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William C. Hine

clergyman and politician, was born to free parents in Greenbriar County, Virginia (now West Virginia). In 1831 his family moved to Gallipolis, Ohio. Cain was educated at local schools and worked on an Ohio River steamboat before being licensed to preach in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1844. Complaining of racial discrimination in the church, he resigned and joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Assigned a pulpit in Muscatine, Iowa, he was ordained a deacon in 1859. He returned to Ohio and in 1860 attended Wilberforce University. From 1861 to 1865 he served as pastor at Bridge Street Church in Brooklyn, New York, and was elevated to elder in 1862. He participated in the 1864 national black convention in Syracuse, New York, that advocated abolition, equality before the law, and universal manhood suffrage. Cain married Laura (maiden name unknown), and they adopted a daughter.

In 1865 ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

merchant, public official, religious leader, and longtime state legislator, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the eldest son of free, mixed-race parents John Cail (Cale) and Elizabeth Mitchell, a homemaker, who were married in 1827. His father worked as a miller, later as a fisherman, and moved his large family—as many as nine children—to Edenton in nearby Chowan County in the 1850s. Little is known of Hugh Cale's early life or education, although he had learned to read and write by the end of the Civil War.

After the Union army occupied much of northeastern North Carolina in early 1862, Cale began working as a manual laborer for federal installations at Fort Hatteras and Roanoke Island. In 1867 he moved to Elizabeth City North Carolina where he commenced a singularly successful career as a grocer and held a number of local offices during and after ...

Article

Barbara A. White

fugitive slave, Baptist minister, and abolitionist leader on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, was born the son of his wealthy white owner and Mary, one of his father's slaves on a plantation in Virginia. No account has been found yet which reveals his father's name or how James Crawford himself was named. Though stories about how and when he escaped slavery are in conflict, all of them agree that his white half brother broke his promise to their dying father to free Crawford. Instead, Crawford was sent into the fields to work. His obituary in the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror claimed that he escaped the first time by running to Florida to live among the Seminole Indians for two years as a preacher The same account claimed that his half brother then the master of the plantation spent a fortune to recapture him and then strung him up by the thumbs ...

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Eric Gardner

African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, activist, and Freemason, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Robert and Hannah Dickson. Little is known of his youth. His Virginia-born parents died before he reached adulthood, though he was able to attend school for a time and learned barbering. Accounts of Dickson's early adulthood blend myth and revolutionary promise; the root of most such accounts appears to be anonymous reports included in late-nineteenth-century black Masonic and neo-Masonic ritual books that were either written or influenced heavily by Dickson. These reports claim that Dickson found work aboard a steamer in his late teens, traveled across the South, saw the horrors of slavery, and began raising a hidden army of slaves awaiting his call to revolt. The army supposedly grew as Dickson interacted with free blacks in the Midwest, which he reportedly traversed between 1844 and 1846 By the 1850s there were supposedly several ...

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Eric Gardner

activist and educator, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Nothing is known of his parentage or youth. He was probably the James Gilliard listed in the 1860 Federal Census of Stockton, California; if this is the case, he was a barber, his wife was named Charlotte (c. 1835– ?), and had a step-daughter, Mary E. Jones (c. 1848– ?). In the late 1860s Gilliard worked as a teacher and sometime-minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and spent time in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. He wrote several short pieces for the San Francisco Elevator—sometimes under his full name and sometimes using simply “J. E. M.”—and was noted by the editor Philip Bell as one of the weekly's best contributors (along with Thomas Detter and Jennie Carter). Gilliard was even occasionally noted as the paper's “associate editor.”

Gilliard lectured throughout California in 1870 ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and grand master of the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, was born in Kennet Township, Pennsylvania, the son of Levi Hood and Harriet Walker. James and his eleven siblings lived so close to the Delaware border, where most blacks were still enslaved, that he could say he “slept in Pennsylvania and drank water from a Delaware spring” (Martin, 23–24). Levi Hood was a minister of the Union Church of Africans in Delaware and used his small farm in Pennsylvania as a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves. Harriet Walker had been a member of Richard Allen's Bethel Church in Philadelphia, which in 1816 became the mother congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal AME Church Though not an ordained minister the public role that she played in her husband s church as an exhorter was unique ...

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Elizabeth A. Russey

Baptist minister and politician, was born a slave in Beaufort, South Carolina, to Jack and Dora (Pooler) Houston. His master, James B. Hogg, was a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia, and brought him to live in Savannah at an early age. Houston, raised as a house slave, was baptized at the age of sixteen on 27 June 1841 and became an active member of the First African Baptist Church in Savannah.

Houston hired out his own time in Savannah, earning fifty dollars per month as a carpenter and working as a butcher in a wholesale meat business. Sailors in the Marine Hospital in Savannah taught him to read and write while he was employed there. Houston married his first wife, whose name is unknown, in 1848. In addition to singing in his church's choir, Houston was appointed as a deacon 3 November ...

Article

farmer, miller, the first elected public official of African American descent in the state of Virginia, and the first and only African American representative to the House of Delegates for Lancaster County. Nickens was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, the youngest child of Armistead Stokalas Nickens Sr. and Polly Weaver Nickens. Armistead Sr. and Polly were wed on 21 January 1819 in Lancaster County, Virginia, and had two other children, Robert V. Nickens and Judith A. Nickens. The Nickens family had been free since the late seventeenth century, and several members of that family served in the American Revolution. Armistead's maternal grandfather, Elijah Weaver, was also a seaman during the Revolution.

Home schooled as a youth Nickens was taught to read and write by his father and went on to further self study with books he purchased on his own Armistead lost his father as ...

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Baptist minister, educator, and independent political leader, was born into slavery in North Carolina. Pattillo's father was a white farmer, his mother a black slave. During Reconstruction Pattillo drove wagons and worked in a sawmill factory to support his mother in Granville County, North Carolina. At the age of seventeen Pattillo joined the General Association of the Colored Baptists of North Carolina to expand the black-led church, which only after Emancipation had become a visible institution in the South. In 1870 he met and then married Mary Ida Hart, who came from an antebellum free African American family in an adjacent county. The couple, both of whose names appear on titles for land they purchased, went on to rear twelve children.

Having taught himself how to read and write, Pattillo received a permit to preach in 1874 and quickly gained a reputation as a convention ...

Article

Daniel W. Hamilton

Reconstruction politician, civil rights leader, and murder victim, was born free in Kentucky, the child of parents of mixed ethnicity whose names are unknown. When he was a child Randolph's family moved to Ohio, where he was educated in local schools. In 1854 he entered Oberlin College's preparatory department, before attending the college from 1857 to 1862. At Oberlin Randolph received instruction both in the liberal arts and at the college's theological seminary. Soon after graduation he was ordained as a Methodist Episcopal minister. During the Civil War Randolph served as a chaplain in the Twenty-sixth Colored Infantry, which was dispatched to Hilton Head, South Carolina, in 1864.

After the war ended in 1865 Randolph applied for a position with the Freedmen s Bureau He was not initially given an appointment but was instead sent to South Carolina by the American Missionary Association a ...

Article

Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave, minister, and author, was born at Brandon Plantation in Prince George County, Virginia, one of eighty-one slaves owned by Carter H. Edloe. The names of his parents are unknown. Randolph's father was a black slave-driver owned by George Harrison, whose plantation was adjacent to Edloe's. His mother was a slave and a devout Christian.

Randolph's father died when he was ten years old, leaving his mother with five children. Randolph's oldest brother, Benjamin, unsuccessfully tried to run away and was eventually sold to a Negro-trader, who sent him south to work on the cotton and sugar plantations. Randolph never saw him again. Randolph was a sickly child who, at the age of ten or eleven, felt he was called by God to preach to other slaves. He taught himself to read the Bible and, eventually, how to write. Edloe died in 1844 ...

Article

Reconstruction politician, minister, and a founder of Wiley College, was born a slave, probably in Arkansas. According to J. Mason Brewer in Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants (1935), Roberts was enslaved by O. B. Roberts of Upshur County, Texas. While his master served in the Confederate army, Roberts “was left at home to take care of the place, protect the property and the master's wife and family. He shod horses for the soldiers and others, and baked ginger cakes and sold them to help finance the upkeep of his master's home” (Brewer, 65–66). Roberts the “faithful slave” is memorialized in a 1964 historical marker in Upshur County; yet what the marker omits suggests that his outward docility may have been misleading. As Brewer further reports, in 1867 Roberts was whipped by the Ku Klux Klan and left for dead 66 Although more recent ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

minister and author, was born a slave in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the son of Fanny and Nathan Snowden, slaves belonging to Nicolas Harden and Ely Dorsey, respectively. John's maternal grandmother, Sarah Minty Barrikee, was stolen from a coastal African village in Guinea in 1767 or 1768. There she had a husband and child whom she never saw again. The Hardens were Catholic and introduced her to Christianity through their Catholic faith. Sarah regaled her children and grandchildren with stories about Africa and the traditions of her people until her death in 1823 or 1824. Thomas Collier a white Englishman was John s maternal grandfather Family lore has it that only the anti miscegenation laws of the period prevented them from marrying Little is known of John s paternal lineage except that his paternal grandfather was a slave named John Snowden and ...

Article

David H. Jr. Jackson

AME minister, Freemason, and Mississippi politician, was born in Maryland, but grew up in Ohio. He was described as a slightly heavy man of medium height with a light brown complexion. Although very little is known about his early life and family background, Stringer became a consequential political, religious, and fraternal leader. In tracing his career, one writer correctly surmised that wherever he went, “churches, lodges, benevolent societies, and political machines sprang up and flourished” (Wharton, 149).

Stringer joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and was ordained in the Ohio Conference in September 1846. He subsequently moved to Canada and organized the first branch of the AME Church there. After the Civil War ended in 1865 Stringer moved to Vicksburg Mississippi where he served as pastor of Bethel AME Church He was later appointed presiding elder and worked in that capacity until ...