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Charles Rosenberg

the first man of African descent to be ordained an Episcopal priest in a southern U.S. diocese, pastored churches in Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, and New York. He was born in Barbados and first came to the United States in 1864 as an agent of the Barbados Company for Liberia, seeking assistance from the American Colonization Society. That November he arrived in New York aboard the bark Montezuma and proceeded to Washington, D.C.

Atwell's origin and youth in Barbados remain undiscovered. The names Atwell and Sandiford are both common in early-nineteenth-century records from the island. His age on arrival is listed in passenger records as thirty-five, which suggests that he was born shortly before all enslaved persons in the British Empire were formally emancipated in 1833 No Joseph of the right age belonging to anyone named Atwell has so far been identified in the slave returns filed with British colonial ...


Theodore Kornweibel

Robert Wellington Bagnall was born into a middle-class family in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of an Episcopal priest, Robert Bagnall, and his wife, Sophronia Harrison Bagnall. Educated at Bishop Payne Divinity School in Virginia, young Bagnall was ordained a priest of the Episcopal Church in 1903 and served pastorates in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio. In 1911 he moved to St. Matthew's Church in Detroit, Michigan, where he increased membership and finances and abolished the rented pew system. Although it was not a working-class congregation, the church began to orient itself toward the problems of adjustment of the increasing stream of migrants from the South.

Church prominence catapulted Bagnall into civil rights leadership. In 1911 he joined a local protest group and soon reorganized it as a branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP He spearheaded efforts to persuade the Ford ...


Frederick V. Mills

George Freeman Bragg, Jr., was born in Warrenton, North Carolina, the son of George Freeman Bragg and Mary (maiden name unknown). He was two years old when the family moved to Petersburg, Virginia, where he studied at the elementary school and at St. Stephen's Parish and Normal School. His family helped found St. Stephen's Church for Negroes in 1867. At age six he was employed as a valet by John Hampden Chamberlayne, editor of the Petersburg Index. In 1879 he entered a school founded by Major Giles B. Cooke, a former chaplain on Robert E. Lee's staff, that had become a branch of Virginia Theological Seminary. The next year he was suspended for not being “humble” but was appointed a page in the Virginia legislature by the Readjuster party. After a severe case of typhoid fever and a period of teaching school in 1885 ...


Frederick V. Mills

Episcopal clergyman, was born in Warrenton, North Carolina, the son of George Freeman Bragg Sr. and Mary Bragg (maiden name unknown). He was two years old when the family moved to Petersburg, Virginia, where he studied at the elementary school and at St. Stephen's Parish and Normal School. His family helped found St. Stephen's Church for Negroes in 1867. At age six he was employed as a valet by John Hampden Chamberlayne, editor of the Petersburg Index. In 1879 he entered a school founded by Major Giles B. Cooke, a former chaplain on Robert E. Lee's staff; the school had become a branch of Virginia Theological Seminary. The next year he was suspended for not being “humble” but was appointed a page in the Virginia legislature by the Readjuster Party. After a severe case of typhoid fever and a period of teaching school in 1885 ...


Eric Gardner

minister and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the six surviving children of Joseph and Amy Matilda (Williams) Cassey. The Casseys were both part of Philadelphia's black elite and politically active. Joseph Cassey, a barber, wig manufacturer, and moneylender who sometimes partnered with the black abolitionist and reformer Robert Purvis, had come to Philadelphia from the West Indies in the first decade of the nineteenth century, built a successful business, bought real estate, retired as a gentleman in 1840, and left an estate worth perhaps $75,000 when he died in 1848. Amy Cassey was the daughter of New York Episcopal priest Peter Williams Jr., for whom Peter Cassey was named; she married Charles Lenox Remond two years after Joseph Cassey's death. Joseph served as an agent for William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist paper Liberator and Amy was active in the Philadelphia Female Anti ...


Amos J. Beyan

Crummell was born March 1819, the son of Charity Hicks, a freeborn African American woman and a resident of Long Island, New York, and Boston Crummell, an emancipated African from the Temne ethnic group of what became known as Sierra Leone in West Africa. Although the conditions under which he became emancipated have not been documented, it has been maintained that Crummell’s father gained his freedom by escaping his owner when he became an adult in New York. The family thereafter established a small oyster store in the black section of New York. Despite the fact that they had limited means and lacked formal education, Crummell’s parents decided to enroll him in the Mulberry Street School and further employed qualified individuals to tutor him.

Following his basic education Crummell together with his black colleagues Thomas Sidney and Henry Highland Garnet went to Canaan New Hampshire to study at Noyes ...


Alexander Crummell was the son of Boston Crummell, a self-emancipated black born in Africa, and Charity Hicks, an African American whose family had lived free in the United States for several generations. Crummell received his early education at New York's African Free School and at Canal Street High School, both operated by African American clergymen. In 1835 Crummell and several other teenagers enrolled in a new academy for black students in Canaan, New Hampshire, but angry whites destroyed the school soon after it opened. He completed his secondary education at the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York. Run by black and white abolitionists, Oneida combined studies of the classics with manual labor—a simultaneously intellectual and practical approach to life that Crummell would employ the rest of his years.

Graduating from Oneida in 1839 Crummell applied to the General Theological Seminary in New York City with ...


Wilson J. Moses

clergyman, activist, and Pan-Africanist, was born in New York City, the son of Charity Hicks, a freeborn woman of Long Island, New York, and Boston Crummell, an African of the Temne people, probably from the region that is now Sierra Leone. Boston Crummell had been captured and brought to the United States as a youth. The circumstances of his emancipation are not clear, but it is said that he simply refused to serve his New York owners any longer after reaching adulthood. Boston Crummell established a small oyster house in the African Quarter of New York. Alexander Crummell received his basic education at the African Free School in Manhattan. In 1835 he traveled to Canaan, New Hampshire, along with his friends Thomas Sidney and Henry Highland Garnet to attend the newly established Noyes Academy but shortly after their arrival the school was destroyed by local residents angered by ...


Elizabeth J. West

Born in New York City to Charity and Boston Crum-mell, Alexander grew up in a family that placed great emphasis on freedom, independence, and education. Although his parents had not experienced the privilege of a formal education, they placed Alexander in the Mulberry Street School and hired additional private tutors for him. When Crummell decided to enter the priesthood, he applied for entry into the theological seminary of the Episcopal Church. According to Crum-mell's own account in his 1894 retirement address, “Shades and Lights”, the admissions board denied his application because its policy was to exclude blacks from positions in the church hierarchy. Crummell was then forced to study privately with sympathetic clergy. These early studies shaped the stoic and methodical style that remained evident throughout his long career as writer and orator. Although he was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1844, it was not until 1847 ...


Zachery R. Williams

Alexander Crummell was born in New York City, the son of Boston Crummell, said to have been an African prince, and a free mother (whose name is unknown). Crummell, one of the most prominent black nationalist intellectuals and ministers of the nineteenth century, strongly believed that the combination of Christianity and education would elevate blacks in America and Africa to a high level of civilization and prominence as a race. As a youth, Crummell came under the influence of the Reverend Peter Williams Jr., a staunch supporter of back-to-Africa movements. Prior to the Civil War, Crummell was a major supporter of African colonization. Ironically, however, his earliest success as an orator was as an opponent of the American Colonization Society.

Crummell spent the years 1853 to 1872 in Liberia with his family and became a citizen of the country Upon his arrival there he worked as a missionary ...


Frank E. Dobson

pioneering scholar, religious thinker, and black nationalist leader. Alexander Crummell was born in 1819 in New York City to Boston Crummell, a former slave, and Charity Hicks Crummell, a freeborn black woman. Crummell's father was taken from Sierra Leone at age thirteen and sold into slavery in America. Crummell's parents were members of a group known as “Free Africans,” and they were activists in the movement to abolish slavery, as well as in other social-uplift efforts for blacks. John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish, the editors of the first black newspaper, Freedom's Journal (1827), were associates of Boston Crummell and met regularly within the Crummell home. Alexander Crummell was educated at the African Free School—alumni of which included Henry Highland Garnet and Ira Aldridge—and at the Canal Street High School run by Peter Williams a black clergyman and abolitionist who became a ...


Kathryn L. Beard

the rector of Detroit's St. Matthew's Protestant Episcopal Church and anti-union labor recruiter for Ford Motor Company, was born in St.-Thomas, Danish Virgin Islands, of middle-class parents, about whom little is known. His father was a Danish-speaking white man and his mother, Clementina, a black woman from the British colony of St. Kitts. Daniel was bilingual and considered Danish his first language. St. Thomas had a tradition of liberal education of slaves and free blacks and Daniel, considered a brilliant student, would benefit from the educational policies of the colony. He emigrated from St. Thomas in 1892 to New York to complete his education and his mother followed a year later. Daniel became an American citizen in 1901, twenty-six years before the United States purchased the Danish Virgin Islands.

Daniel attended St Augustine College in Raleigh North Carolina where he received his BA and then moved to New ...


Leslie R. James

was born on 22 February 1876 on the island of St. Thomas in the then Danish West Indies, now the US Virgin Islands, to Joseph Daniel, a white Dane, and Clementina Caines Daniel, a black woman from St. Kitts.

In 1892 Daniel moved to the United States and attended St. Augustine College, a historically black institution in Raleigh, North Carolina, from which he graduated with a B.A. in 1899. He subsequently received both a B.S. and M.A. from New York University. He became a US citizen in 1901, and the following year he received a B.D. from the General Theological Seminary, New York. While a student at the Seminary, he was a postulant from the New York diocese. In 1903 he married Marcelline Mundy. The couple’s only child Langton was born that same year.

Following his initial seminary education, Daniel was ordained as a deacon (1902 ...


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 ...


Luke Nichter

Negro National League commissioner, longtime Harlem community activist, and ordained Episcopalian minister was born in Richmond, Virginia, to John Wesley and Harriet Howard Johnson.

Although Johnson was known primarily for his role as the last president of the Negro National League (NNL), he actually had little baseball acumen. In fact his sport of choice was basketball, and as a student-athlete at Columbia University in the early 1920s, he was one of the best basketball players of his day.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in Anthropology from Columbia College, Johnson studied at Union Theological and General Theological seminaries in Manhattan. Then in 1923 he became an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church, beginning a career of service in Harlem that spanned seven decades. In 1928 he founded St. Martin's Parish in Harlem and by the late 1940s had overseen the congregation s ...


Absalom Jones was born a slave in Sussex County, Delaware, on the plantation of a businessman and farmer. From a young age, Jones worked in his owner's house, where he received a basic education. During his teenage years, he moved with his master to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By day he worked in his master's store, and at night he continued his education in a school for blacks. In 1770 he married another slave, and in 1778 Jones bought his wife's freedom, with the help of his father-in-law and several members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Six years later he bought his own freedom.

Jones became active in St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church, a Philadelphia congregation where whites and blacks worshiped together. He eventually became a lay preacher at St. George's and met Richard Allen also a lay preacher The two men shared a lifetime of ...


Donald S. Armentrout

first black Protestant Episcopal priest, was born in Sussex, Delaware, the son of slave parents. He was a small child when his master took him from the fields to wait on the master in the house. Jones was very fond of learning and was very careful to save the pennies that were given to him by ladies and gentlemen from time to time. He soon bought a primer and would beg people to teach him how to read. Before long he was able to purchase a spelling book, and as his funds increased he began to buy books, including a copy of the New Testament. “Fondness for books gave me little or no time for amusements that took up the leisure hours of my companions” (Bragg, 3).

When Jones was sixteen his mother five brothers and a sister were sold and he was taken to Philadelphia by his master There ...


Scott A. Miltenberger

Jones was born a slave in Sussex, Delaware. At the age of sixteen he was sold to a store owner in Philadelphia; four years later he began attending the night school for blacks run by the Quaker and antislavery advocate Anthony Benezet. In 1770 he married a slave woman and fourteen years later, with the aid of her father, managed to purchase their freedom.

In Philadelphia, Jones gravitated to Saint George's Methodist Church, where together with Richard Allen he served as a lay minister for black congregants. In 1787 the two founded the Free African Society, a nondenominational black mutual aid society. Jones and Allen also developed the idea of a separate Methodist church for black Philadelphians. While Allen ultimately broke with the society over religious questions, Jones retained his affiliation. In 1793 Jones and Allen responded to Dr. Benjamin Rush s call to mobilize the black ...


Richard J. Boles

minister, teacher, missionary, and abolitionist, was born free in New York City during the spring of 1793. His parents and the circumstances of his childhood are unknown. Around 1800 Levington relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he spent most of his adolescence and worked in the bookstore of Sheldon Potter. There he became a friend and protégé of Sheldon's brother, Alonzo Potter, who eventually became the Episcopal bishop of Pennsylvania and who helped secure Levington's entry into the Protestant Episcopal ministry. In 1819 Levington moved to Albany, New York, under Potter's mentorship. Potter became a professor at Union College and he unofficially instructed Levington part-time there until he returned to Philadelphia in 1822 In Albany Levington was employed as a teacher in a school for African American children and he attended St Peter s Church It was likely through his teaching position that ...


Davison M. Douglas

civil rights and women's rights activist, lawyer, poet, writer, teacher, and Episcopal priest. Anna Pauline (Pauli) Murray was born in Baltimore in 1910, the fourth of six children of Agnes Fitzgerald Murray, a nurse, and William Murray, a schoolteacher. When Murray was three years old, her mother died of a cerebral hemorrhage and she was adopted by her mother's sister, Pauline Fitzgerald Dame, a schoolteacher in Durham, North Carolina. Dame took Murray to live with her in the Durham home of Murray's maternal grandparents, Robert and Cornelia Fitzgerald. Murray would see her father only one more time before his death. In 1923, while a patient at a mental hospital in Maryland, William Murray was murdered by a white hospital guard.

After graduating from a segregated high school in Durham Murray moved to New York City to pursue additional education away from the segregated South ...