Virginia State Capitol c. 1830 by William Goodacre/Richard Forrester c. 1865
From 1800 to 1860, Virginia had more slaves than any other state. African enslavement formed the very basis of Virginia’s successful plantation based economy of raising tobacco, and the more infamous cultivation and selling of slaves to states further south for use on rice and cotton plantations.
But during the late summer of 1831, Virginia’s notion of idyllic ante-bellum life came to a bloody halt with the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion. Nat Turner and his collaborators would start a slave uprising in Southampton, Virginia that contributed to more deaths than any other slave Continue reading
Harriet Jacobs was born into slavery in North Carolina. Her single work, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” published in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent, and edited by famed Abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, was one of the first autobiographical narratives about the struggle for freedom by an African American woman. Today, her book is compared with the “Diary of Anne Frank” as being two of the most important autobiographies depicting the resiliency of young women during times of great struggle. During the years leading up to the Civil War, she became an abolitionist and national speaker to end slavery. Continue reading
The month of March marks Women’s History Month, and one of the most important milestones in the history of women in America is on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the United States’ Constitution is ratified guaranteeing American women the right to vote.
Ironically, prior to the American Revolution, some free women in early America had property and voting rights within colonies such as New Jersey, but by the early 19th century, states had barred women from voting. The long, hard battle to fully enfranchise women in America had its historical roots in the Abolition of Slavery Movement before the Continue reading
Newport, Rhode Island in the mid-18th century embodied two marked ironies. Settled a century earlier on the principles of religious freedom and civil liberties, the fledging colony would attract many of the world’s most persecuted religious minority groups including Quakers, Baptist, and Jews. These same religious minorities would also enjoy the vast economic prosperity of trading and owning enslaved Africans. Between 1705 and 1805, Rhode Island merchants, largely from Newport, would sponsor nearly 1,000 slaving voyages to West Africa carrying back nearly 100,000 enslaved Africans to America and the West Indies. By 1755, Newport was a leading slave port in the American colonies. Continue reading
‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negro’s, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
– P. Wheatley
Most people would recognize the name Phillis Wheatley as the first published African woman poet in America. Believed to have been born in Senegal, she was sold into slavery at the age of seven to the Wheatley family of Boston. Recognizing her potential, they taught her to read and write, and supported her later writings in poetry. Wheatley would convert to Christianity and become an active member of the Old South Meeting House in Boston. Constantly in ill health, she would die young at the age of thirty-one. Continue reading