Rev. John Gregg Fee, Berea College Founder, Inducted to National Abolition Hall of Fame; First Southerner With This Distinction

The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) has added Reverend John Gregg Fee to the Hall of Fame. Other inductees in the 2016 class include Beriah Green, Angelina Grimké, and James W.C. Pennington.

Alicestyne Turley PhD, Assistant Professor and Director Berea College Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education, and Lyle Roelofs PhD, President Berea College, Berea Kentucky nominated Rev. Fee for the Hall of Fame honor. They, together with Academic Vice President Chad Berry and Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Linda Strong-Leek traveled to Peterboro, New York along with a diverse group of Berea’s students, faculty and staff for the induction ceremony.

Reverend John Gregg Fee was born in 1816 as the eldest son of a slaveholding family in Bracken County KY. At the age of 26, Fee enrolled in Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati OH and became fully converted to the cause of immediate abolition. Fee sold Indiana land given to him by his father and used the funds to purchase the freedom of Jullet Miles, the black woman that cared for him as a child, and to establish his first anti-slavery ministry on Cabin Creek in Lewis County, Kentucky. In 1855, as a resident of Madison County KY, Fee led other ardent abolitionists in founding the town of Berea and Berea Institute, which became Berea College in 1859. As an anti-slavery advocate, born into a slaveholding family below the Mason-Dixon Line, Fee spread a “gospel of impartial love.” He promoted his non-violent, anti-slavery views in a hostile environment with little support or protections from the law, family, and friends at the height of America’s most violently aggressive proslavery period.

Dr. Turley and Dr. Roelofs officially nominated Fee during the ceremony, which also included the Berea College Black Music Ensemble, a racially and ethnically diverse student group, who sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic under the direction of Dr. Kathy Bullock. Descendants of Rev. Fee attended the ceremony to witness the presentation of the official NAHOF portraits created by Melissa Moshetti. The ceremony also featured musical performances by Max Alden Smith, Co-Chair of Peterboro Emancipation Day and commentaries by Hugh Humphreys, a member of the NAHOF Cabinet of Freedom. Jan DeAmicis, Co-Chair of the Oneida County Freedom Trail Commission, commemorated the 181st anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the New York State Antislavery Society.

President Roelofs said, “This celebration of the work of Rev. Fee is such an appropriate recognition of his most important motivation for founding Berea College. Laurie and I are charter members of the Hall of Fame from when we lived in Central New York and were delighted to suggest his nomination.”

NAHOF honors antislavery abolitionists, their work to end slavery, and the legacy of that struggle, and strives to complete the second and ongoing abolition – the moral conviction to end racism. NAHOF is located in Peterboro NY in the building where the New York State Anti-Slavery Society held its inaugural meeting October 22, 1835.

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About Berea College- Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College admits only academically promising students with limited financial resources, primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia, although students come from 40 states and 60 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of eight federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly, earning money for books, housing, and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth, (Acts 17:26)” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.