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James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...

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Lester C. Lamon

The son of Richard Henry Boyd and Hattie Moore, Henry Allen Boyd was born in Grimes County, Texas, on April 15, 1876, and grew up in San Antonio. During the early 1870s his father, a former slave and Texas cowboy, received the call to the ministry and launched a successful career as a minister, church promoter, and entrepreneur. More than any of his eight brothers and sisters, Henry Allen identified with his father's aggressive concern for race achievement and personal initiative. While still in his teens, the younger Boyd attained a clerkship in the San Antonio post office (the first African American to hold such a position), and he held this post until he moved his wife and young daughter to Nashville, Tennessee, just before the turn of the century. Nashville remained Henry Boyd's residence until his death in 1959.

Richard Henry Boyd had become active ...

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David M. Fahey

fraternal society leader and banker, was born in Habersham County, Georgia, the son of Joseph Browne and Mariah (maiden name unknown), field slaves. As a young child he was called Ben Browne and was chosen to be the companion of his owner's son. A subsequent owner who lived near Memphis trained Browne as a jockey for race circuits in Tennessee and Mississippi. During the Civil War he plotted an escape with fellow slaves. When his owner learned of the conspiracy, he transferred Browne to a plantation in Mississippi. Despite the difficulties of tramping fifty miles without a compass, Browne persuaded three other young slaves to join him in a successful escape to the Union army at Memphis. After learning that his owner could demand his return, Browne fled upriver as a stowaway.

Browne later worked as a saloon servant in Illinois where his barroom experiences made him a teetotaler and ...

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Margaret Blair Young

prominent Mormon entrepreneur, was born enslaved in Pickens County, Alabama, but was soon sent to Mississippi. Chambers's death certificate lists his parents as James Davidson and Ester Glaspy. In Mississippi he heard Mormon missionaries and was persuaded to be baptized. Missionary Preston Thomas secretly baptized him at night—a secret he kept to himself until his emancipation. At the time of his baptism, Chambers was between twelve and thirteen years old. He reflected upon his youthful decision in later life, suggesting scriptural precedent for his early faith. “Joseph was a boy and also Samuel, and the Lord spoke to them, so we see the Lord is willing to speak to boys,” Chambers said on 14 December 1875 (Young, n.p.).

After the Civil War, the newly emancipated Chambers worked as a shoe cobbler and as a sharecropper. In 1870 he began his trek west to join his fellow Latter day ...

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LaVerne Gray

minister, politician, educator, and writer. After serving as a U.S. representative from New York, Flake became the minister and leader of New York City's largest African American church, the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Queens. He elevated the membership to over eighteen thousand and assisted the economic growth of the church through concentrated efforts in community development. In 2002 Flake became president of Wilberforce University, one the oldest historically black colleges, in Ohio. He worked in the private, educational, and government sectors while simultaneously serving in the church.

Floyd Harold Flake was born in Los Angeles, the third of thirteen children born to Robert Flake, a janitor, and Rosie Lee Flake a homemaker When Flake was still small the family relocated to Houston Texas Growing up Flake was resourceful and his parents stressed a strong work ethic He was always working delivering ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

minister, U.S. Congressman, educator, and business executive, was born in Los Angeles, California, the eighth of thirteen children of Robert Flake Sr., a janitor, and Rosie Lee Johnson. Shortly after Floyd's birth, the family moved into a two-bedroom home in Houston, Texas. The roots of many of Floyd's political beliefs can be traced to his southern upbringing: his family was poor, but proud; racism abounded, but faith and optimism ruled the Flake home.

Floyd s early education took place in segregated poorly equipped schools but his teachers were dedicated and took a stern interest in his academic development One teacher cared enough to make sure that Floyd spent much of his free time involved in youth programs at her African Methodist Episcopal AME Church After graduating from high school Flake entered Wilberforce University the nation s oldest private African American University in Ohio He ...

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Carla J. Jones

a former slave, became a respected minister, entrepreneurial landowner, and philanthropic community leader during the years after Civil War. Born on a plantation in Elkton, Giles County, Tennessee, Gardner was the eldest son of the four children of Rachel Vasser Gardner and Martin Gardner, both of whom were slaves. While enslaved, his family was owned by three different families. Little is known about their first owner except that he was an Atlantic slave trader by the name of Franklin; his forename may have been Isaac. Gardner's second slave master was Richard Whitehead Vasser, who owned his own dry goods and mortgage company in Limestone County, Alabama. During this time Gardner's father, Martin, was sold or died, and his mother Rachel took another husband, Tom Gardner with whom she had three children The Vassers proved especially cruel Occasionally the slave master s son went out and got ...

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Alonford James Robinson

George Gordon was born in Jamaica to a black slave and her wealthy white master. His father, Joseph, devoted more time to running his estate and furthering his political career than he did to his colored son. Like most wealthy whites in Jamaica during the 1820s, Joseph Gordon was both a member of Jamaica's exclusive House of Assembly and a custos in Saint Andrew's Parish—the highest administrative official in the local province.

As the illegitimate son of the slave master, George Gordon learned the importance of self-reliance at an early age, even teaching himself how to read and write. Much to his father's surprise, he showed signs of proficiency in accounting at an early age. By age ten he was a skilled bookkeeper, and around this time Joseph Gordon decided to free his son, sending him to live with his godfather, businessman James Daley, in Black River, Jamaica.

With ...

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Richard Newman

better known as Daddy Grace or Sweet Daddy Grace or by his self-proclaimed title, Boyfriend of the World, was one of the more flamboyant religious leaders of the twentieth century. He was born, probably as Marceline Manoel da Graca, in Brava, Cape Verde Islands, of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry, the son of Manuel de Graca and Gertrude Lomba. In the charismatic church that he founded and headed, however, he managed to transcend race by declaring: “I am a colorless man. I am a colorless bishop. Sometimes I am black, sometimes white. I preach to all races.” Like many other Cape Verdeans, Grace immigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts, around the turn of the century and worked there and on Cape Cod as a short-order cook, a salesman of sewing machines and patent medicines, and a cranberry picker.Also known as Bishop Grace he may have established his first church ...

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Charles Emmanuel Grace was of mixed African and Portuguese descent, born in the Cape Verde Islands around 1882, probably as Marceline Manoël de Graça. Grace was among the numerous Cape Verdean immigrants who arrived in the United States during the first decade of the twentieth century. In the Cape Verdean communities of New Bedford and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Grace worked as a short-order cook, a cranberry picker, and a sewing machine and patent medicine salesman.

Grace founded his first church in West Waltham, Massachusetts, around 1919. By the mid-1920s he had moved south, and was holding large, popular revivals and tent-meetings around Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1927 with an estimated 13 000 followers Grace incorporated The United House of Prayer for All People of the Church on the Rock of the Apostolic Faith The church grew rapidly and soon included branches all along the eastern seaboard ...

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Amber Moulton-Wiseman

minister, congressman, businessman, philanthropist, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the son of William H. Gray Jr., a minister and university president, and Hazel Yates Gray, a university dean. During Gray's early childhood, his father was president of both Florida Memorial College and Florida A&M University, and his mother was dean of students at Southern University in Baton Rouge. However, the family then moved to Philadelphia in 1949. There, Gray's father took a position as pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church. William H. Gray Jr.'s own father had held that post since 1925.

Gray was educated in the public school system and graduated from Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High School in 1959. Upon graduation, Gray enrolled at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and pursued his joint interest in religion and politics, even taking an internship with Democratic Congressman Robert ...

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Rebecca L. Hankins

businesswoman, civil rights and peace activist, and United Methodist Church leader, was born Emma Augusta Clarie Collins in Meridian, Mississippi, the only child of Malachi C. and Mary Rayford Collins, owners of a funeral home and insurance business. The Harveys lived comfortably, despite the impositions of Jim Crow segregation. Collins began her education at two of the South's most important black institutions: Tougaloo College and Spelman College—the renowned Atlanta school for African American women—where she completed her BA degree in Economics in 1937. She went on to attend Indiana Institute of Mortuary Science, in 1942 becoming one of the first African Americans to receive a degree in Mortuary Science. She continued her education and in 1950 received an MA in Personnel Administration from Columbia University and then attended New York University's Graduate School of Business Administration.

On 1 August 1943 Collins married Martin Luther Harvey ...

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Angela M. Gooden

pastor, community organizer, and activist, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Damon Lynch Jr., a pastor and store owner, and Barbara (Davis) Lynch, a former American Airlines reservations supervisor. As a somewhat rebellious and easily bored teen at a boys' parochial school, Lynch ran into opposition when the priests insisted that he shave his facial hair. Lynch bounced from high school to high school before eventually graduating from Woodward High School. Summer jobs in his father's store gave Lynch important entrepreneurial experience that he later drew upon to establish nonprofit organizations in low-income communities. After graduation Lynch held several jobs, including a stint at the United Parcel Service (UPS) where he was taught a serious work ethic. At Burke Marketing and Research, Lynch met his future wife, Johanna Bolden, who also happened to be his on-the-job trainer. The couple married on 3 ...

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Whittington B. Johnson

pastor and businessman, was probably born in Goose Creek, South Carolina. His mother was a slave, and his father was the English overseer on the plantation where the family lived; their names are unknown. Shortly after Marshall's birth, his father died while on a trip to England, thus ending abruptly the Englishman's plans to free his family. Marshall, his mother, and an older sibling (whose sex is not revealed in extant records) were subsequently sold to John Houstoun of Savannah, a prominent public official.

Houstoun was the second of five masters that Marshall had during his half century of servitude. Marshall became devoted to Houstoun, whose life he once saved, and Houstoun apparently grew fond of Marshall, for whose manumission Houstoun provided in his will. Nevertheless, when Houstoun, who had twice served as governor of Georgia and later as mayor of Savannah, died in 1796 the executors of ...

Article

Whittington B. Johnson

Marshall, Andrew Cox (1756–11 December 1856), pastor and businessman, probably, was born in Goose Creek, South Carolina. His mother was a slave and his father was the English overseer on the plantation where the family lived; their names are unknown. Shortly after Marshall’s birth, his father died while on a trip to England, thus ending abruptly the Englishman’s plans to free his family. Marshall, his mother, and an older sibling (whose sex is not revealed in extant records) were subsequently sold to John Houstoun of Savannah, a prominent public official.

Houstoun was the second of five masters Marshall had during his half century of servitude Marshall became devoted to Houstoun whose life he once saved and the latter apparently grew fond of Marshall for whose manumission he provided in his will Nevertheless when Houstoun who had twice served as governor of Georgia and later as mayor of ...

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 ...

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John Howard Smith

clerk, storekeeper, and millenarian prophet, was born in Louisa County, Virginia, and was the property of David Ross of Richmond until Ross emancipated him in 1792. Much of what is known of McPherson's life is chronicled in the posthumously published A Short History of the Life of Christopher McPherson, alias Pherson, Son of Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1855), written by McPherson around 1811. According to McPherson's account, while a slave of Ross he was given an elementary education and became a capable bookkeeper, gaining skills that he briefly used to clerk for one of the commissary generals in the Continental Army during the siege of Yorktown in 1781. Upon his emancipation, McPherson remained in Ross's employ until 1799 when his conversion to Christianity led him to believe that he was a divinely commissioned millenarian prophet That transformation ...

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Loren Schweninger

Meachum, John Berry (1790?–1854), craftsman, minister, and businessman, was born a slave in Virginia. The names of his father, a Baptist preacher, and his mother are unknown. A skilled carpenter and cooper, he was allowed to save some of his earnings, and eventually he bought his freedom. Moving to Louisville, Kentucky, he married a slave, Mary, and then purchased her out of bondage; they would have an unknown number of children. About 1815 he moved with his wife to St. Louis, reportedly with only $3 in his pocket. There Meachum used the carpentry skills he had learned under slavery to find a job as a cooper. He established his own cooper’s shop a few years later and began buying St. Louis real estate.

During the 1830s in order to help fellow African Americans become free Meachum started buying slaves training them in barrel making and letting them ...

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Loren Schweninger

craftsman, minister, and businessman, was born a slave in Virginia. The names of his father, a Baptist preacher, and his mother are unknown. A skilled carpenter and cooper, Meachum was allowed to save some of his earnings, and eventually he bought his freedom. Moving to Louisville, Kentucky, he married a slave, Mary, and then purchased her out of bondage; they had an unknown number of children. About 1815 he moved with his wife to St. Louis, reportedly with only three dollars in his pocket. There Meachum used his carpentry skills to find a job as a cooper. He established his own cooper's shop a few years later and began buying St. Louis real estate.

During the 1830s in order to help fellow African Americans become free Meachum started buying slaves training them in barrel making and letting them earn money to pay him back for their ...

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 ...