November 15 - Happy Birthday, Sarah Jane Woodson Early

Posted on November 15, 2018

Another and another and another strong black woman from U.S. History:

Today's famous birthday, Sarah Jane Woodson, was born on this date in 1825. Since that is years before the Civil War, you might guess that she was born into slavery - but you would be wrong. Woodson was born free in Ohio. Her parents had gained freedom from slavery in Virginia and had deliberately moved to a free state. 

I don't know if Woodson's parents gained their freedom before having their first child, or if they had to gain freedom for one or more of their kids. What I do know is that Sarah was the youngest of 11 kids!

She became one of the first black women in the U.S. to graduate from college, in 1856. This was of course still before the Civil War.

Then, in 1858, Woodson became the first black woman in the U.S. to become a college instructor!

This was STILL before the Civil War.

After the Civil War, Woodson was courageous enough to move to the South to teach black girls. She strongly believed that education was an important way for newly freed people to better their lives. But, at the time, many freed black people were fleeing away from the South and the violence former slaves faced there. 

During the mid-1800s, it made a lot of sense for black
people in the U.S. to be "separatists." For one thing,
most white people - even the ones who were passionately
against slavery - did not really want a fully integrated
society. Second, because black people faced discrimination
and prejudice even in the North, having separate institutions
allowed them to take leadership roles and to work for what
was best for black individuals and the black community.

Woodson's family was pretty much in the separatist camp.
Her father, brothers, and husband were ministers in the
African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first
Protestant denomination to be founded by black people.
Her father started a black farming community called
Berlin Crossroads, and Woodson's brother was one of
the founders of Wilberforce University (pictured above),
the first college in the U.S. to be owned and operated by
black people. Sarah Jane Woodson taught at Wilberforce.

Eventually, Woodson married a widowed minister named Jordan Early, and she gained a stepfamily (he had eight children, four of whom lived to adulthood). 

In addition to teaching for almost 40 years and serving as a principal and a professor, Sarah Jane Woodson Early was an activist in the temperance movement. This movement was a reform effort that sought to end the bad effects of alcoholism and drunkenness on individuals, families, and communities by simply outlawing alcohol. It was a well-intentioned idea, and in 1920 it became U.S. law through a Constitutional Amendment that is called Prohibition. But outlawing something so many people like and drink was a misstep with many bad consequences. Prohibition ended in 1933. 

Also on this date:

(11/15 to 11/23, 2018)

(Thursday before Thanksgiving)

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