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Sierra Leonean public intellectual, was born in the southwest Nigerian city of Abeokuta in 1848. His father was from the Krio community in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Many people from Freetown were former slaves originally of Yoruba descent, and still others traded in southern Nigeria by the 1840s. His father may have been a Muslim notable in Freetown, but his Christian missionary uncle took him under his wing. His parents agreed to send him to the Church Missionary Society (Anglican) mission school in Freetown. Though he did not stay long in school, Abayomi-Cole proved to be a formidable intellect. He mastered Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. In the 1870s and early 1880s, Abayomi-Cole made a living as a teacher. His lively intelligence attracted the interest of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which appointed him a catechist in the Sierra Leonean town of Shenge in the Shebro district in 1885 ...

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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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Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and minister, was born in the Mississippi Delta, the tenth of twelve children of Miles Carter, a sharecropper descended from Georgia slaves owned by the forebears of President Jimmy Carter. The name of Miles Carter's wife is not recorded The Carters lived a peripatetic existence moving from one plantation to another but never escaping the cycle of poverty that characterized much of black life in the Jim Crow South Despite the hopelessness of that situation Miles Carter was an ambitious man who occasionally advanced to the position of renter Unlike sharecroppers who usually possessed antiquated farming tools and equipment and received only half of the value of their crop renters often owned their own mules and implements and could expect to earn a three quarter share of their crop which in the Delta was inevitably cotton Miles Carter s success as a renter required however that his ...

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Genevieve Slomski

pioneer of abstract painting, was born Edward Clark in the Storyville section of New Orleans, Louisiana. Little is known about his family, but they moved north during the Depression, and he was raised in Chicago.

Following service in the U.S. Air Force, Clark attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under the G.I. Bill from 1947 to 1951. At the Art Institute, he met abstract painter Joan Mitchell, with whom he developed a lifelong friendship, and the impressionist painter Louis Ritman, who was an encouraging instructor. During this period, Clark's work was traditional and figurative. But Clark's frustration with the Institute's academic restraints, such as the directive to avoid oils during this period, led-him to create an experimental self-portrait that took two years to complete. The classic head-and-shoulders depiction was set against a Renaissance landscape consisting of subtle layers of stippled watercolors.

In 1952 Clark ...

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Charles Rosenberg

a minister who helped consolidate the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church in the postbellum South, was born Jesse B. Colbert in Cedar Creek township, Lancaster County, South Carolina, the son of farm laborers Tillman Colbert and Mariah House Colbert. Neither of his parents could read, but they made sure their children attended school (1870 and 1880 Census, Kentucky Death Certificate). Colbert attended county schools until the age of eighteen and then entered Lancaster High School, originally called the Pettey High School after its founder and principal, Rev. (later Bishop) Charles Calvin Pettey, pastor of the Lancaster Courthouse AMEZ church.

After teaching school himself in South Carolina, Colbert entered Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, in January 1883, shortly after it was established by Dr. Joseph Charles Price, who served as president from 1882 to 1888. Bishop James Walker Hood recorded that Colbert ...

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Kathryn L. Beard

the rector of Detroit's St. Matthew's Protestant Episcopal Church and anti-union labor recruiter for Ford Motor Company, was born in St.-Thomas, Danish Virgin Islands, of middle-class parents, about whom little is known. His father was a Danish-speaking white man and his mother, Clementina, a black woman from the British colony of St. Kitts. Daniel was bilingual and considered Danish his first language. St. Thomas had a tradition of liberal education of slaves and free blacks and Daniel, considered a brilliant student, would benefit from the educational policies of the colony. He emigrated from St. Thomas in 1892 to New York to complete his education and his mother followed a year later. Daniel became an American citizen in 1901, twenty-six years before the United States purchased the Danish Virgin Islands.

Daniel attended St Augustine College in Raleigh North Carolina where he received his BA and then moved to New ...

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Rachel Cody

Executive Secretary of Indianapolis's Senate Avenue Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Samella (Sina in some censuses) and Alonzo DeFrantz. Alonzo, a barber by trade, had helped lead the Exodusters, thousands of former slaves fleeing the post-Reconstruction South to the relative freedom of Kansas. He instilled in his son a deep Christian faith, an independent streak, and a commitment to work aggressively for African American civil rights.

DeFrantz studied medicine at Washburn College in Topeka, the University of Kansas, and Kansas Medical College. But his older brother Robert secured jobs for him at the Kansas Avenue Y in Topeka and then the Twelfth Street Y in Washington D C and DeFrantz was soon converted to the their mission Created in the nineteenth century to help rural African American migrants adjust to their new lives in northern and southern cities the YMCA like the ...

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Eric Gardner

writer, activist, minister, doctor, and businessman, was born in Washington, D.C., or nearby Maryland, probably to Thomas Detro (or Detrow), a stonemason, and his wife, Eleanor. Detter was educated in Washington, D.C., and was apprenticed to a shoemaker. Little is known of his early years. In 1852 he traveled aboard the steamer John L. Stephens to San Francisco, where he worked as a barber before moving to Sacramento. He quickly became active in northern California's black community and was Sacramento's delegate to the state Colored Conventions of 1855, 1856, and 1857; the 1855 Convention named him to the Executive Board.

Apparently frustrated by the lack of civil rights progress in California, he left the state in late 1857 Over the next decade he traveled throughout Idaho Washington and Oregon spending extended periods in areas around Boise Walla Walla Idaho City ...

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Carla J. Jones

a former slave, became a respected minister, entrepreneurial landowner, and philanthropic community leader during the years after Civil War. Born on a plantation in Elkton, Giles County, Tennessee, Gardner was the eldest son of the four children of Rachel Vasser Gardner and Martin Gardner, both of whom were slaves. While enslaved, his family was owned by three different families. Little is known about their first owner except that he was an Atlantic slave trader by the name of Franklin; his forename may have been Isaac. Gardner's second slave master was Richard Whitehead Vasser, who owned his own dry goods and mortgage company in Limestone County, Alabama. During this time Gardner's father, Martin, was sold or died, and his mother Rachel took another husband, Tom Gardner with whom she had three children The Vassers proved especially cruel Occasionally the slave master s son went out and got ...

Article

Amber Moulton-Wiseman

minister, congressman, businessman, philanthropist, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the son of William H. Gray Jr., a minister and university president, and Hazel Yates Gray, a university dean. During Gray's early childhood, his father was president of both Florida Memorial College and Florida A&M University, and his mother was dean of students at Southern University in Baton Rouge. However, the family then moved to Philadelphia in 1949. There, Gray's father took a position as pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church. William H. Gray Jr.'s own father had held that post since 1925.

Gray was educated in the public school system and graduated from Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High School in 1959. Upon graduation, Gray enrolled at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and pursued his joint interest in religion and politics, even taking an internship with Democratic Congressman Robert ...

Article

Thaddeus Russell

religious and labor leader, was born, according to his own statement, in Lowell, Massachusetts. According to the Harlem historian Roi Ottley, however, Hamid was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At various times he also claimed to have been born in different places in the South. Little is known about his early life, including his parents' identities. According to Ottley, his original name was Eugene Brown. In an interview with writers from the Works Progress Administration, Hamid claimed to have been taken to Egypt at the age of nine, then to Athens, Greece, where he received his schooling through the university level. According to the interview, he returned to the United States in 1923 and began to work for the William J Burns Detective Agency in St Louis Missouri and Memphis Tennessee Hamid soon left that job and moved to Chicago where he joined the Ahmedabad movement an ...

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Rebecca L. Hankins

businesswoman, civil rights and peace activist, and United Methodist Church leader, was born Emma Augusta Clarie Collins in Meridian, Mississippi, the only child of Malachi C. and Mary Rayford Collins, owners of a funeral home and insurance business. The Harveys lived comfortably, despite the impositions of Jim Crow segregation. Collins began her education at two of the South's most important black institutions: Tougaloo College and Spelman College—the renowned Atlanta school for African American women—where she completed her BA degree in Economics in 1937. She went on to attend Indiana Institute of Mortuary Science, in 1942 becoming one of the first African Americans to receive a degree in Mortuary Science. She continued her education and in 1950 received an MA in Personnel Administration from Columbia University and then attended New York University's Graduate School of Business Administration.

On 1 August 1943 Collins married Martin Luther Harvey ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

preacher, missionary, and educator, was born the son of Robert Keeble, a street cleaner and minister, and Mittie Keeble in Rutherford County, Tennessee. For several generations the black Keeble family had been the slaves of the family of Major Horace Pinkney Keeble, a prominent white lawyer in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Marshall was named after his grandfather, who served as a personal valet to the Confederate major Keeble during the Civil War. According to some accounts, his grandfather was killed by advancing Union soldiers, but Marshall disputed those accounts, claiming that he knew his grandfather. However, his family must certainly have been favored and personal slaves of the white Keebles because Robert and the elder Marshall were taught to read and write by their masters, which was highly unusual given the widespread prohibition against the education of slaves.

Marshall s grandfather and uncle were both preachers in ...

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Charles Rosenberg

Baptist minister, grocer, printer, and civil rights leader, reported by Ebony magazine as “the first Negro to qualify to vote in Belzoni [Mississippi] since Reconstruction days,” was born in Edwards, Mississippi. There is no well‐established record identifying his parents. His mother died when he was still a child; at the age of seventeen he appears to have been living with an aunt and uncle, Garfield and Minnie B. Holmes, in Sunflower County, Mississippi.

After graduating from high school Lee worked on the docks in New Orleans unloading bananas while studying typesetting through a correspondence course He served for a time as pastor of St James Church in Jackson Mississippi then accepted a call seventy miles to the north in the predominantly African American Delta community of Belzoni As in many churches the offerings of members were not sufficient to support a full time pastor He opened a grocery store ...

Article

Peter C. Murray

clergyman and civil rights leader, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, to LeRoy Lowery, a store owner, and Dora (Fackler) Lowery, a teacher. Born in the era of Jim Crow, Lowery early had to learn the harsh reality of discrimination against African Americans in Alabama. Lowery grew up with the nurturing influence of the black church, especially Methodism. One of his great grandfathers, Echols Lowery, had founded the local Huntsville Methodist Church and his mother's family included several African Methodist Episcopal Church ministers. In 1928 he began his schooling and in 1936 he enrolled in high school at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College's (A&M) laboratory school. After graduating from high school in 1939, Lowery attended Knoxville College and Alabama A&M before transferring to Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, and graduating in 1943 with a BA in Sociology His first job out of college was as ...

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Whittington B. Johnson

Marshall, Andrew Cox (1756–11 December 1856), pastor and businessman, probably, was born in Goose Creek, South Carolina. His mother was a slave and his father was the English overseer on the plantation where the family lived; their names are unknown. Shortly after Marshall’s birth, his father died while on a trip to England, thus ending abruptly the Englishman’s plans to free his family. Marshall, his mother, and an older sibling (whose sex is not revealed in extant records) were subsequently sold to John Houstoun of Savannah, a prominent public official.

Houstoun was the second of five masters Marshall had during his half century of servitude Marshall became devoted to Houstoun whose life he once saved and the latter apparently grew fond of Marshall for whose manumission he provided in his will Nevertheless when Houstoun who had twice served as governor of Georgia and later as mayor of ...

Article

Born into slavery to unknown parents and raised on John Smithson's plantation in Hancock, Mississippi, Biddy Bridget Mason was given by her owners as a wedding gift in 1836 to Robert Marion Smith and Rebecca Crosby Smith. After converting to Mormonism in 1847, Smith's family and their slaves made the 2,000-mile trek to Utah. Traveling with her three daughters, Ella, Ann, and Harriet, who were probably fathered by her owner, Mason acted as midwife, nurse, and caretaker for the caravan. After four years in Salt Lake City, Smith took the group to a new Mormon settlement in San Bernardino, California. Smith had apparently forgotten that California was declared a free state in 1850, and under this law Mason and her family were manumitted on January 1, 1856.

Now free, Mason moved to Los Angeles, where she worked as a nurse. By 1866 she ...

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Lillian Ashcraft-Eason

radio evangelist, was born in Newport News, Virginia, the son of John Michaux, a fish peddler and grocer, and May Blanche. Lightfoot, whose ancestry was African, Indian, and French Jewish, spent his formative years in Newport News among Jewish and white gentile merchants on Jefferson Avenue, the main commercial street where the Michauxs lived in quarters above the family's store. He attended the Twenty-second Street School, quitting after the fourth grade to become a seafood peddler. Impressed with the town's commercial atmosphere, he aspired to be a successful businessman. While engaged in one business venture, he met Mary Eliza Pauline, an orphan of mixed race. They married in 1906; the couple had no children of their own but helped raise Michaux's two young sisters.

During World War I Michaux obtained government contracts to furnish food to defense establishments With the profits from his enterprises he ...

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Rosalyn Mitchell Patterson

minister, carpenter, and civil rights activist, was born Walter Melvin Mitchell, the eldest child of Minnie Mitchell, a homemaker, and an unknown father, in rural Greene County, Georgia. Mitchell was told by relatives that his father was Fate Buice, the son of a white planter in the community where his mother lived. Although Buice never openly acknowledged Mitchell as his son, he maintained contact with Mitchell over the years. In the mid-1920's Buice traveled nearly a hundred miles from Greene County to Augusta, Georgia, to hear Mitchell preach at the historic African American Springfield Baptist Church. Mitchell's early life was greatly influenced by his grandfather, Pano Mitchell who maintained a strong affinity for the land and his African heritage Mitchell and his five sisters and brothers attended the local school through the sixth grade the highest grade available for African Americans in that ...

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David Killingray

African‐Americanseaman, evangelist, and missionary born in the United States, the child of freed slaves. As a seaman he travelled over a large part of the world, living what he later described as the dissolute life of a prodigal. He arrived in Edinburgh sometime in the early 1870s. While living in Leith, in 1873, he entered a mission hall and was converted to Christianity. From then on he became an evangelist, first in Leith and then as an itinerant preacher with a travelling tent mission in the Scottish midlands.

Newby wanted to go to Africa as a missionary, and so he trained at the Harley Institute in east London from 1874 to 1876. He sailed for West Africa in July 1876 to work for the Church Missionary Society in the Niger delta region As part of his evangelistic work he went with an expedition into ...