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People

Mason, Bridget “Biddy” (1818–1891)

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

Bridget “Biddy” Mason, born a slave in Mississippi in 1818, achieved financial success that enabled her to support her extended family for generations despite the fact that she was illiterate. In a landmark case she sued her master for their freedom, saved her earnings, invested in real estate, and became a well-known philanthropist in Los Angeles, California.

Although born in Mississippi, Mason was owned by slaveholders in Georgia and South Carolina before she was returned to Mississippi.  Her last owner, Robert Marion Smith, a Mississippi Mormon convert, followed the call of church leaders to settle in the West.  Mason and her children joined other slaves on Smith’s religious pilgrimage to establish a new Mormon community in what would become Salt Lake City, Utah.  At the time Utah was still part of Mexico. 

Sources: 

Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier African Americans in the American West 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998; Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1995); Jessie Carney Smith, (editor). Epic Lives One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993).

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Marshall, Harriet Gibbs (1868-1941)

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

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

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

Vereen, Ben (1946- )

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

Ben Augustus Vereen, actor, singer, and dancer, was born on October 10, 1946 in Miami, Florida, but while still an infant his family moved north to Brooklyn, New York.  From a young age Vereen showed a talent in dancing and drama, often performing in local variety shows.  With his mother realizing his talent and potential, Vereen was enrolled at the New York High School of Performing Arts at the age of fourteen to pursue these skills.  After high school Vereen struggled to find work, often taking odd jobs to get by. 

Sources: 

Kenneth Estell, African American Portrait of a People (Detroit: Visible
Ink, 1994); A & E, December 2, 2008,
http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542361

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lewis, Hylan Garnet (1911-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis"
Hylan Garnett Lewis was a distinguished sociologist and pioneer in the field of community studies whose work helped guide the study of American race relations for more than half a century. Throughout his life, Lewis analyzed, and sought remedies for, the problems of the poor and unemployed. He also studied discrimination against people of color in corporate employment, foster care, and schools.

Hylan Lewis was born on April 4, 1911 in Washington, DC, one of five children of Ella Wells and high school principal Harry Whythe Lewis. His early years were spent in Washington and Hampton, Virginia; and in1932 he received a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Union University.

He was an Instructor of economics at Howard University, switching to sociology after meeting E. Franklin Frazier there in 1935. That year, he married Leighla Frances Whipper, a writer and Graduate Student at Howard. The couple had one child, Carole Ione. The marriage ended in divorce, and a second marriage to Audrey Carter produced a son, Guy Edward.

Lewis earned his masters in 1936 at University of Chicago and was a Rosenwald Fellow from 1939-1941. He subsequently worked for the Office of War Information and had appointments at Talladega University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Hampton University.
Sources: 
Hylan Lewis; Blackways of Kent (University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, S.C., 2008); Carole Ione; Pride of Family; Four Generations of American Women of Color (New York: Harlem Moon Classics, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ortuno, Edgardo (1970- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edgardo Ortuno, Afro-Uruguayan professor, politician, and activist for human rights and equal opportunities, was born on June 10, 1970 in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Ortuno’s childhood experiences had a profound impact on his adult life. Growing up as an Afro-Uruguayan in a country where only four percent of the population were of African descent, Ortuno developed a keen sense of racial pride and a fierce opposition to discrimination of any kind. Moreover, his experience growing up under the military dictatorship of Juan M. Bordaberry, which crushed democracy and open political debate in Uruguay, instilled in Ortuno a belief in freedom of expression and equality.

As a young man Ortuno was initially drawn to academia and in the years 1990-1991 he held the position of research assistant at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Uruguay. Between the years 1990 and 1993 Ortuno also worked in the Center of Students of the Institute of Professors in Artigas, Uruguay (CEIP). Throughout this period he involved himself in studies of history, literature, education, and social sciences.
Sources: 
Edgardo Ortuno website: http://www.eortuno.depolitica.com.uy; UNHRC Refworld website: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country (UNHRC: UN Refugee Agency, 2010); Koichiro Matsuura, Address by Koichiro Matsuura: Afro-Uruguayan cultural traditions and history within the context of the Coalition of Latin American and Caribbean Cities against Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, April 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Paige, Myles Anderson (1898-1983)

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

Myles Anderson Paige, the first African American to be appointed a New York City Criminal Court Judge, was born on July 18, 1898 in Montgomery, Alabama. Paige was a star football player at Howard University, graduating from the Washington D.C. institution with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1921. While at Howard he joined Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Paige served in the United States Army during the World War I as captain of the 369th regiment. Paige’s ascension to captain was swift and impressive considering he began his military career as a corporal in September of 1917 and was promoted to second lieutenant a week later. The following week he became first lieutenant and before the end of September he was captain and company commander.  

In 1921 Paige entered the Columbia University Law School and received his LLB degree in 1924. In 1926 he was a founding member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Alpha Gamma Lambda graduate chapter as well as its first chapter president from 1927 to 1930.  Paige later served as 19th General (national) President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity from 1957 to 1960. Also in 1940 Paige received an honorary doctor of law degree from Howard University, rounding out his education.

Sources: 
“M. A. Paige, First Black to Be a City Magistrate,” The New York Times, April 1, 1983; Charles H. Wesley, The History of Alpha Phi Alpha : A Development in College Life (Chicago: The Foundation Publishers, 1979), Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jakes, Thomas Dexter (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Dexter Jakes, megachurch pastor, best-selling author, playwright and movie producer, came from humble beginnings. He was born on June 9, 1957 in Charleston, West Virginia. Jakes was born into an entrepreneurial family. His father Earnest, Sr., owned a janitorial service that had three offices and 52 employees. His mother Odith, although a schoolteacher, also sold Avon products in her spare time. At the age of eight Jakes began selling vegetables from his mother’s garden. While in high school he cut grass, delivered newspapers, and sold Avon and Amway products. Eventually overwhelmed by the death of his father in 1972 and ridicule from his peers about his faith, Jakes dropped out of high school and pursued a call to preach. He eventually took a high school education equivalency test and attended West Virginia State College. Unable to meet the demands of school, church, and a full-time job at a chemical plant, Jakes quit college after a year.
Sources: 
Shayne Lee, T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher (New York: New York University Press, 2005); Hubert Morken, “Bishop T.D. Jakes: A Ministry for Empowerment,” in Jo Renee Formicola and Hubert Morken, eds., Religious Leaders and Faith-Based Politics: Ten Profiles (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Vanderbilt University Divinity School

McClellan, George Marion (1860–1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
African American poet, writer, minister, and educator George Marion McClellan was born in Belfast, Tennessee on September 29, 1860 to George Fielding and Eliza (Leonard) McClellan. Little is known about McClellan’s early life.

In 1885 McClellan obtained a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.  In October 1888 McClellan married Mariah Augusta Rabb, a teacher, who also graduated from Fisk University.  Two years later McClellan received a master’s degree from Fisk.

McClellan and his wife had two sons, one of whom died in childhood of tuberculosis and about whom McClellan wrote tenderly in his poem “To Theodore.”

Sources: 
Peter Schmidt, Sitting in Darkness: New South Fiction, Education, and the Rise of Jim Crow Colonialism, 1865-1920 , pp. 83- ; Chapter 5, Lynching and the Liberal Arts: Rediscovering George Marion McClellan’s Old Greenbottom Inn and Other Stories (1906); Who’s Who Of The Colored Race: A General Biographical Dictionary of Men and Women of African Descent (Volume 1 – 1915), edited by Frank Lincoln Mather, Memento Edition, Half Century Anniversary of Negro Freedom in U.S. (Chicago: Copyright 1915 by Frank Lincoln Mather) http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4371/McClellan-George-Marion-1860-1934.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jeffrey, Hester C. (1842-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Hester Jeffrey, an organizer and activist who became involved in the women’s movement in the city of Rochester, New York, was born in Norfolk, Virginia around 1842. Jeffrey was the daughter of free parents Robert and Martha Whitehurst. In 1860 Jeffrey, along with her brother and sister, moved to Boston to live with their uncle Coffin Pitts. In 1865 she married Jerome Jeffrey, the son the Rev. Roswell D. Jeffrey, in Boston. Rev. Jeffrey was a political activist who stored the printing press of Frederick Douglass’s North Star in the basement of the Favor Street A.M.E. Church in Rochester, New York.  

Hester Jeffrey founded a number of local African American women’s clubs among the growing African American community in Rochester in the early 1890s. In 1897, Jeffrey was appointed to serve on the (Frederick) Douglass Monument Committee, to raise funds for a statue that was going to be erected in Rochester, New York, in the honor of Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, journalist, and champion of woman’s suffrage. After the commemoration of the Douglass Monument, Hester Jeffrey emerged as a leader in Rochester’s African American community. Jeffrey founded two women’s organizations, the Climbers and the Hester C. Jeffrey Club. The Jeffrey Club was an organization to raise funds for colored women to take classes at the Mechanics’ Institute (now called the Rochester Institute of Technology).

Sources: 
Ingrid Overacker, The African American Church Community in Rochester, New York, 1900-1940 (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1998); Rosalyn Penn-Terborg, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850- 1920 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: University of Indiana, 1998); Vicki Welch, Hester C. Whitehurst AKA Smith and Pitts, unpublished: March 14, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago

Clark, Kenneth (1914- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kenneth and Mamie Clark
Image Ownership: Public domain
In the late 1930s sociologist Kenneth Clark and his wife and collaborator, Mamie Phipps Clark, began to study the self-image of black children. The Clarks were among the first to describe the “harm and benefit” thesis in the area of civil rights and desegregation law.  Attorney Thurgood Marshall and the National association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) legal team used the Clark’s social science studies known as the “doll tests” in numerous legal challenges to the Jim Crow system of segregation. 
Sources: 
David J. Amor, Americana: Forced Justice: School Desegregation and the Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); The African American Almanac, 9th ed. (Detroit: Thomson-Gale, 2003); The Encyclopedia of the African American Experience, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Judson Knight, Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2001.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles Community College

Leidesdorff, William Alexander (1810-1848)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Although little remembered today, Leidesdorff was a social, economic and political force in pre-gold rush San Francisco, with a number of “firsts” credited to his name. When he was named the U.S. Vice Consul to Mexico in 1845, he became the nation’s first African American diplomat.   He was elected to San Francisco’s first city council and its first school board in 1847.  He built the first hotel, the first shipping warehouse, he operated the first steamboat on San Francisco Bay, and he laid out the first horse race track in California.

Born on the island of St. Croix in the Danish West Indies in 1810, William was the son of Danish sugar planter Alexander Leidesdorff and Anna Marie Sparks, a light-skinned woman of mixed race ancestry.  In 1841 Leidesdorff sailed his 106-ton schooner Julia Ann around Cape Horn to California and settled in the Mexican village of Yerba Buena on San Francisco Bay.  Over the next three years he became a successful merchant by making frequent trips between California, Mexico and Hawaii.  In 1844 governor Micheltorena confirmed his land grant of 35,000 acres on the American River.  Ranch Rio de Los Americanos was located near the spot where James Marshall discovered gold in January 1848. When Leidesdorff died unexpectedly in May 1848 he was given the honor of being buried inside Mission Dolores Church, where his gravestone may still be seen today.

Sources: 
Gary Mitchell Palgon, William Alexander Leidesdorff: First Black Millionaire, American Consul and California Pioneer (Atlanta: Lulu Press, 2005); Sue Bailey Thurman, “William Alexander Leidesdorff” in Pioneers of Negro Origin in California ( San Francisco: Acme Publishing Company, 1952) http://www.sfmuseum.net/bio/leidesdorff.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Blake, Eubie (1883-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Eubie Blake was born James Hubert Blake in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 7, 1883.   He died one hundred years later on February 12, 1983 having become one of the most important figures in early 20th-century African American music and a major contributor to ragtime and early jazz music and culture.  
Sources: 
J. Wynn Rousuck, A Singing, Winging Tribute to Eubie Blake (Baltimore: Baltimore Sun, 2007); Bobbi King, A Legend in His Own Lifetime: Conversation With Eubie Blake (New York: The Black Perspective in Music, 1973).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Equiano, Olaudah (1745-1797)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Olaudah Equiano, whose father was an Ibo chief, was born in 1745 in what is now Southern Nigeria. At the age of 11 years, Olaudah was captured by African slave traders and sold into bondage in the New World.  Equiano, given the name Gustavus Vassa by one of his many owners, was forced to serve several masters, among them a Virginia plantation owner, a British Naval officer, and a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania merchant.  While a slave to the naval officer Equiano traveled between four continents. These global experiences within the Atlantic Slave Trade allowed Equiano to produce the most popular and vivid slave narrative of his era.

By 1777 at the age of 32, Equiano, after having mastered reading, writing and arithmetic, purchased his freedom.  He settled in England, befriended Granville Sharp, the first prominent British abolitionist, and soon became a leader of the emerging anti-slavery movement.  Equiano presented one of the first petitions to the British Parliament calling for the abolition of slavery.  
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); see also African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Group, 1994); http://www.brycchancarey.com/equiano/biog.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Paterson, David A. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
David Paterson Sworn in as Lt. Governor
of New York, January 2007
Image Ownership: Public Domain

David A. Paterson, sworn in as Governor on March 17, 2008, is the first legally blind American Governor, the first black Governor of New York State, and only the fourth black Governor of any state.

Sources: 
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/david_a_paterson; http://www.ny.gov/governor/indes-ltgov.html; http://www.sipa.columbia.edu/academics/directory/dp417-fac.html; www.news24.com.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Batts, Deborah (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Deborah Batts, U.S. District Court Judge in New York City, received degrees from Radcliffe College and the Harvard University Law School.  Batts began her legal career with the firm of Cravath, Swaine, and Moore in New York City.  Later she was appointed assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan.  In 1984, she became the first African American appointed to the faculty at Fordham University School of Law (New York).  After serving as an associate professor of law at Fordham for ten years, Batts was nominated for the federal bench by President Bill Clinton.

The Clinton nomination was the second time that Batts’s name had been put forward for a judicial appointment.  Her previous nomination in 1991, by President George Bush, was unsuccessful.  But her mentor, Senator Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat, persisted and she was re-nominated by President Clinton in January 1993.  Batts was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 5, 1994.  When she took her seat on the bench in Manhattan on June 23, 1994, she became the nation’s first openly lesbian African American federal judge.
Sources: 
Source: Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), p. 21.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Spaulding, Charles Clinton (1874-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Clinton Spaulding, one of the most successful and influential African American businessmen of the 20th century, was born August 1, 1874 on a farm near Whiteville, North Carolina. His parents, Benjamin McIver and Margaret Moore Spaulding of free ancestry, were prosperous landowners and respected leaders in their community. As a young boy, Charles spent most of his time working on the farm. He did attend school but the educational possibilities were very limited in his community, so when he was twenty years old he moved to Durham to join his uncle, Aaron Moore. There he enrolled at Whitted School and gained his high school diploma in 1898 at the age of 23.
Sources: 
“Charles Clinton Spaulding” in Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); “Charles Clinton Spaulding” in Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 5: 1951-1955 (New York: American Council of Learned Societies, 1977).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coltrane, John William (1926-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John William Coltrane emerged as one of the most innovative and influential jazz musicians of the 20th century. Born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926, the son of John Robert and Alice Blair Coltrane, he grew up in High Point, North Carolina where his grandfather, Rev. William W. Blair, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was one of the community leaders.  John Coltrane's childhood attendance at his family's black church shaped the spiritual dimensions of his musical orientation.  Following his father's death and the family’s sudden impoverishment, he and his mother moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1943 to ensure he would have a proper education.  Coltrane’s mother Alice worked as a domestic servant while nurturing her son's musical interest and encouraged him to enroll at the Ornstein School of Music.  
Sources: 
Lewis Porter, John Coltrane: His Life and Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998); C.O. Simpkins, Coltrane: A Biography (Baltimore, Maryland: Black Classic Press, 1975).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Selassie, Amha, Emperor of Ethiopia (1916-1997)

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

Amha Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, was proclaimed ruler of the state three times, first in 1960 then in 1975 and finally while in exile in 1989.  Selassie was born Asfaw Wossen Tafari in the walled city of Harrar in August 1916 to Dejazmach Tafari Makonnen, then the governor of Harrar and future emperor of Ethiopia, and his wife Menen Asfaw. Amha Selassie became Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen of Ethiopia when his father was crowned emperor on November 2, 1930.

In December 1960, the Imperial Guard launched a coup and seized power in Ethiopia while the emperor was on a visit to Brazil. The coup leaders compelled the 44 year old crown prince to read a radio statement in which he accepted the crown in his father’s place and announced a government of reform. However, the regular army and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church refused to accept the new government, and the leader of the church, Patriarch Abune Baslios, issued an anathema against all those who cooperated with the coup leaders. Emperor Haile Selassie returned to Ethiopia and the army stormed the palace, where members of the government were being held prisoner by the Imperial Guards.

Sources: 

Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Mankarious, Jewel Stradford Rogers Lafontant (1922-1997)

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

Jewel Stradford Rogers Lafontant Mankarious, civil rights leader, high-ranking U.S. Presidential appointee, and lawyer was born on April 28, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents, Aida Arabella Cartera and attorney C. Francis Stradford, helped to influence Mankarious's decision to become a lawyer.

In 1942 Jewel Stradford graduated from Oberlin College, receiving her bachelor’s degree in political science. That same year she became a founding member of the Congress of Racial Equality. Stradford attended the University of Chicago Law School and in 1946 became the first woman of any race to receive a J.D. from that institution.  

In 1946 Stradford married John W. Rogers, a juvenile court judge.  The couple had a son, John W. Rogers Jr., who later became the founder of Ariel Capital Management, the largest black-owned investment firm in the nation.   Jewel and John Rogers divorced in 1961.  Later that year she married H. Ernest Lafontant who died in 1976. She remarried in 1989, this time to Naguib S. Mankarious.

Sources: 

BNET. Jewel Lafontant Mankarious, prominent attorney and civil rights
crusader dies at age 75. <
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n5_v92/ai_19543518.>;
Betty Gabrielli, Oberlin College online: Press Releases. Oberlin
College Archive Opens Jewel Lafontant Mankarious papers. <
http://www.oberlin.edu/newserv/01jul/mankariou s
_press_release.html.>; Eric Pace, Jewel Lafontant-Mankarious, Lawyer
and U.S. Official, Dies. The New York Times. <
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=
9907EED9153DF930A35755C0A961958260.>; Jewel Stradford LaFontant
Biography. <a href="http://biography.jrank.org/
pages/2625/LaFontant-Jewel-Stradford.html">Jewel Stradford LaFontant
Biography</a>

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carson, Julia May Porter (1938–2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Julia May Porter Carson, one of the first African American women to represent Indiana in Congress, was born Julia May Porter on July 8, 1938. She was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but in her early childhood she moved with her mother to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Carson would spend the remainder of her life.  Porter's single mother, Velma, worked as a domestic and Julia as a child worked part-time waiting tables, delivering newspapers, and harvesting crops to supplement the family income.

In Indianapolis, Carson attended Crispus Attucks High School, at the time a segregated school, along with future basketball star Oscar Robertson. She later studied at Martin’s University in Indiana, and attended Indiana University in Bloomington.   

Married early in life, Carson and her husband divorced leaving her to raise two children as a single mother.  In 1965 Carson left college to work as a secretary for the United Auto Workers but switched career paths in the 1960s when newly elected Indiana Representative Andrew Jacobs, Jr., hired her to work in his office. This would prove a fateful career move as in 1972 Jacobs encouraged Carson to run for the Indiana legislature. She won the campaign and held her first elective office.  
Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=400067, Civic Impulse, LLC; http://www.nndb.com/people/101/000035993/, Soylent Communications (2009); http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/c000191/, Washington Post Company, (2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Boateng, Paul Yaw (1951- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born to a Ghanaian father and a Scottish mother in Hackney, London, Paul Yaw Boateng became one of the first black British Members of Parliament in the general election of 1987. In 2002 he became the first Afro-Briton to serve in the Prime Minister's Cabinet.  The family moved to Ghana when Boateng was still a young boy, where his father, Kwaku Boateng, worked as a barrister and parliamentary cabinet minister. In 1966, the military coup in Ghana forced Eleanor Boateng, a Quaker, the 14 year old Boateng, and his sister, Rosemary, to return to England where they settled in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

Boateng continued his education at Apsley grammar school before pursuing a degree in Law at Bristol University. After graduating, Boateng trained to be a solicitor, devoting much energy to housing, police and women’s issues, and later became a lawyer specialising in civil rights. These beliefs he exercised at a variety of political protests in the late 1970s, and early 1980s.
Sources: 
The Times Newspaper, Profile: Paul Boateng (The Sunday Times, 16th November, 2008); Encyclopaedia Britannica, Paul Boateng (Available online at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/972767/Paul-Boateng); http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/paul_boateng/brent_south.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Bryant, Kobe (1978- )

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

Professional basketball superstar Kobe Bryant has played for the Los Angeles Lakers since 1996 when he came to the team as an 18-year-old, the youngest player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. Bryant is a long-time philanthropist, using his well-known name to fundraise for a number of causes. His stellar career was tarnished in 2003 when he was arrested for alleged sexual assault, resulting in a suit that was settled out of court a year later.

Bryant is the youngest of three children born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to former National Basketball Association player and Women’s National Basketball Association head coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. His parents named him after the popular Japanese steak of the same name. In 1983, Bryant’s father left the NBA and moved his family to Italy to play professional basketball. Young Kobe quickly adapted to his environment, learning to speak fluent Italian and Spanish. Besides learning to play basketball at an early age, Bryant also became a skilled soccer player. Following his father’s retirement from basketball in 1991, the family returned to Philadelphia.

Sources: 
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro and Jennifer Stevens, Kobe Bryant: The Game of His Life (Portland, Oregon: Revolution Publishing, 2004): http://www.nba.com/playerfile/kobe_bryant/; http://www.afterschoolallstars.org; http://www.forbes.com/2010/11/04/nba-best-paid-players-business-sportsmoney-nba-top-paid-players.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Wineberry, Jesse Calvin (1955- )

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

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

Steward, Austin (1793-1869)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Austin Steward, author, businessman, abolitionist, and temperance leader, was born a slave in Prince William County, Virginia to Robert and Susan Steward sometime around 1793. By the age of seven he was working as a house slave on the plantation of Capt. William Helm. The Helm family left Virginia, after being involved in several embarrassing scandals, settled in upstate New York. Austin Steward went with them along with many other slaves.

While living in upstate New York, Steward taught himself to read in secrecy, for which he was severely beaten and his books burned. This beating, along with many others he received, gave him severe reoccurring head pains from which he suffered for the rest of his life. In 1814 Steward sought the help of the New York Manumission Society to secure his freedom. An agent of the society informed Steward that he was legally free on the grounds that he had been rented out by Capt. Helm to other farmers, which violated New York State’s slave laws. The agent told Steward to continue his services to Capt. Helm until the agent could fully provide Steward with everything he would need to make his freedom official.
Sources: 
Austin Steward, Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002); http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/steward/bio.html; http://www.math.buffalo.edu/~sww/0history/hwny-steward.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Talley, André Leon (1949-)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Known as one of the fashion world’s most recognized personalities, Talley stepped down as Vogue’s editor-at-large after three decades to become the editor-in-chief for Numero Russia, an international magazine based in Russia.

Talley is the son of William C. Talley, a taxi driver, and Alma Ruth Davis, and was born on October 16, 1949 in Durham, North Carolina. However, he was raised by his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, who worked as a domestic in the Durham area. Davis had a profound effect on him and he credits her with his uncommon flair for fashion. As a teen, he ventured to the library in the white section of town. It was there that he discovered Vogue and quickly became a devoted reader.

Talley’s postsecondary experience began at North Carolina Central University and, later he was granted a scholarship to Brown University where he earned an M.A. in French Studies in 1973. He initially planned to teach French, but the fashion world beckoned him. He first worked as an assistant for Andy Warhol. In 1983, he began working as the editor-at-large for Vogue magazine and soon became the most notable African American in the world of designer fashion.

Sources: 
Close-Up Media, Inc., André Leon Talley, eds. André Leon Talley to Redesign Zappos Couture Web Presence, (Jacksonville, FL: Close-Up Media, January 27, 2014), Rust, Suzanne, A.L.T.: A Memoir, (Fairfax, VA: Black Issues Book Review, November/December, 2003), Thompson, Arienne, ed., Andre Leon Talley leaving 'Vogue' for Russian mag.(MacLean, VA: USA Today.com, March 6, 2013), Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2013/03/06/andre-leon-talley-leaving-vogue-taking-on-russian-mag/1968127/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jordan, Michael J. (1963- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Michael Jordan in the Air
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Michael Jordan, National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar, was born February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of James R. and Deloris Jordan. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. Jordan became a standout athlete at Laney High School despite being rejected for the school’s varsity basketball team the first season he tried out. He grew four inches taller over the following year, made the team and became an All-American during his senior year at Laney.

Jordan played college basketball at the University of North Carolina where under coach Dean Smith’s tutelage he established a reputation as a clutch player when he made a game winning shot against Georgetown in the 1982 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game. This reputation would follow him into the NBA when he left school before his senior year to play professionally for the Chicago Bulls.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University-Fresno

Washington, George (1817-1905)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Washington was a prominent pioneer in the state named, like he was, for America's first president.  He founded Centralia in southwest Washington and was a leading citizen and benefactor of the town.  Washington's father was a slave, his mother of English descent.  When his father was sold soon after his birth in Virginia, his mother left him with a white couple named Anna and James Cochrane (or Cochran), who raised him in Ohio and Missouri.  At the age of 33, Washington joined a wagon train and headed west with the Cochranes, seeking to escape discriminatory laws.

In 1852 he staked a claim on the Chehalis River in what was then Oregon Territory. Because Oregon law prohibited settlement by African Americans, Washington had the Cochranes file the claim. After Washington Territory was created, they deeded the property to him.

When he was in his fifties, Washington married widow Mary Jane Cooness (or Cornie).  In January 1875, the Washingtons platted a town, which they called Centerville, on their property.  The name was changed to Centralia in 1883.  The Washingtons provided land for a Baptist church, cemetery, and public square (now George Washington Park).
Sources: 
HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "George and Mary Jane Washington found the town of Centerville (now Centralia) on January 8, 1875" (by Kit Oldham), http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=5276   "History of Centralia," Centralia, Washington website, http://www.centralia.com/PageDetails.asp?ID=25&Title=Historic%20Centralia#founder
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Staff Historian, HistoryLink.org

Khazan, Jibreel/ Ezell Blair Jr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
One of the original Greensboro Four who took part in the Woolworth sit-ins. It is reported that as a nine-year-old he boasted to friends that he would “one day drink from the white people’s fountains and eat at their lunch counters.” Blair was the most uncertain of the four who decided to stage the Woolworth protest, and recalls calling his parents to ask their advice. They told him to do what he must and to carry himself with dignity and grace. He never strayed very far from the example of his parents, who were active in the civil rights movement, or the lessons of the people he had known as a child growing up in the south.
Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, N.C.: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Johnson C. Smith University, respectively

Cayton, Revels (1907-1995)

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

Revels Cayton, born in Seattle, Washington, was the son of Horace and Susie Cayton, and the grandson of U.S. Senator Hiram Revels. As a highly respected labor leader, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco District Council of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific and, later, the business agent for the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.

Sources: 
Chicago Defender, November, 23, 1940, December 22, 1945; June 8, 1946; Robert A. Hill, The FBI’s Racon: Racial Conditions in the United States during World War II (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1995); San Francisco Examiner, November 7, 1995
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for African American Historical Research and Preservation (AAAHRP)

Lewis, John R. (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Lewis, 23, Speaks at the March on Washington (1963)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama on February 21, 1940.  In 1961 he received a B.A. from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1967 he received an additional B.A. from Fisk University located in Nashville, Tennessee.

While attending American Baptist Seminary, Lewis emerged as a civil rights leader after his participation in the Nashville sit-in movement in 1960 and the Freedom Rides the following year.  In 1963 at the age of 23, Lewis helped plan the March on Washington and was one of the keynote speakers.  Lewis also served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966.  By the time he assumed the leadership of SNCC he had been arrested 24 times as a consequence of his protest activities.  Lewis became nationally known after Alabama State Troopers and other police attacked him and 500 other protesters as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March.  To this day some of the wounds from his beating are still visible.

In 1966 Lewis left SNCC as it embraced a “black power” ideology, and started working with community organizations in Atlanta.  Later that year he was named director of community affairs for the National Consumer Co-op Bank in Atlanta.
Sources: 
Lewis, John, with Michael D’Orso, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998); John Lewis' opinions about political issues and his voting record at website On the Issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/GA/John_Lewis.htm
Congressional biography: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=l000287
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Burroughs, Nannie Helen (1883-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Nannie Helen Burroughs was born in Orange, Virginia on May 2, 1879 to parents John and Jennie Burroughs.  Young Burroughs attended school in Washington, D.C. and then moved to Kentucky where she attended Eckstein-Norton University and eventually received an honorary M.A. degree in 1907.

Despite the absence of a college degree, Burroughs sought a teaching position in Washington, D.C.  When she did not receive it, she moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and became associate editor of The Christian Banner, a Baptist newspaper.  Burroughs returned to Washington, D.C. where, despite receiving a high rating on the civil service exam, she was refused a position in the public school system.  Burroughs took a series of temporary jobs including office building janitor and bookkeeper for a small manufacturing firm, hoping to eventually become a teacher in Washington, D.C.  She then accepted a position in Louisville as secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Black Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia (University of Michigan: Carlson Publishing Company, 1993); Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, Inc., 2005); http://www.toptags.com/aama/bio/women/nburroughs.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jones, James Earl (1931 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS
Award winning actor James Earl Jones was born Todd Jones on January 17, 1931 in Arkabutla Township, Tate County, Mississippi.  His father, Robert Earl Jones, an actor, boxer, butler and chauffeur, deserted the family and young Todd, at age of five moved from his mother’s care to live with his maternal grandparents, Maggie and John Henry Connolly on their farm near Jackson, Michigan.  This traumatic life change caused him to develop a severe stutter and refuse to speak.  

Jones credits one of his high school teachers, Donald Crouch with helping him master his speaking ability.  Crouch saw Jones’ gift in poetry and made him recite his poems everyday before the class in hopes that this would build his confidence and end his silence. 

In 1949 Jones entered the University of Michigan with the aspiration of becoming a doctor.   He spent four years, however, realizing his dramatic talent and shifted his career goal.  Jones left the University of Michigan in 1953 without a degree but with four years of Reserve Officer Training Corps training.  He was soon drafted into the U.S. Army.  While waiting for orders to active duty, he found a part-time job at the Manistee Summer Theater.
Sources: 
James Earl Jones and Penelope Niven, James Earl Jones: Voices and Silences (New York: Scribner, 1993); Documentary on James Earl Jones at TCM.com (Turner Classic Movies): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=467026&category=Overview
History of Ramsdell Theatre: http://www.ramsdell-theater.org/pages/history.asp?content=2
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, Ernestine (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
The career of Seattle-based jazz vocalist Ernestine Anderson is noteworthy both for its prolific output of more than 30 albums, and the more than 60-year span of her career. Born in Houston, Texas on November 11, 1928, as a child she joined her father and grandmother in the gospel choir of her local church. At 12 she won a regional talent competition. In 1943, her first gig was with the band of trumpeter Russell Jacquet.

With her family she moved to Seattle, Washington in 1944. At 18, she toured with the Johnny Otis big band; at 20, she married and began her own family. Throughout her career, she alternated returning to Seattle to be with children and family, with periods of going out of town or country to focus on her career.

In 1952, famed big band leader Lionel Hampton had an opening for a new singer. With the encouragement of her husband, Anderson auditioned, backed up by the Ray Charles trio, then in Seattle. She was hired, and toured with the band for 15 months; fellow Seattle native Quincy Jones was in the trumpet section. When the band began a European tour, she returned to Seattle and spent time raising her children. Returning to her career, she performed at the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958. During a successful tour in Sweden, she recorded her first solo album, later released by Mercury Records under the title “Hot Cargo.” An August 4, 1958 cover of Time magazine followed, and she was named the “Best New Vocal Star” by Down Beat magazine in 1959.
Sources: 
Paul De Barros, Jackson Street after Hours: the Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle, Washington: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://www.ernestineanderson.com; http://www.npr.org/programs/jazz.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McKinney, Nina Mae (1913-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Ruth Harriet Louise

Nina Mae McKinney, one of the first African American leading actresses in Hollywood, was born Nannie Mayme McKinney in 1913. The Lancaster, South Carolina native was reared by her great-aunt, Carrie Sanders on the Estate of Colonel LeRoy Sanders, where her family had worked for many generations. She attended Lancaster Industrial School until the age of 13 before relocating to New York to live with her mother, Georgia Crawford McKinney. As an early teen, McKinney performed in Harlem’s nightclubs and eventually on Broadway in the Lew Leslie musical review, Blackbirds of 1928.

Her celebrity began at the age of 16 when director King Vidor, impressed by her vitality in Blackbirds of 1928, hired her to parlay her multi-talented abilities as an actress, dancer, and vocalist in the musical film, Hallelujah (1929). McKinney’s effervescent performance as the seductress, “Chick,” brought her immediate success. Yet despite rave reviews for her vivacious performance and a resulting five-year contract with MGM, McKinney’s career faltered during an era when Hollywood declined to position black actresses in dignified roles.

Sources: 

Louise Pettus, Sandlapper: The Magazine of South Carolina. “Lancaster’s Celebrated Film Star. 1999; Darlene Clarke Hine, Elsa Barkely Brown, et. al. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 2 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1993).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gardner, Christopher Paul (1954- )

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

Christopher Paul Gardner entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, and writer was born on February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Gardner, never knowing his father, lived periodically with his mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, as well as in foster homes.

After high school, he joined the Navy and then moved to San Francisco, California where he worked for a medical research associate and scientific medical supply distributor. In 1977, he married Sherry Dyson. In 1981 they separated, but did not divorce until 1990. In 1981, Gardner’s girlfriend, Jackie, gave birth to their son Christopher Gardner, Jr.  Nineteen months later, Jackie left him and their son.

Sources: 

Christopher Gardner, Quincy Troupe and Min Eichler Rivas, The Pursuit of Happyness (New York: Amistad, 2006); Christopher Gardner and Min Eichler Rivas, Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in the Pursuit of Happyness (New York: HarperCollins, 2009); “Biography: Christopher Gardner.” http://www.chrisgardnermedia.com/chris-gardner-biography.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bailey, DeFord (1899-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
David C. Morton and Charles K. Wolfe, DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991); Rick Petreycik, "The Harmonica Wizard," American Legacy Magazine (Summer 2007), pp. 15-21; http://www.tnstate.edu/library/digital/bailey.htm; http://www.pbs.org/deford/biography/index.html

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brautigam, Loria Raquel Dixon ( ? - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Sources: 
Audra D.S. Burch, "Afro-Latin Americans: A Rising Voice," The Miami Herald, June 10, 2007; Tim Rogers, "Disco's Door Policy Sparks Race Debate," Nica Times, February 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Abbott, Anderson Ruffin (1837-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 
M. Dalyce Newby, Anderson Ruffin Abbott: First Afro-Canadian Doctor (Markam, Ontario: Fitzhenny and Whiteside, 1998); Daniel Hill, The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1981); Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/abbott_anderson_ruffin_14E.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Flournoy, Corey D. (1974- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
  Image Courtesy of Mr. Corey D. Flournoy, M.Ed.
Corey Flournoy is an educator, diversity advocate, and entrepreneur. Flournoy went from an early life in Chicago’s crime-ridden projects to a career in agricultural sciences, becoming the first African American to be named president of the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization.  He was also the organization’s first president to come from an urban area.

Corey D. Flournoy was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1974. His single mother, Barbara, raised Corey along with a brother and foster sister. Rather than attend his neighborhood high school, Flournoy applied to Chicago’s magnet school system of specialized studies. The only school to accept him was the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, which had recently opened its doors with a curriculum to prepare urban students for professions and careers in agriculture.

Flournoy reluctantly enrolled and entered the school’s FFA chapter, a requirement for all students. He soon found himself tasting milk samples and evaluating beef carcasses. He also spent six weeks working on a farm in central Illinois where he discovered his leadership skills. He won the election for vice president of the Illinois FFA. While his entry into agriculture was unplanned, Flournoy later said that it changed his life.   
Sources: 
“Corey Flournoy,” http://coreyflournoy.com/; “Corey D. Flournoy,” University of Illinois College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, http://aged.illinois.edu/faculty.php; Colin Hall and Ron Lieber, Taking Time Off: Inspiring Stories of Students Who Enjoyed Successful Breaks from College and How You Can Plan Your Own (New York: Princeton Review Publishing, 2003); “Future Farmers Chief Breaks New Ground: Agriculture: Corey Flournoy is the FFA's First Black President and Its First Leader to Come From an Urban Area. But Rural Life is Not in His Plans,” Los Angeles Times (December 12, 1994)
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-12-04/news/mn-4616_1_corey-flournoy.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dixon, William James ["Willie"] (1915-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Willie Dixon was a pioneering Chicago blues musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, producer, and philanthropist.  He was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1915 to Anderson Bell and Daisy Dixon, was married to Marie Booker, and had 12 children (five with wife Marie, and seven with Eleanora Franklin).  His grandchildren include blues musician Alex Dixon.
Sources: 
Robert Palmer, Deep Blues (New York: Penguin Group, 1981); Gayle Dean Wardlow, Chasin’ That Devil Music (San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Carter, W. Beverly (1921-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Beverly Carter at Lincoln University,
1943

Ambassador William Beverly Carter is the first Ambassador-at-Large, and the second African American, to be appointed an ambassador by three Presidents. In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon appointed him ambassador to Tanzania. Four years later, President Gerald R. Ford named him ambassador to Liberia. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed him U.S. Ambassador-at-Large.

Carter, born in 1921 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, was raised in nearby Philadelphia after the age of four. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in biology from Lincoln University in 1944, and his Law degree from Temple University in 1947.  One of his Lincoln classmates was future Ghanaian head of state Kwame Nkrumah.

Sources: 
Celestine Tutt, “Ambassador William Beverly Carter, Jr,” (http://adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Carter,%20William%20Beverly%20Jr.toc.pdf); “Beverly Carter, 61; Held High Positions as a U.S. Diplomat,” (Obituary) New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1982/05/11/obituaries/beverly-carter-61-held-high-positions-as-a-us-diplomat.html; U.S. State Department, “African American Chiefs of Mission,” http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/perfrpt/2008/html/112198.htm; Brian C. Aronstam, “Out of Africa,” Stanford Magazine, http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=42098.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Moore, Archie (1913-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Tracy Callis

One of the great light heavyweights of all time, Archie Moore, a.k.a., the “Old Mongoose,” was born under the name of Archibald Wright on December 13, 1913 in Benoit, Mississippi. Archie turned professional in 1936, originally operating in the middleweight ranks, but ultimately moving up into the light heavyweight class by 1945. He fought a total of 222 recorded bouts over more than 27 years in the ring. He campaigned against most of the toughest men in the business during his long career, posting 187 wins, including 132 knockouts, against only 23 losses and 11 draws.

Moore campaigned for 16 years before gaining an opportunity to fight for a world championship. On December 15, 1952 he became the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World at age 39, defeating Joe Maxim by a decision in fifteen rounds, thereby becoming the oldest light heavyweight champion in history. He defeated Maxim twice in rematches and was nearly unbeatable as a light heavyweight, successfully defending the title nine times, and holding it for almost a decade before finally being stripped of it in February of 1962 for failing to defend the title within the required period of time.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Temple, Ruth Janetta (1892-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Ruth Janetta Temple was born in Natchez, Mississippi in 1892. After her father’s death, the Temple family moved to Los Angeles, California in 1904 where her mother worked as a practical nurse and Ruth cared for her five siblings.  Temple’s interest in medicine surfaced when her brother was seriously injured in a gunpowder explosion.  She recalled that “at that time I thought that women were nurses.  I didn’t know they were doctors.  When I learned that women were doctors, I said `Ah, that’s what I want to be’.”  In 1913 Ruth Temple was invited to speak to the Los Angeles Forum, an African American cultural and political organization established in 1903.  She so impressed Forum members, especially  prominent black activist, T.W. Troy,  that  they “became deeply interested in my potential,” and “did the unprecedented thing” of sponsoring  her with a five-year scholarship to the College of Medical Evangelists (which is now Loma Linda University).  
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, vol. 2, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 1156-1157.
Affiliation: 
California State University, Sacramento

Hansberry, William Leo (1894-1965)

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

Historian and anthropologist, William Leo Hansberry began his college education at Atlanta University, but (at the urging of W.E.B. DuBois) he transferred to Harvard in 1917. Based on his reading of classical texts and his study of archeological evidence, Hansberry became convinced as an undergraduate that sophisticated civilizations had existed in Africa–especially in Ethiopia–for centuries prior to the rise of the Greeks and Romans in Europe. He pursued that premise for the rest of his life.

A circular letter announcing his desire to develop courses in African civilization landed him a temporary job at Howard University in Washington D.C., following his graduation from Harvard in 1921. There he quickly built his new program into one of the most popular undergraduate majors on the campus, and he hosted international conferences to stimulate the study of ancient and medieval African societies. By the mid-1920s, however, he ran afoul not only of the wider white academic community, which was extremely skeptical of Hansberry’s ambitious claims, but also of senior colleagues at Howard, who believed he was giving the university a bad name by teaching assertions for which there was little or no compelling evidence. The Howard board settled the dispute by retaining the popular African program, while relegating Hansberry himself to a secondary position without tenure.

Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America; L. Mpho Mabunda, ed., The African Almanac; “The Global African Community” at http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry.html (6-20-06) and http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry2.html (6-20-06); “Mississippi Writers Page” at http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/hansberry_william_leo/index.html; and “Africa Within” at http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry_profile.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Powell, Adam Clayton, Sr. (1865-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. was born on May 5 in Franklin County, Virginia to former slaves of African American, Native American, and German ancestry.  He was raised in a family of 17 children.

During his youth, Powell lived a reckless life filled with gambling.  At the age of 19, Powell experienced a religious conversion to Christianity at a revival meeting.  After failing to gain entrance into Howard University School of Law, he decided to study religion.  In 1888, he enrolled in a theology program at Wayland Seminary and College in Washington, D.C. earning his degree in 1892.

Sources: 
Charles V. Hamilton, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma (New York: Athenaeum, 1991); Will Haygood, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993); “Dr. A. C. Powell Sr., Minister, 88, Dead.” New York Times (June 13, 1953), 15.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Rudolph, Wilma (1940-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Wilma Rudolph with Her Olympic Gold Medals
Image Courtesy of The Library of Congress
Wilma Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940 in Bethlehem, Tennessee, one of eight children to parents Ed and Blanche Rudolph.  Wilma weighed only four-and-a-half pounds at birth and was born with polio and left for a time with only the use of her right leg because of it.  She suffered from double pneumonia twice and scarlet fever once before she was four years of age.  For two years, her mother brought her weekly to Meharry Medical College in Nashville for treatment.  Her family also massaged her leg at least four times daily.  From age five to nine, she wore a metal brace to correct her polio condition.  During that time she noticed the trips were always made on segregated buses that required African Americans sit in the back.

Rudolph entered Cobb Elementary School in Clarksville in 1947 and it was here that she discovered her passion for sports.  In eighth grade, she joined the track team even though basketball was her first love, and ran in five different events in high school.  By the age of 16, she was a bronze medalist in the 1956 Olympics.  In September of 1958, she entered Tennessee State University majoring in elementary education and psychology.  
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=131.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Paul, Nathaniel (1793?-1839)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Early 19th Century abolitionist minister Nathaniel Paul was born into a free black family in Exeter, New Hampshire and was one of six Paul sons to enter the Baptist ministry.  His elder brother, Thomas Paul, Sr., was the first pastor of the First African Baptist Church in Boston in 1806.  Shadrach Paul was an itinerant preacher who rode throughout New Hampshire for the Domestic Mission Society.  Benjamin Paul worked alongside Nathaniel as an antislavery agent and minister.  Nathaniel Paul moved to Albany, New York, a way station on the Underground Railroad to Canada, where he served as the first pastor of the Union Street Baptist Church.  

A leader in the city’s black community, Rev. Paul participated in a variety of projects designed to improve educational opportunities for blacks in Albany. He was an organizer of the Wilberforce School in Canada, the only school for black youth until 1873, although some blamed him for the financial failure of Wilberforce.  Paul was also a founder and leader of the Union Society of Albany for the Improvement of the Colored People in Morals, Education, and Mechanic Arts.  Paul was also an active abolitionist and a vocal opponent of the colonization movement.  One of his speeches, delivered in New York City in 1829, appeared in the abolitionist journal, The Rights of All.  
Sources: 
J. Marcus Mitchell, “The Paul Family,” Old Time New England, LXIII (Winter, 1973): 74-76; Lorenzo Greene, The Negro in the Colonial Period (New York: Atheneum, 1969); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982), 481-2; William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease, Black Utopia: Negro Communal Experiments in America (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1964), and Milton C. Sernett, Afro-American Religious History: A Documentary Witness (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1985); New York Genealogical Records, 1675-1920 in www.ancestry.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brisby, William H. (1831-1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
William BrisbyWilliam Henry Brisby was born free in New Kent County, Virginia in 1831 and lived on 32 acres of land that he inherited from his father.  He later bought additional land and eventually had a 179 acre farm.  Brisby worked mostly as a blacksmith and wheelwright but raised sheep, and engaged in commercial fishing.
Sources: 
Luther Porter Jackson, Negro Office Holders in Virginia, 1865-1895 (Norfolk: Guide Quality Press, 1945); John T. Kneebone, ed., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Williams, Smokey Joe (1886-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born Joseph Williams in Sequin, Texas on April 6, 1886, Smokey Joe Williams (also known as Cyclone Joe Williams) has been argued to be one of the greatest of the black baseball pitchers. In 1952, when the Pittsburgh Courier asked a panel of black veterans and sports writers to name the best black pitcher of all time, Smokey Joe Williams was the winner 20-19, over Satchel Paige. He stood 6’ 5” with a variety of power pitches but was best known for his fastball. He began to pitch around the San Antonio region in 1905 and compiled a record of 28-4. In 1907, he played for the San Antonio Broncos as a pitcher-outfielder, winning 20 and losing 8. In 1909, when Rube Foster, “The Father of Black Baseball,” brought his Leland Giants through San Antonio, he saw Williams pitch against Foster’s team and was amazed at his arresting speed, Williams and his team beat the Giants 3-0. When the Giants left, they took Williams north with them.

On October 24, 1912, Williams faced the National League champion New York Giants in an exhibition game. The Giants were coming off from a World Series loss against the Boston Red Sox. Williams shut out the Giants with only four hits for a 6-0 victory. By 1913, Williams won four and lost one against the white big leaguers.  At a time when professional baseball was not integrated and black teams were considered semi-pro, the victory over the Giants gave Williams and his team considerable national exposure.
Sources: 
John B. Holway, Negro League Pioneers (Connecticut: Meckler Books, 1988); Robert Peterson, Only the Ball was White (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Pace, Harry (1884-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Harry Herbert Pace was the founder of the first black record company, Pace Phonograph Corporation which sold recordings under the Black Swan Records label. He was born on January 6, 1884 in Covington, Georgia the son of Charles Pace and Nancy Ferris Pace. His father, a blacksmith by trade, died while Harry was still an infant leaving him to be raised by his mother. Pace graduated from elementary school when he was twelve and finished at Atlanta University seven years later as valedictorian.  W.E.B. Du Bois was one of his instructors.  After graduation he worked in a printing company.  He also worked for banking and insurance companies first in Atlanta and later in Memphis.   

In 1912, after moving to Memphis, Pace met W.C. Handy. The two men became friends, writing songs together. During this period Pace met and later married Ethlynde Bibb. Pace and Handy formed the Pace and Handy Music Company together and work with composers such as William Grant Sill and Fletcher Henderson. Pace moved to New York to manage the sheet music business but later decided to form a record company.

Pace Phonograph Corporation Inc. was founded in March, 1921 with $30,000 in borrowed capital. The label Black Swan Records was named after Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield a famous 19th Century entertainer known as the “Black Swan” for her singing.

Sources: 

Jitu K. Weusi, The Rise and Fall of Black Swan Records, http://www.redhotjazz.com/blackswan.html; Joan Potter, African American Firsts, (New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Group, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mayfield, Curtis (1942-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Kembrew McLeod, "Mayfield, Curtis," St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, Eds. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast, Vol. 3 (Detroit: St. James Press, 2000); http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/curtismayfield/biography; http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542244&part=0
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Slater, Rodney (1955- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Rodney E. Slater, former cabinet member, attorney, and state government official, was born in Marianna, Arkansas, on February 23, 1955.  In 1977, Slater graduated from Eastern Michigan University. He earned his law degree in 1980 from the University of Arkansas.

In 1980, Slater became the Assistant Attorney General for the litigation division for Arkansas’s Attorney General’s Office.  From 1983 to 1987, Slater served as Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s executive assistant for Economic and Community Programs and then as the Special Assistant for Community and Minority Affairs.  In 1987, Clinton appointed Slater to the Arkansas Highway Commission.  Slater also held other positions in the state of Arkansas such as Director of Governmental Relations at Arkansas State University and was a special liaison for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Slater as the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.   Slater’s effectiveness in that position catapulted him into the position of Secretary of Transportation in 1997.  As Secretary, he oversaw transportation projects between federal and state governments.

Sources: 
David Stout, “Senate Easily Confirms Slater as Transportation Secretary,” New York Times (February 7, 1997), p.A22; Don Phillips, “Clinton ally affords pipeline to Oval office,” Washington Post (December 21, 1996), p.A14; and Federal Government Official website:www.fhwa.dot.gov/administrators/rslater.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Howell, Lembhard Goldstone (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Lembhard Howell
Lembhard G. Howell is a prominent Seattle attorney practicing in Seattle since 1966. Howell’s career has been dedicated to seeking justice for individuals who have been injured and unfairly treated. Howell was the first African American to serve on the board of governors of the Association of Trial Lawyers.  In 1984 he was elected chairman of the Washington State Delegation to the Democratic National Convention.  He has also argued cases in the Washington Supreme Court and is admitted to the United States Supreme Court.

Howell was born in Glengoffe, St. Catherine, Jamaica on May 2, 1936, to Daisy Iona Howell and Cleveland Alexander Howell. His mother brought him to New York in October 1946 along with his brother, Grover, and sister Elaine. Howell earned a bachelor’s degree in History, with Honors, from Lafayette College in 1958. After serving on active duty in the Navy, he earned a law degree from New York University in 1964.

Howell’s career began as a law clerk for the Washington State Supreme Court followed by working as an assistant Washington State Attorney General. His first law firm, Miller & Howell, was formed in 1969 with former Congressman John Miller, becoming Miller, Howell & Watson, before Howell began his own firm in 1973.
Sources: 
Geov Parrish, “Rebel With An Assortment of Clauses,” Washington Super Lawyers (June 2010); Michael Conant, “Defense Lawyer Loves to Get on Your Case: Lem Howell Asks the Questions that Others Refuse To," Seattle P-I (March 5, 1989); http://howelllembhardg1.qwestoffice.net.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

wa Thiong’o, Ngugi (AKA James T. Ngugi) (1938- )

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

African novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a Kenyan author, educator and playwright. With the publication of his first novel, he became a critically-acclaimed author at the age of 29. His work is also published under the pseudonym James T. Ngugi.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o was born on January 5th, 1938 in Kamiriithu village in Kenya to Tiong’o wa Nduucu and Wanjikow wa Ngugi. He attended the mission-run Kamandura School in Limuru and the Maanguuu Karing’a School, which was taught in Gikuyu, the native language of that Bantu people of Kenya. In 1954 the school was taken over by the British government and teaching began in English. While attending Maanguuu Karing’a, Thiong’o read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, igniting his desire to write.

Sources: 
Interview with Katebalinwe Amotiwa Iruma on Jan 6 and 11, 1979; Carol Sicherman, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o: The Making of a Rebel (London: Hans Zell Publishers, 1990); Carol Sicherman, Bibliography of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o: Primary and Secondary Sources, 1957-1987 (Oxford: Hans Zell, 1989); Reinhard Sander and Bernth Lindfors, eds., Ngugi wa Thiong’o Speaks: Interviews with the Kenyan Writer (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lowther, George W. (1822-1898)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George W. Lowther, barber, abolitionist, equal school rights activist, and Massachusetts legislator, was born a slave in Edenton, North Carolina, to Polly Lowther.  His father’s identity is unknown.  His mother, Polly Lowther (c.1780-1864) was an Edenton baker, the slave of wealthy planter Joseph Blount Skinner until she was emancipated around 1824.  Lowther’s siblings were Anthony Lowther, Fanny Skinner, Annie Skinner, Jenny, Eliza Poppleston, and Thomas Barnswell.

Remembered in Skinner’s 1850 Will as “my favourite and faithful Body Servant whom I have freed,” George Lowther received a private education from Skinner.  Early in 1845, encouraged by his hometown friend, John S. Jacobs, Lowther left Skinner and went to New York.  But in the late summer of 1847, he reunited with Skinner, serving as his former owner’s valet on a trip from New York to Boston.  By 1850, George Lowther had established his hairdressing business in Boston and was living in the household of abolitionist William H. Logan, his future father-in-law.
Sources: 
Mary Maillard, “Introduction to the Skinner Family Papers,” unpublished manuscript; Jean Fagan Yellin, ed., The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008); The Skinner Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Knox, Clinton E. (1908–1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownershp: Public Domain"
Clinton Everett Knox was the first African American secretary to the United States Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and former United States Ambassador to the countries of Dahomey (Benin) and Haiti.

Clinton E. Knox was born May 5, 1908, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was the youngest of five children born to Estella Briggs Knox and William J. Knox Sr.  Knox’s older brother, William J. Knox, Jr., was one of the scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb during World War II.  His other older brother, Dr. Lawrence Howland Knox, was a noted chemist.

Sources: 
The Clinton Knox Family Papers, 1909-1989, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana); Wade Baskin and Richard N. Runes, Dictionary of Black Culture (New York: Philosophical Library, 1973); Who’s Who Among Black Americans (Northbrook, Illinois: Gale Research, Inc., 1977); U.S. State Department, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/knox-clinton-everett.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Powell, Adam Clayton, Jr. (1908-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Charles V. Hamilton, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of An American Dilemma (New York: Athenaeum, 1991); Will Haygood, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Streeter, Mel (1931-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mel Streeter was born in Riverside, California in 1931. He attended the University of Oregon on a basketball scholarship and was the second African-American basketball player at Oregon after declining an offer by legendary basketball coach John Wooden to attend UCLA, because UCLA did not have an architecture program. Streeter graduated with a bachelor's degree in architecture in 1955.

At the University of Oregon, Streeter was enrolled in the United States Army ROTC program. After serving as a second lieutenant in the transport unit at Ft. Lawton from 1955 to 1957,  he stayed in Seattle to raise a family and tried finding work at local architectural firms. He struck out 22 times before he finally found work with Paul Hayden Kirk and Fred Bassetti.

In 1967, Streeter opened the third black-owned architecture firm in Seattle. In the 1970s, he teamed with Paul Dermanis to form Streeter/Dermanis. By the early 1990s, the two partners had split and Streeter created Streeter & Associates Architects. The firm is known for projects such as Auburn City Hall, the Federal Aviation Administration Regional Headquarters and several buildings at Naval Station Everett.
Sources: 
“Architect, 'life mentor' Mel Streeter dead at 75” by Sam Bennett, Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, June 15, 2006 and “Streeter, pioneering architect, dead at 75” by Athima Chansanchai, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tanner, Jack (1919-2006)

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

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

Meek, Carrie (1926- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Carrie Meek was born on April 29, 1926, in Tallahassee, Florida. Her parents were sharecroppers and her childhood neighborhood was racially segregated.  Meek attended and graduated from Florida A&M University. Graduate schools in Florida were still segregated at this time so she was forced to move to Michigan to pursue her Masters in Science at University of Michigan where she graduated from in 1948.

Meek worked as an educator at Bethune Cookman College, Florida A&M University, and Miami-Dade Community College until 1979 when she was elected to serve in the Florida State House of Representatives. In 1982 Meek became the first African American woman to be elected to the Florida State Senate. During her time in the State Senate, Meek focused on issues of Education and affordable housing, including supporting a bill that led to the construction of thousands of affordable housing units.
Sources: 
Charles Christian, Black Saga: The African American Experience: A Chronology (Chicago: Basic Books Publishing, 1998);
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M000628
http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioi
ndex=132&category=politicalMakers

Hudson, Hosea (1898-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Nell Irvin Painter
Hosea Hudson was a Communist Party (CP) activist and industrial union organizer in Alabama and Georgia during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. He embodied the CP's turn toward black civil rights in the early 1930s and the attraction many working-class southern blacks felt toward the Party during and, in Hudson's case, well after the Depression decade.

Hudson was born in rural Wilkes County, Georgia in 1898.The son of sharecroppers and the grandson of a former slave, he endured poverty and hunger as a child and received little formal education. He married in 1917, had his first and only child a year later, and worked for several years as a sharecropper and common laborer in Wilkes County and Atlanta. In 1924 Hudson moved his family to Birmingham where he found work as an iron molder.
Sources: 
Nell Irvin Painter, The Narative of Hosea Hudson: His Life as a Negro Communist in the South (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979); Hosea Hudson, Black Worker in the Deep South: A Personal Record (New York: International Publishers, 1972); Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe:  Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Savage, Augustus Alexander, “Gus” (1925 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Augustus Alexander Savage, later better known as “Gus”, was born in Detroit, Michigan, on October 30 1925. Savage attended public schools in Chicago and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in 1943 before joining the United States Army. He served until 1946 before earning a B.A. degree in philosophy from Roosevelt University in 1951 and attending Chicago-Kent college of Law from 1952 to 1953. In the 1940s, Savage was a fulltime organizer for the Progressive Party of former Vice President Henry A. Wallace and also a promoter of programs for Paul Robeson, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Hon. Elijah Muhammad.  Savage began a career as a journalist in 1954 and became the editor of The America Negro Magazine, the assistant editor of the Illinois Beverage Booster, and finally in 1965 he began to edit and publish the Chicago Weekend and Citizen Newspapers.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov ; Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots”: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-BookTime LLC, 2006)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

White, V. Ethel Willis (1920-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
The endowment named in honor of V Ethel Willis White is unusual in that the person honored was not a wealthy woman in the usual sense of the word.  Instead V Ethel Willis White’s wealth derived from her inspiration to others.
Sources: 
“Honoring Dignity: V Ethel Willis White Endowed Book Series,” Excerpts:  Newsletter of the University of Washington Press (Summer 2004); Susan T. Herring, “Willis & Wyman’s, Match Made in Heaven,” The Guardian-Journal, 23 June 2005; Jack Hamann, “Endowed Book Series Selects On American Soil,” Jack Hamann, Author/Journalist, http://www.jackhamann.com/news/v_ethel_willis_white.html (6 July 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jessye, Eva (1895-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eva Jessye was a pioneer in the world of African American music and is recognized as the first black woman to receive international distinction as a choral director. She was born in Coffeyville, Kansas on January 20, 1895 to Albert and Julia Jessye, but was raised by various relatives after her parents’ separation. Influenced by the singing of her great-grandmother and great-aunt, Jessye developed an early love of traditional Negro spirituals. At the age of thirteen, she attended Western University in Kansas City, Kansas where she studied poetry and oratory. In addition to singing in Western’s concert choir, she gained experience coaching several male and female student choral groups.
Sources: 
R. Marie Griffith and Barbara Dianne Savage, eds., Women and Religion in the African Diaspora: Knowledge, Power, and Performance (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2006); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Jeffrey Lehman, ed., The African American Almanac (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Pryor, Richard (1940–2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III, was an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and social critic who revolutionized the comedy world in the 1960s and 1970s. He became famous for colorful, irreverent and often vulgar language as he comically described the major issues of the period.  Pryor won an Emmy award in 1973 and five Grammy Awards between 1974 and 1982.

Richard Pryor was born on December 1, 1940 and raised in Peoria, Illinois. Abandoned by his parents when he was 10, Pryor and three other siblings were raised in his grandmother’s brothel. As a youth, he was raped by a teenaged neighbor and molested by a Catholic priest. He was expelled from school at the age of 14 and began working as a janitor, meat packer, and truck driver. Pryor served in the U.S army spending most of that time in an army prison for assaulting a fellow soldier while stationed in Germany. In 1960, Pryor married Patricia Price and they would had his first child, Richard Jr. The couple divorced in 1961.

Sources: 

Official Website: http://www.richardpryor.com; Richard Pryor: Stand-Up
Philosopher, City Journal, Spring 2009:
http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_2_urb-richard-pryor.html; Pryor’s
Ancestry: http://www.progenealogists.com/pryor/; American Masters:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/newhart_b.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dickerson, Earl Burrus (1891-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Earl Dickerson in His Law Office, 1921
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Earl Burrus Dickerson was a member of President Roosevelt’s Fair Employment Practices Commission between 1941 and 1943 and a prominent civil rights attorney in Chicago.  He was also one of the founders of the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. 

Dickerson was born in Canton, Mississippi in 1891.  He attended the University of Illinois and served during World War I as an infantry lieutenant with the American Expeditionary Forces. In 1920 he became the first African American to receive a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.  The following year Dickerson helped found Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company and became its general counsel.  By the early 1940s Supreme Life, as it was then known, was the largest African American owned business in the North.  Part of its success stemmed from the still segregated American society.  White insurance companies generally refused to insure African Americans or employ them.  Supreme Life filled that void.  The company was particularly helpful to African Americans in the Great Depression when it provided mortgage loans to struggling families.  Dickerson became the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Supreme Life in 1955 and remained in that position until 1971 when he became chairman of the Board of Directors. 

Sources: 
Robert J. Blakely and Marcus Shepard, Earl B. Dickerson: A Voice for Freedom and Equality (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2006); 1,000 Successful Blacks, The Ebony Success Library, v.1 (Chicago, Johnson Pub. Co., 1973); Ebony (Chicago: Johnson Pub. Co., 1946 & 1947); Jet (Chicago: Johnson Pub. Co., 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Moten, Benjamin “Bennie” (1894-1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra
Image Ownership: Public Domain
As one of the most renowned big-band leaders of the 1920s, Bennie Moten succeeded in developing the “Kansas City” sound in big-band jazz.  Born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 13, 1894, Moten spent most of his youth playing baritone saxophone in the city's numerous brass bands.  In 1918, after switching to the piano and studying ragtime under students who trained with Scott Joplin, he formed the B.B.& D. Trio, who toured the Midwest throughout the 1920s.  In 1923 the trio recorded for the first time for Okeh Records in St. Louis.  Soon public demand for the group's recordings, labeled as jazz music and specifically designed for dancing, made trio leader Moten a popular figure during this time in the South and Midwest.  By 1925 the group doubled with the addition of three new members and the following year it signed with Victor Records.  By this point the band had gained a national reputation.
Sources: 
Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestly, Jazz: The Essential Companion (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Leonard Feather, The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Horizon Press, 1955).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Adams, John H. (1927-- )

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

 

Sources: 
Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870 to the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994);  http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/adams.htm;
http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=1236
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hillary, Barbara (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ModernAge Photo Services

Barbara Hillary is the first African American woman on record to reach both the North and South Poles. Born in New York City, New York on June 12, 1931 to Viola Jones Hillary and raised in Harlem, Hillary attended the New School University in New York, N.Y. where she earned both her Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degrees. She used her studies in Gerontology to establish a career in nursing, focusing on staff training in the concepts of patient aging and their service delivery systems in nursing homes and similar facilities. She was also founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Peninsula Magazine, a non-profit and multi-racial magazine in Queens, New York. This magazine was the first of its kind in the region.

Sources: 
http://barbarahillary.com/bio.html; Melody Hoffman, “Barbara Hillary Skis Into History As First Black Woman to Reach the North Pole,” Jet 111:21 (May 28, 2007); http://video.foxnews.com/v/1470704535001/barbara-hillarys-arctic-travels-make-history/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Rodman, Dennis Keith (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman, 2013
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dennis Keith Rodman, hall of fame basketball player, actor, and self-appointed political emissary, was born in on May 13, 1961 in Trenton, New Jersey to Philander and Shirley Rodman. Shortly after Dennis was born, Philander left the family and eventually settled in the Philippines. After moving to the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas, Shirley Rodman worked numerous jobs while struggling to provide for Dennis and his two older sisters, Kim and Debra.

In high school both Kim and Debra Rodman developed into standout basketball players, earning college scholarships. Kim attended Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas and Debra played on two national championship teams at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. Both Rodman sisters were All-Americans in college.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Montgomery, Isaiah T. (1847-1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Isaiah Thornton Montgomery was an African American leader best known for founding the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi and for his public endorsement of black disenfranchisement.  Montgomery was born enslaved on May 21, 1847 to Benjamin Thornton and Mary Lewis Montgomery on the Hurricane Plantation at Davis Bend, an area along the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Hurricane Plantation was owned by Joseph E.
Sources: 
http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/55/isaiah-t-montgomery-1847-1924-part-I; Leon Litwack and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991); David H. Jackson, A Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine: Charles Banks of Mississippi (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Smith, Kirke (1865-1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Kirke Smith was born July 22, 1865 in Montgomery County, Virginia. He graduated from Berea College in1894 and earned an M.A. degree from the University of Michigan.  In 1894, Smith became the Superintendent of the Lebanon Colored Schools and the following year, Superintendent of Principals in the Lebanon, Kentucky school system, a post he held for fifteen years.  During this period he also became an ordained minister.

On January 12, 1904, Democratic representative Carl Day, of Breathitt, Kentucky, introduced House Bill 25, “An Act to prohibit white and colored persons from attending the same school.”  The so-called Day Bill was aimed at Berea College since separate public schools for blacks and whites had been the law in the state for some time. After a  lawsuit to defend its interracial educational policy was defeated in the courts, Berea raised funds to establish a new school for blacks. From 1910-1912, the trustees employed Rev. Kirke Smith and Rev. James Bond, the grandfather of Julian Bond, to raise money for the new school which would be named Lincoln Institute.

Sources: 
John A. Harding, Fifty Years of Segregation: Black Higher Education in Kentucky, 1904-1934 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1997); Eric A. Smith, "Discovering History Through Genealogy: Kirke Smith and the Founding of Lincoln Institute,” Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago Newsletter  23:4 (June 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago

Rumford, William Byron, Sr. (1908-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Courtland, Arizona, William Byron Rumford, Sr., the younger of the two sons of a housemaid, arrived in Los Angeles, California with his mother and stepfather in 1915.  His family returned to Arizona where he shined shoes, sold newspapers, and graduated from a segregated George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix in 1926.  After finishing his studies at Sacramento Junior College, in 1931 he earned his pharmacy degree at the University of California at San Francisco.  His marriage to Elsie Carrington in 1932 produced two sons and a daughter.
Sources: 
Lawrence P. Crouchett, William Byron Rumford, The Life and Public Services of a California Legislator (El Cerrito, CA: Downey Place Pub. House, 1984); “Legislator for Fair Employment, Fair Housing, and Public Health: William Byron Rumford” (Earl Warren Oral History Project), http://www.oac.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb8n39p2g3&query=&brand=oac4.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Hawkins, Coleman (1904-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Coleman Hawkins with Miles Davis
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Coleman Randolph Hawkins was born November 21, 1904, in Saint Joseph, Missouri.  He began his musical education early with lessons on both the piano and cello.  Despite parental encouragement towards more classic instruments, Hawkins focused on the saxophone after he received a “C melody” tenor saxophone for his ninth birthday.  This gift was the start of a career that would establish Hawkins as a premier jazz saxophonist.    

By age twelve, Coleman was already being asked to play his sax at school dances and local events.  At 17 Hawkins became a professional musician when he joined pianist Jesse Stone’s group, the Blues Serenaders, in 1921 to play tenor sax.  Two years later he joined Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hound but quickly left to freelance with musical groups in the New York area.  It was during one of these engagements in 1923, where band leader Fletcher Henderson took note of Hawkins and asked him to join his band.
Sources: 
John Chilton, The Song of the Hawk: The Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990);  PBS, http://www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_hawkins_coleman.htm; Len Weinstock, Coleman Hawkins, Father of the Tenor Sax (http://www.redhotjazz.com/hawkinsaticle.html); Parabrisas Biography, http://www.parabrisas.com/d_hawkinsc.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cooke, Sam (1931–1964)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sam Cooke has been described as one of the most influential rhythm and blues singers to emerge in the 20th Century.  Cooke could exude soul stirring sensuality that went from the sacred to the profane in the same breath.  

The son of a Baptist minister, Sam Cooke was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on January 22, 1931 but grew up in Chicago.  He joined a Chicago gospel group called the Highway QC’s and became their lead singer at the age of 15.  He later became the lead singer for the Soul Stirrers.  

Influenced by Ray Charles, Cooke was the pioneer cross-over artist from gospel to rhythm and blues.  Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and others would eventually follow.  With the support of record producer Bumps Blackwell, Cooke left the Soul Stirrers to record rhythm and blues.  He was also the first African American popular singer to manage his own record label (SAR).  Cooke’s label, which he formed while still in his twenties, produced other R&B artists such as Bobby Womack, Billy Preston, and Johnny Taylor.
Sources: 
Peter Shapiro, Rough Guide to Soul and R&B (London: Penguin Press, 2006); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); Kwame A. Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Group, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson-Lee, Sheila (1950 - )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sheila Jackson-Lee was born on January 12, 1950 in Queens, New York.   She graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens, New York in 1968.  She then graduated from Yale University in Connecticut with a B.A. in political science in 1972 followed in 1975 by a J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School.     

After graduating from law school Jackson-Lee moved to Houston, Texas after her husband, Dr. Elwyn C. Lee accepted a job offer from the University of Houston.  Dr. Lee is currently Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Houston.  Jackson-Lee was in private practice from 1975 to 1987 when she was elected a Houston municipal judge.  Jackson-Lee then ran for a seat on the Houston City Council in 1990.  In 1994 Shelia Jackson-Lee was elected as a Democrat to represent the 18th Congressional District of Texas.  She currently holds that seat. 

Sources: 
Congressional Biography:  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=j000032; Jim Doyle, “Five members of Congress arrested over Sudan protest,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2006:  http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Five-members-of-Congress-arrested-over-Sudan-2498797.php; Tim Fleck, “What's Driving Miss Sheila?” Houston Press, February 20, 2007: http://www.houstonpress.com/1997-02-20/news/what-s-driving-miss-shelia/Sheila; Jackson’s Campaign website:  http://www.sheilajacksonlee18.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blackwell, Lucien E. (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lucien E. Blackwell, U.S. Congressman and labor official, was born in Whitset, Pennsylvania.  He attended West Philadelphia High School, but left before obtaining his diploma.  Blackwell also served in the United States Armed Forces during the Korean War, and received the National Defense Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and the Good Conduct Medal.  

Lucien Blackwell lacked formal higher education, but he persevered through the “school of hard knocks.”  He first found employment working on the waterfront of Philadelphia.  Beginning as an unskilled laborer, he gradually moved up to foreman, and then vice president, business agent and eventually, in 1973, president of Local 1332, International Longshoreman’s Association of the AFL-CIO.  Blackwell served in this capacity until 1991.      Blackwell also served as Chairman of the Philadelphia Gas Commission.  He made history by rejecting three requests by the Philadelphia Gas Works to increase gas rates.  These rejections prompted Philadelphia Gas to reorganize and reduce its management operations for the first time in the history of the Philadelphia utility.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), pp. 26-28.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Edelman, Marian Wright (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, was born June 6, 1939 in Bennetsville, South Carolina. She was the youngest of five children born to Rev. Arthur Jerome Wright and Maggie Leola Wright.  Rev. Wright, a Baptist minister, died when she was fourteen.  He proved, however, an important influence on her life by teaching that Christianity required public service.  

Marian Wright attended racially segregated public schools, but excelled academically despite the inadequate opportunities offered to her in those institutions. After graduation Wright attended Spelman College, a prominent institution for black women in Atlanta, Georgia. While at Spelman Wright received scholarships to study abroad that took her to Paris, Switzerland, and the Soviet Union.  With that experience she planned to pursue a career in Foreign Service, but as the 1960s civil rights movement unfolded, she found herself involved in its activities. Wright participated in and was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia sit-ins in 1960.  These experiences made her realize that she could contribute to social progress through the study of law. She entered Yale Law School in 1960 on a scholarship and received her law degree in 1963.
Sources: 
“Marian Wright Edelman,” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); Edelman biography, Children’s Defense Fund, http://www.childrensdefense.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Winkfield, Jimmy (1882-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jimmy Winkfield, born on April 12, 1882, became famous as an early 20th Century horse jockey.  Winkfield, the youngest of 17 children, was born in Chilesburg, Kentucky, a town just outside of Lexington.  As a child, he had a routine that included performing chores on the farm where his father was a sharecropper and overseeing the thoroughbred parades down the country roads. He and his family moved to Cincinnati in 1894.


On August 10, 1898, Winkfield rode his first race. Aboard Jockey Joe at Chicago's Hawthorne Racetrack, he raced his horse out of the gate and rode across the path of the three inside horses, in an effort to get to the rail. This aggressive behavior did not go over well with racetrack officials and he earned a one year suspension.  Winkfield learned from his mistake and on September 18, 1899, won his first race.  Six months later he rode for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.

In 1901, at 19, Winkfield captured his first Kentucky Derby title astride a horse named Eminence. He went on to win 161 races that year, including key victories in the Latonia Derby on Hernando and Tennessee Derby where he rode Royal Victor. While these were spectacular accomplishments, he returned to the Kentucky Derby in 1902 and won again in the most important race of his career.  

Sources: 
Ed Hotaling, Wink: the Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004); Neil Schmidt, “Black Jockey’s journey spanned different worlds.” The Cincinnati Enquirer. April 29, 2002.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Hill, Thomas Arnold (1888-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Thomas Arnold Hill, early leader of the National Urban League, was born in 1888 in Richmond, Virginia to Reuben and Irene Robinson Hill.  He studied at Richmond Business School and received his Bachelor of Art degree at Virginia Union University in 1911.  Hill then studied sociology and economics at New York University.

In 1914, Hill was hired by the New York City branch of the National Urban League (1912) where he worked as personal secretary of Eugene Kinkle Jones. He soon joined forces with Jones and fellow League workers to create additional leagues in neighboring cities.

With the onset of the Great Migration during World War I, Hill recognized the need for a local affiliate in Chicago, a common destination for many of the migrants.  In 1917, he opened the Chicago Urban League and served as its first executive secretary.  During the bloody Chicago Race Riot (1919), Hill transformed the Chicago office into an emergency center to help mollify anger, improve race relations, provide assistance to those adversely affected, and disseminate information.

Sources: 

Nancy Weiss, The National Urban League, 1910-1940 (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1974), p. 176-201; “T. Arnold Hill,” The Journal of
Negro History, Vol. 32, No. 4
(Oct. 1947), pp. 528-529; Rayford Logan
and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Arvah E. Strickland, History of the
Chicago Urban League
(Urbana and London: The University of Illinois
Press, 1966), p. 26-28.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hayford, Joseph Ephraim Casely (1866-1930)

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

Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford was a West African barrister, author, and political leader who dedicated his life to helping improve conditions for the people of West Africa. Casely Hayford was born on September 3, 1866, the youngest of three sons to parents Reverend John de Graft Hayford and Mary (Awuraba) Brew, both of Anomabu, Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) which was then a colony in the British Empire.  

Casely Hayford received his education at the Wesleyan Boys High School in the Cape Coast Region of Ghana and then at Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  While at Fourah Bay College Casely Hayford became a follower on the West Indian-born African educator, Edward Wilmot Blyden.  After graduation Casely Hayford worked as a high school teacher and principal of Accra Wesley High School.  

Sources: 

G.I.C. Eluwa, "Background to the Emergence of the National Congress of
British West Africa, in African Studies Review 14:2 (1971); Kwadwo
Osei-Nyame, "Pan-Africanist Ideology and the African Historical Novel
of Self-Discovery: The Examples of Kobina Sekyi and J.E. Casely
Hayford," in Journal of African Cultural Studies 12:2 (1999); Adelaide
M. Cromwell, An African American Feminist: The Life and Times of
Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford, 1868-1960
(London: Frank Cass & Co.
LTD., 1986); Gauray Desai, “Gendered Self-Fashioning: Adelaide Casely
Hayford’s Black Atlantic,” Research in African Literatures 35:3 (Fall
2004).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Menard, John Willis (1838-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Willis Menard, abolitionist, author, journalist and politician, was born in 1838 in Kaskaskia, Illinois, to French Creole parents. He was the first African American elected to Congress, but was not seated after a dispute over the election results. Menard attended Iberia College, an abolitionist school in Iberia, Ohio.  

Twenty-two year old Menard expressed his abolitionist views in his widely read 1860 publication, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois. During the Civil War, he became the first African American to serve as a clerk in the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.  While there, President Abraham Lincoln dispatched him to research British Honduras (now Belize) as a possible colony for the African American population. 

Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008); "John Willis Menard," Notable Black American Men Book II (Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2006); John Willis Menard, Lays in Summer Lands, edited by Larry Eugene Rivers, Richard Matthews, & Canter Brown, Jr. (Tampa, FL: University of Tampa Press, 2002); John Willis Menard, Black and White. No Party—No Creed: A Lecture. (Philadelphia, no date); John Willis Menard, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois (no city, ca. 1860).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Turner, Joseph Vernon ["Big Joe"] (1911-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Big Joe Turner, known by many as the “Boss of the Blues,” was born Joseph Vernon in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 18, 1911. Turner is considered a major contributor to the development of the sound of Kansas City Jazz, and the early development of Rock n’ Roll. Drawing from Blues music vocal traditions, Turner’s style earned him the nickname of a “Blues Shouter,” with his resonant voice enabling him to cross over into Jazz, Rock n’ Roll and Rhythm & Blues.

Turner and his musical partner, pianist Pete Johnson, were discovered by record producer John Hammond at the Sunset Café in Kansas City in 1936. Later that same year, Hammond brought Turner and Johnson to New York, where they played for several months at the nightclub, The Famous Door. In 1938 Turner and Johnson returned to New York and were part of Hammond’s first “Spirituals to Swing” concert. The duo was well-received by the public, and in late 1938 Turner and Johnson made their first recordings, "Roll 'Em Pete" and "Goin' Away Blues" for Vocalion Studios.
Sources: 
Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix, Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop–A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Terry Currier, “Big Joe Turner,” BluesNotes (October 2002), in http://www.cascadeblues.org/History/BigJoeTurner.htm ; Arthur and Murray Kempton, “Big Joe Turner, The Holler of a Mountain Jack” in Pete Welding & Toby Byron, eds., Bluesland: Portrait of Twelve Major American Blues Masters (New York: Penguin Books, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Leary, Sherrard Lewis (1835-1859)

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

Lewis Leary was one of several Black men who were killed during John Brown’s raid on the Harpers Ferry arsenal in October 1859. It was a defining moment in African American history.

Born Sherrard Lewis Leary (sometimes referred to as Lewis Sheridan Leary), he was the second of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina to free Black parents. His father Matthew Leary, a saddle maker, was the mixed race son of Jeremiah O’Leary, a descendent of Irish immigrants. His mother Julia A. Menriel Leary was of mixed race, with conflicting accounts of her heritage.

Frustrated with southern racism, 21-year-old Leary moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1856 where he earned a living as a harness maker. It was no coincidence that Leary found a more hospitable environment at Oberlin. Members of his extended family lived in the area, including his nephew, John Anthony Copeland, Jr., who also participated in the Harpers Ferry raid. Located in Lorain County, southwest of Cleveland, Oberlin was at the time home to a concentrated network of Black and white abolitionists and served as an important site on the Underground Railroad. The town was also the site of Oberlin College, the first interracial and co-educational college in the country. Two years after moving to Oberlin he married Mary Sampson Patterson, and they had one daughter, Lois.

Sources: 
Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman, eds., Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Athens, OH: Ohio Univ. Press, 2005), Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer, eds. Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of Abolitionism (NY: The New Press,2006), and “Lewis S. Leary,” www.ohiohistorycentral.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Berry, Mary Frances (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Mary Frances Berry
Mary Frances Berry is a scholar, professor, author, and civil rights activist who served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Berry was born in Nashville, Tennessee on February 17, 1938 to parents Frances Southall Berry and George Ford Berry.  Due to her mother’s poverty and the desertion of her father, she and her brothers spent time in an orphanage. She attended the segregated public schools in Nashville but in the 10th grade she found a mentor in her teacher, Minerva Hawkins, who challenged Berry to excel in academics.

Berry graduated with honors from Pearl High School in Nashville in 1956 and began college at Fisk University. After transferring to Howard University she earned her B.A. in history in 1961.  She earned a history Ph.D. in 1966 from the University of Michigan. In 1968 Berry became a faculty member at the University of Maryland and supervised the establishment of an African American Studies Program at that institution.

Berry earned her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1970 and became the acting director of the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Maryland.  From 1974 to 1976 she served as University Provost, becoming the first African American woman to hold that position.
Sources: 
David De Leon, Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994); Catherine Ellis and Stephen Drury Smith, Say it Loud!: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African American Identity (New York: New Press, 2010); Mary Frances Berry, And Justice for All: The United States Commission on Civil Rights and the Continuing Struggle for Freedom in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Foxx, Jamie (1967- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Actor, singer, comedian, and musician, Jamie Foxx was born Eric Morlon Bishop in Terrell, Texas on December 13, 1967. He was adopted by his maternal grandparents Mark and Estelle Tolley after his parents’ divorce when he was still an infant. His grandmother introduced him to the piano at age three, and by age 15 Bishop was the musical director and choir leader at Terrell’s New Hope Baptist Church. He attended United States International University in San Diego on a piano scholarship, studied classical piano at Juilliard, and left school in 1988 without graduating.

On a dare, Bishop decided to perform at a stand-up comedy open mic night in Los Angeles in 1989, which jump started his comedy and acting career.  As he got more comedy engagements, he created a stage name (Foxx in ode to comedian Red Foxx, and the gender-neutral name Jamie because women tended to get priority spots for open mic nights). This led to Foxx being cast on the Fox television series In Living Color (1990-1994). Foxx then starred in WB Network’s The Jamie Foxx Show, which ran from 1996 to 2002.
Sources: 
Torriano Berry and Venise T. Berry, Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow, 2007); "Jamie Foxx | The Official Website," Jamie Foxx The Official Website; Steven Otfinoski, African Americans in the Performing Arts (New York: Facts On File, 2010).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Duke, George (1946-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
George Duke was a musician who covered a number of genres including bebop, R&B, jazz fusion, funk, and alternative rock. As performer, arranger, composer, producer, and educator for five decades, he worked with a wide variety of performers and among his many achievements was his induction into the Soul Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

Born January 12, 1946 in San Rafael, California, Duke grew up first under the influence of the gospel music of the local Baptist church. He decided on a musical future when his mother took him to a Duke Ellington concert.  After watching Ellington and his band perform, four year old Duke declared that he would do the same one day, saying “That’s who I’m going to be!”  His mother saved to provide a  piano and piano lessons, and in the process initiated his life-long devotion to music.
Sources: 
Matt Pierson, “George Duke Biography,” soultracks.com (February 2007); Scott Simon, “George Duke Puts His Stamp on Funk”, Interview, NPR Radio (August 30, 2008); Eric Sandler, “George Duke: A History of Funk & Soul” revive-music.com (September 12, 2011); William Yardley, “George Duke, Keyboardist Who Crossed Genre Boundaries, Dies at 67,” NYTimes.com (August 6, 2013)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Luper, Clara (1923-2011)

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

Clara Mae Luper was born in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, to Ezell and Isabell Shepard on May 3, 1923.  She attended all-black schools and was bussed several miles to Grayson High School where she graduated in a class of five.  After graduating from the segregated Langston University, Luper became the first African American student to enroll in the history department at the University of Oklahoma, earning a master’s degree in 1951.

Luper was one of the early leaders in the civil rights movement in Oklahoma during the 1950s.  She taught history in various Oklahoma City public schools for forty-one years and became the sponsor of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council.  In 1958, working with this group, she led the earliest “sit-ins” in Oklahoma and some of the first in United States.  Through these protests she and other civil rights activists succeeded in integrating many public facilities in Oklahoma City and across the state by 1964.

Sources: 
Linda W. Reese, “Clara Luper and the Oklahoma City Civil Rights Movement,” in Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Moore, eds., African American Women Confront the West: 1600-2000 (Norman, OK:  University of Oklahoma Press, 2003); “Oklahoma Civil Rights Icon Clara Luper Dies at 88,” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110609/ap_on_re_us/us_obit_luper.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Atkins, Hannah Diggs (1923-2010)

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

 

Sources: 
Paul English, “One Shot Transforms Woman’s Life,” The Sunday Oklahoman, November 28, 1999; Hannah Diggs Atkins Obituary, http://www.newsok.com/first-black-woman-elected-to-oklahoma-house-dies/article/3469633.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Northwestern Oklahoma State University

Clarke, John Henrik (1915-1998)

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

John Henrik Clarke, historian, black nationalist and Pan-Africanist, was a pioneer in the formation of Africana studies in the United States.  Principally a self-trained historian, Clarke dedicated his life to correcting what he argued was the prevailing view that people of Africa and of African decent had no history worthy of study.  Over the span of his career Clarke became one of the most respected historians of African and African American history.

Clarke was born on New Year’s Day, 1915, in Union Springs, Alabama.  He described his father as a “brooding, landless sharecropper,” who struggled to earn enough money to purchase his own farm, and his mother as a domestic.  Clarke’s mother Willie Ella (Mays) Clarke died in 1922, when he was about seven years old.

In 1932 Clarke left the South at age eighteen and he traveled by boxcar to Chicago.  He then migrated to New York City, New York where he came under the tutelage of noted scholar Arthur A. Schomburg.  While in New York City’s Harlem, Clarke undertook the study of Africa, studying its history while working full time. 

Sources: 
John Henrik Clarke, “Portrait of a Liberation Scholar;” Henrik Clarke, in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana (New York, Basic Civitas Books, 1999); http://www.africawithin.com/clarke/dr_clarke.htm ; http://www.library.cornell.edu/africana/
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Brown, George L. (1926-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although George L. Brown was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, he played a significant roll in Colorado politics for nearly twenty-five years.  Following his graduation from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 1950, Brown moved to Denver where he worked as a reporter and editor for The Denver Post.  He continued working for the Post after being appointed to the Colorado senate in 1955, and he covered the civil rights movement in the south during the 1960s. Voters returned him to office for another four terms.

In 1975 Colorado Democrats selected Brown run for lieutenant governor on the same ticket as gubernatorial candidate Richard Lamm. Both Brown and Lamm were elected.  Brown and Mervyn Dymally, who was elected lieutenant governor of California on the same day, became the first African Americans to hold the post of lieutenant governor in the 20th century.

Brown’s term as one of the nation’s first 20th century black lieutenant governors did not go smoothly, however.  He first pardoned a man convicted of murder while Governor Lamm was on vacation. The governor also withheld part of Brown’s salary for overspending his budget, prompting the lieutenant governor to initiate a lawsuit against Colorado’s chief executive.  The resulting bad press led to Brown’s loss in the 1979 Democratic primary election.
Sources: 
The History Makers at www.historymakers.com; The Political Graveyard at www.politicalgraveyard.com; obituary, “First Black to Hold Statewide Office in U.S.,” Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2005 at www.latimes.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Haile Mariam, Lt. Col. Mengistu (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mengistu Haile Mariam, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Ethiopian Army, led a coup which ousted Emperor Haile Selassie from power in 1974.  Mengistu took control of the government and served as its Communist head of state in Ethiopia from 1977 to 1991. He formally assumed power as chair of the Worker’s Party, head of state and Derg (military junta) chairman in 1977.  In fact Mengistu had wielded behind-the-scenes power since the coup of 1974. Under Mengistu, Ethiopia received aid from the Soviet Union, other members of the Warsaw Pact, and Cuba.

Opposition against Mengistu’s regime emerged with a rebellion against the new government between 1977 and 1978.  The government suppressed the rebellion and in the process generated thousands of casualties, estimated at 100,000 killed or disappeared. In response the anti-Mengistu Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) launched a guerilla struggle that would last until the overthrow of Mengistu’s regime in 1991.
Sources: 
Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Height, Dorothy Irene (1912-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, eds., Black Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia (Carlson Publishing Company, 1993); http://www.naswfoundation.org/pioneers/h/height.htm; www.ncnw.org/about/height.htm; Dorothy Height Obituary, Seattle Times, April 21, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Poitier, Sidney (1927 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Sidney Poitier from
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
Image ©Bob Adelman/Bettmann/Corbis
Award winning actor, director, and author, Sidney Poitier broke racial barriers and stereotyping in the film industry to become the leading African American male actor of the 20th Century.  In a career that spanned 57 years, Poitier was a featured performer or starred in 48 films and directed six.  
Sources: 
Aram Goudsouzian, Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004; Sidney Poitier, The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000); Henry Louis Gates and Cornel West, The African-American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country (New York: Free Press, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, Garland (1886-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A pioneer playwright and moralistic philosopher of constructive thinking, Garland Anderson was the first African American known to have a serious full-length drama produced on Broadway in New York. Active in the theatre for over 10 years during the 1920s and 1930s, he achieved national prominence as “the San Francisco Bellhop Playwright.”

Garland Anderson was born in Wichita, Kansas.  He completed only four years of formal schooling before the family moved to California. Working as a bellhop in a San Francisco hotel, he often shared his optimistic philosophy of life with guests who encouraged him to write about his ideas. Anderson believed an individual might achieve anything in life through faith.
Sources: 
Garland Anderson, Uncommon Sense: The Law of Life in Action (London: L.N Fowler & Company 1933); Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Norman, Maidie (1912-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust

Maidie Norman, who appeared in more than 200 Hollywood films, was born in Georgia in 1912 to Louis and Lila Gamble. Her father was an engineer and her mother was a homemaker. Norman received a B.A. in Literature and Theatre Arts from Bennett College in North Carolina and later obtained an M.A. in Theater Arts from Columbia University in New York. While in New York, she met and married real estate broker McHenry Norman and the couple relocated to Los Angeles, where Norman began training at the Actors Laboratory in Hollywood.

Early in a career that spanned more than four decades, Norman appeared on several radio shows, including The Jack Benny Show and Amos n’ Andy, before gaining a bit role in the film The Burning Cross (1948). Shortly after her debut, Norman was regularly cast as a domestic in several film roles, but refused to deliver her lines using stereotypical speech patterns. Instead, she brought her background in theatricality to the studios where directors often empowered her to rewrite her film lines, infusing the character with more dignity and less broken English.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); “Maidie Norman,” Contemporary Black Biography. Volume 20 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1998); Maidie Norman Papers, Center for Archival Collections, Bowling Green State University.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Crosthwait, David Nelson Jr. (1898-1976)

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

David Nelson Crosthwait Jr. was a African American inventor who is known for creating the heating system for Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York.  Crosthwait was born on May 27th 1898 in Nashville, Tennessee.  He grew up in Kansas City, Kansas where he attended an all-black school.  

From a young age Crosthwait trained to become an engineer.  His parents and teachers were very encouraging and challenged him to do experiments and to make designs.  Crosthwait upon graduating from high school in Kansas City in 1908 received a full academic scholarship to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.  He gradated in 1913 from Purdue at the top of his class and received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.  

Sources: 

Otha Richard Sullivan, Black Stars: African American Inventors (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dash, Julie (1952- )

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

Filmmaker Julie Dash was born on October 22, 1952 in Queens, New York. She received her B.A. in film production from City College of New York in 1974 and went on to earn a two-year fellowship to the Center for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles.  At AFI, Dash studied under filmmaker Jan Kadar and produced Four Women, an experimental dance film that received the 1978 Gold Medal for Women in Film award at the Miami International Film Festival.  Dash continued her graduate studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, where in 1977 she directed Diary of an African Nun, an adaptation of a short story by Alice Walker.  In 1985, she earned her M.F.A. in Film & Television production at UCLA.

In 1981, the Guggenheim Foundation awarded Dash a grant to research Gullah culture in the Sea Island communities of South Carolina and Georgia.  Part of her research was included in her 1991 independent film, Daughters of the Dust.  The groundbreaking Pan-African themed and female-centered film depicts a group of Gullah women celebrating their African ancestry.  Daughters of the Dust was the first nationally released feature-length film by an African-American woman and it won the best cinematography category at the Sundance Film Festival.  The Library of Congress placed the film on its National Film Registry, joining a distinguished group of films preserved as national treasures.

Sources: 
Vincent F. Rocchio, Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood’s Construction of Afro American Culture (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2000); Norma Manatu, African American Women and Sexuality in the Cinema (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, 2003); Mark A. Reid, Redefining Black Film (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Lisa M. Anderson, Mammies No More: The Changing Image of Black Women On Stage and Screen (Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997); Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (New York: Continuum, New York. 2001); Phyllis R. Klotman, Screenplays of the African American Experience (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Mallory, Mark (1962-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Pubic Domain

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

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

Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro (1934-2002)

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

Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, Angolan insurgent fighter and longtime leader of The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), was born in Munhango, Angola on August 3, 1934 to Helena Mbundu Savimbi and Loth Savimbi. Savimbi’s father was a railway stationmaster and part-time Protestant church worker. The local Catholic missions in then-Portuguese-occupied Angola were often in conflict with Loth Savimbi because of the effectiveness of his evangelizing.

Jonas Savimbi attended Protestant missionary schools where he thrived academically. In 1958, he was granted a scholarship from United Church of Christ to attend university in Lisbon, where he began his involvement in anti-colonial politics. The Portuguese secret police detained Savimbi thrice before he decided on finishing his schooling in Switzerland, first at Fribourg University, then Lausanne University, where in 1965 he completed his coursework with honors in political science and juridical sciences. Having begun his studies in medicine, Savimbi would refer to himself as “Doctor” thereafter.

Sources: 
“Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro,” in Norbert C. Brockman, ed., An African Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1994); “Jonas Malheiro Savimbi,” in Harvey Glickman, ed., Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara : a Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992); “Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro,” in W. Martin James, ed., Historical Dictionary of Angola (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brady, Wayne A. (1972- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Wayne Brady, comedian, singer, actor, and television personality, was one of the first African Americans to host a daytime game show.  Brady became host of Let’s Make a Deal in October 2009.  Wayne Brady was born on June 2, 1972 in Orlando, Florida.  As a child he discovered his passion for the performing arts.  As a teenager, he acted in the community theater projects of A Raisin in the Sun, Fences, and A Chorus Line.  Following his graduation from Phillips High School in 1989, he became a stand-up comedian at SAK Comedy Lab in Orlando.   

In 1996 Brady moved to Los Angeles to broaden his career opportunities.  Once in Hollywood, he earned appearances on primetime dramas I’ll Fly Away, Home Court, and In the Heat of the Night.  Brady also showcased his improvisational skills in the late 1990s on ABC’s hit comedy Who’s Line Is It Anyway?  During his tenure on the show, he earned an Emmy in 2003 for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.  In 2001 Brady also became the host, producer, and co-writer of The Wayne Brady Show on ABC.   His show’s high ratings earned him national acclaim.  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

KRS-One [Lawrence Kris Parker] (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
KRS-One, MC (Master of Ceremonies) producer, philosopher, and activist was born on August 20, 1965 to Jacqueline Jones and Sheffield Brown in South Bronx, New York City, New York.  KRS’s mother was a secretary while his father, who worked as a handyman, was deported to his native Trinidad when KRS was an infant.  When his mother remarried in 1970 and had two more children, a son and a daughter, KRS took the new family name and became Lawrence Kris Parker.

Growing up in poverty, KRS left home in his early teens and lived on the streets of the Bronx as hip-hop culture began to emerge.  He ended up at the Franklin Avenue Armory Shelter in the Bronx where he met a social worker named Scott Sterling, a.k.a. Scott La Rock.  Scott, already an experienced DJ, connected immediately with KRS who had developed an identity as a graffiti writer that signed “KRS-ONE” (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Reed-Rowe, Helen (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Helen Reed-Rowe was a career diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service.  Reed-Rowe was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1949 to Gladys and John W. Reed, Sr.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Maryland, College Park and her Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Upon joining the Foreign Service in 1975, Reed-Rowe first served as a desk officer for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs and as an Examiner on the Board of Examiners in the Bureau of Human Resources.
Sources: 
“Ambassadorial Nomination Statement: Helen Reed-Rowe, Ambassador-Designate to Palau,” http://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2010/07/144997.htm; “Ambassador Helen Reed-Rowe Joins Army War College Command Team,” Army War College Community Banner, http://www.carlisle.army.mil/banner/article.cfm?id=3118; “Ambassador to Palau: Who Is Helen Reed-Rowe?” http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassador-to-palau-who-is-helen-reed-rowe?news=842126; “Officially In: Helen Reed-Rowe to Koror,” Diplopundit, http://diplopundit.net/2010/05/22/officially-in-helen-reed-rowe-to-koror/; “Executive Reports of Committee,” Congressional Record, Volume 156, Number 116 (Tuesday, August 3, 2010) http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2010-08-03/html/CREC-2010-08-03-pt1-PgS6647-2.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Ashe, Arthur (1943-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Arthur Robert Ashe Jr., legendary tennis player, human rights activist, and educator, was born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Arthur Sr. and Mattie Cunningham Ashe.  At the age of four, he began playing tennis at Brook Field, a black-only park where his father worked as caretaker.
Sources: 
ArthurAshe.org, http://www.arthurashe.org/; Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersand, Days of Grace: A Memoir (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993); Herbert G. Ruffin, “Arthur Ashe” in Matthew Whitaker, Icons of Black America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2011); Richard Steins, Arthur Ashe: A Biography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Smith, Samuel J. (1922-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Samuel J. Smith, a Washington State Legislator and Seattle City Councilmember was born on July 21, 1922, in Gibsland, Louisiana.  Listening to speeches by Franklin Roosevelt broadcast on radio in the early 1930s persuaded young Smith that he wanted a future in politics.

Sam Smith first came to Seattle via the U.S. Army in 1942.  After World War II service in the Pacific as a Warrant Officer, he returned to the city, married his childhood sweetheart and attended college, first at Seattle University and then at the University of Washington where he got a B.A. in economics.  Smith, a member of Mt. Zion Church, took a job at Boeing Aircraft where he worked for 17 years while raising a family of six.

Smith first ran for the legislature in 1956, losing to incumbent Republican Charles Stokes.  Two years later he again challenged Stokes and won, remaining in the legislature for nearly a decade.  In Olympia, the state capital, Sam Smith gave the emerging civil rights movement in Washington a respected voice as well as a vote in the House of Representatives.  Smith left the legislature in 1967 to run for a seat on the Seattle City Council.  He won, becoming the first African American elected to that body.  In 1968, he introduced Ordinance 96619, the law that prohibited discrimination in housing.
Sources: 
“Sam Smith,” Interview, Oral History Project, Washington State Library, Tumwater, Washington.  Interviews of Sam Smith by Shelby Scates for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Argus, 1965-1977.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Low, W. Augustus (1913-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Wilfred Augustus Low -- or “Gus,” as he was universally known to friends and colleagues -- was born to a sharecropping family in the Delta country of Mississippi. When Low was a teenager, his family relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, which gave him the opportunity to graduate from high school and enroll at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. There he helped edit the student newspaper and earned a B.A. degree magna cum laude in 1937. Low immediately matriculated as a graduate student in the Department of History at University of Iowa, where he earned an M.A. degree in 1938 and a Ph.D. degree in 1941. During WWII, he fought as an infantry man in the Italian campaign. After the war, he became a professor of history at Maryland State University (now University of Maryland Eastern Shore), where he taught from 1948 to 1966. He also served as a visiting professor at Florida A & M, Virginia State College, Lincoln University (Missouri), and Fort Valley State College, among others.
Sources: 
UMBC Departmental Records; archives of Lincoln University and the University of Iowa; W. A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America; Journal of Negro History; oral comments during twenty years as a friend and colleague.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Nash, Charles Edmund (1844-1913)

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

Republican Charles Edmund Nash served in the 44th Congress as Louisiana’s only black representative. Nash was born in Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, on May 23, 1844. Before his time in Congress Nash attended common schools, was a bricklayer in New Orleans, and had enlisted as a private for the U.S. volunteers in July of 1863. He was later promoted to Sergeant Major, but his military service proved to be disastrous as he lost the lower third of his right leg just before the Civil War’s end.

As a result of his military service and strong support of the Republican Party, he was appointed to the position of night inspector in the New Orleans Customs House – a powerful post in the local political machine. In 1874 he was elected, uncontested, to the House of Representatives from the 6th Congressional District.

Despite his easy election, Nash made little political impact during his time in Congress.  He was assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor.  On June 7th, 1876 Nash made the only major address during his term as Congressman.  His speech condemned the violent and anti- democratic actions of some Southern Democrats, called for greater education among the populace, and also for increased racial and political peace especially in the South.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, DC; U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dunham, Katherine (1909-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Jerome Robbins Dance Division,
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts,
Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.
Katherine Dunham was born on June 22, 1909 in Chicago, Illinois to parents Albert and Fanny Dunham.  She was of mixed heritage with African, Madagascan, Canadian-French and American Indian ancestry.  Dunham was raised in Joliet, Illinois and didn’t begin formal dance training until her late teens.  

In 1931, at the age of 22, Katherine Dunham opened her first dance school, with the help of her teacher Madame Ludmila Speranzeva.  The school, located in Chicago, soon became famous for its dancers who performed the modern dance ballet, “Negro Rhapsody.”  Dunham graduated from the University of Chicago in 1936 with a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology.  She later earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.  While an undergraduate, Dunham opened another school, the Negro Dance Group where in four years she trained 150 black youth.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.pbs.org/wnet/freetodance/biographies/dunham.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Paul, Thomas, Sr. (1773-1831)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Home of Thomas Paul, Boston
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Paul was the eldest of six sons born into a free Black family in Exeter, New Hampshire.   Educated at a Baptist school in Hollis, NH, Paul pursued a career in the ministry as did three of his brothers.  He enjoyed a reputation as an eloquent speaker and traveled throughout New England as a guest preacher.  In 1804, he received his ordination.  The following year, he married Catherine Waterhouse and had three children, Ann Catherine, Susan, and Thomas, Jr.

Shortly after moving his family to Boston, Thomas Paul, Sr. was installed as the first pastor of the First African Baptist Church in December in 1806.  He served this congregation until 1829, two years before his death.  

Paul was a leader in the movement to establish independent Black churches in the United States.  He assisted the Black Baptists in New York City in the establishment of the African Baptist Society, which later evolved into the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  Paul’s church took on several names between 1806 and the early 1830s, including the Independence Baptist Church, the Abolition Church, and, finally, St. Paul’s.  

During his ministerial career, the Rev. Paul also pursued foreign missionary work. In 1815, he traveled to Haiti under the auspices of the Massachusetts Baptist Society, where he stayed for six months.  Unable to communicate in French, Paul met with limited success in his ability to convert Haitians.
Sources: 
J. Marcus Mitchell, “The Paul Family,” Old Time New England, LXIII(Winter, 1973): 74-76, Rayford W. Logan and Winston, Michael R., eds. Dictionary of American Negro Biography (NY: Norton, 1982), 482-3, James Oliver Horton & Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ford, Harold Jr. (1970- )

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

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

Varick, James (1750-1827)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Varick was the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Varick was born to a slave mother near Newburgh, New York. His father was Richard Varick, a free black man who was originally from Hackensack, New Jersey. Varick grew up with his parents in New York City, where it is thought that he may have attended the Free School for Negroes. After this schooling, Varick was trained in the trade of shoemaking.

In 1766, Varick, now free, joined the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church, which had a predominately white congregation.  Eventually Varick became a minister and was licensed to preach at John Street Church.  Although he was not the main minister, his appointment to the pulpit as the Church’s first black preacher caused considerable racial tension and calls for racial segregation of the congregation.  Eventually black parishioners were forced to sit in the galleries or the back row seating. Incensed at this change in church policy Varick and thirty other black members withdrew from the church in 1796.

In 1790, Varick married Aurelia Jones. The couple had seven children, four of whom survived into adulthood. During this time Varick worked as a shoemaker and a tobacco cutter in order to support his family.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Anne H. Pinn and Anthony B. Fortress, Introduction to Black Church History (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sweatt, Heman Marion (1912-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Heman Sweatt in Law School Registration Line,
University of Texas, Sept. 19, 1950.
Image courtesy of the Center for American History,
The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Student Media,
The Daily Texan. Prints and Photographs Collection,
CN 00323a.

Heman Marion Sweatt was a postal worker from Houston, Texas, who in 1950 integrated the University of Texas Law School.  Sweatt was born on December 11, 1912 in Houston, Texas.  He was the fourth child of James Leonard and Ella Rose Sweatt.  In 1930, he graduated from Jack Yates High School and earned a degree from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas in 1934. Soon after, Sweatt returned to Houston and worked as a mailman.  

Sources: 

Michael L. Gillette, Michael L., "Heman Marion Sweatt: Civil Rights Plaintiff," in Alwyn Barr and Robert Calvert ed. Black Leaders: Texans for Their Times. (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1981); http://txtell.lib.utexas.edu/stories/s0010-full.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bonner, Marita Odette (1899-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marita Odette Bonner (Occomy) was an African American writer, essayist, and playwright associated with the Harlem Renaissance Era.  Born on June 16, 1899 to Joseph Andrew and Anne Noel Bonner in Boston, Massachusetts, she and her three siblings grew up in Brookline, a suburb of Boston.  Bonner attended Brookline High School where she first began to write when she became involved in a magazine organized by the student body called the Sagamor.
Sources: 
Joyce Flynn and Joyce O. Stricklin, eds., Frye Street and Environs: The Collected Works of Marita Bonner (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987); Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women, Book II (Detroit-London: Gale Research Inc, 1996) http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/bonner_marita_odette.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Majette, Denise L. (1955- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Denise Majette, former member of Congress, attorney, judge, and politician, was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 18, 1955 to Voyd Lee and Olivia (Foster) Majette.  In 1976, Majette graduated from Yale University.  She earned her law degree from Duke University, Durham, North Carolina in 1979.

After graduating, Majette joined the Legal Aid Society in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  During this period, she also served on faculty at the Wake Forest Law School. Majette relocated to Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1983.  During the early1980s, she held positions as a clerk and an assistant to judges.  From 1989 to 1992, Majette returned to private practice as a partner in the Atlanta law firm of Jenkins, Nelson, and Welch.  During this period, she also served on the boards of various community organizations.  In 1992, she was named an administrative law judge at the Georgia state board of workers' compensation.  The following year, Georgia Governor Zell Miller appointed her judge of the State Court of DeKalb County.  Majette held the judgeship for nine years.

Sources: 
Eli Kintisch, “ The Crossover Candidate,” The American Prospect (September 22, 2002), p.14;“The U.S. Congress Votes Database,” The Washington Post online version, http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/m001145/; “Denise L. Majette” in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Bullard, Eugene Jacques (1894-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Pilot Eugene Bullard was the first African American to fly a fighter plane and was known as the “black swallow of death” for his courage during missions. He led a colorful life, much of it in Europe.

Eugene Jacques Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia on October 9, 1894.  After witnessing lynch mobs and other racial violence, Bullard left his hometown at the age of eight destined for France and its less racially-divisive society.  Along the way he joined a troupe of gypsies who traveled through the southern United States.

In 1912 as a teen, Bullard stowed away on a train to Virginia and then on board a ship bound for Europe. He worked odd jobs in Scotland and England, some in the underground world of gambling, before eventually arriving in Paris, France, his long-time destination. In 1914 at the age of 20, Bullard enlisted in the French Foreign Legion but was pulled out of action after being injured. On leave, he bragged that he could fly a fighter plane and on a bet wrangled a spot in a French flight training school.
Sources: 
Craig Lloyd, Eugene Bullard: Black Expatriate in Jazz-age Paris (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2000); P.J. Carisella, James W. Ryan, and Edward W. Brooke, The Black Swallow of Death: The Incredible Story of Eugene Jacques Bullard, The World's First Black Combat Aviator (Boston: Marlborough House, 1972); William A. Shack, Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story Between the Great Wars (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); “Eugene Bullard," Contemporary Black Biography. Vol. 12 (Detroit: Gale, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Farah, Nuruddin (1945- )

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

Renowned African novelist Nuruddin Farah was born in Baidoa, Somalia in 1945, a time when Somalia was still an Italian colony. His father Hassan Farah was a translator for the colonial government and his mother Aleeli Faduma was recognized throughout Somalia for her prose writing. Early in his life Farah moved to the Ogaden section of Ethiopia where his father worked as a translator for the British. It was here that Farah grew up and received his early education. When Farah was eighteen his family fled back to an independent Somalia. It was shortly soon after, in 1965, that Farah’s writing career began when his work “Why Dead So Soon?” was serialized in the Somali News newspaper in Mogadishu.

Sources: 
Simon Gikandi, Encyclopedia of African Literature (London: Routledge,2003); Kirsten Holst Peterson, “The Personal and the Political: The Case of Nuruddin Farah,” Ariel 12:3 (1981); D.R. Ewen, The Writing of East and Central Africa (Nairobi: Heinemann Educational, 1984); Feroza Jussawalla and Reed Way Dasenbruck, eds., Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

The Black Magus [King, Magi] (c 1350-- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1520
@The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The black Magus, or King, in Renaissance Adoration pictures is an enigmatic figure as no black African king is known to have visited Europe during this period. However, blacks, at the time, were known in a wide range of other guises from slaves to saints.

The image developed over time as biblical study, Renaissance courtly practice, and artistic tradition became conflated and amplified.  The Adoration story is found only in Matthew’s Gospel, and there only the Virgin and Child appear. The missing elements, the Star, the Three Magi or Kings, were added through inference by scholars attempting to validate and reconcile the New and Old Testaments. The black presence in the Adoration scene perhaps has its origins in the black African musicians found in 12th century Islamic courts.  The Normans copied this Islamic custom and the German Holy Roman Empire in turn copied the Normans. Black Musicians eventually reached 16th century England as evidenced by John Blank at the Tudor court.
Sources: 
Paul Kaplan, The Rise of the Black Magus in Western Art (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1985); Richard C. Trexler, The Journey of the Magi: Meanings in History of a Christian Story (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Perry, Cynthia Shepard (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Cynthia Shepard Perry, a Republican and 25 year career diplomat, has served three Republican presidents. President Ronald Reagan appointed her as Chief of Education and Human Resources of the U.S. Agency for International Development where she served from 1982 to 1986, and named her Ambassador to Sierra Leone from 1986 to 1989. 

President H.W. Bush appointed her ambassador to Burundi where she served from 1989 to 1993.  President George W. Bush appointed her as U.S. Executive Director of the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and Tunis, Tunisia in 2001.  As director, she promoted microlending projects for small start-up loans, especially for women. In addition, she analyzed African loan requests for schools, bridges, and projects to reduce poverty.
Sources: 
Council of American Ambassadors, http://www.americanambassadors.org/; “George Bush,  Nomination of Cynthia Shepard to be United States Ambassador to Brunei,” Nov. 7, 1980, The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/; Charles Stuart Kennedy, “Ambassador Cynthia Perry,” Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, March 21, 1999; Cynthia Shepard,  All things Being Equal: A Woman’s Journey  (New York: Stonecrest International, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central College

Locke, Alain (1886-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Alain Locke, The New Negro: An Interpretation (New York: New York, Albert and Charles Boni Press, 1925); Leonard Harris, ed., The Philosophy of Alain Locke: Harlem Renaissance and Beyond (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989); Jeffrey Stewart C., “Alain Leroy Locke at Oxford: The First African-American Rhodes Scholar,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 31:1 (2001):12-117.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Mathews, Meredith (1919-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Meredith Mathews, born in Thomaston, Georgia, received his B.S. degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio and pursued graduate studies at Ohio University.   He began a lifelong association with Young Men’s Christian Association in 1937 as Director of the Spring Street YMCA in Columbus, Ohio and continued his professional career with the organization in Oklahoma City and McAlester, Oklahoma.

Mr. Mathews arrived in Seattle in October 1957, as Executive Director of the East Madison YMCA.  The fund raising and business management skills he had developed in Oklahoma were used to expand services, memberships and programs at the Seattle branch.  A new facility was built in 1965 after a successful Capital Funds Campaign under his leadership.  He was appointed Associate Executive of the Pacific Northwest Area Council of YMCAs in 1965.  In 1971 he was named Regional Executive of the Pacific Region of YMCAs and was responsible for oversight of 126 facilities and programs in 11 states.  He retired after 39 years of outstanding service to the YMCA. 

Community groups as well as the YMCA awarded him for his service and for his leadership.  Hundreds of people considered him a role model and an inspiration to them when they were children.  In December 1993, the YMCA of Greater Seattle Board of Directors named the East Madison YMCA the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA.  Two years later his name was placed in the YMCA Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. 
Sources: 
Mary T. Henry, Tribute: Seattle Public Places Named for Black People (Seattle: Statice Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. on August 16, 1947, in New York City, New York. He was known as Lew Alcindor until his 1973 name change. Alcindor dominated the New York City high school basketball scene. Decidedly larger than his peers from an early age, he grew to seven feet, one-and-three-quarter inches tall, and found little competition while playing for Power Memorial High School.

In 1966 Alcindor left for Los Angeles, California to play for the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Over his three seasons there he led the Bruins to an overall 88-2 record and three consecutive national championships. Alcindor finished his college career with the sixth highest point total of any player and won the inaugural Naismith Award for the most valuable college basketball player in 1969.
Sources: 
John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations On and Off the Court. (New York: McGraw-Hill,1997); Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, http://www.hoophall.com/hall-of-famers/tag/kareem-abdul-jabbar; NBA Encyclopedia, http://www.nba.com/history/players/abduljabbar_bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Pinchback, Pinckney Benton Stewart (1837-1921)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was born on May 10, 1837 to parents William Pinchback, a successful Virginia planter, and Eliza Stewart, his former slave. The younger Pinchback was born in Macon, Georgia during the family’s move from Virginia to their new home in Holmes County, Mississippi.  In Mississippi, young Pinchback grew up in comfortable surroundings on a large plantation.  At the age of nine, he and his older brother, Napoleon, were sent by his parents to Ohio to receive a formal education at Cincinnati’s Gilmore School. Pinchback’s education was cut short, however, when he returned to Mississippi in 1848 because his father had become seriously ill.  When his father died shortly after his return, his mother fled to Cincinnati with her children for fear of being re-enslaved in Mississippi.  Shortly thereafter, Napoleon became mentally ill, leaving 12 year old Pinckney as sole-provider for his mother and four siblings.  
Sources: 
James Haskins, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1973); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Carmichael, Stokely (Kwame Ture) (1941-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
A civil rights leader, antiwar activist, and Pan-African revolutionary, Stokely Carmichael is best known for popularizing the slogan "Black Power," which in the mid 1960s galvanized a movement toward more militant and separatist assertions of black identity, nationalism, and empowerment and away from the liberal, interracial pacifism of Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference  (SCLC).
Sources: 
Stokely Carmichael with Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Ready for Revolution:  The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) (New York:  Scribner, 2003); James Haskins, Profiles in Black Power (New York:  Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972), 185-201; Clayborne Carson, In Struggle:  SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 1981).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Nix, Robert Nelson Cornelius, Sr. (1898-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix, Sr. was born on August 9, 1905 in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where his father, Nelson, was dean of South Carolina State College. Nix graduated from Townsend Harris High School in New York City, and then from Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1921. In 1924, he received his law degree from University of Pennsylvania and began practice in Philadelphia the following year. Nix became active in Democratic politics and was elected a committeeman from the Forty-fourth Ward in 1932. From 1934 to 1938 he held a series of positions in a private law firm, in the Pennsylvania State Department of Revenue as special deputy attorney general, and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as special assistant deputy attorney general.  In 1956 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

After Representative Earl Chudoff resigned his Fourth Congressional District seat to become a Philadelphia judge, Nix defeated two opponents in a special election to fill the vacancy and was sworn on May 20, 1958.  Nix was the first African American to represent Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jordan Hatcher Case (1852)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Jordan Hatcher was a seventeen-year-old enslaved tobacco worker in Richmond, Virginia, who in 1852 rose from obscurity to notoriety when charged with assaulting and killing white overseer William Jackson.  According to newspaper accounts and trial records, Hatcher was working at the Walker & Harris tobacco factory when Jackson began flogging him with a cowhide for performing poorly.  Hatcher initially warded off the blows, but Jackson continued to beat him.  In response Hatcher grabbed an iron poker, struck Jackson unconscious, and immediately fled the factory.  When Jackson later awok
Sources: 
Midori Takagi, “Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction” Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782-1865 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999); William A. Link, “The Jordan Hatcher Case: Politics and “A Spirit of Insubordination” in Antebellum Virginia,” Journal of Southern History 64:4 (Nov 1998); Harrison M. Ethridge, “The Jordan Hatcher Affair of 1852,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 84 (1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

Batson, Flora (1864-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Flora Batson was an internationally acclaimed concert singer of the nineteenth century whose talent and prestige earned her the title “Queen of Song.” She was born on April 16, 1864 in Washington, D.C., to Mary A. Batson, a Civil War widow. Mother and daughter moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1867 when Batson was three years old.

Growing up, Batson sang in local choirs, and starting in 1878 she sang for Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for two years. Declining an offer to study music on a full scholarship at Storer College, Batson continued her singing career under the management of social reformer Thomas Doutney at various temperance revivals. One such performance in New York City, New York’s Masonic Temple in 1885 launched her professional career. To much critical acclaim, she sang "Six Feet of Earth Make Us All One Size" for ninety consecutive nights and caught the attention of John G. Bergen, the white manager of the all-black Bergen Star Concert Company. She accepted his invitation into the company, and by 1887 she had achieved national fame as its leading soprano.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Jessie Carney Smith, ed., Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research Inc, 1991); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Anderson, Ernest (1916-2011)

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

Legendary actor Ernest Anderson gained notoriety for his monumental performance in the 1942 film In This Our Life – a single, supporting role that facilitated the alteration of negative depictions presented of African Americans in Hollywood film. Born in 1916 in Lynn, Massachusetts, Anderson was educated at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. and Northwestern University’s School of Drama and Speech.

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Anderson moved to Hollywood where he worked as a service man for Warner Brothers studio before receiving his debut role in In This Our Life. It was Bette Davis, the film’s protagonist, who arranged Anderson’s interview for the part of Perry Clay – an aspiring lawyer who is falsely placed at the center of a hit-and-run scandal committed by a spoiled Southern woman.

The script originally called for Anderson’s character to comply with the dialectical speech patterns Hollywood filmmakers forced African Americans to deliver during the pre-World War II era. But after Anderson argued the integrity of the part, director John Huston empowered him to present the character with dignity, intelligence, and emotion.

Sources: 

Carlton Jackson, Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel (Lanham: Madison Books, 1990); Thomas Cripps, Making Movies Black (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 1993); Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Azikiwe, Benjamin Nnamdi "Zik" (1904-1996)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Sources: 

Nnamdi Azikiwe, My Odyssey:  An Autobiography (London:  C. Hurst & Company, 1970); Vincent C. Ikeotuonye, Zik of New Africa (London:  P.R. MacMillan Limited, 1961); K.A.B. Jones-Quartey, The Life of Azikiwe (Baltimore:  Penguin Books, 1965); http://www.lincoln.edu/history/journal/azikwe.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Adderley, Julian Edwin “Cannonball” (1928-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jazz Saxophonist
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Combining styles of earlier influences with his own unique twists secured Julian "Cannonball" Adderley’s place in history as an experienced alto saxophonist who was fearless in exploring fresh musical styles.  Born in Tampa, Florida on September 15, 1928, Adderley was welcomed into a musical family that would play a key part in his success as a performer.  His father, already a jazz cornetist, introduced him to music, contributing to Adderley’s familiarity with band performance by the age of 14.  In high school he continued to study reed and brass instruments and formed his first jazz group with his band director as his advisor.  Upon graduation from high school, Adderley became band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale where he taught music for several years while also playing with his own jazz group on the side from 1948 to 1950.  After enlisting in the Army in 1950, he led the 36th Army Dance Band and later a second Army band from 1952 to 1953.  During this time he also studied at the U.S. Naval School of Music.
Sources: 
Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestly, Jazz: The Essential Companion (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Leonard Feather, The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Horizon Press, 1955).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Rogers, Timmie (1914-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Timmie Rogers was a popular black comedian and entertainer from the 1940s through the 1990s. He was one of the first African American entertainers who refused to wear blackface or to dress in dirty tattered clothing while performing. Rogers also was one of the first entertainers to speak directly to the audience in his own voice.  Previous black performers beginning in the Jim Crow era had always affected some variation of the Sambo and Coon type characters up to the mid-20th Century routine of Amos and Andy.

Rogers was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1914. His grandfather was a slave and his father  ran away from home at the age of 12, finding a job as dishwasher in a kitchen on an Ohio River steamboat.  Rogers’ mother ran a boarding house in Detroit where she sold liquor during Prohibition.

As a child, Rogers began dancing and performing on the street corners in Detroit  for change and later took a job cleaning ashtrays at a ballroom where he was allowed to perform his acts before the main entertainment. By the 1940s Rogers was performing one of his first, which incorporated an anti- segregation theme titled, I’ve Got a Passport from Georgia. He also wrote a song for Nat King Cole called If You Can’t Smile and Say Yes.
Sources: 
Denise Watson Batts, “Timmie Rogers: a side-splitting revolutionary,” The Virginian Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA. (February 3, 2008); Louie Robinson, “Why Negro Comics Don’t Make It Big,” Ebony Magazine 110 (October 1960); Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory of Prime Time Network TV Shows (New York: Ballantine Books, 1992); Alex McNeil, Total Television (New York: Penguin Books, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
UC Santa Barbara

McDonald, Norris (1958- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The African American
Environmentalist Association

Norris McDonald, a leading black environmentalist, is the founder and president of the African American Environmental Association (AAEA), an organization dedicated to protecting the environment, enhancing human, animal and plant ecologies, and increasing African American participation in the environmental movement.

Norris McDonald was born to parents Sandy Norris McDonald Sr. and Katie Louvina Best in 1958 in Thomasville, North Carolina.  Norris McDonald Sr. was a high school principal and Katie Louvina Best worked for the local public school system. She died of breast cancer at the age of 26.

McDonald attended Wake Forest University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1977. After college, McDonald moved to Washington, D.C. hoping to find a job as a Congressional staffer.  Instead, he was hired as a staffer at the Environmental Policy Institute in 1979 (now called Friends of the Earth) where he worked for the next seven years. McDonald’s primary duties included media relations, public education, researching, lobbying, and fund raising. During this time, McDonald was introduced to environmental issues across the nation.  He also noticed that there were no black professionals working for environmental groups in the Washington, D.C. area. The absence of black professionals in those organizations inspired him to create the AAEA in 1985.

Sources: 
http://grist.org/article/norris/; http://meldi.snre.umich.edu/node/12335; Norris McDonald, Norris McDonald: Diary of an Environmentalist (Washington, D.C.: Privately Published, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Medina, Lazaro (1965 -2013)

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

Lazaro Medina was an Afro-Paraguayan who was best known as the founder and director of the Ballet Camba Cua, the only dance troupe of Paraguay based on the dances of former African slaves. Medina was also a political activist who assisted other Afro-Paraguayans who faced racial discrimination and the consequences of the confiscation of their lands by Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner in the 1980s. The ballet was named after Camba Cua, one of the few remaining Afro-Paraguayan settlements in the nation. 

Little is known about Medina’s background including his parents and date of birth.  Nor is there much information about his formal training.  Medina founded Ballet Camba Cua in 1991 basing it partly on the recalled stories of his father who described earlier festivals of people of African descent.  The Ballet was named after the Afro-Paraguayan community of Camba Cua which was founded by a group of 250 black lancers who were given land, a team of oxen, and seeds to plant aftrer they helped defeat a ruler who was sent into exile. The goal of the Ballet was to make Afro-Paraguayan culture visible and connected to the larger world of African culture.

Sources: 
Monica Bareiro, "Kamba Cua, Tapping of Pride and Culture," ABC Color, http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/suplementos/abc-revista/kamba-cua-tamborileo-de-orgullo-y-cultura-1200345.html; John M. Lipski, “Afro-Paraguayan Spanish: The Negation of Non-Existence," Journal of Pan African Studies 2.7, 2008; Kwekudee, "The Irresistible and Expert Drumming and Dancing African Descendants in South America, Trip Down Memory Lane, http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2014/06/afro-paraguayans-afro-poaraguayos.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bell, James ["Cool Papa"] (1903-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Thomas Bell was born May 17, 1903, in Starkville, Mississippi. Playing baseball as a 19 year-old rookie Bell earned the nickname “Cool Papa” after proving to his older teammates that he was not intimidated by playing professionally in front of large crowds. Signing with the St. Louis Stars in 1922, Bell entered professional baseball as a pitcher, reportedly throwing a wicked curveball and fade-away knuckleball.

The speed of Bell would become apparent when he beat the Chicago American Giants Jimmy Lyons in a race for the title of “fastest man in the league.” He immediately switched to center field, where he would play shallow and always manage to run down long hits. Bell stayed with the Stars until 1930 when the league disbanded, and led them to league titles in 1928 and 1930.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hughes, Langston (1902-1967)

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

Seymour, William J. (1870-1922)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William J. Seymour was born in Centerville, Louisiana, to former slaves Simon and Phillis Seymour, who raised him in the Baptist church. While living in Cincinnati, Ohio, he was influenced by holiness teachings, and then he moved to Houston, where he heard Charles Fox Parham’s teaching on Apostolic Faith. The teaching, simply put, combined the baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues (glossalalia), such as was experienced in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. Seymour embraced the teaching, moved to Los Angeles, and began preaching in the spring of 1906 in an abandoned church on Azusa Street, which he named the Apostolic Faith Mission. From this place, the Pentecostal movement spread across the globe.

Sources: 
William J. Seymour, ed. The Azusa Street Papers: A Reprint The Apostolic Faith Mission Publications, Los Angeles, California (1906–08). Foley, Ala.: Together in the Harvest Publications, 1997; Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2001); http://www.ag.org/enrichmentjournal/199904/026_azusa.cfm
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Vaughan, Sarah (1924-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sarah Louise Vaughan was born in 1924 in Newark, New Jersey.  Both of her parents were amateur musicians and they provided their daughter piano lessons as a child as well as a solid background in vocals, as a member of her mother’s church choir.  By 1943, 19-year- old Sarah was ready to make music her career.  Despite her natural shyness and lack of stage polish, she won an amateur contest at Harlem’s renowned Apollo Theatre.  That performance led to Sarah’s “discovery” by Billy Eckstine who helped her become a vocalist and musician with the Earl Hines Band.  Vaughn left Hines’s band to join Eckstine’s new orchestra and make her recording debut.  

By 1946 Sarah Vaughn was a solo artist who was rapidly becoming well known as one of the first jazz artists to use “bop” phrasing in her singing.  During the 1950s, she adopted a new style which allowed her to record numerous “pop” tunes that were commercially successful.  While her embrace of pop music scandalized jazz purists, it greatly widened Sarah’s fan base and demonstrated her business acumen, which many of her colleagues eventually grew to admire.
Sources: 
Leslie Gourse, Sassy: The Life of Sarah Vaughan (New York: Da Capo Press, 1993); Joyce West Stevens, Smart and Sassy: The Strengths of Inner City Black Girls (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/vaughan_s.html; Rutgers Women’s History Project, http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/njwomenshistory/Period_5/vaughan.htm; Soulwalking, http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Sarah%20Vaughn.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coleridge-Taylor, Samuel (1875-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the National
Museum of American History
Born on August 15, 1875 to a physician from Sierra Leone and an Englishwoman, musical composer and conductor Samuel Coleridge-Taylor grew-up in Holborn, England.  He revealed his musical talents at the age of five, began studying the violin at the age of seven, and entered the Royal College of Music in London at the age of fifteen.  By the mid-1890s, due largely to his association with the African American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar and inspired by the London performance of the visiting Fisk Jubilee Singers from the United States, Coleridge-Taylor begin reflecting the African American experience in his music.

By 1898 when only 23 years of age, Coleridge-Taylor was commissioned to write his Ballade in A Minor for Britain’s Three Choirs Festival.  He is perhaps best remembered for Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, the first of three parts based on poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.  Coleridge-Taylor’s overture to this particular piece was drawn from the black American spiritual: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”  
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); see also African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Group, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Factor, Pompey (1849–1928)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Pompey Factor, former slave, scout for the United States Army and Congressional Medal of Honor winner, was born in Arkansas in 1849 to Hardy Factor, a black Seminole chief and an unknown Biloxi Indian woman.

By the end of that 2nd Seminole War (1835-1842), most of the Seminole Indians and runaway slaves were captured and removed to the Indian Territory. The fear of enslavement drove many black Seminole to Mexico in the 1850s. Factor’s family was among those who emigrated.
On August 16, 1870, Factor enlisted in the Army and was assigned the rank of private with the Detachment of Seminole Negro Indian Scouts who worked with the Twenty-fourth Infantry, an all-black regiment. As a scout, he performed reconnaissance duties in Texas for the Army, tracking the movements of Comanches, Apaches, Kiowa and other Native Americans who refused to go to reservations.

Sources: 
Katz, William Loren, Black People Who Made the Old West, (Trenton, NJ: African World Press, 1992); The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture www.encyclopediaofarskansas.net/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Austin, Richard Henry (1913-2001)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Michigan Department
of Transportation

Richard Henry Austin was born on May 6, 1913 in Stouts Mountain, Alabama, the son of Richard H. and Leila (Hill) Austin.  Austin shined and sold shoes while studying at the Detroit Institute of Technology at night.  After graduating from the Institute in 1937, he became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in 1941 (the first African American to do so in Michigan), and founded his own accounting firm.  Austin then helped other blacks in the Detroit area form businesses, foundations, and civic groups.

Richard Austin also became very active in political and civil rights groups in Detroit.  In 1969, he was almost elected the city’s first black mayor.  He led in the primary but was defeated by a margin of 51 to 49 percent in the general election.  Two years later, however, Austin garnered a 300,000 vote majority over his opponent to become Michigan’s first African American Secretary of State.  He was subsequently reelected four times.

Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007).
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Albert, Octavia Victoria Rogers (1853-1890)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Octavia V. Rogers Albert, The House of Bondage or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: The Early Years, 1619-1899 (New York: Facts on File, Inc, 1997); Frances Smith Foster. "Albert, Octavia Victoria Rogers" American National Biography Online (Feb. 2000); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Holstein, Casper (1876-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Genevieve Fabre and Michel Feith, Temples for Tomorrow: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); Crime Library, Black Gangs of Harlem: 1920-1939, http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/gang/harlem_gangs/4.html
“Holstein Set Free By Abductors,” The New York Times, September 24, 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

King, Don (1931- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gantt, Harvey Bernard (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Harvey B. Gantt, architect and politician, was born January 14, 1943 in Charleston, South Carolina to Christopher and Wilhelmenia Gantt.  In 1961, Gantt attended Iowa State University.  After one year of study, he returned to South Carolina and soon afterwards sued to enter racially segregated Clemson University.  On January 16, 1963, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Clemson to admit Gantt who became its first African American student.  He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Clemson with honors in 1965. In 1970, Gantt earned a M.A. in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During the 1970s Gantt worked at various architectural firms in Charlotte, North Carolina where he settled after receiving his degree from MIT. Between 1970 and 1971 he collaborated with civil rights activist Floyd B. McKissick to design Soul City, North Carolina, an experimental interracial community in eastern North Carolina.  In 1971 Gantt left the Soul City project, returning to Charlotte to launch an architectural firm with Jeffrey Huberman.  Some of the firm’s projects include the construction of the Charlotte Transportation Center, Transamerica Square, and First Ward Recreation Center.

Sources: 
M.L. Clemons, "The Mayoral Campaigns of Harvey Gantt: Prospect and Problems of Coalition Maintenance in the New South," Southeastern Political Review 26:1 (1998): B. Yeoman, "Helms Last Stand?  Harvey Gantt Tries Again to Beat the Senate's Last Reactionary," The Nation 263:11 (1996); H. Lewis Suggs, "Harvey Gantt and the Desegregation of Clemson University, 1960-1963," in Skip Eisiminger, ed., Integration with Dignity (Clemson: Clemson University Digital Press, 2003);  <http://www.clemson.edu/caah/cedp/gantt/pdfs/004.pdf>; Peter Applebome, “Carolina Race is Winning the Wallets of America,” New York Times, October 13, 1990; <http://www.scafricanamerican.com>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Abbott, Diane (1953- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Diane Abbott, the first black woman to be elected to the British Parliament, was born to Jamaican immigrant parents in 1953. Growing up in Paddington, London, she attended Harrow County grammar school before pursuing studies in History to Master’s level at Newnham College, Cambridge.

Upon graduation, Abbott worked as a civil servant with the Home Office as well as being employed by the National Council for Civil Liberties. In 1982, she was elected to Westminster city council before winning the Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency for the Labour Party in 1987. She was elected along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant who became the first black men to be elected to the British Parliament.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Bonds, Barry (1964- )

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

Barry Bonds is one of the most controversial figures in modern sports.  The former major league star holds the record for career home runs (762) but that record and his other accomplishments on the field have been marred by accusations that he took performance enhancing drugs.

Barry Lamar Bonds was born in Riverside, California on July 24, 1964 but grew up in San Mateo, California where he attended Junipero Serra High school. He was honored as a prep All-American there for baseball. His father, Bobby Bonds, also a major league All-Star, inspired Barry to become a professional baseball player.

In 1982 Barry Bonds was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the major league baseball (MLB) draft while he was still in high school.  When contract negotiations failed Bonds attended Arizona State University on a baseball scholarship. He was quickly named a College All-American and set a NCAA record of seven consecutive hits in the College World Series as a sophomore. Bonds graduated in 1986 with a degree in criminology.

Sources: 
Official website: http://www.barrybonds.com/; Joey Johnston, Baseball Digest (September 2004), http://www.mercurynews.com/barrybonds/ci_17667705?nclick_check=1; http://mlb.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=111188#sectionType=career&statType=1&season=&gameType='R'; http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0907112.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Due, Tananarive (1966- )

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

Tananarive Due is a contemporary novelist who interweaves powerful themes and dilemmas among African Americans into unconventional story-telling.  Due was born in Tallahassee, Florida on January 5, 1966.  Her parents, John and Patricia Stephens Due, met at Florida A&M and were civil rights activists.  John was a prominent attorney who eventually headed Leon County's Office of Black Affairs while her mother participated in many protests and sit-ins that led to injuries and in one ins

Sources: 
Dianne Glave, "'My Characters are Teaching me to be Strong:' An Interview with Tananarive Due," African American Review 38:4 (Winter 2004); "A Conversation with Tananarive Due Part I and Part II," National Public Radio www.npr.org, January 17, 2006; Tananarive Due Website, http://www.tananarivedue.com/About.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Grant, Bernie (1944–2000)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on the 17th of February 1944 in Georgetown, Guyana, Bernie Grant was elected to the British House of Commons in 1987 to serve as one of the country’s first black Members of Parliament (MPs). With a head teacher for a father and a teacher for a mother, Grant, the second of five children, was awarded a scholarship to begin his education at St. Stanislaus College, a Jesuit boy’s secondary school in Georgetown. After passing O Levels he moved to England to attend Tottenham Technical College, before pursuing a degree in Engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. In 1969, Grant left the institution in protest against the discrimination that he and other black students claimed they faced.
Sources: 
The Bernie Grant Archives, held at Middlesex University : http://www.berniegrantarchive.org.uk/index.asp; The Bernie Grant Arts Centre: http://www.berniegrantcentre.co.uk/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Jamison, Judith Anna (1943- )

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

Judith Anna Jamison is among the most influential African American dance figures of the late 20th Century.  She began her dance career at the age of ten and served as the Artistic Director at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 1989 to 2011. Her efforts in the dance industry also opened the doors to many young aspiring women and African Americans.

Jamison was born May 10, 1943 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania where she attended Germantown High School. At the age of 21 she was discovered by noted choreographer Agnes de Mille in 1964 and recruited to the American Ballet Theatre in New York.  Her American Ballet debut was “The Four Marys” later that year.  Jamison then became a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey’s protégé where she held leading roles to many of his productions. Jameson danced for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater until 1979.

In 1988 Jameson started her own company, The Jamison Project, which appeared on PBS. Through this project, she produced Judith Jamison: The Dancemaker which aired nationally the same year.

Sources: 
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater website: http://www.alvinailey.org/about/people/judith-jamison; Black Enterprise November 2009; New York Amsterdam News December 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lewis, Charles (ca. 1760-1833)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
1780 Document Indicating Wills' Service in the U.S. Army
During the American Revolution 
Image Courtesy of Anita Wills

Charles Lewis was a sailor and soldier during the American Revolutionary War.  Lewis was born sometime around 1760 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia on Bel Aire, the Lewis Family Plantation owned by John Lewis. John and a free mulatto woman, Josephine Lewis, were the parents of Charles and his younger brother, Ambrose.  Lewis and his brother were born free but their mother was indentured to John Lewis. 

On April 15, 1776, Charles Lewis and his brother entered into the naval service of Virginia when they served on board the Galley Page, a warship commanded by Captain James Markham.  On March 20, 1778, they entered the Naval Service of the United States when they joined the crew of the USS Dragon commanded by Captain Eleazor Callender.

Sources: 
Michael L. Cook, Pioneer Lewis Families (Evansville, Indiana: Cook Publications, 1984); Anita L. Wills, Notes and Documents of Free Persons of Color, Some Free Persons of Color: Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania County (Virginia) 1750-1850 (Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu Press: 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Harding, Rosemarie Florence Freeney (1930-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Vincent and Rosemarie Harding
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Rosemarie Florence Freeney Harding was a tireless teacher, social worker, civil rights leader, and healer. She was especially known for her deep spirituality and commitment to nonviolence. The youngest of nine siblings, Harding was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 24, 1930 to Dock Freeney, Jr. and Ella Lee Harris Freeney. Both parents and her large, extended family haled from Southwest Georgia. She married Vincent G. Harding in 1960 in Chicago. The couple had two children, Rachel and Jonathan.
Sources: 
Rosemarie Freeney Harding as told to Rachel E. Harding, “There was a Tree in Starkville…,” Sojourners (February 2012), http://sojo.net/magazine/2012/02/there-was-tree-starksville; Rose Marie Berger, “I’ve Known Rivers: The Story of Freedom Movement Leaders Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Vincent Harding,” Sojourners, online archive (http://sojo.net/press/ive-known-rivers); “Rosemarie Florence Freeney Harding,” Biography/Obituary, Veterans of Hope, http://www.veteransofhope.org/connect-wisdom/mama-rose/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Williams, Daniel Hale (1856-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Daniel Hale Williams III was a pioneering surgeon best known for performing in 1893 one of the world’s first successful open heart surgeries.  Williams was born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania to Sarah Price Williams and Daniel Hale Williams II.  Following the death of his father, Williams lived with family friends in Baltimore, Maryland, and with family in Illinois, from 1866 to 1878 where he was a shoemaker’s apprentice and barber until he decided to pursue his education.  In 1878, Williams’s interest in medicine began when he worked in the office of Henry Palmer, a Wisconsin surgeon.
Sources: 
http://www.biography.com/people/daniel-hale-williams-9532269?page=2; http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/danielwilliams.html; http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-chicagodays-heartoperation-story,0,4001788.story; http://www.providentfoundation.org/history/index.html; http://www.providentfoundation.org/history/williams.html; Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (eds.), Africana: Encyclopedia of The African and African American Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Darlene Clark Hine (ed.), The African-American Odyssey (New York: Prentice Hall, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

McDaniel, Hattie (1895-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Hattie McDaniel Receives Oscar at the
Academy Awards Ceremony, 1940
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hattie McDaniel is best known as the first black Oscar winner.  She won the award on February 29, 1940, for Best Supporting Actress for her role as “Mammy” in Gone With the Wind. McDaniel's career began three decades earlier.  She gave her first public performances as a grade school student in Denver, Colorado. Her father, Henry McDaniel, traveled through Colorado with his own minstrel show, but would not allow his daughter to accompany him and her brothers Otis and Sam.  McDaniel was allowed to perform locally with the traveling minstrel shows staged at East Turner Hall in Denver.  In 1910, when she won the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s recitation contest with her rendition of “Convict Joe.”  The audience gave her both a standing ovation and the Gold Medal.  Although only a sophomore, McDaniel insisted that she wanted to perform and convinced her parents that she should quit school to join her father’s show.  She developed a talent for writing songs and dancing.  She also had an excellent singing voice.   
Sources: 
Carleton Jackson, Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel (Lanham, New York: Madison Books, 1990); Thomas L. Riis, Just Before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890 to 1915 (Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Braun, Carol Moseley (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Carol Moseley Braun was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 16, 1947. She attended the Chicago Public Schools and received a degree from the University of Illinois in 1969.  She earned her degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1972.

Moseley Braun served as assistant prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago from 1972 to 1978. In the latter year she was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives and served in that body for ten years. During her tenure Moseley Braun made educational reform a priority. She also became the first African American assistant majority leader in the history of the Illinois legislature.  Moseley Braun returned to Chicago in 1988 to serve as Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
Sources: 
LaVerne McCain Gill, African American Women in Congress: Forming and Transforming History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1997); David Kenney, An Uncertain Tradition: U.S. Senators from Illinois, 1818-2003 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago

Wagoner, Henry O. (1816-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in 1816 in Maryland to a freed slave mother and a German father, Henry O. Wagoner (often spelled Waggoner) had the benefit of a brief exposure to education in Pennsylvania. This limited education gave him a base for further self-education and independent thought. In the 1850s Frederick Douglass employed Wagoner as the Chicago correspondent to his Rochester, New York newspaper, known as Frederick Douglass' Paper after 1851.

Wagoner's obituary notes that he owned a "small mill " in Chicago that burned in 1860, prompting him to move to Denver City, Colorado Territory. His friend Barney Ford may have influenced that decision as the two of them had worked together in Chicago supporting Douglass's abolition movement and his Underground Railroad activities.

In Denver, Wagoner opened various barbering and restaurant businesses and was among the most affluent of Denver's African American residents. While Ford moved from place to place, Wagoner stayed in Denver where he remained a political activist in league with black pioneers Edward Sanderlin and William Jefferson Hardin.
Sources: 
Henry O. Wagoner Obituary, Rocky Mountain News, January 28, 1901; Eugene Berwanger, The Frontier Against Slavery: Western Anti-Negro Prejudice and the Slavery Extension Controversy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1967).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Antoine, Caesar Carpenter (1836-1921)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Caesar Carpenter "C.C." Antoine is best known as a leading African American politician in Louisiana during Reconstruction (1863-1877). Antoine was born in New Orleans to a Black father who fought the British as an American soldier at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and to a West Indian mother. His father’s mother was from Africa and the daughter of a captured African chief. Her reputed self-purchase from slavery and accumulation of a minor fortune allowed C.C. Antoine and his father to live out their lives as free blacks.  Prior to entering politics, Antoine ran a successful grocery business in New Orleans.

In 1862, one year after the Civil War began, New Orleans was captured and occupied by Union troops, Antoine joined the Union Army and quickly rose to the rank of Captain.  From 1862 to 1865 Captain Antoine was attached to one of the nation’s first all-black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards. As Captain, Antoine recruited former bondsmen for service and developed Company I of the Seventh Native Guard primarily stationed at Brashear (now Morgan City) about 85 miles southwest of New Orleans.

Sources: 
John Andrew Prime, “Lt. Gov. C.C. Antoine: Louisiana's 3rd Black Lieutenant Governor”http://home.earthlink.net/~japrime/cwrt/antoine.htm; Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Harpers Perennial, 2002); W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (New York: Touchstone, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Russell, Herman J. (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
What started as a $125.00 purchase of a small parcel of land at 15 grew and blossomed over the years into a multi million-dollar company, and with this, Herman Jerome Russell came to epitomize black entrepreneurship by becoming one of the first black millionaires.

By the time of his retirement in 1997, Russell had built a conglomerate that included construction, property management, real estate development, airport concessions, and communications companies stretching across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Herman Russell was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1930 and attended Tuskegee Institute where he majored in construction, graduating in 1953. In 1957, he took over the family business, Russell Plastering Company. Employed by his father since the age of 10, Russell was no stranger to hard work. The many years under his father’s tutelage encouraged his entrepreneur spirit and gave him the needed preparation to handle the family business.
Sources: 
Source: Alston Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.answers.com; www.findarticles.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Connerly, Ward (1939 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Ward Connerly, Creating Equal: My Fight Against Racial Preferences (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2000); Michael E. Dyson, Debating Race (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2007); Francis Beckwith and Todd E. Jones, Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination? (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1997); Michael W. Lynch, “Racial Preferences Are Dead,” interview in Reason http://www.reason.com/news/show/30527.html; Barry Bearak, “Questions of Race Run Deep for Foe of Preferences.” The New York Times.  July 27, 1997,  http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.htmlres=9C07E0DD153AF934A15754C0A961958260&sec.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gilpin, Charles Sidney (1878-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Sidney Gilpin, an actor, singer, and vaudevillian dancer, was the most successful African American stage performer in the early 20th Century.  He is best known for his portrayal of Brutus Jones in Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones. A Richmond, Virginia, native, Gilpin attended St. Francis School, a Catholic institution for colored children, until age 12, and served as a printer’s assistant at the Richmond Planet (c. 1890-1893). Gilpin married three times. His first wife was Florence Howard (married c. 1897). He met his second wife, Lillian Wood, when he was with the Lafayette Players. His third wife was Alma Benjamin Gilpin.

Gilpin showed great promise early on as a singer appearing in amateur theatricals in Richmond. He went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the early 1890s, where he worked briefly for the Philadelphia Standard, but was let go after some employees complained about working with a Negro.
Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theatre (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008); John T. Kneebone, “’It Wasn’t All Velvet’: The Life and Hard Times of Charles S. Gilpin, Actor,” Virginia Cavalcade 38 (Summer 1988)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Tucker, Lorenzo (1907-1986)

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

In an era when both movies and audiences were segregated, Lorenzo Tucker became African America’s leading man. Tucker was born in Philadelphia in 1907 to parents John and Virginia Lee Tucker. Lorenzo Tucker studied photography in trade school and briefly attended Temple University, where he appeared in plays. He went on to work as a straight man in minstrel shows with blue’s singer Bessie Smith and actor/comedian Stepin’ Fetchit (Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry).

It was during a performance that pioneer filmmaker Oscar Micheaux spotted Tucker and persuaded him to consider acting in movies. In 1927, Tucker made his debut in Micheaux’s A Fool's Errand. Tucker appeared in subsequent films in which he portrayed distinguished characters, such as a motion picture producer in The Wages of Sin (1928); a captain in A Daughter of the Congo (1930); and a lawyer in The Black King (1932). In 1933, he received his first minor Hollywood role in The Emperor Jones (1933) starring Paul Robeson.

Sources: 

Richard Grupenoff, The Black Valentino (Metuchen, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1988); Anonymous, “Black Valentino.” Vinyard Gazette, June 8, 1976; Burt Folkart, “Lorenzo Tucker, 'Black Valentino,' Dies,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1986, p.28.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moore, Tim (1888-1958)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Radio Characters from Amos 'N' Andy,
Spencer Williams (left)
and Alvin Tim Moore (right)
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis 

Broadway stage comedian Tim Moore, whose career as an entertainer spanned more than 50 years, is best remembered as George “Kingfish” Stevens on the classic Amos 'n' Andy series. Born in Rock Island, Illinois in December 1888, Moore began his career dancing on the sidewalks of his home town for money.

He later entered the vaudeville circuit when he teamed with Romeo Washburn, another black performer from Rock Island.  Their traveling act became known as the “Gold Dust Twins.” Moore eventually went solo and toured British music halls for nearly two years. He then joined a medicine show that played vacant lots across the Midwest.  He also worked as a fly-shooer in a stable, a boxer, fight manager, and a horseracing jockey.

By 1913, Moore had earned $110,000 as a prizefighter and manager. With his earnings he launched a new career as a theater producer.  In 1921 Moore created his most successful production, Tim Moore’s Chicago Follies Tour, which ran for the next four years.  Later in the decade he returned to acting, performing in Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds in 1928 and Harlem Scandals four years later.  By the mid-1940s, Moore now nearly 60, retired and returned to his hometown to, as he stated, “spend more time with my people.”

Sources: 

Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994); Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press Inc., 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Washington, Dinah (Ruth Lee Jones), (1924-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS
Dinah Washington, legendary singer and ‘Queen of the Blues,’ was born Ruth Lee Jones on August 29, 1924. Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama she moved with her family to Chicago as a young child.

Music was in Washington’s family, her mother was a pianist in St. Luke’s Baptist Church, and from a young age, Washington sang gospel and played piano with her church choir. Influenced by other female singers such as Billie Holiday, Washington began to take an interest in blues music and started playing in local clubs in Chicago. At the age of 18, Washington joined Lionel Hampton’s band and a year later she also signed with Keynote Records, releasing her first hit “Evil Gal Blues” under the name Dinah Washington. Washington was never to record any of her gospel music, despite her obvious talent for it, believing that the secular world of professional music should be kept apart from the spiritual.
Sources: 
Jim Haskins, Queen of the Blues: A Biography of Dinah Washington (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1987) Queen; The Life and Music of Dinah Washington Website, www.dinahthequeen.com, (Nadine Cohodas, Random House, 2004); The Verve Live Music Group, www.vervemusicgroup.com, (Verve Music Group, 1999-2009); Encyclopaedia Britannica, www.britannica.com (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

dan Fodio, Usman (1754-1817)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Map of the Sultanate of Sokoto
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Islamic preacher, reformer, scholar, and statesman, Usman dan Fodio was born on December 15, 1754 in the village of Maratta, in the Hausa city-state of Gobir, in what is today northern Nigeria.  He was a descendant of the early Fulani settlers in Hausaland in the 15th century.  He spent his youth in the devout pursuit of Islamic religious education, and his early manhood preaching, teaching, and writing.

Dan Fodio became an itinerant Muslim preacher in 1774, moving among rural communities.  He was a leader in the expansion of Islam across the Hausa countryside, increasing the popular basis for religious teaching and bringing literacy to numerous small communities.   He wrote poems and stories of mysticism that increased his popularity as a teacher and preacher.    
Sources: 
Nehemia Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels, eds., The History of Islam in Africa (Athens:  Ohio University Press, 2000); Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ashley, Maurice (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Maurice Ashley, the first African American chess grandmaster, was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica on March 6, 1966. At age 12, his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Ashley began to develop an interest in chess. Although he spent several hours a day playing and studying the game, he did not play well enough to qualify for his high school chess team, and instead had to develop his skills by playing in tournaments and informal games.

Ashley became a chess coach for New York City youth, a role which he filled from 1991 to 1997. Two of his youth teams, the “Raging Rooks” and the “Dark Knights,” won championships at a national level in the early 1990s. Ashley’s experience coaching young people in the city, where academic distractions were many, made advocating chess to youth an integral part of his life.

In 1993, Ashley graduated from the City College of New York. The same year, he married Michele Johnson. Their daughter, Nia, was born in 1994. Ashley released a CD-ROM called Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess in 1995. He also became a commentator for chess matches around this time, and commentated several of grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s famous chess matches, including those against Viswanathan Anand in 1995 and the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in 1996 and 1997.
Sources: 
http://main.uschess.org/content/view/142/195; http://www.chessville.com/Editorials/Interviews/20Questions/Ashley.htm; Melissa Ewey, “First Black Chess Grandmaster,” Ebony 54:9 (1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Broussard, Allen E. (1929-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
As a young activist, Allen Broussard fought for racial justice, equal opportunity, and civil liberties.  Those campaigns inspired him to study the law.  He connected with the community throughout his career as an attorney, judge, and committee member.  Broussard authored key opinions on the death penalty and the environment while on the California Supreme Court.  He is best known as the dissenting liberal judge on the California Supreme Court at a time when the state's voters had removed most of the liberal judges on the bench.

Broussard was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1929 to Eugenia and Clemiere Broussard.  The family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1945 at the end of World War II in search of greater opportunities.  There Eugenia worked as a seamstress and Clemiere as a longshoreman.  

In 1945 Broussard enrolled in San Francisco City College where he served as student chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  His chapter was part of a citywide effort to get the first African American high school teacher and policeman hired by the City of San Francisco.  He also helped to secure union jobs that had previously been closed to African Americans.  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

LL Cool J [James Todd Smith] (1968- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
LL Cool J, rapper and actor, was born James Todd Smith, the only child of James and Ondrea Smith on January 14, 1968 in St. Albans, Queens, New York City, New York.  Early in James’ life, the relationship between his mother and father turned violent and they divorced when he was four years old.  Later, after enduring physical and emotional abuse from his mother’s boyfriend, James became a bully himself.  It was around his tenth birthday that he found a constructive way to channel his aggression, the newly emerging musical genre of hip-hop.

After his grandfather gave him a mixer for his 11th birthday, James began writing and producing his own songs.  At age 15 he came up with his stage name:  Ladies Love Cool James (which he shortened to LL Cool J).  In 1984, LL met Rick Rubin, a student at New York University and co-founder of Def Jam Records, hip-hop’s first major label.  Impressed by what he heard, Rubin began producing LL immediately and in 1985 Def Jam released the 17 year-old’s debut album, Radio.
Sources: 
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/ll-cool-j/biography; http://www.mtv.com/artists/ll-cool-j/biography/
Daudi Abe, 6 ‘N the Morning: West coast hip-hop music 1987-1992 & the transformation of mainstream culture (Los Angeles: Over The Edge Books, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Stith, Charles R. (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Charles Richard Stith, a diplomat, minister, professor, and urban reformer, presently serves as the Director of the African Presidential Archives and Research Center at Boston University in Massachusetts. In 1998, President Bill Clinton named him ambassador to Tanzania.
Sources: 
“The Director,” BU African Presidential Center, http://www.bu.edu/apc/about-the-center/the-director/; Council of American Ambassadors, “Charles R. Stith” (2013) http://www.americanambassadors.org/members/charles-r-stith; “From tension and hostility to an era of more interracial peace,” Boston Globe, January 16, 2015, http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/01/16/from-tension-and-hostility-era-more-interracial-peace/8sVmDw1r0mxJL0uDF6uOBL/story.html; “Our History,” Union United Methodist Church, http://unionboston.org/about/history.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Bontemps, Arna (1902-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hoping for a much better life outside the racially oppressive South and Alexandria, Louisiana where Arnaud Wendell Bontemps was born, the middle class Bontemps family moved to the Watts community just south of Los Angeles.  They soon abandoned Catholicism and became devout Seventh Day Adventists.  Bontemps’ mother was a schoolteacher and his father, a bricklayer, was determined to have the family assimilate into the dominant white culture.  In 1923, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College, an Adventist school in California, and found work in the US Post Office.  He next used his church connections to secure a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City in 1924.
Sources: 
Kirkland C. Jones, Renaissance Man from Louisiana: A Biography of Arna Wendell Bontemps (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992); Robert E. Fleming,“ Arna Wendell Bontemps (1902-1973): http://www.blacksdahistory.org/arna-bontemps.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Bickford, Sarah Gammon (1855-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sarah Blair was born into slavery on Christmas Day, 1855, on the Blair Plantation near Greensboro, North Carolina. After the Civil War Sarah lived with an aunt in Knoxville, Tennessee and changed her name to Gammon, the aunt’s name.  In 1870, Knoxville Judge John L. Murphy was appointed to a judicial post in Virginia City, Montana Territory.  Sarah, about 15 years of age, was offered free transportation to Montana in exchange for caring for the Murphy children.  She accepted and the family arrived in Virginia City, Montana in January 1871.  

Sarah entered Virginia City during its gold rush and quickly found work as a chambermaid at Virginia City’s Madison House Hotel.  In 1872 she married William Leonard Brown, a successful gold miner.  They had two sons and a daughter.  Within a few years, however, both her sons and her husband died of diphtheria.

Sarah and surviving child, Eva, relocated to Laurin, Montana Territory, where they lived with a merchant family.  Eva Brown died of pneumonia in 1881 at the age of nine.  Two years later Sarah married Stephen Bickford, a white native of Maine, in 1883.  Four children were born to that marriage, Elmer in 1884, Harriett in 1887, Helena in 1890, and Mabel in 1892.  
Sources: 
Marlette C. Lacey, From Slave to Water Magnate (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Alrutheus Ambush (1893-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Fisk University Franklin Library's
Special Collections
A[lrutheus] A[mbush] Taylor, historian, was born in Washington D.C. where he also went through the public school system. He earned a B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1916 and taught at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama and at the West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now West Virginia State College) in Institute, West Virginia. In 1922, Carter G. Woodson brought this able young historian back to Washington D.C. to serve as a research associate with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Supported by a grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund, Taylor began researching the role of African Americans in the South during Reconstruction.
Sources: 
W.A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America and Journal of Negro History as well as prefaces and introductions to the three Taylor monographs cited above.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Long, Jefferson Franklin (1836-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Jefferson Franklin Long, a Republican who represented Georgia in the 41st Congress, was the first black member to speak on the floor of the House of Representatives, and was the only black representative from Georgia for just over a century. Long was born a slave in Knoxville, Georgia on March 3, 1836. Little is known of his early years, however by the end of the civil war he had been educated and was working as a tailor in the town of Macon. He was prosperous in business and involved in local politics.

By 1867 he had become active in the Georgia Educational Association and had traveled through the state on behalf of the Republican Party.  He also served on the state Republican Central Committee.  In 1869 Long chaired a special convention in Macon, Georgia which addressed the problems faced by the freedmen.

In December of 1870 Georgia held elections for two sets of congressional representatives – one for the final session of the 41st Congress (the first two of which Georgia had missed due to delayed readmission to the Union), and one for the 42nd Congress, set to begin in March of 1871. Georgia Republicans nominated Long, an African American, to run for the 41st congress, while Thomas Jefferson Speer, a white American, was chosen to run for the 42nd. Long was elected on January 16th, 1871.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, DC; U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jemison, Mae C. (1956- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration
Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama to Charlie and Dorothy Jemison.  At the age of three, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois to further their educational opportunities.  Her parents stressed the importance of education and when she was four, her uncle sparked her interest in archaeology and anthropology.  She spent much of her time in libraries reading about all she could get her hands on.  Mae graduated high school with honors and entered Stanford University (California) with an interest in the biomedical engineering profession. She graduated in 1977 with a degree in chemical engineering and later a second bachelor’s degree in African American studies.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/ABSTRACTS/GPN-2004-00020.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Straker, David Augustus (1842-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
David Augustus Straker, author, lawyer, and politician, was born and raised in Bridgetown, Barbados, where he achieved success as a teacher and principal at St. Mary’s Public School.  In 1868 he moved to Kentucky, where he taught at a freedman’s school for one year.  He entered Howard University in 1869, graduating two years later with a degree in law.  

Straker returned to Kentucky but when he was unable to find work as a lawyer, he took a position as a postal clerk.  During this time he married Annie M. Carey and authored numerous editorials for Frederick Douglass’s New National Era, gaining him national exposure.  In 1875 he resigned his postal position to join a law firm in Charleston, South Carolina, where he and his wife relocated.  

A staunch Republican, Straker was first elected to public office in November, 1876 as the Orangeburg County Representative in the lower house of the state legislature.  Redeemer Democrats, however, refused to seat him and his fellow Republicans the following year as they anticipated the end of Reconstruction in the state.  Undeterred, Straker continued to run for office and was reelected by the citizens of Orangeburg County in 1878 and 1880 even as the Democrats continued to deny him his seat in the legislature.    
Sources: 
Eric Foner, Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Dictionary of Black Officeholders during Reconstruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Edwin S. Redkey, Black Exodus: Black Nationalist and Back-to-Africa Movements, 1890-1910 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1969).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gillespie, Dizzy (John Birks Gillespie) (1917-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jazz great Dizzy Gillespie had a long and distinguished musical career as a trumpeter, composer, and bandleader. Unlike many jazz musicians whose lives were cut tragically short, Gillespie’s career spanned the 1930s to the 1980s, from the big band swing era of the 1930s, through 1940s bebop, the Afro-Cuban jazz of the 1950s, to the recording in 1989 – when he was 72 – of his United Nations Band performance “Live at Royal Festival Hall.” He is one of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz, is considered one of the founders of modern jazz, and with Charlie Parker is credited with the invention of bebop.  
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage, pp. 100-01 (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1997); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music, p. 55 (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours, pp. 25, 108, 113, 175 (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://www.allaboutjazz.com; http://www.afrocubaweb.com; www.pbs.org/jazz.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Evans, Melvin Herbert (1917–1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public domain
Melvin Herbert Evans was born on August 7, 1917, in Christiansted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands. He attended public schools until entering Howard University where he received his B.S. in 1940.  In 1944 he received his M.D. from Howard College of Medicine, whereupon he served in a variety of medical and public health posts at hospitals and institutions in the United States until 1959.  From 1959 to 1967 Evans served as a health commissioner in the Virgin Islands.  In 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed Evans, a Republican, as Governor of the Virgin Islands.  In 1970, after the Virgin Islands Elective Governor Act allowed for the election of a governor by the territory’s residents, Evans became the first popularly elected governor, serving for five years. Afterward, he was a Republican National Committeeman for the Virgin Islands from 1976 to 1980.
Sources: 
Bruce Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990);  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=E000254.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Washington, Forrester B. (1887-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Urban League of Detroit, 1923
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Forrester Blanchard Washington was a African American pioneer in social work first with the Detroit Urban League and later with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration. Washington was born in1887 in Salem, Massachusetts.  He graduated from Tufts College (University)  in 1909 and received graduate degrees from Harvard University in 1914 and Columbia University in 1917.  Washington also studied at the New York School of Social Work.

Washington began his career as the first Executive Secretary of the Detroit Urban League in 1916.  He led the Detroit League when the city experienced the rapid growth of its black population during the World War I era migration.  Washington called for equal employment opportunities in Detroit while urging the black migrants to adjust to urban life.  

Washington also led the National Urban League affiliate in Philadelphia between 1923 and before moving to the Atlanta School for Social Work in 1926. While in Atlanta, Washington also became president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1936 and used the post to challenge and publicize examples of the inequalities faced by African Americans.

Sources: 

Frederica H. Barron, "Forrester Blanchard Washington and His Advocacy
for African Americans in the New Deal," Social Work 52: 3 (July 2007);
1900-1949 Timeline, Detroit African American History Project, Wayne
State University, www.daahp.wayne.edu/1900_1949.html

Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mitchell, Juanita Jackson (1913- 1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Detroit-London: Gale Research Inc., 1992); "Obituary for Juanita Jackson Mitchell," New York Times, July 9, 1992.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Franklin, Shirley Clarke (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Shirley Clarke Franklin became Atlanta, Georgia’s first African American female mayor in 2001, as well as the first woman to be a mayor of a major southern city.  Clarke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 10, 1945 to parents Eugene Haywood Clarke and Ruth Lyons Clarke.  She attended public schools in Philadelphia. In 1963 at the age of 18, Clarke participated in the March on Washington where she saw and was inspired by Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King.   

Clarke graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1968.  She then attended the University of Pennsylvania and earned her master's degree in 1969.  Clarke married David McCoy Franklin in 1972.  The couple has three adult sons.

After teaching political science at Talladega College in Alabama for nearly a decade, in 1978 Shirley Clarke Franklin was appointed by Mayor Maynard Jackson to the post of Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of Atlanta.  When Jackson was succeeded by Mayor Andrew Young, she was named Chief Administrative Officer and City Manager.  Franklin gained notoriety as one of the officials who helped bring the Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1992.  
Sources: 
Kim O’Connell, “Most valuable player: Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin combines 1960’s-style populism with 21st century business-savvy,” American City and County, 120: 13 (December 2005); Candace LaBalle “Franklin, Shirley Clarke,” Contemporary Black Biography (December 2009); J. Phillip Thompson, Double Trouble: Black Mayors, black communities, and the Call for a Deep Democracy (New York: Oxford Publishing, 2006); Richard Fausset, "Kasim Reed Confirmed as Atlanta Mayor," Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2009
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dykes, Eva Beatrice (1893-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center Howard University

In 1921 Eva Beatrice Dykes became the first black woman in the United States to complete the required coursework for a Ph.D. and the third African American woman to receive a doctoral degree. Two other black women, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander and Georgiana Simpson, receive their Ph.D.s, in the same year as Dykes but because their respective commencement ceremonies took place earlier, Dykes is considered the third woman to receive the advanced degree. 

Eva Dykes was born in Washington, D.C. in 1893, and attended M Street High School which was later renamed Paul Dunbar High School. In 1914, twenty-one year old Dykes graduated Summa Cum Laude from Howard University with a B.A. in English. After spending one year teaching at Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, she decided to seek a Master’s Degree at Radcliffe College, an all women’s college which is now a part of Harvard University. Radcliffe, however, would not accept her degree from Howard, forcing Dykes to earn a second B.A. in English from the Massachusetts institution in 1917.  Nonetheless she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and the following year earned an M.A. from Radcliffe.  While at Radcliffe Dykes was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  She returned to Howard University in 1917 to complete her doctoral studies, earning the Ph.D. in 1921.  Her dissertation focused on Alexander Pope’s views on slavery and his influence on American writers.

Sources: 
Werner Sollors, Caldwell Titcomb, Thomas Underwood, and Randall Kennedy, Blacks at Harvard: A Documentary History of African-American Experience At Harvard and Radcliffe (New York: New York University Press, 1993); http://www.oakwood.edu/academics/library/about-the-library/698-who-was-eva-b-dykes; http://www.sistermentors.org/dcmarch05.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gbowee, Leymah (1972 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist, author, and 2011 Nobel Prize winner was born on February 1, 1972. She grew up in Bong County in central Liberia. In 1990, when Leymah was 17, she left for the capital, Monrovia, just before the nearly decade old civil war reached the city.

Gbowee regretted losing her opportunity to attend college; and out of bitterness and disappointment, she initially avoided any political or social involvement. As the war continued, however, she realized that the citizens of the nation and particularly Liberia's women must become more vocal advocates of peaceful change.  To contribute to that cause, Gbowee trained as a trauma counsellor and began working with the ex-child soldiers led by Liberian President Charles Taylor.  She also counselled women and girls who had been raped by the armies on both sides of the conflict.   
Sources: 
“African women look within for change.” http://edition.cnn.com. CNN, October 10 2009; http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/africa/10/30/africa.women/; “Leymah Gbowee, Women in Peace and Security Network Africa.” http://niew-womenincrisis.org, July 24, 2010, http://niew-womenincrisis.org/?p=39.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Webb, Francis Johnson [Frank J.] (1828-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of the Bodleian Library, University of 
Oxford, Shelf mark 249 v. 258.
Francis Johnson Webb, newspaper editor, educator, equal rights activist, and the second published African American novelist, was born free on March 21, 1828, in Philadelphia to Louisa Burr and Francis Webb.  His mother, Louisa Charlotte Burr (c1785-1878), was the illegitimate daughter of former vice president Aaron Burr.  His father, Francis Webb, served as founding member of the Pennsylvania Augustine Education Society, secretary of the Haytien Emigration Society, and Philadelphia distribution agent for Freedom’s Journal, the first black newspaper in the nation.

Little is known of Frank J. Webb’s education other than what can be deduced from his later creative output.  In 1845, at the age of seventeen, he married Mary, rumored to be the daughter of Spanish General Baldomero Espartero, and an African-born fugitive slave.  From 1850 until 1854 Webb worked as a commercial artist and designer in Philadelphia.  In 1854, he gave a lecture “The Martial Capacity of Blacks” to members of the Banneker Institute.  That same year he published his emigrationist views in a colonization paper in Norristown, near Philadelphia.  By the 1850s Webb associated with other abolitionists including William Cooper Nell, Robert Morris, Charles Sumner, and Frederick Douglass.
Sources: 
Mary Maillard, “‘Faithfully Drawn From Real Life’: Autobiographical Elements in Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (July 2013); Phillip Lapsansky, “Afro-Americana: Frank J. Webb and His Friends,” Library Company of Philadelphia: 1990 Annual Report (1990); Eric Gardner, “Webb, Frank J.,” American National Biography: Supplement 2, eds. Paul R. Betz and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wanda L. Nesbitt (1956-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Wanda L. Nesbitt holds the rank of Career Minister in the U.S. Foreign Service.  She joined the United States Foreign Service in 1981. She was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Madagascar by President George W. Bush and served in that capacity from 2001 to 2004.  President Bush appointed her ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire where she served from 2007 to 2010.  In 2010 President Barack Obama appointed her ambassador to Namibia.   

Her previous Consular assignments included Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (1982-1983); Paris, France (1983-1985); Kigali, Rwanda (1997-1999), and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (1999-2001).
Sources: 
Noel Brinkerhoff, “Ambassador to Namibia: Who is Wanda Nesbitt?” AllGov.com, July 10, 2011; Wanda L. Nesbitt, “Jonas Savimbi and UNITA’s Struggle for Independence in Angola,” National War College, Washington, D.C, 1997, U.S. Department of State Archive, Jan. 20, 2001 to 2009, www.State.gov; “U.S. Ambassador Reacts to Editorial Opinion” Africa News Service, Feb. 3, 2012, “U.S. Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire,” State Magazine, Dec. 2, 2007; “U.S. Signs Open Skies Agreement with Madagascar,” Africa News Service, March 12, 2004.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central College

Cleage, Albert, Jr. (Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) (1911-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Albert Cleage, jr., or Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, Black Nationalist and civil rights activist, was one of the most prominent black religious leaders in America. Agyemen preached a form of nationalism within the black community that stressed economic self-sufficiency and separation that relied on a religious awakening among black people. 

Albert Cleage, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 13, 1911.  Cleage graduated from Wayne State University in 1937, earning a B.A. in sociology, and a M.A. in Divinity from Oberlin School of Theology in 1943.  Cleage married Doris Graham and had two daughters. Cleage and Graham later divorced in 1955.  Cleage ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 under the Freedom Now Party, and was a candidate in the Democratic primary for U.S. Representative from Michigan, 13th District, in 1966. Cleage later changed his name to Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.  

Sources: 
“Albert Cleage,” in African American Encyclopedia, Michael Williams, ed., (New York: 1989); “Albert Cleage,” in Encyclopedia of American Culture and History, Colin Palmer, ed., (New York: 2006); http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/people/albert_cleage.html
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Brown, Odessa (1920-1969)

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

 

Odessa Brown, for whom the Children’s Clinic in Seattle is named, was born April 30, 1920, in Des Arc, Arkansas.  She moved to Seattle in 1963 after receiving training as a licensed beautician at the C. J. Walker Beauty School in Chicago.  A mother of four, she supported her family by working as Community Organizer for the Central Area Motivation Program beginning in 1965, and as a beautician.  Brown was a staunch supporter of a health care facility for children in the Central Area.  She worked tirelessly in this mostly African American neighborhood to make residents aware of the health needs of the area and to express these needs to the planners at Seattle Model Cities, a federally-funded anti-poverty agency. 

Odessa Brown was a quiet, private person but when she spoke people listened, particularly when it concerned health care for children.  Her efforts persuaded Seattle Model Cities to develop a children’s clinic to serve the city’s Central District.  During her campaign for the clinic, few friends or associates were aware of her battle with leukemia which she had fought during her years as a CAMP community organizer.  Brown died on October 15, 1969.  When the time came to name the children’s clinic after it opened its doors in 1970, there was never a question but that it be named the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic.

Sources: 
Odessa Brown (1920-1969)

Mary T. Henry, Tribute: Seattle Public Places Named for Black People (Seattle: Statice Press, 1997).


Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1814-1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mary Ellen Pleasant was born on Aug. 19, 1814 in Virginia and spent her early years in Nantucket.  She worked as a bond servant to the Hussey family, an abolitionist family.  She later married James Smith, a wealthy former plantation owner and an abolitionist.  Mary Ellen and James worked on the Underground Railroad.  After Smith’s death four years later, Mary Ellen continued her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Mary Ellen married John James Pleasant around 1848.  To avoid trouble with slavers for their abolitionist work, the couple moved to San Francisco in April 1852.  Mrs. Pleasant established several restaurants for California miners, the first named the Case and Heiser.  With the help of clerk Thomas Bell, Mrs. Pleasant amassed a fortune by 1875 through her investments and various businesses by 1875.  She also helped to establish the Bank of California.

Pleasant earned her title as the “Mother” of California’s early civil rights movement, establishing the local Underground Railroad.  She financially supported John Brown from 1857 to 1859.   In the 1860s and 1870s, Mrs. Pleasant brought several civil rights lawsuits in California, especially against the trolley companies, most of which she won.
Sources: 
Lynne Hudson, The Making of Mammy Pleasant: A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth Century San Francisco (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Kitt, Eartha Mae (1928-2008)

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

Eartha Mae Kitt was born on January 26, 1928, in North, South Carolina.  Her sharecropper parents abandoned Kitt and her half-sister as young children, forcing them to live with a foster family until they moved to New York City to live with their aunt in 1938.

Until the age of fourteen, Kitt attended Metropolitan High School in New York City where she was recognized for her talents in singing, dancing, baseball, and pole-vaulting.  She met Katherine Dunham when she was sixteen, and toured Mexico, South America, and Europe as a dancer in Dunham’s troupe.  Kitt remained in Paris after the tour, entertaining audiences across the world with her provocative dancing and singing.  

Kitt was offered her first role in the theater in 1951 when Orson Wells cast her as Helen of Troy in his stage production Faust.  Kitt won critical reviews for her performance, which led to her role in Leonard Stillman’s New Faces Broadway revue.  She released a best-selling Broadway album after the show to kick off her record career.  

Sources: 
Lisa E. Rivo, “Eartha Mae Kitt,” Africana: Encyclopedia of The African and African American Experience, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0001/e0338?hi=1&highlight=1&from=quick&pos=1
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Green, Ernest G. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1941, Ernest Gideon Green was no stranger to the Civil Rights Movement as his mother was a NAACP member and took part in protests against unequal pay between whites and blacks. Partly inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Green’s family decided to become plaintiffs in the lawsuit that desegregated Little Rock’s Central High School.  Green and eight other African American high schoolers became known as the Little Rock Nine.  They would be the first test of the 1945 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education which officially desegregated the nation’s public schools.
Sources: 
Thomas D. Jakes, Who’s Who Among African Americans (New York: Thomson & Gale, 2003); http://www.answers.com; http://www.oldstatehouse.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mfume, Kweisi (Frizzel Gray) (1948 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Kweisi Mfume was born as Frizzel Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on October 24, 1948, the eldest of four children.  Gray experienced a troubled childhood with the abandonment of his father and death of his mother as well as economic instability, but made a successful return to his academic studies in 1971.

Gray legally changed his name to Kweisi Mfume, “conquering son of kings”, in the early 1970s.  He obtained his GED, and began his studies at the Community College of Baltimore, where he served as the head of its Black Student Union and the editor of the school newspaper. He attended Morgan State University in Baltimore where he graduated magna cum laude in 1976 with a Bachelor of Urban Planning degree. Mfume then received an M.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1984.

In 1979 Mfume was elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1979.  While on the city council, Mfume helped enact legislation which divested Baltimore of investments in companies doing business in South Africa.

In 1985 when Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District Representative Parren J. Mitchell announced his retirement from Congress, Kweisi Mfume ran for the seat the following year and was successful in both the primary and general election.  
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990); www.bioguide.congress.gov; M. Elizabeth Paterra, Kweisi Mfume: Congressman and NAACP Leader (Berkeley Heights, N.J: Enslow, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Whipple, Prince (1750-1796)

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

Prince Whipple fought at the battles of Saratoga and in Delaware during the War for Independence.  He was also one of twenty enslaved men who petitioned the New Hampshire legislature for freedom in 1779.  His owner, General William Whipple, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an aide to General George Washington.  Although Whipple has been identified by some as the African American figure in the familiar painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River, it is doubtful he was present on Christmas Eve, 1776.

Sources: 
Charles W. Brewster, Rambles About Portsmouth (1859; reprint, Somersworth, NH: New Hampshire Publishing Company, 1971); Mark Sammons and Valerie Cunningham, Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage (Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2004); http://www.seacoastnh.com/Black-History/Black-History/prince-whipple-and-american-painting/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cook, Will Marion (1869-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Will Marion Cook was a talented musician, conductor, and composer born on January 27, 1869 in Washington, D.C. to John Hartwell Cook and Marion Isabelle Lewis. From 1884 to 1887 Cook studied violin at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.  He then studied abroad for two years from 1887 to 1889 at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik in Germany, training under Heinrich Jacobsen.

Like Harry T. Burleigh, Cook had also studied under Czech composer Antonin Dvorák at New York’s National Conservatory of Music, and was similarly inspired to experiment with compositions that maintained the integrity of the Negro spiritual. In 1898 Cook’s first composed score, for the show Clorindy, the Origin of the Cakewalk, met with critical acclaim. The show’s successful run at the Casino Roof Garden Theatre in New York established Cook as a gifted composer. He made history with Clorindy by becoming the first African American to conduct a white theater orchestra. In 1899 he married Abbie Mitchell, the show’s leading actress. They had two children together, Will and Marion, but separated in 1906.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds., African American Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carter, Ben (1907-1946)

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

Actor-turned casting agent Ben Carter often portrayed an obliging domestic in Hollywood films, but later became one of the few African American agents in the movie capital dedicated to promoting and enhancing the careers of some of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors and actresses of color – including Hattie McDaniel, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Lena Horne, and the Dandridge Sisters.

Born in 1907, the Fairfield, Iowa native began his career as a comedian and Broadway performer in New York.  He relocated to Los Angeles in the early 1930s and first worked as an unbilled player in movies. By the mid-1930s, Carter had become one of the first African American performers to sign a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox studios. Known for his wiry hair and bugged eyes, Carter appeared in several movies over a two-decade period, including Gone With the Wind (1939), Maryland (1940), Tin Pan Alley (1940), and several of Monogram Studio’s Charlie Chan series. In addition to frequently appearing in films, Carter earned a less than reputable name for himself due to his demeaning film roles.

Sources: 

Susan McHenry, “The Black Side of the Early Silver Screen,” Essence, April 2001; Anonymous, “Notables Attend Final Rites of Ben Carter, Noted Actor,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 28, 1946; Donald Bogle, Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography (New York: Amistad Press Inc., 1997.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Shabazz, Betty Sandlin (1934-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History