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Graweere, John  

Steven J. Niven

servant and legal pioneer, was born Joao Geaween in Africa, probably in Angola, and was among the first generation of Africans captured and brought to the English colony of Virginia in the late 1620s and early 1630s. At that time, indentured servants from the British Isles vastly outnumbered the few hundred Africans in the colony. Graweere worked as a servant near James City for a white colonist, William Evans It is not clear whether Graweere was a servant for life or for a fixed term but like most early Virginia settlers white and black he probably helped to cultivate and harvest his master s tobacco which became the colony s staple export commodity in the 1620s Court records show however that Evans also allowed his servant Graweere to keep hogs and make the best benefit thereof to himself provided that Evans might have half the increase of any ...

Article

Hylas, John, and Hylas, Mary  

Leila Kamali

Former slaves whose kidnapping case was fought by the 18th‐century abolitionist Granville Sharp. John Hylas and his wife, Mary, were both born in Barbados. In the year 1754 they were each brought to England—John by his mistress, Judith Aleyne, and Mary by her master and mistress, Mr and Mrs Newton. They met in England, and married with the consent of their owners in 1758. After their marriage John Hylas was set free, and the couple lived happily together until, in 1766, Mary was kidnapped by her former owners and sent to the West Indies to be sold as a slave.

Having heard of Granville Sharp's fight for the liberty of Jonathan Strong, in 1768 John Hylas approached Sharp, who prepared a memorandum enabling him to begin an action against Newton.

The court found in favour of Hylas, who was awarded 1s nominal ...

Article

Key, Elizabeth  

Steven J. Niven

early legal petitioner for freedom, was born near present-day Newport News, Virginia, to an unknown slave woman and Thomas Key, a white Englishman. Key served as a burgess in Virginia's colonial assembly. That Elizabeth's mother is described in colonial records simply as a “slave” is significant for two reasons. First, it means that she was probably not a Christian, since African-born or descended slaves and servants who followed that faith were usually characterized as such in the legal record. Second, it suggests that at least some Africans were being classified as lifetime chattel in Virginia as early as the 1620s, when there were only a few hundred blacks in the colony.

Like that of her mother and of others of African descent in seventeenth century Virginia the precise legal status of Elizabeth Key was not clearly defined Was she free like her father Or a slave like her mother ...

Article

Leiper, Fanny  

Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property holder, and washerwoman, was born into slavery in Natchez, Mississippi. The exact date of her birth is not now known. She was born to an enslaved woman, Hannah Frey, and to J. S. Miller, a white planter who lived outside of Natchez near the small town of Washington. Mrs. Margaret Overaker, a white woman, and her husband, George, owned Leiper and her mother. While Leiper was still a young girl, her mother was manumitted, but Leiper herself remained enslaved. Sometime around 1831, when Leiper was approximately twenty or twenty-one, she was freed, reportedly at the insistence of her father, who paid her owner $300. In 1834 or thereabouts, following the instructions of her white father, she was taken by boat up the Mississippi River to Cincinnati, Ohio, in the footsteps of her mother.

As was the case with ...

Article

Montgomery, Ralph  

David Brodnax

slave and civil rights litigant, was born Rafe Nelson in Virginia and renamed after his master in infancy; nothing is known about his parents. In 1834 Montgomery, then a slave in Marion County, Missouri, heard stories of fortunes to be made in the lead mines of Dubuque, a rough frontier village of about two thousand people located on the upper Mississippi River in the Iowa Territory. Montgomery's sister Tilda was already living in Dubuque, where she was one of seventy-two other African Americans and sixteen slaves recorded in the county in the 1840 census, although slavery was illegal in Iowa. Ralph and his master Jordan Montgomery drew up an agreement allowing him to work in the mines for five years, after which he would pay $550 for his freedom; he may have hoped to purchase his sister's freedom as well.

When the five year period ended Montgomery had barely ...

Article

Prince, Abijah  

Anthony Gerzina

freed black slave, New England property owner, and husband of Lucy Terry, is thought to have been born in or near Wallingford, Connecticut, near New Haven. He was the slave of the Reverend Benjamin Doolittle, and accompanied Doolittle and his wife, Lydia Todd, from Connecticut to Northfield, Massachusetts, in early 1718, when Doolittle, after graduating from Yale, was named minister of that town. Based on what is known of other nearby towns, the nature of Prince's years in Northfield can be surmised. Northfield, in the Connecticut River Valley just south of the modern Vermont border, was then a small frontier town. Originally settled in 1673, it was abandoned soon afterward, following strife with the native population during King Philip's War. Resettlement began around 1685, but in 1718 it held perhaps only a dozen households none of which owned slaves Although slaveholding ...

Article

Stradford, J. B.  

Alfred L. Brophy

businessman, lawyer, and civil rights litigant, was born John the Baptist (“J. B.”) Stradford (also sometimes spelled “Stratford”) probably in slavery at Versailles, Kentucky, the son of Julius Caesar Stradford. Little is known about Stradford's childhood. He studied at Oberlin College from 1882 to 1885 and Indianapolis Law School (later Indiana University–Indianapolis. He married Augusta, and they lived in Lawrenceberg, Kansas, among other places, before moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1899. Stradford owned and operated a rooming house, the Stradford Hotel, in Greenwood, the black section of Tulsa. Like other leaders of the Greenwood community (including fellow lawyers A.-J. Smitherman and Buck Colbert Franklin, the father of John Hope Franklin), Smitherman was concerned with aggressively preventing lynching and other violence. In 1909 Stradford challenged Oklahoma s statute that permitted unequal treatment on segregated railroad cars The statute permitted railroads to provide ...

Article

Webb, Jane  

Terri L. Snyder

litigant, born in Northampton County, Virginia, was the daughter of an indentured mother, Ann Williams, and an enslaved father, Daniel Webb. In accordance with a Virginia law that stipulated that children would be slave or free according to the status of their mother, Jane Webb was born a free person. However, because she was the product of a mixed-race, out-of-wedlock union and because her mother gave birth while under an indenture contract, the law also required that Jane Webb be bound out as a servant until she reached the age of eighteen. Throughout her lifetime she was variously referred to as Jane Webb (her father's surname), Jane Williams her mother s surname and Jane Left her husband s first name These variations reflect the uncertainty of her status in early eighteenth century Virginia as the colony s lawmakers worked in earnest to both limit the numbers ...