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Article

Robert Baum

Senegalese prophetess was born in the southwestern Senegalese township of Kabrousse a member of the Diola ethnic group Today the Diola number approximately six hundred thousand people primarily in Senegal but there are significant communities in Gambia and Guinea Bissau Generally the Diola are considered the best wet rice farmers in West Africa though they have been increasingly troubled by droughts since the 1930s Although many Diola are Muslim or Catholic in their primary religious affiliation they include the largest number of adherents of an indigenous African religion in the Senegambia region Before the colonial occupation by the French British and Portuguese the Diola had a tradition of direct revelation from the supreme being but it was limited to male prophetic leaders Shortly after colonization in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth women prophets began to gain influence especially among the southern ...

Article

Beverly Mack

the most prominent female Muslim scholar of the Sokoto caliphate in West Africa was born a twin to a learned Fulani family in what is now northern Nigeria Her full name was Nana Asma u bint Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio At the time of her birth her father a Qadiriyya Sufi scholar and preacher was undergoing deep spiritual experiences It is said that these conditions led him to give his twin infants names other than the traditional gender appropriate versions of Hassan and Hussein after the twin grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad Instead Asma u s name harkens back to Asma the daughter of the first caliph the Prophet s close friend Abubakar To many in the nineteenth century Asma u s name was a clear indication that the Shehu anticipated his daughter s adult role to be as important in promoting the cause of a just Islam in the ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

Roman Catholic religious leader, sacred music performer, and social justice activist, was born Bertha J. Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the granddaughter of slaves and only child of physician Theon Edward Bowman and high school music teacher Mary Esther Coleman. Baptized an Episcopalian, Bertha attended Methodist services. Growing up in segregated, impoverished Canton, Mississippi, she absorbed the spirituality and music of black community elders and her parents' own deep commitments to lives of service. At age ten, she chose to be baptized as a Roman Catholic because she admired the work of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) in Canton. In the face of public uproar, white nuns from this order taught black students at Holy Child Jesus Catholic School. Unable to read after five years of poor quality education in segregated public schools, Bertha finally became literate after transferring to this school in 1949 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

one of the first four graduates from Fisk University, school teacher, missionary, founder of the Tennessee and National Baptist Women's Convention, was born free in Nashville, Tennessee, to Nelson and Eliza Smart Walker. Her father had been enslaved in Virginia, but was allowed to hire his time, earning enough money to purchase both his own freedom and that of his wife. Moving to Tennessee, by 1870 he had accumulated $1,200 in real property working as a barber, while Eliza Walker worked as a dressmaker, supporting three daughters and three sons (1870 Census). Virginia was named for the state of her father's nativity, “which he never ceased to praise” (Broughton, p. 7).

At an early age she enrolled at a private school in Nashville, opened in the 1850s by Daniel Watkins, later pastor of the First Colored Christian Church. When Fisk School convened 9 January 1866 Walker ...

Article

Henry B. Lovejoy

Free black creole of the Lucumí nation, and leader of the famous Mutual Aid Society of the Lucumí Nation of Santa Bárbara, remembered among modern-day practitioners of Cuban Santería as Ṣàngó tẹ̀ dún.

Little documentation exists for Maria Francisca Camejo, and from birth she could have been enslaved or free. The name “Camejo” was common throughout Spain’s empire, and to this day remains popular in the tobacco-growing region of the Piñar del Rio region in western Cuba. Since the eighteenth century, if not earlier, this family engaged in tobacco production for the royal monopoly based at the factory in Havana. By the 1790s a branch of this family residing and trading tobacco in the capital city likely owned María Francisca as a domestic slave. Camejo identified as Lucumí, but baptism records from the early nineteenth century indicate she identified as a “black creole” (morena criolla Like so many ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

was born in the town of Mujumi, Mhondoro province, Zimbabwe on 8 July 1946. She often asked to watch over her grandfather’s cattle herd so she could sing alone, and became determined to learn to play the mbira (thumb piano) as a young girl. However, Stella ran into much opposition in this youthful goal. The mbira is commonly associated with songs and rituals performed by men in the Shona ethnic community who believed they were communicating with ancestral spirits. Chiweshwe struggled for years to convince her family and others to allow her to master this instrument. Another problem was that Zimbabweans who went to her local mission church were forbidden to listen to traditional songs or perform on the mbira. When she was eight years old Stella attended a ceremony in which older people became possessed by ancestors while the mbira was played. Between 1966 and 1969 Chiweshe ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Of her college experience, Frances (Fanny) Jackson Coppin remembered: “I never rose to recite in my classes at Oberlin but I felt that I had the honor of the whole African race upon my shoulders. I felt that, should I fail, it would be ascribed to the fact that I was colored.” This describes a burden that many blacks still carry 150 years later—the suspicion that for their white peers, they somehow represent the entire race. Despite this pressure, however, Coppin shone at Oberlin College in Ohio, and she went on to shine as a teacher, school principal, and activist throughout the next fifty years.

Coppin was born a slave in Washington, D.C. the daughter of a slave mother and a white father An aunt purchased Coppin s freedom when she was twelve years old and sent her to live with another aunt in New Bedford Massachusetts They moved ...

Article

Alessandra Vianello

Islamic mystic and scholar, and the most outstanding poetess in Chimini, the Bantu vernacular of Brava, was born in Brava, a coastal city of southern Somalia, in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Her full name was Mana Sitti Habib Jamaladdin, but she was affectionately called Dada Masiti (Grandmother Masiti) by her fellow citizens. Her family, both on the paternal and maternal side, belonged to the Mahadali Ashraf. However, through her mother’s maternal grandfather, Dada Masiti was also related to the Ali Naziri Ashraf, who were locally more numerous and influential. Both groups, who traced their lineage to the Prophet Muhammad, had settled in Brava in the early seventeenth century.

The events that marked Dada Masiti s early years and had a crucial bearing on her subsequent spiritual development are known only through different oral traditions The most widespread version would have her kidnapped as a child of six ...

Article

Brandi Hughes

nurse, foreign missionary, and school founder, was born to Anna L. Delaney and Daniel Sharpe Delaney in Fernandina Beach, Florida. Emma Beard Delaney came of age in the postbellum generation that witnessed the collapse of Reconstruction and the fading of the early promise of African American emancipation. Against the rising tide of segregation and racial violence, however, Delaney's family managed to sustain a measure of economic security and educational advancement. Her father, Daniel, held the distinction of being the only African American helmsman commissioned for service on the Revenue Cutter Boutwell, a federal ship that patrolled the ports of Savannah, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina, as a forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard. The unique benefits of her father's government employment enabled the Delaney family to support an expansive education for Emma and her sister, Annie. In 1889 shortly after completing secondary classes ...

Article

Michael Pasquier

Roman Catholic nun and founder of a religious order, was born in New Orleans, the daughter of Marie Josephe Diaz, a free woman of color, and Jean Baptiste Delille-Sarpy a wealthy white aristocrat Legally categorized as a person of mixed race Delille attended a school for free children of color under the direction of Catholic sisters in New Orleans Her father did not support the family in any measurable fashion and her mother suffered from mental illness all of which required that Delille and her two surviving siblings support themselves at a young age As a teenager she began to identify less with the aristocratic society of free people of color and more with the religious lives of Catholic sisters She became a catechist to free people of color and a lay leader in Catholic confraternities Legal and social standards however limited the extent to which she was ...

Article

Amber B. Gemmeke

Senegalese khalif, or religious leader, born in Thiès, Senegal, was the eldest daughter of Serigne Adoulaye Yakhine Diop (also called Aïdara or Niakhite), khalif of a branch of the Mouride Sufi brotherhood, and Sokhna Tabara Cissé, who was a member of the nobility and of Gambian Mandinka origin. Diop was also known as Soxna Magatte, Soxna Maguette, and Soxna Mame Sèye. Her father was a disciple of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, who founded the Mouride Sufi brotherhood in Senegal around 1900, and of Cheikh Ibra Fall, the most famous disciple of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba and founder of the Mouride Baye Fall movement. In 1914 her father founded a new Mouride community in Thiès A charismatic and messianic religious leader his followers considered him the third most influential person in the Mouride brotherhood after Cheikh Amadou Bamba and Cheikh Ibra Fall After the deaths of Bamba and Fall Serigne ...

Article

Engenho Velho is one of the oldest terreiros, or temples, of the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. Located in Brazil's northeastern state of Bahia it is thought to have been established by three freed African women in the 1830s However the temple may have existed long before that ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

The daughter of former slaves, Julia Foote attended a segregated white Methodist church with her family during her childhood in Schenectady, New York. When she was a teenager her family moved to Albany, New York, and joined the local African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Foote had a conversion experience in that church in 1838.

The next year she married George Foote and moved with him to Boston. Before her conversion, Foote had agreed with the conventional opinion that women should not preach. But after her arrival in Boston, she felt the call to preach and pray in public. Despite the disapproval of her parents, husband, and minister, and the threat of excommunication from her church, Foote began a career as an evangelist. During the next four decades, Foote traveled and preached throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic states, and as far away as Detroit, Michigan San Francisco ...

Primary Source

While not a common occurrence, African Americans and slaves did attempt to use the legal system to stand up for their rights, and occasionally to gain freedom. Lucy Delaney’s narrative, published in the 1890s, is noteworthy for its focus on her attempts to prove her mother was once a free woman and the trials that resulted in granting both Lucy and her mother their freedom. The story also touches on aspects of injustice and the destruction of families due to the institution of slavery.

Delaney was born in St Louis Missouri around 1830 to Polly Crocket and her husband Crocket had been born a free woman in Illinois but was sold as a slave after being kidnapped The owner willed that his slaves would be freed upon his and his wife s death but his wife remarried after he died Upon her death the original will was put aside and ...

Article

Reidulf K. Molvaer

Ethiopian scholar and teacher in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was born at Silalo (also known as S Amanuel, or Debre-Silalo, after the church and monastery around which the village was built) in Gojjam Province in western Ethiopia. Her father, Haddis Kidan, was an expert in an Ethiopian kind of poetry called qiné, and he transmitted his knowledge to his daughter Gelanesh. This was particularly unusual given that Gelanesh was blind from the age of eight, and people with physical disabilities at that time more commonly ended up as beggars. He must have realized her exceptional talents from an early age, and indeed, Gelanesh would become a famous qiné teacher in her own right. She also became an expert in the uniquely Ethiopian mode of biblical interpretation called andimta which consists largely of memorizing received interpretations of biblical scholars of the past although some innovation is occasionally admitted Her ...

Article

Donald Yacovone

abolitionist and singer, was born Lavinia (sometimes Lavina) F. Ames in Andover, Massachusetts, to Prince and Eunice (Russ) Ames. Nothing else is known about her early life except that the U.S. census listed her as a mulatto. She married the abolitionist leader John T. Hilton on 31 October 1825. The couple had six children—one died an infant in 1826—Lucretia, Louisa, John W., Henry, and Thomas B. She was active in Boston's African Baptist Church and in April 1833 performed a vocal solo in a concert held in the church by the Baptist Singing Society. While her husband achieved fame as an abolitionist leader and grand master of the Prince Hall Freemason lodge number 459 in Boston, Lavinia pursued her own antislavery work—a contribution that has been largely overlooked by historians.

In April 1833 while her husband helped form a gentleman s temperance ...

Article

Patricia J. Thompson

anti-slavery activist, was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of the Reverend Samuel Snowden and his first wife, Nancy Marsh, from Monmouth, Maine.

Isabella grew up as a free black woman in a home in which her father was both a well-known preacher and an anti-slavery activist. When she was eight years old, Isabella moved to Boston with her family when her father was called to pastor the growing African American congregation which was then a part of the Bromfield Methodist Episcopal Church. Her father often assisted runaway slaves, and her home was a refuge for those from the South seeking asylum.

Isabella eventually married Henry Holmes, a barber in Boston. They had at least one child, Emily Otis, who was born c.1833 and married Charles H. Stephens from Newport, Rhode Island, on 29 October 1854 Nothing more is known about Emily and Charles and ...

Article

Born to slave parents, Rosa Horn began preaching in Evanston, Illinois, and moved to New York City in 1926 in order to expand her ministry. In 1929 she founded the Pentecostal Faith Church for All Nations, which was also known as the Mount Calvary Pentecostal Faith Church.

Horn began radio broadcasting from her Harlem congregation in 1934 and her program, You, Pray For Me Church of the Air, attracted listeners from as far as the South and the Caribbean. James Baldwin attended her church as a child, and she inspired him to become a preacher. During the Great Depression Horn opened the Gleaners' Aid Home, which provided food for the poor. From the 1940s through the 1970s, Horn focused her charitable works primarily on providing vocational and religious training to poor youth.

Article

Jeremy Rich

Burundian spiritual leader and anticolonial activist, was born in a remote region near Ndora Mountain in northeast Burundi sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century. Her early life is very obscure as she became a well-known figure in Burundi only near the end of her life in 1934. Inamujandi belonged to a long tradition of female prophets associated with the spirits of deceased kings. Throughout the Great Lakes region, female protectors of royal shrines could be found in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In September 1934, she commenced to preach about the failures of Tutsi state-appointed chiefs. Her fierce criticism of the reigning king Mwambutsa IV struck a chord with many dissatisfied Burundian farmers. In 1930, Mwambutsa IV married a Catholic woman and announced he would no longer lead the annual umuganuro ceremony designed to ensure a bountiful harvest for the following year Some farmers ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

saint, missionary, and pioneer of African Catholicism in Senegal, Gambia, and Sierre Leone, was born on 11 November 1779 in the southern French village of Jallanges, near Dijon. Her father and mother, Balthazar and Claudine Javouhey, were devoted Catholics, and they had nine other children besides Anne-Marie. The family protected priests hiding from revolutionary troops during the French Revolution. Her father was impressed by Javouhey’s fervent belief as an adolescent, but wondered if she had the inner stability to become a nun, as she hoped. Her vocation was further impeded by the revolutionary government, which had banned public worship at the time she first expressed her desire to become a nun, in 1796. From the late 1790s to 1805 Javouhey stayed with several different orders including at a Trappist convent and another convent run by the Sisters of Charity Finally she decided to establish her own religious ...