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Mon, 07.01.1833

Erastus Cravath, Abolitionist born

*Erastus Cravath was born on this date in 1833. He was a white-American abolitionist, educator, Chaplin, and administrator.

Erastus Milo Cravath was born in Homer, New York, to Orin Cravath, of a French man who was one of three men to form an abolition party in Homer, and he also used his home as a station on the Underground Railroad.  As a boy, young Cravath grew up in a household devoted to the abolitionist cause and aiding escaping slaves. It was a time and place of progressive causes. Cravath first studied at the local common school, then Homer Academy.  He studied at Oberlin College, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1857 and earning a master's in divinity in 1860. After devoting much of his adult life to religion and education, in 1886, Cravath earned a Doctor in Divinity degree at Grinnell College.  In September 1860, Cravath married Ruth Anna Jackson, who was from a long family of Quakers in Pennsylvania and England.

Cravath became a pastor in the Congregational Church of Berlin Heights, Ohio, which later became part of the United Church of Christ. He was an abolitionist. He entered the Union Army in December 1863, serving until the war's end, including campaigns in Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee.  By October 1865, Cravath had returned to Nashville, where he was a Field Agent of the American Missionary Association (AMA) and worked to establish schools for freedmen.

He purchased land for the Fisk School (now Fisk University), which he co-founded in 1866 with John Ogden, superintendent of education for the Freedmen's Bureau in Tennessee, and the Reverend Edward Parmelee Smith, also of the AMA. It accepted children and adults both for classes in various subjects, including reading, writing, and math. Within the first six months, students climbed from 200 to 900.  Using Fisk as his base, Cravath also started freedmen's schools at Macon, Milledgeville, Atlanta, Georgia, and at various points in Tennessee.

In September 1866, Cravath became District Secretary of the AMA in Cincinnati, Ohio. By 1870, he had been promoted to Field Secretary at the AMA office in New York City.  In 1875 Cravath returned to Fisk University as President.  He spent the next three years abroad touring with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. For more than 20 years, he led Fisk University, helping it through its growth and building campaign of the 1880s and the steady expansion of education initiatives. In his last years, Erastus Cravath lived in St. Charles, Minnesota, where he died in 1900.

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