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Cynthia Neverdon-Morton

educator, school founder, and social welfare advocate, was born in Athens, Georgia, the daughter of Julia Porter. Various biographical accounts indicate that Barrett's parents were former slaves, while others speculate that her father was white. Little is known about either parent. During her early childhood, Barrett resided in the home of the Skinners, a white family whom her mother served as housekeeper. After her mother's marriage to a railway worker, Barrett remained with the Skinners, who encouraged her to further her education.

Though the Skinners suggested that she move north, Barrett, at her mother's urging, attended Hampton Institute in Virginia, graduating in 1884. While at Hampton she became convinced that it was her duty as an educated black woman to work assiduously for the betterment of all African Americans. That belief led her to teach in Dawson, Georgia, and at Lucy Craft Laney s Haines Normal ...


Nicolás Ocaranza

slave and wet nurse for the South American revolutionary Simón Bolívar, was born on 13 August 1763 in San Mateo, Aragua State, in the general captaincy of Venezuela. She was best known as la negra Hipólita (Black Hipólita), and lived much of her life in San Mateo State, where the Bolívar family had sugar plantations dependent on black slave labor.

From 1773, at around age 10, Hipólita served as a domestic servant in the household of Juan Vicente Bolívar and Maria de la Concepcion Palacios y Blanco, the parents of Simón Bolívar, who owned over two hundred slaves across several estates engaged in mining and the cultivation of cacao. As was the custom in a society based on slavery, Hipólita took her master’s last name as her own.

In 1781 the Bolívar family moved some black slaves from the Santo Domingo de Macaira estate in Caucagua to the ...


Kimberly Springer

educator, writer, and activist, was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley, a slave. There is no consensus regarding her father, although he was most likely her mother's owner, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, or his brother, George Washington Haywood. Anna exhibited a love of books and a gift for learning early in her childhood. Hannah was hired out as a nursemaid to a successful local lawyer, whose family most likely assisted her daughter in learning to read and write. Most important, however, was Anna's mother herself, who although illiterate, encouraged her daughter's education.

In 1867 Anna was one of the first students admitted to St Augustine s Normal School and Collegiate Institute a recently founded Episcopal school for newly freed slaves At age nine she found herself tutoring students older than herself and decided to earn her teaching credentials At St Augustine s ...


Linda M. Perkins

educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father's name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by George Henry Calvert, a descendant of Lord Baltimore, the settler of Maryland. Jackson's salary enabled her to afford one hour of private tutoring three times a week. Near the end of her six-year stay with the Calverts, she briefly attended the segregated public schools of Newport. In 1859 Jackson enrolled at the Rhode Island State Normal School in Bristol In addition to the normal course she also studied ...


Lynette D. Myles

slave and later a wealthy black woman, was born in Hancock County, Georgia, the daughter of Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, a slave, and David Dickson, a wealthy, white Georgian planter, businessman, and slave owner. Amanda America Dickson's birth resulted from the rape of thirteen-year-old Julia Dickson by David Dickson, the forty-year-old son of the slave owner Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. After she was weaned, Amanda was taken from her mother and placed in the home of her white owner and grandmother, Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. Julia, on the other hand, remained in living quarters outside the Dickson house. Until her white grandmother's death in 1864, Amanda lived with her in the same bedroom where she spent most of her time “studying her books and doing whatever she was told to do” (Leslie, Woman of Color 42 According to the Dickson family s African ...


Julie Winch

abolitionist and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Robert Douglass Sr., a prosperous hairdresser from the island of St. Kitts, and Grace Bustill, a milliner. Her mother was the daughter of Cyrus Bustill, a prominent member of Philadelphia's African American community. Raised as a Quaker by her mother, Douglass was alienated by the blatant racial prejudice of many white Quakers. Although she adopted Quaker dress and enjoyed the friendship of Quaker antislavery advocates like Lucretia Mott, she was highly critical of the sect.

In 1819Grace Douglass and the philanthropist James Forten Sr. established a school for black children, where “their children might be better taught than … in any of the schools … open to [their] people.” Sarah Douglass was educated there, taught for a while in New York City, and then returned to take over the school.

In 1833 ...


Xiomara Santamarina

businesswoman, was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, the last of seven daughters of Robin Eldridge, son of African slaves and a Revolutionary War veteran, and Hannah Prophet, a Native American and African American woman. Elleanor Eldridge was a skilled worker and businesswoman and at one point was the wealthiest African American in Providence, Rhode Island. Almost everything known about her is derived from a memoir produced by a collaboration between Eldridge and a white amanuensis, Frances Harriet Whipple. Whipple, who was related to one of Eldridge's former employers, Captain Benjamin Greene, wrote and published the Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge (1838) to raise funds for Eldridge after she had been defrauded by two white men. The text ran into several printings (between 1838 and 1845 and a second edition that brought Eldridge much needed funds after losing a lawsuit against the two men who ...


Vivian Njeri Fisher

She excelled in her crafts and business ventures, and as an amateur lawyer she assisted her brother, George, in securing an acquittal of charges that he “horsewhipped and otherwise barbarously treated a man on the highway.”

Elleanor Eldridge was born in Warwick, Rhode Island. Her father, Robin Eldridge, was an African who was captured with his entire family and brought to America on a slave ship. Her mother, Hannah Prophet, was a Native American. Eldridge was born free in part because of the “gradual emancipation” law passed in Rhode Island in 1784 Robin Eldridge and two of his brothers had fought in the American Revolution They were promised their freedom and two hundred acres of land apiece in return for their service When the war ended they were pronounced free but because they had been paid in worthless old Continental currency they were unable to take ...


Stacey Pamela Patton

Elleanor Eldridge was the last of seven daughters of Robin Eldridge, an African native, and Hannah Prophet, a Native American. The young Robin Eldridge was captured along with his entire family and brought to the United States to be sold as a slave. Later, in exchange for service in the American Revolution, he and his brothers were promised their freedom and two hundred acres of land. Though they were granted their freedom as promised, they were paid for their services in the worthless old continental currency and were therefore never able to claim any land. They did, however, eventually save enough money to purchase a small plot in Warwick, Rhode Island, where they built a house. Elleanor Eldridge was born free in Warwick.

When Eldridge was ten her mother died and against her father s wishes she went to work for her mother s employers Joseph and Elleanor Baker ...


Meca R. Williams

Catherine Ferguson began New York’s first Sunday school in 1793. Not only did she teach catechism and life skills but she also assisted by finding permanent homes for some of the school’s economically disadvantaged students. For these benevolent acts, she is known as a trailblazer in the Sunday school movement, public education, child welfare, and social work.

Ferguson was born Catherine Williams when her mother was en route to her new slave owners for domestic service Williams was delivered on a schooner while her mother was traveling from Virginia to New York Doing domestic work alongside her mother she developed skills that would prove helpful to her in her later employment Her mother also taught her to recite biblical scriptures The young girl acquired a keen ability for memorizing religious texts When she was eight years old her education came to a halt and her family ties were ...


Taunya Lovell Banks

in Massachusetts in 1781. “I heard that paper read yesterday that says, ‘all men are born equal, and that every man has a right to freedom.’ I am not a dumb critter; won’t the law give me my freedom?” According to Catherine Sedgewick, Elizabeth Freeman said this to Theodore Sedgewick, a young Massachusetts lawyer who was Catherine’s father.

Elizabeth Freeman, an enslaved black woman also known as Mum Bett (or Mumbet), was born in Claverack, New York, and sold to Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield Massachusetts She approached Theodore Sedgewick after hearing the Declaration of Independence read at the village meetinghouse in Sheffield Another account claims that Freeman overheard talk about the Massachusetts state constitutional provision while waiting on tables There is at least one possible explanation for the conflict over the legal source of Freeman s claim She may have asked about the Declaration of ...


Diane Todd Bucci

journalist, author, editor, and professor, grew up in Yonkers, New York. Her parents were Curtis G. Giddings and Virginia Stokes Giddings, and both were college educated. Her father was a teacher and guidance counselor, and her mother was employed as a guidance counselor as well. The family's neighborhood was integrated, and Giddings was the first African American to attend her private elementary school, where she was the victim of racial attacks. Even now, Giddings regrets that she allowed herself to be silenced by these attacks. This, no doubt, is what compelled her to develop her voice as a writer. Giddings graduated from Howard University with a BA in English in 1969, and she worked as an editor for several years. Her first job was as an editorial assistant at Random House from 1969 to 1970 and then she became a copy editor at Random ...


singer and teacher, known as the “Black Swan,” was born a slave in or near Natchez, Mississippi. Her father may have been born in Africa, and her mother, Anna, was of mixed ancestry. Various sources offer no fewer than seven different birth dates between 1807 and 1824. Greenfield's use of “Taylor” rather than “Greenfield” in certain documents suggests that her parents used this surname, but little record of them survives.

When their owner, the wealthy widow Elizabeth Holliday Greenfield, joined the Society of Friends and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1820s, Greenfield's parents were manumitted and immigrated to Liberia. Though records suggest her mother planned to return, Greenfield never saw her parents again. She lived with her mistress until she was about eight years old and then rejoined her as a nurse-companion in about 1836 she seems to have lived with relatives in the ...


Sophia D. West

Born into a prominent slaveholding family in Charleston, South Carolina, Sarah Moore Grimké was the elder sister and godmother of Angelina Emily Grimké (1805–1879). John Grimké, their father, was a well-known South Carolina judge, a prominent planter, and a powerful slaveholder; their mother was Mary Smith. In 1821 Sarah Grimké became a member of the Society of Friends and moved to Philadelphia, where she was joined by her sister Angelina in 1829. Both sisters would later defy the Quaker tradition, finding the Society's opposition to slavery too moderate.

The Grimké sisters were among the first members of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, which formed in 1835. From 1836 to 1838 the pair traveled throughout the North writing and lecturing about their experiences with slavery on their family plantation Though notable for their positions on both slavery and women s rights the sisters are ...


Cassandra Jackson

poet, novelist, activist, and orator, was born Frances Ellen Watkins to free parents in Baltimore, Maryland. Her parents' names remain unknown. Orphaned by the age of three, Watkins is believed to have been raised by her uncle, the Reverend William Watkins, a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and a contributor to such abolitionist newspapers as Freedom's Journal and the Liberator Most important for Watkins her uncle was also the founder of the William Watkins Academy for Negro Youth where she studied A well known and highly regarded school the academy offered a curriculum included elocution composition Bible study mathematics and history The school also emphasized social responsibility and political leadership Although Watkins withdrew from formal schooling at the age of thirteen to begin work as a domestic servant her studies at the academy no doubt shaped her political activism oratorical skills ...


Annette Gordon-Reed

At the beginning of the nineteenth century in the United States, Sally Hemings was perhaps the most recognized enslaved woman in the country, though her last name was seldom, if ever used. Instead, readers of American newspapers came to know her simply as Sally, as Yellow Sally or Dusky Sally, or even as Monticellian Sally, after a story that appeared in a Virginia newspaper in 1802 stating that Hemings was the longtime slave mistress of President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's enemies attempted to use his relationship with Hemings to derail his reelection to the presidency, but their efforts failed, and Jefferson won a landslide victory. Nevertheless, Sally Hemings continued to be an issue during Jefferson's life and well beyond.

Sally Hemings, whose probable given name was Sarah, was born on the Forest plantation in Virginia. She was the daughter of John Wayles the master of Forest and Elizabeth Hemings ...


Jean Fagan Yellin

autobiographer and reformer, was born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina, the daughter of Elijah, a skilled slave carpenter, and Delilah, a house slave. In her slave narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself (1861), published under the pseudonym Linda Brent, Jacobs explained that although it was illegal, she learned to read and to spell at six, when after her mother's death she was taken in by her mistress. When Jacobs reached puberty this mistress died, and she was willed to the woman's niece and sent into that child's home, where her new mistress's father subjected her to unrelenting sexual harassment. To save herself from concubinage, at sixteen she began a sexual liaison with a young white neighbor. (Called Mr. Sands in Incidents, he was Samuel Tredwell Sawyer later a member of Congress This union produced a ...


Jualynne E. Dodson

Jarena Lee was the first woman known to petition the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church for authority to preach. She was born in Cape May, New Jersey, and is recorded to have made a first request to preach in 1809 at Bethel African Methodist Church of Philadelphia. The denial of this request did not stop Lee from preaching, and neither did her family life.

She married Reverend Joseph Lee, an AME pastor, in 1811 and moved to Snow Hill, New Jersey. In the sixth year of marriage, Joseph Lee died, and Lee was left with two children and a commitment “to preach his gospel to the fallen sons and daughters of Adam’s race.”

Jarena Lee returned to Philadelphia and renewed her request to preach. Reverend Richard Allen who at Lee s first request could find no precedent in Methodist discipline for women preaching had become bishop of ...


Stacey Pamela Patton

the first woman known to have petitioned for and received the authority to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Jarena Lee was born free in Cape May, New Jersey. At the age of seven she was sent to work as a domestic. In 1804 she went to hear a Presbyterian missionary preach and became so overwhelmed by her sinful nature that she was moved within days to contemplate suicide. She recounts in the narrative she wrote that the “unseen arm of God … saved me from self-murder.” Soon thereafter she became ill; after recovering she moved to Philadelphia, where she heard the preaching of the Reverend Richard Allen who later became the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church That day she embraced the church as her own and three weeks from that day my soul was gloriously converted to God under preaching For a few moments ...


Lisa E. Rivo

sculptor, was born to an African American father and a mother of African American and Mississauga descent, whose names are not known. The Mississauga, a Chippewa (Ojibway in Canada) band, lived in southern Ontario. Information about Lewis's early life remains inconsistent and unverified. She was probably born in 1844 or 1845, most likely near Albany, New York. Orphaned by age nine, Lewis and her older brother, Samuel were taken in by their maternal aunts Mississaugas living near Niagara Falls Lewis joined the tribe in hunting and fishing along Lake Ontario and the Niagara River and in making and selling moccasins baskets and other souvenirs Although she later gave her Mississauga name as Wildfire Lewis s translation from the Chippewa may have been intended to authenticate her Indian background and appeal to whites She remained with the Mississauga until age twelve when Samuel using earnings amassed during the ...