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Charles L. Reason Bio


Charles Lewis Reason (July 21, 1818 – 1893) was a mathematician, linguist, and educator. Born in New York City to immigrants from the West Indies, he became the first African-American university professor at a predominately white college in the US.[1] A child prodigy in mathematics, Reason began teaching the subject at the age of fourteen at the African Free School in New York, which he and two of his brothers attended. He then attended McGrawville College, an integrated institution founded by members of the Baptist Church in McGraw, New York.[1] In 1847, Reason, along with Charles Bennett Ray, founded the New York-based Society for the Promotion of Education among Colored Children. Twelve years later, he was appointed professor of belles lettres, Greek, Latin, and French at New York Central College in McGrawville, while also serving as an adjunct professor of mathematics. It was a majority white institution.[1] In 1852 Reason left that post to become the principal of the Quaker Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia (later Cheyney University), a post he held until 1856. During his time there, Reason increased enrollment from six students to 118.[1] Reason returned to New York, where he spent the rest of his career in public education as a teacher, administrator, and reformer. During this time, he was instrumental in his efforts to abolish slavery and segregation, successfully spearheading an 1873 statute to integrate New York's public schools.[citation needed] He was politically active in many community groups. Reason was also a writer. He contributed verse to the Colored American in the 1830s and was a leader of New York City's Phoenix Society in the 1840s. He wrote the poem "Freedom," which celebrated abolitionist Thomas Clarkson and was published in Alexander Crummell's 1849 biography of Clarkson. Reason's personal life is obscure. He was married and widowed three times; only the identity of his third wife, Clorice Esteve, is known. He died in New York City in 1893.

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