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Connie Park Rice

educator and club woman, was born Coralie Franklin in Lexington, Virginia, a daughter of Albert Franklin and Mary E. (maiden name unknown). During or immediately after the Civil War the family moved to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where Coralie attended the Normal Department at Storer College, graduating in 1872. She continued her education at Storer and graduated from the Academic Department in 1880. A gifted elocutionist she was described by John Wesley Cromwell, on a visit to Harper's Ferry in 1877, as “an elocutionist of grace, skill and power” (Journal of Negro History, July 1923). Franklin went on to attend Emerson College in Boston, the Shoemaker School of Oratory in Philadelphia, and the Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute of Oratory in Massachusetts. Franklin then returned to West Virginia and her alma mater, where she taught elocution at Storer College from 1882 to 1893 ...


Elizabeth L. Ihle

educator and suffragist, was born Minisarah J. Smith in Queens County, New York, the daughter of Sylvanus Smith and Ann Eliza Springsteel, farmers who were of mixed Native American, black, and white descent. Although Garnet's great-grandmother had established a school that her father attended, little is known about Garnet's own early schooling other than that she was taught by her father. However, she was a teacher's assistant at age fourteen with a salary of twenty dollars per year while she studied at various normal schools in the Queens County area. By 1854 Garnet (known as Sarah) was teaching in the private African Free School in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. In 1863 she became the first African American principal appointed by the New York Public School System, serving at the all-black P.S. 80 from her appointment until her retirement in 1900.

The annual closing exercises at Garnet ...


Eric Gardner

writer and educator, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to Daniel W. and Mary (sometimes listed as Margaret) Jane (Lewis) Gibson. Her father, who had been born in Virginia, and her mother, who had been born in the District of Columbia, were free African Americans who moved to the Cincinnati area in 1849 with their three children. Daniel Gibson worked as a barber and a porter in the years before the Civil War and was able to keep his growing family on the edges of the tiny black middle class in Cincinnati. In his Noted Negro Woman entry on Sarah Gibson, Monroe Majors wrote that her father was a man of unusual strength of intellect and will self reliant and well read and that her mother was a quiet and practical woman gentle firm and efficient pp 138 139 Sarah Gibson studied in a range of private ...


June O. Patton

educator, was born in Macon, Georgia, the daughter of David Laney and Louisa (maiden name unknown). Both parents were slaves: they belonged to different masters, but following their marriage they were permitted to live together in a home of their own. David Laney was a carpenter and often hired out by his owner, Mr. Cobbs. Louisa, purchased from a group of nomadic Indians while a small child, was a maid in the Campbell household. One of Lucy Laney's most cherished memories was “how her father would, after a week of hard slave work, walk for over twenty miles … to be at home with his wife and children on the Sabbath” (The Crisis, June 1934 After the Civil War and emancipation David Laney who had served as a slave lay preacher was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and became pastor of the Washington Avenue Church ...


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 ...


Joshua V. P. Sibblies

Reconstruction-era schoolteacher, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of Holdridge Primus, a porter and later clerk, and Mehitable Jacobs, a seamstress. The Primuses were a prominent family in Connecticut's African American community, and her younger brother, Nelson Primus, achieved some success as an artist. They were one of the only thirty-five African American families in Hartford who owned property, and because of this they lived in a predominantly white neighborhood. This did not prevent them from forging strong ties with fellow blacks in Hartford. The family attended the Talcott Street Congregational Church, and their home doubled as an employment agency for young African American women. Rebecca attended the school located in the church, taught by Pastor James W. Pennington, a former runaway slave, a nationally known abolitionist, and the author of one of the earliest histories of African Americans.

Rebecca s social standing the ...


Barbara Bair

writer, feminist, editor, teacher, social welfare administrator, and woman's club activist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the second child and only daughter of the women's club leader Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and George Lewis Ruffin, attorney, the state's first black judge, legislator, activist in the National Convention of Colored Men, and graduate of Harvard Law School. One of five children, Ridley was—through her mother—of mixed African, French, Indian, and English heritage. (Her maternal grandfather was from Martinique, and her maternal grandmother was a white woman from Cornwall, England.) Ridley benefited greatly from the home environment and example created by her two highly educated activist parents, both of whom were dedicated to the causes of African American and women's rights.

Ridley s career choices were strongly influenced by the spirit of her family s middle class values and the social justice advocacy citizenship and ...


K. Wise Whitehead

writer, feminist, and educator, was born Frances Anne Rollin in Charleston, South Carolina. She was the oldest of five daughters born to William Rollin, a businessman whose family migrated from Saint Domingue (now Haiti) in 1792, and Margarette, a woman whose family was also from the Caribbean. Frances and her sisters—Charlotte (Lottie) Rollin (b. 1849); Katherine E. Rollin (b. 1851); Louisa Rollin (b. 1858); and Florence Rollin (b. 1861)—grew up in a small middle-class free black community in Charleston, where their father was well known as a successful property owner, slave owner, lumber trader, and member of the prominent French-Creole De Caradeuc family. The Rollins were members of the Brown Fellowship Society, an elite organization for freed people of color that was founded in 1790 and they lived within a community of about 120 educated and politically active free ...


Vivian Njeri Fisher

political and civil rights activist, suffragist, and educator, was born free in Charleston, South Carolina, as Katherine Euphrosyne Rollin, the third daughter of William Rollin, wood factor, and Margarette, housekeeper. Her mother's maiden name is unknown. Family and friends referred to her as Katie. Rollin and her parents were listed as mulatto in the 1850 U.S. census. Her parents wanted their four daughters to have a fine education. A law passed in 1834 in Charleston, however, “prohibited the maintenance of schools by and for free people of color and slaves.” As a result of this legislation, free blacks were forced to find other ways to educate their children (Holt, 53). Like her older sisters Frances Rollin and Charlotte Rollin Katie was privately tutored and she attended private schools in Charleston She also enrolled in secondary schools in Boston and in ...


Allison Kellar

teacher, missionary, writer, and abolitionist, was born Lucy Stanton in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Samuel and Margaret Stanton. In Cleveland, Lucy's father owned a barbershop business with his partner John Brown. Samuel Stanton died when Lucy was two years old, and Brown became Lucy's stepfather, helping Margaret raise Lucy along with the four children from their marriage.

John and Margaret Brown and their household played a significant role in the Underground Railroad, housing many runaway slaves until they could escape to Canada. In addition John Brown funded and constructed a school for black children, providing his children and many others with educational opportunities.

In 1850 Sessions became the first woman of African American descent to graduate from a four year college program She studied literature at Oberlin College and became a teacher Oberlin s literary program for ladies did not require women ...


Eric Gardner

activist, was born Rosetta Douglass in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray Douglass. Both of her parents—the man who would become America's most famous escaped slave and a woman who seems to have been born free—came from Maryland and were building a life in the North after her father's escape. The growing family moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, while Rosetta was still young.

Sprague's childhood must have been difficult. While all extant sources agree that her mother's focus was on her family and domestic circumstances, by 1845 her father still a runaway was an important African American in the abolitionist movement and was lecturing across the North That status led to fears of capture and he fled to England where he stayed until his freedom was purchased Left in Lynn Anna Murray Douglass had to be in essence self sufficient during his long ...


Bernadette Pruitt

educator and clubwoman, was born Margaret James Murray in Macon, Mississippi, near the Mississippi-Alabama border, to Lucy (maiden name unknown), a washerwoman who was possibly a slave, and James Murray, who had immigrated to the United States from Ireland. After her father's death, seven-year-old Margaret left home to-live with her northern-born, white siblings, the Sanders. The Sanders, who were Quakers, taught school in their community and encouraged their little sister to pursue a career in education. Margaret's Quaker surroundings fostered in the growing girl a sense of social responsibility, community building, self-help, and obligation. Taking the advice of her siblings, she passed the qualifying exam and began teaching local schoolchildren at age fourteen.

The ambitious young woman, known to her friends and family as Maggie, quit her teaching job and entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1881 at the age of twenty She shaved four years ...