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Chandra M. Miller

dentist and politician, was born into slavery in North Carolina and was known as Samuel Nixon before his escape from bondage in 1855. Nothing is known about his parents. He was sold several times before being purchased by C. F. Martin, a dentist in Norfolk, Virginia. As Martin's slave, Nixon learned sufficient dentistry to serve as the doctor's assistant and to make dental house calls. He also developed bookkeeping skills and monitored the doctor's accounts.

In Norfolk, Nixon became involved with the Underground Railroad. Befriending the captains of many of the schooners sailing in and out of Norfolk, he often convinced them to hide fugitive slaves aboard ship and carry them north, usually to Philadelphia or to New Bedford, Massachusetts. After conducting many other slaves through the Underground Railroad, Nixon decided to become a passenger himself in March 1855 He and three other slaves disguised themselves and ...


Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, businessman, and writer, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, the youngest of fifteen children of Eliza and Edwin, who were slaves. Burton and his mother remained on the plantation after Emancipation as paid laborers, and he continued working at the “old homestead” after her death in 1869 until he was sixteen, at which time he left following an altercation with the owner.

In 1880 Burton was “converted to God” and subsequently experienced an insatiable desire for learning. Despite discouraging comments from those who thought that twenty was too old to start school, Burton was not dissuaded and determined that nothing was going to prevent him from getting an education except sickness or death. Burton worked for one more year as a farmhand in Richmond, Kentucky. One January morning in 1881 he put a few items in a carpetbag and nine dollars and seventy five cents in his ...


Caryn E. Neumann

nurse, was born Namahyoke Gertrude Sockum in California as the first of seven children. Her maternal grandmother was German, and her maternal grandfather was African American. Her mother, whose name is unknown, married Hamilton Sockum, a Native American of the Acoma Pueblo tribe of New Mexico. Raised by an aunt, Curtis attended grade school in San Francisco. She furthered her education by graduating from Snell Seminary in Oakland in 1888. After graduation Curtis went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to visit relatives. There she met Austin Maurice Curtis and eloped with him on 5 May 1888. After the marriage she returned to California while her husband attended Northwestern University Medical School. When the Sockum family learned of the marriage, they sent their daughter to rejoin her husband in Chicago.

While living in Chicago Curtis became absorbed in efforts to uplift the black community She played an instrumental role with Dr ...


Benjamin R. Justesen

teacher, physician, public official, legislator, and lay religious leader, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Mary Ann Sampson, a slave, and an unnamed white father of Scottish descent. Green was raised in Wilmington by his mother, who later married Reverend Cornelius Sampson, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion clergyman. After Wilmington's fall to invading Union forces in early 1865, Green was allowed to begin his formal education at age twenty in the local Presbyterian parochial school.

For the next two years, while working as a carpenter by day, Green attended school at night. An excellent student, he supplemented his savings with loans to enter Lincoln University in May 1867 and continued to work before being granted a scholarship in his second year. He completed his bachelor's degree in 1872 taught for a year in Lincoln s normal and preparatory schools and ...


Michele Valerie Ronnick

pharmacist, physician, man of letters, and licensed preacher in the British Methodist Episcopal Church and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to Stephen and Eleanor Jones Hartley. His mother, who was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, on 7 June 1830, was of Creole origin. She was confirmed at St. Michael's Cathedral, an Anglican church, on 6 January 1849, and moved a few months later on 27 June 1849 to Port of Spain. Her husband, whom she married at the Church of the Holy Trinity on 27 December 1860, was a merchant's clerk. A physician from Paris, France, named Louis Saturnin witnessed the couple's wedding and also the baptism on 5 February 1862 of their only son, Henry, who was Saturnin's namesake.

Not quite four years later, on 26 January 1866 Hartley s father died To make ends ...


Laura M. Calkins

homeopathic physician, was born in Chatham, a hub of fugitive and free-black settlement in extreme southwestern Ontario, then known as Canada West. Little is known about Jones's early life. Her parents were James Monroe Jones and Emily Jones. Her father came from a family of manumitted slaves in North Carolina, and his father, James Madison Jones, had obtained the family's freedom in 1843 and moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where he graduated from Oberlin College with an AB degree in 1849; at least one of his brothers also graduated from Oberlin.

Sophia Jones had three sisters, Anna Holland Jones, Emma (or Emily) Jones, and Frederica Florence Jones, and two brothers, George and James These children probably all attended one of the Chatham area s private schools for black students and they excelled in their studies As a young woman Sophia attended the Wilberforce Educational ...


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 ...


Kenyatta D. Berry

political activist and doctor, was born in Camden, South Carolina, one of the three sons and six children of James and Susan Levy. Dr. Levy's great-grandmother was a native African. James Levy attended public school in Camden and for a short time the University of South Carolina. When the school closed its doors to black students, he had to find another university. James began his career as a teacher in Mayesville in the early 1880s. During Reconstruction he was a page in the House of Representatives in South Carolina and a student at a preparatory school for boys for entrance to State University. In 1886, he taught school in Arkansas and later entered Fisk University in November 1886. Levy graduated from Fisk University in 1891 and entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Chicago now University of Illinois College of Medicine that same year ...


Mary Krane Derr

physician and pharmacist, was born in Syracuse, New York, the fifth of eight children of Caroline (Storum) and Jermain Wesley Loguen, an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church bishop. Close friends of Frederick Douglass and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Loguen Fraser's parents were themselves ardent abolitionists and women's rights supporters. Her mother's heritage was free black, Native American, and French Canadian. As her father recounted in his autobiography, The Reverend J.W. Loguen as a Slave and as a Freeman (1859), he was conceived after his mother was raped by their white slaveholder in Davidson County, Tennessee. Jermain Loguen escaped North learned to read entered the ministry and vowed to spend his life liberating others from slavery The Loguens Syracuse house at East Genesee and Pine Streets was a critical station on the Underground Railroad that sheltered perhaps as many as 1 500 fugitives in ...


Karen Jean Hunt

physician and educator, was born Alice Woodby in Bridgewater, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Charles Woodby and Elizabeth B. Frazier. As a child Alice suffered from the loss of her sight and remained blind for three years. After recovering she attended public schools in Bridgewater, less than thirty miles from Pittsburgh.

From 1884 to 1886 Woodby attended Hampton Institute in Virginia. Although she never graduated, Woodby fully embraced the Hampton principles of “education for life” and “learning by doing.” In an 1897 letter to the Southern Workman she explained her decision to leave Hampton: “Students were sent out to teach one year before graduating. Not wishing to become a teacher, I thought it best not to begin, for fear the temptation to continue might thwart my plans for obtaining my profession.”

Woodby entered the Institute for Colored Youth (ICY) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1886 The ICY was one ...


Eduardo Spiller Pena

was born in Salvador da Bahia on 23 March 1794. Born Francisco Gomes Brandão, Montezuma was the son of Pedro (or Manoel) Gomes Brandão and Narcisa Teresa de Jesus Barreto, both of whom were born in Bahia. His mother was probably of African or mixed descent. According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, Pedro Brandão was the captain of two vessels that shipped more than 500 slaves from the African ports of Elmina, on the Gold Coast, and the region of the Bight of Benin, to Bahia between 1811 and 1814. The father’s involvement in the slave trade and other commercial activities financed Montezuma’s studies, first at the Escola de Medicina da Bahia (School of Medicine of Bahia), between 1813 and 1815, and later in Portugal, at the Universidade de Coimbra where he graduated with a law degree in 1821 The study of the law prepared ...


Susan Knoke Rishworth

physician, civil rights and women's suffrage activist, settlement worker, and clubwoman, was born Verina Harris in Ohio, one of five children of Charlotte (Kitty) Stanly, a schoolteacher, and the Reverend W. D. Harris, a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Her mother came from a family of North Carolina free blacks who had inherited slaves that they wished to emancipate in the North before the impending Civil War. Around 1850 the family moved to Ohio, where Kitty Stanly and her husband taught school. The year of Verina Harris's birth is given as 1865 in some sources, but most probably it was between 1853 and 1857. Little is known about her early life, but the family apparently moved south to Columbia, South Carolina, in 1870 while her father was serving in an AME ministry in various locations in South Carolina More information ...


Robert C. Hayden

physician and hospital founder and administrator, was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the son of Aaron Mossell, a brick manufacturer, and Eliza Bowers; both parents were free blacks from Baltimore, Maryland, who had moved to Canada to escape racial discrimination. When the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, Aaron Mossell moved his family back to the United States. In 1865 they settled in Lockport, New York, a small town near Rochester.

In Lockport the Mossell children were assigned to a separate all-black school. Mossell's father successfully petitioned the Lockport Board of Education to close the all-black school, and Nathan and the other black children were allowed to attend integrated schools. The Mossell family's home life was highly religious: Aaron Mossell donated the bricks for the first African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in Lockport.

After graduation from high school in Lockport in 1873 Nathan Mossell ...


Dalyce Newby

physician and medical educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Purvis Sr., a well-to-do abolitionist, and Harriet Forten Purvis, daughter of James Forten, a prosperous sailmaker and civic leader. Purvis received his early education in Quaker-administered public schools and then at Oberlin College, which he attended from 1860 to 1863. For his medical studies he attended Wooster Medical College, which later was incorporated into Western Reserve University Medical School, in Cleveland, Ohio, graduating with an MD in 1865. During the summer of 1864 Purvis served as a military nurse, based at Camp Barker, a contraband hospital in Washington, D.C., which later formed the foundation of Freedmen's Hospital.

Upon graduating he petitioned to and was accepted by the U S Volunteers as an assistant surgeon for the Union army one of only eight African Americans accepted as surgeons during the war He ...


Shari Rudavsky

physician and medical educator, was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the son of James William Roman, a former slave, and Anna Walker McGuinn the child of a former slave Charles s parents met in Canada where his father had fled about twenty years before the Civil War After the Emancipation Proclamation a year and a half before his birth they had moved back to the United States but making a living there was difficult and by the time Charles was six the family had returned to Ontario where his father worked as a broom maker From an early age Charles knew he wanted to be a physician Soon after the move to Canada he apprenticed himself to a local herbalist possibly his grandmother His practice ended when one of his patient s parents became nervous about the treatment Roman had administered and called in the local doctor who ...


was a mixed-race (mulato) Brazilian physician, politician, and founder of the Sociedade de Medicina do Rio de Janeiro (Society of Medicine of Rio de Janeiro), precursor to the Academia Nacional de Medicina (National Academy of Medicine). Soares de Meirelles was born on 5 November 1797 near the village of Sabará in the colonial captaincy of Minas Gerais. His father was the surgeon Manoel Soares de Meirelles and his mother Anna Joaquina de São José Meirelles. With his first wife, Rita Maria Pereira Reis, Joaquim Cândido Soares de Meirelles had four sons, including the homeopathic doctor Saturnino Soares de Meirelles (1828–1909). With his second wife, Maria Cândida Marianna Vahya, he had one daughter.

Soares de Meirelles studied at the Seminário de São José São José Seminary in the city of Rio de Janeiro before entering the Academia Médico Cirúrgica do Rio de Janeiro Medical Surgical College of ...


Edward J. Robinson

stonecutter, porter, educator, funeral director, and preacher, was born a slave in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of Zed and Betty Taylor. When Preston was one year old his parents moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where at age four young Preston heard a sermon in the First Baptist Church of Lexington and subsequently stated, “Some day I'll be a preacher” (Clement Richardson, The National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race [1919]). In 1864, at age fifteen Preston enlisted in Company G, 116th U.S. Infantry, as a drummer. He was present at the sieges of Richmond and Petersburg in Virginia, and at the surrender of Robert E. Lee. Taylor's regiment also served in Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana, before exiting the army on 17 January 1867 (Simmons, Men of Mark).

After serving in the military Taylor became a stonecutter and was skillful at ...


Kevin Barrett

clergyman, physician, and abolitionist, was born in slavery in Winchester, Virginia. The names of his parents are unknown. Although the scant records of his early life differ on the details, most sources indicate that while still a “youth” he ran away from his master and found refuge with a kindly family in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This household provided the moral and religious influences that shaped Thompson's commitment to physical and spiritual healing. In the evenings and winter months he attended common school, where he proved studious and ambitious. For a time he worked with a physician at Middletown Point (later Matawan), New Jersey.

Although he retained a lifelong interest in medicine, Thompson was resolved to become a minister. He studied theology privately with the Reverend Dr. Mills of Auburn Theological Seminary in Auburn, New York, and was licensed to preach in 1839 For several years he probably ...


William K. Beatty

surgeon and hospital administrator, was born in Hollidaysburg, south central Pennsylvania, the son of Daniel Williams Jr. and Sarah Price. His parents were black, but Daniel himself, in adult life, could easily be mistaken for being white, with his light complexion, red hair, and blue eyes.

Williams's father did well in real estate but died when Daniel was eleven, and the family's financial situation became difficult. When Williams was seventeen, he and a sister, Sally, moved to Janesville, Wisconsin. Here Williams found work at Harry Anderson's Tonsorial Parlor and Bathing Rooms. Anderson took the two of them into his home as family and continued to aid Williams financially until Williams obtained his MD.

Medicine had not been Williams's first choice of a career; he had worked in a law office after high school but had found it too quarrelsome. In 1878 Janesville's most prominent physician, Henry Palmer ...