Martin Henry Freeman (1826 –1889), The First African-American Professor And College President In American History, Later Served As President Of Liberia College In 1864

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The son of Charles and Patience Freeman, Martin Henry Freeman, the African-American was born in Rutland, Vermont, on May 11, 1826 in the mid-19th century.

He prepared for college after he received a private tutorial from a local reverend who was called Rev. William Mitchell, in Rutland, before he entered Middlebury College in 1845 as a member of the Class of 1849. Although Middlebury boasted a strong contact of abolitionist sympathizers, Martin Freeman experienced racial hatred at his Junior Exhibition, when no student would proceed with him until one of his classmate James Gregory took his arm where he graduated as salutatorian in 1849.

In 1850 that was the following year, he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to take up a position as professor of science and mathematics at the Allegheny Institute which was later named Avery College, a new state-chartered college founded to educate free African-Americans.
Despite the dormant racism, Freeman delivered the Salutatory address at his commencement. From 1851-1862, Freeman served as Junior Professor and advanced to President. He was named as the president of the college in 1856.

Martin Freeman married Louisa Eleanor Peck on September 15, 1857. Together they had two daughters and three sons. He relocated to Liberia and from 1863 to 1868 as a Professor of Mathematics, in the Liberia College in Monrovia.

During the Civil War, Freeman became active in the African emigration movement.
In 1868, he was appointed President.
Primarily due to his health issues, Freeman returned occasionally to the United States. After some visitations for medical treatments in the US, he returned to Monrovia when he was a bit better but he died shortly after he got to Monrovia.
He died in Monrovia, on May 26, 1889.
Upon his death he was buried in Palm Grove Cemetery in Monrovia.

Martin Henry Freeman – as the first Black president of an American college, he has been honored with a sculpture installed in the Vermont city where he was born in 1826.

Martin Freeman was a well-educated famed Abolitionist, who was the first African-American president of a college in the United States. He belonged to a school of thought that believed freed slaves should return to Africa and resettle. As the first Black president of an American college, he has been honored with a sculpture installed in the Vermont city where he was born in 1826.

Video Credits: Vermont History

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