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People

Hill, Leslie Pinckney (1880-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Leslie Pinckney Hill was an educator, author, poet, dramatist, and community leader. He was born in Lynchburg, Virginia on May 14, 1880 to Samuel H. Hill, a former slave, and Sarah E. Hill. He received his primary education in Lynchburg, where as a child he played the trumpet and visualized a career in music. His family eventually moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where he transferred to the local high school. Due to accelerated study, he was able to skip his junior year and graduated close to the top of his class in 1898.

In 1899 Hill enrolled at Harvard University where he had a scholarship and also worked as a writer and waiter. On the debate team, during his junior year he won second place in the Boylston Prize oratory competition. In 1903 Hill was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated cum laude in his class.  In 1904, he also received his master's degree in education from Harvard.

Sources: 
Anne P. Rice and Michelle Wallace, Witnessing Lynching: American Writers Respond (New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press, 2003); Joseph M. Flora, Amber Vogel and Bryan Albin Giemza, Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Werner Sollors, Caldwell Titcomb, and Thomas A. Underwood, Blacks at Harvard: A Documentary Experience at Harvard and Radcliffe (New York: NYU Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Webster, Milton P. (1887-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
A. Philip Randolph & Milton P. Webster (right) at
AFL-CIO Convention, 1961
Image Courtesy of the A. Philip Randolph Institute
Milton Price Webster is best known as one of the founders and long-time Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids (BSCP) Union. He helped organize the BSCP’s local in Chicago, one of the largest in the nation with over 15,000 Pullman porters in the 1930s.

Milton P. Webster was born in 1887 in Clarksville, Tennessee.  Little is known about his childhood.  He claimed his family had been chased “up north” by racial violence.  After holding a series of jobs, Webster began working as a porter for the Pullman Company in 1906, a position he would retain until 1928 when he became a full-time organizer for the BSCP.  

While working for the railroad, Webster became involved in Chicago politics, supporting the black Republican machine then emerging on the city’s south side.  Webster eventually became the GOP leader of Chicago’s Sixth Ward.  In 1924, with the help of Bernard Snow, chief bailiff of the Chicago Municipal Court, Webster obtained employment as an assistant bailiff and during that time studied law. Webster also supported himself with the rents from two south side Chicago apartment buildings.
Sources: 
Jervis Anderson, A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1972); William H. Harris, Keeping the Faith: A. Phillip Randolph, Milton P. Webster and the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978); Beth Tompkins Bates, Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America, 1925-1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hall, Juanita (1901-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Juanita Hall on the Set of South Pacific, 1958
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Juanita Long Hall, a 20th Century actor and singer, was born in Keyport, New Jersey on Nov. 6, 1901 to an African-American father, Abram Long, and an Irish American mother, Mary Richardson.  Raised by maternal grandparents, Long attended New York City, New York’s Juilliard School of Music.  While a teenager, she married Clement Hall, who died in 1920s.  The couple had no children.

Hall’s early career was in singing and choir directing.  From 1935 to 1944 she directed the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Chorus.  From 1941 to 1942 she also directed the Westchester (New York) Chorale and Dramatics Association.  In the early 1940s she led the Juanita Hall Choir, which performed on radio with Rudy Vallee and Kate Smith and in 1949 the Juanita Hall Choir performed in the film Miracle in Harlem.

Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harlem Renaissance Lives from the African American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Elsa Barkley Brown, Darlene Clark Hine, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (Eds.), Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1994).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mossell, Gertrude E.H. Bustill (1855-1948)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Gertrude E.H. Bustill Mossell was a teacher, author and journalist born on July 3, 1855 in Philadelphia. The daughter of Charles and Emily Bustill, she came from a prominent family. She attended public schools in Philadelphia and eventually the Institute for Colored Youth and the Robert Vaux Grammar School. Upon graduation, Bustill delivered the class oration entitled, “Influence.”

“Influence” so impressed African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, editor of the denomination’s newspaper, The Christian Recorder, that he published the oration there and invited Bustill to contribute poetry and essays to the newspaper.

During the 1870’s Bustill taught for seven years at public schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. She also simultaneously maintained her career in journalism; Bustill was a contributor to the Philadelphia Press, Philadelphia Independent and Philadelphia Echo on issues related to African American women.  Eventually she contributed to the New York Age, the Indianapolis World as well as the A.M.E. Church Review.

Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Roger Streitmatter, Raising Her Voice: African-American Women Journalists Who Changed History (Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky: 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1818-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley is best known as Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker and confidant and as the author of Behind the Scenes By Elizabeth Keckley, Formerly a Slave, But More Recently Modiste, and Friend to Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868).  

Elizabeth Hobbs was born into slavery on the Col. Armistead Burwell farm in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, in 1818 to Agnes and George Pleasant Hobbs (although her biographer Jennifer Fleischner asserts that Col. Burwell was in fact Hobbs’s father).  Agnes and George had an “abroad” marriage meaning that except for one brief period of time when George resided on the Burwell property, the family lived apart.  George Hobbs was parted from his family permanently when his master relocated west.  
Sources: 
Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes By Elizabeth Keckley, Formerly a Slave, But More Recently Modiste, and Friend to Mrs. Abraham Lincoln,  Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868), available electronically at:  http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/keckley/keckley.html;  Jennifer Fleischner, Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly (New York: Broadway Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Danenberg, Sophia (1972- )

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

In 2006 Sophia Danenberg became the first African American and first black woman from anywhere in the world to climb the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest in the Himalayas (Nepal).  

Sophia Marie Scott was born in 1972 in Homewood, Illinois (a southern suburb of Chicago) to a Japanese mother and black father. She attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School, graduating in 1990.  Danenberg then studied environmental sciences and public policy at Harvard University, graduating in 1994, before going on to Keio University in Tokyo as a Fulbright Fellow. Danenberg then began her professional career with United Technologies in Japan and China, managing energy and indoor air quality projects, before moving to Hartford, Connecticut where she worked in green technology research programs at United Technologies.  

Sources: 

Carly A. Mullady, "Never Underestimate Yourself, and Never Let Others
Underestimate You," Southtown Star Newspaper, Chicago (Sunday, February
3, 2008), p. 3; Teresa Pelham, "Glastonbury Woman Makes History With
Everest Climb," The Hartford Courant  (Monday, November 13, 2006); http://www.danenberg.org/; Jeffrey Felshman, "Up Everest, Quietly" Our
Town
(2006), www.ChicagoReader.com: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/up-everest-quietly/Content?oid=922604.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Kitzmiller, John (1913-1965)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Far better known as a popular and versatile actor in Italy and parts of Europe than in his native country, the United States, John Kitzmiller was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, on December 4, 1913, one of two children of John B. and Mary E. Kitzmiller.  In his youth he seemed destined for a career in science and technology.  In high school Kitzmiller joined the Chemistry Club and at the University of Michigan he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1937.

When World War II intervened, Kitzmiller, as an Army captain, was stationed in Italy in 1943 serving with the all-African American 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division which rebuilt bombed roads and bridges.  He was one of the few black soldiers who chose to remain in Italy after the war rather than face the racial situation in the United States.  The fact that both his parents died while he was in military service further loosened his ties to home.
Sources: 
Saverio Giovacchini, “Living in Peace After the Massacre,” Global Neorealism: The Transnational History of a Film Style (University Press of Mississippi, 2011); http://www.thewildeye.co.uk/blog/performers-directors/black-actors-in-italy/john-kitzmiller/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Cosby, Bill (1937-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Bill Cosby and Jesse Ja
Sources: 

http://entertainer.billcosby.com/biography/images/biography/bill_cosby_biography.pdf; Henry Louis Gates, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Henry Louis Gates, African American National Biography, Vol. 2, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Linda K. Fuller, The Cosby Show: Audiences, Impact, and Implications (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Mathieu, Gail Dennise (1951?- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador Gail Dennise Mathieu with Niger Officials in
Niamey, Niger, 2003
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"  
Gail Dennise Mathieu, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, was appointed United States Ambassador to Niger by President George W. Bush in 2002. She remained in Niamey, the capital until 2005.  In 2007 President Bush appointed her United States Ambassador to Namibia. Between these appointments she was Director of the Office of Technical Specialized Agencies in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. She assumed her current position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island Affairs on August 19, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wall, Fannie Franklin (c. 1860-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Early 20th Century East San Francisco (California) Bay civic leader and activist, Fannie Franklin Wall, was born in Gallatin, Tennessee, in 1860  She married Archy H. Wall, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army who also later worked for the San Francisco Post Office.  They had two daughters, Lillian and Florence, and one son Clifton.  During the Spanish-American War, Archy Wall was transferred from Silver City, New Mexico to the Presidio in San Francisco and the family moved with him, ultimately settling in Oakland on Sixtieth Street.
Sources: 
Dona L. Irvin, “Fannie Franklin Wall,” Notable Black American Women, Book II.  Ed. by Jessie Carney Smith (Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1996); Marta Gutman, “Under Siege: Construction and Care at the Fannie Children’s Home and Day Nursery,” Working Paper No. 56 (Berkeley, CA: Center for Working Families, University of California, Berkeley, September 2002), https://workfamily.sas.upenn.edu/sites/workfamily.sas.upenn.edu/files/imported/new/berkeley/papers/56.pdf; Frances Mary Albrier and Malca Chall, “Frances Mary Albrier,” an interview of Frances Mary Albrier by Malca Chall, conducted 1977-1978, in The Black Women Oral History Project edited by Ruth Edmonds Hall (Westport, CT: Meckler Publishing, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Remond, Sarah Parker (1824-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in 1824 Sarah Parker Remond entered the world as a part of an exceptional family. The ninth child of two free born and economically secure black parents, her life was unusual among African Americans. It was unimaginable in the minds of most white Americans. Before her death Sarah carried her family’s legacy well beyond the shores of her native land.  With financial security rooted primarily in food catering and hair salons, the men and women of the Remond clan actively supported antislavery and equal rights for all.  After honing her skills lecturing against slavery in the Northeast and Canada Sarah expanded her reach across the ocean.

Sources: 
Willi Coleman, "'...Like Hot Lead to Pour on the Americans’: Sarah Parker Remond and the International Fight Against Slavery." in Stewart James & Kish Sklar, Sisterhood and Slavery: International Antislavery and Women's Rights (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006)and Dorothy Burnett Porter, The Remonds of Salem Massachusetts: A Nineteenth Century Family Revisited.  (Boston: American Antiquarian Society, 1985) 261.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Vermont

Cox, Odessa (1922–2001)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Students at Los Angeles Southwest College
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Odessa Cox is the principal founder of Los Angeles Southwest College, (LASC) which serves a predominantly black and brown community in South Central Los Angeles, California. Born Odessa Brown on June 8, 1922, in Whatley, Alabama, she was a second-generation community activist. Her father, Chester Lee Brown, was a union organizer for the International Worker’s Order (IWO) and later for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Along with Odessa’s mother, Alma Burroughs Brown, the couple imbued Odessa and her brothers, Lilton and Theodore, with a desire to help mankind and improve themselves through education.
Sources: 
Malca Chall, “Odessa Cox, Challenging the Status Quo: The Twenty-seven Year Campaign for Southwest Junior College,” Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley, 1978: The Los Angeles Southwest College Webpage, http://www.lasc.edu/about_lasc/History_Of_LASC.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Drake, John Gibbs St. Clair (1911-1990)

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

John Gibbs St. Clair Drake was an American anthropologist and sociologist and the founding Director of Stanford University’s African and African American Studies Department in 1968.  Drake was born in Suffolk, Virginia on January 2, 1911.  Drake’s father immigrated to the United States from the Barbados in 1904, and studied at the Virginia Theological Seminary and College in Lynchburg, and upon graduation became a Baptist Preacher. Drake’s mother, Bessie, was a devout churchwoman born in Virginia. When his parents divorced Drake moved to live with his father in Staunton, Virginia.  A few years later Drake accompanied his father to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1916 when the Rev. Drake continued ministering to his African American congregants who migrated north.  Drake later returned to Staunton, Virginia to live with his mother, who had separated and later divorced his father in 1924.

Sources: 
George Clement Bond, "A Social Portrait of John Gibbs St. Clair Drake: An American Anthropologist," American Ethnologist (November 1988); Fourteenth Census of the United States, Schedule No. 1.; Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Waller, John Lewis (1850-1907)

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

Sources: 
Randall Bennett Wood, A Black Odyssey: John Lewis Waller and the Promise of American Life, 1878-1900 (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1981); Clay Smith Jr., Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer 1844-1944 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999); "John Waller" in  Kansapedia, the Kansas Historical Society. May 2009, http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/john-waller/12232.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mortimer, Prince (ca. 1724-1834)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in West Africa, Prince Mortimer was captured by slave traders as a young boy. After enduring a brutal passage to the Americas, he arrived in Connecticut around 1730.  In the late 1750s he was sold in Middletown, Connecticut to Philip Mortimer, who trained him to work as a spinner of ropes.  Alternately dubbed “Guinea” and “Prince Negro,” Prince in time became a valuable senior spinner in Mortimer’s prosperous ropework.  During the American Revolution Prince served various officers and was sent on errands by George Washington.  

Although many Connecticut slaves were freed after their Revolutionary service, Prince was not.  His sufferings as a slave were compounded by yaws, a painful tropical disease similar to leprosy that caused cartilage to deteriorate and left terrible scars.  He would have been freed upon Philip Mortimer’s death in 1794 had not Mortimer’s son-in-law, George Starr, contested and succeeded in overturning Mortimer’s will. In December 1811, at the age of 87, Prince was accused of poisoning his new master, Captain George Starr, and was sentenced to life in prison.  His fellow slave, Jack Mortimer, also was accused.
Sources: 
Denis R Caron, A Century in Captivity: The Life and Trials of Prince Mortimer, a Connecticut Slave (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Fauset, Jessie R. (1882-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jessie Redmon Fauset, known as the “Midwife of the Harlem Renaissance,” was born in Fredericksville, Camden County, New Jersey on April 27, 1882 to Redmon and Annie Seamon Fauset.  She was the seventh addition to an already large family. At a very early age Fauset lost her mother, and was raised by her father, a prosperous Presbyterian minister. Fauset’s father made sure his daughter had a well-rounded childhood and education.

In 1900, Jessie Fauset graduated with honors from the renowned Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) High School for Girls and was the only African American in her graduating class. Following her graduation, Fauset received a scholarship to attend Cornell University in New York, and in 1905 made history again by becoming the first black woman accepted into the university chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, a prestigious academic honor society. Fauset graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in classical languages from Cornell University in 1909.  Twenty years later she received a Master of Arts Degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania.
Sources: 
Abby Arthur Johnson, “Literary Midwife: Jessie Fauset and the Harlem Renaissance,” in The Harlem Renaissance: A Gale Critical Companion (Detroit: Gale, 2003); Carole Marks and Diana Edkins, The Power of Pride: Style Makers and Rule Breakers of the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Crown, 1999); “Jessie Redmon Fauset" in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2002).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Hawkins, Augustus (1907–2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the US House of
Sources: 
Pamela Lee Gray, “Hawkins, Augustus Freeman,” in African American National Biography (New York: Oxford, 2008); Dona L. Irvin, “Augustus F. Hawkins,” in Notable Black American Men (Detroit: Gale, 1999); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress:  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=H000367.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Faith Ringgold (1930-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Grace Matthews
Faith Ringgold ©
Visual artist, storyteller and feminist activist, Faith Ringgold was born on October 8, 1930 in Harlem Hospital, New York City to Andrew Louis Jones, Sr. and Willie Edell Jones (Willi Posey), a fashion designer and dressmaker.  An arts graduate from City College in New York City, Ringgold was Professor of Art at the University of San Diego until retirement in 2003. She divided her residence between New York and New Jersey home/studios and Southern California.  Her international reputation reflects a broad art world appreciation initiated primarily through extensive traveling shows and appearances on university campuses.  Faith Ringgold’s versatile expression includes paintings, Tibetan-style tankas, performance art, masks, freestanding sculptures and painted quilts.  All are represented in museums nationwide and international collections.  Her publications, primarily storybooks for children, complete this impressive catalogue.  Tar Beach, which won the Caldecott Award for 1992, is acknowledged by many as a children’s classic.
Sources: 
Dan Cameron, ed., Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold’s French Collection and Other Story Quilts (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999); Donnette Hatch, “Faith Ringgold.” Encyclopedia of African American Literature, Wilfred D. Samuels, ed., New York: Facts on File, 2007): 437-438.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Carter, Robert L. (1917-2012)

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


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

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

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

Doley, Harold, Jr (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Harold and Helena Doley and Son in Front of
Madam C.J. Walker Mansion.
Image Courtesy of
Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr.


Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr is the founder of Doley Securities, LLC, the oldest African American owned investment banking firm in the nation. Doley is the only African American to have owned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

Born on March 8, 1947 Harold Doley was one of two boys born to Harold, Sr., a grocer and Kathryn Doley in New Orleans, LA. The Doley family has lived in Louisiana since 1720. The Doley’s had been free people before the Civil War and enjoyed the relatively liberal racial atmosphere of New Orleans as compared to other parts of the Southern United States.  Nonetheless they were always well aware of the disadvantages they faced. Amb. Doley attended segregated schools in the Louisiana area before matriculating at Xavier University in New Orleans where he majored in Accounting and Business Administration and started an investment club. He graduated from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business’s Owner/President Management Program an Executive Education Program.

Sources: 
New York Times, December 26, 1976, p. 13, September 18, 1994, p. F3, April 11, 1996, p. C1; David Oblender, Contemporary Black Biography, Vol.26 (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Cengage Gale, 2001); Lawrence Otis Graham, Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class (New York: HarperCollins, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Nail, John E. (1883-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

John E. Nail, ca. 1915
(Yale Collection of American
Literature Beinecke Rare Books
and Manuscripts Library)
John E. (Jack) Nail, a successful Harlem, New York realtor, was born in New London, Connecticut in 1883.  His parents, Elizabeth and John B. Nail, moved to New York City where the senior Nail bought a hotel, restaurant, and billiard parlor after working for a time in a gambling house.  His entrepreneurial endeavors made an early impression on John as he was growing up. 

John Nail graduated from a New York public high school and worked briefly in his father’s hotel.  In 1904 he began working as a salesman at the Afro-American Realty Company, a firm headed by Philip A. Payton and based in Harlem.  The Afro-American Realty Company, anticipating the migration of African Americans from central Manhattan to Harlem, encouraged black homeowners and business owners to relocate in the area.  Nail, through the Afro-American Realty Company, also helped unite black renters and white landlords and aided a number of the earliest black residents of Harlem in finding new homes in the area. 

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Cary D. Wintz and Paul Finkelman, eds., The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance v.2 (New York: Routledge, 2004); John N. Ingram, African-American Business Leaders; A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Alexander, Archer (ca. 1810-1879)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Lincoln Emancipation Statue in
Washington,D.C. Archer Alexander is the
Model for the Slave Here
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Archer Alexander was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation around the year 1810.  His likeness, in face and figure, immortalizes all American slaves on a monument to emancipation that stands in Lincoln Park in Washington, D. C. The bronze monument "Emancipation," also known as the "Freedmen's Memorial," depicts Abraham Lincoln reaching out to a crouching figure who is working to free himself from his chains. Financed mainly by donations from former slaves, it was dedicated on April 14, 1876 by Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave.

Alexander was born to slave parents Aleck and Chloe on a farm outside of Richmond, Virginia.  When Archer was in his teens, his father was sold in order to settle a plantation debt. Two years later when the plantation owner died, Alexander Archer was willed to the eldest son Thomas Delaney, with whom he had been raised. When Thomas Delaney moved to Missouri, Archer went with him. Settling in St. Louis, Archer met and married a slave named Louisa and started a family. When Thomas Delaney moved to Louisiana he sold Alexander to Louisa's owner, a farmer named Hollman.
Sources: 
William G. Eliot, The Story of Archer Alexander: From Slavery to Freedom (Boston: Cupples, Upham and Company, 1885; reprinted in Westport, Connecticut by Negro Universities Press, 1970); Candace O'Connor, “The Image of Freedom,” St. Louis Post Dispatch (February 23, 1989), Installation Ceremony Program for Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor, Washington University in St. Louis, October 30, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

St. Maurice (ca. 250-ca. 287)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Statue of St. Maurice c. 1240-1250, Magdeburg
Cathedral of St. Maurice and St. Catherine, Author
Unknown, Pictures @ 1979 Menil Foundation, 
Houston, Texas
Image Courtesy of the Menil Foundation
St. Maurice is commemorated throughout churches in modern Germany as a black African dressed as a Roman Solider.  That depiction originated with the renowned statue in the Cathedral of St. Catherine and St. Maurice in Magdeburg, Germany.  However, according to some historical authorities, he was probably not black and possibly never existed.  What is known is the date he became a saint and when he first became depicted as black.

In 287 AD, a Theban Legion of Christian Roman soldiers in Egypt led by Maurice was commanded by Emperor Maximian Hereculeus (ca. 250-ca. 310 AD) to march to Agaunum, now the modern day St-Maurice en Valais in Switzerland.  Exactly what Maurice’s Legion was ordered to do there by the Emperor is disputed:  they were either required to participate in pagan rites or to harass and kill local Christians.
Sources: 

Gude Suckale-Redlesfen, The Black Saint Maurice (Houston: Menil Foundation, 1987); Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and David Bindman (editors), The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume II, Part 1, From the Demonic Threat to the Incarnation of Sainthood (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rice, Susan Elizabeth (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Susan Rice is the current National Security Advisor for the Barack Obama Administration.  She is the first African American, the third woman, and the second youngest person to hold the position.  Prior to being selected by President Obama for the post, Rice served as a key foreign policy advisor for the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential race.

Sources: 
Morton H. Halperin, Power and Superpower: Global Leadership and Exceptionalism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Century Foundation Press, 2007); http://www.brookings.edu/experts/rices.aspx.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Abercrombie-Winstanley, Gina Kay (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman diplomat to lead a U.S. consulate in the gender conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, also serves as the U.S. Ambassador to Malta (appointed in 2011). Gina Kay Abercrombie was born in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where her mother was a secretary and her father an attorney.  She developed international interests early. Around her neighborhood, Hebrew was commonly spoken by the local Jewish population, so she decided to study the language. This interest also led to participation in an international exchange program in Israel (1978-1979), while in college, followed by joining the U.S. Peace Corps as a volunteer in Oman.
Sources: 
AllGov.com: http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassador-to-malta-who-is-gina-abercrombie-winstanley?news=843565; “Arab Women Should Not Give in to the Restrictions of their Cultural Environment,” Interview with Arab News, March 1, 2004, by Khaled M. Batarfi, Al-Madinah.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training

Joseph, James A. (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
James A. Joseph is a lifelong educator and public policy activist who served as the first African American U.S. ambassador to post-apartheid South Africa from 1996-1999.  Joseph has worked to promote leadership opportunities in both the corporate world and through the Federal government.  The father of two children, he is currently married to journalist Mary Braxton Joseph.  
Sources: 
Alex Poinsett, “Interior Executive Finds ‘Desk Job’ Can Be Dangerous,” Ebony 34 (February 1979);  “James A. Joseph, America’s New Ambassador to South Africa,” Ebony 51 (August 1996);  James A. Joseph, “The Idea of African Renaissance:  Myth or Reality?,” Vital Speeches of the Day 64 (15 December 1997), 133-135; and “Center Staff” website of the United States-Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values at Duke University: http://clpv.sanford.duke.edu/index.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Gibson, Joshua ["Josh"] (1911-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Josh Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia, on December 21, 1911. He moved to Pittsburgh in 1924 when his father found work in a steel mill.  He played baseball for company teams in the area but began his career with the Negro League when he signed with the Pittsburgh Crawfords. He played for the Crawfords from 1927 to 1929 and from 1932 to 1936.  In an era of segregation, Josh Gibson was known as the “Black Babe Ruth.”  Josh gained legendary status during his lifetime by regularly hitting baseballs 500 feet or more.  He is credited with hitting almost 800 homeruns in his 17 year baseball career with a lifetime batting average of at least .350.  No one else in the Negro Baseball League had a higher batting average and slugging percentage.

Sources: 
Mark Ribowsky, Josh Gibson: The Power and Darkness (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Foster, Marcus A. (1923–1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Marcus Foster was an educator who gained national prominence for educational excellence while serving as a principal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and as the first black superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District in California. Known as a titan in the areas of urban school reform, compensatory education, and community-shared responsibility in education, he is however best remembered by his death, having been ambushed and murdered by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army on November 6, 1973.
Sources: 
John P. Spencer, In the Crossfire: Marcus Foster and the Troubled History of American School Reform (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014); Michael Taylor, “FORGOTTEN FOOTNOTE / Before Hearst, SLA Killed Educator,” SFGate, November 14. 2002, http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/FORGOTTEN-FOOTNOTE-Before-Hearst-SLA-killed-2754621.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robeson, Paul (1898-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Paul Robeson is best known as a world famous athlete, singer, actor, and advocate for the human rights of people throughout the world. Over the course of his career Robeson combined all of these activities into a lifelong quest for racial justice. He used his deep baritone voice to communicate the problems and progress associated with black culture and community, and to assist the labor and social movements of his time. He sang for multiracial and multiethnic peace and justice in twenty-five languages throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa.
Sources: 
Paul Robeson, Here I Stand (New York: Beacon Press, 1958); Martin Duberman, Paul Robeson (New York: New Press, 2005); Paul Robeson Jr., The Undiscovered Paul Robeson, An Artist’s Journey, 1898-1939 (New York: Wiley, 2001); Paul Robeson Jr., The Undiscovered Paul Robeson, Quest for Freedom, 1939-1976 (New York: Wiley, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Cullen, Countee (1903-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Gerald Early, ed., My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen, Voice of the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Anchor Books, 1991); David Levering Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981); Alden Reimonenq, “Countee Cullen’s Uranian ‘Soul Windows,’” in Critical Essays: Gay and Lesbian Writers of Color, ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson (New York: The Haworth Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at Austin

Forman, James (1928-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Civil rights leader and political activist James Forman was an instrumental leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), sending demonstrators to the South for the Freedom Ride protests. Forman, who was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 4th, 1928, lived with his grandmother in Mississippi until the age of six when he returned to live with his mother and stepfather in Chicago. Forman used his stepfather’s surname Rufus until, as a teen, he met his real father Jackson Forman, a cabdriver.
Sources: 
James Forman, Making of Black Revolutionaries (Open Hand Publishing, Inc., 1985); Joe Holley, “Civil Rights Leader James Forman Dies,” The Washington Post (January 11, 2005); http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1621-2005Jan11.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Leonard, “Sugar” Ray (1956 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle
Ray Leonard was born on May 17, 1956 in Wilmington, North Carolina. At age 20 he captured a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Exceptionally fast with his fists and quick on his feet, the charismatic youngster turned professional and immediately became one of the sports biggest draws with his crowd pleasing style.

Adopting the name “Sugar” in tribute to Sugar Ray Robinson, Leonard captured his first title when he defeated WBC welterweight champion Wilfred Benitez in 1979. He won 22 fights before suffering his first professional defeat to Roberto Duran in June 1980 when he attempted to stand toe to toe and slug it out with his more experienced opponent. Five months later he regained the title from Duran by changing his tactics and relying upon his superior boxing skills, frustrating his opponent so badly that the latter quit in the middle of the eighth round.

In 1981 Leonard moved up in weight and added the Junior Middleweight title by defeating Ayube Kalule, and later that year unified the welterweight title with a 14-round TKO of the highly regarded Tommy Hearns. He then retired for the first time in 1982 after suffering a detached retina.
Sources: 
www.boxrec.com; Sam Toperoff, Sugar Ray Leonard and Other Noble Warriors (New York: McGraw-Hill Company,1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dolphy, Eric (1928-1964)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A definitive jazz multi-instrumentalist, Eric Dolphy established deeply original voices on his three primary instruments– the bass clarinet, alto saxophone, and flute.  Dolphy pioneered the use of the bass clarinet as a solo improvising instrument, and, with Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins, he is one of the earliest saxophonists to record solo improvisations.  Beloved by his peers for his compassion and enthusiasm, Dolphy's unique musical perspective helped shape the emerging avant-garde of the 1960s, though he remained firmly rooted in jazz tradition until his premature death.

Eric Allan Dolphy was born in Los Angeles in 1928, the only child of Sadie and Eric Dolphy Sr.–both of West-Indian descent.  After demonstrating promise on his elementary school-issued harmonica, Dolphy picked up the clarinet, and while still in junior high school he received a scholarship to study at the University of Southern California School of Music.  Encouraging his talents, Dolphy's parents built him a shed behind their home in which he could rehearse with his various ensembles.  After graduating from high school, Dolphy studied music at Los Angeles City College, and he made his first known recorded appearances with the Roy Porter band in 1949.  In 1950, Dolphy entered the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Sources: 
Vladimir Simosko and Barry Tepperman, Eric Dolphy: A Musical Biography and Discography (Washington, D.C.: De Capo Press, 1996); Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Eighth Edition) (London: Penguin Books, 2006); David A. Wild, liner notes to John Coltrane, The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings (Impulse! Records, IMPCD 054232-2); Raymond Horricks, The Importance of Being Eric Dolphy (Tunbridge Wells, Great Britain: Costello Publishers, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lucy, William "Bill" (1933- )

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

Labor union organizer and leader Bill Lucy was born on November 26, 1933 to Joseph and Susie Lucy in Memphis, Tennessee.  Raised in Richmond, California, Lucy studied civil engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1950s.  He then joined the U.S. Navy in 1951.

Sources: 
William Lucy, Interview by Everett J. Freeman, 1986, Michigan State University; Michael Honey, Going Down Jericho Road:  The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign (New York:  W.W. Norton and Company, 2007).

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Boghossian, Alexander Skunder (1937-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Ethiopia in 1937, Alexander Skunder Boghossian first rose to prominence at the age of 17 when he won second prize for his painting at the Jubilee Anniversary Celebration of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie I.  The following year he was awarded a scholarship to study in London, England at St. Martin’s School and the Slade School of Fine Art.  He later moved to Paris, France, where he remained for nine years as both student and teacher at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere.  While in Paris he interacted with African artists and intellectuals who were part of the Negritude movement.  He also encountered the work of the French surrealists. Some of the artists who influenced Boghossian include Paul Klee, Roberto Matta, and the Afro-Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam.
Sources: 
Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Goode, Sarah E. (c.1855?-1905)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Drawing of Sarah E. Goode's Cabinet Bed
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Sarah Elisabeth Goode was one of the first African-American women to obtain a patent from the United States government in 1885. She shares the distinction with Judy Reed, who invented a dough-kneading machine that was patented in 1880, and Miriam Benjamin, who received a patent in 1888 for a hotel chair that signaled the service of a waiter.

Little has been confirmed of Goode’s early life, but it is believed that in 1860, at age five, she was living as Sarah Jacobs, a free inhabitant of Toledo, Ohio. By 1870, she had moved to Chicago, Illinois and by 1880 was married to Archibald Goode, a carpenter/stair builder. The couple had children, but the exact number is unknown.

Sources: 
Autumn Stanley, Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995); Anne L. MacDonald, Feminine Ingenuity: Women and Invention in America (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993); http://www.uspto.gov/news/pr/2002/02-16.jsp; http://furniture.about.com/b/2010/03/14/sarah-goodes-folding-cabinet-bed.htm; United States Census (years 1910, 1880, 1870, 1860, 1850); Cook County Birth Certificates 1878-1922; Cook County Birth Registers 1871-1915; Illinois Statewide Death Index Pre-1916.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Wilson, Lionel (1915-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Baca, Susana (1944- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Susana Baca, recording artist and the first Afro-Peruvian to sit as a Cabinet Minister, was born in 1944 in Chorrillos, a seaside district of Lima, Peru, to a working class family. Her father was a chauffeur and her mother worked as cook and laundress for upper class families. Baca began singing at home at a very young age, inspired by the large and festive weekly family gatherings and encouraged by her mom’s passion for various local musical genres. Her father also played the guitar. Baca grew up in a multicultural environment, not particularly aware of her “blackness,” but she clearly recalls the first moment when she felt discriminated against: while in high school, she and other non-white students were not chosen to participate on the school’s dance team because of their skin color.

Sources: 
Heidi Feldman, Black Rhythms of Peru. Reviving African Musical Heritage in the Black Pacific (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2006); “Music, Activism and the Peruvian Cabinet. A Word with Susana Baca” (New York Times, August 19, 2011)
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/arts/music/susana-baca-peruvian-musician-and-culture-minister.html; “Peru's First Black Minister Susana Baca: Barefoot Singer” (The Huffington Post, September 15, 2011)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/16/peru-black-minister-susana-baca_n_966895.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Page, Alan (1945- )

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

Alan Page is a former professional football player and current Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Born on August 7, 1945 in Canton, Ohio, Page holds the distinction of being the only player to work on the construction of the National Football League (NFL) Hall of Fame as well as be enshrined in it. Page played his high school football at Canton Central Catholic High School where he excelled in all sports; his athleticism and quickness off the ball would later enable him to record 148.5 career sacks in the NFL. Following high school Page attended Notre Dame where he helped lead them to a 1966 National Championship and was awarded All-American honors the same year.

After graduating from Notre Dame in 1967, Page was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and was part of the famed “Purple People Eaters” defensive line from that year until 1978. Known for his durability, Page played an astounding 218 consecutive games without injury in which he recovered 22 fumbles, scored three touchdowns, and three safeties, the second most in NFL history. Page was a six-time all-pro and was voted to nine consecutive pro bowls. In 1971 page was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year and well as NFL most valuable player, an honor he was only the second defensive player to receive.

Sources: 

Larry Batson and Harold Henriksen, Alan Page (Mankato, Minnesota: Amecus Street, 1974); www.nfl.com; www.page-ed.org/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wheaton, John Francis (1866-1922)

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

John Francis Wheaton was a late 19th Century and early 20th Century lawyer and a politician.  Wheaton ran for elective office in three states and was the first African American to serve in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

John Francis Wheaton was born on May 8, 1866 to Jacob and Emily Wheaton in Hagerstown, Maryland.  He graduated from the high school division of Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in 1882. During the decade after his graduation Wheaton worked as a public school teacher, then attended Dixon Business College in Illinois, and later moved to Washington D.C., where he worked as a clerk for the United States Congress until 1892.  In 1889, Wheaton married Ella Chambers and the couple had two sons, Layton J. and Frank P. Wheaton.

Wheaton graduated from Howard’s Law Department in May 1892 and set up a practice in Hagerstown.  He was only the fourth African American to pass the bar and practice law in Maryland and the first outside Baltimore.

In 1893, however, Wheaton moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where he worked as a clerk in the state legislature and also as a deputy clerk in the Minneapolis municipal courts.  The following year he became the first African American to graduate from the University of Minnesota Law School.

Sources: 
"It's a Fact! (John Francis Wheaton)," Session Weekly, (St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives Information Office, February 21, 1992), 14; Marion Daniel Shutter, "John Francis Wheaton," Progressive Men of Minnesota, Marion D. Shutter, D.D. and J.S. McLain, M.A. eds., (Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Journal, 1897), 350-351.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Danner, Margaret E. (1915-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Margaret Esse Danner is an African American poet, born in Pryorsburg, Kentucky on January 12, 1915 to Caleb and Naomi Esse.  Danner began writing poetry when she was in junior high school. In the eighth grade she won first place for a poem she wrote titled, “The Violin.”  Her family moved to Chicago when Margaret began High School.  

Danner later attended Loyola and Northwestern Universities, where she was taught by Karl Shapiro and Paul Engle. She continued her writing while in Chicago and first became recognized in 1945 when she won second place in the Poetry Workshop of the Midwestern Writers Conference at Northwestern University.  In 1951, while in Chicago, Danner become an editorial assistant for Poetry: the Magazine of Verse. It was this publication that introduced her poem series “Far From Africa” for which she is best known.  These poems won Danner the John Hay Whitney Fellowship on 1951, which was intended to fund a trip to Africa scheduled for that same year.  Danner postponed the trip for personal reasons and in fact did not go to Africa until 1966.  In 1955 Margaret Danner became the first African American to hold the position of Assistant Editor of Poetry: The Magazine of Verse...

During her lifetime, Margaret Danner was married twice and had one daughter with her first husband. A number of her later poems were inspired by her grandson, Sterling, which she referenced as “Muffin Poems.” In 1961, Danner became poet-in-residence at Wayne State University in Detroit.  It was during this time that Danner became involved in the Baha'i faith, which would influence her poetry.  From that point many of her poems would refer to that faith.

Sources: 

June M. Aldridge, “Margaret Esse Danner.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Poets since 1955. Vol. 41, T. Harris, Editor, (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985); Haki Madhubuti, Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s. (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1971).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Kerigo, Iman (1992- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Iman Kerigo is a 22 year old black woman who at the age of 18 was crowned Miss Norway in 2010. She was the first woman of African descent to hold the title. Kerigo and her family are refugees from Kenya. She arrived initially in Great Britain in 2000.  Her family’s experiences during their time in Great Britain, although far better that the personal and political repression which drove them from Kenya, nonetheless were challenging enough to make Kerigo a staunch advocate in Europe in raising awareness about the endemic problems of poverty, war, violence, and domestic abuse as they affected refugees as well as their impact on the larger population.

Kerigo, the second child in a family with three brothers, was born in 1992 in Kenya.  She and her mother struggled with her father who was abusive to both of them.  In 2000 her mother took advantage of an opportunity to leave for Great Britain as political refugees.   
Sources: 
http://mwakilishi.com/, September 30, 2010; Noah Gilman and Nicola Henry, “First Black Miss Norway Visits the United States,” Black News.com, October 27, 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Sullivan, Louis Wade (1933- )

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

After witnessing poverty and discrimination in Depression-era Georgia, Louis Wade Sullivan committed his career to education and public service, rising to become Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush.  He also was the founder and long-time president of Morehouse College School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Louis Wade Sullivan was born in Atlanta in 1933, but when his family moved to a small Georgia farming community that did not offer educational opportunities for African Americans, he was sent to live with relatives in Savannah where he could attend school.  After graduating at the top of his high school class, he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, earning a B.S. in the premedical program in 1954.  He then received a scholarship to Boston University School of Medicine, where he was the only African American in his class.  He graduated third in his class, earning an M.D. (cum laude) in 1958.  During his internship and residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Sullivan conducted research into the correlation between blood and diseases.  He made several discoveries concerning alcohol and blood health, and subsequently conducted further medical research at Harvard Medical School and a number of other institutions during the following decades.  In 1976, he helped found the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools to promote a national minority health agenda.

Sources: 
Louis Wade Sullivan, America's Ailing Families: Diagnosing the Problem, Finding a Cure (Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation, 1992); Marilee Creelan, “Louis Sullivan,” The New Georgia Encyclopedia (Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Haley, George (1925- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador and Mrs. George W.B. Haley
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador George Williford Boyce Haley served as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Gambia from 1998 until 2001. Haley was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He then traveled to Banjul, the capital of Gambia to assume his post as head of the U.S. Embassy.  
Sources: 
The History Makers, "George Haley," The History Makers http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/george-haley-38 ; Gillian Wolf, "Haley, George 1925–," Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2872300028.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Reason, Charles Lewis (1818-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Charles L. Reason was born on July 21, 1818 in New York City. His parents, Michiel and Elizabeth Reason, were immigrants from Haiti who arrived in the United States shortly after the Haitian Revolution of 1793. His parents emphasized the importance of education, and very early on the young Reason displayed an aptitude for mathematics when he was a student at the New York African Free School.  Reason began his teaching career when he was 14 years old. He saved what he could of his teacher’s $25 per year salary to continue his own education with tutors. A political activist and abolitionist, Reason played a prominent role in the Negro Convention Movement in New York. In 1837 Reason joined Henry Highland Garnet, among others, in an effort to gain voting rights for African American men and he was later one of the co-authors of the Call for the New York Negro Convention of 1840.

Sources: 
John E. Fleming (with the assistance of Julius Hobson Jr., John McClendon and Herschelle Reed), The Lengthening Shadow of Slavery (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974); Anthony R. Mayo, "Charles Lewis Reason," Negro History Bulletin 5 (June 1942):212-15;Scott W. Williams, “Charles L. Reason African American Mathematician,1818–1893,” http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/special/reason_charles_l.html;
John E. Fleming, “Home of McGraw Eagles: History” http://www.mcgrawschools.org/history.htm
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Furniss, Sumner Alexander (1874-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Private Office of Dr. Sumner Furniss
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Prominent physician and surgeon Sumner Alexander Furniss was the first African American to become a member of the staff at Indianapolis City Hospital in Indiana. He was also a founding member and president of the Indianapolis Young Men's Colored Association (YMCA).

Furniss was the second son born to William H. Furniss and Mary Elizabeth J. Williams, in Jackson, Mississippi, on January 30, 1874. His family moved to Indianapolis when he was young, and his father became the superintendent of the Special Delivery Department of the Indianapolis Post Office. Furniss received his early education in the local city schools and then enrolled in Lincoln University (formerly the Lincoln Institute). Just before his graduation in 1891, Furniss enrolled in the Medical College of Indiana and received his medical degree in 1894, ranking second in a class of fifty-two. Furniss was the only African American in his class. While in medical school, he worked as a clerk for Dr. E. S. Elder, a prominent Indianapolis physician, to pay for his education. On October 26, 1905, he married Lillian Morris, but no children were born to this union.

Sources: 
Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania including the Counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, And many of the Early Settled Families-Volume II (Indianapolis: J. H. Beers & Company, 1908); Michelle D. Hale, “Furniss, Sumner A.” The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994); Frank Lincoln Mather, Who’s Who of the Colored Race; A General Biographical Dictionary of Men and Women of African Descent (Chicago: 1915); Linda Heywood, Allison Blakely, Charles Stith and Joshua C. Yesnowitz, African Americans In U.S. Foreign Policy; From the Era of Frederick Douglass to the Age of Obama (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2015).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brooks, Gwendolyn (1917-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, born June 7, 1917 in Topeka, Kansas, moved to Chicago, Illinois where she was reared and launched her literary career.  Marrying Henry Blakely in 1939, the couple had two children. 

Brooks's formal education consists of an associate degree in literature and arts from Wilson Junior College but she has also received over seventy honorary degrees from several leading universities.  In her early years, Brooks served as the director of publicity for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Chicago.

Individual poems published in the Chicago Defender during her high school years preceded Brooks's first collection of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville (1945). This book focused on “community consciousness.”  Brooks's Annie Allen was published in 1949 with a focus on “self-realization” and “artistic sensibility” of a young black woman.  That volume made her the first African American to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.  The Bean Eater, her third book, was released in 1960. 

Sources: 
Carol F. Bender and Annie Allen, Masterplots 4th ed. Literary Reference Center (Pasadena: Salem Press, 2010); Charles M. Isreal and William T. Lawlor, Cyclopedia of World Authors 4th ed.  Literary Reference Center (Pasadena: Salem Press, 2004); Henry Taylor and Harold Bloom,  “Gwendolyn Brooks: An Essential Sanity,”  Bloom’s Modern Critical Views: Gwendolyn Brooks  (New York: InfoBase Publishing, 2000): 161-179.
Affiliation: 
Jefferson State Community College, Alabama

Scott, Nathan A. (1925-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
It would be difficult to find a more formidable and respected African American scholar who has had so little visibility among African American intellectuals as Nathan Alexander Scott, Jr. Born in Cleveland, Ohio on April 24, 1925, Scott finished his B.A. at the University of Michigan in 1944 and his Ph.D. in religion from Columbia University in 1953. In 1946 he was hired as dean of the chapel at Virginia Union University. From 1948 to 1955 he taught humanities at Howard University. An ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, from 1955 to 1977 Scott taught at the University of Chicago where in 1972 he was elevated to Shailer Mathews Professor of Theology and Literature. In 1976 he and his wife, Charlotte H. Scott, a business professor, simultaneously were hired as the first black tenured professors at the University of Virginia. There Scott was William R. Kenan Professor of Religious Studies and became chairman of the religious studies department in 1980.  He retired in 1990.  
Sources: 
William D. Buhrman. “A Reexamination of Nathan Scott’s Literary Criticism in the Context of David Tracy’s Fundamental Theology” Unpublished dissertation, Marquette University, 2004; Who’s Who in America (Marquis Who’s Who, 1992); Contemporary Authors (Gale Research, 1987). Vol. 20 and Directory of American Scholars  (The Gale Group, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Brown, Grafton Tyler (1841-1918)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Grafton Tyler Brown was a cartographer, lithographer, and painter, widely considered the first professional African American artist in California. Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1841, Brown learned lithography in Philadelphia and then became part of a cohort of African Americans who sought better economic and social opportunities in the West during the 1850s.
Sources: 
Thomas Riggs, ed., The St. James Guide to Black Artists (Detroit: St James Press, 1997); www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/exhibits/gtb.html; www.washingtonhistory.org/wshm/newsroom/grafton_brown.htm.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Espy, Mike (1953- )

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

Lampkin, Daisy (1884-1965)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Barthé, Richmond (1901-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi in 1901, Richmond Barthé moved to New Orleans, Louisiana at an early age. Little is known about his early youth, except that he grew up in a devoutly Roman Catholic household, he enjoyed drawing and painting, and his formal schooling did not go beyond grade school. From the age of sixteen until his early twenties, Barthé supported himself with a number of service and unskilled jobs, including house servant, porter, and cannery worker. His artistic talent was noticed by his parish priest when Barthé contributed two of his paintings to a fundraising event for his church. The priest was so impressed with his art that he encouraged Barthé to apply to the Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois and raised enough money to pay for his travel and tuition. From 1924 to 1928, Barthé studied painting at the Art Institute, while continuing to engage in unskilled and service employment to support himself.
Sources: 
Mary Ann Calo, Distinction and Denial: Race, Nation, and the Critical Construction of the African American Artist, 1920-1940 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007); A. D. Macklin, A Biographical History of African-American Artists, A-Z (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001); Margaret Rose Vendryes, “The Lives of Richmond Barthé,” in The Greatest Taboo: Homosexuality in Black Communities, ed. Delroy Constantine-Simms (Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at Austin

Sankara, Thomas (1949-1987)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Thomas Sankara, political leader of Burkina Faso in the 1980s, was born on December 21, 1949 in Yako, a northern town in the Upper Volta (today Burkina Faso) of French West Africa. He was the son of a Mossi mother and a Peul father, and personified the diversity of the Burkinabè people of the area. In his adolescence, Sankara witnessed the country’s independence from France in 1960 and the repressive and volatile nature of the regimes that ruled throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Sources: 

Pierre Englebert, Burkina Faso: Unsteady Statehood in West Africa (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996); Thomas Sankara, Thomas Sankara Speaks: The Burkina Faso Revolution, 1983-87 (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1988); Victoria Brittain, “Introduction to Sankara and Burkina Faso,” Review of African Political Economy, No. 32 (April 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Browne, Theodore R. (c. 1910-1979).

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People
History Type: 
African American History
A pioneer playwright, actor, author, and teacher, Theodore Browne was best known for his association with the Negro Unit of the Federal Theatre in Seattle Washington in the 1930s. He was also an original member of the American Negro Theatre (ANT) and one of the founders of the Negro Playwrights Company, both in New York. Brown was born in Suffolk, Virginia, and educated in the public schools of New York City. Browne received advanced degrees at the City College of New York (1941) and at Northeastern University (1944) in Boston.
Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Campanella, Roy (1921–1993)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Willie Mays and Roy Campanella
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Roy Campanella was an African American baseball player who helped break the color barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB), becoming the first African American catcher in MLB when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Campanella, nicknamed “Campy,” was born on November 19, 1921 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to John Campanella, an Italian American father, and Ida Campanella, his African American mother.  Because he was racially classified as black he was forced to play in the Negro Leagues until 1947.  

Campanella started his baseball playing career with a semi-pro team in 1937, named the Bacharach Giants.  He dropped out of school when he was 16 years old when he was offered a contract in the Negro National League with the Baltimore Elite Giants.  In the years 1942-1943, he played for the Monterrey Sultans in the Mexican League following a dispute with the Baltimore Elite Giants’ manager.  

In 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers manager Charlie Dressen saw Campanella playing as a catcher for an African American all-star team.  He signed Campanella, giving him a spot with the Brooklyn Dodgers farm club, the AAA Nashua (New Hampshire) Dodgers.  The Nashua Dodgers became the first AAA integrated professional baseball team when they signed Campanella.
Sources: 
Roy Campanella, It’s Good to Be Alive (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1959); Donald Honig, The Greatest Catchers of All Time (New York: Brown, 1991); http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=roy_campanella_1921
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Michaux, Solomon Lightfoot "Elder" (c.1885-1968)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Elder Michaux Baptisting Followers at Griffith Stadium,
Washington,D.C. n.d.
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio,
photographers, Scurlock Studio Records,
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Solomon Michaux was a radio evangelist, entrepreneur, and founder of the Church of God Movement; he was also known as the “Happy Am I Preacher.” Michaux was born around 1885 in Buckroe Beach, Virginia into a devout family of Baptists. He grew up in Newport News, Virginia where he spent his childhood in local public schools and helping his family’s seafood business by peddling fish to local military men in nearby Camp Lee. Michaux married Eliza Pauline in 1906. They had no children.
Sources: 
Marcus H. Boulware, The Oratory of Negro Leaders: 1900-1968 (Westport: Negro Universities Press, 1969); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Stephen D. Glazier ed., Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions (New York: Routledge, 2001)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wright, Richard R. , Sr. (1855-1947)

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

Richard Robert Wright Sr., college founder and banker, was born into slavery on May 16, 1855, near Dalton, Georgia. After the Civil War ended Wright’s mother moved with her son to Atlanta, Georgia where he attended the Storrs School, an institution founded by the American Missionary Association (AMA) to educate the children of the freedpeople.  Storrs was the forerunner of Atlanta University.  When retired Union General Oliver Otis Howard visited the school in 1868 and asked the students what message he should take to the North, Wright replied with the words, “Sir, tell them we are rising.”

Sources: 
June O. Patton, "'And the Truth Shall Make You Free': Richard Robert Wright, Sr., Black Intellectual and Iconoclast, 1877-1897," Journal of Negro History (Winter-Autumn, 1996): Alexa Benson Henderson, "Richard R. Wright and the National Negro Bankers Association: Early Organization Efforts Among Black Bankers, 1924-1942," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (January/April 1993); Clyde W. Hall, One Hundred Years of Educating at Savannah State College, 1890-1990 (Savannah: Clyde W. Hall, 1991), and August Meier and Elliot M. Rudwick, The Making of Black America: Essays in Negro Life & History, Volume 1 (New York: Athenaeum, 1969).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hull, England

Day, Thomas (1801—ca.1861)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Thomas Day Secretary
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Day, master cabinetmaker and entrepreneur, was born in 1801 in Dinwiddie County in southern Virginia to free African American parents.  He had an outstanding career and achieved remarkable social standing during the state’s antebellum period.  By 1850, he operated the largest furniture business in the state. His furniture is still cherished today in private homes and museums primarily in North Carolina and Virginia.

Day’s early years were spent following in his father's footsteps in the cabinetry craft and from an early age he displayed proficiency in woodwork.  In 1823, Day moved to Milton, North Carolina.  Within a decade he had established himself as one of the South's most famous and celebrated furniture craftsmen. His work was widely recognized and he became sought after by plantation owners whose homes he embellished with stylish mantle pieces and stair railings, in addition to providing them with furniture.  He would craft pieces for two of North Carolina's governors and was awarded a commission to furnish the interior woodwork of one of the original buildings of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

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

Williams, Camilla (1919-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Indiana University
Professional opera singer Camilla Williams was born October 18, 1919 in Danville, Virginia to Fannie Carey Williams and Cornelius Booker Williams. The youngest of four siblings, Williams began singing at a young age and was performing at her local church by age eight. At age 12, she began taking lessons from a Welsh singing teacher, Raymond Aubrey, but because of Jim Crow laws the lessons had to be conducted in private in Aubrey’s home.

After high school, Williams attended Virginia State College for Negroes, now Virginia State University, in Petersburg, Virginia. She graduated in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. After graduation, Williams taught 3rd grade and music at a black public school in Danville. In 1943, fellow Virginia State College alumni paid for the gifted singer to move to Philadelphia and study under influential voice coach Marion Szekely-Freschl. Williams began touring in 1944 and during one concert in Stamford, Connecticut she met Geraldine Farrar, a respected soprano opera singer and the original star of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s Madame Butterfly. Farrar was so impressed with Williams’ voice that she soon took her under her wing and became her mentor. Farrar even helped Williams to sign a recording contract with RCA Victor and to break into the highest levels of American opera.  
Sources: 
Veronica A. Davis, Inspiring African American Women of Virginia (New York: IUniverse, 2005); http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/03/arts/music/camilla-williams-opera-singer-dies-at-92.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Peck, David Jones (c. 1826-1855)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

David Jones Peck was the first black man to graduate from an American medical school. He was born to John C. and Sarah Peck in Carlisle, Pennsylvania around 1826. John Peck was a prominent abolitionist and minister who founded the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Carlisle. Peck was also a barber and wigmaker.

John and Sarah Peck moved to Pittsburgh in the early 1830s where they established the first school for black children in the area.  David was one of their first students.  Between 1844 and 1846 David Peck studied medicine under Dr. Joseph P. Gaszzam, an anti-slavery white doctor in Pittsburgh.  He then entered Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois in 1846, three years after the institution opened.  After he graduated in 1847, Peck toured the state of Ohio with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass promoting abolitionist ideals.  His status as the first black graduate of a medical college was used by abolitionists to promote the idea of full black citizenship and was implicitly an attack on slavery.

Sources: 

Michael J. Harris, "David Jones Peck, MD: A Dream Denied," Journal of the National Medical Association 88:9 (1996): pp. 600-604; "David Jones Peck, M.D., Rush Medical College, Class of 1847," Archives of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Vivian Ovleton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corp., 1990).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha (1928 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

Image ownership: Public Domain

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Zulu Chief and one of the founders of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), was born August 27, 1928 in Mahlabathinni, Natal. He was a descendent of the Zulu royal family, his mother being the granddaughter of King Cetshwayo. Buthelezi attended Impumalanga Primary School and then went on to study at Adams College in Amanzimtioti. In 1948 he attended Fort Hare University, where he would begin his lifelong involvement in politics by joining the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League and participating in sit-in demonstrations which would lead to his expulsion from the University.

Sources: 

Ben Temkin, Buthelezi: A Biography (London: Frank Cass, 2003); LA Times Website: http://articles.latimes.com/1992-02-14/local/me-2176_1_los-angeles-times.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Bost, Eric M. (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Eric Bost is currently the assistant director of External Relations for the Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M University.  Bost, a native of Concord, North Carolina, attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he earned his Bachelor’s in Psychology in 1974.  In 1985, he received his Master’s degree in Special Education at the University of South Florida.  After graduate school, Bost held management positions in human services in various states as well as Washington, D.C.
Sources: 
The American Public Human Services Association, “Executive Governing Board,” APHSA, http://www.aphsa.org/content/APHSA/en/the-association/our-leadership-and-staff/LEADERSHIP/BOARD.html.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Flippin, George Albert (1868–1929)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
George Albert Flippin and the University of Nebraska Football
Team, 1895
Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, “George Albert Flippin and Race Relations in a Western Rural Community,” The Midwest Review 12 (1990), 1-15; Albert S. Broussard, African American Odyssey: The Stewarts, 1853-1963 (Lawrence: University Press Of Kansas, 1998); Lane Demas, Integrating the Gridiron: Black Civil Rights and American College Football (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Frazier, E. Franklin (1894-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Edward Franklin Frazier, the most prominent African American sociologist of the 20th Century, was born on September 24, 1894 and died on May 17, 1962. Best known for his critical work on the black middle class, Black Bourgeoisie (1957), Frazier was also a harsh critic of Jim Crow as the great inhibitor of the American Dream for the “American Negro.”

Frazier was born to James H. and Mary Clark Frazier. His father worked as a bank messenger and his mother was a housewife. Both parents stressed the worth of education as a path to freedom and as an instrument to fight for social justice.  

Sources: 
Anthony M. Platt, E. Franklin Frazier (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991); August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black Historians and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana/Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Obama, Barack, Jr. (1961- )

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

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

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

Prosser, Gabriel (1775-1800)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gabriel Prosser was the leader of an unsuccessful slave revolt in Richmond, Virginia in 1800. Born into slavery around 1775, Gabriel Prosser was owned by Thomas H. Prosser of Henrico County, Virginia. Little is known of Prosser’s life before the revolt that catapulted him into notoriety. Prosser’s two brothers, Solomon and Martin and his wife, Nanny, were all owned by Thomas Prosser and all participated in the insurrection.

Gabriel Prosser at the time of the insurrection was twenty-four years old, six feet two inches, literate, and a blacksmith by trade. He was described by a contemporary as “a fellow of courage and intellect above his rank in life.” With the help of other slaves including Jack Bowler and George Smith, Prosser devised a plan to seize control of Richmond by killing all of the whites (except the Methodists, Quakers and Frenchmen) and then establishing a Kingdom of Virginia with himself as monarch.
Sources: 
Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts (New York: International Publishers, 1974); http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3p1576.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Sellers, Cleveland (1944- )

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

Sellers’s enthusiasm for the movement was tempered by his father’s adamant opposition to his participation.  Sellers entered Howard University in 1963 and concentrated on his studies in compliance with his father’s wishes until his sophomore year.  In 1964 he returned to protest activity and joined Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)  In 1965, Sellers became the program director of SNCC after his successful work with the voter registration in Mississippi.
Sources: 
Cleveland Sellers, The River of No Return (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1973); http://www.depauw.edu/news/index.asp?id=13829.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hill, Oliver White (1907-2007)

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

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

Taliaferro, Raphael “Ray” ( 1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
Raphael Taliaferro
Ray Taliaferro, the first black talk show host on a major American radio station, was born on February 7, 1939 and grew up in the Hunters Point district of San Francisco. His talk radio career began in 1967 at San Francisco’s KNEW station and shortly thereafter he also began his career in television, hosting a show on KHJ-TV.

Taliaferro was to become successful in both forms of media, his career progressing as he became news anchor at San Francisco’s KRON-TV. When he joined KGO radio in 1977 he was also asked to co-host KGO-TV’s AM weekend program. However it was through talk radio, and particularly his daily program, “The Early Show” on KGO radio which began in 1986, that Taliaferro made his name. Discussing topics ranging from contemporary politics, culture, and current events, Taliaferro often airs his liberal views. Through his strong criticisms of President George W Bush and consistent endorsement of Barack Obama during the 2009 Presidential election, Taliaferro has also earned a reputation as one of the most prominent left wing radio talk show hosts in America. Taliaferro has received high commendation from the media and journalist community and was awarded the Black Chamber Life Award in 1994 by the San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce.
Sources: 
KGO Radio official website: http://www.kgoradio.com/showdj.asp?DJID=3450; Absoluteastronomy.com:http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Ray_Taliaferro#encyclopedia.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex

Dixon, Aaron (1949– )

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

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

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

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

Zephaniah, Benjamin (1958 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, playwright, novelist and activist, was born on April 15, 1958, the first of eight children, in Birmingham, England. Zephaniah grew up in Wandsworth until the age of nine when his mother, a Jamaican nurse, fled his father, a postman from Barbados. Leaving behind his twin sister Velda and other siblings, Zephaniah felt isolated as a young black dyslexic boy who encountered racism at his new school in Birmingham. He turned to writing, choosing to describe local and global issues, inspired by his Jamaican heritage and “street politics” of Birmingham. He left formal education at age 14, but built a reputation in the city as a popular dub poet, an art form which involves mixing the spoken word with reggae rhythms. Zephaniah had a troubled adolescence, which was punctuated with periods in incarceration following convictions for petty theft.

Sources: 
Benjamin Zephaniah’s profile on “Contemporary Writers”: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth105; Benjamin Zephaniah’s official website: http://benjaminzephaniah.com/biography/; “The interview: Benjamin Zephaniah” by Lynn Barber, published in The Observer, January 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jan/18/benjamin-zephaniah-interview-poet.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

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

Bolden, Buddy (1877-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Buddy Bolden Band
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles “Buddy” Bolden is said to be the first musician to play jazz music. While this is debatable, it is clear that Bolden’s music helped form the jazz movement. Bolden was born on September 6, 1877 in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the age of six, Bolden’s father died of pneumonia, leaving behind wife, Alice, daughter Cara and young Bolden.  The father’s death led the family to remain close for the rest of their lives.

Bolden began playing the coronet as a teenager.  He joined a small New Orleans dance band led by Charlie Galloway. It was at Galloway’s barber salon that Buddy honed his technical skills as a musician.  By the age of 20 he left the band to begin his own group.
Sources: 
Donald M. Marquis, In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006); Danny Barker, Buddy Bolden and the Last Days of Storyville (New York: Continuum, 1998); David Perry, Jazz Greats (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Linton Kwesi (1952– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Linton Kwesi Johnson, political activist, poet and reggae artist, was born in Chapelton, Jamaica in 1952. After his parents’ divorce, Johnson was raised by his grandmother. Johnson left his small parish in 1963 and moved to London, UK to be with his mother, where he attended Tulse Hill secondary school.
Sources: 
Linton Kwesi Johnson’s profile on “Contemporary Writers”: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth58; “I did my own thing” interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson by Nicholas Wroe, published in “The Guardian,” March 2008: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/mar/08/featuresreviews.guardianreview11.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Sullivan, Leon Howard Jr. (1922-2001)

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

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

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

Thornton, Willie Mae “Big Mama” (1926-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was a blues singer and songwriter whose recordings of “Hound Dog” and “Ball ‘n’ Chain” later were transformed into huge hits by Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin.  

Willie Mae Thornton was born on December 11, 1926 outside of Montgomery in rural Ariton, Alabama. Her father was a Baptist minister and her mother was a church singer in his congregation. Thornton’s mother died when the singer was 14, and she left home to pursue a career as an entertainer. She joined the Georgia-based Hot Harlem Revue as an accomplished singer, drummer, and harmonica player and spent seven years as a regular performer throughout the South. Following her years as a traveling blues singer, Thornton moved to Houston in 1948 to begin her recording career.

In Houston, Thornton joined Don Robey’s Peacock Records in 1951, often working closely with fellow label artist Johnny Otis. Her professional relationship with Otis and Robey proved fruitful for Thornton, who, along with “Little” Esther Phillips and Mel Walker, toured with Otis. Their tour traveled throughout the eastern and southern United States, including benchmark shows at Houston’s Bronze Peacock and Harlem’s Cotton Club.
Sources: 
Tony Russell, The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray (Dubai: Carlton Books Limited, 1997); Tina Spencer Dreisbach, “Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton,” The Encyclopedia of Alabama, http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1573; Alan Lee Haworth, “Thornton, Willie Mae [Big Mama]” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fthpg.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Williams, Peter Jr. (1780-1840)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Peter Williams Jr., clergyman, abolitionist, and opponent of colonization was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey around 1780. His family moved to New York City, where he first attended the New York African Free School operated by the Manumission Society. He was also taught privately by Episcopal Church leader, the Reverend Thomas Lyell. Williams joined a group of black Episcopalians who worshiped at New York’s Trinity Church on Sunday afternoons.  There lay leader John Henry Hobart confirmed and tutored Williams as well as other future Episcopal clergymen.  Hobart also officiated at Williams wedding. When Hobart died Williams was elected by the congregation as lay reader and licensed by the bishop.

In 1818 Williams led the other African American Episcopalians in creating their own church, St. Philip’s African Church.  The new church was recognized by the Episcopal Church on July 3, 1819 as one of the earliest predominately black Episcopal Churches in the United States.  On July 10, 1826, Peter Williams Jr. was advanced to the priesthood, becoming the second African American so ordained.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Peter Williams Jr.” in New York Divided, People, http://www.nydivided.org/popup/People/PeterWilliamsJr.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lambert, Charles Lucièn, Sr. (1828-1896)

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

Charles Lucièn Lambert, Sr., also known as Lucièn Lambert, Sr., was an internationally prominent classical musician and composer, and part of the middle generation of acclaimed Lambert musical artists.  Both his father, Charles-Richard Lambert, and his son, Lucièn-Léon Guillaume Lambert, had distinguished careers in classical music.

Charles Lucièn Lambert was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1828 to Charles-Richard, a native of New York, and an unidentified free Creole woman of color. After Charles Lucièn’s mother’s death, Charles-Richard married Coralie Suzanne Orzy, another free woman of color. They had a son, Sidney, who was born in 1838. Charles Lucièn and Sidney received their first piano lessons from their father who was by then a prominent early 19th Century New Orleans musician and composer.

Charles Lucièn Lambert was a contemporary of the soon to be famous white Creole composer and musician, Louis Moreau Gottschalk.  In fact the two enjoyed a friendly artistic rivalry as aspiring virtuoso pianists and composers in New Orleans in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Sources: 
Lester Sullivan, Charles Lucièn Lambert Sr. (c. 1828-1896) (Hong Kong: Naxos 8.559037, 2000);
http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Lambertsr.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Randolph, Amanda (1896-1967)

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

Amanda Randolph, one of the first black performers to appear consistently on television, was born in 1896 in Louisville, Kentucky. She began performing as a young teenager in Cleveland’s musical comedies and nightclubs. In the 1930s, she toured Europe and performed in several hit musical revues such as Chilli Peppers, Dusty Lane, and Radio Waves.

Randolph began her film career as an actress appearing in Swing (1938), Lying Lips (1939) and The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940) – three of Oscar Micheaux race films, which he routinely created for nearly three decades to appeal to black audiences and offer a truer reputation of black life than most Hollywood productions.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle. Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia,
New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Darlene C. Hine and Fenella
MacFarlane, Black Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia. Vol. II,
(Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing Inc. 1993); Edward Mapp, Directory of
Blacks in the Performing Arts
, (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press
Inc., 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Roberts, Robin René (1960- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
American television broadcaster Robin René Roberts is the anchor of Good Morning America, an ABC morning news show broadcast from its studios in New York, New York.  In December 2013, she quietly came out as a lesbian in a Facebook post that acknowledged her long-time girlfriend, Amber Laign.

One of four siblings, Roberts was born on November 23, 1960 in Tuskegee, Alabama to Colonel Lawrence Roberts, a Tuskegee Airman, and Lucimarian (Tolliver) Roberts.  The family later moved to Pass Christian, Mississippi where she graduated as the 1979 salutatorian from Pass Christian High School.  In 1983, Roberts graduated cum laude from Southeastern Louisiana University with a communications degree.  She was also a basketball standout, having ended her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Sources: 
Claude J. Summers and Jason Collins, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2013), retrieved from http://www.glbtq.com/blogs/robin_roberts_casual_coming_out.html, ABC News and Robin Roberts, eds., Robin Roberts biography (New York, NY: ABC News, 2014), retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/author/robin_roberts; Kimberly McLeod, ed., Thank you, Robin Roberts (Washington, DC: Elixher Magazine, 2014) retrieved from
http://elixher.com/thank-you-robin-roberts/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Shuttlesworth, Fred (1922-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Tomb of Askia Muhammad Toure at Gao, Mali
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Thomas A. Hale, Scribe, Griot, and Novelist: Narrative Interpreters of the Songhay Empire (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1990); John O. Hunwick, Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

St. Clair, Stephanie (1886–1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Stephanie St.Clair Hamid in Custody
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Stephanie St. Clair was born in Martinique, an island in the East Caribbean in 1886 and came to the United States via Marseilles, France. In 1912 she arrived in Harlem. She was known for her deep involvement in the seedy gangster underworld. According to those who knew her, she was arrogant, sophisticated and astute to the ways of urban life. She reportedly told people that she was born in “European France” and was able to speak “flawless French” as opposed to the less refined French spoken by those in the Caribbean. Whenever people questioned her national origin, she would always respond in French. St. Clair also spoke Spanish.  Noted for her fierce temper, St. Clair spouted profanity in various languages when angered or outraged by some perceived slight or injustice. Her eloquent sense of fashion was well- known throughout Harlem where she was referred to as Madame St. Clair.  In in the rest of Manhattan and other city boroughs, she was referred to as “Queenie.”
Sources: 
Mayme Johnson, Harlem Godfather: The Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson (New York: 2007); John H. Johnson, Fact Not Fiction in Harlem (New York: Norther Type Printing, 1980).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

McQueen, Thelma “Butterfly” (1911-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of www.nndb.com
Actress Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen was born in Tampa, Florida on January 8, 1911. Her father, Wallace McQueen, worked as a stevedore and her mother, Mary Richardson, was a housekeeper and domestic worker. After McQueen’s parents separated, her mother moved from job to job and McQueen lived in several cities on the East Coast before settling in Augusta, Georgia. As a young teen, McQueen moved to Harlem, New York, where her mother worked as a cook.  

McQueen enrolled in the Lincoln Training School for Nursing in the Bronx before pursuing an acting career. She joined Venezula Jones’s Youth Theatre Group in Harlem and performed in the Group’s 1935 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As a result of her role in the production’s “Butterfly Ballet,” she adopted “Butterfly” as her stage name.  In 1937, McQueen debuted on Broadway in Brown Sugar.  She also appeared in What a Life (1938) and the Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong musical, Swingin the Dream (1939).

McQueen received her big break in Hollywood when David O. Selznick cast the 28-year-old actor as Prissy in Gone with the Wind (1939). McQueen’s role as Prissy brought her national fame and it remains her most remembered performance.
Sources: 
Stephen Bourne, Butterfly McQueen Remembered (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008); Axel Nissen, Actresses of a Certain Character (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2007); Dwandalyn R. Reece, “Butterfly McQueen,” in African American National Biography, vol. 5, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Healy, Eliza [Sister Mary Magdalen] (1846-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sister Eliza Healy was both an educator and noted first African American Mother Superior of a Catholic convent. Healy was born on a plantation near Macon Georgia on December 23, 1846 to a white father, Michael Morris Healy and one of his mulatto slaves, Eliza Smith. Healy spent her childhood on the plantation until her mother died suddenly in the spring of 1850, and her father died that August, leaving Eliza Healy and two of her younger siblings, Amanda and Eugene, orphaned.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); James M. O’Toole, Passing for White: Race, Religion and the Healy Family 1820-1920 (Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bolden Jr., Charles F. (1946-)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of NASA
Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., NASA’s first permanent black administrator, was born to Charles Frank and Ethel Bolden, both teachers, on August 19th, 1946 in Columbia, South Carolina.  He rose to the rank of Major General in the United States Marine Corps and was a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut before being named to head the U.S. space agency.

Bolden graduated from C.A. Johnson High School in Columbia, S.C. in 1964.  In 1968, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Science from the United States Naval Academy.  He completed a Master’s degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California in 1977.
Sources: 
Carol S. Bostch, "Charles F. Bolden Jr." University of Southern California, Dec. 23, 2009; "Charles F. Bolden Jr." Times Topics. The New York Times, 26 May 2009; http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/charles_f_bolden_jr/index.html; NASA - Charles F. Bolden, Jr., NASA Administrator (July 17, 2009 - Present)." NASA – Home. http://www.nasa.gov/about/highlights/bolden_bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Waller, Thomas Wright “Fats” (1904-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jazz pianist virtuoso, organist, composer and grand entertainer, Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was born on May 21, 1904 in Harlem, New York.  He became one of the most popular and influential performers of his era and a master of stride piano playing, finding critical and commercial success in both the United States and abroad, particularly in Europe.  Waller was also a prolific songwriter, with many of his compositions becoming huge commercial successes. His technique and attention to decorative detail influenced countless jazz pianists including Art Tatum, Count Basie, and Thelonius Monk.

Sources: 
Maurice Waller and Anthony Calabrese, Fats Waller (New York: Schirmer Books, 1977); Alyn Shipton, Fats Waller: the Cheerful Little Earful (New York: Continuum, 2002); Paul S. Machlin, Stride, the Music of Fats Waller (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Verrett, Shirley (1931-2010)

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

Shirley Verrett was a distinguished mezzo-soprano and soprano opera singer. Born in New Orleans on May 31, 1931, one of five children to strict Seventh Day Adventists, her father was a successful building contractor. She came from a musical family, her mother often sang in the house and her father occasionally worked as a choir director. Her parents encouraged her talent, but they disapproved of opera and hoped that she would pursue other interests.  The family moved to Los Angeles where Verrett grew up.

Verrett was passionate about music but after high school, with her father’s support, she became a real estate agent. After selling houses for few years, Verrett realized that her life could only be fulfilled by pursuing singing. With help from her vocal instructor, she appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s program Talent Scouts in 1955. From this appearance she was awarded a scholarship at The Julliard School, where she studied for five years with Anna Fitziu and Marion Szekely Freschl.  Verrett made her operatic debut in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in 1957.  The following year she made her New York Ci