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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

Article

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 ...

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Todd Steven Burroughs

minister and former mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Goode is best remembered for authorizing the 1985 dropping of a bomb on the headquarters of the MOVE organization.

Willie Wilson Goode was born to southern sharecroppers outside Seaboard, North Carolina. He graduated from Morgan State University in 1961, one year after he married Velma Williams. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1963, he earned his master's degree in public administration at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1968.

Goode first made his mark on Philadelphia in 1969 by serving as executive director of the Philadelphia Council for Community Advancement. The Pennsylvania governor Milton J. Shapp appointed him the head of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Goode's work as managing director of the city of Philadelphia from 1980 to 1983 made him popular among the city s elite That and Goode s cordial disposition ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, physician, public official, legislator, and lay religious leader, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Mary Ann Sampson, a slave, and an unnamed white father of Scottish descent. Green was raised in Wilmington by his mother, who later married Reverend Cornelius Sampson, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion clergyman. After Wilmington's fall to invading Union forces in early 1865, Green was allowed to begin his formal education at age twenty in the local Presbyterian parochial school.

For the next two years, while working as a carpenter by day, Green attended school at night. An excellent student, he supplemented his savings with loans to enter Lincoln University in May 1867 and continued to work before being granted a scholarship in his second year. He completed his bachelor's degree in 1872 taught for a year in Lincoln s normal and preparatory schools and ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Michaeljulius Idani

minister, civil rights activist, New York state legislator and official, and ambassador, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the oldest of six children of Herman Carl McCall Sr., a waiter on a train, and Carolesa McCall a homemaker During his early years McCall s father lost his job and abandoned the family leaving Herman s mother struggling to raise him and his five sisters McCall grew up poor in the Roxbury section of Boston shifting through low income housing His mother collected welfare as a means to support the family they also received support from caring members of their United Church of Christ parish Despite the difficulties of being a single parent she was active in his life and stressed the importance of a good education and a close relationship with God McCall was a talented student and knew he wanted to attend college He ...

Article

Sadye L. Logan

minister, civil rights activist, and state senator, was born in Darlington County, South Carolina. He was the youngest child of Charlotte Morris, a schoolteacher, and Milton C. Newman, an itinerant minister. Newman, who had three older sisters, was raised in the home of his paternal grandmother in Hartsville, South Carolina, after his mother died when he was six years old. His father's second wife, Serena a member of the Hamilton family of Charleston South Carolina was also a teacher Eleven children were born to this union Newman s white paternal grandmother and his biracial paternal grandfather owned a mill and two plantations in Hartsville South Carolina Unlike many other less privileged rural black families the Newmans held a vision of hope and progress and tenaciously clung to the goal of attaining higher education As a youngster Newman attended public school in Williamsburg County and ...

Article

Christopher Harrison Payne was born of free parents near Red Sulphur Springs, Monroe County, Virginia (now West Virginia). His mother was the slave daughter of James Ellison, who instructed her and set her free. When Christopher was two years old, his father, Thomas Payne, a cattle drover, was stricken with smallpox, and he died while taking a herd over the mountains to market. Payne's mother taught him to read so early that he could not remember when he had not read. By the age of ten, Payne had read through the New Testament.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865) Payne was compelled to serve in the Confederate Army as a valet, but in 1864 he returned to Monroe County to work on a farm. In 1866 Payne married Delilah Ann Hargrove (also given as Hargo by whom he had six children He worked on an ...

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Connie Park Rice

minister, educator, editor, and West Virginia's first black legislator, was born near Red Sulfur Springs in Monroe County, Virginia. His father, Thomas Payne, was freeborn, and his mother, Bersheba, was a former slave who was set free by her owner and rumored father, James Ellison, before her marriage. Christopher was their only child; Thomas died from smallpox after taking a drove of cattle to Baltimore, Maryland, when Christopher was still young.

Payne's mother provided his early education. He worked as a farmhand, but when the Civil War began, Payne—as a free, unprotected black in a slave state—found himself forced to become a servant in the Confederate army. He left the service in 1864 and went to the southern part of Monroe County (later Summers) and worked for Mr. Vincent Swinney until the war ended It was there that he met and married his ...

Article

Reconstruction politician, minister, and a founder of Wiley College, was born a slave, probably in Arkansas. According to J. Mason Brewer in Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants (1935), Roberts was enslaved by O. B. Roberts of Upshur County, Texas. While his master served in the Confederate army, Roberts “was left at home to take care of the place, protect the property and the master's wife and family. He shod horses for the soldiers and others, and baked ginger cakes and sold them to help finance the upkeep of his master's home” (Brewer, 65–66). Roberts the “faithful slave” is memorialized in a 1964 historical marker in Upshur County; yet what the marker omits suggests that his outward docility may have been misleading. As Brewer further reports, in 1867 Roberts was whipped by the Ku Klux Klan and left for dead 66 Although more recent ...

Article

Mary L. Young

politician, civic leader, writer, and bishop, was born in Colborne, Canada, the son of Nehemiah Henry Smith, a commissary sergeant of a black regiment in the English army. Little is known about his mother. Smith spent his childhood and adolescence in Bowmanville, Canada, where he attended public school and worked as an apprentice in furniture finishing. After completing public school, he moved to the United States and pursued a medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. From 1869 to 1871 he was a teacher with the Freedman s Bureau in Kentucky Mississippi and Alabama Smith was the first African American preacher to obtain a medical degree in the United States but he never actively practiced His call to the ministry outweighed his desire to practice medicine Therefore Smith turned to the African Methodist Episcopal AME Church to exercise his talents becoming one ...