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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

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Nathan Zook

minister, civil rights leader, and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was born Avery Caesar Alexander in the town of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. The names of his parents are not known. Seventeen years later, his family moved to New Orleans. Avery Alexander maintained an active life there and in Baton Rouge for the next seventy-two years.

Prior to his election to the Louisiana legislature, Alexander was employed as a longshoreman. At the same time, he pursued an education by taking night courses, receiving his high school diploma from Gilbert Academy in 1939. He became politically active by working as a labor union operative for a longshoreman's union, Local 1419. He also held the occupations of real estate broker and insurance agent.

Alexander received a degree in theology from Union Baptist Theological Seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister ...

Article

Florence M. Coleman

slave, Civil War soldier, politician, and Baptist minister, was born Peter Barnabas Barrow, a Virginia slave. The month and day of his birth are unknown. It is believed that he was born near Petersburg, Virginia, and may have been taken to Mississippi or Alabama with his owner. In 1864 Barrow joined Company A, 66th U.S. Colored Infantry and in 1865 became a sergeant. A year later Barrow was discharged because of an injury he received. He went on to teach school at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Barrow, who was most likely self-educated, served as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives for Warren County, Mississippi, from 1870 to 1871. From 1872 to 1875 he served in the Mississippi State Senate. He migrated to Spokane, Washington, in 1889 and settled there in the city s African American community Barrow and other African Americans were determined to thrive by establishing ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

merchant, public official, religious leader, and longtime state legislator, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the eldest son of free, mixed-race parents John Cail (Cale) and Elizabeth Mitchell, a homemaker, who were married in 1827. His father worked as a miller, later as a fisherman, and moved his large family—as many as nine children—to Edenton in nearby Chowan County in the 1850s. Little is known of Hugh Cale's early life or education, although he had learned to read and write by the end of the Civil War.

After the Union army occupied much of northeastern North Carolina in early 1862, Cale began working as a manual laborer for federal installations at Fort Hatteras and Roanoke Island. In 1867 he moved to Elizabeth City North Carolina where he commenced a singularly successful career as a grocer and held a number of local offices during and after ...

Article

Russell Duncan

abolitionist and Georgia politician, was born free in Middlebrook, New Jersey, the son of John Campbell, a blacksmith, and an unknown mother. From 1817 to 1830 he attended an otherwise all-white Episcopal school in Babylon, New York, where he trained to be a missionary to Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. Rebelling against his training and calling himself “a moral reformer and temperance lecturer,” Campbell moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, converted to Methodism, joined an abolition society, and began to preach against slavery, colonization, alcohol, and prostitution. He joined Frederick Douglass on speaking tours and participated in the Colored Convention Movement, a new nationwide organization that aimed at racial uplift and black voting rights.

From 1832 to 1845 Campbell lived and worked in New York City as a steward at the Howard Hotel Later for an undetermined period he worked at the Adams House ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Francis Cardozo was born free in Charleston, South Carolina, to prominent Jewish businessman and economist Isaac N. Cardozo and a free African American woman whose name is unknown. Cardozo was trained as a carpenter, but at age twenty-one he studied for the ministry at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and at seminaries in Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England. He won awards for his mastery of Greek and Latin. Cardozo returned to the United States as minister of Temple Street Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1865, as a member of the American Missionary Association, he became principal of the Saxton School in Charleston. In 1866 he helped establish and became superintendent of the Avery Normal Institute, a school in Charleston to train African American teachers.

In 1868 Cardozo became involved in politics acting as a delegate to the South Carolina state constitutional convention As secretary ...

Article

Timothy P. McCarthy

minister, educator, and politician, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of a free black woman (name unknown) and a Jewish father. It is uncertain whether Cardozo's father was Jacob N. Cardozo, the prominent economist and editor of an anti-nullification newspaper in Charleston during the 1830s, or his lesser-known brother, Isaac Cardozo, a weigher in the city's customhouse. Born free at a time when slavery dominated southern life, Cardozo enjoyed a childhood of relative privilege among Charleston's antebellum free black community. Between the ages of five and twelve he attended a school for free blacks, then he spent five years as a carpenter's apprentice and four more as a journeyman. In 1858 Cardozo used his savings to travel to Scotland, where he studied at the University of Glasgow, graduating with distinction in 1861 As the Civil War erupted at home he remained in Europe to study ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

mayor and U.S. Congressman, was born in tiny Waxahachie, Texas, into a family of preachers. He came of age in a public housing development near Wichita Falls, Texas, and attended the public schools there. For a time, he wished to pursue a life as a professional football player, but an injury prevented him from seeing that dream to fulfillment. Instead, he attended Texas A&M, from which he graduated in 1968. Falling back onto what was to some large degree the family business, Cleaver earned his Master of Divinity degree from St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. There, at the behest of Ralph Abernathy he established a chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference He was assigned to St James Church and under his guidance the tiny inner city congregation fewer than thirty regular attendees when Cleaver took over soon blossomed into the one of ...

Article

Alexis Cepeda Maule

minister and politician, served thirty-six years (1943 to 1979) in the Illinois State House of Representatives for the 22nd District and acted as associate pastor at Chicago's Quinn African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Corneal was born on a farm near Vicksburg, Mississippi, to a white landowner and an African American former slave named Pearl Darden. After attending primary school at Sisters of the Holy Ghost, a Roman Catholic School, Davis graduated from Magnolia Public High School. At Magnolia there had been one teacher who taught all the subjects.

Davis attended Tougaloo College, a historically black institution near Jackson, Mississippi. Established in 1869 by the Home Missionary Society of the Disciples of Christ Tougaloo offered a first class liberal education to African Americans At Tougaloo he read the newspaper almost every day and participated in the debate society which would help his oratory skills in his later ...

Article

Andree Layton Roaf

Virginia state legislator, brick mason, plasterer, contractor, and educator, was born free in Manchester (later South Richmond), Chesterfield County, Virginia, the son of Edward Bradbury Edwards Jr. and Mary Trent Edwards. Edwards's family, of black, white, and American Indian ancestry, had been free landowners since the early 1700s. His father was a carpenter and his mother a teacher. Edwards was taught to read and write at an early age by his mother and learned the construction trades from his father. In 1850 Edwards married Sara Ann Coy, also a teacher, and together they had thirteen children.

Throughout his life Edwards was a prominent member of the historic First Baptist Church in South Richmond, which was established by free blacks as the African Baptist Church of Manchester in 1821 Edwards s family was among the founding members of the church which his father ...

Article

Richard D. Starnes

Thomas Oscar Fuller was born in Franklinton, North Carolina, the son of J. Henderson Fuller and Mary Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Fuller's father was a former slave who had purchased his freedom and later his wife's with money earned as a skilled wheelwright and carpenter. While a slave, the elder Fuller taught himself to read, and after the Civil War he became active in Republican politics. During Reconstruction he served as a delegate to the 1868 state Republican convention and as a local magistrate.

Fuller completed his primary education in local schools and subsequently attended the Franklinton Normal School, an institution founded to educate black teachers. He graduated from Shaw University in 1890 and received a Master of Arts from the same institution in 1893. After graduation, Fuller simultaneously pursued careers in education and the ministry. Raised in a devoutly religious family, he was ordained as a Baptist ...

Article

Richard D. Starnes

educator, clergyman, and politician, was born in Franklinton, North Carolina, the son of J. Henderson Fuller and Mary Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Fuller's father was a former slave who had purchased his freedom and later his wife's with money earned as a skilled wheelwright and carpenter. As a slave, the elder Fuller taught himself to read, and after the Civil War he became active in Republican politics. During Reconstruction he served as a delegate to the 1868 state Republican convention and as a local magistrate.

Fuller completed his primary education in local schools and subsequently attended the Franklinton Normal School, an institution founded to educate black teachers. He graduated from Shaw University in 1890 and received a Master of Arts from the same institution in 1893 After graduation Fuller simultaneously pursued careers in education and the ministry Raised in a devoutly religious family he was ordained ...

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Sandra Kelman

community activist, city councilwoman, and ordained minister, was born Beatrice Frankie Fowler in Wake Forest, North Carolina, to Maude Fowler, a domestic worker, and to a father who left when she was a toddler. In a 1989Baltimore Sun Magazine article, Gaddy recalled “many days” that she and her four siblings (Mottie Fowler, Pete Young, Tony Fowler, and Mabel Beasly) “didn't eat because when my mother didn't work and couldn't bring home leftover food, there was nothing to eat. And, even when there was food, if my stepfather had been drinking, he'd come home and throw our plates out in the back yard or through the window.” A high school dropout, Gaddy was divorced twice by her early twenties. As a single mother, she struggled for years to make a living for herself and her children (Cynthia, Sandra, John, Michael, and Pamela ...

Article

Carl Moneyhon

politician and Texas state senator, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. His parents (names unknown) were slaves on the plantation of Martin G. Despallier, where Gaines learned to read and write. In 1858, after Despallier's death, Gaines was sold to an owner in New Orleans who hired him out to work on a steamboat. He escaped on a trip up the Ouachita River and lived in Camden, Arkansas, for six months. He later went back to New Orleans, where he was captured and returned to his master, who subsequently sold him in 1859 to C. C. Hearne, a planter in Robertson County, Texas.

In 1863 Gaines ran away from the Hearne plantation hoping to escape to Mexico He was captured by a frontier ranger company near Fort McKavitt in western Texas The company did not send him back to Hearne but left him in Fredericksburg where he ...

Article

Kenneth J. Blume

clergyman, politician, educator, and diplomat, was born a slave on the plantation of Thomas Jones in Elbert County, Georgia. William's mother died when he was nine, and he was obligated to rear his younger siblings while working as a plowboy. His education during his last years of enslavement (1860–1865) was in Sunday school in Elberton, Georgia. Legally prohibited from learning to read or write, he learned largely by memorizing Bible passages. But when he was fifteen the Civil War ended, and Union troops appeared. As he wrote in his memoir, From Slavery to the Bishopric in the A.M.E. Church (1924): “Freedom had come, and I came to meet it” (28). Freedom also meant the end of his Sunday school education, but Heard's father had earned enough money as a wheelwright to pay for William's lessons in spelling, reading, and arithmetic. From 1865 ...

Article

Angela Bates

slave, pioneer minister, coroner, and politician, was born in Scott County, Kentucky. As a slave he was a carriage driver and house slave. It was against the law for slaves to learn to read and write, which was sometimes punishable by death, but Daniel took the risk. He learned by secretly listening to and watching his master read. He saved scraps of printed paper and taught others to read and in doing so almost lost his life after he was discovered by his master. After emancipation the Freedman's Bureau established schools to educate the formerly illiterate slaves. It was then that he could take full advantage of his freedom and spend time improving his reading skills.

In 1862, while still a slave, Hickman became a Christian, and in 1866 after emancipation he became a minister and the pastor of the Owens Baptist Church the ...

Article

Elizabeth A. Russey

Baptist minister and politician, was born a slave in Beaufort, South Carolina, to Jack and Dora (Pooler) Houston. His master, James B. Hogg, was a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia, and brought him to live in Savannah at an early age. Houston, raised as a house slave, was baptized at the age of sixteen on 27 June 1841 and became an active member of the First African Baptist Church in Savannah.

Houston hired out his own time in Savannah, earning fifty dollars per month as a carpenter and working as a butcher in a wholesale meat business. Sailors in the Marine Hospital in Savannah taught him to read and write while he was employed there. Houston married his first wife, whose name is unknown, in 1848. In addition to singing in his church's choir, Houston was appointed as a deacon 3 November ...

Article

Jari Christopher Honora

statesman, minister, educator, businessman, and attorney, was born on the plantation of Dr. Francois Marie Prevost near Donaldsonville, Ascension Parish, Louisiana. He is purported to have been born to Rosemond Landry, a white laborer on the Prevost plantation and Marcelite, his slave mistress. He was born with the name Caliste. According to Landry's unpublished autobiography, he resided with a free couple of color and was educated at a school conducted for free children. Despite his owner's wish that he be freed, when Dr. Prevost's estate was settled on 16 May 1854 Caliste was auctioned off to Marius St Colombe Bringier a wealthy sugar planter in Ascension Parish He was sold for $1 665 Landry continued his education on Houmas the Bringier plantation and was trusted enough to live in the mansion He served various roles on Houmas Plantation eventually earning the position of superintendent ...

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Antje Daub

Florida Republican political leader, lawyer, and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although the names of his parents are unknown, Lee was orphaned while an infant and was raised by Quakers. He attended Cheyney University, then known as the Institute for Colored Youth, the first black high school in the United States. After graduating in 1869, Lee moved to Washington, D.C., to begin a clerkship under the controversial “governor” of the District, Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd. Intermittently, Lee attended Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., a historically black institution established in 1867. Lee attended Howard at a time when African American leaders were clamoring for black lawyers who could help in the struggle to secure the rights of African Americans. He graduated with an LLB degree in 1872.

Lee then relocated to Jacksonville Florida and was ...

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Leslie H. Fishel

minister, editor, and politician, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Benjamin Lynch, a merchant and minister, and Benjamin's wife, a former slave purchased by her husband. Her name is not known. James Lynch attended the elementary school operated by the Reverend Daniel A. Payne of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Baltimore. When Payne left in 1852, Lynch enrolled in the Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire. After about two years, he later testified, his father's business failed, and “we were cut short in our pursuit for knowledge by pecuniary disability” (Christian Recorder, 16 Feb. 1867). He taught school on Long Island for a year and then studied for the ministry with a Presbyterian minister in Brooklyn. Struggling with the decision about his future, Lynch moved to Indianapolis to work with Elisha Weaver an AME minister ...