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Ellison, William (1790–05 December 1861), cotton-gin maker and planter, was born a slave in Fairfield District, South Carolina. His father was probably the planter Robert Ellison or his son William, and his mother was a slave woman whose name is unknown. Originally named April, the mulatto child received exceptional treatment. His master apprenticed him to William McCreight, a white cotton-gin maker in Winnsboro. From 1802 to 1816 Ellison worked in McCreight’s gin shop, learning the skills of gin making from a master craftsman. During his training, he learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic bookkeeping skills. He also became well versed in interracial social skills as he met scores of planters who came to negotiate with McCreight for gins. These encounters provided him with a valuable network of strategic acquaintances and contacts. Ellison’s owner, William Ellison, allowed him to work extra hours and eventually to purchase his freedom on 8 June 1816....

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Montgomery, Isaiah Thornton (21 May 1847–06 March 1924), African-American planter and founder of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, was born on the “Hurricane” plantation of Joseph Davis at Davis Bend, Mississippi, the son of Benjamin Montgomery, the plantation business manager and later a planter and owner of a mercantile store, and Mary Lewis. As a result of his father’s prominent position among the slaves, Montgomery was chosen at the age of nine or ten to serve as Davis’s personal secretary and office attendant. Davis, the older brother of Confederate president ...