In America’s nascency, black people had it rough for sure. The majority endured a joyless life of servitude and hard labor under the heel of severe plantation owners. Some plucky African Americans, however, managed to escape this dire fate and went on to live illustrious lives acquiring wealth and status other colonists would envy.These individuals, through luck and wherewithal, were able to overcome the status quo and triumph in spite of a system rigged against them. They serve as an inspiration and testament to the strength of the human spirit and the will to succeed.
10. Paul Cuffee
Paul Cuffee was a prodigious sea captain and entrepreneur born in 1759. His father, Cuffee Slocum, was a freed slave, and his mother was a Native American named Ruth Moses. Paul Cuffee grew up in Massachusetts as the youngest of 10 children.Although he had no formal education, he was able to learn arithmetic and navigation through a family friend. He taught himself to read and write and held various jobs as a farmer, carpenter, and fisherman.In 1776, his hard work earned him enough money to purchase a 116-acre farm in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Cuffee managed to build a lucrative shipping business and established the first racially integrated school in Westport, Massachusetts.He is also credited as the first free African American to visit the White House and meet with a sitting president. Cuffee was politically active and sought to establish a prosperous colony for black people to return to in Africa. Cuffee died in 1817 and left behind an estate with an estimated value of almost $20,000, which today equates to roughly $500,000.
9. Anthony Johnson
Anthony Johnson was a black man who emigrated from Angola to America during the early 1600s, a time when both black people and white people worked as indentured servants and not slaves. Like other immigrants at this time, Johnson worked as a contract laborer with the promise of a land grant from the colony upon completion of his tenure.He worked on a tobacco farm until he gained his freedom. Then he purchased 250 acres of land and ran his own successful tobacco farm. Johnson became one of the first property owners of African descent in the 13 colonies and bought the contracted labor of five indentured servants, four of whom were white.John Casor, a black servant working for Johnson, eventually sought to be released from his servitude. But after a court ruled his tenure as permanent, Johnson legally became the first slave owner.This was the first case in which a servant was sentenced to permanent servitude without having committed a crime. Unfortunately, this set a precedent that paved the way for the proliferation of legalized slavery.