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Ellen Nickenzie Lawson

teacher of freedmen, was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the daughter of John Stuart Stanley and Frances Griffith, teachers who ran an antebellum private school in New Bern that was patronized by free blacks from throughout North Carolina. The Stanleys, free blacks related to a prominent slave-owning family of the same name, identified with their African American community. As a youth, Sara corrected people who mistook her for a white woman by explaining, “I am a colored woman having a slight admixture of negro blood in my veins.”

Stanley was a pioneer for her gender and for her race in being an antebellum college student, studying at Oberlin College, Ohio, from 1852 to 1855 She left college before receiving her degree Many North Carolina free blacks emigrated to Ohio at this time because of persecutions in the South and this may have been why the entire ...