Three Generations of Ellen Stewart's Family
After a failed attempt to escape slavery aboard the Pearl, Ellen Stewart found herself at a crossroads. Her mother, Sukey, Dolley Madison’s ladies maid, had been sold. Her siblings had been sold by Dolley as well, or died. A newspaper article implored those against slavery to purchase Ellen’s freedom and provide her with education. Abolitionists raised the money to purchase Ellen and other Pearl participants, so that Baltimore physician Joseph Snodgrass could “receive into freedom Ellen Stewart, slave of Mrs. Madison” from the Campbell & Co. slave jail. Once free, she moved to Boston and associated herself with the activist “Fugitive Slave Church.” Ellen’s activist attitude and passion for learning was passed on to her daughter, Gertrude, who trained to become a teacher. Gertrude married W. Johnson Bishop, an activist Baptist preacher, teacher, and orator, who educated others throughout the DC region on the need for racial equality. He held a Sunday Afternoon Lyceum in his large home library where prominent African American scholars, politicians, and preachers met, exposing his daughter Helen Adele Johnson at a young age to the issues of race, education, and equality. Helen would take those lessons to heart, earning multiple degrees at Howard University, becoming a prominent educator, and fighting at the national level for African American access to education. She became the Area Coordinator of Student Teaching of Atlanta University Center, served on White House Conferences regarding African American education in the United States and wrote national educational texts? Within three generations removed from slavery, Ellen Stewart’s descendants continued to persevere and work to educate fellow African Americans.
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