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Rachel B. Reinhard

educator and lawmaker, was born Robert George Clark in Ebenezer, Mississippi, the son of a schoolteacher. Little information about his parents or early life is known. He attended Jackson State College (later Jackson State University), which at that time was an unaccredited, publicly funded post-secondary school for blacks. After graduating from Jackson State College in 1953, Clark taught at Humphreys County Training School, Lexington Attendance Center, and other secondary schools in the Mississippi Delta. In addition to teaching he coached a number of boys’ and girls’ sports teams. Inspired by the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Clark decided to further his education. He enrolled in graduate school at Michigan State University, where in 1961 he earned his master s in administration and educational services Because there were no available programs for black students in Mississippi s segregated public universities a regional program Southern Regional Education Board paid ...

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M. Lois Lucas

educator and the first African American woman elected to the West Virginia State Legislature, was born in Motley, Virginia, the eldest of eleven children of Katherine Douglass, a housewife, and H. Grant Simpson a barber The Simpsons were among the first wave of blacks to move north during the Great Migration Hoping to take advantage of the growing coal mining industry the family settled in Elkhorn a small coal mining town in McDowell County in southern West Virginia They were a part of the expanding black middle class of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that adhered to a philosophy of personal advancement and racial uplift With an increase in the number of blacks working in the coal mines in West Virginia came an increase in black businesses and other professions Grant Simpson was the owner of a barbershop that catered to both blacks and whites ...

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Susan Love Brown

journalist, educator, politician, and statesman. Mervyn Malcolm Dymally, born in Cedros, Trinidad, achieved many “firsts” in American politics. His mother, Andreid Richardson, of Trinidadian descent, and his father, Hamid Dymally, of South Asian descent, educated him through high school, at Naparima College in San Fernando, Trinidad, after which he worked as a reporter for the Oilfields Workers Trade Union newspaper, The Vanguard, in Trinidad. This spurred his interest in a journalistic career, which took him to Lincoln University in Missouri at the age of nineteen. Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, where he majored in education, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1954. From then on he combined education, politics, and involvement in international issues as the interests that guided his career.

While working as a science special education teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District ...

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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 ...

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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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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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Jorjet Harper

the first African American woman legislator in the United States, was born in the town of Winfield, Putnam County, West Virginia. The Buckinghams were a large, extended mixed-race family with roots in England and in the West Indies, and branches in West Virginia and Ohio. Harper grew up with ten brothers and sisters and was educated in the West Virginia public school system.

As a young woman, Harper, along with one of her sisters, found work as a schoolteacher. In 1916 she gave birth to a son, George Ivan Edward “Buck” Buckingham. When George was six years old, Minnie Buckingham married Ebenezer Howard Harper, a man twenty-two years her senior, who was one of the leading African American men in West Virginia.

Originally from Virginia and born during the Civil War, Ebenezer Howard Harper had graduated in 1899 from Howard University in Washington D C and had ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, editor, public official, state legislator, and gifted orator, was born in Granville County, North Carolina, of unknown parents. Indeed, little is known for certain of his childhood. By some reports, he was born free; by others, he was freed from slavery in 1848, in connection with a trade apprenticeship. Decades later, in 1883, he listed himself in his legislative biographical sketch (Tomlinson, 70) as “self-educated,” although he may have studied at Oberlin College in Ohio as an adult.

In 1850 Harris still lived with his employer, Charles Allen, a white carpenter and upholsterer, near Oxford, North Carolina. He married Isabella Hinton in Wake County, North Carolina, on 3 December 1851 little is known of his wife and it is believed that they had no children Harris soon moved to Raleigh to open his own upholstery business but he left the ...

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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

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

educator, lawyer, and politician, was born near Raleigh, North Carolina, the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A. Smith, slaves. He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton, a free African American, and later attended the Washington School, an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh. There he was introduced to the Congregational Church and became a lifelong member. Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia, graduating in 1883. To pay his way through college, he worked as a barber and taught in the summers. After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal, first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School from 1883 to 1885 and then in Raleigh at the Washington School from 1885 to 1891. While teaching in Raleigh, he studied at Shaw University, obtaining a law degree in 1891 He joined the faculty ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

Johnson, Edward Austin (23 November 1860–24 July 1944), educator, lawyer, and politician was born near Raleigh North Carolina the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A Smith slaves He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton a free African American and later attended the Washington School an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh There he was introduced to the Congregational church and became a lifelong member Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia graduating in 1883 To pay his way through college he worked as a barber and taught in the summers After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School 1883 1885 and then in Raleigh at the Washington School 1885 1891 While teaching in Raleigh he studied at Shaw University obtaining a law degree in 1891 He joined the faculty shortly ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, public official, legislator, and law school dean, was the youngest son of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Matthew N. Leary, a successful saddler and a staunch abolitionist and philanthropist, and Julia A. Memorell (Menriel). Matthew Leary helped local slaves buy their freedom and often educated them, despite legal prohibitions on the practice. According to the 1850 federal census, he personally owned three slaves, though these were held for benevolent reasons.

John Leary's birth year is not certain; the 1850 census records his age as ten, although later reports indicate that he was born as late as 1849 His ethnic heritage was a blend of European Native American and African American lineage His mother a native of France migrated as a child to North Carolina from the Bahamas with her French mother His father whose family name had been shortened from ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, newspaper editor, labor activist, and state legislator, was one of five children born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to a slave mother, Eliza Mabson, and her wealthy white owner, George W. Mabson. Little is known of his early life or education before the end of the Civil War, only that he left Wilmington in 1865 to enter Lincoln University (formerly Ashmun Institute), in Pennsylvania, where he stayed for three years.

Like his older brother, George Lawrence Mabson, who was educated as a child in Massachusetts, William Mabson returned to North Carolina committed to the advancement of members of his race. There is no official record of his degree from Lincoln University, but he nonetheless became a popular teacher in a number of freedmen's schools across the state, including those in Rockingham, Abbottsburg, Rehoboth, Washington, and Leggetts. In 1870 he settled in Edgecombe County ...

Article

M. Lois Lucas

educator and state legislator, was born in Glen Ferris, West Virginia, the only child of Solomon and Luvenia Galloway Smallwood. The Smallwoods had moved from North Carolina during the early 1900s and settled in Fayette County in southeastern West Virginia. They later relocated to Glen Ferris in Raleigh County. Growing up in Glen Ferris during the Jim Crow era, Meadows experienced racial discrimination firsthand. She attended a poorly equipped, two-room elementary school for black children. Although a high school was only two miles from her parents' home, she had to travel twenty-five miles to attend Simmons High School for blacks.

After high school Meadows enrolled in West Virginia State College, where she earned a BA in Education in 1939. Her first teaching assignment came in 1941 at Summerlee Elementary School in Fayette County She recalled that often black schools were one room structures with no running ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, school administrator, businessman, journalist, public official, and state legislator, was born a slave at the Hermitage, a large plantation on the Chowan River in Bertie County, North Carolina. He was the son of Allen Mebane and an unnamed mother.

George Mebane's education before the Civil War was limited by circumstance; later he attended the public schools in two Pennsylvania towns, Prentissvale and Eldred, for at least a year or more.

After much of northeastern North Carolina was occupied by Union forces in early 1862, Mebane served as a mess boy or waiter for Company A, 85th Regiment of New York State Volunteers, which was stationed at Roanoke Island. After much of the regiment surrendered to Confederate forces at Plymouth in April 1864 Mebane and his family fled North Carolina for McKean County Pennsylvania on the New York border where they remained ...

Article

Jeff Bloodworth

librarian, civil rights activist, state senator, and congressman, was born in Collierville, Tennessee, one of the eight children of Ezekiel Owens and Hannah Owens. During Owens's childhood his family moved to Memphis, where Owens graduated from Hamilton High School in 1952 at the age of sixteen. After graduation and upon the receipt of a Ford Foundation scholarship, Owens attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he majored in mathematics, earning his bachelor's degree in 1956. In 1957 Owens earned a master's degree in Library Science from Atlanta University.

After earning his master's degree Owens married Ethel Werfel, whom he met at Morehouse College, and moved to New York City. Employed in the Brooklyn Public Library system, Owens also became active in politics and civil rights in the early to mid-1960s. In 1964 he was named community coordinator for a federal program to encourage ...

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 ...

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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 ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

businessman, teacher, banker, philanthropist, and state legislator, was born in Craven County, North Carolina, the son of Thomas and Harriet Smith. His birth status is uncertain; he may have been born a slave, but was educated at an early age by a benevolent white family, who helped arrange for him to attend the private Saint Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina, after the Civil War.

Smith began his career as a schoolteacher in New Bern, the Craven County seat, but his relentless energy and business acumen soon propelled him into the world of residential and commercial real estate, in which he accumulated a substantial personal fortune. By the time of his death, his worth was estimated to exceed $100,000, much of it in land, buildings, and stores he owned in the so-called Smithtown section of New Bern.

Smith began buying selling and renting these ...

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Debra A. Reid

educator, politician, and reformer, was born to Francis A. and Mary H. (Talbot) Smith, free black schoolteachers in Charleston, South Carolina. Little is known about his childhood, other than that at some point he lost his right arm, presumably in an accident. It can be assumed, moreover, given his parents' occupations, that the household was a cultured one. Smith pursued education as a career, following in his parents' footsteps. He studied at Avery Normal Institute and then enrolled in the University of South Carolina in 1875, but he had to transfer to Atlanta University in 1877 after South Carolina legislators closed the university to black students. Smith finished his bachelor's degree in 1879 and taught in public schools in Georgia and South Carolina before relocating to rural Colorado County, Texas, in 1885 It is not certain what subjects he taught but it is believed ...