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Anderson, Matthew (25 January 1845–11 January 1928), 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, he faced the physical demands of farm life and experienced 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 Anderson so deeply that, by the time he left Greencastle in 1863, he had decided on the ministry as his vocation. Study at Oberlin College was the first step toward serving his religious faith, his racial group, and his vision of social justice....

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Bourne, George (13 June 1780–20 November 1845), clergyman and abolitionist, was born in Westbury, England, the son of Samuel Bourne, a cloth manufacturer, and Mary Rogers. Bourne attended Homerton College, located in a London suburb, to prepare for the ministry. He first visited the United States in 1802 and in 1804 emigrated to Baltimore, Maryland. Rather than enter the ministry, Bourne became a journalist and established the ...

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Coffin, William Sloane, Jr. (01 June 1924–12 April 2006), minister and civil rights and peace activist, was born in New York City, the second child of William Sloane Coffin, Sr., a businessman and philanthropist, and Catherine Butterfield. When his father died suddenly in 1933 at the depths of the Great Depression, most of the family fortune evaporated, and the Coffin family’s life at the pinnacle of metropolitan society changed irrevocably. Catherine Coffin took her children to Carmel, California, and young William, who was called Bill, left his duplex penthouse on East Sixty-Eighth Street and the Buckley School for a modest bungalow and public schools. Four years later his uncle, the eminent Presbyterian minister ...

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Fee, John Gregg (09 September 1816–11 January 1901), minister, abolitionist, and educational reformer, was born in Bracken County, Kentucky, the son of John Fee and Sarah Gregg, farmers and middle-class slaveholders. Fee’s parents inculcated in their son a belief in the value of education. After attending a subscription school, Fee pursued a classical education at both Augusta College in Bracken County and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, eventually receiving his B.A. degree in 1840 from Augusta College. Having been converted to evangelical Christianity at age fourteen, he decided on the ministry as his profession. During 1842 and 1843 he studied at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he embraced an egalitarian abolitionism that assumed the equality of races. In September 1844 Fee married one of his converts, Matilda Hamilton, convinced that she alone possessed the qualities needed to withstand the hostility he expected from the “Slave Power.” They had six children....

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Finley, Robert (15 February 1772–03 October 1817), minister and advocate of the colonization of free blacks in Africa, was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the son of James Finley, a Glasgow yarn merchant. His earliest biographer identified his mother only by her surname, Angres. Born in Scotland in 1737, the elder Finley underwent a profound religious experience at age eighteen and shortly thereafter became acquainted with ...

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Galamison, Milton Arthur (25 Mar. 1923–9 Mar. 1988), Presbyterian minister, civil rights leader, and community activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Gladstone Galamison, a postal worker, and Dorothy Galamison, a clothier. Galamison grew up in poverty, which he attributed not to the Great Depression but rather to his father’s abandoning his family. After his parents separated Galamison lived with his maternal grandmother and aunt....

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Henry Highland Garnet. Albumen silver print, c. 1881, by James U. Stead. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Garnet, Henry Highland (23 December 1815–13 February 1882), clergyman and abolitionist, was born in New Market, Kent County, Maryland, the son of George and Henrietta (later called Elizabeth), slaves. Henry escaped with his parents and seven siblings to Wilmington, Delaware, in 1824, assisted by the Quaker ...

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Grimké, Francis James (04 November 1850–11 October 1937), Presbyterian minister and civil rights activist, was born near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Henry Grimké, a planter, and Nancy Weston, a mulatto slave. As the second son of an illegitimate dalliance that was familiar to plantations such as “Caneacres,” young Grimké inherited his mother’s status as servant. During the Civil War his white half brother sold him to a Confederate officer whom Grimké accompanied until the end of that conflict. The end of the war brought his manumission, and a benefactor from the Freedmen’s Aid Society sent him to study at Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania....

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Lovejoy, Elijah Parish (09 November 1802–07 November 1837), abolitionist editor and preacher, was born near Albion, Maine, the son of Daniel Lovejoy, a Congregational preacher and farmer, and Elizabeth Pattee. Lovejoy graduated from Waterville (now Colby) College in 1826 and a year later moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he conducted a private school and edited the ...

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Matthews, Mark Allison (23 September 1867–05 February 1940), fundamentalist minister and civic reformer, was born in Calhoun, Georgia, the son of Mark Lafayette Matthews, the owner of a carriage shop and factory, and Malinda Rebecca Clemmons. His once prosperous family suffered serious reversals when the carriage shop, factory, and home were burned to the ground by the marauding armies of ...

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McBride, F. Scott (29 July 1872–23 April 1955), clergyman and reformer, was born Francis Scott McBride in Carroll County, Ohio, the son of Francis McBride, an iron molder, and Harriet Miller. After studying at Mechanicstown (Ohio) Academy and Indiana State Normal School, he received a B.S. in 1898 from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio. Three years later he graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He had interrupted his education periodically to teach school in Carroll County....

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Parkhurst, Charles Henry (17 April 1842–08 September 1933), Presbyterian minister and social reformer, was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, the son of Charles F. W. Parkhurst and Mary Goodale, farmers. He attended the Clinton, Massachusetts, grammar school and Lancaster Academy. Early experience as a grocery clerk led Parkhurst to conclude that intellectual pursuits were preferable to commercial ones. After graduating from Amherst College in 1866, he served for three years as principal of the Amherst high school. More advanced studies in philosophy and theology beckoned, however, and in 1869 he traveled to Halle, Germany, for such training. A family crisis soon called him home, and in 1870 he married Ellen Bodman, a former student. For a year thereafter he was instructor in Greek and Latin at Williston Seminary in Easthampton, Massachusetts, another small town in the Connecticut River valley. He studied again in Germany, this time in Leipzig, in 1872 and 1873. Upon returning home, Parkhurst was ordained in 1874 by the South Berkshire Association of Congregational Ministers. His first clerical appointment was at Lenox, Massachusetts, where he remained until 1880....

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Rushdoony, R. J. (25 Apr. 1916–8 Feb. 2001), theologian, Presbyterian minister, political activist, and education reformer, was born Rousas John Rushdoony in New York City to Armenian refugees fleeing Turkish persecution during World War I. Presbyterian minister Yeghiazar Khachadour and Vartanoush (Gazarian) Rushdouni’s first son, George, perished in the Turkish siege of Van, and the family immigrated to the United States via Russia. The Rushdoonys anglicized their names—Yeghiazar opting for an abbreviated Y. K. and Vartanoush adopting Rose, the English translation of her name—and settled in a growing Armenian community in Kingsburg, California. Y. K. took his family with him as he served as a pastor to Armenian communities in California and Michigan during the 1920s and 1930s. As the family moved about the United States, R. J. Rushdoony learned English and resolved to follow his father into the ministry....

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Wright, Theodore Sedgwick (1797–25 March 1847), black Presbyterian minister and reformer, was born in New Jersey and brought up in Schenectady, New York, the son of R. P. G. Wright, an early opponent of the American Colonization Society’s program of returning American blacks to Africa. (His mother’s name is unknown.) He was named after a distinguished Massachusetts jurist, ...