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Alabama

1831

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AA
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1801-1900
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Alabama makes it illegal for enslaved or free blacks to preach.

1881

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AA
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1801-1900
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On the Fourth of July 25-year-old Booker T. Washington opens Tuskegee Institute in central Alabama.

1896

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AA
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1801-1900
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In September George Washington Carver is appointed director of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute. His work advances peanut, sweet potato, and soybean farming.

1931

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AA
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1901-2000
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The Scottsboro Boys are arrested in Alabama. Their trial begins on April 6.

1932

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AA
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1901-2000
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The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment begins under the direction of the U.S. Public Health Service. The experiment ends in 1972.

1941

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AA
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1901-2000
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The U.S. Army creates the Tuskegee Air Squadron who will soon be known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

1943

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AA
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1901-2000
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The first black cadets graduate from the Army Flight School at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama.

1943

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AA
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1901-2000
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The black 99th Pursuit Squadron (Tuskegee Airmen) flies its first combat mission in Italy.

1952

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AA
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1901-2000
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Tuskegee Institute reported no lynchings in the United States for the first time in 71 years of tabulation.

1955

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AA
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1901-2000
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Rosa Parks refuses to relinquish her bus seat to a white man on December 1, initiating the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Soon afterwards Dr. Martin Luther King becomes the leader of the Boycott.

1956

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AA
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1901-2000
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Autherine Lucy is admitted to the University of Alabama on February 3. She is suspended on February 7 after a riot ensues at the university to protest her presence. Lucy is expelled on February 29.

1961

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AA
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1901-2000
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Riots on the University of Georgia campus in September fail to prevent the enrollment of the institutions first two African American students, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter (Gault).

1963

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AA
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1901-2000
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Martin Luther King, Jr. writes his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" on April 16.

1963

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AA
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1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
On May 3, Birmingham police use dogs and fire hoses to attack civil rights demonstrators.

1963

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AA
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1901-2000
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Despite Governor George Wallace's vow to block the schoolhouse door to prevent their enrollment on June 11, Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes at the University of Alabama. They are the first African American students to attend the university.

1963

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
On September 15, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is bombed in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four girls: Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, ages 11-14.

1965

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AA
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1901-2000
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On March 7, six hundred Alabama civil rights activists stage a Selma-to-Montgomery protest march to draw attention to the continued denial of black voting rights in the state. The marchers are confronted by Alabama State Troopers whose attack on them at the Edmund Pettus Bridge is carried on national television. On March 21, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. leads a five-day, 54-mile march retracing the route of the original activists. The 3,300 marchers at the beginning of the trek eventually grow to 25,000 when they reach the Alabama capitol on March 25. After the protest march, President Lyndon Johnson proposes the Voting Rights Act to guarantee black voting throughout the South.

1979

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AA
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1901-2000
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Richard Arrington, Jr. is elected the first African American mayor of Birmingham, Alabama.

1901

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AA
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1901-2000
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Booker T. Washington's autobiography Up From Slavery is published.

1956

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AA
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1901-2000
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On April 10 popular entertainer Nat King Cole is assaulted on stage during a segregated performance at the Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama.

1957

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
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The Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) was founded at a mass meeting in Birmingham, Alabama.

1955

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the 26 year old pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, is elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association which leads the year-long boycott against the city's racially segregated bus line.

1909

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AA
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1901-2000
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The Knights of Peter Claver, the first permanent national black Catholic fraternal order, is founded in Mobile, Alabama.

Washington, Booker T. (1856-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Booker T. Washington is one of the most controversial and dominant figures in African American history.  According to his autobiography Up From Slavery (1901), he did not know the exact year, date, and place of his birth or his father’s name. Yet, it is widely understood that he was born enslaved on April 5, 1856 in Hale's Ford, Virginia. His mother’s name was Jane and his father was a white man from a nearby plantation. At the age of 9, Washington was freed from slavery and moved to West Virginia.  He had always been known as simply “Booker” until he decided to add the name “Washington” after feeling the pressure to have two names when he started grammar school.

Sources: 
William L. Andrews, ed. Booker T. Washington: Up From Slavery (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996); Louis R. Harlan, The Booker T. Washington Papers: The Making of a Black Leader New, 1856-1901 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Paige, Leroy Robert "Satchel (1906-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Leroy “Satchel” Paige and David Lipman, Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever: A Great Baseball Player Tells the Hilarious Story Behind the Legend (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993); Donald Spivey, “If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2012), Larry Tye, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend (New York: Random House, 2009), and William Price Fox, Satchel Paige’s America (New York: Fire Ant Books, 2005);.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Scott, Emmett J. (1873-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Emmett J. Scott and Booker T. Washington
Image Ownership: Public Domain

A native of Houston, Texas, Emmett J. Scott garnered a reputation as Booker T. Washington’s chief aide.  He was also the highest ranking African American in the Woodrow Wilson’s Administration.  The son of ex-slaves, Scott was born in 1873.  In 1887, he entered Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, eventually leaving school in his third year.  Soon he worked at the Houston Post, first as a sexton, and later as a copyboy and journalist. In 1893 Scott, along with Charles N. Love and Jack Tibbit, formed the Texas Freeman, Houston’s first African American newspaper.  Scott also worked for Galveston, Texas, politician and labor leader, Norris W. Cuney. 

Sources: 
Thelma Scott Bryant, Pioneering Families of Houston (Early 1900s) as Remembered by Thelma Scott Bryant (Houston: n. p., 1991); Maceo Crenshaw Dailey, Jr., “The Business Life of Emmett Jay Scott,” Business History Review, 77 (Winter 2003), 57-68; Barbara L. Green, “Emmett Jay Scott,” in The New Handbook of Texas, Vol.. 5 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996), 935.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Sam Houston State University

Carver, George Washington (1864?-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Washington Carver began life inauspiciously on the frontier of southwestern Missouri. Born a slave, the precise date, indeed, even the year, is unknown. He never knew either of his biological parents, but was raised by his former owners as if he were their own. A sickly child, his workload on the Carvers’ farm was reasonably light. Consequently, he spent much of his childhood wandering through fields and woods where he developed an affinity for the natural world. Faced with limited educational opportunities, he left Missouri for Kansas, where he graduated from high school. After a try at homesteading on the western plains of Kansas, he found his way to Iowa where he enrolled at the Iowa Agricultural College in Ames. Recruited by Booker T. Washington to head up Tuskegee’s Agricultural Department, Carver left the Midwest for Alabama’s cotton belt shortly after he became the first African American to secure an advanced degree in agricultural science.
Sources: 
Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), and Mark Hersey, “Hints and Suggestions to Farmers: George Washington Carver and Rural Conservation in the South,” Environmental History 11 (April 2006), 239-268 available online at http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/eh/11.2/hersey.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Davidson, Olivia A. (1854-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Virginia in 1854, Olivia A. Davidson, the daughter of an ex-slave and freeborn mother, was the seventh of ten children.  The family moved from Virginia to southern Ohio in 1857, then moved to the northern part of the state in Albany and Athens after her father’s death.  The later move had a significant influence on her development as she attended the Enterprise Academy, which was owned, operated, and controlled by African American educators. Also, the Albany area was a focal point for anti-slavery sentiment, the site for three routes of the Underground Railroad, and it provided Davidson with the opportunity to interact with many Oberlin College graduates and faculty as well as African American activists.   

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine Black Women in America an Historical Encyclopedia Volumes 1 and 2 (Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Tuskegee Airmen

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Tuskegee Airmen at Army Air Base, Ramitelli,
Italy, March, 1945 (U.S. Army Archives)

Over the past seven decades the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen have been celebrated, occasionally mythologized, and used as a recent reminder of the patriotism and heroism of African Americans in times of national crisis.  Mounting pressure by black leaders such as union activist A Philip Randolph, NAACP chief executive Walter F. White, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the black press to increase their presence in all branches of military service eventually persuaded a reluctant War Department to allow for the training of blacks as fighter pilots (initially no training for bomber crews) at an isolated field at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, thus preempting contact with white trainees. 

Sources: 
Von Hardesty, Black Wings: Courageous Stories of African Americans in Aviation and Space History (New York: HarperCollins, 2008);Lawrence P. Scott, Double V: The Civil Rights Struggle of the Tuskegee Airmen (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994); Charles W. Dryden, A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1997); http://tuskegeeairmen.org/pages/2/index.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (1932-1972)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Acting on the presumption that rural southern blacks were generally more promiscuous and syphilitic than whites, and without sufficient funding to establish an effective treatment program for them, doctors working with the Public Health Service (PHS) commenced a multi-year experiment in 1932. Their actions deprived 400 largely uneducated and poor African Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama of proper and reasonable treatment for syphilis, a disease whose symptoms could easily have been relieved with the application of penicillin which became available in the 1940s.  Patients were not told they had syphilis nor were they provided sufficient medication to cure them.  More than 100 men died due to lack of treatment while others suffered insanity, blindness and chronic maladies related to the disease.

Sources: 
James H. Jones, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (New York: Free Press, 1993); Carol A. Heintzelman, “The Tuskegee Syphilis Study and Its Implications for the 21st Century,” at:  http://www.socialworker.com/tuskegee.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Dawson, William Levi (1898-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Levi Dawson was an African American composer, choir director, and professor specializing in black religious folk music.  He was born on September 26, 1899, in Anniston, Alabama to Eliza Starkey and George Dawson, the first of their seven children.  His father, a former slave, was an illiterate day laborer.  In 1912, Dawson ran away from home to study music full-time as a pre-college student at the Tuskegee Institute (now University) under the tutelage of school president Booker T. Washington.  Dawson paid his tuition by being a music librarian and manual laborer working in the school’s Agricultural Division.  He also participated as a member of Tuskegee’s band and orchestra, composing and traveling extensively with the Tuskegee Singers for five years; he had learned to play most of the instruments by the time he graduated from the high school division in 1921.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Washington, Margaret Murray (1865-1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Margaret Murray Washington, born March 9, 1865, was one of ten children born to sharecroppers. Her father was of Irish descent and her mother was African American.  Murray attended Fisk University for eight years and graduated in 1889. The following year she became “Lady Principal” at Tuskegee Institute where she met Booker T. Washington. In 1892 she married Washington, becoming his third wife.

Murray wrote Washington’s speeches, assisted him in expanding the school, and accompanied him on lecture tours as his fame grew.  Her own presentations usually directed at audiences of African American women, promoted what she termed self-improvements in habits and hygiene.  Murray also served on Tuskegee’s executive board and later became dean of women.  In February 1892, Murray began a Tuskegee program which provided child care, education and training in literacy, home care and hygiene for women in central Alabama which she called “mother's meetings.”
Sources: 
Sources: Wilma King Hunter, “Three Women, at Tuskegee, 1825-1925: The Wives of Booker T. Washington,” Journal of Ethnic Studies 4 (September 1976); Jacqueline Anne Rouse, “Out of the Shadow of Tuskegee: Margaret Murray Washington, Social Activism, and Race Vindication,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 81, Vindicating the Race: Contributions to African-American Intellectual History (Winter-Autumn, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Julian, Percy Lavon (1899-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A native of Montgomery, Alabama and grandson of slaves, Percy Lavon Julian was a trailblazer in the chemical sciences.  His parents Elizabeth Lena Adams, a school teacher, and James Sumner Julian, a railroad mail clerk who loved mathematics, raised six children, all of whom pursued a college education.  Two sons became physicians and three daughters received M.A. degrees.

After attending public school in Montgomery, Julian moved to Greencastle, Indiana in 1916 to enroll at DePauw University. While at DePauw he was named a member of the Sigma Xi honorary society and Phi Beta Kappa.  In order to finance his college education, he worked as a waiter and a ditch digger.  Julian was selected as the class valedictorian upon his graduation in 1920.  After completing his undergraduate degree, Julian was determined to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry despite the racism at the time which often kept African Americans from pursuing graduate degrees in all but a handful of universities.  
Sources: 
Bernhard Witkop, Percy Lavon Julian, A Biographical Memoir (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 1999); Sibrina Collins and Robert Lichter, “The Legacy of Dr. Percy Julian Celebrated at the 232nd ACS Meeting,” NOBCChE News OnLine, 2006, 36(4), 13-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Scottsboro Case (1931-1950)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On March 25, 1931, nine African Americans ranging in age from thirteen to twenty-one were arrested for allegedly raping two white women on board a train near Paint Rock, Alabama. An all-white jury quickly convicted the defendants on flimsy evidence and eight of the nine were sentenced to death. The case might have become another forgotten chapter in the long history of southern legal violence against African Americans were it not for the efforts of the American Communist Party (CP), which recognized the young men’s experiences with the legal system as an opportunity to expose southern racism and strengthen the Party's appeal among black Americans.
Sources: 
Dan T. Carter, Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South (Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State University Press, 1979); James Goodman, Stories of Scottsboro (New York:  Pantheon Books, 1994); Robin D.G. Kelley, "Scottsboro Case," in Mary Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Geogakas, eds. Encyclopedia of the American Left (New York:  Garland Publishing, 1990), 684-686.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Herndon, Angelo (1913 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Angelo Herndon was the defendant in one of the most publicized and notorious legal cases of the 1930s. In 1932, nineteen-year-old Herndon was arrested under an obscure 19th century servile insurrection law for attempting to organize a peaceful demonstration of unemployed workers in Atlanta. Largely due to the efforts of the Communist Party-affiliated International Labor Defense, the arrest and subsequent trial ignited a firestorm of protest that, alongside the Scottsboro case, helped expose the gross injustice of the southern legal system and introduced African Americans on a broad scale to the militant anti-racism of the Communist Party.  

Herndon was born on May 6, 1913 in Wyoming, Ohio, outside of Cincinnati. As a teenager he migrated to Kentucky and then Alabama in search of employment. It was in Birmingham in 1930 that he was first introduced to the Communist Party. Impressed by the Party's uncompromising avowal of interracial unity, Herndon joined and began working with the local Unemployed Council. In 1931, Herndon briefly worked for the International Labor Defense on its campaign to free the Scottsboro defendants.
Sources: 
Charles H. Martin, The Angelo Herndon Case and Southern Justice (Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State University Press, 1976); Angelo Herndon, Let Me Live (New York:  Random House, 1937).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cole, Nat “King” (1919–1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
African American Museum of Philadelphia
Jazz pianist and popular singer Nathaniel Adams Coles was born into a musical family in Montgomery, Alabama on March 17, 1919.  His mother Perlina was a choir director in his father Edward’s Baptist church.  His three brothers, Edward, Ike, and Freddy, became professional musicians.  Cole also had a half-sister, Joyce.  The family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1923 where Cole started playing the piano at age four; he organized his first jazz group, The Musical Dukes, in his teens.
Sources: 
Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro American and African Musicians (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982); Nicolas Slonimsky, Bokers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (London: Schirmer Books, 1984); Jim Irwin and Colin McLear, The Mojo Collection (NY: Cananongate, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hudson, Hosea (1898-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Nell Irvin Painter
Hosea Hudson was a Communist Party (CP) activist and industrial union organizer in Alabama and Georgia during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. He embodied the CP's turn toward black civil rights in the early 1930s and the attraction many working-class southern blacks felt toward the Party during and, in Hudson's case, well after the Depression decade.

Hudson was born in rural Wilkes County, Georgia in 1898.The son of sharecroppers and the grandson of a former slave, he endured poverty and hunger as a child and received little formal education. He married in 1917, had his first and only child a year later, and worked for several years as a sharecropper and common laborer in Wilkes County and Atlanta. In 1924 Hudson moved his family to Birmingham where he found work as an iron molder.
Sources: 
Nell Irvin Painter, The Narative of Hosea Hudson: His Life as a Negro Communist in the South (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979); Hosea Hudson, Black Worker in the Deep South: A Personal Record (New York: International Publishers, 1972); Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe:  Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Leftwich, John C. (1867-1923)

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

John Carter Leftwich was born on June 6, 1867 in Forkland, Alabama.  The first son of Frances Edge and Lloyd Leftwich, one of Alabama’s last black Reconstruction Era state senators, John graduated from Selma University in 1890.  As a young man, Leftwich held a deep admiration for Booker T. Washington, and wrote to him constantly for aid and advice.  In 1897, possibly with Washington’s support, Leftwich was appointed Alabama’s Receiver of Public Money by President William McKinley.  During this time Leftwich also founded an all-black town named Klondike.  In 1902, however, Leftwich lost the support of Washington.  Later that year Alabama blacks were disfranchised.  These events led Leftwich to migrate to Oklahoma Territory to begin anew.

Sources: 
Melissa Stuckey, “‘All Men Up’: Race, Rights, and Power in the All Black Town of Boley, Oklahoma, 1903-1939” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Handy, W.C. (1873-1958)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Musician and composer William Christopher “W.C.” Handy was born on November 16, 1873, in Florence, Alabama.  Widely known as the “Father of the Blues,” Handy is recognized as one of the leaders in popularizing blues music.  Young Handy’s interest in music was discouraged by his family and his church.
Sources: 
W.C. Handy, Father of Blues: An Autobiography (New York, Da Capo Press Inc., 1969); http://www.yearoftheblues.org/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Pickens, William (1881-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The History Cooperative
William Pickens was born January 15, 1881 in Anderson County, South Carolina. His parents were liberated slaves who migrated to Arkansas when he was a young boy.  Young Pickens worked in cotton fields and in sawmills while attending the local segregated public school.  Pickens entered Talladega College in Alabama in 1898 and left four years later as the school’s most illustrious graduate in its history. In 1902 he entered Yale University and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa where he won the Henry James Ten Eyek Prize over thirty seven competitors in 1903.  Pickens became an expert linguist and graduated from Yale with a second B.A. degree in classics in 1904.  In 1905 Pickens married Minnie Cooper McAlpine. The couple had three children.  

William Pickens returned to Talladega and taught foreign languages there for the next decade.  Beginning in 1914 he spent two years at Wiley College in Texas and then became Dean of Academics at Morgan State College in Baltimore in 1916.

William Pickens wrote his first autobiography, The Heir of Slaves, in 1911. In the book he stressed the importance of education.  He also credited much of his success to his family, different teachers who guided him and the techniques he used to produce his accomplishments.
Sources: 
William Pickens, Bursting Bonds (Boston: Jordan & More Press, 1923); William M. Brewer, The Journal of Negro History 39:3 (July 1954): 242-244: Sheldon Avery, Up from Washington: William Pickens and the Negro Struggle for Equality (Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lowndes County Freedom Organization

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Letter on Lowndes County Freedom
Organization Stationary, ca. 1966
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), also known as the Black Panther Party, was started in 1965 under the direction of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist Stokely Carmichael.  In 1965, Lowndes County in Alabama was 80% black but not a single black citizen was registered to vote.  Carmichael arrived in the county to organize a voter registration project and from this came the LCFO. Party members adopted the black panther as their symbol for their independent political organization.

More than half of the African American population in Lowndes County lived below the poverty line.  Moreover, white supremacists had a long history of extreme violence towards anyone who attempted to vote or otherwise challenge all-white rule.  Lowndes County Freedom Organization members didn’t simply want to vote to place other white candidates in office.  Instead they wanted to be able to vote for their own candidates. 
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981); Evans D. Hopkins, Life After Life: A Story of Rage and Redemption (New York: Free Press, 2005); http://dp.crlt.indiana.edu/demo/viewer/objectLeft.pl?annotate=&eventID=18; http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/473.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Turner, Benjamin Sterling (1825-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin Sterling Turner, a member of the United States House of Representatives from Alabama during the Reconstruction period, was born on March 17, 1825 in Weldon, North Carolina. He was raised as a slave and as a child received no formal education. In 1830 Turner moved to Selma, Alabama with his mother and slave owner. While living on the plantation he surreptitiously obtained an education and by age 20 Turner was able to read and write fluently. 

While still a slave Turner managed a hotel and stable in Selma.  Although his owner received most of the money for Turner’s work, he managed to save some of his earnings and shortly after the Civil War he used the savings he had accumulated to purchase the property.   The U.S. Census of 1870 reported Turner as owning $2,500 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property, making him one of the wealthiest freedmen in Alabama.

Turner also became a teacher in 1865 and helped establish the first school for African American children.  Two years later he became involved in politics.  After participating in the Republican State Convention in 1867, Turner was named tax collector of Dallas County  The following year he won his first elective office when he became a Selma City Councilman.  In 1870 Turner was elected to the United States Congress as the first African American Representative in Alabama history. 
Sources: 
Stephen Middleton, ed., Black Congressmen During Reconstruction (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002); http://bioguide.congress.gov
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Abernathy, Ralph (1926-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ralph David Abernathy was born on March 11, 1926 in Linden, Alabama.  His boyhood was spent on his father’s Alabama farm but he joined the U.S. Army and served in World War II from 1941 to 1945.  After his service Abernathy returned to his home state where he attended Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama, receiving a degree in Mathematics in 1950.  

During his years at Alabama State College, he became involved in protest activities.  He led demonstrations protesting the lack of heat and hot water in his dormitory and the inferior food served by the college cafeteria.  Abernathy also became a Baptist minister in 1948 while still in college.  Abernathy attended Atlanta University, where he earned his M.A. degree in 1951.  That same year he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, the largest African American church in the city.  It was this pastoral post that eventually propelled him into the civil rights movement.  
Sources: 
Ralph David Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography (New York: Harper and Row, 1989);   http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2736 

 

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Halle Tanner Dillon (1864–1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson was the first female physician to pass the Alabama state medical examination and was the first woman physician at Tuskegee Institute.  She was the eldest of nine children born to African Methodist Episcopal bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner and Sarah Elizabeth Miller in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1864.  Her brother, Henry Ossawa Tanner, became a noted artist.  Shortly after Halle was born the Tanners moved to Philadelphia where the children were educated.    

In the middle 1880s Halle Tanner worked with her father on the AME Church Review.  In 1886 she married Charles E. Dillon and the two moved to Trenton, New Jersey where they had a daughter, Sadie.  Charles Dillon died of an unknown cause and Halle Tanner Dillon moved back to Philadelphia to live with her parents.  Tanner decided to become a physician and enrolled at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.  The only African American woman in her class, Tanner graduated with an M.D. and high honors after three years of study in 1891.  While at the college, she learned of a job opportunity as resident physician at Tuskegee Institute.  She contacted Booker T. Washington, the Principal of Tuskegee.  Washington appointed her and helped her prepare for the Alabama state medical examination.
Sources: 
Darlene Hine, Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), Dorothy Sterling, We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984), http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_172.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Arrington, Richard (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Richard Arrington, the first African American mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, was born in Livingston, Alabama on October 19, 1934 to sharecroppers.  He received a Bachelor's degree from Miles College (Alabama), a M.A. in Biology from the University of Detroit, and a Ph.D. in Zoology and Biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma. 

Before becoming mayor of Birmingham in 1979, Arrington taught at his alma mater, Miles College, the University of Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma.  He also served for nine years as the Executive Director of the Alabama Center of Higher Education, a consortium of eight black colleges in the state of Alabama. From 1971 to 1979, he was a member of Birmingham's city council.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), p. 11-12.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College/University of Mississippi

King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Martin Luther King, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Clayborne Carson, ed. (New York: Intellectual Properties Management in association with Warner Books, 1998); Lerone Bennett, What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1989); Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years (New York: Touchstone, 1989); Christine King Farris, My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003). For additional information on Dr. Martin Luther King please see The Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute. http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stanford University

Brady, Saint Elmo (1884-1966)

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

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884, Saint Elmo Brady became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in the field of chemistry when he completed his graduate studies at the University of Illinois in 1916. The eldest child of Thomas and Celesta Brady, Saint Elmo had two younger sisters, Fedora and Buszeder.

Sources: 
Saint Elmo Brady, University of Illinois, Department of Chemistry, http://www.scs.uiuc.edu/chem/bios/brady.html ; Mitchell Brown, The Faces of Sciences: African Americans in Science, https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/faces.html ; D.F. Martin and B.B. Martin, “St. Elmo Brady (1884-1966): Pioneering Black Academic Chemist,” Florida Scientist, 2006, 69(2), 116-123; Collins, S.N. “African Americans and Science,” Chemical and Engineering News, 2009, 87(43), p3.; S.E. Brady and S.P. Massie, “1,1,-Dichloroheptane,” Academy of Science, 1952, 261-262.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Henson, Josiah (1789-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Josiah Henson was born into slavery on June 15, 1789 in Charles County, Maryland.  As a young boy he witnessed slavery’s cruelties inflicted on his immediate family.  Young Henson watched his father receive fifty lashes for standing up to a slave owner and then witnessed his father’s ear being severed as part of the punishment.   Shortly afterwards he watched his father sold off to an Alabama slaveholder.  Upon the death of his owner, Henson was separated from his mother and siblings in an estate sale.  Although he was reunited with his mother, he never saw his siblings again.

Henson remained on his new owner’s farm in Montgomery County, Maryland, until he was an adult.  As he aged he rose to become a trusted slave and supervised other enslaved people on the farm.  However, he used his new position to make his escape from slavery.  Following the Underground Railroad, Henson escaped from Maryland to the Province of Upper Canada (present-day Ontario), Canada with his wife and four children by way of the Niagara River in 1830.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barnett, Ferdinand Lee (1864?-1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ferdinand Barnett, Ida B. Wells and Their Family, 1917 
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Tennessee and educated at the law school later affiliated with Northwestern University, Ferdinand Lee Barnett was an attorney, writer, lecturer, and the editor and founder of Chicago’s first black newspaper, the Chicago Conservator.  Although he is often remembered today as the husband of anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), Barnett was at the time a widely known advocate of racial equality and justice.  His speech, “Race Unity,” given in May of 1879 to a national convention of African American men in Nashville, Tennessee, for example, illustrates his commitment to racial justice as does his work for the Conservator.
Sources: 
Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1970); The Black Press in the Middle West, 1865-1985, ed. Henry Lewis Suggs (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Parks, Rosa (1913-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Revered as one of the most influential people of the twentieth century, Rosa Parks is best known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956.  Parks was born on February 4, 1913 to Leona and James McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama.  Leona worked as a teacher and James as a carpenter.  Parks was schooled by her mother until the age of 11 when she moved to Montgomery with an aunt and started attending the Montgomery Industrial School for girls.  She even took a job as a janitor to support her private school education.  Though Parks began to attend Alabama State Teacher’s College High School, she dropped out to care for ill family members.
Sources: 
Edna Chappell McKenzie, “Rosa Parks” in Black Women in America: Social Activism, edited by Darlene Clark Hine (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1997); Lisa Hill, “Rosa Parks” in African American Women: a Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993); Rosa and Raymond Parks Institution for Self Development http://www.rosaparks.org/bio.html (accessed November 11, 2007); E.R. Shipp, “Rosa Parks, 92, Founding Symbol of Civil Rights Movement Dies,” New York Times, October 25, 2005; Patricia Sullivan, “Bus Ride Shook a Nation's Conscience,” Washington Post, October 25, 2005; Andrea James, “Rosa Parks Biography,” PBS NewsHour, October 25, 2005, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/remember/july-dec05/parks_biography.html (accessed December 29, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Black Residents Walking, Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955
Image Ownership:  Public Domain
Sources: 
Vic Sanders, “Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” History Review, 55:6, (Sept, 2006); Montgomery Bus Boycott Overview, http://www.montgomeryboycott.com/article_overview.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bloody Sunday, Selma, Alabama, (March 7, 1965)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History

Between 1961 and 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had led a voting registration campaign in Selma, the seat of Dallas County, Alabama, a small town with a record of consistent resistance to black voting. When SNCC’s efforts were frustrated by stiff resistance from the county law enforcement officials, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were persuaded by local activists to make Selma’s intransigence to black voting a national concern. SCLC also hoped to use the momentum of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to win federal protection for a voting rights statute.

During January and February, 1965, King and SCLC led a series of demonstrations to the Dallas County Courthouse. On February 17, protester Jimmy Lee Jackson was fatally shot by an Alabama state trooper.  In response, a protest march from Selma to Montgomery was scheduled for March 7.
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, et al, eds., Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle (New York: Penguin, 1991)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Moton, Robert R. (1867-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: 
Public Domain

Robert Russa Moton was born on the William Vaughan Plantation in 1867 in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Moton attended the local freedman’s school and eventually went on to college at the Hampton Institute (now called Hampton University).

At Hampton Institute Moton distinguished himself academically and after graduation was appointed the school’s Commandant in charge of military discipline, a post he held for 25 years.  Moton also became a Hampton fundraiser, traveling north to lecture on the school’s programs. 

In 1915, Moton left the Hampton Institute to accept a post as Tuskegee Institute as its second president after the death of founder Booker T. Washington.  Soon after his arrival Moton began to expand the Institute’s academic programs, adding a new department to educate future black school teachers.  He also initiated the construction of what would become the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital which would treat African American World War I veterans.  Despite local white opposition, Moton insisted that the federal hospital be staffed by black doctors, nurses, and administrators.

Sources: 
Robert Russa Moton, Finding a Way Out: An Autobiography (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1920); William Hardin Hughes and Frederick D. Patterson, Robert Russa Moton of Hampton and Tuskegee (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956); Lerone Bennett, “Chronicles of Black Courage: Robert R. Moton Risked Life in Fight for Black Doctors at Tuskegee Veterans Hospital,” Ebony, July 2002; www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/flood/peopleevents/p_moton.html;
www.hamptonu.edu, www.gloucesterva.info/moton1.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (August 28, 1963)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
CCharlton Heston, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin and Marlon
Brando at the March on Washington
Image Ownership: Public Domain 

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, held on August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C., was a landmark event for the early civil rights movement and is partly credited with winning the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Over 250,000 demonstrators converged on Washington, D.C., in what was to that point the largest public protest in the history of the nation.
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, et al, eds., Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle (New York: Penguin, 1991); Manning Marable and Leith Mullings, Freedom: A Photographic History of the African American Struggle (New York: Phaidon, 2002); Original text of John Lewis’ Speech.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Scottsboro Boys, Trial and Defense Campaign (1931–1937)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Scottsboro Boys and Attorney Samuel Leibowitz
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Scottsboro Boys were nine young black men, falsely accused of raping two white women on board a train near Scottsboro, Alabama in 1931. Convicted and facing execution, the case of Charlie Weems, Ozie Powell, Clarence Norris, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Haywood Patterson, Eugene Williams, and Andrew and Leroy Wright sparked international demonstrations and succeeded in both highlighting the racism of the American legal system and in overturning the conviction.

On March 25, 1931, nine unemployed young black men, illegally riding the rails and looking for work, were taken off a freight train at Scottsboro, Alabama and held on a minor charge. The Scottsboro deputies found two white women, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, and pressured them into accusing the nine youths of raping them on board the train. The charge of raping white women was an explosive accusation, and within two weeks the Scottsboro Boys were convicted and eight sentenced to death, the youngest, Leroy Wright at age 13, to life imprisonment.
Sources: 

Dan T. Carter, Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South, revised ed. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979); Philip S. Foner and Herbert Shapiro, eds., American Communism and Black Americans: A Documentary History, 1930–1934 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Women’s Political Council of Montgomery

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Mary Fair Burks, Founder
of the Women's Politcal Council
Image Courtesy of The Montgomery Advertiser
The Women’s Political Council (WPC) of Montgomery, Alabama was founded in 1946 by scholar and Alabama State College professor Mary Fair Burks.  The Council was a political organization meant to fight the institutionalized racism of Montgomery, Alabama, and an organization that provided leadership opportunities for women.

Burks was inspired to form the organization after a traffic dispute involving a white woman resulted in her arrest.  In response she created a community organization that would teach local African Americans their constitutional rights and stimulate voter registration among them.  Within a week Burks found forty women to join the organization, which they named the Women’s Political Council.  They focused their efforts on the three areas of political action: education, and protest of segregated services.  Burks was elected as the organization’s first president, a position she held for the next four years.

By the 1950s the WPC had become one of the most active civil rights organizations in Montgomery.  All three hundred of its members were registered to vote, which was a significant accomplishment for African American women at the time.

Sources: 
Belinda Robnett, How Long? How Long? (New York: Oxford University Press 1997); http://www.montgomeryboycott.com/profile_glass.htm
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Grandfather Clause, The (1898–1915)

Vignette Type: 
Misc
History Type: 
African American History
Harper's Weekly Editorial on 
The Grandfather Clause
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Grandfather Clause was a statute enacted by many American southern states in the wake of Reconstruction (1865-1877) that allowed potential white voters to circumvent literacy tests, poll taxes, and other tactics designed to disfranchise southern blacks. Following the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), which extended citizenship to blacks, the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) was ratified, providing a mandate that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged…on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” But after a brief period of relatively open voting, southern states and, especially, Democratic legislators began enacting poll taxes, literacy and property tests, and understanding clauses, which they claimed would exclude the poor and uneducated, in a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate the black vote. Many Southern states, however, had to rely on the cunning of voter registrars to ensure that poor and uneducated whites were not disfranchised by these tests.
Sources: 
R. Volney Riser, Defying Disfranchisement: Black Voting Rights Activism in the Jim Crow South, 1890-1908 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2010); Michael J. Klarman, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Economic Equality (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/10/21/239081586/the-racial-history-of-the-grandfather-clause.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rapier, James Thomas (1837-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center, Howard University

James Thomas Rapier was a Republican representative from the state of Alabama elected to the 43rd United States Congress. Rapier was born on November 13, 1837 in Florence, Alabama and attended high school in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1856 at the age of 19 he traveled to attend the King School in Buxton, Canada, an experimental black community. There, along with his education he experienced a religious conversion and decided to devote his life to helping southern blacks. Rapier also attended the University of Glasgow and Franklin College in Nashville before receiving a teaching certificate in 1863.

Rapier moved to Maury County, Tennessee and in 1865 started campaigning for African American suffrage. He delivered the keynote address at the Tennessee Negro Suffrage Convention in Nashville that same year. When the movement saw no success he took up cotton farming in his home town of Florence, Alabama and became successful.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

King, Coretta Scott (1927-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

The widow of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King became a forceful public figure and important leader in the civil rights movement. She made numerous contributions to the struggle for social justice and human rights throughout her life.

Coretta Scott was born the second of three children to Obadiah Scott and Bernice McMurray Scott in Heiberger, Alabama on April 27, 1927.  She spent her childhood nearby on a farm owned by her family since the Civil War.  During the Depression, Coretta and her siblings picked cotton in order to help support the family. This appeared to be the beginning of her determination to further her education.

Sources: 

“Coretta Scott King, 78, Widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dies” The New York Times (31 January 2006); Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King Jr. (New York: Holt, 1969; rev.ed., Henry Holt, 1993); http://www.civilrightsleader.com/coretta_scott_king.htm.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lucy, Autherine Juanita (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Roy Wilkins, Autherine Lucy and Thurgood Marshall
at a Press Conference, March 2, 1956
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Born on October 5, 1929 in Shiloh, Alabama, Autherine Lucy was one of ten children in a family of farmers. Despite this modest background, Lucy would impact history as the first African American to integrate the University of Alabama. Lucy will also be remembered as the first black student in the history of desegregation to experience the anger of an organized mob.

Autherine Lucy attended high school at Linden Academy in Shiloh, graduating in 1947. She then attended all-black Selma University in Selma, Alabama before transferring to another black institution, Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama. In 1952, Lucy graduated from Miles College with a B.A. in English. Lucy’s next educational goal was to obtain a master’s degree in education at the University of Alabama.
Sources: 
Howell Raines, My Soul Is Rested, New York: Viking Press, 1988; The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr., http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/kingweb/about_king/details/560206.htm; Diane McWhorter, “The Day Autherine Lucy Dared to Integrate the University of Alabama,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education Vol. 32 (Summer 2001); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993).

Turner, Jack (circa 1840-1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jack Turner, political activist and martyr, was born a slave in Choctaw County, Alabama around 1840. Choctaw County was situated in Alabama’s “Black Belt,” a large swath of cotton growing land in the central part of the state historically known for its dark, mineral-rich soil, and large population of black slaves to cultivate it. Turner worked part of this land as a slave until the end of the Civil War. Although he received no formal education, he independently learned to read and to write.
Sources: 
William Warren Rogers and Robert David Ward, August Reckoning, Jack Turner and Racism in Post-Civil War Alabama (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); William Warren Rogers and Robert David Ward, “ ‘Jack Turnerism:’ A Political Phenomenon of the Deep South,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Oct., 1972), pp. 313-332.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Councill, William Hooper (1849-1909)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Hooper Councill, educator and race leader, was born into slavery in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on July 12, 1849. His parents were both slaves on the Councill plantation. When William was five, his father escaped to Canada and tried unsuccessfully to obtain freedom for his family.  In 1857, William, his mother, and his brother, Cicero, were sold at the Richmond slave market to a trader, who in turn sold them on to a planter in Alabama. His two other brothers were sold separately.  

When Union troops occupied Chattanooga during the Civil War, Councill and his family escaped through Union lines to the North.  He returned to Alabama in 1865 to attend a school for freedmen that had been started by Quakers. This would be Councill’s only formal schooling.  He worked and studied for three years before graduating in 1867.

For several years Councill worked as a teacher in the black public schools in Alabama while moonlighting as a porter in hotels and restaurants. In 1869, at the age of 22, he opened Lincoln School in Huntsville for black children in the region.  In addition to his teaching duties, he attended night school where he studied chemistry, mathematics, law and Latin.  Councill was admitted to the Alabama bar but he never practiced law in the state.  
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982); August Meier, Negro Thought in America 1880-1915, Racial Ideologies in the Age of Booker T. Washington, (University of Michigan Press, 1964); Vivian Gunn Morris, Curtis L. Morris and Asa G. Hilliard, III, The Price They Paid: Desegregation in an African American Community (New York: Teachers College Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Haralson, Jeremiah (1846–1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library Of Congress
Jeremiah Haralson was born near Columbus, Georgia on April 1, 1846. The slave of Georgia planter John Haralson, he was taken to Alabama where he remained in bondage until 1865. It is unclear as to what he did in the earlier years of his freedom, but there are records that suggest he may have been a farmer and clergyman. Haralson taught himself to read and write and later became a skilled orator and debater.

In 1868, Haralson made his first unsuccessful attempt for a seat in the Forty-first Congress, representing Alabama’s First District of Alabama.  Two years later he won a seat in Alabama’s House of Representatives and in 1872 was elected to the State Senate.  In 1874 Haralson again ran for the U.S. House of Representatives.  Haralson narrowly won the Republican primary over Liberal Republican Frederick G. Bromberg.  Soon after the primary Bromberg accused Haralson of voter fraud and sought to deny him his seat.  The Democrats who controlled the U.S. House of Representatives supported Haralson and on March 4, 1875 he took his seat in Congress.   
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress
http://bioguide.congress.gov/ ; Biographical Directory of Jeremiah Haralson
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Work, Monroe Nathan (1866-1945)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Monroe Nathan Work, a leading early 20th Century sociologist, was born on August 15, 1866 to his ex-slave parents in Iredell County, North Carolina. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Cairo, Illinois where Monroe’s father worked as a tenant farmer. They aspired to own their own land and in the early 1870s moved to Kansas and purchased a 160-acre farm in Summer County. Work received his elementary education in a local church building and stayed in Summer County to help on the farm until 1889, when his mother died and his father went to live with one of the married children.

At the age of 23 Monroe Work enrolled in high school in Arkansas City, Kansas. After graduating (third in his class), he tried teaching, preaching, and homesteading before continuing his education at the Chicago Theological Seminary. Work became disenchanted with seminary and transferred to the Sociology Department of the University of Chicago in 1898.

Work’s passion for sociology was driven by his belief that education eradicated racial prejudice.  He once noted, “In the end, facts will help eradicate prejudice and misunderstanding, for facts are the truth and the truth shall set us free.” Thus began a life long career dedicated to finding and documenting the facts of black life in the United States.
Sources: 
“Monroe Work” in Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); “Monroe Work” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Gray, Fred D. (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Attorney, civil rights and human rights activist, Fred D. Gray, was born on December 14, 1930 in Montgomery, Alabama to Nancy and Abraham Gray.  The youngest of five children, he and his siblings were raised in a shotgun house in a segregated black section of the city.  

In 1947, Gray attended the Nashville Christian Institute.  After completing seminary, he enrolled at Alabama State College, where he paid for his education by working as a district manager of the Alabama Journal.  In 1951, Gray entered law school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his degree in 1954 and opened a law office in his hometown of Montgomery. 

Sources: 

Fred Gray, Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System (Montgomery, Alabama: Black Belt Press, 1995).  Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); http://www.fredgray.net/background.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing, Birmingham (1963)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing took place on September, 15 1963. Four young girls, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins, were killed in the racially motivated attack by the Ku Klux Klan against an African American church active in the ongoing civil rights campaign in Birmingham, Alabama.

The attack was meant to disrupt black community activists who had been demonstrating for weeks for an end to segregation in the city. It had the opposite effect. Because the four young girls killed were on their way to a basement assembly hall for closing prayers on a Sunday morning, the national public’s anger and revulsion at the slaughter of children at a place of worship helped build support in the John Kennedy administration for civil rights legislation. Twenty-two others were injured, many of them children that had been in the same group as the girls.
Sources: 

Birmingham Public Library Digital Collection: http://www.bplonline.org/resources/Digital_Project/SixteenthStBaptistBomb.asp; NPR Forty Years Later, Birmingham Still Struggles with Violent Past, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1431932.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church [Montgomery] (1883-- )

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

The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was built in 1883 on the corner of Dexter Avenue and Decatur Street in Montgomery, Alabama.  The church served as a meeting place and planning hub for some of the most influential actions of the Civil Rights movement throughout the first half of the twentieth century.  

The Dexter Avenue Church was built on a lot facing the Alabama State Capitol, on the site of a former slave trading pen. The choice of location, and the church’s refusal to move despite consistent threats from the white community, marked a tacit defiance of Jim Crow segregation and an early bend towards activism.

Sources: 

Samuel C. Hyde Jr., ed., Sunbelt Revolution: The Historical Progression
of the Civil Rights Struggle in the Gulf South, 1866-2000
(Gainesville:
University Press of Florida, 2003); Charles E. Fager, Selma, 1965: The
March that Changed the South
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1974); Adam
Fairclough, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality 1890-2000 (New York:
Viking, 2001); Irwin T. Sanders and Rhoda Lois Blumberg, eds., Social
Movements Past and Present: Civil Rights: The 1960s Freedom Struggle

(Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth at the Alabama
Christian Movement for Human Rights'
Founding in Birmingham, 1956
Image Ownership: Public Domain

On June 1, 1956, all NAACP offices in Alabama were forced to close, as a result of Attorney General John Patterson’s nine-year injunction against the civil rights organization. This left a void in local civil rights leadership and a desperate need for a new group to lead Birmingham’s black community in its campaign to end unfair treatment from whites. Recognizing this need, local black leaders called a mass meeting at Sardis Baptist Church. Approximately 1,000 people attended and created the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Its mission was to fight for freedom, democracy and first class citizenship for Birmingham blacks. Unlike the NAACP, they vowed to attain their goals through direct action and to test the validity of Jim Crow laws through the courts.

Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth was appointed as president of the ACMHR. He was known for tirelessly pushing reforms for blacks and placing his members and himself in danger to attain them. The group’s goals included hiring black policemen, integrating Birmingham's public schools, and desegregating all public accommodations.   

Sources: 

Andrew M. Manis, A Fire You Can’t Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of
Birmingham’s Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth
(Tuscaloosa: University of
Alabama Press, 1999). David J. Garrow, Birmingham, Alabama, 1956-1963:
The Black Struggle for Civil Rights
(Brooklyn, NY.: Carlson Publishing
Inc, 1989).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Barkley, Charles Wade (1963 - )

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

Charles Wade Barkley, born on February 20, 1963 in Leeds, Alabama will always be known for his excellent performance on the basketball court, but he is also trying to become known as a politician.  In 2014, Barkley will run as the Independent candidate for Governor of the state of Alabama.

Charles Barkley played college basketball at Auburn University between 1982 and 1984.  In 1984 he joined the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.  Barkley played sixteen years in the NBA, mostly for the Phoenix Suns.  He retired in 2000 from the Houston Rockets.

Barkley has always been very well aware of political issues and has decided to address them by holding office.  Since he was born and raised in Alabama and attended college at Auburn University, he believes his political future is in that state.

Barkley first seriously considered running for Governor in 1995 in anticipation of the 1998 gubernatorial election.  He learned however that he needed to be a resident of Alabama for seven years before running for the top office in the state.  Barkley returned permanently to Alabama in 2006 to start planning his run for Governor in 2014.

Sources: 

Charles Barkley and Michael Wilbon, I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It (New
York: Random House, 2002); Campbell Brown, "Transcript: Charles Barkley
tells Brown 'racism is a cancer' - CNN.com." CNN.com - Breaking News,
U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News.
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/27/brown.barkley/index.html; "Gov.
Barkley? Sir Charles eyeing office in Alabama," ESPN: The Worldwide
Leader In Sports, http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2531022.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Knights of St. Peter Claver (1909- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Knights of St. Peter Claver, Orlando Florida, 2007
Image Ownership: Public Domain

The Knights of Peter Claver organization was founded in 1909 in Mobile, Alabama. It is the largest African American Catholic lay organization in the United States. The organization was founded by the Josephites, a Catholic order whose mission was to serve Catholic African Americans. Josephite leaders were concerned that the Church would lose its African American members to other organizations, such as the Elks and the Masons, who had black lodges, if they did not have their own fraternal Catholic organization.

By 1910, the Knights of Peter Claver had branches in Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; and several towns in Mississippi. They later spread to the North as well and became a national presence by 1946.

Sources: 

Nina Mjagkij, Organizing Black America (New York, NY: Garland
Publishing Inc., 2001); Charles D. Lowry and John F. Marszalek,
Encyclopedia of African-American Civil Rights: from Emancipation to the
Present
(Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992); www.kofpc.org.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Birmingham Black Barons

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 

Christopher D. Fullerton, Every Other Sunday: The Story of the Birmingham Black Barons (Birmingham: R. Boozer Press, 1999); John Klima, Willie's Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009); http://northbysouth.kenyon.edu/2000/baseball/BBB_intro.htm; http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1665

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Shuttlesworth, Fred (1922-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Jo Ann Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It (Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 1987); Russell Freedman, Freedom Walkers: the Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (New York: Holiday House, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Shores, Arthur D (1903-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eric Pace, "Arthur D. Shores, 92, Lawyer and Advocate for Civil Rights," The New York Times, Wednesday, December 18, 1996, section B page 13; "In Memoriam: Arthur D. Shores; 1904-1996,"  The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 31 March 1997.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Gaston, A. G. (1892-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 

A. G. Gaston, Green Power: The Successful Way of A. G. Gaston (Birmingham: Southern University Press, 1968); Carol Jenkins and Elizabeth Gardner Hines, Black Titan, A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire (New York: One World/Ballantine, 2003). 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Abbott, Cleveland Leigh (1892–1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of Lilah Morton Pengra
Cleveland Leigh Abbott was born December 9, 1892 in Yankton, South Dakota. He is most remembered for his coaching career at Tuskegee Institute (now University) in Alabama.

Abbott was the son of Elbert and Mollie Brown Abbott who moved to South Dakota from Alabama in 1890. He graduated from Watertown High School, Watertown, South Dakota, in 1912 and then from the South Dakota State University at Brookings in 1916. Abbott earned 14 varsity athletic awards during his collegiate career.
In 1916 Cleveland Abbott married Jessie Harriet Scott (1897–1982). They had one daughter, Jessie Ellen, who in 1943 became the first coach of the women’s track team at Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Abbott served as a First Lieutenant in the 366th Infantry, 92nd Division in World War I.  He saw action at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918. Abbott was later a commissioned officer in the Army Reserve.  (The US Army Reserve Center at Tuskegee is now named the Cleveland Leigh Abbott Center.)

Sources: 

“Obituary,” The Huronite (Huron, South Dakota, June 5, 1955, p. 1);  A. Dunkle and V. Smith, The College on the Hills: A Sense of South Dakota State University History (Brookings, SD: SDSU Alumni Association, 2003); Ruth Hill, Black Women Oral History Project (Westport, CT: Meckler, 1990); Charles Johnson, African Americans and ROTC (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2002); Monroe Mason and Arthur Furr, The American Negro Soldier with the Red Hand of France (Boston: Cornhill Co., 1920).

 

Contributor: 

Benjamin, Regina Marcia (1956– )

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

Dr. Regina Marcia Benjamin, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General of the United States, is an accomplished physician whose professional and personal  roots are planted deeply in rural  America.  Dr. Benjamin was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1956 and grew up in nearby Daphne, Alabama.  

Regina Benjamin’s parents divorced when she was a child and her mother worked as a domestic and waitress to support Regina and her older brother.  Although the family owned land, financial necessity forced them to sell it.   She recalled that her family often fished in the Gulf of Mexico to catch their evening meal.    

Despite her family's poverty Regina Benjamin set her sights on college.  She enrolled in Xavier University in New Orleans where she met an African American physician for the first time.  This encounter persuaded her to pursue a career in medicine.  Earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Xavier in 1978, she then attended  Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta  between 1980 and 1982 but completed her medical degree at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.  

Sources: 
Gardiner Harris, “A Doctor From the Bayou, New York Times, July 14,
2009; Rick Bragg, “Poor Town Finds an Angel in a White Coat,” New York Times, April 3, 1995; Ebony Magazine, March 1997, January 1998; Catholic News Service, “Nation Called ‘Fortunate’ to Have Alabama Physician as Obama Nominee,” News Briefs, July 13, 2009; The Catholic Transcript Online, July 14, 2009; Answers.com, “Black Biography: Regina Benjamin Physician Personal Information.”
Affiliation: 
California State University, Sacramento

Tuskegee University (1881-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History

 

Tuskegee Commencement, May 20, 1917
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Tuskegee University, one of the largest historically black universities in the United States, is a private university located in Tuskegee, Alabama. It was founded by Lewis Adams, a former slave, and George W. Campbell, a former slave owner.

Sources: 
Addie Louise Joyner Butler, The Distinctive Black College: Talladega, Tuskegee, and Morehouse (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1977); History of Tuskegee University, http://www.tuskegee.edu/Global/story.asp?S=1070392 (Official Website).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Talladega College (1867- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Talladega College was founded in 1867, and is Alabama’s oldest private historically black liberal arts college.  Located on 50 acres in the city of Talladega, Alabama, the wooded campus sits on a plateau about 700 feet above a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Sources: 
Addie Louise Joyce Butler, The Distinctive Black College: Talladega, Tuskegee and Morehouse  (Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1977); Toni Hodge-Wright, The Handbook of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Seattle: Jireh and Associates, 1992);    Talladega College Webpage, http://www.talladega.edu/index/history
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Murray, Albert (1916-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Albert Murray, an African American novelist, jazz critic, professor, and essayist, was born in Nokomis, Alabama on May 12, 1916.   His birth parents were Sudie Graham and John Young but he was adopted by Hugh and Mattie Murray and grew up in Magazine Point, Alabama. 

Sources: 
Albert Murray and John F. Callahan, eds., Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray (New York: The Modern Library, 2000); Roberta S. Maguire, Conversations with Albert Murray (Mississippi: The University Press of Mississippi, 1997); http://www.tuskegee.edu/Global/story.asp?S=1260209; http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article?tocId=9002879; Mel Watkins, "Albert Murray, Essayist Who Challenged the Conventional, Dies at 97, Books Section, New York Times, August 20, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Satcher, David (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

David Satcher, physician, educator, and administrator, was born in Anniston, Alabama, on March 2, 1941 to Wilmer and Anne Satcher.   In 1963 Satcher graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta.  He earned a M.D. and Ph.D. in cytogenetics from Case Western Reserve University in 1970.  

In 1979 Satcher became a professor and later chair of the Department of Community Medicine and Family Practice at Morehouse School of Medicine.  In the early 1980s, he also served on the faculty of the UCLA School of Medicine and Public Health and the Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he developed and chaired the King/Drew Department of Family Medicine. While in his position, Satcher negotiated the agreement with the UCLA School of Medicine and the Board of Regents that created a medical education program at King/Drew. In this new program, he directed sickle cell research.  In 1982, Satcher began his five year presidency at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sources: 
Mike Mitka, "US Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD," Journal of the American Medical Association 280 (August 19, 1998): 590-91; Rebecca Voelker, "The Surgeon General Moves On," Journal of the American Medical Association 287 (May 1, 2002): 2199-200; Federal government official website: www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/youthviolence/satcher.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Hilliard, Earl (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John F. Szwed, Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (NY: Pantheon Books, 1997); Graham Lock, Blutopia: Visions of the Future and Revisionist of the Past in the Work of Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, and Anthony Braxton (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999); John Corbett, Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun-Ra, El Saturn and Chicago's Afro-futurist Underground 1954-68 (Chicago: White Walls, 2006).
Contributor: 

Clotilda (Slave Ship)

Vignette Type: 
Misc
History Type: 
African American History
Sylviane A. Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (NY: Oxford University Press, 2007).
Contributor: 

Lewis, Kossola Cudjo (c. 1841–1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy Erik Overbey Collection
University of South Alabama Archives
Sources: 
Sylviane A. Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (NY: Oxford University Press, 2007); http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1403
Contributor: 

Miles College [Fairfield] (1905-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Miles College is a private, four-year Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Fairfield, Alabama, about six miles west of downtown Birmingham.  The school was founded in 1905 by the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (now called Christian Methodist Episcopal Church or CME Church), but its beginnings goes back to 1898, when the Alabama and North Alabama CME Church conferences petitioned for a higher education institution for blacks in the state.  The conferences’ petitions were granted in 1905 when Booker City High School was turned into a college.

In 1907, the college moved from Booker City, Alabama to its present campus in Fairfield under the leadership of its first president, James A. Bray.  The next year (1908), the school was named Miles Memorial College, in memory of ex-slave and minister, Bishop William H. Miles. In 1941, the Board of Trustees shortened the college’s name to Miles College.

In 1911, Miles awarded its first baccalaureate degrees.  Shortly afterwards it became co-educational.   The first woman to graduate, Willie Selden McDaniel, completed her requirements in May 1918.  
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Stillman College [Tuscaloosa] (1867-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Stillman College is a private, four-year university located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and is known as one of the Historically Black Colleges/University (HBCU’s).  In 1867, Charles Allen Stillman, Presbyterian Church pastor in Eutaw, Alabama asked the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Alabama to sponsor a school that would train black men to become ministers.  The Assembly granted his request and Tuscaloosa Institute opened its doors later that year.  

The institute was recognized by the state of Alabama in 1895 and in the same year changed its name to the Stillman Institute to honor its creator.  It also established a middle school and high school to serve local children.  In 1898, the Presbyterian General Assembly approved the relocation of the institute to a larger campus and one year later permitted the admission of women.  
Sources: 
Stillman College Website, http://www.stillman.edu/about_us/history_and_mission.aspx; http://www.petersons.com; Marybeth Gasman, “Truth, Generalizations, and Stigmas: an Analysis of the Media’s Coverage of Morris Brown College and Black Colleges Overall,” in Charles L. Betsey, ed., Historically Black Colleges and Universities (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2008)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Oakwood University [Huntsville] (1896- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Oakwood College is a private, four-year coeducational historically black liberal arts university located in Huntsville, Alabama; the small urban campus is five minutes from downtown. Sitting on 1,185 acres, Oakwood University is one of the historical landmarks of Huntsville.  It is the only historically black institution sponsored by the Seventh Day Adventists.

Sources: 
Oakwood University Webpage, http://www.oakwood.edu/; Toni Hodge-Wright, The Handbook of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Seattle: Jireh and Associates, 1992); Julian B. Roebuck and Komanduri S. Murty, Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Their Place in American Higher Education (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Watkins, Dr. Levi, Jr. (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. is a cardiac surgeon who, in 1980, performed the first implantation of an automatic defibrillator into a human heart. He is currently a professor of cardiac surgery and associate dean at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
Sources: 
Carl Schoettler, “Memories of King's lessons Protégé: Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. once benefited firsthand from the teachings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.” (The Baltimore Sun, January 15 1997); “Footprint Through Time: Levi Watkins Jr.” (PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/partners/legacy/l_colleagues_watkins.html)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sydney, Australia

Abbott, Anderson Ruffin (1837-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 
M. Dalyce Newby, Anderson Ruffin Abbott: First Afro-Canadian Doctor (Markam, Ontario: Fitzhenny and Whiteside, 1998); Daniel Hill, The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1981); Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/abbott_anderson_ruffin_14E.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Davis, Angela (1944--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Angela Davis, activist, educator, scholar, and politician, was born on January 26, 1944, in the “Dynamite Hill” area of Birmingham, Alabama.  The area received that name because so many African American homes in this middle class neighborhood had been bombed over the years by the Ku Klux Klan.  Her father, Frank Davis, was a service station owner and her mother, Sallye Davis, was an elementary school teacher.  Davis’s mother was also active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), when it was dangerous to be openly associated with the organization because of its civil rights activities.  As a teenager Davis moved to New York City with her mother, who was pursuing a Master’s degree at New York University.  While there she attended Elizabeth Irwin High School, a school considered leftist because a number of its teachers were blacklisted during the McCarthy era for their earlier alleged Communist activities.

Sources: 
Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006); Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Crenchaw, Milton Pitts (1919- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Tuskegee Airmen Pilots in Training, ca. 1942,
Milton Crenchaw is in the Cap in the Middle
Image Courtesy of Edmund Davis

Milton Crenchaw is the only living civilian flight instructor (of the first class) for the Tuskegee Airmen. He was the first Arkansas African American to be called a Tuskegee Airman.

Milton Pitts Crenchaw was born on January 13, 1919 in Little Rock, Arkansas to Ethel Pitts Crenchaw, a beautician, and Reverend Joseph C. Crenchaw. Milton Crenchaw studied auto mechanics at Dunbar Junior College and in 1939 enrolled in the mechanical engineering program at Tuskegee Institute. He was in the school’s pilot training program and did not continue his studies after earning his pilot’s license. 

He learned to fly at Gunter Airfield (now Maxwell Air Force Base) near Montgomery, Alabama. In 1940 pioneering African-American aviator Charles A. Anderson persuaded Crenchaw to become a flight instructor for the newly formed Tuskegee Airmen. He served in that capacity from 1941 until 1946, training hundreds of African American cadets and pilots at various airfields around Tuskegee Institute.

Sources: 

Robert A. Rose, D.D.S., Lonely Eagles (California: Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, Los Angeles Chapter, 1976); Charles Dryden,  A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman (Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1997); http://www.lwfaam.net/ww2/aaf_66th_ftd/66th.htm; http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4925http://www.cmrousefund.org/milton-pitts-crenchaw.htmlhttp://earlyaviators.com/eanderso.htmhttp://www.central.aero/about-us/

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arkansas Baptist College

Thornton, Willie Mae “Big Mama” (1926-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was a blues singer and songwriter whose recordings of “Hound Dog” and “Ball ‘n’ Chain” later were transformed into huge hits by Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin.  

Willie Mae Thornton was born on December 11, 1926 outside of Montgomery in rural Ariton, Alabama. Her father was a Baptist minister and her mother was a church singer in his congregation. Thornton’s mother died when the singer was 14, and she left home to pursue a career as an entertainer. She joined the Georgia-based Hot Harlem Revue as an accomplished singer, drummer, and harmonica player and spent seven years as a regular performer throughout the South. Following her years as a traveling blues singer, Thornton moved to Houston in 1948 to begin her recording career.

In Houston, Thornton joined Don Robey’s Peacock Records in 1951, often working closely with fellow label artist Johnny Otis. Her professional relationship with Otis and Robey proved fruitful for Thornton, who, along with “Little” Esther Phillips and Mel Walker, toured with Otis. Their tour traveled throughout the eastern and southern United States, including benchmark shows at Houston’s Bronze Peacock and Harlem’s Cotton Club.
Sources: 
Tony Russell, The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray (Dubai: Carlton Books Limited, 1997); Tina Spencer Dreisbach, “Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton,” The Encyclopedia of Alabama, http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1573; Alan Lee Haworth, “Thornton, Willie Mae [Big Mama]” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fthpg.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Distant Whistles, Muted Flutes: Ada Wright in Glasgow, 1932

Ada Wright Welcomed By Glasgow Workers, July 4, 1932
Image Courtesy of Irene Brown

In the following account writer Irene Brown recalls through her father's photo the visit of Ada Wright, mother to Roy and Andy Wright, two of the nine Scottsboro Boys accused of rape in 1931.  Her account appears below.

Memories.  That’s all that’s left when someone dies.  I am lucky.  My parents left me good memories and they also left me hundreds of photographs.  One day, I came across a photo of my Dad’s that I must have seen before but somehow its significance had failed to register.  It was a press photo with the stamp ‘copyright The Bulletin,’ which was a sister paper of the Glasgow Herald, one of Scotland’s national newspapers.  It looked like the start of a demonstration which I assumed was in Glasgow as the photo had been taken by a Glasgow newspaper.  The crowd was made up of flat-capped working class men and bareheaded boys.  Two young men near the front were playing flutes.   One of these young men was my father, Duncan Brown.

Summary: 
In the following account writer Irene Brown recalls through her father's photo the visit of Ada Wright, mother to Roy and Andy Wright, two of the nine Scottsboro Boys accused of rape in 1931.  Her account appears below.
Sources: 
Susan D. Pennybacker, From Scottsboro to Munich : Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009); Glasgow Herald, July 5, 1932, p. 3, Daily Worker, July 7, 1932, pp. 1-2.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Moddie Daniel (1912-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center,
National Museum of American History,
Smithsonian Institution
Moddie Daniel Taylor, a chemist by training, was a member of the small, elite group of African American scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the code name for the top-secret effort to create an atomic bomb during World War II.  Taylor was born in Nymph, Alabama on March 3, 1912, the son of Herbert L. Taylor and Celeste (Oliver) Taylor.  The Taylors later moved to St. Louis where Herbert worked as a postal clerk.  Moddie Taylor attended Charles H. Sumner High, graduating in 1931.  He then attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri where he majored in chemistry.  Taylor graduated in 1935 as the valedictorian of his class.

Moddie Taylor began his teaching career at Lincoln University the same year, working as an instructor until 1939 and then as an assistant professor from 1939 to 1941 while enrolled in the University of Chicago graduate program in chemistry.  He received an M.S. from the University in 1939 and a Ph.D. in 1943.

Taylor married Vivian Ellis in 1937.  The couple had one son, Herbert Moddie Taylor.
Sources: 
Kenneth R. Manning, “Science and Opportunity,” Science, Volume 282 (November 6, 1998): 1037-1038; “Scientists in the News,” Science, Volume 131 (May 20, 1960): 1513-1514; “Records of Meetings,” Daedalus, Volume 86 (September, 1956): 137-16; Ebony, January 1961; "Moddie Taylor Biography," BookRags.com, http://www.bookrags.com/biography/moddie-taylor-woc/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Anderson, Charles A. "Chief" (1907-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles Anderson, April 1941
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Alfred Anderson, often called the "Father of Black Aviation," because of his training and mentoring of hundreds of African American pilots, was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb, on February 9, 1907.  His parents were Janie and Iverson Anderson. Charles Anderson earned the name “Chief” because he was the most ranked and experienced African American pilot before coming to Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) in 1940.  By that point he had amassed 3,500 hours of flight prompting most of his contemporaries, and students to call him by that name as a sign of their respect for his accomplishments.  Anderson was also the Chief flight Instructor for all cadets and flight instructors at Tuskegee during World War II.   

While growing up in Bryn Mawr, Anderson developed an interest in aviation.  In August 1929, at the age of 22, he borrowed $2,500 from friends and relatives, bought a used airplane, and taught himself to fly.  Later that year he received License, No. 7638.  In 1932, Anderson received a commercial pilot’s license and air-transport pilot license becoming the first African-American to hold both certificates. In the same year he wed his childhood sweetheart, Gertrude Elizabeth Nelson. The couple had two sons.
Sources: 
Milton Pitts Crenchaw Interview, Little Rock, Arkansas July 28, 2011; George L. Washington, The History of the Military and Civilian Pilot Training of the Negroes at Tuskegee, Alabama, 1939-1945 (Washington D.C: George L. Washington, 1972); http://www.bjmjr.net/tuskegee/chief.htm; Tuskegee Institute, National Historic Site, 1212 West
Montgomery Rd. Tuskegee Institute, Alabama 36088
http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/tuskegee/airanderson.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock

Payton, Benjamin Franklin (1932- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the Tuskegee University Archives,
Tuskegee University
Former Tuskegee University president Benjamin Franklin Payton was born in 1932 in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  His father, Reverend Leroy Payton, was a Baptist minister, farmer, and teacher while his mother, Sarah Mack Payton, was a homemaker.  Benjamin Payton graduated with honors from South Carolina State in 1955, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology.  In 1958 he was awarded the Bachelor of Divinity degree in philosophical theology from Harvard.  He earned a master’s in philosophy from Colombia University in 1960, followed by the Ph.D. in Ethics from Yale University.

In 1963, Payton became assistant professor of sociology, religion, and social ethics at Howard University.  During this time he also served as the director of the school’s Community Service Project in Washington, D.C.  Two years later he became the director of Office of Church and Race for the Protestant Council of the City of New York.  In 1967 he became the president of Benedict College.  He left the post in 1972 to become program officer of Education and Public Policy for the Ford Foundation.
Sources: 
"Benjamin F. Payton (1932-    ) University President,” in Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 23 pp. 151-153 (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale Group Inc., 2000); “Benjamin F. Payton Tuskegee University President,” African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1997); “Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton,” tuskegee.edu http://www.tuskegee.edu/about_us/legacy_of_leadership/benjamin_f_payton.aspx 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Central University

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

Herman, Alexis Margaret (1947-- )

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

Alexis Herman, US Secretary of Labor, political activist, civic leader, social worker, and entrepreneur, was born on July 16, 1947 in Mobile, Alabama to politician Alex Herman and educator Gloria Caponis.  Herman graduated from Heart of Mary High School in Mobile in 1965 and enrolled in Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and then Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama before transferring to St. Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 1969.  She joined the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta during her college years and supported this sorority throughout her career.

Sources: 
http://www.washingtonspeakers.com/speakers/speaker.cfm?SpeakerId=3178; http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/herman.htm; http://www.toyota.com/about/diversity/diversity_advisory_board/alexis_herman.html; http://encore.utep.edu/iii/encore/search/C__Salexis%20herman__Orightresult__U1?lang=eng&suite=cobalt
Affiliation: 
University of Texas El Paso

Coates, Dorothy Love (1928-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Dorothy Love Coates was an American gospel singer, songwriter, and composer.  She was born Dorothy McGriff on January 30, 1928 in Birmingham, Alabama.  Her minister father, Lillar McGriff, moved to the North when Coates was six, and her parents soon divorced.  Thereafter, Lillar McGriff raised their six children in Birmingham.  By the age of 10, Coates had begun playing piano at Evergreen Baptist Church in Birmingham.  As a teenager, she performed with the Royal Travelers and with her siblings in the McGriff Singers, who had a weekly live radio broadcast on WJLD.  She left school after the tenth grade to help support her family as a maid and a clerk.  In 1946, she married her first husband Willie Love (1925-1991) of the Fairfield Four, and the couple divorced a few years later.
Sources: 
Bill Carpenter, “Dorothy Love Coates,” Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005); Robert Darden, “Dorothy Love Coates,” Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, edited by W.K. McNeil (New York: Routledge, 2005); Anthony Heilbut, “‘I Won’t Let Go of My Faith’: Dorothy Love Coates,” The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times (New York: Proscenium Publishers, [1971] 2002), and Dave Marsh, “Dorothy Love Coates,” All Music Guide to the Blues, edited by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Vladimir Bogdanov, and Chris Woodstra (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

St. Bartley Primitive Baptist Church [Huntsville] (1808- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Instituted in 1808 by enslaved blacks, St. Bartley Primitive Baptist Church of Huntsville, Alabama, exemplifies 206 years of black religious independence.  It was located originally outside the city limits of Huntsville near present day Governors Drive and Madison Street, among the tombstones, dogwoods, and flowering trees of the Old Georgia Graveyard—a slave graveyard, and the only land that enslaved blacks could claim.  The original congregation appears to have been composed of slaves transported by their owners from Georgia to northern Alabama.  St. Bartley, initially called the African Huntsville Church, is recognized widely as being Alabama’s oldest black church.
Sources: 
Edward R. Crowther, “Independent Black Baptist Congregations in Antebellum Alabama,” The Journal of Negro History, (Vol. 72, No. 3/4 Summer - Autumn 1987, pp. 66-75); Saint Bartley Primitive Baptist Church website at http://www.saintbartleypbchurch.org/history.html; January 29, 2014, phone interview with Elder William T. Gladys.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Alabama State University

Spraggs, Venice Tipton (1905-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Chicago Defender Front Page, November 16, 1940
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Venice Tipton Spraggs served as the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Defender and was the first African American inducted into Theta Sigma Phi, a professional journalism fraternity.  Spraggs was born in 1905 in Birmingham, Alabama to Barbara Tipton.  She attended Spelman College and married William Spraggs, a presser from Birmingham, in 1924.  The couple had no children.
Sources: 
Helen W. Berthelot, Win Some, Lose Some: G. Mennen Williams and the New Democrats (Detroit: Wayne University Press, 1995); Cheryl Mullenbach, Double Victory: How African-American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013); United States of America, Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930, Census Place: Birmingham, Jefferson, Alabama (roll 30, page 17A, Enumeration District 0098, Image 35.0, FHL microfilm 2339765).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Joyner, Tom (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Tom Joyner is the first African American to become a syndicated radio show host.  His “The Tom Joyner Show” is broadcast to over 104 radio stations in the United States. He is also a muscian, author, producer, actor, and television show host.  Besides his media involvement, Joyner is best known as a philanthropist, providing fiancial assistance to students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as well as taking part in other community projects.

Joyner was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on November 23, 1949.  His parents Frances and Hercules L. Joyner are graduates of  Florida A&M and Tennessee State University, both of which are historically black colleges.  Oscar Joyner, his grandfather, graduated in 1902 with a degree in medicine from Meharry Medical School, making him one of fewer than 3,000 black physicians in the United States at the time.  Joyner has two sons—Tom, Jr. and Oscar—by his first wife Dora.  In 2000 he married Donna Richardson, a celebrity aerobics instructor.  They divorced in 2012.
Sources: 
BlackAmericaWeb, Tom Joyner, http://blackamericaweb.com/tom-joyner/; Blackamericaweb.com, http://blackamericaweb.com/author/tomjoynerblog/; Mary F. Boyce, I’m Just A DJ but it Makes Sense To Me (New York: Warner Books, 2005); Smokey D. Fontaine, “Top 20 Black Radio Jockeys of All Time,” News One Black America, March 15, 2011, retrieved December 1, 2013 from http://newsone.com/1093115/top-20-radio-jockeys-of-all-time/; The Tom Joyner Foundation http://tomjoynerfoundation.org/about-us/history-tom-joyner-foundation/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Boothe, Charles Octavius (1845-1924)

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

An African American Baptist preacher, educator, author, and tireless advocate for African American advancement and uplift, Charles Octavius Boothe was one of the founders of Dexter Avenue-King Memorial Baptist Church (1877), Selma University (1878), and the Colored Baptist Missionary Convention for the State of Alabama in the early 1870s.  The latter was the first statewide African American Baptist denominational organization. He also served as the first minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and a two year term as president of Selma University (1901-1902).

Sources: 
Charles Octavius Boothe, The Cyclopedia of the Colored Baptists of Alabama: Their Leaders and Their Work. (Birmingham: Alabama Publishing Company, 1895), available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/boothe/bio.html ; Edward R. Crowther, "Charles Octavius Boothe: An Alabama Apostle of 'Uplift.'" Journal of Negro History 78 (Spring 1993): 110-16; Edward R. Crowther, "Interracial Cooperative Missions Among Blacks by Alabama's Baptists, 1868-1882." Journal of Negro History 80 (Summer 1995): 131-39; Charles Octavius Boothe, the Encyclopedia of Alabama http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1560
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Alabama State University

Colvin, Claudette (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Claudette Colvin, a nurse’s aide and Civil Rights Movement activist, was born on September 5, 1939 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her parents were Mary Jane Gadson and C.P. Austin, but she was raised by her great-aunt and great-uncle, Mary Ann Colvin and Q.P. Colvin. Claudette Colvin and her guardians relocated to Montgomery when she was eight. She later attended Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery.  

On March 2, 1955, 19-year-old Colvin, while riding on a segregated city bus, made the fateful decision that would make her a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement. She had been sitting far behind the seats already reserved for whites, and although a city ordinance empowered bus drivers to enforce segregation, blacks could not be asked to give up a seat in the “Negro” section of the bus for a white person when it was crowded. However, this provision of the local law was usually ignored. Colvin was asked by the driver to give up her seat on the crowded bus for a white passenger who had just boarded. She refused.
Sources: 
Ruth E. Martin, "Colvin, Claudette," African American National Biography, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Darlene Clark Hine, et al., The African American Odyssey (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gorden, General Fred (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
General Fred A. Gorden was the first black Commandant of Cadets, the officer in charge of the training, discipline, and physical condition of the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  The Commandant of Cadets position is second only to the position of Superintendent of the Academy.   

Born in Anniston, Alabama in 1940, Gorden’s family moved shortly afterward to Atlanta, Georgia.  Gorden was the fourth of five children and was raised by his childless aunt, who lived around the corner from his family.  When she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan to marry, he went with her.  There he attended the local high school and excelled in both academics and athletics.  He was in the National Honor Society and played on an all-city basketball team.

Gorden had been attending a local junior college in 1958 when he was notified about his appointment to West Point as a cadet.  He received the call from a lawyer from his hometown who in turn had been contacted by the area’s Congressman about the appointment.  Gorden was to be the only black cadet in his class.

Sources: 
Catherine Reef, African Americans in the Military (New York: Facts on File, 2010); Gail Lumet Buckley, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm (New York: Random House, 2002); James Feron, “At West Point, Symbol of Change for Army,” The New York Times, October 28, 1987, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/28/nyregion/at-west-point-symbol-of-change-for-army.html; Angie Thorne, “One Man, One Family Makes a Difference,” March 4, 2009, retrieved from http://www.army.mil/article/17752/One_man__one_family_makes_difference/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Rector, Sarah (1902–1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Sarah Rector at Age 12
Sarah Rector received international attention at the age of eleven when The Kansas City Star in 1913 publicized the headline, “Millions to a Negro Girl.” From that moment Rector’s life became a cauldron of misinformation, legal and financial maneuvering, and public speculation. 

Rector was born to Joseph and Rose Rector on March 3, 1902, in a two-room cabin near Twine, Oklahoma on Muscogee Creek Indian allotment land.  Both Joseph and Rose had enslaved Creek ancestry, and both of their fathers fought with the Union Army during the Civil War. When Oklahoma statehood became imminent in 1907, the Dawes Allotment Act divided Creek lands among the Creeks and their former slaves with a termination date of 1906.  Rector’s parents, Sarah Rector herself, her brother, Joe, Jr., and sister Rebecca all received land. Lands granted to former slaves were usually the rocky lands of poorer agricultural quality. Rector’s allotment of 160 acres was valued at $556.50.

Sources: 
Tonya Bolden, Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America, (New York: Abrams Books, 2014); http://african-nativeamerican.blogspot.com/2010/04/remembering-sarah-rector-creek.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Younge, Samuel (“Sammy”) Leamon, Jr. (1944-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Samuel (“Sammy”) Leamon Younge Jr. was a young civil rights activist who was shot to death on January 3, 1966 when he attempted to use a whites-only restroom at a gas station in Macon County, Alabama. He was 21 years old.  Younge was killed 11 years after and 40 miles from where the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott began. At the time of his death he was a military veteran and Tuskegee Institute political science student.  

Younge was born on November 17, 1944 in Tuskegee, Alabama. His parents were educated professionals; Samuel Sr. was an occupational therapist, and Younge’s mother, Renee, was a schoolteacher. Unlike most black men in Macon County, Sammy Younge and his younger brother, Stephen (“Stevie”), grew up with middle class privileges and comforts.

Sources: 
http://newsone.com/2824521/samuel-sammy-younge-jr/; James Forman, Sammy Younge, Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement (Washington, D.C.: Open Hand Publishing, 1986) [first published 1968]; “Samuel Younge, Jr.,” Encyclopedia of Alabama, http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1669; Michael F. Wright Ph.D., J.D., Sammy Younge Jr. Memorial Address http://www.crmvet.org/mem/younges.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian
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