Working for Higher Education: Advancing Black Women’S Rights in the 1850s


The men and women profiled here believed that creating educational opportunities for future generations of free African Americans was critical to Black citizenship, economic stability, and self-respect.  Although each of these individuals has a link to the Rochester 1853 convention, their biographies tell a deeper story of how they fought for educational opportunity and how their life experiences shaped their position on the manual labor school issue. Several individuals here, for example, have links to Oberlin College, an institution of higher learning established on the manual labor school model and open to all, regardless of race or gender. Learn about the backgrounds of the three delegates—Charles Langston, Charles Reason, and George Vashon—who served on the Committee for Manual Labor School. Dig deeper into the lives of Black women intellectuals, such as Susan Paul Smith and Lucie Stanton Day Sessions, who pursued their education against the odds and went on to write, teach, and advocate on behalf of educational justice. 


» To navigate through biographies, use the drop-down menu in the left sidebar or click the names on the life map above or click links below to learn more about intellectuals, education activists, and delegates connected to the 1853 National Colored Convention.