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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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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 ...

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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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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 ...

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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 ...

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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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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 ...

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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

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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David H. Jr. Jackson

AME minister, Freemason, and Mississippi politician, was born in Maryland, but grew up in Ohio. He was described as a slightly heavy man of medium height with a light brown complexion. Although very little is known about his early life and family background, Stringer became a consequential political, religious, and fraternal leader. In tracing his career, one writer correctly surmised that wherever he went, “churches, lodges, benevolent societies, and political machines sprang up and flourished” (Wharton, 149).

Stringer joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and was ordained in the Ohio Conference in September 1846. He subsequently moved to Canada and organized the first branch of the AME Church there. After the Civil War ended in 1865 Stringer moved to Vicksburg Mississippi where he served as pastor of Bethel AME Church He was later appointed presiding elder and worked in that capacity until ...

Article

Ida E. Jones

minister and politician, was born in Saint Martinville, Louisiana, to Michael Turpeau and Isabelle Hill Turpeau. The Turpeaus were Roman Catholics, as were many in that part of Louisiana, before the elder Turpeau was drawn to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Young Turpeau attended the elementary school in Saint Martinville before leaving his family and the intimacy of his hometown to enter Gilbert Academy High School in Baldwin. One of his instructors, Frank Dakin, found Turpeau to be academically gifted, and he became an important mentor who guided Turpeau's academic career.

Initially Dakin envisioned Turpeau as one who would pursue a career in the field of architecture Dakin believed that Turpeau would have greater opportunities for advancement in the North so he facilitated his admission to Mount Kisco High School in New York The Dakin family in Mount Kisco was well connected to the Methodist Episcopal Church and ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

educator, minister, and legislator, was born in Corinth, Vermont, the son of Ichabod Twilight, a free African American farmer who served with the Second New Hampshire Regiment during the Revolutionary War, and Mary Twilight (whose maiden name is now unknown). Some historians believe that the name “Twilight” might have been chosen as an apt description of Ichabod Twilight's racial identity, which was somewhere between white and black—although legally he was black. Mary was probably also of mixed race, but she could have been a white woman who was described as “colored” in Corinth town records because she was married to a black man. Ichabod and Mary had started their family in Plattsburgh, New York, before moving first to Bradford, Vermont, in 1792 and then to Corinth in 1795 where they became the first black settlers in the township Alexander was the third of their six ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

clergyman, legislator, and diplomat, was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the oldest surviving child of Mathias and Diana (Oakham) Van Horne. He was educated in the Princeton schools, before enrolling in 1859 at Pennsylvania's Ashmun Collegiate Institute for Colored Youth (renamed Lincoln University in 1866), studying theology, education, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. In 1868 he became one of the first six students to receive a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University, where he also pursued graduate studies beginning in 1871.

While still a student, Van Horne was married in 1862 to Rachel Ann Huston of Princeton, New Jersey. The couple had four children: daughters Florence V. (Miller) and Louisa S. A., and sons Mahlon H. and Mathias Alonzo Van Horne(Mathias was educated at Howard University and later became Rhode Island's first African American dentist). After being ordained as a minister in 1866 ...

Article

Stephen Gilroy Hall

Born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, to Thomas and Ellen Rouse Williams on 16 October 1849, George Williams was the oldest son of five siblings. Given the lack of educational opportunities for African Americans in western Pennsylvania, Williams received little formal schooling. In 1863, at the age of fourteen, he enlisted in the Union army. After leaving the army in 1868, Williams applied for admission and was accepted at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1869. He dropped out, however, and entered Wayland Seminary, also in Washington. In 1870 Williams entered Newton Theological Institution outside of Boston. Upon graduation from Newton, Williams was ordained and then offered the pastorate of a prominent African American congregation in Boston, the Twelfth Street Baptist Church, in 1875.

While pastor at Twelfth Street Baptist Church, Williams wrote a monograph, History of the Twelfth Street Baptist Church He left ...

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John Hope Franklin

soldier, clergyman, legislator, and historian, was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Williams, a free black laborer, and Ellen Rouse. His father became a boatman and, eventually, a minister and barber, and the younger Williams drifted with his family from town to town in western Pennsylvania until the beginning of the Civil War. With no formal education, he lied about his age, adopted the name of an uncle, and enlisted in the United States Colored Troops in 1864. He served in operations against Petersburg and Richmond, sustaining multiple wounds during several battles. After the war's end Williams was stationed in Texas, but crossed the border to fight with the Mexican republican forces that overthrew the emperor Maximilian. He returned to the U.S. Army in 1867 serving with the Tenth Cavalry an all black unit at Fort Arbuckle Indian Territory ...

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Todd Steven Burroughs

historian, preacher, writer, newspaper editor, soldier, and human rights activist. Williams wrote two major works of history: A History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880: Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens (1882, two volumes) and A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861–1865 (1887). His open letter to King Leopold II of Belgium (r. 1865–1909), criticizing the country's brutal colonization of the Belgian Congo, was a seminal human rights document of the nineteenth century.

George Washington Williams was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania. He ran away from home at the age of fourteen to fight for the Union during the Civil War. He was a soldier in Mexico before returning to the United States to serve in the U.S. Army's all-black Tenth Cavalry.

After receiving a medical ...

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George Washington Williams left school at fourteen and lied about his age in order to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. He later enlisted in the Mexican Army, where he quickly rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and then joined the United States Cavalry in 1867 where he served in the Indian campaigns.

In 1868 he enrolled at Newton Theological Seminary, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Graduating in 1874, he became the school's first African American alumnus. Immediately upon graduation, Williams was ordained as pastor of Twelfth Baptist Church in Boston. Fascinated with the church, he wrote an eighty-page study of its history. He left, however, after one year, and in Washington, D.C. started an unsuccessful academic journal about African Americans. Williams became pastor of Union Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became a regular contributor to the Cincinnati Commercial under the ...