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Charles Lemert

Anna Julia Cooper is best known for her book A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892), a classic in the tradition known today as the woman of color standpoint in social theory. No one before, except perhaps Sojourner Truth, had so clearly defined what Cooper called “the colored woman’s office” in the moral politics of late-nineteenth-century America.

Anna Julia Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Hannah Stanley, a slave. Her white biological father, George Washington Haywood, was her mother’s owner. Of her biological father, Cooper once wrote: “I owe him not a sou and she [her mother] was always too shamefaced ever to mention him.” The child grew to carry herself with the mother’s sense of dignity and propriety.

Anna Julia s life began just before the outbreak of the American Civil War and ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

“Only the Black Woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.’” In this passage from her speech “Womanhood a Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race,” published in her 1892 work A Voice From the South: By a Black Woman of the South Anna Julia Cooper expresses one of her most important beliefs In her writings and speeches Cooper often argued that the status of the entire black race was dependent on the status of the women who run the homes and raise the children and that one of the best ways to elevate black women s status was to increase their educational opportunities As an activist and educator she spent most of her life simultaneously promoting these ideas and putting ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Eric Gardner

writer and educator, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to Daniel W. and Mary (sometimes listed as Margaret) Jane (Lewis) Gibson. Her father, who had been born in Virginia, and her mother, who had been born in the District of Columbia, were free African Americans who moved to the Cincinnati area in 1849 with their three children. Daniel Gibson worked as a barber and a porter in the years before the Civil War and was able to keep his growing family on the edges of the tiny black middle class in Cincinnati. In his Noted Negro Woman entry on Sarah Gibson, Monroe Majors wrote that her father was a man of unusual strength of intellect and will self reliant and well read and that her mother was a quiet and practical woman gentle firm and efficient pp 138 139 Sarah Gibson studied in a range of private ...

Article

June O. Patton

educator, was born in Macon, Georgia, the daughter of David Laney and Louisa (maiden name unknown). Both parents were slaves: they belonged to different masters, but following their marriage they were permitted to live together in a home of their own. David Laney was a carpenter and often hired out by his owner, Mr. Cobbs. Louisa, purchased from a group of nomadic Indians while a small child, was a maid in the Campbell household. One of Lucy Laney's most cherished memories was “how her father would, after a week of hard slave work, walk for over twenty miles … to be at home with his wife and children on the Sabbath” (The Crisis, June 1934 After the Civil War and emancipation David Laney who had served as a slave lay preacher was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and became pastor of the Washington Avenue Church ...

Article

Kathryn M. Silva

educator, textile mill supervisor, dressmaker, was born Gertrude C. Hood in North Carolina, the eldest daughter of four children to Sophia J. Nugent, of Washington, D.C., and James Walker Hood of Pennsylvania. Miller's father was a prominent bishop and educator in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church. Gertrude Hood Miller, also known as “Gertie,” spent her life in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Miller's mother, Sophia Nugent died in 1875. Two years after her mother's death, James Walker Hood married Keziah “Katie” Price McCoy of Wilmington, North Carolina. The couple went on to have more children, making Hood the eldest of eleven children (Martin, p. 41) Shortly after her birth, Miller's father moved the family to his new post with the Evans AMEZ Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Henry Evans, an African American pastor, built the church in 1796 and it became the ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

school teacher and domestic worker, is best known for a poignant and detailed autobiography that provides a window into daily life for the Americans who were stigmatized legally and socially, during the middle of the twentieth century, by their dark complexion.

Sarah Lucille Webb was born in Clio, Alabama, to Elizabeth (Lizzie) Janet Lewis Webb, a schoolteacher, and Willis James Webb, a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. In her early years she moved with her parents to Troy, Andalusia, Birmingham, Batesville, and Eufala, Alabama. As an itinerant minister ordained by a Methodist church, Reverend Webb was subject to reassignment to a new church at any annual conference, and every one to two years he had to move. The family supplemented his minister's salary by sharecropping cotton and corn and grew field peas, greens, and vegetables for their own use or for sale.

The family ...

Article

David Bradford

singer, pianist, arranger, teacher, writer, and assistant director of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to slave parents Simon Sheppard, a liveryman, and Sarah Hannah Sheppard, a domestic servant.

On 22 December 1871, ten African American students from Fisk University in Nashville—all but two former slaves—stood before the large, wealthy white congregation of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn and forever transformed American music. On a mission to raise money for their destitute school—formed by the American Missionary Association in 1866 to train black teachers the Jubilee Singers had struggled across the eastern United States performing choral arrangements of slave spirituals to small and largely uncomprehending white audiences On the verge of defeat the group was invited to sing at Plymouth Church by its pastor Henry Ward Beecher the most influential religious figure in America Beecher and his congregation were ...

Article

Born a Georgia slave, Susie Baker King Taylor was quite young when an arrangement was made sending her to live with her grandmother in Savannah. She learned to read and write from two white children, even though doing so was illegal prior to the American Civil War. When war broke out Taylor moved with her uncle's family to the Sea Islands of South Carolina. The Union Army, fighting for these islands, pressed her into service as a teacher of freed slave children and adults. Soon after, the men in her family joined the Union's First South Carolina Infantry, and she traveled with them as a nurse and laundress. In 1862 she married one of the regiment's sergeants, Edward King. In her memoir, A Black Woman's Civil War Memoirs she recounted the events of her life in camp with the regiment She is the only black woman known ...

Article

Nina Davis Howland

government official, was born in New York City, the daughter of James S. Watson, the first black elected judge in New York, and Violet Lopez. After receiving her BA from Barnard College in 1943, she served as an interviewer with the United Seaman's Service in New York from 1943 to 1946; as owner and executive director of Barbara Watson Models, a modeling agency, from1946 to1956; as a research assistant for the New York State Democratic Committee, from 1952 to 1953; as a clerk at the Christophers, a nonprofit Catholic organization in New York, from 1956 to 1957; and as foreign student adviser at Hampton Institute in Virginia, from 1958 to 1959.

Watson, who was honored as “the most outstanding law student in the City of New York,” received an LLB from New York Law School in 1962 graduating third highest in ...