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Alston, Melvin Ovenus (1911-1985), educator  

Peter Wallenstein

Alston, Melvin Ovenus (07 October 1911–30 December 1985), educator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. Of middle-class background in terms of an African-American family in the urban South in the 1920s, he grew up in a house that his family owned, free of any mortgage. After attending Norfolk’s segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated from Virginia State College (B.S., 1935), honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship, and began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School in 1935. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men’s Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church....

Article

Blackwell, Randolph Talmadge (1927-1981), attorney, educator, and civil rights activist  

Ralph E. Luker

Blackwell, Randolph Talmadge (10 March 1927–21 May 1981), attorney, educator, and civil rights activist, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Joe Blackwell and Blanche Mary Donnell. He attended the city’s public schools for African-American youth and earned a B.S. in sociology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in 1949. Four years later Blackwell earned a J.D. degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In December 1954 he married Elizabeth Knox. The couple had one child. After teaching economics for a year at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama, near Huntsville, Blackwell became an associate professor of social sciences at Winston-Salem State Teachers College in North Carolina....

Article

Crandall, Prudence (1803-1890), abolitionist and teacher  

Sandra Opdycke

Crandall, Prudence (03 September 1803–28 January 1890), abolitionist and teacher, was born in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, the daughter of Pardon Crandall, a Quaker farmer, and Esther Carpenter. When Crandall was ten her family moved to another farm in Canterbury, Connecticut. As a young woman she spent a few years (1825–1826, 1827–1830) at the New England Friends’ Boarding School in Providence and also taught school for a time in Plainfield, Connecticut....

Article

Davis, Katharine Bement (1860-1935), social worker, prison reformer, and sex researcher  

Sarah Stage

Davis, Katharine Bement (15 January 1860–10 December 1935), social worker, prison reformer, and sex researcher, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Frances Bement and Oscar Bill Davis, a manager for the Bradstreet Company, precursor of Dun and Bradstreet, the credit rating firm. When her father suffered business reversals following the panic of 1873, Davis had to postpone plans for college and work as a public school teacher for ten years. She continued her studies independently and in 1890 entered Vassar College at the age of thirty, graduating two years later with honors....

Article

Fisher, Ada Lois Sipuel (1924-1995), civil rights pioneer, lawyer, and educator  

Paul Finkelman

Fisher, Ada Lois Sipuel (08 February 1924–18 October 1995), civil rights pioneer, lawyer, and educator, was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, the daughter of Travis B. Sipuel, a minister and later bishop of the Church of Christ in God, one of the largest black Pentecostal churches in the United States, and Martha Bell Smith, the child of a former slave. Her parents moved to Chickasaw, Oklahoma, shortly after the Tulsa race riot of 1921....

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Cover Fisher, Ada Lois Sipuel (1924-1995)
Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Seated right, with J. E. Fellows, dean of admissions at the University of Oklahoma, seated left, and, standing left to right, Thurgood Marshall and Amos T. Hall, 1948. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-84479).

Article

Kohler, Max James (1871-1934), jurist, historian, and Jewish communal worker  

Eric L. Goldstein

Kohler, Max James (22 May 1871–24 July 1934), jurist, historian, and Jewish communal worker, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Kaufmann Kohler and Johanna Einhorn. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Germany, and both his father and grandfather, David Einhorn, were leading rabbis of the Reform Movement in American Judaism. Upon the death of Kohler’s grandfather in 1879, his father assumed Einhorn’s pulpit at New York’s Congregation Beth El, and the family moved to that city. There he grew up in an atmosphere infused with a devotion to both religious values and scholarly pursuits. After completing high school, Kohler attended the College of the City of New York, where he won several important literary prizes. Following his graduation in 1890, he entered Columbia University, from which he received both M.A. (1891) and LL.B. (1893) degrees. He was admitted to the New York State bar in 1893 and became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, resigning after four years to start a private law practice. In 1906 he married Winifred Lichtenauer, who died in 1922. No children resulted from the marriage....

Article

Lockwood, Belva Ann Bennett McNall (1830-1917), teacher, lawyer, and social activist  

Jill Norgren

Lockwood, Belva Ann Bennett McNall (24 October 1830–19 May 1917), teacher, lawyer, and social activist, was born on a farm in Royalton, Niagara County, New York, the second child of Hannah Green and Lewis Johnson Bennett. Lockwood began teaching in the rural one-room schools of Niagara County at age fifteen. She made her first public comments against gender discrimination after learning that male teachers were earning twice as much for similar work. In 1848 she married Uriah H. McNall, a local farmer and sawmill operator. McNall’s death in 1853 left his 22-year-old widow with the responsibility of raising their young daughter. Lockwood enrolled at Genesee College (now Syracuse University), receiving a bachelor of science degree in 1857. In September of that year she accepted a position as principal of the Lockport Union School, again experiencing wage discrimination because she was a woman. After listening to woman’s rights activist ...

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Cover Lockwood, Belva Ann Bennett McNall (1830-1917)

Lockwood, Belva Ann Bennett McNall (1830-1917)  

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Belva Lockwood. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-BH834-55).

Article

Meigs, Return Jonathan (1801-1891), lawyer, abolitionist, and state librarian of Tennessee  

Durwood Dunn

Meigs, Return Jonathan (14 April 1801–19 October 1891), lawyer, abolitionist, and state librarian of Tennessee, was born near Winchester, Clark County, Kentucky, the son of John Meigs and Parthenia Clendinen. After the death of his father in 1807, he lived part of the time with his uncle James Lemme in Bourbon County, where he studied the classics under the tutelage of George Wilson. Subsequently he studied law and was admitted to the bar in Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1822....

Article

Moore, Harry Tyson (1905-1951), educator and civil rights activist  

Steven F. Lawson

Moore, Harry Tyson (18 November 1905–25 December 1951), educator and civil rights activist, was born in Houston, Florida, the son of S. Johnny Moore, a farmer and store owner, and Rosalea Alberta Tyson, an insurance agent. An African American, Moore grew up in rural, northern Florida when racial segregation was in full force. After attending public schools in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, in 1925 Moore graduated from Florida Memorial College in Live Oak with an A.A. degree. (Not until 1951 did he receive a B.S. degree from Bethune Cookman College.) In 1926 Moore began his teaching career at Cocoa Junior High School in Cocoa, Florida. As a public school teacher, he knew firsthand that a separate school system shortchanged black students and faculty in providing unequal facilities and financial resources. In 1926 Moore married Harriette Vyda Simms; they had two children....

Article

Scopes, John Thomas (1900-1970), high school science teacher  

Kathleen S. Brown

Scopes, John Thomas (03 August 1900–21 October 1970), high school science teacher, was born in Paducah, Kentucky, the son of Thomas Scopes, a railroad machinist who had immigrated from England, and Mary Alva Brown. When the family moved from Paducah to Danville, Illinois, Scopes and his sisters experienced bigotry firsthand. They were ostracized as southerners who sounded different. They and two African-American students were seated separately from the rest of their class during school assemblies....

Article

Tutwiler, Julia Strudwick (1841-1916), educator, reformer, and humanitarian  

Elizabeth D. Schafer

Tutwiler, Julia Strudwick (15 August 1841–24 March 1916), educator, reformer, and humanitarian, was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The daughter of Henry Tutwiler and Julia Ashe, she grew up in a home devoted to education, which became her lifework. Her father had earned a master’s degree in foreign languages at the University of Virginia and had accepted a position as the first professor of ancient languages at the University of Alabama when it had opened in 1831. Resigning in 1837 because of a financial dispute, he established Greene Springs Academy in Havana, south of Tuscaloosa. His daughters studied Latin, science, and mathematics with boys, upsetting many citizens. Tutwiler and her father taught slaves and poor white children to read. This experience influenced her to devote her life to serving others. Many of her classmates gained prominent positions as adults and supported her causes....

Article

Vaux, Roberts (1786-1836), philanthropist, educational reformer, and penologist  

Donald Brooks Kelley

Vaux, Roberts (21 January 1786–07 January 1836), philanthropist, educational reformer, and penologist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard Vaux, a merchant, and Ann Roberts, both members of the Society of Friends. Roberts Vaux was descended on his father’s side from George Vaux of Sussex, England, a physician, who had sent his son, Richard, to Philadelphia in 1768 for mercantile training among Quaker friends and relatives. After acquiring wealth in the Atlantic carrying trade during the American Revolution, Richard Vaux, a Tory sympathizer, married Ann Roberts in 1784. She was descended from an illustrious and prosperous family that traced its American roots back to Hugh Roberts, a friend of ...

Article

Zuber, Paul Burgess (1926-1987), attorney and educator  

Arthur K. Steinberg

Zuber, Paul Burgess (20 December 1926–05 March 1987), attorney and educator, was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the son of Paul A. Zuber, an employee of the U.S. Post Office, and Jennie Baer. Zuber served in the Quartermaster Corps, special services branch, during World War II from 22 June 1945 to 13 February 1946. He received his B.S. from Brown University in 1949, having concluded the premedical program. In 1950 Zuber was drafted for service during the Korean War. He was the chief of psychological testing at the Murphy Army Hospital in Waltham, Massachusetts, until 1952. While directing this service, he began to recognize the damage caused by racial and other forms of discrimination in the United States. An examination of his life from 1952 on illustrates his growing commitment to the struggle of Americans of African origin in dealing with discrimination....