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Clayborne Carson

clergyman and civil rights leader, was born David Abernathy near Linden, Alabama, the tenth of twelve children of farm owners Will L. Abernathy and Louivery Bell Abernathy. Abernathy spent his formative years on his family's five-hundred-acre farm in rural Marengo County in southwestern Alabama. His father's economic self-sufficiency and industry spared the family from most of the hardships of the Great Depression. “We didn't know that people were lining up at soup kitchens in cities all over the country,” he would recall in his autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down Abernathy 6 Along with other family members he attended Hopewell Baptist Church where his father served as a deacon and decided early to become a preacher a commitment strengthened by a conversion experience at the age of seven Abernathy attended high school at all black Linden Academy a Baptist affiliated institution Having little exposure to whites during ...

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Robert Fay

Ralph Abernathy was born in Linden, Alabama, to William and Louivery Abernathy. He earned a B.S. degree from Alabama State College, and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1948. In 1951 Abernathy received an M.A. degree in sociology from Atlanta University and became pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He and Martin Luther King Jr., protesting segregated public transportation, led the successful boycott of the Montgomery bus system in 1955.

In 1957 Abernathy helped Dr. King found the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) to coordinate nonviolent resistance to segregation. After King's assassination in 1968, Ralph Abernathy became SCLC president until he resigned in 1977, after which he served as a pastor of a Baptist church in Atlanta. His autobiography, titled And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, was published in 1989.

See also Montogomery Bus Boycott.

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Kenneth H. Williams

Abernathy, Ralph David (11 March 1926–17 April 1990), civil rights leader and minister, was born David Abernathy in Linden, Alabama, the son of William L. Abernathy and Louivery Valentine Bell, farmers. A sister’s favorite professor was the inspiration for the nickname “Ralph David,” and although Abernathy never made a legal change, the name remained with him from age twelve.

Abernathy’s parents owned a 500-acre farm, one of the more successful in Marengo County. His father, a community leader, served as head deacon of the local Baptist church for nearly forty years, became the first black in the county to vote and serve on a jury, and contributed heavily to building and maintaining schools in the area, including Linden Academy, the high school Ralph attended.

From the time he was a child Abernathy aspired to the ministry As he related in his autobiography The preacher after all was ...

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Jennifer Jensen Wallach

minister, civil rights activist, and close adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. An Alabama native, Abernathy was one of twelve children born to successful farmers who had managed to rise from sharecropping to owning a five-hundred-acre farm. Abernathy's father was a deacon in a local church, and from a young age Abernathy wanted to join the ministry. He became an ordained Baptist minister in 1948. In 1950 he received a BS in mathematics from Alabama State University. He began what became a career in political activism while in college by leading demonstrations to protest the poor quality of food in the campus cafeteria and the lack of heat and hot water in campus housing. While in college he became interested in sociology, and he earned an MA in the subject from Atlanta University in 1951.

Abernathy became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery ...

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Nathan Zook

minister, civil rights leader, and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was born Avery Caesar Alexander in the town of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. The names of his parents are not known. Seventeen years later, his family moved to New Orleans. Avery Alexander maintained an active life there and in Baton Rouge for the next seventy-two years.

Prior to his election to the Louisiana legislature, Alexander was employed as a longshoreman. At the same time, he pursued an education by taking night courses, receiving his high school diploma from Gilbert Academy in 1939. He became politically active by working as a labor union operative for a longshoreman's union, Local 1419. He also held the occupations of real estate broker and insurance agent.

Alexander received a degree in theology from Union Baptist Theological Seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister ...

Article

Luckett V. Davis

boxer, was born Henry Jackson Jr. near Columbus, Mississippi, the son of Henry Jackson. His mother, whose name is unknown, was a full‐blooded Iroquois, and his father was of mixed Indian, Irish, and black ancestry. He was the eleventh child in a family of sharecroppers. When he was four years old his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his father and older brothers worked in the food‐processing industry. His mother died a few years later, after which he was reared by his paternal grandmother. Jackson graduated from Toussaint L'Ouverture Grammar School and Vashon High School, working during his school years as a pin boy at a bowling alley and becoming the inter‐alley bowling champion in midtown St. Louis. He gained his first boxing experience by winning a competition among the pin boys.

Lacking funds to attend college, Jackson worked at a series of unskilled jobs At the ...

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Alan K. Lamm

Civil War army chaplain and Baptist minister, was born in North Branford, near New Haven, Connecticut, to Ruel and Jereusha Asher. His paternal grandfather had been captured in the Guinea region of Africa at the age of four and was brought to America as a slave. Young Jeremiah grew up hearing fascinating tales of his grandfather's life, which included military service during the American Revolutionary War. Those stories would later inspire Asher in his own life.

Asher's father was a shoemaker who married a Native American woman from Hartford, Connecticut. Jeremiah grew up as a member of the only African American family in North Branford and was permitted to attend school along with white children. At the age of twelve he left school to help out his family financially, and over the next several years he worked as a farmhand, servant, and coachman. In 1833 he married Abigail Stewart ...

Article

Sheila T. Gregory

radio and television pioneer, Masonic Christian Order founder, ordained Baptist minister, lawyer, community advocate, and business leader, was born on a sharecroppers' farm in Geneva, Kentucky, the son of Richard and Clara Banks, both tenant farmers. In June 1922 Banks graduated from the Lincoln Institute of Kentucky and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he secured a job at the Dodge automobile main plant. He graduated from Wayne State University in 1926 and the Detroit College of Law in 1929. He briefly opened a criminal law practice, but after two years he discontinued his criminal work and invested in property during the Depression, while helping elect liberal Democrat and future Supreme Court justice Frank Murphy as Detroit's mayor in 1930.

In 1931 Banks was the head of the International Labor Defense League ILDL a legal organization known for defending numerous labor unions which at that time were ...

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Tyler Cloud

clergyman and civil rights activist, was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was the fifth child of an uneducated railroad employee and a schoolteacher, according to the Hartford Courant. Battles attended Philander Smith College and majored in law at Arkansas Baptist College. After college he studied for the ministry and graduated from the Union Theological Seminary with a bachelor of divinity degree. He was ordained in 1957. His studies were interrupted by World War II, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After the war he returned to his ministry and began serving as pastor in Beacon, New York, and Jamaica, Queens (New York).

In 1961 Battles moved to Hartford, Connecticut, and became pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church, succeeding the late Reverend Goode S. Clark. In January 1960 the church had just eight hundred members He preached there ...

Article

Veront Milton Satchell

also known as Prophet Bedward, Lord and Master, and Lord Bedward, was born sometime around 1858, probably on the Mona sugar estate in the parish of St. Andrew, Jamaica. He came from a poor family and had little by way of formal education. He was married with a family. During his early adult life he worked on the Mona sugar estate as a cooper. He migrated to Panama in 1883, returning to Jamaica in 1885. Within a few days of returning to the island he sailed back to Panama reputedly to improve his economic position.

During his second trip to Panama he allegedly received the call to ministry in a series of visions in which he was ordered to return to Jamaica go to August Town a small rural village located in St Andrew about 6 miles north of Kingston inhabited predominantly by lower class black and ...

Article

Eric R. Jackson

pastor, community servant, and civil rights activist, was born in Collins, Mississippi. The 1930 Census lists his parents as D. Douglas Booth and Mamie Booth, both of whom lived on a farm in Mississippi. He graduated from Collins's Old Hopewell High School in 1936. That year young Booth preached his first sermon. Booth attended Alcorn A & M College, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1940. Booth then enrolled in Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia to obtain his degree in divinity. Several years later he entered Howard University in Washington, DC. In 1943 he graduated with honors from Howard University School of Religion, earning his bachelor of divinity degree, and was elected president of his class. While a student at Howard, in 1942, Booth married Georgia Anna Morris. Several years later, in 1944 Booth became the pastor of small Baptist ...

Article

Robert Fay

Born in Macon, Georgia, William Borders was the third generation of preachers in his family. He earned a B.A. degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1929, a B.D. degree from Garrett Theological Seminary in 1932, an M.A. degree from the University of Chicago in 1936 ...

Article

Lester C. Lamon

The son of Richard Henry Boyd and Hattie Moore, Henry Allen Boyd was born in Grimes County, Texas, on April 15, 1876, and grew up in San Antonio. During the early 1870s his father, a former slave and Texas cowboy, received the call to the ministry and launched a successful career as a minister, church promoter, and entrepreneur. More than any of his eight brothers and sisters, Henry Allen identified with his father's aggressive concern for race achievement and personal initiative. While still in his teens, the younger Boyd attained a clerkship in the San Antonio post office (the first African American to hold such a position), and he held this post until he moved his wife and young daughter to Nashville, Tennessee, just before the turn of the century. Nashville remained Henry Boyd's residence until his death in 1959.

Richard Henry Boyd had become active ...

Article

Melvin L. Butler

gospel composer and pastor, was born into a family of sharecroppers in Somerville, Tennessee. Although Brewster stemmed from a humble background, he managed to study a wide variety of subjects, including theology, law, and Hebrew. After graduating from Roger Williams College in 1922 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. By 1930 Brewster had begun a lifelong tenure as pastor of the East Trigg Baptist Church. A major aspect of Brewster's early ministry centered on the founding of theology schools, and these centers of learning helped to establish his voice as one of moral authority and spiritual guidance in religious circles.

By the time Brewster began seriously publishing his songs in the 1940s he had gained over a decade of experience in his pastoral role This experience provided a wellspring of material for songs that often relayed Old Testament stories and were enjoyed by African American congregations across the United States ...

Article

Adam Biggs

Walter Henderson Brooks was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Albert Royal Brooks and Lucy Goode, slaves. Brooks's father was an enterprising slave who owned his own “snack house” and a livery business that brought him into contact with some of Virginia's wealthiest citizens, including his wife's owner, German consul Daniel Von Groning. Albert Brooks purchased his wife's freedom in 1862 for $800 Still a slave Walter Brooks at age seven was sold to the Turpin Yarborough tobacco firm He woefully recalled his time there writing It was all I could do to perform the task assigned to my little hands What I do remember is that I stood in mortal fear of the consequences of failing to do what was required of me When the Richmond manufacturer fell victim to wartime economic decline Brooks was allowed to reside with his mother and began working ...

Article

Adam Biggs

clergyman, temperance leader, and poet, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Albert Royal Brooks and Lucy Goode, slaves. Brooks's father, an enterprising slave, owned his own “snack house” and a livery business that brought him into contact with some of Virginia's wealthiest citizens, including his wife's owner, the German consul Daniel Von Groning. Albert Brooks purchased his wife's freedom in 1862 for eight hundred dollars. Still a slave, Walter Brooks at age seven was sold to the Turpin & Yarborough tobacco firm. He woefully recalled his time there, writing: “It was all I could do to perform the task assigned to my little hands. What I do remember is that I stood in mortal fear of ‘the consequences’ of failing to do what was required of me.” When the Richmond manufacturer fell victim to wartime economic decline, Brooks was allowed to reside with his mother ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was for over half a century pastor of Good Street Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, named twice by Ebony magazine as one of the fifteen outstanding black preachers in America. He was born in Clarence, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, the only child of tenant farmers whose names have not been publicly identified.

The family later moved to Shreveport, where he attended public schools (which at the time were, without exception, segregated by race in his native state), and experienced an adult conversion to Christianity at age fourteen. By some accounts, he left school after seventh grade to assist his parents in the fields. Clark began preaching in 1929, and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1933 Israelite Baptist Church in Longstreet Louisiana called him to his first assignment the same year He also served as pastor of Magnolia Baptist Church South Mansfield Louisiana and Little Flower Baptist Church Grand Cane ...

Article

L. Diane Barnes

novelist, playwright, and Baptist minister. Dixon was born near the close of the Civil War near Shelby, North Carolina. The Dixon family, once a prominent southern family, was left penniless in the physical and economic devastation of the South after the war. Dixon's father, a Baptist minister, joined the Ku Klux Klan during Dixon's youth. Images of the riders in white sheets coming to save the white South had a lasting impression on Dixon. His belief that the Reconstruction era was one of history's supreme tragedies was a common theme in several of his novels and plays.

Dixon earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history from Wake Forest University, then pursued graduate work at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. There he befriended the future president Woodrow Wilson who was a few years ahead in his own graduate studies After a brief attempt at an acting career ...

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Raymond Pierre Hylton

minister, author, and educator, was born near Burgess in Northumberland County, Virginia, to Robert, a fisherman, and Maggie Ellison, a homemaker. Coming from an impoverished background, he received a rudimentary education and had to work at age fourteen as a farm laborer earning seven dollars per month. His first stroke of good fortune occurred in 1906 when he entered the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (later Virginia State College and still later Virginia State University) in Ettrick, Virginia. Getting into Virginia Union University in Richmond was not so easy; there was initial skepticism on the part of its president, Dr. George Rice Hovey, who saw no academic promise in the young man. In 1909 Hovey reluctantly admitted Ellison to the Wayland Academy (as Virginia Union's high school program was then called), and he then went on to the collegiate undergraduate program, graduating in 1917 ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

pastor, civil rights activist, and U.S. congressman. Walter Edward Fauntroy was the fourth of seven children born in Washington, D.C., to William T. Fauntroy Sr., a U.S. Patent Office clerk, and Ethel Fauntroy, a homemaker. As a boy, Fauntroy became an active member of the New Bethel Baptist Church; the church gave Fauntroy sanctuary against the poverty and crime of secular Washington. As a high school student, Fauntroy experienced his first call to the ministry. After Fauntroy graduated second in his class from Dunbar High School in 1952, some of the members of New Bethel Baptist Church presented him with enough money to pay for his first year at Virginia Union University, where he graduated with honors in 1955 before going on to earn a divinity degree from Yale University.

While at Virginia Union, Fauntroy met the future civil rights activist Martin Luther King ...