From Slave Ship to Harvard
Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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When the eminent American portrait painter Charles Willson Peale was visiting Georgetown in 1818, he heard of a Negro living there, said to be 140 years of age. Peale wrote in his diary that he proposed ‘‘to make a portrait...
1. Yarrow Mamout, a West African Muslim Slave
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Yarrow Mamout was born in West Africa in 1736 and brought to America as a slave in 1752. He was Fulani, also called Fulbe and Peul, a nomadic people that had converted to Islam. Although the Fulani were associated...
2. Tobacco and the Importation of a Labor Force
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When the first English settlers made landfall in Maryland on March 25, 1634, a full 118 years before Yarrow came, slavery was the last thing on their minds. One hundred and fifty of them arrived on two sailing ships. One was the 350-ton, full-rigged...
3. Welcome to America
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Annapolis was teeming with visitors on June 4, 1752, a Thursday. A new session of the colonial assembly had convened the previous day, and the town was full of legislators and favor-seekers. In addition, planters and slave traders...
4. Slavery and Revolution
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Yarrow left few historical traces while he was a slave. Years later, Charles Willson Peale, after investigating Yarrow in connection with painting him, came away with the impression that Georgetown was the only place he had lived in America. Another...
5. Yarrow of Georgetown
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Brooke Beall had at least two properties when he succeeded to ownership of Yarrow after Samuel Beall’s death. One was a huge country estate called Beallmount near present-day Potomac, Maryland; the other was a business and residence...
6. The Portraits: Peale, Yarrow, and Simpson
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By the time he met Yarrow Mamout in January 1819, Charles Willson Peale was wealthy, famous, respected, and aging. In addition to being an artist and portrait painter, he had served as an army officer during the Revolutionary War...
7. Free Hannah, Yarrow’s Sister
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Although there is little direct information about Yarrow’s sister, documents and circumstances suggest that she was the slave named Hannah belonging to Joseph Wilson of Rockville, Maryland. Wilson and his extended family...
8. Nancy Hillman, Yarrow’s Niece
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Nancy Hillman was born around 1769, according to a later census. She was nineteen years older than her cousin, Aquilla Yarrow.1 If Free Hannah was Yarrow’s sister, then Nancy grew up in Rockville, and both Hannah...
9. Aquilla Yarrow
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Aquilla Yarrow was Yarrow Mamout’s only known offspring. He was born to a slave mother around 1788. He was quite a bit younger than his cousin, Nancy Hillman, and about Josiah Henson’s age. Although Yarrow called himself...
10. Mary ‘‘Polly’’ Turner Yarrow
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Aquilla Yarrow married Mary Turner, called at various times in her life Mary Yarrow, Polly Yarrow, Polly Yaner, and Polly Jones.1 She will be referred to as Mary Turner, Polly Yarrow, and sometimes Mary ‘‘Polly’’ Turner Yarrow...
11. Aquilla and Polly in Pleasant Valley
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Aquilla and Polly would have found Pleasant Valley to be all that the name implies. Ten miles long and two miles wide, the fertile valley is largely devoted to agriculture even today. It runs north and south between South Mountain to the east...
12. Traces of Yarrow
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The end of Yarrow’s bloodline in America did not end his connections to later events in Maryland, Georgetown, and black history. These are worth noting before turning to the rest of his in-laws, the Turners. Yarrow was long...
13. Unpleasant Valley
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Aquilla’s death in 1832 left Polly, at age thirty-three, a widow. She lived alone and on good terms with her white neighbors. She was not isolated from the black community, though. Her brother was a slave on Elie...
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Pleasant Valley had changed radically by the time Simon Turner came home from the war. The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 did not end slavery in Maryland, but the State of Maryland passed a new constitution in November...
15. From Harvard to Today
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Judging by the photograph of her, you would never think that Emma Turner Ford was the daughter of slaves. She looks like any other middle-class woman of her day. Nor would you think she held such passionate beliefs...
Epilogue: Guide to the Yarrows’ and Turners’ World Today
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Many of the tangible things mentioned in this book—the art, the structures, and the documents—are still around. Each has its own story. Some are recognized in the context of traditional American history— that is to say, white...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012