Amanda Dickson

Wealthy African American Woman Amanda America Dickson, the daughter of a slave and her white owner, became one of the wealthiest black women in nineteenth-century America. She was born on November 20, 1849, on the plantation of her father, the famous white agricultural reformer David Dickson in Hancock County, Georgia. Amanda’s birth was the product of Dickson’s rape of his twelve-year-old slave, Julia Frances Lewis Dickson. At the time, he was forty and the most prosperous planter in the county. According to the Dickson family oral history, David Dickson doted on his mixed-race daughter, and Julia quite openly became his concubine and housekeeper. Though she remained legally enslaved until 1864, Amanda received a lady’s upbringing, including beautiful dresses, lessons on…

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Lucy Terry

African American Poet The baby whose slavery name would become Lucy Terry was born in Africa around 1724. Slave traders sold her in Rhode Island – which dominated the colonial American slave trade – in about 1730. During the period when Lucy arrived, the rum-slave-molasses traffic from Newport or Bristol to Africa and the West Indies was in its early development. Early Years It is highly likely that Lucy was taken from Rhode Island to Enfield, Connecticut, which would explain why she was known as Lucy Terry. Since most blacks weren’t named until they were purchased and transported to their owners, Lucy probably came to be called Terry through an association with Samuel Terry, one of the early settlers and…

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African Americans of Gettysburg

Blacks in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Margaret Palm was a colorful character in Gettysburg’s African American community during the mid-nineteenth century. She served as a conductor along the local branch of the Underground Railroad, earning the nickname Maggie Bluecoat for the blue circa-1812 military coat she wore while conducting fugitive slaves north. One evening, she was accosted by two strangers who bound her hands and tried to kidnap her into Maryland and slavery. Her screams attracted help and she escaped her assailants. Alexander Dobbin, a Presbyterian minister, arrived in the Marsh Creek valley and purchased a two-hundred-acre plot of land in the spring of 1774. Two years later, Dobbin established the beginnings of local black community when he returned with two slaves…

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Sarah Mapps Douglass

African American Abolitionist and Teacher Sarah Mapps Douglass was born in Philadelphia on September 9, 1806, the daughter of renowned abolitionists Robert Douglass, Sr. and Grace Bustill Douglass. Like many prosperous families, the Douglasses educated Sarah and her brother Robert at home with private tutors. Image: Sarah Mapps Douglass: Faithful Attender of Quaker Meeting: View from the Back Bench by Margaret Hope Bacon Sarah’s grandfather, Cyrus Bustill, was a member of the Free African Society, the first African American charity organization. In 1803, he established a school for black children in his home. The Douglasses were among several free black families who formed the core of Philadelphia’s abolitionist movement. Grace Bustill Douglass ran a millinery store out of her home…

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Rebecca Lee Crumpler

First African American Woman Doctor Rebecca Lee was born in Delaware in 1833. An aunt in Pennsylvania, who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors, raised her. Due to her aunt’s influence, Rebecca developed a strong compassion for the sick at a very young age, and learned to care for ill patients. The first formal school for nursing did not open until 1873, so she performed her work without any formal training. By 1852, she moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts, where she worked as a nurse for the next eight years. Her dedication gained her notice from the doctors she served under, and with their recommendations, she entered the New England Female Medical College in Boston in 1860. In…

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Dorothy Creole

Slave in New Amsterdam Dorothy Creole was one of the first black women in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam on the island of Manhattan. She was African, but she came from a world where West Africans and Europeans had been trading for two centuries and their cultures had mixed. She may have spoken Spanish or Portuguese, in addition to her African language. The name Creole may have begun as a descriptive term used by Europeans, and later developed into a surname. Dorothy might have arrived in 1627, when records indicate that three enslaved women were brought into New Amsterdam, which was little more than a muddy village with thirty wooden houses and a population of less than two hundred…

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Elizabeth Key

First African Woman to Win Her Freedom in Court Elizabeth Key was the first woman of African ancestry in the American colonies to sue for her freedom from slavery and win. Elizabeth Key won her freedom and that of her infant son on July 21, 1656 in the colony of Virginia, in one of the earliest freedom suits in the colonies. She sued based on the fact that her father was an Englishman and that she was a baptized Christian. Born in Warwick County, Virginia in 1630, Elizabeth Key was the illegitimate daughter of an enslaved black mother and a white English planter father, Thomas Key, who was also a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. She spent the…

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Harriet Jacobs

African American Abolitionist and Author Harriet Jacobs escaped from slavery and became an abolitionist speaker and reformer. Jacobs’ single work, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent, was one of the first autobiographical narratives about the struggle for freedom by female slaves and an account of the sexual harassment and abuse they endured. Harriet Ann Jacobs was born in 1813 in Edenton, North Carolina to Daniel Jacobs and Delilah. Daniel was a mulatto slave owned by Dr. Andrew Knox. Delilah was a mulatto slave owned by John Horniblow, a tavern owner. Harriet inherited the status of slave from her mother—if the mother was a slave, the child was a slave. That…

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Margaret Garner

Runaway Slave from Kentucky Margaret Garner was a fugitive slave who became widely known when she and her family made a brave escape to freedom in the years before the Civil War. Garner killed her own daughter rather than allow the child to be returned to slavery. Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize winning novel Beloved (1988) is based on this story. Image: The Modern Medea By Thomas Satterwhite Noble Margaret Garner, an enslaved African American woman in pre-Civil War America, was born on June 4, 1834, at Maplewood plantation in Boone County, Kentucky, where her parents were also slaves. When she was old enough, Margaret became a household domestic, waiting on the family and performing household chores. On a bitter cold…

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Julia Foote

Female Preacher in the Civil War Era Julia A. J. Foote’s autobiography, A Brand Plucked from the Fire (1879), is representative of a large number of similar texts published by women who believed that Christianity had made them the spiritual equals of men and hence equally authorized to lead the church. Although her autobiography attacks racism and other social abuses, it is the subordination of women and her desire to inspire faith in her Christian sisters that endow her story with its distinctive voice and intensity. Foote’s belief in the gender equality of the Christian spirit and her refusal to defer to husband or minister when her own intuitive sense of personal authority was at stake mark Foote’s autobiographical work…

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