Described as a “genuine African,” Peter Williams and his parents were enslaved Africans. Williams’ enslaver, Mr. Aymar, was a tobacconist. He was also a Loyalist who left the country during the Revolutionary War. Having developed a skill, Williams went into business for himself as a tobacconist. He would eventually own a house, store, and other property–including himself. In 1783, Williams became the “property of the John Street Methodist church who bought him for forty (40) pounds.” From June 10, 1783, through October 20, 1796, Peter Williams worked off the debt and “refunded every pound the trustees had paid his master, and thus purchased himself.”
When Peter Williams led the African American members of the congregation from the church, he was leaving a church that compelled its African American members to wait to be served communion until all of the white members had been served. The realization that the church was not serving the needs of the African and African American community, and that African Americans could not be ordained as minister, were part of what motivated Williams to secede. Williams was the father of Peter Williams, Jr. (1780-1840), the first African American ordained minister in the Protestant Episcopal church. Peter Williams, Jr., became the first leader of St. Phillips African Church in 1819.
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.Â Continue reading
There areÂ 102 historically BlackÂ colleges andÂ 253 CatholicÂ colleges in the United States, yet onlyÂ oneÂ is bothBlack and Catholic.Â That distinction belongs to Xavier University of Louisiana, which strives to combine the best attributes of both its faith and its culture.
Located in New Orleans, the small liberal arts college dates back to 1915, when St. Katharine Drexel and theSisters of the Blessed SacramentÂ founded the coeducational secondary school from which it evolved.Â Continue reading