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Adam Meyer

Little remembered today, Edward Wilmot Blyden was the most important African thinker of the nineteenth century, leading one of the most varied careers of any Black man in that era. Born in Saint Thomas, Blyden came to America in 1850 to attend Rutgers Theological College but was rejected because of his race. He subsequently emigrated to Liberia, grew enamored of African life, and became a staunch supporter of his new homeland. Feeling called upon to undermine misconceptions about “the dark continent” and to encourage Blacks throughout the diaspora to repatriate, Blyden spent the remainder of his life serving this cause in several capacities. As a journalist, Blyden edited the Liberia Herald and founded and edited the Negro and the West African Reporter two of the first Pan African journals As an educator he served as principal of Alexander High School Monrovia Liberia s educational commissioner to Britain and America ...

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Kimberly Welch

educator, diplomat, and advocate of Pan‐Africanism, was born on the island of St. Thomas, part of the present‐day Virgin Islands, the son of Romeo Blyden, a tailor, and Judith (maiden name unknown), a schoolteacher. The family lived in a predominantly Jewish, English‐speaking community in the capital, Charlotte Amalie. Blyden went to the local primary school but also received private tutoring from his father. In 1842 the Blydens left St. Thomas for Porto Bello, Venezuela, where Blyden showed his–facility for learning foreign languages. By 1844 the family had returned home to St. Thomas. Blyden attended school only in the morning, and in the afternoons he served a five‐year apprenticeship as a tailor. In 1845 the Blyden family met the Reverend John P Knox a famous white American minister who had assumed pastorship of the Dutch Reformed Church in St Thomas where the Blydens were members Knox quickly became Blyden ...

Article

Jocelyn L. Womack

activist, educator, and lawyer, was born Kathleen Neal in Dallas, Texas, to Ernest Neal and Juette Johnson, educators. Activism and scholarship were staples of the Neal family home, as both of her parents held advanced degrees. Ernest and Juette met while attending the University of Michigan in the 1940s. Juette held a master's degree in mathematics, and Ernest earned a PhD in Sociology. Ernest was working as a Wiley College sociology professor in Marshall, Texas, at the time of Kathleen's birth.

Shortly after Kathleen s birth Ernest accepted a job at Tuskegee Institute relocating the family to Alabama In addition to Kathleen s early exposure to academia her father s work in foreign aid promoted a family environment in which social progress was frequently discussed At the age of nine Kathleen had already embarked upon a life of global travel and had an appreciation of diverse cultures Her father ...

Article

Candace Cardwell

attorney and political activist. Born in Dallas, Texas, Kathleen Neal Cleaver was the first child of Ernest Neal and Juette Johnson Neal. Her father was in the foreign service and the family lived in India, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Philippines. When Cleaver returned to the United States, she enrolled in a boarding school near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She attended Oberlin College in Ohio and later transferred to Barnard College in New York.

In 1966 Cleaver left college to work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At a SNCC conference at Fisk University in Tennessee, she met Eldridge Cleaver, the minister of information for the Black Panther Party (BPP). Attracted by the party's radical approach to social change, she left SNCC and joined the Black Panthers. She married Eldridge Cleaver on 27 December 1967.

As the national communications secretary for the BPP, Kathleen Cleaver ...

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

Elizabeth J. West

Born in New York City to Charity and Boston Crum-mell, Alexander grew up in a family that placed great emphasis on freedom, independence, and education. Although his parents had not experienced the privilege of a formal education, they placed Alexander in the Mulberry Street School and hired additional private tutors for him. When Crummell decided to enter the priesthood, he applied for entry into the theological seminary of the Episcopal Church. According to Crum-mell's own account in his 1894 retirement address, “Shades and Lights”, the admissions board denied his application because its policy was to exclude blacks from positions in the church hierarchy. Crummell was then forced to study privately with sympathetic clergy. These early studies shaped the stoic and methodical style that remained evident throughout his long career as writer and orator. Although he was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1844, it was not until 1847 ...

Article

Zachery R. Williams

Alexander Crummell was born in New York City, the son of Boston Crummell, said to have been an African prince, and a free mother (whose name is unknown). Crummell, one of the most prominent black nationalist intellectuals and ministers of the nineteenth century, strongly believed that the combination of Christianity and education would elevate blacks in America and Africa to a high level of civilization and prominence as a race. As a youth, Crummell came under the influence of the Reverend Peter Williams Jr., a staunch supporter of back-to-Africa movements. Prior to the Civil War, Crummell was a major supporter of African colonization. Ironically, however, his earliest success as an orator was as an opponent of the American Colonization Society.

Crummell spent the years 1853 to 1872 in Liberia with his family and became a citizen of the country Upon his arrival there he worked as a missionary ...

Article

Frank E. Dobson

pioneering scholar, religious thinker, and black nationalist leader. Alexander Crummell was born in 1819 in New York City to Boston Crummell, a former slave, and Charity Hicks Crummell, a freeborn black woman. Crummell's father was taken from Sierra Leone at age thirteen and sold into slavery in America. Crummell's parents were members of a group known as “Free Africans,” and they were activists in the movement to abolish slavery, as well as in other social-uplift efforts for blacks. John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish, the editors of the first black newspaper, Freedom's Journal (1827), were associates of Boston Crummell and met regularly within the Crummell home. Alexander Crummell was educated at the African Free School—alumni of which included Henry Highland Garnet and Ira Aldridge—and at the Canal Street High School run by Peter Williams a black clergyman and abolitionist who became a ...

Article

Timothy Konhaus

However, because of his vehement political and social critiques of the United States, Delany is often relegated to the shadows of his contemporary, Frederick Douglass. Like Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois in the early twentieth century, Delany and Douglass represent a point-counterpoint in American history. Unlike Washington and Du Bois, however, Delany and Douglass were at times business partners and friends despite their conflicting social views.

Delany was born in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1812, the son of Pati Peace, a free black woman, and Samuel Delany, a slave father. In 1822 his family moved north to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. In 1831 Delany went to Pittsburgh to study under the Reverend Lewis Woodson, an ardent black separatist. Delany also began studying medicine under the direction of several Pittsburgh doctors while serving as a cupper and bleeder.

In 1843 Delany began ...

Article

S. Sherrie Tartt

educator, human rights and community activist, was born Ericka Jenkins in Washington, D.C., to Cozette Jenkins, a secretary for the State Department, and Gervazae Jenkins, a clerk at the Pentagon. In high school Ericka was conscious of the inequality and discrimination African Americans experienced and participated in community service projects. Her first opportunity to partake in the excitement of the civil rights movement was with the 1963 March on Washington, which her parents did not want her to attend. Yet at age fifteen her rebel spirit was awakening as she defied her parents and stood among the multitude of marchers. She recalled that the powerful voice of Lena Horne singing the word “freedom” inspired her. The historic march cemented her determination to serve people for the rest of her life.

After high school Ericka was one of the first women to attend Lincoln University after transferring ...

Article

Boyd Childress

historian, teacher, and author. Rayford Whittingham Logan was a marginal civil rights figure yet a key voice in post–World War I race relations. Born in Washington, D.C., and educated in the district's segregated school system, Logan graduated from Dunbar High School, where Carter G. Woodson—later to play a key part in Logan's life—was an instructor. After continuing his education at Williams College in Massachusetts, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1917, Logan returned home and joined the District of Columbia National Guard, seeing combat in Europe as an infantry second lieutenant.

The U.S. Army in 1917 was segregated and like so many World Wars I and II black veterans Logan was deeply affected by his military experience After the war he was discharged but chose to remain in France an expatriate bitter against white Americans At home racial violence was widespread from Chicago ...

Article

Larvester Gaither

educator and activist, was born to parents Walter and Vera Henry in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as Richard Bullock Henry. Known later as Imari Obadele, he became one of the most recognized organizers of the reparations movement in the United States.

An important influence in Obadele's decision to become an activist was his older brother Milton Henry (1919–2006), who joined the military around the time Richard joined the Boy Scouts at age eleven. Milton eventually achieved the rank of second lieutenant, but against the harsh waves of Jim Crow segregation he surfaced as one of the leading opponents of the rigid forms of discrimination then endured by black officers Because of his dissent he eventually was court martialed and dishonorably discharged Nevertheless even without the benefits of the GI Bill he went on to graduate from Lincoln University and after being denied admission to Temple University attended Yale ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Born to a free family but orphaned at the age of five, Maria Stewart lived with the family of a clergyman until the age of fifteen. She acquired literacy and a religious education at Sabbath schools. Stewart married James Stewart on August 10, 1826, in Boston, Massachusetts. After her husband's death in 1829, Stewart worked through the 1860s as a teacher in the public school systems of New York City, Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. In Washington she established a Sunday school for children in 1871 and worked and lived at the Howard University–affiliated Freedmen's Hospital for the last nine years of her life.

Stewart's two-year speaking career began in 1832 and included four lectures, all published in William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, the Liberator. Her lecture to the New England Anti-Slavery Society on September 21, 1832 was the first public lecture ...

Article

Marilyn Richardson

Maria Stewart was the earliest known American woman to lecture in public on political themes and leave extant copies of her texts. Her first publication, a twelve-page pamphlet entitled Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality (1831), revealed her distinctive style, a mix of political analysis and religious exhortation. Her message, highly controversial coming from the pen of a woman, called upon African Americans to organize against slavery in the South and to resist racist restrictions in the North. She invoked both the Bible and the Constitution of the United States as documents proclaiming a universal birthright to freedom and justice.

Influenced by the militant abolitionist David Walker, Stewart raised the specter of armed rebellion by African Americans. In a lecture at Boston's African Masonic Hall in 1833 she declared M any powerful sons and daughters of Africa will shortly arise and declare by Him that ...