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Kimberly A. Sisson

poet, clubwoman, and political activist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the daughter of Mary Evans and Joshua T. Williams, whose occupation is now unknown. In 1870 the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Mary Evans opened a successful wig-making business that operated for over twenty years. Carrie Williams attended the first integrated school in Columbus; whether she pursued higher education is unknown, however it is known that during the 1880s she taught in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

In 1886, at the age of twenty-four, she married William H. Clifford, a two-term Republican state representative from Cleveland. They would have two sons. As part of the black middle class in Cleveland, Clifford and her husband socialized with other important black figures such as Charles W. Chesnutt and George A. Meyers. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois made frequent appearances in Cleveland joining the Cliffords ...

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Carol Parker Terhune

abolitionist and social leader, was born in New York City to free parents, James and Dorothy Gardner. Her father was a shipping contractor who made sails for large vessels. About 1845, while Gardner was in her teens, her family took up residence in Boston, Massachusetts, and opened its own business. Gardner attended the Boston Public School for Colored Children (also known as the Smith School, after the white businessman Abiel Smith, who donated funds). She was educated by leaders in the antislavery movement and developed an appreciation for their cause. The school was also used as a meeting place for the “colored citizens” to discuss issues of concern in their communities. During Gardner's time in Boston's only “colored” grammar school, Boston's African American community was fighting tirelessly to abolish colored schools and end school segregation using the Roberts v. Boston case as the catalyst Gardner ...

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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 ...

Article

Anja Schüler

The American concept of philanthropy or private giving is deeply rooted in Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant traditions and dates back to colonial times. Throughout the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth centuries, philanthropic giving epitomized charity and benevolence, principles that shifted after the Civil War toward ideas of social control and eventually turned into “scientific philanthropy” that could be taught to social workers. Today the term is most commonly associated with large-scale private gifts to universities, medical centers, museums, and other institutions. Rich Americans like the Rockefeller or the Carnegie families argued that their wealth carried with it a responsibility to share it. However, this “gospel of wealth” was sometimes controversial as a number of recipients refused to accept “tainted money.” Nevertheless, in the twentieth century private benevolence became organized, efficient, and large-scale.

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Vivian Njeri Fisher

political and civil rights activist, suffragist, and feminist, was born free in Charleston, South Carolina. The second daughter born to William and Margarette Rollin, her family and friends called her Lottie. Her parents were among the elite free Charleston families of color. Very little is known about her mother except that she was a free person of color and probably from Saint Dominque. Her father was a descendant of a French family, the De Caradeucs, who were wealthy aristocrats who left Saint Dominque in 1792 and relocated to Charleston. The De Caradeucs became involved in the lumber trade and because of his family connections, William Rollin also entered the lumber business, amassing wealth, political power, valuable real estate, and a few slaves.

To ensure that his daughters, Frances Rollin (1845–1901), Charlotte Rollin (b. 1849), Kate Rollin (1851–1876), and Louisa Rollin ...

Article

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 ...

Article

A'Lelia Perry Bundles

entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political activist, was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta (Madison Parish), Louisiana, the fifth of six children of Minerva to Anderson and Owen Breedlove Sr., sharecroppers and former slaves.

Orphaned at seven years old, she had almost no formal education during her early life. Around 1878—when racial violence was at its most virulent in her rural Louisiana parish—she moved with her elder sister, Louvenia Breedlove Powell, across the Mississippi River to Vicksburg. At fourteen Sarah married Moses McWilliams, about whom almost nothing is known, to escape what she called the “cruelty” of her brother-in-law Jesse Powell. Around 1887 when the McWilliamses' daughter Lelia, later known as A'Lelia Walker, was two years old, Moses died. Although some sources say he was lynched, there is no credible documentation to justify such a claim.

To support herself and her daughter, Sarah McWilliams ...

Article

Paula J. Giddings

antilynching reformer and journalist, was born Ida Bell Wells, the first of eight children born to James Wells, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Arrington, a cook, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her parents worked for Spires Boling, a contractor and architect, as slaves and then as free blacks until 1867, when James Wells, against the wishes of his employer, exercised his new right to vote. After returning from the polls to find his carpentry shop locked, Wells moved the family to a house nearby and went into business for himself. In Holly Springs, Ida Wells attended a freedmen's school, of which her father was a trustee, and Shaw University (later Rust College), founded by the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church and incorporated in 1870.

Ida Wells's early life as a “happy, light-hearted schoolgirl” (Duster, 16) was upended in 1878 when both of her ...