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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 ...

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Patricia Reid-Merritt

social activist and spiritual adviser, was born Willie Taplin in the small rural town of Burton, Texas, the daughter of Nelson Taplin, a Baptist preacher, and Octavia, a Methodist congregant. A member of a large extended family, Barrow fondly recalled an upbringing steeped in strict traditional family values and old-time southern religion. She lived with her parents, six siblings, both sets of grandparents, and a great-grandmother in the family home, and they were sometimes joined by a cousin or two in need of temporary housing. The family lived together, worked together, and went to church together. Although they had limited economic resources, they grew the food that they needed on the family farm, and though she came to understand the family's poverty in later years, Barrow said that she never knew hunger as a child.

Barrow discovered her activist voice and spirit early in life Under the state sponsored ...

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David Dabydeen

Social reformer and active fighter for the abolition of slavery. Thomas Fowell Buxton was born at Castle Hedingham, Essex, to an Anglican family. Despite this, his mother was a member of the religious Society of Friends, and Buxton soon became acquainted with Quakerism. Through the Society of Friends he became closely connected to the Gurney family, who were Quakers, and later married one of the Gurney daughters, Hannah. The Quakers were renowned for their social reformation campaigns, and Buxton became heavily involved in many of these movements, most notably with one of the Gurney daughters, Elizabeth Fry, to whom he provided financial support for her prison reform work. In 1818 he was elected member of Parliament for Weymouth and worked, within the House of Commons, for the abolition of the slave trade. He helped William Wilberforce with the founding of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

physician, organization founder, and social reformer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second of five children all listed as “mulatto” in the 1880 U.S. census. Her parents' names are not known. In 1863 Rebecca completed a rigorous curriculum that included Latin, Greek, and mathematics at the Institute for Colored Youth, an all-black high school.

In 1867 Cole became the first black graduate of the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania and the second formally trained African American woman physician in the United States. Dr. Ann Preston, the first woman dean of a medical school, served as Cole's preceptor, overseeing her thesis essay, “The Eye and Its Appendages.” The Women's Medical College, founded by Quaker abolitionists and temperance reformers in 1850 as the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, was the world's first medical school for women. By 1900 at least ten African American women had received their medical degrees from ...

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David Dabydeen

Journeymantailor and prominent leader of the Chartist movement. Cuffay was born in Chatham, Kent. His father, originally from St Kitts, had come to Britain as a roots on a British Warship. Cuffay became a journeyman tailor in his teens, but involvement in the strike by the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1834 resulted in the loss of his job. Angered by this, he joined the movement in support of the People's Charter, advocating universal suffrage. He was militant in his left‐wing views, and in 1839 contributed to the founding of the Metropolitan Tailors' Charter Association. He also became a member of the Masters and Servants Bill Demonstration Committee, which opposed the power given to magistrates to imprison employees for two months based solely on the employer's statements. His involvement in the Chartist movement grew, and in 1842 he was elected the president of the London Chartists He ...

Article

Gerard Fergerson

physician, was born near Eatontown, New Jersey, the son of Joseph Johnson and Martha A. Frazier. Before moving to New York, where he would spend his entire professional career, Peter attended Roger Smith High School in Newport, Rhode Island. After completing additional studies at Clark's Collegiate Institute in New York, Johnson enrolled at the Long Island College Hospital (a precursor to the College of Medicine of the State University of New York Health Science Center of Brooklyn), a reputable private institution. On his graduation from the Brooklyn medical school in 1882, Johnson became the fifth black graduate of the institution, forty-five years after the first African American to earn a professional degree in medicine, James McCune Smith, had earned his degree in Scotland. Johnson initially practiced medicine in New York under the guidance of David K. McDonough a physician who had been born a slave ...

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Floris Barnett Cash

writer, educator, and activist, was the youngest of nine children born to Caroline Smith, a former slave, in Fort Valley, Georgia. Oral family history has it that Victoria's father was her mother's owner. Her mother migrated to New York with her daughters Victoria and Anna around 1873. Victoria attended Grammar School 48 in New York City until she was compelled to leave because of poverty; she took work as a domestic servant, the only employment available to many African American women at that time. Hallie Quinn Brown's Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction (1926) notes of Matthews, however, that she “never lost an opportunity to improve her mind” (209). Matthews developed her own literacy program, acquiring knowledge from independent study, lectures, and contact with educated people. Marriage at the age of eighteen to William Matthews a carriage driver enabled her ...

Article

Lynne B. Feldman

pastor, banker, and race leader, was born in Granville County, North Carolina, the son of William Pettiford and Matilda (maiden name unknown), farmers. Pettiford, a free black, spent his early years laboring on the family farm. He received a rudimentary education at home and then attended Marion Normal School; he was employed from 1877 to 1880 as a teacher and financial agent at Selma Institute (later Selma University). In 1869 he married Mary Jane Farley, who died that same year. In 1873 he married Jennie Powell, who died in September 1874. In 1880 he married Della Boyd, with whom he had three children.

Pettiford's most remarkable accomplishments were achieved after he accepted in 1883 the pastorate at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama Birmingham was a booming city of the New South where blacks migrated in search of employment primarily ...

Article

Penny Anne Welbourne

Born in New York City, Henry Sipkins was described as “unassuming, quiet and modest—a kind and affectionate husband, and a sincere friend.” He was influential in founding African American associations and societies throughout New York City and held official positions in many of them. The New York African Society for Mutual Relief, which he founded in 1808 and of which he served as secretary, was one of the first fraternal societies to provide illness and death benefits to its members at a time when insurance was not available to African Americans.

Sipkins presented the introductory remarks at a gathering held in 1808 at the African Church in New York City to celebrate Congress passing an act making the importation of slaves into the United States illegal. In 1809 on the first anniversary of the act s passage a celebration was held in the same church with Sipkins delivering ...

Article

Debra A. Reid

educator, politician, and reformer, was born to Francis A. and Mary H. (Talbot) Smith, free black schoolteachers in Charleston, South Carolina. Little is known about his childhood, other than that at some point he lost his right arm, presumably in an accident. It can be assumed, moreover, given his parents' occupations, that the household was a cultured one. Smith pursued education as a career, following in his parents' footsteps. He studied at Avery Normal Institute and then enrolled in the University of South Carolina in 1875, but he had to transfer to Atlanta University in 1877 after South Carolina legislators closed the university to black students. Smith finished his bachelor's degree in 1879 and taught in public schools in Georgia and South Carolina before relocating to rural Colorado County, Texas, in 1885 It is not certain what subjects he taught but it is believed ...