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C. James Trotman

Presbyterian pastor, educator, and social reformer, was born in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, the son of Timothy Anderson and Mary Croog One of fourteen children he was raised in the comforts of a rural middle class home less than thirty miles from historic Gettysburg On a typical day of his youth Matthew faced both the physical demands of farm life and the movement back and forth between two cultures One dominated by commerce and materialism was uncharacteristically open to the Andersons who owned lumber mills and real estate at a time when most black Americans were dehumanized and disenfranchised by chattel slavery The other was a culture defined by close family ties and Presbyterian piety At home Matthew heard Bible stories and dramatic tales of runaway slaves indeed religious piety and the pursuit of racial freedom were dominant themes in his life These early experiences inspired Matthew so ...


Tonia M. Compton

Catholic nun, was born Mathilda Taylor in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Caroline Taylor, a slave owned by James C. Taylor, whose surname he gave to his slaves. Her father, whose name is not known, was Native American. Little is known about Mathilda's early years, except that she learned to read and write and that she somehow received her freedom and moved to Savannah. There she began operating a secret school for African American children in the late 1850s, an enterprise for which she risked imprisonment because state laws prohibited education for blacks.

Taylor supported herself by working a variety of jobs in Savannah. In the 1860s she was employed at the Railroad House, a restaurant owned by Abraham Beasley, a prosperous free black man. In 1869 she married Beasley His ventures included a produce market a saloon a boardinghouse and at times the slave trade The two ...


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 ...


David B. Malone

Jonathan Blanchard would become an heir of the principles of the evangelical postmillennial Christianity exemplified in America's Benevolent Empire of the early 1800s, wherein activists sought to reform American society through education and religious missions. Blanchard was born the eleventh of fifteen children, near Rockingham, Vermont, to Polly Lovell and the farmer Jonathan Blanchard Sr. The young Jonathan was able to take advantage of a variety of educational opportunities, eventually graduating from Middlebury College, after which he enrolled in Andover Theological Seminary.

Blanchard left Andover in September 1836 because it failed to stand against slavery and became an abolitionist lecturer for the American Anti Slavery Society He was one of Theodore Dwight Weld s Seventy preaching the sin of slavery throughout Pennsylvania with the hopes that the consciences of slaveholders would be pierced over their treatment of those whom Blanchard echoing the words of Jesus lamented as the ...


Stephen D. Glazier

African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop, was born in Cantwell's Bridge, New Castle County, Delaware. Little is known of his family or early childhood. He lived in Cantwell's Bridge until he was ten. He then moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where he lived for two years with the family of William A. Seals, a Quaker. At Cantwell's Bridge, he attended a predominantly white private school. His older sister encouraged him to move to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he lived with and worked for the attorney Henry Chester, who tutored him and provided him with limited religious training. Brown attended St. Thomas Colored Protestant Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

In January 1836 Brown became a member of Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia and began private studies under the Reverend John M. Gloucester to prepare for the ministry He also studied barbering and worked as a barber in Poughkeepsie New York and New ...


Sholomo B. Levy

minister and activist, was born on the Lower East Side of New York. His father was a chef, and his mother was an administrator of welfare services. Both had migrated from rural Georgia to the city in hopes of making a better life for themselves and their family. As a young boy, Calvin recalled visiting the church he would one day lead, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he was mesmerized by the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Jr. a figure who seemed to speak from the pulpit of that Gothic sanctuary with a voice of thunder When Calvin was eight the family left their low income housing development in Manhattan for a black suburb in Queens From there Calvin was bused over the protests of white parents to a junior high school in the upscale Forest Hills section of Queens Calvin adjusted well to this experiment in forced ...


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 ...


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 ...


minister and Harlem civil rights leader, was born in Fairmount (Somerset County), Maryland, the son of Isaac and Emmeline Williams Cullen, who had been slaves. The youngest of eleven children, Cullen grew up in poverty, his father having passed away two months after his birth. He moved to Baltimore with his mother at age twelve and worked for a physician while attending Maryland State Normal School (later Towson University). He then taught public school in Fairmount for two years before entering Morgan College (later Morgan State University), an Episcopalian seminary in Baltimore; between his first and second year of studies, he also worked as a waiter in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He had received a preacher's license while in Fairmount and was ordained in 1900.

Cullen's religious awakening had taken place in September 1894 at Sharp Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore and he had preached his ...


Donna Tyler Hollie

educator, was born enslaved in Prince William County, Virginia, the eldest of four children of Charles and Annie Dean. She was named Jane Serepta but was called Jennie by her family and Miss Jennie by those on whose behalf she labored. It is probable that her only formal education was obtained in a school established by the Freedmen's Bureau when the Civil War ended.

Dean's father was a literate and ambitious man who, immediately after the end of the Civil War, contracted to buy a farm. Within a short time he died, and Dean assumed responsibility for the support of the family. She found employment as a domestic in Washington, D.C., and by living frugally, amassed the funds to pay off the mortgage. She also provided tuition for her siblings, at least one of whom became a teacher.

Dean became an active member of the 19th Street ...


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 ...


Brandi Hughes

nurse, foreign missionary, and school founder, was born to Anna L. Delaney and Daniel Sharpe Delaney in Fernandina Beach, Florida. Emma Beard Delaney came of age in the postbellum generation that witnessed the collapse of Reconstruction and the fading of the early promise of African American emancipation. Against the rising tide of segregation and racial violence, however, Delaney's family managed to sustain a measure of economic security and educational advancement. Her father, Daniel, held the distinction of being the only African American helmsman commissioned for service on the Revenue Cutter Boutwell, a federal ship that patrolled the ports of Savannah, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina, as a forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard. The unique benefits of her father's government employment enabled the Delaney family to support an expansive education for Emma and her sister, Annie. In 1889 shortly after completing secondary classes ...


Michael Pasquier

Roman Catholic nun and founder of a religious order, was born in New Orleans, the daughter of Marie Josephe Diaz, a free woman of color, and Jean Baptiste Delille-Sarpy a wealthy white aristocrat Legally categorized as a person of mixed race Delille attended a school for free children of color under the direction of Catholic sisters in New Orleans Her father did not support the family in any measurable fashion and her mother suffered from mental illness all of which required that Delille and her two surviving siblings support themselves at a young age As a teenager she began to identify less with the aristocratic society of free people of color and more with the religious lives of Catholic sisters She became a catechist to free people of color and a lay leader in Catholic confraternities Legal and social standards however limited the extent to which she was ...


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 ...


Amar Wahab

Pastor, community activist, and Black leader in Liverpool. Born George Daniel, Daniels Ekarte worked as an errand boy with the Free Church of Scotland in Calabar, Nigeria. Inspired to become a missionary in England, he left as a galley‐hand on board a ship bound for Liverpool in 1915. There, instead of encountering a charitable Christian people, Ekarte met with strong racist attitudes and felt deceived by the missionaries in Nigeria. After a period of disenchantment, he began worshipping with Africans, holding prayer services both in private spaces and in the street. With sponsorship from the Church of Scotland, Pastor Ekarte opened the African Churches Mission in Liverpool in 1931. The Mission was primarily aimed at providing a space of worship and socializing for blacks in Liverpool.

As a community activist and leader, Pastor Ekarte also had a keen interest in the education and welfare ...


John G. Turner

domestic servant, teacher, and missionary, was born in Gainesville, Alabama, the daughter of Mary and Jesse Fearing, who were slaves of the planter Overton Winston and his wife Amanda Winston. At a young age Mrs. Winston removed Fearing from the care of her parents and began to train her, alongside her older sister, for work inside the plantation house.

Mrs. Winston, a Presbyterian, taught Fearing Bible stories, hymns, and the Westminster catechism, and she impressed upon Fearing the importance of foreign missions. As a young woman Fearing joined the Winstons' church, a congregation affiliated with the Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States.

After the Civil War Fearing stayed in Gainesville and sought employment as a domestic servant. Motivated by a desire to read the Bible for herself, Fearing gained some measure of literacy through the help of friends. In 1871 a minister told ...


Charles Rosenberg

was the second youngest of eight sons, and twenty daughters, born to Miles and Charlotte Fisher, who according to the laws of the state of Georgia were the property of Dr. Robert Ridley of La Grange. Miles Fisher, purchased for his carpentry skills, was a lay preacher who named his children for Bible characters; he was generally trusted by Ridley, and able to speak on behalf of the enslaved population on the plantation. Charlotte Fisher's maternal grandfather was a Creek Indian with African blood. Elijah Fisher was “hired out” at age four or five as a companion to the crippled son of Reverend Abner Callaway; according to family recollections, the two boys were blissfully unaware of the caste and color distinctions so important in the lives of their parents. Reverend Callaway baptized Fisher on 19 October 1863.

The family was freed in the summer of 1863 when ...


Sandra Kelman

community activist, city councilwoman, and ordained minister, was born Beatrice Frankie Fowler in Wake Forest, North Carolina, to Maude Fowler, a domestic worker, and to a father who left when she was a toddler. In a 1989Baltimore Sun Magazine article, Gaddy recalled “many days” that she and her four siblings (Mottie Fowler, Pete Young, Tony Fowler, and Mabel Beasly) “didn't eat because when my mother didn't work and couldn't bring home leftover food, there was nothing to eat. And, even when there was food, if my stepfather had been drinking, he'd come home and throw our plates out in the back yard or through the window.” A high school dropout, Gaddy was divorced twice by her early twenties. As a single mother, she struggled for years to make a living for herself and her children (Cynthia, Sandra, John, Michael, and Pamela ...


Scott A. Miltenberger

founder of the first African American Presbyterian church, social reformer, and community leader. Born a slave in Kentucky, John Gloucester encountered Gideon Blackburn, a Presbyterian minister from Tennessee, when he was a young man. Blackburn converted Gloucester and, impressed by his intelligence, bought him and took him to Tennessee. There Blackburn educated Gloucester and encouraged him to become a minister. Under Blackburn, Gloucester gained valuable experience preaching to the local Cherokee Indians. In 1807 Blackburn petitioned the General Presbyterian Assembly in Lexington, Kentucky, on Gloucester's behalf, asking that he be licensed to preach. A special committee ultimately ruled that he could be licensed provided that the Tennessee Synod approved. In making their decision, the committee noted that Gloucester might be useful in converting fellow blacks.

Soon after the ruling, the pastor of Philadelphia's Third Presbyterian Church, Archibald Alexander approached Blackburn and Gloucester Alexander had long hoped to ...


Sylvia M. Jacobs

traveling preacher, social worker, and missionary, was born in either Fredericktown, Maryland, or Fredericksburg, Virginia. Little is known of her life before 1880. In that year she visited relatives who had emigrated to Liberia, and then she spent a year traveling throughout that African country preaching and comforting the needy. It was on this trip that she became interested in African missionary work.

Gorham settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where she joined the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church. She became active in humanitarian and volunteer work with her church, assisting needy families with food and clothing and educational and social welfare projects. Between her move to Boston in 1881 and her travels to Sierra Leone in 1888, she was employed as a social worker by the Associated Charities of Boston.

In 1888 at age fifty six Gorham offered her services as a missionary to ...