James Bradley arrived on a slave vessel, defied death multiple times, and worked tirelessly toward purchasing his own freedom. Once emancipated, Bradley made his way to Lane Theological Seminary, joining a passionate group of students, to be known as the Lane Rebels. These so-called Rebels would find a home at Oberlin College, where Bradley became the first Black student admitted by way of official institutional policy in American higher education.
The story of abolition in America cannot be told without Oberlin. By 1860, Oberlin enrolled more Black students than any institution of higher education. Oberlin created opportunity for both women and students of color when the issue of slavery had brought a fledgling country to the brink of civil war. Oberlin hired an African American female as a faculty member in 1864--one hundred years before the Civil Rights Act.
How does such a thing transpire? How does a seemingly inconsequential college in a seemingly inconsequential town influence a decisive movement in American history? The answers to these questions trace their roots to a zealous group of students gathering over the course of eighteen nights to win the heart of a campus on the imperative question of their day.