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Civil Rights Activists

Jones, Quincy Delight, Jr. (1933- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. was born in Chicago's South Side on March 14, 1933 but grew up in Bremerton and Seattle, Washington.  While in elementary school Jones picked up the trumpet, and his skill with the instrument led him to receive a scholarship to Berklee College of Music.  However, he dropped out of Berklee after he was given an offer to go on the road with bandleader Lionel Hampton.  After his time with Hampton, Jones began work as a freelance arranger.  He also traveled the world with the Dizzy Gillespie band as well as Harold Allen's jazz musical Free and Easy.  Jones then settled in New York and went to work for Mercury Records.  Jones advanced at Mercury and in 1964 he became the first African American to hold the position of vice president of a white-owned record company.

During the 1960s and 1970s Jones worked as a social activist, supporting such programs as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Operation Breadbasket in Chicago.  He also joined the board of Rev. Jesse Jackson's People United to Save Humanity (PUSH).  Jones also helped form the Institute for Black American Music in an effort to bring more appreciation to African American music and culture.
Sources: 
Gerald Early, "Quincy Jones: The Story of an American Musician," American Masters.  PBS.org, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/jones_q.html ; Quincy Jones, The Autobiography of Quincy Jones (New York, New York: Doubleday, 2001); "Quincy Jones Biography," The Academy of Achievement: A Museum of Living History.  2006. http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/jon0bio-1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Luper, Clara (1923-2011)

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

Clara Mae Luper was born in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, to Ezell and Isabell Shepard on May 3, 1923.  She attended all-black schools and was bussed several miles to Grayson High School where she graduated in a class of five.  After graduating from the segregated Langston University, Luper became the first African American student to enroll in the history department at the University of Oklahoma, earning a master’s degree in 1951.

Luper was one of the early leaders in the civil rights movement in Oklahoma during the 1950s.  She taught history in various Oklahoma City public schools for forty-one years and became the sponsor of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council.  In 1958, working with this group, she led the earliest “sit-ins” in Oklahoma and some of the first in United States.  Through these protests she and other civil rights activists succeeded in integrating many public facilities in Oklahoma City and across the state by 1964.

Sources: 
Linda W. Reese, “Clara Luper and the Oklahoma City Civil Rights Movement,” in Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Moore, eds., African American Women Confront the West: 1600-2000 (Norman, OK:  University of Oklahoma Press, 2003); “Oklahoma Civil Rights Icon Clara Luper Dies at 88,” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110609/ap_on_re_us/us_obit_luper.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Washington, Booker T. (1856-1915)

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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

Tucker, C. DeLores (1927-2005)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1927 to Reverend Whitfield and Captilda Nottage, C. DeLores Tucker attended the highly competitive Philadelphia High School for Girls and then matriculated to Temple University where she studied finance and real estate. In 1951 she married businessman William Tucker and became an activist who at the time was counted among the 100 most influential black Americans. 

A successful realtor during the 1950s, Tucker became involved in civil rights activities.  In the 1960s she served as an officer in the Philadelphia NAACP and worked closely with the local branch president and activist Cecil Moore to end racist practices in the city’s post offices and construction trades.  Tucker gained national prominence when she led a Philadelphia delegation on the celebrated Selma to Montgomery march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  By the decade’s end, Tucker’s expertise as a fund raiser for the NAACP, coupled with her Democratic Party affiliation, enabled her to be appointed chair of the Pennsylvania Black Democratic Committee.  

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (eds.) Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1993); Notable Black American Women, Thompson/Gale, 1993; New York Times, November 7, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Langston, Charles Henry (1817-1892)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Charles Henry Langston
(Ohio Historical Society)

Charles Henry Langston, the grandfather of poet Langston Hughes, was born a free man on a Virginia plantation in 1817 to Captain Ralph Quarles and Lucy Jane Langston, Quarles’ mulatto slave. He had two brothers, John Mercer (who would become a Virginia Congressman in 1888) and Gideon. After the death of his father in 1834, Charles inherited a large part of his father’s estate, and he went to be educated at Oberlin College in 1842 and 1843.

Sources: 
Richard B. Sheridan, “Charles Henry Langston and the African American Struggle in Kansas,” Kansas History 22 (Winter 1999/2000); Eugene H. Berwanger, “Hardin and Langston: Western Black Spokesmen of the Reconstruction Era,” Journal of Negro History 64 (Spring 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Belafonte, Harry (1927- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Born March 1, 1927 as Harold George Belafonte Jr. in Harlem, New York, Belafonte grew from being a troubled youth to an award winning entertainer and world renowned political activist and humanitarian.  In 1944 Belafonte joined the Navy in order to fight in World War II, and although Belafonte was never sent overseas, after the war ended he was able to use the G.I. Bill to pay for a drama workshop at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan alongside fellow students Marlon Brando and Sidney Poitier. 

Belafonte's career as an entertainer had a rocky start, but in the 1950s he found great success.  In the first half of 1956 alone Belafonte had three top-ten albums, the most notable being Calypso, which spent 31 weeks at number one and helped him gain the title King of Calypso. Music was not his only successful endeavor in entertainment; Belafonte also became well known for his works on film, television, and Broadway.

Sources: 
James Robert Parish and Michael R. Pitts, Hollywood Songsters:  Singers Who Act and Actors Who Sing (New York: Routledge, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jeffrey, Hester C. (1842-1934)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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Hester Jeffrey, an organizer and activist who became involved in the women’s movement in the city of Rochester, New York, was born in Norfolk, Virginia around 1842. Jeffrey was the daughter of free parents Robert and Martha Whitehurst. In 1860 Jeffrey, along with her brother and sister, moved to Boston to live with their uncle Coffin Pitts. In 1865 she married Jerome Jeffrey, the son the Rev. Roswell D. Jeffrey, in Boston. Rev. Jeffrey was a political activist who stored the printing press of Frederick Douglass’s North Star in the basement of the Favor Street A.M.E. Church in Rochester, New York.  

Hester Jeffrey founded a number of local African American women’s clubs among the growing African American community in Rochester in the early 1890s. In 1897, Jeffrey was appointed to serve on the (Frederick) Douglass Monument Committee, to raise funds for a statue that was going to be erected in Rochester, New York, in the honor of Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, journalist, and champion of woman’s suffrage. After the commemoration of the Douglass Monument, Hester Jeffrey emerged as a leader in Rochester’s African American community. Jeffrey founded two women’s organizations, the Climbers and the Hester C. Jeffrey Club. The Jeffrey Club was an organization to raise funds for colored women to take classes at the Mechanics’ Institute (now called the Rochester Institute of Technology).

Sources: 
Ingrid Overacker, The African American Church Community in Rochester, New York, 1900-1940 (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1998); Rosalyn Penn-Terborg, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850- 1920 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: University of Indiana, 1998); Vicki Welch, Hester C. Whitehurst AKA Smith and Pitts, unpublished: March 14, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago

Montgomery, Isaiah T. (1847-1924)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Isaiah Thornton Montgomery was an African American leader best known for founding the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi and for his public endorsement of black disenfranchisement.  Montgomery was born enslaved on May 21, 1847 to Benjamin Thornton and Mary Lewis Montgomery on the Hurricane Plantation at Davis Bend, an area along the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Hurricane Plantation was owned by Joseph E.
Sources: 
http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/55/isaiah-t-montgomery-1847-1924-part-I; Leon Litwack and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991); David H. Jackson, A Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine: Charles Banks of Mississippi (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Forten, James (1766-1842)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image courtesy of The Historical Society of
Pennsylvania (HSP), Leon Gardiner collection
of American Negro Historical Society records
James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was born a free black man. Over the course of his lifetime, he would make a significant impact upon the fortunes of the American capitalist system and the livelihood of his contemporaries.

His parents were Thomas and Sarah Forten. He was also the grandson of slaves.  His formative years were spent in Philadelphia and he attended Anthony Benezet’s Quaker school for colored children.  By the time he turned eight years old, he began working for Robert Bridges’s sail loft. This is where his father worked as well. The following year his father was the victim of an unfortunate boating accident and died. This horrible tragedy resulted in nine-year-old James having to take on additional work to support his family.
Sources: 

Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/jamesforten.html; http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASforten.htm.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Powell, Adam Clayton, Jr. (1908-1972)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Charles V. Hamilton, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of An American Dilemma (New York: Athenaeum, 1991); Will Haygood, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Cleage, Albert, Jr. (Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) (1911-2000)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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Albert Cleage, jr., or Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, Black Nationalist and civil rights activist, was one of the most prominent black religious leaders in America. Agyemen preached a form of nationalism within the black community that stressed economic self-sufficiency and separation that relied on a religious awakening among black people. 

Albert Cleage, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 13, 1911.  Cleage graduated from Wayne State University in 1937, earning a B.A. in sociology, and a M.A. in Divinity from Oberlin School of Theology in 1943.  Cleage married Doris Graham and had two daughters. Cleage and Graham later divorced in 1955.  Cleage ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 under the Freedom Now Party, and was a candidate in the Democratic primary for U.S. Representative from Michigan, 13th District, in 1966. Cleage later changed his name to Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.  

Sources: 
“Albert Cleage,” in African American Encyclopedia, Michael Williams, ed., (New York: 1989); “Albert Cleage,” in Encyclopedia of American Culture and History, Colin Palmer, ed., (New York: 2006); http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/people/albert_cleage.html
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Alexander, Raymond Pace (1897-1974)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
H. Viscount Nelson, Black Leadership Responds to Crisis: The Great Depression in Philadelphia (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Smith, Stephen (1795-1873)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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Stephen Smith was born into slavery in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At 21 he purchased his freedom for $50 and soon afterwards began to ally with the abolitionist cause that he would support through most of his adult life.   In 1830 Smith became the chairman of the African American abolitionist organization in Columbia, Pennsylvania while developing a successful lumber business.  The Columbia Spy reported that in 1835 his success “…excited the envy or hatred of those not so prosperous and of the ruling race.”  In that year unknown persons vandalized his office and destroyed his papers, records and books.  Shortly after this incident, Smith moved to Philadelphia where he again entered the lumber business and after a few years regained his prosperity.

Sources: 
S. Webb, History of Pennsylvania Hall Which Was Destroyed by a Mob, on the 17th of May, 1838 (Philadelphia: Merrihew and Gunn, Printers, 1838).  Ira V. Brown, “Racism and Sexism: The Case of Pennsylvania Hall,” Phylon, 37:2 (2nd Qtr., 1976), 126-136; The Columbia Spy, Sept. 9, 1830, Dec. 12, 1868 and Jan. 29, 1870.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Stewart, T. McCants (1853-1923)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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Teacher, author, clergyman, and civil rights leader, Thomas McCants Stewart was born in Charleston on December 28, 1853,  to George Gilchrist and Anna Morris Stewart.  Young Stewart attended the Avery Normal Institute before enrolling in Howard University in 1869. Although only fifteen when he arrived on Howard’s campus, Stewart, nonetheless, distinguished himself as a student and contributed occasional articles to the Washington New National Era, an African American newspaper.

Yet Stewart grew increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of instruction at Howard and became one of the first black students to enroll in the University of South Carolina at Columbia in 1874. In December 1875, Stewart graduated with Bachelor of Arts and L.L.B. degrees.

After graduation, Stewart married Charlotte Pearl Harris and taught mathematics at the State Agricultural and Mechanical College in Orangeburg between 1877 and 1878. He also he joined the law firm of South Carolina Congressman Robert Brown Elliott. In 1877 Stewart became an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and three years later was appointed pastor of the Bethel AME Church in New York in 1880.

Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, African American Odyssey: The Stewarts, 1853-1963 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998); Charles E. Wynes, T. McCants Stewart: Peripatetic Black South Carolinian,@ South Carolina Historical Magazine 80 (October, 1979): 311-317.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Fortune, T. Thomas (1856-1928)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
T. Thomas Fortune—African American journalist, editor, and writer—was born into slavery on October 3, 1856 to Sarah Jane and Emanuel Fortune.  Raised in Marianna, Florida, he as a child witnessed the politically-motivated violence of the Florida Ku Klux Klan.  Despite minimal formal education, Fortune worked in print shops during his childhood.  Moving north in 1874, he worked as a customs inspector in Delaware’s eastern district before briefly enrolling in Howard University in 1876.  Deciding he would become a journalist, Fortune left Howard less than a year after he arrived.
Sources: 
Emma Lou Thornbrough, T. Thomas Fortune: Militant Journalist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972); John Hope Franklin and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders in the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982); Walter David Greason, Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Monmouth University

Nell, William C. (1816-1874)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William C. Nell was an African American civic activist, abolitionist, and historian. Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Nell was the son of William Guion Nell, a prominent tailor and black activist. William C. Nell was introduced to racial inequality and black activism from birth. In the 1830s, he became politically active as a member of the Juvenile Garrison Independent Society where he wrote plays and hosted political debates while being mentored by William Lloyd Garrison.  Nell was a printer’s apprentice for Garrison’s newspaper, the Liberator. Nell came of age in the 1840s, as a leader in the campaign to desegregate the Boston railroad (1843) and Boston performance halls (1853). He was also a founding member of the New England Freedom Association in 1842, a black Boston organization that assisted fugitive slaves in their efforts to gain freedom.

Sources: 
“William Cooper Nell (1816 - 1874),” in Boston African-American National Historic Site, National Park Service, (2002); William C. Nell, “The Triumph of Equal School Rights in Boston,” in Philip S. Foner and Robert James Branham (eds.), Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900 (Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Stokes, Charles Moorehead (1903-1996)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Moorehead Stokes, one of three sons of Rev. Norris Jefferson Stokes and Myrtle Garner Stokes, was born on February 1, 1903 in Pratt, Kansas. He graduated from the University of Kansas Law School in 1931 and soon after opened his law practice in Pratt but later moved to Topeka to serve as an assistant attorney for the Kansas Commission of Revenue and Taxation.  

Stokes said he became a Republican as a young man because he father was and always reminded him that Lincoln freed the Slaves, while the Democrats were the Confederacy at the time.  He said he became a lawyer to have a skill so that he would not be broke and dependent upon the charity and benevolence of others, like his father had been as a minister during the Depression and Jim Crow eras.

Charles M. Stokes moved his law practice to Seattle in 1943.  When Stokes arrived in Seattle, the state had fewer than five black attorneys. He also served as vice president of the Young Republican National Federation.  
Sources: 
HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Stokes, Charles Moorehead (1903-1996)” (by Mary T. Henry) http://www.historylink.org/;  Andre’ S. Wooten, “Charles Stokes Passes at 93, Afro-Hawaiian News, Feb.  1997 http://attyandrewooten.com/page41.html; Stephanie Stokes Oliver, Song for My Father: Memoir of an All-American Family (New York: Atria-Simon and Schuster, 2004).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Charlotte L. ( ? -- ?)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Charlotte L. Brown was the daughter of James E. and Charlotte Brown and sister to Margaret Ann.  Her mother, for whom she was named, was a free, black seamstress who purchased her husband James’ freedom before they moved to San Francisco, California during the 1840s. Charlotte L. Brown was the plaintiff in one of the most important early California civil rights campaigns.  On April 17, 1863, Brown was forcibly removed from a horse-drawn streetcar in San Francisco.
Sources: 
Charlotte L. Brown et al case (San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1866). Delilah L. Beasley, The Negro Trail Blazers of California (Los Angeles: Times Mirror Publishing and Binding House, 1919), p. 65.  Marc Primus, ed. Monographs of Blacks in the West: Number 1, Manuscript Series (San Francisco: San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society, Inc., 1976), pp. 120-21
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Young, Andrew (1932 - )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Andrew Young, Jr., came into prominence as a civil rights activist and close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the modern civil rights movement in the United States.  Young worked with various organizations early in the movement, but his civil rights work was largely done with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) where he served as an executive director and later executive vice president.  Young served on the Board of Directors until 1972.

Young was born into a prosperous upper-middle-class family on March 12, 1932 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Daisy Fuller, a school teacher, and Andrew Jackson Young, Sr., a Howard University-educated dentist.  Young, Sr. moved the family from Franklin, Louisiana to New Orleans.  Young, Sr., believed the move was necessary to take advantage of educational opportunities for Andrew and his younger brother Walter Young (b. 1934).
Sources: 
Andrew Young, Andrew Young: An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movements and the Transformation of America, (New York: Harper-Collins, 1996); Adam Fairclough, To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987); Elizabeth Heath, “Young, Andrew,” Africana: The Encyclopedia of African and African American Experience, Eds., Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (New York: Preseus, 1999);
www.andrewyoungfoundation.org.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Ashe, Arthur (1943-1993)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Arthur Robert Ashe Jr., legendary tennis player, human rights activist, and educator, was born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Arthur Sr. and Mattie Cunningham Ashe.  At the age of four, he began playing tennis at Brook Field, a black-only park where his father worked as caretaker.
Sources: 
ArthurAshe.org, http://www.arthurashe.org/; Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersand, Days of Grace: A Memoir (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993); Herbert G. Ruffin, “Arthur Ashe” in Matthew Whitaker, Icons of Black America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2011); Richard Steins, Arthur Ashe: A Biography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Woodson, Carter G. (1875-1950)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Ancella Bickley Collection,
West Virginia State Archives
Historian Carter G. Woodson was born to poor, yet land-owning, former slaves in New Canton, Virginia on December 19, 1875.  During the 1890s, he hired himself out as a farm and manual laborer, drove a garbage truck, worked in coalmines, and attended high school and college in Berea College, Kentucky—from which he earned a B.L. degree in 1903.  In the early 1900s, he taught black youth in West Virginia.  From late 1903 until early 1907, Woodson worked in the Philippines under the auspices of the US War Department.  Woodson then traveled to Africa, Asia, and Europe and briefly attended the Sorbonne in Paris, France.  In 1908, he received an M.A. degree in History, Romance languages, and Literature from the University of Chicago.  In 1912, while teaching in Washington, D.C., he earned his doctorate in history from Harvard University. 
Sources: 
Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, The Early Black History Movement, Carter G. Woodson, and Lorenzo Johnston Greene (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); Jacqueline Goggin, Carter G. Woodson:  A Life in Black History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); and Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, “Willing to Sacrifice”:  Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, and the Carter G. Woodson Home (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Briggs, Cyril (1888-1966)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Cyrill Briggs and Charlene Mitchell, 1960
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Cyril Briggs was a pioneering civil rights activist, journalist, black nationalist, and member of the American Communist Party. Born in 1888 on the Eastern Caribbean island of Nevis, Briggs immigrated to New York City in 1905 and joined a burgeoning community of radical West Indian intellectuals in Harlem. In 1912 be was hired at the New York Amsterdam News where he voiced support for World War I and Woodrow Wilson's anti colonial doctrine of self-determination, which he saw as validating his own radical vision of African American self-rule. Further radicalized in the wake of World War I and the Russian Revolution, Briggs started publishing his own periodical, the Crusader, in September 1918 and one month later founded the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB).  Incorporating Marxist class-consciousness under the banner of "Africa for Africans," the Crusader and the ABB became vehicles for Briggs' distinctive merger of interracial revolutionary socialism with black nationalism and anti colonialism. 

Sources: 
Mark Solomon, The Cry Was Unity: Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936 (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Miles, Elijah Walter (1934- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Even before finishing graduate school Elijah Walter Miles had a record of civil disobedience in support of civil rights objectives.  Born in Hearne, Texas on May 4, 1934, Miles received his bachelor’s degree from the Prairie View A&M University in 1955.  A two-year stint as an officer in the U.S. Army preceded graduate study at Indiana University where he was in the forefront of a campaign to desegregate public accommodations in the city of Bloomington. 

After receiving his doctorate in political science at Indiana University in 1962 Miles taught for three years as a professor at Prairie View and directed a successful boycott of white-owned businesses in nearby Hempstead, Texas.  Later, during his one-year stay at the University of North Carolina, Miles agitated for better off campus housing. 

Miles arrived at San Diego State University in 1967, and at the time was the institution’s only African American professor.  Gracious, loyal, and affable but fearless, Miles immersed himself in the affairs of the city and the university, oftentimes working effectively behind the scenes to bring about change.  Off campus he became chairman of the board of the San Diego Urban League.  He was also a member of the San Diego Blue Ribbon Commission for Charter Review and was appointed to a panel of the California Board of Education.  Miles was chairman of the board of the San Diego Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and served on the organization’s national board. 

Sources: 
Who’s Who Among Black Americans (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991);
Robert Fikes, Jr., The Black In Crimson and Black: A History and Profiles of African Americans at SDSU (San Diego: SDSU Library and Information Access, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Randolph, Asa Philip (1889-1979)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
A. Philip Randolph with Eleanor Roosevelt
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Asa Philip Randolph, born on April 15, 1889 in Crescent City, Florida, was one of the most respected leaders of the American Civil Rights movement in the twentieth century.  Randolph was a labor activist; editor of the political journal the Messenger, organizer of the 1941 March on Washington which resulted in the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), and architect of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 

Randolph was the son of Rev. James William Randolph, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Elizabeth Robinson Randolph, a seamstress.  The family moved to Jacksonville two years after his birth.  In 1907, Randolph graduated as the valedictorian of Cookman Institute in East Jacksonville, Florida, and worked a series of menial jobs while pursuing a career as an actor. He moved to New York in 1911, and after reading W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk decided to devote his life to fighting for African American equality. In 1914, Randolph married Lucille E. Green, a Howard graduate and entrepreneur whose economic support allowed Randolph to pursue Civil Rights full-time. The couple did not have any children.

Sources: 
Andrew E. Kersten, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, 2006); Cynthia Taylor, A. Philip Randolph: The Religious Journey of an African American Labor Leader (New York: NYU Press, 2006); Paula Pfeffer, A. Philip Randolph, Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Holland, Endesha Ida Mae (1944-2006)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland was born into abject poverty in Greenwood, Mississippi. She experienced extreme racism, lack of options, and little support to change her life. As a teenager she quit school, turned to prostitution and theft as a way to make it in the world she knew – a world that included being raped by a neighbor, multiple “fathers” and broken dreams.

Her first time in jail was as a teenager having dropped out of school and turned towards a life of prostitution and theft. She was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail – but this wouldn’t be the last time. She went to prison on assault and battery charges after having married, given birth, and found her husband cheating. When she was released from prison, her options were narrow and she returned to “streetwalking” – the life she knew.

This time, the man she pursued was active in SNCC. Holland pursued him all the way back to SNCC offices where she was introduced to the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Holland would go to jail many times in her future, not for streetwalking but for protesting with the Movement. One these trips included the state penitentiary with other Civil Rights activists. After thirty-three days, she was released and shortly thereafter met Dr. Jackson and Dr. King.

Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University, Antioch McGregor University

Albrier, Frances Mary (1898-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1938 Frances Mary Albrier became the first woman elected to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.  She also founded the East Bay Women’s Welfare Club whose goal was to get black teachers hired in the Berkeley schools.  This campaign saw success with the hiring of Ruth Acty in 1943.   Albrier’s political involvement was driven by the reality that African Americans were “taxpayers without any representation in the city government or the schools of Berkeley.  That was the message I wanted to get over to them.”   In 1942 Frances Mary Albrier challenged racial and gender barriers in wartime Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond.  She completed a welding course with twice the required hours because “I felt I had to be better because I was a black woman,” passed the welder’s test “with flying colors,” but her application was rejected by the Boilermakers Union in the shipyards because Kaiser “had not yet set up an auxiliary [union] for Negroes.”  Bowing to Albrier’s threat of a lawsuit and pressure from the African American community, the Richmond union agreed to accept her dues and transfer them to an auxiliary in an Oakland shipyard.  
Sources: 
Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, To Place Our Deeds: The African American Community in Richmond, California, 1910-1963, (Berkeley: University of California Press: 2000).
Affiliation: 
California State University, Sacramento

Jeffrey, George S. (1830-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Although he never held public office, George S. Jeffrey barber, orator, and post-reconstruction civil rights leader, emerged as one of the most important African American political figures in late 19th Century Connecticut.  Jeffrey was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1830, to free parents George W. and Mary Ann (Campbell) Jeffrey. By 1851, Jeffrey settled in Meriden, Connecticut and became a successful barber. Nine years later he married Martha Agnes Williams who by the late 1870s established a successful hairdressing emporium.

Sources: 
Colleen Cyr, George Jeffrey and the Insurance Bill of 1887 (October 2003); Meriden Public Library, vertical file collection; Eric A. Smith, Blacks in Early Connecticut, Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society Inc., National Conference, Washington, D.C. (October 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, Inc.

Haywood, Harry (1898-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

A radical theoretician, anti-colonialist, labor organizer, and civil rights activist, Harry Haywood was one of the most prominent and influential African American Communists of the twentieth century.  Haywood, the son of former slaves, was born in South Omaha, Nebraska in 1898. He migrated to Chicago after serving in World War I and organized community defense during the 1919 Chicago race riot. In 1922 he joined the African Blood Brotherhood and in 1925 became an official member of the CPUSA.

Sources: 
Harry Haywood, Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist (Chicago: Liberator Press, 1978); Mary Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Geogakas, eds., Encyclopedia of the American Left (New York: Garland Publishing, 1990), 297-298.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barnett, Ida Wells (1862-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Linda O. McMurry, To Keep the Waters Troubled: the Life of Ida B. Wells, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); John Hope Franklin and August Meier, Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dancy, John Campbell, Jr. (1888-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

John Campbell Dancy, Jr.

Sources: 
John C. Dancy, Sands Against the Wind: The Memories of John C. Dancy (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1966); Richard W. Thomas, Life for Us is What We Make It: Building Black Community in Detroit, 1915-1945 (Indiana UP, 1992); Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability: African-American Women in Interwar Detroit (University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Rochester

Anderson, Marian (1897-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Raymond Arsenault, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert that Awakened America (New York: Bloomsbury Press_, 2009); Russell Freedman, The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights (New York: Clarion Books, 2004)
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Terrell, Mary Church (1863-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Mary Church Terrell, A Colored Woman in a White World (Humanity Books, 2005); Cynthia Neverdon-Morton, “Mary Church Terrell,” in African American Lives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bethune, Mary Jane McLeod (1875-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership:  Public Domain
Mary McLeod Bethune was a prominent educator, political leader, and social visionary whose early twentieth century activism for black women and civil rights laid the foundation for the modern civil rights era.  Inspired by leaders such as Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Josephine St. Pierre-Ruffin, Bethune mobilized African American women’s organizations to challenge racial injustice and demand first class citizenship.
Sources: 
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eleanor/peopleevents/pande05.html; http://www.nps.gov/mamc/historyculture/people_marymcleodbethune.htm; Mary McLeod Bethune, Mary McLeod Bethune: Building a Better World, Essays and Selected Documents (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); John Hope Franklin (ed.), Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982), 191-220; Darlene Clark Hine (ed.), The African-American Odyssey (New York: Prentice Hall, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

DePriest, Oscar (1871-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
S. Davis Day, “Herbert Hoover and Racial Politics: The De Priest Incident.” Journal of Negro History 65 (Winter 1980); Charles Branham, “Oscar DePriest,” The Encyclopedia of Chicago (Chicago: The Newberry Library, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Robeson, Paul (1898-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Paul Robeson is best known as a world famous athlete, singer, actor, and advocate for the human rights of people throughout the world. Over the course of his career Robeson combined all of these activities into a lifelong quest for racial justice. He used his deep baritone voice to communicate the problems and progress associated with black culture and community, and to assist the labor and social movements of his time. He sang for multiracial and multiethnic peace and justice in twenty-five languages throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa.
Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey on April 9, 1898, to Reverend William Drew Robeson, the pastor of Princeton’s Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, and Maria Louisa Bustill Robeson.  His mother was from a prominent local mixed-race family and his father was a former slave who escaped from a plantation before the Civil War. Robeson was the youngest of four children.

Robeson’s mother died when he was six and his father struggled to care for the two youngest children. By 1912 the family had moved to Somerville, New Jersey where the young Robeson already was a standout athlete and stage performer.  He also preached in his father’s church.
Sources: 
Paul Robeson, Here I Stand (New York: Beacon Press, 1958); Martin Duberman, Paul Robeson (New York: New Press, 2005); Paul Robeson Jr., The Undiscovered Paul Robeson, An Artist’s Journey, 1898-1939 (New York: Wiley, 2001); Paul Robeson Jr., The Undiscovered Paul Robeson, Quest for Freedom, 1939-1976 (New York: Wiley, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Murray, Pauli (1910-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Pauli Murray, Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage (New York: Harper and Row, 1987); Elaine Sue Caldbeck, “A Religious Life of Pauli Murray: Hope and Struggle,” Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 2000; http://www.wvu.edu/~lawfac/jelkins/lp-2001/murray.html; http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmurrayA.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Somerville, John Alexander (1882-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Alexander Somerville emigrated to the United States from Jamaica around 1900.  He and his wife, Vada Watson Somerville, were both graduates of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry.  Graduating with honors in 1907, he was the first black graduate, and his wife was later the first black woman graduate.  In 1914, only three years after its founding in New York City, New York, the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP was created at the home of John and Vada Somerville.  His first major business venture, the Somerville Hotel, was a principal African American enterprise on Central Avenue, in the heart of the Los Angeles African American community.  When it opened in 1928 it was one of the most upscale black hotels in the United States, and counted a number of African American celebrities among its guests.
Sources: 
John A. Somerville Biographical Sketch: http://www.jamaicaculture.org/; Douglas Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

White, Lulu B.(1900-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lulu Belle Madison White, civil rights activist in the 1940s and 1950s, devoted most of her adult life to the struggle against Jim Crow in Texas.  She campaigned for the right to vote, for equal pay for equal work, and for desegregation of public facilities.  

Born in 1900 in Elmo, Texas to Henry Madison, a farmer, and Easter Madison, a domestic worker, Lulu Belle Madison White received her early education in the public schools of Elmo and Terrell, Texas.  She graduated from Prairie View College where she received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1928. After marrying Julius White and teaching school for nine years, White resigned her post to devote full time service to the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its campaign to eliminate the state’s all-white Democratic primary.
Sources: 
Merline Pitre, In Struggle against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP 1900-1957 (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Ricketts, Matthew Oliver (1853-1917)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Matthew Oliver Ricketts was the generally acknowledged political leader of Omaha’s African Americans at the turn of the 20th century.  Ricketts was born to an enslaved couple near New Castle, Kentucky in 1858.  He later received a degree from Lincoln Institute at Jefferson City, Missouri, and three years later moved to Omaha.   When he arrived in Omaha in 1880, despite scarce resources, he was admitted to Omaha Medical College, where he worked as a janitor to pay his tuition.   Elected to the state legislature for the sessions of 1892 and 1894, he became the first Nebraskan of African descent to sit in that body.   He was credited with the creation of the Negro Fire Department Company, and was also credited with securing appointments for blacks in government positions.
Sources: 
Dennis N. Mihelich, “The Origins of the Prince Hall Mason Grand Lodge of Nebraska,” Nebraska History, 76:1, (Spring, 1995), 10-21.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Abbott, Robert Sengstacke (1870-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Roi Ottley, The Lonely Warrior; The Life and Times of Robert S. Abbott (Chicago: Regnery Co., 1955);
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999);
http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/news_bios/defender.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wilkins, Roy (1901-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Roy Wilkins, one of the leading US civil rights activists of the twentieth century, was born in St. Louis, Missouri.  Wilkins’ mother died of tuberculosis when he was four; he and his siblings were then raised by an aunt and uncle in a poor but racially integrated neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Sources: 
Sondra Kathryn Wilson, In Search of Democracy: The NAACP Writings of James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and Roy Wilkins (1920-1977), (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “NAACP History: Roy Wilkins,” http://www.naacp.org/pages/naacp-history-Roy-Wilkins, accessed January 1, 2014; Tim Brady, “Remembering Roy Wilkins,” University of Minnesota Alumni Association Newsletter (November-December, 2005), http://www.minnesotaalumni.org/s/1118/content.aspx?sid=1118&gid=1&pgid=1528, accessed January 1, 2014; Roy Wilkins, Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

White, Walter F. (1893-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Walter Francis White was a leading civil rights advocate of the first half of the twentieth century.  As executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1931 to 1955, he was one of the major architects of the modern African American freedom struggle.

White, whose blond hair and blue eyes belied his African American ancestry, was born in Atlanta, Georgia on July 1, 1893, the fourth of seven children.  His parents, George W. White, a graduate of Atlanta University and a postal worker, and Madeline Harrison White, a Clark University graduate and school teacher, were solidly middle class at the time when the vast majority of Atlanta blacks were working class.
Sources: 
“Walter White (1893-1955),” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University), http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/white-walter.cfm, accessed January 1, 2014; Walter F. White, A Man Called White: The Autobiography of Walter White (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995); The New Georgia Encyclopedia:
http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-747.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Steele, Jr., Percy H. (1920--2002)

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

 

Born in 1920 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Percy Steele was one of eight children. Steele graduated from North Carolina Central College in Durham, North Carolina, after which he attended Atlanta University, where he completed a Master’s degree. From 1945 to 1946, he was a staff member and organization secretary for the Washington, D.C. Urban League.

Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, Percy Steele,  Jr., and the Urban League: Race Relations and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Post-World War II San Diego,  California History (Fall, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Lester, Peter (1814- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Peter Lester moved with his wife Nancy and five children to San Francisco from Philadelphia in 1850, where he was appalled to find that slavery was still a fact of life in the free state of California. In an attempt to do something about this, he invited black slaves and domestic workers into his home to lecture about their rights and to teach them anti-slavery songs.

Mr. Lester was making his living as a bootblack and boot maker in San Francisco when he met Mifflin W. Gibbs in the early California gold rush days. They became partners in the firm Lester & Gibbs, and opened up a successful shoe store in 1851 bearing the name (according to Mr. Gibbs) “Emporium for Fine Boots and Shoes, imported from Philadelphia, London and Paris.” This business saw wide success in both wholesale and retail, and the pair became very wealthy.
Sources: 
Rudolph M. Lapp, Blacks in Gold Rush California (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977).
 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Burton, Phillip (1915-1995)

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

Philip Burton was a Seattle lawyer for more than 40 years, a voice for the disadvantaged, and a fighter for reforms to end discrimination in education, housing and employment.  His legal actions led to the desegregation of Seattle Public Schools.  Fighting for civil rights was his lifelong activity and began in the late 1940s when, as a law student at Washburn School of Law, he brought suit against the City of Topeka for discrimination in the city-owned movie theaters and public swimming pools.  He worked on the initial filing of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in Topeka which was eventually argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The ruling abolished segregation in public schools. 
Sources: 
HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History “Philip Burton (1915-1995)” by Mary T. Henry), http://www.historylink.org/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barnett, Powell S. (1883-1971)

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

Powell S. Barnett was a child when his father arrived in Roslyn to work in the coal mines.  Seeing no future in mining, Powell left for Seattle in 1906, and quickly found work. Years later, after working in construction and for hotels, he served as a clerk for State Senator Frank Connor.  Barnett retired in 1971 as a maintenance man at the King County Courthouse.  He was a leader in the community and directed much of his energy toward improving race relations and civic unity.  In 1967, he organized the Leschi Improvement Council (a neighborhood organization), led in organizing the East Madison YMCA, and chaired a committee that revised the Seattle Urban League, thus saving its membership in the Community Chest. 

Barnett was instrumental in uniting blacks and whites in the YMCA and the USO.  As a tuba player, he was the first black person to become a member of the once all-white Musicians Union, Local 76.  He was a star baseball player who organized the semi-pro baseball Umpires Association of Seattle and secured its affiliation with the National Association of Umpires. He also assisted Japanese Americans who had been displaced during World War II. In 1949 a 4.4 acre park in Seattle was named in his honor.
Sources: 
Historylink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Powell S. Barnett (1883-1971)” (by Mary T. Henry) http://www.historylink.org/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hayes, Ralph (1922-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ralph Hayes grew up poor in rural, segregated Cairo, Illinois, the fourth of twelve children. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and then transferred to the University of Washington, where he earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in political science. In 1950 he married Elaine Ishikawa, who was his wife for 49 years. As a couple they embraced local activism and joined the Christian Friends for Racial Equality where, as Editor-in-Chief of the newsletter, Ralph wrote about national civil rights news and Japanese American issues stemming from WWII.

In 1956 Hayes became the second African American academic teacher hired by Seattle School District. He taught history and government classes in public high schools for thirty years at West Seattle, Garfield and Franklin (in Seattle) and Newport (in Bellevue).  He also taught evenings at Edison Technical College and Bellevue Community College.  For eight summers beginning in 1966, Hayes was a teacher and later director of the Upward Bound program at the University of Washington.
Sources: 
Obituary by Carole Beers, Seattle Times, 5/13/99; Obituary by Judd Slivka, Seattle Post Intelligencer, 5/21/99; “Historians Honored with 1990 Governor’s Ethnic Heritage Awards,” Mark Boyar, Northwest Ethnic News, June 1990; Elaine Ishikawa Hayes statement in Mary Willix, ed., Remembering Ralph Hayes (Creative Forces Publishing, 2007); Mary Willix, Ibid.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Miller, Rosalie Reddick (1925-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Rosalie Reddick Miller was the first African American woman dentist to practice in the State of Washington.  She was born on December 29, 1925 in Waycross, Georgia.  She attended the all-black public schools in Columbus, Georgia and in 1946 received a B. A. degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.    She enrolled at Meharry Medical College and received her D.D.S. in 1951.  Returning to Columbus, she took over her father’s dental practice and her husband, Dr. Earl V. Miller-- who she married in 1947-- began a practice of general medicine. 

During the early 1950s and before the civil rights movement, Miller and her husband fought discrimination and segregation in Nashville.  She was an active participant in the struggle for voting rights and spearheaded a voter registration movement among blacks in the city.   After moving with her husband in 1957 to the University of Iowa, she received a certificate in periodontology and he received board certification in urology.  Rosalie Miller served on the faculty teaching dental hygiene.  In 1959 the Millers moved to Seattle. 
Sources: 
Historylink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Miller, Dr. Rosalie Riddick (1925-2005) by Mary T. Henry; http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed February 25, 2004)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bates, Daisy (1914-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The image is burned into the collective American consciousness: In September 1957 nine African American children walk into the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Surrounding them is a jeering mob. Outside the frame stood Daisy Bates, whose fierce tenacity in pursuit of school integration led to this momentous day.

By fall 1957, Bates was an experienced civil rights activist. Publisher, along with her husband L.C. Bates, of the African American Arkansas State Press, she also was president of the Arkansas state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).        

Bates’ childhood experiences fueled her activism, particularly the murder of her mother, killed resisting an attempted rape by three white men in her hometown of Huttig, Arkansas. As a newspaper owner, Bates channeled her anger toward social change. During and after World War II, the State Press documented violence and harassment directed at African American soldiers stationed at Fort Robinson, a dozen miles from Little Rock.
Sources: 
Daisy Bates, The Long Shadow of Little Rock (New York: David McKay, 1962);
Kathleen Cairns, Front-Page Women Journalists (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003); Jessie Carney Smith, ed., Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research, 1992); Daisy Bates papers, University of Arkansas, http:// libinfo.uark.edu/special collections            
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

McCain, Franklin Eugene (1941-2014)

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

Franklin McCain grew up in Washington, D.C. but returned to his native North Carolina to attend college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. McCain and his roommate, David Richmond, had followed the progress of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama and felt that they should do something to contribute to the movement for social change. On Monday February 1, 1960 McCain joined the rest of the “A & T Four” (Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr. and Richmond) in sitting-in at a segregated F.W. Woolworth lunch counter. The following day, two dozen students from North Carolina A & T and Bennett College joined the protest. By the end of the week 3,000 students were picketing in downtown Greensboro. The movement rapidly spread to fifty-four cities in nine other southern states.

Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, N.C.: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Johnson C. Smith University, respectively

Vaughan, George L. (1885-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George L. Vaughn was a black lawyer and civic leader in St. Louis, Missouri best known for representing J.D. Shelley and Herman Willer in the landmark civil rights case Shelley v. Kraemer (1948). Born to former slaves and raised in Kentucky, Vaughn graduated from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, and earned a law degree from Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee. After serving in the Army as first lieutenant in World War I, he practiced law in St. Louis. Vaughn was a prominent member of the Democratic Party in the 1930s and 1940s and a Justice of the Peace in St.
Sources: 
“George L. Vaughn,” Legal Encyclopedia: Legal Biographies, http://www.answers.com/topic/george-l-vaughn-2 ; Shelley v. Kramer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948), http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=334&invol=1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Claremont Graduate University

Wiley, George Alvin (1931-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Wiley was born in New Jersey in 1931 and raised in Warwick, Rhode Island.  Wiley earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Rhode Island in 1953 and his Ph.D. in chemistry at Cornell in 1957. Afterwards he accepted a post-doctoral position at the University of California, Los Angeles. Wiley taught at the University of California, Berkeley and at Syracuse University. At Syracuse, he founded the local Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter, fighting for the integration of public schools and equal opportunities in housing and employment.  

In 1964 Wiley left academia to work full time with CORE as the associate national director, second in command to national director James Farmer. After an unsuccessful attempt to become the national director after Farmer, he left CORE and created his own group called the Poverty/Rights Action Center (P/RAC) in Washington, D.C. Under the influence of two Columbia University School of Social Work professors, Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, Wiley sought to promote racial justice by providing economic opportunities for the poor. In June 1966, he organized several demonstrations that led to the formation of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO).
Sources: 
Nick Kotz and Mary Lynn Kotz, A Passion for Equality: George Wiley and the Movement (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977); Guida West, The National Welfare Rights Movement: The Social Protest of Poor Women (New York: Praeger, 1981); Premilla Nadasen, Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2005); “George Alvin Wiley,” Discoverthenetworks.org, http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1769
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Kanagawa University, Japan

Baldwin, James (1924-1987)

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

James Arthur Baldwin, fiction writer, essayist, dramatist, and poet, was born on August 2, 1924 in Harlem, New York during the Harlem Renaissance. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in 1942, he began his formal career as a writer.  Baldwin was inspired by Richard Wright, despite his being called to the ministry at age fourteen in the Pentecostal faith and church dominated by his father, David Baldwin. 

Although James Baldwin emerged as a major American literary voice by 1953 when he published his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, his candid and militant essays found in Nobody Knows my Name (1961) and The Fire Next Time (1963) identified his writing with the emerging Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Baldwin stood with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, when the civil rights leader delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Sources: 
Warren Carson, “James Baldwin.” Encyclopedia of African American Literature. Edited by Wilfred D. Samuels (New York: Facts on File, 2007); David Leeming, James Baldwin (New York: Knopf, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Khazan, Jibreel/ Ezell Blair Jr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
One of the original Greensboro Four who took part in the Woolworth sit-ins. It is reported that as a nine year old he boasted to friends that he would “one day drink from the white people’s fountains and eat at their lunch counters.” Blair was the most uncertain of the four who decided to stage the Woolworth protest, and recalls calling his parents to ask their advice. They told him to do what he must and to carry himself with dignity and grace. He never strayed very far from the example of his parents, who were active in the civil rights movement, or the lessons of the people he had known as a child growing up in the south.

A Greensboro native, Blair graduated from Dudley High School and received a B.S. in sociology from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in 1963. While a student at A & T he was elected to attend the meeting at Shaw University in Raleigh at which the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed. Blair was president of the junior class, the student government association, the campus NAACP and the Greensboro Congress for Racial Equality. He attended law school at Howard University for almost a year before a variety of maladies forced him out.  Blair then moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he became a member of the New England Islamic Center in 1968 and took on his present name of Jibreel Khazan.
Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, N.C.: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Johnson C. Smith University, respectively

Tillmon, Johnnie (1926-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Johnnie Tillmon was born in Scott, Arkansas, in 1926. A migrant sharecropper’s daughter, she moved to California in 1959 to join her brothers and worked as a union shop steward in a Compton laundry. Tillmon organized workers and became involved in a community association called the Nickerson Garden Planning Organization which was established to improve living conditions in the housing project.

Tillmon became ill in 1963, and was advised to seek welfare. She was hesitant at first, but decided to apply for assistance to take care of her children. She immediately learned how welfare recipients were harassed by caseworkers who went to their apartments looking for evidence of extra support and who designated how they should spend money. In order to fight against this dehumanized treatment, Tillmon organized people on welfare in the housing project and founded one of the first grassroots welfare mothers’ organizations called ANC (Aid to Needy Children) Mothers Anonymous, in 1963. When a former CORE activist, George Wiley, brought together local welfare recipients’ groups and transformed them into a national movement, ANC Mothers joined the movement and became a part of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). Tillmon quickly emerged as a leader and became a chairperson of the NWRO. Together with other welfare mothers, she struggled for adequate income, dignity, justice, and democratic participation.
Sources: 
Johnnie Tillmon, “Welfare is a Women’s Issue,” Ms Magazine (Spring, 1972): 111-16; Guida West, The National Welfare Rights Movement: The Social Protest of Poor Women (New York: Praeger, 1981); Premilla Nadasen, Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Kanagawa University, Japan

McNeil, Joseph Alfred (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
One of the four North Carolina Agricultural & Technical freshmen who initiated the Sit-In Movement at Greensboro, North Carolina. A native of North Carolina, Joseph McNeil saw Greensboro’s race relations as a mirror image of the social structure of most southern cities. McNeil recalls having discussed the issue of segregation with community members like local businessman, Ralph Johns, in the weeks before the initial protest.

McNeil -- along with Franklin McCain, Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair, Jr.), and David Richmond --  had grown frustrated with the idea that patience and long suffering alone would allow Blacks to prosper. In their Scott Hall Dormitory rooms the young men read books about Gandhi, studied the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, and debated the merits of direct action. On January 31st 1960, they agreed to stage a public act of non-compliance with segregation. The following afternoon the four met at the A & T campus library and walked together to Woolworth drug store where they broke the law by sitting at a segregated lunch counter. A national chain, Woolworth stores would feel the effects of the protest beyond Greensboro. McNeil later recalled feeling a deep sense of relief during the first day of the Sit-In campaign.
Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, NC: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Johnson C. Smith University, respectively

Adams, Victoria Jackson Gray (1926-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Hattiesburg, Virginia on November 5, 1926, Victoria Jackson Gray Adams became one of the most important Mississipians in the Civil Rights Movement.  Her activities included teaching voter registration courses to domestics and sharecroppers, opening of the Freedom Schools during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964, and serving as a National Board Member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Ms. Gray began service as the field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1962.  

After graduation from high school, Ms. Gray began her education at Wilberforce University but was unable to finish due to lack of tuition funds. She later completed her education and became qualified as a teacher through her studies at the Tuskegee Institute and Jackson State College.  In addition to being a teacher, she traveled the country as a lecturer and served as campus minister to Virginia State University.  Gray called herself a “spiritual and social activist.”
Sources: 
The Victoria Jackson Gray Adams Papers in the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archives; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic.html
http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8001
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch McGregor University

Richmond, David Leinail (1941-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

One of the original Greensboro four who took part in the Woolworth sit-ins, David Leinail Richmond is often described by those who were closest to him as “gentle, intelligent, generous to a fault, and able to take a stand.” He was born in Greensboro and graduated from Dudley High School. At North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (now University) he majored in business administration and accounting. He got married while still at “A&T” and was immediately faced with the demands of his classes and the needs of his family, as well as the curious celebrity that went with the movement.

David Richmond began to fall behind in his class work, cutting back on his course load, and as time went by he left A&T before receiving his degree. After leaving A&T, he became a counselor-coordinator for the CETA program in Greensboro. He lived in the mountain community of Franklin for nine years, then returned to Greensboro to take care of his parents and work as a housekeeping porter for Greensboro Health Care Center. In 1980, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce awarded him the Levi Coffin Award for “leadership in human rights, human relations, and human resources development in Greensboro.” He was married and divorced twice and has two children with Yvonne Bryson.

Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, N.C.: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Johnson C. Smith University

Trotter, William Monroe (1872-1934)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Monroe Trotter was a major early twentieth century civil rights activist known primarily for launching the first major challenge to the political dominance of Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington and as an inspiration for the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Trotter was also the founder of the Boston Guardian (1901), the National Negro Suffrage League (1905), the Niagara Movement (1905), and the Negro American Political League (1908).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Cooper, Anna Julia Haywood (1858-1964)

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

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was a writer, teacher, and activist who championed education for African Americans and women. Born into bondage in 1858 in Raleigh, North Carolina, she was the daughter of an enslaved woman, Hannah Stanley, and her owner, George Washington Haywood.

In 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War, Anna began her formal education at Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, a coeducational facility built for former slaves. There she received the equivalent of a high school education.

Sources: 
Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Paula J. Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: HarperCollins, 2001); Kimberly Springer, “Anna Julia Haywood Cooper,” in African American Lives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hayes, Charles Arthur (1918-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
African American Congressman, Charles Arthur Hayes, will forever be remembered for his commitment to legislate equal rights for black labor workers.  After noticing racism aimed toward black workers in his hometown of Cairo, Illinois, Hayes moved to Chicago and started unionizing activities in 1942.  As a unionist, he helped end discriminatory hiring practices and improved job benefits for black laborers.  Hayes also was one of the first African American leaders to address the issues facing black women in Chicago’s African American community.  

During the 1950s he helped persuade the United Packinghouse Workers (UPWA-CIO), a major, predominately white union in Chicago, to establish its headquarters in the African American community, fought against segregated housing patterns, and raised money to prosecute the murderers of Emmett Till.  Hayes later worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) in the Chicago civil rights movement.  In the 1970s and 1980s he helped found the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), assisted Operation PUSH and supported the campaigns of two black Congressmen who were elected in the state of Illinois.  In August 1983, he himself was elected to Congress in a special election to fill the vacant seat created when Harold Washington was elected Mayor of Chicago.  Hayes served in Congress for ten years.  
Sources: 
Obituary of Charles Arthur Hayes, 1997: “Congressman Charles Hayes”; http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=Hooo388.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Charles, Ray (1930-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ray Charles Robinson, a talented musician, singer and composer, was one of the first African American artists to merge the blues with gospel to pave the way for rhythm and blues (R&B) music.  Robinson was born September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia.  At five he began to go blind and by the age of seven his sight was completely gone.  In order to help teach him to be self-sufficient his mother sent Robinson to the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, a racially segregated school in Florida.  There he learned to read music in Braille as well as to play both classical and jazz music on the piano.

Robinson’s mother passed away when he was 15 years old. Now on his own, he decided to move to Seattle, Washington where he continued his musical development.  By 1948 he had become a professional musician, shortening his name to Ray Charles, and forming his own trio. Before his 20th birthday Robinson had become a local sensation in the bars and clubs along Seattle’s Jackson Street.  
Sources: 
Eleanora E. Tate, Black Stars: African American Musicians (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000); "Ray Charles" American Masters.  PBS.org.
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/charles_r.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Maxey, Carl (1924-1997)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Carl Maxey grew up in an orphanage and became a leading attorney, civil rights activist, and champion of the underdog.  He was adopted by a Spokane, Washington, couple immediately following his birth in Tacoma but ended up in the Spokane Children's Home after his adoptive father disappeared and his mother died.  When Maxey was twelve the Home's Board decided it would no longer care for African American children and he was placed in the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center. Years later, he said "So if you wonder where some of my fire comes from, it comes from a memory that includes this event."
Sources: 
Bill Morlin, “Spokane Loses a Champion: Carl Maxey ? 1924?1997: He Defended Civil Rights and Controversial Clients,” The Spokesman?Review, July 18, 1997, p. A1; Marsha King, “Maxey Was An Inspiration: Black Attorney’s Example of Activism Cherished,” The Seattle Times, July 18, 1997; "Carl Maxey (1924-1997)," Equal Justice Newsletter, April 1999 (http://www.courts.wa.gov/programs_orgs/pos_mjc/?fa=pos_mjc.display&fileID=new9904#A4);HistoryLink.orghttp://www.historylink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Maxey, Carl (1924-1997)" (by Jim Kershner) and "Senator Henry Jackson overwhelmingly defeats peace candidate Carl Maxey in the Democratic primary on September 15, 1970." .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
HistoryLink.org

Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1814-1904)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mary Ellen Pleasant was born on Aug. 19, 1814 in Virginia and spent her early years in Nantucket.  She worked as a bond servant to the Hussey family, an abolitionist family.  She later married James Smith, a wealthy former plantation owner and an abolitionist.  Mary Ellen and James worked on the Underground Railroad.  After Smith’s death four years later, Mary Ellen continued her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Mary Ellen married John James Pleasant around 1848.  To avoid trouble with slavers for their abolitionist work, the couple moved to San Francisco in April 1852.  Mrs. Pleasant established several restaurants for California miners, the first named the Case and Heiser.  With the help of clerk Thomas Bell, Mrs. Pleasant amassed a fortune by 1875 through her investments and various businesses by 1875.  She also helped to establish the Bank of California.

Pleasant earned her title as the “Mother” of California’s early civil rights movement, establishing the local Underground Railroad.  She financially supported John Brown from 1857 to 1859.   In the 1860s and 1870s, Mrs. Pleasant brought several civil rights lawsuits in California, especially against the trolley companies, most of which she won.
Sources: 
Lynne Hudson, The Making of Mammy Pleasant: A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth Century San Francisco (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Chisholm, Shirley (1924-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, an advocate for minority rights, became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1969 and later the first black person to seek a major party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency. She represented New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and when initially elected, was assigned to the House Agriculture Committee, which she felt was irrelevant to her urban constituency. In an unheard-of move, she demanded reassignment and got switched to the Veterans Affairs Committee. By the time she left that chamber, she had held a place on the prized Rules and Education and Labor Committees.

Sources: 
Sources: W. A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds. Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981); Jessie Carney Smith, ed. Black Firsts: 4000 Groundbreaking and Pioneering Historical Events (Canton, Missouri: Visible Ink Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Current, Gloster Bryant (1913-1997)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West

Gloster B. Current, former NAACP Director of Branch and Field Services, and member of the “old guard” of NAACP Civil Rights activists, was born in 1913 and grew up in Detroit, Michigan.  He received his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia State University and his Master’s Degree in public administration from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and shortly thereafter would begin his involvement with the NAACP that would continue for the rest of his life.

Sources: 
Sources: “Gloster B. Current,” The New Crisis (Oct 1997); “Gloster B. Current Obituary,” Jet Magazine (July 21 1997); Felicia Thomas-Lynn , “Takes Five; Gloster B Current Jr,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (February 27, 2005);
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Horne, Frank Smith (1899-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Gail Lumet Buckley, The Hornes: An American Family (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1986); Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith and Cornel West, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996); Hans Ostrom and J. David Macey Jr., The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2005); Victor A. Kramer and Robert A. Russ, Harlem Renaissance Re-examined (New York: Whitston Publishing Co., 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hamer, Fannie Lou (1917-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Fannie Lou Hamer was a grass-roots civil rights activist whose life exemplified resistance in rural Mississippi to oppressive conditions. Born on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi, to a family of sharecroppers, she was the youngest of Lou Ella and Jim Townsend’s twenty children.  Her family moved to Sunflower County, Mississippi in 1919 to work on the E. W. Brandon plantation.

Hamer’s activism began in the 1950s when she attended several annual conferences of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership organized by Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a wealthy businessman and civil rights leader in the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi.  There, Hamer encountered prominent civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Michigan Congressman Charles Diggs.
Sources: 
Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999); Kay Mills, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (New York, New York: Dutton, 1993); http://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/fannie-lou-hamer/.
Affiliation: 
Tuskeegee University

Tandy, Charleton (1836-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charleton Tandy was born in Kentucky in 1836 to parents who were free only because his grandparents had purchased the family’s freedom three years before his birth.  Throughout his childhood, Tandy’s family worked to free slaves through the Underground Railroad, and as a young man, Tandy often led slaves on the route from Covington, Kentucky, to freedom in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Tandy moved to St. Louis in 1857 and worked a series of jobs until the Civil War began, when he became post messenger at Jefferson Barracks.  The war proved good for Tandy’s standing, as he rose from state militia volunteer to captain of “Tandy’s St. Louis Guard,” an African American state militia that he recruited; he carried the honorific “Captain” for the rest of his life.  
His service earned Tandy the notice of several political leaders, and Tandy was able to turn his connections into patronage jobs.  His positions ranged from U.S. land agent and deputy U.S. Marshal in New Mexico and Oklahoma to Custodian of Records at the St. Louis courthouse.  At heart, Tandy was a civil rights activist.  Throughout his life he worked on local issues of interest to Missouri African Americans, including fighting school and transportation segregation.    
Sources: 
Bryan M. Jack, “Bridging the Red Sea:  The Saint Louis African American Community and the Exodusters of 1879” (Ph.D. diss., Saint Louis University, 2004); The Charleton Tandy Papers at the Western Manuscript Historical Collection (University of Missouri at St. Louis); John A. Wright, No Crystal Stair: The Story of Thirteen Afro-Americans Who Once Called St. Louis Home (Florissant, MO:  Ferguson-Florissant School District, 1988).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Winston-Salem State University

Cobb, W. Montague (1904–1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Montague Cobb was born in Washington, D.C. in 1904. He earned his B.A. from Amherst College in 1925 and continued his research in embryology at Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory. Cobb then went to Howard University, and earned his medical degree in 1929. Cobb was given an offer by Howard to “name a position” he wanted to teach. He chose the newly emerging discipline of physical anthropology (human evolutionary biology, physical variation). Before setting up his own lab, Cobb went to Western Reserve University in Cleveland to study under T. Wingate Todd, a progressive leader in the new field.

In 1932 Cobb returned to Howard as a professor of physical anatomy, where he continued to teach until his death in 1990. A prolific writer, he authored 1,100 articles on a variety of physical anatomy topics and issues relating to African American health. Cobb is considered to be one of the most influential scholars in physical anatomy. To Howard, he left a considerable collection of more than 700 skeletons and the complete anatomical data for nearly 1,000 individuals.
Sources: 
Lesley M. Rankin-Hill and Michael L. Blakey, “W. Montague Cobb (1904-1990): Physical Anthropologist, Anatomist, and Activist,” American Anthropologist (March 1994): 74-96; Kyle Melvilee, “W. Montague Cobb.” Anthropology Biography Web. 2001. University of Minnesota, Mankato. 15 June 2006. http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/abcde/cobb_w.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Evers, Medgar (1925-1963)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
 Medgar Evers, at the time of his assassination in 1963, was the Field Secretary for the Mississippi NAACP and thus one of the leaders of the civil rights movement in that state. Evers was born on July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. Evers was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in Normandy in the following year. After his discharge from the service, Evers enrolled at Alcorn College.
Sources: 
Medgar Wiley Evers, The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: a Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005); http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms-writers/dir/evers_medgar/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Meredith, James (1933 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
James Meredith withU.S. Marshals,
University of Mississippi, 1962
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 

James Meredith, Three Years in Mississippi (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966); http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/meredith_james/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Bond, Horace Mann (1904–1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Mann Bond served as the first president of Fort Valley State College from 1939 to 1945 and president of Lincoln University from 1945 to 1957. He was a notable educator and scholar holding degrees from Lincoln University (B.A. in 1923 and a LL.D. in 1941), University of Chicago (M.A. in 1926 and a Ph.D. in 1936), and Temple University (LL.D. in 1952). Over his long career in education, his passion for teaching took him to Lincoln University, Langston University, Alabama State Teachers College, Fisk University, and Dillard University.

Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and knew the South well. In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, anti-integrationists embarked on a program of massive resistance to orders to desegregate the South. In response to the efforts to claim an I.Q. gap between racial groups, Bond issued a number of stinging critiques of the racial claims about the intelligence of blacks. His most well known essay on the subject is "Racially Stuffed Shirts and Other Enemies of Mankind": Horace Mann Bond’s parody of Segregationist Psychology in the 1950s.

It is noteworthy that the papers of Horace Mann Bond have been archived at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Much of his research emphasized the social, economic, and geographic factors influencing academic achievement as well as demonstrating that Bond was at the forefront of not only black education but also the movement for civil rights.
Sources: 
W.A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981). http://www.lexisnexis.com/academic/2upa/Aaas/HoraceMannBondPapers.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Dunjee, Roscoe (1883-1965)

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

Roscoe Dunjee was a prolific journalist and civil rights activist. He was the son of Rev. John William Dunjee, a Baptist minister, and Lydia Ann Dunjee. Although his father was born in Jefferson County, West Virginia, Roscoe worked for various African American newspapers in Oklahoma while attending Langston University.

In 1915, Dunjee founded his own newspaper in Oklahoma City entitled the Black Dispatch which became one of the most prominent black newspapers in America. Throughout his life, in the Black Dispatch Dunjee wrote confrontational editorials attacking the institution of Jim Crow, encouraged African Americans to vote and fight for their Civil Rights, and named his paper the Black Dispatch because whites had degraded the term to refer to African Americans as gossipers and liars. Dunjee chose to invert the term “black dispatch” as something honorable concerning the image of African Americans.

Sources: 
J. Reuben Sheeler, “Roscoe Dunjee” in Rayford Logan & Michael Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton & Company, 1982), 203-204.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinnati

Cayton, Revels (1907-1995)

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

Revels Cayton, born in Seattle, Washington, was the son of Horace and Susie Cayton, and the grandson of U.S. Senator Hiram Revels. As a highly respected labor leader, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco District Council of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific and, later, the business agent for the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.

Sources: 
Chicago Defender, November, 23, 1940, December 22, 1945; June 8, 1946; Robert A. Hill, The FBI’s Racon: Racial Conditions in the United States during World War II (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1995); San Francisco Examiner, November 7, 1995
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for African American Historical Research and Preservation (AAAHRP)

Brown, George L. (1926-2005)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although George L. Brown was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, he played a significant roll in Colorado politics for nearly twenty-five years.  Following his graduation from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 1950, Brown moved to Denver where he worked as a reporter and editor for The Denver Post.  He continued working for the Post after being appointed to the Colorado senate in 1955, and he covered the civil rights movement in the south during the 1960s. Voters returned him to office for another four terms.

In 1975 Colorado Democrats selected Brown run for lieutenant governor on the same ticket as gubernatorial candidate Richard Lamm. Both Brown and Lamm were elected.  Brown and Mervyn Dymally, who was elected lieutenant governor of California on the same day, became the first African Americans to hold the post of lieutenant governor in the 20th century.

Brown’s term as one of the nation’s first 20th century black lieutenant governors did not go smoothly, however.  He first pardoned a man convicted of murder while Governor Lamm was on vacation. The governor also withheld part of Brown’s salary for overspending his budget, prompting the lieutenant governor to initiate a lawsuit against Colorado’s chief executive.  The resulting bad press led to Brown’s loss in the 1979 Democratic primary election.
Sources: 
The History Makers at www.historymakers.com; The Political Graveyard at www.politicalgraveyard.com; obituary, “First Black to Hold Statewide Office in U.S.,” Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2005 at www.latimes.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Grimké, Francis (1850–1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Francis Grimké was a Presbyterian minister and a leading advocate of civil rights. He was born to a wealthy landowner, Henry Grimké and his slave mistress Nancy Weston. After his father’s death in 1852, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he lived as a free person until 1860 when his white half-brother, Montague, brought him into his household as a servant. After a severe beating he ran away, and for two years became a valet in the Confederate Army. He was discovered and returned to Montague who, after sending him to the workhouse as punishment, sold him to a Confederate officer.

After the fall of Charleston Grimke attended Morris Street School, a school for free blacks in the city. At age sixteen he moved north to attend Lincoln College, in Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1870 as class valedictorian whereupon he taught mathematics, served as the school's financial agent and studied law. Francis entered Howard Law School in 1874, but the following year enrolled in the Princeton Theological Seminary. Upon graduation in 1878 he became a Presbyterian minister at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and remained at that church as pastor for the next half century.  
Sources: 
Dickson D. Bruce, Jr., Archibald Grimké, Portrait of a Black Independent (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); “Francis Grimke,” American National Biography, Volume 9 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 627;
http://www.westminster-stl.org/Sermons/050220.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, Madam C. J. (Sarah Breedlove, 1867–1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of A'Lelia Bundles/
Walker Family Collection
Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove to former slaves, Owen and Minerva Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana on December 23, 1867.  Breedlove became an orphan at age seven when her parents died.  Three years later, ten-year-old Sarah and her sister moved across to river to Vicksburg, Mississippi to work as maids.  By her fourteenth birthday, Sarah married Moses McWilliams of Vicksburg and three years later gave birth to her only daughter Lelia (who later changed her name to A’Lelia).  Breedlove became a widow in 1887.  She and her daughter moved to St. Louis to join her older brothers who were barbers.  While in St. Louis she found work as a washer woman earning $1.50 per day.  She also married her second husband, John Davis, in 1894.  The marriage lasted nine years.
Sources: 
A’Lelia Bundles, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker (New York: Scribner, 2001); Kathryn Lasky, Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker (Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2000); www.walkertheatre.com; www.madamcjwalker.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Farmer, James (1920-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Farmer was born in Marshall, Texas in 1920, the grandson of a slave, and son of a minister and college professor, who was believed to be the first black man from Texas to obtain a doctorate. Farmer obtained advanced degrees from Wiley College and Howard University. A staunch pacifist and opponent of the military, Farmer refused to serve during World War II.  

Farmer’s pacifism and belief in a racially integrated society steered him toward a life of activism. With colleagues George Houser and Bernice Fisher, James Farmer co-founded the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in 1942 in Chicago.  The civil rights organization would eventually grow to 82,000 members in 114 chapters around the nation by the mid-1960s with Farmer as its executive director.  
Sources: 
James Farmer. Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of Civil Rights Movement (Arbor House: New York, 1985); Richard Severo, “James Farmer, Civil Rights Giant,” New York Times, July 10, 1999.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Newton, Huey P. (1942–1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Monroe, Louisiana, the youngest and seventh son, Newton was named after the populist governor Huey Long.  His parents moved to Oakland during World War II seeking economic opportunities.  Newton attended Merritt College, where he met Bobby Seale. At Merritt, Newton fought to diversify the curriculum and hire more black instructors.  He also was exposed to a rising tide of Black Nationalism and briefly joined the Afro-American Association.  Within this group and on his own, he studied a broad range of thinkers, including Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, E. Franklin Frazier, and James Baldwin.

Newton eventually developed a Marxist Leninist perspective, where he viewed the black community as an internal colony controlled by external forces such as white businessmen, the police, and city hall.  He believed the black working class needed to seize the control of the institutions that most affected their community and formed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense with Bobby Seale in October of 1966 to pursue that goal.

Newton became the Minister of Defense and main leader of the Party.  Writing in the Ten-Point Program, the founding document of the Party, Newton demanded that blacks need the “power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.”  That power would allow blacks to gain “land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.”
Sources: 
Huey P. Newton, To Die For The People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton (New York, Random House, 1972); Newton, War against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (New York: Harlem River Press, 1996); and Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ‘til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Forman, James (1928-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Civil rights leader and political activist James Forman was an instrumental leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), sending demonstrators to the South for the Freedom Ride protests. Forman, who was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 4th, 1928, lived with his grandmother in Mississippi until the age of six when he returned to live with his mother and stepfather in Chicago. Forman used his stepfather’s surname Rufus until, as a teen, he met his real father Jackson Forman, a cabdriver.

He graduated with honors from high school and entered the Air Force, stationed in Okinawa during the Korean War. In 1952, he enrolled in the University of Southern California. During his second semester, Forman was a victim of brutality: accused of a robbery he did not commit, he was taken to a police station and beaten by two Los Angeles police officers. The incident caused Forman to have a mental breakdown, and he returned to Chicago. After his recovery he enrolled in Roosevelt University received a bachelor’s of arts degree 1957.
Sources: 
James Forman, Making of Black Revolutionaries (Open Hand Publishing, Inc., 1985); Joe Holley, “Civil Rights Leader James Forman Dies,” The Washington Post (January 11, 2005);http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1621-2005Jan11.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Chase, William Calvin (1854-1921)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William Chase was born in 1854 to a free black family in Washington, D.C.  Chase was raised in integrated neighborhoods and attended local area schools including Howard University Law School.  Chase combined the practice of law with journalism for most of his career and was also active in Republican politics, serving as District of Columbia delegate to the party's national convention in 1900 and again in 1912.

William Chase is most well known for his nearly forty years of service as editor of the Washington Bee, a weekly publication that, during its run, was the oldest secular newspaper in continuous publication in the country.  As one of the great 19th-century editors, Chase served as a formidable “race man” and used his newspaper to voice a variety of opinions about all issues relating to African Americans and American race relations. William Chase’s Washington Bee was published weekly from 1882 through 1922 and documented extensive opposition to segregation and discrimination throughout the United States.  His newspaper fought for equal rights at a time when only a handful of black publications existed at all.  
Sources: 

Appiah, Kwame and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic  Civitas Books 2004); http://www.exploredc.org/index.php?id=381

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Delany, Martin Robison (1812-1885)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Martin Robison Delany was an African American abolitionist, the first African American Field Officer in the U.S Army, and one of the earliest African Americans to encourage a return to Africa.
Sources: 
Victor Ullman, Martin R. Delany: The Beginnings of Black Nationalism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971); Jim Haskins, Black Stars: African American Military Heroes (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, NewYork, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Green, Ernest G. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1941, Ernest Gideon Green was no stranger to the Civil Rights Movement as his mother was a NAACP member and took part in protests against unequal pay between whites and blacks. Partly inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Green’s family decided to become plaintiffs in the lawsuit that desegregated Little Rock’s Central High School.  Green and eight other African American high schoolers became known as the Little Rock Nine.  They would be the first test of the 1945 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education which officially desegregated the nation’s public schools.

Facing daily bouts of physical and verbal threats and abuse from fellow students and angry white adults, Green and the other eight students were guarded the entire school year by elements of 101st Airborne Division send into Little Rock by orders from President Eisenhower.

After becoming the first student to graduate from the now racially desegregated Little Rock High School in 1958, Green was accepted into Michigan State University.  He graduated four years later with a Bachelor of Arts degree while still engaging in civil rights activity in Arkansas.  Green received a Master of Arts in 1964.  
Sources: 
Thomas D. Jakes, Who’s Who Among African Americans (New York: Thomson & Gale, 2003); http://www.answers.com; http://www.oldstatehouse.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Hubert (H. Rap) /Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
H. Rap Brown succeeded Stokely Carmichael as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was a prominent figure in the Black Panther Party. A leading proponent of Black Power and a polarizing media icon, Brown symbolized both the power and the dangers – for white Americans and for radical activists themselves – of the civil rights movement's new militancy in the late 1960s.

Brown was born in 1943 and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  In 1960 he joined the Non-Violent Action Group (NAG) and moved to Washington, D.C. In 1964 he became NAG chairman. His activities with NAG soon drew him to SNCC, which was then engaged in voter-registration drives in the Deep South. Brown quickly distinguished himself as a charismatic leader and effective organizer. He was appointed director of voter registration for the state of Alabama in 1966 and replaced Carmichael as national chairman a year later.
Sources: 
James Haskins, Profiles in Black Power (New York:  Doubleday & Co. 1972), 217-238; H. Rap Brown and Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Die Nigger Die! A Political Autobiography (Lawrence Hill Books, 1969); Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, "H. Rap Brown/Jamil Al-Amin: A Profoundly American Story," The Nation, February 28, 2002; http://www.thenation.com/doc/20020318/thelwell
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Grimke, Archibald (1849-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center, Howard University
Archibald Grimke was a leading intellectual, activist, and author on racial equality in early 20th Century America. Grimke was born into slavery, the son of Nancy Weston, a slave, and Henry Grimke, her owner. After his father's death, he and his brother Francis spent eight years living as freemen before his half-brother, Montague, took them as servants into his home in 1860. After suffering beatings at Montague's hand Archibald fled and hid with relatives until Charleston fell to Union forces in 1865.

Archibald Grimke attended Lincoln College in Pennsylvania, and in 1872 became one of the first African American students at Harvard Law School. Upon graduation he established a law practice in Boston, where he became an ardent supporter of suffrage for women and African Americans. From 1894 to 1898 he was consul to Santo Domingo (The Dominican Republic). In 1903 Grimke became president of the American Negro Academy, the nation's preeminent black intellectual society, a role he held until 1919.
Sources: 
Dickson D. Bruce, Jr., Archibald Grimke, Portrait of a Black Independent (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Still, William (1821-1902)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Still was born in Burlington County, New Jersey in 1821, as the last of eighteen children of former slaves Levin and Charity Still. By 1844, Still moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he spent the majority of his life and where he was appointed secretary of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Still was the first black man to join the society and the first to hold this position.

Still was also active in the Underground Railroad in the two decades between his arrival in Philadelphia and the end of the Civil War.  Still became well known in various circles as a major “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, helping fugitives make their way to Canada and freedom.  Still also campaigned for an end to racial discrimination in Philadelphia.  In 1859 he organized the effort to end black exclusion from Philadelphia streetcars.  This campaign was described in Still’s first publication, Struggle for the Civil Rights of the Coloured People of Philadelphia in the City Railway Cars in 1867.
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASstill.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moses, Robert P. (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Harlem, New York in 1935, Robert Parris Moses first appeared on the civil rights scene during the 1960s. After being inspired by a meeting with Ella Baker and being moved by the student sit-ins, as well as the Civil Rights fervor in the South, he joined the movement. His first involvement came with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) where he organized a youth march in Atlanta to promote integrated education.  In 1960 Moses joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and two years later became strategic coordinator and project director with the newly formed Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) which worked in Mississippi.  In 1963 Moses led the voter registration campaign in the Freedom Summer movement. The following year he helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which tried to replace the segregationist-dominated Mississippi Democratic Party delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Moses left SNCC after the organization embraced “black power” under its new chairman, Stokely Carmichael.
Sources: 
http://www.algebra.org/; Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Colin A Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Vol. M-P (Missouri: Thomson Gale, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walters, Bishop Alexander (1858-1917)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alexander Walters was born in 1858 into a slave family in Bardstown, Kentucky, the sixth of eight children.  By the age of ten, Walters had shown such academic progress that he was awarded by the African Episcopal Zion Church a full scholarship to attend private schooling. In 1877 at the age of nineteen, Walters received his license to preach and began his pastoral duties in Indianapolis, Indiana. In his career as a pastor, Walter served in cities across the country including Louisville, San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Chattanooga, Knoxville and New York. In 1892, as a minister at the Seventh District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Walters was selected as bishop.  

In 1898, Bishop Alexander Walters began to devote his attention to the ongoing African American civil rights struggle.  In partnership with T. Thomas Fortune, the editor of the New York Age, Walters founded the National Afro-American Council and served as its president.  This organization focused primarily on challenging racially discriminatory legislation and in particular the “separate but equal” Plessy vs. Ferguson U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1896.  Walters also challenged Booker T. Washington’s ideas of accommodation to segregation and discrimination.  
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Randall Burkett and Richard Newman, eds., Black Apostles: Afro-American Clergy Confront the Twentieth Century (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reagon, Bernice Johnson (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bernice Johnson Reagon, singer/composer, cultural historian, author, and producer, was born on October 4, 1942 in Dougherty County, Georgia, to Reverend Jessie Johnson and Beatrice Johnson. The third child of eight, she began singing at the age of five in her father’s church. As a high school senior in 1959 she served as secretary to the youth chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 1959 Johnson entered Albany State College in Georgia, where she majored in music. While there, she became one of the student leaders in the Albany Movement, serving as student representative on the Executive Committee. In December 1961 Johnson and 600 other African Americans were arrested for demonstrating against segregated facilities. As a result of their activism, Johnson and 38 fellow students were suspended by the college.

In 1962 Johnson became a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Field Secretary, joining SNCC’s Freedom Singers on their first national tour. After her marriage in 1963 to fellow SNCC member, Cordell H. Reagon, and the birth of their children, Toshi and Kwan, Reagon resumed her studies at Spelman College, graduating in 1970.  She then went on to do graduate work in history at Howard University, completing her doctoral dissertation on the songs of the Civil Rights Movement.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.bernicejohnsonreagon.com/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Norton, Eleanor Holmes (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House
of Representatives Photography Office
Eleanor Holmes Norton was born on June 13, 1937 in Washington, D.C. to parents Coleman and Vela Holmes.  Both her parents were government employees.  Growing up in a well educated and politically conscious household caused Eleanor Holmes to be very aware of the surrounding struggles for African Americans.  At the age of 12, she recalled watching protests against a Washington, D.C. department store which allowed black shoppers but refused them entry into its bathrooms.

In 1955, Eleanor entered Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where she became heavily involved with civil rights work.  While in college she headed the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter and became a local activist working to desegregate public facilities in Ohio.  The emerging civil rights movement influenced her decision to enter Yale University in 1960 with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.  In 1963 Holmes worked in Mississippi for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  She graduated from Yale in 1963 with a Master’s in American Studies and a law degree in 1964.  
Sources: 
Joan Steinau Lester, Eleanor Holmes Norton: Fire in My Soul (New York: Atrai Books, 2003); Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.norton.house.gov/; http://www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/resources/legends_in_the_law/norton.cfm; http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1955.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Richardson, Gloria (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Gloria Richardson and Protestors facing
National Guard Troops
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gloria Hayes Richardson was born on May 6, 1922 in Baltimore, Maryland to parents John and Mabel Hayes.  During the Great Depression her parents moved the family to Cambridge, Maryland, the home of Mabel Hayes.  Young Gloria grew up in a privileged environment.  Her grandfather, Herbert M. St. Clair, was one of the town’s wealthiest citizens.  He owned numerous properties in the city’s Second Ward which included a funeral parlor, grocery store and butcher shop.  He was also the sole African American member of the Cambridge City Council through most of the early 20th Century.  

Gloria attended Howard University in Washington at the age of 16 and graduated in 1942 with a degree in sociology.  After Howard, she worked as a civil servant for the federal government in World War II-era Washington, D.C. but returned to Cambridge after the war.  Despite her grandfather’s political and economic influence, the Maryland Department of Social Services, for example, refused to hire Gloria or any other black social workers.  Gloria Hayes married local school teacher Harry Richardson in 1948 and raised a family for the next thirteen years.  
Sources: 
Peter Levy, Civil War on Race Street: The Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2003); Jeff Kisseloff, Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s: An Oral History (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2007); http://www.abbeville.com/civilrights/washington.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sellers, Cleveland (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr.
Cleveland Sellers was born on November 8, 1944 in Denmark, South Carolina.  Cleveland became interested in the Civil Rights Movement with the murder of Emmett Till in 1955.  In 1960 at 15, he organized his first sit-in protest at a Denmark, South Carolina lunch counter, just two weeks after the infamous Woolworth’s sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Sellers’s enthusiasm for the movement was tempered by his father’s adamant opposition to his participation.  Sellers entered Howard University in 1963 and concentrated on his studies in compliance with his father’s wishes until his sophomore year.  In 1964 he returned to protest activity and joined Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)  In 1965, Sellers became the program director of SNCC after his successful work with the voter registration in Mississippi.

Cleveland Sellers marched across Mississippi in 1966 after the attempted murder of James Meredith.  It was during this march that he met the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and formed a lasting friendship.  Sellers was also part of the crowd when “black power” was first shouted and SNCC then changed its direction to assume a more aggressive approach to fighting racial discrimination.  In 1966 Sellers become one of the first SNCC activists to refuse to be drafted into the U.S. military as a protest against the War in Vietnam.
Sources: 
Cleveland Sellers, The River of No Return (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1973); http://www.depauw.edu/news/index.asp?id=13829.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

DuBois, Shirley Graham (1896-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Shirley Graham DuBois and
her Husband, W.E.B. DuBois
Image Courtesy of David Graham DuBois
Musicologist, playwright, novelist and political activist Lola Shirley Graham, born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1896, became the second wife to W.E.B. DuBois in 1951.  Lola Shirley Graham was taught at a young age to stand up to injustice.  She wrote her first editorial to an Indianapolis paper protesting racial discrimination when she was 13, after she was denied access to a YWCA swimming pool.

Young Graham moved several times throughout her life as her family followed her father, African Methodist Episcopal minister, David A. Graham.  The family lived in Indianapolis, New Orleans, Nashville, Colorado Springs and Spokane, Washington where she graduated from Lewis and Clark High School.  Graham met and married her first husband, Shadrach McCants, when she was 21 and living in Seattle.  Her father, the minister at First AME Church in Seattle, presided over the ceremony.  Two sons, Robert and David, were born in 1923 and 1925 respectively.  In 1927 Graham and McCants divorced in Portland, Oregon.  
Sources: 
Gerald Horne, Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley G. DuBois (New York: New York University Press, 2002); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., Africana, Arts and Letters: An A-Z Reference of Writers, Musicians, and Artists of the African and African-American Experience (New York: Running Press, 2005);
http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/scripts/jimcrow/women.ogi
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harris, Patricia Roberts (1924-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Patricia Roberts Harris was born on May 31, 1924 in Mattoon, Illinois. She excelled academically and received a scholarship to Howard University. During her time at Howard, Roberts was elected Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1945. While she was in college Roberts participated in civil rights protests in Washington, D.C. In 1943, she took part in one of the earliest student sit-ins at a whites-only cafeteria.  While at Howard, Roberts served as Assistant Director for the American Council of Human Rights.  In 1955 she married William Harris, a Howard University law professor.

Patricia Roberts Harris received a law degree from George Washington University in 1960.  She graduated number one in her class and was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Harris worked briefly for the U.S. Department of Justice and was appointed co-chair of the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights by President John F. Kennedy. A year later, she returned to Howard as an associate dean of students while lecturing occasionally at the university’s law school.
Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York, Da Capo Press Inc., 1981); http://www.huarchivesnet.howard.edu/0005huarnet/harris1.htm; http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=200
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Young, Whitney M., Jr. (1921-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
National Urban League
Whitney Moore Young, Jr. was born July 31, 1921 in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky on the campus of Lincoln Institute where his father was President. Young received a Bachelor of Science degree from Kentucky State College for Negroes in 1941.

Upon graduation, Young joined the Army Specialist training program and was assigned to a road construction crew composed entirely of black soldiers led by Southern white officers. He was promoted from private to first sergeant three weeks after joining his unit. The promotion created resentment among both the black soldiers and white officers.  Young credited the controversy surrounding his rapid promotion as sparking his lifelong interest in racism and in fighting for civil rights.  

After World War II ended Young attended the University of Minnesota where he earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work.  He was hired to lecture at the university after his graduation.  Young then served as director of the National Urban League (NUL) branch in Omaha, Nebraska in the early 1950s.  In 1954 at the age of 33 Young was named Dean of the School of Social Work at Atlanta University.  Young became active in the Atlanta National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and in 1960 was elected president of the Georgia NAACP.
Sources: 
Dennis Dickerson, Militant Mediator: Whitney M. Young Jr. (Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1998); Nancy J. Weiss, Whitney M. Young, Jr., and the Struggle for Civil Rights (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989); http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/unitarians/young.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

DuBois, William Edward Burghardt (1868–1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Derrick P. Aldridge, The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History (New York: Teachers College Press, 2008); David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, 1919-1963: The Fight for Equality and the American Century (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Sanchez, Sonia (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004);
http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/sanchez_sonia.html;
http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/276
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Height, Dorothy Irene (1912-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, eds., Black Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia (Carlson Publishing Company, 1993);
naswfoundation.org/pioneers/h/height.htm; www.ncnw.org/about/height.htm; Dorothy Height Obituary, Seattle Times, April 21, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Travis, Dempsey Jerome (1920- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dempsey Jerome Travis is a civil rights activist, business leader, military veteran, and author. From the inception of his first realty company to his time serving three presidential administrations, Travis has served in both local and national theaters of private and civic life.

Born 1920 in Chicago, Illinois, Dempsey Travis attended Roosevelt University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. He then applied and was accepted into the School of Mortgage Banking at Northwestern University where he pursued an M.B.A. and graduated two decades later in 1969. Between 1949 and 1953, Travis founded Travis Realty Company, Travis Insurance Company, and Sivart Mortgage Company all in Chicago. He also created Urban Research Press in 1969 which published books on African American history and politics including Chicago Sun Times: An Autobiography of Black Chicago, An Autobiography of Black Jazz, and An Autobiography of Black Politics.
Sources: 
Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.dempseytravis.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gibson, Kenneth A. (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Newark Museum
Kenneth Allen Gibson, the first African American mayor of Newark, New Jersey, was born in 1931 in the town of Enterprise, Alabama.  He graduated from high school in Enterprise in 1950 and joined the U.S. Army as a civil engineer.  He remained in the Army until 1958. After his discharge, he took a job as a New Jersey State Highway Patrol trooper while simultaneously attending Newark College. Gibson graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1963.

After college Gibson took an engineering position for the Newark Housing Authority where he oversaw urban renewal projects from 1960-1966. In 1966, he became Newark’s chief structural engineer. He was also the head of Newark’s Business and Industry Coordinating Council and served as vice president of the United Community Corporation, which fought poverty in Newark during that time.
Sources: 
Colin Palmer, Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History (Missouri: Thomson Gale, 2006); Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blackwell, Unita (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Washington University Libraries,
Film and Media Archive
Unita Blackwell, a civil rights activist and the first black female mayor in the state of Mississippi, was born the daughter of sharecropping parents in Coahoma County, Mississippi on March 18, 1933. She worked throughout the civil rights era urging and recruiting blacks to register to vote, while holding positions in numerous organizations to fight for black civil rights in the United States.

Blackwell began her education by attending a school in West Helena, Arkansas, because of the lack of educational opportunities for African Americans in Mississippi.  She received an eighth grade education and then joined her parents as sharecroppers. In the early 1960s, with determination and willfulness, she chopped cotton for $3 per day while she patiently began her work in civil rights.

By 1964, Blackwell was teaching Sunday School at a church. When the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) visited her hometown of Mayersville, Mississippi, Blackwell signed up to be a field worker.  Her assignment was to persuade her neighbors to register and vote.  
Sources: 
Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: Civil Rights: an A-Z Reference of the Movement that Changed America (New York: Running Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Nash, Diane Judith (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Diane Nash
Diane Judith Nash was born on May 15, 1938 in Chicago, Illinois to Leon Nash and Dorothy Bolton Nash.  Nash grew up a Roman Catholic and attended parochial and public schools in Chicago.  In 1956, she graduated from Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois and began her college career at Howard University in Washington, D.C. before transferring to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sources: 
Rosetta E. Ross, Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003); http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=N003.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Baker, Ella (1903-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Through her decades of work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and later with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Ella Baker emerged as one of the most important women in the civil rights movement.  Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia.  After grammar school, her mother enrolled her in Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.  She graduated as the valedictorian of both her high school and college graduating classes.  The college valedictorian honor was all the more remarkable because she worked her way through school as a waitress and chemistry lab assistant.  Baker graduated from Shaw University with a B.A. in June 1927.
Sources: 
Joanne Grant, Ella Baker Freedom Bound (New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1998); Rosetta E Ross, Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Yates, Josephine Silone (1852-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Teacher, writer and civil rights activist Josephine Silone, the youngest daughter of Alexander and Parthenia Reeve-Silone, was born in Mattiluck on Long Island, New York in 1852.  At age eleven, Yates moved to Philadelphia to live with her uncle, Rev. J.B. Reeve, in hopes of finding greater educational opportunity. There she attended the Institute of Colored Youth run by Fannie Jackson Coppin. By the time Silone was old enough to attend high school, an aunt invited her to live and go to school in Newport, Rhode Island. Silone, the only black student in her class and the first to graduate from Rogers High School in Newport in 1877, was selected class valedictorian.  Silone’s high school teachers encouraged her to attend a university but instead she chose Rhode Island State Normal School, a teacher’s college and again graduated as the only African American student in 1879.

After passing the Rhode Island State Teacher Certification, Silone moved to Jefferson City, Missouri to begin teaching at Lincoln Institute (later Lincoln University) and to head the Department of Natural Sciences. She resigned in 1889 to marry Professor W.W. Yates, then the principal of the Wendell Phillips School in Kansas City.  Josephine Silone Yates, who also taught at the Phillips School, soon became known and admired as one of the best teachers in the state of Missouri.  
Sources: 
Daniel Wallace Culp, Twentieth Century Negro Literature: Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to The American Negro (Palo Alto, California:  J. L. Nichols & Company, 1902).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Hallie Quinn (1850-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Teacher, writer and women’s activist Hallie Quinn Brown was born on March 10, 1850 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of former slaves who in 1864 migrated to Ontario, Canada.  The Brown family returned to the United States in 1870, settling in Wilberforce, Ohio.  Brown attended Wilberforce College and received a degree in 1873.  She then taught in freedman’s schools in Mississippi before moving to Columbia, South Carolina in 1875 where she served briefly as an instructor in the city’s public schools.  By September 1875 she joined the faculty at Allen University.  Brown taught at Allen between 1875 and 1885 and then for the next two years (1885-1887) served as Dean of the University.  Brown also served as Dean of Women at Tuskegee Institute during the 1892-1893 school year before returning to Ohio where she taught in the Dayton public schools.     

Brown had since childhood held an interest in public speaking.  In 1866 she graduated from the Chautauqua Lecture School.  By the time she began working at Allen University Brown was already developing a reputation as a powerful orator for the causes of temperance, women’s suffrage and civil rights.  In 1895 Hallie Q. Brown addressed an audience at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Conference in London.  In 1899, while serving as one of the United States representatives, she spoke before the International Congress of Women meeting in London.  Brown also spoke before Queen Victoria.
Sources: 
Hazel V. Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dunbar-Nelson, Alice Ruth Moore (1875-1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Manuscripts, Archives
and Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture,
The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox
and Tilden Foundations
Alice Ruth Moore, educator, author and social activist, was born on July 19, 1875 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Patricia (Wright) Moore and Monroe Moore.  She attended public school in New Orleans and enrolled in the teacher training program at Straight University in that city in 1890. Two years later she graduated and began teaching in New Orleans.    
Sources: 
Eleanor Alexander, Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow, The Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore (New York: Penguin Group, 2001); Patsy B. Perry, “Alice Dunbar-Nelson,”  in J.C. Smith, ed., Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale  Research, 1992); The Alice Dunbar-Nelson Papers, University of Delaware.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Muhammad, Benjamin Chavis (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public domain
Born on January 22, 1948 as Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. in the city of Oxford, North Carolina, Benjamin Chavis Muhammad was a member of one of the most prominent African American families in North Carolina. His parents were well known educators and his ancestors included John Chavis, a Revolutionary War soldier with George Washington’s Army who became one of the first African Americans to attend Princeton University.  John Chavis later operated a private school in antebellum North Carolina that accepted both black and white students.

By age 13, Ben Chavis had established his civil rights activist credentials when he successfully integrated the all-white libraries in Oxford. Chavis became the first African American to receive a library card.
Sources: 
Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: An A-Z Reference of the Movement that Changed America (New York: Running Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ferebee, Dorothy Celeste Boulding (1898–1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Physician, educator and social activist Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee led efforts to improve the health care of African Americans.  As a member of several civic organizations, she fought to lower the mortality rate among African Americans in southern rural communities.  She also used these organizations as a vehicle to promote civil rights.

Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to Benjamin and Florence Boulding on October 10, 1898. When her mother became ill, Dorothy’s parents sent her to live with her great aunt in Boston.  Between 1904 and 1908, Dorothy attended school in Boston.  In 1915 Boulding graduated at the top of her class from English High School in Boston.  Five years later she graduated from Simmons College in Boston and then immediately entered Tufts University School of Medicine, graduating with top honors in 1924.  

Despite her impressive educational credentials, Boulding was not allowed to intern at white hospitals in the Boston area.  Instead, she did her internship at the black-owned and staffed Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.  Upon completion of her internship in 1925, she started her own medical clinic in an impoverished section of the city.        
Sources: 

Ruth Edmonds Hill, ed., The Black Women Oral History Project (Westport, Connecticut: Meckler, 1991); Rayford W. Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years, 1867-1967 (New York: New York University Press, 1967); http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_109.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

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

Freedom Rides (1961)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Freedom Riders Bus Burned near Anniston, Alabama, 1961
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: Perennial, 2001); David Halberstam, The Children (New York: Random House, 1998); and Lynne Olson, Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement From 1830 to 1970 (New York: Scribner, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Bruce, John Edward (1856-1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Edward Bruce was born into slavery in Piscataway, Maryland in 1856.  When Bruce was three years old his father was sold away to Georgia prompting young Bruce and his mother to escape to Washington, D.C. in fear of losing each other.  Bruce and his mother Martha resided with Martha's cousin Busie Patterson who was a body servant to Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton. This relationship with a powerful white congressman provided the Bruce family with opportunities and access to jobs in white upper-class communities. Martha Bruce, for example, obtained a job in Connecticut working closely with a white family. While in Connecticut, John Edward Bruce enrolled in an integrated school and received his first formal education. Traveling back to Washington, he received a private education and attended Howard University.
Sources: 
Ralph L. Crowder, John Edward Bruce: Politician, Journalist, and Self-trained Historian of the African Diaspora (New York: New York University Press, 2004);
http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/bruce.html; http://www.historicaldocuments.com/BloodRedRecord.htm
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Hill, Oliver White (1907-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, attorney Oliver W. Hill spent more than 60 years in a practice devoted to civil rights causes. He was in the forefront of the legal effort to desegregate public schools, participating in the series of lawsuits that were consolidated to become the landmark 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down segregated schools.

Oliver White Hill was born Oliver White on May 1, 1907 in Richmond, Virginia. When he was a baby, his father left; later his mother Olivia remarried and he took the last name of his stepfather, Joseph C. Hill. The family moved to Roanoke, Virginia, and then to Washington, D.C. where he graduated from Dunbar High School. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree at Howard University, he graduated in 1933 from Howard University Law School, second in his class only to his friend Thurgood Marshall. In Richmond, Hill founded his first law firm, Hill, Martin and Robinson, and joined with Charles Hamilton Houston on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) legal team.
Sources: 
Oliver W. Hill, The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education and Beyond, the Autobiography of Oliver W. Hill, Sr. (Winter Park, Florida: Four-G Publishers, 2000); Alan Govenar, Untold Glory, African Americans in the Pursuit of Freedom, Opportunity, and Achievement (New York: Harlem Moon, 2007); http://www.pbs.org/beyondbrown/history/oliverhill; http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/06/washington/06hill; http://www.brownat50.org/Brown/Bios/BioOliverhill.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jackson, Jessie Louis, Sr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jessie Jackson speaking at the Democratic
National Convention, 1984 
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Long before he became a minister, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), and founder of the Rainbow Coalition, Jesse Louis Jackson impressed his family and close friends as a person destined for greatness.  Born Jesse Burns in Greenville, South Carolina on October 8, 1941 to Helen Burns, a 17 year old unwed high school student and Noah Robinson, her older married neighbor, young Jesse took the surname Jackson from his adopted father, Charles Jackson, who later married Burns.  Insecure owing to the circumstances of his birth, Jackson decided to make himself a father figure and leader of his people.  
Sources: 
Barbara A Reynolds, Jesse Jackson: America’s David (Washington, D.C.: JFJ Associates, 1985); Elizabeth O. Colton, The Jackson Phenomenon: The Man, the Power, the Message (New York: Doubleday, 1989); Marshall Frady, Jesse: The Life and Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson (New York: Random House, 1996); H. Viscount “Berky” Nelson, The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership: Chronicle of a Twentieth Century Tragedy (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

James & Lydia Sims

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
James & Lydia Sims with their twins,
Donald and Ronald, 1948
Image Ownership: Public Domain

During World War II, Lydia Sims moved from Newark, New Jersey, to Spokane with her husband, James Sims, an Army Air Force soldier stationed at Geiger Airfield.  At the end of the war, the Sims family decided to remain in Spokane.  For 10 years they lived in the Garden Springs housing project, a complex in west Spokane inhabited primarily by former military families. There they raised their sons, James McCormick and twins Ron and Donald.  Lydia Sims’s political views were strongly influenced by racial discrimination, which she vehemently opposed. In the 1960s, as a student at Eastern Washington University, she participated in a movement to desegregate schools in Cheney, Washington.  Later, she served on the state’s Human Rights Coalition, the League of Women Voters, the Human Rights Council, and the Washington State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.  
Sources: 

“Few Employers Permit Racism, Bureau Decides,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 1, 1957; “Discrimination Rating Denied by Negro Leader,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 2, 1957; “Reverend Sims is Elected Action Council Chief,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 20, 1969; http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=8007 ; ttp://www.metrokc.gov/exec/backgrnd.htm ; ttp://www.metrokc.gov/exec/news/2000/0627001.htm, On the death of Lydia Sims see Spokesman Review, June __, 2012.  

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Jackson, Jesse Louis. Jr. (1965- )

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

Jesse Jackson, Jr., an African American Congressman, represented Illinois’ Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from December 12, 1995 to November 21, 2012. On March 11, 1965, in Greenville, South Carolina, in the middle of the voting rights campaign, Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. was born to renowned activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Jacqueline Jackson. The younger Jackson’s political career has been deeply impacted by his educational upbringing and his family’s activism.

In 1987, Jackson earned a Business Management Bachelor of Science Degree from North Carolina A & T State University, where he graduated magna cum laude. In 1990, he graduated from the Chicago Theological Seminary earning a Master of Arts Degree in Theology. Three years later Jackson graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law with a Juris Doctorate.

Before his election to Congress in 1995, Jackson served as the National Rainbow Coalition’s National Field Director, registering millions of new voters.  In the 1980s he led protests against South African apartheid. In 1986, Jackson spent his 21st birthday in a jail cell in Washington, D.C. for participating in an anti-apartheid protest at the South African Embassy.

Sources: 
U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.: Representing the People of the 2nd District of Illinois, www.house.gov/jackson/Bio.shtml; Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.: Congressman, Second Congressional District of Illinois, www.jessejacksonjr.org; and Mema Ayi and Chicago Defender, Jackson Jr. bails on mayoral run; says with Dems in control he can do more for Congress, www.chicagodefender.com/page/local.cfm?ArticleID=7561
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Bruce, Josephine Beall Willson (1853-1923)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A clubwoman, teacher, society leader, and race activist, Josephine Beall Willson Bruce was born in Philadelphia on October 29, 1853, to Dr. Joseph Willson, a prominent dentist, and Elizabeth Harnett Willson, a singer and musician. In 1854 the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio where Josephine Willson received her education. An accomplished linguist, she enjoyed literature and classical music.

On June 24, 1878, she married Republican senator Blanche K. Bruce, a political leader and plantation owner from Mississippi and the only black United States senator. After touring Europe they established residence in Washington, D.C. With Josephine Bruce a cultured and charming hostess, the Bruce home became a center of Washington social life. Though Blanche Bruce's term ended in 1880 he received political appointments in Washington enabling the couple to remain active in social and community life.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Glasrud, "Josephine Beall (Willson) Bruce," in African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem, 75-77 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993); Willard B. Gatewood, “Josephine Beall Willson Bruce,” in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, vol. I, 187-188 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lampkin, Daisy (1884-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born August 9, 1884 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Daisy Lampkin became one of the most highly acclaimed African American women of her time. While Lampkin is best known for becoming the first women to be elected to the national board of the NAACP, she spent much of her life rallying for racial and gender equality.

Lampkin’s social and political activism began shortly after graduating from high school. After migrating to Pittsburgh, Lampkin worked as a motivational speaker for housewives and organized women into consumer protest groups. In addition, as an active member of the Lucy Stone Women’s Suffrage League and the National Suffrage League, Lampkin rallied for women’s right to vote. Understanding the challenges specific to African American women, she also became involved with the National Association for Colored Women (NACW), and was later named national organizer and chair of the executive board.

Due to Lampkins exceptional activism for African Americans, she was profiled in the Pittsburgh Courier in December of 1912. In response, Lampkin became a strong advocate of the Courier and even received a cash prize in 1913 for selling the most subscriptions. After several years of investing time and money to this newspaper, Lampkin was elected vice-president of the Courier Publishing Company in 1929.

Sources: 
Edna Chappell McKenzie, “Daisy Lampkin.” In Black Women in America: Social Activism, edited by Darlene Clark Hine. (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1997); Lisa Hill, “Daisy Lampkin” in African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stanford University

Jones, Barbara Ann Posey (1943 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1958, Barbara Ann Posey, then a high school student, emerged as one of the most important youth leaders in the campaign which began that year to desegregate the major public accommodations in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Posey’s public stand against racial injustice began when she was fifteen and already a leader in the Oklahoma City branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council which initiated sit-ins at lunch counters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  These sit-ins predated the more famous Greensboro college student sit-ins by two years. 

Throughout her life, Posey has been a leader in education, women’s issues, and civil rights.  Posey was born to Mr. and Mrs. Weldon Posey in Oklahoma City in 1943. As a teen, she attended Douglas High School in Oklahoma City, graduating in June 1960. She later attended the University of Oklahoma.
Sources: 
Paulette Olson and Zahren Emami, eds., Engendering Economics: Conversations with Women Economists of the United States (New York: Routledge, 2002). www.tulsalibrary.org/research/ok/women.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Central University (Oklahoma)

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

Mitchell, Arthur Wergs (1883-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
In 1934, Arthur Wergs Mitchell became the first African American Democrat elected to Congress from any state. Mitchell served four terms as a Representative in Congress for the state of Illinois (1935-1943). Mitchell was born near Lafayette Alabama on December 22, 1883 and was educated at Tuskegee Institute, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School. Mitchell founded the Armstrong Agricultural School in West Butler Alabama, and made his fortune in land speculation. He then moved to Chicago, Illinois specifically to challenge Republican Incumbent Oscar DePriest for Congress in the 1934 election. DePriest who was first elected to Congress in 1928, was the first African American elected to Congress from the North and the first to be elected in the 20th Century.

Mitchell was selected by the Democratic Party as a substitute candidate in Illinois’s First Congressional District when Harry Baker, winner of the Democratic primary, died before Election Day. With that selection he became the first African American endorsed by the Illinois Democratic Party for a Congressional seat who would win his election. Mitchell’s rapid rise within the party was partly because he had the support of Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly.
Sources: 
William L. Clay, Just Permanent Interests; Black Americans in Congress 1870-1992 (New York: Amistad Press Inc., 1993); http://bioguide.congress.gov/biosearch/biosearch1.asp
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Scott, Tyree (1940-2003)

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

Tyree Scott was a Seattle civil rights and labor leader who opened the door to women and minority workers in the construction industry.  Scott was born in Hearne (Wharton County), Texas and before moving to Seattle in 1966, he served in the U. S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.  His father was an electrician in Seattle who found that jobs in the construction industry were off limits to blacks, limiting his ability to compete for large contracts.  In 1969, when Seattle’s Model Cities Program was attracting large federal contracts, the anti-poverty agency encouraged black contractors to organize in order to gain access to them.

Sources: 
Mary T. Henry, “Tyree Scott (1940-2003),” HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, http://www.historylink.org/ ; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District form 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Nabrit, James M. Jr. (1900-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
NAACP Attorneys George E. C. Hayes,
Thurgood Marshall and James Nabrit, Jr.
Sources: 

Eric Pace, "James M. Nabrit Jr. Dies at 97; Led Howard University" New York Times (Published Tuesday December 30, 1997); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003).

http://www.brownat50.org/brownBios/BioJamesNabritJr.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gibbs, Jonathan (1827-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born a freeman in Pennsylvania in 1827, Jonathan Gibbs was the son of Maria Jackson and the Methodist minister, Jonathan Gibbs.

Gibbs was originally trained as a carpenter until in 1848.  Then he became one of only two African Americans accepted at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  After graduating four years later he enrolled in the seminary at Princeton University.  In 1852 Gibbs became an ordained minister to black Presbyterian congregations in New York and Pennsylvania.  

During the 1850s Gibbs was a political activist who fought of the rights of African Americans.  He aided with the Underground Railroad, campaigned for the expansion of black male suffrage in New York, joined the freedmen’s relief efforts and fought segregation on New York City streetcars.  Gibbs also served as vice president of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League.  When the Civil War broke out Gibbs supported black enlistment into the union army.  On January 1st 1863 he gave a rousing speech “A Day to Celebrate Emancipation” to the audience of  First African Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia praising the efforts of African Americans through past heroes like Crispus Attucks up to the African American’s role during the Civil War.  He also praised the recently announced Emancipation Proclamation which took affect that day.  
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America.  (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001); Josh Gottheimer, ed. Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches.  (New York: Civitas Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coltrane, John William (1926-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John William Coltrane emerged as one of the most innovative and influential jazz musicians of the 20th century. Born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926, the son of John Robert and Alice Blair Coltrane, he grew up in High Point, North Carolina where his grandfather, Rev. William W. Blair, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was one of the community leaders.  John Coltrane's childhood attendance at his family's black church shaped the spiritual dimensions of his musical orientation.  Following his father's death and the family’s sudden impoverishment, he and his mother moved to Philadelphia in 1943 to ensure he would have a proper education.  Coltrane’s mother, Alice, worked as a domestic servant while nurturing her son's musical interest and encouraged him to enroll at the Ornstein School of Music.  
Sources: 
Lewis Porter, John Coltrane: His Life and Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998); C.O. Simpkins, Coltrane: A Biography (Baltimore, Maryland: Black Classic Press, 1975).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Freedom Summer (June–August 1964)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Mississippi Freedom Summer Volunteers singing
We Shall Overcome, 1964
Image Courtesy of Herbert Randall Freedom Summer Photographs,
McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi
By 1964, the civil rights movement had scored numerous victories through boycotts, student sit-ins, and mass marches. The state of Mississippi, seen as the “stronghold of segregation,” was the next testing ground. In Mississippi, activists faced an entrenched system of segregation and white supremacy upheld by both vigilante violence and state-sanctioned repression.
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson et al, eds., The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle (New York: Penguin, 1991); Doug McAdam, Freedom Summer (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); The online curriculum of the Freedom Schools and primary source documents from Freedom Summer: http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/ED_FSC.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Davis, Danny K. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Danny K. Davis was born in Parkdale, Arkansas on September 6, 1941, the son of a sharecropper. He received a B.A. in history from Arkansas A.M. & N. College in 1961 and then moved to Chicago.  In 1968 he earned an M.A. from Chicago State University and a Ph.D. degree from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After becoming involved in the Chicago civil rights movement in the 1960s, Davis served as a consultant for many public service organizations and as an educator in area universities. He was executive director of the Greater Lawndale Conservation Commission, director of training at the Martin Luther King Neighborhood Health Center, and executive director of the Westside Health Center. He also was an Alderman of the 29th ward on the Chicago City Council and served on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. In 1991 he made an unsuccessful run for mayor of Chicago.  Five years later in 1996, he decided to run for the Congressional seat on Chicago’s west side.  Davis was elected to represent Chicago’s 7th District and has served in Congress since then.
Sources: 
http://www.thehistorymakers.com/programs/dvl/files/Davis_Dannyf.html; http://www.house.gov/davis/biography.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Robert F. (1925-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of California Newsreel
Robert F. Williams was a militant civil rights leader whose open advocacy of armed self-defense anticipated the movement for "black power" in the late 1960s and helped inspire groups like the Student National Coordinating Committee, the Revolutionary Action Movement, and the Black Panther Party.

Williams was born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1925, the grandson of former slaves. He migrated to Detroit during World War II where he worked in an auto factory, organized for the United Auto Workers (UAW), and fought in the race riot that rocked Detroit in the summer of 1943. After a stint in the Marines, Williams returned to Monroe in 1955.
Sources: 
Timothy B. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie:  Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1999); Robert F. Williams, Negroes With Guns (Detroit:  Wayne State University Press, 1962).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Simone, Nina (1933-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tyron, North Carolina in 1933, Nina Simone began playing the family piano at the age of three.  Her mother Mary Kate Waymon, a minister and choir director at a Methodist church in Tyron, interpreted her daughter’s gift as a God-given talent.  Waymon began to study piano at age six with Muriel Massinovitch, an English pianist and Bach devotee married to a Russian painter husband. Waymon credited “Miss Mazzy” for teaching her to understand Bach; she credited Bach for dedicating her life to music. The lessons were paid for by family friends including a white couple in the town.  Eunice’s father, John Divine Waymon, had been an entertainer before he chose to move his family to Tyron, a North Carolina resort town, and set up a barbershop and dry cleaners to support his family. In her autobiography – I Put a Spell on You, the Autobiography of Nina Simone – Waymon describes her relationship with her father as loving and supportive and Tyron as “uncommon” for a southern town because blacks and whites lived together in a series of circles around the center of town, which allowed them to mingle and form friendships.

Sources: 
Nina Simone, I Put a Spell on You, the Autobiography of Nina Simone (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press,1993); Sylvia Hampton, David Nathan, and Lisa Simone Kelly, Nina Simone: Breakdown and Let it All Out (London: Sanctuary Publishing Limited, 2004); Jody Kolodzey, “Remembering Nina Simone,” Culture, May 5, 2003; Adam Shatz, “Nina Simone Obituary,” The Nation, May 19, 2003; Roger Nupie, Dr. Nina Simone Biography: http://www.ninasimone.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mitchell, Parren James (1922-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Parren James Mitchell was a civil rights activist, the first African American elected to Congress from the South since 1898, and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.  Born in 1922, Mitchell grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and attended public schools there.  His father was a waiter and his mother a homemaker.  Mitchell was one of ten children in a family dedicated to civil rights.  His brother Clarence Mitchell would go on to become the chief lobbyist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  Several nephews would enter state politics and Maryland voters knew the family as the “black Kennedys.”

After high school Mitchell served as an officer in World War II, and was wounded in Italy.  He came home and graduated from Morgan State College in 1950.  After college, the University of Maryland denied him admission to do graduate work, setting up a program for him to study off campus.  Mitchell sued the university, gained admission, and earned a masters degree in sociology in 1952.  During the 1950s Mitchell also fought to integrate public facilities in Maryland.  After graduate school, Mitchell worked as a probation officer and an official in Baltimore city administration.  He taught briefly at Morgan State College before launching an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1968.
Sources: 

“Crusader for Justice Dies at 85,” Baltimore Sun, 29 May 2007; Jacqueline Trescott, “‘One of God’s Angry Men’: He’s Parren Mitchell, Black Caucus Chief,” The Washington Post, 23 September 1977, C1; Douglas Martin, “Parren Mitchell, 85, Congressman and Rights Leader, Dies,” The New York Times, 30 May 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Moranda (1915–1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Moranda Smith was a union organizer and rank-and-file leader of tobacco workers in North Carolina, who throughout the 1940s initiated a challenge to the racial discrimination, disfranchisement, and economic exploitation of workers in the South. The first African-American woman to sit on an international union’s executive board, Smith’s life marks the development of an integrated, civil rights–focused tradition of unionism in America.

Born in Dunbar, South Carolina to a sharecropping family, Smith moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, when she was five years old.  After graduating from high school in 1933, Smith began working at R.J. Reynolds, the manufacturer of Camel cigarettes and one of the largest tobacco corporations in the world. The Winston-Salem factory, with a workforce that was 40% black and majority female, represented the largest concentration of industrial workers in the region.  Paid little more than minimum wage, subject to arbitrary discipline, and, like every factory in the South, segregation with the plant, workers formed the Tobacco Workers Organizing Committee (TWOC) in 1942 to challenge these conditions.  They were assisted by Communist Party (CP) which had long sought to build multiracial unions in the South.
Sources: 
Robert Rodgers Korstad, Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Miller, Loren (1903-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on January 20, 1903 in Pender, Nebraska to John Miller, a former slave, and Nora Herbaugh, a white Midwesterner, Miller was, at his death in 1967, considered one of the leading civil rights attorneys in the United States, particularly in the field of housing discrimination. Miller’s dedication to the pursuit of social justice was part of his family’s legacy. He attended the University of Kansas and Howard University, graduating in 1928 from Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, with a bachelor of laws degree.
Sources: 
Loren Miller, The Petitioners: The Story of the United States Supreme Court and the Negro (New York: Pantheon Books, 1966); H. Levett, “Coast Codging,” Chicago Defender, June 15, 1935, p. 6; P. Weeks, “New Judge Reluctant Member of Profession,” Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1964, E4; and E. Broady ((1991, March 25) in the Taylor Branch Papers #05047, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Watkins, Ted (1912-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Ted Watkins, Foreground, with Youth Applicants,
Watts Labor Community Action Center, 1967
Image Courtesy of HERALD EXAMINER COLLECTION/Los Angeles Public Library

Born into poverty and racial segregation in Meridian, Mississippi in 1912, Ted Watkins became a civil rights and union activist and led an anti-poverty agency in Los Angeles, the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC).  Watkins left Mississippi as a young man to avoid a lynching and headed west to the thriving metropolis of Los Angeles.  After arriving in Los Angeles, Watkins began working for Ford Motor Company and joined the local United Auto Workers (UAW) chapter.  He rose through the union ranks and by the early 1950s had become an international representative for UAW.  Watkins and his wife, Bernice, also became active in the United Civil Rights Committee, a Los Angeles civil rights organization, and the Watts chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). 

Sources: 

Robert Bauman, Race and the War on Poverty: From Watts to East L.A. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008); Robert Bauman, “The Black Power and Chicano Movements in the Poverty Wars in Los Angeles,” Journal of Urban History, 33:2 (January 2007), 277-295.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Washington State University, Tri-Cities

Evers, James Charles (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Charles Evers was born on September 11, 1922 in Decatur, Mississippi to parents Jesse Wright and James Evers.  Growing up in Mississippi during the era of Jim Crow, Evers witnessed the effects of racial discrimination and prejudice firsthand.   At the age of ten, he witnessed a horrific lynching of a black man who had been accused of insulting a white woman.  This lynching left a lasting impression on Evers, who vowed, along with his younger brother, Medgar, to exact change for the blacks of Mississippi.  
Sources: 
Charles Evers, Evers (New York: World Publishing Company, 1971); Charles Evers and Andrew Szanton, Have No Fear: The Charles Evers Story (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997); http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_people_evers.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cassey, Amy Matilda Williams (1808-1856)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Cassey House, Philadelphia
Image Courtesy of Janine Black
Amy Matilda Williams Cassey was born in New York City on August 14, 1808, to Sarah and Rev. Peter H. Williams Jr., a leading Episcopalian minister.  Raised in New York City, Williams was a member of an elite family. The Williams family, Rev. Peter Williams Jr., son of Mary and Peter Williams Sr., another prominent New York clergyman, was a well known figure in the history of both Trinity Church and St. Philips Church in New York City. 

In 1825, at the age of 17, Amy Williams married Philadelphia businessman Joseph Cassey, who was twenty years her senior.  Amy Williams Cassey soon joined her husband and other prominent Philadelphia African Americans in the campaign against slavery.  In 1837 she persuaded her parents to house delegates to the Antislavery Convention of American Women at their New York City home.  Since the Cassey household always employed at least one servant, Amy Cassey was free to devote considerable attention to anti-slavery efforts as a member of the interracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. 
Sources: 
Cassey Family Bible (1700s), care of Dianna Ruth Cassey, Warner, New Jersey; William H. Ferris, The African Abroad: His Evolution in Western Civilization, Tracing His Development Under Caucasian Milieu (New Haven, CT: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press, 1913);  Joseph Willson, The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000); Philip Lapsansky, The Library Company of Philadelphia: 1998 Annual Report. The Library Company of Philadelphia Annual Meeting, May 1999 (Philadelphia, PA: The Library Company of Philadelphia: 34 (1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Temple University

Dixon, Aaron (1949– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Aaron Dixon was born in Chicago on January 2, 1949.  He moved with his family to Seattle at a young age and grew up in the city’s historically black Central District. Influenced by his parents’ commitment to social justice, Dixon became one of the leading activists in the Seattle area and a founding member of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party.

While a student at the University of Washington, Dixon played a key role in the formation of the first Black Students’ Union (BSU), as well as the Seattle chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Through the BSU, Dixon worked to organize BSU chapters and protests at Garfield, Franklin and Rainier Beach High Schools.

In the spring of 1968, while attending the funeral of teenager Bobby Hutton in Oakland, California, Dixon met Bobby Seale who along with Huey P. Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP).  The Panther leadership was impressed by 19 year-old Dixon and he was given instructions to form the Seattle Chapter.   With his appointment as Captain of the Seattle Chapter, he formed the first branch of the BPP outside of California. 

Dixon and his fellow Panthers were able to turn their Panther chapter into a thriving center of militant Black activism and community service in Seattle’s Central District.
Sources: 
Interview with Dixon, focusing on his work in the Black Panther Party in Seattle:
University of Washington’s Seattle Civil Rights Project
http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/aaron_dixon.htm
Neil Modie, “Former Black Panther Aaron Dixon to Run for Senate,” Seattle Post Intelligencer http://seattlepi.nwsources.com/local/262119_senate08.html; James W. John son, “Oral Interview with Aaron Dixon,” July 11, 1970, University of Washington Special Collections.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Powell, Adam Clayton, Sr. (1865-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. was born on May 5 in Franklin County, Virginia to former slaves of African American, Native American, and German ancestry.  He was raised in a family of 17 children.

During his youth, Powell lived a reckless life filled with gambling.  At the age of 19, Powell experienced a religious conversion to Christianity at a revival meeting.  After failing to gain entrance into Howard University School of Law, he decided to study religion.  In 1888, he enrolled in a theology program at Wayland Seminary and College in Washington, D.C. earning his degree in 1892.

Sources: 
Charles V. Hamilton, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma (New York: Athenaeum, 1991); Will Haygood, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993); “Dr. A. C. Powell Sr., Minister, 88, Dead.” New York Times (June 13, 1953), 15.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Ellison, Keith M. (1963- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Keith Ellison was born on August 4, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan.  He was raised Catholic in a middle class family which included five sons.  His father was a psychiatrist and his mother was a social worker.  Since childhood Ellison was involved with the civil rights movement and even worked with his grandfather in Louisiana for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 1981 Ellison graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy.  Six years later he graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit with a B.A. in economics.  While attending Wayne State University, Ellison converted from Catholicism to Islam.  After graduation Ellison attended the University of Minnesota Law School.  In 1990 he graduated with a degree of Juris Doctor.

Ellison began his professional career at the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist and Vennum.  He worked there for three years as a litigator specializing in criminal defense, civil rights, and employment.  After leaving Lindquist and Vennum Ellison became executive director of the nonprofit Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis.  He then returned to private practice by joining Hassan & Reed where he specialized in trial practice.

Sources: 

Martiga Lohn, “Islamic Convert Wins House Nomination,” The Associated Press, September 14, 2006; Frederic J. Frommer, “Rep. Ellison Wants Forces Out of Iraq,” The Associated Press, January 10, 2007; Congressional Biography:
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=E000288

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Merriwether, Ray (1924–2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Contractor Ray Merriwether Talking with
Tenant in Front of 18-Unit Apartment
Building he Built in Seattle in 1949.
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ray Merriwether, prominent Seattle African American architect, real estate developer, and newspaper owner, was born in Taylor, Texas to Colie and Annie Merriwether.  After graduating from high school Merriwether attended barber school and served a short time in the United States Navy.

In 1943, Merriwether entered Howard University where he became president of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.  He earned a Civil Engineering degree from Howard in 1947.  Later that year he moved to Seattle, Washington and began his career with the City of Seattle’s Building Department as a Structural Plan Examiner.  Merriwether was the third black engineer to work in Seattle.  In 1949, at the age of 25, Merriwether built his first new apartment building, the 18-unit Chrystal Arms followed by the Chrystal Plaza, and another 18 units the next year.  Both buildings were named for his daughter, Chrystal.  These were soon followed by three more apartment buildings with a total of 54 units.

Sources: 
Merriwether Family Records;  Interview, Clyde Merriwether, Seattle, Washington, January 14, 2008; Interview, Chrystal Weinberg, Redmond, Washington, January 16, 2008; Clyde Merriwether, Reliant, Inc., (Seattle: Privately Published, 1987).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University Seattle

Jordan, June (1936-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
June Meyer Jordan, writer, editor, poet, educator, environmental and social activist, was the only child of Granville Ivanhoe and Mildred Maude Fischer Jordan who were Jamaican immigrants. June was born in Harlem on July 9, 1936.  June’s father worked as a night shift postal clerk and her mother was a part-time private-duty nurse.  The family lived in Harlem until June was six years old, when they moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn.  June’s father subjected her to serious physical abuse that continued throughout her childhood.  It was in this terrifying environment of bullying and severe beatings, that seven year old June found solace in the written word and began writing poetry.  In her memoir, Soldier, a Poet’s Childhood, she credited her father’s treatment with influencing her to write and introducing her to literature.
Sources: 
June Jordan, Soldier–A Poet’s Childhood (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2000); June Jordan, Soulscript–A Collection of African American Poetry (New York: Harlem Moon Press, 1970); “Poet of the People,” http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2002/06/17_jordan.html ;
http://www.junejordan.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Horne, Lena (1917-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lena Horne was a major 20th Century entertainer.  Born in Brooklyn, New York into an upper middle class black family on June 30, 1917, Horne battled racial injustice throughout her career. Despite her obstacles she became one of the most well known African American performers of the 20th Century, achieving fame as a singer and actor.
Horne’s legendary career began in 1933 when at 16 she was hired to perform in the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem. There she was surrounded by up in coming jazz legends including Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson and Duke Ellington.  For the next five years, Horne performed in several night clubs, on Broadway, and toured with the Charlie Barnett swing band as a singer.   Barnett’s band was white thus allowing Horne to become one of the first African American star performers who developed an appeal across American racial boundaries.    

In 1938, Horne moved to Hollywood where she was cast in several movies. Years later Horne recalled, "In every other film I just sang a song or two; the scenes could be cut out when they were sent to local distributors in the South. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of a chance to act."

Sources: 
James Haskins, A Personal and Professional Biography of Lena Horne, (Detroit: Scarborough House, 1991); AlJean Harmetz, "Lena Horne Obituary," New York Times, May 10, 2010; http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/horne_l.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brookins, Hamel Hartford (1926 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Courtesy of Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive,
Department of Special Collections,
Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA
The Reverend (now Bishop) Hamel Hartford Brookins became one of the leading black ministers and civil rights activists in Los Angeles in the 1960s.  Brookins arrived from Wichita, Kansas in 1960 to be the new pastor of the First African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Los Angeles.  Shortly after his arrival, Brookins helped form United Civil Rights Committee (UCRC).  Brookins and other members of the UCRC prodded city leaders on issues including housing, education and law enforcement.  Brookins’ efforts helped unite blacks in Los Angeles, at least temporarily, in the early 1960s around those issues.

One of Brookins’ earliest efforts was his involvement in securing representation on the Los Angeles City Council for African Americans.  Brookins played a key role in uniting black community support behind three candidates (Tom Bradley, Billy Mills and Gilbert Lindsay) all who were elected to the council in 1963.  Brookins and the UCRC also led unsuccessful efforts to end segregated schools and housing discrimination in California.
Sources: 
Robert Bauman, From Watts to East L.A.: Race and the War on Poverty in Los Angeles (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, forthcoming 2008); Robert Bauman, “The Black Power and Chicano Movements in the Poverty Wars in Los Angeles,” Journal of Urban History, 33:2 (January 2007), 277-295.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Washington State University, Tri-Cities

Vivian, Cordy Tindell “C.T.” (1924- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Rev. C.T. Vivian & Sheriff Jim Clark at
Selma, 1965

Image Ownership: Public Domain 

The life of the Revered C.T. Vivian is practically the story of the modern black freedom struggle.  Vivian actively participated in the Nashville desegregation movement, Freedom Rides, Birmingham, Selma, Chicago, and other chapters of the fight for equal rights.

Born Boonville, Missouri on July 28, 1924, Vivian moved with his mother to Macomb in rural west-central Illinois a few years later.  Vivian spent his formative years there, in a tiny black community, graduating from high school in 1942.  He soon enrolled at Western Illinois University, also in Macomb, though he moved to Peoria before finishing his degree.

In 1947 Vivian participated in his first civil rights protest, successfully desegregating Peoria’s lunch counters.  Also while in Peoria, Vivian met and married Octavia Geans of Pontiac, Michigan. They are still married and had six children together; Vivian also has a child from an earlier relationship. 

Sources: 
C.T. Vivian, Black Power and the American Myth (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970); Lydia Walker, Challenge and Change: The Story of Civil Rights Activist C.T. Vivian (Alpharetta, Georgia: Dreamkeeper Press, 1993);
http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/about_king/encyclopedia/vivian_ct.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Lewis, John R. (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Lewis, 23, Speaks at the March on Washington (1963)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama on February 21, 1940.  In 1961 he received a B.A. from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1967 he received an additional B.A. from Fisk University located in Nashville, Tennessee.

While attending American Baptist Seminary, Lewis emerged as a civil rights leader after his participation in the Nashville sit-in movement in 1960 and the Freedom Rides the following year.  In 1963 at the age of 23, Lewis helped plan the March on Washington and was one of the keynote speakers.  Lewis also served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966.  By the time he assumed the leadership of SNCC he had been arrested 24 times as a consequence of his protest activities.  Lewis became nationally known after Alabama State Troopers and other police attacked him and 500 other protesters as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March.  To this day some of the wounds from his beating are still visible.

In 1966 Lewis left SNCC as it embraced a “black power” ideology, and started working with community organizations in Atlanta.  Later that year he was named director of community affairs for the National Consumer Co-op Bank in Atlanta.
Sources: 
Lewis, John, with Michael D’Orso, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998); John Lewis' opinions about political issues and his voting record at website On the Issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/GA/John_Lewis.htm
Congressional biography: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=l000287
Contributor: 
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

Brown, Willie Lewis, Jr. (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The Nob Hill Association
This State Legislator and Mayor was born in Mineola, Texas, to Willie L. Brown, Sr., and Minnie (Boyd) Lewis on March 20, 1934. After migrating to San Francisco, California, in 1951, Brown worked as a janitor in order to subsidize his education at San Francisco State University. Upon his arrival in San Francisco, Brown immediately joined the United Methodist Church, which was committed to social action, where he became the youth leader. In his attempts to make the world and himself more “comfortable,” he also participated in the San Francisco civil rights protests in the late 1950s. He earned his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in 1955. In 1958, he earned a Juris Doctorate degree from Hastings College Law School.

In the 1950s Brown’s prospects seemed bleak. Most San Francisco law firms barred black attorneys from employment. In addition, Hastings Law School alumni were not heavily recruited because of Bay Area law firms’ preference for Stanford and University of California-Berkeley graduates. In 1959 Brown began his own practice, Brown, Dearman & Smith, after working for a time with prominent San Francisco black attorney Terry Francois. Brown’s new firm specialized in criminal defense, real estate development, and personal injury cases.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Mississippi

Walker, Alice M. (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Steve Exum

The first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Alice Walker was born the eighth child of sharecroppers Willie Lee and Minnie Lou Grant Walker, on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. Walker became the valedictorian of her segregated high school class, despite an accident at age eight that impaired the vision in her left eye. Before transferring to Sarah Lawrence College, where she received a B.A. degree, she attended Atlanta’s Spelman College for two years, where she became a political activist, met Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., and participated in the 1963 March on Washington.

Also, during her undergraduate studies, Walker visited Africa as an exchange student. She later registered voters in Georgia and worked with the Head Start program in Mississippi, where she met and married civil rights attorney Melvyn Rosenthal (the marriage lasted ten years), became the mother of daughter Rebecca, and taught at historically black colleges Jackson State College and Tougaloo College. Walker has also taught at Wellesley College, University of Massachusetts at Boston, the University of California at Berkeley, and Brandeis University.  At Brandeis she is credited with teaching the first American course on African American women writers.

Sources: 
Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983); Henry L. Gates and Anthony Appiah, eds., Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives Past and Present (New York: Amistad, 1993); Lovalerie King, “Alice Walker” in Encyclopedia of African American Literature, Ed. Wilfred D. Samuels (New York: Facts on File, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Father Divine (1879-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Father Divine in Parade
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Father Divine, religious founder of the International Peace Missions Movement, businessman, and civil rights activist was born George Baker in Rockville, Maryland to George and Nancy Baker.  Viewed by many to be a cult leader, his doctrine was a compilation of optimistic thinking based on many widely accepted mainstream religions.  Father Divine and his followers believed that he was the second coming of Christ.  He required his followers to adhere to his International Modest Code which required strict commitment to a celibate lifestyle and abstinence from immoral actions.

Father Divine began receiving widespread public attention when in 1919, he and his first wife and several of his interracial religious followers moved to Sayville, New York and established a Peace Mission “heaven.”  Peace Missions heavens were interracial communal living facilities that fostered Father Divine’s belief in a desegregated society and represented heaven on earth to his followers.  In the 1930s Divine’s network of Peace Missions spread across the nation.  His mostly white followers in Los Angeles, California and other west coast cities contrasted with the overwhelmingly black missions east of the Mississippi River.  Around 1930 Father Divine moved his Peace Mission headquarters to Harlem, New York.  Since the late 1940s the organization has been based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sources: 
Jill Watts, God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Robert Wiesbrot, Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brea College

Murray, Daniel A. P. (1852-1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Daniel A. P. Murray was born on March 3, 1852 in Baltimore, Maryland.  At the age of nine he left Baltimore to live in Washington, D.C., where his brother managed the U.S. Senate restaurant.  In 1871 Murray acquired a job as a personal assistant to the librarian of Congress, Ainsworth R. Spofford.  Under Spofford's tutelage Murray gathered invaluable research skills and learned several languages. In 1879 he married Anna Evans, an Oberlin College graduate whose uncle and cousin had taken part in John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry.  Two years later, in 1881, he advanced to assistant librarian of the Library of Congress, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1923.

Sources: 
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection (1818-1907): Library of Congress
http://rs6.loc.gov/ammem/aap/aaphome.html; Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lester, Julius (1939- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Julius Lester was born January 27, 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a Methodist minister. Lester spent much of his childhood in Missouri, where in the 1940s and 1950s he dealt with southern attitudes about race and segregation before and during the Civil Rights movement. In 1960 Lester graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee with a degree in English.

He then became politically active in the Civil Rights movement, going to Mississippi in 1964 as part of the movement called the Mississippi Summer Project.  Lester then began working full time for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as head of its photography department in Atlanta, Georgia. SNCC was the most outspoken of civil rights groups at the time, and in the summer of 1966 coined the phrase black power, a cry millions of blacks across the United States responded to and adapted as their own.

Lester’s writing career began in 1967 when a publisher read his essay The Angry Children of Malcolm X, and offered him a contract to develop it into a book. The book, titled Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gonna’ Get Your Mama, was published in 1968, and would be the first book to explain the term black power and place it in the context of African American history.
Sources: 
Julius Lester, On Writing for Children and Other People ( New York: Dial Books, 2004); Julius Lester, Lovesong: Becoming A Jew (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moore, Gwendolynne S. "Gwen" (1951- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Congresswoman Gwen Moore Speaks in
Milwaukee, 2004
Courtesy of Congresswoman Gwen Moore Official Website
Gwendolynne Moore is the first African American member of Congress from Wisconsin where she represents the state’s Fourth Congressional District. Moore, a community leader and lifelong civil rights and human rights advocate, is the first woman to represent the Fourth Congressional District.  She is only the second woman to be elected to Congress from Wisconsin.

Gwen Moore was born April 18, 1951 in Racine, Wisconsin and raised in Milwaukee. She is the eighth of nine children born to a factory worker father and a public school teacher mother.  Moore graduated from North Division High School before attending college at Marquette University. Although she was a teenage mother who went on and off welfare, Moore earned her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Marquette in 1973.

After college, Moore became a housing activist and community leader.  She has worked for the city of Milwaukee as a city development specialist and was an organizer with Volunteers in Service to America.  Moore has emphasized a desire to increase and improve the quality of housing and communities in Milwaukee. She helped establish a community credit union to assist low-income residents in purchasing homes.  
Sources: 
"Profile: Congresswoman Gwen Moore." NPR. 2008. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4274341; "Congresswoman Moore Protests Genocide in Darfur" Congresswoman Gwen Moore. http://www.house.gov/list/press/wi04_moore/pr060515.html; "Gwen Moore" The U.S. Congress Votes Database. 2008. http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/m001160/; "Representative Gwendolynne "Gwen" Moore." Project Vote Smart. http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=BS021367.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

McKissick, Floyd B. (1922-1991)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Floyd Bixler McKissick replaced James Farmer as National Director of the Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE) on January 3, 1966, making him the second ever National Director of CORE. Under McKissick's leadership, CORE underwent a radical transformation from an interracial, non-violent civil rights organization into a group that promoted the concept of Black Power.

McKissick was born on March 9, 1922 in Asheville, North Carolina.  He entered Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1940 before joining the U.S. army where he served in Europe during World War II.  McKissick attained the rank of sergeant while in the service.  He then returned to Morehouse and graduated in 1948. While a student at Morehouse, McKissick became actively involved in the ranks of CORE and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1947 he took part in the first freedom riders campaign. This campaign was met with intense racial hostility. McKissick called the campaign his "baptism in non-violence."
Sources: 
Glenn Fowler, "Floyd McKissick, Civil Rights Maverick, Dies At 69." New York Times. April 30, 1991; "Floyd B. McKissick." CORE: Making Equality a Reality, 2008. http://www.core-online.org/History/mckissick.htm; “Floyd McKissick,” The Martin Luther King Encyclopedia, http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/about_King/encyclopedia/mckissick_floyd.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Carter, Robert L. (1917-2012)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
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Robert L. Carter, the youngest child in a family of eight children, was born in Careyville, Florida in 1917.  His family moved north to Newark, New Jersey shortly after his birth.  Carter’s father died soon after arriving in Newark and his mother supported eight children while working as a domestic servant.  


Robert Carter enrolled at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania at the age of 16 and completed his degree four years later.  In 1937 he entered Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C.  After completing his law degree at Howard Carter earned his LLM (Master of Laws) degree at Columbia University after writing a thesis that would later define the legal strategy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on the right to freedom of association under the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  

Carter was drafted into the Army in 1941 and first encountered racism.  After serving in the Army Air Corps, he was discharged from the service in 1944.  Carter was then offered a job with the NAACP’s legal staff headed by chief counsel Thurgood Marshall.  Carter accepted and became Marshall’s chief legal assistant in the fight against Jim Crow laws across the South.   Carter served for example as the lead attorney of the Sweatt v. Painter Texas desegregation case in 1950.

Sources: 
http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2004feb/sullivan.html; Justin Driver and Robert L. Carter, “Books & the Arts-the Lawyer’s Revolution-A Matter of Law: A Memoir of Struggle in the Cause of Equal Rights,” The New Republic (New York: The Republic Publishing Co., 2006); Robert L. Carter, “The Long Road to Equality,” The Nation (New York: J.H. Richards, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hatcher, Richard G. (1933- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Richard Gordon Hatcher, the first African American mayor of Gary, Indiana and one of the first African Americans to serve as mayor of a major city, was born on July 10, 1933 in Michigan City, Indiana. Hatcher was elected mayor of Gary Indiana in 1967 and served in that capacity for the next 20 years. In the late 1970's he also became the executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1984 Hatcher was campaign chairman for Rev. Jesse Jackson's bid for president and he served as an advisor in Jackson's 1988 campaign.

Hatcher’s administration in Gary was known for developing innovative approaches to urban issues and for promoting the civil rights of blacks and other people of color in one of the first predominately black cities in the North.  His term began during the period when “black power” was increasingly the rallying cry of African American political activists across the nation.  Hatcher clearly identified with this new movement.  

As a “first generation” black mayor identified with black power, Hatcher’s agenda was considered biased against non-blacks.  He was believed by his critics to be racially divisive and unqualified.  Hatcher often fought against the local Democratic political machine which supported his white Republican opponent over him in the 1967 election and which encouraged “secession” movements by some predominately white Gary neighborhood.  
Sources: 
Alex Poinsett, Black Power Gary Style (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1970); James B. Lane, African American Mayors (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001); "Richard Hatcher Biography" The HistoryMakers. http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=376
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Innis, Roy (1934- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Roy Emile Alfredo Innis is the current National Director of the Congress for Racial Equality. He is a controversial civil rights activist whose conservative stance on many issues continues to draw national attention.

Innis was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands on June 6, 1934. He attended public schools in New York before joining the army and fighting in the Korean War. Upon returning to the U.S. Innis attended the City College of New York majoring in chemistry. In 1963 Innis joined CORE's Harlem chapter. Innis rose quickly through the ranks and in 1964 he was elected chairman of the chapter's educational committee. Innis strongly advocated the Black Power movement, pushing for African-American control of their communities, economy, and educational systems. In 1965 he was elected chairman of CORE's Harlem chapter. As Chairman, Innis campaigned for the establishment of an independent board of education in Harlem.

In 1967 Innis and 9 other African-American men formed an investment corporation known as the Harlem Commonwealth Council (HCC). The HCC's long-term goal is to create stability and an economic uplift in Harlem. The HCC under the leadership of Innis is widely known as a highly successful model of economic development within an African-American community. Innis also founded and served as co-editor of the Manhattan Tribune Newspaper.
Sources: 
"Roy Innis." Congress Of Racial Equality. 2008. http://www.core-online.org/Staff/roy.htm; Harlem Commonwealth Council Incorporated History. Isaiah Robinson, Founding Member. 2008. http://harlemcommonwealth.org/history.htm; "Innis Passes on NY governor's run; mulls New York mayor race in 2001. LP News Archive. May 1998. http://www.lp.org/lpn/9805-Innis.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lucy, Autherine Juanita (1929- )

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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).

Fauntroy, Walter E. (1933- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Reverend Walter E. Fauntroy, pastor, Congressional representative, and civil rights activist, was born in Washington, D.C., on February, 6, 1933. The son of Ethel Vines Fauntroy and William Thomas Fauntroy, who worked in the U.S. Patent Office, Walter Fauntroy graduated from Dunbar High School in 1952. He earned a B.A. degree in History from Virginia Union University in 1955 and then a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School in 1958. While at Yale, Fauntroy married Dorothy Simms on August 3, 1957. They have two children, Marvin Keith and Melissa Alice. Also during this time, Fauntroy met fellow theological students Martin Luther King Jr. and Wyatt Tee Walker. 

In 1959, Fauntroy became pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., succeeding his mentor, Reverend Charles David Foster, who had just passed away. The following year Martin Luther King and Wyatt Tee Walker asked him to become the District of Columbia (DC) branch director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  Fauntroy accepted and became the civil rights organization’s lobbyist in Congress until 1970.
Sources: 

Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese, Black Americans In Congress 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Walter Fauntroy Home Page, http://www.walterfauntroy.com/curriculumvitae.html; Raymond Pierre Hylton,  "Fauntroy, Walter Edward" in African American National Biography edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0001/e1070
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sharpton, Alfred Charles “Al” (1954- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

 

Sources: 
Jay Mallin, Al Sharpton, Community Activist: Great Life Stories (New York: Franklin Watts, 2007), Al Sharpton with Anthony Walton, Go and Tell Pharaoh: the Autobiography of the Reverend Al Sharpton (New York: Doubleday, 1996); "Alfred Sharpton" in Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, eds. Africana : the Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York : Basic Civitas Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Loudin, Frederick J. (1840-1904)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University Franklin
Library's Special Collections
Frederick J. Loudin, teacher, impresario, manufacturer and Fisk Jubilee Singer, had a bass voice the likes of which no one would hear again until the emergence of Roland Hayes and Paul Robeson. At thirty-four, he would become the oldest member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ third troupe: a towering, self-assured printer and music teacher from Portage County, Ohio.

Though born a free man in Ohio in 1840, Loudin’s encounters with racism had been searing. His father’s farm was taxed for public education, but his children had to fight to enter school. Loudin proved to be a gifted scholar, but when his teacher rewarded him for his achievements, whites pulled their children out of school. Though his father had donated money to nearby Hiram College, when Frederick applied the college refused to admit him on account of his race. The same held true for the local Methodist Church; though he tithed a ninth of his sparse wages as a printer’s apprentice, the white congregation refused to permit him to sing in their choir.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Laney, Lucy Craft (1854-1933)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Georgia
Women of Achievement
Lucy Craft Laney, educator, school founder, and civil rights activist, was born in Georgia on April 13, 1854 in Macon, Georgia to free parents Louisa and David Laney.   David Laney, a Presbyterian minister and skilled carpenter, had purchased his freedom approximately twenty years before Lucy Laney’s birth.  He purchased Louisa’s freedom shortly after they were married. Lucy Laney learned to read and write by the age of four and by the time she was twelve, she was able to translate difficult passages in Latin including Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War.
Sources: 
Asa C. Griggs, “Notes: Lucy Craft Laney,” Journal of Negro History 19 (January 1934); Mary M. Marshall, “’Tell Them We Are Rising!’ Black Intellectuals and Lucy Craft Laney in Post Civil War Augusta, Georgia” (Ph.D., dissertation, Drew University, 1998); Gloria Taylor Williams-Way, “Lucy Craft Laney, ‘The Mother of the Children of the People’: Educator, Reformer, Social Activist” (Ph.D., dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1998): Barbra McCaskill, Post-Bellum, Pre-Harlem: African American Literature and Culture, 1877 (New York: New York University Press, 2006); http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9372857
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hampton, Fred (1948-1969)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Fred Hampton, deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, was born on August 30, 1948 and raised in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, Illinois. In high school he excelled in academics and athletics. After Hampton graduated from high school, he enrolled in a prelaw program at Triton Junior College in River Grove, Illinois. Hampton also became involved in the civil rights movement, joining his local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His dynamic leadership and organizational skills in the branch enabled him to rise to the position of Youth Council President. There Hampton mobilized a racially integrated group of five hundred young people who successfully lobbied city officials to create better academic services and recreational facilities for African American children.

In 1968, Hampton joined the Black Panther Party (BPP), headquartered in Oakland, California. Using his NAACP experience, he soon headed the Chicago chapter. During his brief BPP tenure, Hampton formed a “Rainbow Coalition” which included Students for a Democratic Society, the Blackstone Rangers, a street gang and the National Young Lords, a Puerto Rican organization. Hampton was also successful in negotiating a gang truce on local television.
Sources: 
Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006); Huey P. Newton, War against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (New York: Harlem River Press, 1996); John Kifner, “Police in Chicago Slay 2 Panthers,” New York Times, December 5, 1969; John Kifner, “Panthers Say an Autopsy Shows Party Official was Murdered,” New York Times, December 7, 1969.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Sullivan, Leon Howard Jr. (1922-2001)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan Jr. was a successful minister, civil rights advocate, humanitarian and corporate leader known for his creation of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America and the Sullivan Principles to promote political reform in South Africa.  

Leon Sullivan was born in Charleston, West Virginia on October 16, 1922.  He attended racially segregated schools in Charleston and then received a basketball and football scholarship at predominately black West Virginia State College.  A foot injury ended his athletic career and forced Sullivan to work in a steel mill to pay for college tuition.

At the age of 18, Leon Sullivan became a Baptist minister. Three years later Sullivan met Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who convinced him to move to New York City to attend the Union Theological Seminary.  Sullivan was enrolled there between 1943 and 1945.  Two years later he received a Master’s degree in Religion from Columbia University.  Rev. Sullivan served briefly at Rev. Powell’s assistant at Abyssinian Baptist Church and then became pastor of First Baptist Church of South Orange, New Jersey.  In 1950 Sullivan became pastor of Philadelphia’s Zion Baptist Church, remaining there until 1988.  While at Zion the church’s membership increased from 600 to over 6,000.
Sources: 
The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, http://www.thesullivanfoundation.org/gsp/default.asp; OIC of America Inc, http://www.oicofamerica.org/; Rev. Leon Sullivan: A Principled Man, www.revleonsullivan.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Patterson, William L. (1891-1980)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Steve Trussel
William L. Patterson, born in San Francisco on August 27th, 1891, was a Marxist lawyer, author, and civil rights activist. His mother had been born a slave on a Virginia plantation in 1850 and lived there until she was ten. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, Patterson’s mother was liberated and sent west to California, where she met James Edward Patterson, William’s father. Although his family was forced to move from home to home and often struggled with poverty, William L. Patterson managed to graduate from Tamalpais High School at the age of 20 in 1911. Patterson then attended the University of California on and off until he was forced to leave because of irregular attendance.

In 1915, Patterson enrolled at the Hastings College of Law of the University of California in San Francisco. While attending law school, Patterson began to read The Crisis, the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and became interested in various Marxist and Socialist publications such as The Masses, and The Messenger. After graduating from Hastings with a law degree in 1919, Patterson joined the NAACP.
Sources: 
William L. Patterson, The Man Who Cried Genocide (New York: International Publishers, 1991); Spartacus Educational, William L. Patterson Bio. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USApattersonW.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Straker, David Augustus (1842-1908)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
David Augustus Straker, author, lawyer, and politician, was born and raised in Bridgetown, Barbados, where he achieved success as a teacher and principal at St. Mary’s Public School.  In 1868 he moved to Kentucky, where he taught at a freedman’s school for one year.  He entered Howard University in 1869, graduating two years later with a degree in law.  

Straker returned to Kentucky but when he was unable to find work as a lawyer, he took a position as a postal clerk.  During this time he married Annie M. Carey and authored numerous editorials for Frederick Douglass’s New National Era, gaining him national exposure.  In 1875 he resigned his postal position to join a law firm in Charleston, South Carolina, where he and his wife relocated.  

A staunch Republican, Straker was first elected to public office in November, 1876 as the Orangeburg County Representative in the lower house of the state legislature.  Redeemer Democrats, however, refused to seat him and his fellow Republicans the following year as they anticipated the end of Reconstruction in the state.  Undeterred, Straker continued to run for office and was reelected by the citizens of Orangeburg County in 1878 and 1880 even as the Democrats continued to deny him his seat in the legislature.    
Sources: 
Eric Foner, Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Dictionary of Black Officeholders during Reconstruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Edwin S. Redkey, Black Exodus: Black Nationalist and Back-to-Africa Movements, 1890-1910 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1969).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wright, Theodore Sedgwick (ca. 1797-1847)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Theodore Sedgwick Wright, prominent clergymen, antislavery leader, and reformer was thought to have been born in New Jersey in 1797.  He attended the New York African Free School. With the help of New York Governor Dewitt Clinton, Arthur Tappan and others from Princeton Theological Seminary, he became the first African American graduate from an American Theological seminary. After graduation Wright became pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church in New York City where he worked for the rest of his life.

Wright despised slavery and racism and spoke openly about it, even though at this time it was very dangerous. He is best known for his works as an abolitionist and devotee of black civil rights.  Throughout the 1830s he was an agent of the New England Anti-Slavery Society which sponsored his travels and lectures condemning racial prejudice. Wright’s two most influential speeches were “The Progress of the Antislavery Cause” and “Prejudice Against the Colored Man.”  He wrote several entries and speeches for William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator, the leading anti-slavery newspaper in the United States in the antebellum period. 
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Theodore Wright House,” MAAP. Accessed on May 14, 2008, http://maap.columbia.edu/place/19.html; Bertram Wyatt-Brown, “American Abolitionism and Religion,” National Humanities Center, http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/nineteen/nkeyinfo/amabrel.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Harry Clay (1863-1941)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society

Harry Clay Smith was a newspaper editor and politician, born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, on January 28, 1863. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio at an early age and stayed in the area for the remainder of his life. After graduating from Cleveland’s Central High School in 1882, he established the Cleveland Gazette, and became the publisher and editor of the newspaper for nearly sixty years. The Gazette was a popular eight-page weekly that published local black activities and events in the greater Cleveland area, as well as many other cities in Ohio. Readership was at a steady 10,000 before World War I and circulated within the state of Ohio and parts of the Midwest.

Smith used the Cleveland Gazette to promote civil rights issues and engage in politics. Smith lobbied the state government of Ohio to do more to preserve the civil rights of African Americans.  Using the Gazette as a medium to communicate to the masses, Smith attacked segregation and racial discrimination. He advocated three strategies to challenge racial discrimination: political pressure, legal action and boycotts.  He was in particular, an ardent supporter of the campaign to desegregate Ohio schools in 1887.

Sources: 
Kenneth L. Kusmer, A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American
Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mitchell, Clarence M., Jr. (1911-1984)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Clarence Mitchell, Jr. with President Lyndon Baines Johnson
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. the chief lobbyist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1950 to 1978 played a central role in winning passage of the landmark civil rights legislation that transformed the nation in the 1950s and 1960s.  Clarence Mitchell was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 8, 1911.  He was the third of ten children of Clarence Maurice Mitchell and Elsie Davis Mitchell.  Clarence’s brother Parren Mitchell, eleven years younger, would become the first African American from Maryland elected to the United States House of Representatives.

Mitchell grew up in a working-class neighborhood that was more ethnically diverse than most segregated Baltimore neighborhoods of the era.  After graduating from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he went to work for a hometown newspaper, the Baltimore Afro-American.  As a young journalist Mitchell reported on lynchings and he first testified in Congress in 1933 in support of an anti-lynching bill.  In 1938, Mitchell married Juanita Jackson, a fellow Baltimorean who had founded a youth civil rights group and then headed the NAACP’s youth program.  The Mitchells had four sons.  After working for the Urban League and various federal agencies, Mitchell joined the NAACP in 1946 as labor secretary in its Washington Bureau.  
Sources: 
Denton L. Watson, Lion in the Lobby: Clarence Mitchell, Jr.’s Struggle for the Passage of Civil Rights Laws (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1990); Luther Brown, “Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr.: ‘The 101st Senator,’” The New Crisis, 105:6 (December 1998), pp. 10-13; http://www.oldwestbury.edu/faculty_pages/watson/mitchellpapers.htm; http://www.clarencemitchellpapers.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
HistoryLink.org

Connerly, Ward (1939 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Bond, Horace Julian (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Julian Bond at the Georgia State Legislature,
January 10, 1966
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Julian Bond is a scholar, poet, former legislator and activist in the American Civil Rights Movement.  Julian Bond as he came to be known, was born on January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee to Julia Washington Bond and Horace Mann Bond an educator who served as the first African American president of Lincoln University and as dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University.  Bond has been married twice, first to Alice Copland (1961) and to Pamela Horowitz (1990).  He has five children.
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); John Neary, Julian Bond: Black Rebel (New York: Morrow, 1971), Roger M. Williams, The Bonds: An American Family (New York: Atheneum, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Jackson, Luther Porter (1892-1950)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Luther Porter Jackson was a leading teacher, historian, and active voice of the history of African Americans in the South. Jackson was born in Lexington, Kentucky of former slave parents, Edward and Delilah Jackson, the ninth of twelve children. He attended Fisk University where he obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees in history in 1914 and 1916 respectively. In 1937 he completed the Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago.

Jackson began his teaching career in 1913 at the Topeka Industrial Institute in Kansas.  By 1915 he had moved to Voorhees Industrial School in South Carolina where he remained until 1918.  While teaching in South Carolina Jackson researched his first two articles that eventually appeared in the Journal of Negro History.  In 1922, Jackson joined the faculty of the Virginia Normal and Technical Institute (now Virginia State University).  Also in 1922 he married music teacher and fellow Fisk graduate Johnella Fraser. The couple had four children.
Sources: 
J.H. Johnston, "Luther P. Jackson," Journal of Negro History 35:3 (July 1950); Michael Dennis, Luther P. Jackson and a Life for Civil Rights (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Ransom, Reverdy Cassius (1861-1959)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Reverdy Cassius Ransom was a civil rights leader, editor and the forty-eighth bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Ransom was born in Flushing, Ohio to George and Harriet (Johnson) Ransom. In 1869, Ransom’s family moved to Cambridge, Ohio, where he spent several years in segregated public schools. As his mother did not believe this education to be equal to education whites were receiving, she had young Ransom tutored by some of the members of the white families for whom she worked for as a domestic servant. Due to the determination of his mother, who deemed that if young white men and women were able to enter college, then her son should as well, Ransom enrolled at Wilberforce University, an all-black institution, in 1881.

The next year Ransom transferred to Oberlin College, an ostensibly integrated institution which nonetheless still segregated its social and recreational activities. After addressing a protest meeting to fight the college’s recent decision to segregate the Ladies Dining Hall, he lost his scholarship at Oberlin, and then transferred back to Wilberforce where he graduated in 1886. Three years before his graduation, Ransom had been licensed to preach. He was ordained as a deacon in 1886 and in 1924 was elected the forty-eighth bishop of the AME Church at Louisville, Kentucky; he remained an active bishop until 1952.
Sources: 
Anthony B. Pinn, ed. Moral Evil and Redemptive Suffering (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002); 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

Edelman, Marian Wright (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, was born June 6, 1939 in Bennetsville, South Carolina. She was the youngest of five children born to Rev. Arthur Jerome Wright and Maggie Leola Wright.  Rev. Wright, a Baptist minister, died when she was fourteen.  He proved, however, an important influence on her life by teaching that Christianity required public service.  

Marian Wright attended racially segregated public schools, but excelled academically despite the inadequate opportunities offered to her in those institutions. After graduation Wright attended Spelman College, a prominent institution for black women in Atlanta, Georgia. While at Spelman Wright received scholarships to study abroad that took her to Paris, Switzerland, and the Soviet Union.  With that experience she planned to pursue a career in Foreign Service, but as the 1960s civil rights movement unfolded, she found herself involved in its activities. Wright participated in and was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia sit-ins in 1960.  These experiences made her realize that she could contribute to social progress through the study of law. She entered Yale Law School in 1960 on a scholarship and received her law degree in 1963.
Sources: 
“Marian Wright Edelman,” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); Edelman biography, Children’s Defense Fund, http://www.childrensdefense.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Plessy, Homer (1863-1925)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Homer Plessy Memorial, New Orleans
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Plaintiff for a landmark Supreme Court case, Homer A. Plessy was born on March 17, 1863 in New Orleans. He was a light-skinned Creole of Color during the post-reconstruction years. With the aid of the Comité des Citoyens, a black organization in New Orleans, Homer Plessy became the plaintiff in the famous Plessy v. Ferguson case decided by the US Supreme Court in May 1896. The decision established the “separate but equal” policy that made racial segregation constitutional for the next six decades.  

In order to challenge the 1890 Louisiana statute requiring separate accommodations for whites and blacks, Homer Plessy and the Comité des Citoyens used Plessy’s light skin to their advantage. On June 7, 1892 Plessy bought a first class ticket on the East Louisiana Railway. He took a vacant seat in a coach reserved for white passengers. When Plessy was ordered to leave, he disobeyed. Policemen arrived and threw Plessy off the train and arrested him and threw him into jail. He was charged with violating the Louisiana segregation statute of 1890.

Sources: 
Otto H. Olsen, ed., The Thin Disguise: Turning Point in Negro History, Plessy v. Ferguson (New York: Humanities Press Inc., 1967); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Evergreen State College

Jones, Scipio Africanus (1863–1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Scipio Africanus Jones was a prominent Arkansas African American defense attorney in the late 19th and early 20th century.  He opposed Arkansas’s Jim Crow laws and successfully argued cases before the United States Supreme Court between 1913 and 1925.  Known for his pro bono work for impoverished African American defendants, Jones became the leading attorney in Arkansas for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Scipio Africanus Jones was born in 1863 in Tulip, Arkansas, to a slave mother and an unknown father.  He attended school at Tulip in Dallas County.  While he was enrolled in school, he chopped cotton in order to support himself.  Jones graduated from Shorter College in North Little Rock in 1885.

While teaching in Arkansas’s all-black public school he studied law with three white Little Rock attorneys.  He passed the bar in 1899.  The following year he was admitted to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

In 1901, Jones argued two important civil rights cases before the Arkansas Supreme Court.  In both cases, Jones objected to the all-white composition of the juries.  In one case the Court overturned a lower court’s conviction.  In the second case the court ruled that there was no discrimination in jury selection.  Despite the mixed outcome Jones quickly emerged as the leading black attorney in Arkansas.  
Sources: 
Patricia Lantier, Arkansas (Arkansas: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2006); Mark Robert Schneider, We Return Fighting: The Civil Rights Movement in the Jazz Age (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002); John Clay Smith, Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844–1944 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barber, J. Max (1878-1949)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jesse Max Barber, journalist, dentist, and civil rights leader, was born on July 5, 1878 in Blackstock, South Carolina to former slave parents.  As a young man he worked as a barber while completing the teacher’s training course at Benedict College, Columbia, S.C.  His literary career began in 1903 while attending Virginia Union University in Richmond.  While there, he became student editor of the University Journal and was president of the Literary Society.

Immediately following his graduation in 1903, Barber began working as a managing editor for a new black periodical, the Voice of the Negro, founded in Atlanta in 1904.  Barber eventually became the editor-in-chief.  As it developed into a widely-read journal, the Voice became a progressive, radical forum for Barber.  By 1906 it was the leading black magazine in the United States with a circulation of 15,000.   

Barber’s association with W.E.B. Du Bois, the Niagara Movement, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) left no doubt that he was an outspoken critic of racial injustice.  He argued fervently for black civil rights and stressed the importance of chronicling historical events for future generations.  Sadly, in 1906, the Voice became a casualty of the Atlanta race riot and moved its publication to Chicago before finally going under in 1907.  For a brief period Barber was editor of a weekly newspaper, the Chicago Conservator.
Sources: 
Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Africana: Civil Rights: An A-to-Z Reference of the Movement that Changed America (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2005); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hunt, Ida Alexander Gibbs (1862-1957)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Ida Alexander Gibbs Hunt, teacher, Pan-Africanist and civil rights leader, was born on November 16, 1862 in Victoria, British Columbia.  Her parents were Mifflin Wistar Gibbs and Maria Alexander.  Ida Gibbs studied in the Oberlin Conservatory of Music from 1872 to 1876.  She then went to local public schools from 1876 to 1879.  For her senior year of high school, Gibbs attended the Oberlin College’s Preparatory Department and stayed on as a college student.  She completed her college education at Oberlin College in 1884, receiving both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Eng

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Minority Student Records, Oberlin College Archives (2008), http://www.oberlin.edu/archive/holdings/finding/RG5/SG4/S3/graduates.html; Joy A. Palmer, Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey (London, New York: Routledge, 2001); Oberlin High School Alumni: In Memoriam, Oberlin High School Alumni Association, http://www.oberlin-high.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Poindexter, James (1819-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Poindexter clergyman, abolitionist, politician, and civil rights activist, was born in Richmond Virginia in 1819. He attended school in Richmond until he was about sixteen when he started to apprentice as a barber. In 1837 Poindexter married Adelia Atkinson and the coupled moved to Columbus, Ohio where they remained for the rest of their lives.

In Columbus Poindexter joined the Second Baptist Church, a small black church in the city.  He officiated at the services until an ordained Baptist minister could be found. In 1847 when a recently arrived black family joined the church, Poindexter and others learned they had been slaveholders in Virginia.  Poindexter and forty other Second Baptist Church members withdrew in protest and formed the Anti-Slavery Baptist Church. Poindexter led this church for the next ten years until the congregation rejoined the Second Baptist Church in 1858.  Poindexter, now an ordained minister, became the pastor of the combined church and remained in this position until his resignation in 1898.

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

Murray, George Washington (1853–1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

South Carolina Congressman George Washington Murray was born near Rembert, Sumter County, South Carolina, on September 22, 1853 to slave parents. He attended public schools, the University of South Carolina, and the State Normal Institute at Columbia, where he graduated in 1876. After graduating, Murray taught school and worked as a lecturer for the Colored Farmers’ Alliance for 15 years. In 1890 he became an inspector of customs at the port of Charleston.  Two years later in 1892, Murray, a Republican, was elected to represent South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District which included Charleston. 

Murray took his seat in the Fifty-third Congress on March 4, 1893.  He immediately focused his efforts on protecting black voting rights in the South at a time when growing numbers of black voters were being excluded from the polls.  Murray was also a member of the Committee on Education.   He also took a seat on the Committee on Expenditures in the Treasury Department.

George W. Murray fought Jim Crow laws which undermined the efforts of black people to improve their status.  As a member of Congress he urged funding for the Cotton States and International Exhibition in Atlanta in 1895 to make the white South and the wider nation aware of black achievements. Ironically Booker T. Washington would become famous at that Exposition by criticizing the efforts of African American politicians like Murray to concentrate on voting rights. 

Sources: 
Bruce Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990);  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M001106; Biographical Directory of the George Washington Murray.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barry, Marion Jr. (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marion Barry Jr., an activist and politician, was born on March 6, 1936, in Itta Bena, Mississippi. His parents, Marion Barry and Mattie Barry, were sharecroppers; the family lived in relative poverty. When Marion was eight years old, his mother took the family to live in Memphis, Tennessee.

Berry graduated from high school in Memphis and then in 1958 earned his bachelor’s degree at Le Moyne College, a small black college in the city. He received a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Fisk University in Nashville in 1960.  Barry then completed three years of a doctoral program in chemistry at the University of Tennessee.

Barry’s studies were abandoned as he became immersed in the civil rights struggle. In 1960, at age of 24, Marion Barry became the first chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Berry worked with SNCC in the South until 1965 when he moved to Washington, D.C. to open that’s city’s SNCC office.  Berry soon became a well-known local activist, leading civil rights demonstrations.  In 1967 Berry cofounded with Mary Treadwell (who would become his first wife) Pride, Inc., a federally funded job training program for unemployed black men. 

Sources: 
Jonetta Rose Barras, The Last of the Black Emperor: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in the New Age of Black Leaders (Baltimore: Bancroft Press, 1998); Councilmember Ward 8, http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/BARRY/about/default.htm; The Washington Post, “Marion Barry: The Making of a Mayor,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dc/barry/barry.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Napier, James Carroll (1845-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Carroll Napier, a 19th century Nashville businessman and civil rights leader, was born near Nashville, Tennessee on June 9, 1845 to William C. and Jane E. Napier who were both free blacks.  Napier attended a private school for free black children in Nashville and then in 1859 enrolled in predominately black Wilberforce College before transferring to integrated Oberlin College.   

Napier left Oberlin College in 1867 without a degree and returned to Nashville, Tennessee.   Drawn to opportunities available to him in the emerging Reconstruction era, he served as the commissioner of refugees and abandoned lands in Davidson County under the Freedmen’s bureau for a year.  He then moved to Washington, D.C. to become the first African American to hold the position of State Department Clerk.  Encouraged by John Mercer Langston, the Dean of the Howard University Law School, Napier enrolled in Howard where he received a Bachelor in Law (LL.B) in 1872.  He moved back to Nashville to start his own practice.  There he married Nettie Langston, the only daughter of John Mercer Langston, in 1878.  They had one adopted daughter, Carrie Langston Napier.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Ed.  Black Women in America: The Early Years, 1619-1899.  (New York: Facts on File, Inc, 1997); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Varick, James (1750-1827)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Varick was the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Varick was born to a slave mother near Newburgh, New York. His father was Richard Varick, a free black man who was originally from Hackensack, New Jersey. Varick grew up with his parents in New York City, where it is thought that he may have attended the Free School for Negroes. After this schooling, Varick was trained in the trade of shoemaking.

In 1766, Varick, now free, joined the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church, which had a predominately white congregation.  Eventually Varick became a minister and was licensed to preach at John Street Church.  Although he was not the main minister, his appointment to the pulpit as the Church’s first black preacher caused considerable racial tension and calls for racial segregation of the congregation.  Eventually black parishioners were forced to sit in the galleries or the back row seating. Incensed at this change in church policy Varick and thirty other black members withdrew from the church in 1796.

In 1790, Varick married Aurelia Jones. The couple had seven children, four of whom survived into adulthood. During this time Varick worked as a shoemaker and a tobacco cutter in order to support his family.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Anne H. Pinn and Anthony B. Fortress, Introduction to Black Church History (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Morgan, Clement Garnett (1859-1929)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Clement Garnett Morgan, a lawyer and civil rights leader, was born in 1859 to slave parents, Clement and Elizabeth Garnett Morgan in Stafford County, Virginia. Shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the family moved to Washington D.C., where Morgan went to Preparatory High School for Colored Youth. With no way to use his diploma, Morgan became a barber. Unsatisfied with this work, Morgan moved to St. Louis, Missouri where he taught school for four years. Still unsatisfied, he decided to return to school.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ray, Charles B. (1807-1886)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Bennett Ray journalist, clergyman, and abolitionist was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts on December 25, 1807. He attended school in his hometown, and then in the 1830s he was given the opportunity by abolitionists to attend Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts to study theology. He also studied in Middletown Connecticut at Wesleyan University, but left because of racial tension. Ray worked for five years on his grandfather’s farm, then later went on to learn the boot making trade. When he moved to New York City in 1832 he opened a boot and shoe store. Ray also became a Methodist minister.

In 1834 Charles Ray married Henrietta Green Regulus on October 27, 1836 she along with her newborn died while giving birth. Then in 1840 he married Charlotte Augusta Burroughs; they had seven children together.  Two daughters, Charlotte T. Ray and Florence Ray, became the first black female attorneys in the nation in the 1870s.

In 1833 Charles Ray joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and was a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. He dedicated most of his life to the abolitionist movement. In 1837 Ray changed denominations and became a Congregational minister. Then in 1843 he joined the New York Vigilance Committee, which involved thirteen black and white men who assisted runaway slaves. In 1848 Ray became the corresponding secretary for the Committee and remained an active member for fifteen years.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Oct., 1919), pp. 361-371 Publisher: Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc.  Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2713446
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bassett, Ebenezer D. (1833-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ebenezer D. Bassett was appointed U.S. Minister Resident to Haiti in 1869, making him the first African American diplomat.  For eight years, the educator, abolitionist, and black rights activist oversaw bilateral relations through bloody civil warfare and coups d'état on the island of Hispaniola.  Bassett served with distinction, courage, and integrity in one of the most crucial, but difficult postings of his time.

Born in Connecticut on October 16, 1833, Ebenezer D. Bassett was the second child of Eben Tobias and Susan Gregory.  In a rarity during the mid-1800s, Ebenezer attended college, becoming the first black student to integrate the Connecticut Normal School in 1853.  He then taught in New Haven, befriending the legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Later, he became the principal of Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth (ICY).

During the Civil War, Bassett became one of the city’s leading voices into the cause behind that conflict--the liberation of four millions of black slaves -- and helped recruit African American soldiers for the Union.  In nominating Bassett to become Minister Resident to Haiti, President Ulysses S. Grant made him one of the highest ranking black members of the United States government.
Sources: 
Christopher Teal, Hero of Hispaniola: America's First Black Diplomat, Ebenezer D. Bassett (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State

Vann, Robert Lee (1879-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Robert Lee Vann, newspaper publisher, politician, government official and civil rights leader, was born on August 27, 1879 in Ahoskie, North Carolina.  He graduated as valedictorian of Waters Training School in Winton, N.C., in 1901, and attended Wayland Academy, Richmond, Virginia between 1901 and 1903.  Vann was influenced by John T. Mitchell, editor of the Richmond Planet, who was adamantly opposed to Jim Crow laws and disfranchisement. Vann was a regular contributor to the school newspaper and by his senior year he became editor-in-chief.
Sources: 
Andrew Bunie, Robert L. Vann of the Pittsburgh Courier: Politics and Black Journalism (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Edgar Toppin, A Biographical History of Blacks in America Since 1528 (New York: David McKay Company, Inc, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harding, Vincent Gordon (1931-2014)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Vincent Harding

Vincent G. Harding, civil rights leader, teacher, scholar, engaged citizen, and seeker was especially noted for his close association with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his decades of social justice work. Harding was born on July 25, 1931 in Harlem. His mother Mabel Harding was one of the most influential people in his life. In 1960, he married Rosemarie Freeney Harding (1930-2004) in Chicago, Illinois. The couple had two children, Rachel and Jonathan.

Sources: 
Rose Marie Berger, “I’ve Known Rivers: The Story of Freedom Movement Leaders Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Vincent Harding,” Sojourners, online archive (www.sojo.net). Vincent Harding, interview with Tisa M. Anders, Denver, Colorado, April 19, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jones, Elaine R. (1944- )

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

Elaine Jones, the first woman to administer the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Education Fund (NAACP-LDF), was born in Norfolk, Virginia on March 2, 1944, the daughter of a railroad porter and a school teacher. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1965 and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1970, becoming the first African American to graduate from that school.

After graduation Jones turned down a job offer with a Wall Street (New York) law firm to join the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, earning thirty percent less than she had been offered by the other firm. The LDF was founded in 1940 by Jones’s mentor and former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to provide legal assistance to the nation’s Civil Rights Movement. It became independent of the NAACP in 1957.

Sources: 

Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).

Contributor: 

Harris, Barbara C. (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Church
of Alban the Martyr,
Diocese of Long Island

Religious leader Barbara Clementine Harris was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Walter and Beatrice (Price) Harris on June 12, 1930. After graduating from the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising and Journalism, she joined Joseph V. Baker Associates, Inc., a black-owned public relations firm in Philadelphia. She became president of the company in 1958 but left ten years later to become director of the Community Relations Department of the Sun Oil Company.

Meanwhile, Harris, an Episcopalian, was a volunteer at her church and in local jails and prisons. In 1960 she joined the activist Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia. That church had become a center for the civil rights movement then evolving in Philadelphia, supported both local protests and the national movement. Harris led a church delegation that marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma in 1965. Three years later the church hosted a national convention of the Black Panther Party (BPP), which attracted ten thousand people.

Sources: 

Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006); “Biography of Bishop Harris,” Episcopal Diocese of Washington, http://www.edow.org/diocese/bishops/harris_bio.html.

Contributor: 

Ferris, William Henry (1874-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William Henry Ferris was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 20, 1874 to David Henry, a volunteer for the Union Army during the Civil War, and Sarah Anne Jefferson Ferris. After high school, Ferris attended Yale University, where he was heavily influenced by polymath William Graham Sumner – a staunch Social Darwinist who firmly believed that the privileged social classes owed nothing to the underprivileged ones.  

After graduating in 1895, William Ferris worked as a freelance writer and lecturer and studied for the ministry at Harvard Divinity School until 1899.  In 1900, he received a Master of Arts in Journalism from Harvard, and went on to teach at Tallahassee State College in Florida and Florida Baptist College (1900-1901) and Henderson Normal School and Kittrell College in North Carolina (1903-1905).  

In 1905, Ferris served a five-year term as Pastor of the Congregational Church in Wilmington, North Carolina.  In 1910, after being ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, he engaged in mission work in Lowell and Salem, Massachusetts.  

Sources: 

Kevin K. Gaines, Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics and Culture in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996); “William Henry Ferris,” The Journal of Negro History, 26:4 (Oct., 1941), pp. 549-550; Rayvon Fouche, Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hill, Thomas Arnold (1888-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Thomas Arnold Hill, early leader of the National Urban League, was born in 1888 in Richmond, Virginia to Reuben and Irene Robinson Hill.  He studied at Richmond Business School and received his Bachelor of Art degree at Virginia Union University in 1911.  Hill then studied sociology and economics at New York University.

In 1914, Hill was hired by the New York City branch of the National Urban League (1912) where he worked as personal secretary of Eugene Kinkle Jones. He soon joined forces with Jones and fellow League workers to create additional leagues in neighboring cities.

With the onset of the Great Migration during World War I, Hill recognized the need for a local affiliate in Chicago, a common destination for many of the migrants.  In 1917, he opened the Chicago Urban League and served as its first executive secretary.  During the bloody Chicago Race Riot (1919), Hill transformed the Chicago office into an emergency center to help mollify anger, improve race relations, provide assistance to those adversely affected, and disseminate information.

Sources: 

Nancy Weiss, The National Urban League, 1910-1940 (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1974), p. 176-201; “T. Arnold Hill,” The Journal of
Negro History, Vol. 32, No. 4
(Oct. 1947), pp. 528-529; Rayford Logan
and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Arvah E. Strickland, History of the
Chicago Urban League
(Urbana and London: The University of Illinois
Press, 1966), p. 26-28.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Garnet, Sarah J. Smith Tompkins (1831-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet was the first African American female principal in the New York public schools.  The eldest of eleven children, she was born Minsarah Smith in Brooklyn in 1831.  Her parents, Sylvanus and Ann Smith, were prosperous farmers of African, European, and Native American ancestry.  Sarah S.T. Smith was the older sister of Susan Smith McKinney Steward (1847-1918), the first African American female in New York state to graduate with a medical doctorate (M.D.).

Sources: 

Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1992); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York:  W.W. Norton, 1982).

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fluellen, Joel (1908-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Joel Fluellen, an instrumental figure in the fight to end Hollywood bias during the 1940’s and 1950’s, was born in 1908 in Louisiana. Prior to beginning his acting career, Fluellen resided in Chicago where he worked as a milliner and store clerk.  After appearing on stage in New York, he relocated to Hollywood in the early 1940’s and gained his first role as a bit player in Cabin in the Sky (1943).

Sources: 

“Joel Fluellen; Actor fought Hollywood bias,” Los Angeles Times,
February 7, 1990, p. A18; "Joel Fluellen 81, A longtime actor in Films
and TV,” New York Times, "February 7, 1999; p. B7; Donald Bogle,
Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography, (New York: Amistad Press, 1997); Edward
Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts: First Edition, (New
Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Kidd, Mae Street (1909-1999)

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

Businesswoman, politician, and civil rights activist, Mae Street Kidd, was born February 8, 1904 in Millersburg, Kentucky to a black mother and white father.  Kidd’s biological father refused to acknowledge her as his daughter.  She attended a segregated black primary school in her community.  As a teenager, Kidd enrolled at Lincoln Institute in Simpsonville, Kentucky, a boarding school for African Americans.

After completing school, Kidd moved to Louisville.  She became a successful life insurance agent at the black owned Mammoth Life Insurance Company.  During World War II, Kidd served with the American Red Cross in England.  Following the war, she became an entrepreneur, opening a cosmetic and an insurance company in the Midwest.

Sources: 

Wade Hall, Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae
Street Kidd
(Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1997); George
C. Wright, A History of Blacks in Kentucky: In Pursuit of Equality,
1890-1989, Vol. 2
(Frankfort: Kentucky Historical Society, 1992);
http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_kidd.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Carter, Ben (1907-1946)

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

Actor-turned casting agent Ben Carter often portrayed an obliging domestic in Hollywood films, but later became one of the few African American agents in the movie capital dedicated to promoting and enhancing the careers of some of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors and actresses of color – including Hattie McDaniel, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Lena Horne, and the Dandridge Sisters.

Born in 1907, the Fairfield, Iowa native began his career as a comedian and Broadway performer in New York.  He relocated to Los Angeles in the early 1930s and first worked as an unbilled player in movies. By the mid-1930s, Carter had become one of the first African American performers to sign a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox studios. Known for his wiry hair and bugged eyes, Carter appeared in several movies over a two-decade period, including Gone With the Wind (1939), Maryland (1940), Tin Pan Alley (1940), and several of Monogram Studio’s Charlie Chan series. In addition to frequently appearing in films, Carter earned a less than reputable name for himself due to his demeaning film roles.

Sources: 

Susan McHenry, “The Black Side of the Early Silver Screen,” Essence, April 2001; Anonymous, “Notables Attend Final Rites of Ben Carter, Noted Actor,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 28, 1946; Donald Bogle, Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography (New York: Amistad Press Inc., 1997.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Henry, Aaron (1922-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Aaron Henry and Constance Curry, Aaron Henry: The Fire Ever Burning (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000); Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1995).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, Inc. (1896)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women Banner, 1910"
Image Ownership: Public Domain

The National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, Inc. (NACWC), was established in July 1896 as a merger between the National League of Colored Women and the National Federation of Afro-American Women.  The merger enabled the NACWC to function as a national umbrella group for local and regional Black women’s organizations.

The NACWC adopted the motto of “Lifting as We Climb,” promoting self-help among women. During the early years of the organization, the largely educated and middle-class constituency supported temperance, positive images of women through moral purity, and women’s suffrage, issues also pursued by white women’s groups. However, unlike those groups, the NACWC saw their organization in terms of gender and race; viewing their women’s movement as a way to uplift black women, men, and children. For example, the NACWC saw the struggle for suffrage as the right to vote not just for women, but also for black men still disfranchised through the political maneuverings of whites.

Sources: 

Lillian Serece Williams and Randolph Boehm, Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1895-1992, A Microfilm Project of University Publications of America, Microfilm Reels; Elizabeth Davis, Lifting as They Climb (Washington D.C.: NACW, 1933); Deborah Gray White, Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994 (New York: Norton, 1998).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Murphy, Carl (1889–1967)

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

Carl Murphy, publisher, was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 17, 1889.  In 1892, his father, John Henry Murphy edited and published the first issue of the paper the Baltimore Afro-American.  Murphy went to high school in Baltimore and after graduating attended Howard University receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1911. He then moved  to Harvard were he received his Masters in German in 1913, he continued his studies in Germany before returning to the United States to become an assistant professor at Howard University’s German department.

Murphy became editor of the Baltimore Afro-American due to the poor health of his father in 1918.  Later, after his father passed away in 1922 Murphy became the leader of one of the most influential African American publications in the United States. At the peak of its circulation the Baltimore Afro-American reached over 200,000 people, and Murphy helped the paper grow in size so that by the end of his time at the paper in 1961, it had expanded to cover Newark, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Richmond, Virginia.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, Ed., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Publisher Simon &
Schuster Macmillan, 1996); Black Press USA, December 5, 2008,
http://www.blackpressusa.com/history/GOG_Article.asp?NewsID=2049

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sweatt, Heman Marion (1912-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Heman Sweatt in Law School Registration Line,
University of Texas, Sept. 19, 1950.
Image courtesy of the Center for American History,
The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Student Media,
The Daily Texan. Prints and Photographs Collection,
CN 00323a.

Heman Marion Sweatt was a postal worker from Houston, Texas, who in 1950 integrated the University of Texas Law School.  Sweatt was born on December 11, 1912 in Houston, Texas.  He was the fourth child of James Leonard and Ella Rose Sweatt.  In 1930, he graduated from Jack Yates High School and earned a degree from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas in 1934. Soon after, Sweatt returned to Houston and worked as a mailman.  

Sources: 

Michael L. Gillette, Michael L., "Heman Marion Sweatt: Civil Rights Plaintiff," in Alwyn Barr and Robert Calvert ed. Black Leaders: Texans for Their Times. (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1981); http://txtell.lib.utexas.edu/stories/s0010-full.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robinson, Ruby Doris Smith (1942-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, born in Atlanta, Georgia on April 25, 1942, was a civil rights leader.  Robinson, the second oldest of seven children born to Alice and John T. Smith, was raised in Atlanta’s black middleclass neighborhood of Summerhill.  She graduated from Price High School in 1958 and earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Spelman College in 1965.  Robinson’s exposure to racial discrimination in her city, the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins in February 1960, all influenced her to become involved in the civil rights movement.  

In April 1960, Robinson attended a mass meeting for college students at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. At this meeting and under the guidance of South Christian Leadership Conference representative, Ella Baker, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded.  Robinson was designated a SNCC field representative and assisted in organizing chapters in Charleston, South Carolina, Nashville Tennessee, and Macomb, Mississippi.  

Sources: 

Cynthia Griggs Fleming, Soon We Will Not Cry: The Liberation of Ruby Doris Smith Robinson (Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998).  Bettye Collier Thomas, and V.P. Franklin, Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement (New York: New York University Press, 2001). Howard Zinn, SNCC, the New Abolitionists (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964); James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Washington, DC: Open Hand Publishing, 1985).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Cleaver, Eldridge (1935-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Eldridge Cleaver, author and civil rights activist, was born on August 31, 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas.  Cleaver, a child of six, lived in a household where his father abused his mother.  The Cleavers moved to Phoenix and finally settled in Los Angeles where Cleaver spent much of his childhood in and out of reform schools for petty crimes.  In 1957, at the age of 22, he was convicted of assault with intent to commit murder and sent first to California’s San Quentin Prison and then transferred to Folsom Prison.  As an inmate, Cleaver spent most of his time reading works by Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Karl Marx, and Richard Wright.  He was also inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X who was assassinated during his incarceration. Their writings influenced him to write, in prison, a collection of essays on race and the black revolution.  Those essays were published as the book Soul on Ice in 1968, two years after his release from prison.  

Sources: 

Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1968);  Joseph Peniel E., Waiting ‘Til The Midnight Hour (New York: Henry Holt And Company, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Talbert, Mary B.(1866–1923)

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

Mary Burnett Talbert, clubwoman and civil rights leader, was originally born Mary Burnett on September 18, 1866 in Oberlin, Ohio, to Cornelius and Caroline Nicholls Burnett.  Mary Burnett graduated from Oberlin High School at the age of sixteen and in 1886 graduated from Oberlin College with a literary degree at nineteen.  Shortly afterwards, Burnett accepted a teaching position at Bethel University in Little Rock, Arkansas and quickly rose in the segregated educational bureaucracy of the city.  In 1887, after only a year at Bethel University, Burnett became the first African American woman to be selected Assistant Principal of Little Rock High School. Four years later in 1891, however, Burnett married William H. Talbert, an affluent business man for Buffalo, New York and resigned her position at Little Rock High School and moved to her husbands hometown. One year later Mary B. and William Talbert gave birth to their only child, a daughter, Sarah May Talbert.

Sources: 

Hallie Q. Brown, Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction (Xenia, Ohio: Aldine Publishing Company, 1926); Rayford Logan, ed., Dictionary of American Negro Biography, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982); Lillian Serece Williams, Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sherrod, Charles (1937-)

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

Charles Sherrod was a key civil rights leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) whose leadership led to the Albany Movement in southwest Georgia. Born in extreme poverty to his fourteen-year old mother in 1937 in St. Petersburg, Virginia, he worked to help support six younger children.  Sherrod worked his way through Virginia Union College, receiving a B.A. in 1958 and a Bachelors of Divinity in 1961. He joined SNCC in 1960, participating in the organization's first demonstrations and voter registration drives.

Sources: 

Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the
1960s
(New York: Harvard UP, 1981); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry
Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African
American Experience
(New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999);
http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/witnesses/charles_sherrod.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Copeland, John Anthony, Jr. (1836-1859)

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

John Anthony Copeland was a mulatto, born free in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 15, 1834 to John Anthony Copeland, a slave, and Delilah Evans, a free woman.  Copeland spent much of his early life in Ohio and attended Oberlin College.  While residing in Oberlin, Ohio, Copeland became an advocate for black rights and an abolitionist.  In 1858 he participated in assisting John Price, a runaway slave seeking his freedom.  This act became famous as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, where abolitionists boldly aided slaves in violation of the federal Fugitive Slave Law.  

Once released from jail, Copeland joined John Brown’s group that planned to attack the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.  Copeland was recruited to join Brown's group by Lewis Sheridan Leary.  He and Leary, along with three other African Americans, Osborn P. Anderson, Dangerfield Newby, and Shields Green took part in what they hoped would be Brown's slave manumitting army.  Like Brown and the other followers, Copeland believed that if the group seized weapons at Harpers Ferry and then marched south, they would created a massive slave uprising that would free all of the nearly four million African Americans in bondage.  

Sources: 

Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer  Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism (New York: The New Press, 2006;  Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Doubleday, 2000); Peggy A. Russo, and Paul Finkelman, Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005); http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/main/index.php?q=node/5478

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Silvera, Frank (1914–1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Frank Silvera as Don Sebastian Montoya in the High Chaparra
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Frank Silvera was an important 20th Century actor, director, producer, and teacher.  Born on July 24, 1914 in Kingston, Jamaica, he grew up in Boston and went on to study law at Northeastern University Law School. He later attended Boston University, Old Vic School, and the Actors Studio before moving to New York City to pursue acting.

Silvera joined a group of actors called the American Negro Theatre in Harlem, which produced the successful Broadway and internationally-acclaimed play “Anna Lucasta.” With that success, Silvera migrated to elite inner circles of theatre groups of the time. His handsome attributes, multi-lingual abilities, and his last name which suggested a Portuguese Jewish heritage, helped him rise through the ranks of actors despite the prevalence of racism and discriminatory social practices during that era.

Sources: 

Garland Thompson, “Who was Frank Silvera?” The Frank Silvera Writers'
Workshop Foundation, Inc
. http://www.fsww.org/whois.html; “Frank
Silvera” Internet Movie Database.  (Imdb.com Inc: 2009)
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0798826/; David Ragan, Who’s Who In
Hollywood
(New Rochelle, NY: Arlington Press, 1976); Edward Mapp,
Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts (Metuchen, NJ: 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carey, Archibald, Jr. (1908-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Dickerson, Earl Burrus (1891-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Earl Dickerson in His Law Office, 1921
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Earl Burrus Dickerson was a member of President Roosevelt’s Fair Employment Practices Commission between 1941 and 1943 and a prominent civil rights attorney in Chicago.  He was also one of the founders of the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. 

Dickerson was born in Canton, Mississippi in 1891.  He attended the University of Illinois and served during World War I as an infantry lieutenant with the American Expeditionary Forces. In 1920 he became the first African American to receive a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.  The following year Dickerson helped found Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company and became its general counsel.  By the early 1940s Supreme Life, as it was then known, was the largest African American owned business in the North.  Part of its success stemmed from the still segregated American society.  White insurance companies generally refused to insure African Americans or employ them.  Supreme Life filled that void.  The company was particularly helpful to African Americans in the Great Depression when it provided mortgage loans to struggling families.  Dickerson became the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Supreme Life in 1955 and remained in that position until 1971 when he became chairman of the Board of Directors. 

Sources: 
Robert J. Blakely and Marcus Shepard, Earl B. Dickerson: A Voice for Freedom and Equality (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2006); 1,000 Successful Blacks, The Ebony Success Library, v.1 (Chicago, Johnson Pub. Co., 1973); Ebony (Chicago: Johnson Pub. Co., 1946 & 1947); Jet (Chicago: Johnson Pub. Co., 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bennett, Chris H. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Seattle newspaper publisher Chris H. Bennett was born in Waynesboro, Georgia in 1943. He spent four years in the Air Force before attending Everett Community College in Everett, Washington, where he played football. Bennett then worked for the African American newspaper The Facts before leaving to start Seattle Medium.

Twenty-seven-year-old Bennett founded Seattle Medium newspaper in 1970, locating it in an office above a dry-cleaning shop. He promoted the Medium as a weekly African American paper that focuses on community and local news in the Seattle area. Its masthead slogan reads, "A message for the people, by the people."

Sources: 

Himanee Gupta, "Chris Bennett: Publisher Uses Media as Mediums for his Message," Seattle Times (February 26, 1990); www.seattlemedium.com.

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

Lawson, James (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Rev. James Lawson Arrested in Nashville, 1960
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Sources: 
Henry Hampton, Steve Fayer, and Sarah Flynn, Voices of Freedom (New York: Bantam Books, 1990); Sanford Wexler, The Civil Rights Movement: An Eyewitness History (New York: Facts on File, 1993); "James Lawson Named 2005 Distinguished University Alumnus," Tennessee Tribune, December 22, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Mitchell, Juanita Jackson (1913- 1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Detroit-London: Gale Research Inc., 1992); "Obituary for Juanita Jackson Mitchell," New York Times, July 9, 1992.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Walker, Wyatt Tee (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Taylor Branch, At Canaan's edge America in the King years, 1965-68 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006); Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); http://canaanbaptistchurchny.org/; http://www.wyattteewalker.com/about_chrono.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Sutton, Percy (1920-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Percy Sutton, attorney, politician, civil rights activist, and businessman, was born on November 24, 1920 in San Antonio, Texas to school teachers Samuel and Lillian Sutton.  Percy Sutton attended Prairie View A&M University, Tuskegee Institute, and Hampton Institute.  In 1942 Sutton joined the military.  He became a skilled World War II pilot, serving as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.  He also earned combat medals as an intelligence officer.

In 1950 Sutton earned a law degree from Brooklyn College Law School.  He returned to the military during the Korean War, but after his honorable discharge at the end of the conflict in 1953 he opened a law firm in New York City's Harlem district.  During the peak of the civil rights movement, Sutton became a nationally recognized civil rights attorney representing political activists such as Malcolm X.

Sutton also entered the political scene in the 1960s.  He became a leader in the Harlem Clubhouse, a political group that controlled Democratic politics in Harlem.  Soon after joining he formed a powerful alliance with other black politicians including future New York City mayor David Dinkins, Congressman Charles Rangel, and Basil Paterson who eventually served as the first black Secretary of State for New York and whose son, David Paterson, became the state's first black governor in 2008.
Sources: 
Peter Goldman, The Life and Death of Malcolm X (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979); Notable Black American Men (Detroit: Gale, 1998); Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, June 18, 1996; March 15, 2003; New York Times, August 5, 1997; May 11, 1998; August 16, 2002, p. B3.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College