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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

John Chavis Marker

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina’s black history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit from our state’s African American’s past.

A prominent free black preacher and educator in and around the Raleigh area from 1810 onwards, John Chavis was raised in Virginia and enlisted in the Continental Line there in 1778.  He had an extensive education for the time, likely the best of any African American in North Carolina.

After doing mission work throughout the Southeast for the Presbyterians Church, Chavis turned his attention to educating children of all races and from all different backgrounds. Many of his students were from notable families in North Carolina, including future Governor Charles Manly and the sons of Chief Justice Leonard Henderson.

Following Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1832, free blacks across the South—including those in North Carolina –lost many of their rights, and Chavis lost his freedom to preach and to teach. In 1833 he published his only written work, a sermon entitled An Essay on Atonement. The work was successful and widely read, and helped to supplement his income during the final years of his life.

Chavis is considered by many historians to be the first free black to demonstrate to white slave-owners the abilities of blacks in formal education.

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An image of Pauli Murray from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill

An image of Pauli Murray from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina’s black history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit from our state’s African American’s past.

Lawyer, professor, writer and outspoken civil and gender rights activist Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray was born in 1910. After growing up under the care of her aunt in Durham, Murray applied to the University of North Carolina in 1938 to study sociology. Her application, against state laws which required “separate but equal” institutions, garnered national attention. Her unsuccessful campaign for admission was the first time that she experienced a saying that she would repeat throughout her life: one woman with a typewriter constitutes a movement.

Murray was admitted to Howard Law School in 1941, where she experienced discrimination due to her gender rather than her race. She would later wonder whether her race or gender was the greatest obstacle to her career.

Murray was a prolific writer. In 1951, she published State’s Laws on Race and Color. Thurgood Marshall called it “the Bible for civil rights lawyers.” Her second book, a biographical account, was published in 1956.

In 1977 Murray became the first African American female Episcopal priest in the United States, and held her first Eucharist at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, where her grandmother had been baptized as a slave.

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An image of Said from the N.C. Museum of History

An image of Said from the N.C. Museum of History

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina’s black history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit from our state’s African American’s past.

Omar Ibn Said, one of the best documented practicing Muslim slaves in America, lived much of his life in North Carolina. Said is believed to have arrived in Charleston in 1807, shortly before the foreign slave trade was terminated. He fled from his cruel master, running for about a month before arriving in Fayetteville in 1810. There he was jailed and advertised as a fugitive slave. During his imprisonment, Said used coals from the fireplace to write on his cell walls in Arabic.

The lord's Prayer written in Arabic by Said. Image from DocSouth

The Lord’s Prayer written in Arabic by Said. Image from DocSouth

Said eventually was purchased by James Owen of Bladen County, and lived with some degree of privilege at the Owen plantation. He actively practiced his Islamic faith for many years. Owen procured for him a copy of the Qu’ran in English in order to facilitate his learning the English language. The Owens hoped that Said might convert to Christianity and to that end, Owen procured a Bible in Arabic in 1819.

Best known for the autobiography that he penned in Arabic in 1831, Said’s 15-page manuscript is the only extant autobiography written by an enslaved person in a native language.

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