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Adams, Henry  

Mark Johnson

a Baptist minister and educational reformer, was born in Franklin County, Georgia, to free parents, whose names are unknown. His early life is obscure. On 29 October 1820, at the age of eighteen, Adams converted to the Baptist faith, and in 1825, at the age of twenty-three, he was ordained a minister.

Adams began preaching in his home state of Georgia and also in South Carolina. In 1829 Adams moved to Louisville Kentucky to become a pastor of First Baptist Church where he ministered to the needs of the African American congregants In the beginning of his pastorship he was devoted to preaching and studying but he also taught individual students Because of his study and teaching Adams became known as a great biblical scholar and was proficient not only in English but in dead languages such as Latin as well Adams also attracted a large ...


Andrews, Ludie  

Shari Rudavsky

nursing educator and administrator, was born in Milledgeville, Georgia, the daughter of a poor family about whom nothing is known. In 1901 Andrews applied to Spelman College's MacVicar Hospital School of Nursing. On her application, she asked for financial assistance, explaining that her family could not help her pay. Her mother had a large family to support and “an old flicted husband,” who was not Andrews's father. Andrews also said that she had been married but did not currently live with her husband and expected no support from him. Letters praising Andrews and talking about her “good moral character” that came from the pillars of Milledgeville society proved instrumental in securing Andrews's admission.

In 1906 Andrews received her diploma from Spelman and set upon her life s work During her training she resolved that I wanted to work for my people how or where this was to be done ...


Batson, Ruth  

Christopher Tucker

social activist and education reformer, was born as Ruth Marion Watson in Roxbury, Massachusetts, on 3 August 1921 to Joel and Cassandra Watson. She received a unique upbringing, due in large part to the personal and political backgrounds of her parents. Both were Jamaican, and Ruth's mother was a follower of the Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. As a child, Ruth attended weekly meetings of Boston's Garveyite activists with her mother. As a result, she learned from a very young age that Boston was not the cradle of liberty as it had so frequently been depicted. Ruth took frequent trips to downtown Boston with her mother and noticed that she and her mother were often the only African Americans in the city's shopping districts. This severe racial imbalance impacted Batson into adulthood, when she endeavored to end racial discrimination and foster complete integration in the city of Boston.

In 1941 ...


Branch, Mary Elizabeth  

Debbie Maudlin Cottrell

educator, was born in Farmville, Virginia, the daughter of Tazewell Branch, a former slave who served in the Virginia legislature and worked as a shoemaker and tax collector, and Harriett Lacey, a domestic worker. Although she learned to read at home, Branch began her quest for formal education when she was thirteen. Because her mother did laundry for students and teachers at State College in Farmville, Branch often made trips to the school to pick up or deliver clothes; in time she herself became a maid in the college library. Exposed for the first time to a wide variety of books and knowledge, she was determined to obtain her own education. Within a few years she had earned a high school diploma from the normal school of Virginia State College, a land-grant college for black students in Petersburg, where she also took teacher education classes.

Eager to share her ...


Brown, Emma V.  

Thea Gallo Becker

educator, was born Emmeline Victoria Brown in Georgetown, District of Columbia, the daughter of John Mifflin Brown, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Emmeline (maiden name unknown), a dressmaker. Emma Brown and her siblings were born and raised in what the racial climate of the period called a “better class of colored.” When Brown was still a young girl her father died, and her mother worked to support the family. Brown attended Miss Myrtilla Miner's School for Colored Girls, which opened in 1851 with the goal of training teachers for public schools in the Washington, D.C., area. Brown soon distinguished herself as an outstanding student. When illness forced Miner to take a leave of absence, Brown was recruited to stay on and assist Emily Howland, who had moved from New York to be Miner's replacement. In 1858 Brown ran the school during Howland s temporary ...


Brown, Homer S.  

Cheryl Dudley

attorney, judge, and civil rights activist, was born in Huntington, West Virginia, to the Reverend William Roderick Brown and Maria Wiggins Rowlett Brown. He attended Virginia Union University in Richmond and in 1923 earned a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, graduating third in a class of twenty-two students.

Following his graduation in October 1923, Brown joined the Allegheny County Bar Association and became active in his community to reduce crime and improve the quality of life for youth. He married Wilhelmina Byrd in 1927, and the couple had one son, Byrd Rowlett Brown who also became a well known attorney and civil rights activist in Pittsburgh During the 1930s when there was an increase in crime as a result of the Great Depression Brown chaired the Friendly Service Bureau a committee established to help reduce crime in Pittsburgh Along with the help of the ...


Burleigh, Angus Augustus  

Genevieve Skinner

Civil War veteran, preacher, and teacher, was born free to an English sea captain and an African American mother on a ship sailing on the Atlantic Ocean. When Angus was two years old, his father died, and Angus and his mother were sold into slavery in Virginia, and later taken to Kentucky. He spent a majority of his early years in Virginia and learned how to read prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, an illegal pursuit for slaves. In 1864, now enslaved in Kentucky, at the age of sixteen Burleigh ran away from his master and enlisted in the Union Army at Frankfort, Kentucky. Upon enlisting Burleigh was trained at Camp Nelson in Kentucky, which was one of the largest areas for gathering African American soldiers during the Civil War. Burleigh became a sergeant with Company G 12th United States Colored Troops U ...


Burris, Samuel D.  

Loren Schweninger

antislavery activist and Underground Railroad conductor, was born in Kent County, Delaware. Nothing is known of his father. Little is known of his early years except that his mother was a free woman of color, and that as a young adult he moved to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area, became a farmer, married, and started a family. No information about his wife and children is available. In the mid-1840s he became involved in the antislavery movement and began assisting slaves who were attempting to make it to freedom. Burris welcomed fugitives into his home, hid them for a day or two, supplied them with food and water, and sent them on their way. He became friends with leading abolitionists, including Charles Purvis, one of the founders of-the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833), and William Still, best known for his post–Civil War book titled The Underground Railroad a Record ...


Cofield, Elizabeth Bias  

Crystal Renée Sanders

educator, administrator, and politician, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, to the educators John Bias and Frances Lane Bias. Cofield was reared on the campus of the historically black Elizabeth City State Teachers College (now Elizabeth City State University), where her father served as vice principal and later university president. In 1938 she earned an undergraduate degree in elementary education from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). Five years later she received a master's degree in administration and supervision from Teachers College, Columbia University. In 1941 she married James Edward Cofield, a member of the first four-year graduating class at Elizabeth City State Teachers College. Two children were born of this union, James Jr. and Juan.

Like her six siblings, Cofield was a lifelong educator. She began working as an instructor in 1946 at Shaw University in Raleigh During her forty year career at the oldest historically black ...


Comer, James  

George White

psychiatrist, educational reformer, and author. Born to working-class parents during the Great Depression, James Pierpont Comer became a world-renowned child psychiatrist. He spent his childhood in East Chicago, Indiana, but then traveled to the East Coast and did work at some of America's most prestigious academic institutions. By the early twenty-first century he stood as an intellectual pioneer and an advocate for disadvantaged children.

Comer's parents lacked extensive formal education, and both worked outside the home—his father as a laborer at a steel mill and his mother as a domestic. Yet they created an environment that cultivated self-esteem, confidence, and high academic achievement for James and his siblings. After completing high school in 1952, Comer attended and graduated from Indiana University, but his negative experiences in Bloomington encouraged him to attend medical school elsewhere. He earned his MD in 1960 from Howard University and a ...


Davis, Arthur Paul  

Beverly Lanier Skinner

scholar, professor, and cultural critic, was born in Hampton, Virginia, the youngest of nine siblings in one of Hampton's most socially prominent black families. His father, Andrew Davis, born a slave, was an 1872 graduate of Hampton Institute and was the “leading plasterer and plastering contractor in Hampton” (Negro History Bulletin, Jan. 1950). He and his wife, Frances S. Nash, were strict disciplinarians who taught their children to refuse any form of charity during the difficult Depression era and to refuse menial job offers from whites. Davis's parents also taught him high standards of decorum, including not eating watermelon, not shelling peas on the front porch, and avoiding “emotional excesses” (for example, “shouting” in church and talking loudly), he recalled in a 1944 essay called “When I Was in Knee Pants” (47).

Davis s parents sent him to the ...


Dean, Jennie  

Donna Tyler Hollie

educator, was born enslaved in Prince William County, Virginia, the eldest of four children of Charles and Annie Dean. She was named Jane Serepta but was called Jennie by her family and Miss Jennie by those on whose behalf she labored. It is probable that her only formal education was obtained in a school established by the Freedmen's Bureau when the Civil War ended.

Dean's father was a literate and ambitious man who, immediately after the end of the Civil War, contracted to buy a farm. Within a short time he died, and Dean assumed responsibility for the support of the family. She found employment as a domestic in Washington, D.C., and by living frugally, amassed the funds to pay off the mortgage. She also provided tuition for her siblings, at least one of whom became a teacher.

Dean became an active member of the 19th Street ...


Douglass, Grace Bustill  

Eric Gardner

activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Cyrus Bustill and Elizabeth Morey. Her mother was of mixed race, part English and part Native American (Delaware). Her father, already fifty years old at the time of her birth, was a baker who had purchased his own freedom and had built a thriving business that included supplying American troops in the Revolution, winning him the endorsement of George Washington. A Quaker in practice (though not a formal member), he was also active in both aiding his fellow free blacks in Philadelphia—he was an early member of the Free African Society—and fighting against slavery. When Bustill retired in 1803 to set up a school for black children in his home, Grace took over his shop at 56 Arch Street and opened a millinery business. Three years later she married Robert Douglass a free African American from Saint Kitts who ...


Estes, James F., Sr.  

Richard Saunders

lawyer and minister, was born James Frank Estes to Melvoid Estes and Bertha Lee Walker Estes in Jackson, Tennessee. Graduated from Lane College in 1942, Estes captained the football team and married a friend and classmate, Frances D. Berry. Enlisting in the Army the same year, he served on active duty in Europe and was one of the few African Americans accepted to Officer Candidate School. Estes was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943 for the racially segregated 1317th Engineers General Service Regiment. The 1317th engaged in the Normandy landings on D-Day, as well as the Allied Forces Rhineland Campaign and battle for Central Europe. At his discharge in 1945 Estes remained in the reserves and enrolled at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which conferred on him an LL.B. degree in 1948 Returning to Tennessee Estes opened a law office on Beale Street the economic center ...


Evans, Gloria Yetive Buchanan  

Lorin Nails-Smoote

educator, administrator, and vocalist, was born in Otsego, Michigan, the youngest of six children of Martha Keith, homemaker, of Greenwood, North Carolina, and Edward Lewis Buchanan, paper mill superintendent and inventor, from Edwards, Mississippi. Edward Buchanan, who had a sixth grade education, rose from sweeper to superintendent and then consultant and trouble-shooter for the paper industry in the United States and the Caribbean. (Mr. Buchanan is credited with an invention, Paper Pulp Consistency Regulators, which changed the manufacture of paper.) In the early 1920s, after being hired by the John Strange Paper Company, he moved his family to Menasha, Wisconsin, where they were the sole black family in the predominantly Polish and German city. Indeed, there were few if any African Americans in the state north of Milwaukee.

Evans grew up in a home that was very supportive of education for women as well as men ...


Flood, Elizabeth Thorn Scott  

Krystal Appiah

educator and civic leader, was born Elizabeth Thorn, the daughter of Lydia and Francis Thorn. Flood was raised and educated in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1848 she married the mariner Joseph C. Scott and traveled with him to California during the Gold Rush, making the long journey by ship across the Isthmus of Panama. By 1852 the Scotts were living in Placerville, California, where Scott mined for gold until his death. A widow with three young sons, Flood left the rough frontier and moved to Sacramento, a larger town with a sizable black community.

Flood became an education activist after she unsuccessfully attempted to enroll one of her sons in a Sacramento public school Local school districts such as Sacramento had the power to exclude nonwhite children from attending their schools Furthermore the state legislature refused to appropriate taxes to fund separate schools for African Americans Flood ...


Foster, Badi G.  

Steven J. Niven

educator and nonprofit executive, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of William Foster and Ruth (Alexander) Foster, who were both missionaries in the Bahá’í faith. He was named after Badí’ (1852–1869), an important early Persian Bahá’í martyr whose Arabic name translates as “wonderfulness” in English. That William Foster was African American while Ruth Foster was white would have made their marriage illegal in most American states, though not Illinois, at the time their son was born. The couple met in the 1930s in Chicago through their common interest in radical, left-wing politics and gravitated toward the pluralistic Bahá’í faith, which teaches the unity of humankind and promotes racial and gender equality.

Badi Foster was raised on Chicago's South Side, where he was a Boy Scout patrol leader, enjoyed singing doo-wop, and earned extra money by selling Jet magazine When he was eleven Foster moved with his ...


Foster, Badi G.  

Anthony A. Lee

Badi Foster was born in Chicago to an interracial Baha'i family. His father (William) was black, and his mother (Ruth) was white. When Badi (which means “wonderful” in Arabic and is the name of a celebrated Baha'i martyr) was eleven, his parents moved to Morocco as pioneers (missionaries) for the Baha'i religion. He spent his adolescence in that country, learning French and Arabic. He attended the American School in Casablanca to the eighth grade, and then transferred to the American School of Tangiers where he completed his high school education in 1960.

As a consequence of learning new languages and negotiating new cultures Foster discovered that although Morocco had its own structures of inequality and oppression American notions of race were unknown there He explains that as a boy therefore he was vaccinated against racism never internalizing ideas or racial inferiority and gaining important insights even as a teenager ...


Freire, Paulo  


Fryer, Roland  

Alexander J. Chenault

economist and education researcher, was born Roland Gehrard Fryer Jr., the son of Roland and Rita Fryer, in Daytona Beach, Florida. After his parents separated when he was aged four, he went to live with his abusive father, a copier salesman in Lewisville, Texas, and did not see his mother for the rest of his upbringing. During the summer months, Roland Jr. would return to Florida to spend time with his grandmother, Farrise, a schoolteacher, and his older cousins, many of whom he came to see as bad influences. His childhood was far from ideal; as a boy, Roland Jr. would ride down with some of his older cousins to Miami as they purchased cocaine to later turn into crack. At thirteen, he forged his birth certificate to obtain a job at a fast‐food restaurant where he stole from the cash register. In 1993 his father was ...