John Gregg Fee (1816-1901) was born into a Presbyterian slaveholding family in Bracken County, Kentucky. He attended college for two years in Oxford, Ohio, and graduated from Augusta College in Augusta, Kentucky, a college founded by Kentucky Methodist abolitionists James and Arthur Thome. He received his theological training at Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In 1855, against the backdrop of the end of the Mexican American War, passage of the Missouri Compromise, which authorized and funded the Fugitive Slave Law, formation of the Republican Party for the abolition of slavery, and Plains Indians ceding their lands in exchange for a reservation system, abolitionist Presbyterian minister John Gregg Fee (1816-1901) established Berea College.
Fee and other Berea College founders believed that to oppose slavery without opposing the American caste system would continue to breed social inequality. From its founding, the college was an anomaly — an interracial, co-educational, cohabitating institution, opposed to slavery and caste within an antebellum, slaveholding South. To break the system of caste, the school founders committed themselves to providing a church and free education to all. Basing his argument for inclusive education on a strict understanding of the Christian gospel, in 1847 Fee published an antislavery manual in Maysville, Kentucky. His writing advocated the oneness of the entire human race, an extremely controversial belief in his day, in which he stated “God hath made of one blood all nations of men.”
Berea College graduate James Shelton Hathaway was born enslaved in Montgomery County, KY in 1859. He became the College’s first black professor of Latin and Mathematics in 1884. He served as president of Kentucky State University from 1900 to 1907, and from 1910 to 1912. He was one of four Berea College graduates to serve as president of Kentucky State University.
Berea College graduate in the class of 1884, James Shelton Hathaway (1859-1930) was born enslaved in Montgomery County, Kentucky, the first cousin of famed Kentucky artist and sculptor, Isaac Scott Hathaway (1872-1967). James Hathaway received an early education in Montgomery County private schools before being admitted to Berea College in 1875.
He went on to become a member of Union Church in 1876, as well as Clerk for the Town of Berea. Hathaway remained at Berea until he graduated from the classical course, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884 under the presidency of Reverend E. H. Fairchild. The day after graduation he was elected “Tutor of Latin and Mathematics” by the Berea College Board of Trustees, and conferred with the degree of A. M. Hathaway met and married Kentucky school teacher Celia Anderson of Missouri, who was then living in Clyde, Ohio, on July 21, 1887. Two children were born of their union, James L. (1909) and Elizabeth Ann (1910). As a Berea College faculty member, Hathaway taught Latin and mathematics for ten years and invested personal assets and fundraising efforts to incorporate his own publishing company, Intelligence Publishing, headquartered on Broadway in Lexington, Kentucky.
Carter G. Woodson was born December 19, 1875 the son of formerly enslaved African Americans, James and Eliza Riddle Woodson. Woodson is known as an African American historian, author of over 27 books and articles, a journalist, and founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. As the founder of the Journal of Negro History, Woodson is credited as “the father of black history.”
Woodson’s father moved the family to West Virginia at the end of the Civil War when he learned that a school for black children was being built in Huntington, West Virginia.
Through self-instruction, Woodson mastered the fundamentals of common school subjects by age 17. He continued his education in Fayette County, VA, earning a living as a coal miner to pay for his education. In 1895, at the age of 20, Woodson entered Douglass High School in Huntington, WV, where he received his diploma in less than two years. Woodson enrolled in Berea College in 1897, taking classes part-time between 1901 and 1903. He graduated from Berea with a Bachelor of Literature degree in 1903. While attending Berea College, Woodson taught at Winona, Fayette County, WV in a school established by black coal miners for the education of their children. By 1901, Carter G. Woodson had already earned a West Virginia teaching certificate were he scored well above average in drawing, music, science, educational methods, and history. Woodson continued his education at the University of Chicago where, in addition to a second bachelor’s degree, he earned a Master’s degree in European History in 1908. Woodson continued his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, and at Harvard University where he earned a Ph.D. in history in 1912, becoming the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard, following this same academic accomplishment by Dr. W. E. B. DuBois in 1907. Woodson died April 3, 1950 at the age of 74 and is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.