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David McBride

physician and public service and church activist, was born Leonidas Harris Berry on a tobacco farm in Woodsdale, North Carolina, the son of the Reverend Llewellyn Longfellow Berry, general secretary of the Department of Home and Foreign Missions of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Beulah Harris. Leonidas acquired the desire to become a doctor at the age of five, when a distinguished‐looking local doctor treated a small wound on his foot. The young boy was impressed by this “miraculous” event. His aspiration to go to medical school intensified while he was attending Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1924 Berry graduated from Wilberforce University and went on to obtain the SB in 1925 from the University of Chicago. In 1930 he also received his medical degree from the University of Chicago s Rush Medical College Berry continued his medical training earning an MS ...

Article

Tyler Fields

civic and religious leader and camp founder, was born Henry Carl Canty in Camden, South Carolina. The only information known about his childhood was that his family was not wealthy, which was typical for southern urban African Americans in the late nineteenth century. Not much is known about Canty's life prior to moving to Hartford, Connecticut, other than that he moved there when he was thirty years old in 1902. He worked for a time as an elevator operator in Hartford City Hall, and according to the 1930 census, he was a polisher at the same building. In that same year Canty and his wife, Mary Ann (Gamble) Canty, purchased 61 Mahl Avenue in Hartford. The home was occupied by the Canty and the Anderson families. Built around 1897, the house was a two-and-a-half-story vernacular Queen Anne building with a gable roof.

Canty was an active member ...

Article

Aldeen L. Davis

Alexander G. Clark was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania. His father, John Clark, had been freed by his Irish master; his mother, Rebecca (Darnes) Clark, was said to have been a full-blooded African. Alexander received a limited education in Washington County and in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was sent in 1839 to live with an uncle. He learned barbering, worked as a bartender on the steamer George Washington, and in May 1842 went to Muscatine, Iowa, where he opened a barbershop. He later contracted with steamboats to supply them with wood. Investing his money wisely, he purchased real estate and became a wealthy man. He devoted most of the rest of his life to the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), Prince Hall Masonry, the Republican Party, civil rights movements, and the Chicago Conservator which he edited He graduated from the University of Iowa Law ...

Article

Linda M. Perkins

educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father's name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by George Henry Calvert, a descendant of Lord Baltimore, the settler of Maryland. Jackson's salary enabled her to afford one hour of private tutoring three times a week. Near the end of her six-year stay with the Calverts, she briefly attended the segregated public schools of Newport. In 1859 Jackson enrolled at the Rhode Island State Normal School in Bristol In addition to the normal course she also studied ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Of her college experience, Frances (Fanny) Jackson Coppin remembered: “I never rose to recite in my classes at Oberlin but I felt that I had the honor of the whole African race upon my shoulders. I felt that, should I fail, it would be ascribed to the fact that I was colored.” This describes a burden that many blacks still carry 150 years later—the suspicion that for their white peers, they somehow represent the entire race. Despite this pressure, however, Coppin shone at Oberlin College in Ohio, and she went on to shine as a teacher, school principal, and activist throughout the next fifty years.

Coppin was born a slave in Washington, D.C. the daughter of a slave mother and a white father An aunt purchased Coppin s freedom when she was twelve years old and sent her to live with another aunt in New Bedford Massachusetts They moved ...

Article

Susan B. Iwanisziw

activist, was named Oronoco (variously spelled Oronoke, Oranque, or Oronogue) in the earliest documents that record his early life as a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, slave. In 1749 he was inherited upon the death of his master, Henry Dexter, by Dexter's son, James. When James died in debt in 1767, the trustees of the estate freed Oronoco for the price of £100. In his manumission papers he is identified as “Oronoko royal Slave,” presumably an allusion to the African prince in Aphra Behn's novella Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave (1688) or in Thomas Southerne's dramatic transformation of the story entitled Oroonoko, a Tragedy (1696 which remained one of the most popular dramas staged in Britain throughout the eighteenth century If he was indeed born into African royalty Oronoco nevertheless changed his name upon gaining his freedom and he is usually noted in ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

librarian, journalist, and African Methodist Episcopal lay church leader, was born in Shannon, Mississippi, the son of William and Sarah Forbes, who had been enslaved until freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the arrival of the United States Army in Mississippi, and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Working at a young age in brickyards and farms, Forbes left the state at the age of fourteen, attended Wilberforce University in Ohio for a time, then moved to Boston in the 1880s. Mr. and Mrs. Mungin of Smith Court, a forgotten couple who assisted many struggling students, assisted him in finding work as a laborer at Memorial Hall in nearby Cambridge, saving money and studying. In 1888 Forbes enrolled at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he was a classmate of Sherman W. Jackson later principal of M Street High School in ...

Article

Rebecca L. Hankins

businesswoman, civil rights and peace activist, and United Methodist Church leader, was born Emma Augusta Clarie Collins in Meridian, Mississippi, the only child of Malachi C. and Mary Rayford Collins, owners of a funeral home and insurance business. The Harveys lived comfortably, despite the impositions of Jim Crow segregation. Collins began her education at two of the South's most important black institutions: Tougaloo College and Spelman College—the renowned Atlanta school for African American women—where she completed her BA degree in Economics in 1937. She went on to attend Indiana Institute of Mortuary Science, in 1942 becoming one of the first African Americans to receive a degree in Mortuary Science. She continued her education and in 1950 received an MA in Personnel Administration from Columbia University and then attended New York University's Graduate School of Business Administration.

On 1 August 1943 Collins married Martin Luther Harvey ...

Article

Candis LaPrade

Born free in Cape May, New Jersey, on 11 February 1783, Jarena Lee became both the first African American woman to write an extended account of her own life and the first African American woman whose right to preach received official acknowledgment from church authorities. Her autobiography, The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee (1836), begins with a few brief references to her family, whom she left at the age of seven to work as a maid, and then quickly focuses on the steps she took to attain Christian salvation. Three sections follow this account of her spiritual awakening and clearly demonstrate her belief in female equality. The second section, titled “My Call to Preach the Gospel,” describes the call to preach she received around the year 1807. She sought permission to answer this call from the Reverend Richard Allen head of the African ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

“And why should it be thought impossible, heterodox, or improper, for a woman to preach? seeing the Savior died for the woman as well as the man.” In this quotation from her autobiography, Jarena Lee explains the belief that led her to become one of the first African American women preachers. Lee was born into a free black family and was hired out as an indentured servant at the age of seven. She converted to Christianity at the age of twenty-one, and, after wrestling with spiritual doubts for several years, realized that she was serious about her faith and felt called by God to preach. But when Lee first asked to preach at Philadelphia's Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in 1809, the Rev. Richard Allen dissuaded her because of her gender.

She became a minister's wife instead, marrying the Rev. Joseph Lee in 1811 and giving birth ...

Article

Jualynne E. Dodson

preacher and evangelist, was born in Cape May, New Jersey. She was not born a slave, but little is known about her family. They were obviously poor enough that at the age of seven Lee was hired out as a live-in maid to a family that lived some sixty miles from her home. She had a religious awakening in 1804, and several years later she recounts achieving rebirth to a life free of sin and focused on spiritual perfection. Each of these spiritual transformations occurred after Lee had experienced physical hardships. Her autobiography describes a long and laborious struggle that led her to the conviction that she should preach. In 1836 she published an autobiographical narrative, The Life and Religious Experiences of Jarena Lee. The narrative was reprinted in 1839, and in 1849 she produced an expanded version under the title Religious Experiences and Journal of ...

Article

Jualynne E. Dodson

Jarena Lee was the first woman known to petition the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church for authority to preach. She was born in Cape May, New Jersey, and is recorded to have made a first request to preach in 1809 at Bethel African Methodist Church of Philadelphia. The denial of this request did not stop Lee from preaching, and neither did her family life.

She married Reverend Joseph Lee, an AME pastor, in 1811 and moved to Snow Hill, New Jersey. In the sixth year of marriage, Joseph Lee died, and Lee was left with two children and a commitment “to preach his gospel to the fallen sons and daughters of Adam’s race.”

Jarena Lee returned to Philadelphia and renewed her request to preach. Reverend Richard Allen who at Lee s first request could find no precedent in Methodist discipline for women preaching had become bishop of ...

Article

Stacey Pamela Patton

the first woman known to have petitioned for and received the authority to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Jarena Lee was born free in Cape May, New Jersey. At the age of seven she was sent to work as a domestic. In 1804 she went to hear a Presbyterian missionary preach and became so overwhelmed by her sinful nature that she was moved within days to contemplate suicide. She recounts in the narrative she wrote that the “unseen arm of God … saved me from self-murder.” Soon thereafter she became ill; after recovering she moved to Philadelphia, where she heard the preaching of the Reverend Richard Allen who later became the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church That day she embraced the church as her own and three weeks from that day my soul was gloriously converted to God under preaching For a few moments ...

Article

Meghan Elisabeth Healy

founder of the Bantu Women’s League (BWL) and African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) missionary, was born Charlotte Manye near Fort Beaufort, Cape Colony, on 7 April 1874. The first of six children born to Christian parents, Charlotte Manye received her early schooling near Port Elizabeth, from the Xhosa intellectuals Isaac Wauchope and Paul Xiniwe. In the late 1880s her family moved to the diamond-mining town of Kimberley, where she and her younger sister Kate distinguished themselves as singers in a Free Church of Scotland choir.

From 1891 to 1893 Charlotte and Kate Manye toured Britain with the African Jubilee Choir also known as the African Native Choir Charlotte Manye continued with the choir for an American tour Kate married in Johannesburg and then moved to Durban where she served as an interpreter and doctor s assistant at McCord Zulu Hospital an experience that has been recorded in ...

Article

Joy G. Kinard

public orator, college president, philosopher, and clergyman, was born Joseph Charles Dozier in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Emily Pailin, a freeborn woman, and Charles Dozier, a former slave and ship carpenter. While Joseph was a young boy, Dozier moved away to find work in Baltimore, Maryland, at a shipyard. Joseph's mother later married David Price, and Price adopted Joseph as his own son. In 1863 the Price family moved to New Bern, North Carolina, which was controlled by federal troops at the time. While in New Bern, Joseph attended St. Andrews Chapel, a parochial school, and he attended the Lowell Normal School of New Bern in 1866. Beginning in 1871 he began teaching in Wilson, North Carolina, where he stayed for the next four years. He attended Shaw University in Raleigh in 1873 for a brief period. In 1875 he ...

Article

Arthuree McLaughlin Wright

educator, writer, clubwoman, and religious worker, was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, to the Reverend Whitten Strange Lankford, pastor of the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Clarrisa Carter Lankford. The eldest of five children, Susie Isabel learned the precepts of Christianity and the beliefs of the AME as she listened to her father's sermons. The Reverend Lankford had high expectations for Susie Isabel. He took her to Wilberforce University in Ohio, where she was taught by the talented instructors that America's first black college president, Bishop Daniel A. Payne of the AME, had assembled. In 1873, at age fourteen, she left Ohio when her mother died, and she assumed responsibility for overseeing her four younger siblings and the household.

The family moved to Baltimore when Rev Lankford was appointed to the Bethel AME Church Susie prepared meals and welcomed traveling ...

Article

Julius H. Bailey

educator, and committed member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born Rebecca Gould in Gouldtown, a small town in southern New Jersey named after the Gould family that had lived there for several generations. Rebecca came from the lineage of the founders of Gouldtown. Elizabeth Adams, an Englishwoman and the granddaughter of the proprietor of the colony, married into the Gould family, who were of African American descent. Rebecca's father, Benjamin, was a farmer, while Phoebe, her mother, remained at home to raise the children.

At the age of nineteen Rebecca married James Steward. They had six children: Margarette, William, Mary, Theophilus Gould, Alice, and Stephen Smith. In 1846 Rebecca and James joined the AME Church in Gouldtown, which was led by Reverend Alexander W. Wayman. She was baptized in 1851 As the movement to officially ...

Article

Lois Massengale Schultz

community activist, was born Jane Roberta Whatley in Hayneville, Lowndes County, Alabama, the eighth child and only girl of fifteen children born to Minerva Kendall Whatley and Calvin Whatley, a sharecropper and laborer. At an early age Jane worked to help support the family, and by the age of sixteen she was selling insurance for the Atlanta Mutual Benefit Association.

Summers's lifelong commitment to helping others was instilled at an early age by her parents, who had been born into slavery. A family story passed down through the generations had an enormous impact on young Jane. Relatives told how her father, Calvin, at the age of five carried water to his enslaved father, Simon, who had been beaten, tied to a tree, and left to die. Simon was subjected to this torturous punishment because he had protested the master's sexual abuse of his wife.

In 1922 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

minister and missionary supervisor of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, historian, founder of the Harriet Tubman Memorial Library, advocate for legal and sentencing reform, particularly concerning abuse of mandatory minimum sentencing, was born in Mocksville, Davie County North Carolina, the daughter of John Hairston and Ida D. Brown Goolsby.

Lula Mae Goolsby grew up in the Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Mocksville and graduated from Davie High School. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Bennett College in Greensboro, with a minor in Library Science, and taught school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. In 1961 she spent two weeks at the predominantly white Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, as part of an exchange of students with Bennett, which was historically black. She married Rev. Milton A. Williams, a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) church 8 June 1963 as he finished his graduate study ...