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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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Maffitt, John Newland (28 December 1794–28 May 1850), Methodist preacher, was born in Dublin, Ireland, to a middle-class family that belonged to the Church of Ireland, a branch of the Anglican church. Information about Maffitt’s family background and early life is decidedly spotty: his parents’ names are unknown, although we do know that his father died when Maffitt was twelve and that his mother shortly thereafter attempted to establish him in a mercantile establishment devoted to tailoring. One account claims he graduated from Trinity College. The teenage Maffitt indulged a love of reading novels and historical romances, however, until a conversion experience in a Methodist meeting at age eighteen or nineteen—accounts conflict on this score—convinced him to become a preacher. The Irish Methodist church did not recognize him as a licensed preacher, and his sporadic attempts at evangelical work both in and beyond Dublin were a mixed success at best. Even so, he displayed a highly melodramatic style, which would personify his later career in the United States. He married Ann Carnic at age twenty. They had seven children; the oldest son, ...

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Simpson, Matthew (21 June 1811–18 June 1884), Methodist bishop and orator, was born in Cadiz, Ohio, the son of James Simpson, a manufacturer and storekeeper, and Sarah Tingley. While growing up in western Pennsylvania, Simpson had little formal schooling, but he read widely and acquired knowledge of history, mathematics, literature, and religion under the tutelage of his uncle Matthew Simpson. As a boy, Simpson helped his family in the manufacturing of weaver’s reeds. He learned about the law by attending the county court with another uncle who was clerk. A third uncle published a weekly newspaper; by assisting him, Simpson learned much about publishing and the world beyond Cadiz. At age fifteen, he helped his uncle Matthew teach at a private academy. Two years later he attended Madison College in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, for two months before returning to Cadiz. In 1830, desiring a more stable career, Simpson began the study of medicine under a local doctor; three years later he qualified to practice on his own....

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Taylor, Edward Thompson (25 December 1793–05 April 1871), Methodist preacher, was born in Richmond, Virginia, to unknown parents. Raised in a foster home, he sought to engage playmates by giving funeral sermons for animals, whipping those children not already weeping from the force of his preaching. At the age of seven he went to sea. In the autumn of 1811, at seventeen, he found himself in the port of Boston and crawled through the window of the Methodist chapel, where the Reverend ...

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Walls, William Jacob (08 May 1885–23 April 1975), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) bishop, civic leader, and author, African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) bishop, civic leader, and author, was born in Chimney Rock, Rutherford County, North Carolina, the son of Hattie Edgerton and Edward Walls. His father died when Walls was only eight years old, leaving Hattie Walls, with the help of relatives and friends, to support and provide sufficient education for Walls and his three younger sisters. In 1899, at age fourteen, he entered the ministry. He was licensed to preach at the Hopkins Chapel AMEZ Church in Asheville, North Carolina, and began as an evangelist. He was ordained as a deacon in 1903 and received full ministerial, or elder, orders in 1905. After attending Allen Industrial School in Asheville, he transferred to the AMEZ-supported Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, where he received a B.A. in 1908. Five years later he received a bachelor of divinity degree from the denomination’s Hood Theological Seminary. During 1921–1922 he studied philosophy and journalism at Columbia University. While in New York City Walls also studied the Bible at Union Theological Seminary, which was located near the university. Twenty years later, in 1941, he attained an M.A. in Christian education from the University of Chicago Divinity School....