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Joseph Jenkins Roberts: The First African-American President of Any Nation

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Joseph Jenkins Roberts was born free in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 15, 1809. He was the second child out of seven children of his parents. As a young man, he emigrated from Norfolk, Virginia to Liberia in 1829.

In 1848, he became the first president of Liberia and served till 1856. In 1872, he was elected again to become the seventh president and served for the next four years. His political party was the Republican Party which was formed in 1848.

Before his emigration, he married an 18-year-old woman named Sarah. They had an infant with whom they emigrated under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. His wife and child died within a year and this made him marry again, this time to Jane Rose Waring.

Roberts died on February 24, 1876, less than two months after the end of his second term as president.

Black Excellence

Mary Patterson: The First African-American Woman to Earn a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Degree

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Mary Patterson was born into slavery on September 12, 1840. She was the eldest of the children of her parents, Henry Patterson and Emeline Eliza. Though she was not very popular, she was a pioneer in African-American education and paved the way for other black female educators.

She attended Oberlin College, the first U.S. college to grant undergraduate degrees to women. She graduated in 1862 and earned a B.A. to become the first African-American woman to achieve this feat. The college had only a few black students enrolled during the four years she was a student.

From 1869 to 1871, she taught at the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth which is known today as Dunbar High School, Washington, D.C. She was the first Black principal of the school and first served from 1871 to 1872. She was reappointed in 1873 and served till 1884.

During her tenure, the school grew from about 50 to 172 students. She taught at the High School until her death on September 24, 1894.

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Black Excellence

Reverend Lemuel Haynes: The First African-American Ordained as a Christian Minister in the United States

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Reverend Haynes an American clergyman who was born on July 18, 1753, at West Hartford, Connecticut. He was the first African-American man ordained as a minister in the United States.

During his childhood, he was a servant in the house of a Granville, Massachusetts farm of Deacon David Rose. He regularly went to church with Rose and later began to preach as a boy. He studied theology in Connecticut and Massachusetts and received his license to preach in 1780.

In 1785, he was ordained and settled at Hemlock Congregational Church in Torrington, Connecticut. This made him the first African-American to be ordained in the United States. Haynes left his pastorate at Torrington on March 28, 1788, to accept a call at the West Parish Church of Rutland.

He went on to serve in the church for the next 30 years. He died in 1833 in South Granville and was buried at Lee-Oatman Cemetery in South Granville.

 

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Black Excellence

Edith S. Sampson: The First African-American Delegate to the United Nations

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Edith Sampson, the daughter of Louis Spurlock and Elizabeth McGruder, was born on October 13, 1898, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was the first black woman to be elected as a judge in the state of Illinois.

In 1924, she opened a law office in Chicago to serve the local black community. In 1927, she became the first woman to earn a Master of Laws from Loyola University’s Graduate Law School.

On 24 August 1950, President Truman, the 33rd of the United States, appointed her as an alternate United States delegate to the United Nations. This made her the first African-American to officially represent the United States at the UN.

She became a member of the UN’s Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee, where she lobbied for continued support of work in social welfare. She died on October 8, 1979.

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