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Article

Africanus, Selah Mills  

John Marinelli

teacher and abolitionist, said in a letter of protest to the Hartford Courant that he was born to enslaved parents, but their names are unknown. Slavery was not formally abolished in New York State until 1827, and the census of 1820 recorded 518 slaves in New York City. One source suggests that Africanus was born in New York City in 1822; it is possible that he may have been connected to the brothers Edward Cephas Africanus and Selas H. Africanus, who taught at a black school in Long Island in the 1840s. Africanus is now remembered only through his few published writings and journalistic documentation of his actions; the earliest records of his activity in Connecticut date from 1849 when he attended a Colored Men s Convention and a suffrage meeting His most notable publication was the broadside he created to warn Hartford African Americans about ...

Article

Baumgardner, Herbert Wycliffe  

Marleny Guzman

psychology professor and journalist, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to Frances G. Green Baumgardner and her husband James L. Baumgardner (sometimes spelled Bumgardner). Both his parents were teachers at Allen University in Columbia; James taught math and theology. In one source Frances Baumgardner's maiden name is listed as Ramsay. Little is known about Herbert's childhood, but he was the second child, with an older brother, Luther Ovid, and two younger sisters, Thelma and Victoria. The 1910 census suggests that all four children were living with their parents at 2330 Plain Street (later Hampton Street) in Columbia. The home, which the Baumgardners owned outright without a mortgage appears to have been in a “neighborhood of predominately middle and upper income residences” (Trinkley and Hacker, pp. 45–46). As of 1910 two lodgers were also living in the home which would have provided additional income for the family Luther O ...

Article

Bolivar, William Carl  

Charles Rosenberg

book collector, historian, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia to George Bolivar, and Elizabeth LeCount Proctor Bolivar. There is some uncertainty about his precise year of birth, with historians suggesting 1844 (Silcox) or 1849 (Welborn), while census data inclines toward an 1847 date. His father was employed as a sailmaker by James Forten, a local businessman and founder of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons.

The family numbered themselves among the “O.P.”—Old Philadelphians—of the African American community. George Bolivar had been born in Philadelphia, to a Pennsylvania-born mother and a father from North Carolina. Elizabeth Bolivar was born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Maryland (1850 census). In 1850George Bolivar owned real estate valued at $8,000, while a North Carolina–born cousin, Nicholas Bolivar, lived with the family, working as a tailor. Throughout Bolivar s life there were relatives or ...

Article

Bowen, John Wesley Edward  

Ralph E. Luker

Methodist educator and theologian, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edward Bowen and Rose Simon. John's father was a carpenter from Maryland who was enslaved when he moved to New Orleans. After purchasing his own freedom, Edward Bowen bought that of his wife and son in 1858 and served in the Union army during the Civil War. After the war, young J. W. E. Bowen studied at the Union Normal School in New Orleans and at New Orleans University, which was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church for the education of freedmen. Bowen received a bachelor's degree with the university's first graduating class in 1878. Eight years later, New Orleans University awarded him a master's degree. From 1878 to 1882 Bowen taught mathematics and ancient languages at Central Tennessee College in Nashville.

In 1882 Bowen began theological studies at Boston University While he was ...

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Brawley, Edward McKnight  

Sandy Dwayne Martin

Baptist minister, educator, and editor, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of free African American parents, Ann L. (maiden name unknown) and James M. Brawley. Brawley's parents took a keen interest in the education and professional development of their son, providing him private schooling in Charleston, sending him at the age of ten to Philadelphia to attend grammar school and the Institute for Colored Youth, and apprenticing him to a shoemaker in Charleston from 1866 to 1869. He enrolled as the first theological student at Howard University for a few months in 1870 but then transferred to Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in January 1871 The first African American student at Bucknell Brawley completed his education with the encouragement and financial support of a white couple named Griffith and with his own work teaching vocal music and preaching during school vacations The white Baptist church ...

Article

Brawley, Edward McKnight  

Sandy Dwayne Martin

Edward McKnight Brawley was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of free African American parents, Ann L. (maiden name unknown) and James M. Brawley. Brawley's parents took a keen interest in the education and professional development of their son, providing him private schooling in Charleston, sending him at the age of ten to Philadelphia to attend grammar school and the Institute for Colored Youth, and having him apprenticed to a shoemaker in Charleston from 1866 to 1869. He enrolled as the first theological student at Howard University for a few months in 1870; he transferred to Bucknell University in Pennsylvania in January 1871. The first African American student at Bucknell, Brawley completed his education with the encouragement and financial support of a white couple named Griffith and his own work teaching vocal music and preaching during school vacations The white Baptist church in ...

Article

Brown, Earl  

Stephen Eschenbach

politician, journalist, and Negro League professional baseball pitcher, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, one of four children. His father was a Baptist minister and his mother was a nurse. His mother wanted him to pursue medicine, but Brown was interested in sports and studying social problems. After preparing at Howard Academy in Washington, D.C., Brown went to Harvard.

Brown majored in economics but also played baseball, lettering as a left-handed pitcher. He worked his way through Harvard as a janitor and waiter. During summer breaks he was a Red Cap at Grand Central Station in New York, and also played in the Negro Leagues. In 1923 and 1924 he pitched for the New York Lincoln Giants Interestingly Harvard usually aggressive about enforcing early NCAA rules barring athletes from playing professional sports apparently did not punish Brown when he played in the professional ranks before returning to the Harvard baseball ...

Article

Bruce, Roscoe Conkling, Sr.  

E. Renée Ingram

educator, journalist, and lecturer, was born in Washington, D.C., the only child of Josephine Beall Willson Bruce and the U.S. senator Blanche Kelso Bruce, a Republican of Mississippi. When Senator Bruce was to take his oath of office, Mississippi's senior senator James Alcorn refused to escort him to the front of the Senate chamber. An embarrassing silence fell over the chamber until Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York extended his arm to Senator Bruce and escorted him forward. Senator Bruce was so grateful for the courtesy that he named his son for the gentleman from the Empire State.

Roscoe Conkling Bruce Sr. attended the M Street High School in Washington, D.C., and subsequently spent two years (1896–1898 at the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter New Hampshire He won distinction in scholarship and journalism was a member of the Golden Branch the oldest debating society in country ...

Article

Cartwright, Marguerite D.  

Rebecca L. Hankins

journalist, educator, lecturer, and actress, was born Marguerite Phillips Dorsey in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the only child of Joseph A. Dorsey, an architect and real estate broker, and Mary Louise Ross. Marguerite Cartwright's early education was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She later earned her BS Ed. and MA degrees from Boston University in 1932 and 1933, respectively. Her master's thesis was on the African origins of drama, contending that the Greek god Dionysus was an African. She married the chemical engineer Leonard Carl Cartwright in 1930, an interracial union that lasted over fifty years, until his death in 1982.

Cartwright combined her academic interest in theater with an application as an actress in a number of plays and films, including the play Roll Sweet Chariot (1934) in New York City and the film Green Pastures (1935 Simultaneously working as an actress and a ...

Article

Cary, Mary Ann Camberton Shadd  

Shirley J. Yee

Mary Ann Camberton Shadd was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Parnell. Although the eldest of thirteen children, Mary Ann Shadd grew up in comfortable economic circumstances. Little is known about her mother except that she was born in North Carolina in 1806 and was of mixed black and white heritage; whether she was born free or a slave is unknown. Shadd's father was also of mixed-race heritage. His paternal grandfather, Jeremiah Schad, was a German soldier who had fought in the American Revolution and later married Elizabeth Jackson a free black woman from Pennsylvania Abraham Shadd had amassed his wealth as a shoemaker and his property by the 1830s was valued at $5 000 He was a respected member of the free black community in Wilmington and in West Chester Pennsylvania where the family had moved sometime in the ...

Article

Cary, Mary Ann Shadd  

Carolyn Calloway-Thomas

In the winter of 1856, upon receiving the news that antislavery agents were roaming through Canada, Mary Ann Shadd Cary began to write. She objected to those who, begging on behalf of the fugitive slaves who had fled to Canada, took advantage of antislavery sentiment. Believing in a moral right and duty, she became single-minded in her efforts to expose them. She charged that “begging agents” were “wending their way from Canada to the States in unprecedented numbers.” “Bees gather honey in the summer,” she wrote, “but beggars harvest in the winter.” In typically blunt language, Cary preached integration, self-reliance, and independence among black Canadians during the 1850s. A pillar of zeal, she helped found the newspaper known as the Provincial Freeman as an instrument for transforming black refugees into model citizens What she wrote as the first black North American female editor publisher and investigative reporter marked ...

Article

Cary, Mary Ann Shadd  

Shirley J. Yee

educator, journalist, editor, and lawyer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Parnell. Although she was the eldest of thirteen children, Mary Ann Shadd grew up in comfortable economic circumstances. Little is known about her mother except that she was born in North Carolina in 1806 and was of mixed black and white heritage; whether she was born free or a slave is unknown. Shadd's father was also of mixed-race heritage. His paternal grandfather, Jeremiah Schad, was a German soldier who had fought in the American Revolution and later married Elizabeth Jackson a free black woman from Pennsylvania Abraham Shadd had amassed his wealth as a shoemaker and his property by the 1830s was valued at five thousand dollars He was a respected member of the free black community in Wilmington and in West Chester Pennsylvania where the family had moved ...

Article

Coppin, Levi Jenkins  

Dorothy Drinkard-Hawkshawe

Levi Jenkins Coppin was born in Frederick, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore. His parents, Jane Lilly and John Coppin, were free people; therefore, he and his three brothers and three sisters were born free. Coppin's mother was a very religious woman who had a profound influence on his life. In addition to giving him religious training, she taught him to read and write. Although it was against a state law before the end of the Civil War (1861–1865 to educate blacks his mother held classes secretly in her home at night and on Sunday mornings before church Coppin assisted his mother in this task As a teenager he had a reputation for being able to read and write and boys went to him to have their love letters written For this service he charged ten cents a letter and according to Coppin they gladly paid Coppin ...

Article

Corbin, Joseph Carter  

Eric Gardner

educator and journalist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the son of William Corbin and Susan, both Virginia-born former slaves. Corbin's parents eventually settled in Cincinnati to raise their family of twelve children. Corbin attended school sporadically because of economic circumstances (one of his classmates was John Mercer Langston), though his family emphasized education. In the late 1840s Corbin and his older sister Elizabeth moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where their father had family. Both lived with the Reverend Henry Adams, the pastor of the black First Baptist Church. Though the 1850 census takers listed him as a cook, Corbin taught at least some of the time in a school supported by Adams.

Thirsty for further education, Corbin traveled north to Ohio University, where he earned a BA in 1853 and an MA in 1856 He settled in Cincinnati worked as a bank messenger and steward gained prominence ...

Article

Corbin, Joseph Carter  

Tom W. Dillard

Joseph Carter Corbin was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, on March 26, 1833, of free parents, William and Susan Corbin. By attending several small schools he secured a basic education, and in 1850 he entered Ohio University, of Athens, Ohio. He received his bachelor's degree in 1853 and his master's in 1856. Before receiving his graduate degree, Corbin had accepted employment with a bank in Cincinnati, Ohio. Later, he taught at a school in Louisville, Kentucky. During the Civil War (1861–1865) Corbin edited a Cincinnati newspaper, the Colored Citizen. In 1866 he married Mary Jane Ward. The couple had six children, only two of whom survived their father.

Corbin and his family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1872, where he worked as a reporter for the Republican Party newspaper, the Daily Republican Like many other African Americans of that day ...

Article

Dancy, John Campbell  

Benjamin R. Justesen

editor and public official, was born in Tarboro, North Carolina, the younger son and third child of John C. Dancy and Eliza Dancy, slaves owned by John S. Dancy, a local planter. After the Civil War, John C. Dancy became a prosperous carpenter and contractor, and was later elected as an Edgecombe County commissioner. John Campbell Dancy was educated in the common schools in Tarboro, where he worked briefly as a newspaper typesetter before entering the normal department at Howard University in Washington, DC.

After his father's death, John Dancy interrupted his studies to return to Tarboro, where he became a schoolteacher and principal of the public school for African American children. U.S. Congressman John Adams Hyman (R-NC) secured an appointment for Dancy at the U.S. Treasury Department in 1876, and Dancy briefly returned to Washington. By 1880 he was again teaching in Tarboro where ...

Article

Day, William Howard  

R. J. M. Blackett

educator and editor, was born in New York City, the son of John Day, a sailmaker, and Eliza Dixon, a seamstress. J. P. Williston, an inkmaker from Northampton, Massachusetts, first met Day during a visit to a school for black children in New York City. Williston was so impressed with the young student that he persuaded Day's mother to allow him, a white man, to adopt her son. Day spent five years in Northampton, where he attended school and was apprenticed as a printer at the Hampshire Herald. Refused admission to Williams College because of his race, Day enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio (1843–1847). Soon after graduating, he was hired by the Cleveland True Democrat as a reporter, compositor, and local editor. He later published and edited the Aliened American (1853–1854 which aimed to promote education and defend the rights of African ...

Article

De Baptiste, Richard  

Sandy Dwayne Martin

Baptist leader and race advocate, was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to free parents, Eliza (maiden name unknown) and William De Baptiste. Born in a slave state at a time when individuals were fined and incarcerated for teaching blacks, enslaved or free, Richard was fortunate to have parents who earnestly sought to educate their children and some relatives in their home, despite the law and heavy surveillance. In 1846 his family moved to Detroit, Michigan. Richard received additional education and for a time attended classes at the University of Chicago. Once the leading building and manufacturing contractor in Fredericksburg, William De Baptiste, following an unsuccessful partnership in a grocery enterprise, returned to the construction business. Richard became a partner in the business before his twenty-first birthday and served for some years as its manager. From 1858 to about 1861 he also taught black youth in the public schools of ...

Article

Douglass, Sarah Mapps  

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Sarah Mapps Douglass was born into a position of relative privilege for a nineteenth-century black woman, and she used her advantages to help other African Americans. Members of her family were prominent free blacks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and had a tradition of social activism. Through private tutoring Douglass received a better education than most women of her day, and in the 1820s she opened her own school for black children.

The school was supported in part by the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, which her mother had cofounded. As an active member of that group and the Philadelphia Female Literary Society, Douglass spoke out against both Southern slavery and Northern racism. She participated in the Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women in 1837, 1838, and 1839 and was a contributor to the antislavery newspaper The Liberator Her closest friends in her abolitionist circles included the Forten sisters from ...

Article

Farrow, William McKnight  

Pamela Lee Gray

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, curator, and educator, was born in Dayton, Ohio. His family later moved to Indianapolis, where he attended high school in 1903 and 1904. While Farrow was in high school, the noted muralist William Edouard Scott recognized his artistic potential and encouraged him to enroll at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1908 Farrow moved to Chicago to begin classes at the Institute, Scott's alma mater and one of the first U.S. art schools to admit black students.

Farrow studied intermittently at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1908 to 1918, while working for the U.S. Postal Service. When Farrow arrived at the institute, founded as the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1879 it was not yet a world class art institution In the early twentieth century the institute was actively building ...