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Baltimore, Priscilla  

Sharon E. Wood

former slave, entrepreneur, steamboat worker, nurse, and church founder, was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1801 or 1804. Although her father was a white man and also her master, his name is unknown. Her mother, Lydia, was his slave. While she was still a child, Baltimore's father sold her to a trader who carried her to the St. Louis area. Over the next few years, she passed among several masters, including the New Orleans judge Joachim Bermudez, working as a house servant for French, Spanish, and Anglo-American households in Louisiana and eastern Missouri.

In New Orleans Baltimore joined the Methodist Church Her piety so impressed one preacher that he purchased her then allowed her to hire her own time and buy her freedom Baltimore worked as a chambermaid on steamboats and as a lying in nurse According to tradition it took her seven years to earn the ...

Article

Burton, Thomas  

Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, businessman, and writer, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, the youngest of fifteen children of Eliza and Edwin, who were slaves. Burton and his mother remained on the plantation after Emancipation as paid laborers, and he continued working at the “old homestead” after her death in 1869 until he was sixteen, at which time he left following an altercation with the owner.

In 1880 Burton was “converted to God” and subsequently experienced an insatiable desire for learning. Despite discouraging comments from those who thought that twenty was too old to start school, Burton was not dissuaded and determined that nothing was going to prevent him from getting an education except sickness or death. Burton worked for one more year as a farmhand in Richmond, Kentucky. One January morning in 1881 he put a few items in a carpetbag and nine dollars and seventy five cents in his ...

Article

Frederick, Rivers  

Tom J. Ward

physician and businessman, was born in New Roads, Louisiana, the second of the seven children of George Frederick and Armantine (maiden name unknown) of Point Coupeé Parish, Louisiana. Frederick received his early education at the plantation school run by the wife of Louis F. Drouillard, the landlord for whom his parents were sharecroppers. In 1890 Frederick left Point Coupeé for New Orleans, where he enrolled at Straight University. He graduated in 1894, then enrolled at the New Orleans Medical College. Because he would not have been able to study in any of the city's hospitals because of his race, Frederick did not complete his medical education in New Orleans; instead, he left for Chicago in 1896 and enrolled at the College of Physicians and Surgeons In Chicago he had the benefit of clinical training at Cook County Hospital Frederick received his MD from the College of ...

Article

Heard, Betsy  

Bruce L. Mouser

trader, traditional medical practitioner, and political arbiter, was born on the coast of Guinea-Conakry. She is also known as Elizabeth, Beth, and Liza Heard. Her likely father was a British merchant attached to commercial firms maintaining factories at Bance Island in the Sierra Leone River or on the nearby Iles de Los. It was customary for African headmen to arrange a husband/wife relationship for resident foreign “strangers”—of which Heard’s father was likely one. Her mother’s name and relationship to local leaders are unknown. At a young age, Betsy was recognized as exceptionally intelligent, and she was sent to Liverpool, where she was boarded and educated, with the expectation that she would return to the Windward Coast as an agent for European commerce and Liverpool interests.

By the 1790s Heard had established a commercial footing at Bereira on the southern Guinea Conakry coast At that time Bereira was a border ...

Article

Houser, N. B.  

Blake Wintory

physician, drug store owner, and investor, was born Napoleon Bonaparte Houser near Gastonia, in Gaston County, North Carolina, the son of William H. Houser, a brick mason and contractor, and Fannie Houser, a housekeeper. The elder Houser's $600 in real estate and $200 in personal property, according to the 1870 U.S. census, made him one of the wealthiest black businessmen in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area. The young Houser attended Charlotte public schools and worked as a farmhand on his father's farm from the age of nine until fourteen. At fourteen he began to work at his father's brick factory, and at age sixteen became his father's personal secretary.

In 1881 Houser entered the Presbyterian-affiliated Biddle University in Charlotte, and in 1887 attended the Leonard Medical School at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. After finishing medical school in 1891 he received his medical ...

Article

Howard, T. R. M.  

David T. Beito

physician, civil rights leader, and entrepreneur, was born Theodore Roosevelt Howard in the town of Murray, Calloway County, Kentucky, to Arthur Howard, a tobacco twister, and Mary Chandler, a cook for Will Mason, a prominent local white doctor and member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA). Mason took note of the boy's work habits, talent, ambition, and charm. He put him to work in his hospital and eventually paid for much of his medical education. Howard later showed his gratitude by adding “Mason” as a second middle name.

Theodore Howard attended three SDA colleges: the all-black Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama; the predominantly white Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska; and the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California. While at Union College he won the American Anti-Saloon League's national contest for best orator in 1930.

During his years in medical school in ...

Article

Hughes, Louis  

John Ernest

author, businessman, and nurse, was born into slavery near Charlottesville, Virginia, the son of a white man and a black woman, possibly John and Susan Hughes. When he was about six years old, Hughes was sold with his mother and two brothers to Dr. Louis a physician in Scottsville Virginia When Dr Louis died young Hughes was sold with his mother and brother to Washington Fitzpatrick also of Scottsville who soon sent him then about eleven years old to Richmond on the pretense of hiring him out to work on a canal boat Parting with his mother at such a young age was difficult even more difficult was his realization that he would never see his mother again For Hughes this experience became the central symbol of the fundamental inhumanity of the system of slavery a symbol to which he returns at key points in ...

Article

Jones, Edith Mae Irby  

Mary Krane Derr

physician and community leader, was born Edith Mae Irby in Conway, Arkansas, to Mattie Irby, a domestic worker, and her husband Robert, a sharecropper. Several childhood experiences—some traumatic—shaped Edith's early choice of medicine as her profession and the relief of racial health disparities as her special focus. When she was only five, an illness rendered her unable to walk for eighteen months. At six she lost her thirteen-year-old sister and almost lost an older brother in a typhoid fever epidemic. She noticed that people who could afford more medical care fared better with the disease. When she was eight a horse-riding accident fatally injured her father.

The year of her father s death a white doctor and his family hired Edith to help care for their eighteen month old child They told Edith that she was highly intelligent and encouraged her to consider a medical career Members ...

Article

Loguen Fraser, Sarah Marinda  

Mary Krane Derr

physician and pharmacist, was born in Syracuse, New York, the fifth of eight children of Caroline (Storum) and Jermain Wesley Loguen, an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church bishop. Close friends of Frederick Douglass and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Loguen Fraser's parents were themselves ardent abolitionists and women's rights supporters. Her mother's heritage was free black, Native American, and French Canadian. As her father recounted in his autobiography, The Reverend J.W. Loguen as a Slave and as a Freeman (1859), he was conceived after his mother was raped by their white slaveholder in Davidson County, Tennessee. Jermain Loguen escaped North learned to read entered the ministry and vowed to spend his life liberating others from slavery The Loguens Syracuse house at East Genesee and Pine Streets was a critical station on the Underground Railroad that sheltered perhaps as many as 1 500 fugitives in ...

Article

Petioni, Charles A(ugustin)  

Robert G. McGuire

The son of Charles E. and Alicia (Martin) Petioni, Charles Augustin Petioni was born on August 27, 1885, in Trinidad, where he was educated and began a career in business and journalism. In 1913 he married Rosa Alling. They had two daughters, Margaret (who died before 1950) and Muriel. In 1918 the colonial government of Trinidad sent word to him that his outspoken views about local political and economic conditions had permanently damaged future career opportunities for himself and his family. For that reason he departed for New York, where he worked as a manual laborer during the day and attended the City College of New York at night. Upon completion of the premedical course at City College, he entered Howard University College of Medicine, from which he graduated in 1925 After an internship at St Agnes Hospital in Raleigh North Carolina he returned ...

Article

Pope, Manassa Thomas  

Benjamin R. Justesen

physician, businessman, and political activist, was born near Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina, the son of free black parents who were Quakers. His father, Jonas Elias Pope, freed from slavery in 1851, was a prosperous carpenter and landowner; his mother's name was Permelia. A younger half-brother, Jonas Elias Pope II, born to his father's second wife in 1898, was his only known sibling.

A gifted student, Pope was educated first in the common schools of Northampton County, before enrolling in 1874 at the Baptist-affiliated Shaw University in Raleigh, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1879. In 1880 he worked as a schoolteacher in Halifax County, near his birthplace, and boarded at the Brinkleyville home of Hilliard J. Hewlin, a farmer and aspiring Republican legislator. In 1882 Pope entered the first class at Shaw University s new Leonard Medical ...

Article

Scott, R. C.  

Shennette Garrett-Scott

undertaker and insurance executive, was born Robert Crafton Scott in Richmond, Virginia, to Alpheus Scott, a skilled, self-employed shoemaker, and homemaker Angela Wilson Scott. When a teacher asked seven-year-old Robert Scott what he wanted to be when he grew up, he surprised the class by saying that he wanted to be an undertaker. Undertakers represented one of the most lucrative, highly respected, and socially significant professions in the African American community, rivaled perhaps by the ministry. Undertakers’ essential role in the burial rite reflected the critical cultural and spiritual importance blacks placed on the transition to the afterlife. The class was likely surprised at young Scott's choice because, despite advances in mortuary science necessitated by the Civil War, at the turn of the twentieth century undertaking remained a gruesome mix of science, ritual, and mystery.

In 1897 Scott's mother died, and his father sent his sister Cleopatra ...

Article

Seacole, Mary Jane  

Jane Robinson

Jamaicannurse, hotelier, entrepreneur, writer, and heroine of the Crimean War. She was born Mary Grant, but no official records of her birth or parentage exist; in her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857), she stated her father to be a soldier of Scottish descent (possibly James Grant of the 60th Regiment of Foot) and her Creole mother to be the keeper of a Kingston hotel, Blundell Hall, and a well‐respected ‘doctress’, skilled in the traditional African use of herbal remedies. Her mother's guests and patients included British army officers garrisoned in Kingston, and Grant enjoyed a close relationship with the Army all her life. She had one sister, Louisa Grant (c.1815–1905), and a half‐brother, Edward Ambleton, who died during the 1850s.

Grant was educated by an elderly woman described in the autobiography as my kind ...

Article

Shorter, Hilda Bolden  

Mary Krane Derr

physician, pianist, and baseball-team owner, was born Hilda Mae (or May) Bolden in the Philadelphia suburb of Darby, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Nellie Bolden, a homemaker and civic volunteer, and Edward Bolden, a postal clerk, owner of the all-black Philadelphia Stars baseball team, and founder of the Eastern Colored League. Taught by her mother, Hilda Bolden demonstrated early talent as a pianist. At age three, she gave her first public performance. Her parents encouraged her to excel also at school. The first African American valedictorian at Darby High School, she had some white students walk on her when she gave her speech, but she continued nonetheless.

Hilda Bolden earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and then attended Meharry Medical College On a Rosenwald Fellowship she studied pediatrics at the University of Chicago She completed her pediatrics residency at Provident Hospital There as reported ...

Article

Taylor, Preston  

Edward J. Robinson

stonecutter, porter, educator, funeral director, and preacher, was born a slave in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of Zed and Betty Taylor. When Preston was one year old his parents moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where at age four young Preston heard a sermon in the First Baptist Church of Lexington and subsequently stated, “Some day I'll be a preacher” (Clement Richardson, The National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race [1919]). In 1864, at age fifteen Preston enlisted in Company G, 116th U.S. Infantry, as a drummer. He was present at the sieges of Richmond and Petersburg in Virginia, and at the surrender of Robert E. Lee. Taylor's regiment also served in Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana, before exiting the army on 17 January 1867 (Simmons, Men of Mark).

After serving in the military Taylor became a stonecutter and was skillful at ...

Article

Townsend, Arthur Melvin  

Linda T. Wynn

a physician, minister, educator, university president, and business executive who had a distinguished career of service in many areas during his lifetime. Townsend was born in Winchester, Tennessee, to the Reverend Doc Anderson and Emma A. (Singleton) Townsend, both of whom were educators. The elder Townsend was not only a minister but also a principal and director of the Franklin County Negro Elementary Schools. Townsend's mother was a schoolteacher in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Townsend was reared in Winchester and received his formal education there; in 1891, however, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and enrolled at Roger Williams University. During his student days in Nashville, Townsend became active in church affairs: he served as organist in several Nashville churches, conducted Sunday school classes, and organized missions to hospitals and jails. Later, he joined the Spruce Street Baptist Church, where he met his future wife, Willa ...

Article

Turner, David J.  

Melissa Nicole Stuckey

pharmacist, bank owner, and mayor of an African American community, was born David Johnson Turner, the fifth of twelve children, to Moses and Lucy (Lulu) Turner in Cass County, Texas. During his teen years, the Turners joined the steady stream of African Americans who left Texas and other Southern states for the Oklahoma and Indian Territories. Many black migrants were attracted to Indian Territory, which was divided up among the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians, known as the Five Civilized Tribes. Moses and Lulu Turner rented a farm in the Seminole Nation, Indian Territory, where David Turner and his younger siblings came of age.

In 1895, Turner wed Minnie also a child of Texas migrants and the young couple began raising their own family on a rented farm near Turner s parents Within a few years however Turner moved his family to ...

Article

Wilson, James Lancelot  

Joann Buckley

then part of the Danish Virgin Islands, to William Wilson and Charlotte Petersen. His mother died when he was only five years old. He was the last of eight children and was raised by his older sister Alice, a dressmaker. His early education was at Danish schools in Frederiksted, St. Croix. In 1905 he emigrated to the United States and lived with older siblings in the New York area. He was one of four black graduates of Jersey City High School in 1910. He had the highest grade point average in his class—93.84 percent.

In 1910 Wilson was accepted into a special program that enabled students to complete their A.B. at Columbia College in New York City and medical degrees at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in six years. After graduating in 1916 he obtained a one year internship at Freedman s Hospital in Washington DC When ...