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Abolitionists

Bertonneau, E. Arnold (1834-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
“Image Courtesy of Thomas F. Bertonneau”
Sources: 
Eric Foner (ed.), Freedom's Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996); James G. Hollandsworth, Jr, The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998); and Charles Vincent, Black Legislators in Louisiana During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Langston, Charles Henry (1817-1892)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Charles Henry Langston
(Ohio Historical Society)

Charles Henry Langston, the grandfather of poet Langston Hughes, was born a free man on a Virginia plantation in 1817 to Captain Ralph Quarles and Lucy Jane Langston, Quarles’ mulatto slave. He had two brothers, John Mercer (who would become a Virginia Congressman in 1888) and Gideon. After the death of his father in 1834, Charles inherited a large part of his father’s estate, and he went to be educated at Oberlin College in 1842 and 1843.

Sources: 
Richard B. Sheridan, “Charles Henry Langston and the African American Struggle in Kansas,” Kansas History 22 (Winter 1999/2000); Eugene H. Berwanger, “Hardin and Langston: Western Black Spokesmen of the Reconstruction Era,” Journal of Negro History 64 (Spring 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reason, Charles Lewis (1818-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Charles L. Reason was born on July 21, 1818 in New York City. His parents, Michiel and Elizabeth Reason, were immigrants from Haiti who arrived in the United States shortly after the Haitian Revolution of 1793. His parents emphasized the importance of education, and very early on the young Reason displayed an aptitude for mathematics when he was a student at the New York African Free School.  Reason began his teaching career when he was 14 years old. He saved what he could of his teacher’s $25 per year salary to continue his own education with tutors. A political activist and abolitionist, Reason played a prominent role in the Negro Convention Movement in New York. In 1837 Reason joined Henry Highland Garnet, among others, in an effort to gain voting rights for African American men and he was later one of the co-authors of the Call for the New York Negro Convention of 1840.

Sources: 
John E. Fleming (with the assistance of Julius Hobson Jr., John McClendon and Herschelle Reed), The Lengthening Shadow of Slavery (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974); Anthony R. Mayo, "Charles Lewis Reason," Negro History Bulletin 5 (June 1942):212-15;Scott W. Williams, “Charles L. Reason African American Mathematician,1818–1893,” http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/special/reason_charles_l.html;
John E. Fleming, “Home of McGraw Eagles: History” http://www.mcgrawschools.org/history.htm
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Grimké, Charlotte Forten (1837-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charlotte Forten Grimké grew up in a rich intellectual and activist environment.  Born into a wealthy Black abolitionist family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charlotte Louise Forten became famous in her own right as a writer and poet.  Her grandparents, James, Sr. and Charlotte Forten, hosted leading black and white abolitionists into their home on a regular basis.  James Forten was one of the wealthiest blacks in Philadelphia, having amassed a fortune in the sail making business. Her parents, Robert Bridges Forten and Mary Woods Forten, continued the family’s activist tradition as had her uncles and aunts, including Sarah, Harriet, and Margaretta Forten, who helped establish the bi-racial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. 
Sources: 
Janice Sumler-Edmond, “Charlotte Forten Grimké,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993): 505-507; Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); and Brenda Stevenson, ed., The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
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.

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

Bibb, Henry (1815-1854)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Henry Walton Bibb was the eldest of the seven male children of Mildred Jackson. Henry was told that his father, whom he never met, was a man named James Bibb. He grew up in bondage in the Deep South, and claims to have been owned by seven people including a Cherokee Indian. Bibb frequently attempted escape throughout his slavery years until he succeeded in emancipating himself in 1842 after the death of his owner. Once his freedom was assured, he assumed an active role in the abolitionist movement in Michigan and New England. In 1848 Henry Bibb married Mary Miles, a woman from Boston, Massachusetts whom he met at an anti-slavery convention in New York City, New York. Mr. Bibb is best known for his eloquent autobiography, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, which was published in New York in 1849.
Sources: 
Roger W. Hite, “Voice of a Fugitive: Henry Bibb and Ante-Bellum Black Separatism,” Journal of Black Studies, 4:3 (March 1974).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Garnet, Henry Highland (1815-1881)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born into slavery near New Markey, Maryland on December 23, 1815, Henry Highland Garnet escaped from bondage via the Underground Railroad with his parents, George and Henrietta Trusty in 1824. After residing briefly in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the family settled in New York City, New York where George Trusty changed the family name to Garnet. George Garnet found work as a shoemaker and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Garnets lived among other working class families in what would later be called the Lower East Side.
Sources: 
Alexander Crummell, “Eulogium on Henry Highland Garnet, D.D.,” in Africa and America (Springfield, Ma.: Willey and Company, 1891); Martin B. Pasternak, Rise Now and Fly to Arms: The Life of Henry Highland Garnet (New York: Garland Publishing, 1995); www.ancestry.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Langston, John Mercer (1829-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
William Cheek and Aimee Lee Cheek, John Mercer Langston and the Fight for Black Freedom, 1829-65 (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1989), and www.oberlin.edu.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Russwurm, John (1799-1851)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Russwurm was a man ahead of his time. Centuries before scholars began debating such issues as “hegemony” and “the social construction of race,” Russwurm understood how the powerful used media to create and perpetuate destructive stereotypes of the powerless. He set out to challenge this practice, via a brand new form of media: African American journalism.

Although he helped to change the terms of debate on race in America, Russwurm was not a native of America. Born in Jamaica on October 1, 1799, he moved to Quebec as a child and then to Maine, where he attended Bowdoin College and wrote term papers on Toussaint L‘Ouverture, fiery leader of the Haitian Revolution. In 1826 Russwurm became only the second African American in the U.S. to earn a college degree. His graduation speech focused on the Haitian revolution.

The next year he moved to New York, where he met Samuel Cornish, an African American Presbyterian minister and editor. On March 16, 1827, Cornish and Russwurm published the first issue of Freedom’s Journal. White publishers -- specifically Mordecai Noah of the New York Enquirer – had long denigrated and attacked free blacks. Freedom’s Journal took direct aim at them.

Sources: 
Michael Emery, Edwin Emery and Nancy Roberts, The Press and America, An Interpretive History of the Mass Media (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988; The World Book Encyclopedia (1996); “Africans in America, Part 3” (PBS), Julius Scott on John Brown Russworm and the Haitian Revolution.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Cary, Mary Ann Shadd (1823-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1992); Jane Rhodes, Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dickson, Moses (1824-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Moses Dickson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 5, 1824. At 16, he began a three year tour of the South which persuaded him to work for the abolition of slavery. On August 12, 1846, Dickson and twelve other men gathered in St. Louis to devise a plan to end slavery in the United States. They formed a secret organization known as the Knights of Liberty which planned to initiate a national insurrection against slavery.

Dickson married widow Mary Elisabeth Butcher Peters at Galena, Illinois on October 5, 1848. They had one daughter, Mamie Augusta, and a year later the family located permanently in St. Louis.

By 1856, according to Dickson and his followers, 47,240 members of the Knights of Liberty throughout the nation stood ready to fight for freedom. In August of that year Dickson created a smaller secret organization, the Order of Twelve, in Galena, Illinois. During the war, the Knights disbanded and many of their members joined the Union Army.

Sources: 
Reverend Moses Dickson, Manual of the International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor 3d. ed. (St. Louis: A. R. Fleming Printing, 1900); William A. Muraskin, Middle-Class Blacks in a White Society: Prince Hall Freemasonry in America (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

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.
Sources: 
Sheldon H. Harris, Paul Cuffe, Black America and the African Return (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972).
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

Stanley, Sara G. (1837-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Born in 1837 in North Carolina, Sara G. Stanley was a member of a free, educated and economically secure family.  She attended Oberlin College and later moved to Delaware after her family immigrated there.  Following the tradition of other free black women Sara joined the local ladies antislavery society.  As a representative of her organization she delivered a strong and forceful address at the 1856 meeting of the all male Convention of Disfranchised citizens of Ohio.

Sources: 
Ellen NicKenzie Lawson and Marlene D. Merrill, “The Three Sarahs: Documents of Antebellum Black College Women” in Edwin Mellen Press Studies in Women and Religion, Vol. 13. (New York, 1984); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women In America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. 11 (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Carlson Publishing, 1993), p. 1104.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Vermont

Remond, Sarah Parker (1824-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in 1824 Sarah Parker Remond entered the world as a part of an exceptional family. The ninth child of two free born and economically secure black parents, her life was unusual among African Americans. It was unimaginable in the minds of most white Americans. Before her death Sarah carried her family’s legacy well beyond the shores of her native land.  With financial security rooted primarily in food catering and hair salons, the men and women of the Remond clan actively supported antislavery and equal rights for all.  After honing her skills lecturing against slavery in the Northeast and Canada Sarah expanded her reach across the ocean.

Sources: 
Willi Coleman, "'...Like Hot Lead to Pour on the Americans’: Sarah Parker Remond and the International Fight Against Slavery." in Stewart James & Kish Sklar, Sisterhood and Slavery: International Antislavery and Women's Rights (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006)and Dorothy Burnett Porter, The Remonds of Salem Massachusetts: A Nineteenth Century Family Revisited.  (Boston: American Antiquarian Society, 1985) 261.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Vermont

Smith, Stephen (1795-1873)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Stephen Smith was born into slavery in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At 21 he purchased his freedom for $50 and soon afterwards began to ally with the abolitionist cause that he would support through most of his adult life.   In 1830 Smith became the chairman of the African American abolitionist organization in Columbia, Pennsylvania while developing a successful lumber business.  The Columbia Spy reported that in 1835 his success “…excited the envy or hatred of those not so prosperous and of the ruling race.”  In that year unknown persons vandalized his office and destroyed his papers, records and books.  Shortly after this incident, Smith moved to Philadelphia where he again entered the lumber business and after a few years regained his prosperity.

Sources: 
S. Webb, History of Pennsylvania Hall Which Was Destroyed by a Mob, on the 17th of May, 1838 (Philadelphia: Merrihew and Gunn, Printers, 1838).  Ira V. Brown, “Racism and Sexism: The Case of Pennsylvania Hall,” Phylon, 37:2 (2nd Qtr., 1976), 126-136; The Columbia Spy, Sept. 9, 1830, Dec. 12, 1868 and Jan. 29, 1870.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Nell, William C. (1816-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William C. Nell was an African American civic activist, abolitionist, and historian. Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Nell was the son of William Guion Nell, a prominent tailor and black activist. William C. Nell was introduced to racial inequality and black activism from birth. In the 1830s, he became politically active as a member of the Juvenile Garrison Independent Society where he wrote plays and hosted political debates while being mentored by William Lloyd Garrison.  Nell was a printer’s apprentice for Garrison’s newspaper, the Liberator. Nell came of age in the 1840s, as a leader in the campaign to desegregate the Boston railroad (1843) and Boston performance halls (1853). He was also a founding member of the New England Freedom Association in 1842, a black Boston organization that assisted fugitive slaves in their efforts to gain freedom.

Sources: 
“William Cooper Nell (1816 - 1874),” in Boston African-American National Historic Site, National Park Service, (2002); William C. Nell, “The Triumph of Equal School Rights in Boston,” in Philip S. Foner and Robert James Branham (eds.), Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900 (Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Scott, Dred (1795-1858)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dred Scott, was an enslaved person noted mainly for the unsuccessful lawsuit brought to free him from bondage. The decision rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857 in the Dred Scott case, said that no blacks slave or free were U.S. citizens and allowed slavery in all U.S. territories.  The decision helped propel the United States toward the Civil War.

Sources: 
Paul Finkleman, Dred Scott v. Sanford: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Bedford/St.Martin's, 1997); Thomas & Gale Online (http://www.gale.com/policy.htm#terms )
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Truth, Sojourner, Isabella Baumfree (ca. 1791-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Olive Gilbert and Frances Titus, Narrative of Sojourner Truth; A Bondswoman of Olden Time, Emancipated by the New York Legislature in the Early Part of the Present Century; with a History of her Labors and Correspondence Drawn from her “Book of Life” (1875); Carleton Mabee, Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend (1993); Nell Irvin Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol (1996), Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1814-1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mary Ellen Pleasant was born on Aug. 19, 1814 in Virginia and spent her early years in Nantucket.  She worked as a bond servant to the Hussey family, an abolitionist family.  She later married James Smith, a wealthy former plantation owner and an abolitionist.  Mary Ellen and James worked on the Underground Railroad.  After Smith’s death four years later, Mary Ellen continued her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Mary Ellen married John James Pleasant around 1848.  To avoid trouble with slavers for their abolitionist work, the couple moved to San Francisco in April 1852.  Mrs. Pleasant established several restaurants for California miners, the first named the Case and Heiser.  With the help of clerk Thomas Bell, Mrs. Pleasant amassed a fortune by 1875 through her investments and various businesses by 1875.  She also helped to establish the Bank of California.

Pleasant earned her title as the “Mother” of California’s early civil rights movement, establishing the local Underground Railroad.  She financially supported John Brown from 1857 to 1859.   In the 1860s and 1870s, Mrs. Pleasant brought several civil rights lawsuits in California, especially against the trolley companies, most of which she won.
Sources: 
Lynne Hudson, The Making of Mammy Pleasant: A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth Century San Francisco (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Tubman, Harriet Ross (c. 1821-1913)

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

Dubbed “The Moses of Her People,” escaped slave Harriet Tubman assisted hundreds of slaves on the Underground Railroad, leading them from Maryland to safety in Pennsylvania.  Born enslaved and raised in Dorchester County, Maryland to Benjamin and Harriett Greene Ross, Harriett was both a field hand and a domestic servant.  As a young girl, she suffered a lifelong injury after her master threw a piece of iron at her, which struck her in the head.  Throughout her life, Harriett suffered bouts of narcoleptic seizures.  In 1844, she married a free black man, John Tubman.  She escaped in 1849 in order to avoid being sold into the Deep South. Her husband refused to go with her.  Several months later, when she returned to get him, she learned he had taken another wife.  He died shortly after the end of the Civil War. Harriett later married Nelson Davis.

Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992) and Darlene Clark Hine, “Harriet Tubman” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. II (New York: Carlson, 1993): 1176-1180.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins (1825-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A poet and essayist, Frances Ellen Watkins was born in Baltimore in 1825.  Orphaned at the age of three, Watkins went to live with her aunt and uncle, Harriet and William Watkins.  Unlike most free blacks, Frances grew up in comfortable surroundings; her uncle juggled several occupations in order to support the family, including preaching, shoemaking, and medicine. He was also a teacher and administrator at Watkins Academy, a school he had established in 1820.  Like other young women, Frances learned the female “trades” of sewing and domestic work in addition to learning academic subjects at her uncle’s school.  

While working for a white family as a nursemaid, she read extensively and began writing poetry.  She compiled her first collection of poems, Forest Leaves, in 1845.  Her early associations with influential abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and William Still helped in the publication and circulation of her work.  In addition to writing poetry, she traveled on the antislavery lecture circuit and sent the money she earned on these tours to her uncle in order to sustain the work of the Underground Railroad.  
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Frances Smith Foster, “Frances Ellen Watkins Harper,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Paul, Susan (1809–1841)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The youngest daughter of Baptist minister Rev. Thomas Paul and Catherine Waterhouse Paul, Susan Paul was a primary school teacher and an active member of the bi-racial Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.  The Pauls were a highly regarded family in the free black abolitionist community in Boston.  Thomas Paul’s brother, Rev. Nathaniel Paul, was also an outspoken opponent of slavery.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992) and Lois Brown, “Out of the Mouths of Babes: the Abolitionist Campaign of Susan Paul and the Boston Juvenile Choir,” New England Quarterly, 75 (March 2002): 52-79.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Douglass, Anna Murray (c. 1813-1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Anna Murray Douglass is best known as the first wife of black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Her life illustrates the challenges facing women who were married to famous men.  Born as a free black in rural Maryland, her parents, Mary and Bambarra Murray, were manumitted shortly before her birth. She grew up in Baltimore, where she met a ship caulker six years her junior, Frederick Washington Bailey.  Although it is unclear how they met, Murray facilitated his second escape attempt by providing money for a train ticket and a sailor’s disguise.  She followed him to New York City, where they were married by the prominent black minister, Rev. J.W.C. Pennington.  They adopted the surname Douglass when they moved to a Quaker community in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), and William S. McFeeley, “Anna Murray Douglass,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993): 347-48.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Turner, Nat (1800-1831)

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

Nathaniel “Nat” Turner was born in Southampton County, Virginia on October 2, 1800, the son of slaves owned by Benjamin Turner, a prosperous farmer. Taught to read by the son of his owner, Turner studied Christianity which he interpreted as condemning slavery. Turner also began to believe that God had chosen him to free his people from slavery. He soon became known among fellow slaves as “The Prophet.”

Turner was sold to slaveholder Joseph Travis in 1830. Less than a year after the sale, Turner received what he assumed was a sign from God when he witnessed the eclipse of the sun. After sharing this experience with a few close friends, they began to plan an insurrection. While still planning the uprising, Turner saw that the color of the sun had changed to a bluish-green, which he believed was the final sign to initiate the uprising. With this confidence, Turner and seven other slaves moved forward with their plans. They first murdered the entire Travis family and eventually fifty whites in the futile effort to incite a general slave uprising. Only 75 slaves and free blacks joined the rebellion.

Sources: 
Kenneth S. Greenburg, ed., Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nat_Turner; http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASturner.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Whipper, William (1804-1885)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 William Whipper was born in Little Britain, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on February 22, 1804. Whipper was best known for his activities promoting the abolition of slavery, temperance and “moral suasion” which he defined as the power of non-violence as the most effective way to eradicate racism in America. Whipper’s philosophy of non-violence rested on two principles. “First, to be non-violent reflected humanity’s divine essence.
Sources: 
The Columbia Spy, August 4, 1866, Jan. 29, 1870, courtesy of Lancaster Historical Society; Donald Yacovone, “The Transformation of the Black Temperance Movement, 1807-1854: An Interpretation,” Journal of Early Republic, 8:3 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 281-297; and Tunde Adeleke, “Violence as an option for Free blacks in Nineteenth-Century America,” Canadian Review of American Studies, 35:1 (2005), pp.87-107.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Douglass, Frederick (1817-1895)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frederick Douglass was born into Maryland slavery in 1817 to a slave mother and a slave master father. Young Douglass toiled on a rural plantation and later in Baltimore’s shipyards as a caulker. Douglass, however, learned to read and soon sought out abolitionist literature that alleviated what he termed the graveyard of his mind. He eventually escaped to New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1838, and took the surname Douglass, which he borrowed from the Scottish romance novel, Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott. Douglass’s wife, Anna, followed with their five children. She worked as a laborer in a New Bedford shoe factory while Douglass became a world renowned anti-slavery orator.
Sources: 
Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1855); William J. Moses, The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925 (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1978); Leon Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961); Benjamin Quarles, Frederick Douglass (New York: Athenaeum, 1968); and Philip S. Foner, Frederick Douglass: A Biography (New York: Citadel Press, 1964).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Wagoner, Henry O. (1816-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in 1816 in Maryland to a freed slave mother and a German father, Henry O. Wagoner (often spelled Waggoner) had the benefit of a brief exposure to education in Pennsylvania. This limited education gave him a base for further self-education and independent thought. In the 1850s Frederick Douglass employed Wagoner as the Chicago correspondent to his Rochester, New York newspaper, known as Frederick Douglass' Paper after 1851.

Wagoner's obituary notes that he owned a "small mill " in Chicago that burned in 1860, prompting him to move to Denver City, Colorado Territory. His friend Barney Ford may have influenced that decision as the two of them had worked together in Chicago supporting Douglass's abolition movement and his Underground Railroad activities.

In Denver, Wagoner opened various barbering and restaurant businesses and was among the most affluent of Denver's African American residents. While Ford moved from place to place, Wagoner stayed in Denver where he remained a political activist in league with black pioneers Edward Sanderlin and William Jefferson Hardin.
Sources: 
Henry O. Wagoner Obituary, Rocky Mountain News, January 28, 1901; Eugene Berwanger, The Frontier Against Slavery: Western Anti-Negro Prejudice and the Slavery Extension Controversy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1967).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Jacobs, Harriet (c.1815-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina, Harriet Ann Jacobs was the daughter of slaves, Delilah and Daniel Jacobs.  Harriet Jacobs is best known for her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, edited by white abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, and published in 1852.   Using the pseudonym “Linda Brent,” Jacobs tells the story of her life as a slave of a “Dr. Flint,” to whom she was willed as a young girl after her mistress died.  At this point in her young life, Harriet encountered unceasing sexual advances from Flint.  She escaped Flint’s household in 1835, but remained nearby, living in an attic for several years in order to stay near her son.  She made her final escape in 1842 and was able to reunite with her children. She settled in Rochester, New York, where she joined the network of abolitionists.  At the urging of white abolitionist Amy Post, Jacobs wrote her autobiography.  Still pursued by slave catchers, Jacobs fled to Massachusetts.
Sources: 
Jean Fagan Yellin, “Harriet Ann Jacobs,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993), 627-29; Harriet Brent Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861); and Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Day, Eliza Ann Dixon ( ? - 1800's)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
A member of the John Street Methodist Church and founding member of the A.M.E. Zion Church in New York City, Eliza Day combined religious devotion with abolitionist politics.  Day was an active abolitionist who established a pattern of activism for her children.

Eliza Day was a regular participant in the abolitionist movement and had been one of many to flee an abolitionist meeting at the Chatham Street Chapel in 1833 when it was attacked by a mob. For days after the incident, as anti-abolitionist mobs ravaged the city, the Days kept their home barricaded.

Eliza struggled to support her family after her husband, John, a sail maker and veteran, died at sea in 1829.  Her eldest son supplemented her meager resources by securing a job on a ship.  She was able to provide a good education for her youngest son, William Howard Day (1825-1900), who later went on to become a minister, newspaper editor, orator, and black nationalist leader.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), and R. J. M. Blackett, Beating Against the Barriers: Biographical Essays in Nineteenth-Century Afro-American History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Douglass, Sarah Mapps (1806-1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born to a distinguished abolitionist family, Sarah Mapps Douglass was the only daughter of Robert Douglass, a baker, and Grace Bustill Douglass, a milliner.  Like many educated women, Sarah Douglass became a teacher.  She also was an active abolitionist and joined her mother as a founding member of the bi-racial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.  Over the years, Sarah served on its Board of Managers, fair committee, and as librarian and recording secretary.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), and Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Douglass, Grace Bustill (1782-1842)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Grace Bustill Douglass, a Quaker abolitionist, was born into a distinguished black activist family in Burlington, New Jersey.  She was the fifth of eight children born to Cyrus Bustill, a baker, and Elizabeth Morey Bustill, the daughter of an Englishman and a Delaware Indian woman.  Grace’s father was the son of a slave and had baked bread for George Washington’s army during the War for American Independence.  As a child, Grace attended a school for black children in Philadelphia.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), and Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hayden, Harriet (c.1820-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hayden House
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
National Park Service
Harriet Bell Hayden and her husband, Lewis Hayden (c.1811-1889), escaped slavery in Kentucky in 1844, traveling first to Ohio, then Michigan and finally settling in Massachusetts, where they became active abolitionists in Boston.  In addition to caring for their two children, Joseph and Elizabeth, Harriet ran a boarding house out of their home at 66 Phillips Street, while Lewis ran a successful clothing store.  

The Hayden home also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad and is now listed as a national historic site. In 1850, they assisted a fugitive slave couple, William and Ellen Craft, who had escaped from Georgia, protecting them from slave catchers on the prowl in Boston as a result of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  Lewis also led in the well-publicized rescue of Shadrach Minkins in 1851 from a Boston courthouse.  After Harriet died, part of the Hayden estate was donated to Harvard University to start a scholarship fund for African American students.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Stanley J. And Anita W. Robboy, “Lewis Hayden: From Fugitive Slave to Statesman,” New England Quarterly, 46 (1973): 591-613; and www.nps.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hayden, Lewis (c.1811-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lewis Hayden was born a slave in Lexington, Kentucky in 1811 into the household of the Rev. Adam Runkin, a Presbyterian minister.  In 1840 he married fellow slave, Harriet Bell (c.1811-1893).  The Haydens successfully escaped slavery in 1844.  They traveled to Ohio, Canada, Michigan, and finally settled in Boston, where they became active participants in abolitionist activities.  While Harriett ran a boarding house from their home at 66 Phillips Street and raised their two children, Joseph and Elizabeth, Lewis ran a successful clothing store on Cambridge Street, where he also held abolitionist meetings and outfitted runaway slaves. Their home, which contained a secret tunnel, served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Hayden home is now listed as a national historic site.

Lewis Hayden was a member of the city’s abolitionist Vigilance Committee, whose goal was to protect fugitive slaves from being captured and returned to slavery under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.  In 1850, the Haydens assisted a fugitive slave couple, William and Ellen Craft, who had escaped from Georgia.  Lewis also led in the well-publicized rescues of Fredric Wilkins, alias Shadrach Minkins, in 1851 from a Boston courthouse, and Anthony Burns in 1854.
Sources: 
Stanley J. And Anita W. Robboy, “Lewis Hayden: From Fugitive Slave to Statesman,” New England Quarterly, 46 (1973): 591-613, and www.nps.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Prince, Nancy Gardner (1799-c.1856)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Little is known about the early life of Nancy Gardner Prince, except from what she reveals in her 1853 autobiography, A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince.  Prince was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  Her father, Thomas Gardner, was a seaman from Nantucket who died when Nancy was just three months old.  Her mother, the daughter of slaves, married several times.  Always on the brink of poverty, the death of Mony Vose, Nancy’s stepfather, was an economic disaster and led to her mother’s emotional breakdown.  Nancy and her six younger siblings picked and sold berries in order to support the family. She then left home to work as a servant for white families.

Nancy Gardner’s life changed dramatically when she married Nero Prince in 1824.  Prince was a founder of the Prince Hall Freemasons in Boston.  They traveled to Russia, where Nero worked as a footman at the court of the czar in St. Petersburg, and Nancy opened a boarding house and made and sold infant clothing.  When the Princes returned to the United States, they settled in Boston, where Nancy started a seamstress business and participated in the activities of the bi-racial Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.  In 1840 and 1842 she went to Jamaica as a Christian missionary.  Prince often gave public lectures about her travels.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Bert James Loewenberg and Ruth Bogin, eds., Black Women in Nineteenth Century American Life (Univ. Park: Penn State Univ. Press, 1978); and Australia Tarver Henderson, “Nancy Gardner Prince” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, vol. II (New York: Carlson, 1993): 946-47.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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, Pennsylvania 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

Delany, Martin Robison (1812-1885)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Martin Robison Delany was an African American abolitionist, the first African American Field Officer in the U.S Army, and one of the earliest African Americans to encourage a return to Africa.
Sources: 
Victor Ullman, Martin R. Delany: The Beginnings of Black Nationalism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971); Jim Haskins, Black Stars: African American Military Heroes (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, NewYork, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Pennington, James W. C. (1807-1870)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born into slavery on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1807, James William Charles Pennington escaped from slavery in 1828 and settled for a time in Long Island, where he studied in night school.  Devoted to black education, he became an antislavery preacher, teacher, activist, and writer.  Pennington attended classes at Yale College in New Haven, although Yale forbade him to officially enroll or to use its library.  In 1838 he officiated at the wedding of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray.  During the 1840s and 1850s he pastored African Congregational churches in Newtown, Long Island; Hartford, Connecticut; and New York City, gaining international recognition as an antislavery orator and civil rights activist.  Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin praised him as an exemplary African American leader.  In addition to many sermons and speeches, Pennington authored one of the first history textbooks for African American teachers, A Text Book of the Origin and History . . . of Colored People (1841) and a memoir of slavery, The Fugitive Blacksmith, or Events in the History of James W.C. Pennington (1849).
Sources: 
Pennington, James W.C., The Fugitive Blacksmith; Charles E. Wilson, Jr., “Pennington, James W. C.” in William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris, eds., The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Smith, James McCune (1813-1865)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although many twenty-first century readers are aware of his work only through his introduction to Frederick Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom, Dr. James McCune Smith was one of the most broadly accomplished black intellectuals and activists in antebellum America.  Born in New York on April 18, 1813, to a mother who purchased her own freedom and a father who may have been a freed slave or a white merchant, Smith attended the African Free School in New York City, where at the age of eleven he was chosen to give an address to the Marquis de Lafayette (1824).  

Upon graduation from the African Free School, James McCune Smith sought but was denied admission to several American colleges.  He then managed to raise money to attend the University of Glasgow in Scotland, where, after completing bachelor’s and masters’ degrees, he completed a medical degree in 1837. Thus he became, as far as can be determined, the first African American to be awarded a degree in medicine.  After completing a medical internship in Paris, he returned to New York City, where he opened a medical office and a pharmacy that attracted interracial clientele on West Broadway.
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); John Stauffer, ed., The Works of James McCune Smith: Black Intellectual and Abolitionist (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Brown, William Wells (1814?-1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Wells Brown was an African American antislavery lecturer, groundbreaking novelist, playwright and historian.  He is widely considered to have been the first African American to publish works in several major literary genres. Known for his continuous political activism especially in his involvement with the anti-slavery movement, Brown is widely acclaimed for the effectiveness of many of his writings.  

Brown was born to a white father and enslaved mother on a plantation outside of Lexington, Kentucky, most likely in 1814.  He spent his childhood and much of his young adult life as a slave in St. Louis, Missouri working a variety of trades.  Brown slipped away from his owner's steamboat while it was docked in Cincinnati and thereafter declared himself a free man on New Year’s Day 1834.  Shortly thereafter he was taken in and helped to safety by Mr. and Mrs. Wells Brown, a white Quaker family. William would adopt their names in respect for the help they provided him.   

William Wells Brown settled briefly in Cleveland, Ohio where he married a free African American woman.  They had two daughters.  Later Brown moved his family to Buffalo, New York where he spent nine years working both as a steamboat worker on Lake Erie and a conductor for the Underground Railroad.  
Sources: 
William E. Farrison, William Wells Brown: Author and Reformer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969); Paul Jefferson, The Travels of William Wells Brown (New York: Markus Wiener, 1991); Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Still, William (1821-1902)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Still was born in Burlington County, New Jersey in 1821, as the last of eighteen children of former slaves Levin and Charity Still. By 1844, Still moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he spent the majority of his life and where he was appointed secretary of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Still was the first black man to join the society and the first to hold this position.

Still was also active in the Underground Railroad in the two decades between his arrival in Philadelphia and the end of the Civil War.  Still became well known in various circles as a major “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, helping fugitives make their way to Canada and freedom.  Still also campaigned for an end to racial discrimination in Philadelphia.  In 1859 he organized the effort to end black exclusion from Philadelphia streetcars.  This campaign was described in Still’s first publication, Struggle for the Civil Rights of the Coloured People of Philadelphia in the City Railway Cars in 1867.
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASstill.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Purvis, Robert (1810-1898)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Purvis was born on August 4, 1810 in Charleston, South Carolina, the second of three sons to a wealthy cotton broker and a free woman of color.  With the benefits of a financially successful family, Purvis began his opposition to slavery at a very young age.  When Purvis was nine, his father moved the family to Philadelphia where Purvis attended the Pennsylvania Abolition Society’s Clarkson School.  Shortly thereafter, Purvis continued his education at Amherst College in Massachusetts.  

In 1831, Robert Purvis married Harriet Forten, the daughter of Philadelphia African American businessman and abolitionist James Forten. The death of Purvis’s father left his family financially stable and enabled Purvis to commit his efforts entirely to his antislavery activity.  He began to work very closely with the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee which sheltered runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.  His residence soon became know as the Purvis “safe house.”  
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); Margaret Bacon, But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis (New York: Albany State University press, 2007); Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Loguen, Jermain Wesley (1813-1872)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jermain Wesley Loguen was born on February 5, 1813 into slavery in Tennessee.  His mother was owned by Loguen’s father and master.  In 1834, Loguen escaped from bondage and fled to St. Catherine’s, Ontario where he stayed briefly before finding his way to Rochester, New York where, in 1837, he enrolled in Beriah Green’s Oneida Institute.  By 1840, Loguen, now an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) minister, had married and moved to Syracuse to lead a church.  Loguen stayed only briefly in Syracuse, New York before he spent three of the next few years at Bath, Maine and another two in Ithaca, New York serving as an AME Zion minister

Loguen was also an active school teacher and a “conductor” in the Underground Railroad.  Settling permanently in Syracuse, Loguen built apartments on his privately owned property to serve as hiding posts and lodging for freedom seekers or runaway slaves.  Many historians agree that Loguen’s own home was a widely known station on the Underground Railroad and his basement was fitted with bunks and other equipment for fugitive slaves.

In 1869 Loguen’s daughter, Amelia, married Lewis Douglass, the son of orator, author and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Another daughter, Marinda S. Loguen, later known as Sarah Loguen, graduated from the Syracuse University College of Medicine in 1876, becoming one of the first African American women in the country to practice medicine.  
Sources: 
Carol Hunter, To Set the Captives Free: Reverend Jermain Wesley Loguen and the Struggle for Freedom in Central New York, 1835-1872 (New York: Garland, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rock, John S. (1825-1866)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John S. Rock was born to free black parents in Salem, New Jersey in 1825. He attended public schools in New Jersey until he was 19 and then worked as a teacher between 1844 and 1848.  During this period Rock began his medical studies with two white doctors. Although he was initially denied entry, Rock was finally accepted into the American Medical College in Philadelphia.  He graduated in 1852 with a medical degree. While in medical school Rock practiced dentistry and taught classes at a night school for African Americans.  In 1851 he received a silver medal for the creation of an improved variety of artificial teeth and another for a prize essay on temperance.   

At the age of 27, Rock, a teacher, doctor and dentist, moved to Boston in 1852 to open a medical and dental office. He was commissioned by the Vigilance Committee, an organization of abolitionists, to treat fugitive slaves’ medical needs. During this period Dr. Rock increasingly identified with the abolitionist movement and soon became a prominent speaker for that cause.  While he called on the United States government to end slavery, he also urged educated African Americans to use their talents and resources to assist their community.  
Sources: 
John A Garraty and Jerome Sternstein, eds., Encyclopedia of American Biography, 2nd edition (New York: Harper Collins, 1996); Carter, Purvis, “The Negro in Periodical Literature, Part III,” Journal of Negro History (July 1967) 92-102; http://www.nj.gov/state/history/rock.html
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/Black-History/Black-History/prince-whipple-and-american-painting/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Gibbs, Jonathan (1827-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born a freeman in Pennsylvania in 1827, Jonathan Gibbs was the son of Maria Jackson and the Methodist minister, Jonathan Gibbs.

Gibbs was originally trained as a carpenter until in 1848.  Then he became one of only two African Americans accepted at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  After graduating four years later he enrolled in the seminary at Princeton University.  In 1852 Gibbs became an ordained minister to black Presbyterian congregations in New York and Pennsylvania.  

During the 1850s Gibbs was a political activist who fought of the rights of African Americans.  He aided with the Underground Railroad, campaigned for the expansion of black male suffrage in New York, joined the freedmen’s relief efforts and fought segregation on New York City streetcars.  Gibbs also served as vice president of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League.  When the Civil War broke out Gibbs supported black enlistment into the union army.  On January 1st 1863 he gave a rousing speech “A Day to Celebrate Emancipation” to the audience of  First African Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia praising the efforts of African Americans through past heroes like Crispus Attucks up to the African American’s role during the Civil War.  He also praised the recently announced Emancipation Proclamation which took affect that day.  
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America.  (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001); Josh Gottheimer, ed. Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches.  (New York: Civitas Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Underground Railroad, The (1820-1861)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Underground Railroad, Fugitives Smuggled During Winter
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Underground Railroad was established to aid enslaved people in their escape to freedom.  The railroad was comprised of dozens of secret routes and safe houses originating in the slaveholding states and extending all the way to the Canadian border, the only area where fugitives could be assured of their freedom.  Shorter routes led south from Florida to Cuba or from Texas to Mexico.  The Underground Railroad also included the smuggling of fugitive slaves onto ships that carried them to ports in the North or outside the United States.
Sources: 
William Still, The Underground Railroad (Chicago, Johnson Publishing Company, 1970)
David W. Blight, Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books in association with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 2004); J. Blaine Hudson, Encyclopedia of the Underground Railroad (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2006); http://www.nationalgeographic.com/railroad/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Craft, William and Ellen (1824-1900; 1826-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownershp: Public Domain
William and Ellen Craft were born into slavery.  William was born in Macon, Georgia to a master who sold off his family to pay his gambling debts.  William’s new owner apprenticed him as a carpenter in order to earn money from his labor.  Ellen was born in Clinton, Georgia and was the daughter of an African American slave and her white owner.  Ellen had a very light complexion and was frequently mistaken for a member of her white family.  At the age of 11, she was given away as a wedding gift to the Collins Family in Macon, Georgia.  It was in Macon, Georgia where William and Ellen met.

In 1846 Ellen and William were allowed to marry, but they could not live together since they had different owners.  The separation took its toll and they started to save money and plan an escape.  In December of 1848, the Crafts escaped enslavement.  Ellen’s light complexion allowed her to dress as a white man.  She then claimed William was her slave.  This plan worked and they settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where they became famous because of their remarkable and romantic escape.  Their story briefly generated a sizeable income. 
Sources: 
William and Ellen Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery [originally published in 1860] Miami, Florida: Mnemosyne Pub. Company, 1969); Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson, William and Ellen Craft (Alexandria, Va.: Alexander Street Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jones, Absalom (1746-1818)

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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, Pennsylvania 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

Douglas, H. Ford (1831-1865)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Captain H. Ford Douglas was born in Virginia in 1831 to a white man named William Douglas, and an enslaved mother named Mary.  He escaped from slavery sometime after his fifteenth birthday, and moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

Working as a barber, the self-educated Douglas was active in the free black community of Cleveland, especially its state convention movement.  His first state meeting was at Columbus in 1850, at which time Douglas was already gaining attention for his outstanding oratorical talents.  He appeared at the Ohio State Convention again 1851 and 1852, arguing that African Americans would never gain equality in the United States, and advocating African American emigration.  Douglas supported William Lloyd Garrison’s view that the United States Constitution was a proslavery document because it did not exclusively prohibit slavery.  He claimed it was written with the intention of continuing slavery.   Douglas also felt African-Americans allowed slavery to continue by remaining in the United States and making themselves subject to the U.S. Constitution.  

At the 1854 National Emigration Convention, Douglas emerged as a prominent speaker with his defense of emigration.  He moved to British-controlled West Canada after the convention and in 1856 became a proprietor of the Provincial Freedom, a Canadian newspaper promoting antislavery and emigrationist principles.  Through the newspaper Douglas promoted Canada as a place where blacks could live under a government which protected them.  He married Statira Steele in October 1857, with whom he had one child.  

Sources: 
Robert L. Harris, Jr., H. Ford Douglas Afro-American Antislavery Emigrationist Journal of Negro History 62:3 (July 1997) 217-34; Robert L. Harris, Jr., H. Ford Douglas.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cassey, Amy Matilda Williams (1808-1856)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
The Cassey House, Philadelphia
Image Courtesy of Janine Black
Amy Matilda Williams Cassey was born in New York City on August 14, 1808, to Sarah and Rev. Peter H. Williams Jr., a leading Episcopalian minister.  Raised in New York City, Williams was a member of an elite family. The Williams family, Rev. Peter Williams Jr., son of Mary and Peter Williams Sr., another prominent New York clergyman, was a well known figure in the history of both Trinity Church and St. Philips Church in New York City. 

In 1825, at the age of 17, Amy Williams married Philadelphia businessman Joseph Cassey, who was twenty years her senior.  Amy Williams Cassey soon joined her husband and other prominent Philadelphia African Americans in the campaign against slavery.  In 1837 she persuaded her parents to house delegates to the Antislavery Convention of American Women at their New York City home.  Since the Cassey household always employed at least one servant, Amy Cassey was free to devote considerable attention to anti-slavery efforts as a member of the interracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. 
Sources: 
Cassey Family Bible (1700s), care of Dianna Ruth Cassey, Warner, New Jersey; William H. Ferris, The African Abroad: His Evolution in Western Civilization, Tracing His Development Under Caucasian Milieu (New Haven, CT: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press, 1913);  Joseph Willson, The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000); Philip Lapsansky, The Library Company of Philadelphia: 1998 Annual Report. The Library Company of Philadelphia Annual Meeting, May 1999 (Philadelphia, PA: The Library Company of Philadelphia: 34 (1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Temple University

Cassey, Joseph (1789-1848)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
The Cassey House, Philadelphia
Image Courtesy of Janine Black
Joseph Cassey was born in the French West Indies in 1789.  He arrived in Philadelphia sometime before 1808.  Cassey prospered in the barber trade and as a perfumer, wig-maker, and money-lender.  His barbershop was located a block from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  Cassey amassed an estimated $75,000 fortune by the 1830s to become, after lumber merchant Stephen Smith, the second wealthiest African-American in Philadelphia.

Cassey bought and sold real estate, often with business partner, Robert Purvis, another notable African American Philadelphian.  A Bucks County farm outside Philadelphia jointly owned by Cassey and Purvis was visited frequently by abolitionists and women’s rights advocates including Lucretia Mott who described her stay there as an occasion where she was entertained handsomely. 

Joseph Cassey owned numerous Philadelphia rental properties including a small apartment in the rear courtyard of what would become the “Cassey House,” at 243 Delancey Street.  Joseph’s son, Francis eventually bought the Cassey House and the other houses facing the courtyard at a sheriff’s sale.  The Cassey House remained in the Cassey family for 84 years and was home to three generations of Casseys.
Sources: 
Joseph Cassey’s Will, W8-1948, will book #20, page 38, Register of Wills, Philadelphia City Hall; The Cassey Family Bible (1700s), in the care of Dianna Ruth Cassey, Warner, New Jersey; Charles H. Wesley, "The Negro in the Organization of Abolition," Phylon 2:3 (1941):223-235; George Washington Williams, History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880: Negroes as Slaves (New York and London: G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Knickerbocker Press, 1882); Joseph Willson, The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000); M. H. Bacon, But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2007); M. R. Small and E. W. Small, "Prudence Crandall, Champion of Negro Education," The New England Quarterly 17:4 (1944)506-529.  Philip Lapsansky, Chief of Reference, The Library Company of Philadelphia, Nov. 1, 2007; http://www.yale.edu/glc/crandall/01.htm , (9/25/07); http://negroartist.com/writings/jamesforten.htm (9/14/2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Temple University

Harrison, Samuel (1818-1900)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Samuel Harrison, a minister, political activist, and former slave, became one of Berkshire County, Massachusetts’s most ardent abolitionists. Harrison was born enslaved in Philadelphia in 1818 but he and his mother were freed in 1821.  Shortly afterwards the widowed mother and her son moved to New York City. When Harrison was nine years old, he returned to Philadelphia to live with an uncle. 

Throughout his childhood, Harrison worked as an apprentice to his uncle in a shoemaking shop, learning a trade that would support him for years. He also attended church services with his mother regularly, and it was during his adolescence that Harrison decided to become a Presbyterian minister. 

Samuel Harrison tried hard to educate himself. In 1836, he enrolled in a manual school run by the abolitionist Gerrit Smith in Peterboro, New York. After only a few months, he transferred to the Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio (now Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio), an institution known for its abolitionist sympathies.   Financial difficulties, however, forced him to return to Philadelphia in 1839.

Soon after returning to Philadelphia, Harrison married Ellen Rhodes who he had known since the two were children. Over the next twenty years, Ellen gave birth to thirteen children, seven of whom died in early childhood.

Sources: 
Samuel Harrison, An Appeal of a Colored Man to his Fellow Citizens of a Fairer Hue in the United States (Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Chickering & Axtell, 1877); Samuel Harrison, Rev. Samuel Harrison, His Life Story, As Told By Himself (Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Privately printed, 1899); Dennis Dickerson, "Reverend Samuel Harrison: A Nineteenth Century Black Clergyman,” in Black Apostles at Home and Abroad: Afro-Americans and the Christian Mission from the Revolution to Reconstruction, edited by David W. Wills and Richard Newman (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Paul, Nathaniel (1793?-1839)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Early 19th Century abolitionist minister Nathaniel Paul was born into a free black family in Exeter, New Hampshire and was one of six Paul sons to enter the Baptist ministry.  His elder brother, Thomas Paul, Sr., was the first pastor of the First African Baptist Church in Boston in 1806.  Shadrach Paul was an itinerant preacher who rode throughout New Hampshire for the Domestic Mission Society.  Benjamin Paul worked alongside Nathaniel as an antislavery agent and minister.  Nathaniel Paul moved to Albany, New York, a way station on the Underground Railroad to Canada, where he served as the first pastor of the Union Street Baptist Church.  

A leader in the city’s black community, Rev. Paul participated in a variety of projects designed to improve educational opportunities for blacks in Albany. He was an organizer of the Wilberforce School in Canada, the only school for black youth until 1873, although some blamed him for the financial failure of Wilberforce.  Paul was also a founder and leader of the Union Society of Albany for the Improvement of the Colored People in Morals, Education, and Mechanic Arts.  Paul was also an active abolitionist and a vocal opponent of the colonization movement.  One of his speeches, delivered in New York City in 1829, appeared in the abolitionist journal, The Rights of All.  
Sources: 
J. Marcus Mitchell, “The Paul Family,” Old Time New England, LXIII (Winter, 1973): 74-76; Lorenzo Greene, The Negro in the Colonial Period (New York: Atheneum, 1969); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982), 481-2; William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease, Black Utopia: Negro Communal Experiments in America (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1964), and Milton C. Sernett, Afro-American Religious History: A Documentary Witness (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1985); New York Genealogical Records, 1675-1920 in www.ancestry.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Paul, Thomas, Sr. (1773-1831)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Home of Thomas Paul, Boston
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Thomas Paul was the eldest of six sons born into a free Black family in Exeter, New Hampshire.   Educated at a Baptist school in Hollis, NH, Paul pursued a career in the ministry as did three of his brothers.  He enjoyed a reputation as an eloquent speaker and traveled throughout New England as a guest preacher.  In 1804, he received his ordination.  The following year, he married Catherine Waterhouse and had three children, Ann Catherine, Susan, and Thomas, Jr.

Shortly after moving his family to Boston, Thomas Paul, Sr. was installed as the first pastor of the First African Baptist Church in December in 1806.  He served this congregation until 1829, two years before his death.  

Paul was a leader in the movement to establish independent Black churches in the United States.  He assisted the Black Baptists in New York City in the establishment of the African Baptist Society, which later evolved into the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  Paul’s church took on several names between 1806 and the early 1830s, including the Independence Baptist Church, the Abolition Church, and, finally, St. Paul’s.  

During his ministerial career, the Rev. Paul also pursued foreign missionary work. In 1815, he traveled to Haiti under the auspices of the Massachusetts Baptist Society, where he stayed for six months.  Unable to communicate in French, Paul met with limited success in his ability to convert Haitians.
Sources: 
J. Marcus Mitchell, “The Paul Family,” Old Time New England, LXIII(Winter, 1973): 74-76, Rayford W. Logan and Winston, Michael R., eds. Dictionary of American Negro Biography (NY: Norton, 1982), 482-3, James Oliver Horton & Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bell, James Madison (1826-1902)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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James Madison Bell, poet, orator and activist was born in Gallipolis, Ohio on April 3, 1826. Bell lived in Ohio most of his life although he briefly resided in Canada and California before eventually returning to Ohio. When Bell was 16 he moved to Cincinnati to live with his brother-in-law George Knight who taught him the plastering trade. Knight and Bell were talented plasterers who in 1851 were awarded the contract to plaster the Hamilton County public buildings.

On November 9, 1847, Bell married Louisiana Sanderlin. The couple eventually had seven children and lived in Cincinnati until 1854 when they moved to Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Chatham was a major destination for the Underground Railroad, and while there Bell became involved in abolitionist activities and later returned to Cincinnati to continue his antislavery work. 

Although he supported himself primarily as a plasterer, Bell soon became known for his speeches and poems which he used in the campaign against slavery.  His most famous poem, “The Day and the War,” was read at Platt’s Hall in Cincinnati in January 1864 for the Celebration of the first Anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Bell dedicated “The Day and the War” to friend and fellow abolitionist John Brown who was executed in 1859 for his role in the raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); "James Madison Bell" in Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 40, edited by Ashyia Henderson (Detroit: The Gale Group, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coker, Daniel (1780-1846)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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Daniel Coker (born Isaac Wright) was a writer, activist, and a founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church who eventually emigrated from the United States to Sierra Leone as a missionary and colonist. Coker was born in 1780 in either Baltimore County or Frederick County, Maryland to Susan Coker, a white indentured servant, and Edward Wright, a slave father. He was raised in a household with his white half-brothers from his mother’s previous marriage and was allowed to attend the local school as their valet. While still in school he fled to New York where he changed his name to Daniel Coker and was ordained a Methodist minister.

Upon secretly returning to Maryland, Coker’s friends helped him purchase his freedom which gave him the rare opportunity to boldly speak out against the institution of slavery as well as participate in activities not usually open to black Americans at the time. He began both teaching and preaching in the Baltimore area.  Responding to racial discrimination in the Methodist Church, Coker called upon African American Methodists to withdraw from the white-dominated church and establish their own organization. Unable to recruit enough parishioners from the Sharp Street Church where he worked, Coker and others who advocated his separatist ideals broke from the congregation to form the African Bethel Church, which later became Bethel A.M.E Church.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); http://www.genealogyforum.rootsweb.com/gfaol/resource/AfricanAm/Coker.htm; http://www.ame-church.com/index.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Whitfield, James Monroe (1822-1871)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

James Monroe Whitfield, a black abolitionist and colonizationist, was born on April 10, 1822 in New Hampshire. Little is known about his early life except that he was a descendant of Ann Paul, the sister of prominent black clergyman Thomas Paul.  Whitfield had little formal education. Nonetheless by the age of 16, he was publishing papers for Negro rights conventions.

Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Classroom Electric, http://www.classroomelectric.org/volume1/levine/bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wright, Theodore Sedgwick (ca. 1797-1847)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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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

Barbadoes, James G. (1796-1841)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
James G. Barbadoes, abolitionist and colonizationist, was born in 1796. Barbadoes is thought to have come from the Island of Barbados, West Indies. He resided in Boston, Massachusetts for most of his life.  Around 1806, Barbadoes married Rebecca (maiden name unknown) and the couple had a son, who died in infancy, named after William Lloyd Garrison. However their second son, Fredrick G. Barbadoes, survived and became an abolitionist later in his life.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Roy E. Finkenbine, "Barbadoes, James G."; http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00036.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Mon May 12, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Holly, James Theodore (1829-1911)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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James Theodore Holly emigrationist, missionary, and bishop, was born in Washington, D.C on October 3, 1829. At age fourteen his family relocated to Brooklyn, New York. His father taught him the shoemaking trade. Then in 1848 he began working as an abolitionist with Lewis Tappan, one of the nation’s leading anti-slavery activists. In 1850 Holly and his brother Joseph opened their own boot making shop.

In 1851, James and Charlotte Holly were married in New York but they soon moved to Windsor, Canada, just across the border from Detroit. The Hollys remained in Windsor until 1854. While there James Holly helped former slave Henry Bibb edit his newspaper, Voice of the Fugitive. Holly also endorsed the Refugee Home Society and organized the Amherstburg Convention of free blacks in Canada.

Before leaving for Canada, Holly had joined the Protestant Episcopal Church. He became a church deacon in 1855 then in the following year a priest. Even as he continued his religious activities, Holly was drawn toward emigration, believing that African Americans had no future in the United States. In 1854 he was a delegate to the first Emigration Convention in Cleveland. The next year he represented the National Emigration Board as commissioner.

In 1856 Holly returned to the United States, settling in New Haven, Connecticut where he was the priest of St. Luke’s Church and teacher in public and private schools until 1861.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Bishop James Theodore Holly.” St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, http://specbuffalo.bfn.org/bishop_holley.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Remond, Charles Lenox (1810-1873)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Charles Lenox Remond was born into an elite free Black family in Salem, Massachusetts.  His parents, John and Nancy Lenox Remond, had been married by the Rev. Thomas Paul, a prominent African American minister and anti-slavery activist, in 1807.  Nancy Lenox’s father was a veteran of the American Revolution, having fought with the Continental Army.  John Remond had emigrated from the Dutch colony of Curacao as a young boy in 1798.  In Salem, John Remond was first a barber and, then, with the assistance of his wife, he operated a successful catering business.  The Remonds were also active abolitionists.  John became a life-long member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Association.
Sources: 
Dorothy Burnett Porter, “The Remonds of Salem, Massachusetts: A Nineteenth-Century Family Revisited,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 95(1985); Mark J. Sammon and Valerie Cunningham, Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage (Durham: Univ. of New Hampshire Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, Edwin Garrison (1830-1901)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edwin Garrison Walker, leatherworker, lawyer, and politician, was born free in Boston, Massachusetts to Eliza and David Walker in 1831.  His exact date of birth is unknown.  His mother Eliza, whose last name also is unknown, was, according to most sources, a fugitive slave.  His father, David Walker, was nationally known for authoring David Walker’s Appeal, a controversial abolitionist text which was published in Boston in 1839. 

Walker was educated in Boston’s public school system and while growing up trained as a leatherworker.  He eventually owned his own shop and employed fifteen people.  Walker, along with Lewis Hayden and Robert Morris, by now all well-known Boston abolitionists, were lauded by the New England public in 1851 for their assistance in obtaining the release of Shadrach, a fugitive slave.mj

While fighting for the release of Shadrach, Walker acquired a copy of Blackstone’s Commentaries, which piqued his interest in law.  Shortly thereafter, while still a leatherworker, Walker studied law in the offices of John Q. A. Griffin and Charles A. Tweed in Georgetown, Massachusetts.  After passing his law examination with ease in May, 1861, Walker became the third African American admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.
Sources: 
William Henry Ferris, The African Abroad, or, his evolution in western civilization, tracing his development under Caucasian milieu, vol. 2 (New Haven: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press, 1913); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Joshua Bowen (1813-1879)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Joshua Bowen Smith, caterer, abolitionist, and state senator, was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania in 1813.  Details regarding his childhood remain obscure.  However, it is known that he was educated in the public school system of Pennsylvania with the assistance of a wealthy Quaker.  
Sources: 
Lucius Robinson Paige, History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1877, with a Genealogical Register (Boston: H. O. Houghton and Company, 1877); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Emiline Smith, Statement of the Claim of the Late Joshua B. Smith against the Commonwealth for Subsistence Furnished the 12th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers (May 14, 1879), petition.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harpers Ferry Raid, 1859

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
U.S. Marines Attacking John Brown and His Men at Harper's Ferry, 1859
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On October 16, 1859 in the town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) John Brown, an ardent abolitionist, and 21 other men raided a West Virginia armory to seize weapons for a planned slavery insurrection. Civilians in the town were alerted when gunshots were heard and news spread that the armory had been captured, they assembled militia to counterattack the building.  Later the United States government sent in marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee to quash the insurgent takeover.  Escape routes were cut off and the military recaptured the armory.  In the course of the raid ten of Brown's men were killed; seven, including Brown himself, were captured, and five escaped.
Sources: 
Joseph Edgar Chamberlain, John Brown (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1899); Benjamin Quarles, Allies for Freedom: Blacks and John Brown (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974); Paul Finkelman, His Soul Goes Marching On: Responses to John Brown and the Harper’s Ferry Raid (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995); http://www.wvculture.org/History/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Vashon, George B. (1824-1878)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Boyer Vashon, attorney, scholar, essayist and poet, made noteworthy contributions to the fight for emancipation and education of blacks. He was born on July 25, 1824, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the third child and only son of an abolitionist, John Bethune Vashon. At the age of 16, Vashon enrolled in Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio.  On August 28, 1844, Vashon earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with valedictory honors, becoming the college’s first black graduate. Five years later, Vashon was awarded a Master of Arts degree in recognition of his scholarly pursuits and accomplishments.  

After returning to Pittsburgh, he studied law under Judge Walter Forward, a prominent figure in Pennsylvania politics. After two years of reading law, Vashon applied for admission to the Allegheny County bar. His application was denied on the grounds that colored people were not citizens.  This inequitable act led to Vashon’s decision to emigrate to Haiti. Before leaving the United States, Vashon went to New York to take the bar examination, which he successfully completed on January 10, 1848, thus becoming the first black lawyer in New York.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982); Benjamin Griffith Brawley, Early Negro American Writers (Salem: Ayer Publishing, 1968); Paul N. D. Thornell, “The Absent Ones and the Providers: A Biography of the Vashons,” Journal of Negro History, 83:4 (1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ruggles, David (1810-1849)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

David Ruggles, abolitionist, businessman, journalist and hydrotherapist, was born in 1810 in Norwich, Connecticut. He attended the Sabbath School for the poor which admitted people of color starting in 1815. In 1827 he left Connecticut for New York City where he operated a grocery store for the next four years.  He then quit the grocery business to open his own bookshop in early 1834.  Ruggles is generally known as the first African American bookseller. While working at the bookstore he extended many publications and prints promoting the abolition of slavery and in opposition to the efforts of the American Colonization Society which promoted black settlement in Liberia.  Ruggles also took on job printing, letterpress work, picture framing, and bookbinding to augment his income.  In September 1835, a white anti-abolitionist mob burned his store. 

In 1833 Ruggles began to travel across the Northeast promoting the Emancipator and Journal of Public Morals, an abolitionist weekly. Ruggles, who wrote articles and pamphlets and gave lectures denouncing slavery and Liberian colonization, made him a figure of rising prominence in abolitionist circles in the late 1830s. 

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

Williams, Peter Jr. (1780-1840)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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Peter Williams Jr., clergyman, abolitionist, and opponent of colonization was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey around 1780. His family moved to New York City, where he first attended the New York African Free School operated by the Manumission Society. He was also taught privately by Episcopal Church leader, the Reverend Thomas Lyell. Williams joined a group of black Episcopalians who worshiped at New York’s Trinity Church on Sunday afternoons.  There lay leader John Henry Hobart confirmed and tutored Williams as well as other future Episcopal clergymen.  Hobart also officiated at Williams wedding. When Hobart died Williams was elected by the congregation as lay reader and licensed by the bishop.

In 1818 Williams led the other African American Episcopalians in creating their own church, St. Philip’s African Church.  The new church was recognized by the Episcopal Church on July 3, 1819 as one of the earliest predominately black Episcopal Churches in the United States.  On July 10, 1826, Peter Williams Jr. was advanced to the priesthood, becoming the second African American so ordained.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Peter Williams Jr.” in New York Divided, People, http://www.nydivided.org/popup/People/PeterWilliamsJr.php.
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

Ray, Charles B. (1807-1886)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Bennett Ray journalist, clergyman, and abolitionist was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts on December 25, 1807. He attended school in his hometown, and then in the 1830s he was given the opportunity by abolitionists to attend Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts to study theology. He also studied in Middletown Connecticut at Wesleyan University, but left because of racial tension. Ray worked for five years on his grandfather’s farm, then later went on to learn the boot making trade. When he moved to New York City in 1832 he opened a boot and shoe store. Ray also became a Methodist minister.

In 1834 Charles Ray married Henrietta Green Regulus on October 27, 1836 she along with her newborn died while giving birth. Then in 1840 he married Charlotte Augusta Burroughs; they had seven children together.  Two daughters, Charlotte T. Ray and Florence Ray, became the first black female attorneys in the nation in the 1870s.

In 1833 Charles Ray joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and was a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. He dedicated most of his life to the abolitionist movement. In 1837 Ray changed denominations and became a Congregational minister. Then in 1843 he joined the New York Vigilance Committee, which involved thirteen black and white men who assisted runaway slaves. In 1848 Ray became the corresponding secretary for the Committee and remained an active member for fifteen years.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Oct., 1919), pp. 361-371 Publisher: Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc.  Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2713446
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bassett, Ebenezer D. (1833-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ebenezer D. Bassett was appointed U.S. Minister Resident to Haiti in 1869, making him the first African American diplomat.  For eight years, the educator, abolitionist, and black rights activist oversaw bilateral relations through bloody civil warfare and coups d'état on the island of Hispaniola.  Bassett served with distinction, courage, and integrity in one of the most crucial, but difficult postings of his time.

Born in Connecticut on October 16, 1833, Ebenezer D. Bassett was the second child of Eben Tobias and Susan Gregory.  In a rarity during the mid-1800s, Ebenezer attended college, becoming the first black student to integrate the Connecticut Normal School in 1853.  He then taught in New Haven, befriending the legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Later, he became the principal of Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth (ICY).

During the Civil War, Bassett became one of the city’s leading voices into the cause behind that conflict--the liberation of four millions of black slaves -- and helped recruit African American soldiers for the Union.  In nominating Bassett to become Minister Resident to Haiti, President Ulysses S. Grant made him one of the highest ranking black members of the United States government.
Sources: 
Christopher Teal, Hero of Hispaniola: America's First Black Diplomat, Ebenezer D. Bassett (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State

Morris, Robert, Sr. (1823–1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert Morris became one of the first black lawyers in United States after being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1847. Morris was born in Salem, Massachusetts on June 8, 1823.   At an early age, Morris had some formal education at Master Dodge’s School in Salem.  With the agreement of his family, he became the student of Ellis Gray Loring, a well known abolitionist and lawyer. 

Shortly after starting his practice in Boston, Morris became the first black lawyer to file a lawsuit on behalf of a client in the history of the nation.  A jury ruled in favor of Morris’s client, though the details of the trial are unknown.  Morris, however, recorded his feelings and observations about his first jury trial:

"There was something in the courtroom that made me feel like a giant.  The courtroom was filled with colored people, and I could see, expressed on the faces of every one of them, a wish that I might win the first case that had ever been tried before a jury by a colored attorney in this county…"

Vehemently opposed to slavery, he worked with William Lloyd Garrison, Ellis Loring and Wendell Philips and others to oppose the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  On February 15, 1851 with the help of Lewis Hayden, Robert Morris managed to remove from the court house, newly arrested fugitive slave Shadrack and helped him to get to Canada and freedom. Arrests were made but Morris and the others were acquitted of the charges. 

Sources: 

Clay J. Smith, Jr., Emancipation: Making of the Black Lawyer 1844 -1944 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995); Rayford W. Logan and Michael Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography; (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Payne, Daniel Alexander (1811-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born on February 24, 1811 to free Black parents London and Martha Payne in Charleston, South Carolina, Daniel Alexander Payne would become a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, President of Wilberforce University, abolitionist, educator and historian. When Payne was four his father passed away.  His mother died when he was nine. Payne was raised by his great aunt, Sarah Bordeaux, after their passing.

Daniel Payne studied at the Minors’ Moralist Society School for two years, and then was privately tutored by Mr. Thomas S. Bonneau. Payne went to work at age twelve to a shoe-merchant, as a carpenter at thirteen, and then as a tailor, finally entering the teaching profession and opening a school for Black children in 1829, when only nineteen years of age. In 1835, South Carolina passed bill No. 2639: An Act to Amend the Law relating to Slaves and Free Persons of Color which forced Payne to close his school.

Sources: 

Paul R. Griffen, Black Theology as the Foundation of Three Methodist
Colleges: The Educational Views and Labors of Daniel Payne, Joseph
Price, Isaac Lane
(Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984);
Josephus R. Coan, Daniel Alexander Payne: Christian Educator
(Philadelphia: A.M.E. Book Concern, 1935); Bishop Daniel Alexander
Payne, Recollections of Seventy Years (New York: Arno Press, 1968).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Cornish, Samuel Eli (1795-1858)

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

Samuel Cornish, an abolitionist and editor, was born in Sussex County, Delaware and raised in Philadelphia and New York City.  Since both of his parents were free African Americans Cornish was born free.  After graduating from the Free African School in Philadelphia Cornish began training to become a Presbyterian minister and was ordained in 1822.  Shortly afterward he moved to New York City where he organized the first black Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.  

In addition to his duties as pastor, Cornish also became a journalist.  Working with fellow African American John B. Russwurm, he founded the first African American newspaper in the United States, Freedom’s Journal. Cornish was the senior editor of the paper while Russwurm served as junior editor. The first issue appeared in New York City on Friday, March 16, 1827.  After living in a world dominated by white media, Cornish and Russwurm stated in their first editorial, “We wish to plead our own cause.  Too long have others spoken for us.  Too long have the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things that concern us dearly…,” clearly showing their intentions of publishing the news without white bias against the African American news.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, eds., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Simon & Schuster
Macmillan, 1996); Lerone Bennett Jr., Pioneers in Protest (Chicago:
Johnson Publishing Company Inc., 1968).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jennings, Thomas L. (1791- 1856)

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

Thomas L. Jennings was the first black man to receive a patent. The patent was awarded on March 3, 1821 (US Patent 3306x) for his discovery of a process called dry-scouring which was the forerunner of today’s modern dry-cleaning.

Jennings was born free in New York City, New York in 1791.  In his early 20s he became a tailor but then opened a dry cleaning business in the city.  While running his business Jennings developed dry-scouring.   

The patent to Jennings generated considerable controversy during this period.  Slaves at this time could not patent their own inventions; their effort was the property of their master. This regulation dated back to the US patent laws of 1793.  The regulation was based on the legal presumption that "the master is the owner of the fruits of the labor of the slave both manual and intellectual.” Patent courts also held that slaves were not citizens and therefore could not own rights to their inventions. In 1861 patent rights were finally extended to slaves.  

Sources: 

Mary Bellis, Thomas Jennings: Thomas Jennings was the first African
American to receive a patent
,
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bljennings.htm;
Joan Potter, African American Firsts (New York: Kensington Publishing Group, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Peck, David Jones (c. 1826-1855)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

David Jones Peck was the first black man to graduate from an American medical school. He was born to John C. and Sarah Peck in Carlisle, Pennsylvania around 1826. John Peck was a prominent abolitionist and minister who founded the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Carlisle. Peck was also a barber and wigmaker.

John and Sarah Peck moved to Pittsburgh in the early 1830s where they established the first school for black children in the area.  David was one of their first students.  Between 1844 and 1846 David Peck studied medicine under Dr. Joseph P. Gaszzam, an anti-slavery white doctor in Pittsburgh.  He then entered Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1846, three years after the institution opened.  After he graduated in 1847, Peck toured the state of Ohio with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass promoting abolitionist ideals.  His status as the first black graduate of a medical college was used by abolitionists to promote the idea of full black citizenship and was implicitly an attack on slavery.

In 1849 Peck established his practice in Philadelphia. He lived in and worked from a red brick row house with his wife, Mary E. Peck, whom he married on July 24, 1849.  Peck's medical practice, however, was not successful.  Few doctors recognized his status, referred patients to him, or consulted with him.  

Peck closed his medical practice in Philadelphia in 1851 and was preparing to travel to California when Martin Delany, an old friend and fellow Pittsburgh abolitionist, persuaded him instead to participate in an emigration project that would resettle U.S. free blacks in Central America.  

Sources: 

Michael J. Harris, "David Jones Peck, MD: A Dream Denied," Journal of the National Medical Association 88:9 (1996): pp. 600-604; "David Jones Peck, M.D., Rush Medical College, Class of 1847," Archives of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Vivian Ovleton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corp., 1990).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Shadd, Abraham Doras (1801-1882)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Canadian Postal Stamp of Abraham D. Shadd
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Abraham Doras Shadd, the first Afro-Canadian to hold public office, was born in Wilmington, Delaware on March 2, 1801. He was the grandson of a white German soldier from Hesse Kassel, Germany and a free black woman. Shadd was free born and earned a respectable living as a shoemaker, supporting his wife and thirteen children. His passion, however, was obtaining civil rights for African Americans and later Afro-Canadians and he devoted his life to the abolitionist movement which sought the immediate end of slavery.

Sources: 

Colin A. Thompson, Blacks in Deep Snow (Don Mills, Ontario: J.M. Dent
& Sons, 1979); Joseph Mensah, Black Canadians (Halifax: Fernwood
Publishing, 2002);
http://www.buxtonmuseum.com/history/hist-shadd-abraham.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Allen, William G. (1820- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Nineteenth-century lecturer and educator William G. Allen endured physical violence and barely escaped murder when he proposed marriage to the daughter of a white minister in upstate New York.  Their relationship later was the inspiration for a story about interracial love by author Louisa May Alcott, herself an abolition sympathizer.  

Born in Virginia in 1820, the son of a free mulatto mother and a Welsh father, Allen was orphaned as a young boy and adopted by a free African American family. His academic talents were noticed by New York philanthropist Gerrit Smith, who sponsored his education at the Oneida Institute, a progressive interracial school in upstate New York.  Allen graduated in 1844 and became editor of the National Watchman, a temperance and abolitionist paper for African Americans, and then clerked for the Boston law firm of Ellis Gray Loring.  While in Boston, he lectured on African American history and argued for a complete blending of the races.

Sources: 

Richard J. Blackett, “William G. Allen, The Forgotten Professor,” Civil
War History
, 26, 39-52 (March 1980); Sarah Elbert, The American
Prejudice Against Color
(Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002);
Jack A. Garraty, American National Biography, Vol. 1 (New York: Oxford
Press, 1999); Jack Salzman, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture
and History, Volume 1
(New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Copeland, John Anthony, Jr. (1836-1859)

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

John Anthony Copeland was a mulatto, born free in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 15, 1834 to John Anthony Copeland, a slave, and Delilah Evans, a free woman.  Copeland spent much of his early life in Ohio and attended Oberlin College.  While residing in Oberlin, Ohio, Copeland became an advocate for black rights and an abolitionist.  In 1858 he participated in assisting John Price, a runaway slave seeking his freedom.  This act became famous as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, where abolitionists boldly aided slaves in violation of the federal Fugitive Slave Law.  

Once released from jail, Copeland joined John Brown’s group that planned to attack the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.  Copeland was recruited to join Brown's group by Lewis Sheridan Leary.  He and Leary, along with three other African Americans, Osborn P. Anderson, Dangerfield Newby, and Shields Green took part in what they hoped would be Brown's slave manumitting army.  Like Brown and the other followers, Copeland believed that if the group seized weapons at Harpers Ferry and then marched south, they would created a massive slave uprising that would free all of the nearly four million African Americans in bondage.  

Sources: 

Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer  Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism (New York: The New Press, 2006;  Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Doubleday, 2000); Peggy A. Russo, and Paul Finkelman, Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005); http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/main/index.php?q=node/5478

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Anderson, Osborne P. (1830-1872)

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

Osborne Perry Anderson was one of the five African American men to accompany John Brown in the raid on the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) in October 1859.  Anderson was a free-born black abolitionist, born in West Fallow Field, Pennsylvania on July 27, 1830.  Along with John Anthony Copeland Jr., another member of the Brown raiding party, Anderson attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.  He later moved to Chatham, Canada, where he worked as a printer for Mary Ann Shadd's newspaper, The Provincial Freeman.   In 1858 Anderson met John Brown and eventually became persuaded to join his band of men determined to attack Harpers Ferry.

One year after meeting John Brown, on October 16, 1859 Anderson took part in Brown’s radical scheme to free the United States of slavery.  Like Brown and the other followers, Anderson believed that if the group seized weapons at Harpers Ferry and then marched south, they would create a massive slave uprising that would liberate all of the nearly four million African Americans in bondage.  

Sources: 

Osborne Perry Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry: A Narrative of
Events at Harper's Ferry with incidents Prior and Subsequent to its
Capture by Captain John Brown and His Men
(Boston: Privately Printed,
1861); Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer, Prophets of Protest:
Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism
(New York: The New
Press, 2006);  Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of
African American History Told by Those Who Lived It
(New York:
Doubleday, 2000); Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman, Terrible Swift
Sword: The Legacy of John Brown
(Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005);
http://www.iath.virginia.edu/jbrown/men.html#opa

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Female Anti-Slavery Society, Salem, Massachusetts (1832-1866)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
In February 1832, a group of “females of color” in Salem, Massachusetts organized the first women’s antislavery society in the United States.  Like most free black antislavery societies, the Salem organization addressed a variety of issues important to free blacks in addition to the campaign against slavery.  It supported secular and Sabbath schools for free blacks, assisted newly freed or runaway slaves, and opposed racial segregation and discrimination in the northern free states.  Two years after its founding, the Society expanded its membership to include white women and officially re-organized as the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society.  

The Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society (SFASS) was similar in some ways to other female anti-slavery organizations.  It raised money to support abolitionist publications such as The Liberator by organizing annual bazaars that featured the contributions of local free blacks and organized lecture series.  The society’s support for The Liberator underscored its Garrisonian politics that advocated the immediate end of slavery as well as Garrison’s support of the expanded role of women in the movement.  

Like other abolitionist women, its participants were often involved in a host of other reform activities. For example, the Society’s vice-president, Clarissa C. Lawrence, also served as president of the Colored Female Religious and Moral Reform Society of Salem, and Sarah Parker Remond was a prominent abolitionist lecturer who would eventually pursue a career in medicine. Remond’s family was among the black elite in Salem and active participants in the abolitionist movement.  
Sources: 
July Roy Jeffrey, The Great Silent Army of Abolitionism: Ordinary Women in the Antislavery Movement (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1998) and Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1992), and The Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Menard, John Willis (1838-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Willis Menard, abolitionist, author, journalist and politician, was born in 1838 in Kaskaskia, Illinois, to French Creole parents. He was the first African American elected to Congress, but was not seated after a dispute over the election results. Menard attended Iberia College, an abolitionist school in Iberia, Ohio.  

Twenty-two year old Menard expressed his abolitionist views in his widely read 1860 publication, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois. During the Civil War, he became the first African American to serve as a clerk in the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.  While there, President Abraham Lincoln dispatched him to research British Honduras (now Belize) as a possible colony for the African American population. 

Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008); "John Willis Menard," Notable Black American Men Book II (Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2006); John Willis Menard, Lays in Summer Lands, edited by Larry Eugene Rivers, Richard Matthews, & Canter Brown, Jr. (Tampa, FL: University of Tampa Press, 2002); John Willis Menard, Black and White. No Party—No Creed: A Lecture. (Philadelphia, no date); John Willis Menard, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois (no city, ca. 1860).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Oberlin College (1833- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History

 

Oberlin College's First Varsity Baseball Team, 1881
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Oberlin College which was named Oberlin Collegiate Institute until 1850, is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio.   In 1833, Presbyterian ministers John Jay Sipherd and Philo P. Stewart founded the institution as a college preparatory institute to promote Christian values.  Oberlin's progressive history began during the antebellum period.  In 1835 it became the first predominantly white collegiate institution to admit African American male students and two years later it opened its doors to all women, becoming the first coeducational college in the country.   In 1862, Mary Jane Patterson earned a B.A. degree in education from Oberlin, becoming the first African American woman to earn a degree from an American college. Other black women had graduated earlier but did not receive the collegiate degree (BA). Oberlin continued to be an important institution for African Americans for the next century.  By 1900, one third of all black professionals in the U.S. had undergraduate degrees from Oberlin.

Sources: 
Roland M. Baumann, Constructing Black Education at Oberlin College: A Documentary History (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2010); Stephanie Y. Evans, Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007); Michele Valarie Ronnick, ed., The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough: An American Journey from Slavery to Scholarship (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005); http://www.oberlin.edu.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Highland Beach, Maryland (1893- )

Vignette Type: 
Places
History Type: 
African American History
Highland Beach Picnic Group, 1930
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center,
National Museum of American History,
Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution

Highland Beach, Maryland, the oldest of the major black resort towns, was founded along the western shore of Chesapeake Bay in 1893 by Charles and Laura Douglass.  Charles Douglass was the son of prominent abolitionist and 19th century civil rights activist Frederick Douglass. Major Charles Douglass, however, was prominent in his own right.  He was a retired officer formerly with the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, the famed regiment first established during the American Civil War, and longtime Treasury Department clerk.

Sources: 
National Parks Service, African American Historic Places (New York, NY: Wiley & Sons Inc., 1994); Town of Highland Beach Maryland, http://highlandbeachmd.org; Andrew W. Kahrl, The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Queen Nanny of the Maroons (? - 1733)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Queen Nanny as Pictured on a Jamaican Bank Note
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Nanny, known as Granny Nanny, Grandy Nanny, and Queen Nanny was a Maroon leader and Obeah woman in Jamaica during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Maroons were a cultural mix of African slaves and the native Arawak Indian tribes that predated European colonisation. Nanny herself was an escaped slave who had been shipped from Western Africa. It has been widely accepted that she came from the Ashanti tribe of present-day Ghana.

Nanny and her four brothers (all of whom became Maroon leaders) were sold into slavery and later escaped from their plantations into the mountains and jungles that still make up a large proportion of Jamaica. Nanny and one brother, Quao, founded a village in the Blue Mountains, on the Eastern (or Windward) side of Jamaica, which became known as Nanny Town. Nanny has been described as a practitioner of Obeah, a term used in the Caribbean to describe folk magic and religion based on West African influences.
Sources: 
Mavis Campbell, The Maroons of Jamaica, 1655-1796 (Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1990); Edward Long, The History of Jamaica, Volume II (T. Lowndes, Fleet Street, London 1774); Karla Gottlieb, The mother of us all: A history of Queen Nanny, leader of the Windward Jamaican Maroons (Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Oberlin-Wellington Rescue (1858)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Participants in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, 1859
Image Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society
Tensions leading up to the Civil War often manifested themselves through conflicts over the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue was one such instance of this. It was a struggle between supporters of slavery and supporters of freedom, the outcome of which would decide the fate of a young African American man named John Price.

In 1856 18-year-old Price escaped from his owner John G. Bacon and made his way from the Mason County, Kentucky plantation to Oberlin, Ohio. In addition to being the home of liberal-minded Oberlin College, Price’s destination was well known as a station along the Underground Railroad as well as a center of abolitionist support.

Price lived in Oberlin for two years, mainly with black laborer James Armstrong. On the morning of September 13, 1858, the son of a wealthy white landowner came to Price with an offer of work as a field laborer. In actuality, the offer was a conspiracy orchestrated on behalf of Anderson Jennings, ringleader of a slave-catching posse and the neighbor of Price’s former owner. Anderson and his companions seized Price and took him nine miles south to the Wadsworth House hotel in Wellington, Ohio to begin the journey back to Kentucky.
Sources: 
Jacob R. Shipherd, The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue (New York: Negro Universities Press, Inc. 1859); "Oberlin-Wellington Rescue," Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, March 1998, Case Western Reserve University, http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=OR; The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. The Electronic Oberlin Group, February 2009, http://www.oberlin.edu/external/EOG/Oberlin-Wellington_Rescue/rescuemain3.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Leary, Sherrard Lewis (1835-1859)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Lewis Leary was one of several Black men who were killed during John Brown’s raid on the Harpers Ferry arsenal in October 1859. It was a defining moment in African American history.

Born Sherrard Lewis Leary (sometimes referred to as Lewis Sheridan Leary), he was the second of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina to free Black parents. His father Matthew Leary, a saddle maker, was the mixed race son of Jeremiah O’Leary, a descendent of Irish immigrants. His mother Julia A. Menriel Leary was of mixed race, with conflicting accounts of her heritage.

Frustrated with southern racism, 21-year-old Leary moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1856 where he earned a living as a harness maker. It was no coincidence that Leary found a more hospitable environment at Oberlin. Members of his extended family lived in the area, including his nephew, John Anthony Copeland, Jr., who also participated in the Harpers Ferry raid. Located in Lorain County, southwest of Cleveland, Oberlin was at the time home to a concentrated network of Black and white abolitionists and served as an important site on the Underground Railroad. The town was also the site of Oberlin College, the first interracial and co-educational college in the country. Two years after moving to Oberlin he married Mary Sampson Patterson, and they had one daughter, Lois.

Sources: 
Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman, eds., Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Athens, OH: Ohio Univ. Press, 2005), Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer, eds. Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of Abolitionism (NY: The New Press,2006), and “Lewis S. Leary,” www.ohiohistorycentral.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

National Negro Convention Movement (1831-1864)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Cover of the Minutes and Proceedings of the
First Convention of People of Color, 1831
Image Ownership: Public domain 
After more than a decade of organized abolition among northern free blacks, a group of prominent free African American men organized the National Negro Convention Movement.  The convention movement among northern free blacks symbolized the growth of a black activist network by the mid-nineteenth century.  Between its first meeting in Philadelphia in  1831 and its last in Syracuse, New York in 1864, the conventions charted important shifts in rhetoric and focus and the development of a black nationalist political consciousness.  

The National Convention met a dozen times before the Civil War in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York state.  The catalyst for the first meeting in Philadelphia centered upon a proposal by city leaders to oust Cincinnati’s black population as a response to conflict that had emerged over job competition between black and white men.  The Cincinnati Riot of 1829 led black leaders to organize throughout the Midwest and Northeast in protest against anti-black violence, discrimination, and slavery.
Sources: 
Howard Holman Bell, ed., Minutes of the Proceedings of the National Negro Conventions, 1830-1864 (NY: Arno Press, 1969) and Nikki M. Taylor, Frontier to Freedom: Cincinnati’s Black Community, 1802-68 (Athens, OH: Ohio Univ. Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

John Brown’s Christmas Raid into Missouri 1858

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History in the West
John Brown Mural in the Kansas State Capitol Building
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Brown’s preferred method of battling slavery was to free hundreds at a time in a single attack. However, the week of Christmas 1858, he made an exception and successfully rescued eleven Missouri slaves, throwing the region into a state of anxiety and adding another episode to the abolitionist movement.

On December 19th, 1858, Brown received news that a slave by the name of Daniels from close to the Kansas-Missouri border had crossed into Kansas to plead for rescue from the impending sale of his family. Though an agent of the Underground Railroad, Brown usually considered a raid to prevent a single sale not worthy of the risk. However, by the next day, a raiding party of nearly twenty abolitionists had been organized with Brown (using the alias of Shubel Morgan) at the lead.

On December 20th, the band split up into two groups in hopes of freeing neighboring blacks on the same trip. Daniels’ owner, Harvey Hicklan, was held up at gunpoint by Brown’s group which subsequently extracted the Daniels family and took some of Hicklan’s possessions to support the freed slaves. Slavery supporters claimed Brown’s raiders looted cash, pocket-watches, wagons, and oxen.
Sources: 
Robert M. De Witt, The Life, Trial and Execution of Captain John Brown (New York: Robert M. De Witt, Publisher, 1859); Oswald Garrison Villard, John Brown: A Biography Fifty Years After (Boston and New York: The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1910); Barrie Stavis, The Sword and the Word (Cranbury, New Jersey: A.S. Barnes and Co., Inc., 1970).
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, England.  Sommersett was originally purchased in Virginia and had been bought to Britain by Stewart from Boston, Massachusetts in 1769.  He fled two years later and was apprehended on the Ann and Mary, a ship bound for Jamaica.  
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

Myers, Stephen (1800-1870)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Stephen Myers held a variety of jobs over his lifetime but he is best known as a leader of the local Albany, New York Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Myers was also a prominent publisher who became an effective abolitionist lobbyist.

Myers was born into slavery in Hooksick, New York, a town just north of Albany. He was freed when he was 18 years old. In 1827 he married Harriet Johnson and together they had four children. Myers worked as a grocer and a steamboat steward on vessels sailing between New York City and Albany. Into the late 1830s, he began helping escaped slaves, and eventually began publishing.

In 1842 Myers began publishing the Elevator, a short-lived abolitionist sheet. Soon, he began working with the Northern Star Association, an abolitionist group, and founded its newspaper, the Northern Star and Freeman’s Advocate. This anti-slavery and reform newspaper was directed toward local free blacks and was published with the assistance of his wife, Harriet. The Northern Star office and the Myers home were used on occasion to provide comfort and support to fugitive slaves. As such Stephen and Harriet Myers helped hundreds of escaping slaves face the last leg of their northward journey to Canada. Because of their work, the Albany station developed the reputation for being the best organized section of the Underground Railroad in New York State.
Sources: 
Peter Williams, et al., “Letters from Negro Leaders to Gerrit Smith,” The Journal of Negro History 27:4 (October 1942); C. Peter Ripley, ed., The Black Abolitionist Papers, Vol. I, III, IV (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986); http://ugrworkshop.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Green, Henry Davis (1827-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Artist Rendering of the Christiana Incident, 1851
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Henry Davis Green was an anti-slavery activist (abolitionist) who was a participant in the Christiana Resistance (also known as the Christiana Riot) of 1851, the largest and most violent antebellum response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Green, a teamster by occupation, was born in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1827.  He was the son of Benjamin, a mulatto man, and Sarah Green, a white woman.  

Green took part in the Christiana Resistance which occurred nearly a year after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act on September 18, 1850.  With that act, federal marshals were given the authority to track down fugitive slaves and to arrest those who harbored or defended them.  Green in turn joined other free blacks in southeastern Pennsylvania in creating the quasi-secret Organization for Mutual Protection, whose members vowed to prevent the capture and reenslavement of runaways as well as to protect those who operated the Underground Railroad in their area.  They pledged that protection even at the risk of their own lives, after listening to speeches by Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison who lectured in nearby Lancaster.  
Sources: 
Ella Forbes, But We Have No Country: The 1851 Christiana, Pennsylvania Resistance (Cherry Hill, New Jersey: Africana Homestead Legacy, 1998); Thomas P. Slaughter, Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lowther, George W. (1822-1898)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George W. Lowther, barber, abolitionist, equal school rights activist, and Massachusetts legislator, was born a slave in Edenton, North Carolina, to Polly Lowther.  His father’s identity is unknown.  His mother, Polly Lowther (c.1780-1864) was an Edenton baker, the slave of wealthy planter Joseph Blount Skinner until she was emancipated around 1824.  Lowther’s siblings were Anthony Lowther, Fanny Skinner, Annie Skinner, Jenny, Eliza Poppleston, and Thomas Barnswell.

Remembered in Skinner’s 1850 Will as “my favourite and faithful Body Servant whom I have freed,” George Lowther received a private education from Skinner.  Early in 1845, encouraged by his hometown friend, John S. Jacobs, Lowther left Skinner and went to New York.  But in the late summer of 1847, he reunited with Skinner, serving as his former owner’s valet on a trip from New York to Boston.  By 1850, George Lowther had established his hairdressing business in Boston and was living in the household of abolitionist William H. Logan, his future father-in-law.
Sources: 
Mary Maillard, “Introduction to the Skinner Family Papers,” unpublished manuscript; Jean Fagan Yellin, ed., The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008); The Skinner Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fleetwood, Christian Abraham (1840-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Christian Fleetwood, soldier, choir master, clerk, and abolitionist, was born free in Baltimore, Maryland to Charles Fleetwood and Anna Marie Fleetwood on July 21, 1840. At an early age Christian Fleetwood showed signs of intelligence and quickly endeared himself to the wealthy sugar merchant John Brune who thought of Fleetwood as a son and provided him with an education.

Fleetwood continued his education with the Maryland Colonization Society which was attempting to found a colony for free blacks in Liberia. During his early life, Fleetwood was greatly involved in promoting the African colonization movement. At the age of 16, he took a trip to Liberia and Sierra Leone in order to experience African colonial life for himself. For years Fleetwood considered leaving the United States forever and permanently moving to Liberia but eventually decided against it believing he would make a bigger difference as an abolitionist in the United States.
Sources: 
Melvin Claxton and Mark Puls, Uncommon Valor: A Story of Race, Patriotism, and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006); http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/christian-fleetwood.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Sharpe, Samuel (ca. 1780-1832)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Samuel Sharpe on the $50 Jamaican Banknote
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Samuel “Sam” Sharpe (or “Daddy Sharpe”) led a rebellion which led to the end of legal slavery in the British colony of Jamaica.  Records of who his parents were have been lost.  Sharpe was a slave of an English attorney and namesake who practiced in Montego Bay.

Sharpe was baptized and subsequently became a lay deacon and leader of the congregation at the Burchell Baptist Church.  Because the British allowed slaves to hold religious meetings, Sharpe started preaching about freedom from slavery. In 1831 the British Parliament began discussing the abolition of slavery throughout the Empire, and that displeased many Jamaican planters. Sharpe followed the Parliament arguments by reading local and foreign newspapers, and he made certain his congregation was apprised of the latest news concerning the abolition debates.
Sources: 
Jamaican National Library http://www.nlj.gov.jm/content/sam-sharpe-1; Junius P. Rodriguez, ed. Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2006); Delroy Reid-Salmon, Burning for Freedom: A Theology of the Black Atlantic Struggle for Liberation (Kingston, W.I. Ian Randle Publishers, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kansas Emancipation League (1862)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain

The Kansas Emancipation League’s primary goal was “to bring about emancipation throughout the whole land.” It was initiated at the First Baptist Church in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1862. It also pledged to “support the war until its successful termination,” put an end to the interstate slave trade, protect fugitive slaves from kidnappers who wanted to return them to bondage, and prevent states in rebellion from being reorganized into the Union except on the condition of supporting Emancipation. The League’s bold goal of emancipation was announced during the second year of the Civil War when preserving the Union was central and freeing slaves was still hotly debated.

Sources: 
Pearl T. Ponce, Kansas’s War: The Civil War in Documents (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2011); Rita Napier, Kansas and the West (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2003); The Liberator (Boston, MA, 1831-1865).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Henry "Box" (1816-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
To escape enslavement on a plantation near Richmond, Virginia, Henry “Box” Brown in 1849 exploited maritime elements of the Underground Railroad.  Brown’s moniker “Box” was a result of his squeezing himself into a box and having himself shipped 250 miles from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Henry Brown, born enslaved in 1816 to John Barret, a former mayor of Richmond, eventually married another slave named Nancy and the couple had three children.  Brown became an active member of Richmond’s First African Baptist Church where he was known for singing in the choir.  In 1848 Brown’s wife and children were abruptly sold to away to North Carolina.  Using “overwork” (overtime) money, Brown decided to arrange for his freedom.

He constructed a wooden crate three feet long and two feet six inches deep with two air holes. With help from Philadelphia abolitionists, he obtained a legal freight contract from Adams Express.  This freight company with both rail and steamboat capabilities arranged to ship his package labeled “Dry Goods” to Philadelphia.  The package was a heavy wooden box holding Brown’s 200 pounds.

Sources: 
Henry Brown, Narrative of the Life of Henry “Box” Brown (Manchester, England: Lee and Glynn Publisher, 1851); Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color, the Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); David Cecelski, The Waterman’s Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent, Spectacular Stories of Race and Freedom 1850-1910 (Duke University Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2008); Suzette Spencer, Online Encyclopedia of Virginia, August  23, 2013, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Brown_Henry_Box_ca_1815#start_entry.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Steward, Austin (1793-1869)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Austin Steward, author, businessman, abolitionist, and temperance leader, was born a slave in Prince William County, Virginia to Robert and Susan Steward sometime around 1793. By the age of seven he was working as a house slave on the plantation of Capt. William Helm. The Helm family left Virginia, after being involved in several embarrassing scandals, settled in upstate New York. Austin Steward went with them along with many other slaves.

While living in upstate New York, Steward taught himself to read in secrecy, for which he was severely beaten and his books burned. This beating, along with many others he received, gave him severe reoccurring head pains from which he suffered for the rest of his life. In 1814 Steward sought the help of the New York Manumission Society to secure his freedom. An agent of the society informed Steward that he was legally free on the grounds that he had been rented out by Capt. Helm to other farmers, which violated New York State’s slave laws. The agent told Steward to continue his services to Capt. Helm until the agent could fully provide Steward with everything he would need to make his freedom official.
Sources: 
Austin Steward, Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002); http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/steward/bio.html; http://www.math.buffalo.edu/~sww/0history/hwny-steward.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lambert, William (1817-1890)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Abolitionist and civil rights activist William Lambert was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1817, the son of a manumitted father and a freeborn mother. As a young man Lambert was educated by abolitionist Quakers.

Twenty-three year old Lambert arrived in Detroit, Michigan in 1840 as a cabin boy on a steamboat, and eventually started a profitable tailoring and dry cleaning business.  Upon his death Lambert left behind an estate estimated at $100,000.  Lambert was also a founder of the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and served as one of its wardens.

In Detroit Lambert soon became active in the movement to secure suffrage for the black men of Michigan. He founded the Colored Vigilant Committee, Detroit’s first civil rights organization. In 1843 Lambert helped to organize the first State Convention of Colored Citizens in Michigan. He was subsequently elected chair of the convention and gave an address regarding the right to vote that was directed not only towards black people, but also to the white male citizens of the state. Lambert also worked to bring public education to the black children of Detroit.
Sources: 
Katherine DuPre Lumpkin, “The General Plan Was Freedom”: A Negro Secret Order on the Underground Railroad," Phylon, 28:1 (1st Qtr., 1967); “William Lambert," Detroit African-American History Project, Wayne.edu website; Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation, http://www.elmwoodhistoriccemetery.org/biographies/william-lambert/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Belle, Dido Elizabeth (1761-1804)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray, 1779
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dido Elizabeth Belle is best known for the 1779 painting of her alongside her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, the great-niece of William Murray, The First Earl of Mansfield. The Earl, also known as Lord Mansfield, was at the time the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the highest ranking jurist in Great Britain. Mansfield was famously involved in two important cases involving slavery, the Sommersett Case in 1772 where he ruled that English law did not sanction slavery in Great Britain (a ruling highly praised by abolitionists), and the Zong Massacre Case (1783) where he ruled in favor of insurers who refused to pay a ship captain who had purposely threw overboard a number of slaves on his ship.
Sources: 
Gene Adams, “Dido Elizabeth Belle: A Black Girl at Kenwood. An Account of a Protégé
of the 1st Lord Mans?eld,” Camden History Review, 12 (1984); Reyahn King, “Belle, Dido Elizabeth (1761?–1804),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Paula Byrne, "Portrait of the Mystery Lady: The Incredible Story behind the 18th-century Painting That Inspired a New Movie," Daily Mail, N.p., May 3, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2618656/Portrait-mystery-lady-The-incredible-story-18th-century-painting-inspired-new-movie.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle
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