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Article

Baker, Moses  

Dave Gosse

was possibly raised in The Bahamas. Historical data depicts him as “a man of colour” with one ear and one eye, which was covered with a piratical scarf.

Additional biographical details surrounding the early to adult life of Moses Baker are tenuous as he dates his origin to New York. Baker describes himself as a freed African and a barber by profession; he was married on 4 September 1778 to Susannah Ashton, a freedwoman and dressmaker of New York. His association with the British army eventually led to his evacuation from New York to Jamaica in 1783.

The mere fact that he left with the British for Jamaica suggests that his freedom was most likely gained by fighting with the British and as such would have been questionable if he remained in the United States after the Revolutionary War This best explains his exodus to the British colony of ...

Article

Barber, Francis  

Vincent Carretta

servant to Samuel Johnson, was the son of an unidentified enslaved woman in Jamaica. His father may have been his owner, Richard Bathurst, a colonel in the Jamaica militia. Barber’s slave name, Quashey, suggests that his mother may have come from the Akan-speaking area of Africa that is now Ghana. Quashey was one of only four slaves Colonel Bathurst kept when he sold his 2,600-acre sugar plantation and 140 slaves in Jamaica in 1749. Barber later recalled having been 7 or 8 years old when Colonel Bathurst brought him to London, England, in 1750 to live with his son, Dr. Richard Bathurst, a close friend of Samuel Johnson. Johnson was soon to become the most eminent man of letters in the British Empire.

Colonel Bathurst had Quashey baptized and renamed Francis Barber in London The date and place of his baptism are unknown He sent Barber to Yorkshire for ...

Article

Barberá, Ana Josefa  

Eduardo R. Palermo

was born in Africa in the mid-eighteenth century and brought to the River Plate region as a slave at an unknown date. After she was freed and purchased her own land, Barberá donated her property for the establishment of Tacuarembó, a city in northern Uruguay, in 1832. The donation represents the only documented case of a person of African descent contributing land for the subsequent founding of a town or city.

The existing historical record refers to Barberá as a freedwoman or “morena libre.” Until the late 1790s, she is registered as residing in rural northern Uruguay, with the respective landowner’s permission. She settled at the intersection of the Tranqueras and Tacuarembó Chico rivers, a site that became known among locals as “el rincón de Tía Ana” (Aunt Ana’s Corner). In July 1804 in Montevideo Barberá signed a commitment to officially purchase the plot of land with an ...

Article

Bardales, Juan  

Robinson A. Herrera

who lived in Trujillo, Honduras, an important Caribbean port during the colonial period, which is today an area with a substantial population of Garifuna people, the descendants of Africans and indigenous peoples from St. Vincent. Juan’s origins are unknown, as no documents indicate where he was born. He was married and was the father of several children, but the names of his family members are also unknown. In accordance with the Spanish pattern of naming African slaves, Bardales likely received his surname from a former owner. Juan’s origins and years of birth and death remain unclear, although the evidence indicates that he was likely born in the early sixteenth century and lived past 1565.

In 1544 and again in 1565, Bardales sought a royal reward for his services to the Spanish Crown. As a necessary step in requesting royal favors, Bardales had a probanza de méritos proof ...

Article

Belley, Jean-Baptiste  

Philippe Girard

also known as Jean-Baptiste Mars or Timbaze, was a slave, freedman, officer, and deputy from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). He was the first black deputy in the French Parliament and introduced the 1794 law that abolished slavery in the French colonies.

Belley’s origins are uncertain. By his own account, he was born on Gorée Island near present-day Senegal around 1747 and transported to Cap-Français (Cap-Haïtien) around the age of 2, presumably as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Another document, however, lists his birthplace as Léogane in 1755 Saint-Domingue. After obtaining his manumission, Belley, like many free people of color, acquired slaves. As a member of a Dominguan mixed-race unit, he may also have taken part in the 1779 siege of Savannah in support of the American Revolution, where he allegedly gained the warlike nickname of “Mars.”

Belley’s role during the Haitian Revolution, which began in 1789 ...

Article

Biohó, Benkos  

Ángela Lucía Agudelo González

and possible founder of San Basilio de Palenque, the first free black town in the Western Hemisphere, was born in West Africa on the island of Bissagos in Guinea-Bissau. In 1596 he was captured by the Portuguese slave trader Pedro Goméz Reynel and was sold later on to a Spaniard by the name of Alfonso del Campo at Cartagena de Indias, a major slave-trading port on the Caribbean coast of the New Kingdom of Granada. Campo baptized him with the Christian name Domingo Biohó and employed him as a rower on a boat on the Magdalena River.

After trying various times to escape from his master, in 1599 Benkos managed to escape with a group of other slaves, his wife, and his children. Together they fled the city of Cartagena and installed themselves in swampy, difficult-to-access lands. It was there that they founded the continent’s first palenque maroon community ...

Article

Bolas, Juan de  

David Buisseret

Maroon leader in seventeenth-century Jamaica, was also known as Lobolo, Luyola, Don Wall Bolo, and Boulo. Nothing is known of his early life.

After the English invading army occupied Jamaica in 1655, Juan de Bolas, a former slave of the Spaniards, took to the hills and led a center of resistance. When this pelinco, or settlement, was discovered and raided by the English in 1660, Juan de Bolas came over to the side of the new colonizers, waging war on the other key areas of guerrilla resistance, with him and his men absorbed into the English military hierarchy. Three years later he was ambushed and killed by one of his former comrades-in-arms.

In 1655 after the English conquest of Jamaica some of the Spaniards and their former slaves formed various centers of resistance in the mountainous interior of the island One of these was located in ...

Article

Bolio, Manuel  

Matthew Restall

African-born slave who was later freed and lived his adult life in several Spanish American colonies. He appears in the historical record largely as a result of the colonial authorities’ Inquisition, which prosecuted him for bigamy. He was also known as Felis Manuel Bolio and Manuel de Lara, after the surnames of his owners in Yucatán, Mexico.

His African name is unknown, but Bolio was likely born in the 1730s in West Central Africa, probably in the kingdom of Kongo (he claimed to be a “native of Kongo”). Caught up in the transatlantic slave trade as a boy or teenager, by about 1750 he had been sold to a Spaniard living in Campeche a small port town on the Gulf of Mexico coast of Yucatán He was then sold to a Spaniard named don Manuel Bolio who had the young African baptized as Felis Manuel Bolio in the predominantly ...

Article

du Sable, Jean Baptiste Point  

Georges E. Fouron

freedman who became a pioneer and fur trader and who is now hailed as the founder of the city of Chicago, was probably born in 1745 in the town of St. Marc in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (today, Haiti). Du Sable (sometimes rendered as du Sable or DuSable) was the son of a black captive from the Congo named Suzanne, and a French mariner and swashbuckler from Marseille, making him a mulatto in Haitian racial nomenclature. It is believed his father’s name was originally Point Dessaible and he later changed it to Du Sable. As was the practice during that period, to elevate their social status in the French colony, many French expatriates would place a “de” or “du” before their name to connote their high-class lineage.

Another much contested version by the historian Milo Milton Quaife claims that his father s name was Pierre He was born in ...

Article

Egipcíaca, Rosa  

Luiz Mott

also known as Rosa Maria Egipcíaca da Vera Cruz, was a slave and later freedwoman, a renowned religious mystic and author, and the founder of a convent for former prostitutes in colonial Rio de Janeiro. She arrived in Rio as a 6-year-old slave, having come from lands occupied by the Coura people in present-day Lagos, Nigeria. Upon her arrival in Rio, she was baptized at Igreja da Candelária (Candelária Church). When she was 12, she suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her master and was subsequently sold to the Inficcionado plantation in the gold-prospecting region of Minas Gerais, some 300 kilometers northwest of Rio. She lived there for fifteen years as a prostitute, the only female in a troop of seventy-seven male slaves.

According to Rosa s own testimony to ecclesiastical authorities at the age of 29 she came to be possessed by a demon and to receive regular ...

Article

Force, William  

Desha Osborne

free black man and one of the organizers of the first documented rebellion in Bermuda. There are no known records of Force before the 1630s, so it is impossible to determine where and when he was born, or whether he was born free. Information surrounding the planned rebellion is detailed in the court assize records of the Somers Island Company during the leadership of Captain Josias Forster, who served as governor briefly from 1642 to 1643 and again in 1645. Forster later returned to Bermuda and governed for a third time from 1650 to 1659. These records were made public in John Henry Lefroy’s two-volume Memorials of the Discovery and Early Settlement of the Bermudas or Somers Islands, 1515–1685, published in 1877 and 1879 Lefroy s account has been used by scholars since then as the primary record of the event that took place sometime in ...

Article

Ginés, Micaela  

Lissette Acosta Corniel

who played the bandola, was born in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. No solid documentation of her date and place of birth exists. In addition, there are no archival records that document Ginés’s life in Santo Domingo and how, or when exactly, she migrated to Cuba. However, historians contend that she moved to Cuba in the late sixteenth century, settling first in Santiago de Cuba and later moving to La Habana (Havana) toward the end of the century. This Afro-Dominican musician is renowned for her contribution to one of Cuba’s popular music genres known as the Cuban son.

Ginés tends to be associated with her sister Teodora Ginés who was also a musician Micaela Ginés lived in Santiago de Cuba with her sister and both were known for their musical talents They played for the orchestra of the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba However Micaela Ginés left for ...

Article

Jea, John  

David Dabydeen

African preacher who travelled around England and Ireland sermonizing. Jea was born in Old Callabar, Africa, and at the age of 2½ was taken, along with his family, to North America, where they became the slaves of Oliver and Angelika Triebuen. They were ill‐treated and not properly clothed and fed. Working hours were long and intense, as Jea records in his narrative The Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher (1815).

The text captures his life as a slave his rebellion against Christian hypocrisy the finding of his faith his travels and the significance of his sermonizing Laden with quotations from the Bible it is itself a piece of Jea s preaching often questioning the virtues and beliefs of his readers Following his discovery of Christianity at the age of 15 when as he writes the Lord was pleased to remove gross darkness superstition ...

Article

Jolofe, Pedro  

Robinson A. Herrera

who lived in Santiago de Guatemala (present day Antigua, located in the Department of Sacatepéquez, Guatemala), the colonial capital (1549–1775) of the Audiencia de Guatemala (a vast dominion that included the five modern Central American countries). He was married to Juana Maldonado, and was the father of two children born outside of wedlock. In keeping with naming patterns of African slaves at the time, Pedro received the name either of his port of embarkation or his possible ethnicity, Jolofe, Spanish pronunciation of Wolof, a West African ethnic group with origins in contemporary Gambia, Mauritania, and Senegal. Pedro’s exact birth year and origins remain unclear. He lived as a criado a servant raised in a Spanish home and a trusted auxiliary in a Spanish muleteer s house where he undoubtedly received training in land navigation veterinary care horseshoeing basic accounting and load distribution all indispensable skills that Pedro ...

Article

Knight, Joseph  

Stephen Mullen

was born in West Africa. He was taken from Guinea as a child by a Captain Knight and later adopted the surname of the slave trader who sold him into chattel slavery in the West Indies. Although Joseph remembered nothing of this sale, a planter John Wedderburn purchased him soon after the human cargo landed in Jamaica around 1766. Neither could have known that Joseph Knight would become a litigant in one of the most celebrated court cases in Scottish legal history.

As a Jacobite loyal to the Stuarts, Wedderburn had fled from Scotland to the West Indies after the failed Jacobite uprising of 1745. In Jamaica, he acquired profitable sugar plantations, including Glenisla in Westmoreland. In a triumphant return home around 1768 he purchased the Ballindean estate in Perthshire As he had developed a liking toward Joseph he took him back home to work as a ...

Article

Ó, Maria do  

Juliana Barreto

liberta (freedwoman) originally from the Costa da Mina (Mina Coast) in West Africa, who lived in the Bishopric of Mariana, Minas Gerais. There are no details as to how and when Ó left Africa, nor of the time she spent in bondage in Brazil. Dictating her last will and testament in 1754 (as recorded in Arquivo da Cúria de Mariana), Ó affirmed that she had no father, mother, or other living blood relations “as these were deceased in my homeland.” She also declared herself to be a member of the “Courá nation.” In eighteenth-century records—indeed, in earlier ones as well—the term nação nation used broadly to identify slaves and freedmen and freedwomen born in Africa did not necessarily correspond to specific ethnic groups It could refer for instance to the name of a city or village or even to a group composed of individuals from various ethnicities who happened ...

Article

Sancho, Ignatius  

Leyla Keough

Ignatius Sancho was born on a slave ship en route to the West Indies; both of his parents died during the journey, casualties of the Middle Passage. Never having lived in Africa, Sancho was in many ways a product of Western civilization. His letters, written between 1768 and 1780, and published posthumously in 1782, proved to the English public that an African could not only master the language and literature of England but become a discriminating reader and a discerning critic.

Upon arriving in Britain, Sancho was bought by three sisters in Greenwich who treated him poorly and denied him education. But the sisters' neighbors, the Duke and Duchess of Montague, were impressed by Sancho's curiosity about books and his quick mind and secretly lent him materials to read. In 1749 when the sisters threatened to sell him into American slavery Sancho fled to the ...

Article

Sancho, Ignatius  

Vincent Carretta

author, is now best known for the posthumously published two-volume Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African (London, 1782), edited by Frances Crewe, one of his younger correspondents. Virtually the only source of information about the first thirty years of Sancho’s life is Joseph Jekyll’s anonymously published biographical preface to the Letters According to Jekyll Sancho was born on a slave ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Spanish colony of New Granada present day Colombia Jekyll reports that the bishop of Granada baptized him naming him Ignatius Shortly thereafter his mother died of disease and his father committed suicide rather than endure slavery The unnamed owner of the orphan brought him to England when he was two years old and gave him to three unmarried sisters in Greenwich They surnamed him Sancho because they thought that the pudgy toddler resembled the fictional Don Quixote s ...

Article

Sancho, Ignatius  

David Dabydeen

Africanwriter whose letters, published posthumously in 1782, became best‐seller, attracting 1,181 subscribers including the Prime Minister, Lord North.

Sancho was born on board a slave ship en route to the West Indies. His mother died soon after, of a tropical disease, and his father chose to commit suicide rather than endure slavery. Sancho was brought to England by his master, at the age of 2 or 3, and given to three maiden sisters living in Greenwich. The sisters named him Sancho, thinking he resembled Don Quixote's squire. They kept him in ignorance, not teaching him to read or write. He was rescued by the Duke of Montagu who lived nearby in Blackheath The Duke encountering the boy by accident took a liking to his frankness of manner and frequently took him home where the Duchess introduced him to the world of books and of high culture He ...

Article

Saucedo, Vicente  

Maria Elisa Velazquez

free African of Wolof origin, possibly a former slave, who achieved a socially and economically advantageous position in the viceregal society of Mexico City. Saucedo’s life is proof that there were complex social relationships that allowed, in certain circumstances, some Africans to gain social and economic mobility in the early colonial period. Saucedo’s historical presence is recorded in his will, dated from 1630 and located in the Archivo General de la Nación de México Mexican General National Archive The total wealth that he had acquired by then is uncertain however it is known that he possessed homes in the Barrio de San Antonio San Antonio neighborhood in Mexico City as well as sufficient funds to pay for his burial at a leading church and to lend money to several other Africans of Wolof origin including some slaves He declared in his will that he owned a young mulatto slave ...