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Connie Park Rice

educator and club woman, was born Coralie Franklin in Lexington, Virginia, a daughter of Albert Franklin and Mary E. (maiden name unknown). During or immediately after the Civil War the family moved to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where Coralie attended the Normal Department at Storer College, graduating in 1872. She continued her education at Storer and graduated from the Academic Department in 1880. A gifted elocutionist she was described by John Wesley Cromwell, on a visit to Harper's Ferry in 1877, as “an elocutionist of grace, skill and power” (Journal of Negro History, July 1923). Franklin went on to attend Emerson College in Boston, the Shoemaker School of Oratory in Philadelphia, and the Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute of Oratory in Massachusetts. Franklin then returned to West Virginia and her alma mater, where she taught elocution at Storer College from 1882 to 1893 ...

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Leigh Fought

Helen Pitts was born in Honeoye, New York, the daughter of the white abolitionists Gideon and Jane Wills Pitts. Her father began working with the renowned abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass in 1846. Thus, from an early age Helen knew of Douglass and his work. Her parents, wealthy enough to pursue their progressive ideals, ensured that she and her sisters, Eva and Jane, received a better education than most girls of the era. Although few institutions of higher learning accepted women students, Eva attended Cornell and Helen and Jane both attended Mount Holyoke College. Helen graduated in 1859.

Reconstruction offered Helen the opportunity to combine her education with her activism. She moved to Norfolk, Virginia, to teach in a school for freed slaves in 1863 The swampy climate there took its toll on her health and the violent hostility faced by the African American ...

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Rayford W. Logan

Born in Queens County, Long Island, New York, Garnet was the first of eleven children of Sylvanus and Annie (Springfield) Smith, both of mixed Native American and black ancestry. Her parents were landholders and successful farmers. During her childhood there were public schools in New York City, but there seem to have been none on Long Island. For that reason Sarah received her early education from her paternal grandmother, Sylvia Hobbs. At the age of fourteen Sarah began studying in and around New York City at normal schools (training schools for teachers), the first of which was established about 1853. She taught in an African Free School established by the Manumission Society in Williamsburgh, which later became a part of Brooklyn. On April 30, 1863, Garnet became the first black woman to be appointed principal in the New York public school system. Violinist Walter ...

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Elizabeth L. Ihle

educator and suffragist, was born Minisarah J. Smith in Queens County, New York, the daughter of Sylvanus Smith and Ann Eliza Springsteel, farmers who were of mixed Native American, black, and white descent. Although Garnet's great-grandmother had established a school that her father attended, little is known about Garnet's own early schooling other than that she was taught by her father. However, she was a teacher's assistant at age fourteen with a salary of twenty dollars per year while she studied at various normal schools in the Queens County area. By 1854 Garnet (known as Sarah) was teaching in the private African Free School in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. In 1863 she became the first African American principal appointed by the New York Public School System, serving at the all-black P.S. 80 from her appointment until her retirement in 1900.

The annual closing exercises at Garnet ...

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Steven J. Niven

educator, journalist, and feminist, was born Sarah E. C. Dudley in New Bern, North Carolina, one of the nine children of Edward Dudley, a politician, and Caroline Dudley, a teacher, whose maiden name is unknown. Both of Sarah's parents had been born in slavery, but both had learned to read and write and were determined that their daughter should learn to do so at the earliest opportunity. Alongside her mother-in-law—for whom Sarah had been named—Caroline Dudley began educating Sarah in her home, teaching the child how to read and write by the time she was six. As a Republican representative in the North Carolina state legislature from 1870 to 1874 Edward Dudley worked to make such opportunities available to all black children as well as his own daughter By the time Sarah was of school age the legislature had established a new graded public ...

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Vivian Njeri Fisher

political and civil rights activist, suffragist, and educator, was born free in Charleston, South Carolina, as Katherine Euphrosyne Rollin, the third daughter of William Rollin, wood factor, and Margarette, housekeeper. Her mother's maiden name is unknown. Family and friends referred to her as Katie. Rollin and her parents were listed as mulatto in the 1850 U.S. census. Her parents wanted their four daughters to have a fine education. A law passed in 1834 in Charleston, however, “prohibited the maintenance of schools by and for free people of color and slaves.” As a result of this legislation, free blacks were forced to find other ways to educate their children (Holt, 53). Like her older sisters Frances Rollin and Charlotte Rollin Katie was privately tutored and she attended private schools in Charleston She also enrolled in secondary schools in Boston and in ...