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Apess, William (31 January 1798–Apr. or May 1839), writer, Methodist minister, and Native-American activist, was born in Colrain, Franklin County, Massachusetts, the son of William Apes, a shoemaker and laborer, and Candace (surname unknown), probably a slave or indentured servant in the house of Captain Joseph Taylor of Colchester, Connecticut. According to Apess’s autobiographical accounts, his father was part Anglo-American and part Pequot and his mother “a female of the [same] tribe, in whose veins a single drop of the white man’s blood never flowed,” although some evidence indicates that she may have been part African American. Only in myth do such beginnings spawn great achievements. At age three, abandoned by his parents, he was nearly beaten to death by his maternal grandmother while she was in a drunken rage, a rage that Apess later understood as an effect of the theft by whites of Native American lands, culture, and pride. Bound out at four, he spent his youth as an indentured servant in three different white households in Connecticut and as an infantryman in a New York State militia company during the War of 1812. He received his only formal education, six winter terms of school, between the ages of six and eleven....

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Cannon, James, Jr. (13 November 1864–06 September 1944), southern Methodist bishop and temperance crusader, was born in Salisbury, Maryland, the son of James Cannon and Lydia Robertson Primrose, merchants. The family was prosperous and prominent in Delaware, where James’s uncle, William Cannon, was governor from 1863 to 1865. Possessed of strong southern sympathies, the Cannons moved to Salisbury, Maryland, at the time of the Civil War, where the family business continued to thrive. Longtime Methodists, the family abandoned the Methodist Episcopal church and helped to found the local congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. They were active in this congregation, in the Democratic party, and in the emerging local temperance movement....

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Coppin, Fanny Jackson (1837–21 January 1913), educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father’s name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by ...

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Gatch, Philip (02 March 1751–28 December 1834), Methodist preacher and abolitionist, was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, the son of Conduce Gatch, a Prussian immigrant, and Presocia Burgin, farmers. He received religious instruction at St. Paul’s Anglican church in Baltimore and formal education at a neighborhood school. In January 1772 Gatch first encountered Methodism when he heard Nathan Perigo preach. On 26 April 1772 Gatch underwent religious conversion at a Methodist neighborhood prayer meeting, and that summer he experienced entire sanctification—a term for John Wesley’s teaching on the experience of “Christian perfection” or “perfect love,” which Wesley believed to be obtainable in this life. He first preached at the Evans Meeting House in Baltimore County in July 1773. Thomas Rankin examined Gatch according to Wesley’s ...

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Haven, Gilbert (19 September 1821–03 January 1880), Methodist bishop, editor, and abolitionist, was born in Malden, Massachusetts, the son of “Squire” Gilbert Haven, a bookkeeper and clerk, and Hannah Burrill. Young Gilbert attended local schools and then Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, for two terms in 1839. After he worked in Boston in clothing and carpet businesses, he did another term at Wilbraham to prepare for entering Wesleyan University in 1842....

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Lane, John (08 April 1789–10 October 1855), Methodist clergyman and a principal founder of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, the son of William Lane and Nancy (maiden name unknown), farmers. His father was a revolutionary war soldier who in 1791 moved his family to Elbert County, Georgia. John was the youngest of ten children. His mother died in 1804 but not before she had made a strong impression on him to live a sober and responsible life. Placed in the home of an elder brother until he gained maturity, he subsequently taught school to earn money to attend Franklin College (later the University of Georgia). In this period he resided with the Reverend Hope Hull, a Methodist preacher who influenced Lane toward the ministry and introduced him to the South Carolina Methodist Conference, 12 January 1814....

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Lee, Luther (30 November 1800–13 December 1889), religious reformer, was born in Schoharie, New York, the son of Samuel Lee and Hannah Williams, pioneer farmers. His father was a revolutionary war veteran, and his mother was raised in the home of Joseph Bellamy...

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Jermain Wesley Loguen. Engraving on paper, 1859, by De Lay Glover. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Loguen, Jermain Wesley (1813–30 September 1872), bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church and abolitionist, was born Jarm Logue in Davidson County, Tennessee, the son of a slave mother, Cherry, and white slaveholder, David Logue. After David Logue sold his sister and mother to a brutal master, Jarm escaped through Kentucky and southern Indiana, aided by Quakers, and reached Hamilton, Upper Canada, about 1835. He tried his hand at farming, learned to read at the age of twenty-three, and worked as a hotel porter and lumberjack. It was in Canada that he added an ...

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Lumry, Rufus (1799/1800–21 June 1862), abolitionist, circuit preacher, and church organizer, was born in Rensselaerville, New York. He was almost certainly the son of Andrew, a probably illiterate wagon driver whose patrilineal Huguenot ancestral surname was Lamoureux; his mother’s identity is unknown. The family moved to Albany around the time of the War of ...

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Portrait of Rufus Lumry, by H.W Immke

Photograph by H.W. Immke, Bureau County Historical Society Princeton, Illinois

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Newman, Angelia French (04 December 1837–15 April 1910), church worker, reformer, and lecturer, was born Angelia Louise French Thurston in Montpelier, Vermont, the daughter of Daniel Sylvester Thurston, a farmer and tanner, and Matilda Benjamin. When “Angie,” as she was commonly known, was about age seven, her mother died. Her father remarried shortly thereafter. Angie attended the local academy and later briefly taught school until around 1852, when her family moved to Wisconsin. In 1856, soon after her eighteenth birthday, she married Frank Kilgore, the son of a Methodist minister from Madison. The marriage was childless, and he died within a year. She subsequently worked as a teacher at Central Public School in Madison and spent one term (1857–1858) at Lawrence University in Appleton. In 1859 she married David Newman, a dry goods merchant; they would have two children....

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Oxnam, Garfield Bromley (14 August 1891–12 March 1963), Methodist bishop, ecumenical leader, and social reformer, was born in Sonora, California, the son of Thomas Henry Oxnam, a Cornish immigrant mining engineer, and Mary Ann “Mamie” Jobe. His father’s religious enthusiasm found expression as a Methodist lay minister and his mother’s intense piety suffused the Oxnam home in Los Angeles, assuredly influencing his teenage decision to pledge his life to Christ. Forced to leave high school because of his father’s ill health and financial reverses, Oxnam both clerked and attended a business school before entering the University of Southern California, then a Methodist institution. At USC he earned solid grades, athletic renown, and repute as a campus leader....

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Ransom, Reverdy Cassius (04 January 1861–22 April 1959), African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop and civil rights leader, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop and civil rights leader, was born in Flushing, Ohio, the son of Harriet Johnson, a domestic worker. He never knew the identity of his father. In 1865 his mother married George Ransom, gave her son his surname, and moved to Washington, Ohio. There he began school in the local AME church. At eight, Ransom moved with his family to Cambridge, Ohio, where he attended school with African-American youth. In addition to his formal schooling, Ransom worked in a local bank and was tutored by family members of his mother’s white employers. In 1881 Ransom married Leanna Watkins of Cambridge, Ohio, and entered Wilberforce University. He transferred to Oberlin College at the end of his first year, but, when he challenged racial discrimination at the liberal white institution, he lost his scholarship. He returned to Wilberforce in 1883, graduating in 1886. Despite the birth of a son, he and his first wife divorced that same year....

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Scott, Orange (13 February 1800–31 July 1847), Methodist Episcopal minister and abolitionist, was born in Brookfield, Vermont, the son of Samuel Scott, a poor day laborer, and Lucy Whitney. The family moved wherever Scott’s father could find work, in Vermont and in Lower Canada (later Quebec). Because the large family needed what he could earn, young Orange had had only thirteen months of formal education by age twenty-one....

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Spottswood, Stephen Gill (18 July 1897–02 December 1974), bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church and chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the only son of Abraham Lincoln Spottswood, a porter, and Mary Elizabeth Gram. The family was very religious. Spottswood received a B.A. from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1917 and a Th.B. from Gordon Divinity School in Boston in 1919; he attended Yale Divinity School in 1923–1924. In 1919 he married Viola Estelle Booker; they would have five children. That same year he joined the NAACP....

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Sunderland, La Roy (22 April 1804–15 May 1885), Methodist abolitionist and mental theorist, was born in Exeter, Rhode Island. Little is known about Sunderland’s parents or early childhood. As a young man Sunderland was apprenticed to a shoemaker in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, but was later enrolled as a student at Day’s Academy in Wrentham, Massachusetts, in 1819....

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Turner, Henry McNeal (01 February 1834–08 May 1915), African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church bishop and emigrationist, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church bishop and emigrationist, was born in Newberry, South Carolina, the son of Hardy Turner and Sarah Greer, free African Americans. Sarah made great efforts to obtain an education for her son, despite the state prohibition against teaching African Americans to read. In 1848, after Turner’s father died and his mother remarried, he was hired as a janitor by lawyers in Abbeville, South Carolina. Recognizing Turner’s intelligence, they helped him to master many subjects, including arithmetic, astronomy, geography, history, law, and theology....

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Alexander Walters. Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum.

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Walters, Alexander (01 August 1858–02 February 1917), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) bishop and social reformer, African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) bishop and social reformer, was born in Bardstown, Kentucky, the son of Henry Walters and Harriet Mathers, both of whom were slaves. He joined Bardstown’s AME Zion church in 1870 and studied in private schools there from 1866 to 1871, when he left to work in Louisville as a waiter. Walters completed his formal education in 1875, graduating as valedictorian of his Bardstown school. During a year as a waiter in Indianapolis, he studied theology with an AME pastor, was licensed to preach, and, in 1877, was appointed pastor of a newly organized AME Zion church in the city. In 1877 Walters married Katie Knox, with whom he had five children. After she died in 1896, Walters married Emeline Virginia Bird; they had one child. When his second wife died in 1902, he married Lelia Coleman of Bardstown; they had no children....