Alexander Crummel "liberally educated at Cambridge University, England . . . . " Later went to Africa . . . then a preacher in Washington, D.C.
William Wells Brown, mother of a slave, father white slave holder . . . associated with Elijah P. Lovejoy . . . Underground railway . . . Lecturer for American Anti-Slavery Society. Visited France. Journalist and writer.
John B. Russwurm -- first black graduate of college in United States. (Bowdoin). In 1827 began to publish "Freedom's Journal," first black newspaper.
"John Chavis, and educator. One of the first talented blacks of long ago. (born 1763) . . . . of North Carolina. Chavis was a free man of note . . . full-blooded black . . . early attracted attention of his white neighbors who sent him to Princeton 'to see if a black would take a collegiate education.' His rapid advancement under Dr. Witherspoon 'soon convinced his friends that the experiment would issue favorably.' " Became a minister and teacher.
George M. Horton, the poet, born a slave in 1797 -- learned to read by learning hymns, then, "A brighter day dawned for him when he was moved to Chapel Hill, N.C. and made janitor of the State University." Students became interested in his poems -- made several volumes published. Died 1865 in Philadelphia.
Charles > Reason, born 1818. Parents fled revolution of 1793 in Haiti. "Knowing the value of education, his parents provided early for his instruction . . . . " Chosen instructor at 14 . . . Poet and educator in Philadelphia.
James Madison Bell. Born in 1826 in Ohio. Learned plastering, studied nights, wrote poems. Was closely associated with John Brown.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Born free in Baltimore in 1825. "She was first instructed by her uncle . . . who was both a minister and teacher of free blacks." Became teacher, active in Anti-Slavery . . . wrote poems.
Edwin M. Bannister, painter, orphan at early age, painted and drew -- moved to Boston, won some renown.
Edmonia Lewis, mixed Indian-black, orphaned among Indians. "Came out of wilderness and obtained an education at Oberlin College." Garrison heard of her, introduced her to Brackett, a Boston sculptor -- later, after she had learned the art, she studied in London.
Robert Morris, lawyer. "From an errand boy in the office of Ellis Gray Loring of Boston, in 1837, Robert Morris, by patient private study under this gentleman, became a lawyer of high character and influence."
George B. Vashon, attended school in Pittsburgh, graduated from Oberlin. "He then read law with Walter Forward and was admitted to the bar in 1847."
John S. Rock, teacher, physician, dentist, was born in Salem, New Jersey, in 1825. "His parents, though not well-to-do, kept him at school till he was 18. He taught school . . . during these years he had access to the large libraries of Sharp and Gibbon . . . . " Became a dentist, doctor and lawyer. Justice of peace in Boston.
Ira Aldridge, distinguished Shakespearian actor . . . "Aldridge's father was a native of Senegal in Africa. His forefathers were princes of a tribe . . . father a refugee from the distributed conditions of a tribe . . . Ira, the son, was apprenticed as a ship carpenter. He was placed at school and later sent to Schenectady College . . . . " (Father moved to England because of racial prejudice.) "Ira next entered the University of Glasgow . . . During these years he had come under the influence of the great actor Edmund Kean."
Charles Lenox Remond, a well-educated black man, probably the most prominent black man in the country prior to 1850.
From the above a person must conclude that even among famous or notorious persons the social causes of their success are evident. These biographies are very sketchy and insufficient, but they give a taste of what can be revealed by biographies concerning social class.