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Elaine C. Wells

George Bell was born a slave and lived in Virginia. His wife, Sophia Browning, purchased his freedom for $400, using money she earned secretly by selling produce from her garden. He then purchased her freedom. They bought their two sons from slave owners a few years later, but the Bell family was unable to free a daughter named Margaret. Their first freeborn child, Harriet, was born in 1803. The family lived in Washington, D.C., where Bell worked as a carpenter.

The municipal government of Washington authorized the establishment of public schools for whites in 1804, and in 1806 public education of white children began with the opening of two school buildings. There was no provision for the education of blacks, although the 1800 census for Washington showed 783 free blacks. In 1807 Bell the principal activist in this endeavor built the first school for black ...

Article

Eric Gardner

politician and activist, was born into slavery in North Carolina. Both he and his mother, Susan, were owned by the wealthy Thomas Burke Burton, who moved to Fort Bend County, Texas, from Halifax County, North Carolina, in the 1850s. Most accounts claim that the slaveholder favored Burton, taught him to read and write, and, after the Civil War, sold land to him; some accounts claim that Burton supported his former owner's wife when she was widowed during Reconstruction.

On 28 September 1868 Burton married Abba Jones (sometimes listed as Abby and sometimes as Hattie). The couple had three children, Horace J., Hattie M., and an unnamed child who died in infancy. Susan Burton lived with the young family until her death c. 1890.

Propertied, literate, and articulate, Burton quickly became active in the local Republican Party, the local Union League, and larger Reconstruction efforts. In 1869 ...

Article

Laura Murphy

author, bishop, and educator, was born a slave in Wilkes County, Georgia, to parents whose names are unknown. He was owned by a man named Robert Toombs. The seventh of fourteen children, Gaines was a sickly child, but during his bouts of illness he secretly taught himself to read and studied diligently.

Gaines became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the South in 1849 following in his father s footsteps After the Civil War he became a preacher in the church but his tenure there was short lived as he and numerous other black Americans left the branch of the Methodist Church that had condoned slavery His brother convinced him to move to the African Methodist Episcopal AME Church where he was quickly ordained as an elder In the 1880s Gaines became the second pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in ...

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Raymond Pierre Hylton

college administrator, entrepreneur, and first and sixth president of Liberia, was born either in Norfolk, Portsmouth, or Petersburg, Virginia, the son of James Roberts and Amelia (maiden name unknown). A persistent rumor that his father was an unidentified white man remains no more than mere speculation. James Roberts and his wife were freed people and had seven surviving children. The family ran a boat and trading business that plied the James River. The Robertses probably lived for a while in Norfolk and later moved to Petersburg, where Joseph alternately worked for his father and in a barbershop owned by the Reverend William Nelson Colson, an African American minister and businessman. The Colson business was located at Wythe and Sycamore streets—an historical marker indicates the actual site.

By 1829 James Roberts had died leaving considerable financial assets and property in Petersburg Joseph as the eldest child ...