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Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, businessman, and writer, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, the youngest of fifteen children of Eliza and Edwin, who were slaves. Burton and his mother remained on the plantation after Emancipation as paid laborers, and he continued working at the “old homestead” after her death in 1869 until he was sixteen, at which time he left following an altercation with the owner.

In 1880 Burton was “converted to God” and subsequently experienced an insatiable desire for learning. Despite discouraging comments from those who thought that twenty was too old to start school, Burton was not dissuaded and determined that nothing was going to prevent him from getting an education except sickness or death. Burton worked for one more year as a farmhand in Richmond, Kentucky. One January morning in 1881 he put a few items in a carpetbag and nine dollars and seventy five cents in his ...


Laura M. Calkins

the first African American to graduate from the University of Michigan Medical School, civil rights advocate, and journalist, was born in Malden, Essex County, Ontario, the son of a former American slave. His date of birth is uncertain: some sources suggest that he was born on 22 December 1837, while others suggest that he was born on that date in 1842. He was reportedly baptized as William Henry Butler, but in his early twenties he chose not to use his first name and added the prefix “Fitz” to his surname because he found “Butler” too common, and perhaps too servile.

As a youngster Henry attended public schools for blacks in southwestern Ontario. In 1866 he married Sarah Helen McCurdy, the daughter of William H. McCurdy a prosperous Ontario farmer The couple initially lived in the predominantly black towns of Amherstburg and New Canaan Ontario where ...


Charles Rosenberg

physician, newspaper founder, and attorney, initiated the challenge to Louisiana's “Separate Car Law,” which led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold “separate but equal” public accommodations in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Martinet was born free, the second of eight children born to Pierre Hyppolite Martinet, a carpenter who arrived sometime before 1850 in St. Martinsville, Louisiana, from Belgium, and his wife, the former Marie-Louise Benoît, a native of Louisiana. Benoît is generally referred to as a free woman of color, but there is a record in St. Martin Parish Courthouse that Pierre Martinet purchased her freedom on 10 January 1848 from Dr. Pierre Louis Nee, along with her mother and their infant son Pierre. They were married on 7 December 1869 in St Martin de Tours Catholic Church St Martinsville Louisiana before the Civil War Louisiana law did not permit ...


Connie Meale

physician, newspaper proprietor, and Republican Party activist, was born in St. James Parish, Louisiana, the son of Louis Roudanez, a wealthy French merchant, and Aimée Potens, a free woman of color. Roudanez was raised in New Orleans as a member of the city's free black elite, but in 1844 he left to pursue a professional education in France. In 1853 the faculty of medicine at the University of Paris awarded him a degree in medicine. He graduated with a second medical degree from Dartmouth College in 1857, and soon after he returned to New Orleans to open his own office. In the same year he married Louisa Celie Seulay; their union produced eight children.

Roudanez continued to build his medical practice during the Civil War and Reconstruction but like other free men of color in New Orleans upon federal occupation of south Louisiana ...


Patricia J. Thompson

printer and physician in Liberia, Africa, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Samuel Snowden and Lydia W. Snowden.

Isaac H. Snowden grew up in Boston as a free black man in a home where his father was a well-known and well-respected antislavery activist. It is likely that he attended the Abiel Smith School built in 1834–1835 to house the school for African American students. Snowden later became involved in the Young Men's Literary Society, composed of the most promising young African American men in the city, for the purpose of improving and strengthening their intellectual abilities. He served as president in 1847.

Snowden initially made his living as a book newspaper and fancy job printer Following in his father s footsteps he was involved in the antislavery and equal rights movements and was often elected as one of the secretaries of the various meetings ...


Richlyn Faye Goddard

distinguished herbalist, early medical practitioner of folk remedies, and known in New Jersey as the Black Doctor of the Pines, was a son of Charity and Levin Steel. Levin bought his own freedom and left the eastern shores of Maryland for New Jersey. His wife escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad and on joining her husband changed her given name from Charity to Sydney, and they changed their surname to Still. The couple made their way to Springtown, located in Greenwich Township in Cumberland County, New Jersey, established by freedmen around 1800. The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church can trace its beginnings in Springtown in 1810 and it played an important role in the Underground Railroad in this area The Stills settled in the forests of the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey near Medford in Burlington County where Levin sawed wood and chopped lumber for ...