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Eric Gardner

educator and journalist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the son of William Corbin and Susan, both Virginia-born former slaves. Corbin's parents eventually settled in Cincinnati to raise their family of twelve children. Corbin attended school sporadically because of economic circumstances (one of his classmates was John Mercer Langston), though his family emphasized education. In the late 1840s Corbin and his older sister Elizabeth moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where their father had family. Both lived with the Reverend Henry Adams, the pastor of the black First Baptist Church. Though the 1850 census takers listed him as a cook, Corbin taught at least some of the time in a school supported by Adams.

Thirsty for further education, Corbin traveled north to Ohio University, where he earned a BA in 1853 and an MA in 1856 He settled in Cincinnati worked as a bank messenger and steward gained prominence ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

sociologist, was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in what was then the British West Indies. His father, William Raphael Cox, was the captain and customs officer of a revenue schooner, a position that secured a modicum of social and financial security for his wife, Virginia Blake, and their five children. William Cox had five additional children with Oliver's stepmother, Louisa. Oliver's uncle, Reginald W. Vidale, the headmaster of St. Thomas Boys’ School in Port of Spain who later became a councilman and alderman, took primary charge of Oliver's early education and rearing.

He was a bright student, but he did not win one of St. Thomas's coveted scholarships to study in England. Because his father would only finance the education of his eldest son, Cox briefly attended a local agricultural college before securing a position as a clerk in a department store. In 1919 to ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Sheila Gregory Thomas

educator, civil rights activist, and author, was throughout his life a brilliant and forceful figure in the push for equal rights and the higher education of African Americans. He was born in Lexington, Virginia, the elder of two sons of William Lewis and Maria A. Gladman, both free persons. After the death of her first husband, his mother later married Henry L. Gregory, a minister, who supported the family as a laborer. Maria was one of eight offspring of Claiborne Gladman and Anna Pollard. The Gladmans were prominent members of Lynchburg, Virginia's community of free African Americans (Delaney and Rhodes, 2).

In 1859 eager to be free of the repressive Virginia environment Henry Maria and their young sons set out from Lynchburg for the Midwest primarily in order to assure a good education for their boys Residing temporarily in Indiana Illinois and Michigan ...

Article

Mary L. Young

educator, writer, and publisher, was born William Henry Harrison Tecumseh Zachary Taylor Holtzclaw in Roanoke, Alabama, the oldest of twelve children born to Jerry Holtzclaw, a farmer, and Addie Holtzclaw, a food preparer. Despite their poverty the Holtzclaw family had a strong craving for education. Although Holtzclaw's father had little education, he taught him the basic principles of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Knowledge of arithmetic enabled Holtzclaw to calculate his daily pay for picking cotton. Before he was old enough to attend school himself, Holtzclaw often followed his older sister to school, where he so impressed the teacher that he was invited to become a kind of honorary student. Much later, at his father's urging, Holtzclaw applied for admission to Tuskegee Institute and was accepted in 1889.

There he established a close relationship with Booker T. Washington the Institute s famed director and ...

Primary Source

The Reconstruction era was one of the most violent times in the history of the United States due in large part to Southern whites who waged a campaign of terror against newly freed blacks and their allies from the federal government Not only political institutions but also homes and schools were targets from the end of the war until the passage of the Ku Klux Klan Acts in 1871 under which the administration of Ulysses S Grant dispatched federal troops to repel the Klan and other violent groups Still the violence played a major role in the eventual disbanding of the Reconstruction initiatives setting the stage for generations of additional discrimination against Southern blacks The letter reproduced below illustrates the ongoing brutality of the time in it two freedmen plead for action after a teacher at the local school is assassinated in what they say is merely the latest violent ...

Article

Leandi Venter, Hannah Heile, and Micaela Ginnerty

a former slave who helped facilitate the establishment of the first African American school in Virginia, which allowed for the formation of a thriving African American community bearing his name. Odrick was born into slavery and owned by the Coleman family of Dranesville, a district of Fairfax County located in northern Virginia. Little was documented about his life as a slave. However, it is known that immediately following his post–Civil War emancipation, Odrick moved to Chicago, Illinois. While in Chicago, Odrick employed his abilities as a carpenter, a trade he mastered during his enslavement. After his time in Chicago, Odrick returned to Virginia.

Once in Virginia, Odrick married “Maria” Annie Marie Riddle, who had also been born into slavery and had belonged to the Todd family of Difficult Run in northern Virginia. With Maria, Odrick started a family beginning with John, his eldest son, followed by Frank, Thadeus ...

Article

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

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

Richard Smith

Advocate of black self‐improvement through industrial education. Born in Virginia to a slave mother and unknown white father, he founded the Tuskegee Institute in 1888. He made two visits to Britain, the first in early summer 1899 as part of a European vacation and speaking tour. He was impressed by technical and agricultural education in Britain, but shocked by social conditions in London's East End. During his visit he also gained greater insight into the effects of European rule in Africa, concluding that repatriation to Africa would not improve the lot of black Americans. His recollections of the trip also underline his conservatism, evident in an appreciation of British class deference and social order.

Washington's second visit, in 1910, was made as part of his mission to study the condition of the poor in Europe. He was accompanied by his secretary, the sociologist Robert Ezra Park and ...