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George Yancy

philosopher and first African American to receive a PhD in Philosophy in the United States, was born enslaved of enslaved parents, Thomas Chadwick Baker, a Civil War veteran, and Edith (Nottingham) Baker, on Robert Nottingham's plantation in Northampton County, Virginia. Edith was the daughter of Southey and Sarah Nottingham of Northampton County. Thomas Nelson Baker was one of five children.

Describing the influences on his early intellectual life, Baker remembered:

My mother taught me my letters although I well remember when she learned them herself My first reading lesson was the second chapter of Matthew the Bible being the only book we had I never read a bad book in my life which is one of the blessings I got by being poor I began to attend the common schools at eight and learned to love books passionately I used to read through my recesses Evenings I read the Bible ...


Martha I. Pallante

Born to Lyman and Roxana Foote Beecher in Litchfield, Connecticut, Henry Ward Beecher was a member of one of the nation's most visible reform-minded families, and he would come to be acknowledged as one of nineteenth-century America's finest orators.

The ninth of ten children, who included the author Harriet Beecher Stowe and the educator Catherine Beecher, Henry grew up questioning the faith his father passionately espoused. Hoping to inspire his son, Lyman Beecher sent him to the Mount Pleasant Classical Academy in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1827. There Henry committed to becoming a minister. He attended Amherst College (1830–1834) and Lane Theological Seminary in Ohio (1834–1837). After serving as a the pastor for two Congregational churches in Indiana, at Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis, he was called to the pulpit of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York, in 1847.

By the time Beecher returned to ...


Clifton H. Johnson

clergyman and abolitionist, was born in Colchester, Connecticut, the son of Jehiel C. Beman, a clergyman. Nothing is known of his mother. He grew up and received a basic education in Middletown, Connecticut, where his father was pastor of the African church. A Wesleyan University student, L. P. Dole, volunteered to tutor Beman after the university refused his application for admission because he was an African American. Dole and Beman suffered ridicule and harassment from other students, and an anonymous threat of bodily harm from “Twelve of Us” caused Beman to give up the effort after six months. He went to Hartford, where he taught school for four years, and around 1836 he briefly attended the Oneida Institute in New York.

Beman was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1839. At about this time he married a woman whose name is not known. In 1841 ...


Daniel Donaghy

was born into slavery in Roane County, East Tennessee. In his autobiography, My Own Life Story, Brown writes that his father was “at least seven-eighths Caucasian and possibly one-eighth Negro. His family record was never known by him or the general public.” His father worked as a carpenter, blacksmith, and utility man whose competence earned him the nickname “Handy.” He married Brown’s mother when she was seventeen. Brown noted that while she spoke little of religion in their home, she was a member of the Methodist church and believed that Jesus Christ was her personal savior. From an early age people called her “Aunt Clara” because her caring nature and service to those around her. Brown’s 1929 record of death lists his mother as Clarisa and his father as Handy Brown Clarisa gave birth to thirteen children only three of whom all boys were alive when Sterling Brown ...


Boyd Childress

white soldier, minister, educator, and administrator. Horace Bumstead was a pivotal figure in the education of African Americans at the turn of the twentieth century. Born in Boston to well-to-do parents, Bumstead was educated at Boston Latin School and Yale, from which he graduated in 1863. He was commissioned as a major during the Civil War and commanded black troops serving in the Richmond and Petersburg campaigns in 1864 and 1865. After the war Bumstead graduated from Andover (Massachusetts) Theological Seminary in 1870, studied in Europe, married in 1872, and served a Congregationalist church in Minneapolis. In 1875 he joined his Yale classmate Edmond Asa Ware at Atlanta University to teach natural science and Latin; he was named interim president in 1886 and president in 1888.

Bumstead an advocate of industrial instruction as well as of traditional higher education for blacks ...


Alonford James Robinson

Francis Cardozo was born free in Charleston, South Carolina, to prominent Jewish businessman and economist Isaac N. Cardozo and a free African American woman whose name is unknown. Cardozo was trained as a carpenter, but at age twenty-one he studied for the ministry at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and at seminaries in Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England. He won awards for his mastery of Greek and Latin. Cardozo returned to the United States as minister of Temple Street Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1865, as a member of the American Missionary Association, he became principal of the Saxton School in Charleston. In 1866 he helped establish and became superintendent of the Avery Normal Institute, a school in Charleston to train African American teachers.

In 1868 Cardozo became involved in politics acting as a delegate to the South Carolina state constitutional convention As secretary ...


Timothy P. McCarthy

minister, educator, and politician, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of a free black woman (name unknown) and a Jewish father. It is uncertain whether Cardozo's father was Jacob N. Cardozo, the prominent economist and editor of an anti-nullification newspaper in Charleston during the 1830s, or his lesser-known brother, Isaac Cardozo, a weigher in the city's customhouse. Born free at a time when slavery dominated southern life, Cardozo enjoyed a childhood of relative privilege among Charleston's antebellum free black community. Between the ages of five and twelve he attended a school for free blacks, then he spent five years as a carpenter's apprentice and four more as a journeyman. In 1858 Cardozo used his savings to travel to Scotland, where he studied at the University of Glasgow, graduating with distinction in 1861 As the Civil War erupted at home he remained in Europe to study ...


Madalyn Ard

minister and educator, was born a slave in Petersburg, Virginia, to Charles and Nancy Coles, both of whom worked on the Pryor family farm in Dinwiddie County. Even though antebellum southern states excluded slaves from education, Coles learned the basics of reading and writing from the sympathetic sheriff of Dinwiddie County, H. J. Heartwell. After the Civil War, Coles moved to Connecticut and enrolled in the Guilford Institute. After graduating in 1869 Coles sought to continue his education by attending Pennsylvania's Lincoln University, from which he took a bachelor of arts in 1872 and a master of arts in 1874. A year later he earned his bachelor of divinity from Yale University.

Coles recognized what a rare thing it was for an African American to obtain a formal education in a time when access to universities and higher degrees for blacks remained limited Like many of his contemporaries ...


Ralph E. Luker

Congregational clergyman and social service worker, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Caswell DeBerry and Charlotte Mayfield, former slaves. His father was a railroad shop worker and a lay preacher in a local Baptist church; his mother's occupation is unknown. DeBerry was educated in Nashville and entered Fisk University in 1886, graduating ten years later with a BS degree. DeBerry then went to Oberlin College in Ohio where he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1899. That same year he was ordained in the Congregational ministry, became the pastor of St. John's Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts, and married Amanda McKissack of Pulaski, Tennessee; they had two children. After the death of his first wife (date unknown), DeBerry married Louise Scott in 1943.

DeBerry served as pastor of St. John's Congregational Church until 31 December 1930 during which time the church grew ...


Charles Rosenberg

the son of a Revolutionary War veteran of the same name, was born in Wolcott, Connecticut, and served as the first clerk of the African Ecclesiastical Society in New Haven. Although sparse and sometimes conflicting accounts in published literature have confounded records of the father and son, recently genealogical research in Tompkins County, New York, has clearly identified and distinguished the two from original records.

On 18 July 1756 “Prince, the negro servant child of Samuel Riggs & Abigail his wife” was baptized, according to church records in Derby, Connecticut. Although the word “slave” was not routinely used during that period, he was a servant “for life,” valued at £50, and was inherited at Rigg's death by his daughter Abigail, married to a Reverend Mr. Chapman. Duplex enlisted 18 May 1777 in one of the Connecticut regiments commanded by Colonel Sherman and Colonel Giles Russell formed to fight ...


Sterling Stuckey

folklorist and minister, was born in Society Hill, South Carolina, the son of Laurence Faulkner, a merchant and postmaster, and Hannah Josephine Doby, a midwife. The decade of his birth and earliest development was one of violent repression of blacks across the South, during which the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, propounded its “separate but equal” doctrine. The fact that both parents were enterprising contributed to a sense of security in William despite the brutal reality of night riders and Klansmen roaming the countryside. In addition, religion was a shield against hardship and a source of hope in his life. Raised in a Christian household, by age six he had taken John the Baptist as his hero.

By age nine, with the migration to Society Hill of the former slave and storyteller Simon Brown Faulkner was exposed to the artistic and spiritual qualities of ...


Ruth Edmonds Hill

Congregational minister and civil rights advocate, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William and Jennie Harrison, slaves of John Bolton from Savannah, Georgia. His widowed mother, a family servant, was freed in 1821, and they moved to New York City with the Bolton family. Harrison attended school until he was nine years old, at which time his mother sent him to Philadelphia to get away from his alcoholic stepfather and become apprenticed to an uncle who was a shoemaker. His mother later left her husband and also moved to Philadelphia. At the age of seventeen, Harrison attended meetings at the black Second Presbyterian Church and soon joined the church.

Desiring more education, Harrison went to school in the morning and worked in the shoe shop in the afternoon. In 1836 with the help of the American Education Society he attended the Peterboro Manual Labor School founded by ...


Lemuel Haynes was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, to a black father he never knew and a white mother who refused to acknowledge him. In his infancy he was made an indentured servant to a white family in Granville, Massachusetts, who treated him as one of their children. A serious and studious child, he received a common school education as well as a religious upbringing.

Haynes's indenture ended in 1774, whereupon he became a Minuteman in the Continental Army. During the Revolutionary War he fought at the siege of Boston and Fort Ticonderoga. After the war he studied Latin and Greek with local ministers and was ordained by the Congregationalists, apparently the first African American ordained by a mainstream white denomination. Throughout the next five decades he ministered to white congregations in New England and New York.

Haynes spoke little on race but did write a manuscript called ...


Richard Newman

Congregational minister, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, the son of a black father and a white mother, both unknown, and both of whom abandoned him at birth. He was indentured at five months of age to a white family named Rose through whom he absorbed strong Calvinist theology and evangelical piety. He was educated in the local schools, but, a serious and diligent child, he also taught himself by the light of the fireside at night; he later said, “I made it my rule to know more every night than I knew in the morning.” In 1783 he married Elizabeth Babbit, a white schoolteacher who had proposed to him; they became the parents of ten children.

Haynes fulfilled his indenture and came of age just as the American Revolution was beginning. He signed up as a minuteman in 1774 and joined militia troops at Roxbury Massachusetts ...


Scott A. Miltenberger

Scholars have written more about the religious teachings and writings of Lemuel Haynes than about his life, yet his beliefs were born of his life experiences; each shaped the other, with profound consequences. Haynes was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, to an African father and a white mother. His parents deserted him before he was six months old, and Haynes was indentured to David Rose a deacon at the Middle Granville Congregational Church Raised as their son Haynes worked the Roses farm and attended the district school While he was still quite young he experienced an intense religious conversion at the sight of the aurora borealis For the remainder of his life Haynes devoted himself to theology and the Bible endeavors that the Roses happily encouraged With their help and support he immersed himself in religious studies reading not only the Bible but also the sermons of noted ...


Sterling Lecater Bland

slave narrative author, was born in Canaan, Connecticut, the child of slaves. James's father, Jupiter Mars, was born in New York State. He had a succession of owners, including General Henry Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, with whom Jupiter served in the Revolutionary War. He was subsequently owned in Salisbury, Connecticut, and later by the Reverend Mr. Thompson, a minister in North Canaan, Connecticut. Mars's mother, whose name remains unknown, was born in Virginia and was owned there by the woman who became Thompson's wife. His mother, who had one child while living in Virginia, was relocated to Connecticut when Mrs. Thompson moved to Canaan to join her husband. The Reverend Thompson married Mars's parents, and they had James and four other children, three of whom died in infancy.

Of Mrs Thompson James Mars told his father that if she only had him South where she could have ...


Peter Hinks

James Mars was born to enslaved parents in Canaan, Connecticut. His father, Jupiter, and his mother, Fanny, were owned by the Reverend Thompson, Canaan's Congregational minister.

While slavery never boasted a large presence in Connecticut, in 1775 about fifty-one hundred slaves, or 3 percent of the colony's total population, resided there. Mars was born as slavery was being gradually abolished in Connecticut: the state's general assembly enacted a law that freed all individuals born in the state on or after 1 March 1784 once they reached a given age (which varied according to the time period and the sex of the individual). Relaxed manumission laws passed since the American Revolution had also made it easier for masters to free slaves; by 1790 only about twenty-seven hundred blacks remained enslaved in the state, and the slave population declined steadily over the ensuing years.

Thus Mars was growing up as African ...


David Killingray

African‐Americanabolitionist, teacher, Christian preacher, temperance worker, and peace activist. Pennington was born into slavery in Maryland, where he worked as a blacksmith. He escaped, educated himself at night school, and became a teacher. Following a conversion experience, he served as a pastor of several black Congregational churches. Much of his life was devoted to self‐improvement and the cause of abolition and black civil rights. As a prominent African‐American spokesman he was a delegate to the second World Anti‐Slavery Convention, and also the Peace Congress, both held in London in 1843 Pennington believed that US slavery and racialism could best be challenged by mobilizing international opinion To this end he preached and spoke all over Britain He frequently compared his treatment in Britain to that which he received in America where If I meet my white brother minister in the street he blushes to ...


Charles E. Wilson

James William Charles Pennington was born into slavery on the eastern shore of Maryland. At the age of four, he, his brother, and his mother were given to the son of his master, who moved to Washington County in the western part of the state. In his slave narrative, The Fugitive Blacksmith, or Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington (1849), Pennington is particularly attentive to the effects of slavery on black children. Using the special abuses (lack of consistent parental attention, abusive white children, and brutal overseers) that slave children must endure as a gambit for his narrative, Pennington charted his development into an activist minister who witnessed, through word and deed, against slavery in the South and racism in the North.

Pennington escaped slavery in 1828 The next year he moved to Long Island where he pursued an education in night school Between ...


Delano Greenidge-Copprue

James William Charles Pennington was born James Pembroke on one of James Tilghman's plantations, Queen Anne's County, Maryland. Pembroke was the second child of Nelly, one of Tilghman's slaves, and Brazil (or Bazil), a slave from a neighboring plantation. In 1809, with the death of Tilghman, Pembroke, along with his mother and older brother, was given to James Tilghman's eldest son, Frisby, who ran Rockland, a 189-acre plantation. At Rockland, Pembroke learned the blacksmith trade. Shortly after an unprovoked flogging in October 1827, he ran away from Rockland but was captured a few days later on the National Highway, four miles outside Reisterstown, Maryland. On the night of his return to Rockland he escaped again and gained freedom despite Tilghman's ads in papers offering two hundred dollars for his capture.

Pembroke reached freedom in Adams County Pennsylvania where he lived and worked with the Quakers William and ...