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Woods, Granville T. (1856-1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Granville T. Woods was a prominent inventor and electrical engineer who developed over 50 significant patents over the course of his life.  Because of his significant electrical inventions he is known as the “Black Edison.”

Sources: 
Robert Hayden, Nine African American Inventors (New York: Presidio Twenty First Century Books, 1992); Portia P. James, The Real McCoy: African American Invention and Innovation 1619-1930 (Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution, 1989); David M. Foy, Great Discoveries and Inventions by African Americans (Edgewood, Maryland: APU Publishing Group,1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, James Nathaniel ["Jim"] (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Nathaniel Brown was born February 17, 1936, in St. Simon Island, Georgia. A talented athlete from an early age, Brown earned 13 letters playing a variety of sports at Manhasset High School in New York.

Brown attended Syracuse University in New York where he played football, basketball, ran track, and played lacrosse. As a senior in 1956-7, Brown was a unanimous All-American in football and a second-team All-American in lacrosse, and remains the only athlete to be inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame for both sports, as well as the NFL Hall of Fame.

The Cleveland Browns selected Jim Brown as their number one pick in the 1957 NFL draft, and the rookie would capture the league rushing title, Rookie of the Year honors, as well as earn the league Most Valuable Player award. Over the next eight years, Brown would lead the league in rushing seven more times, be elected to every Pro Bowl, and win another Most Valuable Player award in 1965.  Some of his most notable records include career rushing yards (12,312) and average gain per attempt (5.2 yards). In nine seasons as a premier fullback, he never missed a game.

Sources: 
Pro Football Hall of Fame, http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.jsp?player_id=33; Schwartz, Larry. Jim Brown Was Hard to Bring Down. ESPN.com Special, http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Brown_Jim.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Langston, John Mercer (1829-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
William Cheek and Aimee Lee Cheek, John Mercer Langston and the Fight for Black Freedom, 1829-65 (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1989), and www.oberlin.edu.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Foote, Julia (1823-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in Schenectady, New York, to former slaves, Julia was converted at age fifteen. Several years later, she married George Foote, a sailor, moved to Boston, and joined an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church, where she began to testify about her experiences of conversion and sanctification. Her husband and pastor disapproved of her teaching on sanctification, but she persisted, even though she was expelled from her home congregation in 1844.
Sources: 
Julia Foote, A Brand Plucked from the Fire (1878); Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Paige, Leroy Robert "Satchel (1906-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Leroy “Satchel” Paige and David Lipman, Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever: A Great Baseball Player Tells the Hilarious Story Behind the Legend (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993); Donald Spivey, “If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2012), Larry Tye, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend (New York: Random House, 2009), and William Price Fox, Satchel Paige’s America (New York: Fire Ant Books, 2005);.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Dunbar, Paul Laurence (1872-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris, eds., The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Braxton, Joanne M, ed. The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993); http://www.dunbarsite.org/biopld.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Barnett, Ida Wells (1862-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Hughes, Langston (1902-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Sources: 
Faith Berry, Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem (Westport, Ct.: L. Hill, 1983); Nathan Huggins, Harlem Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971); Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986-88).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Boston College

Davidson, Olivia A. (1854-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Virginia in 1854, Olivia A. Davidson, the daughter of an ex-slave and freeborn mother, was the seventh of ten children.  The family moved from Virginia to southern Ohio in 1857, then moved to the northern part of the state in Albany and Athens after her father’s death.  The later move had a significant influence on her development as she attended the Enterprise Academy, which was owned, operated, and controlled by African American educators. Also, the Albany area was a focal point for anti-slavery sentiment, the site for three routes of the Underground Railroad, and it provided Davidson with the opportunity to interact with many Oberlin College graduates and faculty as well as African American activists.   

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine Black Women in America an Historical Encyclopedia Volumes 1 and 2 (Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Steward, Theophilus Gould (1843-1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Theophilus G. Steward, African Methodist Episcopal minister, U.S. Army chaplain, and historian, was born 17 April 1843 in Bridgeton, New Jersey.  Publicly educated, he entered the ministry in 1864 and immediately sought to “go South.”  His wishes were granted in May 1865 and he departed for South Carolina where he married Elizabeth Gadsen after a short courtship.  Under the direction of Bishop Daniel Payne, Steward assisted in the establishment of AME churches in South Carolina and Georgia for the next seven years.  Between 1882 and 1891, Steward performed missionary work in Haiti and served as a pastor in Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Sources: 
Frank N Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldiers II: New and Revised Biographies of African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866-1917 (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004); Steward, Fifty Years in the Gospel Ministry (electronic edition hosted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001 <http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/steward />); Steward, The Colored Regulars in the United States Army (New York, New York: Arno Press, 1969).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Charles, Ezzard Mack (1921-1975)

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

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

Malcolm X (1925-1965)

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

Malcolm X, one of the most influential African American leaders of the 20th Century, was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925 to Earl Little, a Georgia native and itinerant Baptist preacher, and Louise Norton Little who was born in the West Indian island of Grenada.  Shortly after Malcolm was born the family moved to Lansing, Michigan.  Earl Little joined Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) where he publicly advocated black nationalist beliefs, prompting the local white supremacist Black Legion to set fire to their home.  Little was killed by a streetcar in 1931. Authorities ruled it a suicide but the family believed he was killed by white supremacists.

Sources: 
Robert L. Jenkins and Mafanya Donald Tryman, The Malcolm X Encyclopedia (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002); Eugene V. Wolfenstein, The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Karl Evanzz, The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992); Malcolm X with Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Grove Press, 1965).   
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Owens, Jesse (1913-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens is best known for his remarkable athletic performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics where he won four gold medals.  Owens was born near Oakville, Alabama, on September 12, 1913, the twelfth child of sharecroppers Henry Cleveland and Mary Emma Owens.  Owens, the youngest child, was spared much of the difficult farm work because of his persistent pneumonia which nearly killed him twice in his young life. 

In 1922 Henry and Emma Owens moved north to Cleveland, Ohio.  The move immediately exposed young Owens to regular schooling and participation in athletics. During his senior year at East Technical High School Owens ran the 100-yard sprint in 9.4 seconds, tying the national record at the time and garnering his first national attention. 

After completing high school in 1933 Owens attended Ohio State University at a time when the institution offered no athletic scholarships. He worked part-time to support himself through college as he continued to set records on the track field.  On May 25, 1935 during the National Intercollegiate Championship at Ann Arbor, Michigan Owens set four new world records in the 100 yard sprint, the long jump, the 220 yard sprint, and the 220 yard low hurdles. 

Sources: 
Jesse Owens and Paul G. Neimark, I Have Changed (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1972); Jeremy Schaap, Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007); James R. Coates, “Jesse Owens,” in Matthew Whitaker, ed., African American Icons of Sport: Triumph, Courage, and Excellence (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins (1825-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A poet and essayist, Frances Ellen Watkins was born in Baltimore in 1825.  Orphaned at the age of three, Watkins went to live with her aunt and uncle, Harriet and William Watkins.  Unlike most free blacks, Frances grew up in comfortable surroundings; her uncle juggled several occupations in order to support the family, including preaching, shoemaking, and medicine. He was also a teacher and administrator at Watkins Academy, a school he had established in 1820.  Like other young women, Frances learned the female “trades” of sewing and domestic work in addition to learning academic subjects at her uncle’s school.  

While working for a white family as a nursemaid, she read extensively and began writing poetry.  She compiled her first collection of poems, Forest Leaves, in 1845.  Her early associations with influential abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and William Still helped in the publication and circulation of her work.  In addition to writing poetry, she traveled on the antislavery lecture circuit and sent the money she earned on these tours to her uncle in order to sustain the work of the Underground Railroad.  
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Frances Smith Foster, “Frances Ellen Watkins Harper,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hill, Charles Leander (1906-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
African American philosopher Charles Leander Hill was born on July 28 1906 in Urbana Ohio. Hill was one of seven children born to David Leander and Karen (Andrews) Hill. Well respected in the Urbana community, the family lived on a street which was named after them. Hill’s father was the first African American police officer in Urbana. His mother was a homemaker, active in various civic and church organizations, and also a devout member of the St. Paul A.M.E. Church. St. Paul was founded in 1824 and served as a pivotal institution in the African American community. For the young Hill, St. Paul A.M.E. was a second home, the edifice of his spiritual family, and as a child he yearned to be a minister.
Sources: 
John H. McClendon III, “Dr. Charles Leander Hill: Philosopher and Theologian,” The AME Church Review V. CXIX, n. 390 (April-June 2003); John H. McClendon III, “Introduction to Drs. Anton Wilhelm Amo and Charles Leander Hill with Select Bibliography,” American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience (Spring 2003); Charles L. Hill, A Short History of Modern Philosophy: From the Renaissance to Hegel (Boston: Meador Publishing Company, 1951); Arthur P. Stokes, “Charles Leander Hill: Profile of a Scholar” A.M.E. Church Review V. CXVII, n.379/380 (Fall 2000).
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Ali, Muhammad [aka Cassius Clay] (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

After defeating Liston, Clay announced his conversion to Islam and joining of the Nation of Islam (NOI) under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad.  Clay also announced he changed his name to Muhammad Ali.  As a member of the NOI, Ali was mentored early on by the organization’s most charismatic leader, Malcolm X

Sources: 
David Remmick, King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero (New York: Vintage Books, 1999); Hana Yasmeen Ali, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004); Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Stokes, Carl B. (1927-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Carl B. Stokes, lawyer, anchorman, U.S. diplomat and the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city, was born on June 21, 1927 to Charles and Louise Stokes in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1944, Stokes dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and worked briefly for Cleveland-based aerospace and automotive company Thompson Products/TRW before enlisting in the US Army in 1945. Returning to Cleveland in 1946 after his discharge, he reentered high school and earned his diploma in 1947 before enrolling in West Virginia College. Stokes transferred to Western Reserve University and then the University of Minnesota, from which he received his BA in 1955. Stokes returned to Cleveland where he completed law school at Cleveland-Marshall Law School in 1958. He was hired as an assistant prosecutor for Cuyahoga County for four years before establishing his own firm, Stokes, Stokes, Character, and Terry in 1962 with his brother, Louis Stokes.

Sources: 
Susan Schmidt Horning, “Stokes, Carl B. (21 June 1927 – 3 April 1996).” http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=SCB2; Leonard Moore, Carl B. Stokes and the Rise of Black Political Power (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Scarborough, William S. (1852-1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William S. Scarborough was born in 1852 in Macon, Georgia to a free black father and a multiracial mother, who was enslaved.  Scarborough learned to read and write from his white neighbors and a free black family in Macon.  He continued his education in Macon’s Lewis High School and then attended college at Atlanta University before completing his education at Oberlin College in 1875.   

Scarborough returned to Lewis High School where he taught classical languages.  He met Sarah Bierce, a white missionary, who was then Principal and who would eventually become his wife in 1881.  Scarborough left Lewis High School when arsonists burned it to the ground.  After a brief period as Principal of Payne Institute in Cokesburg, South Carolina, Scarborough returned to Oberlin to complete a master’s degree.  

In 1877, twenty-five year old Scarborough became a professor of Latin and Greek at Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio.  To help his students Scarborough wrote a textbook, First Lessons in Greek.  The book was published in 1881 and eventually became widely used in colleges and universities throughout the nation including Yale University.  Scarborough published a second book, Birds of Aristophanes in 1886.  
Sources: 
William S. Scarborough and Ronnick Michele, The Autobiography of William Saunders Scarborough: An American Journey From Slavery To Scholarship (Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Motley, Marion (1920-1999)

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

 

Sources: 
Pro Football Hall of Fame, http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.jsp?player_id=156; Legends by the Lake: The Cleveland Browns at Municipal Stadium, http://archive.profootballweekly.com/content/archives/features_1999/keim_062999.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Thomas, William Hannibal (1843-1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Hannibal Thomas
at Otterbein College, 1922
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Hannibal Thomas was born in Pickaway County, Ohio, on May 4, 1843 to free black parents.  During his early childhood Thomas’s family moved frequently in search of economic advancement before returning to Ohio in 1857.  As a teenager Thomas performed manual labor, attended school briefly, and broke the color line by entering Otterbein University in 1859.  Thomas’s matriculation at the school sparked a race riot and he withdrew.  Denied entry to the Union Army in 1861 because of his race, Thomas served briefly as principal of Union Seminary Institute, a manual training school near Columbus, Ohio.

After twenty-two months’ service as a servant in two white Union regiments, in 1863 Thomas enlisted in Ohio’s first all-black military unit, the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  Appointed sergeant, he became a decorated combat solider.  At Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in February 1865 Thomas received a gunshot wound in the right arm that resulted in its amputation.  He suffered pain and medical complications from this wound for the remainder of his life.
Sources: 
John David Smith, Black Judas:  William Hannibal Thomas and “The American Negro” (Athens:  University of Georgia Press, 2000; Chicago:  Ivan R. Dee, 2002); John David Smith, “The Lawyer vs. the Race Traitor:  Charles W. Chesnutt, William Hannibal Thomas, and The American Negro,” Journal of The Historical Society, 3:2 (Spring 2003); http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/thomas/menu.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Ross-Lee, Barbara (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Congresswoman
Barbara Lee’s Official Website
Barbara Ross was born in 1942 in Detroit, Michigan, the eldest of six siblings.  She graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry and Biology in 1965.  Briefly married to James Lee, they divorced in 1970 although she kept the name Ross-Lee.  In 1969, after working for the National Teaching Corps, Barbara Ross-Lee received a Master of Arts Degree in Teaching Special Populations.  In 1973, Barbara Ross-Lee received a Doctor of Osteopathy Degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and operated her family practice in Detroit for ten years.  

Dr. Ross-Lee also served as an education consultant for the United States Department of Health and Human Services and a community representative on the Michigan State Governor’s Minority Health Advisory Committee.  In 1991, she became the first osteopathic physician Fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship Program. Ross also served as Legislative Assistant on Health to New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley.   
Sources: 
“Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee,” Networking Who’s Who, What’s What for Business Executives (February 2002); http://www.networkwomen.com/archives/02_02/coverstory_0202.html ;  Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, http//www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_279.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Steward, Susan Smith McKinney (1847-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward was the first African American woman to earn a medical doctorate (M.D.) in New York State and the third in the United States.  Susan Smith was born to elite Brooklyn parents, Ann Springstead and Sylvanus Smith.  She was of mixed European, African, and Shinnecock Indian heritage. Though her early education was musical, Susan Smith entered the New York Medical College for Women in 1867.  She earned her M.D. in 1870, graduating as valedictorian.  The next year, 1871, she married Reverend William G. McKinney with whom she had two children.

Dr. Smith McKinney’s professional accomplishments were numerous.  She established her own private practice in Brooklyn which she ran from 1870 to 1895.  During this time she co-founded the Brooklyn Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary which served the African American community, completed post-graduate education at the Long Island Medical College Hospital in Brooklyn (1887-1888), practiced at the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People where she also served as a board member (1892-1895), and practiced at New York Medical College and Hospital for Women in Manhattan (1892-1896).  Dr. Smith McKinney specialized in prenatal care and childhood diseases and gave papers on both these topics.
Sources: 
Robert C. Hayden, “Steward, Susan Maria Smith McKinney,” American National Biography Online, February 2000; Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Morrison, Chloe Anthony Wofford "Toni" (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Timothy
Greenfield-Sanders
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio to parents George and Ella Ramah Wofford, novelist Toni Morrison grew up in a working class family.  She received a B.A. degree from Howard University after majoring in English and minoring in the classics.  Wofford earned an M.A. degree in English from Cornell University and then taught at Howard University and Texas Southern University, before entering the publishing world as an editor at Random House. She married (and later divorced) Harold Morrison and gave birth to sons Ford and Slade Kevin. Morrison taught at Yale, Bard College, Rutgers University and the State University of New York at Albany.  She later held the Robert F. Goheen Professorship in the Humanities at Princeton University.
Sources: 

Nellie Y. McKay, ed. Critical Essays on Toni Morrison (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1988); Philip Page, Dangerous Freedom: Fusion and Fragmentation in Toni Morrison’s Novels (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995); Wilfred D. Samuels and Clenora Hudson Weems, Toni Morrison (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Douglas, H. Ford (1831-1865)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Captain H. Ford Douglas was born in Virginia in 1831 to a white man named William Douglas, and an enslaved mother named Mary.  He escaped from slavery sometime after his fifteenth birthday, and moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

Working as a barber, the self-educated Douglas was active in the free black community of Cleveland, especially its state convention movement.  His first state meeting was at Columbus in 1850, at which time Douglas was already gaining attention for his outstanding oratorical talents.  He appeared at the Ohio State Convention again 1851 and 1852, arguing that African Americans would never gain equality in the United States, and advocating African American emigration.  Douglas supported William Lloyd Garrison’s view that the United States Constitution was a proslavery document because it did not exclusively prohibit slavery.  He claimed it was written with the intention of continuing slavery.   Douglas also felt African-Americans allowed slavery to continue by remaining in the United States and making themselves subject to the U.S. Constitution.  

At the 1854 National Emigration Convention, Douglas emerged as a prominent speaker with his defense of emigration.  He moved to British-controlled West Canada after the convention and in 1856 became a proprietor of the Provincial Freedom, a Canadian newspaper promoting antislavery and emigrationist principles.  Through the newspaper Douglas promoted Canada as a place where blacks could live under a government which protected them.  He married Statira Steele in October 1857, with whom he had one child.  

Sources: 
Robert L. Harris, Jr., H. Ford Douglas Afro-American Antislavery Emigrationist Journal of Negro History 62:3 (July 1997) 217-34; Robert L. Harris, Jr., H. Ford Douglas.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, George Washington (1849-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

George Washington Williams was a 19th century American historian most famous for his volumes, History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880; as Negroes, as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens (1882), and A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion (1887).Williams was born in 1849 in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania and lived there until 1864, when at the age of 14 and lacking virtually any education he left home to join the Union Army. Engaged by the soldier’s lifestyle, he followed this by fighting in Mexico in the overthrow of Maximilian.

Sources: 
John Hope Franklin, George Washington Williams (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); Clyde N. Wilson, ed., American Historians, 1866-1912 (Detroit: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1986).
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

Stokes, Louis (1925- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Ohio’s first African American Congressman, Louis Stokes was born to Charles and Louis Stokes on February 23, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended its public schools before joining the United States Army in 1943. Stokes served in the army for three years and then attended Western Reserve University from 1946 to 1948 where he earned a B.A.  In 1953 he received a Doctor of Law degree from Cleveland Marshall Law School of the Cleveland State University. Stokes was admitted to the Ohio bar the same year and began practicing law in Cleveland.

Louis Stokes became active in the civil rights movement and political affairs in the 1960s. He became a member of the executive committee of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and was also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union.  Stokes served as vice president of the Cleveland branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1965-66, and as chairman of its Legal Redress Committee for five years.
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

Loudin, Frederick J. (1840-1904)

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

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

Bell, James Madison (1826-1902)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Madison Bell, poet, orator and activist was born in Gallipolis, Ohio on April 3, 1826. Bell lived in Ohio most of his life although he briefly resided in Canada and California before eventually returning to Ohio. When Bell was 16 he moved to Cincinnati to live with his brother-in-law George Knight who taught him the plastering trade. Knight and Bell were talented plasterers who in 1851 were awarded the contract to plaster the Hamilton County public buildings.

On November 9, 1847, Bell married Louisiana Sanderlin. The couple eventually had seven children and lived in Cincinnati until 1854 when they moved to Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Chatham was a major destination for the Underground Railroad, and while there Bell became involved in abolitionist activities and later returned to Cincinnati to continue his antislavery work. 

Although he supported himself primarily as a plasterer, Bell soon became known for his speeches and poems which he used in the campaign against slavery.  His most famous poem, “The Day and the War,” was read at Platt’s Hall in Cincinnati in January 1864 for the Celebration of the first Anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Bell dedicated “The Day and the War” to friend and fellow abolitionist John Brown who was executed in 1859 for his role in the raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); "James Madison Bell" in Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 40, edited by Ashyia Henderson (Detroit: The Gale Group, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brueggergosman, Measha (1977- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Measha Brueggergosman, Canada’s most recognizable young opera star, is working hard to bring classical music to a popular audience.  The Canadian soprano has emerged as one of the most magnificent performers and vibrant personalities of the day. She is critically acclaimed by the international press for having both a voluptuous voice and a sovereign stage presence far beyond her years.
Sources: 
William Littler, “Soprano’s spirit,” Toronto Star, October 16, 2003; http://www.measha.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smith, Harry Clay (1863-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society

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

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

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

Duncanson, Robert S. (1817-1872)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert S. Duncanson was a landscape and portrait painter born in northern New York in 1817. His father was Scottish and his mother was a mulatto. While Robert was technically born free due to manumission laws, he still faced the enormous prejudice against African Americans that was typical of the time. In order to ensure his education, Robert’s father took him to Canada for his schooling. In the early 1840s, Duncanson returned to the United States, and lived in Ohio with his mother, in a home about 15 miles from Cincinnati.

In 1842, within a year of his return, 25-year-old Duncanson’s work was being shown in Cincinnati. Although his early technique was self-taught, his work was greatly influenced by the Hudson River School of painters, and especially by William L. Sonntag.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.cincinnati.com/cam/cincinnatiwing/duncanson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ransom, Reverdy Cassius (1861-1959)

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

The next year Ransom transferred to Oberlin College, an ostensibly integrated institution which nonetheless still segregated its social and recreational activities. After addressing a protest meeting to fight the college’s recent decision to segregate the Ladies Dining Hall, he lost his scholarship at Oberlin, and then transferred back to Wilberforce where he graduated in 1886. Three years before his graduation, Ransom had been licensed to preach. He was ordained as a deacon in 1886 and in 1924 was elected the forty-eighth bishop of the AME Church at Louisville, Kentucky; he remained an active bishop until 1952.
Sources: 
Anthony B. Pinn, ed. Moral Evil and Redemptive Suffering (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Berry, Halle (1968- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Halle Berry, who was born Maria Halle Berry, is a multiracial model, actress, and former beauty queen who was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1968.  Her mother Judith Hawkins Berry, who is white, worked as a psychiatric nurse in a Cleveland hospital.  Berry’s African American father, Jerome Berry, was an attendant at the same hospital.  Berry’s parents divorced when she was four and she was subsequently raised by her mother.    

Halle Berry grew up in an African American neighborhood in her younger years, but then her mother Judith relocated the family to a white neighborhood.  Berry attended Bedford High in Cleveland and quickly became involved in cheerleading and the school newspaper.  She was also class president, a member of the honor society, and Prom Queen of her class.  Berry became Miss Teen Ohio in 1985 which led her to winning the Miss Teen All-American title the same year and then Miss Ohio in 1986.  Berry came in second place in Miss USA in 1986 and was the first African American to compete for the Miss World competition in 1986.  
Sources: 
"Celebrity Central Halle Berry." Halle Berry: People.com. 2008, http://www.people.com/people/halle_berry; Dominick Wills, "Halle Berry Biography," Tiscali Film & TV., http://www.tiscali.co.uk/entertainment/film/biographies/halle_berry_biog.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Stewart, John (1786-1823)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Stewart (also sometimes spelled Steward) was a missionary to the Wyandotte Indians of Ohio and founder of what is often considered the first Methodist mission in America. Stewart was born in Powhatan County, Virginia to free Negro parents who were of mixed ancestry; a mix of white, black, and Indian. Due to his parents’ freedom, John was able to obtain a modest public education. His brother was a Baptist minister which possibly indicates that he received religious training at home. Stewart was a frail and sickly child.
Sources: 
Joseph Mitchell, The Missionary Pioneer: Or, A Brief Memoir of the Life, Labours, and Death of John Stewart (Man of Colour), Founder, Under God, of the Mission Among the Wyandotts, at Upper Sandusky, Ohio ( New York: J.C. Totten, 1827); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Price, Mary Violet Leontyne (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Born to James and Kate Price on February 10, 1927, in Laurel, Mississippi, Leontyne Price became one of the world’s leading opera sopranos and among the first African Americans to gain prominence in major performance halls in that musical genre. Her parents were amateur musicians and instilled in their daughter a love of music from an early age. In 1944 she attended the College of Education and Industrial Arts (now Central State College) in Wilberforce, Ohio with the intention of becoming a music teacher. Her teachers soon encouraged her to pursue voice instead.  In 1949 Price moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School of Music on a four year, full-tuition scholarship. Her performance as Mistress Ford in the school’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Falstaff caught the eye of composer Virgil Thomson. He offered her the role of Cecilia in the 1952 revival of his 1934 opera Four Saints in Three Acts and her professional career took off.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds., African American Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Jeffrey Lehman, ed., The African American Almanac (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003); Colin A. Palmer, ed., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Marshall, Harriet Gibbs (1868-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A pioneer in the world of African American music education, Harriet Gibbs Marshall was born in Victoria, British Columbia on February 18, 1868 to Mifflin Wistar Gibbs and Maria Ann (Alexander) Gibbs. In 1869 her family moved to Oberlin, Ohio. Marshall began her study of music at the age of nine and continued the pursuit at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where she studied piano, pipe organ, and voice culture. Graduating in 1889, she was the first African American to complete the program and earn a Mus.B. degree, which at the time was Oberlin’s equivalent of a Bachelor of Music degree.

Marshall trained in Europe after graduating and in 1890 returned to the United States to found a music conservatory at the Eckstein-Norton University, an industrial school in Cane Springs, Kentucky. At the beginning of the 20th century, Marshall held the position of supervisor for the District of Columbia’s African American public schools, Divisions X-XIII, and served as the divisions’ director of music.

To provide African American students with advanced musical training within the conservatory structure, she founded the Washington Conservatory of Music in 1903. It was later renamed the Washington Conservatory of Music and School of Expression when the school expanded to include drama and speech. In establishing a school exclusively operated by African American musicians for the advancement of African American education, Marshall realized a lifelong goal.
Sources: 
Alice Allison Dunnigan, The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians: Their Heritage and Traditions (Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1982); Doris E. McGinty, “Gifted Minds and Pure Hearts: Mary L. Europe and Estelle Pinckney Webster,” The Journal of Negro Education 51:3 (Summer 1982);  Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coston, Julia Ringwood (?- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare
Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture, The New York Public Library,
Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
 

The date of birth for Julia Ringwood Coston, one of the first black women to edit a magazine, is unknown. We do know that she was named after Ringwood farm in Warrenton, Virginia, where she was born. While she was still an infant, Ringwood moved to Washington D.C. with her family and attended public schools there. She had almost completed school when her mother died and she was forced to withdraw.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Poindexter, James (1819-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jones, Frederick McKinley (1893-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of: Minnesota Historical Society
Frederick McKinley Jones was a prolific early 20th century black inventor who helped to revolutionize both the cinema and refrigeration industries.  Over his lifetime, he patented more than sixty inventions in divergent fields with forty of those patents in refrigeration. He is best known for inventing the first automatic refrigeration system for trucks.

Jones was born on May 17, 1893 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  His mother died when he was nine, and he was forced to drop out of school.  A priest in Covington, Kentucky, raised him until he was sixteen.

Upon leaving the rectory, Jones began working as a mechanic’s helper at the R.C. Crothers Garage in Cincinnati.  Jones would spend much of his time observing the mechanics as they worked on cars, taking in as much information as possible.  These observations, along with an insatiable appetite for learning through reading helped Jones develop an incredible base of knowledge about automobiles and their inner workings. Within three years his skills and love for cars had netted him a promotion to shop foreman.  By nineteen, he had built and driven several cars in racing exhibitions and soon became one of the most well know racers in the Great Lakes region.
Sources: 
James Michael Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993); Otha Richard Sullivan and James Haskins, African American Inventors (New York: Wiley, 1998); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

King, Don (1931- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rowan, Carl T. (1925–2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Carl Rowan with President
Lyndon B. Johnson
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Carl Thomas Rowan was a diplomat, author, reporter, and broadcaster. He was the first black deputy Secretary of State, and the first black director of the United States Information Agency (USIA).

Rowan was born August 11, 1925, in the mining town of Ravenscroft, Tennessee.  When he was a baby his family moved to McMinnville, Tennessee, because his parents thought its lumberyards offered more opportunity. His father, Thomas, stacked lumber for construction, and his mother, Johnnie, cleaned houses, cooked, and did laundry for wealthier families. They had five children. The Rowan family home had no electricity, running water, telephone, nor even a clock. One of young Carl's teachers encouraged him to read and write as much as possible, even going to the library for him because, as a black person, Rowan wasn't allowed to check out books for himself. He graduated at the top of his high school class.

Sources: 

Carl Rowan, Breaking Barriers: a Memoir (Boston: Little, Brown 1991); Cynthia Kirk, “Carl Rowan: The Life Story of an Influential Newsman,” People in America, Voice of America (May 14, 2005); J.Y. Smith, “Columnist Carl Rowan Dies at 75,” The Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2000; p. A1.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hunter, Jane Edna (1882 –1971)

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

Jane Edna Hunter is most famous for founding the Phillis Wheatley Association (PWA) in 1913.   Hunter was born on December 13, 1882 in Pendleton, South Carolina to Harriet Millner, a free-born daughter of freed slaves, and Edward Harris, the son of a slave woman and a plantation overseer.  Edward Harris died when Jane was ten years old, and her mother urged her into a loveless marriage with Edward Hunter, a man 40 years older than she was. The arrangement collapsed fourteen months after the wedding, and Jane Edna Hunter never married again.

Hunter migrated to Cleveland Ohio, arriving in 1905 as a 23 year old single African American woman. Hunter founded the PWA to aid and assist other single, newly arriving African American women.  She led the Association until her retirement in 1946. The PWA was the first institution designed to meet the needs of African American migrants and became, by 1927, the single largest private African American social service agency in Cleveland. The Cleveland PWA also became the largest residence for single African American women in the nation and served as the model for similar projects throughout the urban North.  

Sources: 

Jane Edna Hunter, A Nickel and a Prayer (Nashville: Parthenon Press,
1940); Virginia R. Boynton, "Jane Edna Harris and Black Institution
Building in Ohio" in Warren R. Van Tine and Michael Dale Pierce,
Builders of Ohio: A Biographical History, (Columbus: Ohio State
University Press, 2003); Women in History, Jane Edna Hunter biography
Last Updated: 1/25/2008, Lakewood Public Library, Date accessed
12/12/2008, http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/hunt-jan.htm;

Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lucas, Sam (1840-1915)

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

Sam Lucas, one of the most respected and celebrated entertainers of his time, is credited with breaking barriers for black actors and becoming the first African American actor to star in a “white” feature film. Lucas is best remembered for his comic and dramatic roles performed on the minstrel circuit and Broadway stages, and by the end of his career, a major motion picture.

Lucas was born Samuel Mildmay in Washington, Ohio in 1840. He began singing and playing the guitar as a teenager and went on to establish a reputation as a performer while working as a barber. After the Civil War when African American performers (in blackface) were allowed to work in minstrel shows, Lucas joined traveling black companies and sang on the Ohio River steamboats. Lucas built a reputation as the best all-around entertainer in the business and was empowered to select his own shows which allowed him to star with the most successful black minstrel companies as a comedian and singer.

Sources: 

Mel Watkins, On the Real Side, (New York: Simon & Schuster); David
Pilgrim, “The Tom Caricature,” http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/tom/,
December 2000, Ferris State University, Rapids, Michigan: Jessie Carney
Smith, Notable Black Men. (Detroit: Gale Research Inc. 1999); Phyllis
R. Klotman, African Americans in Cinema: The First Half Century,
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Walker, Moses Fleetwood (1857-1924)

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

Moses Fleetwood Walker, often called Fleet, was the first African American to play major league baseball in the nineteenth century. Born October 7, 1857, in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, Walker was the fifth of six children born to parents, Dr. Moses W. Walker, a physician, and Caroline Walker, a midwife.

Oberlin College admitted Walker for the fall 1878 semester. In 1881, he played in all five games of the new varsity baseball team at Oberlin. Before the end of the year, however, Walker left Oberlin to play baseball for the University of Michigan. In July 1882, Walker married Bella Taylor and the couple had three children.

Fleetwood Walker was able to earn money as a catcher. He played individual games for the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland (August 1881), the New Castle (Pennsylvania) Neshannocks (1882), and with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the Northwestern League (1883). In August 1883, Adrian “Cap” Anson, manager of the Chicago White Stockings, stated his team would not play Toledo with Walker in the lineup. Although both teams played, the incident marked the beginning of baseball’s acceptance of a color line.

Sources: 

David W. Zang, Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Follis, Charles W. (1879-1910)

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

The first African American professional football player, Charles W. Follis, was born February 3, 1879, in Cloverdale, Virginia. The Follis family moved to Wooster, Ohio, where he attended Wooster High School and participated in organizing and establishing the first varsity football team. He played right halfback and served as team captain on a squad that had no losses that year.

In1901, Follis entered the College of Wooster. Rather than playing football for the college, he played for the town’s amateur football team – the Wooster Athletic Association, where he earned the nickname of the “Black Cyclone from Wooster.”

In 1902, Frank C. Schieffer, manager of the Shelby Athletic Club secured employment for Follis at Howard Seltzer and Sons Hardware Store in rural Shelby, Ohio. The six-foot, 200-pound Follis played for Shelby in 1902 and 1903.

Sources: 

Milton Roberts, “Charles Follis: First Black Pro Gridder Labored in
Obscurity,” Black Sports 4 (November 1975); Charles K. Ross, Outside
the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National
Football League
(New York: New York University Press, 1999); Edna and
Art Rust, Jr., Art Rust’s illustrated History of the Black Athlete
(Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1985).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Swanson, Howard (1907-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Howard Swanson
Papers
Amistad Research Center
New Orleans, LA

Howard Swanson was an African American composer best known for his art songs based on the poetry of Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar.  Swanson was born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 18, 1907.  Born in a middle class home, Swanson's family sent his two older brothers to college which was for the time unusual.

Swanson’s music career started after the family relocated to Cleveland, Ohio in 1916.  As a young boy he often sang in his church, sometimes performing duets with his mother. In 1925 when he was 18, Swanson's father died which immediately and dramatically changed the family's circumstances.  Howard Swanson now had to earn money to support the family.  After high school graduation he worked in the Cleveland Post Office. 

In 1927, as his circumstances improved, Swanson decided to continue his education.  He attended the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied piano, eventually graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in music theory a decade later.  In 1939 he received a Rosenwald Fellowship which allowed him to study in Paris, France with famed music instructor Nadia Boulanger.  Swanson had planned to pursue graduate studies in Paris but in 1940 he was forced to evacuate Paris as the German Army overran France.

Sources: 

Samuel A. Floyd, International Dictionary of Black Composers (Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999}; http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com; http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2699.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Davis, Ernie (1940-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ernie Davis with the Heisman Trophy, 1961
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ernie Davis is best known for being one of the greatest football players in college football history and the first black person to win the Heisman trophy. In the process, Davis became an icon for an integrated America and for African Americans achieving the American Dream in a manner similar to Jackie Robinson desegregating Major League Baseball in 1947.

Ernie Davis was born in New Salem, Pennsylvania, and raised in Uniontown, Pennsylvania and Elmira, New York. At the Elmira Free Academy he was a standout academically and athletically where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He earned All-American honors in football in his junior and senior years at the Academy. As a result, Davis was offered over 50 scholarships. He chose Syracuse University (SU) at the request of SU alum and football legend, Jim Brown. At Syracuse he was immediately compared to Brown.  He was promoted to the varsity team as a freshman and given Brown’s number 44—which started SU’s storied tradition of legendary players (usually running backs) wearing and passing down number 44.

Sources: 

Robert C. Gallagher, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story (New York: Ballantine Books, 2008); Universal Pictures, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story (2008); Syracuse University, Ernie Davis: A Tribute to the Express (URL: http://erniedavis.syr.edu/ernie.aspx); Syracuse University, “The Legend of 44” (URL: http://erniedavis.syr.edu/legend_of_44.aspx); and Gary and Maury Youmans, The Story of the 1959 Syracuse University National Championship Football Team (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Lawson, James (1928- )

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

Gardner-Chavis, Ralph (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 

James Michael Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993); The HistoryMakers, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/ralph-gardner-chavis-38.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fudge, Marcia (1952 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Democrat Marcia Fudge is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 11th Congressional District of Ohio since November 2008. She was the first female African American mayor of Warrensville Heights, a predominantly middle-class black suburban city outside of Cleveland.  She served as its mayor from January 2000 to November 2008.  

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1952, Fudge earned a BS in business administration from Ohio State University in 1975.  After working as a law clerk immediately after college, she earned a JD from Cleveland State University in 1983.  Fudge then served as an attorney in the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office where she also held the position of director of Budget and Finance.  She was also an auditor for the estate tax department and has occasionally served as a visiting judge and a chief referee for arbitration.  Prior to her election, Fudge was chief of staff to 11th District Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones during Jones’ first term.  

After Jones’ passing on August 20, 2008, a committee of local Democratic leaders selected Mayor Fudge as Jones’ replacement on the November ballot.  She easily won the general election in the heavily Democratic, black-majority district with 85 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Thomas Pekarek.  She was sworn in on November 19, 2008.  
Sources: 
Damon Sims, " Marcia Fudge, with Style of Her Own, Takes Congressional Seat," The Plain Dealer (November 19, 2008); Rep. Marcia Fudge official website: http://fudge.house.gov/index.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wilberforce University (1856- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Wilberforce University, 1856
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Wilberforce University was established near Xenia, Ohio in 1856 as a joint venture between the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Named after 18th century abolitionist William Wilberforce, it was the first private, historically black university in the United States. It was built to support the abolitionist cause and to offer African Americans a college education. Many of its original students were the biracial children of Southern white slave owners.

Wilberforce University was forced to close temporarily in 1862, when a number of its patrons and students became involved in the American Civil War, supporting and joining the Union Army.

Sources: 
Frederick McGinnis, A History And An Interpretation of Wilberforce University (Blanchester, Ohio: The Brown Publishing Co. 1941); “Wilberforce University,” http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=822; Wilberforce University Website, http://www.wilberforce.edu/welcome/history.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Turner, Darwin T. (1931- 1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Joe Weixlmann, "A Tribute to Darwin T. Turner (1931- 1991)," Black American Literature Forum 25:1 (Spring 1991); http://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/21/obituaries/darwin-turner-59-a-professor-of-english.html; http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0001/e3933.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cleveland, James (1931-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Aleho Enterprises
Bob Darden, People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music (New York: Continuum, 2004); Akin Euba, Bode Omojola, and George Dor, Multiple Interpretations of Dynamics of Creativity and Knowledge in African Music Traditions: A Festschrift in Honor of Akin Euba on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday (Point Richmond, CA: MRI Press, 2005); Shirley Caesar, Walter Hawkins, James Cleveland, David Leivick, and Frederick Ritzenberg, Gospel [United States]: Monterey Home Video, 1983.
Contributor: 

Coleman, Michael B. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
 
Michael B. Coleman is the first African American Mayor of Columbus, Ohio.  Coleman was born on November 18, 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana to John Coleman, a medical doctor, and Joan Coleman, a local civil rights activist.  His family relocated to Toledo when Michael turned three.

Growing up in Toledo's middle-class black community helped to foster the importance of a strong community to ensure socially, culturally, and economically healthy cities.   Coleman attended St. John's Jesuit High School, graduating in 1973.  He then studied political science at the University of Cincinnati, graduating with a B.S. degree in 1977.  Coleman received a law degree from the University of Dayton in 1980.  He married his wife Frankie in 1985.  The couple has three children.

Coleman moved to Columbus in 1980 to work as an attorney in the Attorney General's office and in 1982 was hired as a legislative aide for Columbus City Council member Ben Espy.  Later he joined the law firm of Schottenstein, Zox, and Dunn before beginning his career in politics.  
Sources: 
J. Philip Thompson, Double Trouble: Black mayors, Black Communities, and the Call for a Deep Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); www.mayors.columbus.gov; Lester K. Spence, “Revisiting black participation and local participation,” Urban Affairs Review, 45 (June 2009); www.answers.com/topic/michael-b-coleman
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Moorland, Jesse (1863–1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jesse Moorland was an educator, minister, and a philanthropist, but was most renowned for his extensive work with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).  Born on September 10, 1863, in Coldwater, Ohio, he was the only child of a local farmer, William Edward Moorland and his wife, Nancy Jane Moorland.  He was raised by his grandparents after his mother passed away and his father decided to leave him in their care.  His grandparents sent him to a local school in Coldwater and then later to the Northwestern Normal School in Ada, Ohio.  

In 1886, Moorland married Lucy Corbin and the couple began teaching together in Urbana, Ohio.  They later moved to Washington, D.C. to continue their studies at Howard University.  Moorland studied theology and graduated with his Master’s degree in 1891.  In the same year, Moorland also became an ordained minister in the Congregational Church and was appointed Secretary of the Colored Branch of the YMCA in Washington, D.C.  Two years later, he resigned from the YMCA and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to become pastor of Howard Chapel.  In 1896, he moved again to become pastor at Mount Zion Congregational Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sources: 
Eric Bennett, Africana (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Dwight Burlingame, Philanthropy in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia (California: ABC-CLIO, 2004); http://www.aaregistry.com/detail.php?id=1141 (Accessed December 16, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Central State University [Ohio] (1887- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Arnette Hall, Central State University, ca. 1930
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Central State University (CSU) was one of the first colleges in the United states to be administered by African Americans.  It was also unique as a state-funded institution which for sixty years was part of a private college.  The school’s beginnings can be traced back to 1856 and the establishment of Wilberforce University.  Originally founded in Tawawa Springs, Ohio, Wilberforce was sponsored by the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 1887, the Ohio General Assembly established a separate institution to be housed on the Wilberforce campus known as the Combined Normal and Industrial Department.  The state-supported school was to focus on training blacks for work in industrial trades and as school teachers.  Although the Combined Normal and Industrial Department imposed no restrictions on the race or sex of its students, it was understood that the Department was intended primarily to serve Ohio's African American community.

Sources: 
Nancy C. Curtis, Black Heritage Sites: an African American odyssey and finder's guide (Chicago: American Library Association, 1996); Cynthia L. Jackson, Historically Black Colleges and Universities: a reference handbook (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2003); http://www.centralstate.edu/prospects/index01.php?num=26.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mallory, Mark (1962-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Pubic Domain

On December 1, 2005, Mark Mallory was sworn in as the first black mayor elected by popular vote in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Three other black mayors preceded him but were chosen by the City Council.  Born on April 2, 1962, and raised on the West End of Cincinnati, Mallory attended high school at the city’s Academy of Math and Science and earned a BS in administrative management from the University of Cincinnati in 1984. Before becoming Mayor of Cincinnati, Mallory replaced his father, William L. Mallory Sr., in 1994 in the Ohio General Assembly.  In 1998 Mark Mallory was elected to the Ohio Senate eventually becoming the assistant minority leader. 

Sources: 
Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 62, “Mark L. Mallory” (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale 2008); City of Cincinnati, “Mayor’s Biography” http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/mayor/pages/-3052-/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinatti

Battle, Kathleen (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
American soprano Kathleen Battle was born on August 13, 1948 in Portsmouth, Ohio. Battle’s father was a steelworker and her mother was an active participant in the gospel choir at the family’s local African Methodist Episcopal Church. Battle attended Portsmouth High School and upon graduation was awarded a scholarship to the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She received a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1970, and an M.A. degree the following year.  After graduation, Battle taught music to 5th and 6th graders at inner city public schools in Cincinnati. She also continued to study voice privately which furthered her interest in singing.

In 1972, Kathleen Battle began her professional singing career at The Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. She continued to sing in several other orchestras in New York, Los Angeles, and Cleveland. Shortly after, in 1973, Battle received a grant from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund which allowed her to continue pursuing a career in music. In 1975 she made her opera debut as “Rosina” in Rossini’s II Barbiere di Siviglia with the Michigan Opera Theatre.

Battle won numerous awards in the 1980s and 1990s including the 1985 Laurence Olivier Award for “Best Performance in a New Opera Production” for her work with the Royal Opera in London. She won five Grammy Awards between 1986 and 1993. Battle also won an Emmy for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Classical Music/Dance Programming and Performance” for her work with the Metropolitan Opera for their Silver Anniversary Gala.
Sources: 
“Kathleen Battle, The Official Website” Available at: http://www.kathleenbattle.com. 9 June 2010, Clyde T. McCants, American Opera Singers and their Recordings: Critical Commentaries and Discoveries (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004), “Kathleen Battle Biography” Available at: http://www.biography.com. 9 June 2010.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Kathryn Magnolia (1878-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Political activist Kathryn Magnolia Johnson was born on December 15th, 1878 in Darke County, Ohio. She was the daughter of Walter and Lucinda Jane McCown Johnson. Kathryn Johnson graduated at the top of her high school class in New Paris, Ohio in 1895 and worked as a teacher in both Ohio and Indiana between 1898 and 1901. In 1902 she graduated from Wilberforce University with a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate. She taught at the State Normal School for Negroes in Elizabeth City, North Carolina from 1904 to 1905 before spending a year as Dean of Women at Shorter College, a predominately black institution in Little Rock, Arkansas that was the site of bloody racial riots during Johnson’s tenure.

Working as a Kansas City high school teacher in 1910, Johnson became one of the first members of the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP, 1909- ). She left teaching to serve as sales representative for the NAACP’s journal, Crisis. After three years, Johnson became a branch organizer, helping to establish dozens of branches of the NAACP throughout the South. Johnson excelled, and the organization grew rapidly in the region that had the majority of African Americans. Despite her success, she began to openly criticize the fact that whites had virtually all of leadership roles within the NAACP.  Johnson was let go by the NAACP in 1916 although it is not clear whether the reason was for her criticism of whites’ roles within the organization.

Sources: 
Adriane Lentz-Smith, Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Facts on File Encyclopedia of Black Women in America: Social Activism (New York: Facts on File, 1997); Shari Dorantes Hatch, ed., Encyclopedia of African-American Writing: Five Centuries of Contribution: Trials and Triumphs of writers, poets, publications and organizations 2nd edition (New York : Grey House Publishing, 2009); Addie W. Hunton and Kathryn M. Johnson, Two Colored Women with the American Expeditionary Forces (Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn Eagle Press, 1920); Kathryn M. Johnson, The Dark Race in the Dawn: Proof of Black African Civilization in the America’s Before Columbus (New York: William-Frederick Press, 1948).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robertson, Oscar Palmer (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 

Professional basketball player Oscar Palmer Robertson, nicknamed the “Big O,” was known as the most complete basketball player, with an excellent combination of scoring, passing, and rebounding skills. He still owns the record for most triple-doubles in a career with 181. Robertson played with the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks in the National Basketball Association (NBA) most of his professional career.

Robertson was born on November 24, 1938 in Charlotte, Tennessee. He grew up in poverty in Indianapolis and attended Crispus Attucks High School, then a segregated all-black school.  As a high school basketball player he led Crispus Attucks to two Indiana State Championships (1955-1956) during his junior and senior years and was named Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball.”

After high school he enrolled at the University of Cincinnati and made a major impact in college basketball, winning the scoring title and being named an All-American and College Player of the Year in each of his three seasons (1957-1959). After college, Robertson played for the 1960 United States Olympic basketball team.  He was named the co-captain of the USA team along with Jerry West and led them to an Olympic gold medal.  

Sources: 
Oscar Robertson, The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game (New York: Bison Books, 2010); Randy Roberts, “But They Can’t Beat Us!”: Oscar Robertson and the Crispus Attucks Tigers  (Urbana, IL: Sagamore Publishing, 1999); http://www.nba.com/history/players/robertson_summary.html; http://www.thebigo.com/AboutOscarRobertson/biography.php
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mills Brothers, The (1925-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Mills Brothers with Unidentified Man in Center.
Image Courtsey of New York World's Fair 1939-1040
Records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York
Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.
The Mills Brothers, a musical quartet, originally featured John Jr. (b. 1910), Herbert (b. 1912), Harry (b. 1913), and Donald Mills (b. 1915).  Born in Piqua, Ohio, the Mills Brothers lived with their father John Hutchinson Mills, a barber, and their mother, Eathel Harrington. As children, the Mills Brothers sang at local churches. For extra money, they also sang on street corners and at May's Opera House, a local movie theater, between films. During these performances, the Mills Brothers began to develop their distinctive sound, which would later influence other doo-wop and rhythm and blues performers.  While singing four-part harmonies, John Jr. played guitar and the brothers imitated the instruments of an orchestra, such as the saxophone, trumpet, and tuba.  
Sources: 
Bruce J. Evensen, “Harry and Herbert Mills,” in African American National Biography, vol. 5, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); William Barlow and Cheryl Finley, From Swing to Soul: An Illustrated History of African-American Popular Music from 1930 to 1960 (Washington, D.C.: Elliott & Clark Pub, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Oberlin College (1833- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History

 

Oberlin College's First Varsity Baseball Team, 1881
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Oberlin College which was named Oberlin Collegiate Institute until 1850, is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio.   In 1833, Presbyterian ministers John Jay Sipherd and Philo P. Stewart founded the institution as a college preparatory institute to promote Christian values.  Oberlin's progressive history began during the antebellum period.  In 1835 it became the first predominantly white collegiate institution to admit African American male students and two years later it opened its doors to all women, becoming the first coeducational college in the country.   In 1862, Mary Jane Patterson earned a B.A. degree in education from Oberlin, becoming the first African American woman to earn a degree from an American college. Other black women had graduated earlier but did not receive the collegiate degree (BA). Oberlin continued to be an important institution for African Americans for the next century.  By 1900, one third of all black professionals in the U.S. had undergraduate degrees from Oberlin.

Sources: 
Roland M. Baumann, Constructing Black Education at Oberlin College: A Documentary History (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2010); Stephanie Y. Evans, Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007); Michele Valarie Ronnick, ed., The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough: An American Journey from Slavery to Scholarship (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005); http://www.oberlin.edu.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Smith, Mamie (1883-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Actress and performing artist Mamie Smith made music history in 1920 when she stepped into a studio to lay down “Crazy Blues,” considered by industry scholars to be the very first blues recording. Smith was a glamorous and multi-talented entertainer, performing on stage and in film. Her pioneering musical career paved the way for more successful female blues and jazz artists like “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith (no relation), and Billie Holiday.

Although little is known about her early years, scholars believe that Smith was born Mamie Robinson in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1883. By the age of 10 she was working as a vaudeville entertainer and touring with the Four Dancing Mitchells. She continued to tour with various acts throughout her teens. By 1913 at the age of 20 she was living and working in Harlem and soon after married William “Smithy” Smith. She remarried twice after her career took off.
Sources: 
Lawrence Cohn, Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians (New York: Abbeville Press, 1993); Francis Davis, The History of the Blues (New York: Hyperion, 1995); Cary D. Wintz and Paul Finkelman, Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Vol. 2 (New York: Routledge, 2004); Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harlem Renaissance Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

James, LeBron (1984-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain

National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar LeBron James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio to Gloria James who was sixteen and unwed .  Gloria, the sole provider for her only son, worked various jobs and lived in numerous apartments with young LeBron throughout Akron.

LeBron James’s athleticism was revealed early when at age 14 he stood six feet tall and dominated his age group in football and basketball.  During this period he became close friends with Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee, and Romeo Travis.  The five adolescents dominated basketball leagues in various community centers and became known locally as the “Shooting Stars.”  All five chose to attend Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary (SVSM) Catholic High School.

The Shooting Stars saga at the SVSM became storied.  Under LeBron James’s leadership the team won three Division III state titles.  The team's popularity required SVSM to move their games from their high school area to the fifteen thousand seat Rhodes Arena at the University of Akron.  James's fame also attracted the attention of ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated in the late 1990s and he was given the nickname "King James" by the sports press.  The team was chronicled in the 2009 documentary More Than a Game.

Sources: 
LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger, “LeBron’s Band of Brothers,” Vanity Fair (October 2009), 164-179; LeBron James, Buzz Bissinger, H.G. Bissinger, Shooting Stars (New York: Penguin Books, 2009); Sarah Tieck,  LeBron James, Basketball Superstar (Edina, Minnesota: ABDO Publishers,  2009); “LeBron James ‘Decision’ Ratings: ESPN Gets 9.5 Million Viewers for Special,” Huffington Post, January 30, 2011, Seattle Times, June 22, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Oberlin-Wellington Rescue (1858)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Participants in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, 1859
Image Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society
Tensions leading up to the Civil War often manifested themselves through conflicts over the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue was one such instance of this. It was a struggle between supporters of slavery and supporters of freedom, the outcome of which would decide the fate of a young African American man named John Price.

In 1856 18-year-old Price escaped from his owner John G. Bacon and made his way from the Mason County, Kentucky plantation to Oberlin, Ohio. In addition to being the home of liberal-minded Oberlin College, Price’s destination was well known as a station along the Underground Railroad as well as a center of abolitionist support.

Price lived in Oberlin for two years, mainly with black laborer James Armstrong. On the morning of September 13, 1858, the son of a wealthy white landowner came to Price with an offer of work as a field laborer. In actuality, the offer was a conspiracy orchestrated on behalf of Anderson Jennings, ringleader of a slave-catching posse and the neighbor of Price’s former owner. Anderson and his companions seized Price and took him nine miles south to the Wadsworth House hotel in Wellington, Ohio to begin the journey back to Kentucky.
Sources: 
Jacob R. Shipherd, The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue (New York: Negro Universities Press, Inc. 1859); "Oberlin-Wellington Rescue," Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, March 1998, Case Western Reserve University, http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=OR; The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. The Electronic Oberlin Group, February 2009, http://www.oberlin.edu/external/EOG/Oberlin-Wellington_Rescue/rescuemain3.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wesley, Charles H. (1891-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Noted historian Charles Harris Wesley was born in Louisville, Kentucky on December 2, 1891, and attended local schools as a boy. He graduated from Fisk University in 1911 and, in 1913, earned a Master’s degree from Yale University. In 1925, Wesley became the third African American to receive a doctorate degree from Harvard University.  He served as the 14th General President and National Historian for seven decades of the African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and wrote The History of Alpha Phi Alpha which was first published in 1929.  Wesley was also a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the oldest African American Greek Letter Fraternity.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years (New York: New York University Press, 1968); Earle E. Thorpe, Black Historians: A Critique (New York: Morrow, 1971); August Meir and Elliott Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Charles H. Wesley biography, http://www.dpw-archives.org/chw.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hull, England

Baker, Thomas Nelson, Jr. (1906–1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Oberlin College Archives,
Oberlin, Ohio
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1906, Thomas Nelson Baker was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from The Ohio State University. The third child of Rev. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker, Sr. and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Baytop Baker, Thomas had one brother, Harry and two sisters, Edith and Ruth. Rev. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker, Sr., was born a slave and earned a Ph.D. from Yale in 1903.

Baker studied chemistry at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio and earned his B.A. degree in 1929. He began postgraduate studies at Oberlin and earned his M.A. degree in 1930. He then taught at many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to support himself and his family. Baker was as an instructor of chemistry at Tougaloo College from 1930 to 1931, and at Talladega College from 1931 to 1932. Baker spent the majority of his academic career serving as professor of chemistry and department chair at Virginia State College (now Virginia State University). He taught there from 1932 to 1972 when he retired. Baker was listed in the American Men of Science (1957), and was a member of several organizations including Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and the American Chemical Society.
Sources: 
The Ohio State University Archives; T.N. Baker, “The Molecular Size of Glycogen and of Mannan A by the Mercaptalation Method,” Ph.D. diss., The Ohio State University, 1941; Collins, S.N. “Celebrating Our Diversity: The Education of Some Pioneering African American Chemists in Ohio,” Bull. Hist. Chem., 2011, 36, pg 82-84; H.W. Greene, Holders of Doctorates Among American Negroes (Meador, Boston, 1946); G. Yancy, “Thomas Nelson Baker: The First African American to Receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy,” Western Journal of  Black Studies, 1997, 21, 253-260; “Deaths: Thomas N. Baker,” Advance, April 1, 1941. [Oberlin College Archives]
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
College of Wooster

Smith, Barbara (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the City of Albany, 
New York
Beginning in the 1970s, Barbara Smith broke new ground as a black feminist, lesbian, activist, author, and book publisher of women of color.  She and her twin sister, Beverly Smith, were born on December 16, 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Their mother, Hilda Smith, maternal grandmother, and a great aunt raised the girls there.  Smith’s activism started in high school when she participated in boycotts, marches and civil rights protests in the 1960s.

Education remained a high priority in the household.  As the first member of the Smith family to graduate from college, their mother, Hilda, expected the twins to do likewise.  She died when the twins were nine years old, and consequently Smith’s grandmother and aunt continued to stress the importance of learning and education.  Barbara Smith earned her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 1969 and her MA in 1971 from University of Pittsburgh.  She completed all but the dissertation (ABD) in her doctoral studies at the University of Connecticut (1981).
Sources: 
Paul Grondahl, “She’s Barbara Smith, Mover and ‘Maker’: Councilwoman to be Featured in New Video on Women’s Movement,” Times Union (April 5, 2012); Candace LaBalle, “Barbara Smith,” Gale Contemporary Black Biography, http://www.answers.com/topic/barbara-smith#ixzz1wWRbZ4kp; http://www.makers.com/barbara-smith.
Contributor: 

Pinn, Robert Alexander (1843-1911)

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

Robert A. Pinn, attorney, and Civil War hero, received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.  Pinn was born free to William and Zilphia Broxton-Pinn, in Stark County, Ohio on March 1, 1843.  His father William Pinn escaped from slavery and fled to Ohio at the age of eighteen.  He worked on farms for several years before marrying Zilphia Broxton, a white resident of Stark County.  Pinn and his nine siblings were born on the family farm in Stark County.  He married Emily J. Manzilla, in 1867, and the couple had one child, a daughter, Gracie Pinn-Brooks.

Pinn attempted to join the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War but was blocked from enlisting because of his race.  He joined the 19th Ohio Infantry in 1861 as a civilian worker, marched south with the regiment, and despite his non-military status, fought at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in 1862.  Afterwards he fought in several other engagements although not an enlisted soldier.  President Abraham Lincoln authorized the use of African American troops in combat after issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.  Pinn then joined the 5th United States Colored Troop (USCT), Infantry Regiment (also known as the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry) in Massillon, Ohio, on September 5, 1863.

Sources: 
Selby Kelly, The Life of a USCT Veteran in Ohio: Robert A. Pinn’s Quest for Citizenship, Paper presented at the 94th Annual Convention of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Cincinnati, Ohio, Sep 30, 2009; (http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p377560_index.html, December 22, 2012); Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the Civil War (Boston: Little, Brown and Company,1953); James M. McPherson, The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union (New York: Vintage Press/Random House, 2003); Civil War African-American Medal Of Honor Recipients, (http://www.buffalosoldier.net/CIVILWARAFRICAN-AMERICANMEDALOFHONORRECIPIENTS.htm, December 22, 2012)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moore, Kermit (1929-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Over a long distinguished career Kermit Moore has been a cellist of outstanding acclaim, an orchestra conductor, composer, teacher, and mentor. Through these activities in classical music he has been successful in breaking down racial and social barriers.

Moore was born in Akron, Ohio on March 11, 1929.  By his fifth birthday he was studying piano with his mother and at ten, had chosen the cello as his instrument. Charles McBride, a prominent mentor and instructor at the Cleveland Institute of Music, taught Moore and arranged for him to join the Cleveland Symphony. Moore also won a prestigious John Hancock Scholarship which allowed him to spend his eighteenth summer at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts.  There he played in a student orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky, renowned Boston Symphony conductor. At 19 Moore debuted in a recital at New York City’s Town Hall. He then studied simultaneously three years at Juilliard School of Music and New York University, receiving his MA in Music. He became principal cellist in the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in 1949.  At the time he was among a handful of African Americans regularly performing with symphony orchestras in the United States.  
Sources: 
Kermit Moore, Who’s Who Among African Americans, January 1, 2009; Program Guide, December 4, 2007 concert, Musicians Club of New York;  Stacey Lynn, ed., “Kermit Moore,” 21st Century Cellists (San Rafael: California: String Letter Publishing, 2001); Victor Koshkin-Youritzin, “An Interview with Kermit Moore,” http://www.classical.net, July 4, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Powell, William James “Bill” (1916-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bill Powell was the first African American to design, construct, and own a professional golf course in the United States. In 1946, Bill and his wife Marcella did most of the landscaping by hand when they transformed a 78-acre dairy farm to a nine-hole golf course located near East Canton, Ohio.

William James “Bill” Powell was born on November 16, 1922, in Greenville, Alabama, but grew up in Minerva, Ohio. Powell worked as a caddy as a youth. Then, after high school, he played golf on the Wilberforce University team before serving in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Forces.

In 1946, after Powell returned home from the war, the segregationist policies of the time prevented him from golfing on a public golf course in Ohio, so he decided to build his own course. He was denied a G.I. loan but was able to get financial support from his brother and two African American physicians and bought a dairy farm outside East Canton so he could open a golf course that would welcome players of all races.
Sources: 
Larry Dorman, “After Battling Racism, Veteran Found Peace on His Golf Course,” The New York Times, August 8, 2009; Richard Goldstein, “African-American Golf Pioneer Bill Powell Dies at 93,” The New York Times, January 1, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rollins, Ida Gray Nelson (1867-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ida Gray Nelson Rollins, the first African American Woman dentist, was born in Clarksville, Tennessee, on March 4, 1867.  She became an orphan when her mother, Jennie Gray, died in her early teens.  Rollins’ white father, whose name is not known, played no role in her childhood or education.  After her mother’s death, Ida was raised by her aunt, Caroline Gray, who had three other children, one boy and two daughters.  

Caroline Gray was 35, uneducated, and unable to read or write when she moved from Clarksville, Tennessee to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1867, with her four children.  In Ohio, Gray supported the family by working as a seamstress and housing foster children. All the Gray children contributed to the family’s income. While in high school, Rollins worked as a seamstress and dressmaker and in the dental office of Jonathan and William Taft.  Ida Gray graduated from Gaines Public High School in 1887 when she was 20 years old.

Sources: 
Joan-Yevette Campbell, In Search of Respect and Equality (Lexington, Kentucky:  Independent Publisher, 2013); Jesse Carney Smith, Black First: 4000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events (Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003); Gale Contemporary Black Biography: Ida Gray Nelson Rollins: http://www.answers.com/topic/ida-gray-nelson-rollins ; Contemporary Black Biography,  2004 | Janet Stamatel, “Gray (Nelson Rollins), Ida 1867-1953,"   http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2874300038.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

The African American Experience in Italy, 1852 to 2013

Ralph Ellison at the American Academy in Rome, 1957
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In the following article longtime BlackPast.org contributor and San Diego State University Librarian Robert Fikes discusses African American emigrants to and visitors in Italy.
Summary: 
In the following article longtime BlackPast.org contributor and San Diego State University Librarian Robert Fikes discusses African American emigrants to and visitors in Italy.
Sources: 
Robert Fikes Jr., “When in Rome: African American Experiences and Perspectives on Italy and Italian Culture.” Unpublished manuscript, 39 pages.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Dee, Ruby Ann Wallace (1924-2014)

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

Broadway performer and film actress, Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio on October 27, 1924 to Gladys Hightower and Marshall Edward Wallace. Her mother was a domestic and her father worked as a cook, waiter, and porter. After her mother left the family, Dee's father married Emma Amelia Benson, a schoolteacher.

Desperate for better job opportunities, the family moved to New York City, New York, and settled in Harlem. Determined not to allow their children fall victim to drugs, crime, and other vices of urban life, the parents introduced Dee and her siblings to the arts, including music and literature. Young Ruby became a passionate student of poetry and as a teenager began submitting poetry to The Amsterdam News.  

Ruby Wallace attended the academically rigorous Hunter High School and while there decided to pursue an acting career.  After graduating from Hunter High in 1940, she enrolled in Hunter College, graduating with a degree in French and Spanish in 1944. While at Hunter College, she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and married blues singer Frankie Dee.  The couple soon divorced but Dee kept the last name and made it her career name.

Sources: 
Ruby Dee, My One Good Nerve: Rhythms, Rhymes, Reasons (Chicago: Third World Press, 1986); Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together (London: It Press, 1998); http://www.biography.com/people/ruby-dee
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Brownlee, Lawrence E., Jr. (1972- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Ken Howard
Larry Everston Brownlee, Jr., one of six children, was born on November 24, 1972 in Youngstown, Ohio.  His father, a General Motors plant worker who was also choir director at Phillips Chapel Church of God in Christ, commanded his son to perform so often that he later recalled, “I used to absolutely hate singing.”  Intending to become a lawyer when he enrolled at Youngstown State University, he soon changed his major to music and transferred to Anderson University, a private Christian school near Indianapolis, Indiana, where he developed a passion for opera.  A full scholarship allowed him to graduate with a master’s degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2001, the same year that he won the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and, in the summer, he participated in the Young Artist Program at the Wolf Trap Opera Company in Vienna, Virginia.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Renteria, Edgar Enrique (1975- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Major League Baseball shortstop Edgar Renteria is Colombia’s most successful player in U.S. baseball history as well as its most prominent athlete of African descent. During his 16 years in the U.S. major leagues he played for seven different teams. Renteria was chosen Most Valuable Player in two World Series games in 1997 and 2010 and he was awarded Colombia's highest honor, the “San Carlos Cross of the Order of the Great Knight,” by President Ernesto Samper in 1997.

Edgar Enrique Renteria Herazo was born August 7, 1975, in the Colombian coastal town of Barranquilla. Along with 14 siblings he was raised by his widowed mother, Vina, because his father Francisco died while Edgar was still an infant.
Sources: 
Ian C. Friedman, “Renteria, Edgar,” Latino Athletes, A to Z (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2007); “Trip Down Memory Lane,” Blogspot August, 2014, www.kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2014/08; Parker Crooks, “Colombia’s Edgar Renteria announces his retirement,” March 22, 2013, www.colombiareports.com; “Team Renteria Baseball Academy,” www.4life.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

1802

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
The Ohio Constitution outlaws slavery. It also prohibits free blacks from voting. 

1829

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
More than half of Cincinnati's African American residents are driven out of the city by white mob violence. The Cincinnati riots usher in a more than century-long period of white violence against Northern black urban communities.

1832

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
Oberlin College is founded in Ohio. It admits African American men, black women and white women. By 1860 one third of its students are black.

1850

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
On August 27, Lucy Stanton of Cleveland completes the course requirements for Oberlin Collegiate Institute (now Oberlin College) and becomes the first African American woman to graduate from an American college or university.

1851

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
Sojourner Truth delivers her famous "Aren't I a Woman" speech at the Women's Rights Convention, Akron, Ohio on May 29.

1855

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
In November, John Mercer Langston is elected town clerk of Brownhelm Township, Ohio, becoming the first black elected official in the state of Ohio.

1856

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
Wilberforce University becomes the first school of higher learning owned and operated by African Americans. It is founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Daniel A. Payne becomes the institution's first president.

1886

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
The American Federation of Labor is organized on December 8 in Columbus, Ohio. All major unions of the federation excluded black workers.

1914

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Cleveland inventor Garrett Morgan patents a gas mask called the Safety Hood and Smoke Protector. The mask, initially used to rescue trapped miners, is eventually adopted by the U.S. Army.

1916

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
On July 25, Garrett Morgan uses his newly invented gas mask to rescue men trapped after an explosion in a tunnel 250 feet beneath Lake Erie.

1923

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
On November 20, Garrett T. Morgan patents a caution light which improves the traffic signal.

1975

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
On October 12, Frank Robinson becomes the first black Major League Baseball manager when he takes over the Cleveland Indians.

1963

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Former tennis champion Althea Gibson becomes the first African American woman to compete in a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament in Cincinnati.

1884

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
Granville Woods founds the Woods Railway Telegraph Company in Columbus, Ohio. The company manufactured and sold telephone and telegraph equipment.

1987

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Aretha Franklin becomes the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

1862

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
Educator Mary Jane Patterson is generally recognized as the first African American woman to receive a B.A. degree when she graduated from Oberlin College in 1862.  Lucy Stanton Day Sessions graduated from Oberlin twelve years earlier but was not in a program that awarded official bachelor's degrees.

1804

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
In 1804 the Ohio legislature passes the Ohio Black Codes and in doing so becomes the first non-slaveholding state to place restrictions exclusively on its African American residents. 
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