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George Yancy

philosopher and first African American to receive a PhD in Philosophy in the United States, was born enslaved of enslaved parents, Thomas Chadwick Baker, a Civil War veteran, and Edith (Nottingham) Baker, on Robert Nottingham's plantation in Northampton County, Virginia. Edith was the daughter of Southey and Sarah Nottingham of Northampton County. Thomas Nelson Baker was one of five children.

Describing the influences on his early intellectual life, Baker remembered:

My mother taught me my letters although I well remember when she learned them herself My first reading lesson was the second chapter of Matthew the Bible being the only book we had I never read a bad book in my life which is one of the blessings I got by being poor I began to attend the common schools at eight and learned to love books passionately I used to read through my recesses Evenings I read the Bible ...

Article

Bairu Tafla

prominent Ethiopian church scholar, monastic head, and first Ethiopian archbishop and patriarch, was renowned for his chastity, his religious devotion, and his unflinching loyalty to Emperor Haile Selassie I rather than for his reforms and/or teachings.

Like most Ethiopian dignitaries, his early life is obscure. The available sources give different years ranging from 1877 to 1892 as his birth date. Similarly, a document of the Orthodox Churches Conference in Addis Ababa asserts that he stayed in exile in Jerusalem during the Italian invasion while Baʿeda-Maryam, who wrote a doctoral dissertation on his biography, asserts that he was a fugitive in his own country. There are also discrepancies in the dates of his early ordinations and appointments.

Son of Debtera (church precentor) Wolde Tsadeq Selomon and Emmet lady usually a widow Wolette Maryam Bayyu Gebre Giyorgis as Basilios was known before he became patriarch was born in the subdistrict of Metta ...

Article

David B. McCarthy

Presbyterian minister, educator, and womanist ethicist, was born in Concord, North Carolina, the daughter of Corine Emmanuelette Lytle, a domestic and Avon saleswoman, and Esau Cannon, a millworker, both of whom were elders in the local Presbyterian church. Cannon grew up with three sisters, three brothers, her parents, and her extended family in the Fishertown community, a part of the rural, segregated town of Kannapolis, North Carolina, the home of Cannon Mills. Her earliest work was as a domestic, cleaning the homes of nearby white mill workers. At the age of seventeen Cannon graduated from George Washington Carver High School and then enrolled at nearby Barber-Scotia College, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1971 with a BS in Elementary Education.

In August 1971 Cannon enrolled in Johnson C Smith Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center ITC in Atlanta where Dean James H Costen encouraged her ...

Article

David B. McCarthy

musician, educator, and prominent Presbyterian, was born Melva Ruby Wilson in Due West, South Carolina, one of five children of Azzie Lee Ellis Wilson and John Theodore Wilson Sr., both of whom were college graduates and teachers. Because the local black public schools were unaccredited, her parents sent her to a black boarding school, Harbison Junior College in Irmo, South Carolina, at the age of fourteen. Two years later, at the age of sixteen, she entered Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. There she met fellow student James Hutten Costen. She graduated with a BA in Education in 1952 and married Jim Costen the day before he graduated in 1953. They eventually had two sons and one daughter, James Jr., Craig, and Cheryl.

Costen taught elementary school in the Mecklenburg County school system from 1952 to 1955 the year her husband ...

Article

Don E. Walicek

was born on 16 May 1927 into a middle-class family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His father, Montrosier Dejean, was an accountant who served for a time as the nation’s minister of finance, and his mother, Maria Parisot, was a homemaker. After completing his early education in Haiti, Dejean moved to New England, where he studied theology and thereafter entered the priesthood. He later returned to Haiti and served as a parish priest of Port-Salut for almost a decade. There, as the linguist Arthur Spears (2010) notes, Dejean used Haitian Creole with parishioners and translated the four Gospels from Greek into Haitian Creole. These experiences motivated him to pursue a graduate degree in language and linguistics. He earned an M.A. in biblical Hebrew from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 He returned home shortly thereafter but the violence of the François Duvalier regime forced him into exile in Paris five ...

Article

David Michel

was born to peasant parents on 12 August 1929 in Haiti. He grew up in Port-au-Prince where he attended the Lycée Pétion, a high school named for Haitian president Alexandre Pétion (1770–1818). At the time, Creole, the mother tongue of all Haitians, was not considered a language. The future minister graduated from the local Episcopal seminary and studied sociology for one year at Wayne State University in Detroit. He was ordained a priest by the Episcopal Church of Haiti (ECH) in 1953, and married Marie Mathilde Joseph. Désir had two sons, Jean Marc and Roger Emmanuel.

Father Désir served several congregations before being appointed dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral, the largest Episcopal church in Port-au-Prince. In 1963 he resigned the deanery because he was reprimanded for preaching change within the Episcopal Church and Haiti At the time Désir s superior was Charles A Voegeli a ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

early Congolese Protestant, skilled translator, and author, was born to a Kikongo-speaking family in the town of Padwa, located in northern Angola. At a very young age, Dundulu became the ward of his powerful uncle Tulante Mbidi. Dundulu’s uncle was the chief of the village of Lemvo and a regionally renowned ivory and slave trader. This territory was under the domain of the Kongolese monarch Dom Pedro V, who brought the British Missionary Society minister William Bentley to Dundulu’s village in 1879 Bentley was trying to learn Kikongo and found Dundulu to be an excellent instructor With the consent of Tulante Mbidi and the Kongolese king Dundulu became Bentley s teacher and colleague He displayed his gift for language by quickly learning how to read and write Bentley called him Nlemvo after the name of his home village Bentley believed this word meant obedience in Kikongo but it later ...

Article

R. Baxter Miller

scholar and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James Stanley Dykes and Martha Ann Howard. Eva graduated from M Street High (later Paul Laurence Dunbar High School) in 1910. As valedictorian of her class, she won a $10 scholarship from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to attend Howard University, where in 1914 she graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English. After a year of teaching Latin and English at the now defunct Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, and for another year elsewhere, she was urged by James Howard, a physician and uncle on her mother's side, to enter Radcliffe College in 1916. Subsequently, she earned a second BA in English, magna cum laude, in 1917. Elected Phi Beta Kappa, she received an MA in English in 1918 and a PhD in English philology in 1921 Her dissertation was titled ...

Article

Dorsia Smith Silva

writer, educator, and preacher, was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Addie Mae Leonard, a teacher's aide. In 1990 Dyson was adopted by the auto worker Everett Dyson when Leonard married him. As a child, Dyson read avidly and enjoyed the Harvard Classics. His intellectual vigor earned him a scholarship to the prestigious Cranbrook Kingswood School in 1972. However, Dyson behaved poorly and was expelled in 1974. He then attended Northwestern High School and graduated in 1976.

In 1977, Dyson married his girlfriend, Terrie Dyson, who gave birth to Michael Eric Dyson II a year later. Due to the pressures of being a young couple, Dyson and his wife divorced in 1979. To help focus his life, Dyson became a licensed Baptist preacher in 1979 and ordained minister in 1981 with his pastor Frederick G. Sampson II s assistance He ...

Article

Raymond Pierre Hylton

minister, author, and educator, was born near Burgess in Northumberland County, Virginia, to Robert, a fisherman, and Maggie Ellison, a homemaker. Coming from an impoverished background, he received a rudimentary education and had to work at age fourteen as a farm laborer earning seven dollars per month. His first stroke of good fortune occurred in 1906 when he entered the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (later Virginia State College and still later Virginia State University) in Ettrick, Virginia. Getting into Virginia Union University in Richmond was not so easy; there was initial skepticism on the part of its president, Dr. George Rice Hovey, who saw no academic promise in the young man. In 1909 Hovey reluctantly admitted Ellison to the Wayland Academy (as Virginia Union's high school program was then called), and he then went on to the collegiate undergraduate program, graduating in 1917 ...

Article

Sterling Stuckey

folklorist and minister, was born in Society Hill, South Carolina, the son of Laurence Faulkner, a merchant and postmaster, and Hannah Josephine Doby, a midwife. The decade of his birth and earliest development was one of violent repression of blacks across the South, during which the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, propounded its “separate but equal” doctrine. The fact that both parents were enterprising contributed to a sense of security in William despite the brutal reality of night riders and Klansmen roaming the countryside. In addition, religion was a shield against hardship and a source of hope in his life. Raised in a Christian household, by age six he had taken John the Baptist as his hero.

By age nine, with the migration to Society Hill of the former slave and storyteller Simon Brown Faulkner was exposed to the artistic and spiritual qualities of ...

Article

David Michel

minister and historian, was born one of six children to Elijah John Fisher, a Baptist minister, and Florida Neely in Atlanta, Georgia. His father later pastored the Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago, where he had moved his family. The young Fisher grew up in Chicago but was sent to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College where he earned the BA in 1918. He was immediately ordained, but worked for the YMCA as camp secretary. Fisher married Ada Virginia Foster, with whom he would have six children.

In 1919 Fisher returned to Chicago to take over the International Baptist Church. One year later he moved to Racine, Wisconsin, to pastor the Zion Baptist Church. In 1921 he published a short biography of Lott Carey, a pioneer black Baptist missionary to West Africa. In 1922 Fisher earned the BD and thus became the first black graduate of Northern Baptist ...

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

Joseph A. Brown

Roman Catholic priest, liturgical scholar, and bishop, was born Wilton Daniel Gregory, in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Ethel Duncan and Wilton Gregory Sr. The maternal side of Gregory's family was part of the Great Migration of African Americans after World War I, arriving in Chicago from Oxford, Mississippi. Soon after their arrival in the North, Gregory's maternal grandmother and her sister were enrolled at St. Benedict the Moor Boarding School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, because their mother could not care for them and find work at the same time. While at St. Benedict the Moor, Gregory's grandmother, Etta Mae Duncan was baptized and received into the Roman Catholic Church Even though she was not a practicing Catholic in her later life she never lost her profound admiration and respect for the Catholic priests and nuns who provided her with a home and an education during ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

pastor, Latinist, linguist, Reformation scholar, and college president, was born in Urbana, Ohio. He was one of seven children born to David Leander and Karen Andrews Hill. Hill's father was the first African American police officer in Urbana. His mother was a housewife who was active in the community and a devoted member of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church, founded in 1824, held an important place in the African American community. For the young man, the church provided not only spiritual guidance but his Bible studies also provided him a rich source of intellectual stimulation.

In 1924 Hill matriculated at Wittenberg University which was founded under the auspices of the Lutheran church and located in Springfield, Ohio. He graduated with honors in 1928 Interested in religion he entered Hamma Divinity School now located in Columbus Ohio and sharpened his skills in Greek Latin ...

Article

Dismas A. Masolo

Kagame, philosopher, linguist, and historian, was born in 1912 in Kiyanza, Rwanda. A member of the traditional Tutsi royalty, Kagame was educated in the local minor and major seminaries there before being ordained into the Catholic priesthood in 1941. He later studied philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome, where he obtained his doctoral degree in 1955. He died in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 1981.

Abbe Kagame is best known for his monumental work, La Philosophie Bantu-Rwandaise de l’Etre, published in Brussels in 1956 by the Belgian Académie Royale des Sciences Coloniales (Belgian Royal Academy of Colonial Sciences), to which he had been elected as a corresponding member since 1950 in recognition of his earlier publications which mainly featured collections of literary and historical texts gathered from the oral traditions of Rwanda and marked his dedication to the study and preservation of local knowledge ...

Article

Danica Tisdale

religious leader, college founder, and historian, was born near Jackson, Tennessee, to Cullen Lane, a white slave owner, and Rachel, a slave woman. Although born to a white father, young Isaac, by custom and law, occupied the status of his mother and was thus raised a slave by Rachel and her husband Josh, a slave and field hand. Little is known about young Isaac's parents, and, in fact, his autobiography states that he “was reared almost motherless and fatherless having no parental care and guidance” (Lane, 47). Nevertheless he was a precocious child, eager to learn. At the age of eleven he assumed the surname of his white father.

In his formative years Lane began to educate himself and would eventually learn to read write and do math Denied the advantages of early training Lane was able to seize a blue black speller and through ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

philosopher, physician, and rabbinical scholar, was born around 1135 in that ornament of the world the city of Córdoba in Muslim controlled al Andalus In fact Maimonides would spend his whole life in lands under Muslim control mainly in Morocco and Egypt Also known as Rambam and Ibn Maymun he and his thought were fundamentally influenced by the Islamic and mainly Arabic speaking civilization in which he lived At the same time he had a profound knowledge of Jewish literature and scriptural commentary as well as Greek thought In this way Maimonides integrated the major historical and cultural traditions of the Mediterranean the Middle East and Africa Faced with powerful attacks on Judaism from Christian and Muslim scholars such as Petrus Alfonsi and Ibn Hazm attacks based on a use of Greek reason and logic Maimonides was able to respond with his own application of reason to Jewish theology ...

Article

Eric Gardner

minister and activist, was born in Berkley County, at that time a part of Virginia, later West Virginia, to Fannie Riedoubt, a free black woman who had been kidnapped into slavery, and an enslaved man surnamed Hodge. Sources vary as to his birthdate, citing from 1804 to 1818; Moore was one of the family's early owner's surnames. When Moore was six, his parents attempted to escape with their six children. They were captured, and four of the children were sold south. Moore, his brother William, and his parents finally escaped to Pennsylvania a few years later. Moore was bound out to an area farmer, in part because his parents' owner continued to pursue them. Moore did keep in contact with his parents, though, and as late as 1870 his mother was living with him.

Moore worked a variety of jobs and moved to Harrisburg as ...

Article

Mathias Hanses

classicist, Congregationalist preacher, and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the youngest child of Henry Moore and his second wife Rebecca (née Beasley). Louis would in his early years have witnessed the black community's enthusiasm toward such new freedoms as political participation. At the same time, he suffered the hardships besetting his family of twenty-eight in the transforming Deep South. Before Louis turned ten years old, his home state's race relations started slipping toward their “nadir.” Alabama endured Ku Klux Klan terrorism and voter intimidation; a “Redeemer” government rose to power in 1874 as black workers and sharecroppers fell into economic dependency on their former owners; and in 1876 federal Reconstruction efforts were sacrificed to political deal making which further impeded blacks access to polls and lecterns Still increasing numbers of African Americans came to ...