Portsmouth, Virginia: The life and death of Rosebud Rudolph Douglass Aggrey (1882-1961)

Mrs. Rosebud “Rose” Rudolph Douglass Aggrey, Livingstone College, ca. 1927.

Anyone who briefly reviews my blog knows I’m a longtime researcher of African American cemeteries throughout the South. Ever since 2007, cemeteries have remained some of the primary sources through which I’ve learned priceless bits of information, details that helped complete our family’s historical narrative often in ways no other sources can. So you’d think it’d be no surprise to me that one can still glean interesting details from years-old cemetery photos, yet this is exactly what happened during a recent routine newspaper dive for family history.

Brooklyn, New York: Seeking freedom, Robert M. Phinney of Weeksville

Map showing the location of Weeksville and Crow Hill, early 19th-century African American communities in Brooklyn, New York. Source: Sidney’s map of twelve miles around New-York : with the names of property holders, &c., from entirely new & original surveys (1849). New York Public Library

Robert M. Phinney (alias Finney), was born enslaved, about 1818, in Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina. In the 1840s, he escaped slavery via the maritime Underground Railroad, and eventually settled in Weeksville, Brooklyn, New York. Weeksville was established shortly after New York abolished slavery in 1827. The community was named after James Weeks, a longshoreman and one of the earliest African American landowners in the area. Weeksville has been featured in recent publications, as longterm efforts to preserve the history of the site are threatened by a lack of funding and other resources.1