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Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian Muslim theologian, modernist, and reformer, was born in the Gharbiya Province of Lower Egypt, the son of ʿAbduh ibn Hasan Khayr Allah, a peasant farmer, and his wife, who was descended from the Bani ʿAdl clan. He grew up in the village of Mahallat Nasr and received a traditional education, learning the Qurʾan by heart. In 1862 he was sent to the madrasa (Islamic college) in Tanta. There, he perfected his Qurʾan recitation and started to learn Arabic grammar, by the then normal method of memorizing texts and commentaries without explanation from his teachers.

Reacting against this, according to his own account, he ran away from the college and returned to his village, intending to become a peasant rather than a scholar. In this condition he married in 1865 at the age of sixteen But after various vicissitudes he resorted to his great uncle Shaykh Darwish Khadr who ...

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Sandy Dwayne Martin

clergyman, community activist, denomination organizer, and black nationalist was born Albert Buford Cleage Jr., one of seven children of Pearl (whose maiden name is now unknown) and Albert Cleage Sr., in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shortly after Agyeman's birth, Cleage, Sr., a medical doctor, relocated with his family to Detroit, Michigan, where the father helped to establish the city's first African American hospital. After an undergraduate education that included a stay at Fisk University in Tennessee, Agyeman received his BA in Sociology from Wayne State University in 1937, serving as a caseworker for the Department of Public Welfare from 1931 to 1938. Subsequently Agyeman felt the call to ministry and obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Oberlin College Graduate School of Theology in 1943. Also in 1943Agyeman married Doris Graham, to which union was born two children, Kris and the ...

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Darryl E. Brock

was born in the village of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, to a poor family on 23 February 1822. Born out of wedlock, he took his working-class mother’s last name, Baldorioty, and soon moved with her to San Juan. The noted Puerto Rican historian Cayetano Coll y Toste wrote of Baldorioty exhibiting a “happy conjunction” of Indian, Negro, and white blood. When the boy’s father, Don Juan de Castro of Cabo Rojo, rather tardily appeared to acquaint himself and change his son’s residence, the priest and benefactor Rufo Manuel Fernández advised against this, as young Román had already shown great scholarly promise.

Studying at El Colegio Seminario Conciliar Idelfonso, the island’s leading institution, and influenced by the renowned educator Rafael Cordero, Baldorioty secured a scholarship in 1846 to study physics and mathematical sciences at the University of Madrid There with the professor José Gualberto Padilla he founded La Sociedad de ...

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Kathryn Lofton

community organizer and Pentecostal bishop, was born in a Hyde Park apartment on Chicago's South Side. His parents were among the waves of African Americans who migrated from the South to the North in pursuit of greater economic opportunity and social mobility during the Great Migration. His mother, Geneva, was a household domestic and lay Pentecostal preacher, eventually leading the Universal Church of Christ in Chicago. His father, Robert, was a maintenance man at the Hyde Park Laundry Company from 1921 to 1940. One of five children, Brazier grew up in a highly segregated black community, since restrictive covenants bound blacks to certain areas of the city.

From his early teenage years, Brazier worked whenever he wasn't in school, first as a milkman's helper for the Bowman Dairy Company and later as a parking attendant at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 and 1934 During the Depression Brazier ...

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Michael R. Mahoney

first Anglican bishop of Natal, theologian, and political activist, was born in Saint Austell, Cornwall, on 24 January 1814, the eldest of four children of a mineral agent to the Duchy of Cornwall. He began attending Saint John’s College, Cambridge University, in 1832, and in 1836 he graduated as a second wrangler in the mathematical tripos and a second Smith’s prizeman. A year later he was elected a fellow at Saint John’s. In 1839 he took up holy orders in the Church of England but worked as a mathematics tutor at Harrow, where he gained some notoriety as an author of mathematics texts. During this period Colenso also became increasingly active in the Church of England and in 1846 became rector of Forncett Saint Mary Church in Norfolk County. That same year he married Sarah Frances Bunyon, with whom he had five children.

In 1853 at the ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

leader of the Nation of Islam, was born Louis Eugene Walcott in the Bronx, New York City, to Sarah Mae Manning, a native of St. Kitts, who worked as a domestic. Farrakhan's biological father was Manning's husband, Percival Clarke, a light-skinned Jamaican cab driver. By the time young Louis was born, however, Manning had left Clarke and was living with Louis Walcott. Manning hoped her baby would be a girl and have a dark complexion like herself and Walcott. Nevertheless, when the child was born male and with a light complexion, she named him Louis and listed Walcott as the father (Magida, 10). Walcott stayed with the family during their move to the Roxbury section of Boston in 1937, but departed shortly thereafter.Raising two young children alone during the Depression was difficult, but Sarah Mae kept her boys from harm and attended to their ...

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Jeremy Rich

a missionary and a founding father of the Methodist Church in Ghana and Nigeria, was born on 6 December 1809 in Twyford England His father Thomas Freeman was a former slave of African descent who worked as a gardener It is unclear if he was born in Jamaica or somewhere on the African continent although Freeman adamantly claimed his father was from Africa rather than the Caribbean His mother was an Englishwoman of European descent named Amy Birch Freeman s father died when he was only six years old He was raised in his grandfather John Birch s middle class home as his mother remarried and apparently left the boy in her father s care Freeman as a boy received a fair amount of education as displayed by his excellent training in botany Freeman became the head gardener and botanist for a wealthy aristocrat Sir Robert Harland who lived ...

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David Killingray

Black BritishWesleyan missionary and traveller in West Africa. Freeman was born in Hampshire, the child of a black father and a white mother. Little is known of his early years, but he was employed as a gardener in Suffolk and became a Christian, joining the Wesleyan Methodists. In 1838 Freeman went as a missionary to the Gold Coast, an area of West Africa where he was to spend most of his life. He built Methodist churches at Cape Coast and Accra, promoted education, and trained local men for the ministry. He established a mission station in Kumase, the Asante capital, and visited towns in southern Nigeria and also the kingdom of Dahomey, where he urged King Gezo to stop the slave trade. On furlough in Britain in 1843 Freeman actively promoted missionary work and also the anti‐slavery cause, both helped by publication of his travel accounts. In 1847 ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Christian missionary active in Cameroon, was born on 29 June 1825 in Spanish Town, Jamaica, to a slave family. His father, Alexander McLeod Fuller, was a skilled slave carpenter and cabinetmaker. His mother came from a Jewish family and apparently never lived with her husband. Fuller’s father was the first member of his family to join the Baptist mission in Spanish Town. He convinced his owners to allow his son to attend classes at the mission school, and the school reduced its usual fees so that Joseph and his brother Samuel could attend. His grandmother ran a small grocery and also helped pay the necessary expenses for Fuller’s education. The official end of slavery in Jamaica occurred when Fuller was thirteen years old, and he never forgot the joy of that day. He continued to go to school until 1839 but then chose to go to work on his ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

Jamaicanmissionary and public speaker born the son of an enslaved woman and Alexander Jackson, a member of the Spanish Town Baptist mission. In the aftermath of emancipation (1838), some freed Jamaicans returned to Africa to assist in the anti‐slavery cause, aided by Jamaican Baptists, who proposed the establishment of a mission to West Africa. As well as spreading the Christian gospel, the mission would provide a stimulus for the repatriation of African‐Caribbeans to Africa. Among the Jamaican missionaries were Alexander Fuller and his son Joseph, who were recruited to assist the establishment of a Baptist mission in Fernando Po, an island off the Gulf of Guinea. Joseph arrived in 1844.

Despite early optimism, the Fernando Po mission did not thrive, and the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) relocated to Cameroon in 1846 Fuller served out a five year apprenticeship with the Cameroon BMS before ...

Article

Diane L. Barnes

William Goodell was born in Coventry, New York, to the Connecticut natives Frederick Goodell and Rhoda Guernsey. A childhood illness left Goodell bedridden for several years but also sparked a lifelong interest in learning. Although his meager circumstances precluded the attainment of formal education beyond common school, he developed an interest in writing and embarked on a career as an author and journalist. Goodell's editing work was closely tied to the reform agendas of his day: in 1827 he began to edit a general reform weekly from Providence, Rhode Island, and over his career was associated with such periodicals as the Genius of Temperance, the Emancipator, the Friend of Man, the Christian Investigator, the American Jubilee, the Radical Abolitionist, and the National Principia. By 1830 Goodell had returned to New York and for the remainder of his career as an editor ...

Article

David M. Dean

black emigrationist, missionary, and bishop, was born free in Washington, D.C., the son of James Overton Holly, a bootmaker, and Jane (maiden name unknown). At fourteen he and his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he worked with his father. By 1848, while clerking for Lewis Tappan, an abolitionist, Holly became interested in the antislavery movement. In 1850 he and his brother Joseph set up as “fashionable bootmakers” in Burlington, Vermont, where both became involved with the growing debate over black emigration. James supported the American Colonization Society and Liberia, while Joseph believed that freed slaves should not have to leave the United States.

In 1851 Holly married Charlotte Ann Gordon (with whom he would to have five children) and moved to Windsor, Canada West (now Ontario), to coedit Henry Bibb's newspaper Voice of the Fugitive During his three years in ...

Article

David M. Dean

James Theodore Holly was born free in Washington, D.C., the son of James Overton Holly, a bootmaker, and Jane (maiden name unknown). At fourteen he and his family moved to Brooklyn, where he worked with his father. By 1848, while clerking for Lewis Tappan, an abolitionist, Holly became interested in the antislavery movement. In 1850 he and his brother Joseph set up as “fashionable bootmakers” in Burlington, Vermont, where both became involved with the growing debate over black emigration. James supported the American Colonization Society and Liberia, while Joseph believed that freed slaves should not have to leave the United States.

In 1851 Holly married Charlotte Ann Gordon (with whom he was to have five children) and moved to Windsor, Canada West (now Ontario), to coedit Henry Bibb's newspaper Voice of the Fugitive During his three years in the Windsor Detroit area Holly ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

pioneering religious leader and political activist in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, also known as James “Holy” Johnson, was born around 1835 in the town of Kakanda, near Waterloo on the coast of Sierra Leone. The incessant conflicts that tore Yoruba communities apart in the early nineteenth century brought his parents to Sierra Leone, as they had been enslaved and sold to Europeans. Johnson’s mother told him as a child of the horrors of the Middle Passage and the willingness of slaves to commit suicide rather than endure the voyage into bondage. Luckily, Johnson’s father and mother were liberated from slave ships by British naval anti-slave patrols. His father belonged to the Ijesha community, while Johnson’s mother came from an Ijebu kingdom and claimed to be related to the Awujale royal family. Details about Johnson’s parents are scant, and Johnson’s short 1908 autobiography did not mention his father at all ...

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 ...

Article

After attending Northwestern Normal University in Ada, Ohio, Jesse Edward Moorland enrolled in the theology department of Howard University. Moorland graduated from Howard with a master's degree in 1891 and was ordained a minister in the Congregational Church. In that year he also became secretary of the Colored Branch of the YMCA in Washington, D.C. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1893 to become pastor of Howard Church. In 1896 he became pastor of Cleveland's Mount Zion Congregational Church. He struggled to make Congregationalism a “practical, muscular Christianity” that directly addressed social needs.

Returning to the YMCA in 1898, Moorland served as administrator and fund-raiser for their Colored Men's Department in Washington, D.C. He raised over $2 million for twenty-nine new YMCA buildings for black communities throughout America. In 1914 Moorland became senior secretary of the YMCA s Colored Men s Department Under his leadership the department ...

Article

Richard Newman

book collector and religious leader, was born in Coldwater, Ohio, the son of William Edward Mooreland (sic) and Nancy Jane Moore, farmers and members of a black family that had been free for several generations. Raised by his maternal grandparents because of his parents' early deaths, Moorland, an only child, attended Northwestern Normal University in Ada, Ohio, and the theological department of Howard University. In 1886 he married Lucy Corbin Woodson; they had no children. Moorland was ordained to the ministry in the Congregational Church in 1891 and became the organizing pastor of a church in South Boston, Virginia, as well as secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in Washington, D.C. From 1893 to 1896 he was minister of Howard Chapel, Nashville, Tennessee, and then went to Mount Zion Congregational Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

A social gospel preacher who believed in working ...

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Karla Sclater

Christian missionary and temperance advocate, was born Emma Smith, enslaved in Springfield, Missouri. She lived with her mother, Jennie Boyd, and both her sister and her father, John Smith, lived on a neighboring plantation. There were also four older siblings living on yet another plantation near Springfield. One month after her birth in 1859, Emma was put up for auction alongside her mother and sister. Her father threatened his owners that if they did not purchase his wife and daughters he would run away. The strategy proved successful and Smith was able to have his wife and two daughters live with him.

Emma Smith was only two years old when the Civil War erupted. In 1864 as the Union army secured remaining portions of Missouri from rebel control the white slaveholding Smith brothers John Smith kept the name of his owners fled south to Arkansas ...

Article

David Michel

denominational founder and religious leader, was born in Hazelhurst, Georgia, to Robert and Annie Bell. The family later moved to Pensacola, Florida. In Pensacola Bell was “saved” at a street revival and in 1908 she joined the Church of God, a-local Pentecostal group. Pentecostalism was a new religious movement claiming the restoration of apostolic gifts such as speaking in tongues and faith healing. Bell received a limited education and worked as a cook on the tugboat Silver Queen that toured around Miami. In 1910 she married Oliver Robinson, who also worked on the Silver Queen. The Robinsons' marriage did not produce any children and so they adopted a girl, also called Ida. Looking for better opportunities, the Robinsons followed the black migration north to Philadelphia in 1917.

Once settled Ida Robinson started evangelizing through preaching read on sermons She would ask a more literate person to ...

Article

Doctor and writer who was born in Jamaica and grew up in Stewart Town. He studied medicine in Glasgow, later touring Scotland and Ireland to raise funds for Africans to Christianize Africa. He left for the Congo in 1886, where he ran a sanatorium. He returned to Europe in 1887 and eventually took an MD degree at Brussels in 1893; in the same year he went to the African Training Institute at Colwyn Bay, a training school for Africans. He went to Calabar, Nigeria, for the Institute. This experience stimulated his writing, and in 1899 he published The British Empire and Alliances: Britain's Duty to Her Colonies and Subject Races, in which he attacked the disparagement of Africans and pointed out the similarities across societies in development. In 1903 his Chamberlain and Chamberlainism: His Fiscal Policies and Colonial Policy attacked the controversial Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain ...