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Mary T. Henry

bishop, civil rights leader, and educator, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to Rev. Eugene Avery Adams and Charity Nash Adams. He and his three siblings, Avery, Charity, and Lucy Rose, were raised in a spiritual and intellectually stimulating home. His father, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister and social activist, in the 1920s organized the first African American bank in Columbia and the first modern statewide civil rights organization in South Carolina. None of these activities went unnoticed by young John and they helped to define his later focus and commitments. Adams was educated in the segregated Columbia school system and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. His undergraduate work was completed at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he earned an AB degree in History in 1947 After studying at Boston University School of Theology he received a bachelor of ...


Roger A. Berger

Born in Wabbaseka, Arkansas, Leroy Eldridge Cleaver moved west to Los Angeles in 1946, where his family lived in an impoverished African American/Chicano neighborhood. In 1953 and 1957 Cleaver was convicted for narcotics possession and assault and spent almost thirteen years in the California penitentiary system. While in prison he affiliated with the Black Muslims and became an ardent follower of Malcolm X.

After his 1966 parole Cleaver worked for Ramparts magazine and met several radical and countercultural activists, among them Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, cofounders of the Oakland-based Black Panther Party, of which he soon became the minister of information. On 6 April 1968 Cleaver was wounded and arrested after a violent encounter between the Black Panthers and the Oakland police.

In February 1968 Cleaver published Soul on Ice, an enormously popular and influential collection of essays and letters on American culture race and gender ...


Elizabeth J. West

Born in New York City to Charity and Boston Crum-mell, Alexander grew up in a family that placed great emphasis on freedom, independence, and education. Although his parents had not experienced the privilege of a formal education, they placed Alexander in the Mulberry Street School and hired additional private tutors for him. When Crummell decided to enter the priesthood, he applied for entry into the theological seminary of the Episcopal Church. According to Crum-mell's own account in his 1894 retirement address, “Shades and Lights”, the admissions board denied his application because its policy was to exclude blacks from positions in the church hierarchy. Crummell was then forced to study privately with sympathetic clergy. These early studies shaped the stoic and methodical style that remained evident throughout his long career as writer and orator. Although he was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1844, it was not until 1847 ...


Edward W. Rodman

Episcopal bishop, was born Walter Decoster Dennis in Washington, D.C., the son of Walter Decoster Dennis and Helen Louise (maiden name unknown). At an early age the Dennises moved to Petersburg, Virginia, where Walter attended the segregated public schools.

Bishop Dennis began his career at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine as a curate following his graduation from General Theological Seminary in New York City. During his first tenure at the Cathedral, the then Reverend Dennis was noted for his conferences on civil rights, concern for the urban communities of New York City, and his keen interest in constitutional law and history. During this period he became friendly with Thurgood Marshall, at that time a civil rights attorney and a champion of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954; then, during his second tenure, he provided the eulogy at Supreme Court Justice Marshall ...


Graham Russell Hodges

Born to petit bourgeois parents in Vého, Lorraine, in rural France, Henri-Baptiste Grégoire was educated at a Jesuit college. He then became a teacher and was consequently ordained as a priest in Lorraine at the age of twenty-five. Frustrated by hierarchical barriers to advancement, he turned to writing.

Grégoire's first essays, published in the late 1770s, advocated tolerance of Jews, a position that placed Grégoire in opposition to the wave of anti-Semitism in France. In 1785 he won awards for a book reflecting his passion for Jewish rights Grégoire contended that temporal salvation by which he meant absorption into the Roman Catholic Church was individual rather than racial or national He defined his duty as working for the creation of conditions under which Jews could convert to Catholicism and be eligible for salvation To avoid social corruption he believed Jews were to be encouraged to migrate to the countryside ...


Chris Ruiz-Velasco

Sutton Elbert Griggs was born in Chatfield, Texas, the son of Allen R. Griggs, a prominent Baptist minister; his mother's name is not known. Sutton Griggs received his elementary education in the Dallas public schools and attended Bishop College in Marshall, Texas. After graduating in 1890, Griggs attended the Richmond Theological Seminary (later a part of Virginia Union University), graduating after three years. After his ordination as a Baptist minister, he was given his first pastorate at Berkley, Virginia, where he remained for two years. Griggs then moved to Tennessee where he spent thirty years, first at the First Baptist Church of East Nashville and later at the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Memphis, where he held ministerial office for nineteen years. Griggs married Emma J. Williams of Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1897; they had no children.

After Reconstruction and the subsequent segregation and antiblack violence Griggs ...


Arlene A. Elder

Born in Chatfield, Texas, on 19 June 1872, the son of Reverend Allen R. Griggs, a pioneer Baptist preacher in Texas, Sutton Elbert Griggs attended public schools in Dallas, graduated from Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, and trained for the ministry at the Richmond Theological Seminary. While he held pastorates in Virginia and Tennessee he produced the thirty-three books (including five novels) urging African American pride and self-help that garnered him widespread renown among African American readers. Because he established the Orion Publishing Company in Nashville, Tennessee, which promoted the sale of his books from 1908 until 1911, his works were probably more widely circulated among African Americans than the works of contemporaries Charles Waddell Chesnutt and Paul Laurence Dunbar. During the height of his creative production, both his writings and sermons militantly protested injustices and espoused the rights of his people. By 1920 however ...


Sondra O’Neale

Jupiter Hammon gave birth to formal African American literature with the publication of An Evening Thought, Salvation, by Christ, with Penitential Cries (1760). Hammon was born on 17 October 1711 at the Lloyd plantation in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. He was almost fifty years old when he published his first poem, “Salvation Comes by Christ Alone,” on 25 December 1760.

Hammon was a slave to the wealthy Lloyd family. It is evident that he received some education, and he was entrusted with the family's local savings and worked as a clerk in their business. There is no record of his having a wife or child.

By the time he was eighty, Hammon had published at least three other poems— “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly [sic], Ethiopian Poetess”, “A Poem for Children with Thoughts of Death”, and A Dialogue Entitled the Kind ...


Charles Rosenberg

pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago (1915–1940), president of the National Baptist Convention from 1922 until his death in 1940, and president of Victory Mutual Life Insurance Co., was born in Eufala, Barbour County, Alabama, to Levi Shorter and Elizabeth Hill. His parents had previously been enslaved on opposite sides of the Alabama–Georgia state line. Williams, whose father adopted that surname as a new family name after marrying Hill, moved in 1877 with his family to Brazos Bottom, Texas, where his father saw better economic opportunity.

Converted and baptized in 1884 at Thankful Baptist Church, which numbered his parents among its founders, he was awarded a second-grade certificate in 1890, authorizing him to teach in public schools of Burleson County. He taught at River Lane School, eventually becoming the principal; on 16 August 1894 he married Georgia Lewis one of his former ...