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Democratic Party

Young, Coleman A. (1918-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Coleman Young arrived in Detroit with his family when he was five.  The Colemans settled in the working class neighborhood of Black Bottom (East Detroit), where his father operated a dry cleaning business and his mother was a schoolteacher.  Early in his life Coleman suffered various forms of racial discrimination from denial of scholarships to a racially motivated firing at an automobile plant.

During the Second World War, Coleman was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, serving as a bombardier-navigator, but he was discharged after demanding service at an all-white officers club in Indiana.  After the war he returned to Detroit, where he worked as a union organizer, and campaigned for Progressive Party presidential candidate Henry Wallace in 1948.  His activism with the leftist Progressive Party drew the hostility of mainstream labor leaders like UAW president Walter Reuther. Young lost his union position and later gave defiant testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Blacklisted by the labor establishment, he went through intense personal difficulties, and was married and divorced twice.  
Sources: 
Wilbur C. Rich, Coleman Young and Detroit Politics: From Social Activist to Power Broker (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1998); The Coleman Young Foundation, www.cayf.org/bio_cay.htm ; A Life Remembered, www.is.wayne.edu/mnissani/elephant/young.htm , Mayor Coleman Young Tribute, www.metrotimes.com/archives/young/intro.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Young, Andrew (1932 - )

Vignette Type: 
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

Obama, Barack, Jr. (1961- )

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

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

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

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

Brown, Ronald H. (1941-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Alma Brown Interview:  http://www.idvl.org/thehistorymakers/Bio484.html; Stephen A. Holmes, Ron Brown:  An Uncommon Life (New York:  Wiley & Sons, 2001); Tracey L. Brown, The Life and Times of Ron Brown (Pittsburgh:  William Morrow, 1998); Godfrey Hodgson, “Obituary:  Ron Brown,”  The Independent (April 5, 1996); Cheryl McCullers, “A Natural Born Leader,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin (Nov. 2000) http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0011/rbrown.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tanner, Jack (1919-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jack Tanner was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1919.  His father, Ernie Tanner, was a respected local leader in the Tacoma local of the International Longshoremen’s Union, an organization that Jack Tanner eventually joined when he worked on the city’s docks.  Before joining the union, however, Tanner was a star student-athlete at Stadium High School in Tacoma. Upon graduation he joined the U.S. Army in World War II and served in the Pacific in a segregated unit, an experience that provided this Pacific Northwest native his first view of racial discrimination as it was practiced in much of the United States. That view would influence Tanner’s actions as a lawyer and later as a federal judge.

When he returned from World War II Tanner enrolled in the College of Puget Sound while working on the docks.  Upon graduation he enrolled in the University of Washington Law School and received a J.D. degree in 1955.  In the early 1950s Tanner was the only African American enrolled in the law school. Even after passing the bar Tanner kept his longshore job because the prospects for black attorneys in the Tacoma area in the 1950s were slim.
Sources: 
The Honorable Jack E. Tanner Papers, Washington State History Museum, Tacoma, Washington.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
United States Magistrate Judge

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

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

King, Marjorie Edwina Pitter (1921-1996)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marjorie Edwina Pitter King, the youngest of the Pitter sisters, was born March 8, 1921, to Edward A. Pitter and Marjorie Allen Pitter, in Seattle, Washington. When she graduated from Garfield High School, she joined her sisters at the University of Washington to study for an accounting degree in the College of Economics and Business. Like her father, she had a passion for numbers, business and the value of a dollar. So, to help the family with college expenses for her and her sisters, she came up with an entrepreneurial venture called “Tres Hermanas,” or “Three Sisters.” Together they earned money by typing, printing and writing speeches to help pay for their books, tuition and the like. Aside from having fun with her sisters, she enjoyed herself at the University. She worked for a sociology professor who counseled students in and outside of his discipline, including Pitter (later King). According to her, he always seemed to have a receptive ear for her concerns and tried to advise her as best he could, knowing little about her major. Commercial Law, Anthropology and Statistics were her three most enjoyable courses, because of the creative manner in which they were taught—interactive, with a team approach.

Sources: 
Juana R. Royster Horn, “The Academic and Extracurricular Undergraduate Experiences of Three Black Women At The University of Washington 1935 to 1941,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington, 1980).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dellums, Ronald Vernie (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Ronald Vernie Dellums was born on November 24, 1935 in Oakland, California to Willa Terry Dellums and Vernie Dellums. His father Vernie Dellums was a longshoreman, and his mother was a labor organizer.  As a child, Ron attended St. Patrick Catholic School in Oakland.  

After high school Ron Dellums served in the United States Marine Corps from 1954 to 1956 after he was denied the college scholarship he had sought.  After service in the Marines Dellums, with the help of the G.I Bill and an outside job, attended San Francisco State College where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1960.  This was followed by an M.A. in Social Welfare from the University of California at Berkeley in 1962.

In the same year Dellums began his career as a psychiatric social worker in the California Department of Mental Hygiene in Berkeley.  Dellums also taught at San Francisco State University and the University of California, Berkeley.  His work soon led him to become involved in community politics.  In 1967 at 32, Dellums was elected to the Berkeley City Council.  He quickly became known as the spokesperson for African American community affairs and for his radical political beliefs.  
Sources: 
Ronald Dellums, Lying Down with the Lions: A Public Life from the Streets of Oakland to the Halls of Power (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000); Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870- 1989 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,1990); Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1976); http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000222
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Conyers, Jr., John (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of John Conyers Jr.
John Conyers, Jr. was born on May 16, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan.  He attended public schools and graduated in 1947 from Northwestern High School.  After high school, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the United Automobile Workers Union  (UAW).  Conyers worked for the Lincoln Car Factory, where he became a director of education for UAW Local 900.

Conyers enlisted in the United States Army in August 1950 and became a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.  He was discharged from the army in 1954 after seeing combat in the Korean War.

Conyers returned to Wayne Sate University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1957, and a Juris Doctor degree in 1958 from Wayne State University’s School of Law.  After passing the bar in 1959 Conyers began practicing law in his hometown, Detroit, Michigan.  

His brief stint in private practice was interrupted in 1958 when he became a legislative assistant to Fifteenth District Michigan Congressman John Dingell, Jr.  Conyers worked for Dingell until 1961 and then became a referee for the Michigan Workmen’s Compensation Department.  With the support of Congressman Dingell, 35-year-old John Conyers was elected to the United States Congress in 1964, representing Michigan’s Fourteenth Congressional District.     
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870- 1989 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,1990); Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1976); http://www.house.gov/conyers/news_biography.htm;
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

Clayton, Eva (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Charles Christian, Black Sage: The African American Experience (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995); Alston Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); bioguide.congress.gov; www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Miss. Freedom Democratic Party State Convention,
Jackson, Mississippi, July 1964
Image Courtesy of David Walters, Holt Labor Library,
Labor Studies and Radical History
The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was founded on April 26, 1964 as part of a voter registration project for African Americans in the state.  For over half a century Mississippi blacks had attempted to attend regular Democratic Party meetings and conventions but were continually denied entry.  They formed the MFDP, which welcomed both whites and blacks, to run several candidates for the Senate and Congressional elections on June 2, 1964.  
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981); http://www.ibiblio.org/sncc/mfdp.html; http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/civilrights-55-65/missippi.html; http://www.jofreeman.com/photos/mfdp64.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Espy, Mike (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Alphonso Michael Espy in 1986 became the first black Congressman elected from Mississippi since John R. Lynch, who served during Reconstruction.  He was also the first African American to hold the post of Secretary of Agriculture.  Mike Espy was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. He received a B.A. from Howard University in 1975 and then attended law school at the University of Santa Clara where he received his J.D. degree in 1978. Espy returned to Mississippi after law school and worked as an attorney for Central Mississippi Legal Services from 1978 to 1980.  Between 1980 and 1984 Espy served as assistant secretary of the Public Lands Division for the State of Mississippi and then took the post of assistant State Attorney General for Consumer Protection, a position he held until 1985.
Sources: 
Charles Christian, Black Saga: The African American Experience (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995); bioguide.congress.gov; www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dinkins, David N. (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1989, David N. Dinkins defeated his challenger, former federal prosecutor Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani, to become the first African American mayor of New York City.

David Norman Dinkins was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1927. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 and served briefly in World War II.  After the war, he attended Howard University, graduating with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1950.  Dinkins moved to New York City and received a law degree from the Brooklyn Law School in 1956.  Dinkins is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

David Dinkins’s political career began when he joined the Carver Club headed by a charismatic politician, J. Raymond Jones who was known as the Harlem Fox.  Dinkins befriended three up and coming black New York politicians; Charles Rangel, Basil Paterson, Sr., and Percy Sutton.  In 1965, Dinkins won his first electoral office, a seat in the New York State Assembly. Shortly afterwards Dinkins was offered the position of deputy mayor of New York by then Mayor Abraham Beam.  Dinkins could not accept the post when it was revealed he had not paid income taxes for the past four years.
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); 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

Burke, Yvonne Braithwaite (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born Perle Yvonne Watson on October 5, 1932 in Los Angeles, California, Yvonne Burke became the first black woman elected to the California legislature (1966), the first black woman elected to Congress from California (1972), and the first black woman to serve as Chair of the Los Angeles County Supervisors (1993).

Educated in Los Angeles public schools, Burke received her B.A. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1953. Three years later, Burke received a J.D. from the University of Southern California School of Law.  Soon afterwards she entered private practice.

Before her election to the state Assembly in 1966, Burke was a hearing officer for the Los Angeles Police Commission and Deputy Corporation Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles.  She served as an attorney for the McCone Commission which investigated the Watts Riots.   

In 1972, California Assemblywoman and Congressional Candidate Yvonne Burke was selected to address the Democratic National Convention meeting in Miami Beach, Florida in 1972.  With such prominent national exposure she easily won her Congressional Seat for California’s 28th District.  Burke served in Congress until 1979. In 1978 she ran for California Attorney General, losing to Republican George Deukmejian in the first political defeat of her career.  Following the defeat, Burke was appointed to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 1979, a post she held until 1980.
Sources: 
bioguide.congress.gov; http://burke.lacounty.gov/Pages/Biobb.htm;
Yvonne Bynol, Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership and Hip Hop Culture (Soft Skull Press, 2004); Pamela Lee Gray, “Yvonne Braithwaite Burke: The Congressional Career of California’s First Black Congresswoman, 1972-1978” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, 1987).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wilder, Lawrence Douglas (1931- )

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

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

Kelly, Sharon Pratt Dixon (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sharon Pratt Dixon was born on January 30, 1944 in Washington, D.C. to parents Carlisle Pratt and Mildred (Petticord) Pratt.  Carlisle was a Washington, D.C. Superior Court Judge.  Mildred Pratt died of breast cancer when Sharon was four years old.  Pratt’s father played a major role in her life by instilling certain values and encouraging her commitment to public service.  Sharon Pratt attended public schools in Washington, D.C. and graduated with honors from Roosevelt High School in 1961. 

Although she initially wanting to pursue an acting career, her father persuaded Pratt to attend Howard University where in 1965 she received a B.A. degree in Political Science.  She then enrolled in Howard University’s School of Law.  While in law school, she married Arrington Dixon in 1966 who later became a Washington, D.C. city councilmember.  In 1968 Dixon earned her law degree and gave birth to their first daughter, Aimee Arrington Dixon.  A second daughter, Drew Arrington Dixon, was born in 1970. 
Sources: 
Jessie Carnie Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.exploredc.org/index.php?id=288; http://www.worldbook.com/features/whm/html/skelly.html; http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/kelly8.html
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Belton, Sharon Sayles (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image courtesy of Sharon Sayles Belton
An activist, politician, and leader of her community, Sharon Sayles Belton was the first African American and first woman mayor of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A St. Paul native, Belton was born on May 13, 1951.  For most of her life she fought for racial equality, women, family and child care issues, youth development and neighborhood development.

Belton, one of four daughters of Bill and Marian Sayles, moved to Minneapolis to live with her father after her parents’ separation. In Minneapolis, Belton attended Central High School and volunteered at Mt. Sinai Hospital in her spare time but eventually accepted a paid position at the hospital as a nurse’s aide.  Belton received her Bachelor of Science in biology from Macalester College in 1973 and developed plans to become a pediatrician.

Those plans were jettisoned when she began working as a parole officer for sexual assault offenders. Her work prompted her to call for tougher penalties for sexual predators. In 1978 Belton co-founded the Harriett Tubman Shelter for Battered Women in Minneapolis. She also got involved in community crime prevention programs and worked to reduce community-police tensions.  
Sources: 
Jesse Carney Smith and Joseph M. Palmisano, eds., Reference Library of Black America (African American Publications, Proteus Enterprises; University of Michigan, 2000); Doris Weatherford, A History of Women in the United States: State-by-State Reference (University of Michigan, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Watson, Diane Edith (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Diane Edith Watson was born November 12, 1933 in Los Angeles, California and has spent the majority of her life in the Los Angeles area. Her father was a Los Angeles policeman and her mother worked nights at a post office after her parents divorced when Watson was seven.

In 1950 Watson graduated from Dorsey High School and obtained a bachelor’s degree in education from UCLA in 1956. Here she became friends and sorority sisters with fellow congresswoman Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.  Eleven years later, at California State University at Los Angeles, Watson received her master’s degree. Watson received a doctorate in education from Claremont Graduate University in 1986.

In 1956 Watson became a public school teacher in Los Angeles and worked up the ranks to assistant principal in 1969.  During that time she held visiting teacher positions in France and Japan.  By 1971 Watson worked as a Los Angeles Unified School District health education specialist where she focused on mental health issues among the district’s 500,000 students.  
Sources: 

Dorothy Ehrhart-Morrison, No Mountain High Enough: Secrets of Successful African American Women (Berkeley: Conari, 1997).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ford, Harold Sr. (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Harold Eugene Ford, Sr., a United States Representative from Tennessee from 1975 to 1997, was born on May 20, 1945 in Memphis, Tennessee to Vera Davis and Newton Jackson Ford, a funeral home director.  Ford’s family was part of the local black elite dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century.  Ford graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville in 1967 and later earned an M.B.A. degree from Howard University in 1982.

In 1974, Ford won the Democratic nomination for the Memphis-based 8th Congressional District and the right to oppose four-term Republican incumbent Dan Kuykendall. Kuykendall had first been elected to Congress in 1964, the first of the “Goldwater Republicans” to be elected from the South.  Despite Kuykendall’s most recent reelection in 1972, the district was becoming more African American as many Memphis whites left the city for the suburbs.  Ford also took advantage of an unprecedented voter registration drive campaign in African American Memphis.  The campaign between the white conservative Republican and black liberal Democrat was hotly contested and quickly took on racial overtones.
Sources: 
Paula D. McClain and Joseph Stewart, Jr., Can We All Get Along: Racial and Ethnic Minorities in American Politics (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2006); Lawrence Graham, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class (New York: Harper Collins, 1999); http://www.wargs.com/political/fordh.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Ford, Harold Jr. (1970- )

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waters, Maxine (1938- )

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

 

Image Courtesy of CHOSENphotography.com

U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters has dedicated over thirty years of her life to local and national politics. Born Maxine Moore Carr in St. Louis, Missouri on August 15, 1938, Waters moved to Los Angeles in 1961. While working in a garment factory and for a local telephone company, she enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles. After earning a B.A. in Sociology in 1966, Waters worked as a teacher and as Coordinator of Head Start Programs in Watts.

Maxine Waters developed a keen interest in Los Angeles politics when she began working for city councilman David Cunningham in the 1970s. Waters ran for California State Assembly in 1976, winning the election and serving seven two-year terms in Sacramento.  In 1990 Waters won a seat as Democratic representative of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. As Representative of the 35th district, which encompasses South Central Los Angeles, Playa Del Ray, Inglewood, and several other Los Angeles communities, Waters has spearheaded health care, child care, education, and welfare reform.

Sources: 
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000373 (Accessed December 5); Official Website for Representative Maxine Waters, http://www.house.gov/waters/ (Accessed December 4, 2007); Maxine Waters Skill Center Provides “Expanding Opportunities,” http://www.laschools.org/news/item?item_id=1489182 (Accessed December 6, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Collins, Cardiss (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives 
Photography Office
Cardiss Robertson Collins was born September 24, 1931 in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Findley Robertson and Rosa Mae Robertson.  At the age of 10 her family relocated to Detroit and she spent the rest of her childhood there, eventually graduating from the Detroit High School of Commerce. After high school Collins attended Northwestern University in Chicago and later became a stenographer with the Illinois Department of Labor. She was promoted several times until she reached the position of revenue auditor for the Illinois State Department of Revenue.

Through her husband, George Collins, and his involvement in politics, Collins became a Democratic Party activist in Chicago. She served as a committee member of the city’s Twenty-fourth Ward Democratic Organization among other community organizations. She was highly visible during George Collins campaigns for Illinois’s Seventh Congressional seat and stayed involved after he won the election. After George Collins passed away in a plane crash near Chicago’s Midway Airport in 1972, a special election was held to fill his seat. Cardiss Collins was nominated by the Democratic Party and easily won the seat left vacant by her husband on June 5, 1973 which she held continuously until 1997.
Sources: 
“Cardiss Collins” in Women in Congress, 1917-2006 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006);”Cardiss Collins” in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office, 1991).
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C000634
http://www.stennis.gov/Congressional%20Bios/cardiss_collins.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moseley-Braun, Carol (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Carol Moseley-Braun is a former United States Senator from Illinois. Her 1993 election marked the first time in history that a black woman or a black Democrat had ever been elected to the U.S. Senate. Moseley-Braun was born in 1947 in Chicago. She graduated from the University of Illinois and the University Of Chicago School Of Law and was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1973. She worked as a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney for three years and then served, in 1978, in the Illinois House of Representatives where she rose to the rank of Assistant Majority Leader by 1988. In 1989 she was appointed Recorder of Deeds, which was also the first time a woman or black person had held an executive position in the Cook County government.
Sources: 
William L. Clay, Just Permanent Interests; Black Americans in Congress 1870-1992 (New York: Amistad Press Inc., 1993); http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/2003-09-22-braun-announces_x.htm;
http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/democrats2004/braun.html;
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m001025
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hall, Katie Beatrice (1938-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office

Democratic representative Katie Hall was elected to the United States Congress in 1983. Born in Mound Bayou, Bolivar County, Mississippi in 1938, she attended Mississippi Valley State University and Indiana University before teaching in the public schools of Gary Indiana. Hall was elected to the Indiana State Legislature in 1972, and then to the Indiana State Senate in 1974, a position she was continually reelected to until 1983 when she campaigned for Congress from Indiana’s First Congressional District which is mostly Gary and the northwestern corner of the state.

Hall was nominated to run as a representative by the Democratic Party when Congressman Adam Benjamin died in office in 1982 shortly after winning reelection. Through a well organized six week campaign, Hall achieved an impressive 60% of the votes in the 1983 special election to become First District Representative, winning 97% of the black vote and a surprising 51% of the white vote.

Sources: 
William L. Clay, Just Permanent Interests; Black Americans in Congress 1870-1992 (New York: Amistad Press Inc., 1993); Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Tresse, Black Americans in Congress 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C. United States Congress, House, 1990); http://www.jstor.org/view/00318906/ap010103/01a00010/0?frame=noframe&userID=80d05fb1@washington.edu/01c0a80a6a00501cdb8f6&dpi=3&config=jstor; http://www.avoiceonline.org/mlk/
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Diggs, Charles (1922–1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center, Howard University

Charles Diggs was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1922. His father was Charles Coles Diggs and his mother was Mayme Jones Diggs.  Young Diggs had an upper middle class background; his father, a prominent mortician and real estate developer, served in the Michigan State Senate.  Diggs eventually took over the family business and followed his father into politics.

Sources: 
Maurine Christopher. America’s Black Congressmen. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1971); Carolyn DuBose, The Untold Story of Charles Diggs: The Public Figure, the Private Man (Arlington, Virginia: Barton Publishing House, Inc., 1988); “Charles Diggs” in The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000344
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

McKinney, Cynthia Ann (1955- )

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

Cynthia Ann McKinney was born on March 17, 1955 in Atlanta, Georgia to parents Billy McKinney, who was a police officer and to a mother, Leola Christion McKinney, who was a nurse. Her father was a political activist who challenged his employer, the Atlanta Police Department, for its practice of racial discrimination.  This desire to use activism in the cause of racial justice was inherited by Cynthia McKinney who initiated her first petition against racism while still in school. In 1971 she challenged a teacher at the Catholic institution for using racist language.  Meanwhile, her father, Billy McKinney was elected to the Georgia State Legislature in 1973 as a Democrat.

After completing St. Joseph’s High School in Atlanta in 1973, McKinney in 1978 received a degree in international relations from the University of Southern California. This degree would serve her well in the future as became increasingly concerned about the role and impact of U.S. foreign around the world.  McKinney then entered the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.  There she met and Jamaican politician Coy Grandison and returned to Jamaica with him.

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine. “Cynthia McKinney” Black Women in America. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scrpits/biodisplay.pl?index=m000523; Congresspedia, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Cynthia_Mckinney
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Clyburn, James Enos (1940– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
James Enos Clyburn was born in Sumter, South Carolina on July 21, 1940 to parents Enos and Almeta Clyburn.  James Clyburn’s father was a minister and his mother was a cosmetologist.  In 1957 James Clyburn graduated from Mather Academy located in Camden, South Carolina.  Four years later he graduated with a B.A. in history from South Carolina State University.

After graduation Clyburn worked as a teacher for C.A. Brown High School in Charleston.  In 1971 he became a member of Governor John C. West’s staff, becoming the first African American to be an advisor to a Governor of South Carolina.  In 1974 Clyburn was appointed Commissioner of South Carolina’s Human Affairs Office by Governor West.  Clyburn held this position until he stepped down in order to pursue a seat in Congress in 1992.

In 1992 Clyburn decided to run for office after South Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District was redrawn to include an African American majority.  Clyburn campaigned for the seat as a Democratic candidate and won the seat.  He is currently in the House of Representatives and has received important positions during his tenure as a Congressman.  In 2003 he was named vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.  Three years later, in 2006, he became chairman.  Clyburn is also the majority whip making him the third most powerful Democrat in Congress and the most important African American in Congress. 
Sources: 
Kevin Merida, “A Place In the Sun, Jim Clyburn Rides High on A New Wave of Black Power,”  Washington Post. January 22, 2008 p. CO1: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/21/AR2008012102405.html
Silla Brush, “Hidden Power on the Hill,” U.S. News & World Report.  Feb. 25, 2007. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/070225/5clyburn.htm
U.S Congressman James E. Clyburn’s official House site: http://clyburn.house.gov/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Rangel, Charles Bernard (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hillary Clinton and Charles Rangel
Image Courtesy of the US Congress
Democratic representative of New York City, Charles Bernard Rangel, first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1970, is now one of the longest serving members of Congress. Rangel was born in Brooklyn, New York City in 1930. He attended De Witt Clinton High School but dropped out in 1948 and entered the U.S. Army.  Two years later he served in the second infantry division in Korea where he earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his actions in combat.

In 1952 Rangel was discharged and returned to New York, graduated from high school, earned a B.S. degree from New York University in 1957 and a J.D degree from St. Johns University in 1960.  Upon admittance to the bar Rangel began practicing law in New York City.

In 1964 Charles Rangel spent the year as assistant U.S. attorney for the south district of New York working under U.S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau.  In 1965 he was counsel to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly.  He also served as counsel to the President’s Commission to Revise the Draft Laws.  Throughout the late 1960s Rangel was legal advisor to many civil rights activists in New York and the South.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.; U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); http://www.timeout.com/newyork/articles/hot-seat/3445/charles-rangel
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clay, William Lacy, Sr. (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Former Missouri Democratic Congressman William L. Clay Sr. was born in St. Louis, Missouri on April 30, 1931, one of seven children. Clay excelled in school and at the age of thirteen began working as a janitor in a clothing store.  He later became the tailor for the store.  Clay graduated from St. Louis University in 1953 with a B.S. degree in history and political science, and then served in the military. Upon his discharge he worked as a real estate broker and manager of a life insurance company.

In the 1950s Clay became active in St. Louis politics and in the civil rights movement emerging in the city.  In 1959 he was elected to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, representing the 26th ward.  He held the position until 1964.  Between 1961 and 1964 he was also a business representative for the city employees union and between 1966 and 1967 was the educational coordinator for a local steamfitters union.

In 1968 Clay won the Democratic Primary nomination for Missouri’s First Congressional District.  He won the seat outright in the general election in November, becoming the first African American elected to Congress from the state of Missouri.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C00048 ; http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=39&category=politicalmakers
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clay, William Lacy, Jr. (1956- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Willam Lacy Clay Jr. Sworn in to the 110th Congress
(January 2007)
Image Courtesy of the Office of Representative William Clay
William Lacy Clay, Jr. is the son of former Missouri Congressman William L. Clay Sr., and now holds his father’s former seat in the House of Representatives.  Clay was born on July 27, 1956 in St. Louis, Missouri, and was educated in the Silver Springs public schools of Maryland and at the University of Maryland where he received a B.S. degree in government and politics. He also earned honorary Doctorate of Laws Degrees from Lincoln University and Harris Stowe State University, and attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Before his election in 2000 to Missouri’s First Congressional District, Clay served for 17 years in both chambers of the Missouri Legislature. His achievements during this time include the establishment of Missouri’s Hate Crimes Law and the enactment of the Youth Opportunities and Violence Prevention Act; which created Youthbuild, a job training program for young adults.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Collins, Barbara-Rose (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
U.S. Congresswoman Barbara-Rose Collins was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 13, 1939 to Lunar N. and Vera (Jones) Richardson. Collins attended Wayne State University in Detroit. Her career began at Wayne State University where she served as business manager, worked in the Physics department, and worked in neighborhood relations. Prior to being elected to Congress, she also served as a board member in Detroit’s School Region I between 1971 and 1973.

In 1975 Collins was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives from the 21st District (Detroit) and served there until 1981. She was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1981 and served there until her election to the U.S. House. During this time (1974-1975), Collins also served as a commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Detroit. In 1985 she chaired the Detroit City Council Task Force on Teenage Violence. In 1991, Collins was elected as a U.S. Congresswoman from Michigan’s 15th District, after the death of her husband, Congressman George Collins, in a plane crash.
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

Cummings, Elijah E. (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 18, 1951. He received a B.A. degree from Howard University (Washington, D.C.) in 1973 and a J.D. degree from the University of Maryland (College Park) in 1976. Cummings, one of seven children of working-class parents who had migrated from a farm in South Carolina, grew up in a rental house, but often recalled the family “scrimping and saving” to buy their own home in a desegregated neighborhood. When the family moved into that home in 1963, when Cummings was twelve years of age, he recalled that he had “never played on grass before.”
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
University of Mississippi

Collins, George Washington (1925-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Born on March 5, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, George Washington Collins graduated from Waller High School and immediately joined the United States Army in 1943 at the age of 18.  He rose to the rank of sergeant and was discharged in 1946.  Collins attended the Central Y.M.C.A. College in Chicago, receiving his degree in 1954. He later earned a business law degree from Northwestern University. Collins worked as a Cook County (Chicago) deputy sheriff and then served as secretary to Alderman Benjamin Lewis of Chicago’s Twenty-Fourth Ward.  He was later an administrative assistant to the director of the Chicago Board of Health.  In 1958 George Collins married Cardiss Robertson formerly of St. Louis.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Crockett, George William, Jr. (1909-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of Congressman George William
Crockett Official Website
George William Crockett Jr. was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on August 10, 1909 to George William Crockett Sr., and Minnie Amelia Jenkins.  His father was a Baptist minister and railroad carpenter and his mother was a Sunday School teacher and poet.  Crockett grew up in Jacksonville, attending public schools there until his graduation from Stanton High Schoo1 in 1927.  He then graduated from Morehouse College in 1931 with a B.A. in history and the University of Michigan where he received his J.D. in 1934. Crockett was admitted to the Florida bar in 1934 and soon afterwards began his long career in politics.

In 1937 Crockett helped found the National Lawyers Guild, the first racially integrated bar association in the United States.  Two years later Crockett became the first African American lawyer hired by the United States Department of Labor, where he worked on employment cases under the National Labor Relations Act.  During World War II Crockett became a hearing officer for the Federal Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC).  Keenly aware of racial segregation and discrimination in labor unions, Crockett, after leaving the Labor Department, became the director of the Fair Employment Practices Department of the International United Auto Workers (UAW) Union, 1944, a post that brought his return to Michigan.  
Sources: 
Bruce Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990); http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C000919; Biographical Directory of the George Crockett, American Law Encyclopedia, http://law.jrank.org/pages/5896/Crockett-George-William-Jr.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jones, Stephanie Tubbs (1949-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Currently in the political spotlight for her steadfast support of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Stephanie Tubbs Jones is a Democratic Representative of the state of Ohio. She was born on September 10, 1949 in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio and attended the county’s public schools before getting her bachelor’s degree in social work from Case Western Reserve University in 1971. She also earned a Jurist Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University Law School in 1974.

In 1981 Tubbs was elected to the Cleveland municipal court and from 1983 to 1991 was the judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County, the first African American woman to sit on its bench. She also worked as a prosecutor in Cuyahoga County between 1991 and 1998, once again the first woman and the first African American to serve in this position.

In January of 1999 Judge Tubbs became the first woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives from the state of Ohio. She still holds that position and is now in her fifth term in office as representative of the Eleventh Congressional District.
Sources: 

http://tubbsjones.house.gov/?sectionid=3&sectiontree=2,3; http://blog.washingtonpost.com/capitol-briefing/2008/03/player_of_the_week_stephanie_t.html; http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=J000284
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wynn, Albert R. (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Albert Russel Wynn is Democratic representative of the State of Maryland’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. He is currently serving his eighth term. The district includes parts of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Wynn was defeated in the Democratic primary of February 13, 2008, by Donna Edwards.

Born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Albert Wynn received his bachelor degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 1973. He then completed a year of graduate study in Public Administration at Howard University, before earning a law degree from Georgetown University in 1977. From 1977 to 1981 Wynn was executive director of the Consumer Protection Commission in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In 1981 he became a practicing attorney and the following year he created the law office of Albert R. Wynn and Associates.

Wynn served five years in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1982 to 1987, and then served in the Maryland Senate for five years from 1987 to 1992 where he was deputy majority whip.
Sources: 
“The Online Office of Congressman Albert R. Wynn — Biography” http://www.wynn.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=26 ; "Wynn, Albert R," in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition. Eds. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0002/e4158 .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Washington, Craig Anthony (1941 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of
Representative Craig Anthony Washington's Office
Craig Anthony Washington, former Congressman from Houston, Texas, was born in Longview, Gregg County, Texas on October 12, 1941 to Roy and Azalia Washington. He attended Prairie View A & M University in Texas and received his B.A. in 1966. In 1969 he graduated from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. Washington commenced practice as a criminal defense lawyer and is a partner in a Houston law firm.

Soon after embarking on his private career, Washington entered politics and was elected a member of the Texas House of Representatives. He and George Thomas “Mickey” Leland served together as freshmen members of the Texas legislature in 1973-1975.  Leland in 1978 would be elected to represent Texas’s 18th Congressional District, succeeding retiring Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.  Washington continued to serve in the Texas House of Representatives until election to the state Senate in 1983, where he served for the next 6 years. As a member of the state legislature, he served as chairman of the House committees on criminal jurisprudence, social services and human services and as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wheat, Alan Dupree (1951 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Alan Dupree Wheat, the first black Congressman from Kansas City, Missouri, was born in San Antonio, Texas, on October 16, 1951. He attended schools in Wichita, Kansas, and in Seville, Spain, before graduating from Airline High School in Bossier City, Louisiana, in 1968. In 1972 Wheat received a B.A. in economics from Grinnell College and then joined the Department of Housing and Urban Development as an economist. From 1973 to 1975 he worked in the same capacity for the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City. In Jackson County, Missouri he served as an aide for county executive Mike White from 1975 to 1976.  At age 25 Wheat was elected to the Missouri General Assembly.  Wheat served three terms in the Assembly where he chaired the Urban Affairs Committee.  
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov; Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots:" Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Payne, Donald Milford (1934-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Representative
Donald Milford Payne's Office
Donald Payne, a Democrat, was the first African American elected to Congress from the State of New Jersey.  Payne was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 16, 1934. He earned a B.A. degree in social studies from Seton Hall University in 1957 and also has honorary doctorates from Chicago State University, Drew University, Essex County College, and William Patterson University.

After graduating in 1957 Payne began working for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), traveling around the world as its representative.  In 1970 Payne became its first African American president. From 1973 to 1981 he chaired the YMCA Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee that was based in Geneva.  In 1972 he was elected to the Essex County (New Jersey) Board of Chosen Freeholders, and became its director in 1977.

Donald Payne challenged longtime Congressional incumbent Peter W. Rodino Jr. in the Democratic primary in both 1980 and 1986 but failed both times. In 1988 however, when Rodino said he would not seek a 21st term, Payne won nomination and was elected to Congress.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); http://www.house.gov/payne/biography/index.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Congressional Black Caucus (1971-- )

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

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

Watt, Melvin Luther (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Congressman Mel Wattt (far right) Speaking for the
Congressional Black Caucus, 2005
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Carolina in the 20th century, Mel Watts is a current member of the United States House of Representatives. Watts was born on August 26, 1945 in the small community of Steele Creek in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and attended high school in Charlotte. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967. Watt was a Phi Beta Kappa and was president of the business honors fraternity. He also has a J.D. degree from Yale University Law School as well as honorary degrees from North Carolina A&T State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Bennett College and Fisk University.

Watt had a varied career before serving in Congress. Between 1971 and 1992 he practiced law with the firm formerly known as Chambers, Stein, Ferguson, and Becton.  He was also a small business owner and managed the campaigns of Harvey Gantt for Charlotte City Council, for Mayor of Charlotte and for the United States Senate from North Carolina. Watt also served in the North Carolina Senate from 1985 to 1987.  He did not seek a second term, postponing his political activity until his children were high school graduates. Watt was known during his single term as “the conscience of the senate.”
Sources: 
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=w000207; Watt for Congress Website, http://www.wattforcongress.com/melwatt.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Scott, David (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Representative
David Scott's Office
David Scott represents Georgia’s 13th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 13th district includes portions of Cobb, Clayton, Douglas, Fulton, Henry, and DeKalb counties.

The son of a minister, Scott was born in Aynor, South Carolina, on July 27, 1946. He attended elementary school in Scranton, Pennsylvania, junior high in Scarsdale, New York, and high school in Daytona, Florida. In 1967 he received his B.A. degree in finance with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.B.A. with honors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance in 1969. Scott founded Dayn-Mark Advertising in 1978 in Atlanta, Georgia, which is currently run by his wife Alfredia Scott.

David Scott was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1974 and served as a member until 1982. He then served in the Georgia Senate from 1983 until his successful election bid for Congress in 2002.
Sources: 
"VOTERS GUIDE 2002: U.S. HOUSE, STATE HOUSE, AND STATE SENATE RACES :[Home Edition]." The Atlanta Journal - Constitution  August 15, 2002, JI.12. “U.S. Congressman David Scott: 13th District of Georgia” http://davidscott.house.gov/Biography/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gray, William Herbert, III (1941–2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Office of
Representative Gray

William Herbert Gray III was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 20, 1941. His mother, Hazel Yates Gray, was a high school teacher. His father, William Herbert Gray Jr. was a Baptist Minister and over his career, the president of two Florida colleges. Upon taking a job as pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, William H. Gray Jr. moved his family to the Philadelphia area. Following in his father’s footsteps, Gray became an assistant pastor of a church in Montclair, New Jersey, after graduating from Franklin and Marshal College in 1963. Gray received a master of divinity degree in 1966 from Drew Theological School. He became senior minister at his church that same year.  In 1970, Gray earned a degree in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. As a Baptist minister Gray became involved in the fair housing campaign in New Jersey.  In one instance Gray successfully sued a landlord who had refused to rent to him because of his race.

After his father died in 1972, William Gray returned to Philadelphia and became the minister of Bright Hope Baptist Church. Four years later, Gray made his first run for Congress in 1976, campaigning on his experience of promoting fair housing. He lost to incumbent Pennsylvania Congressman Robert Nix in the Democratic Primary but won his second bid in 1978 ending Nix’s 20 year tenure in Congress.   

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; "Gray, William Herbert, III," in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr, eds.,  Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition. Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0002/e1710;
“William H. Gray, III Bio and Photo,” The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., http://www.ncccusa.org/news/2000GA/gray.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Stewart, Bennett McVey (1912–1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Born in Huntsville, Alabama, on the 6th of August, 1912, Illinois Congressman Bennett McVey Stewart was the son of Bennett Stewart and Cathleen Jones. He attended local public schools in Huntsville and Birmingham before entering Miles College in Birmingham. There he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1936. His first job after graduation was assistant principal of Birmingham’s Irondale High School, from 1936 until 1938. Next he took a job as associate professor of sociology at Miles College in Birmingham. That year he married Pattye Crittenden, with whom he had three children.

Stewart left the teaching profession in 1940 to work for Atlanta Life Insurance Company were he eventually became an executive.  He moved to Chicago in 1950 to set up the Company’s new office and remained working there for the next eight years.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Leo J. Daugherty, "Stewart, Bennett McVey" in American National Biography Online edited by Mark C. Carnes and John A. Garraty, Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/anb/0700662.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bishop, Sanford Dixon, Jr. (1947--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Georgia Congressman Sanford Dixon Bishop Jr. was born on February 4, 1947, in Mobile, Alabama to Minnie B. Slade, who was a librarian and Sanford Dixon Bishop, who was the first president of the Bishop State Community College. Bishop attended public schools until his entrance into Morehouse College in Alabama. He received a B.A. in 1968 in political science and then attended Emory University Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1971. Bishop also served the United States Army in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. After receiving his J.D., Bishop started a private practice in Columbus, Georgia and in 1977 was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives where he served until 1990.  That year he entered the Georgia Senate. In 1992 Bishop won election to the U.S. House of Representatives.  He still serves in that body.

Bishop, a Democrat, represents the 2nd District of Georgia.  He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and is also a part of the Blue Dog Democrats, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats in Congress whose goal is to move the Democratic Party further to the right. Since 2003 he has served on the House Committee on Appropriations, sitting on the Subcommittee for Defense, the Subcommittee on Military Construction / Veterans Affairs and the Subcommittee on Agriculture.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Christensen, Donna Marie (1945–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the
U.S. House of Representatives
Photography Office

Donna Marie Christian-Christensen, the non-voting delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the United States House of Representatives, was born in Teaneck, Monmouth Country, New Jersey on September 19, 1945 to the late Judge Almeric Christian and Virginia Sterling Christian. Christensen attended St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she received her Bachelor of Science in 1966. She then earned her M.D. degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. in 1970. Christensen began her medical career in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1975 as an emergency room physician at St. Croix Hospital. Between 1987 and 1988 she was medical director of the St. Croix Hospital and from 1988 to 1994 she was Commissioner of Health for the Virgin Island.  During the entire period from 1977 to l996 Christensen maintained a private practice in family medicine.  From 1992 to 1996 she was also a television journalist.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University Of Washington

Wilson, Lionel (1915-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Robert McG. Thomas Jr., “Lionel Wilson, 82, a Mayor of Oakland for Three Terms,” New York Times (Jan. 31, 1998), pg. A13, obituary; Lionel Wilson, “Attorney, Judge, and Oakland Mayor,” an oral history conducted in 1985 and 1990 by Gabrielle Morris, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkley, 1992, http://content.cdlib.org/xtf/view?docId=hb400006hx&query=&brand=oac.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, Edwin Garrison (1830-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edwin Garrison Walker, leatherworker, lawyer, and politician, was born free in Boston, Massachusetts to Eliza and David Walker in 1831.  His exact date of birth is unknown.  His mother Eliza, whose last name also is unknown, was, according to most sources, a fugitive slave.  His father, David Walker, was nationally known for authoring David Walker’s Appeal, a controversial abolitionist text which was published in Boston in 1839. 

Walker was educated in Boston’s public school system and while growing up trained as a leatherworker.  He eventually owned his own shop and employed fifteen people.  Walker, along with Lewis Hayden and Robert Morris, by now all well-known Boston abolitionists, were lauded by the New England public in 1851 for their assistance in obtaining the release of Shadrach, a fugitive slave.mj

While fighting for the release of Shadrach, Walker acquired a copy of Blackstone’s Commentaries, which piqued his interest in law.  Shortly thereafter, while still a leatherworker, Walker studied law in the offices of John Q. A. Griffin and Charles A. Tweed in Georgetown, Massachusetts.  After passing his law examination with ease in May, 1861, Walker became the third African American admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.
Sources: 
William Henry Ferris, The African Abroad, or, his evolution in western civilization, tracing his development under Caucasian milieu, vol. 2 (New Haven: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press, 1913); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Scott, Robert “Bobby” (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of 
Representatives Photography Office
Congressman Robert Cortez “Bobby” Scott was born on April 30, 1947 in Washington, D.C. but later resided in Newport News, Virginia.  Scott attended Harvard University and later graduated from the Boston College School of Law.

Scott, a Democrat, entered politics in 1978, running a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates representing Newport News.  In 1983 he was elected to the Virginia State Senate.  During his years in the Virginia Assembly, Scott sponsored legislation related to healthcare, education, crime prevention, economic development, consumer protection and social services.  One of his measures increased the Virginia minimum wage and another produced improvements in healthcare benefits for women, infants, and children.  Scott also sponsored legislation that created the Governor’s Employment and Training Council.  His sponsorship of the Neighborhood Assistance Act led to granting tax credits to businesses for donations made to approved social service and crime prevention programs
Sources: 
www.house.gov/scott/bio.shtml;                www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id.=400364
MIX Magazine, January 2006; Portfolio Weekly, December 23, 2003
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Norfolk State University

Washington, Harold (1922 – 1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Harold Washington and Colleague
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago, was born on April 15, 1922, to Roy Washington, a lawyer, Methodist minister and one of the first black precinct captains in Chicago.  Washington’s mother, and Bertha Washington, was a well-known singer in the city.

Washington attended segregated public schools including the newly completed DuSable High School where he set records as a track star.  Despite that success, Washington dropped out of high school at the end of his junior year and worked in a meat packing plant until his father helped him obtain a job at the U.S. Treasury office in Chicago.  There he met Dorothy Finch, his future wife.  The couple married in 1941 when Harold Washington was 19 and Dorothy was 17.  They divorced ten years later.

In 1942 Washington was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent overseas as part of a segregated unit of the Air Force Engineers, then part of the U.S. Army.  Washington served three years in the South Pacific and rose to the rank of First Sergeant.   
Sources: 
Bruce Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990); Florence Hamlish Levinsohn, Harold Washington: A Political Biography, (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1983); “Biographical Directory of the Harold Washington,”   http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=W000180;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Davis, Artur (1967- )

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

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Evergreen State College

Burris, Roland (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada Las Vegas

Kilpatrick, Kwame M. (1970--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kwame Kilpatrick & Christine Beatty
Image Ownership: Public Domain

In 2002, Kwame Malik Kilpatrick, at the age of 31, became the youngest person to be elected mayor of Detroit, Michigan.  Six years later in 2008, Kilpatrick resigned his post as mayor after his conviction for obstruction of justice stemming from a sex scandal involving the mayor and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty. Kilpatrick, married and the father of three sons, had an affair with Beatty, a divorced single mother and then committed perjury in a 2007 trial when he denied the relationship under oath.  Kilpatrick was forced to resign from his office and spent 120 days in jail as part of a guilty plea to the charges of obstructing justice.

Kilpatrick, the son of U.S. Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Bernard Kilpatrick, former Chief of Staff for Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara, was born in Detroit on June 6, 1970.  Kilpatrick was the captain of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s football team.  He earned a B.A. degree in political science there.  He returned to Detroit and taught at the Marcus Garvey Academy.  

Sources: 

Can Kwame Kilpatrick Grow Up, Steven Gray/Detroit Thursday, Sep. 20, 2007, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1663791,00.html; Kwame Kilpatrick, M.J. Stephey, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008, /www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1854335,00.html; Kwame Kilpatrick exits, with Barack Obama holding the door, Edward McClelland September 4, 2008, www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/09/04/detroit/; Resources for Elected Officials, DLC, Profile, May 15, 2003,100 To Watch :: 2003 The Next Generation of Leadership, www.ndol.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=251633&kaid=104&subid=210.

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Edwards, Donna (1958 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Donna Edwards is a Democratic member of U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 4th Congressional District of Maryland since 2008. Early in 2009 she was among a group of U.S. Congress members who were handcuffed and arrested while protesting the expulsion of aid groups from Darfur in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.  

Edwards earned her BA from Wake Forest University where she was one of six African American women in her class. She later earned a JD from Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire.  Prior to her political career, she worked as a systems engineer with the Spacelab program at Lockheed Corporation’s Goddard Space Flight Center. During the 1980s, Edwards worked as a clerk for then district judge Albert Wynn when he served in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Sources: 
Paul Courson, "U.S. lawmakers arrested in Darfur protest at Sudan embassy," CNN.com April 27, 2009; Rep. Donna Edwards’ official website: http://donnaedwards.house.gov
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ballance, Frank W., Jr. (1942 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frank W. Ballance, Jr., was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2003 to 2004, representing the 1st Congressional District in North Carolina.  Prior to his tenure as a member of Congress, Ballance served in the North Carolina State House of Representatives as well as its State Senate.

Ballance was born in 1942 in Windsor, North Carolina.  He received his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University in 1963.  He then earned a law degree from the same university in 1965.  Ballance was a faculty member at the South Carolina State University School of Law before entering private practice in 1966.  

Ballance was first elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1983 and served until 1986.  He was later elected to the State Senate in 1988 and served until 2002 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.  He was president of the 108th Congress’s Democratic freshman class and served on the House Agriculture Committee and the House Small Business Committee.  In 2004, he was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis and resigned from his seat.
Sources: 
“Frank W. Ballance, Jr.” in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008): Don Carrington, “Ballance Pleads Guilty, Keeps Giving,” Carolina Journal, May 5, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Lonnie E. (1901-1971)

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

Lonnie Smith was a well-known dentist in Houston, Texas, an officer in the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and a civil rights activist.  He is best known for his role in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case bearing his name, Smith v. Allwright.

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (Millwood, New York: KTO Press, 1979); Charles L. Zelden, The Battle for the Black Ballot: Smith v. Allwright and the Defeat of the Texas All-White Primary (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004); http://www.laits.utexas.edu; http://www.tshaonline.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brazile, Donna (1959 - )

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

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

Wilson, Frederica (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
House of Representatives
Democratic Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was born on November 5, 1942 in Miami, Florida to Beulah Finley and Thirlee Smith. Wilson learned the importance of community activism at a young age. Her father was a small business owner and civil rights activist who worked to promote voter-registration in Miami’s black neighborhoods.

After graduating from Miami Northwestern Senior High School, Wilson attended Fisk University in Memphis, Tennessee where she graduated with a degree in Elementary Education in 1963. That same year Wilson married an investment banker, Paul Wilson, with whom she had three children. While working as an elementary school teacher in the Miami-Dade school district Wilson earned her Master of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Miami in 1971.  In 1980 she became principal of Skyway Elementary in the upper middle class black suburb of Miami Gardens. During her time as principal Wilson led a successful campaign to shut down an Agripost compost plant that was polluting the community and preventing the school children from playing outside during recess.  The pollution also caused a mold problem at the elementary school.
Sources: 
"Frederica Wilson," Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 92 (Detroit: Gale, 2011); http://wilson.house.gov/biography/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wineberry, Jesse Calvin (1955- )

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

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

Herman, Alexis Margaret (1947-- )

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

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

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