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Article

Martin A. Klein

Muslim cleric, major jihad leader and state-builder in early-nineteenth-century Mali, also known as Seku Amadu Lobbo, was born to a modest family of herders and clerics in Molangol, a Fulbe village not far from Mopti, in the inner delta of the Niger River. This area came to be known as Masina. He studied the Qurʾan with his grandfather, but then continued his Islamic education at Jenné, the most important center of commerce and education in the inner delta.

Masina was an area where the Niger River divided into many channels and flooded every rainy season Fulbe pastoralists practiced transhumant pastoralism bringing their herds into the delta during the long dry season The only authorities in Masina were the Ardos heads of small pastoralist groups As the tentacles of the long distance slave trade extended themselves deeper into West Africa many Ardos developed bands of cavalry that raided for slaves and ...

Article

Stephen D. Glazier

African American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Benjamin Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, Eighty‐seven Years, 79). He was educated in a one‐room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and worked briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly in 1858 when a cancerous tumor necessitated the amputation of his left leg. He turned to teaching and was granted a certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time he was the only African American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887 ...

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Jeremy Rich

political, military, and religious leader and first Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate, was born in the town of Morona, now located in Niger, in 1780 or 1781. His father was the revolutionary Islamic cleric and leader Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817), and his mother was Hawwa bint Adam ibn Muhammad Agh. Bello received an advanced education in Islamic theology and law thanks to his father, and supported his father’s call for a strict adherence to orthodox Sunni interpretations of Islamic practices. Bello praised his father as a loving parent: “His face was relaxed and his manner gentle. He never tired of explaining and never became impatient if anyone failed to understand” (Boyd, 1989).

When Uthman Dan Fodio launched a series of holy wars against the nominally Islamic sultans of Hausa cities such as Kano in northern Nigeria and southern Niger Bello became an active lieutenant of his father ...

Article

Clifton H. Johnson

clergyman and abolitionist, was born in Colchester, Connecticut, the son of Jehiel C. Beman, a clergyman. Nothing is known of his mother. He grew up and received a basic education in Middletown, Connecticut, where his father was pastor of the African church. A Wesleyan University student, L. P. Dole, volunteered to tutor Beman after the university refused his application for admission because he was an African American. Dole and Beman suffered ridicule and harassment from other students, and an anonymous threat of bodily harm from “Twelve of Us” caused Beman to give up the effort after six months. He went to Hartford, where he taught school for four years, and around 1836 he briefly attended the Oneida Institute in New York.

Beman was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1839. At about this time he married a woman whose name is not known. In 1841 ...

Article

Daniel L. Fountain

Baptist minister, missionary, and author, was born Charles Octavius Boothe in Mobile County, Alabama, to a Georgia‐born slave woman belonging to and carried west by the slave owner Nathan Howard Sr. Little is known of Boothe s Georgian parents but he proudly claimed that his great grandmother and stepgrandfather were Africans Boothe s description of his ancestors reflects his lifelong pride in his African heritage but he was equally effusive about the spiritual influence that these Christian elders had on his life His earliest recollections included his stepgrandfather s prayer life and singing of hymns and the saintly face and pure life of my grandmother to whom white and black went for prayer and for comfort in the times of their sorrows These early familial Christian influences were further reinforced by attending a Baptist church in the forest where white and colored people sat together to commune and to ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Wilson J. Moses

clergyman, activist, and Pan-Africanist, was born in New York City, the son of Charity Hicks, a freeborn woman of Long Island, New York, and Boston Crummell, an African of the Temne people, probably from the region that is now Sierra Leone. Boston Crummell had been captured and brought to the United States as a youth. The circumstances of his emancipation are not clear, but it is said that he simply refused to serve his New York owners any longer after reaching adulthood. Boston Crummell established a small oyster house in the African Quarter of New York. Alexander Crummell received his basic education at the African Free School in Manhattan. In 1835 he traveled to Canaan, New Hampshire, along with his friends Thomas Sidney and Henry Highland Garnet to attend the newly established Noyes Academy but shortly after their arrival the school was destroyed by local residents angered by ...

Article

Eric Gardner

African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister and activist, was born into slavery in Maryland. Nothing is known of his parentage and youth. He gained his freedom, moved west during the Gold Rush, and was living in San Francisco by 1850. Fletcher and a brother (named Charles, George, or Edward in various sources) helped found St. Andrews Church in Sacramento, and Fletcher seems to have moved back and forth between Sacramento and San Francisco and worked at least occasionally as a miner. Some sources report that he earned enough to purchase his wife and children out of slavery. Although no spouse was living with him in 1850, his Virginia-born wife Elizabeth (also listed as Betsy) is named with him in the 1860 census, along with two children, Joseph G. and Mary E.

In addition to his work in Sacramento Fletcher helped found St Cyprian s African Methodist Episcopal ...

Article

Joe M. Richardson

clergyman, educator, and politician, was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Maria Jackson and Jonathan C. Gibbs, a Methodist minister. He learned carpentry as a youth and followed that trade until the Presbyterian Assembly helped him enroll at Dartmouth College in 1848. Gibbs, who was one of only two black students at Dartmouth, claimed that he had been rejected by eighteen colleges before being accepted. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1852 he attended the Princeton Theological Seminary. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and went on to pastor churches in Troy, New York, and in Philadelphia. While in New York Gibbs campaigned for the extension of black suffrage in the state. When he moved to Philadelphia in 1859 he became prominent in the local Underground Railroad During the Civil War he joined the freed people s relief efforts campaigned against segregated ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born to petit bourgeois parents in Vého, Lorraine, in rural France, Henri-Baptiste Grégoire was educated at a Jesuit college. He then became a teacher and was consequently ordained as a priest in Lorraine at the age of twenty-five. Frustrated by hierarchical barriers to advancement, he turned to writing.

Grégoire's first essays, published in the late 1770s, advocated tolerance of Jews, a position that placed Grégoire in opposition to the wave of anti-Semitism in France. In 1785 he won awards for a book reflecting his passion for Jewish rights Grégoire contended that temporal salvation by which he meant absorption into the Roman Catholic Church was individual rather than racial or national He defined his duty as working for the creation of conditions under which Jews could convert to Catholicism and be eligible for salvation To avoid social corruption he believed Jews were to be encouraged to migrate to the countryside ...

Article

Henry Warner Bowden

Presbyterian minister and civil rights activist, was born near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Henry Grimké, a planter, and Nancy Weston, a biracial slave. As the second son of an unrecognized dalliance that was familiar to plantations such as Caneacres, young Grimké inherited his mother's status as servant. During the Civil War his white half brother sold him to a Confederate officer whom Grimké accompanied until the end of that conflict. The end of the war brought his manumission, and a benefactor from the Freedmen's Aid Society sent him to study at Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Hard work and natural talent brought Grimké recognition on the campus. A newspaper account of the young scholar's outstanding record also attracted attention from his white aunts, Angelina Emily Grimké and Sarah Moore Grimké who had been deeply involved in antislavery activities After learning of the existence of ...

Article

John Fabian Witt

minister, schoolteacher, Union League organizer, and Liberian emigrant, was born into slavery near Yorkville (later York), South Carolina, probably the son of a light-skinned house slave named Dorcas Hill and a man brought as a slave from Africa to South Carolina. At the age of seven, Hill contracted a crippling disease that he called “rheumatism,” but that was probably polio. His owner's five-year-old son, Daniel Harvey Hill (the man who would later famously lose a copy of Robert E. Lee's battle plans while serving as a Confederate general at Antietam seems to have come down with a mild case of the same disease at almost the same time But Hill got the worst of it He was never again able to walk His legs shrunk to the diameter of an average man s wrist His arms were like those of a small child His fingers ...

Article

Eric Gardner

minister and activist, was born to free parents, Ann Maria (Booth) and her husband, who was surnamed Hubbard, in Baltimore, Maryland. Little is known of them, but his mother was apparently widowed when Hubbard was young, and she turned to her extended family and to the church for support. Through aid from her brother Edward Booth, who had grown wealthy as a trader in the West Indies and then California, Hubbard attended the Allegheny Institute between 1851 and 1853. At this radical experiment in black higher education—funded by the white abolitionist Charles Avery and later renamed Avery College—Hubbard was probably taught by former Oberlin professor Philotus Dean and by one of the first black college teachers in the nation, Martin Henry Freeman; he also met future luminaries including Benjamin Tucker Tanner and Thomas Morris Chester.

Drawn by family ties and the promise of the West ...

Article

Eric Gardner

minister and activist, was born to the slaves Thomas and Harriet Johnson in Fauquier County, Virginia. Little is known of his youth, though when Harvey was in his teen years—at the end of the Civil War—the Johnson family, like many newly free Virginians, moved to Alexandria. There Johnson became a congregant of the Alfred Street Baptist Church, was baptized, and when he received his own calling to preach was aided by Alfred Street's pastor, the Reverend Samuel W. Madden. Johnson attended one of the many schools that sprung up for freedmen in Alexandria, and then apparently went to a Quaker school in Philadelphia for a time. Ultimately Madden helped secure a place for Johnson at the new Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C., which was fast becoming a key training ground for black clergy.

Johnson entered Wayland in 1868 and took his degree in 1872 but he was ...

Article

Antje Daub

Florida Republican political leader, lawyer, and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although the names of his parents are unknown, Lee was orphaned while an infant and was raised by Quakers. He attended Cheyney University, then known as the Institute for Colored Youth, the first black high school in the United States. After graduating in 1869, Lee moved to Washington, D.C., to begin a clerkship under the controversial “governor” of the District, Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd. Intermittently, Lee attended Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., a historically black institution established in 1867. Lee attended Howard at a time when African American leaders were clamoring for black lawyers who could help in the struggle to secure the rights of African Americans. He graduated with an LLB degree in 1872.

Lee then relocated to Jacksonville Florida and was ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

choir leader, was born in Portage County, Ohio, the son of a farmer whose name is now unknown and whose financial contributions to a nearby college neither overcame the local prejudice nor secured a place for his son among the student body. Educated in Ravenna, Ohio, Loudin went on to train as a printer, only to find his opportunities restricted by white printers who refused to work with him. Even his Methodist church rejected his application to join its choir. For all its positive associations for their kinfolk in the slavery states, mid-nineteenth century Ohio was a hard place for the Loudins, as it had been for Frederick Douglass who was mobbed in Columbus, Ohio, when Frederick Loudin was a boy. He was to recall that the “ostracism was even more complete and unchristian in the free than in the slave States” (Marsh, 106).

After the Civil War Loudin ...

Article

Leslie H. Fishel

minister, editor, and politician, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Benjamin Lynch, a merchant and minister, and Benjamin's wife, a former slave purchased by her husband. Her name is not known. James Lynch attended the elementary school operated by the Reverend Daniel A. Payne of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Baltimore. When Payne left in 1852, Lynch enrolled in the Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire. After about two years, he later testified, his father's business failed, and “we were cut short in our pursuit for knowledge by pecuniary disability” (Christian Recorder, 16 Feb. 1867). He taught school on Long Island for a year and then studied for the ministry with a Presbyterian minister in Brooklyn. Struggling with the decision about his future, Lynch moved to Indianapolis to work with Elisha Weaver an AME minister ...

Article

Roger D. Bridges

minister, civil rights advocate, and political activist, was born in Madison County, Illinois, to Lazarus, a free black, and Susan, who was a slave until Magee's father earned enough to buy her from her Louisville, Kentucky, owner and move to Illinois, settling in Upper Alton. Like most African Americans James Magee found his opportunities for education limited but managed to acquire more than a rudimentary education. Magee and his siblings attended the local township school with white children until some parents objected and officials forced the withdrawal of the Magee children. They were then provided with an inadequately prepared “colored” teacher. Eventually the Magee children were withdrawn and sent, in the autumn of 1855, to Racine, Wisconsin, where, as the only blacks, they attended for less than a year.

Returning to Shipman in the autumn of 1856 Magee became a teacher in a black Jerseyville ...

Article

Eric Gardner

minister and activist, was born in Berkley County, at that time a part of Virginia, later West Virginia, to Fannie Riedoubt, a free black woman who had been kidnapped into slavery, and an enslaved man surnamed Hodge. Sources vary as to his birthdate, citing from 1804 to 1818; Moore was one of the family's early owner's surnames. When Moore was six, his parents attempted to escape with their six children. They were captured, and four of the children were sold south. Moore, his brother William, and his parents finally escaped to Pennsylvania a few years later. Moore was bound out to an area farmer, in part because his parents' owner continued to pursue them. Moore did keep in contact with his parents, though, and as late as 1870 his mother was living with him.

Moore worked a variety of jobs and moved to Harrisburg as ...

Article

José María Morelos y Pavón was born in Valladolid, New Spain—what is now the city of Morelia in the Mexican state of Michoacán (the city was named in his honor). Educated there, Morelos worked as a scribe and accountant from 1770 to 1790, when he began studies for the priesthood. The Catholic Church had long forbidden blacks, mulattos, and zambos (Afro-Indians) from becoming priests. Morelos's baptismal record, however, had been tampered with—he was originally designated a mulatto, but the record later indicated he was white—and throughout his life the leader maintained that he was of Spanish (white) descent. In all likelihood his parents paid the local priest to make the change in his baptismal record so he would receive more favorable treatment in New Spain's rigid caste system.

Morelos's studies took him to the College of San Nicolás, where he met Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753–1811 future ...