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18th Century

Bryan, Andrew (1737-1812)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

First named First Colored Baptist Church and located in Savannah, Georgia, First African Baptist Church traces its roots to December 1777, and is officially designated the oldest African American church in the United States.  George Liele, the Church’s founder, continued to evangelize and baptize both the free and enslaved black populations of the Savannah area during the rest of the Revolutionary War period.  One of those enslaved people was Andrew Bryan.  Liele baptized Andrew Bryan, who was born in 1737, and his wife Hannah in 1782.

When David George and George Liele, along with hundreds of blacks, evacuated Savannah with the British in July 1782, Bryan remained and retained spiritual leadership of the First Colored Baptist Church.  Andrew Bryan was allowed to preach by his master, Jonathan Bryan of Brampton Plantation, and became an ordained minister on January 20, 1788.  The First Colored Baptist Church became certified by the Georgia Baptist Association in May 1790 and pre-dated the establishment of the white Baptist Church in the city by five years.  Andrew Bryan remained the church’s pastor until his death in 1812.

Sources: 
Africans in America, PBS Online, July 22, 2006; Walter H. Brooks, D. D., A History of Negro Baptist Churches in America (Washington, D.C.: Press of R. L. Pendelton, 1910) © 2004 University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Online July 22, 2005, http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/brooks/brooks.html.  New York Public Library Digital Library Collections Records, First African Baptist Church Records, 1873-1977, http://digilib.nypl.org/dynaweb/ead/scm/scmgfabc/@Generic__BookTextView/136;pt=114
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, David (1785-1830)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The fiery-militant David Walker was born on September 28, 1785, in Wilmington, North Carolina.  His father was an enslaved African who died a few months before his son’s birth, and his mother was a free woman of African ancestry. Walker grew up to despise the system of slavery that the U.S. government allowed in America.  He knew the cruelties of slavery were not for him and said, “As true as God reigns, I will be avenged for the sorrow which my people have suffered.”  He eventually moved to Boston during the 1820s and became very active within the free black community.  Walker’s intense hatred for slavery culminated in him publishing his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World in September 1829. The Appeal was smuggled into the southern states, and was considered subversive, seditious, and incendiary by most white men in both northern and southern states.  It was, without a doubt, one of the most controversial documents published in the antebellum period.

Walker was concerned about many social issues affecting free and enslaved Africans in America during the time.  He also expressed many beliefs that would become commonly promoted by later black nationalists such as: unified struggle for resistance of oppression (slavery), land reparations, self-government for people of African descent in America, racial pride, and a critique of American capitalism.  His radical views prompted southern planters to offer a $3000 bounty for anyone who killed Walker and $10,000 reward for anyone who returned him alive back to the South.  Walker was found dead in the doorway of his Boston home in 1830.  Some people believed he was poisoned and others believed that he died of tuberculosis.

Sources: 
Thabiti Asukile, "The All-Embracing Black Nationalist Theories of David Walker's Appeal," Black Scholar, 29 (Winter 1999), 16–24.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinnati

Freeman, Elizabeth (Mum Bett) (1742-1829)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Elizabeth Freeman was born into slavery in Claverack, New York in 1742. During the 1770s, she lived in the household of Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, a prominent citizen who at that time also served as a judge of the Berkshire Court of Common Pleas. Colonel Ashley purchased Freeman from a Mr. Hogeboom when she was six months of age.  Upon suffering physical abuse from Ashley’s wife, Freeman escaped her home and refused to return. She found a sympathetic ear with attorney Theodore Sedgwick, the father of the writer Catherine Sedgwick. Apparently, as she served dinner to her masters, she had heard them speaking of freedom—in this case freedom from England—and she applied the concepts of equality and freedom for all to herself.

In 1781 Freeman, with the assistance of Sedgwick, initiated the case Brom and Bett v. Ashley that set a precedent for the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.  According to the Massachusetts Judicial Review, the 1781 Berkshire county case of Brom and Bett v. Ashley, often referred to as the Mum Bett or Elizabeth Freeman case, was unique because it occurred less than one year after the adoption of the Massachusetts Constitution and because, in contrast to prior freedom suits, there was no claim that John Ashley, the slave owner, had violated a specific law. This case was a direct challenge to the very existence of slavery in Massachusetts.

Sources: 
Sidney Kaplan and Emma Nogrady Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989);
“The Mum Bett Case,” Massachusetts Constitution Judicial Review, http://www.mass.gov/courts/jaceducation/constjuslavery.html#d ; Gay Gibson Cima, “Phillis Wheatley and Black Women Critics: The Borders of Strategic Visibility,” Theater Journal 52:4 (2000), 465-495.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

First African Baptist Church, Savannah (1777- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Originally named First Colored Baptist Church and located in Savannah, Georgia, First African Baptist Church traces its roots to December 1777 and is officially designated the oldest African American church in the United States.  The roots of the black Baptist tradition can be traced to three men: George Leile, David George, and Andrew Bryan.  Ordained May 20, 1775, George Leile is recognized as the first ordained black Baptist pastor in Georgia. He converted to Christianity in 1773.

Sources: 
Africans in America, PBS Online, July 22, 2006; Walter H. Brooks, D.D., A History of Negro Baptist Churches in America (Washington, D.C.: Press of R. L. Pendelton, 1910) © 2004 University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Online July 22, 2005, http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/brooks/brooks.html .  New York Public Library Digital Library Collections Records, First African Baptist Church Records, 1873-1977, http://digilib.nypl.org/dynaweb/ead/scm/scmgfabc/@Generic__BookTextView/136;pt=114
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Forten, James (1766-1842)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image courtesy of The Historical Society of
Pennsylvania (HSP), Leon Gardiner collection
of American Negro Historical Society records
James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was born a free black man. Over the course of his lifetime, he would make a significant impact upon the fortunes of the American capitalist system and the livelihood of his contemporaries.

His parents were Thomas and Sarah Forten. He was also the grandson of slaves.  His formative years were spent in Philadelphia and he attended Anthony Benezet’s Quaker school for colored children.  By the time he turned eight years old, he began working for Robert Bridges’s sail loft. This is where his father worked as well. The following year his father was the victim of an unfortunate boating accident and died. This horrible tragedy resulted in nine-year-old James having to take on additional work to support his family.
Sources: 

Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/jamesforten.html; http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASforten.htm.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Brace, Jeffrey (1742?-1827)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Jeffrey Brace Descendants: Ronald Jeffrey Brace, Sr.;
Rhonda Marie Brace; and Jeffrey Sylvester Brace, Jr.
Image courtesy of Rhonda Marie Brace
Born in West Africa Jeffrey Brace (born Boyrereau Brinch) was enslaved at the age of sixteen and transported to Barbados, where he was sold to a ship captain from Connecticut who used him as an enslaved sailor-soldier during the Seven Years War.  At the war’s end he was transported to Connecticut and sold to a Yankee Puritan. In 1777, after enduring several sadistic masters, Brace enlisted the Continental Army. Six years later he was honorably discharged with a badge of merit.  In 1784, after persuading his master to manumit him, Brace headed for Vermont, the first state to make slavery illegal.  In Poultney, Vermont, he married, bought a farm, and raised a family.

Through hard work and persistence Jeffrey and his wife Susan achieved a modicum of stability but also suffered profound injustice.  Susan had two children from a previous marriage who were forced by powerful white people to work in their households as indentured servants. Around 1802, when neighbors attempted to force the children that Jeffrey and Susan had together into indentured servitude, the family decided to sell their farm and move to northern Vermont.

Sources: 
Jeffrey Brace as told to Benjamin F. Prentiss, The Blind African Slave; or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace Ed. Kari J. Winter.  (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Haynes, Lemuel (1753-1833)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Lemuel Haynes was born on July 18, 1753  in the home of his mother’s employer, John Haynes of Hartford, Connecticut.  His father, an enslaved African, and his mother, a Scottish immigrant servant, abandoned him at birth.  Fired after giving birth to him, his mother refused to speak to him when their paths later crossed.  John Haynes indentured the unwanted infant at the age of five months to the family of Deacon David Rose in the farming community of Granville, Massachusetts, where Lemuel remained until the age of twenty-one.  As a child he absorbed strong Calvinist theology and occasionally was permitted to attend local schools. 

In 1783, after fighting for several years in the American Revolution, Haynes married a white schoolteacher who proposed to him and over the next decades raised a family of ten children with her.  He accepted a pulpit in a predominantly white Congregational Church in the west parish of Rutland, Vermont in 1788.  Although Haynes felt that the color of his skin prevented his full acceptance in the white community, he served the Rutland congregation for thirty years.  His power to inspire revivals helped the church to grow enormously.  In 1818, however, he was dismissed from his Rutland parish due to his Federalist politics and criticism of Republicans’ policies in the War of 1812.  Haynes went on to serve for three years at a congregation in Manchester, Vermont.  Throughout his life he combined evangelical Calvinist fervor with staunch opposition to slavery and oppression.  One of the first African Americans to be ordained and to publish, Haynes authored many eloquent sermons advocating interracial benevolence, liberty, natural rights, and justice.

Sources: 
Richard D. Brown, “ ‘Not Only Extreme Poverty, but the Worst Kind of Orphanage’: Lemuel Haynes and the Boundaries of Racial Tolerance on the Yankee Frontier, 1770-1820.”  New England Quarterly 61.4 (Dec. 1988): 502-18;  Timothy Mather Cooley, Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A.M. (New York, 1837; Rptd. New York, 1969);  John Saillant, Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-1833 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Prince, Lucy Terry (c. 1732-1821)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The author of the first known work of African American literature (the poem “Bars Fight”), Lucy Terry Prince was kidnapped in Africa as an infant and sold into slavery in Rhode Island  At the age of five, she became the property of Captain Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, Massachusetts.  Around the age of sixteen Lucy Terry responded to a 1746 Indian ambush of two white families in a section of town known as “the Bars” by composing the ballad poem “Bars Fight,” which earned her local acclaim.  She remained enslaved until 1756, when Obijah Prince, a prosperous free black man, purchased her freedom and married her. 

In 1760 the Princes moved to Guilford, Vermont, where Lucy Terry Prince gained local renown as a storyteller and orator while educating her six children.  A courageous, eloquent activist, Prince worked hard not only to survive economically but also to protect her family from racist harassment and vandalism.  She agitated, unsuccessfully, for her oldest son to be admitted to Williams College.  Widowed in 1794, Lucy Terry Prince moved to Sunderland, Vermont, where she died in 1821.  Lemuel Haynes preached an antislavery sermon at her funeral in which he predicted that despots and racists, “tyrants and oppressors,” would “sink beneath” Terry’s “feet,” a witty reference to her poetry.

Sources: 
John Saillant, Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-1833 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Cuffe, Paul, Sr. (1759-1817)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Paul Cuffe is best known for his work in assisting free blacks who wanted to emigrate to Sierra Leone.  Cuffe was born free on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts (near New Bedford) sometime around 1759. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He was the youngest of ten children. His father, Kofi (also known as Cuffe Slocum), was from the Ashanti Empire in West Africa. Kofi was captured, enslaved and brought to New England at the age of 10. Paul's mother, Ruth Moses, was Native American. Kofi, a skilled tradesman who was able to earn his freedom, died when Paul Cuffe was a teenager. The younger Cuffe refused to use the name Slocum, which his father had been given by his owner, and instead took his father's first name.

Cuffe became politically active in his early 20s.  In 1780, against the backdrop of the American Revolution, Cuffe led a group of free blacks to petition the Massachusetts government either to give African Americans and Native Americans voting rights or cease taxing them. Although the petition failed to sway the Massachusetts General Court (legislature) the campaign helped pave the way for creation of a new Constitution in 1783 which granted equality to all Massachusetts citizens.
Sources: 
Sheldon H. Harris, Paul Cuffe, Black America and the African Return (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972); www.africanamericans.com/PaulCuffe.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Hall, Prince (c. 1735-1807)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Prince Hall was an important social leader in Boston following the Revolutionary War and the founder of black freemasonry. His birth and childhood are unclear. There were several Prince Halls in Boston at this time. He is believed to have been the slave of a Boston leather worker who was granted freedom in 1770 after twenty-one years of service. He then opened a successful leather goods store, owned his house, was a taxpayer, and a voter. Hall supplied the Boston Regiment with leather goods and may have fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

In 1775, fifteen free blacks, including Hall, joined a freemason lodge of British soldiers. They formed their own lodge, African Lodge #1, when the British left. However, they were not granted full stature by the Grand Lodge of England until 1784. The actual charter arrived in 1787, at which time Hall became the Worshipful Master. Even though they had full stature, most white freemason lodges in America did not treat them equally. Hall helped other black Masonic lodges form. Upon his death in 1807, they became the Prince Hall Grand Lodges.  There are 46 lodges across the United States today.

Sources: 
“Prince Hall,” Africans in America. 1998. WGBH and PBS. 12 July 2006, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p37.html ; “Prince Hall,” Encyclopedia of Black America, Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981), p. 412; “Prince Hall,” Gale Bibliography Resource Center. 12 July 2006, http://www.gale.com/BiographyRC/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Silver Bluff Baptist Church [South Carolina] (1773- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

The first black Baptist congregation in South Carolina was formed in 1773 on the Galphin Plantation near Silver Bluff, 14 miles northwest of  Savannah, Georgia.  The church was founded jointly by Rev. Wait Palmer, a white Connecticut minister, and African American pastor, George Liele.  The first ordained, black minister in Georgia, Liele in turn baptized and trained David George, an enslaved trader owned by George Galphin.  Despite his enslaved status George evangelized among slaves on plantations all along the Savannah River between present-day Augusta and Savannah.  With David George as pastor, Galphin allowed his enslaved population to use an empty barn to worship.  That congregation that met in the barn eventually became the Silver Bluff Baptist Church. 

Sources: 
Walter H. Brooks, D.D., A History of Negro Baptist Churches in America (Washington, D.C.: Press of R. L. Pendelton, 1910); Carter H. Woodson, The History of the Negro Church (Washington, 1921); The Springfield Baptist Church website, online at http://historicspringfield.org/sbc/springfield , Sept. 26, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lee, Jarena (1783-?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Cape May, New Jersey, the early years of Jarena Lee were spent working as a domestic servant.  In her twenties, she was converted, sanctified, and received a call to preach.  When her request for approval to preach was rebuffed by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, she married an AME minister.  His death within a few years of the marriage left Lee a widow with two young children.  In order to support her family she renewed her request to the Rev. Richard Allen, the Bishop of the African Methodist Church who then granted her official church approval to preach. 

Lee’s evangelistic meetings took place in her home city of Philadelphia and also throughout New England, Canada and west into Ohio.  She recounted her meetings in her autobiography, the first to be published in the United States by an African American woman. In that autobiography, Lee  frequently mentions the denominational and racial composition of her audience, which, in both cases, was quite inclusive.  Between 1849 and 1857, there is no recorded history about her.  The last known event in her life was a visit she made to the home of Rebecca Cox Jackson, a Shaker leader, on New Year’s Day in 1857.  After that occasion, at the age of 73, nothing is known about her life or death.

Sources: 
Jarena Lee, The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee, A Coloured Lady (1836) and Jarena Lee, Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee (1849); Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Salem, Peter (ca.1750 -1816)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, 
Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture,
The New York Public Library

Peter Salem was born a slave to Jeremiah Belknap at Framingham, Massachusetts about 1750.  Belknap sold Salem to Lawson Buckminister some time before the Revolutionary War.  Buckminister allowed Salem to enlist in the Massachusetts Minutemen.  According to one story, his master freed him upon his enlistment.  Another account states that Peter changed his name to Salem when he was freed.  Some have attempted to link Peter’s last name with the Arabic “Saleem” (one who is peaceful); however there is no concrete evidence that this is the case.

Salem served at Concord, Saratoga and Stony Point.  He is traditionally given credit for the slaying of British Major Pitcairn at Bunker Hill.  Pitcairn had ordered the colonists to surrender.  Salem shot him in answer.  In the ensuing confusion, the Americans were able to take the field.  Pitcairn died of his wounds.  The gun attributed to Salem’s deed is part of the museum collection at Bunker Hill.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Poor, Salem (1747-1780)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
African American patriot Salem Poor of Andover, Massachusetts fought with distinction in the American Revolution. He purchased his freedom in 1769 for 27 pounds (about one year’s salary).  Soon after, he married a freedwoman named Nancy by whom he had a son.  In May of 1775 Poor enlisted in the Continental Army and distinguished himself at the Battle of Bunker Hill (Charlestown) where he was sent to assist in the building of fortifications.  Six months later, white veterans petitioned the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to recognize Poor’s exemplary service at the Battle of Charlestown, citing that he had “behaved like an experienced officer.”   His comrades stated that in Poor “centers a brave and gallant soldier.”  “To set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious.” Of the thousands of American soldiers at Bunker Hill no other was given such recognition.
Sources: 
Sylvia R. Frey, Water from the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1999); Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961); The American Revolution, http://www.americanrevolution.com/SalemPoor.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Guerrero, Vicente (1783-1831)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Vicente Guerrero was born in the small village of Tixla in the state of Guerrero.  His parents were Pedro Guerrero, an African Mexican and Guadalupe Saldana, an Indian. Vicente was of humble origins. In his youth he worked as a mule driver on his father’s mule run.  His travels took him to different parts of Mexico where he heard of the ideas of independence. Through one of these trips he met rebel General Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. In November 1810, Guerrero decided to join Morelos. Upon the assassination of Morelos by the Spaniards, Guerrero became Commander in Chief. In that position he made a deal with Spanish General Agustin de Iturbide.

Iturbide joined the independence movement and agreed with Guerrero on a series of measures known as “El plan de Iguala.” This plan gave civil rights to Indians but not to African Mexicans. Guerrero refused to sign the plan unless equal rights were also given to African Mexicans and mulattos. Clause 12 was then incorporated into the plan. It read: “All inhabitants . . . without distinction of their European, African or Indian origins are citizens . . . with full freedom to pursue their livelihoods according to their merits and virtues.”
Sources: 
Theodore G. Vincent, The Legacy of Vincente Guerrero: Mexico’s First Black Indian President (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001); Lane Clark, “Guerrero Vicente,” Historical Text Archive. <http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&artid=563 >
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Wheatley, Phillis (1754-1784)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Enslaved in Senegal [Gambia] at age eight and brought to America on a schooner called the Phillis (for which she was apparently named), was purchased by Susannah and John Wheatley, who soon recognized her intellect and facility with language.  Susannah Wheatley taught Phillis to read not only English but some Latin.  While yet in her teens, Phillis Wheatley became the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry, and the third woman in the American colonies to do so.  That book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, became controversial twice.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America’s First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2003); http://www.jmu.edu/madison/center/main_pages/madison_archives/era/african/free/wheatley/bio.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brigham Young University

DuSable, Jean-Baptiste-Point (1745-1818)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 Jean-Baptiste-Point DuSable, a frontier trader, trapper and farmer was the first resident of what is now Chicago. There is very little definite information on DuSable’s past. He was born free around 1745 in St. Marc, Saint-Dominique (Haiti). His mother was an African slave, his father a French mariner. DuSable traveled with his father to France, where he embarked on a fruitful education.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Prosser, Gabriel (1775-1800)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gabriel Prosser was the leader of an unsuccessful slave revolt in Richmond, Virginia in 1800. Born into slavery around 1775, Gabriel Prosser was owned by Thomas H. Prosser of Henrico County, Virginia. Little is known of Prosser’s life before the revolt that catapulted him into notoriety. Prosser’s two brothers, Solomon and Martin and his wife, Nanny, were all owned by Thomas Prosser and all participated in the insurrection.

Gabriel Prosser at the time of the insurrection was twenty-four years old, six feet two inches, literate, and a blacksmith by trade. He was described by a contemporary as “a fellow of courage and intellect above his rank in life.” With the help of other slaves including Jack Bowler and George Smith, Prosser devised a plan to seize control of Richmond by killing all of the whites (except the Methodists, Quakers and Frenchmen) and then establishing a Kingdom of Virginia with himself as monarch.
Sources: 
Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts (New York: International Publishers, 1974); http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3p1576.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Equiano, Olaudah (1745-1797)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Olaudah Equiano, whose father was an Ibo chief, was born in 1745 in what is now Southern Nigeria. At the age of 11 years, Olaudah was captured by African slave traders and sold into bondage in the New World.  Equiano, given the name Gustavus Vassa by one of his many owners, was forced to serve several masters, among them a Virginia plantation owner, a British Naval officer, and a Philadelphia merchant.  While a slave to the naval officer Equiano traveled between four continents. These global experiences within the Atlantic Slave Trade allowed Equiano to produce the most popular and vivid slave narrative of his era.

By 1777 at the age of 32, Equiano, after having mastered reading, writing and arithmetic, purchased his freedom.  He settled in England, befriended Granville Sharp, the first prominent British abolitionist, and soon became a leader of the emerging anti-slavery movement.  Equiano presented one of the first petitions to the British Parliament calling for the abolition of slavery.  
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); see also African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Group, 1994); http://www.brycchancarey.com/Equiano/biog.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Stono Rebellion (1739)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
On Sunday, September 9th, 1739 the British colony of South Carolina was shaken by a slave uprising that culminated with the death of sixty people. Led by an Angolan named Jemmy, a band of twenty slaves organized a rebellion on the banks of the Stono River. After breaking into Hutchinson’s store the band, now armed with guns, called for their liberty.  As they marched, overseers were killed and reluctant slaves were forced to join the company. The band reached the Edisto River where white colonists descended upon them, killing most of the rebels.  The survivors were sold off to the West Indies.   

The immediate factors that sparked the uprising remain in doubt. A malaria epidemic in Charlestown, which caused general confusion throughout Carolina, may have influenced the timing of the Rebellion.  The recent (August 1739) passage of the Security Act by the South Carolina Colonial Assembly may also have played a role. The act required all white men to carry firearms to church on Sunday. Thus the enslaved leaders of the rebellion knew their best chance for success would be during the time of the church services when armed white males were away from the plantations.  
Sources: 
Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670s through the Stono Rebellion (London: W.W. Norton and Co, 1974); www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p284.html
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

New York City Slave Uprising (1712)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
The New York City Slave Uprising of 1712
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Between twenty-five and fifty blacks congregated at midnight in New York City, New York on April 6, 1712. With guns, swords and knives in hand the slaves first set fire to an outhouse then fired shots at several white slave owners, who had raced to scene to fight the fire. By the end of the night, nine whites were killed and six whites were injured. The next day the governor of New York ordered the New York and Westchester militias to “drive the island.” With the exception of six rebels who committed suicide before they were apprehended, all of the rebels were captured and punished with ferocity ranging from being burned alive, to being broken by a wheel.  
Sources: 
Ira Berlin, Slavery in New York (The New Press: New York, 2005); www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p284.html
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

New York Slave Conspiracy (1741)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
New York City Execution Followind
Alleged Black Slave Uprising of 1741
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The New York Slave Conspiracy of 1741 is an extraordinarily complex story. Some historians have dismissed the idea that slaves actually conspired to overthrow chattel bondage and gain their freedom, while others have argued that the events in New York were part of a mixed rebellion of the Atlantic proletariat. What is clear about this incident is that it is an example of an abuse of power and a misuse of law and community values by white colonists.

Between the months of March and April, ten fires blazed in the city, culminating with four fires on a single day in early April. A grand jury concluded that the fires were the work of black arsonists who had ties to a larger conspiracy to burn the city and murder all the white people.  More than a hundred slaves were brought into the basement of the city hall on charges of burglary, arson and insurrection. Thirteen slaves were burned at the stake, and 70 others were sold into the backbreaking slavery of the Caribbean.  Two white men and two white women were also hanged.  Seven other whites were permanently expelled from New York City.
Sources: 
Ira Berlin, Slavery in New York (New York: The New Press, 2005); Peter Charles Hoffer, The Great New York Conspiracy of 1741 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press: Lawrence, 2003).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mortimer, Prince (ca. 1724-1834)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in West Africa, Prince Mortimer was captured by slave traders as a young boy. After enduring a brutal passage to the Americas, he arrived in Connecticut around 1730.  In the late 1750s he was sold in Middletown, Connecticut to Philip Mortimer, who trained him to work as a spinner of ropes.  Alternately dubbed “Guinea” and “Prince Negro,” Prince in time became a valuable senior spinner in Mortimer’s prosperous ropework.  During the American Revolution Prince served various officers and was sent on errands by George Washington.  

Although many Connecticut slaves were freed after their Revolutionary service, Prince was not.  His sufferings as a slave were compounded by yaws, a painful tropical disease similar to leprosy that caused cartilage to deteriorate and left terrible scars.  He would have been freed upon Philip Mortimer’s death in 1794 had not Mortimer’s son-in-law, George Starr, contested and succeeded in overturning Mortimer’s will. In December 1811, at the age of 87, Prince was accused of poisoning his new master, Captain George Starr, and was sentenced to life in prison.  His fellow slave, Jack Mortimer, also was accused.
Sources: 
Denis R Caron, A Century in Captivity: The Life and Trials of Prince Mortimer, a Connecticut Slave (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Mortimer, Jack (1700's)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jack and his wife Sophy were enslaved in Middletown, Connecticut to Philip Mortimer (1710-1794), a wealthy Irish businessman.  Philip Mortimer freed them in his will, but his son-in-law, George Starr, contested and succeeded in overturning the will.  Mortimer’s will also intended to give Jack and Sophy the use of one and three-quarters acres of land that, upon their deaths, was to be divided between their three sons, Lester, Dick, and John. The three boys were ordered to be kept in school until the age of fourteen, then apprenticed as house joiners until the age of twenty-one, when they were to be freed.  In a codicil to his will, Mortimer also left Jack, Sophy, and their sons some kettles and a fishing place in Chatham.

Jack Mortimer’s rage against George Starr for overturning Philip Mortimer’s will in 1796 was immense. Although by 1810 he had gained his freedom, in December 1811 he was accused of “maliciously intending to poison & murder George Starr.”  The prosecutor alleged that Jack “did unlawfully & wickedly, solicit, instigate, advise, persuade, & procure Prince [Mortimer]. . . to give & administer a quantity of Arsenic or Ratsbane” to Starr. The case against Jack was inexplicably dropped, but eleven years later, in 1822, he was convicted of arson for burning to the ground a house belonging to Starr’s daughter. Jack was then sentenced to five years imprisonment in Newgate, the first state prison in the United States.
Sources: 
Denis R Caron, A Century in Captivity: The Life and Trials of Prince Mortimer, a Connecticut Slave (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation (1775)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
This historic proclamation, dated November 7, 1775 and issued from on board a British warship lying off Norfolk, Virginia, by royal governor and Scottish aristocrat John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, offered the first large-scale emancipation of slave and servant labor in the history of colonial British America. It grew out of Dunmore’s efforts to counter an impending attack on his capital of Williamsburg by patriot militia in the spring of 1775, when he several times threatened to free and arm slaves to defend the cause of royal government.  By the time he retreated offshore he was already gathering slaves seeking refuge; his November proclamation commanding Virginians to support the crown or be judged traitors now formally offered freedom to all slaves and indentured servants belonging to rebels and able to bear arms for the crown. Within weeks, several hundred slaves, many with their families, had joined him. They enlisted in what Dunmore christened his “Ethiopian Regiment” and formed the bulk of the royal troops that first defeated patriot forces but then fell victim to disease and attack, evacuating the Chesapeake Region for New York by August 1776.
Sources: 
Benjamin Quarles, The Negro and the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961); Woody Holton, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, and the Making of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); Sylvia R. Frey, Water From the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Washington, Henry (ca. 1740-post 1801)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Henry Washington, slave, loyalist, and colonizer, was born in Africa, perhaps in the Senegambia. Transported as a slave to America, he was bought by George Washington in 1763 to work on a project for draining the Great Dismal Swamp.  By 1766, he was living at Mount Vernon, caring for Washington’s horses.  Briefly a runaway in 1771, he fled again in 1776 to join royal Virginia governor Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment of freed slaves.
Sources: 
Cassandra Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and their Global Quest for Liberty(Boston: Beacon Press, 2006); Ellen Gibson Wilson, The Loyal Blacks (New York: Capricorn Books, 1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, formed what he termed “Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment” in the fall of 1775 from the several hundred slaves who escaped their servitude to join him, as he fled Williamsburg to organize a small army of loyalists and British soldiers on the coast near Norfolk.  In November, Dunmore published a proclamation promising freedom to servants and slaves able to bear arms, and enough joined him to make up half of the force that first routed the Virginia militia at Kemp’s Landing and then, in December, suffered a devastating defeat at Great Bridge on the Elizabeth River.  By then, Dunmore reported to London, that nearly three hundred men of the Ethiopian Regiment were clad in uniforms embroidered with the provocative words “liberty to slaves.” Patriot writers reacted with fear and fury to the threat posed by this first systematic freeing and arming of the South’s black labor force.
Sources: 
The Negro and the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution (New York: HarperCollins, 2006); Christopher Leslie Brown and Philip D. Morgan, eds., Arming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age (University Press: New Haven, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Whipple, Prince (1750-1796)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Prince Whipple fought at the battles of Saratoga and in Delaware during the War for Independence.  He was also one of twenty enslaved men who petitioned the New Hampshire legislature for freedom in 1779.  His owner, General William Whipple, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an aide to General George Washington.  Although Whipple has been identified by some as the African American figure in the familiar painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River, it is doubtful he was present on Christmas Eve, 1776.

Sources: 
Charles W. Brewster, Rambles About Portsmouth (1859; reprint, Somersworth, NH: New Hampshire Publishing Company, 1971); Mark Sammons and Valerie Cunningham, Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage (Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2004).
http://www.seacoastnh.com/blackhistory/prince.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Haitian Revolution (1791-1804)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Haitian Revolution has often been described as the largest and most successful slave rebellion in the Western Hemisphere.  Slaves initiated the rebellion in 1791 and by 1803 they had succeeded in ending not just slavery but French control over the colony.  The Haitian Revolution, however, was much more complex, consisting of several revolutions going on simultaneously. These revolutions were influenced by the French revolution of 1789, which would come to represent a new concept of human rights, universal citizenship, and participation in government.
Sources: 
Thomas O. Ott, The Haitian Revolution 1789-1804 (Knoxville, Tennessee:University of Tennessee, 1973); http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3p2990.html
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hemings, Sally (1773-1835)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hemings-Jefferson Descendants, 2001
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sally Hemings was born into slavery in Virginia, probably at Guinea Plantation in Cumberland County, the youngest of six children of Elizabeth Hemings allegedly fathered by her white master John Wayles. Her mother was herself the child of an enslaved African woman and an English sea-captain, making Sally three-fourths white in ancestry.

On Wayles’ death in 1773, the Hemings family was inherited by Martha, his eldest legitimate child, and brought to the Monticello plantation of Thomas Jefferson whom Martha had married the previous year.  There the children grew up as house slaves staffing Monticello during the years that encompassed Martha Jefferson’s death in September 1782 and Jefferson’s departure to Paris on diplomatic service in 1784.  Three years later, Sally Hemings traveled to France as companion and maid to Jefferson’s eight-year-old daughter Maria, staying until 1789.  
Sources: 
Fawn Brodie, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (New York: Norton, 1974); Annette Gordon-Read, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1997); Jan Ellen Lewis and Peter S. Onuf, eds., Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

First Emancipation

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
From the late seventeenth century onwards, a few American colonists, mostly Quakers, had expressed their moral opposition to the spread of black slavery throughout British America.  It was not until the coming of the Revolution, however, that the first concerted protests arose, first against the continued importation of slaves and then against slavery itself, as contrary to the liberties and natural rights for which the war was being fought.  Some New England states adopted immediate emancipation: Vermont’s 1777 constitution explicitly outlawed slavery and in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, a series of judicial interpretations during the 1780s declared the institution in violation of the bills of rights contained in their new state constitutions.  Elsewhere in the northern states, a policy of gradual emancipation was adopted, in Pennsylvania in 1780 and Rhode Island and Connecticut in 1784, but not until 1799 and 1804 in New York and New Jersey. This legislation provided for those born into slavery after the act to be freed at a certain age (21 in Pennsylvania and 28 in New York), so that masters would still receive the bulk of their slaves’ working lives as compensation for their ultimate loss of “property.” Slavery was excluded from the territories north and west of the Ohio River.  Still further north, British Canada harbored several thousand former slaves freed by British forces during the revolutionary war.
Sources: 
Arthur Zilversmit, The First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967); Joanne Pope Melish, Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998); David Gellman, Emancipating New York: The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777-1827 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

L'Overture, Toussaint (1742-1803)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Known to his contemporaries as “The Black Napoleon,” Toussaint L’Overture was a former slave who rose to become the leader of the only successful slave revolt in modern history, the Haitian Revolution.

Born into slavery on May 20, 1743 in the French colony of Saint Dominque, L’Overture was the eldest son of Gaou Guinon, an African prince who was captured by slavers.  At a time when revisions to the French Code Noir (Black Code) legalized the harsh treatment of slaves as property, young L’ Overture instead inspired kindness from those in authority over him.  His godfather, the priest Simon Baptiste, for example, taught him to read and write.  Impressed by L’Overture, Bayon de Libertad, the manager of the Breda plantation on which L’Overture was born, allowed him unlimited access to his personal library.  By the time he was twenty, the well-read and tri-lingual L’Overture—he spoke French, Creole, and some Latin—had also gained a reputation as a skilled horseman and for his knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs.  More importantly, L’Overture had secured his freedom from de Libertad even as he continued to manage his former owner’s household personnel and to act as his coachman.  Over the course of the next 18 years, L’Overture settled into life on the Breda plantation marrying fellow Catholic Suzanne Simon and parenting two sons, Isaac and Saint-Jean.
Sources: 
Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004); Martin Ros, Night of Fire: The Black Napoleon and the Battle for Haiti (New York: Sarpedon, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dessalines, Jean-Jacques (1758-1806)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of Manuscripts, Archives and Rare
Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor,
Lenox and Tilden Foundations
Reviled for his brutality yet honored as one of the founding fathers of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines was second in command under Toussaint L’Overture during the Haitian Revolution and was the general who emerged after L’Overture’s capture to lead the insurgents in declaring Haitian independence on January 1, 1804.

Like L’Overture, Dessalines was born into slavery in the French colony of Saint Dominque.  Born to Congolese parents, Dessalines was originally given the name Duclos, after the plantation’s owner.  He later adopted the surname Dessalines after the free black landowner who purchased him and from whom he escaped. Unlike L’Overture, Dessalines was treated harshly as a slave and violence became a way of life that marked him throughout his military and brief political career contributing both to his success on the battlefield and to his eventual downfall.
Sources: 
Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004); Martin Ros, Night of Fire: The Black Napoleon and the Battle for Haiti (New York: Sarpedon, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Attucks, Crispus (1723-1770)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Crispus Attucks, the first martyr of the Boston Massacre in 1770, was probably born near Framingham, Massachusetts, a Christianized and multitribal town of Indians, whites, and blacks, in 1723.  Unusually tall for the era at six feet, two inches, Attucks was of mixed ancestry, the son of an African American man and an American Indian woman.  It is believed that he was the slave of William Brown since he was reported in the Boston Gazette on October 2, 1750 as having escaped from Brown; Attucks was listed as age 27 at the time. By the time of the Massacre he was 47 and working as a sailor in Boston and around the Atlantic Basin.
Sources: 
The Liberator, March 28, 1862; Sidney Kaplan and Emma Nogrady Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989); The Trial of William Wemms, James Hartegan, William M'Cauley, Hugh White, Matthew Killroy, William Warren, John Carrol, and Hugh Montgomery, soldiers in His Majesty's 29th Regiment of Foot, for the murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr, on Monday-evening, the 5th of March, 1770, at the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and general goal delivery, held at Boston. The 27th day of November, 1770, by adjournment. Before the Hon. Benjamin Lynde, John Cushing, Peter Oliver, and Edmund Trowbridge, Esquires, justices of said court: Published by permission of the court (Boston, MA: printed by J. Fleeming, and sold at his printing-office, nearly opposite the White-Horse Tavern in Newbury-Street, 1770); Mitch Kachun, “From Forgotten Founder to Indispensable Icon: Crispus Attucks, Black Citizenship, and Collective Memory, 1770-1865,” Journal of the Early Republic, June 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

First Baptist Church, Richmond (1780-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Old First Baptist Church
of Richmond 
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The First Baptist Church, founded in 1780 by Joshua Morris, emerged in the aftermath of the Great Awakening religious revival movement (1730s-1770s) that spread across the South.  In contrast to the other churches in Richmond organized during the same time, the First Baptist attracted both black and white congregants in the hundreds, while neighboring houses of worship could only count a handful of followers.

First Baptist greatly appealed to slave and free-born blacks because of its liturgical message of egalitarianism by stressing the individual’s efforts for rebirth and conversion, rather than infant baptism.  Furthermore, the sermons and messages were accessible to even those who could not read.  Baptist ministers expressed sin and salvation in physical terms: the weight of sin, the burning fires of hell, and the cleanliness and purity of conversion.  
Sources: 
Midori Takagi, “Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction” Slavery in Richmond Virginia, 1780-1865 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999); Blanche Sydnor White, First Baptist Church, Richmond, 1780-1955: One Hundred and Seventy-Five Years of Service to God and Man (Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, 1955); Walter H. Brooks, “The Evolution of the Negro Baptist Church,” The Journal of Negro History 7:1(January 1922).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

Banneker, Benjamin (1731-1806)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Cover of Benjamin Banneker's 1792 Almanac
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin Banneker, free black, farmer, mathematician, and astronomer, was born on November 9, 1731, the son of freed slaves Robert and Mary Bannaky, probably near the Patapsco River southeast of Baltimore, Maryland, where his father owned a small farm. For some years, Benjamin seems to have served as an indentured laborer on the Prince George’s County plantation of Mary Welsh, who had dealings with the Bannaky family and in 1773 executed her dead husband’s instructions to release several of her labor force including “Negro Ben, born free age 43.” Walsh was surely not Banneker’s grandmother, as argued by many biographers, but she did leave him a substantial legacy. He then lived alone as a tobacco farmer near the Patapsco River.

By tradition, Banneker received only a brief education from a Quaker schoolmaster.  But he showed an early talent for mathematics and construction when, aged 21, he built a model of a striking clock, largely out of wood, that became renowned in his neighborhood. He read widely and recorded his researches.  His skills drew him into contact with a wealthy white family, the Ellicotts, who had established flourmills and an iron foundry on the outskirts of Baltimore in the mid-1770s.
Sources: 
Silvio Bedini, The Life of Benjamin Banneker (New York: Scribner’s, 1972); Charles A. Cerami, Benjamin Banneker: Surveyor, Astronomer, Publisher, Patriot (New York: Wiley, 2002); George Ely Russell, “Molly Welsh: Alleged Grandmother of Benjamin Banneker,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 94 (December 2006): 305-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Allen, Richard (1760-1831)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Born into slavery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 14, 1760, Richard Allen went on to become an educator, writer, minister and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Benjamin Chew, a Quaker lawyer, owned the Allen family, which included Richard’s parents and three other children.  Chew eventually sold the Allen family to Stokeley Sturgis, a Delaware planter.  

At age 17 Allen was converted to Methodism by an itinerant preacher.  Allen’s master, Stokeley Sturgis, was said to have been influenced by Allen to become a Methodist as well. After his conversion, Sturgis offered his slaves the opportunity to buy their way out of slavery.  In 1783, by working at odd jobs for five years, Allen managed to purchase his freedom for $2,000. In the meantime, Allen began to preach in Methodist churches and meetings in the Baltimore area.  Through his Methodist connections Allen was invited to return to Philadelphia in 1786. Upon arriving in the city he joined St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, where he became active in teaching and preaching.
Sources: 
Richard Allen, The Life, Experience and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen, Written by Himself (Philadelphia, 1793; reprinted Nashville: Abingdon, 1960); Carol V. R. George, Richard Allen and the Emergence of Independent Black Churches (New York: Oxford University, 1973).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Amo, Anton Wilhelm (1703? -1753)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Anton Wilhelm Amo Statue at the
University of Halle, Germany
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Anton Wilhelm Amo, also known as Antonius Guilielmus Amo Afer ab Aximo in Guinea, was the first intellectual of African ancestry to study in Germany. He obtained a doctorate degree in philosophy and held lectures at the universities of Halle and Jena. Having spent forty years of his life in Germany, Amo returned to his place of birth where he died after 1753.

Amo was born around 1700 on the African Gold Coast in the town of Axim in present-day Ghana. Aged seven, he was brought to Amsterdam by the Dutch West India Company who gave him as a present to the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in Saxony. The Duke Ulrich Anton and his son Augustus Wilhelm adopted Amo, baptized him in 1707 and gave him his Christian name Anton Wilhelm. His protectors also allowed him to be educated to a point where he was able to enter the University of Halle.

When Amo started his studies in Halle in 1727, the newly founded University had already acquired a brilliant reputation and was one of the centers of German Enlightenment. The young African soon became skilled in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French and Dutch and obtained his degree of Master of Arts in Philosophy in 1730.
Sources: 
Burchard Brentjes, Anton Wilhelm Amo: Der Schwarze Philosoph in Halle (Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1976); Paulin J. Hountondji, African Philosophy: Myth and Reality (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996); http://amo.blogsport.de/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Capitein, Jacobus Elisa Johannes (1717?-1747)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Engraving of Jacobus Capitein
Image Ownership: Public Domain
As one of the first known sub-Saharan Africans to study at a European university, the freed slave Jacobus Capitein became a celebrity in Holland for his academic and religious achievements and later returned to his homeland to evangelize the indigenous population. Capitein was born on the Gold Cost but his exact place and date of birth are unknown. According to his own account, he was kidnapped from his parents at the age of seven or eight and sold to Dutch sea-captain named Arnold Steenhard who gave him as a present to his friend the merchant Jacob van Gogh. Capitein lived with his master for two years in the Dutch Fort of Elmina in Ghana before leaving with him for Holland in 1728.

With his entry into The Netherlands, Capitein won his freedom since slavery at that time was officially banned. He moved with his guardian to The Hague where he learned Dutch and after one year was able to attend the catechism class of the local Reformed Church where he was later baptized. Very early in his education he announced his desire to become a missionary in Africa. Being an excellent student, Capitein obtained the support of Van Gogh and other guardians to pay for his higher education and finally begin his studies in theology at the University of Leiden in 1737.
Sources: 
Allison Blakely, Blacks in the Dutch World: The Evolution of Racial Imagery in a Modern Society (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993); David Nii Anum Kpobi, Mission in Chains: The Life, Theology and Ministry of the Ex-Slave Jacobus E.J. Capitein (1717-1747) with a Translation of his Major Publications (Zoetermeer: Uitgeverij Boekencentrum, 1993); William J. Simmons, Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising (New York: Arno Press, 1968).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Hannibal, Abram Petrovich \ Gannibal, A. P. (1696?–1781)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sold into Turkish slavery, Abram Petrovich Hannibal was brought as a black servant to Czar Peter I, known as Peter the Great. He became one of the royal favorites, a general-in-chief, and one of the best educated men in Russia in his era. His great-grandson was Alexander Pushkin, the famous Russian writer who later glorified the deeds of his black ancestor in his book, The Negro of Peter the Great.

Hannibal was born on an unknown date around 1696 in the principality of Logon in present day Cameroon. Abducted by a rival ethnic group, Hannibal was sold to Turkish slave traders who brought him to Constantinople in 1703. As an eight-year-old boy he was brought to the court of Peter the Great who adopted him immediately. Being the Czar's godson, Hannibal assumed his name, Petrovich, and became his valet on Peter's various military campaigns and journeys. When the Czar visited France in 1716, Hannibal was left behind in Paris to study engineering and mathematics at a military school. Two years later, he joined the French army and fought in the war against Spain. In January 1723, Hannibal finally returned to Russia.

To Hannibal's misery, his protector, Peter the Great, died in 1725, leaving the young black artillery lieutenant dependent upon the royal advisor Prince Menshikov, who, due to his dislike of Hannibal, assigned him first to Siberia and later to the Chinese border where his task was to measure the Great Wall.
Sources: 
Hugh Barnes, Gannibal: The Moor of Petersburg (London: Profile Books, 2005); Allison Blakely, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1986); N. K. Teletova, “A.P. Gannibal: On the Occasion of the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Alexander Pushkin's Great-Grandfather,” Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness, Ed. Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, Nicole Svobodny, and Ludmilla A. Trigos (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg (Germany)

Dumas, Thomas-Alexandre (1762–1806)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was a mulatto born in the French colony of Saint Domingue. He joined the French Army as a private and rose to the rank of a General during the French Revolution. Dumas is probably best known for fathering the famous French writer Alexandre Dumas (père).

The son of the lesser French nobleman Alexandre-Antoine Davy, Marquis de la Pailleterie, and a black slave woman, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was born on the island of Saint Domingue on March 25, 1762. In 1772, the Marquis returned to France, followed by his son in 1776. As Dumas grew into manhood he moved to Paris, enjoying life with the financial support of his father. But soon after the senior Davy married his second wife, he suspended the payments to his son.

Without any income, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas decided to join the French Army in 1786. At the request of his father, he enlisted under his mother's name Marie Dumas, in order to preserve the family's reputation. During the French Revolution Dumas became a devout republican serving in an all-black unit known as “La Légion Américaine.” This dedication helped him being catapulted from the rank of a corporal to that of a general of a division in less than two years.
Sources: 
Jon G. Gallaher, General Alexandre Dumas: Soldier of the French Revolution (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997); André Maurois, The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957); J.A. Rogers, World's Greatest Men of Color, Volume II (New York: Macmillan, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Jones, Absalom (1746-1818)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Sussex, Delaware in 1746.  He taught himself to read in his early teens from books he purchased by saving pennies given to him by visitors to his master’s home.  At the age of sixteen, Jones’ family was separated when his immediate family members were sold and he was taken to Philadelphia by his new owner.  Jones worked as a clerk in his owner’s store by day and was allowed to work for himself and attend an all-black school at night.  
Sources: 
Benjamin Brawley, Negro Builders and Heroes (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1937); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1982); W. Augustus Low, ed., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1981).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fort Mose (Florida)

Vignette Type: 
Places
History Type: 
African American History
Spanish, Indian and Free Black Forces Retake Fort Mose
Florida from the English (June 14, 1740)
Image Courtesy of the Florida National Guard
Established in 1738, Fort Mose was the first free black settlement in what is now the United States.  Located just north of St. Augustine, Florida, Fort Mose played an important role in the development of colonial North America.   

As Great Britain, France, Spain and other European nations competed for control of the New World and its wealth they all in varying ways came to rely on African labor to develop their overseas colonial possessions.  Exploiting its proximity to plantations in the British colonies in North America and the West Indies, King Charles II, of Spain issued the Edict of 1693 which stated that any male slave on an English plantation who escaped to Spanish Florida would be granted freedom provided he joined the Militia and became a Catholic. This edict became one of the New World’s earliest emancipation proclamations.       

By 1738 there were 100 blacks, mostly runaways from the Carolinas, living in what became Fort Mose.  Many were skilled workers, blacksmiths, carpenters, cattlemen, boatmen, and farmers.  With accompanying women and children, they created a colony of freed people that ultimately attracted other fugitive slaves.   
Sources: 
Kathleen Deagan and Darcie MacMahon, Fort Mose: Colonial America’s Black Fortress of Freedom (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995): Jane Landers, “Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose: A Free Black Town in Spanish Colonial Florida,” American Historical Review 95:1 (Fall 1990); Jane Landers, “Spanish Sanctuary: Fugitives in Florida, 1687-1790,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 62:3 (1984). Deborah Huso, “Fort Mose,” American Legacy: The Magazine of African American History and Culture (Fall 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Chavis, John (1763-1838)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Chavis, early 19th Century minister and teacher, was born on October 18, 1763.  His place of birth is debated by historians.  Some scholars think that Chavis hailed from the West Indies.  Others believe that he was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, or that he was born in North Carolina.  Available records document that Chavis was a free African American who probably worked for Halifax, Virginia attorney James Milner beginning in 1773.   It is likely that Chavis utilized the books in Milner’s extensive law library to educate himself.  

In 1778, while still a teenager, Chavis entered the Virginia Fifth Regiment and fought in the Revolutionary War.  He served in the Fifth Regiment for three years.  In the 1780s Chavis earned his living as a tutor and while working in this capacity he married Sarah Frances Anderson.  Although an excellent teacher, Chavis’ own intellectual capacity was not satisfied.  He soon moved his family to New Jersey to enter a tutorial program with John Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  In 1792, at the age of 29, Chavis was accepted into the College of New Jerseys’ Theological School; later renamed Princeton University.   
Sources: 
Helen Chavis Othow, John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor 1783-1838, Mentor (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2001); William S. Powell, Ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 1, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), John Chavis Letters, #2014, 1889-1892; Wilson Library Manuscripts Department , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; John Chavis Biography, North Carolina State University Division of Archives and History, http://www.ncsu.edu/ligon/about/history/Chavis.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Johnson C. Smith University

Bridgetower, George (1780-1860)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eighteenth and nineteenth century classical violinist George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower is perhaps now best remembered for his association with Ludwig von Beethoven, who composed his Kreutzer Sonata for the young Afro-European musician, and personally performed the sonata for violin and piano with Bridgetower. A copy of the sonata autographed by Beethoven is inscribed: “Sonata mulattica composta per il mullato.”

Sources differ on details of Bridgetower’s life. His birth date is variously given as 1778, 1779, or 1780, most likely February 29, 1780. It is known his mother was a Polish European, his father was of African ancestry, and he was born in Poland. While there are several versions of where his father came from – from Africa, or from Barbados - it is unquestioned that he was of African descent.

During Bridgetower’s early childhood, his father was said to have worked in the household of Prince Esterhazy of Hungary, in a castle which maintained an opera house, a private orchestra, and employed the composer Franz Joseph Haydn. The Prince was a great patron of the musical arts, and this childhood home would have been an ideal incubator for Bridgetower’s extraordinary talents.  
Sources: 
Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music, tenth edition edited by John Owen Ward (London: Oxford University Press, 1970); www.black-history.org.uk/prodigy.asp ; www.100greatblackbritons.com/bios/george_bridgetower.html; www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/features/blackeuro/bridgetowerbackground.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Morris (1770-1849)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Morris Brown was born in Charleston, South Carolina on February 13, 1770. His family belonged to a sizeable African American population in the city who were mostly enslaved.  Brown’s parents, however, were part the city’s tiny free black community.  In the year of Brown’s birth, more than 5,800 enslaved blacks and 24 free blacks resided in the city, compared to a total of 5,030 whites.  Within this city where African Americans were the majority, Brown’s family circulated within an elite black society, whose members were often so closely related to aristocratic whites in the city that they were exempt from the racist restrictions imposed on the majority of enslaved people.

A prosperous shoemaker by trade and charismatic religious leader, Brown travelled to Philadelphia to collaborate with the Rev. Richard Allen in the founding of the country’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1816.  Brown worked tirelessly to forge an independent African Methodist Church in Charleston.  In 1818, Brown left a predominantly white but racially segregated Methodist Church in Charleston in protest against discrimination. More than 4,000 black members of the white churches in the city followed Brown to his new church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, later named Emanuel AME Church.   
Sources: 
Margaret Washington, “The Meanings of Scripture in Gullah Concepts of Liberation and Group Identity,” in Vincent Wimbush, ed., African Americans and the Bible: Sacred Texts and Social Textures (NY Continuum, 2000), pp. 321-30; Bernard E. Powers, Jr., “Seeking the Promised Land: Afro-Carolinians and the Quest for Religious Freedom to 1830,” in James Lowell Underwood and W. Lewis Burke, eds., The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2006), 138, 139; Philip D. Morgan, “Black Life in Charleston,” in Bernard Bailyn, et al., eds., Perspectives in American History, v. 1 (1984), 187-232; and Peter Bergman, The Chronological History of the Negro in America (NY: Harper & Row, 1969), 45.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lafayette, James Armistead (1760-1832)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Armistead [Lafayette] was an African American spy during the American Revolution. Born in Virginia as a slave to William Armistead in 1760, he volunteered to join the army in 1781. After gaining the consent of his owner, Armistead was stationed to serve under the Marquis de Lafayette, the commander of French forces allied with the American Continental Army.  Lafayette employed Armistead as a spy.  While working for Lafayette he successfully infiltrated British General Charles Cornwallis's headquarters posing as a runaway slave hired by the British to spy on the Americans.

While pretending to be a British spy, Armistead gained the confidence of General Benedict Arnold and General Cornwallis. Arnold was so convinced of Armistead's pose as a runaway slave that he used him to guide British troops through local roads. Armistead often traveled between camps, spying on British officers, who spoke openly about their strategies in front of him. Armistead documented this information in written reports, delivered them to other American spies, and then return to General Cornwallis's camp.
Sources: 
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Alan Steinberg, Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African American Achievement (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc, 1996); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wright, Theodore Sedgwick (ca. 1797-1847)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Theodore Sedgwick Wright, prominent clergymen, antislavery leader, and reformer was thought to have been born in New Jersey in 1797.  He attended the New York African Free School. With the help of New York Governor Dewitt Clinton, Arthur Tappan and others from Princeton Theological Seminary, he became the first African American graduate from an American Theological seminary. After graduation Wright became pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church in New York City where he worked for the rest of his life.

Wright despised slavery and racism and spoke openly about it, even though at this time it was very dangerous. He is best known for his works as an abolitionist and devotee of black civil rights.  Throughout the 1830s he was an agent of the New England Anti-Slavery Society which sponsored his travels and lectures condemning racial prejudice. Wright’s two most influential speeches were “The Progress of the Antislavery Cause” and “Prejudice Against the Colored Man.”  He wrote several entries and speeches for William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator, the leading anti-slavery newspaper in the United States in the antebellum period. 
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Theodore Wright House,” MAAP. Accessed on May 14, 2008, http://maap.columbia.edu/place/19.html; Bertram Wyatt-Brown, “American Abolitionism and Religion,” National Humanities Center, http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/nineteen/nkeyinfo/amabrel.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hill, Peter (1767-1820)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Peter Hill, a clockmaker, was born on July 19, 1767 in the Burlington Township, New Jersey.  He is assumed to be the son of slaves owned by a clockmaker named Joseph Hollinshead, Jr.  Peter Hill grew up in the Hollinshead household and as he grew older was allowed to learn clock making from his master in order to assist Hollinshead in his store.  In 1794, Hollinshead manumitted Peter who was 27.  His freedom was certified the following year in an official court document. 

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jefferson, Isaac (1775-1853)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Isaac Jefferson, a slave of the third President of the United States, was born in December 1775 in Monticello, on the Thomas Jefferson plantation in Virginia. His family was an important part of the Monticello labor force. His father, Great George, was the only enslaved person on the Jefferson plantation to rise from foreman to overseer. His mother, Ursula, was requested by Thomas Jefferson’s wife Martha because of her trustworthiness. Young Isaac Jefferson helped his mother and father by carrying wood and making fires. As he got older he was trained as a blacksmith.

In 1779 four year old Isaac Jefferson and other Jefferson slaves were captured by British forces while Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia government fled to Richmond.  Issac Jefferson and his family remained under the control of the British until the surrender of General Charles (Lord) Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.  The Jefferson slaves were then brought back to Monticello and Isaac, now six, was returned to his life as a slave.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Isaac Jefferson,” http://www.monticello.org/gettingword/isaac.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Varick, James (1750-1827)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Varick was the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Varick was born to a slave mother near Newburgh, New York. His father was Richard Varick, a free black man who was originally from Hackensack, New Jersey. Varick grew up with his parents in New York City, where it is thought that he may have attended the Free School for Negroes. After this schooling, Varick was trained in the trade of shoemaking.

In 1766, Varick, now free, joined the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church, which had a predominately white congregation.  Eventually Varick became a minister and was licensed to preach at John Street Church.  Although he was not the main minister, his appointment to the pulpit as the Church’s first black preacher caused considerable racial tension and calls for racial segregation of the congregation.  Eventually black parishioners were forced to sit in the galleries or the back row seating. Incensed at this change in church policy Varick and thirty other black members withdrew from the church in 1796.

In 1790, Varick married Aurelia Jones. The couple had seven children, four of whom survived into adulthood. During this time Varick worked as a shoemaker and a tobacco cutter in order to support his family.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Anne H. Pinn and Anthony B. Fortress, Introduction to Black Church History (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blucke, Stephen ( --1792)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Colonel Stephen Blucke led an all-black Regiment that fought for the British during the American Revolution. He settled in Birchtown, Nova Scotia in 1783 and became a leader in the Black Loyalist community.

During the Revolutionary War, the most famous of the Black Loyalist Military units were called the Black Pioneers, which contained a small elite band of guerrillas known as the Black Brigade. The Black Brigade fought independently and later with the all-white unit Queen’s Rangers. The supplies they seized were vital to the survival of the Loyalists in New York. In a raid on a patriot militia leader, the Brigade and leader Colonel Tye were caught in a long battle. Their target was burned after Tye’s death and Blucke – a literate, free black from Barbados and officer in the Black Pioneers – succeeded Tye as Colonel of the Brigade.

At the time, Blucke was the leader of the entire unit and commander of a company of Black Pioneers when they settled in Birchtown. When Blucke arrived in Nova Scotia in June 1783, Port Roseway served as the site of a major loyalist settlement and plans were made for a separate settlement of free blacks near the northwestern part of the harbour. Blucke accompanied the surveyor to the proposed settlement site, which was a large swamp area behind the water’s edge.

Sources: 

Joseph Mensah, Black Canadians: History, Experiences, Social Conditions (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2002); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution (Toronto: Penguin Group, 2006); http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/023001-2125-e.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Colonel Tye (1753-1780)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Tye Leading Troops, PBS Dramatization
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Colonel Tye was an escaped slave who fought with the British in the American Revolution.  Challenging Patriot forces primarily in New York and New Jersey, Tye became one of the most respected leaders of the Loyalist troops during the Revolution, a respected and feared guerrilla commander.

Born in 1753 as Titus, ‘Tye’ was one of four slaves owned by Quaker John Corlies from Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey. In November 1775, when Titus was 22 years old, Lord John Murray Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation that not only declared martial law, but also offered freedom to those slaves who would join the royal forces. Titus along with 300 other escaped slaves fled to join the British, assuming the adopted name of Tye and joining the Royal Ethiopian Regiment. Here he quickly found respect and saw his first action at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, during which he captured a rebel militia captain.

Sources: 

Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: an Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2004); History 571: Colonial and Revolutionary America, Lord Dunmore and the Ethiopian Regiment, http://www.studythepast.com/history571/pam/ColonelTye.html; PBS.org Africans in America, Part 2: Revolutions, Colonel Tye http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p52.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Black Loyalists Exodus to Nova Scotia (1783)

Entry Type: 
Events
History Type: 
Global African History
Drawing of Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia
Image Courtesy of History Collection,
Nova Scotia Museum

The Black Loyalists were the approximately 3,000 African American supporters of the British during the American Revolution who were repatriated to British Canada at the end of the conflict.   Most settled in Nova Scotia and established what would be for decades, the largest concentration of black residents in Canada and what was at the time the largest settlement of free blacks outside Africa.

The Black Loyalists who fought for Great Britain believed they were fighting not only for their own freedom, but for the ultimate abolition of slavery in North America. The British commitment to the these loyalists began when Virginia's Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, issued a proclamation promising freedom to all Virginia slaves who supported the British and the white Loyalist allies.  

Sources: 

Joseph Mensah, Black Canadians: History, Experiences, Social Conditions
(Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2002); James W. Walker, A History of
Blacks in Canada
( Ottawa: Minister of State and Multiculturalism
1980); John Demont, Reclaiming a Hard Past, Maclean’s 113:7 p.26
(02/14/2000);
http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/023001-2125-e.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Royall, Belinda (1712- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Belinda Royall Petition, 1783
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Massachusetts Spy, May 29, 1873; Helene Ragovin, "The Untold Story of the Royall House Slaves," The Tufts Journal, http://tuftsjournal.tufts.edu/archive/2002/august/calendar/royall2.shtml."The Mark of Belinda Royall," Medford Historical Society, http://www.medfordhistorical.org/belinda.php
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

George, David (1742-1810)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Artist Drawing of the Silver Bluff
Sources: 
Simon Schama, Rough Crossings ( Toronto: Penguin Group, 2005); Walter H. Brooks, The Silver Bluff Church: A History of Negro Baptist Churches in America (Washington, D.C.: Press of R. L. Pendleton, 1910) http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/brooks/brooks.html; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p30.html; James St G. Walker, The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783-1870 (New York: Africana Publishing Co., 1976); Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada: A History, 2nd ed. (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1997); Pearleen Oliver, A Brief History of the Coloured Baptists of Nova Scotia (Halifax, N.S.: s.n., 1953).
Contributor: 

dan Fodio, Usman (1754-1817)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Map of the Sultanate of Sokoto
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Islamic preacher, reformer, scholar, and statesman, Usman dan Fodio was born on December 15, 1754 in the village of Maratta, in the Hausa city-state of Gobir, in what is today northern Nigeria.  He was a descendant of the early Fulani settlers in Hausaland in the 15th century.  He spent his youth in the devout pursuit of Islamic religious education, and his early manhood preaching, teaching, and writing.

Dan Fodio became an itinerant Muslim preacher in 1774, moving among rural communities.  He was a leader in the expansion of Islam across the Hausa countryside, increasing the popular basis for religious teaching and bringing literacy to numerous small communities.   He wrote poems and stories of mysticism that increased his popularity as a teacher and preacher.    

Throughout his proselytizing dan Fodio told of being given the “Sword of Truth” to advance Islamic law and defeat the enemies of Allah.  His "sword" was the written and oral word through prose and verse.  Usman found, however, that Hausa rulers, following common Hausa practice, had mixed “pagan” practices with Islamic ones and did not adhere closely to Islam.  He began to criticize these rulers.
Sources: 
Nehemia Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels, eds., The History of Islam in Africa (Athens:  Ohio University Press, 2000); Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ashanti Empire/ Asante Kingdom (18th to late 19th century)

Entry Type: 
Places
History Type: 
Global African History
Map of Ashanti Empire
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Ashanti Empire was a pre-colonial West African state that emerged in the 17th century in what is now Ghana.  The Ashanti or Asante were an ethnic subgroup of the Akan-speaking people, and were comprised of small chiefdoms.   

The Ashanti established their state around Kumasi in the late 1600s, shortly after their first encounter with Europeans.  In some ways the Empire grew out of the wars and dislocations caused by Europeans who sought the famous gold deposits which gave this region its name, the Gold Coast. During this era the Portuguese were the most active Europeans in West Africa.  They made Ashanti a significant trading partner, providing wealth and weapons which allowed the small state to grow stronger than its neighbors.  Nonetheless when the 18th Century began Ashanti was simply one of Akan-speaking Portuguese trading partners in the region.  
Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004); Ivor Wilks, Forests of Gold:  Essays on the Akan and the Kingdom of the Asante (Athens:  Ohio University Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Whipple, Dinah (c.1760-1846)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the Era of Dinah Whipple
Image Ownership: Public Domain
At the time of her death in1846, Dinah Whipple was the revered teacher of African American children in Portsmouth, New Hampshire but she was identified more prominently, at least according to the local white newspaper editor, as the widow of Prince Whipple. Prince had served in the Revolutionary War when he was the slave of William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  On February 22, 1781, the same day that Dinah reached her 21st birthday and was freed by her owner, she married Prince. It was not until 1784 that Prince became a free man.  He died in 1796 at the age of 46.  Dinah and Prince Whipple had seven children.    

Dinah Whipple was widely known and respected by both black and white residents of the region. Like her husband, Prince, Dinah had grown up as an enslaved servant in one of the most affluent and refined households of the southern New Hampshire and Maine seacoast.  While Prince served as the major-domo at elegant social events in the city, Dinah was behind the scenes employing her domestic skills to further ensure the success of such occasions.
Sources: 
Charles W. Brewster, Rambles About Portsmouth (1859; reprint, Somersworth, NH: New Hampshire Publishing Company, 1971); Mark Sammons and Valerie Cunningham, Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage (Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2004).
http://www.seacoastnh.com/Black_History/Black_History_of_the_Seacoast/First_Blacks_of_Portsmouth%2C_Part_2/2/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Christophe, Henri (1767-1820)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Henri Christophe Statue, Port-au-Prince
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Henri Christophe was a military leader in the Haitian Revolution as well as president and later king of the young nation. Born into slavery in 1767, Christophe was brought to French colonial Haiti, known as Saint Domingue, most likely from Kitts. There he worked a wide variety of posts including sailor, mason, bartender, and billiard marker. Like many slaves and free people of color in Saint Domingue, Christophe was familiar with military matters from a young age, having accompanied the French expedition to Savannah, Georgia in 1779. By his early twenties, Christophe was able to purchase his freedom and joined the growing class of free blacks.

Spurred on by the revolution in France, a conflict between the colony’s free factions erupted in 1791 into a full-blown slave revolt lead by Toussaint L'Ouverture. Christophe would side with the slaves despite his free status and serve as one of L'Ouverture’s most important generals for most of the conflict, along with the freed slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

Sources: 
Lester D. Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolution: 1750-1850 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996); Walter Monfried, "The Slave who became King: Henry Christophe,” Negro Digest, December 1963, retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=ZToDAAAAMBAJ; Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Perkins, John [aka "Jack Punch"] ( -1812)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
HMS Tartar, ca. 1804
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Captain John Perkins, nicknamed Jack Punch, was the first black commissioned officer in the Royal Navy.  His date of birth and origins are unknown but Perkins first appeared in Navy records in 1775 when he joined as a ship’s pilot aboard HMS Antelope, the flagship of the Jamaica station. In 1778 he was put in command of the Punch schooner and in 1778 and 1779 it captured three hundred and fifteen enemy vessels under his leadership. He then commanded the schooner Endeavour and was promoted to commander by Admiral Sir George Rodney, the commander in chief at Jamaica. The promotion was disallowed and in 1783 at the end of the American War of Independence Perkins left the Navy and remained in reserve as a half-pay lieutenant, a practice that was common at the time. What he did between 1783 and 1790 is unknown.

In 1790 Perkins volunteered for naval duty once more and under Admiral Philip Affleck he undertook several clandestine missions to Havana, Cuba, and to the French controlled Saint Domingue (modern day Haiti). In 1793 he was captured at Jeremie in Cap-Francois and was condemned to death for spying and for supplying weapons to rebel slaves. Captains Thomas Russell and William Nowell heard of his imprisonment and rescued him.
Sources: 
William James, The naval history of Great Britain: from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV, volume 2 & 3 (London: R. Bentley 1837); J.S. Clarke, Naval Chronicle, Volumes 17 & 27 (London: Bunney & Gold 1807 & 1812); Basil Mundy, The Life and Correspondence of the Late Admiral Lord Rodney, volume 2 (London: Kessinger Publishing Co. 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Peters, Thomas (1738-1792)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Monument in Honor of Black Loyalists, Nova Scotia
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Africa and enslaved in America, Thomas Peters is best known for his influence in settling Canadian blacks in the African colony of Sierra Leone. The earliest documentation of Peters’ life is as a 38-year-old slave in North Carolina.  When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Peters escaped to British-occupied territory.

In 1776 Peters joined an all black regiment in the British Army called the Black Pioneers. During his service there, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. When the Revolutionary War ended the Black Pioneers were among the thousands of Loyalists transported by the British Navy to the north shore of Nova Scotia and then on to New Brunswick. Peters soon became the recognized leader of the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia black communities, representing their concerns to provincial authorities.

In the process, he met abolitionist Granville Sharp, who had developed a plan to create a settlement of free blacks in Africa. He saw in the plight of the Canadian loyalists the opportunity to recruit additional settlers for his African colony.  Sharp immediately offered Peters and his Nova Scotian followers a new promised land in the “Province of Freedom” Sierra Leone.
Sources: 
Simon Schama, Rough Crossings (Toronto: Penguin Group, 2005); James W. St G. Walker, “Peters (Petters), Thomas”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (2000) http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2115&interval=25&&PHPSESSID=njv4l5j5dglrp8buu4elf70is1.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown Fellowship Society (1790--1945)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Brown Fellowship Society Cemetary
 "North by South: Charleston to Harlem, The Great Migrations"
by the 1997-1998 National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar
at Kenyon College

Founded in 1790, the Brown Fellowship Society is the oldest all-male Funeral Society in Charleston, South Carolina. It also provides a major historical example of how racism affected the African American community itself, in that lighter skinned African Americans in the Society considered themselves superior to darker skinned African Americans. Although still considered inferior by the white population, South Carolina's mulattos, octoroons (a person with one-eighth black ancestry), and quadroons (a person with one-quarter black ancestry), were often given their freedom while darker-skinned individuals remained in slavery.

Sources: 
Robert L. Harris, Jr., “Charleston’s Free Afro-American Elite: The Brown Fellowship Society and the Humane Brotherhood,” The South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 82 no. 4 (1981); Junius P. Rodriguez, ed., Slavery in the United States: A Social, Political, and Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1 (Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007); http://www.nps.gov/history/ethnography/aah/aaheritage/sysMeaningC.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Boston King (c. 1760-1802)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Boston King Book Cover
Image Courtesy of History Collection, Nova Scotia Museum
Boston King, one of the pioneer settlers of Sierra Leone, was born enslaved on the Richard Waring plantation near Charleston, South Carolina around 1760. Through the age of 16, King was trained as a house servant before being sent to apprentice as a carpenter in Charleston. In 1780, when British troops occupied Charleston during the American Revolution, King fled to the British garrison and gained his freedom.  King was first a servant to British officers but like many black male Loyalists he joined the British Army. He worked mostly as a carpenter but on one occasion he carried an important dispatch through enemy lines, which saved 250 British soldiers at Nelson’s Ferry, South Carolina. Later, as a crewmember on a British warship, King participated in the capture of a rebel ship in Chesapeake Bay.

King was himself later captured and re-enslaved by the American navy but managed to escape as the war drew to a close.  Sometime in 1781 he married Violet, another runaway from Wilmington, North Carolina, and they both moved to British-occupied New York where he again worked as a servant.  
Sources: 
Boston King, Memoirs of the life of Boston King (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2003); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution (New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2006); Joe Lockard and Elizabeth McNeil, eds. “Annotated Memoirs of the Life of Boston King, a Black Preacher originally published in The Methodist Magazine” (Arizona State University Antislavery Literature Project, n.d.), http://antislavery.eserver.org/narratives/boston_king/bostonkingproof.pdf/; James W. St G. Walker, “King, Boston,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2489.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church [Philadelphia] (1794- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Bethel AME Church, 1829
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in the nation, was founded in Philadelphia in 1794 by Richard Allen, a former slave.  Allen founded Mother Bethel AME after the church he had been attending, St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) in Philadelphia, began segregating its parishioners by race.  

The perceived need to segregate white and black parishioners at St. George had its roots, ironically, in the preaching of Richard Allen who had been an itinerant preacher and in 1786 began preaching a 5 a.m. sermon at St. George.  Allen’s sermons proved so popular with black Philadelphians that St. George soon became overcrowded.  As black attendance at the church increased, however, so too did race prejudice.  When the ruling body at St. George decided that blacks should be segregated and seated in a newly constructed balcony, Allen and his followers decided it was time to leave and start a new church.  
Sources: 
Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, http://www.motherbethel.org/content.php?cid=18; Oxford African American Studies Center [electronic resource]: the Online Authority on the African American Experience African Methodist Episcopal Church, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0004/e0012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Freetown, Sierra Leone (1792- -)

Entry Type: 
Places
History Type: 
Global African History
Freetown Residents at the Beach
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Freetown is the capital, principal port, commercial center, and largest city of Sierra Leone.  The city was founded by British Naval Lieutenant John Clarkson and freed American slaves from Nova Scotia.  Freetown was part of the larger colony of the Sierra Leone which was founded by the Sierra Leone Company (SLC) in 1787. The SLC, organized by British businessman and abolitionist William Wilberforce, sought to rehabilitate the black poor of London and former slaves of North America by bringing them to the settlement in Sierra Leone where they would stop the African slave trade by spreading Christianity through the continent.

The first groups of blacks, about 400 Londoners, arrived in Sierra Leone in 1787 and established Granville Town, named after British abolitionist Granville Sharp.  When the settlement was destroyed by the indigenous inhabitants in 1789,  British abolitionists sent a second, larger party of 1,100 former American slaves who had been resettled in Nova Scotia at the end of the American Revolution.  These settlers established Freetown in 1792.  In 1800, 500 Jamaican Maroons were landed by the British.

Sources: 
Michael Banton,  A West African City: A Study of Tribal Life in Freetown (London: Oxford University Press, 1969); Christopher Fyfe, Freetown: A Symposium (Freetown: University of Sierra Leone, 1968); Fourah Bay College: University of Sierra Leone. http://fbcusl.net/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sommersett, James (c1741-c1772)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
18th Century British Slave
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Sommersett was the subject of a landmark legal case in Great Britain, which was the first major step in imposing limits on Trans-Atlantic African slavery. Sommersett entered the pages of history when in 1771, he fled his North American owner, Charles Stewart, while both were living in London.  Sommersett was originally purchased in Virginia and had been bought to Britain by Stewart from Boston in 1769.  He fled two years later and was apprehended on the Ann and Mary, a ship bound for Jamaica.  

Sommersett’s cause was taken up by Granville Sharp, a member of Parliament and the leading abolitionist of his era. Once Sharp learned that bondsman Sommersett had been transported to England on a business trip and upon capture was spirited and shackled on board a British vessel, he applied for and was granted a writ of habeas corpus which ordered Stewart to deliver Sommersett to the King’s Bench in January 1772 to determine his legal status.  Sharp organized a five-attorney legal defense team led by prominent barrister Francis Hargrave who argued the case before Hon. William Murray, Earl of Mansfield and Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, England’s highest common law court.
Sources: 
Francis Hargrave, An Argument in the Case of James Sommersett, a Negro, Lately Determined by the Court of King’s Bench:  wherein it is attempted to demonstrate the present unlawfulness of Domestic slavery in England. To Which is Prefixed, a State of the Case. By Mr. Hargrave, one of the counsel for the Negro (London and Boston, reprinted by E. Russell, 1774; William M, Wiecek, “"Somerset: Lord Mansfield and the Legitimacy of Slavery in the Anglo-American World," University of Chicago Law Review 42 (1974), 86-146; Steven Wise, Though the Heavens May Fail: The Landmark Case that Led to the End of Human Slavery (Cambridge: Perseus/Da Capo Press, 2005)
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Cruz

The Zong Massacre (1781)

Entry Type: 
Events
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The slave ship, Zong, departed the coast of Africa on 6 September 1781 with 470 slaves. Since this human chattel was such a valuable commodity at that time, many captains took on more slaves than their ships could accommodate in order to maximize profits.  The Zong’s captain, Luke Collingwood, overloaded his ship with slaves and by 29 November many of them had begun to die from disease and malnutrition. The Zong then sailed in an area in the mid-Atlantic known as “the Doldrums” because of periods of little or no wind.  As the ship sat stranded, sickness caused the deaths of seven of the 17 crew members and over 50 slaves.

Increasingly desperate, Collingwood decided to “jettison” some of the cargo in order to save the ship and provide the ship owners the opportunity to claim for the loss on their insurance. Over the next week the remaining crew members threw 132 slaves who were sick and dying over the side. Another 10 slaves threw themselves overboard in what Collingwood later described as an “Act of Defiance.”
Sources: 
National Maritime Museum (Ref: REC/19), Grayson v Gilbert 1783; James Walvin, The Zong A Massacre, the Law and the End of Slavery (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011); Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lewis, Charles (ca. 1760-1833)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
1780 Document Indicating Wills' Service in the U.S. Army
During the American Revolution 
Image Courtesy of Anita Wills

Charles Lewis was a sailor and soldier during the American Revolutionary War.  Lewis was born sometime around 1760 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia on Bel Aire, the Lewis Family Plantation owned by John Lewis. John and a free mulatto woman, Josephine Lewis, were the parents of Charles and his younger brother, Ambrose.  Lewis and his brother were born free but their mother was indentured to John Lewis. 

On April 15, 1776, Charles Lewis and his brother entered into the naval service of Virginia when they served on board the Galley Page, a warship commanded by Captain James Markham.  On March 20, 1778, they entered the Naval Service of the United States when they joined the crew of the USS Dragon commanded by Captain Eleazor Callender.

Sources: 
Michael L. Cook, Pioneer Lewis Families (Evansville, Indiana: Cook Publications, 1984); Anita L. Wills, Notes and Documents of Free Persons of Color, Some Free Persons of Color: Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania County (Virginia) 1750-1850 (Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu Press: 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Badin, Adolf (1747-1822)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Adolf Badin, also known as Adolf Ludvig Gustav Fredrik Albert/Couschi, was born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies in 1747, and died in 1822 in Sweden.  Badin came to Sweden a slave but became a titled person in the courts of King Fredrick and Queen Ulrika during their reign (1751-1771).  Badin married twice: first to Elisabet Svart in 1782, and then to Magdelena Eleonra Norell in 1799; he had no children. Badin has been described by his many court functions: assessor, page, footman, jester, diarist, servant, chamberlain, court secretary, ballet master, book collector. However, he preferred to call himself “farmer,” as he eventually owned two small farms, one in Svartsjolandet and the other in Sorunda.

Badin's real last name was Couschi, but he was christened as Badin, which signifies “prankster.” He's also been referred to as “Morianen” which was the colloquial name for African Diasporians in Europe at that time.  

At the age of seven, Couschi was purchased in St. Croix and taken to Europe by a Danish sea captain who gave the boy to Queen Louisa Ulrika of Prussia (Queen of Sweden, 1751-1771) as a gift. Aristocratic ladies of that time considered it fashionable to have black pages in their palaces. Eva Engblom, a Swedish amateur scientist, who examined evidence of Moors (North and West Africans) in Europe, estimates that between 50 and 100 people of African descent were brought to Sweden during this time.
Sources: 
Edward Matz, “Badin-An Experiment in Free Upbringing,” Popular Historia (March 13, 1996); Madubuko A. Diakite, “African Diasporans in Sweden-An Unfinished History,” The Lundian, Special Edition (2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Francis, Jacob (1754-1836)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jacob Francis Revolutionary War Pension Claim, 1834
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jacob Francis, Revolutionary War veteran, was born on January 15, 1754 in Amwell, New Jersey. His mother was African American and his father’s race was unknown. What is known of Francis’ childhood is found in the personal testimony included on his military pension application.

It is unknown if Francis was born free or into slavery, but as a child he was bound out to no fewer than five men before coming of age. His first indenture was with Henry Wambaugh, who then sold Francis’ time to Michael Hatt, who in turn sold the boy’s time to farmer Minner Gulick (1731-1804). When Francis was 13, Gulick sold his time to Joseph Saxton who, in May 1768, took the young man as his servant to New York, Long Island and then to the Island of St. John. In about November 1769, the two sailed to Salem, Massachusetts where Saxton sold the fifteen-year-old’s time to Salem resident Benjamin Deacon, with whom Francis remained until he turned 21 in January 1775.

Within a matter of weeks, the Revolutionary War erupted nearby. By October, Jacob Francis had enlisted as a private in the 8th Massachusetts Regiment, which became the 16th Continental Regiment under the command of Colonel Paul D. Sergeant. Jacob took the surname of one of his previous custodians upon enlistment, but later changed it after learning his surname from his mother.
Sources: 
Jacob Francis, Pension Application. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (Pension Number W459). (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1832); James P. Snell, History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey (Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1881); http://www.historyiscentral.org/HSI/case1C/JacobFrancis.pdf; http://goodspeedhistories.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tiffany, Cyrus (1738-1818)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
It is presumed that Silas or Cyrus Tiffany, an African American, was the son of Nathan Tiffany and Sarah Harvey and was born in 1738.  Little is known of Cyrus Tiffany’s early life.  Historic references show that Tiffany was a Revolutionary War Fifer, perhaps as one of the members of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment where enlistment provided complete freedom to those formerly enslaved.

Census documents place Tiffany in Taunton, Bristol County, Massachusetts in 1790 and there again in 1810 and show that he collected a Revolutionary War pension.  Charles Atwood writes of Cyrus being a “notable and respected resident of Taunton” who “owned and resided in a small cottage in Town with a wife and son.”
Sources: 
Charles Atwood, Reminisces of Taunton (Taunton, Massachusetts: The Taunton Massachusetts Old Colony Historical Society, 1880); Gales and Seaton, 1834 American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Issue 23 (Google eBook); http://history.goerie.com/2013/09/09/brig-lawrence-muster-roll-killed-wounded-prizes-awarded/; David Curtis Skaggs and Gerald T. Altoff, A Signal Victory: The Lake Erie Campaign, 1812-1813 (Washington: Naval Institute Press, 1997); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997); US Navy Casualty Record Book, 1776-1941, US National Archives.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church [Harlem] (1796- )

Vignette Type: 
Churches
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME) Church, founded in 1796, is currently located in Harlem, New York.  It is the oldest African American church in the state of New York and was established when black parishioners left John Street Methodist Church in that city. The group, under the leadership of Minister James Varick, had grown disillusioned with increasing segregationist practices within the Methodist church organization.  Ministers James Varick, Christopher Rush, William Miller, and George Galbreath would become bishops and eventually be recognized as the founding members of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion denomination.  
Originally given the name “African Chapel,” the church later settled on the name “Zion” because of its biblical resonance.
Sources: 
William J. Walls, The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church: Reality of the Black Church, (Charlotte: AME Zion Publishing House, 1974); http://www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/db/bb_files/Mother-African-Methodist-Episcopal-Zion-Church.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Eastern Kentucky University

First African Baptist Church, Petersburg, Virginia (1756- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of Solange Cole"
First Baptist Church of Petersburg, Virginia, is the second oldest black church in the United States and among the earliest African American Baptist congregations in the nation.  The evangelical anti-slavery message of the equality of all men who were made in God’s image preached by Baptist missionaries after the Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s led to the conversion of large numbers of African slaves and freepersons who then began worshipping together in the Baptist tradition in Prince Georges County, Virginia by 1756. 

It was these energetic young black members of the New Lights, as they were called, who assumed leadership roles and formally established the First African Baptist Church in 1774 in Lunenburg, Virginia, on the William Byrd III plantation.  Free members of the congregation later moved to Petersburg and changed the name to the First Baptist Church when the Byrd plantation meetinghouse succumbed to flames.

Sources: 
Albert Raboteau, Slave Religion: The 'Invisible Institution' in the Antebellum South (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Leonard Black, The Life and Sufferings of Leonard Black, a Fugitive from Slavery. Written by Himself (New Bedford: Benjamin Lindsey Publishing, 1847); The Virginia Heritage Collections, Library of Virginia at http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=lva/vi04023.xml accessed March 1, 2014; First Baptist’s official website:  http://www.firstbaptistpetersburg.org/ .
Contributor: 

Tucker, William (1624- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Settled Areas of Virginia and Maryland, ca. 1675
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William Tucker was the first person of African ancestry born in the 13 British Colonies.  His birth symbolized the beginnings of a distinct African American identity along the eastern coast of what would eventually become the United States.

William Tucker was born in 1624 near Jamestown, Virginia, the son of “Antoney and Isabell,” two African indentured servants. Historians do not know much of William Tucker’s life due to the fragmented pieces of primary source material available for contemporary study.
Sources: 
Irene Hecht, “The Virginia Muster of 1624/5 As a Source for Demographic History,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 30, No. 1 (1973), 65-92; “Muster of the Inhabitants of Virginia 1624” in John Hotten, ed., The Original Lists of Persons of Quality, Emigrants, Religious Exiles, Political Rebels, Serving Men Sold for a Term of Years, Apprentices, Children Stolen, Maidens Pressed, and Others who Went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700?: With Their Ages, the Localities where They Formerly Lived in the Mother Country, the Names of the Ships in which They Embarked, and Other Interesting Particulars, from Mss. Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty's Public Record Office, England (New York: Empire State Book Company, 1874); John Russell, The Free Negro in Virginia 1619-1865 (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1913).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Joaquin Delta College
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