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Roxanne Y. Schwab

writer and educator, was born in Dresden, Ontario, Canada, the fourth child of William and Nancy Newman. Little is known of her family, and the exact dates of her birth and death are unknown, but she was most likely born sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. As a young woman, she accompanied her father to the West Indies for missionary work, then returned to the United States when he became pastor of a church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Following her father's death, she moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, where she looked after her invalid mother for thirteen months. Upon her mother's death, Lucretia Newman became the head of the household for her siblings. After her early education she completed a course of scientific study at Lawrence University in Appleton before finding work as a high school music teacher and as a clerk in a dry goods store.

In 1883 Coleman was ...


David Dabydeen

Englishpoet who wrote and lectured against slavery. Coleridge's first major poem was a Greek ode against the slave trade, which won him the Browne Gold Medal at Cambridge University. He was to write, ‘my Greek ode is, I think, my chef d’œuvre in poetical composition'. Coleridge was inspired by the anti‐slavery writings of Thomas Clarkson, and in the 1790s, along with his friend and fellow poet Robert Southey, began campaigning against the slave trade. During this period Coleridge actively lectured around England, particularly in the West Country and in Bristol, where he received his first audience. When Coleridge and Southey lived at Upper College Street, Bristol, in 1795 they were surrounded by neighbours who had either had significant seafaring careers or had been captains of slave ships One of them for instance was the captain of a ship that was bound for the Jamaican sugar ...


W. Farrell O'Gorman

author, teacher, and civic leader, was born in Bardstown, Kentucky, the son of Michael (also spelled Micheil) Cotter, a boardinghouse owner who was known as an avid reader, and Martha Vaughn. Cotter was raised largely by his mother, a freeborn woman of mixed English, Cherokee, and African heritage. It was from her naturally dramatic manner—she orally composed poems and plays as she worked at chores—that he acquired his love of language and stories. Having taught herself, she also taught her son to read and enrolled him in school. When he was eight, however, economic necessity forced him to drop out of school to begin work at various jobs, first in a brickyard, then in a distillery, and finally as a ragpicker and a teamster. Until age twenty-two, manual labor consumed much of Cotter's life.

The friendship of the prominent black Louisville educator William T. Peyton who sensed Cotter ...


Donna Tyler Hollie

educator, social worker, community activist, and poet, was born in Port Deposit, Maryland, the fourth child of Caleb Alexander and Mary Jane Driver Collins, free African Americans. By 1870 the family was living in Baltimore, where her father worked in a lumberyard and her mother, as did many African American women of the era, worked as a laundress in her home. Collins may have attended a public school, which Baltimore established for African Americans in 1867, or one of numerous private schools that had served Baltimore's black community since the early nineteenth century. She enrolled in the Hampton Institute at age fourteen and graduated in 1882 as salutatorian. At New York University she earned a degree in social work sometime around 1904. She probably chose NYU because African Americans could not enroll in professional schools in the segregated Maryland–Washington, D.C., area.

Collins like most ...


Eric Gardner

poet and educator, was born Mary Weston in Charleston, South Carolina, to Furman Weston, a millwright, and Louisa Bonneau, a seamstress. Both parents were free African Americans. Furman Weston was the son of Mary Furman (Mary Furman Weston Byrd, who is eulogized in Fordham's collection of poetry) and John Weston. Furman Weston was part of the extended Weston family of free African Americans who owned land in the Charleston area and that included the noted clergyman Samuel Weston, a founder of Claflin University. Fordham's eulogy to Samuel Weston—which contains the figurative phrase “fond parent”—has misled scholars into assuming that he was actually her father. Louisa Bonneau's mother Jeanette Bonneau (also eulogized by Fordham) also owned land as a free African American in antebellum Charleston and was a daughter of Thomas Bonneau, a pioneering black educator. Mary had one sister, Jeanette who lived much ...


Caryn Cossé Bell

writer, civil rights activist, and educator, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Nothing is known of his personal life except that he married and had five children, four sons and a daughter. A brother, Numa Lanusse, also displayed considerable literary talent until his death at the age of twenty-six in a riding accident.

In New Orleans, the nation's nineteenth-century “Creole capital,” Lanusse belonged to a resident coterie of French-speaking Romantic writers whose ranks were reinforced by political refugees of revolutionary upheaval in France and the French Caribbean. Intensely hostile to Louisiana's slave-based racial hierarchy and inspired by the Romantic idealism of the democratic age, Lanusse joined with the native and émigré literati to press for change. In 1843 he played a leading role in the publication of a short-lived, interracial literary journal, L'album littéraire: Journal des jeunes gens, amateurs de littérature which began as a ...


Laura Murphy

educator and poet, was probably born in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, to David Mapps, a wealthy mariner and a respected businessman, and Grace, whose maiden name is unknown. Mapps's parents became Quakers in 1799 and enjoyed great respect within the Society of Friends, welcoming frequent visits from Friends including Charles Osborn, the famous antislavery editor, and Thomas Shillitoe, a British minister. It is said that Isaac Hopper the abolitionist and participant in the Underground Railroad once declared at a dinner party that if any of the white guests objected to eating with the Mappses the offended parties should wait until the end of the event to eat Everyone dined together that evening Though the family was embraced by many in the Quaker community it was highly unusual that they were made members at all Mrs Mapps once mourned the difficulties that a black ...


Martha L. Wharton

poet, biographer, and essayist, was a member of one of Hartford, Connecticut's noted African American families, and an active member of Rev. James W. C. Pennington's Talcott Street Colored Congregational Church, where at thirteen she professed her faith in Christ. Plato began teaching at age fifteen in the Hartford area, and she devoted some of her poetry to the subject of teaching—topics included teacher training and examination, her end-of-the-school-year hope that students would retain knowledge gained through the year, and her class of very young children. Little is known of her life, but her poetry suggested that piety, morality, and spiritual devotion were central to her outlook.

Plato's Essays; Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Poetry (1841) was a self-published work containing sixteen essays, four biographies, and twenty poems. The Reverend Pennington an abolitionist leader cast the book as a pious ...


Caleb A. Corkery

poet and educator, was born in New York City, the youngest of five surviving children born to Charlotte Augusta Burrough, from Savannah, Georgia, and Charles Bennett Ray, a Congregational minister who became editor of the third black-owned newspaper in the United States, the Colored American. Charles Ray was a recognized activist, opening his home for safe passage to slaves along the Underground Railroad and fund-raising for numerous black causes. William Wells Brown, a well-known abolitionist, claimed Charles Ray was a steadfast figure in activist meetings held throughout the 1840s. Ray's parents could afford to educate their children: all three of their daughters graduated from college. H. Cordelia Ray, as she preferred to be called, followed her sister Florence's example and attended New York University to obtain a master's degree in Pedagogy.

Ray s life illustrates well the popular belief among black leaders after Reconstruction ...


Joy Elizondo

The child of a washerwoman and a musician, José Manuel Valdés was born in Lima, Peru's capital city, when nearly half its population was black. Though his parents could not afford to educate him, his godparents and mother's employers stepped in, seeing to his early education at a prominent religious school. He would later become the first black writer to publish in Peru, both as a doctor and as a poet, as early as 1791.

After completing school, Valdés yearned to become a priest, but during the colonial period blacks were denied access to the priesthood by the Catholic Church, and he turned instead to medicine. He could have prospered as a romancista, a type of medical practitioner that required little training and was restricted to “external remedies.” In 1788 he took the more challenging route and pursued the title of latinista surgeon for ...