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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 ...


Kathleen Thompson

John Chavis was born into a free African American family in Granville, North Carolina—a circumstance that alone made him historically unusual. He served, while a teenager, as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Early accounts of his life state that he attended Princeton University, then known as the College of New Jersey. The historian Edgar W. Knight, in preparing a biography of Chavis in 1929, asked that institution to confirm his attendance. Princeton replied that although they had no actual records to verify that Chavis was a student, they believed that he had been and listed him as a nongraduate. Scholars now believe that Chavis was a private student of the college president, John Witherspoon, until that scholar's death in 1794. In 1795 Chavis began studies at Liberty Hall Academy later Washington Academy and then Washington and Lee University in Lexington Virginia Although this was ...


Mary F. Corey

a founder of the African Methodist Episcopal church, author, and educator, was born a slave in Frederick County, Maryland, the son of Susan Coker, a white indentured servant, and Edward Wright, a black slave belonging to the same plantation owner, whose name is unknown. Daniel Coker was educated with his master's son, who refused to go to school without his slave. When Coker was in his early teens he escaped to New York City where he joined the Methodist Church and was ordained as a lay minister.

Empowered by his education and ordination, Coker returned to Maryland in 1801 to become the first African American teacher at the African Academy a school founded by the Baltimore Abolition Society for the education of free blacks He was the first black licensed minister in Baltimore and the spiritual leader of an independent prayer meeting formed by black Methodists dissatisfied ...


Debra Newman Ham

Daniel Coker was born Isaac Wright in 1780, probably in Frederick County, Maryland, to the enslaved African Edward Wright and the white indentured servant Susan Coker. Isaac's mother also had an older white son, named Daniel Coker, who refused to go away to school unless Isaac could accompany him. While with his half brother, Isaac received a rudimentary education and ran away to New York, where he assumed his brother's name.

The mixed-race Coker was active in the Methodist movement under the traveling bishop Francis Asbury. Coker became a minister in a Baltimore Methodist church that was modeled after the Reverend Richard Allen's church in Philadelphia and opened a school in about 1800 Despite the fact that early Methodists were encouraged to free their slaves welcome African American members and support abolition many white preachers trustees and churchgoers treated African American members of their congregation unjustly ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


Richard Newman

Jesuit priest and university president, was born in Jones County, Georgia, the son of Michael Morris Healy, an Irish American planter, and Eliza Clark, an African American woman he had purchased. The senior Healy deserted from the British army in Canada during the War of 1812 and by 1818 had made his way to rural Georgia, where he settled, speculated in land, and acquired a sizable plantation and numerous slaves. Healy acknowledged Eliza as “my trusty woman” in his will, which provided that she be paid an annuity, transported to a free state, and “not bartered or sold or disposed of in any way” should he predecease her. Healy also acknowledged his nine children by Eliza, although by state law they were slaves he owned, and he arranged for them to leave Georgia and move to the North, where they would become free.

After first sending his older ...


Stefanie Cole

teacher, activist, and writer, was born Clara Sheppard, one of five children born to Ezell and Isabel Sheppard in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. Violence against blacks and segregation practices were common at that time in rural Oklahoma. Luper's parents were devout Christians who taught their children to love their enemies and anticipate a better America. Ezell Sheppard was a World War I veteran who drove a school bus, picked crops in segregated fields, and worked in a variety of other trades. Isabel Sheppard worked as a maid for white families.

Clara Luper attended Hoffman Elementary, a one-room school where students shared books discarded from white schools. The teacher was also the principal and the janitor. Even as a young child Luper's oratory was impressive. By age eight, she often ended regular church services by reading aloud to the congregation. In 1940 she graduated from Grayson High ...


Kenneth H. Williams

clergyman, educator, and first African American senator, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the son of free parents of mixed blood. Little is known of his family or early years. At eight or nine he enrolled in a private school for black children, where he was “fully and successfully instructed by our able teacher in all branches of learning.” About 1842 his family moved to Lincolnton, North Carolina, where Revels became a barber. Two years later he entered Beech Grove Seminary, a Quaker institution two miles south of Liberty, Indiana. In 1845 he enrolled at another seminary in Darke County, Ohio, and during this period may also have studied theology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Revels's preaching career with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church began at this time. He was ordained as a minister in the Indiana Conference at some point between 1845 and 1847 ...


Raymond Pierre Hylton

college administrator, entrepreneur, and first and sixth president of Liberia, was born either in Norfolk, Portsmouth, or Petersburg, Virginia, the son of James Roberts and Amelia (maiden name unknown). A persistent rumor that his father was an unidentified white man remains no more than mere speculation. James Roberts and his wife were freed people and had seven surviving children. The family ran a boat and trading business that plied the James River. The Robertses probably lived for a while in Norfolk and later moved to Petersburg, where Joseph alternately worked for his father and in a barbershop owned by the Reverend William Nelson Colson, an African American minister and businessman. The Colson business was located at Wythe and Sycamore streets—an historical marker indicates the actual site.

By 1829 James Roberts had died leaving considerable financial assets and property in Petersburg Joseph as the eldest child ...


Peter J. Duignan

fifth president of the Republic of Liberia, was born in Newark, Ohio, the son of John Roye, a wealthy merchant. His mother's name is unknown. His father died in 1829, leaving some personal property and land to Roye. He went to public schools in Ohio, attended Oberlin College, and taught for a few years in Chillicothe. He also tried his hand as a sheep trader and shopkeeper in various parts of the Midwest. After his mother died in 1840 he was influenced by the emigration movement to escape American prejudice. He rejected the idea of going to Haiti and instead traveled to Liberia in 1846 just before an independent republic was installed there in July 1847, taking with him a stock of goods.

At the time of Roye s arrival the new republic faced a variety of ills The dominant Americo Liberians remained a small minority threatened ...


Linda Spencer

educator and first African American woman to receive a PhD in the United States, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of David and Catherine Simpson. Little is known about her parents other than that her father was born in Maryland and her mother in Virginia. Georgiana was the oldest of six children and she had three brothers and two sisters. She attended segregated public schools in Washington, D.C., and in 1885 graduated from the Miner Normal School, a training college for black elementary school teachers. From the 1870s through to the 1940s, the Miner Normal School, which eventually became Miners Teacher College, was responsible for training the majority of black elementary school teachers in Washington, D.C. In the nineteenth century, African Americans had few educational opportunities, but the white educator Myrtilla Miner solicited funds from abolitionists, including Harriet Beecher Stowe and opened a school in Washington D ...


William F. Mugleston

educator and race leader, was born on the plantation of James Burroughs, near Hale's Ford in Franklin County, Virginia, the son of an unknown white father and Jane, a slave cook owned by Burroughs. Washington was never certain of the date of his birth and showed little interest in who his father might have been. His mother gave him his first and middle names, Booker Taliaferro; he took his last name in 1870 from his stepfather, Washington Ferguson, a slave whom his mother had married. In his autobiography Up from Slavery (1901), he recalled the poverty of his early years as a slave on Burroughs's plantation, but because emancipation came when he was around nine, he was spared the harsher experiences of the slave system. In 1865 at the end of the Civil War his mother moved him his half sister ...


Bernadette Pruitt

educator and clubwoman, was born Margaret James Murray in Macon, Mississippi, near the Mississippi-Alabama border, to Lucy (maiden name unknown), a washerwoman who was possibly a slave, and James Murray, who had immigrated to the United States from Ireland. After her father's death, seven-year-old Margaret left home to-live with her northern-born, white siblings, the Sanders. The Sanders, who were Quakers, taught school in their community and encouraged their little sister to pursue a career in education. Margaret's Quaker surroundings fostered in the growing girl a sense of social responsibility, community building, self-help, and obligation. Taking the advice of her siblings, she passed the qualifying exam and began teaching local schoolchildren at age fourteen.

The ambitious young woman, known to her friends and family as Maggie, quit her teaching job and entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1881 at the age of twenty She shaved four years ...


Mamie E. Locke

lecturer and clubwoman, was born in Brockport, New York, the daughter of Anthony J. Barrier and Harriet Prince, free persons of color. She graduated from the State Normal School at Brockport in 1870 and attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and the School of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. She then taught in southern schools and in Washington, D.C., for a short time. In 1887 Barrier retired from teaching to marry S. Laing Williams, a prominent attorney in Chicago.

Williams became known for her club work and lecturing. Though many of her early lectures and written works supported the militant, egalitarian protest ideology of Frederick Douglass, she later became a staunch supporter of Booker T. Washington s accommodationist views including his emphasis on industrial education and practical training She encouraged employers to hire qualified black women for clerical positions and sought other ...