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Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert is best known for her volume of collected slave narratives, The House of Bondage, or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves (1890). The collection assembles the brief narratives (as told to Albert) of seven former slaves whose earnest testimonies, Albert believed, exposed the brutality of slaveholding in general and the hypocrisy of Christian slaveholding in particular. But more importantly, the narratives demonstrated, according to Albert, the narrators’ spiritual courage and strong Christian faith.

Albert was born a slave on 12 December 1824 in Oglethorpe Georgia but neither slavery nor its far reaching effects stifled her achievements After the Civil War she attended Atlanta University and became a teacher interviewer and researcher Asserting that the complete story of slavery had not been told she invited former slaves into her home taught some to read and write sang hymns and read scriptures to others and encouraged ...


DaMaris B. Hill

storyteller, librarian, and author, was born Augusta Braxton in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of two educators, Winford J. and Mabel Braxton. Her father later became a wood craftsman, and her mother retired from formal teaching to raise her daughter. Baker skipped at least two grades in elementary school and might have skipped more—she explained later in an interview with Robert V. Williams—if her father hadn't insisted that she be educated among her peers. Baker's maternal grandmother, Augusta Fax Gough, was an integral part of-Baker's childhood and found that the only means of quieting the young Baker was to entertain her through storytelling. These beloved experiences with storytelling would become the catalysts for a career in storytelling and would inspire Baker to write children's literature.

At age sixteen Baker was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh She did well with the academic material despite ...


Joanne H. Edey-Rhodes

educator, poet, and community activist, was born in Okolona, Chickasaw County, Mississippi, the only child of former slaves Mary Johnson Threat and George W. Threat. Though illiterate, her mother understood the value of education. She took in laundry and sold eggs and vegetables to save for her daughter's education. After completing studies at the Okolona Public School in 1894, Battle continued her education at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, graduating with an AB degree in 1900. She was teaching away from home when she learned that Wallace Battle had come to Okolona to establish an industrial school. Although she was in line to become principal of a Greenwood, Mississippi, school she chose to return home in 1902 to help with the development of the Okolona Industrial School. She married the school's founder the following year. They had five children.

Along with her role ...


Althea E. Rhodes

educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Joseph Bonner, a machinist and laborer, and Mary A. Nowell. Educated in the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools, Bonner applied to Radcliffe College at the urging of her high school adviser and was one of the few African American students accepted for admission. She majored in English and comparative literature and founded the Radcliffe chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority. A gifted pianist and student of musical composition, Bonner won the Radcliffe song competition in 1918 and 1922. Bonner also studied German, a language in which she became fluent. During her last year in college she taught English at a Cambridge high school. After graduating with a BA in 1922, she taught at the Bluefield Colored Institute in Bluefield, Virginia, until 1924 and at Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C., from 1924 to 1930 ...


Andre D. Vann

educator and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of John R. Butler, a brickmason, and Hannah F. McClenney. She grew up in a close-knit family that espoused the tenets of family, church, and service to others.

Browne lived in a poor community in Boston and completed her earliest training in Malden through the fifth grade, at which time her family moved to Newport, Rhode Island. After graduating from Rogers High School she entered Rhode Island State College, receiving the EdB degree before matriculating at the University of Rhode Island, where she earned the master of education degree. She began her teaching career in the fall of 1921. Nine years later she resumed her studies, this time at Harvard University. In June 1937 she received the EdD degree and became the first African American woman and only the second African American to receive this distinction ...


Frank Cha

playwright, teacher, and activist, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Clara and John Burrill. She attended the M Street School, originally named the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, and there developed an interest in literature and theatrics. Upon graduating high school in 1901, she moved with her family to Boston, where she enrolled at Emerson College and became one of the first African Americans to graduate from the school in 1904.

In 1905 Burrill moved back to Washington, D.C., and began a career in teaching that would last almost forty years. She alternated between Armstrong Technical High School and her alma mater, renamed Dunbar High School after the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar Burrill taught English and drama eventually accepting a permanent position at Dunbar one of the leading schools for African Americans in the Washington D C area in the early ...


Michelle M. Strazer

community leader and child-welfare activist, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the daughter of Winnie Williams, a woman of African and American Indian descent, and William Sloan, a white man who reportedly supported Selena and her older sister but lived apart from the family. Even after her mother died, presumably when Selena was fairly young, Selena kept quiet about her father's identity. Communication between them was minimal. At age ten, having been schooled by missionaries in Thomas County, she was admitted on scholarship to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary (now Spelman College) in Atlanta and received her high school diploma in 1888 as a member of the school's second graduating class. After graduation she taught English and elocution in the public schools in Atlanta until around 1891, when she took a position at the State Normal School in Tallahassee, Florida (now Florida Agricultural and Mechanical State University).

In ...


Rebecca L. Hankins

journalist, educator, lecturer, and actress, was born Marguerite Phillips Dorsey in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the only child of Joseph A. Dorsey, an architect and real estate broker, and Mary Louise Ross. Marguerite Cartwright's early education was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She later earned her BS Ed. and MA degrees from Boston University in 1932 and 1933, respectively. Her master's thesis was on the African origins of drama, contending that the Greek god Dionysus was an African. She married the chemical engineer Leonard Carl Cartwright in 1930, an interracial union that lasted over fifty years, until his death in 1982.

Cartwright combined her academic interest in theater with an application as an actress in a number of plays and films, including the play Roll Sweet Chariot (1934) in New York City and the film Green Pastures (1935 Simultaneously working as an actress and a ...


Shirley J. Yee

Mary Ann Camberton Shadd was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Parnell. Although the eldest of thirteen children, Mary Ann Shadd grew up in comfortable economic circumstances. Little is known about her mother except that she was born in North Carolina in 1806 and was of mixed black and white heritage; whether she was born free or a slave is unknown. Shadd's father was also of mixed-race heritage. His paternal grandfather, Jeremiah Schad, was a German soldier who had fought in the American Revolution and later married Elizabeth Jackson a free black woman from Pennsylvania Abraham Shadd had amassed his wealth as a shoemaker and his property by the 1830s was valued at $5 000 He was a respected member of the free black community in Wilmington and in West Chester Pennsylvania where the family had moved sometime in the ...


Shirley J. Yee

educator, journalist, editor, and lawyer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Parnell. Although she was the eldest of thirteen children, Mary Ann Shadd grew up in comfortable economic circumstances. Little is known about her mother except that she was born in North Carolina in 1806 and was of mixed black and white heritage; whether she was born free or a slave is unknown. Shadd's father was also of mixed-race heritage. His paternal grandfather, Jeremiah Schad, was a German soldier who had fought in the American Revolution and later married Elizabeth Jackson a free black woman from Pennsylvania Abraham Shadd had amassed his wealth as a shoemaker and his property by the 1830s was valued at five thousand dollars He was a respected member of the free black community in Wilmington and in West Chester Pennsylvania where the family had moved ...


Carolyn Calloway-Thomas

In the winter of 1856, upon receiving the news that antislavery agents were roaming through Canada, Mary Ann Shadd Cary began to write. She objected to those who, begging on behalf of the fugitive slaves who had fled to Canada, took advantage of antislavery sentiment. Believing in a moral right and duty, she became single-minded in her efforts to expose them. She charged that “begging agents” were “wending their way from Canada to the States in unprecedented numbers.” “Bees gather honey in the summer,” she wrote, “but beggars harvest in the winter.” In typically blunt language, Cary preached integration, self-reliance, and independence among black Canadians during the 1850s. A pillar of zeal, she helped found the newspaper known as the Provincial Freeman as an instrument for transforming black refugees into model citizens What she wrote as the first black North American female editor publisher and investigative reporter marked ...


Roxanne Y. Schwab

writer and educator, was born in Dresden, Ontario, Canada, the fourth child of William and Nancy Newman. Little is known of her family, and the exact dates of her birth and death are unknown, but she was most likely born sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. As a young woman, she accompanied her father to the West Indies for missionary work, then returned to the United States when he became pastor of a church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Following her father's death, she moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, where she looked after her invalid mother for thirteen months. Upon her mother's death, Lucretia Newman became the head of the household for her siblings. After her early education she completed a course of scientific study at Lawrence University in Appleton before finding work as a high school music teacher and as a clerk in a dry goods store.

In 1883 Coleman was ...


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 ...


Debra Jackson

writer, temperance advocate, and educator, was born Ada Augusta Newton in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of the three children of Alexander Herritage Newton, a trained mason, and Olivia Augusta (Hamilton) Newton, who was the eldest daughter of Robert Hamilton, the radical abolitionist and owner and editor of the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper. When Ada was eight years old her mother died and shortly thereafter her father, a recently licensed preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination, was directed by the AME leadership to manage the church at Pennington, New Jersey. This was the first of dozens of appointments for Newton, and Ada's early years were characterized by constant travel from city to city as her father's ministry took him to all regions of the country. Despite the incessant moving, Ada received a good elementary education.

Ada worked closely with her father on church matters Indeed she ...


Adelaide M. Cromwell

educator and scholar, was born in Washington, D.C., the first child of John Wesley Cromwell and Lucy McGuinn Cromwell. Her father was a lawyer, editor of the People's Advocate, and for most of his life a teacher and principal in the district public schools. Her mother died when she was twelve, leaving this eldest of six children with a responsibility for their welfare that she would exercise for the rest of her life. Cromwell received her education in the public schools of Washington, D.C., including the M Street High School, predecessor of the well-known Dunbar High School. After graduating from the Miner Normal School in Washington, she taught for six years in the public schools before entering Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. When she completed her degree in 1900 she became the college's first African American graduate.

Upon returning to the district, Cromwell once again taught in ...


Aida Ahmed Hussen

musician, author, and educator, was born Maud Cuney in Galveston, Texas, to Norris Wright Cuney, a prominent Republican politician and entrepreneur, and Adelina Dowdie Cuney, a public school teacher, soprano vocalist, and community activist. Both of Cuney's parents were born slaves of mixed racial parentage, and both gained freedom, education, social clout, and considerable financial advantage as the acknowledged offspring of their fathers. This, in addition to Norris Wright Cuney's political success with the Texas Republican Party, situated the Cuney family solidly among the Texan black elite. Cuney describes her early home life as one that was comfortable and markedly pleasant, and she praises both of her parents for instilling in her and in her younger brother, Lloyd Garrison Cuney, the values of education, racial pride, and social obligation.

Following her graduation from Central High School in 1890 Cuney moved to Boston Massachusetts where she enrolled ...


Marilyn Demarest Button

educator, administrator, writer, and activist, was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Thomas Cornelius Cuthbert and Victoria Means. She attended grammar and secondary school in her hometown and studied at the University of Minnesota before transferring to Boston University, where she completed her BA in 1920.

Following her graduation, Cuthbert moved to Florence, Alabama, and became an English teacher and assistant principal at Burrell Normal School. Promoted to principal in 1925, she began to lead students and faculty in bold new perspectives on gender equality and interracial harmony.

In 1927 Cuthbert left Burrell to become one of the first deans of Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. In her essay, “The Dean of Women at Work,” published in the Journal of the National Association of College Women (Apr. 1928 she articulated her belief that covert sexism at the administrative level of black colleges limited their ...


Carol Baker Sapora

anthropologist, writer, and educator, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the daughter of Georgia Fagain and Moses Stewart. Day was of African American, Indian, and European descent. The Stewart family lived several years in Boston, Massachusetts, where Caroline attended public schools. After her father's death, Caroline and her mother moved to Tuskegee, Alabama, where Georgia Stewart taught school and married John Percy Bond, a life insurance executive. The couple had two children, and Caroline adopted Bond's name. She attended Tuskegee Institute and in 1912 earned a bachelor of arts degree from Atlanta University. She taught English at Alabama State College in Montgomery for a year and then worked for the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in Montclair, New Jersey. In 1916 she began studying English and classical literature at Radcliffe College of Harvard University, earning a second bachelor's degree in 1919 At Radcliffe she impressed her anthropology professor ...


Gwendolyn S. Jones

poet, essayist, educator, and social worker, was born Clarissa Mae Scott in Tuskegee, Alabama, the third of five children born to Emmett Jay Scott and Elenor Baker Scott. Her father served as secretary to Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute; secretary-treasurer at Howard University; and special adviser on African American Affairs to President Woodrow Wilson. Scott spent her early years in Tuskegee, where she had access to intellectual, social, and cultural activities available to students, faculty, and staff at Tuskegee Institute; she was educated in New England, entering Bradford Academy in 1916, then Wellesley College in 1919.

At Wellesley Scott was an active competitive student who earned scholarship honors participated on the debate team and earned a letter in field hockey She was also a talented singer and pianist and held memberships in various social groups and religious organizations Delany ...


Constance B. Williams

English and drama teacher, poet, and civil rights leader, was born in Trenton, New Jersey. Her father was a headwaiter in a hotel and her mother a homemaker. Lottie was the youngest of three children. Her parents sacrificed immensely to send her to Howard University, the university that her mother considered the best and most prestigious of colleges.

Dinkins entered Howard University in September 1925 and earned a bachelor of arts degree in education in June 1929. Her first choice for a career was journalism, but administrators at Howard discouraged her in this. Instead, Dinkins's first job after graduation was teaching at Leland College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After four years there, she returned to Trenton. She met and married William Harvey Dinkins, the father of Mayor David N. Dinkins (the first African American mayor of New York City, 1989–1993 William Dinkins was a ...