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21st Century

Obama, Barack, Jr. (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States and the first African American to occupy the White House.  Obama was born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was a Kenyan graduate student studying in the United States and his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, a white American from Wichita, Kansas.  The two were married on February 2, 1961 in Maui, Hawaii.  In 1971, when he was ten, Obama’s mother, who had remarried and was living in Indonesia, sent him to Honolulu, Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents Madelyn and Stanley Dunham for several years, where he attended Punahou, a prestigious preparatory school.  Obama was admitted on a scholarship with the assistance of his grandparents.

Sources: 
Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (New York: Times Books, 1995); Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown Publishers, 2006); Barack Obama, US Senator for Illinois, http://obama.senate.gov/ ; Mike Dorning and Jim Tankersley, Chicago Tribune, “Obama Redraws Map with the Resounding Win,” November 5, 2008, p.2-3; Chicago Sun-Times, “A Dream Fulfilled,” November 5, 2008, p. 2A; The Times, “Landslide,” November 5, 2008, 2A,3A; James A. Thurber, ed., Obama in Office (Boulder, Colorado: Paradigm Publishers, 2011) .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. on August 16, 1947, in New York City, New York. He was known as Lew Alcindor until his 1973 name change. Alcindor dominated the New York City high school basketball scene. Decidedly larger than his peers from an early age, he grew to seven feet, one-and-three-quarter inches tall, and found little competition while playing for Power Memorial High School.

In 1966 Alcindor left for Los Angeles, California to play for the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Over his three seasons there he led the Bruins to an overall 88-2 record and three consecutive national championships. Alcindor finished his college career with the sixth highest point total of any player and won the inaugural Naismith Award for the most valuable college basketball player in 1969.
Sources: 
John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations On and Off the Court. (New York: McGraw-Hill,1997); Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, http://www.hoophall.com/hall-of-famers/tag/kareem-abdul-jabbar; NBA Encyclopedia, http://www.nba.com/history/players/abduljabbar_bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Winfrey, Oprah (1954 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Repeatedly on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, Oprah Winfrey is a television host, media mogul – in television, radio, film, and print – and philanthropist.  Forbes magazine included her in its 2003 list of America’s billionaires, the first African American woman to become one.

The “Oprah Winfrey Show” is in its 22nd season, and is syndicated to 214 United States stations, and 139 countries. Launched in April 2000, O, The Oprah Magazine, has a current circulation of 2.3 million monthly readers, and is considered one of the most successful magazine launches in publishing history. In 2004, a companion publication, O at Home, made its debut.  
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, Facts on File, Inc., p. 277 (New York, 1997); William Andrews, et al., The Concise Oxford Guide to African American Literature, Oxford University Press, pp. 31, 209-12, 389, 444 (New York, 2001); www.oprah.com; www.biography.com; www.achievement.org; www.freshthinkingbusiness.com/oprah-winfrey 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Woods, Eldrick “Tiger” (1975- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was born on December 30, 1975 in Cypress, California to parents Earl and Kultida Woods.  Woods was given the nickname Tiger after a Vietnamese soldier and friend of his father’s.  He grew up watching his father play golf and at the age of two, he was putting with Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show.  Woods was featured in Golf Digest at the age of five and between the ages of eight and fifteen, he won the Optimist International Junior tournament six times.  Tiger Woods entered his first professional tournament in 1992 at the age of 16.  He attended Stanford University in 1994 and within two years, had won 10 collegiate titles including the NCAA title.

By the age of 32, Tiger Woods has had an unprecedented career.  Woods has won 75 tournaments including 55 on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour.  His victories include the 1997, 2001 and 2005 Masters Tournaments, the 1999, 2000, and 2006 PGA Championships, 2000 and 2002 U.S. Open Championships and the 2005 and 2006 British Open Championships.  In 1997, Woods, at 22, became the youngest player ever to win the Masters Championship and the first ever winner of African or Asian heritage.  In 2001, Tiger became the first ever golfer to hold all four major championship titles.  
Sources: 
Patrick B. Miller and David K. Wiggins, Sport and the Color Line, Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Routledge, 2004); http://www.tigerwoods.com/defaultflash.sps.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Combs, Sean “Diddy” (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born November 4, 1970 in Harlem, New York, Sean “Diddy” Combs is a multi-platinum selling producer, rapper, and successful record company executive. Combs was raised in Harlem, where his father was killed when Combs was three.  His mother moved the family to suburban Mount Vernon, New York.  Combs attended Howard University for two years before dropping out to become an intern at Uptown Records in New York. Combs rose to Vice-President of Uptown Records after just a year.  Nonetheless he was fired in 1993.

Combs’s dismissal from Uptown prompted him to start his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment. The next year Bad Boy found success with two rap acts: Craig Mack, and The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher George Wallace) whose album Ready to Die, released in 1994 went double-platinum and solidified Bad Boy’s place in the rap community.

In March 1997 as Sean Combs -- who performed at the time as Puff Daddy -- was working on his first solo album, The Notorious B.I.G. was killed.  Combs first solo album No Way Out, which was released in the summer of 1997, included a track that was a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. and which relied heavily on a sample from the British rock group, The Police, called I’ll Be Missing You.  Combs performed the song live along with B.I.G.’s widow, Faith Evans, R&B group 112, and The Police lead singer Sting at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.
Sources: 
Nelson George, Hip-Hop America (New York: Penguin Books, 2005); James Haskins, One Nation Under a Groove: Rap Music and its Roots (New York: Hyperion Books, 2000); John Bush & Bradley Torreano, "Diddy."  Allmusic.com 14 Mar. 2007. < http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:9lc8b5p4nsqh~T1>.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wattleton, Alyce Faye (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Columbia University
Alyce Faye Wattleton, born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 8, 1943, became both the youngest person and the first African American president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a post she held from 1978 to 1992.  As only the second woman president of the organization (founder Alice Sanger was the first), Wattleton fought for women’s reproductive rights by expanding the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its birth control services.

Wattleton’s mother was a traveling preacher and her father a construction worker.  Wattleton moved frequently as a child and in 1959 she graduated at age 16 from Calhoun High School in Port Lavaca, Texas. In 1964 Wattleton completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at Ohio State University. Three years later she received her Masters degree in Maternal and Infant Care, and became a certified midwife through courses she completed at Columbia University in New York.
Sources: 
Loretta Ross, Marlene Gerber Fried, and Jael Silliman, Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice (South End Press, 2004);
Womenshistory.about.com/od/birthcontrol/p/faye_wattleton.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wilder, Lawrence Douglas (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Richmond, Virginia on January 17, 1931, Lawrence Douglas Wilder was the first African American to be elected governor in the United States of America. For four years Wilder served as the governor of Virginia (1990-1994).  Currently he is serving as the mayor of Richmond, Virginia.

Wilder began his education in a racially segregated elementary school, George Mason Elementary, and attended all-black Armstrong High School in Richmond.  In 1951 he received a degree in chemistry from Virginia Union University in his hometown.  After college, Wilder joined the United States Army and served in the Korean War, where he earned a Bronze Star for heroism. After the war, Wilder worked in the Virginia state medical examiner’s office as a chemist. Using the G.I. Bill, Wilder graduated from Howard University Law School in 1959 and soon afterwards established Wilder, Gregory and Associates.
Sources: 
Donald P. Baker, Wilder: Hold Fast to Dreams: A Biography of L. Douglas Wilder (University of Michigan, Seven Locks Press, 1989);
Judson L. Jeffries, Virginia’s Native Son: the election and administration of Governor L. Douglas Wilder (Purdue University Press, 2000); http://www.vahistorical.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/l-douglas-wilder.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rice, Condoleezza (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Condoleezza Rice has earned distinction as a scholar, expert on international politics, and with her appointments as the first African American woman National Security Advisor and Secretary of State of the United States.

Rice was born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama to John Wesley Rice, Jr., a Presbyterian minister and school counselor and Angelena (Ray) Rice, a public school teacher.  Influenced heavily by her parents, Rice, their only child, showed an exceptional intelligence and scholastic focus at a very early age.  Despite growing up in the black middle-class neighborhood of Titusville in Birmingham, Condoleezza and her family could not escape the “Jim Crow” policies of that city.  Denise McNair, one of four young girls who died in the 16th St. Baptist Church Bombing in September 1963, was Rice’s childhood friend and playmate.  
Sources: 
Antonio Felix, Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story (New Market Press, New York, NY 2002); http://www.whitehouse.gov; http://www.hoover.org/bios/rice.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ford, Harold Jr. (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Harold Eugene Ford, Jr. was born in Memphis, Tennessee on May 11, 1970. He currently serves as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and is a former member of the United States House of Representatives from Tennessee.  During his tenure in congress Ford represented the state’s 9th congressional district from 1997 until 2007. This district included most of Memphis.  Bucking tradition, Ford did not seek reelection to his House seat in 2006 and instead unsuccessfully sought the Senate seat that was being vacated by the retiring senator Bill Frist.  Ford was the only African American member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats.

After the 2002 mid term elections resulted in Democrats losing Congressional seats, Ford announced his desire to be House Minority Whip based on Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s charge that the democratic leadership was less than competent.  Ford was unsuccessful in his election bid, but surprised many politicians and pundits on both sides of the political aisle with the amount of support he garnered. A few observers suggested that he might become the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004.  However, given the fact that he was only thirty-four years old, he was ineligible for the office. Ford would be four months shy of thirty-five on Inauguration Day (January 20, 2005).
Sources: 
Harold Ford Jr.  (http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=F000262).  Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.  Retrieved on 2007-05-18; Theo Emery, “Family ties could bind a political advancement” http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/03/10/famliey_ties_could_bind_a_political_advancement/?page=1), Boston Globe, March 10, 2006.  Retrieved on 2007-04-25; Jonathan Darman, “The Path to Power” Newsweek, October 30, 2006; William Addams Reitwiesner,  Ancestry of Harold Ford (http://www.wargs.com/political/ fordh.html).  Retrieved on 2007-05-18; http://www.house.gov/ford/about/index.shtml
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Dziko, Trish Millines (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Trish Millines Dziko is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Technology Access Foundation. A native of New Jersey, Dziko focused on college and ultimately became a first-generation college student. Ms. Dziko also made history by becoming the first woman to be awarded a full basketball scholarship for Monmouth College in West Long Branch, New Jersey.  She received her B.S. in Computer Science in 1979.

Dziko spent 15 years working in the high tech industry as a software developer, manager and consultant as well as a database designer in such industries as military weapons, business systems, communications, and medical equipment.
Sources: 

Monica J. Foster, “Federal Way to Build TAF Academy,” The (Seattle) Skanner http://www.theskanner.com/index.php?edid=Mg==,
http://www.informationtechnologyleaders.com/dziko.html ; http://www.techaccess.org/
http://www.techaccess.org/tafpdfs/profiles/staff_profiles/Trishmi.pdf
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University Seattle

Oden, Ron (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ron Oden is the first African American and the first openly gay man to hold the office of Mayor of Palm Springs, California. Born on March 21, 1950 in Detroit, Michigan, Oden attended Oakwood College (now University) in Huntsville, Alabama where he received a Bachelor of Arts in History, Sociology and Theology. He continued his studies in Family Life and Counselling at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, earning a Master of Arts Degree in Theology. Oden continued his education at the State University of New York in Albany, completing a Master of Arts Degree in Ethnic Studies. He has also pursued post-graduate courses in Marriage, Family and Child Counselling Studies at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California.  

Oden began his career in community and political involvement in 1990 when he moved to Palm Springs and began teaching as an adjunct Sociology instructor at College of the Desert. Oden also worked at Desert Career College, Chapman University and has served as pastoral care consultant at the Betty Ford Center.  

Concern about educational and social issues led Oden to enter local politics. In 1995 he was elected to Palm Springs City Council only five years after he arrived in the city. While on the council he advocated for social causes.  
Sources: 
“Oden Honored by Star No. 300” The [Palm Springs] Desert Sun (16 December 2007); Mona De Crinis, “The Mayor’s Tale” The Bottomline 27:7 (December 2007); http://www.cityofpalmsprings.com/ .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Obama, Michelle Robinson (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership:  Public Domain

On January 20, 2009, with the Presidential swearing in of her husband Barack Obama, Michelle Robinson Obama became the first person of African American descent to become First Lady of the United States.

Obama is an accomplished professional with an impressive resume of her own. Outspoken, intelligent, and articulate, she can give passionate speeches, displaying warmth, charisma, and her ability to build an empathetic relationship with her audience. Early in her husband’s campaign for the Presidency, her forthright style sometimes resulted in “sound bites” which when taken out of context became controversial.


Born January 17, 1964 to Frasier Robinson, a pump operator for the city of Chicago’s water plant, and Marian Robinson, who spent much of Michelle’s childhood a homemaker, Michelle grew up on Chicago, Illinois' South Side, one of the nation’s poorest urban communities. Her parents strictly limited their children’s television viewing, and Michelle and her brother Craig were expected to take part in discussions around the family dinner table.

Sources: 
Liza Mundy, Michelle, a Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008); Michelle Obama in Her Own Words, the Speeches 2008, compiled by Susan A. Jones; David Colbert, Michelle Obama, an American Story (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009); David Bergen Brophy, Michelle Obama: Meet the First Lady (New York: Harper Collins, 2009); Elizabeth Lightfoot, Michelle Obama, First Lady of Hope (Guilford, Connecticut: the Lyons Press, 2009) and Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope (New York: Crown Publishers, 2006); www.barackobama.com/about/michelle_obama.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Congressional Black Caucus (1971-- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Congressional Black Caucus, 2007
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was established in 1971, although its roots go back to the Democratic Select Committee (DSC).  The DSC was started in 1969 by Representative Charles Diggs of Michigan, who was looking for a way the nine Black members of the House of Representatives could meet and talk about their common political concerns.  The DSC addressed a number of issues of concern to African Americans, including investigating the killings of certain members of the Black Panther Party and boycotting President Richard Nixon’s 1970 State of the Union Address.  This boycott pressured Nixon into meeting with the DSC and discussing topics such as civil rights, Vietnam, anti-drug legislation, and welfare reform.

In 1971 the group was formally organized as the CBC and Diggs was nominated as its first chairman.  In 1972 the group set out to make sure that all Democrats became more attentive to black concerns.  At the 1972 Democratic National Convention the CBC drafted the Black Declaration of Independence and the Black Bill of Rights.  The Black Declaration of Independence demanded that the Democratic Party and its nominee commit themselves to full racial equality.  The Black Bill of Rights on the other hand made more specific demands, which failed to gain the support of the Party or its nominee, George McGovern.  
Sources: 
Colin A. Palmer, ed., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2006); Nina Mjagkij, ed., Organizing Black America (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2001); Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc: http://www.cbcfinc.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Grizzle, Stanley G. (1918- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Courtesy of Sandra Danilovic, TV documentary,
"Portrait of a Street: The Soul and Spirit of College"
(2001, Rodna Films Inc.)
Stanley G. Grizzle founded the Railway Porter’s Trade Union Council and served as president of the Toronto Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) Division of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) from 1946 to 1962.

Grizzle was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1918, to Jamaican parents who immigrated to Canada in 1911. He became a railway porter at the age of 22 to help support his family. In 1938 Grizzle helped form the Young Men’s Negro Association of Toronto, initiating a period of activity which would make him one of the leaders in the black Canadian campaign for civil rights.  
Sources: 
Stanley G. Grizzle and John Cooper, My Name’s Not George: The Story of Sleeping Car Porters (Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1997); Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997). http://www.answers.com/topic/stanley-g-grizzle.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brueggergosman, Measha (1977- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Measha Brueggergosman, Canada’s most recognizable young opera star, is working hard to bring classical music to a popular audience.  The Canadian soprano has emerged as one of the most magnificent performers and vibrant personalities of the day. She is critically acclaimed by the international press for having both a voluptuous voice and a sovereign stage presence far beyond her years.
Sources: 
William Littler, “Soprano’s spirit,” Toronto Star, October 16, 2003; http://www.measha.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Connerly, Ward (1939 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Ward Connerly, Creating Equal: My Fight Against Racial Preferences (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2000); Michael E. Dyson, Debating Race (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2007); Francis Beckwith and Todd E. Jones, Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination? (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1997); Michael W. Lynch, “Racial Preferences Are Dead,” interview in Reason http://www.reason.com/news/show/30527.html; Barry Bearak, “Questions of Race Run Deep for Foe of Preferences.” The New York Times.  July 27, 1997,  http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.htmlres=9C07E0DD153AF934A15754C0A961958260&sec.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Davis, Artur (1967- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Alabama Congressman Artur Davis Campaigning for Gov. of Alabama
Image Courtesy of Larry O. Gay

Alabama Congressman Artur Davis was born on October 9, 1967 in Montgomery, Alabama. He received his degree Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University in 1990 and Cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 1993. His academic career led way for his professional career as an attorney.

After graduate school, Davis received a clerkship with Judge Myron F. Thompson, one of the first black judges on the federal bench in Alabama. Davis worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama from 1994 to1998, fighting drugs and violence. In 1998, he worked as a litigator in private practice.

In 2002, Davis was elected Congressman of the 7th Congressional District in Alabama which includes Birmingham and counties in south-central Alabama. He was overwhelmingly reelected in 2004 and 2006. Davis was appointed to the Ways and Means committee, which oversees economic policy including tax law, trade policy, health care and Social Security. He is the tenth Alabamian to serve on this committee. Davis also serves on the Judiciary Committee, which covers immigration and criminal systems.

During his first term, Davis worked to reverse funding cuts for minority colleges like Tuskegee University and Alabama A&M. In his second term he worked to renovate public housing with the HOPE VI program.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Evergreen State College

Adu, Freddy (1989-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Fredua Koranteng Adu, known to much of the world as Freddy Adu was born June 2, 1989 in the port city of Tema, Ghana. Growing up in Ghana, Freddy often received attention for his tremendous soccer skills as a youngster. Even at a young age he was asked by older kids and even adults to participate in their pick-up soccer games. Playing soccer against others who were often two or three times his age displayed his potential for soccer stardom. Today Adu is often considered one of the greatest of the youngest generation of American soccer players.

Adu’s mother Emelia Adu, provided a strong base for his young soccer career. She worked multiple jobs to provide soccer equipment for Freddy and his younger brother. She also wanted to give the Adu family a chance at higher education and prosperity. They realized this chance in November 1997 when Freddy was just eight years old. His mother and father won a Green Card lottery which allowed them to permanently relocate from Ghana to the United States. He and his family first moved to Maryland and then later to Washington DC. In 2003, Adu and his family became naturalized United States citizens.

Sources: 

Grant Wahl, “Who’s Next? Freddy Adu,” Sports Illustrated, July 6, 2008; Jeff Savage, Freddy Adu (Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2006); “Freddy Adu” in Amazing Athletes, July 5, 2008, pp. 15-18; http://jockbio.com/Bios/Adu/Adu_bio.html; http://www.answers.com/topic/freddy-adu.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Booker, Cory (1969- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Cory Booker Celebrates His Election as Newark's Mayor,
May 9, 2006
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 1969, Cory Booker is currently the United States Senator from New Jersey. Booker was raised in Harrington Park, New Jersey, a mostly white town where his parents Cary and Carolyn Booker, former civil rights activists and pioneer black executives at IBM, settled down. He attended Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan. Following his graduation he enrolled at Stanford University where he earned a B.A. in political science as well an M.A. in sociology. Booker played varsity football at Stanford and was named to the 1991 All- Pacific Ten Academic Team.  Booker was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, one of few student athletes to do so, and went on to study at The Queens College in Oxford, England where he garnered his third degree, Honors History in 1994.


Following his studies at Stanford and Oxford, Booker earned his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1997.  While there he volunteered as a big brother and was active in the Black Law Students Association. Though Booker was raised in affluence in New Jersey, following his graduation from Yale he moved to Brick Towers, a crime-ridden public housing project in Newark’s Central Ward.  He became a community organizer, urging his tenant neighbors to fight crime and demand improvements in the projects.  

Sources: 

Cory Booker, The First 100 Days: Newark, 100 Day Plan Report (Newark: Newark Public Information Office, 2006); Kendra Field, Race, Identity, and Legitimacy in Context: Cory Booker v. Sharpe James (Cambridge, Mass.: John F. Kennedy School of Government, 2002); www.corybooker.com; David Segal, "Urban Legend How Cory Booker Became Newark's Mayor: By Being Almost Too Good to Be True" The Washington Post, July 3, 2006; Kate Zernike, "Booker, Winning Rocky Senate Bid, Gets a Job to Fit his Profile," New York Times, October 16, 2013.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Weah, George (1966- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

George Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah, born in the slums of Monrovia, Liberia on October 1, 1966, is considered one of the best soccer players on the African continent.  For much of his youth, he was raised by his grandmother, Emma Klonjlaleh Brown, who provided for Weah while allowing him to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.

Weah played for Monrovia teams including the Young Survivors, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barolle, and Invincible Eleven before leaving Africa for Europe.  In 1987, at the age of 21, Weah signed for the French Ligue 1 giants, AS Monaco.  Throughout his career at the club Weah scored 55 goals in 155 appearances from 1987 to 1992.  From Monaco he played on a series of other European teams including Paris St. Germain (1992-1995), AC Milan (1995-1999), Chelsea (1999-2000), Manchester City (2001) and Olympic Marseille (2001-2002).  Over his 15-year career in Europe, Weah amassed an astonishing 172 goals.

Sources: 

Henry Winter, “On The Spot: George Weah,” London (?) Daily Telegraph, January 22, 2000; Michael Lewis, “Guiding light: player, coach, and financier, George Weah means everything to Liberian soccer--and Liberia means everything to Weah,” Soccer Digest Magazine, January 2002.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Patrick, Deval L. (1956 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Deval L. Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts was elected in 2006.  He became at that time only the second African American elected as a state Governor in the history of the United States.  Patrick was born on July 31, 1956 in Chicago to Laurdine "Pat" Patrick and Emily Mae Wintersmith, and raised in the Robert Taylor housing project on that city’s “South Side.”  His father’s career as a jazz musician (with the Sun Ra band) often took him away from home. Occasionally, Patrick travelled with his father, especially to New York City, where he often stayed with the family of the African drummer, Babatunde Olatunji and his wife Amy. After his  parents were estranged, Patrick and his older sister were raised by his working mother.

Benefiting from "A Better Chance," a national non-profit organization which identified and recruited academically gifted African American students, Patrick was selected to attend Milton High School Academy.  Upon his graduation in 1974 he entered Harvard University.  After completing his undergraduate education at Harvard in 1978, Patrick worked for one year for the United Nations in the (pre-genocide) Darfur region of Sudan.  He then returned to Harvard to earn a law degree in 1982.  Two years later he married Diane Bemus, a labor and employment attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.  

Sources: 

Author interviews with Deval Patrick, March 11, 2005 and December 8,
2006, "Governor-elect Deval Patrick is Named 2006 Bostonian of the
Year," Boston Globe Magazine, Special Issue, December 31, 2006: Mary
Carmichael, "Health Section," Newsweek Magazine, May 14, 2007; Office
of Governor Deval L. Patrick.  

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Danenberg, Sophia (1972- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image ownership: Public Domain
 

In 2006 Sophia Danenberg became the first African American and first black woman from anywhere in the world to climb the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest in the Himalayas.  

Sophia Marie Scott was born in 1972 in Homewood, Illinois (a southern suburb of Chicago) to a Japanese mother and black father. She attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School, graduating in 1990.  Danenberg then studied environmental sciences and public policy at Harvard University, graduating in 1994, before going on to Keio University in Tokyo as a Fulbright Fellow. Danenberg then began her professional career with United Technologies in Japan and China, managing energy and indoor air quality projects, before moving to Hartford, Connecticut where she worked in green technology research programs at United Technologies.  

Danenberg became involved in mountaineering in 1999 after a childhood friend encouraged her to try rock climbing.  During this two year period, while doing technical climbs through her local Appalachian Mountain Club Chapter, she met her future husband David Danenberg.

Sources: 

Carly A. Mullady, "Never Underestimate Yourself, and Never Let Others
Underestimate You," Southtown Star Newspaper, Chicago (Sunday, February
3, 2008), p. 3; Teresa Pelham, "Glastonbury Woman Makes History With
Everest Climb," The Hartford Courant  (Monday, November 13, 2006);
http://www.danenberg.org/; Jeffrey Felshman, "Up Everest, Quietly" Our
Town
(2006), www.ChicagoReader.com http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/ourtown/060714/everest/

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Operation Crossroads Africa (1958- )

Entry Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
Global African History
Building a School Near Kitale, Kenya, Crossroads Africa, 1980
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Operation Crossroads Africa (OCA), founded in 1958 by Dr. James H. Robinson, is a non-profit organization which provides individuals with a seven-week experience in Africa. Founded on the principle that cultural immersion is possible through working and living inside Africa, their core values are to challenge the assumptions individuals may have about Africa and lead individuals to understand how African communities are formed. OCA facilitates cultural immersion through group travel and service activities in Africa each summer. They strive for cross-cultural communication, personal growth and promotion of the dignity of physical labor in Africa amongst educated individuals.

Headquartered in New York City, OCA sponsors projects in up to twelve African countries. Most of the projects, which include construction, health, agriculture, education, and women’s production of goods, are based in rural villages in Africa and involve physical labor. OCA selects groups of eight to ten people who spend seven weeks in Africa during the summer and participate in activities such as the construction of a school, tree-planting, or giving a nutritional survey. Program participants along with the project host live together and spend several hours each day working with villagers on activities. The first six weeks are spent working, while the final week is spent traveling in Africa.

Sources: 

The Operation Crossroads Africa website available at http://www.operationcrossroadsafrica.org; Harold Isaacs, “Emergent Americans: A Report on ‘Crossroads Africa’” (New York: The John Day Company, 1961).

Townsend, Robert (1957 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert Townsend, writer, producer, director, and actor, was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 6, 1957, the second oldest of four children to Shirley and Robert Townsend.  Growing up on the Westside of Chicago, Townsend was raised by his mother in a single parent home.  As a child Townsend watched TV where he learned to do impersonations of his favorite actors such as Jimmy Stewart and Bill Cosby for his family and classmates. Eventually his abilities caught the attention of Chicago’s Experimental Black Actors Guild X-Bag Theatre in Chicago and then moved him out to The Improvisation, a premiere comedy club in New York City.  Townsend also had a brief uncredited role in the 1975 movie, Cooley High.

Townsend's comedy career began to take off at the Improvisation and he soon headed to Hollywood where he performed on comedy specials such as Rodney Dangerfield: It’s Not Easy Being Me.  Townsend also landed minor role in films such as A Soldier’s Story (1984) with Denzel Washington, Streets of Fire (1984) with Diane Lane, and American Flyers, a 1985 movie staring Kevin Costner.  

Sources: 

Robert Townsend.com, December 5, 2008,
http://www.roberttownsend.com/bio.html; Jennifer M. York, ed. Who’s Who
Among African Americans
, 16th ed., (San Francisco: Thomson Gale, 2003)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lee, Spike (1957 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Model Christie Brinkley and Director Spike Lee Attending a Charity
Event in New York

Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee, producer, actor, director, was born on March 20, 1957 in Atlanta Georgia.  His parents are William Lee, a jazz musician and composer, and Jacqueline Shelton Lee, a teacher of art and literature. Lee, the oldest of five children in a relatively well off African American family, moved to Brooklyn when he was a child and began making amateur films by the age of twenty.  His first film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn, was completed while he was an undergraduate at Morehouse College. After receiving his B.A. he enrolled in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he received an M.F.A. in film production.

While at New York University Lee produced several student films and was awarded a Student Academy Award for his M.F.A. thesis film Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop, a project that was broadcast by some public television stations and received notice from critics.  Lee's production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983.  Lee has also produced commercials for a number of companies including Nike, Jaguar, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry's.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, Ed., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Publisher Simon &
Schuster Macmillan, 1996); A & E, December 2, 2008,
http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542361

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Burris, Roland (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

On January 15, 2009 Roland Wallace Burris was sworn in as the U.S. Senator from Illinois.  Burris's appointment made him the third African American U.S. Senator from the state and the sixth black U.S. Senator in the history of the United States.  The appointment, however, was marred by controversy as he was appointed to fill the Senatorial seat of President Barack Obama by Illinois governor Rod R. Blagojevich who had been arrested for allegedly attempting to sell that seat to the highest bidder.  

Sources: 

New York Times.com – Man in the News – Roland W. Burris,
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/31/us/31burris.html?; Politico.com – Who
is Roland Burris? http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid; Time in
Partnership with CNN, Roland Burris,  http://www.time.com/time

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada Las Vegas

Holder, Eric H. (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Eric H. Holder, Jr., U.S. Attorney General since 2009, was born on January 21, 1951 in the Bronx, New York to parents of Barbadian descent, Eric, a real estate agent and Miriam Holder, a telephone operator.  Holder was raised in East Elmhurst, Queens, a community which included a number of famous African Americans such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier. Civil rights activist Malcolm X lived two blocks from young Holder and on one occasion in 1964, then recently crowned heavy weight champion Muhammad Ali entertained him and other community children on the steps of the Malcolm’s house. 

Holder graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War protests and Black Power movement, he entered Columbia University where he participated in sit-ins by African American students. Holder also played collegiate basketball and became co-captain of his team.  In 1973, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in U.S. history from Columbia and then entered Columbia University Law School, earning a J.D. in 1976.  While in law school Holder served as a law clerk for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP-LDF).   

Sources: 

Glenn Thrush, “The Survivor: How Eric Holder Outlasted his Many Critics”
(July/August 2014). Found in
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/the-survivor-108018.html#...
http://www.cov.com/eholder/; http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/h/eric_h_h...
and http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/us/politics/11holder.html?_r=1; Michael D. Schear, "Holder Resigns, Setting Up Fight over Successor," New York Times, September 26, 2014, p. 1.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Bath, Patricia (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Patricia Bath

Patricia Bath, a prominent ophthalmologist, was born in Harlem, New York in 1942.  Her parents, Rupert and Gladys Bath were both very supportive of her love for science and encouraged her to peruse a career in science.  Bath's teachers throughout her early education were also supportive. Bath attended New York’s Charles Evans Hughes High School in Harlem.  During her time there she excelled as a student earning herself a position after high school on a cancer research team at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital.

In 1960 she entered Hunter College in New York City obtaining a B.A in chemistry with honors four years later.  Bath then enrolled in the Howard University Medical School receiving an M.D. degree in 1968.  While in medical school Bath participated in a research project centered on children’s health in Yugoslavia.  This experience persuaded her to make her life's work the treatment of impoverished populations around the globe through international medicine.

Ophthalmology became Bath's specialty after medical school.  After working for a few years as a surgical assistant in New York hospitals, Bath went to Nigeria where she became the Chief of Ophthalmology at Mercy Hospital in Lagos, then the capital city.  Bath became intrigued by the numerous cases of blindness she encountered in Nigeria and upon her return to the United States in 1978, founded the American Institute for Prevention of Blindness.  

Sources: 

Otha Richard Sullivan, ed., Black Stars African American Women
Scientists & Inventors
(San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass A Wiley
Imprint, 2002); http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/bath.html;
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/aframsurgeons/images/bath.gif

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Rice, Susan Elizabeth (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Susan Rice is the current National Security Advisor for the Barack Obama Administration.  She is the first African American, the third woman, and the second youngest person to hold the position.  Prior to being selected by President Obama for the post, Rice served as a key foreign policy advisor for the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential race.

Born in Washington, D.C. on November 17, 1964 to Emmett J. Rice, a Cornell University economics professor and former governor of the Federal Reserve System, and Lois Dickson Fitt, an education policy scholar, Rice was raised in the Shepherd Park community, where she attended Washington’s National Cathedral School, an elite preparatory academy.  An active participant in student government, Rice was elected president of her school’s student council.  In addition to excelling at basketball, Rice was a dedicated student and upon  her graduation was named class valedictorian.  

Rice attended Stanford University on a Truman Scholarship, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in History in 1986.  Rice was elected to Phi Beta Kappa while at Stanford.  She then attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving a Master’s of Philosophy Degree in 1988, and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in International Relations in 1990.  In 1988 while working on her doctorate, Rice took a position as a foreign policy aide with the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign.  

Sources: 
Morton H. Halperin, Power and Superpower: Global Leadership and Exceptionalism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Century Foundation Press, 2007); http://www.brookings.edu/experts/rices.aspx; http://www.stanfordalumni.org/erc/reunions/black_alumni_hall.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fenty, Adrian M. (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Carroll's Municipal Directory (Carroll Publishing, 2006); Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2007); New York Times, September 14, 2006, p. A24; Washington Post, August 31, 2006, p. C1, January 12, 2007, April 4, 2007, October 25, 2008, September 14, 2010, and Adrian M. Fenty, Biography.  October, 27, 2008, http://dc.gov/mayor/bios/fenty.shtm><http://dc.gov/mayor/bios/fenty.shtm>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Davis, Shani (1982- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of BET Interactive
Shani Davis became the first African American to win a gold medal an individual event in the Winter Olympics and the first African American male to win a gold when he competed in the men’s 1,000-meter speedskating championship in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turino, Italy.

Born August 13, 1982in Chicago, Illinois, Shani Davis learned to roller skate at the age of two, Davis switched to ice skating when he was six and soon afterwards started training as a speed skater.  He eventually joined the Evanston Speedskating Club and entered competitions. At the age of 10, Davis and his mother moved from Hyde Park in the South Side of Chicago to Rogers Park on the north side to be closer to the training center in suburban Evanston. His mother, a legal secretary, paid for his equipment, training and travel to competitions.

Davis won national age group championships in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2003 and won a North American Championship in 1999. For three years in a row, from 2000 to 2003, Davis qualified in short-track and long-track for the Junior World Teams. In 2002, Davis qualified for the Olympic games, the first African American Olympic speed skater for the United States.
Sources: 
http://www.shanidavis.org; Tracey Robinson-English, “Shani Davis: Soul on Ice; How a Mother Raised a Champion,” Ebony (May 2006): 174-181.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Flowers, Vonetta (1973- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Vonetta Flowers

The first person of African descent, male or female, to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics was Vonetta Flowers when she won gold in the women's bobsled event in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

Sources: 

http://www.vonettaflowers.com; Vonetta Flowers with W. Terry Whalin, Running on Ice: The Overcoming Faith of Vonetta Flowers (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2005).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

African Union (2002- )

Entry Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
Global African History
African Union Troops
on Patrol in Mogadishu, 2007
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The African Union (AU) is an alliance of 53 African states that aim to advance and integrate Africa as a continent. The Union was created on September  9, 1999 when the Sirte Declaration was put forward by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which proposed to form a new organization to take its place. On July 9, 2002 the AU was formed, with its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The AU’s aims are similar to those of the old OAU: protecting individual African states sovereignty; improving the standard of life for Africans; advancing African research in technology and science; and dispelling the vestiges of colonialism in the African continent through empowering both African economies and cultures. The AU, however, has a stronger emphasis on economic and political integration of African states than the OAU, and takes a more active role in settling internal disputes between its member states.
Sources: 
Molefi Kete Asante, The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal Harmony, (Routledge: New York & London, 2007); Official website: http://au.int/en/; BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/3870303.stm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Butts, Cassandra Quin (1965-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Cassandra Quin Butt is Deputy White House Counsel to President Barack Obama on issues relating to civil rights, domestic policy, healthcare, and education.  She brought seventeen years of experience in politics and policy to her position.  She is a long-time friend of the President, acting as an advisor during his term in the U.S. Senate and throughout his presidential campaign. Additionally, she served as a member of the presidential transition team.

Butts was born on August 10, 1965, in Brooklyn, New York, and at age nine moved to Durham, North Carolina.  She graduated from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill with a BA in political science. While at UNC she participated in anti-apartheid protests.  She entered Harvard Law School in 1988 where her friendship with future President Barack Obama began when both were filling out forms in the student financial aid line.   Butts continued her activism at Harvard where she joined in protests regarding hiring practices for faculty of color.  She received a JD from Harvard in 1991.  

The first black woman to function as Deputy White House Counsel gradually rose to prominence  Her first job was as a counselor at the YMCA in Durham, North Carolina, and after graduating from UNC she worked for a year as a researcher with the African News Service in Durham.  For six years she was a registered lobbyist with the Center for American Progress (CAP), rising to Senior Vice President.  

Sources: 
“The New Team,” The New York Times (November, 24, 2008 and April 29, 2009);  Organizing for America, http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/hearingfromyoubios; "Obama's Leaders: 5 Black Women to Watch,” Diversity, Inc. (February 17, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Jackson, Lisa Perez (1962-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency
Lisa Perez Jackson, the first African American Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), brings a wealth of experience to that agency.  A scientist by profession, she has spent more than 20 years working as an advocate for the better use and awareness of the environment.

Jackson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 8, 1962, and was adopted two weeks after her birth.  She grew up in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, which became infamous during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Her adoptive mother continued to live in New Orleans until the hurricane flooded the city.  Jackson, who had planned to become a doctor, instead switched her studies to engineering and graduated summa cum laude with a BS in chemical engineering from Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering in 1983.  She received a masters degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1986. Jackson was one of only two women in her engineering class at Princeton.

Sources: 
Biography, Administrator Lisa Jackson (2009), United States Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/administrator/biography.htm; "Lisa P. Jackson," Encyclopedia Britannica Online (2009) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1502192/Lisa-P-Jackson; “Another woman scientist on the Obama team: Lisa Perez Jackson of the EPA,” Women in Science: Past, Present, and Future, (February 23, 2009) http://sciencewomen.blogspot.com/2009/02/another-woman-scientist-on-obama-team.html;
“Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet,” The Library of Congress Webcasts (March 5, 2009), http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4536; Twenty-five Most Influential African Americans in Politics, BET.com (2009) http://www.bet.com/NR/exeres/E23833F3-7E28-43AE-9F06-3838EC3B5813.htm
Affiliation: 
University of Wyoming

Carson, Andre (1974 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Andre Carson Congressional Website, http://carson.house.gov; Reuters,http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN1164415020080312
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Williams, Serena (1981 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Five-time world No. 1 ranked professional tennis player Serena Williams was born September 26, 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan. Formerly coached by parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price, Williams is the younger sister of former world No. 1 professional tennis player Venus Williams.

Williams, the youngest of five siblings, grew up in Compton, California where she began to play tennis at the age of four. At the age of nine, Williams and her family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida where she dominated the field of junior tennis competitors. She joined the professional ranks in 1995. Four years after her debut, Williams established herself as a top-ranked player when she won the U.S. Open, the Grand Slam Cup, and three other Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) singles titles. By 2003, Williams was known as “Serena Slam,” winning singles at the Australian Open, again at the U.S. Open, and twice at Wimbledon, in addition to fourteen other WTA singles titles. During this stretch from 1999 to 2003, Williams won five Grand Slam titles, and in 2002, was ranked world No. 1 for the first time.
Sources: 
Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Hilary Beard, Serving from the Hip: Ten Rules for Living, Loving and Winning (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006); Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Official Website, http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Majette, Denise L. (1955- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Denise Majette, former member of Congress, attorney, judge, and politician, was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 18, 1955 to Voyd Lee and Olivia (Foster) Majette.  In 1976, Majette graduated from Yale University.  She earned her law degree from Duke University, Durham, North Carolina in 1979.

After graduating, Majette joined the Legal Aid Society in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  During this period, she also served on faculty at the Wake Forest Law School. Majette relocated to Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1983.  During the early1980s, she held positions as a clerk and an assistant to judges.  From 1989 to 1992, Majette returned to private practice as a partner in the Atlanta law firm of Jenkins, Nelson, and Welch.  During this period, she also served on the boards of various community organizations.  In 1992, she was named an administrative law judge at the Georgia state board of workers' compensation.  The following year, Georgia Governor Zell Miller appointed her judge of the State Court of DeKalb County.  Majette held the judgeship for nine years.

Sources: 
Eli Kintisch, “ The Crossover Candidate,” The American Prospect (September 22, 2002), p.14;“The U.S. Congress Votes Database,” The Washington Post online version, http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/m001145/; “Denise L. Majette” in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Franklin, Shirley Clarke (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Shirley Clarke Franklin became Atlanta, Georgia’s first African American female mayor in 2001, as well as the first woman to be a mayor of a major southern city.  Clarke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 10, 1945 to parents Eugene Haywood Clarke and Ruth Lyons Clarke.  She attended public schools in Philadelphia. In 1963 at the age of 18, Clarke participated in the March on Washington where she saw and was inspired by Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King.   

Clarke graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1968.  She then attended the University of Pennsylvania and earned her master's degree in 1969.  Clarke married David McCoy Franklin in 1972.  The couple has three adult sons.

After teaching political science at Talladega College in Alabama for nearly a decade, in 1978 Shirley Clarke Franklin was appointed by Mayor Maynard Jackson to the post of Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of Atlanta.  When Jackson was succeeded by Mayor Andrew Young, she was named Chief Administrative Officer and City Manager.  Franklin gained notoriety as one of the officials who helped bring the Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1992.  
Sources: 
Kim O’Connell, “Most valuable player: Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin combines 1960’s-style populism with 21st century business-savvy,” American City and County, 120: 13 (December 2005); Candace LaBalle “Franklin, Shirley Clarke,” Contemporary Black Biography (December 2009); J. Phillip Thompson, Double Trouble: Black Mayors, black communities, and the Call for a Deep Democracy (New York: Oxford Publishing, 2006); Richard Fausset, "Kasim Reed Confirmed as Atlanta Mayor," Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2009
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Washington, Denzel Hayes, Jr. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Robert Parish, Denzel Washington: Actor (New York: Ferguson Publishing Company, 2005); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); The Guardian Official Website, http://www.guardian.co.uk);

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mallory, Mark (1962-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Pubic Domain

On December 1, 2005, Mark Mallory was sworn in as the first black mayor elected by popular vote in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Three other black mayors preceded him but were chosen by the City Council.  Born on April 2, 1962, and raised on the West End of Cincinnati, Mallory attended high school at the city’s Academy of Math and Science and earned a BS in administrative management from the University of Cincinnati in 1984. Before becoming Mayor of Cincinnati, Mallory replaced his father, William L. Mallory Sr., in 1994 in the Ohio General Assembly.  In 1998 Mark Mallory was elected to the Ohio Senate eventually becoming the assistant minority leader. 

Sources: 
Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 62, “Mark L. Mallory” (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale 2008); City of Cincinnati, “Mayor’s Biography” http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/mayor/pages/-3052-/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinatti

Johnson, Kevin Maurice (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Kevin Johnson Campaigning for Mayor of Sacramento, 2008
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, California, was born in California's capital city in 1966. He graduated from Sacramento High School, where he led the state in basketball scoring during his senior year, with a point average of 32.5 points. Johnson then played college basketball at the University of California at Berkeley.  While there he became the all-time leader in scoring for that varsity team.  After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1987, Johnson was drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA).

As the seventh round draft pick, Johnson was chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was quickly traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1988, where he remained for the duration of his career in the NBA. Johnson played point guard, and with his high point-scoring, was considered by many teams as a threat. The Phoenix Suns' overall record improved with his selection and so did Johnson's performance.

During his first year with Phoenix (1988-1989), Johnson was named the NBA's most improved player.  He also competed in all-star games in 1990, 1991, and 1994 and played on the U.S. Olympic Basketball team (Dream Team II) which won a gold medal in Toronto, Canada in the 1994 World Championship of Basketball.  Kevin Johnson officially retired from the NBA on August 8, 2000 after 13 years in the league.

Sources: 
Leanor Boulin Johnson and Robert Staples, Black Families at the Crossroads (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005); David L. Porter, Basketball: a Biographical Dictionary (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005); http://www.kevinjohnsonformayor.com/about/bio
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Barrow, Dean Oliver (1951- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On February 7, 2008, Belize elected Dean Barrow as its first black Prime Minister. Born March 2, 1951, in Belize City, Barrow earned his LL.M. from the University of Miami in the United States and became partner at a Belizean law firm in 1977.  Two years later he established his own practice. Barrow married his long-term girlfriend, Kim Simpliss, in 2009, and they have one child together; he also has three children from a previous marriage with Lois Young.

The nation of Belize attained independence from the British in 1981, and Barrow entered politics two years later when he was elected to the Belize City council in 1983. Barrow broke into the national political scene in 1994 when he ran as a candidate under the United Democratic Party (UDP) banner during parliamentary elections.   Barrow won the election and the attention of Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel (1984-1989), who appointed the 33 year old attorney to his executive cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs on December 17, 1984. In June of 1986, Barrow, while still serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, received a second appointment to serve as Attorney General.
Sources: 
Centro de Estudios Internacionales de Barcelona, “Dean Barrow,” http://www.cidob.org/es/documentacio/biografias_lideres_politicos/america_central_y_caribe/belice/dean_barrow; Marti Parham, “Belize Elects First Black Prime Minister,” Jet, March 10, 2008; Catherine Bremer, “Belize Elects First Black Prime Minister, Ousts Incumbent,” Reuters, February 8, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Zuma, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa (1942-- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, the fourth president of post-apartheid South Africa, was elected to that post by the nation's parliament after the African National Congress (ANC) swept to victory in the 2009 general election.  Zuma was born on April 12, 1942, in Inkandla, South Africa, and is an ethnic Zulu member.  Zuma did not attend school and taught himself to read and write while spending his childhood in Zululand and Durban, South Africa.

In 1959, at the age of 17, Zuma joined the ANC, South Africa's largest political party, which at the time was a non-violent party campaigning against apartheid.  When the party was banned in 1961, it went underground, and Zuma became a member of the ANC's militant armed resistance wing.  He also joined the South African Communist Party in 1963.

That same year Zuma and 45 others were arrested in Transvaal, tried and convicted of conspiring to overthrow the South African government. He was imprisoned for a decade in the same penal facility that would later hold Nelson Mandela. When Zuma was released, he rejoined the ANC, but was forced to go into exile in 1975 until the ban on the party was lifted in 1990.

Sources: 
"South Africa's divided ANC elects Zuma as new party president," Facts on File: Weekly World News Digest with Cumulative Index 67 (2007); “Jacob Zuma Biography,” bio.com, http://www.biography.com/articles/Jacob-Zuma-262727; Barry Bearak, "Waiting to Helm South Africa: President or Convict? Or Both?,” The New York Times (March 10, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Venus Ebony Starr (1980- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Williams with Fourth
Wimbledon Crown, 2007
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Top-ranked professional female tennis player Venus Williams was born June 17, 1980 in Lynnwood, California. She is the daughter of Richard Williams and Oracene Price. Both parents coached Venus and her younger sister, Serena, who is also a top-ranked professional tennis player. Venus Williams, the second youngest of five children and whose older siblings are from Price's previous marriage, grew up in Compton, California where she began to play tennis at the age of five. After moving to West Palm Beach, Florida with her family, Williams joined professional ranks in 1994. A year later at the age of 15, the 6 ft. 1 in. child prodigy had already signed a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Reebok which at the time was the largest contract ever awarded to a female athlete.

Sources: 
Venus William, Serena Williams, and Hilary Beard, Serving from the Hip: Ten Rules for Living, Loving and Winning (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006); Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Official Website, http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com; CNN Official Website, http://www.cnn.com
Contributor: 

Jones, Anthony “Van” (1968- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Van Jones is a social-environmental activist and the Obama administration’s former “Green Czar.” He was born in 1968 in Jackson, Tennessee. His mother and father were a high school teacher and junior-high principal respectively. While growing up, Jones was a stereotypical “geek,” going so far as to pretend that his action figures were running public offices. Jones attended the University of Tennessee at Martin where he majored in communications and political science. It was during his freshman year in UT-Martin that Jones chose for himself the nickname “Van.” In 1990 Jones enrolled at Yale Law School.

After graduating in 1993, Jones moved to San Francisco. There he became a community organizer and set up the Bay Area organizations, PoliceWatch and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in 1996, both intended to combat police abuse. Jones also involved himself and his organization in the campaign to reform California’s juvenile detention system including the fight against the construction of a huge new juvenile detention facility in Dublin, California.

Sources: 
Elizabeth Kolbert, “Greening the Ghetto,” The New Yorker, 4 March 2009, retrieved from: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/01/12/090112fa_fact_kolbert?currentPage=all; Maura Judkis, “Obama Drafts Van Jones as Green Jobs Adviser,” US News and World Report, 10 March 2009, http://www.usnews.com/money/blogs/fresh-greens/2009/03/10/obama-drafts-van-jones-as-green-jobs-adviser.html; Michael Burnham, “Embattled Van Jones Quits, but ‘Czar’ Debate Rages On,” New York Times, September 9, 2010, retrieved: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/09/08/08greenwire-embattled-van-jones-quits-but-czar-debates-rage-9373.html; “Van Jones Rejoins CAP to Lead Green Opportunity Initiative,” Center for American Progress, February 24, 2010, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/02/van_jones.html; Benjamin Todd Jealous, "Van Jones Will Receive This Year’s NAACP President’s Award. Here’s Why,” NAACP Blog, 24 February 2010, http://naacpblogs.naacp.org/blog/?p=453; Erin Duffy, “Princeton U. Welcomes Former Obama Advisor,” Times of Trenton, 24 February 2010, retrieved: http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-19/126699394749660.xml&coll=5.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Abbott, Diane (1953- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Diane Abbott, the first black woman to be elected to the British Parliament, was born to Jamaican immigrant parents in 1953. Growing up in Paddington, London, she attended Harrow County grammar school before pursuing studies in History to Master’s level at Newnham College, Cambridge.

Upon graduation, Abbott worked as a civil servant with the Home Office as well as being employed by the National Council for Civil Liberties. In 1982, she was elected to Westminster city council before winning the Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency for the Labour Party in 1987. She was elected along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant who became the first black men to be elected to the British Parliament.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Dunlap, Ericka (1981- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ericka Dunlap, Miss America, 2004,
Crowned by Erika Harold, Miss America,
2003
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ericka Dunlap, Miss America, 2004, is the seventh black woman to win the Miss America crown. She was born on December 29, 1981 in Orlando, Florida, the daughter of James and Fannie Dunlap. She is also the first black woman to win the Miss Florida title.

Dunlap was 21 years old when she won the title of Miss America. In contrast to two of her other fellow black titleholders, Vanessa Williams and Kimberly Aiken, who fell into pageants by happenstance, becoming Miss America was a goal that Dunlap had had since the age of six. The daughter of a roofing contractor and a nurse, she entered her first pageant in first grade.

An avid dancer, Dunlap became involved in clogging, ballet, and other forms of contemporary dance and joined a number of dance troupes in her youth. Oftentimes, she would find herself as the only African American student in these groups. As a result, Dunlap was the object of jokes from some blacks and resistance from whites who thought that such activities were the sole province of EuroAmericans.   
Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Melissa Harris and Kellie Brewington, "Miss America Begins Hectic Schedule with Permanent Grin," Orlando Sentinel, September 21, 2003; http://www.missamerica.org; www.erickadunlap.net
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Harold, Erika (1980- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Erika Harold Being Crowned
Miss America, 2003, in Atlantic
City, New Jersey, September 2002.
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ericka Harold, Miss America 2003, was the sixth black woman to win the Miss America title,.  Harold was born on February 20, 1980 in Urbana, Illinois, the daughter of James Harold, a businessman and athletic director, and Fannie Harold, a college counselor and foster parent trainer. The product of a white father and African American and Native American mother, the multiracial Harold identifies as African American. She also describes herself as a politically conservative Christian.

Harold was 22 years old when she won the title of Miss America. She did not enter the pageant circuit until she was 18 years old. Soon after she was crowned, Harold adopted a dual platform “Preventing Youth Violence and Bullying" and “Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself.”  The latter topic encouraged sexual abstinence and refraining from engaging in drug and alcohol abuse.
Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Nikitta Foston, “Miss America Takes a Stand on Abstinence and Bullying,” Ebony, March 2003, p.165;  Lara Riscol, "Miss America’s Stealth Virility Campaign,” Salon.com, October 28, 2002; http://www.missamerica.org 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Khanga, Yelena (1962- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Yelena Khanga is a journalist and writer who was born in 1962 in Moscow, Russia. She is the daughter of Abdulla Khanga, who was the onetime vice president of Zanzibar, and Lily Golden, a Russian woman who was a historian and educator. She was also the granddaughter of a black Christian, Oliver Golden and a Polish Jew, Bertha Bialek. The pair met in jail after being arrested during a union demonstration and migrated to the Soviet Union in 1931 after being disowned by Bialek’s family for being in an interracial relationship.

Khanga grew up in Moscow, attending schools where she was often the only child of African ancestry. She said that she "was never made to feel less intelligent, less capable, less likely to achieve than my white schoolmates." However, Khanga said that she did realize that she was different and she felt like an outsider. As a teen Khanga started playing tennis and was able to travel the Soviet Union as a member of the Army Tennis Team. After finishing public school, she attended Moscow State University and graduated in 1984 with a degree in journalism.
Sources: 
Yelena Khanga, Soul to Soul: The Story of a Black Russian American Family, 1865-1992 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992); "Yelena Khanga," in Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: The Gale Group, 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Zephaniah, Benjamin (1958 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, playwright, novelist and activist, was born on April 15, 1958, the first of eight children, in Birmingham, England. Zephaniah grew up in Wandsworth until the age of nine when his mother, a Jamaican nurse, fled his father, a postman from Barbados. Leaving behind his twin sister Velda and other siblings, Zephaniah felt isolated as a young black dyslexic boy who encountered racism at his new school in Birmingham. He turned to writing, choosing to describe local and global issues, inspired by his Jamaican heritage and “street politics” of Birmingham. He left formal education at age 14, but built a reputation in the city as a popular dub poet, an art form which involves mixing the spoken word with reggae rhythms. Zephaniah had a troubled adolescence, which was punctuated with periods in incarceration following convictions for petty theft.

Sources: 
Benjamin Zephaniah’s profile on “Contemporary Writers”: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth105; Benjamin Zephaniah’s official website: http://benjaminzephaniah.com/biography/; “The interview: Benjamin Zephaniah” by Lynn Barber, published in The Observer, January 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jan/18/benjamin-zephaniah-interview-poet.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Smith, Zadie (1975– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Zadie Smith, writer and essayist, was born in the London, UK borough of Brent on October 25, 1975. Smith was named Sadie by her mother, a Jamaican immigrant who arrived in London in the late 1970s, and her English father. Smith enjoyed tap dancing as a child and attended the Hampstead Comprehensive in Cricklewood, a section of London. It was here, during her adolescence, that she developed an appetite for literature and also changed her name to Zadie. Smith recalls that race was never the barrier she felt most keenly during this time. She was, however, consciously aware of not being middle class, and even more so of being a woman.
Sources: 
Zadie Smith’s profile on “Contemporary Writers”: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth257; “She’s young, black, British – and the first publishing sensation of the millennium,” by Stephanie Merritt, published in The Observer, January 2000: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2000/jan/16/fiction.zadiesmith; “Learning Curve,” by Aida Edemarian, published in The Observer, September 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

BlackPast.org (2007-- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History

Blackpast.org (www.blackpast.org) is the largest web-based free content reference center currently on the Internet that is dedicated primarily to the understanding of African American history and the history of people of African ancestry.  The website's most popular feature is an online encyclopedia which includes nearly 4,000 entries which describe people, places, and events in African American and global African history.  Most of this encyclopedia content has been generated by nearly 500 volunteer contributors on four continents.  That content is editorially reviewed and, if suitable, placed on the website.  BlackPast.org grows daily as new entries are regularly contributed to the website and new features are added.  

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ortuno, Edgardo (1970- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edgardo Ortuno, Afro-Uruguayan professor, politician, and activist for human rights and equal opportunities, was born on June 10, 1970 in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Ortuno’s childhood experiences had a profound impact on his adult life. Growing up as an Afro-Uruguayan in a country where only four percent of the population were of African descent, Ortuno developed a keen sense of racial pride and a fierce opposition to discrimination of any kind. Moreover, his experience growing up under the military dictatorship of Juan M. Bordaberry, which crushed democracy and open political debate in Uruguay, instilled in Ortuno a belief in freedom of expression and equality.

As a young man Ortuno was initially drawn to academia and in the years 1990-1991 he held the position of research assistant at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Uruguay. Between the years 1990 and 1993 Ortuno also worked in the Center of Students of the Institute of Professors in Artigas, Uruguay (CEIP). Throughout this period he involved himself in studies of history, literature, education, and social sciences.
Sources: 
Edgardo Ortuno website: http://www.eortuno.depolitica.com.uy; UNHRC Refworld website: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country (UNHRC: UN Refugee Agency, 2010); Koichiro Matsuura, Address by Koichiro Matsuura: Afro-Uruguayan cultural traditions and history within the context of the Coalition of Latin American and Caribbean Cities against Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, April 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Francis, Mayann Elizabeth

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the
Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia
Her Honour the Honourable Mayann Elizabeth Francis, O.N.S., DHumL, is the first African Nova Scotian and only the second woman to have held the position of Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia in its 400-year history.  Francis was born and raised in the Whitney Pier district of Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the daughter of Archpriest George A. Francis and Thelma D. Francis.  

By pushing her limits, she achieved her dreams through education.  Upon completing high school in Whitney Pier and attending junior college, she went to X-ray technical school and gained her certification as an X-ray technologist.  After graduating from St. Mary’s University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts, she accepted a position with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

In 1974 she moved to New York City, New York where she studied to be a paralegal at Long Island University. While working, she also studied for her Master's in Public Administration at New York University, graduating in 1984.  Additionally, she completed a Certificate in Equal Opportunities Studies from Cornell University. From 1986 to 1990 she was Administrative Manager in the Office of the District Attorney, Kings County, New York.
Sources: 
Official website for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, http://lt.gov.ns.ca
Newsletter: Maroon & White For Alumni and Friends of Saint Mary’s University Fall 2001.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McKenzie, Vashti Murphy (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On July 11, 2000, journalist and clergywoman Vashti Murphy McKenzie became the first female bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In 2005 she became the denomination’s first woman to serve as Titular Head. Her commitment to community development is evident in her work with urban American cities as well as in AIDS-stricken Africa.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie was born on May 28, 1947 into a prominent Baltimore, Maryland family. Her great-grandfather John Henry Murphy, Sr. founded the Afro-American Newspaper in 1892, and her grandmother Vashti Turly Murphy was a founding member of Delta Sigma Theta, an African American college sorority. Bishop McKenzie graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland in 1978. She later earned a master’s of divinity from Howard University and a doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary.
Sources: 
Martha Simmons and Frank A. Thomas, eds., Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010); Vashti M. McKenzie, Journey to the Well (New York: Penguin, 2003); C. Stone Brown, “The Rev. Vashti Murphy McKenzie: A Bishop for the New Millennium,” The New Crisis, November/December, 2000, pp. 29-31; “Bishop Vashti McKenzie,” The 13th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, http://www.13thame.com/index.php?page_id=about_leadership (accessed January 12, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hurricane Katrina (2005)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hurricane Katrina began as a Category 1 hurricane in Florida, before striking the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. By the time Katrina had run its course, more than 1,700 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of others displaced. Causing billions of dollars of damage, Hurricane Katrina ranks as one of the costliest storms in American history. The damage took place in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

On Monday, August 29, Katrina made landfall in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane backed by 145-mile-an-hour winds. From there, Katrina pounded New Orleans, as water poured over the levees and eventually they were breached. By the afternoon, parts of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward were inundated by floodwaters of up to 12 feet, rising to the rooftops. By Wednesday, August 31, the flood waters had crested with parts of the city under as much as 20 feet of water.

Thousands of New Orleans residents remained stranded in their houses and on rooftops waiting for help. Others made their way to the Superdome and the Convention Center, both of which became the main evacuee centers, along with the Interstate-10 expressway and the Louis Armstrong International Airport.
Sources: 
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City (New York: Random House, 2006); http://www.nola.com/katrina/; http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/h/hurricane_katrina/index.html?scp=1-spot&sq=hurricane%20katrina&st=cse.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of New Orleans

James, LeBron (1984-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain

National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar LeBron James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio to Gloria James who was sixteen and unwed .  Gloria, the sole provider for her only son, worked various jobs and lived in numerous apartments with young LeBron throughout Akron.

LeBron James’s athleticism was revealed early when at age 14 he stood six feet tall and dominated his age group in football and basketball.  During this period he became close friends with Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee, and Romeo Travis.  The five adolescents dominated basketball leagues in various community centers and became known locally as the “Shooting Stars.”  All five chose to attend Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary (SVSM) Catholic High School.

The Shooting Stars saga at the SVSM became storied.  Under LeBron James’s leadership the team won three Division III state titles.  The team's popularity required SVSM to move their games from their high school area to the fifteen thousand seat Rhodes Arena at the University of Akron.  James's fame also attracted the attention of ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated in the late 1990s and he was given the nickname "King James" by the sports press.  The team was chronicled in the 2009 documentary More Than a Game.

Sources: 
LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger, “LeBron’s Band of Brothers,” Vanity Fair (October 2009), 164-179; LeBron James, Buzz Bissinger, H.G. Bissinger, Shooting Stars (New York: Penguin Books, 2009); Sarah Tieck,  LeBron James, Basketball Superstar (Edina, Minnesota: ABDO Publishers,  2009); “LeBron James ‘Decision’ Ratings: ESPN Gets 9.5 Million Viewers for Special,” Huffington Post, January 30, 2011, Seattle Times, June 22, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Scott, Timothy (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Former Congressmen Tim Scott Being Sworn in as U.S. Senator
from South Carolina, January 2, 2013
Image Ownership: Public Domain
U.S. Senator from South Carolina, Timothy Eugene Scott is the first black Republican elected to the Senate from the South since Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce served in that body representing Mississippi from 1876 to 1881.  Before his appointment to the Senate post on December 17, 2012, Scott was a Congressman representing South Carolina's 1st Congressional District.  Elected during the 2010 midterm elections, he was also the first black Republican elected to the House of Representatives from South Carolina since George Washington Murray, who served in Congress from 1896 to 1897.  

Senator Scott, born on September 19, 1965 in North Charleston and grew up in this impoverished neighborhood.  His parents divorced when he was seven.  In order to make ends meet, his mother, Frances, worked sixteen hour days as a nurse’s assistant, a profession which she still holds.  Scott’s older brother is a U.S. Army officer, stationed in Germany.        

Sources: 
"Guide to the New Congress," CQ Roll Call  (accessed February 8, 2011); "Representative Timothy E. "Tim" Scott," South Carolina Legislature, http://www.scstatehouse.gov/members/bios/1646306621.html. (accessed February 8, 2011);  Alex Isenstadt, "Palin backs Scott," Politico, June 19, 2010, National Public Radio"s"It's All Politics, Frank James, “Black GOP Lawmakers Face Tricky Relations With Democrats,” January 4, 2011; Robert Behre,  "Assignments please Scott," Charleston Post Courier, December 17, 2010; Katherine Seelye, "South Carolina Candidate Shrugs Off History’s Lure," New York Times, June 25, 2010; "Nikki Haley appoints Rep Tim Scott to the Senate," Washington Post, December 17, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of North Texas

Bryant, Kobe (1978- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Professional basketball superstar Kobe Bryant has played for the Los Angeles Lakers since 1996 when he came to the team as an 18-year-old, the youngest player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. Bryant is a long-time philanthropist, using his well-known name to fundraise for a number of causes. His stellar career was tarnished in 2003 when he was arrested for alleged sexual assault, resulting in a suit that was settled out of court a year later.

Bryant is the youngest of three children born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to former National Basketball Association player and Women’s National Basketball Association head coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. His parents named him after the popular Japanese steak of the same name. In 1983, Bryant’s father left the NBA and moved his family to Italy to play professional basketball. Young Kobe quickly adapted to his environment, learning to speak fluent Italian and Spanish. Besides learning to play basketball at an early age, Bryant also became a skilled soccer player. Following his father’s retirement from basketball in 1991, the family returned to Philadelphia.

Sources: 
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro and Jennifer Stevens, Kobe Bryant: The Game of His Life (Portland, Oregon: Revolution Publishing, 2004): http://www.nba.com/playerfile/kobe_bryant/; http://www.afterschoolallstars.org; http://www.forbes.com/2010/11/04/nba-best-paid-players-business-sportsmoney-nba-top-paid-players.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Simmons, Russell (1957– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Russell Simmons, a multimillionaire who is estimated to be the third wealthiest man in the Hip-Hop industry, just behind Jay-Z and Sean “Diddy” Combs, was born on October 4, 1957 in Queens, New York City.  His parents were Damian Simmons, a public school administrator, and Evelyn Simmons, a New York City park administrator.  Simmons is one of four brothers.  While growing up he lived a life of poverty as his block in Queens was known at that time as the area’s drug capitol. Even Simmons himself became involved with dealing marijuana in his early youth.

Simmons first became involved with hip hop music at the age of 20 when in 1977 he attended a party in a small club where an MC (Master of Ceremonies) was shouting call-and-response rhymes. Inspired by that experience, Simmons began promoting MCs, like the one from the former party, and booking them for shows.  Although he lacked musical talent, Simmons felt his promotions were a way to become involved in the industry.  Simmons often lost money on these early promotions but he continued to work on building successful acts and his own career.

Sources: 
Lemonade Stories, “Russell Simmons,” http://www.lemonadestories.com/defjam.html; Salon.com, “Russell Simmons: The Founder of Def Jam Records Brought Hip-Hop Culture into the American Mainstream, and His Empire is Growing," Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/people/bc/1999/07/06/simmons/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Whitaker, Forest (1961 -- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Forest Whitaker at the
2007 Oscar Ceremony
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Forest Steven Whitaker, actor, producer, and director, was born in Longview, Texas, July 15, 1961, but was raised in South Central Los Angeles, where his parents moved when he was four years old.  His father, Forest Whitaker, Jr., was an insurance salesman, and his mother, Laura Francis Smith, was a special education teacher.  Whitaker was the second of four children, having one older sister and two younger brothers.

Whitaker commuted to Palisades High School, twenty miles away on the west side of Los Angeles, where he developed his love for singing and acting in musicals and plays. He was also an all-league defensive tackle on the school’s football team and received a football scholarship to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he enrolled following his graduation in 1979.  When a back injury ended his future as a football player, he changed his major to voice and soon transferred to the University of Southern California (USC) where he studied opera and enrolled in the University Drama Conservatory.  He graduated from USC in 1982.  Whitaker’s break into show business came when an agent saw him singing in a production of  The Beggar’s Opera while in the USC conservatory program.  
Sources: 
Caitlin A. Johnson, “Forest Whitaker: The King Of The Oscars?," CBS News, February 4, 2007; Mike Sager, "What I've Learned: Forest Whitaker," Esquire, February 26, 2007; Adam Sternbergh, "Out of the Woods: How Forest Whitaker Escaped his Career Slump." New York Magazine, January 9, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Paine College

Carroll, Jennifer (1959-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad on August 27, 1959, Jennifer Carroll is the 18th Lieutenant Governor of Florida. Carroll is the first African-American woman elected to the position, she took up office on January 4, 2011. Carroll served for over seven years as a state legislator before becoming Lieutenant Governor.

Jennifer Carroll emigrated to the United States in 1967 settling in Uniondale, New York.  She began working at the age of 15, in a nursing home as a hospital volunteer in Uniondale and worked as a cashier in a local grocery store and also as an ordering clerk at AFM Bowling corporate headquarters in Long Island, New York. After attending modelling school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Carroll was contracted for photo shoots, commercials, and movie extra parts. In 1985, Carroll received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of New Mexico.  She moved to Florida the following year and received a Master of Business Administration online degree from Kensington University in 1995. She graduated from St. Leo University with an online MBA degree in 2008 which she put to use when she and her husband, Nolan, began a public relations consulting and franchising business.

In 1979, Carroll enlisted in the United States Navy, starting as a jet mechanic and retired in 1999 as a Lieutenant Commander Aviation Maintenance Officer after 20 years in the service.
Sources: 
Aaron Deslatte. “Rick Scott Chooses Jennifer Carroll as Running Mate”. Orlando Sentinel. Internet. 12 Dec 2011. <http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-09-03/news/os-scott-names-jennifer-carroll-20100902_1_lieutenant-governor-democratic-nominee-alex-sink-jennifer-carroll>;“Meet Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll”. Florida Government. Internet. 12 Dec 2011. <http://www.flgov.com/meet-the-lt-governor; Matt Dixon, "Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll Resigns After Being Questioned About Allied Veterans," 13 March 2013. http://jacksonville.com/news/2013-03-13/story/lt-gov-jennifer-carroll-resigns-after-being-questioned-about-allied-veterans.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jealous, Benjamin Todd (1973- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the NAACP

Civic leader, activist and journalist Benjamin Jealous is the seventeenth president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). With his appointment to the position in 2008, 35-yar-old Jealous became the youngest person to head the NAACP.

Benjamin Todd Jealous was born on January 18, 1973 to Ann Todd and Fred Jealous in Pacific Grove, California. His father Fred Jealous helped integrate lunch counters in the South. Ann Jealous also was a civil rights activist who worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the South in the 1960s.  

By the age of fourteen Ben Jealous followed his parent’s example by working in voter registration campaigns on California’s Monterey Peninsula. Four years later, after entering Columbia University in 1990, he worked as a community organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Harlem on health care access for the poor. During his freshman year at Columbia he led protests for homeless rights and campaigned to retain full-need scholarships at the university. He was also one of a number of students suspended following their protest of the university's plans to convert Malcolm X’s assassination site at the St. Theresa Hotel in central Harlem into a research facility. Unable to attend school, Jealous moved to Mississippi in 1994 where he assisted the NAACP in preventing the state of Mississippi from closing two of its three state-funded black colleges and turning one into a prison.

Sources: 
Adam Serwer, “The Other Black President: The NAACP Confronts a New Political and Racial Era,” The American Prospect (March 2009); “The Chosen One,” Essence (December 2008); "Lia Epperson to Wed Ben Jealous,” The New York Amsterdam News (July 25-July 31, 2002); “Benjamin Todd Jealous: NAACP CEO Designate,” Crisis (Summer 2008).
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi

Homer, LeRoy W., Jr. (1965-2001)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
LeRoy Homer, Jr. as an Air Force Cadet
Image Ownership: Public Domain

LeRoy Homer, co-pilot of United Airlines Flight #93, was born on August 27, 1965 in Long Island, New York.  Homer and his three sisters were raised on Long Island by their German mother, Ilse, and their African-American father who died from a stroke when Homer was twelve.  Homer’s interest in airplanes started at an early age and he began taking flying lessons when he was fifteen.  He joined the Air Force and after graduating from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he served as a pilot in both the Desert Shield and Desert Storm military operations in the Middle East and later flew aircraft in humanitarian operations in Somalia.  Homer served seven years on active duty in the Air Force, eventually becoming a Captain before switching into the reserves, where he rose to the rank of Major.

In 1995, Homer joined United Airlines as a pilot  That same year, he met his future wife, Melodie Thorpe.  The two were married on May 24, 1998.  Homer and his wife spent the first two years of their marriage travelling the world as he worked for United Airlines, until they were ready to start a family.  In October of 2000 Homer and his wife had a daughter, Laurel.

Sources: 
The LeRoy Homer Foundation, www.leroywhomerjr.org; Melodie Homer, From Where I Stand: Flight #93 Pilot's Widow Sets the Record Straight (Minneapolis: Langdon Street Press, 2012); Salute to the Memory of LeRoy W. Homer Jr., United 93 Co-Pilot and Hero, available at: www.black-collegian.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ajala, Godwin O. (1968–2001)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Godwin Ajala is remembered as a U.S. national hero who fought to save the lives of countless people as they escaped from the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001. He is also the only Nigerian listed among the nearly 3,000 people who died because of the attack.

Ajala was born in Nigeria on June 9, 1968, the son of a retailer from Ihenta, a small town in the eastern Nigerian state of Ebonyi.  At the time his region was part ofthe break-away Biafra which was in rebellion against the central Nigerian government.  Ajala came of age long after the Nigerian Civil War ended and Nigeria was reunited.  As an adult, Ajala became a lawyer in Nigeria.  His family, including his wife, Victoria, and their three children, Onyinyechi, 7, Uchechukwu, 5, and Ugochi, 1, lived in Ihenta. In 1995, Ajala emigrated to the United States to make a better life for himself and his family.
Sources: 
“Ajala: 9/11 Nigerian Hero Who Gave his Life to Save Others,” African Spotlight, 11 September 2011, available at: http://africanspotlight.com/2011/09/ajala-911-nigerian-hero-who-gave-his-live-to-save-others/;  “Godwin Ajala: An American Family Dream,” New York Times, 27 September 2011, available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/27/national/portraits/POGF-1076-28AJALA.html;  Doug Tsuruoka, “Godwin Ajala, An American Success Story Cut Short; Remembering 9-11’s Heroes,” Investor’s Business Daily, 10 May 2005, available at:
http://news.investors.com/management-leaders-in-success/051005-407608-godwin-ajala-an-american-success-story-cut-short-remembering-9-11s-heroes-the-nigerian-lawyer-was-working-as-a-security-guard-until-he-could-pass-the-new-york-bar.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brazile, Donna (1959 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Donna Brazile, author, campaign manager, adjunct professor, political analyst, and current vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was born December 15, 1959 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Lionel and Jean Brazile. Brazile was the third of nine children, and her father (a janitor) and mother (a domestic worker) often had a hard time making ends meet. Brazile became interested in politics at age nine when she heard that a local candidate for city council had promised to build a playground in her neighborhood. The young Brazile volunteered for the campaign and passed out pamphlets to her neighbors. The candidate won, the neighborhood got a playground, and Brazile discovered her new passion for political activism.  At age 17 Brazile volunteered for the Carter-Mondale campaign in 1976, stuffing envelopes at the local campaign headquarters.

Brazile attended Louisiana State University where she earned her degree in industrial psychology in 1981. After graduation Brazile worked as a lobbyist for the National Student Education Fund in Washington, D.C. During the same time period Brazile was hired by Coretta Scott King to help plan a re-enactment of the 1963 civil rights march on Washington in 1983. Brazile worked with the Dr. Martin Luther King Foundation to help establish Dr. King’s birthday as a national holiday.
Sources: 
Donna Brazile, Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005); Ashyia Henderson, “Donna Brazile,” in Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 25 (Farmington Hill: Thomson/Gale, 2004); http://www.democrats.org/about/bio/donna_brazile
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sewell, Terri (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. 
House of Representatives
Terryinca “Terri” Sewell, the current U.S. Representative for Alabama’s 7th district, was born January 1, 1965 in Huntsville, Alabama to Andrew and Nancy Sewell. Sewell grew up in Selma, Alabama where both of her parents were employed by the local school district. Her father, Andrew, was a high school math teacher and football coach, and her mother, Nancy, a librarian. Nancy Gardner Sewell was also the first black woman elected to the Selma city council.

Terri Sewell, who graduated from Selma High School in 1983, was the first black valedictorian in the school’s history.  She was also the first graduate of Selma High School to attend an Ivy League school.  After graduation Sewell attended Princeton University where she studied political science and graduated cum laude in 1986. While at Princeton Sewell wrote an award winning thesis titled “Black Women in Politics: Our Time Has Come,” for which she interviewed former Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first African American congresswoman. Upon graduation Sewell was awarded the Marshall/Commonwealth Scholarship to study political science at Oxford University in England. Sewell received her Master’s degree from Oxford in 1988 with first-class honors. In 1992 Sewell graduated from the Harvard Law School. During her time at Harvard Sewell worked as the editor of the Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review.
Sources: 
http://paw.princeton.edu/issues/2010/12/08/pages/7617/index.xml ; "Rep. Terri Sewell, Breakout Star of Congressional Black Caucus Weekend," The Washington Post 22 Sept. 2011; http://sewell.house.gov/ 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wineberry, Jesse Calvin (1955- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Former Washington State Legislator and current internet business entrepreneur, Jesse Calvin Wineberry was born in 1955 in Sedro Woolley, Washington, and adopted by parents Peter and Mary Wineberry. Wineberry grew up in Seattle’s Central District and attended Queen Anne High School. He earned a degree in Business Administration in 1979 from the University of Washington, Seattle, and his Juris Doctorate from University of Puget Sound (UPS) Law School in 1986. Wineberry and his wife, Brenda, have two children, Jesse Jr. and Mia.

After graduating from the University of Washington, Wineberry worked as a television news reporter for KSTW in Tacoma and then a special correspondent for the station’s news coverage of the White House and Capitol Hill. In 1982 he was appointed a Congressional Black Caucus Association-Congressional Fellow on the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Consumer Protection, and Finance. While there Wineberry provided background information in the United States vs. AT&T lawsuit that ended the 75 year AT&T monopoly on telephone service and created competition in the field of long-distance and wireless communication.
Sources: 
“Jesse Wineberry,” The Lawyer (Seattle University School of Law, Winter 1993);  
http://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/thelawyer/12; "BLSA Honors Founding Members Hightower and Wineberry," Amicus Brief (Seattle University School of Law, 2010).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Foxx, Jamie (1967- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Actor, singer, comedian, and musician, Jamie Foxx was born Eric Morlon Bishop in Terrell, Texas on December 13, 1967. He was adopted by his maternal grandparents Mark and Estelle Tolley after his parents’ divorce when he was still an infant. His grandmother introduced him to the piano at age three, and by age 15 Bishop was the musical director and choir leader at Terrell’s New Hope Baptist Church. He attended United States International University in San Diego on a piano scholarship, studied classical piano at Juilliard, and left school in 1988 without graduating.

On a dare, Bishop decided to perform at a stand-up comedy open mic night in Los Angeles in 1989, which jump started his comedy and acting career.  As he got more comedy engagements, he created a stage name (Foxx in ode to comedian Red Foxx, and the gender-neutral name Jamie because women tended to get priority spots for open mic nights). This led to Foxx being cast on the Fox television series In Living Color (1990-1994). Foxx then starred in WB Network’s The Jamie Foxx Show, which ran from 1996 to 2002.
Sources: 
Torriano Berry and Venise T. Berry, Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow, 2007); "Jamie Foxx | The Official Website," Jamie Foxx The Official Website; Steven Otfinoski, African Americans in the Performing Arts (New York: Facts On File, 2010).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Richmond, Cedric Levon (1973- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
U.S. House of Representatives
Cedric Richmond is the U.S. Representative for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes much of New Orleans. Richmond, a Democrat, won the post after more than a decade of service in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Born September 13, 1973, his mother was a public school teacher and a small business owner, and his father died when he was seven years old.  Growing up in East New Orleans he played baseball at Goretti playground and was inspired by his coaches there, which later influenced him to coach Little League Baseball at Goretti starting in 1989, at the age of 16.

Richmond graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 1991, and earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He completed his Juris Doctorate at Tulane University School of Law, passed the Louisiana Bar Exam, and worked as an attorney at the New Orleans law firm of Gray & Gray. During this period he was elected president of the Louis A. Martinet Legal Foundation. Richmond also graduated from the Harvard University Executive Education Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1997.
Sources: 
Douglas Brinkley, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (New York: Morrow, 2006); Ebony magazine, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Chicago, Illinois: Johnson Publishing Co. January 2001); http://richmond.house.gov/about/full-biography ; http://www.cedricrichmond.com/about-cedric
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lemon, Don (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Don Carlton Lemon is a prominent, award-winning black television anchor in the United States. In 2011, he publicly came out as a gay man. In so doing, he became the most prominent African American journalist to announce his sexual orientation and was immediately considered a major role model for other gay men of color.

Lemon was born on March 1, 1966 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to a single working mother. His father, known only as Mr. Richardson, played a positive role in Lemon’s young life. He and his sisters, Yma and Leisa, grew up in west Baton Rouge and Port Allen. They lived there with their mother and grandmother until 1976 when his mother married Lemon’s step-father. As an adult, Lemon reported that at the age of five he was sexually abused by a teenage male neighbor.

Lemon enrolled at Louisiana State University in 1984 but did not complete his studies. He moved to New York City in 1990 and entered the broadcasting field. His first job there was as a reporter for the Fox Affiliate, WNYW. Lemon graduated from Brooklyn College in Broadcast Journalism in 1996. He then moved to Birmingham, Alabama to anchor the news at Fox’s WBRC. St. Louis, Missouri was his next stop where he anchored and reported for KTVI.
Sources: 
David Taffet, “Don Lemon: Gay rights are civil rights,” Dallas Voice (January 25, 2013), http://www.dallasvoice.com/don-lemon%E2%80%88gay-rights-civil-rights-10137593.html; http://www.lgbthistorymonth.com/don-lemon.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Daniels, Lee Louis (1959- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Wikicommons
An American actor, film producer, and director, Lee Louis Daniels was born on December 24, 1959. He is credited with directing some of the most controversial, yet memorable films of the last decade including his directorial debut in 2004’s The Woodsman and 2006’s Shadowboxer.  He also produced both films.

The oldest child born to William and Clara Daniels, he and his four siblings were reared in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He and his father shared a love for books and poetry, though William Daniels did not want his son to pursue writing as a career. Moreover, early signs of homosexuality in young Daniels incensed his dad, leading to physical abuse. The patriarch of the family was a law officer and was killed in the line of duty in 1972, forcing his mother to raise her children as a single mother.

Daniels graduated from Radnor High school in 1978 and studied liberal arts at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. He left before graduating and relocated to Los Angeles where he worked for a health care agency. A short time later he started his own nursing placement agency, landing a number of important clients that included the fledgling AIDS Project Los Angeles. He later sold the agency in 1981 for approximately $2 million and launched his career in entertainment.
Sources: 
Claude J. Summers and Lee Daniels, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2011), retrieved from ww.glbtq.com/social-sciences/daniels_l.html; Marcia Wade Talbert, Action! (New York: Black Enterprise, 2010); Susan E. McGregor, "Fine Performances Mark Daniels' Directing Debut," New York Amsterdam News (July 20, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McMillian, Marco (1979-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marco McMillian was known primarily as the first openly-gay African American male to seek mayoral office as a Democrat in his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi. On February 26, 2013, McMillian was found dead the age of 34, having been beaten, dragged, and burned.

Little is known about his family history.  McMillian was born to Patricia Unger in Clarksdale in 1979.  He graduated from Clarksdale High School in 1997 and went on to graduate magna cum laude from the W.E.B. DuBois Honors College at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. McMillian also earned a graduate degree from Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota in the area of philanthropy and development.

While living in Washington, D.C., McMillian served as an international executive director of the historically black Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. where he was responsible for securing the first federal contract to raise the awareness of the adverse impact of HIV/AIDS on communities of color. He also served as executive assistant to the President of Alabama A&M University and as assistant to the vice president at Jackson State University.

Sources: 
http://newsone.com/2254245/marco-mcmillian-dead-clarksdale-mississippi/ http://marcomcmillian.com/about.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/marco-mcmillian-dead_n_2780698.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rhimes, Shonda (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Shonda Rhimes is the first African American woman to write and produce a top-10-rated show on network television. She is most known for her work writing and producing the shows Grey’s Anatomy (2005-    ), Private Practice (2007-    ), and Scandal (2012-    ).

Rhimes was born January 13, 1970 in Chicago, Illinois as the youngest of six children. Her mother was a college professor and her father a university public information officer. She has two adopted daughters, Harper Rhimes, born in 2002, and Emerson Rhimes, born in 2012.

Rhimes graduated from Dartmouth College in 1991, earning a B.A. degree in English literature. She then attended the University of Southern California, where she earned an MFA in filmmaking in 1994. She acquired an agent based on the strength of her final film school project and was asked to write a spec script, which promptly got sold, although the movie was never filmed. One of her first jobs in film making came when she was hired to write the script for the 1998 movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

Sources: 
http://www.shemadeit.org/meet/summary.aspx?m=165; Christopher Lisotta, “Special Report: Hot List 2005,” Television Week 24:29 (7/18/2005); http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0722274/bio.
Contributor: 

Sykes, Wanda (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Gay Parenting Magazine

Wanda Sykes is an American actress, comedian, writer, and voice artist. She is best known for her recurring role as Barbara Baran on the CBS primetime show The New Adventures of Old Christine, and for her comedic roles in such films as Monster-in-Law and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

Sykes is the daughter of Marion Louise, a retired banker, and Harry Ellsworth Sykes, a retired U.S. Army colonel.  She was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on March 7, 1964, but raised in the Washington, D.C. area.

Sykes attended Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland, and later Hampton University, where she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Upon graduation, she worked as a procurement officer for the National Security Agency (NSA) but soon realized she wanted to become an entertainer.

In 1987, at the age of 23, Sykes took to the stage for the first time in a talent show in Washington. While she did not win the contest, she honed her stand-up skills at various comedy clubs while retaining her position at NSA.

In 1992, Sykes relocated to New York to work the comedy circuit and soon got her first big break by being selected as the opening act for comedian Chris Rock at Caroline’s Comedy Club. In 1997, she joined The Chris Rock Show as a writer, made guest appearances, and won an Emmy Award for her writing in 1999.

Sources: 
Linda Rapp and Wanda Sykes, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2011), retrieved from ww.glbtq.com/social-sciences/sykes_l.html; Lawrence Ferber, Wanda Sykes: Being Herself (Chicago: Windy City Media Group, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Isaacs, Cheryl Boone (1949---)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Veteran publicist Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African American to serve as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, followed the path of her pioneering sibling as a top-tier executive in the Hollywood motion picture industryAshley A. Boone Jr. (1939-1994), her brother, had been the most distinguished African American working at several studios, capping his career in 1979 as president for distribution and marketing at 20th Century Fox.

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts into a middle class family of four children, Isaacs’ parents stressed academic achievement.  Her youthful ambition to become a musical comedy star was discouraged.  She graduated from Classical High School in 1967 then moved to California and earned her political science degree in 1971 at Whittier College.

Sources: 
Mollie Gregory, Women Who Run the Show: How a Brilliant and Creative New Generation of Women Stormed Hollywood (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003); Who’s Who in America (New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who’s Who, 2009); http://www.masslive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/07/springfields_cheryl_boone_isaa.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McHenry, Jr., Gordon (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Seattle University
Gordon McHenry is a contemporary community leader in Seattle’s non-profit social services institutions. McHenry’s father, Gordon McHenry, was the first in his family to graduate from college and the first African American engineer promoted into management at the Boeing Company.  His mother, Mildred McHenry, grew up and was educated in a segregated community in Texas.  McHenry credits his parents for inspiring his deep respect for education and strong belief in community solidarity and action.

McHenry graduated with a B.S. in Political Science from Seattle University and earned his Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law School.

After graduating with his law degree, McHenry began his career as an attorney at Perkins Coie, a prestigious law firm in Seattle, Washington.  In 1988, McHenry joined Boeing, where he served for 21 years as a lawyer and then in a variety of executive leadership roles, eventually becoming director of Global Corporate Citizenship for Boeing’s Northwest region.  While at Boeing, he completed the Executive Education Program for Management Development at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business.
Sources: 
Mac Buchman, “Solid Ground Names New Leadership Team,” Solid Ground Blog, 15 August 2012, available at: http://solidgroundblog.wordpress.com/tag/gordon-mchenry-jr/;  “Gordon McHenry Jr. Named CEO, President at Solid Ground,” Seattle Times,  2 Oct. 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Aynaw, Yityish “Titi” (1992- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Yityish “Titi” Aynaw was crowned Miss Israel on February 27, 2013.  She made history when she became the first Miss Israel of African ancestry.  Born in Gondar Province, Ethiopia, Aynaw arrived in Israel in March 2003 along with her older brother and grandparents at the age of 12 after the death of her mother in 2002.  Her father died when she was two years old.

Aynaw lived in the hardscrabble immigrant town of Netanya.  Despite having no knowledge of spoken or written Hebrew, she was transported to a Hebrew boarding school in Haifa that catered to newly arrived immigrants.  Over time her competency in Hebrew steadily increased and she eventually became fluent in Yiddish as well.  Aynaw was a standout student in high school who distinguished herself from the outset.  She was student council president, excelled in track and field, and won first place in a national film competition that was loosely based on her own life experiences.

Sources: 
Daniel Estrin, “Israel’s Bold New Queen,” Tablet Magazine, March 3, 2013; Aaron Kalman, “Miss Israel is Ethiopian Immigrant,” The Times of Israel, February 28, 2013; Robert Tait, “Barack Obama To Dine with First Black Miss Israel,” Telegraph, March 22, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennesse State University

Jackson, Curtis James III ["50 Cent"] (1975- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership:  Public Domain
50 Cent, rapper, actor, and entrepreneur was born Curtis James Jackson III in Queens, New York to Sabrina Jackson on July 6, 1975.  His mother, who had given birth when she was 15 years old, raised him by herself while dealing cocaine.  She died when Jackson was eight.  After his mother’s death, Jackson lived with his grandparents in Queens.

Jackson’s adolescence coincided with the rise and spread of crack cocaine in urban America, and his teenage years were defined by hustling and run-ins with the law.  After briefly taking up boxing, the lure of fast cash drew Jackson to the street life.  He was arrested and jailed multiple times for selling crack, and by the mid-1990s began to drift into music.  As a rapper, he borrowed the name “50 Cent” from a well-known 1980s stick-up kid from Brooklyn named Kelvin Martin.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

West, Kanye Omari (1977- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Kanye West, rapper, singer, producer, and entrepreneur was born in Atlanta, Georgia on June 8, 1977 to Donda and Ray West.  Donda was an English professor, and Ray, a former Black Panther, was an award winning photojournalist.  West’s parents divorced when he was three, and he moved to Chicago’s south side with his mother when she took a job at Chicago State University.  He spent summers in Atlanta with his father.  As a teen, West immersed himself in the Chicago, Illinois hip-hop scene, writing lyrics and learning production techniques.

Following his graduation from Polaris High School in 1995, West briefly enrolled at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before transferring to Chicago State University where his mother was the Chair of the English Department.  In 1997 West dropped out of college to pursue a full-time music career.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

The African American Experience in Italy, 1852 to 2013

Ralph Ellison at the American Academy in Rome, 1957
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In the following article longtime BlackPast.org contributor and San Diego State University Librarian Robert Fikes discusses African American emigrants to and visitors in Italy.
Summary: 
In the following article longtime BlackPast.org contributor and San Diego State University Librarian Robert Fikes discusses African American emigrants to and visitors in Italy.
Sources: 
Robert Fikes Jr., “When in Rome: African American Experiences and Perspectives on Italy and Italian Culture.” Unpublished manuscript, 39 pages.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

MC/Master of Ceremonies (Emcee)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
MC, or Master of Ceremonies, is a term traditionally associated with someone who determines the forms to be observed on a public occasion, acts as host at a formal event, or is host for a program of entertainment.  Since the 1970s the term MC (or emcee) has come to be associated with hip-hop culture, and rap music in particular, as a vocalist who rhymes over sampling, scratching, and mixing supplied by a DJ.

When hip-hop in New York City, New York began to grow in clubs and through block parties during the 1970s, the DJ was the center of attention.  The most popular DJs developed large followings and drew the biggest crowds at their events.  During this era, the MC was simply on hand to get the crowd excited about the DJ and to announce upcoming appearances.  If any rhyming was to be done by the MC, it was to talk about how great the DJ was.  In most cases the MC needed the DJ’s permission to get on the microphone at all.
Sources: 
Stic.man, The Art of Emceeing (New York: Boss Up Inc., 2005); http://www.uic.edu/orgs/kbc/hiphop/mc.htm; http://rap.about.com/od/hiphop101/p/Emceeing.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Tanner Chapel AME Church (1887- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix is the oldest African American Church in the State of Arizona.  Tanner Chapel was founded by African American settlers who came to Arizona Territory to escape racism, oppression, and violence in the post-Reconstruction South.  They also came seeking new economic opportunities in the Southwest, particularly in Arizona Territory, which would in 1912 become the 48th State of the Union.

The US Census of 1880 showed 155 blacks in the Territory with only five in Phoenix.  That population grew rapidly over the first half of the decade to approximately 50; some of them decided by 1886 to establish a Christian mission to foster family life.  Property was purchased that year for an African Methodist Episcopal Mission.  This small group grew, and in 1887, property was then acquired at Second Street and East Jefferson.  The Mission was incorporated as Tanner Chapel AME Church in honor of Bishop Benjamin T. Tanner, who founded the mission movement in the AME church.
Sources: 
City of Phoenix, Dean & Reynolds, African American Historic Property Survey, (Mesa, AZ.: Athenaeum Public History Group, 2004); http://www.tannerchapel.org; Bradford Luckingham, Minorities in Phoenix: A Profile of Mexican American, Chinese American, and African American Communities, 1860-1992, (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004); Marvin A. McMickle  “Benjamin T. Tanner,” An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage, (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Roberts, Robin René (1960- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
American television broadcaster Robin René Roberts is the anchor of Good Morning America, an ABC morning news show broadcast from its studios in New York, New York.  In December 2013, she quietly came out as a lesbian in a Facebook post that acknowledged her long-time girlfriend, Amber Laign.

One of four siblings, Roberts was born on November 23, 1960 in Tuskegee, Alabama to Colonel Lawrence Roberts, a Tuskegee Airman, and Lucimarian (Tolliver) Roberts.  The family later moved to Pass Christian, Mississippi where she graduated as the 1979 salutatorian from Pass Christian High School.  In 1983, Roberts graduated cum laude from Southeastern Louisiana University with a communications degree.  She was also a basketball standout, having ended her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Sources: 
Claude J. Summers and Jason Collins, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2013), retrieved from http://www.glbtq.com/blogs/robin_roberts_casual_coming_out.html, ABC News and Robin Roberts, eds., Robin Roberts biography (New York, NY: ABC News, 2014), retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/author/robin_roberts; Kimberly McLeod, ed., Thank you, Robin Roberts (Washington, DC: Elixher Magazine, 2014) retrieved from
http://elixher.com/thank-you-robin-roberts/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pearman, Raven-Symoné Christina (1985- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Raven-Symoné Christina Pearman, better known as “Raven-Symoné,” is an American actress and recording artist.  Her entertainment career began when she starred in advertisements for well-known brands such as Jell-O and Cool Whip and as a young model for the Ford Modeling Company.

Pearman was born to Christopher B. and Lydia (Gaulden) Pearman on December 10, 1985 in Atlanta, Georgia.  In the late 1990s, the family moved to New York City, New York in order to improve her chances at becoming an entertainer.  At the age of four she auditioned for a role in the 1990 film Ghost Dad, but was turned down because of her young age.  She so impressed comedian and actor Bill Cosby, however, that he later cast her in his television series The Cosby Show as Olivia Kendall, the adopted daughter of the Cosby’s oldest daughter.  She was an instant hit with audiences.
Sources: 

The Biography Channel, Raven-Symoné Synopsis (New York, NY: Arts & Entertainment Networks, 2014), retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/raven-symon%C3%A9-21303025; Damien Croghan, Raven-Symone’s Coming Out should be Celebrated, retrieved from http://www.dailynebraskan.com/opinion/croghan-raven-symone-s-coming-out-should-be-celebrated/article_4933ebc2-1017-11e3-9f71-0019bb30f31a.html; Kimberley McLeod, ed., “Actress Raven Symone Radiates Beside Out Model AzMarie,” Elixher Magazine (September 3, 2013), retrieved from http://elixher.com/actress-raven-symone-radiates-beside-out-model-azmarie/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, Tucson, Arizona (1900- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church began its ministry to the black community of Tucson, Arizona in 1900 when Baptist missionary Rev. John B. Bell arrived, conducted services, and with ten other devoted men and women organized the Baptist Mission. Rev. Bell was part of a longstanding effort by the Baptists to organize African American churches throughout the nation.

Originally using space downtown near the railroad depot, by 1910 the church adopted its present name and built an edifice at 10th Avenue and Fourth Street. By 1933 Tucson’s black population was about 1,000, or 3.3% of the city’s residents, and Mt. Calvary’s congregation of 200 represented 20% of the total African American community. Through the first half of the 20th century when Tucson was racially segregated, Mt. Calvary played a key role in the community, proving not only religious services and organizational leadership for black Tucsonians but also activities for youth and civic engagement around local social issues for adults.

By 1946 there were ten African American churches in Tucson, with a total membership of 1,700 or over 60% of the black population. Mt. Calvary remained the largest. In 1956 Mount Calvary relocated to a new and larger building at 210 E. Lester Street, where it remains today.
Sources: 
Anna Jolivet, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, 1900-1978, Mt. Calvary Church (1978); Dave Devine, “Segregated Worship, Tucson’s black churches...”, Tucson Weekly (2/10/05); Church website: www.mtcalvarytucson.org; Harry Lawson, “African American Churches in Tucson, Report of the African American History Internship Project,” (1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Boko Haram (2002- )

Entry Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
Global African History
School Girls Kidnapped By Boko Haram, 2014
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri in 2002.The official Arabic name of the group is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” However, residents of Maiduguri came to call the group Boko Haram which loosely translates to “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa, the regional language.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Noble, Ronald (1956 -)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ronald Kenneth Noble is the first African American to serve as Secretary General of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) headquartered in Lyon, France.  Born in 1956 at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Noble is the son of an African American soldier and a German mother.  He is a 1979 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, earning a baccalaureate degree in economics and business administration and a 1982 graduate of Stanford Law School in California where he was the president of his graduating class and served as articles editor of the Stanford Law Review.
Sources: 
Maggie Paine, “The World’s Top Cop,” UNH Magazine Online, Winter 2002 http://unhmagazine.unh.edu/w02/noble1w02.html; "Ronald K. Noble" http://www.interpol.int/About-INTERPOL/Structure-and-governance/Ronald-K.-Noble; New York University, “Ronald K. Noble - Biography,” https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/profile.cfm?section=bio&personID=20172; “PUBLIC LIVES; The Long Days of Interpol's New Top Sleuth,” New York Times, July 13, 1999, http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/13/nyregion/public-lives-the-long-days-of-interpol-s-new-top-sleuth.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Juba, South Sudan (2011- )

Entry Type: 
Places
History Type: 
Global African History
Juba along the White Nile River
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Juba is one of the newest capitals in the world.  It became the capital of South Sudan when that nation was declared independent on July 9, 2011. Juba, located on the White Nile River, is the largest city in South Sudan and in 2011 it had an estimated population of 372,410 people. Since then however the population has been growing rapidly as people from Europe, Asia, and the rest of Africa flock to the city because it is the commercial hub of South Sudan’s oil industry. It is also attractive as a crossroads for travelers moving between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, and Uganda.
Sources: 
Roman A. Cybriwsky, "Juba," Capital Cities around the World: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Culture (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013); “Juba,” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/307037/Juba; "South Sudan," Central Intelligence Agency, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/od.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Medina, Lazaro (1965 -2013)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

Lazaro Medina was an Afro-Paraguayan who was best known as the founder and director of the Ballet Camba Cua, the only dance troupe of Paraguay based on the dances of former African slaves. Medina was also a political activist who assisted other Afro-Paraguayans who faced racial discrimination and the consequences of the confiscation of their lands by Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner in the 1980s. The ballet was named after Camba Cua, one of the few remaining Afro-Paraguayan settlements in the nation. 

Little is known about Medina’s background including his parents and date of birth.  Nor is there much information about his formal training.  Medina founded Ballet Camba Cua in 1991 basing it partly on the recalled stories of his father who described earlier festivals of people of African descent.  The Ballet was named after the Afro-Paraguayan community of Camba Cua which was founded by a group of 250 black lancers who were given land, a team of oxen, and seeds to plant aftrer they helped defeat a ruler who was sent into exile. The goal of the Ballet was to make Afro-Paraguayan culture visible and connected to the larger world of African culture.

Sources: 
Monica Bareiro, "Kamba Cua, Tapping of Pride and Culture," ABC Color, http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/suplementos/abc-revista/kamba-cua-tamborileo-de-orgullo-y-cultura-1200345.html; John M. Lipski, “Afro-Paraguayan Spanish: The Negation of Non-Existence," Journal of Pan African Studies 2.7, 2008; Kwekudee, "The Irresistible and Expert Drumming and Dancing African Descendants in South America, Trip Down Memory Lane, http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2014/06/afro-paraguayans-afro-poaraguayos.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Maseru, Lesotho (1869- )

Entry Type: 
Places
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Maseru is the capital of Lesotho as well as its largest city. Maseru, a Sesotho word, means “place of the sandstone.” The city is situated along the west central border between Lesotho and South Africa on the Calderon River.  The 2006 census showed its population as approximately 227,880.

The city of Maseru was officially founded in 1869 following the Free State-Basotho Wars between the Boers and the British.  Maseru was originally established as a small police camp by the British. Between 1871 and 1884, Lesotho was governed from the Cape Colony (present-day South Africa) and remained the administrative capital after Basutoland (current-day Lesotho) became a British colony in 1884. The small settlement survived being burned down during the Gun War of 1880-1881 between British forces and Basotho political leaders over the right of indigenous people to bear arms. The Basotho people won the conflict.
Sources: 
Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Paul Tiyambe Zeleza and Dickson Eyoh, Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century African History (London, UK: Routledge, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Louisville

Holder, Geoffrey Lamont (1930-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Geoffrey Lamont Holder, acclaimed choreographer and legendary figure in the dance world, was also a respected actor, Tony Award-winning director, costume designer, singer, music composer, voice-over artist, orator, painter, sculptor, and photographer.  Holder was born to a middle-class family in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on August 1, 1930.  His parents, Arthur Holder, a salesman, and Louise de Frense Holder, encouraged the artistic interests of each of their five children.  Holder’s siblings were Arthur (known as “Boscoe”), Jean, Marjorie, and Kenneth.
Sources: 
Jennifer Dunning and William McDonald, “Geoffrey Holder, Dancer, Actor, Painter and More, Dies at 84,” New York Times, October 6, 2014; http://www.guardian.co.tt/deathnotices/2013-10-01/boothman-marjorie-nee-holder; “Carmen and Geoffrey: (DVD) Directed by Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob, 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mendoza, Vanessa (1981- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
At the age of 20 Vanessa Mendoza was crowned Miss Colombia 2001. Although Afro-Colombians comprise 10.6% of Colombia’s population, this was the first year the title ever went to an Afro-Colombian beauty. Mendoza said she entered the Miss Colombia contest to represent her tiny village of Ungia, in the impoverished northern region of Choco [state], the only state in the nation that has a predominantly black population.  She won praises from the judges for her spontaneity and charisma. At her first press conference she said, "I always demonstrated that I came to the world to speak for my race and my State."

The Miss Colombia Festival, the Concurso Nacional de Belleza, has been held since the mid-1960s. There is an alternative competition held at the same time called the Reinado Popular de Cartagena, which often selects women with darker skin. In 2001 the winner of that contest was Claudia Esther Guerrero Zapata.  Mendoza, however, decided to compete for the national crown in the Miss Colombia Festival.
Sources: 
“First Afro-Colombian Miss Colombia 2001-2001,” www.afrocolombianosvisibles.blogspot.com, August, 2010; “New Miss Colombia, Vanessa Alexandra Mendoza Bustos, is the first African-descent winner,” www.theotherlookofcolombia.com, November 12, 2001.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian
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