Pauli Murray, Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage (New York: Harper and Row, 1987); Elaine Sue Caldbeck, “A Religious Life of Pauli Murray: Hope and Struggle,” Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 2000; http://www.wvu.edu/~lawfac/jelkins/lp-2001/murray.html; http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmurrayA.htm
Noted historian, scholar, and educator Benjamin Author Quarles was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 23, 1904. His father, Arthur Benedict Quarles was a subway porter and his mother, Margaret O'Brien Quarles, was a homemaker. In his twenties, Quarles enrolled at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, the oldest historically black college in the South, where he earned a B.A. in 1931. From Shaw, Quarles went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, where he earned an M.A. in 1933 and a Ph.D. in American History in 1940.
Dubbed “The Moses of Her People,” escaped slave Harriet Tubman assisted hundreds of slaves on the Underground Railroad, leading them from Maryland to safety in Pennsylvania. Born enslaved and raised in Dorchester County, Maryland to Benjamin and Harriett Greene Ross, Harriett was both a field hand and a domestic servant. As a young girl, she suffered a lifelong injury after her master threw a piece of iron at her, which struck her in the head. Throughout her life, Harriett suffered bouts of narcoleptic seizures. In 1844, she married a free black man, John Tubman. She escaped in 1849 in order to avoid being sold into the Deep South. Her husband refused to go with her. Several months later, when she returned to get him, she learned he had taken another wife. He died shortly after the end of the Civil War. Harriett later married Nelson Davis.
Matthew Henson was an American explorer who accompanied Robert Peary, most famously on an expedition intended to reach the Geographic North Pole in 1909. Subsequent research and exploration has revealed that Peary and Henson did not reach the North Pole but their failed attempt is still recognized as an important contribution to scientific knowledge.
Wesley Brown earned distinction in 1949 as the first African American to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. Wesley Brown grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Dunbar High School. A “voracious reader,” Brown joined the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to study his history and heritage. At Dunbar, Brown was a member of the Cadet Corps and worked evenings as a youth mailman at the Navy Department. Brown was nominated by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a New York Congressman, for appointment into the Naval Academy and was accepted.
Wesley Brown began classes in 1945 and voluntarily decided to room alone. “I wasn’t sure I wanted them to share my burden,” he said. He faced racism in the first year, picking up 140 out of a possible 150 demerits, but as his education continued found that many were “supportive and protective” of him.
Mason I. Lowance, Ellen E. Westbrook and R.C. De Prospo, The Stowe Debate: Rhetorical Strategies in Uncle Tom's Cabin (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994); "Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive," Edited by Stephen Railton; http://www.uncletomscabin.org/; http://zorak.monmouth.edu/~afam/stowe2.jpg; http://www.uncletomscabin.org/.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Wayne Keith Curry’s father, Eugene, was a schoolteacher and his mother, Juliette, was a homemaker and later a secretary. When the family moved to Cheverly, Maryland in the 1960s, they encountered various forms of discrimination, including exclusion from a white neighborhood, prompting his mother to campaign for open housing. Curry graduated from Bladensburg High School in 1968, and Western Maryland College where he earned his B.A. in 1972. While at Western Maryland he was elected senior class president. After a brief teaching career Curry started working in the office of County Executive of Prince George's County in 1975. Within five years he rose from an office staffer to senior assistant to the county executive, during which time he earned a law degree from the University of Maryland, graduating with honors.
James P. Murray, Black Movies/Black Theatre. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1972); Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). “Clarence Muse” in “The Black Perspective in Music,” (Foundation for Research in the Afro-American Creative Arts, 1980)
Daniel Coker (born Isaac Wright) was a writer, activist, and a founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church who eventually emigrated from the United States to Sierra Leone as a missionary and colonist. Coker was born in 1780 in either Baltimore County or Frederick County, Maryland to Susan Coker, a white indentured servant, and Edward Wright, a slave father. He was raised in a household with his white half-brothers from his mother’s previous marriage and was allowed to attend the local school as their valet. While still in school he fled to New York where he changed his name to Daniel Coker and was ordained a Methodist minister.
Upon secretly returning to Maryland, Coker’s friends helped him purchase his freedom which gave him the rare opportunity to boldly speak out against the institution of slavery as well as participate in activities not usually open to black Americans at the time. He began both teaching and preaching in the Baltimore area. Responding to racial discrimination in the Methodist Church, Coker called upon African American Methodists to withdraw from the white-dominated church and establish their own organization. Unable to recruit enough parishioners from the Sharp Street Church where he worked, Coker and others who advocated his separatist ideals broke from the congregation to form the African Bethel Church, which later became Bethel A.M.E Church.
Born on December 25, 1840, in Baltimore, Maryland, John Henry Murphy grew up as a slave and freed by the Emancipation Act of 1863. He enlisted in the military at age 24, during the Civil War and quickly progressed to the rank of Sergeant by the end of the conflict. When he returned home to Maryland, he married Martha Elizabeth Howard in 1868, the daughter of a successful farmer. They met at church where his father directed the choir. Murphy quickly became interested in the role of the church in education for African American children. He worked with the Sunday school at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Baltimore and became superintendent of the District Sunday School in Hagerstown, Maryland in the late 1880s.
Murphy began to publish a Sunday school newspaper with an old manually operated printing press. The newspaper, called the Sunday School Helper, was created to assist him with the instruction of the students at his school. In 1892, the pastor of a local Baptist church, Reverend William M. Alexander, started a rival paper, Afro-American to promote his church. By the end of they year Murphy purchased the Afro-American for $200 and merged the two newspapers.
Isaac Myers, a labor leader and mason, was born in Baltimore on January 13, 1835. He was the son of free parents but grew up in a slave state. Myers received his early education from a private day school of a local clergyman, Rev. John Fortie, since the state of Maryland provided no public education for African American children at the time. At 16 years, he became an apprentice to James Jackson, a prominent black Baltimore ship caulker. Four years later Myers was supervising the caulking of clipper ships operating out of Baltimore.
During the Civil War Myers worked as a porter and shipping clerk for a grocer and then returned to his original profession as a caulker. Soon after the war ended, Myers found himself unexpectedly unemployed when a group of white caulkers protested the employment of black caulkers and longshoremen. In response to the strike, Myers proposed the creation of a union for black caulkers.
Samuel Lee Gravely Jr. was a highly decorated Navy Officer who pioneered the way with a multitude of firsts for African Americans in the military. Some of his most notable achievements included, being the first African American Navy Vice Admiral, the first African American to command a Navy warship, the first African American to command a warship during combat, the first African American to command a Navy Fleet, and the first African American to obtain Flag Rank in the military. His decorations include the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Navy Commendation Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal.
Samuel Gravely was born in Richmond, Virginia on June 4, 1922. He attended Virginia Union University for three years, where he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate fraternity established for African Americans in 1906. Postponing his education, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1942 where he trained as a fireman apprentice.
Henry E. Dabbs, Black Brass: Black Generals and Admirals in the Armed Forces of the United States (Charlottesville, Virginia: Howell Press, 1997); http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/samuel-gravely.htm.
Claudia McNeil is best remembered for her laudatory performance as the matriarch in the stage and screen versions of Lorraine Hansberry’s widely-acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun (1961). McNeil was born in 1917 in Baltimore, Maryland to Marvin Spencer McNeil and Annie Mae Anderson McNeil. She was adopted by a Jewish family, named the Toppers, in her teenage years and briefly married by the age of 18. McNeil then worked as a registered librarian before the inception of her entertainment career.
McNeil first performed as a dancer with the Katherine Dunham troupe during the tour of South America in 1951. She later performed as a nightclub and vaudeville singer before making her acting debut in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953); and later performed in Langston Hughes’s Simply Heavenly (1957), for which she received a Tony nomination. In 1965, she appeared in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, for which she garnered the London Critics Poll Award for best actress.
Hazel Garland, “Claudia McNeil Claim’s Star’s Life Isn’t Easy,”
Pittsburgh Courier, March 17, 1962; Edward Mapp, ed., Directory of
Blacks in the Performing Arts (Meluchan, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press,
1978); Eric Pace, The New York Times Biographical Service, November 29,
Carl Murphy, publisher, was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 17, 1889. In 1892, his father, John Henry Murphy edited and published the first issue of the paper the Baltimore Afro-American. Murphy went to high school in Baltimore and after graduating attended Howard University receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1911. He then moved to Harvard were he received his Masters in German in 1913, he continued his studies in Germany before returning to the United States to become an assistant professor at Howard University’s German department.
Murphy became editor of the Baltimore Afro-American due to the poor health of his father in 1918. Later, after his father passed away in 1922 Murphy became the leader of one of the most influential African American publications in the United States. At the peak of its circulation the Baltimore Afro-American reached over 200,000 people, and Murphy helped the paper grow in size so that by the end of his time at the paper in 1961, it had expanded to cover Newark, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Richmond, Virginia.
Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, Ed., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History (New York: Publisher Simon &
Schuster Macmillan, 1996); Black Press USA, December 5, 2008,
Matthias de Souza, an indentured servant, was the only black person to serve in the colonial Maryland legislature. As such he is the first African American to sit in any legislative body in what would become the United States.
Matthias de Souza, one of nine indentured servants working for Father Andrew White, a Catholic priest, arrived at St Mary’s City, St Clements Island, Maryland, in 1634 on the ship The Ark along with White and other European settlers. De Souza was probably of mixed African and European (possibly Portuguese) descent judging by land records that record him being called a ‘Molato’ (Mulatto) by a priest in the colony.
For the first few years he lived in Maryland, de Souza worked for Jesuit priests although the exact details of his activities are not know. Generally such servants built and maintained churches and houses for the Jesuits.
Historic St. Mary’s City History, “Matthias de Souza” https://www.hsmcdigshistory.org/research/history/mathias-de-sousa/; Maryland State Archives and Maria A. Day ‘Exploring Maryland’s Roots: Library: Case Studies’ “Matthias de Souza” http://mdroots.thinkport.org/library/mathiasdesousa.asp.
Benjamin Bradley was the first person to develop a working model of a steam engine for a war ship. Born in Maryland around 1830 Bradley was owned by an unidentified slaveholder in Annapolis, Maryland. While living in Annapolis Bradley worked for a printing company at a young age. At the age of 16 he demonstrated his great skill in mechanical engineering. He constructed a model of a steam engine out of two pieces of steel, a gun barrel, and pewter. Impressed by this feat, his master arranged for Bradley to work at the Department of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Bradley became the first African American to hold any but menial posts at the Naval Academy.
Bradley learned to read and write at the Academy. In time he became an assistant who set up experiments for the Academy's faculty. While working at the Naval Academy he sold his first small steam engine to a Midshipman living in Annapolis. This engine was powerful enough to run a small boat. Bradley used this money to expand on his findings and create an even larger model.
Michael Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993); Jim Haskins, Outward Dreams: Black Inventors and Their Inventions (New York: Walker Publishing Company, Inc., 1991).
Michael Steele, "Uniting the Republican Party,” Townhall Magazine, April 8, 2008,
http://townhall.com/columnists/MichaelSteele/2008/04/08/uniting_the_repu... Michael Steele, “Now Is the Time to Act,” Townhall Magazine, February 7, 2008,
Baltimore Sun, November 6, 2002; Baltimore Sun, February 1, 2009; Washington Post, November 3, 2006, p.A20, Letters to the Editor, “Black Democrats and Mr. Steele.” Transcript of interview on “Fox News Sunday,” February 1, 2009. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,486395,00.html.
George B. “Spider” Anderson is considered one of the greatest African American jockeys in horse racing history. There are no details available on George Anderson's early life, not even the place or date of his birth.
Anderson achieved his greatest accomplishment by being the first African American jockey to win the Preakness Stakes held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The Preakness Stakes is the 2nd stage of the Triple Crown series, between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in New York.
On May 10, 1889, the day of the race, Anderson struck one of his coaches, James Cook, across the head with a whip. The reason for this altercation between the two remains unknown. There is however speculation that because the 1889 Preakness Stakes only consisted of two horses; Buddhist, rode by Anderson, and Japhet, owned by former Maryland Governor Oden Bowie, there was tension between Cook, who was a friend of Governor Bowie, and Anderson. There may have been words exchanged before the race which led to Anderson's attack. Despite the altercation, Anderson was allowed to participate in the Preakness Stakes before receiving any punishment for his assault on Cook by authorities.
Anderson won the race riding Buddhist and easily beating Japhet. Anderson finished the race with an astonishing time of 2:17.50 and became the 17th winner of the Preakness Stakes.
In 1891, Anderson had two other significant victories to his career, the Alabama Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course in Upstate New York and the Philip H. Iselin Handicap at the Monmouth Race Course in New Jersey.
Edward Hotaling, The Great Black Jockeys: The Lives and Times of the Men Who Dominated America's First National Sport (Rocklin, California: Forum, 1999); http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/scripts/jimcrow/sports.cgi?sport=Horseraci... Glenn C., Smith, "George "Spider" Anderson: First Black Jockey to Win the Preakness." Los Angeles Sentinel. 2000. HighBeam Research., http://www.highbeam.com.
Lawrence C. Ross, Jr., The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities in America (New York: Kensington, 2000); Daniel Soyer, "Fraternities and Sororities," Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996); Iota Phi The Fraternity, Incorporated, http://www.iotaphitheta.org/index.html.
Founded in 1865, Bowie State University is Maryland’s oldest historically black university, and one of the ten oldest African American institutions of higher education in the United States. It is also one of eleven senior colleges and universities in the University of Maryland system. The institution is located on a scenic wooded tract adjacent to the city of Bowie, Maryland, about mid-way between Washington, D.C. and Annapolis, the state capital, and about 25 miles south of Baltimore.
Bowie State University traces its history back to a school opened in Baltimore in January of 1865 by the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of Colored People. The first classes were held in the African Baptist Church of Baltimore. In 1868, with assistance from the Freedmen’s Bureau, the school relocated to a building purchased from the Society of Friends at Courtland and Saratoga Streets. The institution re-organized solely as a normal school to train black teachers in 1893.
The University of Maryland, Eastern Shore is a historically black land grant institution located in Princess Anne, Maryland. The school was initiated under the auspices of the Delaware Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and began as a branch campus for Morgan College (Morgan State University) in 1886. The school initially served as a feeder school for the Centenary Biblical Institute that served African American students from the
Highland Beach, Maryland, the oldest of the major black resort towns, was founded along the western shore of Chesapeake Bay in 1893 by Charles and Laura Douglass. Charles Douglass was the son of prominent abolitionist and 19th century civil rights activist Frederick Douglass. Major Charles Douglass, however, was prominent in his own right. He was a retired officer formerly with the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, the famed regiment first established during the American Civil War, and longtime Treasury Department clerk.
Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship, Incorporated, is a predominately African-American social fellowship similar to a Greek-letter fraternity, but different in its socio-historical and sub-cultural foundations. Groove was founded on October 12, 1962 on the campus of Morgan State College (now Morgan State University), a historically-black institution (HBCU) in Baltimore, Maryland by 14 male students, John Conquest, Barry Hampton, Nathaniel Monroe, Harry Payne (deceased), Woodrow Williams, Raymond Clark, Barry Sims, Nathaniel Parham, Glenn Brown, James Hill, Dr. Walter Goodwin, Charlie Johnson, David Nesbitt, and Robert Simpson.
Clifton R. Wharton, one of the first African-Americans to hold a professional position in the U.S. State Department, was born in 1899 in Baltimore, Maryland. Described as a “scholastic marvel,” Wharton attended English High School in Boston, Massachusetts, skipped college and was accepted to Boston University Law School where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Law in 1920 and Master’s degree in Law in 1923. After practicing for two years in Boston he moved to Washington, D.C. in 1924 where he took a position as an examiner with the Veterans Bureau. He later worked as a law clerk in State Department's legal section. While there, he took an aptitude test for the position of foreign service officer, scoring in the top 15 percent.
Alan Gilbert, University of Denver political scientist and anti-racist activist, is the author of Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence, one of the few works that examines the free and enslaved blacks who joined the American Patriots and the British during the American Revolution and the anti-racist whites who supported them. In the account below he describes the book and why he wrote it.
Will Allen was born on February 8 in 1949 in Rockville, Maryland. He grew up on a small farm where his parents had moved after sharecropping in South Carolina. He attended the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida where he played basketball, graduating in 1971 with a B.A. That same year he turned professional and joined the Baltimore Bullets but never did play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He briefly played in the American Basketball Association (ABA) with The Floridians. The remainder of his professional basketball career was spent in Belgium.
Wanda Sykes is an American actress, comedian, writer, and voice artist. She is best known for her recurring role as Barbara Baran on the CBS primetime show The New Adventures of Old Christine, and for her comedic roles in such films as Monster-in-Law and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.
Sykes is the daughter of Marion Louise, a retired banker, and Harry Ellsworth Sykes, a retired U.S. Army colonel. She was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on March 7, 1964, but raised in the Washington, D.C. area.
Sykes attended Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland, and later Hampton University, where she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Upon graduation, she worked as a procurement officer for the National Security Agency (NSA) but soon realized she wanted to become an entertainer.
In 1987, at the age of 23, Sykes took to the stage for the first time in a talent show in Washington. While she did not win the contest, she honed her stand-up skills at various comedy clubs while retaining her position at NSA.
In 1992, Sykes relocated to New York to work the comedy circuit and soon got her first big break by being selected as the opening act for comedian Chris Rock at Caroline’s Comedy Club. In 1997, she joined The Chris Rock Show as a writer, made guest appearances, and won an Emmy Award for her writing in 1999.
Influential educational leader Freeman A. Hrabowski III has occupied many roles in his life, as a child civil rights activist in the 1960s, as professor, as university president, as philanthropist, and as consultant. He was born on August 13, 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama to parents Maggie G. and Freeman A. Hrabowski II, who were both teachers.
During the first two decades of the 19th Century, escaped American slaves formed a military cadre called Britain’s Royal Navy Corps of Colonial Marines. After the War of 1812 these former soldiers established Trinidad’s “Merikin” communities. These black marines in the British Navy were first organized in 1808 to garrison Britain’s Caribbean bases but they were disbanded in 1810. During the War of 1812, British Rear Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane formed the Corps of Colonial Marines. Although they were of African descent and many were formerly enslaved, these troops received the same training, uniforms, pay, and pensions as their Royal Marine counterparts.
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.