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Elaine C. Wells

George Bell was born a slave and lived in Virginia. His wife, Sophia Browning, purchased his freedom for $400, using money she earned secretly by selling produce from her garden. He then purchased her freedom. They bought their two sons from slave owners a few years later, but the Bell family was unable to free a daughter named Margaret. Their first freeborn child, Harriet, was born in 1803. The family lived in Washington, D.C., where Bell worked as a carpenter.

The municipal government of Washington authorized the establishment of public schools for whites in 1804, and in 1806 public education of white children began with the opening of two school buildings. There was no provision for the education of blacks, although the 1800 census for Washington showed 783 free blacks. In 1807 Bell the principal activist in this endeavor built the first school for black ...

Article

Eric Gardner

politician and activist, was born into slavery in North Carolina. Both he and his mother, Susan, were owned by the wealthy Thomas Burke Burton, who moved to Fort Bend County, Texas, from Halifax County, North Carolina, in the 1850s. Most accounts claim that the slaveholder favored Burton, taught him to read and write, and, after the Civil War, sold land to him; some accounts claim that Burton supported his former owner's wife when she was widowed during Reconstruction.

On 28 September 1868 Burton married Abba Jones (sometimes listed as Abby and sometimes as Hattie). The couple had three children, Horace J., Hattie M., and an unnamed child who died in infancy. Susan Burton lived with the young family until her death c. 1890.

Propertied, literate, and articulate, Burton quickly became active in the local Republican Party, the local Union League, and larger Reconstruction efforts. In 1869 ...

Article

Eric Gardner

educator and journalist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the son of William Corbin and Susan, both Virginia-born former slaves. Corbin's parents eventually settled in Cincinnati to raise their family of twelve children. Corbin attended school sporadically because of economic circumstances (one of his classmates was John Mercer Langston), though his family emphasized education. In the late 1840s Corbin and his older sister Elizabeth moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where their father had family. Both lived with the Reverend Henry Adams, the pastor of the black First Baptist Church. Though the 1850 census takers listed him as a cook, Corbin taught at least some of the time in a school supported by Adams.

Thirsty for further education, Corbin traveled north to Ohio University, where he earned a BA in 1853 and an MA in 1856 He settled in Cincinnati worked as a bank messenger and steward gained prominence ...

Article

Tom W. Dillard

Joseph Carter Corbin was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, on March 26, 1833, of free parents, William and Susan Corbin. By attending several small schools he secured a basic education, and in 1850 he entered Ohio University, of Athens, Ohio. He received his bachelor's degree in 1853 and his master's in 1856. Before receiving his graduate degree, Corbin had accepted employment with a bank in Cincinnati, Ohio. Later, he taught at a school in Louisville, Kentucky. During the Civil War (1861–1865) Corbin edited a Cincinnati newspaper, the Colored Citizen. In 1866 he married Mary Jane Ward. The couple had six children, only two of whom survived their father.

Corbin and his family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1872, where he worked as a reporter for the Republican Party newspaper, the Daily Republican Like many other African Americans of that day ...

Article

Laura Murphy

author, bishop, and educator, was born a slave in Wilkes County, Georgia, to parents whose names are unknown. He was owned by a man named Robert Toombs. The seventh of fourteen children, Gaines was a sickly child, but during his bouts of illness he secretly taught himself to read and studied diligently.

Gaines became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the South in 1849 following in his father s footsteps After the Civil War he became a preacher in the church but his tenure there was short lived as he and numerous other black Americans left the branch of the Methodist Church that had condoned slavery His brother convinced him to move to the African Methodist Episcopal AME Church where he was quickly ordained as an elder In the 1880s Gaines became the second pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in ...

Article

Delano Greenidge-Copprue

Oliver Otis Howard was born in Leeds, Maine, to a farming couple, Rowland and Eliza Otis Howard. In 1850 he graduated from Bowdoin College and went on to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1854 and was ranked fourth in his class. A year later Howard married Elizabeth Ann Waite, with whom he had seven children. After tours of duty in New York, Maine, and Florida, Howard returned to West Point in 1857 to teach mathematics.

In the Civil War, Howard proved himself an able commander, moving up in rank from first lieutenant to colonel of the Third Maine in 1861. In July 1861 he led troops at Bull Run and two months later was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. In the spring of 1862 he was severely wounded and most of his right arm was amputated By August ...

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Raymond Pierre Hylton

college administrator, entrepreneur, and first and sixth president of Liberia, was born either in Norfolk, Portsmouth, or Petersburg, Virginia, the son of James Roberts and Amelia (maiden name unknown). A persistent rumor that his father was an unidentified white man remains no more than mere speculation. James Roberts and his wife were freed people and had seven surviving children. The family ran a boat and trading business that plied the James River. The Robertses probably lived for a while in Norfolk and later moved to Petersburg, where Joseph alternately worked for his father and in a barbershop owned by the Reverend William Nelson Colson, an African American minister and businessman. The Colson business was located at Wythe and Sycamore streets—an historical marker indicates the actual site.

By 1829 James Roberts had died leaving considerable financial assets and property in Petersburg Joseph as the eldest child ...

Article

Leland Conley Barrows

educator and college founder, was born in Talbotton, Georgia, the seventh child of impoverished and illiterate parents. Her father, John Wesley Wright, a former slave, was a carpenter; her mother, Virginia Rolfe, a Cherokee Indian who maintained her tribal affiliation, earned money, from time to time, as a fortune teller, and had twenty-one children.

Wright acquired basic literacy and numeracy at a school for blacks operated in the St. Philip's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Talbotton. Her opportunity to leave her home environment came, when, by chance, she picked up a discarded newspaper page which introduced her to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Here she enrolled in September 1888 in a special work-study preparatory program intended for students who could not pay full fees. She was assigned to kitchen duty.

Wright s chronic poor health coupled with her intelligence and her iron determination to become a teacher ...