Vermont Town Honors a Native Son and America’s First African American College President

In 1856, Martin Henry Freeman was appointed president of the all-Black Allegheny Institute and Mission Church in Pittsburgh. He was the first African American college president in the United States.

Freeman born in 1826 in Rutland, Vermont. Freeman’s father fought in the U.S. Army during the Revolutionary War and as a result, was granted his freedom. Martin Henry Freeman graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1849.

Freemen taught mathematics and philosophy at Allegheny Institute for several years before being named president. In 1858, the institute was renamed Avery College in honor of Charles Avery, a Pittsburgh abolitionist who provided the funds to start the institute.

In 1863, Freeman left the United States and moved to Liberia in Africa. He taught and later became president of Liberia College. Freeman died in Liberia in 1889.

Now the city of Rutland, Vermont, has erected a statue in Freeman’s honor. It is part of the Rutland Sculpture Trail, which now has eight installations.

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