Two Black Brothers Who Helped Establish Lincoln University Get Their Honors

A frieze of James Ralston Amos above the arch entrance to Amos Hall at Lincoln University. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ/Staff Photographer)
A frieze of James Ralston Amos above the arch entrance to Amos Hall at Lincoln University. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ/Staff Photographer)

The story of Lincoln University’s beginnings routinely highlights the benevolent white Presbyterian minister who founded the first degree-granting institution for African Americans.

The Rev. John Miller Dickey started the historically black university in Chester County. James Ralston Amos and his brother, Thomas Henry Amos, were students, among the first to graduate.

But in a retelling that shakes up a 160-year history, Cheryl Reneé Gooch, a dean at the school, elevates the Amos brothers’ contribution.

“They’ve been basically footnotes,” said Gooch, who leads the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, “In fact, they were co-founders.”

The brothers, particularly Ralston Amos, helped establish the school, chartered as the Ashmun Institute in 1854, Gooch said.

Ralston Amos traveled on a speaking tour to raise awareness and money. He helped build Ashmun Hall, the school’s first structure, and served as its superintendent. He went into debt to help the school gain its footing, Gooch said.

Much of the brothers’ story is contained in more than 60 letters the Amoses wrote between 1859 and 1869 that are stored at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Old City.

The letters, sent by the brothers while they served as missionaries in Liberia, are part of a new book written by Gooch, On Africa’s Lands: The Forgotten Stories of Two Lincoln-Educated Missionaries in Liberia.

The letters recount successes and struggles as the brothers worked to convert and educate native Africans, a mission they were trained for at Lincoln, which was founded to educate free black men to serve as missionaries in Liberia.

They help craft a picture that attributes the start of Lincoln to Dickey and the Amoses, with important contributions from the residents of Hinsonville, an antebellum community of free blacks in Chester County whose former properties make up part of Lincoln’s current 422-acre campus.

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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer | Kristin E. Holmes


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