Sarah W. Early

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Ohioan Sarah Woodson Early was an African-American woman who was active in the Temperance Movement.

Early was born on November 25, 1825, in Chillicothe, Ohio. Her parents were Thomas Woodson and Jemima Price Woodson. Thomas Woodson was a former slave of President Thomas Jefferson. While much evidence suggests that Jefferson fathered several children with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves, it does not appear that Thomas Woodson, although he was one of Hemings's sons, was a descendent of this liaison.

In 1829, the Woodson family moved to Berlin Crossroads, Ohio, a predominantly African-American community in Jackson County. The Woodson family prospered here, eventually becoming large landholders. Sarah Woodson Early attended the community school until she was fifteen years of age. She then enrolled in the Albany Academy, in Albany, Ohio. Upon leaving this institution, Early attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. She graduated in 1856.

Upon leaving Oberlin, Early taught at several African-American schools. These schools included ones in Berlin Crossroads, Chillicothe, Circleville, Portsmouth, and Zanesville. In 1859, she joined the faculty at Wilberforce University, teaching English. She also served as principal of the Hillsboro, Ohio colored schools and also of the African-American school in Xenia, Ohio.

Following the American Civil War, Early relocated to Hillsboro, North Carolina, where she became a principal of an African-American school. She held this position for only a short time, returning to Ohio, where she married Jordan W. Early, a Baptist minister, on September 24, 1868. The Earlys then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where Sarah taught school and Joseph ministered at a church. In 1870, the couple relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, where the two Earlys continued to pursue their respective occupations.

In the 1880s, Sarah Woodson early became active in the Temperance Movement. She eventually oversaw the activities of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union among African-American women in the South. She remained active in the Temperance Movement until her death in 1907.

See Also


  1. Woodson, Byron W., Sr. A President in the Family: Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and Thomas Woodson. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.