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Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

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Clint C. Wilson

newspaper publisher, was born Robert Abbott in Fort Frederica, St. Simons Island, off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, the son of Thomas Abbott and Flora Butler, former slaves who operated a grocery store on St. Thomas Island. Thomas Abbott died the year after Robert was born, and Robert's mother moved to Savannah, where in 1874 she married John Herman Henry Sengstacke. Sengstacke was the son of a German father and a black American mother and, although born in the United States, was reared in Germany. He returned to the United States in 1869 and pursued careers in education, the clergy, and journalism. In the latter role Sengstacke became editor of the Woodville Times a black community weekly newspaper that served Savannah area residents Abbott s admiration for his stepfather inspired him to add the name Sengstacke to his own and to attempt to become a publisher in ...

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Wilbert H. Ahern

John Quincy Adams was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas in the Reconstruction. By 1874 he had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the racial repression that followed led Adams to return ...

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Wilbert H. Ahern

newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican Party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both of his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas during Reconstruction. By 1874 Adams had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the ...

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Linda Allen Bryant

editor and publisher, was born in Peoria, Illinois, to Dr. Cecil Bruce Ford and Florence Henderson Ford. She was the granddaughter of Major George Ford and a great-great-granddaughter of West Ford, who may have been the African American son of George Washington. Cecil Bruce Ford, a graduate of Meharry Medical College, was Peoria's first African American dentist, while Elise's mother, Florence, was a well-known seamstress. Elise Ford was baptized at the age of three at Bethel Methodist Church and attended the Peoria public school system with her siblings Bruce, Florence, and Harrison. Later Ford acted as her grandfather's secretary when he was the president of the Springfield chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and wrote his correspondence as his eyesight failed in his later years.

The Ford oral history, which held that she was the three-times great-granddaughter of George ...

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Roberto Ramos-Perea

was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. Born with a handicap in his legs that made him resemble a dwarf, he was the first son of Nicolás Alonso Marini, a carpenter, and Matilde Pizarro, a woman of African, Amerindian, and European descent. Both were descendants of freed slaves.

Alongside his training in cobbling and carpentry, Manuel soon acquired a thorough literary education under the tutelage of his private teacher Fabriciano Cuevas Sotillo, also from Guayama. Even though he distinguished himself as an excellent student, the circumstances of poverty in which his family lived required Alonso Pizarro to focus his efforts on the family’s cobbling business.

In 1884 he moved to Mayagüez, where he joined the Sociedad de Artesanos Unión Borinqueña, which commissioned Alonso Pizarro’s first play Me saqué la lotería (I Won the Lottery) in 1886. A playful one-act comedy, Me saqué la lotería was set among the jíbaro ...

Article

Susan Bragg

tailor, store owner, and newspaper editor, was born in Pennsylvania, to parents whose names and occupations are now unknown. Little is known about Anderson's early life except that he was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, ultimately gaining appointment as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge for the State of Pennsylvania. Anderson migrated west in the waning days of the California gold rush and in 1854 set up a tailor shop and clothing store in San Francisco. There he plunged into the city's small but energetic black community, a community linked by both the mining economy and by shared protest against injustices in the new state of California.

Anderson soon became a regular contributor to political discussions at the recently organized Atheneum Institute, a reading room and cultural center for black Californians. In January 1855 he and other prominent African Americans joined together to call ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

newspaperman, bookkeeper, novelist and short fiction writer, was born in Sandusky, Ohio. His father, Richard, had come from Kentucky and his mother, Mary Lott Anderson, from Indiana. After attending common schools in Sandusky, he came to Detroit at age sixteen, and in June 1875 graduated from Detroit High School as a member of the school's sixteenth class. Soon after Anderson began working for the Newcomb Endicott department store, one of the most important emporia in Detroit at that time. He rose from a parcel carrier in the 1870s to become a bookkeeper in the 1880s, and according to John M. Henderson in The Christian Recorder (7 November 1895, p. 2), he held “one of the highest and most responsible places.” His wife, Lucy Bowdree Anderson (1857–1961), from Jefferson, Ohio, whom Anderson had married in 1885 was similarly employed She was a bookkeeper ...

Article

Joy Gleason Carew

civil rights lawyer, community activist, editor, and publisher, was born in Winston, North Carolina, the sixth and last son of nine children of Simon Green and Oleona Pegram Atkins. His father was the founder and first president of the Slater Industrial Academy, later known as Winston‐Salem State University. Atkins graduated from the Slater Academy in 1915 and then went to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating magna cum laude in chemistry in 1919.

When Atkins obtained his LLB cum laude at Yale University in 1922, he was the first African American to graduate with honors from that institution. While there, Atkins was a member of the debate team and served as a monitor of the Yale Law Library, where he oversaw the indexing of thirty‐one volumes of the Yale Law Journal. In 1921 he was the first African American elected to the editorial board of the Yale ...

Article

Jerry Gershenhorn

journalist, was born in Enfield, North Carolina, the year of the infamous Wilmington Race Massacre. His parents were William Louis Austin, owner of a barbershop, and Carrie Johnson. Louis Austin graduated from the Joseph K. Brick High School. His father, who never let any of his children work for whites, taught him in word and deed that no person was superior to him.

In Durham, Austin attended and graduated from the National Training School (later North Carolina Central University), which had been founded in 1910 by James E. Shepard. Following graduation Austin sold life insurance for the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, founded in Durham in 1898 by black entrepreneurs. Austin also served as sports editor for Durham's black newspaper, the Standard Advertiser, founded in 1921 by Charles Arrant. In 1927 with the help of a loan from the Mutual affiliate Mechanics and ...

Article

Janice L. Greene

first African AmericanPatent Examiner, a lawyer, and author of The Colored Inventor: A Record of Fifty Years (Crisis Publishing Co., 1913) and other works on black inventors and scientists of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, was born in Columbus, Mississippi. Little is known of his parents or his early life in Columbus, except that he attended public schools and the Columbus Union Academy. Toward the end of Reconstruction, in June 1874, he was selected to attend the Annapolis, Maryland, naval academy by white Congressman Henry W. Barry R Mississippi who had commanded black troops for the union Army during the Civil War Despite government and naval policies during this period directing the military to integrate the first two African American cadets failed to survive intense hazing taunting assaults and social isolation from classmates and left before graduation Still Congressman Barry originally from New ...

Article

David A. Spatz

attorney and journalist. Ferdinand Lee Barnett was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1859. His father, born a slave, purchased his freedom and worked much of his life as a blacksmith. The family moved to Canada soon after Ferdinand was born and then to Chicago in 1869. Barnett was educated in Chicago schools, graduating from high school in 1874 with high honors. After teaching in the South for two years, he returned to Chicago and attended Chicago College of Law, later affiliated with Northwestern Law School.

Barnett graduated from law school and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1878. Rather than immediately practicing law, he founded the Conservator, Chicago's first African American newspaper. The Conservator was a radical voice for justice and racial solidarity as means to equal rights for African Americans. The Conservator also drew national attention to Barnett He served as Chicago ...

Article

Tunisian author, teacher, reformer, jurisconsult, was born in Tunis in March 1840. His mother was the daughter of Mahmoud Khouja, a minister of Ahmed Bey. His father, Mustapha Ben Mohamed Bayram Ath Thalith III, was a wealthy landowner and merchant from a family of scientists and administrators. When he died in Tunis in 1863, he left his son symbolic capital comprising precious documents, land, properties, funds, merchandise, and social contacts.

Bayram s education was centered both in the family s extensive library and in the rich Tunisian cultural milieu From an early age he studied the Qurʾan hadith and Arabic He studied with eminent professors from the Zeytouna University such as Bayram que Mustapha Bayram Ahmed Mohamed Mouaya Ben Tahar Mohamed Achour and others receiving excellent training in many subjects both Islamic and non Islamic His family was well placed in the social and intellectual circles of Tunis ...

Article

Philip M. Montesano

Philip Alexander Bell was born in New York City, the third of three children, to Alexander Bell and Letty (maiden name unknown). A stutterer, the young Bell turned to writing to express himself, honing his natural talents under the teachers at New York City's African Free School, an institution respected for such alumni as Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge and Episcopal priest and pan-Africanist Alexander Crummell. After finishing school, Bell set out to make journalism his life's work, hoping to use the press as a way to improve life for blacks.

On January 25, 1831, Bell attended a meeting of the Colored Citizens of New York at the Boyer Lodge Room. The meeting's attendees rejected the idea of black colonization in Liberia West Africa a plan of the American Colonization Society saying that blacks absolutely claimed this country the place of our birth and not Africa as ...

Article

Philip M. Montesano

newspaper editor and civil rights activist, was born in New York City, the third of three children, to Alexander Bell and Letty (maiden name unknown). A stutterer, the young Bell turned to writing to express himself, honing his natural talents under the teachers at New York City's African Free School, an institution respected for such alumni as the Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge and the Episcopal priest and Pan-Africanist Alexander Crummell. After finishing school, Bell set out to make journalism his life's work, hoping to use the press to advance black interests.

On 25 January 1831 Bell attended a meeting of the Colored Citizens of New York at the Boyer Lodge Room The meeting s attendees rejected the idea of black colonization in Liberia West Africa a plan of the American Colonization Society saying that blacks absolutely claimed this country the place of our birth and not Africa ...

Article

Delano Greenidge-Copprue

Bell was born in New York City and educated at the African Free Schools in New York. He rose to national prominence on 25 January 1831, as secretary for a group of black New Yorkers protesting colonization.

Bell's reform work took place on the local and national levels, with an emphasis on black enfranchisement. As a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, he served as subscription agent for William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, the Liberator. In addition, Bell advocated the organization of African American self-help programs and opposed segregation in churches and schools. He helped promote the National Negro Conventions of the 1830s and served as the New York delegate at three conventions. As director of the Phoenix Society, he promoted education for African Americans, and as a leader of the New York Political Association, Bell agitated for black suffrage and political rights.

Newspapers helped Bell spread ...

Article

George C. Wright

Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin was born on the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies. Details about his early life, including the names of his parents and his education, are not known. 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 was admitted to ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Kaavonia Hinton

journalist, editor, and social historian, was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, to Lerone Bennett Sr., a chauffeur, and Alma Reed Bennett, a restaurant cook. Bennett's family later moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where Bennett went to public school. He was born into a family that emphasized the importance of education; his grandmother made college obtainable for each of her thirteen children, and it was expected that Bennett would have that option, too. Surprisingly, he failed his first year of formal schooling. With her son at her side, his mother confronted the principal and the teacher before deciding to enroll her son in a better school. This experience helped Bennett understand that education is an accessible and necessary tool needed to combat racism. An avid reader, he was inspired by his teachers, particularly Mrs. M. D. Manning, to develop an interest in history.

While in his early years ...

Article

Gregory S. Jackson

author, editor, and antislavery lecturer, was born into slavery on the plantation of David White of Shelby County, Kentucky, the son of James Bibb, a slaveholding planter and state senator, and Mildred Jackson. White began hiring Bibb out as a laborer on several neighboring plantations before he had reached the age of ten. The constant change in living situations throughout his childhood, combined with the inhumane treatment he often received at the hands of strangers, set a pattern for life that he would later refer to in his autobiography as “my manner of living on the road.” Bibb was sold more than six times between 1832 and 1840 and was forced to relocate to at least seven states throughout the South later as a free man his campaign for abolition took him throughout eastern Canada and the northern United States But such early instability also made the ...