Edward Rose, also known by the names Five Scalps, Nez Coupe and “Cut Nose,” was the son of a white trader father and a Cherokee and African American mother. Little else is known about his early life including where he was born. He may have spent some years working on the Mississippi River between southern Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Jean-Baptiste-Point DuSable, a frontier trader, trapper and farmer is generally regarded as the first resident of what is now Chicago, Illinois. There is very little definite information on DuSable’s past. It is believed by some historians that he was born free around 1745 in St. Marc, Saint-Dominique (Haiti). His mother was an African slave, his father a French mariner. DuSable traveled with his father to France, where he received some education. It was through this education and the work that he performed for his father on his ships, that he learned languages including French, Spanish, English, and many Indian dialects.
A writer, an economist and an advocate for affirmative action, Andrew Felton Brimmer is best known as the first African American to hold a governorship on the United States Federal Reserve Bank.
Born in Newellton, Louisiana, Brimmer moved to Bremerton, Washington in 1944 and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in the Army two years, rising to the rank of staff sergeant. Upon his return, he enrolled at the University of Washington where he received his B.A. in Economics in 1950 and M.A. shortly thereafter in 1951. Brimmer then studied at the University of Bombay for a year and completed a Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard University in 1957.
First and foremost an economist, Brimmer promoted a monetary policy that sought to alleviate unemployment and reduce the national deficit. He also argued that racial discrimination hurt the U.S economy by marginalizing potentially productive workers.
Louis Armstrong is perhaps the most important and influential person in the history of jazz music, swing music, and jazz vocal styling. His virtuosic ability with the trumpet, his distinctive gravelly low vocal style, his bright personality, and his band leadership abilities helped to build jazz into a popular musical genre and influenced nearly every jazz musician after him.
Louis Armstrong was born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana into an impoverished family. In 1912 he fired a pistol in the air during a New Year’s celebration, was arrested, and sent to a waif’s home. It was here that he learned how to play the cornet. He immediately began playing in various jazz bands in and around New Orleans. From 1922 to 1924 Armstrong was a member of King Oliver’s band in Chicago, Illinois which was the most popular jazz band of the time. By 1924 as his playing abilities surpassed Oliver’s, Armstrong’s wife Lillian persuaded him to join Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York to move beyond Oliver’s shadow.
Republican Charles Edmund Nash served in the 44th Congress as Louisiana’s only black representative. Nash was born in Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, on May 23, 1844. Before his time in Congress Nash attended common schools, was a bricklayer in New Orleans, and had enlisted as a private for the U.S. volunteers in July of 1863. He was later promoted to Sergeant Major, but his military service proved to be disastrous as he lost the lower third of his right leg just before the Civil War’s end.
As a result of his military service and strong support of the Republican Party, he was appointed to the position of night inspector in the New Orleans Customs House – a powerful post in the local political machine. In 1874 he was elected, uncontested, to the House of Representatives from the 6th Congressional District.
Despite his easy election, Nash made little political impact during his time in Congress. He was assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor. On June 7th, 1876 Nash made the only major address during his term as Congressman. His speech condemned the violent and anti- democratic actions of some Southern Democrats, called for greater education among the populace, and also for increased racial and political peace especially in the South.
Caesar Carpenter "C.C." Antoine is best known as a leading African American politician in Louisiana during Reconstruction (1863-1877). Antoine was born in New Orleans to a Black father who fought the British as an American soldier at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and to a West Indian mother. His father’s mother was from Africa and the daughter of a captured African chief. Her reputed self-purchase from slavery and accumulation of a minor fortune allowed C.C. Antoine and his father to live out their lives as free blacks. Prior to entering politics, Antoine ran a successful grocery business in New Orleans.
In 1862, one year after the Civil War began, New Orleans was captured and occupied by Union troops, Antoine joined the Union Army and quickly rose to the rank of Captain. From 1862 to 1865 Captain Antoine was attached to one of the nation’s first all-black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards. As Captain, Antoine recruited former bondsmen for service and developed Company I of the Seventh Native Guard primarily stationed at Brashear (now Morgan City) about 85 miles southwest of New Orleans.
Plaintiff for a landmark Supreme Court case, Homer A. Plessy was born on March 17, 1863 in New Orleans. He was a light-skinned Creole of Color during the post-reconstruction years. With the aid of the Comité des Citoyens, a black organization in New Orleans, Homer Plessy became the plaintiff in the famous Plessy v. Ferguson case decided by the US Supreme Court in May 1896. The decision established the “separate but equal” policy that made racial segregation constitutional for the next six decades.
In order to challenge the 1890 Louisiana statute requiring separate accommodations for whites and blacks, Homer Plessy and the Comité des Citoyens used Plessy’s light skin to their advantage. On June 7, 1892 Plessy bought a first class ticket on the East Louisiana Railway. He took a vacant seat in a coach reserved for white passengers. When Plessy was ordered to leave, he disobeyed. Policemen arrived and threw Plessy off the train and arrested him and threw him into jail. He was charged with violating the Louisiana segregation statute of 1890.
Henry Adams was a Louisiana leader who advocated the emigration of southern freed blacks to Liberia after emancipation. Born a slave in Newton County, Georgia on March 16, 1843, Henry Adams was originally born as Henry Houston but changed his name at the age of seven. His enslaved family was relocated to Louisiana in 1850 and lived there until 1861.
Adams married a woman named Malinda during his enslavement and the couple had four children. Unlike most enslaved people, Adams and his wife were able to acquire property during the Civil War.
Legendary basketball star William Felton (Bill) Russell was a five-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player and twelve-time All-Star. He was also the centerpiece of the Boston (Massachusetts) Celtics basketball dynasty when his team won eleven NBA championships during his thirteen seasons with the team. Russell is one of only seven basketball players to win an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship, and an Olympic Gold Medal.
Trévigne taught at the Catholic Indigent Orphan School in New Orleans, a school dedicated to providing free education to African American orphans.
Antoine "Fats" Domino, early rock and roll musician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 26, 1928 to Antoine Domino, a former plantation worker, and Donatile Gros, a Creole of light complexion. Fats, as he was soon called because of his weight, was raised in a large family of seven children including his four brothers and two sisters. From a young age Fats was influenced by his father, a musician who played the banjo and fiddle.
At the age of ten, Domino began to play an old piano the family purchased, learning the instrument from his older brother-in-law Harrison Werrett, who had played in a New Orleans band. Fats' passion for and expertise with the piano continued to grow. When he was fourteen he quit school and went to work as a musician. Learning songs from jukeboxes, Domino began playing at local bars and nightclubs.
Rick Coleman, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’
Roll (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2006); Rolling Stone, December 1, 2008,
Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes (New York: Scholastic, 1999): Jessie
Carney Smith, Black Firsts (Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003);
The Knights of Peter Claver organization was founded in 1909 in Mobile, Alabama. It is the largest African American Catholic lay organization in the United States. The organization was founded by the Josephites, a Catholic order whose mission was to serve Catholic African Americans. Josephite leaders were concerned that the Church would lose its African American members to other organizations, such as the Elks and the Masons, who had black lodges, if they did not have their own fraternal Catholic organization.
By 1910, the Knights of Peter Claver had branches in Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; and several towns in Mississippi. They later spread to the North as well and became a national presence by 1946.
Nina Mjagkij, Organizing Black America (New York, NY: Garland
Publishing Inc., 2001); Charles D. Lowry and John F. Marszalek,
Encyclopedia of African-American Civil Rights: from Emancipation to the
Present (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992); www.kofpc.org.
Hanes Walton, Black Republicans: The Politics of the Black and Tans (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1975); Caroline Goeser, Picturing the New Negro: Harlem Renaissance Print Culture and Modern Black Identity (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2007).
Jackson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 8, 1962, and was adopted two weeks after her birth. She grew up in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, which became infamous during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Her adoptive mother continued to live in New Orleans until the hurricane flooded the city. Jackson, who had planned to become a doctor, instead switched her studies to engineering and graduated summa cum laude with a BS in chemical engineering from Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering in 1983. She received a masters degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1986. Jackson was one of only two women in her engineering class at Princeton.
Dr. Regina Marcia Benjamin, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General of the United States, is an accomplished physician whose professional and personal roots are planted deeply in rural America. Dr. Benjamin was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1956 and grew up in nearby Daphne, Alabama.
Regina Benjamin’s parents divorced when she was a child and her mother worked as a domestic and waitress to support Regina and her older brother. Although the family owned land, financial necessity forced them to sell it. She recalled that her family often fished in the Gulf of Mexico to catch their evening meal.
John Willis Menard, abolitionist, author, journalist and politician, was born in 1838 in Kaskaskia, Illinois, to French Creole parents. He was the first African American elected to Congress, but was not seated after a dispute over the election results. Menard attended Iberia College, an abolitionist school in Iberia, Ohio.
Pioneer jazz musician Freddie Keppard was one of the most famous cornet players of the early 20th Century. Born February 27, 1890 in New Orleans, Keppard came from a musical family which included his brother Louis Keppard, who also became a professional musician playing the piano and tuba. Freddie Keppard began his musical career with the mandolin, followed by the violin, accordion, and finally finding his passion with the cornet. At the age of 16 he organized the Olympia Orchestra to showcase his talents and perform throughout New Orleans.
Keppard became part of the migration of Creole jazz musicians to the West Coast in the first two decades of the 20th Century. After traveling to Los Angeles, he founded the Original Creole Orchestra in 1912. The Orchestra introduced New Orleans jazz to a wider audience and quickly became one of the most popular acts on the West Coast. By 1919 it had a following in large cities across the United States. As his popularity rose, the Victor Talking Machine Company eventually offered Keppard the chance to be one of the first to record the new jazz sound. Keppard refused the recording offer saying he was fearful people would “steal his stuff.”
Xavier was founded in 1915 by Sister Katherine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a Catholic order established to serve African Americans and other racial minorities.
Xavier University Webpage; Toni Hodge-Wright, The Handbook of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Seattle: Jireh and Associates, 1992); Julian B. Roebuck and Komanduri S. Murty, Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Their Place in American Higher Education (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993).
James Whitehead, Jr., the first African American Lockheed U2 pilot, was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1934. From a young age Whitehead was surrounded by a strong military presence in his family including relatives who served in World War II. Coming of age during that war he also remembered the Tuskegee Airmen who inspired his desire to learn to fly.
Whitehead enlisted in the New Jersey Army National Guard in May 1952 and served until 1955. He later became the first African American graduate of the University of Illinois Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). He graduated in June 1957 with a degree in Physical Education and was commissioned a second lieutenant.
Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr is the founder of Doley Securities, LLC, the oldest African American owned investment banking firm in the nation. Doley is the only African American to have owned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
Born on March 8, 1947 Harold Doley was one of two boys born to Harold, Sr., a grocer and Kathryn Doley in New Orleans, LA. The Doley family has lived in Louisiana since 1720. The Doley’s had been free people before the Civil War and enjoyed the relatively liberal racial atmosphere of New Orleans as compared to other parts of the Southern United States. Nonetheless they were always well aware of the disadvantages they faced. Amb. Doley attended segregated schools in the Louisiana area before matriculating at Xavier University in New Orleans where he majored in Accounting and Business Administration and started an investment club. He graduated from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business’s Owner/President Management Program an Executive Education Program.
Milton Pitts Crenchaw was born on January 13, 1919 in Little Rock, Arkansas to Ethel Pitts Crenchaw, a beautician, and Reverend Joseph C. Crenchaw. Milton Crenchaw studied auto mechanics at Dunbar Junior College and in 1939 enrolled in the mechanical engineering program at Tuskegee Institute in 1939. He was in the school’s pilot training program and did not continue his studies after earning his pilot’s license.
Robert A. Rose, D.D.S., Lonely Eagles, (California: Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, Los Angeles Chapter, 1976); Charles Dryden, A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman, (Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1997); Edmund Davis, Pioneering African American Aviators Featuring the Tuskegee Airmen (Little Rock: Aviate Through Knowledge Productions, 2012); http://www.lwfaam.net/ww2/aaf_66th_ftd/66th.htm; http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4925; http://earlyaviators.com/eanderso.htm; http://www.central.aero/about-us/.
Michael P. Anderson, a former Spokane, Washington resident, was one of seven astronauts who died when Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry on February 1, 2003. Born on December 25, 1959, in Plattsburgh, New York to Robert and Barbara Anderson, Michael Anderson had three sisters, Brenda, Diane, and Joann. Michael Anderson grew up following his father's Air Force career around the nation until the family arrived at Fairchild Air Force Base. Anderson was 11 at the time. He graduated from Cheney High School in Spokane in 1977 and took degrees in physics and astronomy at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1981. Anderson met his wife, Sandra Hawkins, in Spokane and they raised two daughters.
Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes was a prominent editor, author, and civil rights activist from New Orleans, Louisiana. He is best known for his work in Plessy v. Ferguson, the most important civil rights case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 19th Century, and a book he authored about the history and culture of Creoles in Louisiana.
Desdunes was born November 15, 1849 in New Orleans. His father was a Haitian exile, and his mother was Cuban. Desdunes came from a family that owned a tobacco plantation and manufactured cigars. He was a law student at Straight University in the early 1870s. He also worked for the United States Customs House in New Orleans first as a messenger from 1879 to 1885, and as a clerk from 1891 to 1894, and again from 1899 to 1912.
Clayton Pitre is a long time Seattle, Washington-based community activist, former Chief Housing Developer for the Central Area Motivation Project (CAMP), and a retired Montford Point Marine.
Born on June 30, 1924 to Gilbert Pitre and Eugenie Lemelle, Clayton Pitre was the fourth child of seven siblings. He was born and raised in Opelousas in Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana. His father was a cotton and yam farmer, and his mother was a homemaker. Pitre attended Catholic schools until the 9th grade when he gave up his education to work in various defense plants in early World War II Texas.
Charles Lucièn Lambert, Sr., also known as Lucièn Lambert, Sr., was an internationally prominent classical musician and composer, and part of the middle generation of acclaimed Lambert musical artists. Both his father, Charles-Richard Lambert, and his son, Lucièn-Léon Guillaume Lambert, had distinguished careers in classical music.
Charles Lucièn Lambert was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1828 to Charles-Richard, a native of New York, and an unidentified free Creole woman of color. After Charles Lucièn’s mother’s death, Charles-Richard married Coralie Suzanne Orzy, another free woman of color. They had a son, Sidney, who was born in 1838. Charles Lucièn and Sidney received their first piano lessons from their father who was by then a prominent early 19th Century New Orleans musician and composer.
Charles Lucièn Lambert was a contemporary of the soon to be famous white Creole composer and musician, Louis Moreau Gottschalk. In fact the two enjoyed a friendly artistic rivalry as aspiring virtuoso pianists and composers in New Orleans in the late 1840s and early 1850s.
Shirley Verrett was a distinguished mezzo-soprano and soprano opera singer. Born in New Orleans on May 31, 1931, one of five children to strict Seventh Day Adventists, her father was a successful building contractor. She came from a musical family, her mother often sang in the house and her father occasionally worked as a choir director. Her parents encouraged her talent, but they disapproved of opera and hoped that she would pursue other interests. The family moved to Los Angeles where Verrett grew up.
Verrett was passionate about music but after high school, with her father’s support, she became a real estate agent. After selling houses for few years, Verrett realized that her life could only be fulfilled by pursuing singing. With help from her vocal instructor, she appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s program Talent Scouts in 1955. From this appearance she was awarded a scholarship at The Julliard School, where she studied for five years with Anna Fitziu and Marion Szekely Freschl. Verrett made her operatic debut in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in 1957. The following year she made her New York City Opera debut as Irina in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars. Her European debut came in 1959 when she performed in Nabokov’s Rasputin’s Tod in Cologne, Germany.
Freddye Scarborough Henderson, entrepreneur, columnist, and educator, was born on February 18, 1917 in Franklinton, Louisiana. She was educated in her hometown and graduated valedictorian from Booker T. Washington High School in Franklinton. In 1937, Scarborough earned a B.S. in home economics from Southern University. Four years later, on July 4, 1941, she married Jacob Robert Henderson in Atlanta, Georgia. Freddye Henderson continued her educational pursuits, becoming the first African American to earn a M.S. degree in fashion merchandising from New York University in 1950.
In 1944 Henderson opened a custom dress store in Atlanta. She operated the store until 1950 when she became an associate professor of applied art and clothing at Spelman College. She also held an adjunct position during the summer months at Atlanta University. Along with her teaching duties, Henderson became fashion editor for the Associated Negro Press where she reached a national audience with her syndicated column which appeared in black newspapers throughout the country.
On December 25, 1829 Solomon Northup married Anne Hampton and the couple had three children: Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. The Northup family sold the family farm and moved to Glens Falls, New York where he worked numerous seasonal jobs around their county of residence. His wife also contributed to the family’s income as a part-time cook at various taverns in rural New York State. Northup eventually gained a reputation as a brilliant violinist who entertained large audiences throughout rural New York.
In high school both Kim and Debra Rodman developed into standout basketball players, earning college scholarships. Kim attended Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas and Debra played on two national championship teams at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. Both Rodman sisters were All-Americans in college.
In the extended article that appears below historians Daudi Abe and Quintard Taylor explore the history of African Americans in Martin Luther King County from 1858 to 2014. They analyze the forces which encouraged people of African ancestry to settle in the county and discuss the rapid political, social, and economic changes that its black residents have faced since the first arrival, Manuel Lopes, came to the county in 1858.
With 119,801 people of African ancestry in a total population of 1,931,249 people, Martin Luther King, Jr. County is the most populous county in the state of Washington and is home to 29% of the state’s inhabitants and half of Washington’s black population. It is also the only county in the United States named after the 20th Century civil rights icon.
Dawson was drafted into the U.S. Army while working on his undergraduate degree. He served two years of duty in both Europe and the Philippines before returning to complete his bachelor’s degree at Lincoln University.
While in New Orleans, Dr. Lavizzo developed a national reputation as a medical innovator. He coauthored “Observations on the General Adaptation of Syndrome: Surgery as Measured by the Eosinophil Response.” This prized paper was delivered at the first annual Charles Drew Memorial Forum in August 1951.
In 1973 Rhodes graduated from LMU with a Bachelor of Science degree. From 1973 to 1981 he was employed at Dart Industries in Los Angeles. Between 1973 and 1976 he worked in the company’s wage and salary division and from 1976 to 1981 he was the corporation’s Director of Government Affairs. While employed at Dart, Rhodes continued his education at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles and earned a Master of Science degree in 1977.
After graduating from Xavier, Baquet became a volunteer for the Peace Corps. From 1965 to 1967, he taught English and Social Science in the Somali Republic. In 1967, Baquet returned to the United States and joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which functioned as a domestic version of the Peace Corps.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on January 6, 1914, Chester’s mother’s maiden name was Fuller. Chester, an only child, moved with his parents to Kansas City, Missouri when he was a year old and spent his entire childhood there. His father, a railroad worker, died when he was 11. Chester graduated from high school in 1932 and spent two years at Western College in Quindaro, Kansas.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on May 26, 1937, to Arthur and Pearl Lee Young, Robinson and his family moved to Oakland during World War II. Both parents worked at Moore Shipyard, one of numerous large shipbuilders in the area’s booming wartime economy. Along with his parents and four siblings, he lived in the Cypress Village housing projects in West Oakland, a segregated ghetto that gave birth to the Black Panther Party two decades later.
Buck Franklin was an attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is most notably known for defending the survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. He was also father to the venerable civil rights advocate and historian John Hope Franklin.
Franklin was born the seventh of ten on May 6, 1879, near the town of Homer in Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory (currently Oklahoma). He was named Buck in honor of his grandfather who had been a slave and purchased the freedom of his family and himself. There is speculation that the true origins of the Franklins’ freedom came when Buck Franklin’s father, David Franklin, escaped from his plantation and changed his name early in the Civil War.
38th Annual National Convention
& Diversity Recruitment EXPO
June 16 - 20, 2009
Hilton New Orleans Riverside, New Orleans, LA
"40 Years, One NABA:
Honoring Our Past, Investing in Our Future"
Who Should Attend?
BlackPast.org is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. BlackPast.org is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.