BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: BIDDY MASON

Black History Spotlight:Biddy Mason

Biddy Mason Pic

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Early Life

Biddy Mason was born into the brutal system of slavery on August 15, 1818.Her exact birthplace is unknown, some scholars believe was born in Hancock County, Georgia, and others believe her birthplace was Hancock County, Mississippi. As a youth she spent most of her time on the plantation of Robert Smithson. In her teenage-years she learned how to perform domestic work and agricultural work,she also learned midwife and herbal medicine making skills from elder slaves, who shared their knowledge that was passed-down to them from their African ancestors. In the 1940s, Mason is believed to of have been given to Rebecca Dorn and Robert Mayes Smith as a wedding gift. While on the Smith’s plantation, Mason had three children, all girls: Ellen in 1838, Ann in 1844 and Harrier in 1847. The father or fathers is unknown, but some historical researchers believe that Robert Smith was the father of a least one of her children.

Biddy’s Road to Freedom

In the late 1940s Mormon missionaries from the Church of Latter-Day Saints passed through Mississippi and proselytized the locals. Some of the locals included Biddy Mason’s slave owner Robert Smith, his wife and their children. There is currently no information on whether Mason or her fellow slaves were baptized in the Mormon faith. In 1947, the Smith household joined with a group of Mormon churchgoers from Mississippi to unite with the Mormon exodus from Nauvoo,Illinois. The group of religious travelers ventured to Pueblo, Colorado, there they would join with a group of very-ill disciples from a Mormon battalion. On the trip further westward, Mason use her healing-skills as a midwife and herbalist to help heal the sick, feed the hungry and to care for the children of the religious pilgrims, she also helped herd the cattle. In 1851, Brigham Young the leader of the Mormon church sent a group of his followers to Southern California, which was a free state at the time. Smith ignored that fact and refused to free hia slaves, once they arrived in the San Bernadino settlement. In 1856, Smith planned to move to the slave state of Texas, where he intended to sell his slaves. Smith would lie to his slaves (he told them he intended to give them their freedom in Texas)to motivate them to make the long and harsh journey to the slave state. Mason of course knew he was lying, and not wanting to be separated from her children, she with the help of some kind-hearted locals, petitioned a Los Angeles court for her freedom and the freedom of her children. On January 21, 1856 Biddy Mason and her children were given their freedom by Judge Benjamin Ignatius Hayes, after Smith failed to show-up to challenge the petition.

The Free Woman, Healer and Entrepreneur

After she gained her freedom, Mason and her daughters moved in with a man named Robert Owens,who was the father of the locally famous Los Angeles businessman Charles Owens. Mason’s daughter Ellen would eventually marry Charles Owens. While in Los Angeles, California, Mason worked as a nurse and midwife and delivered hundreds of babies, she also risked her life to use her traditional-African herbalist healing skills to care for these people with smallpox, during a smallpox epidemic that was ravaging L.A. at the time. Mason saved much of the money she earned as midwife and nurse to become a financially successful real estate Investor, in fact she became one of the first African-American women to own land in Los Angeles. Mason also used the money she earned to become a philanthropist: she gave money to the poor, fed the hungry and was part of a group that founded day care center and school for black children. In 1872, Mason and her son-in-law Charles Owens became founding members of the first African Methodist Episcopal church of Los Angeles, which was also the city’s first black church. The church would be built on land that was donated by Mason herself. Mason died on January 15,1891, a park and plaque is dedicated to her in Los Angeles, California.

Biddy Mason Park

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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: GARRETT MORGAN

By: Leon kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Garret Augustus Morgan, was born o March 4, 1877 in Claysville, Kentucky. His father a man named Sydney Morgan was a freed-slave, and the son of confederate colonel John H. Morgan, his mother was a slave woman named Elizabeth Reed. At the age of 14, having only a 6th grade education, he would move to Cincinnati,Ohio to look for work. Morgan would eventually gain employment as a handyman for a Cincinnati landowner. In his free-time, he would further his knowledge by studying with a tutor he hired. In 1895, Morgan would move to Cleveland, Ohio, where heee found work as a sewing machine repairman for a clothing maker. The skills he required as a repairman would ultimately send him on the journey of becoming an inventor. He would invent a belt fastener for sewiing machines, and in 1912 he would get his first patent.

when he was not working or inventing, Morgan became interested in his own Black American heritage and the plight of his fellow Black American people, in 1908, he would co-found the Cleveland Association of Colored Men, which was a group dedicated to improving the social and economic situation for Black people. The group would later merge with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Morgan would move his activities beyond entrepreneurship, inventing and activism and would become a philanthropist, giving his own money to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to help educate his people.

As a businessman, Morgan would eventually open his own sewing business. In 1909, Morgan and his wife Mary Anne expanded their small and growing business empire by opening a clothing store called Morgan’s Cut Rate Ladies Clothing Store. Where he would employee his own people and at one time his store employed 32 people.
As an inventor he would go on to invent Black hair products, the stoplight and the smokehood (a precursor to the gas mask).
He would die on July 27, 1963, in Cleveland, Ohio after living to the ripe age of 86.

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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: ELIZABETH FREEMAN (THE BLACK WOMAN WHO ENDED SLAVERY IN MASSACHUSETTS)

BY: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Elizabeth Freeman (also known as Bett or Mumbett), was born a slave in 1744 in colonial America ( Claverack, Province of New York).
As a young child-slave at her master John Ashley’s house in Massachusetts , Freeman would sometimes overhear discussions about possible American freedom from the British. Those discussions combined with her own desire to be free, gave Freeman even more inspiration to run away from her brutal masters.

When the American Revolutionary War was finally won by America, Freeman believed that she should also be free. Freeman and her abolitionist lawyer Theodore Sedgwick, would sue the Ashley family for her freedom.

In 1781, the case would go to trial and eventually, the Massachusetts supreme court would side with Freeman, claiming slavery was against the Massachusetts Constitution. That decision would Utimately, end slavery in the state of Massachusetts altogether. Freeman would be awarded 30 shillings as compensation for her labor.

All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

– Massachusetts Constitution, Article 1.

For additional information use the links below:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Freeman

https://www.amazon.com/100-African-Americans-Shaped-American-History/dp/0912517182/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?keywords=100+african+americans+who+shaped+american+history&qid=1579168192&sprefix=100+afr&sr=8-2

BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: BENJAMIN BANNEKER

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Benjamin Banneker was born on November 9, 1731 in Baltimore county, Province of Maryland, in British America. His mom, Mary Banneky was a free Black person, and his father Robert, was a freed slave from Guinea.

Banneker would learn to read by studying the family’s bible, and he would begin to learn and become exceptional in mathematics once he began attending a Quaker school.

His Excellence in mathematics would help make him a great inventor. One day he saw a traveling salesman with a pocket watch, and since no watches existed in colonial America at the time, he used his mathematics skills to invent his own watch. He would craft the watch entirely out of wood, and reportedly it ran perfect for the next 40 years.

Not only was Banneker a great mathematician and inventor, but his greatness would extend to astronomy. In 1789, Banneker predict the occurence of a solar eclipse, and to the shock of his skeptics, the eclipse would take place on April 14th, just as hee predicted.

Banneker, would also become an anti-slavery advocate, after he read Thomas Jefferson’s doctrine that “all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness “, which was a total contradiction to Jefferson’s own actions as a slave owner. Banneker would write to Jefferson, telling him that Blacks were equal to Whites in intelligence and therefore were entitled to the same rights, protections and privileges as White men in America. To prove his point on the intelligence of his people, Banneker would include with his letter a copy of his almanac, which was a yearly publication that documented coming eclipses, holidays, and the hours of the day that the sun would rise and set, also included were anti-slavery essays, calling for the abolition of America’s original sin of slavery.

Jefferson would write back to him, with somewhat of a new understanding on the issues of race. A friendship would be formed between the two men, and remained intact even after Jefferson became president of America.

Because of his genius and his friendship him Jefferson, Banneker would be selected to be one of the men to survey the original boundaries of Washington D.C.

When the French city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant, quit and took his plans back with him to France, Banneker would reproduce the plans by memory.

After dedicating his entire life to science and the improvement of humanity, Banneker would die in 1806 at the age of 74.

For additional information use the links below:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Banneker

https://www.amazon.com/100-African-Americans-Shaped-American-History/dp/0912517182/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?keywords=100+african+americans+who+shaped+american+history&qid=1564373498&s=gateway&sprefix=100+afr&sr=8-1

BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: CRISPUS ATTUCKS

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Crispus Attucks was born in Massachusetts in 1923. He was of Black and Native American ancestry. Some reports say Attucks ran away from his slave master William Brown at the age of 27, other reports say he was a freeman.

Either way, at the age of 27 he would join a boat crew and would be a seaman for the next 20 years.

On the night of March 5, 1770 because of immense-tension between the British and the colonists in Boston, the British government installed soldiers to reestablish order.

Some historians say that a British soldier was guarding a Customs House when a young boy insulted him, and then was soon injured by the soldier.

As the boy loudly cried out in the streets in pain, Attucks and other colonists began to investigate the incident.

Soon after Attucks and others went to the Customs House, Attucks confronted the British soldier who was guarding the Customs House, and harsh words were exchanged between Attucks and the British soldier. Some of the colonists began to throw snowballs at the British soldiers, some say Attucks then began wielding a large stick and yelled:

“Don’t be Afraid. Knock ’em over, they dare not fire.”

This would be the first battle cry in the revolution to come.

The British soldiers responding in fear and panic, wildly shot in the growing crowd, killing Attucks, his associate Samuel Gray, nine other men would be shot in the melee, 3 of them would die.

The British soldiers would soon extinguish the fury of the crowd, but the news of the massacre would spread like a wildfire. Thousands of people would go to the funeral of Attucks. Seven British soldiers would be charged with murder, but none would be convicted.

The revolt that Attucks led would become known as the Boston massacre, and many credit it as being one of the main events the sparked the American revolution.

For additional information use the links below:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crispus_Attucks

https://www.amazon.com/100-African-Americans-Shaped-American-History/dp/0912517182/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?keywords=100+african+americans+who+shaped+american+history&qid=1564373498&s=gateway&sprefix=100+afr&sr=8-1