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Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

Article

Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...

Article

Rose Pelone Sisson

survivor of a lynching attempt, civil rights activist, and founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to James Herbert Cameron, a barber, and Vera Cameron who was employed as a laundress, cook, and housekeeper. At the age of fifteen months, James was the first African American baby ever admitted as a patient to the St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse, where he underwent an emergency operation on the abdominal cavity. By the time James started school, his parents had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and his parents separated.

When Cameron was sixteen he was living with his mother, two sisters, and grandmother in Marion, Indiana. His stepfather Hezikiah Burden hunted and fished long distances from home so was away from his family most of the time The family lived in a segregated section of Marion Indiana which counted about four thousand blacks among its ...

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Edward J. Robinson

evangelist, farmer, educator, postmaster, justice of the peace, and “race man,” was born Samuel in Prince William County, Virginia. Even though an oral tradition among Cassius's descendants insists that Robert E. Lee was his biological father, circumstantial evidence suggests that James W. F. Macrae, a white physician and politician and relative of Robert E. Lee, was probably his father and Jane, an enslaved African, was his mother (Robinson). After emancipation Cassius probably added the names “Robert” to commemorate Robert E. Lee's kindness of purchasing him and his mother to prevent them from being sold to the Deep South and he may have attached Cassius to honor the ancient Roman general as many slaves adopted names of famous people from classical antiquity Robinson Little is known about Samuel s mother a slave who served in the Macrae household While working for the Macrae family as a house servant ...

Article

Madge Dresser

Controversial philanthropist and merchant involved in the slave trade. He was the Bristol‐born son of a Bristol merchant who spent his early life in London, but it is in Bristol that he is most famous. A staunch Anglican and Tory, he was briefly MP for the city in 1710. His huge donations to church renovation and school building projects, mainly but not exclusively in Bristol, ensured his reputation as the city's greatest benefactor, as his major statue in the centre and his fine tomb by Michael Rysbrack attest. Several Bristol streets, schools, buildings, and venerable local charities still bear his name, and his birthday is still honoured in civic celebrations.

Colston s relevance to black history lies in the fact that he was involved in the British slave trade and in the trade of slave produced goods By the 1670s he was a City of London merchant trading ...

Article

Meca R. Williams

Catherine Ferguson began New York’s first Sunday school in 1793. Not only did she teach catechism and life skills but she also assisted by finding permanent homes for some of the school’s economically disadvantaged students. For these benevolent acts, she is known as a trailblazer in the Sunday school movement, public education, child welfare, and social work.

Ferguson was born Catherine Williams when her mother was en route to her new slave owners for domestic service Williams was delivered on a schooner while her mother was traveling from Virginia to New York Doing domestic work alongside her mother she developed skills that would prove helpful to her in her later employment Her mother also taught her to recite biblical scriptures The young girl acquired a keen ability for memorizing religious texts When she was eight years old her education came to a halt and her family ties were ...

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Rayford W. Logan

Catherine Ferguson was born a slave while her mother was traveling from Virginia to New York City, when slavery was still permitted in that region. When Ferguson was seven years old, her mother was sold. A kind mistress permitted the child to attend church services, and another sympathetic woman purchased Ferguson's freedom for $200 when she was sixteen years old. When she was eighteen, Ferguson married; the couple had two children, both of whom died young. Little is known about her husband, who died before she was twenty. At her home on Warren Street, Manhattan, she began to instruct black and white children in religious matters. Around 1814, Dr. Mason, a minister, visited her home on a Sunday and invited her to bring her school to the basement of his church on Murray Street. Here, according to scholar W. E. B. Du Bois she took the ...

Article

William E. Burns

, educator and philanthropist, was born Catherine Williams as her mother, Katy Williams, a slave, was in transit from Virginia to New York City. Nothing is known of her father. When she was only eight years old Katy was separated forever from her mother, who was sold by their master. She later credited her own compassion for children to the pain she suffered at the loss. Katy underwent a conversion experience at the age of fourteen or fifteen and shortly afterward, in 1789, joined New York's Scotch Presbyterian Church (later the Second Presbyterian Church), possibly causing some controversy among the white members of the church, which spatially separated white and black worshippers.

When Katy was sixteen or seventeen she was purchased by a New York woman for $200 The woman s plan was to allow Katy her freedom after six years work in compensation for the payment However ...

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Sheryl A. Kujawa

Ferguson, Katy (1779?–11 July 1854), child welfare worker and school founder was born a slave on board a schooner en route from Virginia to New York City Her formal name was Catherine Williams but she was known as Katy Separated from her mother at the age of eight after the woman was sold by their master a Presbyterian elder Katy never saw her mother again Although she never learned to read or write Katy was allowed to attend church services and before she was sold her mother taught her the Scriptures from memory Katy was deeply religious and a strong adherent of the Presbyterian faith At the age of ten she promised her master that she would dedicate her life to God s service if given her freedom This request was denied but Katy eventually obtained her freedom she was purchased for $200 by an abolitionist sympathizer ...

Article

Cheryl Laz

humanitarian and founder of Hale House, was born Clara McBride in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she grew up. Her father was murdered when she was a child, and her mother died when Clara was sixteen. She left high school without graduating, although she eventually earned her high school equivalency diploma at the age of eighty-seven. After leaving school she married Thomas Hale and moved with him to New York City. There she did cleaning, worked as a domestic, and studied business administration by taking night classes at City College. When she was twenty-seven her husband died, leaving her with three children.

The conflict between financially supporting and physically caring for three young children spurred Hale to begin caring for children in her home. She became a licensed foster parent, taking in seven or eight children at a time. Between 1941 and 1968 she reared more than forty foster children.

Hale ...

Article

Bernadette Pruitt

the self-reliant bondsman of the legendary Sam Houston, was born to a slave mother and reared on the Temple Lea Plantation in Marion, Perry County, Alabama, three years after the territory gained statehood. Joshua stood out at an early age. Although a field hand, the boy began learning blacksmithing and other skills. With the aid of the Lea family Joshua also began reading. The remarkable youngster garnered a reputation early on as a precocious and assiduous child. Barely eighteen, he carried this reputation with him when moved to Texas.

In 1834 Joshua's owner, Temple Lea, died and willed the twelve-year-old Joshua to his teenage daughter Margaret Moffette Lea, who six years later at the age of twenty-one married and became the third wife of the forty-six-year-old Sam Houston Houston the former general who led the Anglo American victory against General Antonio López de Santa Anna s six ...

Article

David T. Beito

physician, civil rights leader, and entrepreneur, was born Theodore Roosevelt Howard in the town of Murray, Calloway County, Kentucky, to Arthur Howard, a tobacco twister, and Mary Chandler, a cook for Will Mason, a prominent local white doctor and member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA). Mason took note of the boy's work habits, talent, ambition, and charm. He put him to work in his hospital and eventually paid for much of his medical education. Howard later showed his gratitude by adding “Mason” as a second middle name.

Theodore Howard attended three SDA colleges: the all-black Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama; the predominantly white Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska; and the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California. While at Union College he won the American Anti-Saloon League's national contest for best orator in 1930.

During his years in medical school in ...

Article

Glen Pierce Jenkins

obstetrician and community leader, was born near Moncks Corner, South Carolina, the son of the former slaves John Lambright and Mary Gelzer, farmers. Middleton was one of thirteen children, and although he was born free, more than half his siblings were born into slavery. As a young man he often accompanied his father to Charleston for supplies. Their route took them by the Medical College of South Carolina, and Lambright questioned his father about the young men in white coats walking on the campus. This experience established in him the notion of studying medicine. When a life-threatening accident brought him into personal contact with a physician for a period of several months, he became convinced of his life's ambition. With the support of his family, Lambright eventually graduated from Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina, with an AB degree. In 1898 he received his MD from the ...

Article

Jari Christopher Honora

statesman, minister, educator, businessman, and attorney, was born on the plantation of Dr. Francois Marie Prevost near Donaldsonville, Ascension Parish, Louisiana. He is purported to have been born to Rosemond Landry, a white laborer on the Prevost plantation and Marcelite, his slave mistress. He was born with the name Caliste. According to Landry's unpublished autobiography, he resided with a free couple of color and was educated at a school conducted for free children. Despite his owner's wish that he be freed, when Dr. Prevost's estate was settled on 16 May 1854 Caliste was auctioned off to Marius St Colombe Bringier a wealthy sugar planter in Ascension Parish He was sold for $1 665 Landry continued his education on Houmas the Bringier plantation and was trusted enough to live in the mansion He served various roles on Houmas Plantation eventually earning the position of superintendent ...

Article

Danica Tisdale

religious leader, college founder, and historian, was born near Jackson, Tennessee, to Cullen Lane, a white slave owner, and Rachel, a slave woman. Although born to a white father, young Isaac, by custom and law, occupied the status of his mother and was thus raised a slave by Rachel and her husband Josh, a slave and field hand. Little is known about young Isaac's parents, and, in fact, his autobiography states that he “was reared almost motherless and fatherless having no parental care and guidance” (Lane, 47). Nevertheless he was a precocious child, eager to learn. At the age of eleven he assumed the surname of his white father.

In his formative years Lane began to educate himself and would eventually learn to read write and do math Denied the advantages of early training Lane was able to seize a blue black speller and through ...

Article

Jacob Andrew Freedman

preacher, educator, and activist, was born in Fishdam, North Carolina, one of thirteen children born to slave parents whose names are now unknown but who were owned by the Cameron family. Latta's early years after the Civil War were scarred by the death of his father and oldest brother. By age thirteen he felt the pressure of having to provide food for his entire family and hired himself out as a laborer. Although he worked tirelessly, members of his family often went hungry. He found time to study and occasionally attend school when weather prevented him from working in the fields. As he developed academically, he also began giving speeches from a soapbox in public locations. He continued to take an active interest in politics but refused to run for elected office, believing “that there was nothing in politics for colored people” (Latta, 15).

After deciding against ...

Article

Carol Parker Terhune

slave, minister, and religious activist, was born into slavery in Kentucky as Mary Frances Taylor. Known as “Fannie,” she was the fifth of sixteen children and the reported favorite of her parents, Mary and Jonathan Taylor Jonathan Taylor was the freeborn son of a slave mother and her white master while Fannie s mother Mary was a slave Although Mary and Jonathan were allowed by her owner to marry he spent only part of each week on the plantation where Mary and their children worked as slaves Fannie s family was not a religious family and although she had an understanding and acknowledgement of God she was anything but pious in her youth and took pleasure in dancing When Fannie was fourteen years old her aunt a religious woman challenged her behavior explaining the evils of dancing and its sinful implications This conversation ultimately led ...

Article

Eric Gardner

also known as “Millie-Christine,” entertainers, were conjoined twins born to an enslaved couple named Jacob and Monemia, who were owned by Jabez McKay, a Columbus County, North Carolina, blacksmith. The twins quickly became a local sensation in the wake of the success of the original “Siamese Twins,” Chang and Eng Bunker (conjoined twins made famous by showman and entrepreneur P. T. Barnum) and the growth of the national circus movement. Before the McKoy twins were a year old, McKay and his partner John C. Pervis arranged for them to be exhibited throughout the area; soon after, their career was taken over by a manager named Brower, and they were sold to North Carolina businessman Joseph Pearson Smith. By this point, though, Brower, who was in possession of the young girls, had been swindled and the girls were stolen away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where, in 1854 ...

Article

Theresa A. Hammond

founder of the largest African American-owned certified public accounting firm, was born in Jamaica, West Indies, to Joseph Benjamin, a farmer with a third-grade education, and Edith Maud McCourty, a dressmaker. Mitchell grew up in a rural area in the town of Porus, the oldest of seven children and was the first person in his family to go to high school. He attended Kingston Technical High School and then moved to the United States in 1958 with his family settling in the Bronx Mitchell found a job in an ink factory and soon through a black employment agency he found a bookkeeping position for the Teamsters union downtown near city hall He wanted to further his education so he planned to attend the City College of New York CCNY and take engineering courses at night while working His employer however did not want him to leave ...

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 ...