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Virginia E. (Walker) Broughton (née Walker, March 1, 1856 – September 21, 1934) was an African-American author and Baptist missionary. One of four students in the first class at Fisk College in 1867, she later became a recognized religious scholar, writing articles for the National Baptist Union newspaper and National Baptist Magazine. As a prominent member of the Baptist church and National Corresponding Secretary of the National Baptist Convention, she worked to ensure that the issues of African-American religious women were addressed by the governing body of the denomination. Broughton was licensed as a missionary and subsequently commissioned to the mission field. Her teaching, writing and preaching were popular among women and men alike.

Virginia E. Walker Broughton
BornMarch 1, 1856
DiedSeptember 21, 1934(1934-09-21) (aged 78)
NationalityUnited States


Personal backgroundEdit

Virginia Walker was born into slavery on March 1, 1856, in Nashville, Tennessee to Nelson and Eliza (née Smart) Walker. Her father's master permitted him to hire out and work for fees, and to save some of his pay in order to earn enough money to buy his family's freedom. After obtaining freedom, Nelson Walker read the law with an established firm and became an attorney; he was known as the first African-American man admitted to the state bar in Davidson County, Tennessee.[1]

Beginning in 1867, Broughton was one of the first four students to attend Fisk College (then offering classes equivalent to a primary school and upper grades) and its Normal Institute, dedicated to teacher training. In 1875, Broughton graduated with honors and gained her teaching credentials. In 1878, she earned a Masters degree in teaching, also from Fisk.[2][3][4] Broughton, and America W. Robinson were the first four students to enroll at Fisk in 1867 when it opened. Broughton, James Dallas Burrus, and his brother John Houston Burrus were the first African Americans to graduate from a liberal arts college south of the Mason-Dixon line. (Robinson's graduation was delayed as she was touring overseas with the Fisk Jubilee Singers.[5]

Broughton began teaching in the public schools in Memphis, Tennessee. She served there until 1887, when she resigned and accepted a position with the B.B.N.&I. (Bible Bands) Institute in Memphis. Her position with the Institute was the official start of her missionary work.[6] In August 1902, at the Woman's State Convention of Tennessee, Walker was elected to serve as the National Corresponding Secretary for the National Baptist Convention.[7]

Walker married Julius A. O. Broughton Sr. and together, they had five children: Elizabeth, Emma, Selina, Virginia, and Julius, Jr.[8][9]

Broughton developed diabetes later in life. She died on September 21, 1934 from complications of the disease. Her husband had died on December 4, 1930 from a stroke.[10]

Published worksEdit


  1. ^ Carter, Tomeiko Ashford, editor (2010). Virginia Broughton: The Life and Writings of a Missionary, The University of Tennessee Press, pp 1-7. ISBN 978-1572336964
  2. ^ Carter(2010). Virginia Broughton, page xxxix.
  3. ^ "Biographies". Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  4. ^ Tomeiko Ashford Carter, ed. (2010). "Virginia Broughton: The Life and Writings of a Missionary". The University of Tennessee Press. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  5. ^ Richardson, Joe M. (1965). "A Negro Success Story: James Dallas Burrus." The Journal of Negro History. 50(4): 274-282.
  6. ^ Carter (2010). Virginia Broughton, p. 2.
  7. ^ Carter (2010). Virginia Broughton, p. 29.
  8. ^ Carter (2010). Virginia Broughton, pp 14-17.
  9. ^ Carter (2010). Virginia Broughton, pp 40-41.
  10. ^ Carter (2010). Virginia Broughton, page xl.
  • Virginia Broughton: The Life and Writings of a Missionary, Edited by Tomeiko Ashford Carter, Nashville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2010; includes the first two titles above, as well as other uncollected writings

Further readingEdit

  • Higginbothan, Evelyn Brooks. Righteous Discontent The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920 (1997).
  • Rosenberg, Charles. "Broughton, Virginia E. Walker." African American National Biography. Edited by Ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr., "Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham". Oxford African American Studies Center, (10/04/2012)
  • Virginia E Walker Broughton. Notable Black American Women, Gale: 1992; Gale Biography in Context; Web 13 Sept 2012.