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Adair, Thelma Cornelia  

David B. McCarthy

Presbyterianeducator and activist, was born Thelma Cornelia Davidson at Iron Station, North Carolina, one of five children of Robert James Davidson, a Baptist minister, schoolteacher, and principal, and Violet Wilson Davidson a schoolteacher mortician and community organizer Her grandfather six uncles and three brothers were all ministers as would be her future husband She grew up in Spindale North Carolina where her mother was a teacher and her father was principal and superintendent of Western Union Baptist Academy and later in Kings Mountain North Carolina where her father served as a high school principal and as the pastor of several local churches After her early years in public school she enrolled in Lincoln Academy a boarding school run by the American Missionary Society of the Congregational Church Just before her thirteenth birthday she enrolled in Barber Scotia Junior College in Concord North Carolina a school of ...

Article

Adams, Henry  

Mark Johnson

a Baptist minister and educational reformer, was born in Franklin County, Georgia, to free parents, whose names are unknown. His early life is obscure. On 29 October 1820, at the age of eighteen, Adams converted to the Baptist faith, and in 1825, at the age of twenty-three, he was ordained a minister.

Adams began preaching in his home state of Georgia and also in South Carolina. In 1829 Adams moved to Louisville Kentucky to become a pastor of First Baptist Church where he ministered to the needs of the African American congregants In the beginning of his pastorship he was devoted to preaching and studying but he also taught individual students Because of his study and teaching Adams became known as a great biblical scholar and was proficient not only in English but in dead languages such as Latin as well Adams also attracted a large ...

Article

Adams, John Hurst  

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 ...

Article

Agyeman, Jaramogi Abebe  

Sandy Dwayne Martin

clergyman, community activist, denomination organizer, and black nationalist was born Albert Buford Cleage Jr., one of seven children of Pearl (whose maiden name is now unknown) and Albert Cleage Sr., in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shortly after Agyeman's birth, Cleage, Sr., a medical doctor, relocated with his family to Detroit, Michigan, where the father helped to establish the city's first African American hospital. After an undergraduate education that included a stay at Fisk University in Tennessee, Agyeman received his BA in Sociology from Wayne State University in 1937, serving as a caseworker for the Department of Public Welfare from 1931 to 1938. Subsequently Agyeman felt the call to ministry and obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Oberlin College Graduate School of Theology in 1943. Also in 1943Agyeman married Doris Graham, to which union was born two children, Kris and the ...

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Allensworth, Allen  

Jacob Andrew Freedman

soldier, minister, and social activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the youngest of the six children of Levi Allensworth and Phyllis (maiden name unknown), slaves of the Starbird family. The Starbirds were respected members of the community and were partners in Wilson, Starbird, and Smith, a wholesale drug company based in Louisville. Levi died when Allen was an infant. Phyllis's other five children either had been sold down the Mississippi River or had escaped to Canada. Phyllis hoped that Allen could “even if partly educated, win his freedom” (Alexander, 9). Believing that God would play a role in his redemption as well, Phyllis named Allen after Richard Allen, the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In Allen Allensworth's early years he was given to Thomas Starbird, Mrs. Starbird's son, as a companion.

When Thomas was sent to school Allensworth s ...

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Allensworth, Allen  

Kate Tuttle

In an era when African Americans saw many of the gains of Reconstruction overturned, one former delegate to the Republican National Convention created a town that he hoped would serve as a living model for black self-reliance. Upon his retirement from the army in 1906, Lieutenant Colonel Allensworth who had been born a slave in Louisville, Kentucky, began seeking residents for an all-black town in his adopted state of California. Advertising in black newspapers and in his own newsletter, Allensworth appealed to black veterans to realize their dream “to have a home, classic, beautiful, with perfect congenial environment.” In this vision, Allensworth was inspired by the message of African American educator Booker T. Washington that African Americans should “get a bank account. Get a home. … Get some property.”

By 1912 more than one hundred people had settled in Allensworth California which was located on farmland leased ...

Article

Anderson, Matthew  

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 ...

Article

Arnett, Benjamin William  

Stephen D. Glazier

African American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Benjamin Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, Eighty‐seven Years, 79). He was educated in a one‐room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and worked briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly in 1858 when a cancerous tumor necessitated the amputation of his left leg. He turned to teaching and was granted a certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time he was the only African American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887 ...

Article

Arnett, Benjamin William, Jr.  

André Willis

Benjamin William Arnett, Jr., was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. He was entirely self-taught. After working as a waiter and a dockworker, he became certified as a teacher in Brownsville in 1864, but he moved to Washington, D.C., and decided to become a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). After receiving his license to preach in 1865, he was assigned his first pastorate in 1867 in Walnut Hills, Ohio, near Cincinnati; Arnett also taught school there. First ordained as a deacon in the AME church in 1868, he became an elder in 1870. He served the AME General Conference as its secretary in 1876 and its financial secretary in 1880. In addition, he established close connections to the AME church's center for learning, Wilberforce University in Ohio.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865 Arnett had worked with Frederick Douglass s National ...

Article

Banks, William Venoid  

Sheila T. Gregory

radio and television pioneer, Masonic Christian Order founder, ordained Baptist minister, lawyer, community advocate, and business leader, was born on a sharecroppers' farm in Geneva, Kentucky, the son of Richard and Clara Banks, both tenant farmers. In June 1922 Banks graduated from the Lincoln Institute of Kentucky and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he secured a job at the Dodge automobile main plant. He graduated from Wayne State University in 1926 and the Detroit College of Law in 1929. He briefly opened a criminal law practice, but after two years he discontinued his criminal work and invested in property during the Depression, while helping elect liberal Democrat and future Supreme Court justice Frank Murphy as Detroit's mayor in 1930.

In 1931 Banks was the head of the International Labor Defense League ILDL a legal organization known for defending numerous labor unions which at that time were ...

Article

Battle, Wallace Aaron, Sr.  

Joanne H. Edey-Rhodes

educator, industrial school founder, and Episcopal Church school field secretary, was born in Hurtsboro, Russell County, Alabama, one of thirteen children of former slaves, Jeanetta (Redden) and Augustus Battle Sr.

Battle's parents sent him to the district school when he was eight years old. He had not progressed far in his education when, at the age of sixteen, he joined his older brother, Augustus Aaron Battle Jr., and two sisters at Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. Only prepared to enter the third grade, he attended class with eight-year-olds. Wallace was so determined to move forward in his education that he completed three grades in one year. He remained in attendance at Talladega College from 1889 to 1898 In the later years of his college preparatory studies there he taught during the summers at Duke Station Calhoun County Alabama He also became involved with teaching in Mission Sunday ...

Article

Beecher, Henry Ward  

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 ...

Article

Beman, Amos Gerry  

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 ...

Article

Beman, Jehiel C.  

W. Caleb McDaniel

shoemaker, clergyman, and abolitionist, was born in Chatham, Connecticut, to Sarah Gerry and Cesar Beman, a manumitted slave and Revolutionary War veteran who may have chosen his surname to indicate his freedom to “be a man.” By 1809 Jehiel had moved to Colchester, Connecticut, and married Fanny Condol, with whom he fathered seven children, including the noted abolitionist Amos G. Beman. Jehiel worked in Colchester as a shoemaker and Methodist exhorter until 1830, when he moved to Middletown, Connecticut, to pastor the city's Cross Street African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church. On 11 August of that same year Jehiel's first wife died, and he married Nancy Scott on 17 October. In 1832 he left Cross Street after being appointed an itinerant missionary by the annual AMEZ conference, but he remained in Middletown as a preacher, shoemaker, and reformer until 1838 at ...

Article

Benezet, Anthony  

Maurice Jackson

Anthony Benezet was born to Huguenot parents in Saint-Quentin, Picardy, France. His father, Jean-Etienne Benezet, and his mother, Judith, had at least thirteen children, but more than half died at birth. The Protestant Huguenots had experienced a period of relative religious freedom lasting from the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes under Henry IV in 1598 until the revocation of the edict by Louis XIV in 1685, which led to renewed persecution by Catholics. JeanEtienne Benezet belonged to a Protestant group known as the Inspirés de la Vaunage, which descended from the Camisards, who had violently resisted religious persecution in the Cévennes Mountains of southern France. The Benezet family fled France for the Netherlands in 1715, then went to England, and finally settled in Philadelphia in 1731.

In 1735 Anthony Benezet was naturalized as a British subject, and on 13 May 1736 he married Joyce Marriott ...

Article

Berry, Leonidas  

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

Blanchard, Jonathan  

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 ...

Article

Booth, Lavaughn Venchael  

Eric R. Jackson

pastor, community servant, and civil rights activist, was born in Collins, Mississippi. The 1930 Census lists his parents as D. Douglas Booth and Mamie Booth, both of whom lived on a farm in Mississippi. He graduated from Collins's Old Hopewell High School in 1936. That year young Booth preached his first sermon. Booth attended Alcorn A & M College, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1940. Booth then enrolled in Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia to obtain his degree in divinity. Several years later he entered Howard University in Washington, DC. In 1943 he graduated with honors from Howard University School of Religion, earning his bachelor of divinity degree, and was elected president of his class. While a student at Howard, in 1942, Booth married Georgia Anna Morris. Several years later, in 1944 Booth became the pastor of small Baptist ...

Article

Bouey, Harrison N.  

Kenneth C. Barnes

educator, clergyman, missionary, and community leader, was born in Columbia County, Georgia, the son of Lewis Bouey, a carpenter, and Maria, a cook. The couple had no other children. Bouey spent his early life in Augusta, Georgia, where he was apprenticed to learn the painter's trade and attended night school. He passed the examination to become licensed as a teacher and taught in the public schools of Augusta for two years. From 1870 to 1873 he attended the Baptist Theological School in Augusta, an institution that later moved to Atlanta and in 1913 was renamed Morehouse College. Upon graduation he moved to Ridge Springs, South Carolina, where he became principal of a school and taught there for two years.

Bouey's work as an educational and community leader brought him into politics in 1874 He was elected to a two year term as probate judge in Edgefield County ...

Article

Bowman, Thea  

Mary Krane Derr

Roman Catholic religious leader, sacred music performer, and social justice activist, was born Bertha J. Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the granddaughter of slaves and only child of physician Theon Edward Bowman and high school music teacher Mary Esther Coleman. Baptized an Episcopalian, Bertha attended Methodist services. Growing up in segregated, impoverished Canton, Mississippi, she absorbed the spirituality and music of black community elders and her parents' own deep commitments to lives of service. At age ten, she chose to be baptized as a Roman Catholic because she admired the work of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) in Canton. In the face of public uproar, white nuns from this order taught black students at Holy Child Jesus Catholic School. Unable to read after five years of poor quality education in segregated public schools, Bertha finally became literate after transferring to this school in 1949 ...