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Belinda Cooper

Anton Wilhelm Amo, brother of a slave, was brought to Germany from the Gold Coast in 1707 as a gift from the Dutch West India Company to the Dukes August Wilhelm and Ludwig Rudolf von Wolfenbüttel. Although it was the fashion at the time in Europe to make blacks servants or clowns, the dukes raised and educated Amo as a nobleman. They then sent him to the university in Halle, where he became acquainted with Enlightenment thinkers such as Christian Wolff, Christian Thomasius, John Locke, and René Descartes. His first work, published in 1729 and now lost, concerned the rights of Africans in Europe. Amo received his doctorate in 1734 with a thesis on the duality of body and soul and made his mark as a lecturer in philosophy at the universities in Halle Wittenberg and Jena At a time when many Europeans ...

Article

Jacob Emmanuel Mabe

the first African and black professor and philosopher of the European Enlightenment, was born in the coastal Ghanaian town of Axim. The background of his travel to Europe can only be speculated about. It is only certain that Amo was given over to Herzog Anton Ulrich von Wolfenbuettel-Braunschweig in 1707 as a slave of the Dutch West Indies Company. At that time he could have been eight years old, because he was baptized on 29 July 1708 in Braunschweig. In addition to German, Amo could speak Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Dutch, and English.

In 1727, Amo entered the University of Halle, where he studied philosophy and law. On 28 November 1729, he presented his first disputation, De jure maurorum in Europa (On the Rights of Black Peoples in Europe which unfortunately remains lost In this work Amo acts as an advocate of the equality of all people ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

Latinphilologist, school administrator, and educational reformer, was born in Greenville, South Carolina, to Vincent Henry Bulkley and his wife Madora, freeborn African Americans. He was the couple's firstborn son, and as a child he saw his father make important contributions to the establishment of Claflin University in 1869 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He matriculated at Claflin in 1878 and graduated four years later on 6 June 1882. The school's catalog for the academic year 1881–1882 lists him as the only member of the senior class, and he and Nathaniel Middleton were among the first students that Claflin's college program produced. Prior to graduation he taught Greek, Latin, and German at his alma mater, and from 1886 to 1899 he held the title of professor. He served as secretary of Claflin's faculty in 1895, and from 1896 to 1899 was the school's vice president.

In ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

classical and modern philologist and university administrator, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Mary Ann Fennick Davis (1853–1892) and Prince Nelson Davis (1838–1910). After early training at the Avery Normal Institute in his hometown, Davis matriculated at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation he taught Greek and Latin at the Howard Academy from 1907 to 1911. In June 1911 he earned his M.A. from the department of Latin at the University of Chicago, with a forty-nine-page thesis titled “The Conditional Sentence in Terence” (1911) on the use of the conditional clause in the work of the African-born playwright Terence (fl. 170 bce). After returning to Howard, Davis served as associate professor of Greek and German from 1913 to 1919 and professor from 1919 on. By 1920 he was teaching courses on Demosthenes and Euripides as well as Goethe Lessing ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

professor of ancient Greek, philologist, ordained Methodist minister in the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, and missionary to the Congo, was born in Hephzibah, Georgia, not far from Augusta, to Gabriel and Sarah Gilbert. His parents were field hands, and scholars are not certain whether John was born free or enslaved. Some sources give his birth date as 6 July 1864. As a child he was eager to learn, but he had to mix long hours of farm work with brief periods of school. At last overwhelmed by poverty he was forced to withdraw from the Baptist Seminary in Augusta. After a three-year hiatus from schooling he resumed his work when Dr. George Williams Walker, a Methodist pastor who had come to Augusta to teach in 1884, and Warren A. Candler pastor of Augusta s St John Church offered him assistance With the help ...

Article

Donna Tyler Hollie

educator, author, editor, and first professional African American classical scholar, was born in Macon, Georgia, the only survivor of three children of Jeremiah Scarborough, a railroad employee, and Frances Gwynn, a slave. His enslaved mother was permitted by her owner, Colonel William de Graffenreid, to live with her emancipated husband. Jeremiah Scarborough was given funds to migrate to the North by his emancipator, who left $3,000 in trust for him should he decide to move to the North. Not wanting to leave his enslaved wife and son, he chose to remain in Macon. According to the Bibb County, Georgia, census of 1870, he had accumulated $3,500 in real property and $300 in personal property.

The Scarboroughs were literate and encouraged their son s academic development They provided a variety of learning experiences for him they apprenticed him to a shoemaker and ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

William Sanders Scarborough was the son of Frances Gwynn (d. 1912) and Jeremiah Scarborough (d. 1883). His mother was born in Savannah around 1828, and came to Macon about the age of twenty. Of Yamacraw Indian, Spanish, and African descent, she was the slave of Colonel William de Graffenreid (1821–1873) who was general counsel to the Southwestern and Central railroads in Macon. DeGraffenreid was a descendant of the founder of New Bern, North Carolina, the Swiss Baron Christopher DeGraffenreid (1691–1742). Scarborough's father was born near Augusta around 1822. He had obtained his freedom some time before and was employed by the Georgia Central Railroad in Savannah. DeGraffenreid allowed Frances to marry Jeremiah, and permitted the couple to live in their own home on Cotton Avenue. Scarborough became their sole focus, when his siblings, John Henry and Mary Louisa died as small ...

Article

Mathias Hanses

Howard University professor of five decades, international authority on blacks in the ancient Mediterranean, and “dean” of African American classicists, was born in York County, Virginia, the son of Alice (née Phillips) and Frank Martin Snowden Sr., a War Department employee. The transatlantic turmoil of the 1910s swept the Snowdens from the rural South to Boston, Massachusetts. In 1917, the year the United States entered World War I, they joined increasing numbers of southern blacks who migrated to the brimming industrial centers of the North as military production needs peaked. For the Snowdens, at least, the move to New England was a success. Later in life, Frank Junior did not recall experiencing any discrimination as he grew up in racially diverse Roxbury, Massachusetts.

In 1922 Frank passed the entrance examination to the highly selective Boston Latin School The institution rigorously discarded those whose performance was considered subpar ...

Article

Edward F. Sweat

The only son of Nathan and Catherine Tillman, Nathaniel Patrick Tillman, Sr. was born on January 17, 1898, in Birmingham, Alabama. Tillman's parents died when he was still a boy, and he was reared by his grandmother. He received his B.A. degree in 1920 from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. On September 13, 1920, Tillman married Mattie V. Reynolds. Two children were born from that union: Nathaniel P., Jr., who later became a well-known educator, and Virginia, later Mrs. Whatley. After spending two years as a teacher at Alcorn College in Mississippi, Tillman returned to Atlanta in 1924 and spent the remainder of his academic career there.

Tillman earned both his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin, in 1927 and 1940, respectively. He also studied at the University of Oxford in England in the summer of 1934 and ...

Article

Eric J. Morgan

English philologist and writer, was born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien on 3 January 1892 in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State, then an independent Boer republic in present-day South Africa. Tolkien’s mother and father, Mabel and Arthur, left their home in England after Arthur received a promotion to manage the office of his employer, Lloyd’s Bank, in Bloemfontein. After his birth in 1892, Tolkien lived in the frontier town of Bloemfontein with his family for three years. At one point during his brief childhood stay in South Africa, Tolkien was bitten by a spider in the family’s garden, an event that some critics, despite Tolkien’s claims that he had no memories of the incident, point to as a possible early inspiration for portions of his fictional work, particularly the giant spiders Ungoliant, Shelob, and their descendents in the forests of Mirkwood.

Tolkien left South Africa when he ...