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Boxing

Leonard, “Sugar” Ray (1956 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle
Ray Leonard was born on May 17, 1956 in Wilmington, North Carolina. At age 20 he captured a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Exceptionally fast with his fists and quick on his feet, the charismatic youngster turned professional and immediately became one of the sports biggest draws with his crowd pleasing style.

Adopting the name “Sugar” in tribute to Sugar Ray Robinson, Leonard captured his first title when he defeated WBC welterweight champion Wilfred Benitez in 1979. He won 22 fights before suffering his first professional defeat to Roberto Duran in June 1980 when he attempted to stand toe to toe and slug it out with his more experienced opponent. Five months later he regained the title from Duran by changing his tactics and relying upon his superior boxing skills, frustrating his opponent so badly that the latter quit in the middle of the eighth round.

In 1981 Leonard moved up in weight and added the Junior Middleweight title by defeating Ayube Kalule, and later that year unified the welterweight title with a 14-round TKO of the highly regarded Tommy Hearns. He then retired for the first time in 1982 after suffering a detached retina.
Sources: 
www.boxrec.com; Sam Toperoff, Sugar Ray Leonard and Other Noble Warriors (New York: McGraw-Hill Company,1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dixon, George "Little Chocolate" (1870-1909)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Dixon, also known as “Little Chocolate,” was born on July 29, 1870 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Standing only 5’ 3 ½” and weighing no more than 118 pounds over the bulk of his career, “Little Chocolate” was described as long armed and skinny legged, swift of hand and foot, and possessing an ideal fighting temperament and great stamina. Ring magazine founder and editor, Nat Fleischer, described him as a marvel of cleverness, yet indicated that he could slug with the best of them. Fleischer rated him as the # 1 bantamweight of all time.

Dixon became the first black man to win a world championship when he captured the bantamweight title just shy of his 20th birthday by defeating Nunc Wallace of England in 18 rounds on June 27, 1890. Only 13 months later he knocked out Abe Willis of Australia to garner the featherweight crown. He held that title for the next six years, finally losing it by decision to Solly Smith on October 4, 1897. He regained it on November 11, 1898 by defeating Dave Sullivan, but then lost it for good when Terry McGovern knocked him out on January 9, 1900.
Sources: 
John D. McCallum, The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions (Radner, Pennsylvania; Chilton Book Co. 1975); www.cyberboxingzone.com and www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Frazier, Joe (1944-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Joe Frazier (Right) and Muhammad Ali Fight
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Joe Frazier, 20th Century heavyweight boxing champion, is principally known for his rivalry with fellow boxer Muhammad Ali.  Frazier was born on January 12, 1944 in Beaufort County, South Carolina. One of eleven children, he moved to New York when he was 15 years old to live with an older brother. Unable to find work, he relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he took up boxing to lose weight in late 1961. Exhibiting a knack for the game, Frazier began boxing as an amateur, and reigned as the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves heavyweight champion for three straight years. Hoping to make the 1964 U.S. Olympic team, he lost to Buster Mathis in the finals of the Olympic Trials, but was subsequently named the heavyweight representative when Mathis injured his hand.  Frazier won a gold medal by defeating the German heavyweight.

Sources: 
Joe Frazier and Phil Berger, Smokin’ Joe: The Autobiography of a Heavyweight Champion of the World, Smokin’ Joe Frazier (New York, N.Y.: MacMillan Publishing Co. 1996); www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Herenton, Willie W. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Willie W. Herenton was born on April 23, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee and is currently the mayor of that city. Dr. Herenton is a graduate of LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis and the University of Memphis.

At a young age, Herenton demonstrated athletic prowess. When he was 11 years old, Herenton entered a boxing program at the local YMCA. During his first year, he made it to the semifinals and in 1953, he captured the flyweight title. By the time he graduated from high school in 1958, Herenton had won a number of southern AAU championships. He also won the Kentucky Golden Gloves competition and had been Tri-State Boxing Champion several times.

Because of his boxing prowess, Herenton was offered a full athletic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He refused the scholarship and instead moved to Chicago with the hopes of becoming a professional boxer. Realizing the limitations of a high school education, Herenton soon regretted his decision. He returned to Memphis and enrolled at LeMoyne College, a small black liberal arts school in the city. He met fellow student, Ida, and they were soon married.
Sources: 
Adam Faircloth, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality 1890-2000 (New York: Penguin, 2002); Lawrence Otis Graham, Inside America’s Black Upper Class (New York: Harper Perennial, 2000); The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
http://www.horatioalger.com/members/member_info.cgm?memberid=her88; John Branston, “Letter from Memphis,” Nashville Scene, June 21, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Norton, Ken (1943-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Ken Norton, Going the Distance (Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing, 2000); www.ibhof.com; www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Robinson, Samuel L. (1896-1964?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

(Image Courtesy of Chartles Kastner)
Samuel L. Robinson was born in Kansas in 1896. He arrived in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in his teens, where he attended the city's integrated high school.  He joined the school's football team and became a close friend of the team captain and the future sports editor of the Press-Union newspaper, Lou Greenberg.  After serving in World War I, Robinson came home to Atlantic City and fought as a professional boxer.  He earned his nickname "Smiling Sammy" because of his seemingly perpetual good mood.  He was deeply religious, preaching an ethos of hard work and faith in God to anyone who would listen.

In 1928, Robinson entered the first footrace across America, run from Los Angeles to New York City in eighty-four days.  The press nicknamed the race a "bunion derby." Sammy had no experience as a distance runner, but he was a superbly trained and gifted athlete.  His old friend Lou Greenberg gave him a check for three hundred dollars for training expenses and the promise of fifty dollars for each state he crossed.  Robinson joined four African Americans who entered the race out of a field of 199 "bunioneers."
Sources: 
Charles B. Kastner, Bunion Derby:  The First Footrace Across America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007); "10,000 Roar Welcome to Smiling Sammy," Afro-American, 2 June 1928; "Bunion Runners Disrupt Lincoln County Track Meet," Black Dispatch, 19 Apr. 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Massaquoi, Hans-Jürgen (1926–2013)

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

Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi was born on January 19, 1926 in the city of Hamburg, Germany. The son of the German nurse Bertha Baetz and the Liberian businessman Al-Hajj Massaquoi, Hans-Jürgen spent the first years of his life with the family of his paternal grandfather, Momolu Massaquoi, the Consul General of Liberia in Germany. When political turmoil broke out in the ambassador's homeland in 1929, he and his son, Al-Hajj Massaquoi, returned to Liberia, leaving Bertha Baetz and her son Hans-Jürgen in Germany.

Sources: 
Hans J. Massaquoi, Destined to Witness: Growing up in Nazi Germany (New York: HarperCollins, 1999); Audrey Fischer, “Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin 59:3 (March 2000); http://www.answers.com/topic/hans-massaquoi; Obituary, Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2013. 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Molyneux, Thomas (1784–1818)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Fred Henning, Fights For The Championship, Volume II (London: Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette, 1899); Henry Miles, Pugilistica, Volume I (London: Weldon & Co., 1880); http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/tom-mol.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lee, Canada (1907-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Canada Lee (the adopted name of Lionel Cornelius Canegata) was a noted 20th Century jockey, boxer, and actor.  Born on May 3, 1907 in New York City’s San Juan Hill district, he attended Public School 5 in Harlem. Canegata began his musical education at the age of seven, studying violin with the composer J. Rosamond Johnson. At the age of fourteen he ran away to the Saratoga Race Track in upstate New York to become a jockey. After two years of jockeying he became a horse exerciser for prominent racehorse owners.

In 1923 Canegata moved to Harlem and became an amateur prize fighter, entering the ring with manager Jim Buckley. Over the next three years he emerged the victor in 90 of 100 fights and won the Metropolitan Inter-City and Junior National Championships.  Then he went on and won the national amateur lightweight title. In 1926 he turned professional, changed his name to Canada Lee, and by 1930 he was a leading contender for the welterweight championship. Lee fought in over 200 fights as a professional boxer, only losing 25.  In 1933 a detached retina ended his boxing career and he returned to music.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

King, Don (1931- )

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

Boxing promoter Don King was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1931. The son of a steelworker who died in a smelter explosion, King’s earliest success was the result of his ownership of a popular tavern, where many top black musicians performed, and an illegal bookmaking operation. In 1966, he fatally stomped a former employee named Sam Garrett over Garrett’s failure to pay off a $600 loss. Initially found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, King’s sentence was mysteriously reduced by the presiding Judge, Hugh Corrigan. He served only three years and eleven months. Ten years later, when Corrigan ran for the Court of Appeals, King arranged for heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali to campaign on his behalf.

King used his prison time constructively, absorbing everything he read in books concerning some of histories greatest thinkers. Once he was released, he used his friendship with rock ’n’ roll songwriter/performer and boxing enthusiast, Lloyd Price, to form relationships with Muhammad Ali and boxing promoter Don Elbaum to promote a boxing exhibition involving Ali in Cleveland for the benefit of a local hospital. King, his primary motives notwithstanding, was a natural born promoter. As a larger than life figure, King was a shrewd businessman. Watching in awe, Elbaum told him that with his personality, and boxing’s need for a black promoter, King could take over all of boxing.

Sources: 

Jack Newfield, Only in America. The Life and Crimes of Don King (New
York: William Morrow and Company, 1995); Arne K. Lang, Prize-Fighting.
An American History
(North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2008)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tyson, Mike (1966 - )

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

Michael Gerard Tyson was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1966. He was raised by a single mother in the slums of Brooklyn in what he described as awful living conditions, in poverty, and surrounded by peer pressure. By the time he was ten he had already developed a reputation as someone you didn’t want to tangle with, and he was cutting school, drinking, smoking, and robbing folks with his friends.

After numerous arrests Tyson was sent to a New York reform school for troubled juveniles. It was there that a former boxer, and then counselor and athletic coach, named Bobby Stewart took an interest in him and taught him how to box. Realizing Mike’s talent, Stewart arranged for him to meet with the trainer, Cus D’Amato. After watching the young boy spar D’Amato was convinced Tyson could one day become the heavyweight champion of the world. He became Tyson’s legal guardian, and an early parole was arranged. D’Amato was a big believer in the power of the mind, and he spent as much time passing along his personal philosophies to Tyson as he did the physical boxing skills.

D’Amato didn’t live to see the fulfillment of his vision, passing away on November 4, 1985, but the management team that he had put in place for Tyson, including co-managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, and the trainer, Kevin Rooney, carried out his plan. On November 22, 1986 Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history, at the age of 20 years.

Sources: 

Jose Torres, Fire & Fear. The Inside Story of Mike Tyson (New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1989); www.boxrec.com.   

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moore, Tim (1888-1958)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Radio Characters from Amos 'N' Andy,
Spencer Williams (left)
and Alvin Tim Moore (right)
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis 

Broadway stage comedian Tim Moore, whose career as an entertainer spanned more than 50 years, is best remembered as George “Kingfish” Stevens on the classic Amos 'n' Andy series. Born in Rock Island, Illinois in December 1888, Moore began his career dancing on the sidewalks of his home town for money.

He later entered the vaudeville circuit when he teamed with Romeo Washburn, another black performer from Rock Island.  Their traveling act became known as the “Gold Dust Twins.” Moore eventually went solo and toured British music halls for nearly two years. He then joined a medicine show that played vacant lots across the Midwest.  He also worked as a fly-shooer in a stable, a boxer, fight manager, and a horseracing jockey.

By 1913, Moore had earned $110,000 as a prizefighter and manager. With his earnings he launched a new career as a theater producer.  In 1921 Moore created his most successful production, Tim Moore’s Chicago Follies Tour, which ran for the next four years.  Later in the decade he returned to acting, performing in Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds in 1928 and Harlem Scandals four years later.  By the mid-1940s, Moore now nearly 60, retired and returned to his hometown to, as he stated, “spend more time with my people.”

Sources: 

Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994); Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press Inc., 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Steele, Michael S. (1958- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Michael Steele, "Uniting the Republican Party,” Townhall Magazine, April 8, 2008, http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelsteele/2008/04/08/uniting_the_republican_party; Michael Steele, “Now Is the Time to Act,” Townhall Magazine, February 7, 2008,
http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelsteele/2008/02/07/now_is_the_time_to_act;
Baltimore Sun, November 6, 2002; Baltimore Sun, February 1, 2009; Washington Post, November 3, 2006, p.A20, Letters to the Editor, “Black Democrats and Mr. Steele.” Transcript of interview on “Fox News Sunday,” February 1, 2009. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/02/01/transcript-rnc-chairman-michael-steele-on-fox-news-sunday.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Ali, Laila (1977- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Laila Ali, Reach, Finding Strength, Spirit, and Personal Power (New York: Hyperion, 2002);http://www.boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=14260&cat=boxer
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gibson, Truman (1912-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Truman Gibson Testifying Before a U.S. Senate Committee,
1948
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 
Truman Gibson was an African American businessman, attorney, government advisor, and boxing promoter. Gibson, the son of an insurance executive, was born on January 22, 1912 in Atlanta, Georgia. A few years after he was born, Gibson’s family moved to Columbus, Ohio. Gibson graduated high school in Columbus in 1928 and the University of Chicago four years later.  He then decided to attend law school at University of Chicago, graduating from there in 1935.

Gibson remained in Chicago and began a law practice.  By 1936 he represented the boxer Joe Louis in negotiations with other fighters and fight promoters and because of Louis's success, soon became wealthy and prominent.  In 1940, Gibson became an assistant to William Hastie, who was then an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt. Gibson assisted Hastie in investigating issues of discrimination against black soldiers and sailors during the early part of World War II.   
Sources: 
Steve Huntley, Knocking Down Barriers: My Fight for Black America (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 2005);
http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=288&category=Lawmakers
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/02/national/02gibson.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Roxborough, John W. (1892-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Roxborough and Joe Louis
Sources: 
John W. Roxborough, “How I discovered Joe Louis: Ex-manager’s revealing story gives new insight into character of former world’s heavyweight champion,” Ebony, 64-76; Louis’ Ex-Manager’s Wife Asks Divorce: Mrs. John Roxborough brands husband ‘cruel.’ The Baltimore Afro-American, May 31, 1955, 21; Mrs. John Roxborough Wins Divorce, Big Settlement, Jet, May 3, 1956; American Experience, the Fight, available at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/fight/peopleevents/p_managers.html; Joe Louis - Turning Pro - Garden, Boxing, Heavyweight, and Roxborough, available at: http://sports.jrank.org/pages/2929/Louis-Joe-Turning-Pro.html; and http://www.answers.com/topic/joe-louis.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio University

Richmond, Bill (1763 – 1829)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Henry Downes Miles, Pugilistica: The History of British Boxing (London: Weldon & Co., 1880); http://www.100greatblackbritons.com/bios/bill_richmond.htm; "The Rise of the Black," Boxing (December 4, 1909).

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Walker, Sidney/Beau Jack (1921-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle"
Sidney Walker, world champion boxer in world light heavyweight class, was born in Augusta, Georgia on April 1, 1921. He was raised by his grandmother, Evie Mixom, on her small farm near Augusta.

Walker quit school by the second grade to assist his grandmother on the farm and because if it, could neither read nor write for many years.  In 1929, at the age of eight, he started leaving home at 5:00 a.m. each day to walk the 3 ½ miles to Augusta to earn money shining shoes.

When he came home crying and told his grandmother that a boy had taken his shoe polish and money, she gave him no sympathy and told him he needed to learn how to stand up for himself. A week later, he whipped that boy in a fist fight.  When he proudly told his grandmother what he’d done, she considered him “reborn” and renamed him “Beau Jack.”

After other street battles, Beau Jack learned that he had a knack for fighting.  By the time he was twelve he was a veteran of battle royals, contests where six to ten boys, typically black, were blindfolded and put into a ring together. The last boy standing won the prize money collected from the spectators.

Sources: 
“The Ballad of Beau Jack. No Fighter Was Tougher Than The Man Who Went From Shoeshine Boy To Champion And Back Again,” Miami Sun Sentinel, October 9, 1988; “Former Champ Jack Dies,” Miami Sun Sentinel, February 11, 2000.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kinshasa, Congo (1881-- )

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

Kinshasa is the capital and largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the third largest city in Africa after Cairo and Lagos and the second largest French-speaking city in the world other than Paris, France. Formerly known as Leopoldville, it was founded and named by Henry Morton Stanley in 1881 in honor of King Leopold II of Belgium who controlled the vast territory known as the Congo Free State. Kinshasa is located on the southern bank of the Congo River.  With Brazzaville on the North bank of the Congo River, Kinshasa is the only capital city that faces another national capital. The combined population of the two capitals is approximately twelve million, with 10,076,099 in Kinshasa and suburbs in 2009 and an estimated 1.2 million inhabitants in its northern neighbor in 2007.

Sources: 
Theodore Trefon, Reinventing Order in the Congo: How People Respond to State Failure in Kinshasa (London: Zed Books, 2004); Elizabeth Heath  "Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo," Encyclopedia of Africa, editors, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (New York: Oxford University press, 2010); CIA World Fact Book https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cg.html#top.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Herndon, Norris Bumstead (1897–1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Norris Bumstead Herndon was the second president of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, founded by his father, Alonzo Herndon, in 1905. Herndon was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 15, 1897, the only child of Adrienne Elizabeth McNeil, a graduate and teacher at Atlanta University, and Alonzo Herndon. His family’s light complexion allowed them to easily fit into the surrounding white community without question, and Herndon's early education was in the Atlanta Public School System. In 1905 Alonzo Herndon took seven-year-old Norris to the founding meeting of the Niagara Movement, the precursor organization to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Sources: 
Carole Merritt, The Herndons: An Atlanta Family, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002); Wesley Chenault and Stacy Braukman, Gay and Lesbian Atlanta, (Atlanta: Arcadia Publishing, 2008), John N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman, African-American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary, (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jacovacci, Leone (1902–1983)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Afro-Italian boxing champion Leone Jacovacci (a.k.a. John Douglas Walker and Jack Walker) was born in 1902 in the village of Pombo in the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), the son of Umberto Jacovacci, a contracted Italian agronomist, and Zibu Mabeta, a local woman. His father took him to Italy to be raised by grandparents in Viterbo while he remained in Africa and had two more children with Zibu. Growing up with brown skin among Italian peasants was often challenging, and, as a restless sixteen-year-old, Leone Jacovacci, posing as an Indian from Calcutta, hopped aboard a British merchant ship docked in Naples to work as cabin boy.
Sources: 
Mauro Valeri, Nero di Roma: storia di Leone Jacovacci: l'invincibile mulatto italico. (Rome: Palombi, 2008); https://sportallarovescia.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/in-memoria-di-leone-jacovacci/; http://insorgenze.net/2009/07/04/leone-jacovacci-il-nero-che-prese-a-pugni-il-fascismo/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

DuSable Museum of African American History (1961– )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Founded in 1961, the DuSable Museum of African American History is oldest museum dedicated to African American history in the United States. The DuSable began as the Ebony Museum of Negro History, housed in the South Side Chicago, Illinois home of DuSable High School teacher, activist, and writer Dr. Margaret Burroughs. As an academic and admirer of the philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Burroughs was passionate about preserving and showcasing both black history and the work of black artists. Due to positive response from the community and a growing collection of exhibits, Dr. Burroughs moved her museum to 3800 Michigan Avenue and named it after Jean Baptiste DuSable (the black founder of Chicago) in 1968. Burroughs took immense pride in the museum’s origins in the indigenous black community of the South Side of Chicago.  
Sources: 
William Grimes, “Margaret T. Burroughs, Archivist of Black History, Dies at 95,” The New York Times, Nov. 27, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/arts/28burroughs.html; Dawn Rhodes and Dahleen Glanton, “DuSable Museum Braces for Change Ahead of Obama Library Revival,” Chicago Tribune, August 12, 2015, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-dusable-museum-future-met-0814-20150813-story.html; “The Roundhouse Project,” DuSable Museum, http://www.dusablemuseum.org/about/roundhouse.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Koné, Malamine (1971– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Clothing entrepreneur Malamine Koné, was born in Mali on December 21, 1971, but now lives near Paris, France. He is most famous for creating the sport-clothing brand Airness in 1999. Fifteen years later, the clothing line is one of the most popular in France.

While growing up in an impoverished village not far from Bamako, the capital city of Mali, Koné worked as a shepherd, responsible for searching for ponds and grass for cattle in the semi-arid Sahel region that covers most of Mali. Because of his parents’ poverty, he did not attend school and often relied on his grandparents for food. His mother and father decided to immigrate to France in the late 1970s, initially leaving young Koné behind. In 1981 at the age of 10, he was reunited with his parents in Seine Saint-Denis, a suburb north of Paris.   
When he arrived in France, he could not speak French, had never experienced a winter, and had never attended school. In his first two years in the country, he attended a special school designed for immigrants to France and then enrolled in a regular French academy. Over time, he became an excellent pupil and graduated from a university. His goal at that time was to enter the Paris Police Department and eventually become a police administrator.  
Sources: 
“Les 100 Personnalités de la diaspora africaine”, in Jeune Afrique, n° 2536-2537, August 16-29, 2009
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Paris

Carter, Rubin "The Hurricane" (1937-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Rubin Carter Holding the Writ of Habeas Corpus
That Freed Him From Prison
Image Ownership: Public domain

Rubin Carter was an American middleweight boxer, who is best known not because of his sports career but because of his murder conviction in 1967 and exoneration in 1985. Carter, born in Clifton, New Jersey on May 6, 1937, the fourth of seven children. Shortly after his fourteenth birthday, he was sentenced to a juvenile reformatory for assault and robbery. Carter was a 5-foot 8-inch, 160-pound boxer who got his start fighting after he enlisted in the U.S. Army. After leaving the army, he fought in the amateur circuit, knocking out thirty-six opponents and eventually working his way into the professional ranks in 1961. Because of his rapid boxing style, he was given the nickname "the Hurricane."

Sources: 
Ira Berkow, “Justice Delayed is Bitter Justice for Carter,” New York Times, January 24, 1993; Harry A. Williams and James Williams, The Negro Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Incorporated, 1989); Ron Flatter, “Hurricane Found Peace at Storm’s Center,” http://www.espn.com/classic/biography/s/Carter_Hurricane.html; “Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter Dead at 76,” CBS News, April 20, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/boxer-rubin-hurricane-carter-dead-at-76/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Moore, Archie (1913-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Tracy Callis

One of the great light heavyweights of all time, Archie Moore, a.k.a., the “Old Mongoose,” was born under the name of Archibald Wright on December 13, 1913 in Benoit, Mississippi. Archie turned professional in 1936, originally operating in the middleweight ranks, but ultimately moving up into the light heavyweight class by 1945. He fought a total of 222 recorded bouts over more than 27 years in the ring. He campaigned against most of the toughest men in the business during his long career, posting 187 wins, including 132 knockouts, against only 23 losses and 11 draws.

Moore campaigned for 16 years before gaining an opportunity to fight for a world championship. On December 15, 1952 he became the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World at age 39, defeating Joe Maxim by a decision in fifteen rounds, thereby becoming the oldest light heavyweight champion in history. He defeated Maxim twice in rematches and was nearly unbeatable as a light heavyweight, successfully defending the title nine times, and holding it for almost a decade before finally being stripped of it in February of 1962 for failing to defend the title within the required period of time.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hale, Vasco De Gama (1915-2002)

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

Vasco De Gama Hale, educator, blinded veterans’ association organizer, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) official, was born in Crawford, Mississippi, to Brotop and Jane Hale on February 16, 1915. His father, Brotop, toiled as a sharecropper for a short time before moving to West Virginia in the 1920s where he found work as a laborer in the coal mining areas of the Fairmont District.  While working for the Consolidated Coal Company, his father was ordained as a Baptist Minister and served as the presiding pastor of the Morning Star Baptist Church in Marion County for many decades.

Sources: 
Robert F. Jefferson Jr., “The Veteran’s Angle:” Ninety-Third Infantry Division Ex-GI Vasco Hale, Disability, and the NAACP’s Struggle for Fair Housing and Power in Post-World War II Hartford, Connecticut,” in The Routledge Handbook of the History of Race and the American Military, ed. Geoffrey W. Jensen (New York:  Routledge, 2016); “Obituary-Vasco De Gama Hale,” Arizona Daily Star (August 14, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of New Mexico

Armstrong, Henry (1912-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Henry Jackson Jr., better known as Henry Armstrong, was born on December 12, 1912, in Columbus, Mississippi to a sharecropper of black, Indian and Irish descent, and a mother who was a full-blooded Iroquois Indian. At age four his family moved to St. Louis, where he was raised by his grandmother and father after his mother died. It was on the streets of St. Louis that young Henry learned to defend himself from gangs and first displayed a natural affinity for fighting.

While Henry dreamed of going to college to become a doctor he was forced to become the head of the household at the young age of 18 when his father’s health deteriorated and he was no longer able to work. Turning to boxing, Henry failed to qualify for the upcoming Olympics, and began his professional boxing career in 1931 under the name of Melody Jackson. He later adopted the last name of a friend, and changed his last name to Armstrong.

Sources: 
www.henryarmstrong.net; www.hbhof.com/armstrong.htm; http://coxscorner.tripod.com/armstrong.html; Bert Sugar, 1982 ‘100 Years of Boxing’, 2002 Ring Magazine Annual (Vol. 2).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Williams, Sidney (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Ambassador Sidney Williams and His Wife,
Congresswoman Maxine Waters
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sources: 
Carla Hall, “Sidney Williams’ Unusual Route to Ambassador Post,” Los Angeles Times (February 6, 1994); State Department report in the Congressional Record at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-1994-02-08/html/CREC-1994-02-08-pt1-PgS39.htm; U.S Department of State, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/williams-sidney.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Coleman, Wanda Evans (1946-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Wanda Evans Coleman was an American poet and writer who won critical acclaim for her avant-garde work, but remained relatively unknown to a broader audience. Her 30 year literary career included a myriad of poetry and fiction publications.

Born and raised in the Watts section of Los Angeles, California on November 13, 1946, Coleman was the daughter of George and Lewana (Scott) Evans. Her father was an ex-boxer and long-time friend and sparring partner of Light Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore.  He also ran a sign shop during the day and worked the graveyard shift as a janitor at RCA Victor Records. Her mother worked as a seamstress and as a housekeeper for Ronald Reagan, among other celebrities.

When she was 13, her first poem was published in a local newspaper. As teenagers she and her brother worked for their father in his home-based publishing company, an experience that prepared her for a career as a freelance writer.
Sources: 
Priscilla Ann Brown and Wanda Coleman, "What Saves Us: An Interview with Wanda Coleman," retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3300711 (2003); Justin D. Gifford, Wanda Coleman, Emory “Butch” Holmes II, “Harvard in Hell”: Holloway House Publishing Company, Players Magazine, and the Invention of Black Mass-Market Erotica (2010), Poetry Foundation, Wanda Coleman biography, retrieved from, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/wanda-coleman (2015); Elaine Woo, "Wanda Coleman dies at 67; Watts native, L.A.'s unofficial poet laureate," Los Angeles Times.com, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/23/local/la-me-wanda-coleman-20131124-1; Wanda Coleman, The Riot Inside Me: More Trials & Tremors (New Hampshire: Black Sparrow Books, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Langford, Sam (1886-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle

Sam Langford was one of the greatest fighters in boxing history. Born in Weymouth Falls, Nova Scotia on March 4, 1886, the 5’ 7” dynamo migrated to Boston, Massachusetts, and engaged in close to 300 officially recorded professional contests from 1902 to 1926. He was an exceptionally courageous and intelligent fighter with long arms and an impressive upper torso. He also packed a tremendous wallop in both hands and knocked out many of the much larger and talented boxers of his day. In 2003, Ring Magazine’s writers listed him second on their list of the 100 greatest pound for pound punchers of all-time.

Sources: 
Jack Dempsey (as told to Bob Considine and Bill Slocum), Dempsey, By the Man Himself (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960); Clay Moyle, Sam Langford: Boxing's Greatest Uncrowned Champion (Seattle: Bennett & Hastings, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fifth Ward, Houston, Texas (1866- )

Vignette Type: 
Places
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Fifth Ward is one of the six political districts created in Houston, Texas in the mid-nineteenth century. It was established in 1866. Over the years it has produced notable cultural and political figures. Located northeast of downtown, Fifth Ward lies north of the Buffalo Bayou, and east of the White Oak and Little White Oak Bayous.
Sources: 
Roger Wood, Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003); Denise Labrie, “Houston Frenchtown,” in The Creole Chronicles 4 (Louisiana Creole Heritage Center, Northwestern State University, October 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Arizona, Tucson

Robinson, "Sugar" Ray (1921-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

“Sugar” Ray Robinson is generally acknowledged as the greatest pound for pound fighter in boxing history. Born Walker Smith, Jr. on May 3, 1921 in Detriot, Michigan to parents Walker Smith, Sr., and Lelia (Hurst) Robinson.  His father was a cotton, peanut, and corn farmer near Ailey, Georgia who moved north during the early years of World War I.  Robinson's parents separated and he moved to New York City with his mother at the age of 12. It was there the underage aspiring boxer became known as Ray Robinson when he borrowed an Amateur Athletic Union membership card from a friend by that name in order to qualify for a Golden Gloves tournament. When his future trainer, George Gainford, watched him box for the first time and commented that his style and fluid motions were “sweet as sugar” he became known as “Sugar” Ray Robinson.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gant, Joe “Gans” (1874–1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Joe Gans and Oscar Nelson Before the
“Fight of the Century” at Goldfield, Nevada, Labor Day, 1906
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Joe Gant, who was given the name Gans by the press, became the first American and African American to hold a world boxing title when he defeated Frank Erne in Fort Erie, Canada, in 1902 to take the World Lightweight Boxing Championship. Gant was born Joseph Saifus Butts on November 25, 1874, in Baltimore, Maryland. The names of his parents are unknown, and he was orphaned at age four and raised by his foster mother, Maria Gant. Gant later married and divorced Mary Beulah Gant. The couple had two children before he began competing in amateur fights.

Gant's professional boxing career began in 1891 when he was seventeen. He was a self-taught fighter, learning his craft by studying other boxers’ moves and competing in the then-popular Battle Royal contests where he and a dozen other fighters boxed blindfolded until only one contestant was left standing. These contests helped him develop strong boxing fundamentals and strategic ways to endure long bouts in the ring. His scientific approach to boxing and his famous left jab eventually earned him the title “The Old Master.”

Sources: 
Colleen Alcock, Joe Gans: A Biography of the First African American World Boxing Champion (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2008); Phillips I. Earl, “Tex Richard: The Most Dynamic Fight Promoter in History,” Boxing Insider, October 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Charles, Ezzard Mack (1921-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ezzard Charles, also known as “The Cincinnati Cobra,” was a quiet, modest individual who went on to become a relatively unheralded world heavyweight champion. Born in Lawrenceville, Georgia on July 7, 1921, Ezzard moved to Cincinnati at the age of nine to live with his grandmother. He began boxing as an amateur in his teens and won the AAU National middleweight title in 1939. He turned professional in March of 1940. His early bouts were against the top middleweights and light heavyweights in the world. A clever boxer, over the course of his professional career he defeated many of boxing’s greatest fighters including Charley Burley, Joey Maxim, Archie Moore (three times), “Jersey” Joe Walcott, Gus Lesnevich, and Joe Louis.

His professional career was interrupted for two years in 1944 and 1945 when he served a stint in the army during World War II.  Upon the completion of his service he returned to boxing in 1946 and defeated Archie Moore, Lloyd Marshall, and Jimmy Bivins to earn a number two ranking in the light heavyweight class. He fought a total of five light heavyweight champions, defeating four of them, but never received an opportunity to fight for the division’s title. Despite this, many consider him one of the greatest light heavyweight fighters of all time on the basis of his record in that weight class.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Louis [Barrow], Joe (1914-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Joe Louis Barrow, known popularly as Joe Louis, was the second African American heavyweight boxing champion in the 20th Century.  Louis was born on May 13, 1914 in Chambers County Alabama to sharecropper parents Monroe and Lilly Reese Barrow.  He was the seventh of eight children and grandson of slaves.  In 1926 Barrow’s family, like thousands of southern African American families, migrated to Detroit. 

While only in his teens Barrow began boxing at Brewster's East Side Gymnasium in Detroit.   At 19, he entered the Golden Gloves finals in 1933 as a light heavyweight and eventually became the champion in his weight class.  Louis turned professional heavyweight boxer in 1934, dropping the name Barrow.   Louis won a remarkable 12 bouts in his first year as a professional. By 1935 his career had ascended quickly, earning him over $350,000 in purses when the average yearly salary in the United States during the Great Depression was about $1,200.  He gave generously to charities and friends. Louis soon became an icon for African Americans and a hero to many white Americans, as well.

Sources: 
Patrick Myler,  Ring of Hate: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling: The Fight of the Century (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2005); Richard Bak, Joe Louis: The Great Black Hope (New York: Perseus Publishing, 1998);  Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff, "Constructing G.I. Joe Louis: Cultural Solutions to the Negro Problem during World War II," The Journal of American History December 2002 http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jah/89.3/sklaroff.html   (26 Feb. 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Ali, Muhammad (1942-2016)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Muhammad Ali, arguably the most famous professional boxer in the 20th Century and the only fighter to win the heavyweight championship three times, was born Cassius Clay in 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, to Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr. and Odessa Grady Clay.  At the age of 12 Clay began training as a boxer.  During his teen years he won several Golden Gloves titles and other amateur titles.  At the age of 18 he won a gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy and then turned professional.  In one of the most famous boxing matches of the century, Clay in 1965 stunned the world by beating apparently invincible world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in six rounds.

Sources: 
David Remmick, King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero (New York: Vintage Books, 1999); Hana Yasmeen Ali, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004); 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

Johnson, Jack (1878-1946)

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

Jack Johnson, the first African American and first Texan to win the heavyweight boxing championship of the world, was born the second of six children to Henry and Tiny Johnson in Galveston on March 31, 1878.  His parents were former slaves.  To help support his family, Jack Johnson left school in the fifth grade to work on the dock in his port city hometown.  In the 1890s Johnson began boxing as a teenager in "battles royal" matches where white spectators watched black men fight and at the end of the contest tossed money at the winner.

Johnson turned professional in 1897 but four years later he was arrested and jailed because boxing was at that time a criminal sport in Texas.  After his release from jail he left Texas to pursue the title of “Negro” heavyweight boxing champion. Although he made a good living as a boxer, Johnson for six years sought a title fight with the white heavyweight champion, James J. Jeffries.  Jeffries denied Johnson and other African American boxers a shot at his title and he retired undefeated in 1904. 

Sources: 
Jack Johnson, Jack Johnson is a Dandy (New York: Chelsea House, 1969); Al-Tony Gilmore, "Bad Nigger!" The National Impact of Jack Johnson (Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1975); Thomas R. Hietala, The Fight of the Century: Jack Johnson, Joe Louis and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2002); http://www.pbs.org/unforgivableblackness/about/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Liston, Charles “Sonny” (1932-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle
Charles “Sonny” Liston was born on May 8, 1932 in Sand Slough, Arkansas. He was the 24th of 25 children by a sharecropper named Tobe Liston, and one of ten by Tobe’s wife Helen. Sonny received little in the way of schooling and was essentially illiterate all his life.

When his mother left his father and moved to St. Louis in 1946, Sonny ran away from home and joined her. As a teenager he participated in an armed robbery of a gas station and was sentenced to prison where his talent for boxing was discovered by a Catholic priest and it ultimately resulted in an early parole.

Sonny turned professional on September 2, 1953 and promptly won a first round knockout in his first fight. Standing 6’ 1 ½”, weighing 215 pounds, and possessing a long reach, powerful jab, knockout power in either hand and a nasty scowl, Sonny was an extraordinarily intimidating fighter. He quickly compiled an impressive record.
Sources: 
A.S. “Doc” Young, The Champ Nobody Wanted (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1963); Nick Tosches, The Devil And Sonny Liston (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2000); http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Liston_Sonny.html, http://www.ibhof.com/liston/htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Walcott, “Jersey” Joe (1914–1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Charles Hoff, Photographer
Born on January 31, 1914 in Merchantville, New Jersey, Arnold Raymond Cream was the son of immigrants from Barbados.  He took up boxing at age fourteen after his father died and debuted professionally at age 16 as a lightweight where on September 9, 1930 he defeated Cowboy Wallace in a first round knockout.  Walcott ultimately grew into a heavyweight. He was often compared to the great welterweight champion Joe Walcott who was also from Barbados, and he later decided to adopted the name “Jersey” Joe Walcott as a tribute to the older fighter.

Walcott fought Joe Louis for the heavyweight title for the first time on December 5, 1947, dropping the champion twice during a bout which resulted in a controversial split decision loss.  He lost again in a rematch with Louis on June 25, 1948 in an eleventh round knockout.  Walcott fought for the title three more times, before finally capturing the crown on his fifth try by knocking out Ezzard Charles in seven rounds on July 18, 1951. Walcott was 37 at the time, the oldest man ever to win the heavyweight crown up until that time. He retained that distinction until George Foreman won the title in 1994 at age 45.  
Sources: 
Peter Brooke-Ball, The Boxing Album, An Illustrated History (New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1995); www.ibhof.com/walcott.htm, www.boxrec.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Foreman, George (1949 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Edward Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas on January 10, 1949 and raised in Houston’s Fifth Ward.  He took up boxing in his teens while working in the Job Corps. A successful amateur career was capped with a gold medal in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, Mexico.

Foreman turned professional in 1969 and quickly worked his way up the heavyweight ranks to earn a shot at the title against Joe Frazier. He captured the heavyweight crown with an impressive two-round knockout of Frazier on January 22, 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica. Most knowledgeable boxing fans thought the intimidating fighter would hold the title for the next decade, but he lost the crown to Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire on October 30, 1974.
Sources: 
George Foreman, By George: The Autobiography of George Foreman (Baltimore: Villard Books, 1995); George Foreman, George Foreman’s Knock-Out-The-Fat Barbeque and Grilling Cookbook (Baltimore: Villard Books, 1996); http://www.ibhof.com/pages/about/inductees/modern/foreman.html; www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Patterson, Floyd (1935–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle
Floyd Patterson was born on January 4, 1935 in Waco, North Carolina. A year later the family moved to Brooklyn, New York. Soft spoken and extremely shy, Patterson fell behind in school and at age ten was still unable to read or write. He became a frequent truant and after being caught stealing a number of times, his mother had him committed to Wiltwyck, a school for emotionally disturbed boys.  Patterson described his experience at Wiltwyck as a turning point in his life. Wiltwyck gave him a sense of belonging. He learned how to make friends, to read and write, and was also encouraged to take up boxing.

At age 14 Patterson began working out in a Manhattan, New York gym operated by the noted trainer Cus D’Amato. In 1950 he began boxing as an amateur and one year later captured the New York Golden Gloves middleweight championship.  He repeated the feat in 1952 before winning a gold medal in the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland. Capitalizing on his Olympic success Patterson turned professional and worked his way up the ranks, while growing into the heavyweight fight category at a relatively light 180 pounds.  By the time the reigning heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano retired Patterson was a leading heavyweight contender.  He was matched to fight Archie Moore for the vacant title. Patterson knocked Moore out in the fifth round of their November 30, 1956 contest to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history at that time at 21 years of age.
Sources: 
Floyd Patterson, Victory Over Myself (New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1962); New York Times, May 11, 2006; www.cyberboxingzone.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian
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