Gowan PamphletMary PeakeSara Bagby Joseph NewsomeFlorence FarleyDorothy Hamm SpacerFlorence FarleyChristopher Howard SpacerHenry Marsh, IIISpacerChristopher Howard

Gowan Pamphlet (ca. 1750-1807 or 1808), Williamsburg
baptist leader
Gowan Pamphlet was born enslaved, but persevered to become a well-known preacher, gain his freedom, and establish a Baptist church in Williamsburg that continues as an active congregation today.

Mary Smith Kelsey Peake (1823-1862), Hampton
Mary Smith Kelsey Peake was an educator of both free and enslaved African Americans prior to and during the Civil War.

Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson (ca. 1833-1906), Wheeling
plaintiff in cause cÉlÈbre
With "a decided taste for freedom,' Sara Lucy Bagby was embroiled in a celebrated legal case that tested the infamous Fugitive Slave Act during the secession crisis.

Joseph Thomas Newsome (1869-1942), Newport News
lawyer and editor
A leading figure in Newport News, Joseph Thomas Newsome struggled to bring education and voting rights to the African American community.

Dorothy Bigelow Hamm (1919-2004), Caroline and Arlington Counties
civil rights and community activist
Through legal and political actions, civil rights activist Dorothy Bigelow Hamm fought for African American equality.

Florence Saunders Farley (1928- ), Roanoke and Petersburg
psychologist, educator, elected official, artist
Florence Saunders Farley has fought against racism and bias to open doors in science and politics for African American women in Virginia.

Henry L. Marsh, III (1933- ), Richmond
civil rights attorney and elected official
Throughout his law career and the public offices he has held, Henry L. Marsh has committed his life to bringing equal rights and opportunities to African Americans.

Christopher Bernard Howard (1969- ), Hampden-Sydney
24th president of hampden-syndey college
Christopher Bernard Howard sets an example for Hampden-Sydney students-and for everyone-through his impressive résumé of service to the country and youth-enrichment efforts in Africa and the United States.

African American Trailblazers in Virginia History 2010

People of African descent have been a part of Virginia's-and America's-story since European colonization of the continent began. Yet the contributions of African Americans have often been ignored, obscured, or underappreciated by those who recorded history. In observance of African American History Month, the Library of Virginia is pleased to honor eight distinguished Virginians as African American Trailblazers for their contributions to the state and nation.

The men and women featured as Trailblazers offer powerful examples of individuals who refused to be defined by their circumstances. Their biographies are a testament to the determination and perseverance displayed by extraordinary people during challenging times. Through education and advocacy, these individuals demonstrate how African Americans have actively campaigned for better lives for themselves and their people. It is these many contributions that the African American Trailblazers program seeks to share.

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Check The Times-Dispatch each Tuesday and Thursday during February for African American Trailblazer profiles.

Image Credits-Bagby: Image courtesy of the Library of Virginia [unidentified woman by David Hunter Strother, Contrabands in Virginia (1862)]; Farley: Image courtesy of Florence Farley; Hamm: Image courtesy of Carmela Hamm; Howard: Image courtesy of Christopher Howard; Marsh: Image courtesy of the Senate of Virginia; Newsome: Image courtesy of the Newsome House Museum and Cultural Center; Pamphlet: Image courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Collection, Library of Congress [detail from broadside, American sketches: A Negro congregation at Washington (1876)]; Peake: Image courtesy of Hampton University Archives