Charles Lewis Reason, a mathematician, linguist, and educator, was born in New York City in 1818 to West Indies immigrants Michiel and Elizabeth Reason. Reason, as well as his brothers Patrick and Elmer, attended the New York African Free School. Displaying an early aptitude for math, Reason began teaching the subject at the New York African Free School at the age of fourteen. Reason attended McGrawville College in New York. In 1849, he became the first African American to hold a professorship at a predominantly white college in the U.S. when he became a professor of math, Greek, Latin, and French at New-York Central College. Five years later, Reason became the first principal at Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth, where Sarah Mapps Douglass taught. Active in several civil rights causes, Reason founded the Society for the Promotion of Education among Colored Children, was a member of the Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia, and was an important part of the Negro Convention Movement in New York. He was also instrumental in ending racial segregation in New York City public schools in 1873.

Charles Lewis Reason (1818-1893)