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Mon, 05.15.1854

Lucretia Newman Coleman, Writer born

Lucretia Newman Coleman

*The birth of Lucretia Newman Coleman in 1854 is remembered on this date.  She was a Black Canadian writer.

Lucretia H. Newman was born in Dresden, Southwestern Ontario, Canada, to Nancy D. Brown and William P. Newman.  Her father was a runaway slave from Virginia who was ordained as a Baptist minister after attending Oberlin College in 1842 and 1843. He pastored for a few years at the Union Baptist Church of Cincinnati, making numerous mission trips to Canada. After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 passed, he settled his family in Ontario, where they remained until 1859.  During this time, the family of six went to Haiti to investigate the possibility of settling there, but the prevalence of Catholicism made him turn his sights to Jamaica. In 1863, determined to return to the United States, he settled in Cincinnati, resuming his pastorate at Union Baptist.  He died in 1866 during a cholera epidemic.  

Accounts state that Newman's mother died after the family moved to Appleton in 1867 following Rev. Newman's death; the family matriarch was Newman's stepmother, Sarah Cleggett Newman.  The family lived a block away from the Cleggett family home in Appleton.  In 1872, Newman enrolled in Lawrence University to study sciences; as one of the first Black students at the university, she was there for two years and did not earn a degree.  The family left Appleton in 1876.After her studies, Newman became a music teacher and worked in a dry goods store before being hired as a secretary and bookkeeper for the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1883.  That same year, her first known work, "Lucille of Montana", was published in Our Women and Children.  

In 1884, Newman married Robert J. Coleman in Des Moines, Iowa, and soon afterward, they moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their daughter, Alberta Roberta, was born in Minneapolis in 1886. Coleman’s home included her brother Albert Newman.  Through the 1880s and 1890s, she published in such volumes as the A.M.E. Church Review and the American Baptist, and her works were widely praised in Black journals for the scientific and philosophical depth of the writing.  

Her novel Poor Ben: A Story of Real Life (1890) was critically acclaimed by her contemporaries, and in 1894, she served as a vice president of the Colored Authors' Association.   Fluent at the end of the nineteenth century, her works were praised by her contemporaries of the African American press.  By the 1920s, she and her daughter lived in Chicago, where she listed her occupation as a dressmaker.  Lucretia Newman Coleman died in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on July 31, 1948.   

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