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Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, educator, and community worker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the eldest daughter of the abolitionist movement leaders William Still and Letitia George Still. In 1850William Still became the head of the Philadelphia Underground Railroad and Vigilance Committee. He would later chronicle his experiences in the best-selling 1872 account, The Underground Railroad.

After completing primary and secondary education at Mrs. Henry Gordon's Private School, the Friends Raspberry Alley School, and the Institute for Colored Youth, Anderson entered Oberlin College. Although she was the youngest member of the graduating class of 1868, Anderson presided over the annual Ladies' Literary Society, a singular honor that had never been awarded to a student of African ancestry.

After graduating from Oberlin, Anderson returned home to teach drawing and elocution, and on 28 December 1869 she married Edward A. Wiley a former slave and fellow ...

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Caroline DeVoe

businessman, landowner, farmer, and lynching victim, was born into slavery in Abbeville, South Carolina, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa, slaves on the plantation of Ben Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina. After Emancipation and Ben Crawford's death, his widow Rebecca may have bequeathed land to her former slave, Thomas, Anthony's father. Thomas continued to acquire land, and in 1873 he purchased 181 acres of fertile land from Samuel McGowan, a former Confederate general and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Crawford's “homeplace” was located in an alluvial valley, approximately seven miles west of the town of Abbeville. The rich land was flanked on the east by Little River and on the west by Penny Creek.

While Crawford's brothers worked the family farm Anthony was sent to school walking seven miles to and from school each day Seventeen year old Anthony was ...

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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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Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, farmer, public official, and three-term state legislator, was born a slave in Granville County, North Carolina, near the county seat of Oxford, to unnamed unknown parents. Little is known of his childhood, except that he received a limited education before the Civil War, probably because of his preferred status as the property, and possibly the son, of a prosperous white planter named Benjamin Crews. One account of Crews's early life says he was taken from his slave mother “at the age of two years and reared by a white family whose name he bore” (Edmonds, 102). He is also said to have attended both private and public schools in Oxford, where he grew up.

By 1870 Crews's education had enabled him to begin work as a schoolteacher in Oxford, even as he also ran his own farm and worked as a carpenter. Beginning in 1874 Crews embarked ...

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Michael J. Ristich

physician, editor, abolitionist, activist, and Reconstruction politician, was a native of Virginia who migrated to New Orleans, determined to fight the disenfranchisement of blacks. Nothing is known of Cromwell's upbringing and childhood except that he was born free. Educated in Wisconsin, Cromwell also spent time in the West Indies before settling in New Orleans in 1864. Cromwell was an outspoken proponent of black rights, known for employing controversial rhetoric, and was not averse to the idea of a race war between blacks and whites during Reconstruction.

In 1863, the militant Cromwell wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, seeking to raise black troops in the North. Cromwell moved to New Orleans in January of 1864 and quickly entered the political circles of Louisiana participating in a number of pivotal events that helped shape the politics and civil rights of Reconstruction Louisiana Although never serving in ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

nurse, was born Namahyoke Gertrude Sockum in California as the first of seven children. Her maternal grandmother was German, and her maternal grandfather was African American. Her mother, whose name is unknown, married Hamilton Sockum, a Native American of the Acoma Pueblo tribe of New Mexico. Raised by an aunt, Curtis attended grade school in San Francisco. She furthered her education by graduating from Snell Seminary in Oakland in 1888. After graduation Curtis went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to visit relatives. There she met Austin Maurice Curtis and eloped with him on 5 May 1888. After the marriage she returned to California while her husband attended Northwestern University Medical School. When the Sockum family learned of the marriage, they sent their daughter to rejoin her husband in Chicago.

While living in Chicago Curtis became absorbed in efforts to uplift the black community She played an instrumental role with Dr ...

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Robert Fay

Freedmen's Hospital was founded in 1862 to serve former slaves and Union soldiers in the Civil War (1861–1865). At that time—and, indeed, until the Civil Rights Movement—many hospitals and medical colleges were segregated, leaving black patients with few health care options and aspiring black physicians and nurses with limited choice about where to study and practice medicine. The Freedmen's Hospital, however, not only provided service to poor whites and blacks in Washington, D.C., but through its close association with Howard University's Medical College (the two joined in 1868 to form a teaching hospital), it came to offer medical training to African Americans.

Part of the hospital's mission was to provide medical care to the indigent despite inadequate federal funding—the hospital was prohibited from admitting paying patients until 1912 During its history administrators worked amid a deteriorating physical plant and outdated equipment and the hospital ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and clubwoman, was born Cora Alice McCarroll in Greenville, Mississippi, the youngest of three children of a slave woman whose surname was Warren and an Ohio born white overseer named McCarroll In the early nineteenth century Gillam s mother and her siblings who were part Cherokee were taken from their mother s home in North Carolina and sold into slavery in Mississippi Interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s Gillam recalled that her maternal grandmother left North Carolina and tracked her children to Greenville where she remained Gillam never met her father who died shortly before she was born His early death also denied her the opportunity of the northern education her siblings had enjoyed her brother Tom in Cincinnati and her sister at Oberlin College McCarroll had set aside funds for Cora s education but her mother s second husband a slave named Lee ...

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Steven J. Niven

blacksmith and politician, was born a slave in Hardin County, Tennessee. It is unknown whether he was still living there in April 1862, during the battle of Shiloh, one of the bloodiest of the Civil War. By 15 September 1863 he was living in Little Rock, Arkansas, more than 250 miles west of his birthplace. On that day, five days after Little Rock fell to the Union army, Gillam enlisted in Company I, Second Regiment, Arkansas Infantry, which was later renamed Company I, Fifty-fourth Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry. Since he immediately assumed the rank of sergeant, he probably knew how to read and write (noncommissioned officers in the Union army were expected to be able to read orders and file reports). After serving for three years, primarily in Arkansas and Kansas, he left the army in 1866, having reached the rank of first sergeant.

Gillam settled in ...

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

Peggy J. Hardman

field adviser, district adviser, and camp director of Girl Scouts, USA, and social worker, was born in Cowpens, South Carolina, the seventh child of ten born to John Wesley Groves, a Methodist minister, and Emma Mae Gray.

The Groves family relocated to Greenwood, South Carolina, to provide better educational opportunities for their children. Holloway attended the Brewer Normal School in nearby Beaufort. Encouraged by one of her teachers, she enrolled in Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1919. Declaring a major in sociology, Holloway doggedly pursued her college education. She wound the campus clocks and worked in the dining hall to augment her meager funds, and overcame a bout of influenza as she strove to complete her degree. In June 1923 she earned her degree in Sociology.

Following her graduation from Fisk, Holloway returned to South Carolina to find work. In 1923 ...

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 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

organizer and lecturer for the Colored Farmers Alliance, farmer and author, owner of eight patents for agricultural implements, and U.S. congressman from South Carolina (1893–1897), was born in Sumter County, South Carolina, to enslaved parents whose names have never been established and who died before 1865. Murray took up farming during his teen years after the Civil War and by 1880 had acquired his own land: forty-nine acres tilled and fifteen acres of woodland, worth about $1500 including buildings and improvements, producing income of around $650 a year.

He made several attempts to obtain an education. Applying to a local school in 1871, he was instead appointed teacher. Classes were held three to four months a year. Even when school was in session, he worked his fields in the morning and evenings. In 1874 he entered the University of South Carolina temporarily filled with students ...

Article

Connie Meale

physician, newspaper proprietor, and Republican Party activist, was born in St. James Parish, Louisiana, the son of Louis Roudanez, a wealthy French merchant, and Aimée Potens, a free woman of color. Roudanez was raised in New Orleans as a member of the city's free black elite, but in 1844 he left to pursue a professional education in France. In 1853 the faculty of medicine at the University of Paris awarded him a degree in medicine. He graduated with a second medical degree from Dartmouth College in 1857, and soon after he returned to New Orleans to open his own office. In the same year he married Louisa Celie Seulay; their union produced eight children.

Roudanez continued to build his medical practice during the Civil War and Reconstruction but like other free men of color in New Orleans upon federal occupation of south Louisiana ...