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Arnett, Benjamin William (1838-1906), African-American religious, educational, and political leader  

Stephen D. Glazier

Arnett, Benjamin William (06 March 1838–09 October 1906), African-American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, p. 79). He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly when a cancerous tumor necessitated amputation of his left leg in 1858. He turned to teaching and was granted a teaching 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. Although largely self-educated, he attended classes at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. A man of many interests, he was an occasional lecturer in ethics and psychology at the Payne Theological Seminary at Wilberforce University, served as a historian of the AME church, was a trustee of the Archaeological and Historical Society of Ohio, served as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Sociological Society, and was statistical secretary of the Ecumenical Conference of Methodism for the western section from 1891 to 1901....


Asbury, Francis (1745-1816), missionary, bishop, and founder of the Methodist Episcopal Church  

James D. Staros

Asbury, Francis (20 August 1745–31 March 1816), missionary, bishop, and founder of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Staffordshire, England, the son of Joseph Asbury and Elizabeth Rogers, farmers. His parents encouraged him early in his education, and he was reading the Bible by the age of seven. At twelve, however, he dropped out of school after being harshly treated by the schoolmaster and never returned to formal education....


Cartwright, Peter (1785-1872), Methodist clergyman  

Theodore L. Agnew

Cartwright, Peter (01 September 1785–25 September 1872), Methodist clergyman, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Peter Cartwright and Christiana Garvin Wilcox, poor farmers of English descent. In 1791 the family moved to Lincoln County and then to Logan County, Kentucky, where Cartwright attended camp meetings. In 1801 he experienced a conversion and joined his mother’s Methodist society. Within a year he received a license as a Methodist exhorter to assist preachers in worship. When his parents moved again, he organized a Methodist circuit in Livingston County. The next year he felt called to preach and in 1804 joined the Western Annual Conference, being appointed by Bishop ...


Henson, Josiah (15 June 1789–05 May 1883), escaped slave and preacher  

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

Henson, Josiah (15 June 1789–05 May 1883), escaped slave and preacher, was born in Charles County, Maryland, on a farm owned by Francis Newman. As a child, Henson frequently saw his parents abused and severely beaten. On one occasion, as a punishment for defending his wife, Henson’s father was sentenced to a physical mutilation that left him permanently scarred. Although he was raised without religion, Henson was immediately converted to Christianity after his first exposure to it at a revivalist camp meeting. As a young boy, he was sold to Isaac Riley....


Payne, Daniel Alexander (1811-1893), minister and educator  

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

Payne, Daniel Alexander (24 February 1811–02 November 1893), minister and educator, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of London Payne, a free African American, and Martha (maiden name unknown), a Catawba Indian, both of whom died in the early 1820s. For two years he attended the Minor’s Moralist Society School; he then continued his education with a tutor and through extensive independent reading. He joined the Methodist Episcopal church in 1826....


Revels, Hiram Rhoades (27 September 1827?–16 January 1901), senator, clergyman, and educator  

Kenneth H. Williams

Revels, Hiram Rhoades (27 September 1827?–16 January 1901), senator, clergyman, and educator, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the son of free parents of mixed blood. Little is known of his family or early years. At eight or nine he enrolled in a private school for black children, where he was “fully and successfully instructed by our able teacher in all branches of learning” (Revels, p. 2). About 1842 his family moved to Lincolnton, North Carolina, where Revels became a barber. Two years later he entered Beech Grove Seminary, a Quaker institution two miles south of Liberty, Indiana. In 1845 he enrolled at another seminary in Darke County, Ohio, and during this period may also have studied theology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio....


Tanner, Benjamin Tucker (1835-1923), African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop  

Henry Warner Bowden

Tanner, Benjamin Tucker (25 December 1835–15 January 1923), African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Hugh S. Tanner and Isabel (maiden name unknown). Straitened circumstances forced him to support himself as a part-time barber while studying at Avery College in Allegheny City (now Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, from 1852 to 1857. But in 1856 his life took a new direction when he converted to Methodism and received a license to preach. He trained at Allegheny and Western Theological Seminary for three years and in 1860 was ordained both deacon and elder in the AME church. Unable to afford travel expenses to an appointment in Sacramento, California, he served instead as a substitute minister at a Presbyterian church in Washington, D.C. In 1858 he married Sarah Elizabeth Miller; they had seven children, the most famous of whom was ...


Walters, Alexander (1858-1917), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) bishop and social reformer  

Ralph E. Luker

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....