Eliza Ann Gardner is regarded as the “mother” of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Missionary Society and was one of New England’s most tenacious defenders of women’s equality in religious matters.
She was born in New York City on May 28, 1831, the daughter of James and Eliza Gardner. When she was young, the family moved to the predominantly black West End section of Boston, where her father enjoyed a profitable career as a contractor for sailing vessels. His work made it possible for Gardner to enjoy a comfortable childhood, but she quickly learned that many others of her race were less fortunate, and was taught that she had an obligation to help them. Her family was active in the local African Methodist Episcopal Church, and their home served as a station for the Underground Railroad, which smuggled runaway slaves from the South to freedom.
Gardner’s interest in slavery intensified because of her education at the only public school for black children in the city, which was taught by abolitionist teachers. As a result, she became acquainted with many nationally famous abolitionist leaders. An excellent student, Gardner earned a number of scholarships. However, as few black women at the time were able to pursue higher education or professional careers, she learned the art of dressmaking to support herself once she finished school. Continue reading
12-02 marks the birthday of Charles Harris Wesley in 1891. He was an African-American historian, educator, and minister who was an early proponent of African-American studies.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Charles Wesley attended public schools in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky and then went on to receive a B. A. at Fisk University in 1911, an M. A. in economics at Yale University in 1913, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1925. Wesley’s doctorate in history was the third awarded by Harvard to an African-American. Wesley served on the Howard University faculty from 1913 to 1942. Continue reading
Turner, a slave and educated minister, believed that he was chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery. On August 21, 1831, he initiated his slave uprising by slaughtering Joseph Travis, his slave owner, and Travis’ family. With seven followers, Turner set off across the countryside, hoping to rally hundreds of slaves to join his insurrection. Turner planned to capture the county armory at Jerusalem, Virginia, and then march 30 miles to Dismal Swamp, where his rebels would be able to elude their pursuers. Continue reading
The NAACPâ€™s official organ, The Crisis Magazine, carried information on young people and encouraged formation of youth units for a number of years before any action was taken to form a division in the Association devoted to youth activities. In 1935, during the St. Louis Convention, a fiery address was made by one of the youth delegates, Miss Juanita Jackson, to create a department for youth.
Subsequently, on September 15, 1935, Miss Jackson joined the Associationâ€™s staff and became the first Youth Secretary. The NAACP National Board of Directors passed a resolution formally creating the Youth and College Division in March of 1936. Under the guidance of Ms. Jackson, a National Youth Program was created for youth members of the NAACP. This program provided national activities for youth that were supported by monthly meetings discussing local needs of the community. The major national youth activities were demonstrations against lynching and seminars and group discussions on the inequalities in public education. Continue reading
In 1921, John W. Cromwell, Jr., became the first African-American to earn the designation of CPA, some 25 years after the first CPA certificate was granted in the United States. Cromwell was a member of one of the leading African-American families in the country. His father was a teacher, political activist, attorney, and chief examiner for the U.S. Post Office. Cromwell’s older sister, Otelia, was the first African-American alumna of Smith College and went on to earn a Ph.D. in English at Yale. Cromwell was exceptional himself. He graduated from Dartmouth as the best student in science in the class of 1906. A year later he completed his master’s degree there.
The profession most open to African-Americans at the time was teaching. After finishing at Dartmouth, Cromwell returned home to Washington, D.C., and became a mathematics teacher at the Dunbar School, the most prestigious black high school in the country.
Fifteen years passed before John Cromwell became a CPA. He was not allowed to sit for the CPA exam in Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland. In addition, all those places had experience requirements. The biggest barrier to African-Americans in becoming CPAs has always been the experience requirement: In order to become a CPA you have to work for a CPA, and for the first two-thirds of the last century, most firms would not hire African-Americans. Continue reading