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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 ...


Shirley C. Moody

writer, editor, and activist, was born Lloyd Louis Dight in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of Ralph Dight and Magdalena (Paul) Dight. His mother, the German-American daughter of a Union army veteran, died when Brown was four. After his wife's death, Brown's father a Louisiana born African American Pullman porter placed Brown and his three siblings in St Paul s Crispus Attucks Home During his upbringing at the residence which served as both an old folks home and an orphanage for the city s poor blacks Brown experienced the desolate conditions of poverty but he also received nurturing and affirming care from members of the black community Raised largely by older members of the home many of them former slaves he gained an enduring respect and appreciation for the black folk stories and traditions shared with him by the home s elders Influenced by this early experience Brown ...


Alice Knox Eaton

novelist, journalist, and editor, was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Northrup Hopkins and Sarah Allen. She grew up in Boston and graduated from Girls High School. At age fifteen Hopkins won the first prize of ten dollars in gold for her essay, “The Evils of Intemperance and Their Remedy,” in a contest sponsored by William Wells Brown. At twenty Hopkins wrote the play Slaves' Escape; or, The Underground Railroad and played the lead role alongside other family members in the Hopkins Colored Troubadours. The production received favorable reviews; in tours around the northeastern United States, the play varied in length from four acts to three and was sometimes titled Peculiar Sam; or, The Underground Railroad The Colored Troubadours also put on a variety of musical performances and Hopkins was noted for her singing indeed she was once referred to as Boston s ...


Christine Lutz

Pan-Africanist and labor leader, was born William Alphaeus Hunton Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia, to Addie Waites Hunton, a leading clubwoman and feminist, and William Alphaeus Hunton Sr., founder of the Negro YMCA. Alphaeus was the couple's second surviving child. After the Atlanta riot of 1906 the Huntons moved to New York. Alphaeus grew up in Brooklyn, where he attended public schools with his sister Eunice Hunton (Carter), who became a prominent clubwoman and lawyer. Alphaeus and Eunice lived for two and a half years in Germany with their mother.

In 1921 Hunton entered Howard University in Washington, D.C., earning a BS in 1924. He pursued his graduate studies at Harvard University, earning an MA in English literature in 1926. Beginning in 1933 Hunton worked toward his PhD at New York University while teaching English literature at Howard as an assistant professor He received his ...


Eric Gardner

writer, was born Amelia Etta Hall in Canada to free black parents who had emigrated from Maryland. Little is known of her youth. Her death certificate puts her place of birth as Toronto; other sources say Montreal. Her father's name remains unknown, though there is evidence that he probably died before 1880. Her mother's given name was Eleanora, though she sometimes appears as Eleanor or Ellen; little is known of her other than a birth date of May 1828. Amelia was educated in Canada and settled in Baltimore, Maryland, with her family in the early 1870s. (Most sources agree that it was in 1874, though some documents suggest that it was as early as 1872.)

There Hall met the Reverend Harvey Johnson the son of an enslaved Virginia couple and an honors graduate of Wayland Theological Seminary who was appointed pastor of ...


Michelle Kuhl

Baptist minister and editor, was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to John and Matilda Johnson. He graduated from public school in Buffalo, New York, in 1868, and he was baptized in Toronto four years later. After graduating from normal school in 1874, he became a minister the next year. He moved to Washington, D.C., to attend Wayland Seminary, a school named after a northern abolitionist and backed by the American Baptist Home Missionary Society (ABHMS), a group of northern white Baptists intent on converting and ministering to the spiritual needs of freedmen. Johnson graduated with honors and won a prize for best orator in 1879. That year he was also ordained as a Baptist minister and became pastor at First Baptist Church in Frederick, Maryland. In 1881 the ABHMS appointed Johnson the General Missionary of an area that included Maryland Virginia West Virginia and ...


Leslie H. Fishel

minister, editor, and politician, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Benjamin Lynch, a merchant and minister, and Benjamin's wife, a former slave purchased by her husband. Her name is not known. James Lynch attended the elementary school operated by the Reverend Daniel A. Payne of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Baltimore. When Payne left in 1852, Lynch enrolled in the Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire. After about two years, he later testified, his father's business failed, and “we were cut short in our pursuit for knowledge by pecuniary disability” (Christian Recorder, 16 Feb. 1867). He taught school on Long Island for a year and then studied for the ministry with a Presbyterian minister in Brooklyn. Struggling with the decision about his future, Lynch moved to Indianapolis to work with Elisha Weaver an AME minister ...


Rita Roberts

journalistand politician, was born in Prince William County, Virginia, the son of Eugene Moore and Evelina Diggs, whose occupations are unknown. Having left Virginia in early childhood, Fred Moore grew up in Washington, D.C., where he attended public schools and sold newspapers to help support himself and his family. At age eighteen he began work as a messenger for the U.S. Treasury Department, and a few years later he was the personal messenger for the secretary of the treasury. He worked under six successive secretaries and traveled to Europe in 1887 with Secretary Daniel Manning. Also in 1887 Moore resigned from the Treasury Department and moved to New York City, where he became a clerk at the Western National Bank, which later merged with the National Bank of Commerce; he held the position of clerk for eighteen years.

Moore began his career as a journalist in ...


Eric Gardner

minister and activist, was born in Berkley County, at that time a part of Virginia, later West Virginia, to Fannie Riedoubt, a free black woman who had been kidnapped into slavery, and an enslaved man surnamed Hodge. Sources vary as to his birthdate, citing from 1804 to 1818; Moore was one of the family's early owner's surnames. When Moore was six, his parents attempted to escape with their six children. They were captured, and four of the children were sold south. Moore, his brother William, and his parents finally escaped to Pennsylvania a few years later. Moore was bound out to an area farmer, in part because his parents' owner continued to pursue them. Moore did keep in contact with his parents, though, and as late as 1870 his mother was living with him.

Moore worked a variety of jobs and moved to Harrisburg as ...


Timothy E. Fulop

Baptist minister and editor, was born a slave on the plantation of Archibald W. Overton in Smith County, Tennessee, the son of Lewis Perry and Maria (maiden name unknown). His father, an able mechanic and cabinetmaker, was able to hire his own time from his owner and moved his family to Nashville, where Perry was ranked as a free child and was allowed to attend a school for free blacks. But when his father fled to freedom in Canada in 1841, the family was forced to return to Overton's plantation.

The education that the young Perry had received and his continued self-education were sufficient to elicit the contempt of fellow slaves and the alarm of white people, and, as a result, he was sold in August 1852 to a slave trader who intended to take him to Mississippi Perry however remained with the trader only three weeks ...


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 ...


Roger A. Schuppert

editor and woman's club organizer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Eliza Matilda Menhenick of Cornwall, England, and John St. Pierre, a clothing seller whose father was a French immigrant from Martinique. Though Josephine's complexion was very light, public schools in Boston were closed to people of color until 1855, so she received her early education at nearby Salem and Charlestown. Later she attended Boston's Bowdoin School and took two years of private tutoring in New York. In 1858 she married George Lewis Ruffin, who made his living as a barber but later became a prominent Boston legislator and judge. The marriage produced five children.

Because of the slavery issue in the United States, Ruffin and her family moved briefly to Liverpool, England, in 1858 but soon returned to Boston to fight for civil rights when the Civil War began Even at her ...


Liliana Obregón

José Antonio Saco received what was a typical education for Catholic boys in early-nineteenth-century Cuba. He first studied in a small schoolhouse next to his home and later transferred to a Catholic school in Santiago de Cuba. Saco continued higher-level education in modern philosophy at the San Carlos seminar in Havana. Under the tutelage of Father Félix Varela y Morales, one of the most influential professors and prominent intellectuals of his time, Saco studied with a group of young men who were to become representatives of the urban bourgeoisie that promoted the independence of Cuba from Spain. In his autobiography Saco claims that these early years with Varela, who provided guidance and friendship and whom Saco considered the “most virtuous man” he ever met, were definitive in the formation of his thinking and ideology.

In 1821 Varela asked Saco to take over his seminar in ...


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 ...