Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BLYDEN, Edward Willnot, Negro author, born in St. Thomas, West Indies, 3 August 1832. His parents were of pure Negro blood, of decided character and strong religious feeling. Young Blyden received the rudiments of an education in the secular schools of the island ; but the stimulus for higher training came from the late Rev. J. P. Knox, of Newtown, L. I., who was temporarily in charge of the Reformed Dutch Church at St. Thomas. At the instance of this gentleman, young Blyden came to New York in 1845, seeking entrance into some American College. But so hostile to Negroes was the feeling in the schools of the country that he gave up his purpose, and was about returning to his island home. At this juncture the New York colonization society offered him a free passage to Liberia, West Africa, which country he reached in January 1850. He at once entered the Alexander high school, then under the charge of the Rev. David Wilson, and began acquiring a classical education with a view to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. He was graduated at this school in 1858, and soon afterward became its principal. Very early in life Dr. Blyden developed a decided talent for languages, and he has since become distinguished in that branch of learning. At the age of ten, during a brief residence in Venezuela, he acquired the Spanish language. At the Alexander high school he became proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and to these he added French and Italian at a later period. In 1876 he undertook Arabic, and went to the Orient to improve his knowledge of that language. His attainments have placed him in many responsible positions in the young republic of Liberia. As a preacher and teacher he has filled the positions respectively of Presbyterian pastor, principal of the Alexander high school, professor, and in 1880 president, of Liberia College, commissioner to the general assembly of the American Presbyterian Church in 1861, and again in 1880. At the age of nineteen He was editor of the "Liberia Herald," and since then he has been government commissioner to the colored people of the United States. He has held the offices of secretary of state and of the interior several times. Twice he has been appointed minister to the court of St. James. He has published "Liberia's Offering" and "From West Africa to Palestine" (1873). His contributions to periodicals include "The Negro in Ancient History," "Liberia, its Status and its Field," "Mohammedanism and the Negro Race," "Christianity and the Negro Race," "Islam and Race Distinctions," and "Africa and the Africans."
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