Although many accounts of James Milton Turner’s life give his birth date as May 16, 1840, he recorded in 1871 that he was born on August 22, 1839. Either way, he was born in St. Louis County.

In 1843, after he and his mother were freed, Turner was educated in secretly run schools in the St. Louis area, since a Missouri law prohibited the education of blacks–slave or free–even in one’s own home.

Turner’s parents sent him to attend Oberlin College’s preparatory department. While there, he was deeply affected by the anti slavery rhetoric he heard.

He would go on to champion black education, and President Grant named him the first African-American Ambassador. 

Based on content from the online Missouri Encyclopedia

Photo credit: [Benny G. Rodgers Photograph Collection, S0629.], The State Historical Society of Missouri, Photograph Collection.