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Article

Diane L. Barnes

The American Missionary Association formed in 1846 in Albany, New York, as an alliance of Christian abolitionists who chose not to associate with the existing missionary agencies operated by various Protestant denominations. The spark for the formation of the association dates to the plight of the Amistad captives in 1839. This group of Africans enslaved in violation of international law successfully revolted against their captors aboard a Spanish slave ship—but ended up on trial in the United States when the ship drifted into a harbor on Long Island, New York. The well-publicized trial led many northern abolitionists to push mainstream missionary organizations, including the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, to assist the Amistad voyagers in their return to Africa but the organizations refused The frustrations of these Christian abolitionists led to the formation of three groups the Union Missionary Society the Western Evangelical Mission Society and ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

a teacher who opened the public schools of Philadelphia to children of color, and was the city's first school principal of African descent, was born Cordelia A. Jennings in New York City, the oldest child of a Scottish father, whose first name has not been published, but is recalled by descendants as William, and Mary McFarland Jennings, a school teacher born in Virginia.

In 1850, at the age of seven, Jennings was living in Philadelphia with her mother, sister Caroline, brother William, and brother Mifflin, and an older person named Annie Meda in a racially mixed neighborhood populated by shoemakers turners and carvers of known African descent as well as cooks and blacksmiths listed as white in the federal census Since Mifflin the youngest child was two years old the family had evidently lost their husband and father only recently Mifflin was also the only child ...

Article

Thea Gallo Becker

educator, was born Emmeline Victoria Brown in Georgetown, District of Columbia, the daughter of John Mifflin Brown, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Emmeline (maiden name unknown), a dressmaker. Emma Brown and her siblings were born and raised in what the racial climate of the period called a “better class of colored.” When Brown was still a young girl her father died, and her mother worked to support the family. Brown attended Miss Myrtilla Miner's School for Colored Girls, which opened in 1851 with the goal of training teachers for public schools in the Washington, D.C., area. Brown soon distinguished herself as an outstanding student. When illness forced Miner to take a leave of absence, Brown was recruited to stay on and assist Emily Howland, who had moved from New York to be Miner's replacement. In 1858 Brown ran the school during Howland s temporary ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

educator, was born free in Washington, D.C., to the Reverend John Francis Cook, who ran a free school for African Americans in that city. The name of George's mother is not recorded, but his elder brother, John Francis Cook Jr., also was active in education and political circles in Washington after the Civil War. Born into slavery the Reverend Cook had gained his freedom by the time his sons were born. As pastor of the city's Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church and a founding member of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows he was also prominent in Washington's black religious and fraternal organizations.

In September 1835 when George was only three months old Reverend Cook was forced to close his school and flee Washington with his family when he learned that a white mob was planning to attack him The Snow Riot as it came to be ...

Article

Willard B. Gatewood

educator and clergyman, was born a slave in the District of Columbia. His mother was Laurena Browning Cook, but his father's identity is unknown. His mother's sister, Alethia Browning Tanner, was clearly a dominant influence in his early life. Although she was a slave, her owner allowed her to hire out her own time, and by operating a profitable vegetable market in Washington, D.C., she acquired the money to purchase her own freedom as well as that of her sister and about twenty-one other relatives and acquaintances, including her nephew. Freed at the age of sixteen, Cook apprenticed himself to a shoemaker in order to earn the money to repay his aunt.

He completed his apprenticeship in 1831 but abandoned shoemaking because of an injured shoulder. He secured a job as a messenger in the office of the United States Land Commissioner where a white employee, John Wilson ...

Article

Eric Gardner

author and teacher, was born into slavery near Petersburg, Virginia. According to her narrative, which remains the source of most of her biographical information, Drumgoold lived with her mother and sisters until her mother was sold south in 1861. Cared for by her mistress Bettie House—whom she referred to as her “white mother”—for three years, Drumgoold was reunited with her real mother near the end of the Civil War. In 1865 the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where they joined the Reverend David Moore's Washington Avenue Baptist Church. Drumgoold, already working as a domestic, was baptized in 1866. Through the church, she gained basic literacy skills, and through work with a kind boardinghouse keeper, Lydia A. Pousland as well as summer work in Saratoga Springs she attained some level of economic security Still her domestic work was repeatedly interrupted by illness and she felt a ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Fisk University, like many new schools established for African Americans after the Civil War ended in 1865, was founded and largely supported by white benefactors. But it differed significantly from other black schools, such as Tuskegee and Hampton, in its emphasis on liberal arts education rather than vocational training. Its founders saw Fisk as a school that would measure itself by “the highest standards, not of Negro education, but of American education at its best.”

Fisk was established in Nashville, Tennessee, in October 1865 by Erastus Milo Cravath and Edward P. Smith, both members of the American Missionary Association, and John Ogden, superintendent of the Tennessee Freedmen's Bureau's Department of Education. Fisk began as an elementary school to meet the basic educational needs of the newly freed slaves, and its first students ranged in age from seven to seventy. In 1867 Tennessee passed a law requiring ...

Article

Lois Kerschen

Clinton Bowen Fisk, the sixth son of Benjamin and Lydia Fisk, was born in Livingston County, New York. His father had been a captain in the army, and his grandfather served as a major general under George Washington. The Fisk family moved to a settlement they called Clinton in Lenawee County, Michigan, while Clinton Bowen was still an infant. Benjamin Fisk died when Clinton was six, however, and Lydia was not able to hold onto the property. At age nine, Clinton Fisk apprenticed himself to a local farmer, but one year later he had to return home because his younger brother died. When Fisk was thirteen, his mother married William Smith, a successful farmer from Spring Arbor, who sent Fisk to Albion Seminary, a Methodist school in Michigan.

Fisk later went into business as a clerk for L. D. Crippen of Coldwater Michigan and married Crippen s ...

Article

Linda Allen Bryant

caretaker of the historic Mount Vernon home of President George Washington, was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the eldest son of Venus, a house slave owned by George Washington's brother, John Augustine, and his wife, Hannah. Though some reports suggest that Ford was the son of President Washington—and that Venus told her mistress that George Washington was her child's father—historians dispute Ford's paternity, suggesting instead that one of Washington's nephews may have been his father.

From 1785 until 1791 George Washington frequently visited the Bushfield Plantation. As he grew older Ford served during these visits as Washington's personal attendant. Washington took him riding and hunting, and Ford often accompanied him to Christ Church, where he was provided with a private pew. After Washington became president of the United States, his open visits with Ford ceased.

Following the death of their father, John Augustine Washington's sons, Bushrod and Corbin ...

Article

Margit Liander

Amos Fortune was born in Africa; at fifteen he was captured and taken into slavery. Eventually sold to Ichabod Richardson of Woburn, Massachusetts, Fortune learned the tanning trade from his master. After working for him for forty years, Fortune was able to purchase his own freedom at the age of sixty. He went into business for himself, paid his church and town taxes in Woburn, and at the age of sixty-eight purchased Lydia Somerset, a slave, and married her. Somerset soon died and Fortune bought and married Violate Baldwin and moved to Jaffrey, New Hampshire with her and her daughter, Celyndia, whom he adopted.

Fortune became a successful tanner, bought land, and built a house. He aided local blacks by training apprentice tanners and by taking the indigent into his home. On January 28, 1796 Fortune participated in a meeting of local citizens who voted to establish ...

Article

Terry L. Seip

To assist the adjustment of newly freed slaves in the post–Civil War South, Congress in March 1865 established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands under the leadership of General Oliver Otis Howard and the auspices of the War Department. Given an initial life of one year, the agency provided food, clothing, fuel, and medical treatment to destitute and dislocated freedpeople and white refugees. It was also supposed to parcel out abandoned and confiscated lands in forty-acre plots to freedmen, but President Andrew Johnson, a staunch critic of the agency, undercut this effort by restoring most of the available land to its former white owners. Local Bureau agents thus spent much time mediating labor contracts and disputes between the freedmen and intransigent white employers and attempting to secure economic and civil justice for the freedmen—even as they slipped into a debilitating sharecropping system.

More positive was the ...

Article

Russell W. Irvine

educator and emigrationist, was born in bucolic Rutland, Vermont. Freeman's life can be divided into two periods: his thirty-seven-year residence in America and his twenty-five-year stay in Liberia, Africa. In Rutland, he attended the predominantly white East Parish Congregational Church, whose pastor recognized Freeman's precocity and volunteered to prepare him for college. Freeman was accepted into Middlebury College and graduated class salutatorian in 1849. He taught briefly in Boston before accepting an invitation to join the faculty of the newly established Allegheny Institute and Mission Church (later Avery College) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1850. Freeman's appointment at the first state-chartered degree-granting institution for blacks distinguished him as the first college-educated black professor in America. In recognition of his advanced study in mathematics and natural philosophy, Middlebury College voted to award him an M.A. degree in 1852. In 1856 when Avery College s first white president ...

Article

Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, was born a slave in North Carolina. Little else is known about her early life, including the names of her parents. In 1884 she enrolled in the normal course at Fisk University, and to pay for tuition she alternated each year of study with a year of picking cotton. She graduated in 1891.

Grier taught at Paine Normal School and Industrial Institute in Augusta, Georgia, during the 1890–1891 school year, but her long-range goal was to become a physician. In 1890, just one year before her graduation from Fisk, she wrote to Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, inquiring about aid that was available to “an emancipated slave” who wanted to enter “so lofty a profession.” No doubt Grier had heard about the school from her mentor and friend Emily Howland a Quaker teacher and suffragette from upstate New York who had gone south to participate ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

Johnson, Edward Austin (23 November 1860–24 July 1944), educator, lawyer, and politician was born near Raleigh North Carolina the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A Smith slaves He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton a free African American and later attended the Washington School an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh There he was introduced to the Congregational church and became a lifelong member Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia graduating in 1883 To pay his way through college he worked as a barber and taught in the summers After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School 1883 1885 and then in Raleigh at the Washington School 1885 1891 While teaching in Raleigh he studied at Shaw University obtaining a law degree in 1891 He joined the faculty shortly ...

Article

Dale Edwyna Smith

Lincoln University (Missouri) was created to meet freed blacks’ hunger for higher education after the Civil War. Black Union soldiers of the sixty-second and sixty-fifth U.S. Colored Infantry founded Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, Missouri, in September 1866. The institution faced a succession of obstacles, including race discrimination, financial insecurity, debate over strategies for educating the black masses and, ironically, the end of legal segregation.

Inman E. Page attended Brown University and served as a clerk with the Freedmen's Bureau but recruited to be the first black administrator to hold the title “president” at Lincoln, Page was required to act as vice principal for one year to prove he was up to the task. Born a slave in Virginia, Page served as president of Lincoln from 1880 to 1889, and from 1922 to 1923 His job required rigorous fund raising and he often called on the Lincoln ...

Article

When founded by the Presbyterian minister John Miller Dickey and his Quaker wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson, in 1854, this rural, southeastern Pennsylvania educational venture was called the Ashmun Institute. After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, the school took the name Lincoln University. Lincoln is the oldest of the historically black colleges and universities in the United States. The founding president Dickey remained only until 1856. Among the longest-tenured of the presidents who followed him were Isaac Norton Rendall, 1865–1906; John Ballard Rendall, 1906–1924; Walter Livingston Wright, 1924–1926 and 1936–1945; Horace Mann Bond (who also graduated from Lincoln in 1923), 1945–1957; and Herman Russell Branson, 1970–1985. Ivory V. Nelson became president in 1999.

There were six young men in Lincoln's first graduating class in 1868; by 1900 there were thirty two ...

Article

The first known Africans to set foot in North America arrived in the summer of 1526, when five hundred Spaniards brought along one hundred black slaves as they tried to establish a town in the Carolinas, perhaps near the mouth of the Pee Dee River. That November the slaves rebelled, killed some of their former owners, and fled to join the Native Americans. Only 150 Spaniards survived; they retreated to Santo Domingo. Like many later incidents, this event is noted little if at all on the African American history landscape, but an ever-increasing array of markers, monuments, and museum exhibits tell of African Americans in the colonial world and the first half century of American national existence.

Article

Gary J. Kornblith and Carol Lasser

Founded in 1833 to educate prospective ministers for missionary work in the Mississippi River valley, Oberlin College (until 1850 the Oberlin Collegiate Institute) in Oberlin, Ohio, was the first institution of higher education in the United States to admit African American students as a matter of regular policy. It also pioneered coeducation as the nation's first college to award bachelor of arts degrees to women.

The highly controversial decision to admit students of color was made in early 1835. After hearing that several students at Cincinnati's Lane Theological Seminary had withdrawn in protest of that institution's attempt to silence their agitation on behalf of immediate abolitionism and racial equality, John Jay Shipherd, Oberlin's principal founder, invited the so-called Lane rebels to attend Oberlin. The rebels insisted on the school's admission of blacks as a prerequisite to their attending, and the wealthy abolitionists Arthur and Lewis Tappan promised major ...

Article

Eric Gardner

politician and journalist, was born in New York and was living in the Portland, Maine, area by 1850. He was the son of Reuben and Rachel (Humphrey) Ruby, although some scholars have mistakenly asserted that he was the son of his first cousinEbenezer and Jemima Ruby, who, with their daughter Margaret and son Arthur, were free black farmers in Cumberland County, Maine. Born in Gray, Maine on 28 December 1798, Reuben Ruby was a free African American trader who moved to Portland, Maine, before 1821. He moved to New York in about 1839, returning to Portland in 1849 after a four-month trip to California where he reportedly mined $3,000 in gold. Reuben and Rachel, his second wife, are listed in the 1850 Portland census with sons Frederic B., William W., George T., and Horatio F. living in the ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Ignatius Sancho was born on a slave ship en route to the West Indies; both of his parents died during the journey, casualties of the Middle Passage. Never having lived in Africa, Sancho was in many ways a product of Western civilization. His letters, written between 1768 and 1780, and published posthumously in 1782, proved to the English public that an African could not only master the language and literature of England but become a discriminating reader and a discerning critic.

Upon arriving in Britain, Sancho was bought by three sisters in Greenwich who treated him poorly and denied him education. But the sisters' neighbors, the Duke and Duchess of Montague, were impressed by Sancho's curiosity about books and his quick mind and secretly lent him materials to read. In 1749 when the sisters threatened to sell him into American slavery Sancho fled to the ...