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Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

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Michele Valerie Ronnick

linguist, missionary, sociologist, and college teacher and administrator, was born in Anomabu in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). His father, Kodwo Kwegyir, traced the family lineage to Carthaginian times. His mother, Abna Andua, was his father's third wife, and James was one of seventeen children. He was baptized in 1883 and a few years later the Reverend Dennis Kemp, a Wesleyan missionary, transferred him and a group of other students to Kemp's Mission House for schooling. Aggrey then went to the Wesleyan Centenary Memorial School. There the gifted student and natural teacher traded lessons in Fanti for those in Latin and French. He would later tell his nephew in 1912 that he had ranked first in everything in school including Greek and Latin After becoming an assistant teacher he often lectured to the lower grades about Caesar s Gallic campaigns and was said to have ...

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Darshell Silva

oral historian and centenarian, was born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to parents who were slaves brought to the United States from Barbados. She was moved to Dunk's Ferry in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when she was ten years old to be with her master, of whom no information is available. There Alice lived as a slave, collecting ferry fares for forty years of her life.

Alice was a spirited and intelligent woman. She loved to hear the Bible read to her, but like most other enslaved people she could not read or write. She also held the truth in high esteem and was considered trustworthy. Her reliable memory served her well throughout her long life.

Many notable people of the time are said to have made her acquaintance like Thomas Story founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane which was the precursor to ...

Article

James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...

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R. Conrad Barrett

Numidian author and orator was born a citizen of Rome in c 125 CE in the town of Madauros in the province of Africa an area that had become Roman territory in 146 BCE His home town was 140 miles 225 kilo meters southwest of ancient Carthage the site of the modern city of Tunis Perhaps as a child Apuleius learned first the native Berber dialect certainly he heard Greek in his home and outside it as well as the language of all government Latin This language became Apuleius s major one he had it seems a solid but not equal facility in Greek After schooling in Carthage the major city of the province Apuleius traveled to Athens Greece for further study where he studied rhetoric and philosophy to learn more especially about the thought of Plato He then went to Rome for more education in rhetoric all of it ...

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Clarissa Zimra

Famous as the author of The Metamorphoses, the first work of Latin literature to have survived unscathed, Lucius Apuleius was born in a well-to-do family around 125 c.e. in Madaura, a provincial town on the Tunisian edge of Rome’s Africa Proconsularis. By the time he had finished his proper education as a subject of empire, first in Carthage, then in Athens, the young Numidian could write elegant Greek and Latin. Widely traveled, he practiced law in the courts of Rome, then Carthage, where he died around 180 c.e. Most know this long prose narrative as The Golden Ass a title bestowed centuries later by yet another son of Africa Augustine bishop of Hippo Eleven books long it was modeled on the Greek Romance form The Renaissance admired its salacious wit praised its fall and redemption theme and imitated its Chinese box plots Bocaccio plundered it for ...

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Marinelle Ringer

journalist, author, and public speaker, was born Melba Joy Pattillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, the daughter of Howell “Will” Pattillo, a hostler's helper for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and Dr. Lois Marie Peyton Pattillo, a junior high school English teacher who was among the first African Americans to attend the University of Arkansas (graduating in 1954). In 1957, spurred by the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, mandating public school desegregation, Beals, at the age of fifteen, became one of the first African American students—later known as the “Little Rock Nine”—to enroll in Central High School, then Arkansas' finest high school.

Prior to 1957 Beals s deepest anguish had been her parents divorce when she was seven She found solace in the hours she spent with her cherished grandmother India Anette Peyton while her mother worked and studied and ...

Article

Richard Sobel

track-and-field athlete, motivational speaker, and activist for youth, was born Robert Alfred Beamon in Jamaica, New York, to Naomi Brown Beamon and a father he never met. After his mother died from tuberculosis before Beamon's first birthday, his stepfather, James, assumed parental responsibility for Robert and his older, disabled brother Andrew. Robert's grandmother, Bessie Beamon, ultimately took over their care as a result of James's inadequate parenting skills. Rarely supervised, Beamon ran away from home when he was fourteen and joined a gang. When he struck a teacher who had attempted to break up one of Beamon's fights, he was expelled and charged with assault and battery.

Beamon's life might have become a tragedy if it weren't for a judge who was “thoughtful, compassionate, and obviously interested in helping kids” (Second Chances 3 The judge took a chance and allowed Beamon to attend an alternative school in ...

Article

Christine G. Brown

writer and editor, was born in 1890; his parents’ names and his birthplace are now unknown. Little is known of his early life and education. He married Thelma Johnson, with whom he had one daughter. Carter and his wife lived in New York City at the same address, 409 Edgecombe Avenue, from the 1940s until their deaths.

A devoted New Yorker, Carter was a prolific writer and speaker for civil rights, especially concerning jobs, housing, and public office. A committed member of the National Urban League, on 23 July 1928 he delivered a speech on employment and fair housing issues during Negro Week on the Common. In September of that year he took over the editorship of Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, the Urban League's in-house magazine, when Charles Spurgeon Johnson stepped down as editor With more than 10 000 subscribers when Carter took over the ...

Article

washboard musician, raconteur, and hobo, was born William Edgar Givens in the sawmill town of Dupont, Florida. His mother ran a “juke joint,” a tavern where the music and the liquor flowed. Little other information about his parents is available. As a boy, Givens would watch the dancing and listen to the music through a hole in the wall of his sleeping room. It was in this manner that he discovered rhythm. He practiced on buckets and pots around the house and gave little shows for his siblings and the neighborhood children.

At a young age, he was adopted by his preacher grandfather, who changed the boy's name to William Edward Cooke. He left his grandfather's home in 1917 and made his way to south Florida, working odd jobs, including clearing land for roads, among these the great Dixie Highway, U.S. 1. In 1931 he took to the ...

Article

Nicola Cooney

Hermes Fontes was born in Buquim, in the state of Sergipe, Brazil, a son of rural laborers. He was orphaned at an early age. A highly precocious child, he studied in his hometown and in Aracaju and made such an impression upon the governor of Sergipe that the governor took Fontes to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and sponsored his education in the humanities.

As a student Fontes was involved in journalism and literary pursuits, publishing his poetry in journals by the age of fifteen, and his first book, Apoteoses (1908), at age twenty. He continued to pursue journalism, working for the Diário de Notícias, became a civil servant, and took part in the civlilist campaign of Rui Barbosa, earning acclaim for his oratorical skills.

A greatly esteemed poet in his time his work is representative of a phase of transition in Brazil from Parnasianism ...

Article

Eugenie P. Almeida

elocutionist, journalist, and civic leader, was born in Chicago to the Reverend Byrd Parker, pastor of the Quinn African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Jane Janette Thomas. Her mother was one of the first black teachers in the Indianapolis public school system; she and Lillian's younger brother Charles T. Thomas died of tuberculosis in 1894.

In her youth Lillian worked at various jobs, including as a stenographer in Louisville, Kentucky. She moved to Indianapolis in 1886 and studied with Madame Hattie Prunk at the Indiana-Boston School of Elocution and at the Indianapolis Institute for Young Ladies. It was during this time that she developed her skills in dramatic reading and dialect. In 1888 she supported herself as a seamstress in her home. In 1891 she was one of the first Indianapolis blacks to take the civil service exam for a clerkship.

Also in 1891 ...

Article

Donald Yacovone

abolitionist and Episcopal minister, was born near Shoemakertown, New Jersey. Nothing else is known about his family background. Eloquent, forceful, and determined, Gardner earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues and congregants. The great black nationalist Martin R. Delany considered him a man of “might and talent” who compelled whites to “recognize and respect” African Americans (Christian Recorder, 29 Apr. 1880). Theodore Dwight Weld, a celebrated antislavery lecturer, considered Gardner one of the country's leading black orators, and in 1837 Gardner became the first African American to address an annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

He began his ministerial career in 1809 as an itinerant Methodist preacher visiting churches throughout the Chesapeake region The experience led him to condemn the institution of slavery and the colonization movement which aimed at the expatriation of free blacks to Africa His criticism of Methodist slaveholders especially ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, editor, public official, state legislator, and gifted orator, was born in Granville County, North Carolina, of unknown parents. Indeed, little is known for certain of his childhood. By some reports, he was born free; by others, he was freed from slavery in 1848, in connection with a trade apprenticeship. Decades later, in 1883, he listed himself in his legislative biographical sketch (Tomlinson, 70) as “self-educated,” although he may have studied at Oberlin College in Ohio as an adult.

In 1850 Harris still lived with his employer, Charles Allen, a white carpenter and upholsterer, near Oxford, North Carolina. He married Isabella Hinton in Wake County, North Carolina, on 3 December 1851 little is known of his wife and it is believed that they had no children Harris soon moved to Raleigh to open his own upholstery business but he left the ...

Article

Michelle Kuhl

Baptist minister and editor, was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to John and Matilda Johnson. He graduated from public school in Buffalo, New York, in 1868, and he was baptized in Toronto four years later. After graduating from normal school in 1874, he became a minister the next year. He moved to Washington, D.C., to attend Wayland Seminary, a school named after a northern abolitionist and backed by the American Baptist Home Missionary Society (ABHMS), a group of northern white Baptists intent on converting and ministering to the spiritual needs of freedmen. Johnson graduated with honors and won a prize for best orator in 1879. That year he was also ordained as a Baptist minister and became pastor at First Baptist Church in Frederick, Maryland. In 1881 the ABHMS appointed Johnson the General Missionary of an area that included Maryland Virginia West Virginia and ...

Article

William H. Holland and Lawrence E. Hamilton

activist, poet, orator, and teacher, was born in Old Cane Springs, a community in Madison County, Kentucky. He was the son of slave parents. His father was Washington Laine of College Hill, Kentucky, and his mother's maiden name was Amelia Elkins, of Clark County, Kentucky. Commonly addressed as “Mr. Laine,” he was always striving to improve the human condition. Although his focus was on improving the plight of blacks in America, his religious upbringing helped to make him a humanitarian for all races and ethnic groups. He was effective in influencing and partnering with white Americans to advance the overall quality of life for people wherever he spoke, visited, or lived.

In his youth he was studious and developed a love of reading and writing at an early age Even though he had chores to perform and was frequently needed to contribute financially to the ...

Article

Lois Kerschen

Russell Parrott was prominent in Philadelphia's black circles in the early 1800s. A lay reader at the historically important Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, Parrott became an assistant to the pastor in 1812. Parrot was a close ally of James Forten's, and these two members of the Philadelphia African Institution were both notable activists of their day.

Parrott saw the colonization of America as a desire for gain and believed that this greed had led to the slave trade. Parrott's writings were filled with vivid descriptions and strong phrases that illustrated the conditions of slavery. He decried the emotional scarring that resulted from the brutal capture of Africans and their voyage to America, the tragic separation of families, and the cruelty of the slaveholders. In 1812 in an address at the traditional New Year s Day celebration of the abolition of the slave trade Parrott expressed sympathy for ...

Article

Eric Gardner

Pillsbury was born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, to Oliver and Anna Smith Pillsbury. His ancestors had lived in New England since 1640. His father, a blacksmith, moved the growing family to Henniker, New Hampshire, in 1814 and took up farming. Pillsbury attended area schools and grew into his family's beliefs—temperance, abolition, and Congregationalism. After working as a farmhand and then moving to Massachusetts to work as a wagoner, Pillsbury returned to Henniker in 1832, joining the Congregational church there the following year.

Pillsbury studied at the Gilmantown Theological Seminary in New Hampshire between 1836 and 1838 and afterward completed a year at Andover Theological Seminary. He was licensed to preach and received an appointment at the Congregational church in Loudon, New Hampshire. Before beginning work in his congregation, Pillsbury spent two months as an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society—most often traveling with Nathaniel Rogers the editor ...

Article

orator, politician, and writer, was born in Greenview, Mississippi, the son of Emory Simmons, a principal of a black school in Hollandale, Mississippi, and Willie Murray. He grew up in Aberdeen, Mississippi, and worked for a time as Ohio senator Mark Hanna's office boy. In 1895 he entered Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, studying under Booker T. Washington, who had married Simmons's aunt, Margaret Murray Washington. After graduating in 1899, he took a job as a reporter for the Pensacola Daily News and a year later moved to the Washington, D.C., Record where he began his political involvement Simmons worked for a time as a teacher in Holly Springs Mississippi and once tried selling cigars but his ambitions lay in journalism and politics When his uncle offered him a teaching position at Tuskegee Institute Simmons declined replying I have been called ...

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Louis J. Parascandola and Camille Beazer

poet and lecturer, was born in Rossmoyne, Ohio, the daughter of John Henry Thompson and Clara Jane Gray, former slaves from Virginia. She was the sister of the poets Clara Ann Thompson and Aaron Belford Thompson. Priscilla attended school in Rossmoyne, near Cincinnati, and was tutored privately. She considered a career in teaching, and her love of learning is evident in her poem “Lines to an Old School-House.” However, ill health, perhaps tuberculosis, prevented her from pursuing this vocation. Instead Thompson devoted her energies to writing, publishing, and giving readings of her poetry. She also worked for her church, Zion Baptist, where she was a Sunday school teacher for many years. She never married but lived in Rossmoyne with her sister Clara and her brother Garland Yancey Thompson, who was a sculptor.

Thompson's first book of poems, Ethiope Lays (1900 is dedicated to Garland ...