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Briallen Hopper

educator, lecturer, and activist, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the oldest daughter of Peter L. Baldwin, a Haitian mariner who became a Boston postman, and Mary E. Baldwin, a Baltimore native whose maiden name is now unknown. Baldwin was educated in Cambridge public schools, attending Sargent Primary School, Allston Grammar School, and Cambridge High School. After graduating from high school in 1874 she attended the Cambridge Teachers' Training School. Initially refused a job by the Cambridge school district, she looked elsewhere for employment and eventually took a position teaching elementary school in Chestertown, Maryland. Within a few years, however, she was back in Cambridge. Reportedly under pressure from the African American community, the Cambridge school district decided to offer her a job. In 1881 Baldwin accepted a teaching position at the Agassiz Grammar School on Oxford Street where she would spend the remainder of ...

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Vincent Carretta

servant to Samuel Johnson, was the son of an unidentified enslaved woman in Jamaica. His father may have been his owner, Richard Bathurst, a colonel in the Jamaica militia. Barber’s slave name, Quashey, suggests that his mother may have come from the Akan-speaking area of Africa that is now Ghana. Quashey was one of only four slaves Colonel Bathurst kept when he sold his 2,600-acre sugar plantation and 140 slaves in Jamaica in 1749. Barber later recalled having been 7 or 8 years old when Colonel Bathurst brought him to London, England, in 1750 to live with his son, Dr. Richard Bathurst, a close friend of Samuel Johnson. Johnson was soon to become the most eminent man of letters in the British Empire.

Colonel Bathurst had Quashey baptized and renamed Francis Barber in London The date and place of his baptism are unknown He sent Barber to Yorkshire for ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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

Jeffrey Green

served the British military in the American War of Independence, during which he led guerrilla raids on American troops around New Jersey. He then took a leading role in the settlement of black Empire Loyalists in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1783. Some suggest he had been a slave in Virginia, but his literacy, along with comments of contemporaries, strongly suggest he was from Barbados. He married a free and financially stable New Yorker named Margaret, and ran a school in Birchtown, Nova Scotia (in the very south of the province), where about 1,500 former slaves lived. When the future British king William IV (then a Royal Navy officer stationed in Halifax) visited Birchtown in 1788, he was entertained by Blucke, who was the most successful of the settlers.

About six hundred people from Birchtown joined the black exodus to Sierra Leone, West Africa, in 1792 reviving a ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

educator, was born free in Washington, D.C., to the Reverend John Francis Cook, who ran a free school for African Americans in that city. The name of George's mother is not recorded, but his elder brother, John Francis Cook Jr., also was active in education and political circles in Washington after the Civil War. Born into slavery the Reverend Cook had gained his freedom by the time his sons were born. As pastor of the city's Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church and a founding member of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows he was also prominent in Washington's black religious and fraternal organizations.

In September 1835 when George was only three months old Reverend Cook was forced to close his school and flee Washington with his family when he learned that a white mob was planning to attack him The Snow Riot as it came to be ...

Article

Willard B. Gatewood

public official and businessman, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of the prominent African American clergyman and educator John Francis Cook (1810?–1855) and Jane Mann. Educated first at his father's school, Union Seminary, he later attended Oberlin College in Ohio from 1853 to 1855. Upon the death of their father, he and his brother George F. T. Cook, also a student at Oberlin, returned to Washington to assume direction of Union Seminary. Except for a brief tenure in New Orleans as a schoolteacher, John Cook was connected with the seminary until it ceased operation in 1867 after the District of Columbia opened public schools for blacks While his brother remained in the education field and was for many years superintendent of the separate colored school system in the District of Columbia John Cook embarked upon a career in government service Republican politics and ...

Article

Linda M. Perkins

educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father's name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by George Henry Calvert, a descendant of Lord Baltimore, the settler of Maryland. Jackson's salary enabled her to afford one hour of private tutoring three times a week. Near the end of her six-year stay with the Calverts, she briefly attended the segregated public schools of Newport. In 1859 Jackson enrolled at the Rhode Island State Normal School in Bristol In addition to the normal course she also studied ...

Article

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 ...

Article

John David Smith

educator, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the son of William Councill and Mary Jane (maiden name unknown), slaves. In 1854 Councill's father escaped to freedom in Canada, leaving his wife and children to be dispersed in the South by slave traders. In 1863 young William, his mother, and his youngest brother escaped from a plantation in northern Alabama to a U.S. Army camp in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Councill attended a freedmen's school in Stevenson, Alabama, from 1865 to 1867 and later was tutored at night in Latin, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. In 1867 he established a school for freedmen in Jackson County and in 1869 began another in Madison County, laboring under the constant threat of Ku Klux Klan violence.

As a young man Councill made contacts and received appointments that established him as an emerging black Republican leader in Alabama He was active in the state s African ...

Article

Joe M. Richardson

clergyman, educator, and politician, was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Maria Jackson and Jonathan C. Gibbs, a Methodist minister. He learned carpentry as a youth and followed that trade until the Presbyterian Assembly helped him enroll at Dartmouth College in 1848. Gibbs, who was one of only two black students at Dartmouth, claimed that he had been rejected by eighteen colleges before being accepted. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1852 he attended the Princeton Theological Seminary. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and went on to pastor churches in Troy, New York, and in Philadelphia. While in New York Gibbs campaigned for the extension of black suffrage in the state. When he moved to Philadelphia in 1859 he became prominent in the local Underground Railroad During the Civil War he joined the freed people s relief efforts campaigned against segregated ...

Article

Sheila Gregory Thomas

educator, civil rights activist, and author, was throughout his life a brilliant and forceful figure in the push for equal rights and the higher education of African Americans. He was born in Lexington, Virginia, the elder of two sons of William Lewis and Maria A. Gladman, both free persons. After the death of her first husband, his mother later married Henry L. Gregory, a minister, who supported the family as a laborer. Maria was one of eight offspring of Claiborne Gladman and Anna Pollard. The Gladmans were prominent members of Lynchburg, Virginia's community of free African Americans (Delaney and Rhodes, 2).

In 1859 eager to be free of the repressive Virginia environment Henry Maria and their young sons set out from Lynchburg for the Midwest primarily in order to assure a good education for their boys Residing temporarily in Indiana Illinois and Michigan ...

Article

Richard Newman

Jesuit priest and university president, was born in Jones County, Georgia, the son of Michael Morris Healy, an Irish American planter, and Eliza Clark, an African American woman he had purchased. The senior Healy deserted from the British army in Canada during the War of 1812 and by 1818 had made his way to rural Georgia, where he settled, speculated in land, and acquired a sizable plantation and numerous slaves. Healy acknowledged Eliza as “my trusty woman” in his will, which provided that she be paid an annuity, transported to a free state, and “not bartered or sold or disposed of in any way” should he predecease her. Healy also acknowledged his nine children by Eliza, although by state law they were slaves he owned, and he arranged for them to leave Georgia and move to the North, where they would become free.

After first sending his older ...

Article

Teresa A. Booker

slave, Union soldier, state legislator, teacher, and school superintendent, was one of three brothers born in Marshall, Texas, either to Emily and Jack Holland and later purchased by Captain “Bird” Holland, or to Captain “Bird” Holland himself and a slave.

Despite indeterminable origins, Holland's father purchased the freedom of the three men and sent them to Ohio in the 1850s, where each of them went to Albany Enterprise Academy, a school for blacks. In addition to reading and writing, students there were exposed to a range of subjects, including algebra, geometry, geography, history, chemistry, and astronomy. One of the school's first trustees was Thomas Jefferson Ferguson.

At the age of twenty-three, Holland fought on the side of the Union to end slavery by joining the 16th U.S. Colored Troop (USCT) on 22 October 1864 The 16th was a Tennessee contingent which opened ...

Article

Mary Reginald Gerdes

educator and founder of both the oldest Catholic school for African Americans and the first order of African American nuns in the United States, the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The place and date of Lange's birth are unknown. Oral tradition says that she was born on the western part of the island of St. Domingue (now Haiti). Born Elizabeth Lange, she was the offspring of mixed parentage and was a free mulatto. Her mother was Annette Lange her father s name is unknown The revolution on the isle of St Domingue coupled with the Napoleonic revolution forced the emigration of many natives both black and white refugees fled to other parts of the Western Hemisphere Lange arrived in the United States educated refined and fluent in French When she arrived on the shores of Maryland she encountered major problems She was a free person of color in a ...

Article

William C. Hine

political leader and educator, was born in Ferrebeeville, South Carolina, the son of Richard Miller and Mary Ferrebee, occupations unknown. Miller's race was a source of periodic concern and speculation. Although he always considered himself to be black, Miller's very fair complexion led to allegations during his political career that he was white, the abandoned child of an unmarried white couple.

Miller moved to Charleston with his parents in the early 1850s, where he attended schools for free black children. His mother died when he was nine. As a youngster he distributed the Charleston Mercury to local hotels and during the Civil War he worked aboard South Carolina Railroad trains delivering newspapers between Charleston and Savannah Georgia When the Confederate government seized the railroads Miller found himself in the service and in the uniform of the Confederacy Union forces captured him as they advanced into South Carolina ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

minister and educator, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of London Payne, a free African American, and Martha (maiden name unknown), a Catawba Indian, both of whom died in the early 1820s. For two years he attended the Minor's Moralist Society School; he then continued his education with a tutor and through extensive independent reading. He joined the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1826.

Payne established a school for blacks in 1828 but closed it in 1834 when South Carolina outlawed education for slaves. Moving to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1835, Payne studied on a scholarship at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, but failing eyesight forced him to leave before graduation. He was licensed to preach in 1837 and ordained in 1839, thus becoming the first African American minister in the Franckean Evangelical Lutheran Synod. In 1840 he opened a second school for African Americans ...

Article

Kenneth H. Williams

clergyman, educator, and first African American senator, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the son of free parents of mixed blood. Little is known of his family or early years. At eight or nine he enrolled in a private school for black children, where he was “fully and successfully instructed by our able teacher in all branches of learning.” About 1842 his family moved to Lincolnton, North Carolina, where Revels became a barber. Two years later he entered Beech Grove Seminary, a Quaker institution two miles south of Liberty, Indiana. In 1845 he enrolled at another seminary in Darke County, Ohio, and during this period may also have studied theology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Revels's preaching career with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church began at this time. He was ordained as a minister in the Indiana Conference at some point between 1845 and 1847 ...

Article

Arthur Ben Chitty

educator and priest, was born on the Hendrick Estate in Mecklenburg County near Palmer Springs, Virginia. His father, Solomon, and his mother, Araminta (maiden name unknown), both lived as slaves on adjoining properties with the North Carolina state line between them. With the ambiguity of slave status following Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the largely illiterate black people were left wondering how they might survive. After sharecropping during and following the war, in 1868 Solomon rented a nearby plot with his brother as partner. They raised a good crop of corn and eighty dollars worth of tobacco. Then the brothers' barn burned and the Russells, with son James, ten years old, were again destitute. In spite of their poverty Araminta insisted that her son learn to read, and even in the absence of public schools for blacks, James's fortunes improved.

A plantation overseer, Thomas Wade ...

Article

Sandy Dwayne Martin

Baptist leader, educator, and race advocate, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of enslaved parents, Edward Simmons and Esther (maiden name unknown). During his youth, Simmons's mother escaped slavery with him and two of his siblings, relocating to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Simmons's uncle, Alexander Tardieu (or Tardiff a shoemaker became a father to the children and a protector and provider for the fugitive slave family He moved them among the cities of Philadelphia Roxbury Massachusetts and Chester Pennsylvania constantly eluding persistent slave catchers before permanently taking residence in Bordentown New Jersey While Simmons never received formal elementary or secondary school education his uncle made a point of teaching the children to read and write As a youth Simmons served as an assistant to a white dentist in Bordentown At the age of fifteen he joined the Union army participating in a number of major battles ...