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Johnie D. Smith

lawyer and judge, was born A. Macon Bolling in Indiana; the names of his parents and the exact date of his birth are unknown. He changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen by an act of the Massachusetts legislature on 26 January 1844. Details of Allen's early life and education are sparse and contradictory. His birth name is given in some sources as Malcolm B. Allen, and his birthplace as South Carolina. Evidence suggests that he lived in Maine and Massachusetts as a young man. Maine denied his initial application to the Maine bar because of allegations that he was not a state citizen, but he purportedly ran a Portland business before 1844. It is known that he read law in the Maine offices of two white abolitionist lawyers, Samuel E. Sewell and General Samuel Fessenden and that Fessenden promoted his admission to the Maine ...

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George C. Wright

journalist and lawyer, was born on the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies. Details about his early life, including the names of his parents and the nature of his education, are unknown. In the fall of 1869 he arrived in New York, where he worked as soliciting agent for the New York Star and then as city editor for the Progressive American. Benjamin apparently became a U.S. citizen in the early 1870s, and in 1876 he gave speeches in support of Rutherford B. Hayes the Republican candidate for president He was rewarded with a position as a letter carrier in New York City but quit after nine months and moved to Kentucky where he taught school While there Benjamin also took up the study of law He continued his studies after being named principal of a school in Decatur Alabama and he was admitted to ...

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Sean Patrick Adams

James Gillespie Birney was born in Danville, Kentucky, to a slaveholding family. He attended Transylvania University in nearby Lexington, Kentucky, and eventually graduated from Princeton University in 1810. After admittance to the bar, Birney returned to Danville to practice law and soon married into an influential Kentucky family. By the time he moved to Madison County, Alabama, in 1818, he already owned several slaves.

Following a brief stint in Alabama's General Assembly and some financial difficulties, Birney relocated to Huntsville, Alabama, to begin a law practice. After selling many of his slaves, he became involved with the colonization movement and supported the idea of restricting the internal slave trade. By 1832 Birney was an active agent for the American Colonization Society and made a lecture circuit around the South supporting the idea of emancipating slaves and transporting them to the new African colony of Liberia He ...

Article

Tayren Woodard

lawyer, politician, missionary, and diplomat, was born in Ohio to Rebecca and Billy Bowser in 1831, the year of the Nat Turner Revolt in Virginia. To avoid being sold into slavery, the Bowsers, who were free-born black natives of Virginia, left the state soon after the revolt, in which over sixty whites were killed. The Bowser family relocated to Logan County, Ohio. Rebecca, who worked as a house servant, owned about $500 worth of real estate around the time of her death. During this time, her real estate was considered impressive for a free black in Ohio. Shortly thereafter, Billy also died.

At the time Bolding was the only boy and the oldest of four children Bolding had three younger sisters Cristine Mary and Elizabeth All of the Bowser children attended school Although little is known about his early years we do know that Bolding attended school at the ...

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Agnes Kane Callum

slave, farmer, teacher, Reconstruction-era state legislator and lawyer, was born in South Carolina's famed Edgefield District. He was literate and the favored slave of Major Thomas Carwile the commissioner in equity of Edgefield Cain was probably raised much like other slave children on Edgefield plantations they would be cared for by an elderly lady while their mothers worked in the fields until the children were about six or seven years old when they were sent to work in the fields many serving as water carriers or weed pullers In some instances they were sent to work by the side of an adult Generally the children were called quarter workers since they produced about one fourth as much labor as an adult It is not known exactly how Cain learned to read and write but it is likely that he was taught by his owner as he was known as ...

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Connie Park Rice

newspaper editor and civil rights lawyer, was born in Williamsport, Virginia (later West Virginia), the youngest of three sons born to Isaac Clifford, a farmer, and Mary Satilpa Kent, free blacks living in Hardy County. John Robert joined the Union army on 3 March 1865, rising to the rank of corporal in the 13th U.S. Heavy Artillery. After serving in Kentucky, Tennessee, and eastern Virginia under General Ulysses S. Grant, Clifford volunteered for service at Chicago, Illinois.

After the Civil War, Clifford remained in Chicago, staying from 1865 to 1868 with the Honorable John J. Healy, an acquaintance of his father, and graduating from Chicago High School. Clifford worked as a barber before going to live with an uncle in Zeno, Muskingum County, Ohio, where he attended a school taught by Miss Effie McKnight and received a diploma from a writing school conducted by a Professor ...

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Stephen Gilroy Hall

lawyer and historian, was born a slave in Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of Willis Hodges Cromwell, a ferry operator, and Elizabeth Carney. In 1851Cromwell's father purchased the family's freedom and moved to West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Cromwell attended public school. In 1856 he was admitted to the Preparatory Department of the Institute of Colored Youth. Graduating in 1864, he embarked on a teaching career. He taught in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and in 1865 opened a private school in Portsmouth, Virginia. Cromwell left teaching temporarily after an assault in which he was shot at and his school burned down. He returned to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was employed by the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People. Then he served as an agent for the American Missionary Association and went back to Virginia. In 1867 he became active in local politics serving as a ...

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H.R. Costello

Early Liverpudliansolicitor. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of a wealthy white member of the plantocracy and his mixed‐race mother, Hannah Woodcock. On his father's death, William and his sisters were brought back to Liverpool by their uncle, John Daggers, a prominent and respected gentleman. William's family connections and his social class apparently helped to ease his entry into Liverpudlian society because he appears to have been accepted into the highest social circles.

William Daggers was a contemporary of Joshua Lace, founder of the Liverpool Law Society, set up in 1824. Daggers followed Lace into the legal profession, and in 1819 gained his certificate as a solicitor Though he seldom appeared in court he was widely sought after and consulted for his brilliant knowledge of equity and conveyancing He acquired a reputation with the Council for his work on issues affecting the ...

Article

Thomas M. Leonard

diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Durham, who could almost pass for white, studied in the Philadelphia public schools and graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876.

For five years after leaving high school Durham taught in Delaware and Pennsylvania. In 1881 he entered Towne Scientific School, a branch of the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1886 and a civil engineering degree in 1888. He held several positions during his college career, including reporter for the Philadelphia Times. He excelled as a newspaperman, and his unique abilities eventually led him to the assistant editorship of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin ...

Article

Kenneth L. Kusmer

lawyer and politician, was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the son of John R. Green, a tailor, and Temperance (maiden name unknown), free African Americans of mixed ancestry. He learned the rudiments of reading and writing at a private school for free blacks. His father died while John was a child, and in June 1857 his mother moved the family to Cleveland, Ohio.

After working as an apprentice to a harness maker in Oberlin, Ohio, Green returned to Cleveland and attended school briefly before being forced to withdraw because of the family's financial problems. He worked temporarily as a tailor, a waiter, and at other jobs. He continued to study on his own, however, and at his own expense in 1866 published Miscellaneous Subjects by a Self-Educated Colored Youth Later that year after returning from a lecture tour to promote his book he entered Central High ...

Article

Leslie H. Fishel

attorney, was born in Canada, probably in St. Catharines, Ontario. His parentage is uncertain, but it appears that he was born into the family of Thomas and Mary Green, two African Americans who had migrated to Canada. His father was a laborer; neither parent was literate.

Green's early schooling is undocumented. He may have attended St. Catharines Collegiate Institute, but no records substantiate that. In 1884 he moved to the United States, probably to Chicago; no records support his claim that he became a naturalized citizen. Three years later he settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Employed as a waiter in the prestigious Plankinton House, he was at home in the upper circles of Milwaukee's black society. While he was at Plankinton House it is likely that Green benefited from the schooling that the African American head of dining services, John J. Miles arranged for members of his all ...

Article

Olive Hoogenboom

educator, lawyer, and diplomat, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard Wesley Greener, a seaman who was wounded during the Mexican War while serving aboard USS Princeton, and Mary Ann Le Brune. When he was nine, Greener and his parents moved to Boston but soon left for Cambridge, where he could attend “an unproscriptive school.” Greener's father, as chief steward of the George Raynes, had taken his son on a voyage to Liverpool but then abandoned the sea in 1853 for the California gold fields He was taken sick met with losses and was never heard from again When Greener was twelve years old he left school to help support his mother Although he quit one of his positions after an employer struck him those whom he met while knocking around in different occupations often helped educate him sharing their ...

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Dickson D. Jr. Bruce

scholar and activist, was born in Colleton County, South Carolina, near Charleston, the eldest of three sons of Henry Grimké, a lawyer and member of one of South Carolina's leading families, and Nancy Weston, a slave owned by Grimké. He was also a nephew, on his father's side, of the noted white southern abolitionists Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké Weld. Although Archibald was born a slave, Henry acknowledged him as his son. After Henry's death in 1852 his mother took him to Charleston, where, even though he was still legally a slave, he attended a school for free blacks.

This condition was to change with the coming of the Civil War, when, in 1860, one of Henry's adult white sons, from an earlier marriage, forced the Grimké brothers—Archibald, John, and Francis J. Grimké—to work as household slaves. Archibald escaped in 1863 hiding in ...

Article

Leila Kamali

British barrister who came to prominence in the Somerset case. Hargrave was born in London, and entered Lincoln's Inn as a student in 1760. Having written to the abolitionist Granville Sharp offering his services, Hargrave was the most prominent of the five lawyers who appeared on behalf of James Somerset, a slave who was brought from Boston, Massachusetts, then a British colony, to England in 1769. Somerset escaped, but was recaptured and imprisoned on a ship bound for Jamaica, also a British colony. At Sharp's intervention, hearings began in February 1772.

In this Hargrave s first appearance in court he argued that while colonial law might permit slavery those laws did not apply in England and further that English law did not allow for any person to enslave himself by contract Somerset was freed and Hargrave s argument was decisive in Lord Mansfield s ruling ...

Article

Nancy T. Robinson

professor, lawyer, activist, and entrepreneur, was born in Eufaula, Alabama, the son of Jennie Dunn and Henry Clay Hart, an Alabama slaveholder who had been born in Rhode Island. From 1867 to 1874 Hart attended Eufaula's American Missionary Association School, where he became involved in the black voting rights movement. Hart was a youth activist who spoke publicly in opposition of local government. This behavior drew attention to him and caused great concern for his safety. Fearful and impoverished, Hart left Alabama and gradually traveled to Washington, D.C., entirely on foot.

In 1876 Hart enrolled at Howard University. He graduated in 1880 with a Preparatory Department certificate and continued his studies, graduating with a BA degree in 1885, an LLB in 1887, an MA in 1889, and an LLM in 1891 During his time as a law student Hart worked for ...

Article

Barbara Bair

Baltimore attorney, civic leader, political activist, and champion of legal challenges to racial segregation laws, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Susan Cobb Hawkins and Robert Hawkins, a minister. Hawkins graduated in 1885 from the Centenary Biblical Institute (later Morgan College). In March of the same year he married his first wife, Ada McMechen (1867–?) of Virginia, in a Baltimore service led by the Reverend Benjamin Brown, a church activist and pastor of the Sharp Street Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, of which Hawkins was a lifelong member. William and Ada Hawkins had two daughters, Aldina Hawkins (Haynes) (1885–1940) and Roberta Hawkins (West) (1891–?).

Hawkins worked as an educator while studying law at the University of Maryland but he was forced to leave the college when white students petitioned to exclude blacks He graduated from the Howard ...

Article

Patricia Carter Sluby

attorney, businessman, civic leader, and a confidant of U.S. presidents and of Booker T. Washington, was born Giles in Goochland County, Virginia, one of four children of the slaves Hulda and James Jackson. Little information is known about Giles's father; however, his mother was born into slavery in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, and later became the property of Charles G. Dickerson, a Goochland County gentleman farmer. During the Civil War young Giles was the body servant to Dickerson, his master and a colonel in Fitz Lee's Cavalry, and he also attended the horses and uniforms of General Robert E. Lee. He followed his master into battle, which led to his being captured near the end of the war. Jackson recounted his story in an issue of the New York World in 1915 Seized by Union troops in Caroline County and again at City ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Biographer of Ignatius Sancho, the African writer whose letters were published in England in 1782. Jekyll was the only son of Edward Jekyll, a captain in the Royal Navy. Details concerning his place of birth are uncertain. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford, left for France upon completion of his studies in 1774, and was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1788.

Jekyll may have met Sancho during this period, but there is no confirmation of this. In fact, information regarding their relationship is scarce and is left to much speculation. However, one piece of evidence affirms that Jekyll and Sancho did indeed meet and had some form of connection that extended beyond the purely professional. A letter written around 1803 by Sancho's son William to Jekyll, suggests that Jekyll was generous to the Sancho family:

To Joseph Jekyll Esq M P From ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

educator, lawyer, and politician, was born near Raleigh, North Carolina, the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A. Smith, slaves. He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton, a free African American, and later attended the Washington School, an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh. There he was introduced to the Congregational Church and became a lifelong member. Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia, graduating in 1883. To pay his way through college, he worked as a barber and taught in the summers. After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal, first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School from 1883 to 1885 and then in Raleigh at the Washington School from 1885 to 1891. While teaching in Raleigh, he studied at Shaw University, obtaining a law degree in 1891 He joined the faculty ...

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 ...