7 October 2012
The Early Life of an African American Revolutionist
Jim Truman was born a free African American in Essex County, New York on December 17, 1808. His father George Truman, former slave from Virginia, fell in love with Catherine Griffin. Catherine was a free African American from New York, who offered George a place tostay when he got to New York on February 1808. George was about 34 years old while Catherine was 24. George was born a slave on a tobacco plantation in Virginia; when he was 33 he purchased his liberty and moved to Essex County. Within a year he and Catherin fell in love and had their first son, Jim. They got officially married on August 1809, when the state of New York started recognizingmarriage within the African American community (The Black Past).
One year later, George decided that they were moving to New York City. With a growing population of 96,373 people, 94,687 of whom were free, and 1,686 of whom were enslaved; New York City became the largest city of the United States (New York City in 1810: Limitless Growth Ahead). With its population growing every day, New York City openednumerous job opportunities to George. He first got a temporary job at a supermarket carrying bags for the costumers. It was a low wage job; however he earned enough to provide for his family. Not much time after, George started working at the steam-powered ferry service between New York City and Hoboken, NJ which began on October 11, 1811. He was earning a fair wage, and providing more thanenough for his family. At that time you could have considered the Truman family as one of the few middle class African American families. Even though things were going great something bad was about to happen, the War of 1812.
Jim was about four years old when George, his dad, was force to join one of the two African American regimens formed to fight in the War of 1812. It was the last time Jim sawhis father. At the time he did not understand why his mother was so sad and frightened. He did not understand what was going on, but there was one thing Jim would always remember, what his father told him just before leaving: “Son, remember that you are free and nobody can take that from you”. That day it did not make much sense for Jim, but as the years passed he began to understand what his dadtold him that day.
Since his father was no longer with them, Catherine started searching for jobs opportunities. Catherine as most women at that time, found a job making bandages, and taking care of wounded and sick sailors (G. Hicks, C .Hicks). Jim struggled every day, and was somewhat frustrated. Since his father was gone, as soon as he turned eight years old, he started working to help supporthis mother. He wanted to receive an education; however, they could not afford it and he had to work to be able to eat. He started worked with a man named Thomas Jennings. Thomas had a dry cleaning business, and Jim worked washing clothes. Jim worked with him for several years. In 1821, Thomas became the first African American to receive a patent in the United States History. Thomas Jennings'patent was for a dry-cleaning process called "dry scouring"(African-American Inventors).
Catherine, Jims’ mother, was getting old and sick. Jim, aware of that, wanted to do something special for his mother birthday. He started saving money. On 1823 he purchased two tickets for “The Drama of King Shotaway” play at the African Grove Theater, the first black acting company founded in New York City.The Drama of King Shotaway was the first play written by an African American, William Henry Brown, which made Jim thought that it would be even nicer to attend such a historical event (Mapping the African American Past ). Catherine had always wanted to go to a play, but she could not afford it. So, Jim decided to take her to the play for her birthday. It was the best present anyone had ever given...
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