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Powell, William(1848–1920) - Educator, diplomat, Chronology

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William Powell gained prominence in New Jersey as a teacher and educational leader prior to attracting the attention of several presidents of the United States who offered Powell opportunities to become an American envoy. Powell, after rejecting two consular assignments, ultimately served as a diplomat to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

William Frank Powell, the son of William and Julia Crawford Powell, was born on June 26, 1848, in Troy, New York. His father’s ancestors were Native Americans. Powell attended public schools in Brooklyn, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey. He also attended the New York School of Pharmacy and Ashmun Institute in Pennsylvania (later known as Lincoln University) and the New Jersey Collegiate Institute (NJCI). In 1865, Powell graduated from NJCI. Three years later, he married Elizabeth M. Hughes, who was from Burlington, New Jersey.

In 1869, Powell began his career as an educator when the Presbyterian Board of Missions hired him to teach at an African American school in Leesburg, Virginia. In Alexandria, Virginia one year later, Powell founded a school for African American children and led the school for five years.

Powell became principal of a Bordentown, New Jersey, school in 1875. In 1881, he interrupted his career as an educator and was employed as a bookkeeper in the Fourth Auditor’s Office of the United States Treasury. Also in 1881, Powell was offered a diplomatic assignment in Haiti, but he rejected it.

In 1884, Powell resumed his career as an educator when he became superintendent of schools in the fourth district of Camden, New Jersey. Under Powell’s leadership, attendance increased, manual training was included in the curriculum, and a new school for industrial education was built. In 1886, Powell relinquished his position as superintendent and taught at Camden High and Training School, a predominantly white school. This career move probably made Powell one of the first African Americans to teach in a predominantly white school in Camden as well as the rest of New Jersey. He remained at Camden High until 1894. He rejected a second diplomatic appointment in 1891 during the administration of Benjamin Harrison.



Born in Troy, New York on June 26


Graduates from the New Jersey Collegiate Institute


Marries Elizabeth M. Hughes


Begins career as an educator at an African American school in Leesburg, Virginia


Establishes a school for African Americans in Alexandria, Virginia


Becomes principal of a school in Bordentown, New Jersey


Accepts job as bookkeeper in the Fourth Auditor’s Office of the United States Treasury


Becomes superintendent of schools in Camden, New Jersey’s fourth district


Teaches at Camden High and Training School


Accepts appointments as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Haiti as well as chargeé d’affaires to the Dominican Republic


Marries Jane B. Shepard


Returns to Camden


Becomes an editorial writer for the Philadelphia Tribune


Dies on January 23 (approximate date)

Power, J.D. - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: J.D. Power, Social and Economic Impact [next] [back] Powell, Clifton (1947–)

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