other institutions, only to find the same discrimination practiced in Protestant-dominated public schools. In a letter written to Pope Pius IX, a woman named Harriet Thompson describes the situation, while pleading for intervention from Rome. At the time, the church was considering establishing a nuncio in the United States, and Thompson, along with the twenty-six other signers of the letter, hoped that this would be an opportunity for the Pope to learn of the situation facing Catholic African Americans. But their efforts were slow to have any effect, as evidenced by the Archbishop’s continued opposition to abolitionism.