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People

Scarborough, William S. (1852-1926)

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

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

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

McKinney, Louise Jones (1930–2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Lora-Ellen McKinney
Louise McKinney (née Jones) was an African-American educator, human rights advocate, philanthropist, business woman, community activist, and patron of the arts.  She was a long-established galvanizing force of civic life in Seattle and in the State of Washington.

Born Louise Jones on July 12, 1920 in Cleveland, Ohio, McKinney graduated from Western Reserve (now Case Western Reserve) University in 1952.

In 1953 she met and subsequently married Rev. Samuel B. McKinney, a 1952 graduate of New York's Colgate Rochester Divinity School. They remained married for 59 years and had two children, Rhoda and Lora-Ellen.

Between 1955 and 1958 McKinney lived in Providence, Rhode Island, where her husband served as pastor of the Olney Street Baptist Church.  In 1958 the McKinneys moved to Seattle and for four decades she was the First Lady of Mount Zion Baptist Church.  
Sources: 
Lornet Turnbull, “Louise McKinney, longtime educator and patron of the arts, dies,” The Seattle Times Website (August 15, 2012); Tom Fucoloro, “Mount Zion mourns the passing of former First Lady at 82,” Central District News Website (August 17, 2012); “The loves of their lives,” The Seattle Times Website (February 13, 2000), “Welcome to The Hansberry Project at ACT Theatre” http://hansberryproject.org/programs.html; “Boards and Volunteers – Louise Jones McKinney,” at http://www.modelfamilies.org/htmldocs/ljmckinney.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cotton, Toby Joseph, Jr. (1913–1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Toby Joseph Cotton, Jr., was born in Louisiana on March 2, 1913.  By 1916, his family had migrated to Portland, Oregon before moving to Los Angeles, where his father worked as an auto mechanic.  In 1925, Toby Cotton, Sr. was severely injured when a truck he was working on slipped off a jack.  It crushed him, leaving him incapacitated and with his large family facing poverty.

Toby Jr., the oldest of three boys, saw a chance to help his family when he read about the $25,000 first prize offered to the winner of the “Bunion Derby,” the nickname for the first footrace across America, scheduled to begin in Los Angeles on March 4, 1928.  The prize money, a small fortune in the 1920s, lured this barely fifteen year old high school freshman to convince his parents to let him enter.  

On March 4, 1925, Toby joined 198 “bunioneers” at the start. He was listed as “T. Joseph” in press reports.  He was one of five African Americans in the race. His father and his two younger brothers, Wesley, 13, and James, 10, followed Toby across the nation in the family’s well-worn car.  Wesley drove while James brought his brother food and water as he ran.
Sources: 
Charles B. Kastner, Bunion Derby: The First Footrace Across America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007); “Benefit to Help Young Bunion Derby Runner Go Back Home, June 19,” New York Age, 16 June 1928; “Tobey Josephs Gets Diamond Medal and Auto From N. Y. Friends,” New York Age, 30 June 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Dorothy Lavinia (1919-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown was a medical pioneer, educator, and community leader.  In 1948-1949 Brown became the first African American female appointed to a general surgery residency in the de jure racially segregated South.  In 1956 Brown became the first unmarried woman in Tennessee authorized to be an adoptive parent, and in 1966 she became the first black woman representative to the state legislature in Tennessee.

Brown was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 7, 1919. Within weeks after she was born, Brown’s unmarried mother Edna Brown moved to upstate New York and placed her five-month-old baby daughter in the predominantly white Troy Orphan Asylum (later renamed Vanderhyden Hall) in Troy, New York. Brown was a demonstrably bright child, and became interested in medicine after she had a tonsillectomy at age five.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Spearman, Leonard H.O. (1929-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dr. Leonard Hall O'Connell Spearman was the U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda and Lesotho. A native of Tallahassee, Florida, Spearman was born July 8, 1929. In 1947 Spearman graduated from Florida A&M College (now Florida A&M University), in Tallahassee, Florida, with a B.S. in biological sciences. He obtained his Master of Arts in 1950 from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in clinical psychology. Spearman remained at the University of Michigan and completed his Doctorate of Philosophy in 1960 in the same field.
Sources: 
Merline Pitre, "Spearman, Leonard Hall O’Connell, Sr.," Handbook of Texas Online, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsp34; Adam Bernstein, ”Leonard H.O. Spearman Sr.; Ambassador and Educator,” Washington Post, February 4, 2008, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/03/AR2008020302880.html; Abram Lynwood, “Obituary: Former TSU leader Leonard Spearman,” Houston Chronicle, January 22, 2008, http://www.chron.com/news/houston-deaths/article/Obituary-Former-TSU-leader-Leonard-Spearman-1781166.php; “Leonard H. O. Spearman (1929-2008),” Office of the Historian, https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/spearman-leonard-h-o.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Hayden, Earl Robert (1913-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The son of Asa and Ruth Sheffey who named him Asa Bundy at birth, poet Robert Hayden was born in Detroit, Michigan and reared in “Paradise Valley,” an inner city ghetto.  Adoptive parents, William and Sue Ellen Westerfield Hayden, gave him the name by which he is known.  A graduate of Detroit City College (now Wayne State University), Hayden earned a M.A. degree in English from the University of Michigan, where on two occasions (1938 and 1942), he received the Avery Hopkins awards for poetry

During the Great Depression Hayden worked as a researcher for the Federal Writers’ Project, an experience that exposed him to writers such as Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and Margaret Walker, and gave him a great appreciation for African history and folk culture.  In 1940 Hayden married Erma Inez Morris and converted to the Baha’i faith. After teaching at Fisk University for twenty-three years, Hayden returned to the University of Michigan, to end his teaching career where he began it.    
Sources: 

Mark A. Sanders, “Robert Hayden,” in The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, William L. Andrews, et al., eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Darwin T. Turner, ed., Black American Literature: Poetry (Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, 1969).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Rillieux, Norbert (1806-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
George Meade, “A Negro Scientist of Slavery Days,” Negro History Bulletin (April 1957, pp.159-164); James M. Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: Bill Adler Books, Inc., 1993); http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/norbertrillieux.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fowler, John W. “Bud” (1858-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born John W. Jackson, in Fort Plain, New York, on March 16, 1858, Fowler spent much of his boyhood in Cooperstown, N.Y. where organized baseball maintains its Hall of Fame and museum. Coincidentally Fowler is argued to be one of the first professional black baseball players, when in 1872 he joined a white team in New Castle, Pennsylvania for a salary.  For the next two and a half decades, Fowler played across the country where black players were allowed to play, from Massachusetts to Colorado and briefly in Canada. He played in crossroad farm towns and in mining camps, in pioneer Western settlements and in larger Eastern cities.  Like many ball players of his day, Fowler could play most any position, but it was as a second baseman and pitcher where he excelled at best.  His habit of calling teammates and other players “Bud” led to his nickname.

Organized baseball was just being structured during the turn of the century and Fowler was one of sixty black players who played in white leagues across the country. In the early days of baseball there was no official color line, and he played in organized baseball with white ball clubs until the color line became entrenched around 1900. Until 1895 Fowler he was usually the only black player on an all-white team.
Sources: 
Ralph J. Christian, “Bud Fowler: The First African American Professional Baseball Payer and the 1885 Keokuks,” Iowa Heritage Illustrated 87:1 (2006); 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

Walker, William (1917-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Screen Actors Guild Archives
William "Bill" Walker Collection

Best remembered for the role of Reverend Sykes in the film classic To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), William Walker was born in Pendleton, Indiana in 1917. The son of a freed slave, Walker was the first African American graduate of Pendleton High School. After graduating, Walker pursued an acting career and made his first film appearance as a bit player in The Killers. He went on to appear in more than 100 films and television shows although the industry limited him mainly to roles as a domestic servant.

As the racial climate in Hollywood began to improve in the 1940s, Walker graduated to portraying a wider variety of characters, including doctors and diplomats.  Eventually he moved on to directing and producing films. Determined to ensure other African American actors obtained roles that portrayed the race in a true light, Walker in the late 1940s became a civil rights activist.  

Sources: 

http://www/whenmoviesweremovies.com/hoosieractors4.html. Accessed
September 28, 2003; Affirmative Action: Through the Decades with SAG,
http://www.sag.org/diversity/diversehistory.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Augusta, Alexander T. (1825-1890)

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

Alexander Thomas Augusta was the highest-ranking black officer in the Union Army during the Civil War .  He was also the first African American head of a hospital (Freedmen’s Hospital) and the first black professor of medicine (Howard University).

Augusta was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1825 to free African American parents.  He moved to Baltimore as a youth to work as a barber while pursuing a medical education.  The University of Pennsylvania would not accept him but a faculty member took interest in him and taught him privately.  In 1847 he married Mary O. Burgoin, a Native American.  By 1850, Augusta and his wife moved to Toronto where he was accepted by the Medical College at the University of Toronto where he received an M.B. in 1856.  He was appointed head of the Toronto City Hospital and was also in charge of an industrial school.  

On April 14, 1863, Augusta was commissioned (the first out of eight other black officers in the Civil War) as a major in the Union army and appointed head surgeon in the 7th U.S. Colored Infantry.  His pay of $7 a month, however, was lower than that of white privates.  He wrote Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson who raised his pay to the appropriate level for commissioned officers.  

Sources: 

Joseph T. Glatthaar, Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black
Soldiers and White Officers
(New York: Free Press, 1990); Herbert M.
Morais, The History of the Negro in Medicine (New York: Publishers Co.,
1968);
http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2200/sc2221/000011/000018/p...

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fortune, T. Thomas (1856-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
T. Thomas Fortune—African American journalist, editor, and writer—was born into slavery on October 3, 1856 to Sarah Jane and Emanuel Fortune.  Raised in Marianna, Florida, he as a child witnessed the politically-motivated violence of the Florida Ku Klux Klan.  Despite minimal formal education, Fortune worked in print shops during his childhood.  Moving north in 1874, he worked as a customs inspector in Delaware’s eastern district before briefly enrolling in Howard University in 1876.  Deciding he would become a journalist, Fortune left Howard less than a year after he arrived.
Sources: 
Emma Lou Thornbrough, T. Thomas Fortune: Militant Journalist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972); John Hope Franklin and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders in the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982); Walter David Greason, Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Monmouth University

Thomas, Vivien (1910-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Described as the “most untalked about, unappreciated, unknown giant in the African American community,” by Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., Vivien Thomas received an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1976, and while this was undoubtedly memorable, the decades which preceded this moment were equally unforgettable. In Nashville, Tennessee, this high school honors graduate dreamed of becoming a physician. Thomas, a skilled carpenter, saved for seven years to pay for his education. However, he lost his savings during the Great Depression.  Beginning in 1930, he worked at Vanderbilt University's Medical School as a laboratory assistant to Alfred Blalock, a white physician who became a pioneer in cardiac surgery. Blalock mentored Thomas and taught him to conduct experiments.
Sources: 
Vivien Thomas, Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985); www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/partners/today/t_views.html
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Cook, Samuel DuBois (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of 
Clemson University
Samuel DuBois Cook is a retired Dillard University president and, with his appointment to the Duke University faculty in 1966, was the first African American professor to hold a regular faculty appointment at any predominantly white college or university in the South. Cook also served as a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1993. In 1993, Dillard University honored Cook by naming the school's new fine arts and communication center after him. That same year, Cook was elected by Duke University's Board of Trustee as a Trustee Emeritus.

Born on November 21, 1928 in Griffin, Georgia, Cook's father was a Baptist minister who instilled a passion for education in all of his children. Samuel DuBois Cook entered all-male Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1943 with his friend Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) when they were both 15 years of age.  Both boys participated in the Morehouse early admission program during World War II that sought to fill the college's classrooms when many older students were in the U.S. military. At Morehouse, Cook became student body president and founded the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He earned a BA degree in history in 1948. He went on to earn an MA (1950) in political science and a Ph.D (1954) from Ohio State University.
Sources: 
F. Thomas Trotter and Charles E. Cole, Politics, Morality and Higher Education: Essays in Honor of Samuel DuBois Cook (Franklin, Tennessee: Providence House Publishers, 1997); Samuel DuBois Cook, Dilemmas of American Policy: Crucial Issues in Contemporary Society (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University, 1969); “Biographical Note”, Samuel DuBois Cook Society, http://www.duke.edu/web/cooksociety/cook_Brochure2007.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hamer, Fannie Lou (1917-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Fannie Lou Hamer was a grass-roots civil rights activist whose life exemplified resistance in rural Mississippi to oppressive conditions. Born on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi, to a family of sharecroppers, she was the youngest of Lou Ella and Jim Townsend’s twenty children.  Her family moved to Sunflower County, Mississippi in 1919 to work on the E. W. Brandon plantation.

Hamer’s activism began in the 1950s when she attended several annual conferences of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership organized by Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a wealthy businessman and civil rights leader in the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi.  There, Hamer encountered prominent civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Michigan Congressman Charles Diggs.
Sources: 
Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999); Kay Mills, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (New York, New York: Dutton, 1993); http://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/fannie-lou-hamer/.
Affiliation: 
Tuskeegee University

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

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

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

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

Haynes, Martha Euphemia Lofton (1890-1980)

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

Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. Her dissertation, Determination of Sets of Independent Conditions Characterizing Certain Special Cases of Symmetric Correspondence was advised by Aubrey Landry, a professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Haynes was born to parents Dr. William Lofton and Mrs. Lavina Day Lofton in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 1890.  William Lofton was a prominent dentist and a financial supporter of black institutions and charities. Her mother was active in the Catholic Church. Later Haynes would also become active in the Catholic Church, earning a Papal medal, “Pro Ecclesia and Pontifex,” in 1959, for her service to the church and to her community.

Haynes started her educational journey at Miner Normal School, Washington D.C. where she graduated with distinction in 1909. She then attended Smith College in Massachusetts and earned her Bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in psychology in 1914. Later, she earned her Master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago in 1930. Finally, at the age of 53, she earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from Catholic University of America in 1943.

Sources: 
http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/PEEPS/haynes.euphemia.lofton.html; http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/haynes-euphemia.html; Patricia Kenschaft, Change is Possible: Stories of Minorities and Women in Mathematics (Providence, Rhode Island: American Mathematics Society, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Boykin, Keith (1965- )

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

Author, commentator, speaker, political advisor, and columnist Keith Boykin was born in St. Louis, Missouri on August 28, 1965 but was raised in the suburb of Florissant, Missouri.

Boykin’s parents separated during his childhood, but he enjoyed close relationships with both sides of his family and thrived in his new environment. He excelled in school, participated in student government, and played on several sports teams. At fifteen, Boykin’s mother, a government employee, was transferred to California and he went to live with his father in Florida.

An excellent student, Boykin excelled academically at Dartmouth College where he was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, track team member, and an exchange student at the Universidad de Grenada in Spain.  He graduated from Dartmouth with a B.A. degree in 1987.

Sources: 
Keith Boykin, Respecting the Soul: Daily Reflections for Black Lesbians and Gays (New York: Avon Books, 1999); Linda Rapp and Keith Boykin, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2006), Retrieved from www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/boykin_k.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jones, Claudia (1915-1964)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
With the birth name of Claudia Cumberbatch, Claudia Jones was born on February 21, 1915 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Her family migrated to the United States in 1924 and became residents of Harlem. Claudia’s mother was a garment worker and due to the effects of harsh working conditions and overwork, she died when Claudia was twelve years old. Ultimately poverty overcame the family and young Claudia eventually dropped out of high school.

While Jones’s formal education came to an end, her actual education did not terminate. Instead she found a political education in social activism.  At the age of eighteen Jones became a member of the Young Communist League (YCL). It was at this juncture that Jones became involved in the international movement to defend the Scottsboro Boys. Charged with raping two white women in Scottsboro, Alabama, nine young African American men faced execution in the form of legalized lynching. Jones wrote on the behalf of the Scottsboro Boys’ legal defense as a journalist for the YCL journal, Weekly Review. Later she wrote for the Communist Party newspaper, The Daily World.  

Claudia Jones was a Communist for her entire adult life and a leader in several major movements that marked the twentieth century. These included: the African American liberation movement in the United States, the international Communist movement, the struggle for the rights of women, the battle for world peace, and the Caribbean fight for independence and unity.
Sources: 
Carole Boyce Davies, Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007); Claudia Jones, Ben Davis, Fighter for Freedom (New York: New Century Publishers, 1954); Claudia Jones, “The Caribbean Community in Britain,” Freedomways V. 4 (Summer 1964), 341-57; John H. McClendon III, "Claudia Jones (1915-1964) political activist, black nationalist, feminist, journalist" in Jessie Carney Smith, ed., Notable Black American Women, Book II ( New York: Gale Research Inc., 1996), 343-348.
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Tamano-Shata, Pnina (1981- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Pnina Tamano-Shata, a lawyer and journalist, is the first woman of sub-Saharan African ancestry elected to the Knesset or Israeli National Parliament. Tamano-Shata was born in the Gondar region of Ethiopia to a Beta Israel (Jewish) family, the granddaughter of Kais Shato-Maharata, one of the foremost spiritual leaders within the Ethiopian Jewish community.  At the age of three, she immigrated with her family to Israel as part of Operation Moses.  Tamano-Shata was educated in high-school boarding schools, like many other youth of Ethiopian families in the 1980s and 1990s, and studied in a program for gifted students.  After a two-year service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), she studied law at Ono Academic College.  Following an internship at a law firm, Tamano-Shata worked from 2007 to 2012 for the Israeli Channel 1 TV news as a reporter and as a host of a current-affairs talk show, the first Ethiopian woman to do so.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Hadassah Academic College

Désir, Harlem (1959- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Harlem Désir is currently a socialist politician and Foreign Affairs Under-Secretary for Europe in the government of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.  His career began in the 1980s when he was a leftist student who protested racism and the leader of “Touche pas à mon pote.”  Désir was born in Paris in a left oriented family: his Martinique-born father was a communist school master and his mother from Alsace was a specialist in infant welfare and a union member.

After attending school in Bagneux, Désir graduated in 1983 from the University of Paris (Pantheon Sorbonne) in philosophy.  While a student at the Sorbonne he was leader of the Student Socialist Union (UNEF-ID).  
Sources: 
Harlem Désir, De l'immigration à l'intégration: Repérages (Paris : Acte Sud, 1997); Harlem Désir, Pour la république sociale: La gauche socialiste dans ses textes (Paris : L’Harmattan, 1997); Harlem Désir, D'où je viens, où l'on va (Paris: Jean-Claude Gawsewitch, 2010); Thomas Ferenczi, Chronique du septennat: 1981-1988 (Paris : La Manufacture, 1988); Éric Raoult, SOS Banlieues (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2000); Guillaume Sainteny, L'introuvable écologisme français (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Emeritus Professor, University of Paris

Craft, William and Ellen (1824-1900; 1826-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownershp: Public Domain
William and Ellen Craft were born into slavery.  William was born in Macon, Georgia to a master who sold off his family to pay his gambling debts.  William’s new owner apprenticed him as a carpenter in order to earn money from his labor.  Ellen was born in Clinton, Georgia and was the daughter of an African American slave and her white owner.  Ellen had a very light complexion and was frequently mistaken for a member of her white family.  At the age of 11, she was given away as a wedding gift to the Collins Family in Macon, Georgia.  It was in Macon, Georgia where William and Ellen met.

In 1846 Ellen and William were allowed to marry, but they could not live together since they had different owners.  The separation took its toll and they started to save money and plan an escape.  In December of 1848, the Crafts escaped enslavement.  Ellen’s light complexion allowed her to dress as a white man.  She then claimed William was her slave.  This plan worked and they settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where they became famous because of their remarkable and romantic escape.  Their story briefly generated a sizeable income. 
Sources: 
William and Ellen Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery [originally published in 1860] Miami, Florida: Mnemosyne Pub. Company, 1969); Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson, William and Ellen Craft (Alexandria, Va.: Alexander Street Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Father Divine (1879-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Father Divine in Parade
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Father Divine, religious founder of the International Peace Missions Movement, businessman, and civil rights activist was born George Baker in Rockville, Maryland to George and Nancy Baker.  Viewed by many to be a cult leader, his doctrine was a compilation of optimistic thinking based on many widely accepted mainstream religions.  Father Divine and his followers believed that he was the second coming of Christ.  He required his followers to adhere to his International Modest Code which required strict commitment to a celibate lifestyle and abstinence from immoral actions.

Father Divine began receiving widespread public attention when in 1919, he and his first wife and several of his interracial religious followers moved to Sayville, New York and established a Peace Mission “heaven.”  Peace Missions heavens were interracial communal living facilities that fostered Father Divine’s belief in a desegregated society and represented heaven on earth to his followers.  In the 1930s Divine’s network of Peace Missions spread across the nation.  His mostly white followers in Los Angeles, California and other west coast cities contrasted with the overwhelmingly black missions east of the Mississippi River.  Around 1930 Father Divine moved his Peace Mission headquarters to Harlem, New York.  Since the late 1940s the organization has been based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sources: 
Jill Watts, God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Robert Wiesbrot, Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brea College

Christensen, Donna Marie (1945–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the
U.S. House of Representatives
Photography Office

Donna Marie Christian-Christensen, the non-voting delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the United States House of Representatives, was born in Teaneck, Monmouth Country, New Jersey on September 19, 1945 to the late Judge Almeric Christian and Virginia Sterling Christian. Christensen attended St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she received her Bachelor of Science in 1966. She then earned her M.D. degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. in 1970. Christensen began her medical career in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1975 as an emergency room physician at St. Croix Hospital. Between 1987 and 1988 she was medical director of the St. Croix Hospital and from 1988 to 1994 she was Commissioner of Health for the Virgin Island.  During the entire period from 1977 to l996 Christensen maintained a private practice in family medicine.  From 1992 to 1996 she was also a television journalist.

Christensen also entered Virgin Island politics.  As a member of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, she has served as Democratic National Committeewoman, member of the Democratic Territorial Committee and Delegate to all the Democratic Conventions in 1984, 1988 and 1992.  Christensen was also elected to the Virgin Islands Board of Education in 1984 and served for two years.  She served as a member of the Virgin Islands Status Commission from 1988 to 1992. 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University Of Washington

Ferris, William Henry (1874-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William Henry Ferris was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 20, 1874 to David Henry, a volunteer for the Union Army during the Civil War, and Sarah Anne Jefferson Ferris. After high school, Ferris attended Yale University, where he was heavily influenced by polymath William Graham Sumner – a staunch Social Darwinist who firmly believed that the privileged social classes owed nothing to the underprivileged ones.  

After graduating in 1895, William Ferris worked as a freelance writer and lecturer and studied for the ministry at Harvard Divinity School until 1899.  In 1900, he received a Master of Arts in Journalism from Harvard, and went on to teach at Tallahassee State College in Florida and Florida Baptist College (1900-1901) and Henderson Normal School and Kittrell College in North Carolina (1903-1905).  

In 1905, Ferris served a five-year term as Pastor of the Congregational Church in Wilmington, North Carolina.  In 1910, after being ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, he engaged in mission work in Lowell and Salem, Massachusetts.  

Sources: 

Kevin K. Gaines, Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics and Culture in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996); “William Henry Ferris,” The Journal of Negro History, 26:4 (Oct., 1941), pp. 549-550; Rayvon Fouche, Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bishop, Maurice (1944-1983)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Maurice Bishop and Fidel Castro
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Maurice Bishop, revolutionary and Grenadian Prime Minister, was born in Dutch Aruba May 29, 1944 to Grenadian parents Rupert and Alimenta Bishop. The family moved to Grenada in 1950 to benefit from the economic prosperity of the time, and there Bishop grew up, excelling in his schooling. He moved to London (UK) in 1963 and attended the University of London for his law degree. He went on to practice law for two years in London, showing much interest in politics. He married Angela Redhead in 1966 and had two children, John and Nadia.

Sources: 

Erick Langer and Jay Kinsbruner, Encyclopedia of Latin American History
and Culture, Vol. 1
(Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008); Colin
Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Vol. 1
(Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006);
http://www.thegrenadarevolutiononline.com.

Paige, Leroy Robert "Satchel (1906-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Sullivan, Louis Wade (1933- )

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

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

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

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

Washington, Jr., James (1909-2000)

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

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

The painter and sculptor James Washington, Jr. was a leading member of the Northwest School, a group of artists, writers, and sculptors who became internationally prominent in the mid-20th Century. Washington was born and raised in Gloster, Mississippi, one of six children of Baptist minister James Washington and his wife, Lizzie.  While Washington was a child, his father fled Mississippi due to threats of violence and the two never met again. 

Washington's mother encouraged his talents. He began to draw around the age of 12, becoming an expert pavement chalk-artist, making random marks by other children into figures and faces. In 1938 at the age of 29 he became involved with the Federal Works Progress Administration when he was employed as an assistant art instructor at the Baptist Academy in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Excluded from shows in Mississippi that featured white artists, he organized the first WPA-sponsored exhibition for black artists in the state. 

Sources: 
HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Washington, James Jr.: Art as Holy Land" (by Deloris Tarzan Ament), http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=5328; Paul Karlstrom, The Spirit in the Stone: The Visionary Art of James W. Washington, Jr. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
HistoryLink.org

Mitchell, Arthur (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Arthur Mitchell, 1955
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Arthur Mitchell, co-founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), America’s first African American ballet company, was born in New York City, on March 27, 1934. Under Mitchell’s direction, Dance Theatre of Harlem rose to become one of the premier ballet companies in the United States, performing full-length neoclassical ballets, nationally and internationally from 1971 until the company’s performing hiatus in 2004. Mitchell served as the Artistic Director of DTH from the company’s first performance at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 1971, until his retirement as artistic director in 2009.

Raised in Harlem, Mitchell began his dance training at New York City’s High School of the Performing Arts. At age 18 he was awarded a full scholarship to continue his classical ballet training at the School of American Ballet, New York City Ballet’s official training school. In 1955, under the direction of George Balanchine, Mitchell was the first African American male to become a permanent member of New York City Ballet. With the Ballet from 1955 to 1970, Mitchell quickly rose to the rank of principal dancer, and is best known for his lead role performances in the pas de deux from Agon, and as “Puck” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  These roles were choreographed by Balanchine specifically for Mitchell.
Sources: 
Barbara Milberg Fisher, In Balanchine’s Company: A Dancer’s Memoir (Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2006); Lynn Garafola, Legacies of Twentieth-Century Dance (Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2005); http://www.dancetheatreofharlem.com/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Barbosa, Pedro, III (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A native of Guayama, Puerto Rico, Pedro Barbosa III is a distinguished entomologist (a scientist who studies insects) who has taught at the University of Maryland since 1979.  Born on September 6, 1944, he acquired his bachelor’s degree at the City College of New York in 1966 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Massachusetts.  Upon earning his terminal degree Barbosa taught entomology at Rutgers University from 1971 to 1973, then at the University of Massachusetts from 1973 to 1979.   

He has utilized research grants from the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Stations and the National Biological Control Institute, has been a fellow of both the Ford Foundation and the Entomological Society of America, and honored by the Ciba-Geigy Recognition Award, the Science Award from the Institute of Puerto Rico of New York, and the Bussart Memorial Award, among others.
Sources: 
Who’s Who Among Hispanic Americans (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994).
http://www.barbosalab.umd.edu/top3.jpg
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Hines, Earl “Fatha” (1903-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Earl “Fatha” Hines was an African-American jazz musician who composed and played piano. Hines was born on December 28, 1903 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents and a number of his siblings were musicians as well. Hines started playing music when he was a young boy, taking trumpet lessons from his father. However, he felt the trumpet was too loud of an instrument, so he switched to piano after a few years. Hines attended Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where among other classes, he studied classical music.

In lieu of finishing high school, Hines moved to Pittsburgh at the age of 17 to take a job playing with Lois Deppe in a nightclub. Deppe was a well know musician around the area who took Hines to his first studio recordings in 1923.
Sources: 
http://www.jazz.com/encyclopedia/hines-earl-fatha-kenneth
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=7642
Terry Teachout, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Healy, Patrick (1834-1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Patrick Healy was one of the successful Healy siblings of the early 19th century who openly acknowledged being of part African or black ancestry. Known as the first American of acknowledged African descent to earn a doctorate, Patrick Healy was also the first African American to become a Jesuit priest and the first to become president of a major university in the United States.

Patrick Healy was born on February 2, 1834 in Macon, Georgia to an Irish American father and a mother who was a mulatto domestic slave. These loving parents wanted their children to receive a good education, which they could not receive in their home state due to laws restricting illegitimate children and slaves by birth from attending school. They were sent north to a Quaker school to be educated.

Patrick Healy and his two brothers, James and Sherwood, eventually enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Here the brothers would follow their Catholic faith and later join the priesthood.

In 1850, Patrick Healy graduated and entered a Jesuit order. He was sent to Europe to study in 1858.  Healy attended the University of Louvain in Belgium and earned his doctorate. At the same time, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 3, 1866. After he returned to the United States, Healy taught philosophy at Georgetown University. Eight years later, in 1874, Patrick Healy became the schools 29th president.
Sources: 
Albert S. Foley, Bishop Healy: Beloved Outcaste: The Story of a Great Priest Whose Life has Become a Legend (New York: Strauss and Young, 1954); God’s Men of Color: The Colored Catholic Priests of the United States, 1854-1954 (New York: Strauss and Young, 1955); http://www.library.georgetown.edu
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brazile, Donna (1959 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Donna Brazile, author, campaign manager, adjunct professor, political analyst, and current vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was born December 15, 1959 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Lionel and Jean Brazile. Brazile was the third of nine children, and her father (a janitor) and mother (a domestic worker) often had a hard time making ends meet. Brazile became interested in politics at age nine when she heard that a local candidate for city council had promised to build a playground in her neighborhood. The young Brazile volunteered for the campaign and passed out pamphlets to her neighbors. The candidate won, the neighborhood got a playground, and Brazile discovered her new passion for political activism.  At age 17 Brazile volunteered for the Carter-Mondale campaign in 1976, stuffing envelopes at the local campaign headquarters.

Brazile attended Louisiana State University where she earned her degree in industrial psychology in 1981. After graduation Brazile worked as a lobbyist for the National Student Education Fund in Washington, D.C. During the same time period Brazile was hired by Coretta Scott King to help plan a re-enactment of the 1963 civil rights march on Washington in 1983. Brazile worked with the Dr. Martin Luther King Foundation to help establish Dr. King’s birthday as a national holiday.
Sources: 
Donna Brazile, Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005); Ashyia Henderson, “Donna Brazile,” in Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 25 (Farmington Hill: Thomson/Gale, 2004); http://www.democrats.org/about/bio/donna_brazile
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Aaron, Henry Louis “Hank” (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Henry Louis Aaron was born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama, the third of eight children to Herbert Aaron, a shipyard worker at Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Company, and his wife, Estella. Aaron decided he wanted to be a major league baseball player after hearing a speech by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson while visiting Mobile on April 3, 1950, during spring training. While in high school, Aaron began playing for the Mobile Black Bears, a semi-pro team, and in 1952 began a season with the Indianapolis, Indiana Clowns. Aaron was the last player to come from Negro Leagues and achieve success in Major League Baseball.  

In 1954 Aaron was brought up to the Milwaukee Braves to replace an injured outfielder.  Aaron hit a home run in his first major league at-bat. He would continue to hit home runs in remarkable fashion for the next two decades. Aaron was the only major league player to hit at least 20 home runs in every season for 20 consecutive years, at least 30 for 15 years, or at least 40 for 8 years. He was the first player to record more than 3.000 hits and 500 home runs. On April 8, 1974, Aaron hit his 715th career home run, breaking the record long held by Babe Ruth.
Sources: 

Tom Stanton, Hank Aaron and the Home Run that Changed America (New York: William Morrow, 2004);
National Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/aaron_hank.htm;
The New Georgia Encyclopedia: Hank Aaron, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-739

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Toussaint, Pierre (ca.1781-1853) and Gaston, Marie-Rose Juliette (1786-1851)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Pierre Toussaint
Image Courtesy of New York State Historical Society
Juliette Toussaint
Image Courtesy of New York State Historical Society
Pierre Toussaint, New York society hairdresser, devout Catholic, and wealthy philanthropist, was born a third-generation elite house slave at the Bérard family plantation in Haiti.  His father’s name is not known but he took his surname in honor of revolutionary hero Toussaint L’Ouverture.  His mother Ursule was groomed as the personal maid of the Bérard matriarch; his grandmother, Zenobie Julien, nursed the Bérard children, made five voyages to France to help them adjust to their Parisian boarding schools, and continued to work for the family long after being rewarded with her freedom.
Sources: 
Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee, Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, Born a Slave in St. Domingo (Boston: Crosbie, Nichols and Company, 1854); James Sullivan, “Pierre Toussaint: Slave, Saint and Gentilhomme of Old New York, Parts I, II, III,” November 2011 http://teaattrianon.blogspot.ca/2011/11/pierre-toussaint-slave-saint-and.html; Arthur Jones, Pierre Toussaint: A Biography (New York: Doubleday, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dawson, Horace G. (1926- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Horace G. Dawson, Jr. was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Botswana by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.  After his confirmation by the U.S. Senate he served in that post until 1983.  Dawson was born in Augusta, Georgia on January 30, 1926.  He attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he earned a B.A. in English in 1949, M.A. in comparative literature in English from Columbia University in 1950, and a Ph.D. in mass communications from the University of Iowa in 1961. Dawson was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Lincoln University in 1991.

Dawson was drafted into the U.S. Army while working on his undergraduate degree. He served two years of duty in both Europe and the Philippines before returning to complete his bachelor’s degree at Lincoln University.

Sources: 
http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/usiahome/pdforum/alumni/dawson.htm; http://hgdscholars.com/about.htm; Kennedy, C. S. (Interviewer) & Dawson, H. (Interviewee) (1991). Ambassador Horace G. Dawson, Jr. [Interview Transcript]. Retrieved from The Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project Website http://adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Dawson,%20Horace%20G.Jr.toc.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Eastern Kentucky University

Blanke, John (16th Century)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
John Blanke, Musician at the
Court of Henry VIII
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Historians have documented the arrival of black people in Britain as members of the Roman Army. The first reference to a black African in Britain in the historical record is at a Roman military settlement at Carlisle, in ca. 210 AD. Shortly after, in the years 253-58 AD, Hadrian's Wall on the Empire's northern frontier was guarded by a division raised in North Africa. Other Africans were brought to Britain at various times although the continuous presence of black people in Britain is traced to 1555, when Africans arrived in the company of a London merchant.

John Blanke, a black trumpeter, was a regular musician at the courts of both Henry VII and Henry VIII.  Musicians' payments were noted in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber, who was responsible for paying the wages. There are several payments recorded to a “John Blanke, the blacke trumpeter.” This trumpeter was paid 8d [8 pence] a day, first by Henry VII and then from 1509 by Henry VIII.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Molyneux, Thomas (1784–1818)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Fred Henning, Fights For The Championship, Volume II (London: Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette, 1899); Henry Miles, Pugilistica, Volume I (London: Weldon & Co., 1880); http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/tom-mol.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Shepard, James Edward (1875-1947)

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

In 1910 James Edward Shepard founded North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham, North Carolina. Shepard was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina along with eleven other siblings. His father was Reverend Augustus Shepard and his mother was Harriet E. Shepard. Shepard received his education through the North Carolina public school system. He worked as a pharmacist for a short time after graduating from Shaw University in 1894 after receiving his Ph.G. (Graduate Pharmacist) degree. James Shepard married Annie Robison in 1895 and the couple had two children.

In 1898 Shepard along with John Merrick established North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company in Durham. Eventually Shepard founded Farmers and Mechanics Bank in Durham as well.

Sources: 

Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); "The History of North Carolina Central University,” http://www.nccu.edu/discover/history.cfm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jennings, Thomas L. (1791- 1856)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Thomas L. Jennings was the first black man to receive a patent. The patent was awarded on March 3, 1821 (US Patent 3306x) for his discovery of a process called dry-scouring which was the forerunner of today’s modern dry-cleaning.  Jennings was born free in New York City, New York in 1791.  In his early 20s he became a tailor but then opened a dry cleaning business in the city.  While running his business Jennings developed dry-scouring.   

The patent to Jennings generated considerable controversy during this period.  Slaves at this time could not patent their own inventions; their effort was the property of their master. This regulation dated back to the US patent laws of 1793.  The regulation was based on the legal presumption that "the master is the owner of the fruits of the labor of the slave both manual and intellectual.” Patent courts also held that slaves were not citizens and therefore could not own rights to their inventions. In 1861 patent rights were finally extended to slaves.  

Sources: 

Mary Bellis, Thomas Jennings: Thomas Jennings was the first African
American to receive a patent
,
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bljennings.htm; Joan Potter, African American Firsts (New York: Kensington Publishing Group, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Freeman, Elizabeth (Mum Bett) (1742-1829)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Elizabeth Freeman was born into slavery in Claverack, New York in 1742. During the 1770s, she lived in the household of Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, a prominent citizen who at that time also served as a judge of the Berkshire Court of Common Pleas. Colonel Ashley purchased Freeman from a Mr. Hogeboom when she was six months of age.  Upon suffering physical abuse from Ashley’s wife, Freeman escaped her home and refused to return. She found a sympathetic ear with attorney Theodore Sedgwick, the father of the writer Catherine Sedgwick. Apparently, as she served dinner to her masters, she had heard them speaking of freedom—in this case freedom from England—and she applied the concepts of equality and freedom for all to herself.

Sources: 
Sidney Kaplan and Emma Nogrady Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989);
“The Mum Bett Case,” Massachusetts Constitution Judicial Review, http://www.mass.gov/courts/jaceducation/constjuslavery.html#d ; Gay Gibson Cima, “Phillis Wheatley and Black Women Critics: The Borders of Strategic Visibility,” Theater Journal 52:4 (2000), 465-495.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha (1928 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

Image ownership: Public Domain

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Gloster, Hugh (1911-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hugh Gloster (left) with Student Frank T. Bozeman at Morehouse Graduation, 1986
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Dorothy Granberry, Dr. Hugh Gloster Interview, Atlanta, GA 1990; William Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life  (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Bokassa, Jean-Bédel (1921-1996)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

Jean-Bédel Bokassa, longtime dictator and military leader of the Central African Republic, was born in Bobangui, Oubangui-Chari, French Equatorial Africa (present-day Central African Republic) on February 22, 1921. Bokassa’s father, a village chief of the Mbaka people, was murdered in November 1927 for refusing to provide labor from his village as required under French colonial rule. A week later, his mother committed suicide and Bokassa, aged 6, became an orphan. Missionnaries took in Bokassa and raised him until he joined the French colonial army in 1939, at the beginning of World War II. He then took part in the 1944 landings in Provence, France, and subsequently served with the French Army in Indochina and Algeria.  A skilled soldier, Bokassa rose to the rank of captain.  He also won the Legion d’Honneur, the highest French military decoration and the Croix de Guerre, which was presented to soldiers who distinguished themselves in combat.

Sources: 
“Bokassa, Jean-Bédel,” in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds.,  Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience  (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); “Central African Republic: Nationalism, Independance,” in Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005).
Affiliation: 
University of Nantes (France)

Adams, Victoria Jackson Gray (1926-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Hattiesburg, Virginia on November 5, 1926, Victoria Jackson Gray Adams became one of the most important Mississipians in the Civil Rights Movement.  Her activities included teaching voter registration courses to domestics and sharecroppers, opening of the Freedom Schools during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964, and serving as a National Board Member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Ms. Gray began service as the field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1962.  
Sources: 
The Victoria Jackson Gray Adams Papers in the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archives; http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8001.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch McGregor University

McKenzie, Vashti Murphy (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On July 11, 2000, journalist and clergywoman Vashti Murphy McKenzie became the first female bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In 2005 she became the denomination’s first woman to serve as Titular Head. Her commitment to community development is evident in her work with urban American cities as well as in AIDS-stricken Africa.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie was born on May 28, 1947 into a prominent Baltimore, Maryland family. Her great-grandfather John Henry Murphy, Sr. founded the Afro-American Newspaper in 1892, and her grandmother Vashti Turly Murphy was a founding member of Delta Sigma Theta, an African American college sorority. Bishop McKenzie graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland in 1978. She later earned a master’s of divinity from Howard University and a doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary.
Sources: 
Martha Simmons and Frank A. Thomas, eds., Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010); Vashti M. McKenzie, Journey to the Well (New York: Penguin, 2003); C. Stone Brown, “The Rev. Vashti Murphy McKenzie: A Bishop for the New Millennium,” The New Crisis, November/December, 2000, pp. 29-31; “Bishop Vashti McKenzie,” The 13th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, http://www.13thame.com/index.php?page_id=about_leadership (accessed January 12, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Grimké, Francis (1850–1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Francis Grimké was a Presbyterian minister and a leading advocate of civil rights. He was born to a wealthy landowner, Henry Grimké and his slave mistress Nancy Weston. After his father’s death in 1852, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he lived as a free person until 1860 when his white half-brother, Montague, brought him into his household as a servant. After a severe beating he ran away, and for two years became a valet in the Confederate Army. He was discovered and returned to Montague who, after sending him to the workhouse as punishment, sold him to a Confederate officer.

After the fall of Charleston Grimke attended Morris Street School, a school for free blacks in the city. At age sixteen he moved north to attend Lincoln College, in Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1870 as class valedictorian whereupon he taught mathematics, served as the school's financial agent and studied law. Francis entered Howard Law School in 1874, but the following year enrolled in the Princeton Theological Seminary. Upon graduation in 1878 he became a Presbyterian minister at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and remained at that church as pastor for the next half century.  
Sources: 
Dickson D. Bruce, Jr., Archibald Grimké, Portrait of a Black Independent (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); “Francis Grimke,” American National Biography, Volume 9 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 627;
http://www.westminster-stl.org/Sermons/050220.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lomax, Louis Emanuel (1922-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
After briefly teaching philosophy at Georgia State College in Savannah, he worked as a reporter for the Baltimore Afro-American and the Chicago American until 1958 when he entered television, producing documentaries at WNTA-TV in New York. Lomax became nationally prominent when Mike Wallace of CBS News chose him to interview Malcolm X for a documentary on the Nation of Islam after the Muslim leader refused to be interviewed by Wallace or other white reporters. That documentary, eventually titled “The Hate That Hate Produced,” provided the nation's first major exposure to the beliefs of the Nation of Islam.

By 1964, Lomax became one of the first black television journalists to host a 90-minute twice-a-week interview format television show. “The Louis E. Lomax Show” ran on KTTV in Los Angeles from 1964 to 1968. He interviewed guests on his television program about controversial topics like the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam, the women's movement, and the war in Vietnam. He analyzed the black power movement from a vantage point rarely shared by commentators at the time. He also questioned the moderate approach taken by the leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and he defended the rebellious young African Americans who had embraced black power.
Sources: 
Charles D. Lowery and John F. Marszalek, eds., The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Civil Rights (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2003); Benjamin Quarles, "The Revolt of Louis E. Lomax", The Crisis 69:8 (October 1962); Pierre Berton, Voices From The Sixties (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1967).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, George Marion (1900-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. George Marion Johnson had a distinguished public and professional career that included high administrative positions at universities on two continents as well as governmental positions in agencies which protected the civil rights of all Americans.  Throughout his career, he fought for racial justice and taught students about human rights and the law.

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico to parents William and Ella Johnson, he grew up in San Bernardino, California. Johnson graduated from UC Berkeley with an A.B. in 1923 and obtained his law degree and LLD from UC Berkeley in 1929.  After graduation, Johnson began his legal career in 1929 as a tax attorney and was the first African Americans hired as California State Assistant Tax Counsel. He returned to UC Berkeley in 1938 to obtain a J.S.D., a doctorate in law degree and became one of the first African Americans in the nation to hold this advanced degree.  He later was recruited as a law professor at Howard University where he taught Contracts, Equity and Personal Property course.

Sources: 
George Marion Johnson, The Making of a Liberal: The Autobiography of George M. Johnson (Unpublished Manuscript, University of Hawaii Library,1989); Peter J. Levinson, “George Marion Johnson and the Irrelevance of Race,” University of Hawaii Law Review, Vol. 15 (1993); Gerald Keir, George M. Johnson, Jurist and Educator, FORMAT, Michigan State University (September-October 1966), Daphne Barbee-Wooten, African American Attorneys in Hawaii, (Maui: Hawaii: Pacific Raven Press, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Hobart Jr. (1920-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hobart Taylor, Jr, a government official and lawyer, was born to Charlotte and Hobart Taylor, Sr., on December 17, 1920 in Texarkana, Texas. Taylor graduated from Prairie View College in Texas with a B.A. degree in 1937. He received an M.A. degree from Howard University in 1939 and a J.D. degree from the University of Michigan in 1943. While at Michigan, Taylor served as editor of Michigan Law Review.

Taylor was admitted to Michigan Bar in 1944 and became Assistant to Raymond W. Starr, the Chief Justice of Michigan Supreme Court between 1944 and 1945. He later practiced law for four years before serving as prosecuting attorney for Wayne County (Detroit) Michigan from 1949 to 1950. Hobart Taylor, Jr. and his father, Hobart Taylor, Sr., of Houston, were early supporters of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s candidacy for the Presidency in 1960.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named Taylor special counsel to the President’s Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity where he is credited with coining the phrase, “affirmative action.” While on the Commission Taylor helped devise a volunteer program, Plans for Progress, which promoted equal employment opportunities for people of color among 300 firms.
Sources: 
John H. Johnson, The Ebony Success Library (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Co., 1973); Andrew Webster Jackson, A Sure Foundation and a Sketch of Negro Life in Texas (Houston: No Publisher Given, 1940); Richard L. Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff, Diversity in the Power Elite: How It Happened, Why It Matters (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Coleman, Wanda Evans (1946-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Wanda Evans Coleman was an American poet and writer who won critical acclaim for her avant-garde work, but remained relatively unknown to a broader audience. Her 30 year literary career included a myriad of poetry and fiction publications.

Born and raised in the Watts section of Los Angeles, California on November 13, 1946, Coleman was the daughter of George and Lewana (Scott) Evans. Her father was an ex-boxer and long-time friend and sparring partner of Light Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore.  He also ran a sign shop during the day and worked the graveyard shift as a janitor at RCA Victor Records. Her mother worked as a seamstress and as a housekeeper for Ronald Reagan, among other celebrities.

When she was 13, her first poem was published in a local newspaper. As teenagers she and her brother worked for their father in his home-based publishing company, an experience that prepared her for a career as a freelance writer.
Sources: 
Priscilla Ann Brown and Wanda Coleman, "What Saves Us: An Interview with Wanda Coleman," retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3300711 (2003); Justin D. Gifford, Wanda Coleman, Emory “Butch” Holmes II, “Harvard in Hell”: Holloway House Publishing Company, Players Magazine, and the Invention of Black Mass-Market Erotica (2010), Poetry Foundation, Wanda Coleman biography, retrieved from, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/wanda-coleman (2015); Elaine Woo, "Wanda Coleman dies at 67; Watts native, L.A.'s unofficial poet laureate," Los Angeles Times.com, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/23/local/la-me-wanda-coleman-20131124-1; Wanda Coleman, The Riot Inside Me: More Trials & Tremors (New Hampshire: Black Sparrow Books, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Peterson, Oscar Emmanuel (1925-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Oscar Peterson was born on August 15, 1925 in Montreal, Quebec. He grew up in Place St-Henri, a bustling Montreal district with a small but close knit black community. Considered by many to be one of the greatest jazz piano players of all time, Peterson performed at thousands of live concerts to audiences worldwide in a career that lasted more than sixty-five years.

Peterson’s dazzling technique combined with a unique style made him one of the most influential jazz pianists in the world. The Montreal native developed a following for his brilliant playing early in his life, and he credited many teachers including his sister, brother, and pianist and composer Paul de Marky, with giving him the inspiration and instruction needed to pursue a career that made him one of Canada’s national treasures.

The pianist’s international breakthrough came after he accepted an invitation from the American jazz impresario Norman Granz to be in the audience at Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) presentation at Carnegie Hall in September of 1949. Granz brought Peterson on stage as a surprise guest.  Peterson received critical acclaim for his performance, which launched his career.

Some of Peterson’s most legendary works include “Canadiana Suite” which features jazz themes inspired by various Canadian cities and regions, and his Hymn to Freedom.
Sources: 
The Regina Leader Post (24 December 2007); Oscar Peterson, A Jazz Odyssey: A Biography of Oscar Peterson (New York: Continuum-Bayou Press Ltd, 2002); Gene Lees, The Will to Swing (Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing & Communications, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Laney, Lucy Craft (1854-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Georgia
Women of Achievement
Lucy Craft Laney, educator, school founder, and civil rights activist, was born in Georgia on April 13, 1854 in Macon, Georgia to free parents Louisa and David Laney.   David Laney, a Presbyterian minister and skilled carpenter, had purchased his freedom approximately twenty years before Lucy Laney’s birth.  He purchased Louisa’s freedom shortly after they were married. Lucy Laney learned to read and write by the age of four and by the time she was twelve, she was able to translate difficult passages in Latin including Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War.
Sources: 
Asa C. Griggs, “Notes: Lucy Craft Laney,” Journal of Negro History 19 (January 1934); Mary M. Marshall, “’Tell Them We Are Rising!’ Black Intellectuals and Lucy Craft Laney in Post Civil War Augusta, Georgia” (Ph.D., dissertation, Drew University, 1998); Gloria Taylor Williams-Way, “Lucy Craft Laney, ‘The Mother of the Children of the People’: Educator, Reformer, Social Activist” (Ph.D., dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1998): Barbra McCaskill, Post-Bellum, Pre-Harlem: African American Literature and Culture, 1877 (New York: New York University Press, 2006); http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9372857
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ruggles, David (1810-1849)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

David Ruggles, abolitionist, businessman, journalist and hydrotherapist, was born in 1810 in Norwich, Connecticut. He attended the Sabbath School for the poor which admitted people of color starting in 1815. In 1827 he left Connecticut for New York City where he operated a grocery store for the next four years.  He then quit the grocery business to open his own bookshop in early 1834.  Ruggles is generally known as the first African American bookseller. While working at the bookstore he extended many publications and prints promoting the abolition of slavery and in opposition to the efforts of the American Colonization Society which promoted black settlement in Liberia.  Ruggles also took on job printing, letterpress work, picture framing, and bookbinding to augment his income.  In September 1835, a white anti-abolitionist mob burned his store. 

In 1833 Ruggles began to travel across the Northeast promoting the Emancipator and Journal of Public Morals, an abolitionist weekly. Ruggles, who wrote articles and pamphlets and gave lectures denouncing slavery and Liberian colonization, made him a figure of rising prominence in abolitionist circles in the late 1830s. 

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

Cornish, Samuel Eli (1795-1858)

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

Samuel Cornish, an abolitionist and editor, was born in Sussex County, Delaware and raised in Philadelphia and New York City.  Since both of his parents were free African Americans Cornish was born free.  After graduating from the Free African School in Philadelphia Cornish began training to become a Presbyterian minister and was ordained in 1822.  Shortly afterward he moved to New York City where he organized the first black Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.  

In addition to his duties as pastor, Cornish also became a journalist.  Working with fellow African American John B. Russwurm, he founded the first African American newspaper in the United States, Freedom’s Journal. Cornish was the senior editor of the paper while Russwurm served as junior editor. The first issue appeared in New York City on Friday, March 16, 1827.  After living in a world dominated by white media, Cornish and Russwurm stated in their first editorial, “We wish to plead our own cause.  Too long have others spoken for us.  Too long have the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things that concern us dearly…,” clearly showing their intentions of publishing the news without white bias against the African American news.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, eds., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Simon & Schuster
Macmillan, 1996); Lerone Bennett Jr., Pioneers in Protest (Chicago:
Johnson Publishing Company Inc., 1968).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sayers, Gale Eugene (1943 - )

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

Gale Sayers and Al Silverman, I Am Third (New York: Viking Press, 1970); George Sullivan, Power Football: The Greatest Running Backs (New York: Atheneum, 2001); "Gale Sayers: Pro Football's Rambling Rookie," Ebony 21: 3 (1966): 70-76.; The Topeka Capital-Journal, August 31, 2009; http://www.answers.com/topic/gale-sayers

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Scott, Emmett J. (1873-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Emmett J. Scott and Booker T. Washington
Image Ownership: Public Domain

A native of Houston, Texas, Emmett J. Scott garnered a reputation as Booker T. Washington’s chief aide.  He was also the highest ranking African American in the Woodrow Wilson’s Administration.  The son of ex-slaves, Scott was born in 1873.  In 1887, he entered Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, eventually leaving school in his third year.  Soon he worked at the Houston Post, first as a sexton, and later as a copyboy and journalist. In 1893 Scott, along with Charles N. Love and Jack Tibbit, formed the Texas Freeman, Houston’s first African American newspaper.  Scott also worked for Galveston, Texas, politician and labor leader, Norris W. Cuney. 

Sources: 
Thelma Scott Bryant, Pioneering Families of Houston (Early 1900s) as Remembered by Thelma Scott Bryant (Houston: n. p., 1991); Maceo Crenshaw Dailey, Jr., “The Business Life of Emmett Jay Scott,” Business History Review, 77 (Winter 2003), 57-68; Barbara L. Green, “Emmett Jay Scott,” in The New Handbook of Texas, Vol.. 5 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996), 935.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Sam Houston State University

Ousley, "King" Curtis (1934–1971)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

King Curtis was a famous tenor sax player during the 1950s and 1960s and was known for his signature honking sound.  Born in Fort Worth, Texas on February 7, 1934, with the birth name Curtis Ousley, King Curtis got his musical education in the public schools of his hometown.  Curtis started out on alto sax at the age of 12 and then switched to tenor at 13.  After graduating from high school, he began touring with Lionel Hampton’s jazz band.  In 1952, Curtis moved to New York and began to venture out from jazz to a rising musical genre called rock and roll. 

King Curtis by the late-1950s was a well-known session musician working with numerous rock and roll and rhythm and blues artists including Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Buddy Holly, and Wilson Pickett.  He’s also remembered for his solo on the Coasters’ hit with “Yakety Yak” in 1958.   Over his playing career as a session musician, it is estimated that King Curtis performed with over 125 jazz, pop, R&B, and rock and roll artists.

Sources: 
Murray Schumach, “King Curtis, the Bandleader, Is Stabbed to Death,” New York Times (August 15, 1971); Arnold Shaw, Honkers and Shouters : the Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues (New York: Macmillan Pub Co, 1986); Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African American Musicians (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983);  http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/king-curtis (Accessed November 7, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Faucette Jr., John M. (1943-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Joseph Faucette
One of the less known of the tiny group of African American science fiction writers and one of the first black authors to publish in that genre, John M. Faucette, Jr. grew up in New York’s Harlem.  A contemporary of the celebrated black science fiction writer Samuel Delany, another Harlem resident, Faucette graduated from the Bronx High School, attended the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn where he majored in chemistry, and later studied writing at New York University’s School of Continuing Education.  

While a college freshman Faucette penned his first science fiction novel, Warriors of Terra, inspired by the gang wars in Harlem, which was published in 1970 by Belmont Books.  His story of a purple-skinned swordsman in The Age of Ruin (Ace, 1968) was his favorite character because, he said, it “satisfied the rebel in me.”  Faucette wanted to showcase black heroes in his work and complained that white readers and white publisher were reluctant to accept them.  Violent conflict and revenge were often-repeated themes in his novels such as Crown of Infinity (Ace, 1968) and Seize of Earth (Belmont Books, 1968).  Faucette also published the mainstream urban novel Disco Hustle (Holloway House, 1976) and short stories in Artemis Magazine and AIM Magazine.  Faucette died in January 2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Brutus, Dennis (1924-2009)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the Armenian Weekly
Dennis Brutus was a South African poet, organizer and activist perhaps most notable for his use of sports as a weapon against apartheid. Dennis Vincent Brutus was born to South African parents of French, Italian and African descent in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1924. When he was four, his family returned to Port Elizabeth, South Africa where, under the country’s racial code, Brutus was classified as “colored.” After graduating from the University of Fort Hare, Brutus became a teacher of English and Afrikaans in nonwhite schools.
Sources: 
Aisha Karim and Lee Sustar, Poetry & Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader (Chicago,: Haymarket Books, 2006); Adrian Guelke, Rethinking the Rise and Fall of Apartheid (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Douglas Martin, “Dennis Brutus Dies at 85; Fought Apartheid with Sports,” New York Times, 2 January 2010, A22; “Dennis Brutus Biography,” Biography.com, http://www.biography.com/articles/Dennis-Brutus-40359.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Taylor, Marshall W. (1878-1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
He was a black pioneer in sports long before Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, and even the legendary Jack Johnson. He did not play baseball as Robinson did, nor was he a pugilist as were Johnson and Louis, and although he participated in a sport where the main objective was speed, he was not a track and field person as was Jesse Owens.

His name was Marshall "Major" Taylor, and he rode a bicycle. He was born in 1878 near Indianapolis and was soon recognized as a young black man with a natural talent for riding a bicycle. He had won a number of races in Indianapolis and Chicago by the time he was only fifteen years old. Because of the unadulterated racism directed toward him in the Midwest, he moved to Worchester, Mass., when he was seventeen, and he soon became one of the fastest American amateur cyclists. He turned professional in 1896 and became an overwhelming sensation. It is said that the spectators loved his bold courage. Because of his ability to ride and to win so often, as a black man he had to endure intense racist opposition. Yet he persevered and refused to allow racism to break his spirit.
Sources: 

Michael W. Williams ed., The African American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1993); http://www.majortaylorassociation.org/who.htm.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Glover, Danny (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Danny Lebern Glover, actor, producer, and humanitarian was born in San Francisco, California on July 22, 1946 to Carrie (nee) Hunly and James Glover.  His parents, United States postal workers, fought for equal rights as members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a fight that Glover has continued throughout his adult life.

Glover graduated from George Washington High School in San Francisco in 1964 and from San Francisco State University in 1968 with a B.A. in Economics.  As a college student and member of the Black Students Union, Glover participated in the five-month student-led strike, the longest student walkout in U.S. history, which led to the establishment of the first School of Ethnic Studies program in the United States. Glover's response to a New York Times reporter inquiring about students missing class during the strike was that students could always go back to school, as the most important thing to him is to end racism everywhere.

After college, Glover took a position as a Model-Cities Program Manager with the Office of Community Development in San Francisco, where he solidified his philosophy that people are the architects of change.  During this time he began studying acting at the Shelton Actors Lab, long recognized as a top professional actors training program.  Deciding he wanted to become an actor, he resigned his managerial position and moved to Los Angeles.
Sources: 
Dave Sommers, "Lethal Lesson," http://zwire.com/site/Danny_Glover.html; “Grades: a Worry in Campus Strike; Problem for Coast Students Who Still Attend Class,” New York Times, Jan 19, 1969, p. 25; Kevin Yeoman, "Fox’s  ‘Touch’ Adds Danny Glover & Young Lead David Mazouz," http://screenrant.com/danny-glover-touch-fox-david-mazouz-yman-119121; Danny Glover’s Story,  http://www.un.org/works/goingon/danny_story.html; Danny Glover  Foundation. http://www.dannyglover.org; Gloria Blakely, Danny Glover (Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Paine College

Handy, W.C. (1873-1958)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Musician and composer William Christopher “W.C.” Handy was born on November 16, 1873, in Florence, Alabama.  Widely known as the “Father of the Blues,” Handy is recognized as one of the leaders in popularizing blues music.  Young Handy’s interest in music was discouraged by his family and his church.
Sources: 
W.C. Handy, Father of Blues: An Autobiography (New York, Da Capo Press Inc., 1969); http://www.yearoftheblues.org/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Badin, Adolf (1747-1822)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Adolf Badin, also known as Adolf Ludvig Gustav Fredrik Albert/Couschi, was born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies in 1747, and died in 1822 in Sweden.  Badin came to Sweden a slave but became a titled person in the courts of King Fredrick and Queen Ulrika during their reign (1751-1771).  Badin married twice: first to Elisabet Svart in 1782, and then to Magdelena Eleonra Norell in 1799; he had no children. Badin has been described by his many court functions: assessor, page, footman, jester, diarist, servant, chamberlain, court secretary, ballet master, book collector. However, he preferred to call himself “farmer,” as he eventually owned two small farms, one in Svartsjolandet and the other in Sorunda.

Badin's real last name was Couschi, but he was christened as Badin, which signifies “prankster.” He's also been referred to as “Morianen” which was the colloquial name for African Diasporians in Europe at that time.  
Sources: 
Edward Matz, “Badin-An Experiment in Free Upbringing,” Popular Historia (March 13, 1996); Madubuko A. Diakite, “African Diasporans in Sweden-An Unfinished History,” The Lundian, Special Edition (2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rawles, George Washington (1845–1922)

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

 

Sources: 
Stewart Sifkas, Compendium of Confederate Armies (Baltimore: Heritage Books,  2003); US Federal Census 1910, Microfilm number T624-1662, Page 3B, Enumeration District 188, Seattle Ward 11, King County, Washington acknowledges his service in the Confederate Army.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ragsdale, Marguerita (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Marguerita Dianne Ragsdale was born in April 1948 in Richmond, Virginia to Lillie and Vernon Ragsdale and raised alongside her five sisters on a farm in McKenney, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. After starting her undergraduate work at Virginia State University in Petersburg, she transferred to American University in Washington, D.C., where she earned a B.A. in journalism. Later, she earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, and a J.D. from Columbia University.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Davis, Ruth A. (1943 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
At the time of her retirement from the United States Foreign Service in 2009, Ambassador Ruth A. Davis was the longest serving Career Ambassador and at the rank of Director General of the Foreign Service, had achieved the highest ranking position in the Foreign Service.  She was also the first African American to do so.

Although born in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 28, 1943, to a former World War II soldier who later became a postal worker and a schoolteacher mother, the family moved to Atlanta, Georgia during her early childhood.  Majoring in Sociology at Spelman College, Davis was awarded a Merrill scholarship which allowed her to study in France for 15 months. While there she travelled throughout Europe and the Middle East.  

Davis graduated magna cum laude from Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia in 1966 and then enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley where she earned a master's degree in social work in 1968.  While at UC Berkeley she served as an intern at the Agency for International Development (AID).  
Sources: 
Candace LaBalle, "Davis, Ruth A. 1943–," Contemporary Black Biography (2003), http://www.encyclopedia.com; Stacy D. Williams, "TLG:  Expanding Opportunities at State," Foreign Service Journal (May 2013), http://www.govexec.com/magazine/magazine-management-profile/2001/11/phoenix-rising/10262/.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smiley, Tavis (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The third of ten children, Smiley was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on September 13, 1964, to Joyce Marie and Emory G. Smiley. At the age of two, he and his family moved to Indiana when his father, an Air Force non-commissioned officer, was transferred to Grissom Air Force Base in Bunker Hill, Indiana.  His mother is a Pentecostal minister. Upon graduation from Maconaquah High School, Smiley attended Indiana University, where he was involved in student government and became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. After reconsidering a decision to drop out of college at the end of his junior year, he interned as an aide to Tom Bradley, the first African-American mayor of Los Angeles. Smiley returned to Indiana University after the internship, receiving his bachelor’s degree in law and public policy in 1986. Upon graduation, he served as an aide to Mayor Bradley until 1990.
Sources: 
Tavis Smiley and David Ritz, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America (New York: Doubleday, 2006); Tavis Smiley, The Covenant with Black America (Third World Press, 2006); http://www.pri.org/smiley.html ; http://gale.cengage.com/free_resources/bhm/bio/smiley_t.htm ; http://www.answers.com/topic/tavis-smiley#top
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University Seattle

Stokes, Louis (1925- )

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

Louis Stokes became active in the civil rights movement and political affairs in the 1960s. He became a member of the executive committee of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and was also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union.  Stokes served as vice president of the Cleveland branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1965-66, and as chairman of its Legal Redress Committee for five years.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov; Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots”: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Meek, Kendrick (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Kendrick Meek, former highway patrolman, Florida state representative, and state senator, has served in the United States House of Representatives as a Democratic representative from Florida’s 17th District since 2003. Meek was born on September 6, 1966 in Miami, Florida, and is the son of former U.S. Representative Carrie Meek, who also represented Florida’s 17th District before her son took over her position.

Meek’s childhood was influenced by his mother’s role as an elected official.  He remembers sleeping under his mother’s desk at the Florida House Office Building on days when she worked late. Carrie Meek, whose grandmother was a slave, was the first African American elected to Congress from Florida since the Reconstruction. Kendrick Meek as a teenager understood her important symbolic role to the entire African American population of the state.  

Despite dyslexia, Meek worked his way through high school and attend Florida A&M University on a football scholarship. He graduated in 1989 with a degree in science.

After graduating, Meek joined the Florida Highway Patrol and was assigned to the security detail for Democratic Lieutenant Governor Buddy MacKay. Meek used the opportunity to further his knowledge of state politics, often attending political meetings when he was off duty.  During his four year career with the Florida Highway Patrol, Meek became the first African American to reach the rank of captain.
Sources: 
Tristram Korten, “The Meek Shall Inherit the House,” Miami New Times, 7-18-2002; Richard C. Cohen, “The Buddy System,” National Journal 39:46/47 (Nov. 17, 2007); http://kendrickmeek.house.gov; http://www.votesmart.org/bio.php?can_id=BS026295;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Spencer (1893-1969)

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

Spencer Williams is widely known for his portrayal of the character Andy in the controversial 1950s television comedy series Amos ‘n Andy.  His contributions to the world of film and television, however, far surpassed the limitations of the popular but widely criticized Amos ‘n Andy sitcom. Born July 14, 1893 in Vidalia, Louisiana, Williams moved to New York City during his teens and studied comedy under vaudeville comedian Bert Williams.

He attended the University of Minnesota, but interrupted his studies to serve several years in the United States Army during and after World War I. After being honorably discharged from the service in 1923, Williams returned to New York City and concentrated on a career in show business. He eventually landed a job with Christie Studios in Hollywood, where he co-wrote and appeared in Paramount Pictures’ first all-black talking film, Melancholy Dame (1928). He was subsequently retained as a consultant, continuity writer, and performer for the Christie Comedies – a comedy series that focused on black life in urban Alabama.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia
(New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Thomas Cripps, Black Film as
Genre
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Wheeler Dixon, The
“B” Directors: A Biographical Directory
(Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1985); Phyllis Klotman, Frame By Frame: A Black Filmography
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Henry T. Sampson, Blacks
in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films
(Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1977); Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1994).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Delany, Henry Beard (1858-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Henry Beard Delany is known for his contributions in architecture and for being the first African American bishop elected in North Carolina and the second in the United States. Delany was born on February 5th 1858 in Saint Mary’s, Georgia of slave parents, Thomas Delany, a ship and house carpenter, and Sarah, a house servant.  Delany grew up in Fernandina, Florida where he received his earliest formal education.  He and his brothers also learned brick laying and plastering trades from their father.  In 1881 Delany entered Saint Augustine’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina where he studied theology.  After graduating in 1885, he joined the college faculty, remaining there until 1908.  He also married Nannie James Logan of Danville, Virginia, another St. Augustine's faculty member, who taught home economics and domestic science.  The couple had ten children including Sarah Louise and Annie Elizabeth who became famous with their 1993 joint autobiography Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years.

Delany joined Raleigh’s Ambrose Episcopal Church, and in June 1889 was ordained a deacon of the church.  Three years later he was ordained as a priest.  He steadily rose in the Episcopal Church hierarchy, becoming Archdeacon in 1908 and Bishop in 1918.

Sources: 

Sarah Louise Delany and Annie Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth,
Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First Hundred Years (New York:
Kodansha International, 1993); Dreck Spurlock Wilson, African-American
Architects: a Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945
(New York: Routledge,
2004); http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc2/NF00000181_00001.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Garland, Walter Benjamin Stephen (1913-197?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Veteran of the Spanish Civil War and World War II, Walter Garland was born in New York City on 27 November 1913.  After serving in the U.S. Army for two years, he enrolled at Brooklyn College where he studied mathematics.  Garland joined the Communist Party in 1935 and became active in the National Negro Congress.  When the International Brigades formed to fight for Republican Spain, Garland volunteered , sailing for France in January 1937.

Sources: 
Danny Duncan Collum (editor) and Victor A. Berch (chief researcher), African Americans in the Spanish Civil War: “This Ain’t Ethiopia, But It’ll Do” (New York, New York: G.K. Hall & Co, 1992); William L. Katz, Fraser M. Ottanelli, and Christopher Brooks, “African Americans in the Spanish Civil War,” Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at New York University (<https://www.alba-valb.org >, November 2006); James Yates, Mississippi to Madrid (Seattle, Washington: Open Hand Publishing, 1989).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Thurman, Wallace (1902-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Langston Hughes, The Big Sea (New York: Hill and Wang, 1940); Eleonore van Notten, Wallace Thurman’s Harlem Renaissance (Atlanta: Rodopi, 1994); Lawrence T. Potter, Jr., “Wallace Thurman,” in Encyclopedia on African American Writers, Wilfred D. Samuels, ed. (New York: Facts on File, 2007).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Blackwell, David Harold (1919-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
David Harold Blackwell, mathematician and statistician, was the first African American to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1965) and is especially known for his contributions to the theory of duels. Blackwell was born on April 24, 1919, to a working-class family in Centralia, Illinois. Growing up in an integrated community, Blackwell attended “mixed” schools, where he distinguished himself in mathematics. During elementary school, his teachers promoted him beyond his grade level on two occasions. He discovered his passion for math in a high school geometry course.

At the age of sixteen, Blackwell began his college career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Although he planned on becoming an educator, Blackwell chose math classes instead. Having won a four-year scholarship from the state of Illinois, Blackwell completed his undergraduate degree in 1938 and earned his master’s degree the following year.
Sources: 
James H. Kessler,  J. S. Kidd, Renee A. Kidd, and Katherine A. Morin,  Distinguished African American Scientists of the Twentieth Century (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1996); Reuben Hersh, “David Harold Blackwell,” Biographical Encyclopedia of Mathematicians, Donald R. Franceschetti, editor (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1999); Nkechi Agwu,  Luella Smith, and  Aissatou Barry, “ Dr. David Harold Blackwell, African American Pioneer,” Mathematics Magazine, 76:1 (Feb., 2003), pp. 3-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Parks, Gordon (1912-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, Sarah and Andrew Parks welcomed their fifteenth child, Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks, into their home. Though struggling against poverty and racism in Fort Scott, young Gordon was nurtured there. His mother was especially influential, and her early lessons sustained him throughout his remarkable life. Because of Parks’s vast intellectual and artistic accomplishments, he was described as a “Renaissance man.” He accomplished many firsts, including the distinction of being the first black photographer at Vogue, Glamour, and Life magazines. He worked at Life for nearly 25 years and completed over 300 assignments. He was a documentary and fashion photographer; a film director, writer, producer; a poet, novelist, essayist; and a composer. Among his notable films are Shaft and The Learning Tree.

Though largely self-taught, he received over fifty honorary doctorates. Parks’s life was a paradox: he was as comfortable modeling a Brooks Brothers suit in New York as he was wearing his western hat and cowboy boots on the Kansas prairie. He moved with the same ease in the modest Washington, D.C. home of Ella Watson, African American charwoman whose image became the famous American Gothic, as he did on the Italian island of Stromboli with actor Ingrid Bergman. Parks’s humanity was evident in his life’s work, as is epitomized in the amazing Flavio de Silva story.
Sources: 
John Edgar Tidwell “Gordon Parks and the Unending Quest for Self-fulfillment,” in Virgil W. Dean, ed., John Brown to Bob Dole: Movers and Shakers in Kansas History; http://www.pdngallery.com/legends/parks
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Frazier, Walt (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
National Basketball Association star player Walt “Clyde” Frazier Jr., was born the oldest of nine children in Atlanta, Georgia on March 29, 1945. While attending the segregated Howard High School in Atlanta, Frazier excelled in football, baseball, and basketball. Despite receiving football scholarships from elite colleges, Frazier accepted a basketball scholarship from the lesser known Southern Illinois University. Frazier led the school to its first National Invitation Tournament championship in 1967. Following his senior year, the two-time All-American became the New York Knickerbockers first-round choice and the fifth overall pick that same year.

During his rookie season, a Knicks official nicknamed Frazier, “Clyde” after the infamous 1930s bank robber Clyde Barrow. The name stuck as Frazier personified African American pride and culture in the early 1970s. His stylish dress and his cool demeanor on and off the court resembled some of the popular characters in Blaxploitation movies of the era such as John Shaft in Shaft and Priest in Superfly.

As a Knick, Frazier played in seven NBA All-Star Games and named to four All-NBA First Teams and seven NBA All-Defensive First Teams.  While with the Knicks, Frazier also set team highs for points scored, games played, and assists. He led the team to its only NBA titles in 1970 and 1973.

Sources: 
Jack Friedman, “Belatedly Learning That Father Knows Best, Walt Frazier III Tries to Be a Clyde Off the Old Block” People, 27 February 1989; Sarah Kershaw, “Walt Frazier Buys Three Harlem Penthouses,” New York Times, 24 September 2010.http://www.nba.com/history/players/frazier_bio.html
Contributor:
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Crumpler , Rebecca Davis Lee (1831?-1895)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
For many years Dr. Rebecca Cole was considered to be the first black woman physician.  However, historical research has shown that the honor rightly belongs to Dr. Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler who completed her M.D. in 1864, three years before Dr. Cole.  

Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler was born free around 1831 to Absolum and Matilda Davis in Delaware.  She was raised by an aunt in Pennsylvania who is noted to have provided health care to her neighbors.  In 1852 Davis was living in Charlestown, Massachusetts where she worked as a nurse for eight years.  She enrolled in the New England Female Medical College in 1860.  Her acceptance at the college was highly unusual as most medical schools at that time it did not admit African Americans.  Despite its reluctance, the faculty awarded Davis her medical doctorate.  That year she also married Arthur Crumpler.

Dr. Crumpler practiced medicine in Boston and specialized in the care of women, children, and the poor.  She moved to Richmond, Virginia in 1865 to minister to freedpeople through the Freedmen’s Bureau.  Crumpler returned to Boston in 1869 where she practiced from her home on Beacon Hill and dispensed nutritional advice to poor women and children.  In 1883 she published a medical guide book, Book of Medical Discourses, which primarily gave advice for women in the health care of their families.  
Sources: 
Sarah K. A. Pfatteicher, "Crumpler, Rebecca Davis Lee," American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000.; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/partners/early/e_pioneers_crumpler.html; http://rlsonline.org/53350_12922.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dixon, Charles Dean (1915-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Dean Dixon, conductor, was born January 10, 1915 in New York, New York to West Indian parents Henry Charles Dixon and McClara Rolston Dixon. Dixon’s parents exposed him to classical music at an early age and his mother taught him to play the violin, along with a number of other instruments. By the age of nine he was considered a musical prodigy and performed on local radio stations in New York. Dixon enrolled at Juilliard School of Music in 1932 as a violin major, but soon switched to the music pedagogy program and graduated in 1936. He then enrolled in Columbia University and earned a Master’s Degree in Music Pedagogy there in 1939.

Dixon was married three times: he married pianist Vivian Rivkin in 1948 and the couple had a daughter, Diane (1948-2000).  He married Finnish Baroness and playwright Mary Mandelin in 1954 and they had daughter Nina in 1954.  He married Australian Ritha Blume in 1973.
Sources: 
Langston Hughes, Famous Negro Music Makers; Illustrated with Photos (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1955); S. Saito, “Homage to Dean Dixon,” Biographical Overview, 8 Oct. 2008; "Dixon, Dean" Contemporary Black Biography, 2009, Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

L'Ouverture, Toussaint (1742-1803)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Known to his contemporaries as “The Black Napoleon,” Toussaint L’Ouverture was a former slave who rose to become the leader of the only successful slave revolt in modern history, the Haitian Revolution.

Born into slavery on May 20, 1743 in the French colony of Saint Dominque, L’Ouverture was the eldest son of Gaou Guinon, an African prince who was captured by slavers.  At a time when revisions to the French Code Noir (Black Code) legalized the harsh treatment of slaves as property, young L’ Overture instead inspired kindness from those in authority over him.  His godfather, the priest Simon Baptiste, for example, taught him to read and write.  Impressed by L’Ouverture, Bayon de Libertad, the manager of the Breda plantation on which L’Ouverture was born, allowed him unlimited access to his personal library.  By the time he was twenty, the well-read and tri-lingual L’Ouverture—he spoke French, Creole, and some Latin—had also gained a reputation as a skilled horseman and for his knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs.  More importantly, L’Ouverture had secured his freedom from de Libertad even as he continued to manage his former owner’s household personnel and to act as his coachman.  Over the course of the next 18 years, L’Ouverture settled into life on the Breda plantation marrying fellow Catholic Suzanne Simon and parenting two sons, Isaac and Saint-Jean.
Sources: 
Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004); Martin Ros, Night of Fire: The Black Napoleon and the Battle for Haiti (New York: Sarpedon, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Noble, Ronald (1956 -)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ronald Kenneth Noble is the first African American to serve as Secretary General of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) headquartered in Lyon, France.  Born in 1956 at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Noble is the son of an African American soldier and a German mother.  He is a 1979 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, earning a baccalaureate degree in economics and business administration and a 1982 graduate of Stanford Law School in California where he was the president of his graduating class and served as articles editor of the Stanford Law Review.
Sources: 
Maggie Paine, “The World’s Top Cop,” UNH Magazine Online, Winter 2002 http://unhmagazine.unh.edu/w02/noble1w02.html; "Ronald K. Noble" http://www.interpol.int/About-INTERPOL/Structure-and-governance/Ronald-K.-Noble; New York University, “Ronald K. Noble - Biography,” https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/profile.cfm?section=bio&personID=20172; “PUBLIC LIVES; The Long Days of Interpol's New Top Sleuth,” New York Times, July 13, 1999, http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/13/nyregion/public-lives-the-long-days-of-interpol-s-new-top-sleuth.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Raymond L., Sr. (1922-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Raymond Johnson and Family in Los Angeles, 1961
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sources: 
Elaine Woo, “Raymond L. Johnson Sr. dies at 89; lawyer, civil rights activist,” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2012; “Tuskegee Airman and Civil Rights Icon Atty. Raymond L. Johnson, Sr. Succumbs,” Los Angeles Sentinel, January 12, 2012; Andie Parrish, “Raymond L.  Johnson, Sr.,” January 20, 2012, www.findagrave.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Chenault, Kenneth Irvine (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Kellogg School of
Management, Northwestern University
Hand-picked by his American Express predecessor, CEO Harvey Golub, to lead the company upon Golub’s retirement, Kenneth Chenault is an attorney and the CEO and chairman of American Express.  Named one of the fifty most powerful African American executives by Fortune magazine in 2001, Chenault is one of only a handful of African-American CEO’s of a Fortune 500 company.

Chenault’s solid middle-class upbringing in the mostly white neighborhood of Hempstead, Long Island may have predicted his future.  Born in Mineola, New York on June 2, 1951 to Hortenius Chenault, a dentist, and Anne N. Quick, a dental hygienist, Chenault was the second born of four children.  Both of Chenault’s parents attended Howard University and Chenault likewise enjoyed the advantages of a good education, attending the private, innovative Waldorf School in Garden City through the twelfth grade.  Chenault was captain of the track and basketball teams.  His athletic ability earned him an athletic scholarship to Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Leaving Springfield before completing his degree, Chenault transferred to Bowdoin College in Maine, earning a B.A. in history, magna cum laude, in 1973.  Chenault next attended Harvard Law School, receiving his J.D. in 1976.  Chenault’s 1977 marriage to Kathryn Cassell, an attorney with the United Negro College Fund, produced two sons, Kenneth Jr. and Kevin.  
Sources: 
Richard Sobel, “Chenault, Kenneth Irvine” African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham; Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com; “Kenneth Chenault: Corporate CEO” Cnn.com In-depth, Black History Month (February 2002), http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2002/black.history/stories/08.chenault/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harrison, Samuel (1818-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Samuel Harrison, a minister, political activist, and former slave, became one of Berkshire County, Massachusetts’s most ardent abolitionists. Harrison was born enslaved in Philadelphia in 1818 but he and his mother were freed in 1821.  Shortly afterwards the widowed mother and her son moved to New York City. When Harrison was nine years old, he returned to Philadelphia to live with an uncle. 

Throughout his childhood, Harrison worked as an apprentice to his uncle in a shoemaking shop, learning a trade that would support him for years. He also attended church services with his mother regularly, and it was during his adolescence that Harrison decided to become a Presbyterian minister. 

Samuel Harrison tried hard to educate himself. In 1836, he enrolled in a manual school run by the abolitionist Gerrit Smith in Peterboro, New York. After only a few months, he transferred to the Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio (now Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio), an institution known for its abolitionist sympathies.   Financial difficulties, however, forced him to return to Philadelphia in 1839.

Soon after returning to Philadelphia, Harrison married Ellen Rhodes who he had known since the two were children. Over the next twenty years, Ellen gave birth to thirteen children, seven of whom died in early childhood.

Sources: 
Samuel Harrison, An Appeal of a Colored Man to his Fellow Citizens of a Fairer Hue in the United States (Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Chickering & Axtell, 1877); Samuel Harrison, Rev. Samuel Harrison, His Life Story, As Told By Himself (Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Privately printed, 1899); Dennis Dickerson, "Reverend Samuel Harrison: A Nineteenth Century Black Clergyman,” in Black Apostles at Home and Abroad: Afro-Americans and the Christian Mission from the Revolution to Reconstruction, edited by David W. Wills and Richard Newman (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Clarke, Yvette Diane (1964– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Yvette Diane Clarke Website

Yvette Diane Clarke won her first political office when she was elected a member of the New York City Council representing part of Brooklyn in 2001. Clarke succeeded her mother, former City Councilmember, Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, making them the first mother-daughter succession in the history of the New York City Council.  

Clarke was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 21, 1964. She attended New York’s public schools and then entered Oberlin College in Ohio, graduating in 1986.

Clarke served as the first Director of Business Development for the Bronx Empowerment Zone where she administered the $51 million budget that resulted in the revitalization and economic development of the South Bronx.  Clarke also chaired the powerful Contracts Committee and co-chaired the New York City Council Women's Caucus.

In 2006 Clarke was elected to the United States Congress to represent New York’s 11th Congressional District.  She holds the seat first won by Shirley Chisholm in 1970.  Chisholm was the first African American woman and the first Caribbean American elected to Congress.

Clarke is currently a member of three House committees and two subcommittees within each committee. Her House committee assignments are as follows: Education and Labor Committee, Homeland Security Committee, and the Small Business Committee.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Burroughs, Margaret (1917-2010 )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Margaret Burroughs at Texas A&M University,
March 2006
Image Ownership: Public Domain

In 1961, Margaret Burroughs and her husband, Charles Burroughs founded the Ebony Museum of Chicago, later called the DuSable Museum of African American History.  The DuSable is the oldest museum of its type in the United States.

Margaret Burroughs was born Margaret Taylor on November 1, 1917 in Saint Rose, Louisiana.  Her parents, Alexander and Octavia Taylor, moved to Chicago and young Margaret completed her education in the city’s public schools, graduating from Englewood High School in 1933.  She earned her teacher’s certificate in 1937 from Chicago Normal College. She continued her education at Chicago Teachers College as well as the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned a B.E. in Art Education in 1946, followed by an M.A. in 1948.

Taylor married artist Bernard Goss in 1939.  The couple had one daughter, Gayle.  Through the 1940s Taylor Goss taught in Chicago’s schools and in 1947 produced her first children’s book, Jasper, the Drummin’ Boy.  She and Goss divorced and on December 23, 1949, she married Charles Gordon Burroughs.  

Sources: 

Sterling Stuckey, Life with Margaret: The Autobiography of Dr. Margaret Burroughs (New York: In Time Publishing & Media Group, 2003); www.fineartstrader.com; http://dickinsg.intrasun.tcnj.edu/akaauthors2/Taylor.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hayford, Adelaide Smith Casely (1868-1960)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford in 1903
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford was a Victorian feminist who dedicated her life to the education of girls in Sierra Leone.  Born on June 2, 1868 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Casely Hayford was the second youngest of seven children of parents William Smith Jr. and Anne Spilsbury.  Her prosperous, educated family was part of the Freetown Creole elite.  When Adelaide was four years old her family moved to England where she was raised and educated.  Her mother died soon afterwards.  Raised by her father, Hayford excelled in her studies.  When she turned 17 she was sent to Germany to study music.  In 1888 Casely Hayford moved back to England where she joined her father and new English stepmother.  In 1892, 24-year-old Hayford moved to Freetown to try teaching as a career.  This experience gave her an opportunity to study the education systems in West Africa

Sources: 

Cromwell, Adelaide M., An African American Feminist: The Life and Times of Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford, 1868-1960 (London: Frank Cass & Co. LTD., 1986); Desai, Gaurav, “Gendered Self-Fashioning: Adelaide Casely Hayford’s Black Atlantic,” Research in African Literatures 35:3 (Fall 2004).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Latimer, Lewis H. (1848-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Lewis H. Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on September 4, 1848.  His parents were former slaves who escaped bondage and settled in Boston.  Abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass secured the necessary funds to obtain their freedom.  After a stint in the Union Navy during the Civil War, Latimer worked as an office assistant in the patent law firm of Crosby and Gould.  It was there that he taught himself drafting.  He quickly began to experiment with ideas for inventions. 

In 1874 Latimer received his first patent for improving the toilet paper on passenger railroad cars.  In all, he was given eight patents.  He is popularly known as the inventor who prepared drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s patent application for the telephone.  He eventually worked on electric lights, became superintendent of the incandescent lamp department of the United States Electric Lighting Company, and supervised the installation of light for buildings in the United States and Canada. 

In 1890 Lewis Latimer published a book entitled Incandescent Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System.  He also served as chief draftsman for General Electric/Westinghouse Board of Patent Control when it was established in 1896.  Some of the individuals who worked with Edison formed the Edison Pioneers in 1918 to preserve memories of their early days together and to honor Edison’s genius and achievements.  Latimer was a founding member of this group and he was the only African American among them.  He died in Flushing, New York, on December 11, 1928.

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Hine, and Stanley Harrold, The African-American Odyssey, Third Edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005), p. 408; Rayyon Fouche, Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation: Granville T. Woods, Lewis H. Latimer, and Shelby J. Davidson (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Washington, Walter Edward (1915-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Walter Washington Sworn in as Mayor of
Washington D.C., 1967
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Walter Edward Washington, attorney and politician, was born in Dawson, Georgia, on April 15, 1915 to Willie Mae and William L. Washington.  After his mother’s death in 1921, Washington moved with his father to Jamestown, New York.  Washington excelled academically and athletically in the public school. His trumpeting skills in school also earned him the nickname Duke II.   In 1934, he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Washington earned his B.A. degree in 1938 and his law degree from the same institution in 1948.  While attending law school, Washington met and married Benetta Bullock.

Following law school, Washington was employed as a supervisor for the District of Columbia’s Alley Dwelling Project.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named Washington the executive director the National Capitol Housing Authority, becoming the first African American to hold that position.

Sources: 
Michael W. Williams, ed., The African-American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 1993, 1st edition): 1667; R. Kent Rasmussen, ed., The African-American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 2001, 2nd edition): 1625; Donna M. Wells, Washington History, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2004), 4-15.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Somerville, John Alexander (1882-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Alexander Somerville emigrated to the United States from Jamaica around 1900.  He and his wife, Vada Watson Somerville, were both graduates of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry.  Graduating with honors in 1907, he was the first black graduate, and his wife was later the first black woman graduate.  In 1914, only three years after its founding in New York City, New York, the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP was created at the home of John and Vada Somerville.  His first major business venture, the Somerville Hotel, was a principal African American enterprise on Central Avenue, in the heart of the Los Angeles African American community.  When it opened in 1928 it was one of the most upscale black hotels in the United States, and counted a number of African American celebrities among its guests.
Sources: 
John A. Somerville Biographical Sketch: http://www.jamaicaculture.org/; Douglas Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

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

Crews, Phillip O. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1974, when organic chemist Phillip O. Crews browsed through a book on marine biology that stated the chemistry of sponges was unknown he refocused the direction of his research and his career to solving this mystery. He was born in the university town of Urbana, Illinois on August 15, 1943.  Earning his undergraduate degree at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1966, he was later granted the doctorate at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1969.  Crews has taught chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz since 1970 and was a National Science Foundation fellow at Princeton University from 1969 to 1970.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science, 14th Ed. (New York: Bowker, 1979);
“Marine Pharma,” NIH Report (Spring 2002); http://www.chemistry.ucsc.edu/crews_p.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Smith, Ferdinand Christopher (1893-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ferdinand Smith, Chicago Alderman Earl B. Dickerson and
Donald M. Nelson, Chair of the War Production Board, 1943
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jamaican-born Ferdinand Christopher Smith became a prominent twentieth century international labor activist and leader.  At an early age Smith left Jamaica’s poor economic conditions in search of work as a migrant laborer.  He spent five years in Panama, where he worked as a hotel steward and a salesman.  After WWI he moved to Cuba and by 1920 was working as a ship’s steward.

In the 1920s, impressed by their commitment to racial issues, Smith joined the Communist-led Marine Workers Industrial Union.  Although maritime workers faced oppressive working conditions including high rates of disease, low wages, poor rations, and unventilated quarters, they had virtually no union representation aboard ships.  This began to change as part of the New Deal’s support of labor unions. In 1936 Smith supported the strike against West Coast shippers.  When maritime strikes spread to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Smith became one of the nine members of the national strike Strategy Committee.

Sources: 

Gerald Horne, Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica (New York: New York University Press, 2005); “Ferdinand Smith, Labor Leader, 67,” New York Times, August 16, 1961, 31.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Metropolitan State University, Denver

McCoy, Elijah (1843-1929)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Elijah McCoy was born on May 2, 1843 in Colchester, Ontario to runaway slave parents who used the Underground Railroad to escape.  Once the McCoy family settled in Canada, they were extremely poor.  Nonetheless they saved money for their son to get an education.  When Elijah was 15 years old, he was sent to a boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland to study mechanical engineering.

Once he returned to the United States, McCoy had a difficult time in finding a job because of his race despite his numerous credentials.  He eventually settled for a menial job as a fireman for the Michigan Central Railroad oiling the various working parts of the trains.  These tasks were slow and boring for the certified mechanical engineer who began to wonder why the moving parts of the train couldn’t oil themselves.  From this, he became interested in the challenges of self-lubrication for machines and began to test various ideas for automatic lubrication.
Sources: 
Gossie Harold Hudson, W. Sherman Jackson, Edward S. Jenkins and Exyie C. Ryder, American Black Scientists and Inventors (Washington D.C.: National Science Teachers Association, 1975); http://www.blackhistorysociety.ca/EMcCoy.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sewell, Terri (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. 
House of Representatives
Terryinca “Terri” Sewell, the current U.S. Representative for Alabama’s 7th district, was born January 1, 1965 in Huntsville, Alabama to Andrew and Nancy Sewell. Sewell grew up in Selma, Alabama where both of her parents were employed by the local school district. Her father, Andrew, was a high school math teacher and football coach, and her mother, Nancy, a librarian. Nancy Gardner Sewell was also the first black woman elected to the Selma city council.

Terri Sewell, who graduated from Selma High School in 1983, was the first black valedictorian in the school’s history.  She was also the first graduate of Selma High School to attend an Ivy League school.  After graduation Sewell attended Princeton University where she studied political science and graduated cum laude in 1986. While at Princeton Sewell wrote an award winning thesis titled “Black Women in Politics: Our Time Has Come,” for which she interviewed former Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first African American congresswoman. Upon graduation Sewell was awarded the Marshall/Commonwealth Scholarship to study political science at Oxford University in England. Sewell received her Master’s degree from Oxford in 1988 with first-class honors. In 1992 Sewell graduated from the Harvard Law School. During her time at Harvard Sewell worked as the editor of the Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review.
Sources: 
http://paw.princeton.edu/issues/2010/12/08/pages/7617/index.xml ; "Rep. Terri Sewell, Breakout Star of Congressional Black Caucus Weekend," The Washington Post 22 Sept. 2011; http://sewell.house.gov/ 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mays, Willie (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Willie Howard Mays Jr. was born May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama to Ann and William Howard Mays.  Both of his parents had been athletes.  Ann Mays was a high school track star while William Howard Mays had played semi-professional baseball in Birmingham’s Industrial League before becoming a steel mill worker and Pullman Porter.  Willie Mays Jr., loved baseball and by the time he was 14 he was playing on his father’s semi-pro club, the Fairfield Gray Sox.  At 16 Mays began his professional career with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Southern League.  Although he had become a professional, his father insisted he only play on weekends while school was in session.

The New York Giants noted Mays’s athletic ability and offered him a contract while he was still in high school.  He began playing with the Giants in 1951 at the age of 20.  During his first year in Major League Baseball Mays won Rookie of the Year honors. Mays excelled at every aspect of baseball; he hit for both power and accuracy, had great speed, a strong throwing arm, and perfect defense in the outfield. He is the only outfielder ever with more than 7,000 putouts. When asked if he ever misjudged a fly ball, Mays replied that he “missed two fly balls. Ten years apart.”
Sources: 

Willie Mays with Lou Sahadi, Say Hey: The Autobiography of Willie Mays (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988); Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/mays_willie.htm; Academy of Achievement, http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/may0bio-1; Larry Schwartz, “Mays brought joy to baseball” http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016223.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Pearman, Raven-Symoné Christina (1985- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Raven-Symoné Christina Pearman, better known as “Raven-Symoné,” is an American actress and recording artist.  Her entertainment career began when she starred in advertisements for well-known brands such as Jell-O and Cool Whip and as a young model for the Ford Modeling Company.

Pearman was born to Christopher B. and Lydia (Gaulden) Pearman on December 10, 1985 in Atlanta, Georgia.  In the late 1990s, the family moved to New York City, New York in order to improve her chances at becoming an entertainer.  At the age of four she auditioned for a role in the 1990 film Ghost Dad, but was turned down because of her young age.  She so impressed comedian and actor Bill Cosby, however, that he later cast her in his television series The Cosby Show as Olivia Kendall, the adopted daughter of the Cosby’s oldest daughter.  She was an instant hit with audiences.
Sources: 

The Biography Channel, Raven-Symoné Synopsis (New York, NY: Arts & Entertainment Networks, 2014), retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/raven-symon%C3%A9-21303025; Damien Croghan, Raven-Symone’s Coming Out should be Celebrated, retrieved from http://www.dailynebraskan.com/opinion/croghan-raven-symone-s-coming-out-should-be-celebrated/article_4933ebc2-1017-11e3-9f71-0019bb30f31a.html; Kimberley McLeod, ed., “Actress Raven Symone Radiates Beside Out Model AzMarie,” Elixher Magazine (September 3, 2013), retrieved from http://elixher.com/actress-raven-symone-radiates-beside-out-model-azmarie/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Walker, Howard Kent (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Howard Kent Walker is a military veteran, diplomat, and educator who was born on December 3, 1935 in Newport News, Virginia. His father was a high school chemistry and mathematics teacher and his mother a homemaker. Upon graduation from high school Walker enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he studied until 1958.

During his time in Ann Arbor Walker eventually majored in political science and was also part of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), which meant he would have a three-year obligation to the U.S. Air Force after graduation, which he fulfilled (1962-1965). After his military service and a brief stint as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Walker passed the Foreign Service exam, becoming a Foreign Service Officer in 1969.  His first assignment was in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Inter-Africa Affairs, working on Africa-United Nations issues.
Sources: 
Interview with Ambassador Howard K. Walker: Charles Stuart Kennedy, November 11, 2001,The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) Foreign Affairs Oral History Project: http://www.adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Walker,%20Howard%20K.toc.pdf; ADST Country Reader on Togo: http://www.adst.org/Readers/Togo.pdf; American Foreign Service: http://www.afa.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Gaye, Marvin Pentz, Jr. (1939-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C. Marvin Pentz Gaye, Jr. was named after his father, a minister of the apostolic church.  From a young age, the church played a large role in Gaye’s music career.  He began his musical profession in his father’s church choir and began playing the organ and drums.  After several years in the church, in 1957 Gaye left his father’s church and joined a group known as the Marquees.  After a year, the group was guided by the producer and singer Harvey Fuqua who inspired Marvin’s musical career.  When Fuqua moved to Detroit to further pursue his music, Gaye went with him.  In Detroit, Harvey was able to join forces with another music talent, Berry Gordy, where Gaye became a session drummer and soloist for the Motown Records label.

Shortly after in 1961, Gaye married Berry Gordy’s sister Anna Gordy.  During this same year, Gaye was also offered a solo recording record with Motown Records.  In the first year of his solo contract, Marvin was a jazz singer, but was soon persuaded to sing Rhythm and Blues (R&B).  His first hit single was “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” which became a top 10 selling hit on the R&B charts.  By 1965, Gaye became known as Motown’s best selling male vocalist and had added to the charts the famous song “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” followed by two more number one selling R&B hits, “I'll Be Doggone” and “Ain't That Peculiar.” 
Sources: 
Michael Eric Dyson, Mercy Mercy Me (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005);  
http://www.marvingayepage.net/biography/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bailey, Pearl Mae (1918–1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Pearl Bailey, Between You and Me: A Heartfelt Memoir on Learning, Loving and Living (New York: Doubleday, 1989); Morgan Monceaux, Jazz: My Music, My People (New York: Knopf, 1994); Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women (New York: Gramercy Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

McCall, Carl H. (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Carl McCall, former comptroller for the State of New York, was the first African American nominated by the Democratic Party for the office of governor.  McCall lost the election to Republican incumbent governor George Pataki.  As comptroller from 1994 to 2002, McCall was the first African American to win statewide office in New York. 

McCall was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1935.  In 1958 he graduated from Dartmouth College and then attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.  McCall eventually received an M.A. degree from Andover-Newton Theological School located in Massachusetts. 

In 1994, in his first bid for statewide office, McCall was elected New York comptroller.   McCall was reelected in 1998 winning over one million votes. As comptroller McCall, the state’s chief fiscal officer, audited the state government and public authorities of New York and served as the state’s sole pension fund trustee.

Before his election as comptroller McCall had established a long and distinguished career in public service.  He was deputy administrator of the New York City Human Resources Administration from 1966 until 1969.  In 1975 he was elected to the New York State Senate representing Harlem.  In 1982, McCall was the unsuccessful candidate for Lieutenant Governor running on a ticket with Mario Cuomo for Governor.  Cuomo won his race and appointed McCall to serve as the State Commissioner of Human Rights. 

Sources: 
Elizabeth Benjamin, "Daily News." Elizabeth Benjamin, The Daily Politics. New York Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2008/03/mccall-agrees-no-charges-for-s.html, "Black History Month: H. Carl McCall: New York State comptroller. 2003,” http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2002/black.history/stories/15.mccall/index.html;“H. Carl McCall,” Top Blacks, http://www.topblacks.com/government/h-carl-mccall.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blayton, Jesse B., Sr. (1879-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph of Jesse Blayton,
Atlanta University Photographs,
Atlanta University Center
Robert W. Woodruff Library

Jesse B. Blayton, Sr., was a pioneer African American radio station entrepreneur.  Blayton founded WERD-AM in Atlanta, Georgia on October 3, 1949 making him the first African American to own and operate a radio station in the United States.

Jesse Blayton was born in Fallis, Oklahoma, on December 6, 1879. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1922 and then moved to Atlanta, Georgia to establish a private practice as an accountant. Blayton passed the Georgia accounting examination in 1928, becoming the state's first black Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and only the fourth African American nationwide to hold the certification.

Blayton also taught accounting at Atlanta University where he encouraged younger blacks to enter the profession.  He had little success. Blayton later recalled that much of his recruiting difficulty came from the students' knowledge that no white-owned accounting firms would hire them and his, the only black-owned firm in the South, was small and had few openings. A decade after Blayton became a CPA there were still only seven other blacks in the U.S. who had achieved that status.  

Sources: 

William Barlow, Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio (Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 1999); Theresa A. Hammond, A White-Collar
Profession: African American Public Accountants since 1921
(Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); "WERD" in the New
Georgia Encyclopedia (online), http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Henderson, Fletcher Hamilton, Jr. (1897-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born December 18, 1897 to a middle class family in Cuthbert, Georgia, Fletcher Henderson grew up to become one of the key figures in the development of the form and style of the large jazz orchestra.  Despite the fact that he grew up in a family devoted to music and practiced constantly, he graduated from Atlanta University with a degree in mathematics and chemistry.  After moving to New York in 1920, however, Henderson found that a color barrier stood against his chances of becoming a chemist, and so it was at this time that he turned to his musical skills to make a living.

After a short time Henderson became a music director for Black Swan Records, and through this work he was able to assemble some of New York’s best musicians to start his own band.  In 1924 Henderson began playing in the Roseland Ballroom, and over the next ten years he helped transform the Roseland into a premier venue for jazz in New York while his band became known as the greatest jazz orchestra in the city.

Sources: 
Alyn Shipton, Jazz Makers: Vanguards of Sound  (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sands, Diana (1934-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Diana Sands, 1963 (Photo permissions granted by 
Bruce Kellner, Trustee of the Estate of Carl Van Vechten)
Diana Sands, the first black actress to be cast in a major Broadway play without regard to color, was born in New York City in 1934 to Rudolph Thomas, a carpenter, and Shirley Sands, a milliner. Sands made her first stage debut in George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara at New York City's High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. After graduating from high school, Sands performed as a dancer while seeking work on Broadway. 

In 1959, she debuted on Broadway as the character Beneatha Younger, a dignified, aspiring doctor in A Raisin in the Sun. Her stage performance earned her the 1959 Outer Circle Critics' Award and her first film appearance as the same character in the 1961 film version opposite Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, Ivan Dixon, and Sidney Poitier.

Sources: 
Anonymous, "Diana Sands In Death Struggle With Cancer," Jet, October 4, 1973; Anonymous, "Final Rites Held for Diana Sands," Jet, October 11, 1973; Maurice Peterson, "Diana, Diana," Essence, June 1972.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Robinson, Ida Bell (1891-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Ida Bell Robinson grew up in Pensacola, Florida, the seventh of twelve children born to Robert and Annie Bell. After her conversion as a teenager at an evangelistic street meeting, she led prayer services in homes. In 1909 she married Oliver Robinson, and they soon relocated to Philadelphia for better employment opportunities. She did street evangelism in Philadelphia under the auspices of The United Holy Church of America. In 1919, the church ordained her and appointed her to a small mission church, where she was successful in pastoral ministry and itinerant evangelism.

Sources: 
Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Hunton, Addie Waites (1866-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Addie Hunton with Black Troops in
France in World War I
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Educator, race and gender activist, writer, suffragist, and political organizer, Addie Waites Hunton was born in Norfolk, Virginia on June 11, 1866, to Jesse and Adeline Waites.  After her mother died when she was very young, she moved to Boston, Massachusetts to live with her maternal aunt.  

Hunton earned her high school diploma at Boston Latin School and in 1889 became the first black woman to graduate from Spencerian College of Commerce in Philadelphia. In 1893, she married William Alphaeus Hunton, who had spearheaded the establishment of services for blacks in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in the city.  Soon after their marriage the couple moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Addie worked as a secretary at Clark College and helped her husband with his YMCA work.  In the wake of the Atlanta Race Riots (1906), the Huntons moved to Brooklyn, New York.  They had four children but only two survived infancy.
Sources: 
Christine Lutz, “Addie W. Hunton:  Crusader for Pan-Africanism and Peace,” in Portraits of African American Life Since 1865, ed. Nina Mjagkij (Wilmington, DE:  Scholarly Resources, Inc., 2003), 109-127; Darryl Lyman, Great African American Women (New York:  Random House, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wallace, Walter L. (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 Sociologist Walter L. Wallace was born in Washington, D.C. on August 21, 1927.
Sources: 
Contemporary Authors. Vols. 81-84. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1979.
Who’s Who in America (Marquis Who’s Who, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Bivins, Horace W. (1862-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Waymon Bivins, buffalo soldier, was born on May 8, 1862 in Accomack County, Virginia. His father Severn S. Bivins and his mother Elizabeth Bivins were free black farmers on Virginia's Eastern Shore. His parents taught Bivins to farm and at the age of 15 he was in charge of an 8-horse farm near Keller Station, Virginia.

Bivins, however, yearned for a life away from farming and at 17 he entered Hampton Institute in Virginia where he was first introduced to military training.  In 1887 Bivins joined the U.S. Army as a private. He was ordered to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and assigned to Troop E, 10th U.S. Cavalry. Bivins was eventually stationed with the regiment at Fort Grant in Arizona Territory. There he took part in the campaign against Geronimo during the final days of the Apache wars in the Southwest.  An expert marksman, Bivins won eight medals and badges given by the War Department in shooting competitions between 1892 and 1894
Sources: 
Irene Schubert and Frank N. Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldiers II (Baltimore: Scarecrow Press, Inc, 2004); Ed Kemmick, “Horace W. Bivins, Much-decorated soldier served many …Years of adventure,” 2003, Accessed Dec 7, 2010, http://www.mtstandard.com/news/state-and-regional/article_e3c02099-4d74-50ec-95f3-518bdcf2c240.html; Encyclopedia, Bivins, Horace W.(1862–1937) “Soldier, Joins the Tenth Calvary, Writes about Military Life,” 2010, Accessed Dec 7, 2010, http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4119/Bivins-Horace-W-1862-1937.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Liston, Charles “Sonny” (1932-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle
Charles “Sonny” Liston was born on May 8, 1932 in Sand Slough, Arkansas. He was the 24th of 25 children by a sharecropper named Tobe Liston, and one of ten by Tobe’s wife Helen. Sonny received little in the way of schooling and was essentially illiterate all his life.

When his mother left his father and moved to St. Louis in 1946, Sonny ran away from home and joined her. As a teenager he participated in an armed robbery of a gas station and was sentenced to prison where his talent for boxing was discovered by a Catholic priest and it ultimately resulted in an early parole.

Sonny turned professional on September 2, 1953 and promptly won a first round knockout in his first fight. Standing 6’ 1 ½”, weighing 215 pounds, and possessing a long reach, powerful jab, knockout power in either hand and a nasty scowl, Sonny was an extraordinarily intimidating fighter. He quickly compiled an impressive record.
Sources: 
A.S. “Doc” Young, The Champ Nobody Wanted (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1963); Nick Tosches, The Devil And Sonny Liston (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2000); http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Liston_Sonny.html, http://www.ibhof.com/liston/htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pratt, Geronimo (1947-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt was a high ranking Black Panther Party (BPP) leader in Los Angeles who was targeted by the United States federal government’s domestic surveillance COINTELPRO program. He was accused and convicted of a murder and spent twenty-seven years in prison but the conviction was later vacated and he was released.

Geronimo Pratt was born on September 13, 1947 in Morgan City, Louisiana and had six siblings. His parents, Jack and Eunice Pratt, earned a living by operating a small scrap metal salvaging business. Geronimo was an exceptional student and played quarterback for the high school football team. In 1965, Pratt joined the army and was sent to Vietnam. He served two tours in Vietnam with distinction, earning two Bronze Stars, a Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts. He was honorably discharged in 1968.
Sources: 
Jack Olsen, Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt (New York: Knopf, 2001);
http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-geronimo-pratt-20110603,0,6307630.story
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Nash, Diane Judith (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Diane Nash
Civil rights activist Diane Judith Nash was born on May 15, 1938 in Chicago, Illinois to Leon Nash and Dorothy Bolton Nash.  Nash grew up a Roman Catholic and attended parochial and public schools in Chicago.  In 1956, she graduated from Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois and began her college career at Howard University in Washington, D.C. before transferring to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sources: 
Rosetta E. Ross, Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003); http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=N003.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Juanita Jewel Shanks Craft (1902-1985) and the Long Civil Rights Movement in Texas

Portrait by Judith Sedwick from the Women of
Courage Series, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College,
1984. Courtesy of the Craft Foundation, Dallas Texas
Summary: 
<i>A small but growing number of black women are slowly being recognized for their contributions to the “long” civil rights movement, the nearly century-long struggle by African Americans against all forms of racial discrimination.  In the account below University of Texas-El Paso historian Cecilia Gutierrez Venable describes Juanita Jewel Shanks Craft, one of the most important of these activists in 20th Century Texas history.</i>
Sources: 
Rachel Northington Burrow, “Juanita Craft” (Master’s thesis, Southern Methodist University, 1994); Amilcar Shabazz, Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle for Access and Equity In Higher Education in Texas (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Robert J. Duncan, "George Francis Porter," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpo76), accessed October 04, 2013; Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney, “Craft Historic Community Planned Development in the Wheatley Place National Historic District: Dallas,” by the Juanita Craft Foundation, G. Chandler Vaughn, and Bruce Glasrud.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Nabrit, James M. Jr. (1900-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
NAACP Attorneys George E. C. Hayes,
Thurgood Marshall and James Nabrit, Jr.
Sources: 

Eric Pace, "James M. Nabrit Jr. Dies at 97; Led Howard University" New York Times (Published Tuesday December 30, 1997); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003).

http://www.brownat50.org/brownBios/BioJamesNabritJr.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Tolbert, James Lionel (1926-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Civil rights advocate and entertainment attorney James Lionel Tolbert was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 26, 1926 to Albert Tolbert and Alice Young Tolbert. His father was a chauffeur and his mother came from a prominent musical family. One of his uncles was noted tenor saxophonist Lester Young. Tolbert was sent at age 10 with his older sister and brother to Los Angeles, California, to receive musical training from their grandfather, Willis Young, a leading jazz educator who schooled him on the trumpet.
Sources: 
Sentinel New Service, “James L. Tolbert Succumbs,” May 10, 2013, http://lasentinel.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11113;  Valerie J. Nelson, “James Tolbert, 1926-2013. He pressed Hollywood on civil rights,” Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2013; William Yardley, “James L. Tolbert, 86, an Early Lawyer to Black Hollywood, Dies,” New York Times, May 25, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Sowell, Thomas (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Thomas Sowell,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
An influential African American economist who is known for his controversial views on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, Thomas Sowell was born in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1930.  When he was eight, his family moved to Harlem, New York.  His father, a construction worker, did not encourage Sowell to pursue higher education even though he showed early signs of academic promise. Sowell dropped out of high school in the tenth grade, worked at various jobs, and obtained a high school degree in an evening program. After two years of service with the U.S. Marines receiving training as a photographer, Sowell entered Howard University where he matriculated for three semesters before transferring to Harvard University. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and later earned Master's and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University and the University of Chicago, respectively. Sowell’s major intellectual mentor at the University of Chicago was Nobel Prize winning conservative economist Milton Friedman.  
Sources: 
Thomas Sowell, A Personal Odyssey (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002);
Thomas Sowell website, www.tsowell.com/; Advocates for Self Government, "Thomas Sowell – Libertarian," http://www.theadvocates.org/celebrities/thomas-sowell.html;
SUA News.com, "Thomas Sowell,” http://www.suanews.com/biothomas.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Lewis, Edmonia (1845-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edmonia Lewis, the first woman of African American and Native American ancestry to gain notoriety as a sculptor, was born near Albany New York on July 4, 1845 to a Chippewa Indian woman and an African American man.  Her parents died when she was very young, so she was raised by her mother’s sister and the Chippewa people in Niagara Falls.  Edmonia also had an older brother, Samuel Lewis, who migrated west during the California Gold Rush.  Lewis made a small fortune in the gold fields, part of which he used to send Edmonia to Oberlin College in Ohio.  Although the college was one of the first to admit African American women and men as well as white women, Lewis encountered racial problems.  In 1862 she was accused of attempting to poison two white coeds.  She was cleared of the charges but continued to be subject to verbal attacks and a beating that left her bedridden for days. Oberlin's administration refused to allow her to enroll the next year to complete her graduation requirements.
Sources: 
Rinna Wolfe, Edmonia Lewis: Wildfire in Marble (Parsippany, New Jersey: Dillon Press, 1998); http://womenshistory.about.com/od/edmonialewis/p/edmonia_lewis.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fuller, Solomon Carter (1872-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Solomon Carter Fuller, an early 20th century psychiatrist, researcher, and medical educator, was born on August 11, 1872 in Monrovia, Liberia.  His parents, Solomon C. and Anna Ursilla (James) Fuller, were Americo-Liberians.  Solomon Carter Fuller was the first African American psychiatrist.  He also performed considerable research concerning degenerative diseases of the brain.  Solomon’s grandfather was a Virginia slave who bought his and his wife’s freedom and moved to Norfolk, Virginia.  The grandfather then emigrated to Liberia in 1852 to help establish a settlement of African Americans.  
Sources: 
Mary Kaplan and Alfred R. Henderson, “Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D. (1872-1953): American Pioneer in Alzheimer’s Disease Research,” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences 9:3 (2000); Carl C. Bell, “Solomon Carter Fuller: Where the Caravan Rested,” Journal of American Medical Association 95:10 (2005); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); G. James Fleming and Christian E. Burckel, eds., Who’s Who in Colored America (New York: Christian E. Burckel & Associates, 1950).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Page, Clarence E. (1947 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Clarence Eugene Page is a newspaper columnist, essayist, and political analyst.  His syndicated column which specializes in urban issues appears in numerous newspapers across the United States.

Page was born on June 2, 1947 in Dayton, Ohio to Clarence H. and Maggie (Williams) Page.  Page's mother owned a catering service and his father was a factory worker.  Page has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) which was undiagnosed during his childhood.  He started reporting for his high school newspaper as a junior and found it to be a perfect match—perhaps, he says, because of ADD; news writing was short, and deadlines helped him stay on track.  After his senior year, Page took a summer job in a steel mill and made time to freelance.  He sold stories and photographs to two Ohio newspapers in the summer of 1965 as a 17-year-old high school graduate.

Page earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University in 1969 and started reporting for the Chicago Tribune right after graduation.  Six months later, he was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War.  Page was assigned to public relations duty at Fort Lewis, Washington and in Germany.

Sources: 

Clarence Page, Showing My Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity,
New York: HarperCollins Publishers (1996); Clarence Page, “Bio,”
Chicago Tribune, accessed online at chicagotribune.com (November 19,
2008); University of Maryland, “Clarence Page," Front and Center
Magazine, Chicago Tribune
(May 8, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Greene, Beverly Loraine (1915-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 

"Woman Architect Blazes a New Trail for Others," Amsterdam News, June 23, 1945; "Miss Beverly L. Greene," Chicago Daily Tribune, August 26, 1957; "Beverly Greene," Jet Magazine, September 5, 1957; Dreck Spurlock Wilson, African-American Architects: a Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Randolph, Asa Philip (1889-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
A. Philip Randolph with Eleanor Roosevelt
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Asa Philip Randolph, born on April 15, 1889 in Crescent City, Florida, was one of the most respected leaders of the American Civil Rights movement in the twentieth century.  Randolph was a labor activist; editor of the political journal the Messenger, organizer of the 1941 March on Washington which resulted in the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), and architect of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 

Randolph was the son of Rev. James William Randolph, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Elizabeth Robinson Randolph, a seamstress.  The family moved to Jacksonville two years after his birth.  In 1907, Randolph graduated as the valedictorian of Cookman Institute in East Jacksonville, Florida, and worked a series of menial jobs while pursuing a career as an actor. He moved to New York in 1911, and after reading W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk decided to devote his life to fighting for African American equality. In 1914, Randolph married Lucille E. Green, a Howard graduate and entrepreneur whose economic support allowed Randolph to pursue Civil Rights full-time. The couple did not have any children.

Sources: 
Andrew E. Kersten, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, 2006); Cynthia Taylor, A. Philip Randolph: The Religious Journey of an African American Labor Leader (New York: NYU Press, 2006); Paula Pfeffer, A. Philip Randolph, Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Keppard, Freddie (1890–1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Pioneer jazz musician Freddie Keppard was one of the most famous cornet players of the early 20th Century.  Born February 27, 1890 in New Orleans, Keppard came from a musical family which included his brother Louis Keppard, who also became a professional musician playing the piano and tuba. Freddie Keppard began his musical career with the mandolin, followed by the violin, accordion, and finally finding his passion with the cornet.  At the age of 16 he organized the Olympia Orchestra to showcase his talents and perform throughout New Orleans. 

Keppard became part of the migration of Creole jazz musicians to the West Coast in the first two decades of the 20th Century.  After traveling to Los Angeles, he founded the Original Creole Orchestra in 1912.  The Orchestra introduced New Orleans jazz to a wider audience and quickly became one of the most popular acts on the West Coast.  By 1919 it had a following in large cities across the United States.  As his popularity rose, the Victor Talking Machine Company eventually offered Keppard the chance to be one of the first to record the new jazz sound. Keppard refused the recording offer saying he was fearful people would “steal his stuff.”   

Sources: 
David Dicaire, Jazz Musicians of the Early Years, to 1945 (North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc., 2003); Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African American Musicians (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983); http://www.redhotjazz.com/keppard.html (Accessed November 20, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Freeman, Fillmore (1936-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
With expertise in the mechanisms and kinetics of the oxidation of transitions metals and in agricultural chemistry, Fillmore Freeman has become one of the three most frequently cited African American chemists in the nation (the other two being Donald J. Darensbourg at Texas A&M University and Joseph S. Francisco of Purdue University), according to a survey conducted by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.  

Born on April, 1936 in Lexington, Mississippi, Freeman earned his bachelor of  science degree from historically black Central State University in 1957 and his Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from Michigan State University in 1962.  From 1962 to 1964 he worked as a research chemist with a private firm and from 1964 to 1965 was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) fellow at Yale University.  Later, he was an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellow, a Fulbright-Hays senior research scholar, a visiting professor at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry in West Germany and at the University of Paris, and an adjunct chemistry professor at the University of Chicago.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science, 22nd Ed. Vol. 2 (2005); Kirstina Lindgren, “Irvine Researcher Get $507,750 Grant,” Los Angeles Times, 15 May 1991; “News and Views,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Issue 35 (April 2002); http://www.chem.uci.edu/people/faculty/ffreeman/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Mandela, Winnie Madikizela- (1936- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Nelson and Winnie Mandela at Their Wedding, 1957
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Winnie Mandela is the former wife of South African President Nelson Mandela and former leader of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League. Born in the village of eMbongweni in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province in 1936, Mandela travelled throughout South Africa during her youth and managed to attend school despite strict apartheid measures. She earned a degree in social work from the Jan Hofmeyer School in Johannesburg, and despite the opportunity to continue her studies in America, accepted a position as a social worker at the Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, where she was the first qualified black medical social worker. She eventually studied at the University of Witwatersrand, and earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations.

Sources: 
Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob, Winnie Mandela: A Life (Cape Town: Zebra Press, 2003); http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/winnie-madikizela-mandela.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Elder, Lee (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lee Elder, a member of the United Golfers Association (UGA), Professional Golfers Association (PGA), and the PGA Senior Tour, was the first African American to break the color barrier and play in the Masters Golf Tournament.

Lee Elder was born in 1934 in Dallas, Texas.  His father died in WWII, and his mother very shortly after.  With Elder’s sister running the household, Lee was lured to golf as a way to earn additional income for the family.  He began caddying at the all-white Tennison Park Golf Club in Dallas and soon became favored by the head pro of the course, who allowed Elder slip in after hours to play on the mostly obscured back six holes.  Elder became an accomplished golfer who eventually attracted the attention of hustler and con artist “Titanic” Thompson.  Using Thompson’s financial backing, Elder began playing in tournaments while honing his skills in the game and developing the ability to succeed under pressure.  

Elder joined the all-black United Golfers Association (UGA) in 1959 and began the domination of the Association that would last for nearly eight years.  He won four Negro National Open Championships and during one period in 1966 Elder won an astonishing 18 of the 22 tournaments he played in. This success enabled Elder to earn the required $6,500 he needed to enter the 1967 qualifying school for the PGA Tour.  He qualified easily.
Sources: 
Pete McDaniel, Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African-Americans in Golf (Greenwich, Connecticut: The American Golfer, Inc., 2000); Pete McDaniel, “The Trailblazer”, Golf Digest (October 2000); Eric L. Smith, “Star Profile: Lee Elder,” Black Enterprise (September 1995); www.hickoksports.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Quarterman, Lloyd Albert (1918-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born May 31, 1918 in Philadelphia, Lloyd Albert Quarterman, a chemist, was one of the few African American scientists and technicians to work on the Manhattan Project, the top secret effort to design and build the atomic bomb during World War II.

Quarterman developed an interest in chemistry from a young age partly by using toy chemistry sets his parents gave him.  He attended St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina where he developed a reputation as a scholar and star football player.  After receiving his bachelor's degree from St. Augustine’s in 1943, he was quickly recruited by the War Department to work on the Manhattan Project.  Though he was only a junior chemist on the project, Quarterman had the opportunity to work closely with Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago and with Albert Einstein at Columbia University.  

Quarterman was a member of the team of scientists who isolated the isotope of uranium (U 238) necessary for the fission process, which was essential to the creation of the atom bomb.  Once the war ended, he continued to work at the University of Chicago’s laboratory hidden beneath the campus football stadium during the war and later rebuilt in a Chicago suburb and renamed the Argonne National Laboratory.  After the war, Quarterman returned to school and earned a master of science from Northwestern University in 1952. He would return to Argonne and remain at the national laboratory for the next thirty years.
Sources: 
Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moster, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); Julius H. Taylor, et al., The Negro in Science (Baltimore: Morgan State University, 1955); Ivan Van Sertima, Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1991); Stephane Groueff, The Manhattan Project: The Untold Story of the Making of the Atomic Bomb (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1967).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Harris, Patricia Roberts (1924-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Patricia Roberts Harris was born on May 31, 1924 in Mattoon, Illinois. She excelled academically and received a scholarship to Howard University. During her time at Howard, Roberts was elected Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1945. While she was in college Roberts participated in civil rights protests in Washington, D.C. In 1943, she took part in one of the earliest student sit-ins at a whites-only cafeteria.  While at Howard, Roberts served as Assistant Director for the American Council of Human Rights.  In 1955 she married William Harris, a Howard University law professor.

Patricia Roberts Harris received a law degree from George Washington University in 1960.  She graduated number one in her class and was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Harris worked briefly for the U.S. Department of Justice and was appointed co-chair of the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights by President John F. Kennedy. A year later, she returned to Howard as an associate dean of students while lecturing occasionally at the university’s law school.
Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York, Da Capo Press Inc., 1981); http://www.huarchivesnet.howard.edu/0005huarnet/harris1.htm; http://www.greatwomen.org/component/fabrik/details/2/199.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lloyd A. Barbee (1925-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Attorney Lloyd Augustus Barbee was born August 17, 1925 in Memphis, Tennessee.  He was the youngest of three brothers from Ernest A. Barbee and Adelina Jenkins, both from Mississippi.  Barbee attended LeMoyne College in Memphis and later went to law school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he met his wife, Roudaba Bunting.  They married in 1954 and later divorced in 1959.  He graduated from Law School in 1956.   While in law school, he became President of Madison NAACP branch, where he fought for fair housing and led protests against racism. After obtaining his law degree, he worked as an attorney for the Wisconsin State Department of Labor. He later entered private practice and sued the State of Wisconsin for discrimination in housing.  In 1964, he successfully won the first housing discrimination case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Gregory III v. Madison Mobile Homes Park.  
Sources: 
Private documents, films and notes, Lloyd A. Barbee Trust; Jack Dougherty, More than One Struggle: The Evolution of Black School Reform in Milwaukee (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); “Lloyd A. Barbee Fighting Segregation Root and Branch,” Wisconsin Lawyer 77:4 (November 1968).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ross-Lee, Barbara (1942- )

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

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

McKaine, Osceola Enoch (1892-1955)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Osceola McKaine (3rd From Left) With Staff of his Supper Club
in Ghent, Belgium, ca. 1938
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Civil rights activist Osceola Enoch (“Mac”) McKaine was born in Sumter, South Carolina on December 17, 1892. In 1908, at the age of 16, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he attended classes at Boston College.  Later he worked as associate editor of the Cambridge Advocate, a small black newspaper in the neighboring city of Cambridge, Massachusetts.  During the 1912 presidential election, 20-year-old McKaine served as Secretary for the Colored Progressive League of New England.
Sources: 
John Egerton, Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation before the Civil Rights Movement in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); James Felder, Civil Rights in South Carolina: From Peaceful Protests to Groundbreaking Rulings (Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press, 2012); Erik S. Gellman, Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wells, Barry L. (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Barry L. Wells has had an extensive career in international affairs with the United States Foreign Service after an earlier period as a university professor and administrator. Wells was born in 1942 in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from East High School in that city in 1959. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Youngstown State University in 1966 and also earned a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh in 1970.

Wells served as Associate Professor and Assistant Dean at Howard University Graduate School of Social Work from 1972 to 1978. While at Howard University, his interest and involvement in the international arena began to flourish. Wells was instrumental in establishing summer field placements for Howard University graduate students with the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

Wells’s first significant overseas experience came when he was hired by the U.S. Peace Corps to serve as Country Director for the nations of Belize and Jamaica.  Wells worked with the Peace Corps for ten years from 1978 to 1988.   

Ambassador Wells joined the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute in 1988.  The Institute is considered the most important institution for the training of career diplomats.  Wells served in a number of capacities including Associate Dean of the School of Professional Studies, Associate Dean of the Senior Seminar, and Deputy Director of the Institute from 2001 to 2005.
Sources: 
“Biography: Barry L. Wells,” U.S. Department of State, http://2001-2009.state .gov/outofdate/bios/w/79786.htm; “Ambassador-designate Barry Wells to The Gambia,” Senate Confirmation Hearing Transcript, September 19, 2007, http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2007/09/ 20070919153723xjsnommis3.399295e-02.html#axzz3brEPqLZX; “Barry L. Wells,” Linkedin, https://www.linkedin.com/pub/barry-wells/3a/556/a1b?domainCountryNam e=&csrfToken=ajax%3A0070824740902495973; “Barry L. Wells,” Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/blwells007/about?section=education.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

DeLarge, Robert Carlos (1842-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Carlos DeLarge was born a slave in Aiken, South Carolina on March 15, 1842.  Rare for that period, DeLarge graduated from Wood High school in Charleston and worked as a tailor and farmer before becoming involved in politics.  He served as an agent for the Freedman’s Bureau and helped organize the Republican Party in South Carolina.  In 1867, at the age of 25, DeLarge chaired the platform committee at the Republican state convention which published a report calling for the following reforms: the abolition of capital punishment; tax reform; popular election for all offices; welfare assistance; the breakup of land monopolies; court reorganization; and liberal immigration laws.  

In 1868, DeLarge was a member of the South Carolina Constitutional Convention which revised the state’s existing constitution.  At this convention, DeLarge lobbied for a petition which asked the U.S. Congress for a one a million dollar grant to purchase lands to be sold to the state’s land-hungry poor.  After the constitutional convention, DeLarge moved quickly from one important position to another.  During the 1868 and 1869 sessions of the state legislature, DeLarge chaired the Ways and Means Committee.  In 1871, the state legislature chose DeLarge as land commissioner for the state.  As land commissioner, he was implicated, but then cleared of charges of land fraud.  
Sources: 
Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress (New York: Thomas Y Crowell Company, 1976); 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

Payne, Donald Milford (1934-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Representative
Donald Milford Payne's Office
Donald Payne, a Democrat, was the first African American elected to Congress from the State of New Jersey.  Payne was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 16, 1934. He earned a B.A. degree in social studies from Seton Hall University in 1957 and also has honorary doctorates from Chicago State University, Drew University, Essex County College, and William Patterson University.

After graduating in 1957 Payne began working for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), traveling around the world as its representative.  In 1970 Payne became its first African American president. From 1973 to 1981 he chaired the YMCA Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee that was based in Geneva.  In 1972 he was elected to the Essex County (New Jersey) Board of Chosen Freeholders, and became its director in 1977.

Donald Payne challenged longtime Congressional incumbent Peter W. Rodino Jr. in the Democratic primary in both 1980 and 1986 but failed both times. In 1988 however, when Rodino said he would not seek a 21st term, Payne won nomination and was elected to Congress.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); http://www.house.gov/payne/biography/index.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Berry, Halle (1968- )

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

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

Mitchell, John, Jr. (1863–1929) and the Richmond Planet (1883 -1996)

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

John Mitchell, Jr. edited and published the Richmond Planet newspaper from one year after its founding in 1883, until his death in 1929.  He was known as the “fighting editor” for his writing against racism.

In 1863, John Mitchell, Sr. and his wife Rebecca were living on the Lyons family estate in Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond.  The Mitchells were slaves; John was a coachman and Rebecca was a seamstress.  On July 11, 1863, they had John, Jr., the first of two sons.  After the Civil War, the Mitchell family moved to Richmond, where Rebecca and John, Jr. continued to work for the Lyons family.

Mitchell graduated high school at the top of his class in 1881.  He taught in Virginia Public Schools until state politics led to the firing of many black teachers, including him.

In 1883 the black lawyer Edwin Archer Randolph founded the Richmond Planet.  After just a year, the newspaper was in the red and on the verge of collapse.  Mitchell led a group of former teachers who resurrected it.

Sources: 

Ann Field Alexander, Race Man: The Rise and Fall of the “Fighting
Editor,”
John Mitchell Jr., Charlottesville: University of Virginia
Press (2002); Richmond Planet, Richmond, Virginia (1884 – 1929);
William J. Simmons, Men of Mark, Cleveland: George M. Rewell & Co
(1887).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Davis, Ernie (1940-1963)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Nell, William C. (1816-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William C. Nell was an African American civic activist, abolitionist, and historian. Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Nell was the son of William Guion Nell, a prominent tailor and black activist. William C. Nell was introduced to racial inequality and black activism from birth. In the 1830s, he became politically active as a member of the Juvenile Garrison Independent Society where he wrote plays and hosted political debates while being mentored by William Lloyd Garrison.  Nell was a printer’s apprentice for Garrison’s newspaper, the Liberator. Nell came of age in the 1840s, as a leader in the campaign to desegregate the Boston railroad (1843) and Boston performance halls (1853). He was also a founding member of the New England Freedom Association in 1842, a black Boston organization that assisted fugitive slaves in their efforts to gain freedom.

Sources: 
“William Cooper Nell (1816 - 1874),” in Boston African-American National Historic Site, National Park Service, (2002); William C. Nell, “The Triumph of Equal School Rights in Boston,” in Philip S. Foner and Robert James Branham (eds.), Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900 (Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

White, Walter F. (1893-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Walter Francis White was a leading civil rights advocate of the first half of the twentieth century.  As executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1931 to 1955, he was one of the major architects of the modern African American freedom struggle.

White, whose blond hair and blue eyes belied his African American ancestry, was born in Atlanta, Georgia on July 1, 1893, the fourth of seven children.  His parents, George W. White, a graduate of Atlanta University and a postal worker, and Madeline Harrison White, a Clark University graduate and school teacher, were solidly middle class at the time when the vast majority of Atlanta blacks were working class.
Sources: 
“Walter White (1893-1955),” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University), http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/white-walter.cfm, accessed January 1, 2014; Walter F. White, A Man Called White: The Autobiography of Walter White (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995); The New Georgia Encyclopedia:
http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-747.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

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)

Browne, Roscoe Lee (1925-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Steven Otfinoski, African Americans in the Performing Arts (2003); Walter Rigdon, ed., The Biographical Encyclopedia & Who’s Who of the American Theatre (1966); Quincy Troupe, “Roscoe Lee Browne,” Essence (December 1976). See also http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/1800037298/bio
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Bolden Jr., Charles F. (1946-)

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

Bolden graduated from C.A. Johnson High School in Columbia, S.C. in 1964.  In 1968, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Science from the United States Naval Academy.  He completed a Master’s degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California in 1977.

After completing his undergraduate studies at the United States Naval Academy, Bolden accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.  After completing his flight training, he became a Naval Aviator in May of 1970.  From 1972 to 1973, Bolden flew more than 100 flights into North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia while assigned at the Royal Thai Air Base Nam Phong, Thailand.

Upon returning to the United States in 1973, Bolden held various Marine Corps assignments at the Marine Corps Air Stations in Los Angeles and El Toro, California.  In 1979, Bolden graduated from the United States Naval Test Pilot School and was then assigned to the Naval Air Test Center’s System’s Engineering and Strike Aircraft Test Directorates.  
Sources: 
Carol S. Bostch, "Charles F. Bolden Jr." University of Southern California, Dec. 23, 2009.http://www.usca.edu/aasc/Charles%20Bolden.htm ; "Charles F. Bolden Jr." Times Topics. The New York Times, 26 May 2009; http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/b/charles_f_bolden_jr/index.html; NASA - Charles F. Bolden, Jr., NASA Administrator (July 17, 2009 - Present)." NASA – Home. http://www.nasa.gov/about/highlights/bolden_bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chesnutt, Charles Waddell (1858-1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Waddell Chesnutt was born the son of free black parents on June 20, 1858 in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents had recently moved to Cleveland from Fayetteville, North Carolina in response to the growing restrictions placed on free blacks in that slave state.
By 1866, Chesnutt worked part time in the family store while regularly attending Cleveland’s Howard School for Blacks.  

In 1872 Chesnutt was forced to end his formal education at the age of fourteen because he had to help support his parents.  However, the school’s principal invited him to stay at the school as a distinguished pupil-teacher and turn his modest salary over to his father.  

By sixteen, Chesnutt was employed in Charlotte, North Carolina as a full-time teacher and in 1877, returned to Fayetteville, North Carolina as the assistant principal of Howard School.  In 1880 Chesnutt became the school’s principal.

In search of more lucrative employment, Chesnutt resigned his school-administrator post in 1883 and moved to New York City where he worked as a stenographer and journalist on Wall Street.  By 1887, Chesnutt returned to Cleveland and was admitted to the Ohio Bar.   As a teacher, lawyer, businessman and writer, Chesnutt was a prominent member of Cleveland’s African American elite.  By 1900, however, Chesnutt gave up his business and professional life to write and lecture full-time.
Sources: 
Helen Chesnutt, Charles Waddell Chesnutt, Pioneer of the Color Line (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1952); Linda Metzger, Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Warfield, William (1920-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Concert bass-baritone singer, actor, and teacher William Caesar Warfield was born on January 22, 1920 in West Helena, Arkansas to a family of sharecroppers. When Warfield was a young child, his family moved to Rochester, New York, where his father served as a pastor for Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in that city.

After graduating from high school, Warfield studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and received a Bachelor of Music in 1942. After college, Warfield served overseas in the United States Army during World War II. In 1946, he returned to Rochester and to the Eastman School of Music for his graduate studies under Otto Herzm, Yves Tinayre, and Rosa Ponselle.
Sources: 
William Warfield and Alton Miller, William Warfield: My Music & My Life (Champaign, IL: Sagamore Publishing, 1991); http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Warfield-William.htm; http://chband.org/warfield.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dixon, George "Little Chocolate" (1870-1909)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Dixon, also known as “Little Chocolate,” was born on July 29, 1870 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Standing only 5’ 3 ½” and weighing no more than 118 pounds over the bulk of his career, “Little Chocolate” was described as long armed and skinny legged, swift of hand and foot, and possessing an ideal fighting temperament and great stamina. Ring magazine founder and editor, Nat Fleischer, described him as a marvel of cleverness, yet indicated that he could slug with the best of them. Fleischer rated him as the # 1 bantamweight of all time.

Dixon became the first black man to win a world championship when he captured the bantamweight title just shy of his 20th birthday by defeating Nunc Wallace of England in 18 rounds on June 27, 1890. Only 13 months later he knocked out Abe Willis of Australia to garner the featherweight crown. He held that title for the next six years, finally losing it by decision to Solly Smith on October 4, 1897. He regained it on November 11, 1898 by defeating Dave Sullivan, but then lost it for good when Terry McGovern knocked him out on January 9, 1900.
Sources: 
John D. McCallum, The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions (Radner, Pennsylvania; Chilton Book Co. 1975); www.cyberboxingzone.com and www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Campbell, Charles M. (1918-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Hawaii State Senator Charles M. Campbell was born in North Carolina in 1918.  He grew up there and received an A.D. degree from North Carolina College in Durham.  He also received an M.A. degree from Howard University and a second M.A. from Columbia University.  

Campbell began his career by becoming the first black newscaster to do “straight broadcasting” in Philadelphia. He was the first black member of the Radio Television News Directors Association and became Vice President of Radio News Reel Television Working Press Association. 

Sources: 
Naomi Campbell, Interview  with Daphne Barbee-Wooten, June 1999; “Spreading Aloha through Civil Rights,” by Daphne Barbee-Wooten, Hawaii Bar Journal, October 1999; Miles M. Jackson, And They Came (Honolulu: Four Publishers Inc., 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Teddy B. (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1953, Teddy Bernard Taylor graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Florida A&M University in 1975. During his time in Tallahassee, Taylor became a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Jefferson, Blind Lemon (c. 1890-1929)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Blind Lemon Jefferson was born in Couchman, Texas, sometime around the 1890s although the exact date is not known and several are claimed. He was the youngest of seven children and the only one of them born blind. The details of his birth and young life are not well known, nor are the reason that he first began to play guitar and sing, but his influence on the development of blues is well known. He gained the respect of his peers with what were termed inimitable skills, and left traces of his musical characteristics in most of the blues that came after him.

Even though he started out playing on street corners near his hometown, by 1917 Lemon was living in Dallas and was already well known and admired by his peers. He began traveling by train to surrounding areas and journeyed extensively, where he met other blues greats such as: Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), Robert Wilkins and Son House. It was widely thought that he played in every Southern state at one time or another and several artists recount stories of playing with him multiple times. Lemon was a firm businessman, playing only for money, with a reputation for stopping as soon as it did.
Sources: 
Keith Shadwick, The Encyclopedia of Jazz and Blues (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Quintet Publishing, 2001); http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9043478/Blind-Lemon-Jefferson
http://www.sfu.ca/~hayward/van/glossary/lemon.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mills, Harold (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Harold Mills
Courtesy of Mark Sharley 

Harold Mills is a boat racing pioneer and award winning driver.  Born August 16, 1953 in Seattle, Washington, he spent nine years in Houston, Texas as a child. He came back to Seattle and grew up as a fan of boat racing. 

In the late 1970s, up until 1985, Mills raced his own craft on the local hydroplane circuit. He won his first race in 1985, the Jim Spinner Memorial Regatta at Lake Sammamish outside Redmond, Washington. He retired from driving for the next four years, preferring to promote the sport as an organizer. In 1989, he returned to boat racing as a partner in a 7-litre boat team,  From that point he continued to race through the 1990s.  In 2000, he won 23 of 26 races he entered, driving a 2.5 liter modified hydroplane he called "Fast Freddy."

Harold Mills has won more than 100 races in his career. In 2001, he moved up to the Unlimited class as the first African American to pilot a turbine-powered unlimited hydroplane.  In 2002 he received the Association For Diversity In Motorsports Trailblazer Award.

Sources: 
George Fosty, "Hydroplane Racing," African American Sports Magazine (Vol. 6, 2006);
website: http://www.ulhra.org/news/news-06x02.htm.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dill, Augustus Granville (1881-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Augustus Granville Dill, sociologist, business manager, musician, and colleague of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois, is best known for his work overseeing the publication of Du Bois’s journal, The Crisis, between 1913 and 1928.  He also helped publish The Brownies’ Book, a pioneering magazine for black children published from 1920 to 1921.  In many ways, A.G. Dill represented the possibilities but also the difficulties of the college-educated “talented tenth” generation that Du Bois lauded as civil rights pioneers in his seminal Souls of Black Folk (1903).

Born in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1881, Dill came of age in the era of Jim Crow. After graduating from Atlanta University with a B.A. in 1906, he earned a second B.A. at Harvard University in 1908.  Dill was one of a handful of black students who matriculated at universities such as Harvard at the turn of the century but like his mentor Du Bois, he found few opportunities for advancement outside of the black institutions that had developed in response to segregation’s proscriptions. Atlanta University awarded Dill a Master’s degree in Sociology in 1909 and hired him as both a professor and organist for the school in 1910.  
Sources: 
W.E.B. DuBois, "Brownies' Book Opening Statement," The Brownies' Book 1 (February 1920); W.E.B. DuBois and Augustus Granville Dill, eds., The College-Bred Negro (Atlanta: Atlanta University Press, 1910); Theodore Kornweibel, “Augustus Granville Dill” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography  (New York:  W.W. Norton, 1982); David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963  (New York:  H. Holt, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University.

Last Poets, The (1968 - )

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

The Last Poets, a group of musicians and poet performers, originated out of the civil rights movement, with an emphasis on the black re-awakening. The original Last Poets were founded on Malcolm X’s birthday, May 19, 1968 at the former Mount Morris Park (Now Marcus Garvey Park), at 124th Street and Fifth Avenue in East Harlem, New York City. The original members, Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain, and David Nelson took the name from a poem by South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, who believed that he was in the last era of poetry before guns would take over.  They brought together music and spoken word.

The Original Last Poets would soon be overshadowed however by a group of the same name that spawned from a 1969 Harlem writer’s workshop called “East Wind.” Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, Umar Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole, and percusionist Nilaja are considered the core members of this group. In 1970 this group appeared on their self titled album. The Original Last Poets garnered some attention for their soundtrack to the 1971 film “Right On!” Following their debut album which made the top-ten lists, The Last Poets released The Last Poets (1970) and This is Madness (1971). Due to their politically charged lyrics both groups were targeted by COINTELPRO, Richard Nixon’s counter intelligence program along with other politically active organizations such as the Black Panthers.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, George B. (? --?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

George B. “Spider” Anderson is considered one of the greatest African American jockeys in horse racing history.  There are no details available on George Anderson's early life, not even the place or date of his birth.

Anderson achieved his greatest accomplishment by being the first African American jockey to win the Preakness Stakes held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Preakness Stakes is the 2nd stage of the Triple Crown series, between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in New York.

On May 10, 1889, the day of the race, Anderson struck one of his coaches, James Cook, across the head with a whip.  The reason for this altercation between the two remains unknown.  There is however speculation that because the 1889 Preakness Stakes only consisted of two horses; Buddhist, rode by Anderson, and Japhet, owned by former Maryland Governor Oden Bowie, there was tension between Cook, who was a friend of Governor Bowie, and Anderson.  There may have been words exchanged before the race which led to Anderson's attack.  Despite the altercation, Anderson was allowed to participate in the Preakness Stakes before receiving any punishment for his assault on Cook by authorities.

Anderson won the race riding Buddhist and easily beating Japhet.  Anderson finished the race with an astonishing time of 2:17.50 and became the 17th winner of the Preakness Stakes.

In 1891, Anderson had two other significant victories to his career, the Alabama Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course in Upstate New York and the Philip H. Iselin Handicap at the Monmouth Race Course in New Jersey.

Sources: 

Edward Hotaling, The Great Black Jockeys: The Lives and Times of the Men Who Dominated America's First National Sport (Rocklin, California: Forum, 1999); http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/scripts/jimcrow/sports.cgi?sport=Horseraci... Glenn C., Smith, "George "Spider" Anderson: First Black Jockey to Win the Preakness." Los Angeles Sentinel. 2000. HighBeam Research., http://www.highbeam.com.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Farrakhan, Louis Abdul (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Louis Abdul Farrakhan was born on May 11, 1933 in Bronx, New York as Louis Eugene Walcott.  Walcott, who grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts, excelled as a musician, singer and track star.  He attended a Boston-area school for gifted children and was given national exposure at age 14 when, as one of the first African Americans to appear on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, he won the competition for that episode.  After high school Walcott attended Winston-Salem Teachers College for two years and then worked as a calypso guitarist-singer. Walcott joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1955 and changed his name to Louis X and later Louis Farrakhan.  Initially he was a follower of Malcolm X, but became a competitor in the period before Malcolm’s assassination in 1965.

Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999), 732, 33; Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua and Clarence Lang, “Providence, Patriarchy, Pathology: Louis Farrakhan's Rise & Decline,” New Politics, vol. 6, no. 2 (new series), whole no. 22, Winter 1997. http://www.wpunj.edu/~newpol/issue22/chajua22.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson, Alphonso R. (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alphonso R. Jackson cultivated a three-decade career in public service that included an appointment as head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the administration of his long-time friend, President George W. Bush.  Born in Marshall, Texas, in 1946, Jackson grew up in South Dallas, the youngest of twelve children in a working-class family.  He earned a B.A. in political science (1968) and a M.Ed. (1969) from Northeast Missouri State University.  He then studied at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri, where he received a J.D. in 1972.  

Sources: 
Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 48, “Alphonso R. Jackson” (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Thomson Gale, 2005); “The Honorable Alphonso Jackson Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development,” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2008) http://www.hud.gov/about/secretary/jacksonbio.cfm; Rachel L. Swarns, “Top U.S. Housing Official Resigns,” The New York Times (March 31, 2008), http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/31/washington/31cnd-jackson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pegg, John Grant (1869-1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Owneship: Public Domain
John Grant Pegg was born around 1869 in Virginia.  He began his career in about 1890 as a Pullman porter, working out of Chicago. It was there that he met Mary Charlotte Page of Kansas, a seamstress. After their marriage they moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1898.  Pegg became involved in Omaha politics as a Republican committeeman who became known informally as the “councilman for the Black community.”  In 1910 Pegg became the first African American appointed Inspector of Weights & Measures for the City of Omaha.  His work in the black community led him to be known as a “race man” dedicated to improving the African American section of Omaha’s population. Pegg, for example, was a Shriner and a member of the local Masonic Lodge.

The Kincaid Homestead Act of 1904 opened up thousands of acres of northern Nebraska for homesteaders.  In 1911, John Pegg sponsored a number of black settlers who went by wagon out to Cherry County, Nebraska to homestead.  Among them were his brother Charlie Pegg and his nephew James. They homesteaded land in John Pegg’s name in Cherry County although John Pegg never lived on the homestead. His brother and nephew operated a cattle ranch that supplied beef to the South Omaha packing plants.  John Grant Pegg died in 1916 in Omaha.
Sources: 
Personal letters and journal entries of William Gaitha Pegg, son of John Grant Pegg, 1982.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Wheatley, Phillis (1754-1784)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Enslaved in Senegal [in a region that is now in Gambia] at age eight and brought to America on a schooner called the Phillis (for which she was apparently named), was purchased by Susannah and John Wheatley, who soon recognized her intellect and facility with language.  Susannah Wheatley taught Phillis to read not only English but some Latin.  While yet in her teens, Phillis Wheatley became the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry, and the third woman in the American colonies to do so.  That book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, became controversial twice.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America’s First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2003); http://www.jmu.edu/madison/center/main_pages/madison_archives/era/african/free/wheatley/bio.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brigham Young University

Hall, Juanita (1901-1968)

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

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

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

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

Clemente, Roberto (Walker) (1934-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of Don Sparks
Roberto (Walker) Clemente is widely considered one of the leading right fielders in baseball; he is as well known for his selfless humanitarian dedication to providing aid to Latin American people in need.

Clemente was born in barrio San Anton in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the youngest of four children, and at a very early age developed an affinity and talent for playing baseball.  At 17 he began to play for the Santurce Cangrejeros in the Puerto Rican Winter Baseball League.  In the winter of 1953 he was discovered by the Brooklyn (New York) Dodgers and signed to a $10,000 a year contract. After a year in the minors, he was purchased from the Dodgers by the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Pirates and would play for them for the next 18 seasons.  
Sources: 
Michael Silverstone, Latino Legends: Hispanics in Major League Baseball (Bloomington, Minnesota: Red Brick Learning, 2004); Bruce Markusen, Roberto Clemente : The Great One (Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing Inc., 1998); Roberto Clemente, 1934-1972: First Latino in Baseball Hall of Fame, http://learningenglish.voanews.com/content/a-23-2006-08-27-voa1-83129827/126140.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Baker, Thomas Nelson, Sr. (1860-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Nelson Baker, Sr. was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in philosophy. He was a writer, orator, ethicist, and advocate for a positive black cultural identity.  Baker was born a slave on August 11, 1860 to Thomas Chadwick and Edith Nottingham Baker on Robert Nottingham’s plantation in Northampton County, Virginia.  Baker’s mother taught him to read the Bible and he attended public school from 1868 to 1872.  He left school at the age of 12 to help support his family.  Even while working as a farmhand, he continued his studies privately and in 1881 at the age of 21, he enrolled in the Hampton Institute High School program.  Baker graduated in 1885 as valedictorian of his class.

Determined to prepare for college entrance, in May of 1886 Baker enrolled in the Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts, where despite being one of only two black students in attendance he acted as substitute principal in the summer months.  He graduated from Mount Hermon in June 1889.  

Baker entered Boston University’s Liberal Arts School in 1890 and graduated with his B.A. in 1893.  From there he enrolled in the Yale Divinity School where he earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1896.  The following year he was ordained as minister at Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church in New Haven and remained there until 1901 while simultaneously studying philosophy at Yale Graduate School.
Sources: 
George Yancy, “Thomas Nelson Baker: Toward an Understanding of a Pioneer Black Philosopher,” Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience American Philosophical Association 95:2 (Spring 1996); Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (Va.), The Southern Workman (Hampton, Virginia: Hampton Institute Press, 1938); Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, Record of Christian Work Vol. 23 (East Northfield, Massachusetts: Record of Christian Work Co., 1904).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Abernathy, Ralph (1926-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ralph David Abernathy was born on March 11, 1926 in Linden, Alabama.  His boyhood was spent on his father’s Alabama farm but he joined the U.S. Army and served in World War II from 1941 to 1945.  After his service Abernathy returned to his home state where he attended Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama, receiving a degree in Mathematics in 1950.  
Sources: 
Ralph David Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography (New York: Harper and Row, 1989); http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2736.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Spraggs, Venice Tipton (1905-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Chicago Defender Front Page, November 16, 1940
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Venice Tipton Spraggs served as the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Defender and was the first African American inducted into Theta Sigma Phi, a professional journalism fraternity.  Spraggs was born in 1905 in Birmingham, Alabama to Barbara Tipton.  She attended Spelman College and married William Spraggs, a presser from Birmingham, in 1924.  The couple had no children.
Sources: 
Helen W. Berthelot, Win Some, Lose Some: G. Mennen Williams and the New Democrats (Detroit: Wayne University Press, 1995); Cheryl Mullenbach, Double Victory: How African-American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013); United States of America, Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930, Census Place: Birmingham, Jefferson, Alabama (roll 30, page 17A, Enumeration District 0098, Image 35.0, FHL microfilm 2339765).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Burroughs, Jr., John Andrew (1936–2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Andrew Burroughs, Jr. was an equal opportunity advocate and diplomat who was born in Washington, D.C. on July 31, 1936. He spent his youth in Washington, D.C. before moving to the Midwest to attend the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.  While there he played on the varsity football team, helping it win two conference championships and two Rose Bowl games. He graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree in 1959. After graduation, Burroughs returned to Washington, D.C., where he became a social sciences teacher in the city’s public school system.

In 1960 Burroughs left teaching to become an employee in the U.S. Department of State. His first job was as an employee in the passport examiner’s office from 1960 to 1963. In 1963 he was promoted to Assistant Chief of Special Services Branch of the Passport Office, a post he held until 1964.  
Sources: 
Jet magazine, May 20, 1985 and October 20, 1986; “Ambassador Nomination,” http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=36008; Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) Country Reader on Malawi: http://adst.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Malawi.pdf; Obituary Notice, Washington Post, September 26, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Horne, Lena (1917-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lena Horne was a major 20th Century entertainer.  Born in Brooklyn, New York into an upper middle class black family on June 30, 1917, Horne battled racial injustice throughout her career. Despite her obstacles she became one of the most well known African American performers of the 20th Century, achieving fame as a singer and actor.
Horne’s legendary career began in 1933 when at 16 she was hired to perform in the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem. There she was surrounded by up in coming jazz legends including Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson and Duke Ellington.  For the next five years, Horne performed in several night clubs, on Broadway, and toured with the Charlie Barnett swing band as a singer.   Barnett’s band was white thus allowing Horne to become one of the first African American star performers who developed an appeal across American racial boundaries.    

In 1938, Horne moved to Hollywood where she was cast in several movies. Years later Horne recalled, "In every other film I just sang a song or two; the scenes could be cut out when they were sent to local distributors in the South. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of a chance to act."

Sources: 
James Haskins, A Personal and Professional Biography of Lena Horne, (Detroit: Scarborough House, 1991); AlJean Harmetz, "Lena Horne Obituary," New York Times, May 10, 2010; http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/horne_l.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cromwell, John Wesley (1846-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Wesley Cromwell was a historian, editor, educator and lawyer who was born into slavery on September 5th, 1846 in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was the youngest child of Willis Hodges Cromwell and Elizabeth Carney Cromwell, who had twelve children. In 1851 Willis Cromwell obtained his family’s freedom and they moved to West Philadelphia. John attended Bird’s Grammar School at the age of ten and the Institute for Colored Youth in 1856. He graduated in 1864 and taught briefly in Colombia, Pennsylvania.

Cromwell returned to Virginia in 1865 at the age of eighteen and opened a private school for freedmen in Portsmouth, which was eventually taken over by the American Missionary Association. He returned to Philadelphia and worked with the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People. In December of 1865, the principal of the Association recommended Cromwell to teach in the American Missionary Association’s freedman’s schools being formed across the South. Cromwell taught briefly in Maryland and Virginia through 1867.

John Wesley Cromwell soon got involved with local politics in Virginia. In 1867 he was named a delegate to the first Republican convention in Richmond. He was also named clerk in the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1868.

Sources: 
Adelaide M. Cromwell, Unveiled Voices, Unvarnished Memories: The Cromwell Family in Slavery and Segregation, 1692-1972 (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2007); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mitchell, Abbie (1884-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Kilpatrick, Kwame M. (1970--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kwame Kilpatrick & Christine Beatty
Image Ownership: Public Domain

In 2002, Kwame Malik Kilpatrick, at the age of 31, became the youngest person to be elected mayor of Detroit, Michigan.  Six years later in 2008, Kilpatrick resigned his post as mayor after his conviction for obstruction of justice stemming from a sex scandal involving the mayor and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty. Kilpatrick, married and the father of three sons, had an affair with Beatty, a divorced single mother and then committed perjury in a 2007 trial when he denied the relationship under oath.  Kilpatrick was forced to resign from his office and spent 120 days in jail as part of a guilty plea to the charges of obstructing justice.

Kilpatrick, the son of U.S. Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Bernard Kilpatrick, former Chief of Staff for Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara, was born in Detroit on June 6, 1970.  Kilpatrick was the captain of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s football team.  He earned a B.A. degree in political science there.  He returned to Detroit and taught at the Marcus Garvey Academy.  

Sources: 

Can Kwame Kilpatrick Grow Up, Steven Gray/Detroit Thursday, Sep. 20, 2007, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1663791,00.html; Kwame Kilpatrick, M.J. Stephey, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008, /www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1854335,00.html; Kwame Kilpatrick exits, with Barack Obama holding the door, Edward McClelland September 4, 2008, www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/09/04/detroit/; Resources for Elected Officials, DLC, Profile, May 15, 2003,100 To Watch :: 2003 The Next Generation of Leadership, www.ndol.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=251633&kaid=104&subid=210.

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Grant, George Franklin (1847-1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dr. George Franklin Grant was the first African American professor at Harvard. He was born in Oswego, New York to former slaves. When he was fifteen years old a local dentist, Dr. Albert Smith, hired him as an errand boy. He soon became a lab assistant, and Dr. Smith encouraged him to pursue a career in dentistry. In 1868 he and Robert Tanner Freeman, another son of former slaves, became the first blacks to enroll in Harvard Dental School. After receiving his degree in 1870, he became the first African American faculty member at Harvard, in the School of Mechanical Dentistry, where he served for 19 years.

While there he specialized in treating patients with congenital cleft palates. His first patient was a 14 year-old girl, and by 1889 he had treated 115 cases. He patented the oblate palate, a prosthetic device that allowed patients to speak more normally. He was a founding member and president of the Harvard Odontological  Society, and, in 1881, he was elected President of the Harvard Dental Association.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, Wyatt Tee (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Taylor Branch, At Canaan's edge America in the King years, 1965-68 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006); Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); http://canaanbaptistchurchny.org/; http://www.wyattteewalker.com/about_chrono.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Barnett, Ida Wells (1862-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

Bambaataa, Afrika (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

One of hip-hop culture's most influential pioneers, Afrika Bambaataa was the first to articulate an ideology for the emerging youth culture, using the music to illustrate hip-hop's expansive potential as a global movement. As a DJ and recording artist, Bambaataa embraced every musical genre to establish hip-hop as an aesthetic form based on juxtaposition and appropriation. As a leading spokesman for the hip-hop generation, Bambaataa delineated the four elements of hip-hop as rapping, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti-writing, giving the manifold trends of late seventies minority youth in New York City a definitive coherence.

From his childhood in the Bronx River Projects, Bambaataa was a natural leader and by his early teens he rose to command ranks in the neighborhood’s dominant youth gang. As his focus moved to throwing parties around the neighborhood, he was blessed with an instant following, which only grew as his recognition as the borough’s preeminent DJ became widespread. In 1982, along with his crew of MCs and DJs, the Soul Sonic Force, Bambaataa released “Planet Rock,” one of the most influential early hip-hop songs, which is also credited as one of the leading inspirations for the forthcoming electronic musical genres.

Sources: 
Jeff Chang, Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (New York: Picador Press, 2005); Steven Hager, “Afrika Bambaataa’s Hip-Hop” in Raquel Cepeda, ed., And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years (New York: Faber and Faber Inc.).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Thompson, Theophilus (1855-?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Theophilus Augustus Thompson was one of the first notable African American chess players. Thompson was born into slavery in Frederick, Maryland on April 21, 1855. Freed after the Civil War, he worked as a house servant in Carroll County, Maryland from 1868 to 1870.

Returning to Frederick, Thompson soon became involved in the chess scene. He watched his first chess game in April 1872. One of the players in the game was John K. Hanshew, publisher of The Maryland Chess Review. Hanshew loaned the interested Thompson a chess board and gave him selected chess problems to solve.

Before long, Thompson was publishing his own chess problems in The Dubuque Chess Review. His new-found skills in the game also allowed him to compete against other talented players. Most records of his playing career are unclear, but it is known that he was invited to a tournament in Chicago at some point.

Thompson’s most famous legacy was his book, Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate, or Compel Self-mate in Four Moves. Published in 1873, the book was a compilation of chess endgame positions, puzzles which covered the final moves of chess games. Thompson’s book was reviewed favorably in The City of London Chess Magazine in July 1874.

Details about Thompson’s later life and his date of death are unknown.

Sources: 
http://www.thechessdrum.net/drummajors/T_Thompson.html; Theophilus Thompson, Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate, or Compel Self-Mate in Four Moves (Dubuque: John J. Brownson, 1873).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Perry, Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew [“Stepin Fetchit”] (1902-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Reviled by Langston Hughes and many others for his film and stage portrayals of black characters as “lazy, shuffling, no-account Negroes,” Perry transformed himself from a minor-league minstrel clown into one of the most highly-paid black actors in Hollywood, California history at the expense of a legacy which many find revolting and others see as pioneering in times far different from our own.
Sources: 
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes & Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in American Films (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1988); Mel Watkins, Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry (New York: Pantheon Books, 2005)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Calvin, Floyd Joseph (1902-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Floyd Calvin was a journalist who also launched a newswire service and hosted the first black radio show during the Harlem Renaissance.

Calvin was born in 1902 to a school teacher and a farmer in Washington, Arkansas.  He graduated from Shover State Teacher Training College in Hope, Arkansas in 1920 and attended the City College of New York for another year after migrating to Harlem.

In 1922, after college, Calvin began working briefly as an associate editor of the Messenger, the political and literary magazine which many historians claim was at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance. There he worked with A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen, the founders of the magazine. In 1924 Calvin began working at the Pittsburgh Courier, which at the time was one of the two most widely circulated black newspapers in the country (the Chicago Defender was the other).  There, he was a writer and special features editor from 1924 to 1935 working in the New York office of the Courier.

In 1927, Calvin hosted a periodic radio talk show sponsored by the Courier.  It was broadcast on radio station WGBS, and it covered African-American-focused topics.  The show, the Courier Hour, was the first radio program ever sponsored by a black newspaper and the first radio talk program targeting an African American audience.
Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981); Ryan Ellett, Uncovering Black Radio’s Roots: 1927 – 1929 (http://otrr.org).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Baker, Ella (1903-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Through her decades of work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and later with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Ella Baker emerged as one of the most important women in the civil rights movement.  Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia.  After grammar school, her mother enrolled her in Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.  She graduated as the valedictorian of both her high school and college graduating classes.  The college valedictorian honor was all the more remarkable because she worked her way through school as a waitress and chemistry lab assistant.  Baker graduated from Shaw University with a B.A. in June 1927.
Sources: 
Joanne Grant, Ella Baker Freedom Bound (New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1998); Rosetta E Ross, Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bogle, Paul (1822-1865)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Paul Bogle led the last large scale armed Jamaican rebellion for voting rights and an end to legal discrimination and economic oppression against African Jamaicans.  Because of his efforts Bogle was recognized as a national hero in Jamaica in 1969.  His face appears on the Jamaican two-dollar bill and 10-cent coin.

Paul Bogle was born free to Cecelia Bogle, a free woman, and an unknown father in the St. Thomas parish in 1822.  Bogle’s mother soon died and he was raised by his grandmother.  As an adult Bogle owned a home in Stony Gut and had another house in Spring Garden as well as a 500 acre farm at Dunrobin making him one of the few African Jamaicans prosperous enough to pay the fee to vote.  In 1845, for example, there were only 104 voters in St. Thomas parish which had an adult population of at least 3,300.

Bogle became a supporter of George William Gordon, an Afro-Jamaican politician and fellow landowner and Baptist.  In 1854 Gordon made the 32-year-old Bogle a deacon.  Bogle, in turn, built a chapel in Stony Gut which held religious and political meetings.
Sources: 
National Library of Jamaica:  http://www.nlj.gov.jm/?q=content/national-heroes#bogle; Mary Dixon, The Morant Bay Rebellion: The Story of George William Gordon and Paul Bogle (Birmingham, UK: Handprint, 1990); Gad Heuman, "The Killing Time": The Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995); Paul Bogle, 1822-1865, Dugdale-Pointon, T. (22 September 2008) http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_bogle_paul.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cole, Rebecca J. (1846-1922)

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

Dr. Rebecca J. Cole was the first black woman doctor in the United States.  Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 16, 1846, Cole was one of five children.

Cole began her schooling at the Institute for Colored Youth and graduated in 1863.  She then attended the New England Female Medical College and graduated in 1864 after completing her thesis titled “The Eye and Its Appendages.”  With her graduation she became the first formally trained black woman doctor in the United States.  She received a second medical degree in 1867 when she graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.   

After graduation, Cole went to work at Elizabeth Blackwell’s Infirmary for Women and Children in New York.  After gaining experience there, she moved to Columbia, South Carolina to practice but then later returned to Philadelphia.  Cole also set up practices in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. during her medical career.

Sources: 
Darlene Hine, Black Women in America:an Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Pub., 1993);  Harry A. Ploski and James Williams, The Negro Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Incorporated, 1989); http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_66.html (Accessed November 20, 2009); Sandra Harding, The "Racial" Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future (Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1993); Dorthy Sterling, “We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century” (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Joseph, Emmanuel Francis (1900–1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Emmanuel Francis (E.F.) Joseph was the first professional African American photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Born on November 8, 1900 on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, Joseph would later move to the United States and attend the American School of Photography in Chicago, Illinois. After graduation in 1924, Joseph moved to Oakland, California, where he apprenticed in a photography studio.

In the early 1930s, Joseph began his career as a photojournalist. Over his lifetime, he worked for numerous Bay Area newspapers, including the California Voice, The Oakland Post, San Francisco Examiner, and the nationally distributed Pittsburgh Courier from Pennsylvania.  
Sources: 
African American Museum and Library at Oakland, http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8930w8p/;  “Careth Reid Saves Black History Photographs from Destruction,” Oakland Post, May 5, 2012, http://content.postnewsgroup.com/author/admin/page/16/; Lincoln Cushing, “Picturing the workers of Kaiser Permanente,” http://kaiserpermanentehistory.org/latest/picturing-the-workers-of-kaiser-permanente/; Tom Debley, “In Memory of Lena Horne and Launch of the SS George Washington Carver Liberty Ship,” http://kaiserpermanentehistory.org/latest/in-memory-of-lena-horne-launch-of-the-ss-george-washington-carver-liberty-ship/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Thomas, Clarence (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the U.S. 
Supreme Court

Clarence Thomas, the second African American to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Pin Point, Georgia, a small community south of Savannah.  His mother, Leola Williams, a single parent, raised Thomas until he was seven.  He and his brother, Myers, were sent to Savannah where they were raised by their maternal grandfather, Myers Anderson. To help his grandsons to survive in the Jim Crow South, Anderson, a Democrat, local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) member, and recent convert to Catholicism, instilled in them a discipline and pride that would counterpoint the harshness of southern racism.  Thomas remembers that after purchasing a new truck, his grandfather removed the heater because he believed its use would make the boys lazy.

Thomas was educated in St. Benedict the Moor, an all-black Catholic school in Savannah and later became the only African American student at St. John Vianney Minor Seminary just outside Savannah.  In 1967 he entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in northwestern Missouri to prepare for the priesthood.  He withdrew after viewing one fellow student’s pleasure at the news that Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated.

Sources: 
Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007); Ken Goskett, Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas (New York: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2004); William Grimes, “The Justice Looks Back and Settles Old Scores,” New York Times, Wednesday, October 19, 2007, B1; David Savage, “In rulings, little hint of his meager start,” Los Angeles Times, Sunday, October 28, 2007, A22; Jeffrey Toobin, “Unforgiven: Why is Clarence Thomas so Angry?” New Yorker, November 12, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Grizzle, Stanley G. (1918- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Courtesy of Sandra Danilovic, TV documentary,
"Portrait of a Street: The Soul and Spirit of College"
(2001, Rodna Films Inc.)
Stanley G. Grizzle founded the Railway Porter’s Trade Union Council and served as president of the Toronto Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) Division of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) from 1946 to 1962.

Grizzle was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1918, to Jamaican parents who immigrated to Canada in 1911. He became a railway porter at the age of 22 to help support his family. In 1938 Grizzle helped form the Young Men’s Negro Association of Toronto, initiating a period of activity which would make him one of the leaders in the black Canadian campaign for civil rights.  
Sources: 
Stanley G. Grizzle and John Cooper, My Name’s Not George: The Story of Sleeping Car Porters (Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1997); Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997). http://www.answers.com/topic/stanley-g-grizzle.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Poindexter, James (1819-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Shepperson, James E. (1858 - ?)

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

 

Sources: 

Through Open Eyes (Ninety-Five Years of Black History in Roslyn,
Washington), http://epl.eburg.com/Roslyn/openeyes.html; Quintard
Taylor, “A History of Blacks in the Pacific Northwest, 1788-1970,”
Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1977; www.ancestry.com

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cosby, Bill (1937-- )

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Holland, Endesha Ida Mae (1944-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland was born into abject poverty in Greenwood, Mississippi. She experienced extreme racism, lack of options, and little support to change her life. As a teenager she quit school, turned to prostitution and theft as a way to make it in the world she knew – a world that included being raped by a neighbor, multiple “fathers” and broken dreams.

Her first time in jail was as a teenager having dropped out of school and turned towards a life of prostitution and theft. She was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail – but this wouldn’t be the last time. She went to prison on assault and battery charges after having married, given birth, and found her husband cheating. When she was released from prison, her options were narrow and she returned to “streetwalking” – the life she knew.

This time, the man she pursued was active in SNCC. Holland pursued him all the way back to SNCC offices where she was introduced to the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Holland would go to jail many times in her future, not for streetwalking but for protesting with the Movement. One these trips included the state penitentiary with other Civil Rights activists. After thirty-three days, she was released and shortly thereafter met Dr. Jackson and Dr. King.

Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University, Antioch McGregor University

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

Wiggins, Forrest Oran (1907-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Forrest Oran Wiggins was born in 1907 to Charles and Cora Cosby Wiggins. A native of Vincennes, Indiana, Wiggins attended public schools in Vincennes and Indianapolis. In 1928 Wiggins received his B.A. from Butler University and in the following year earned a certificate in French from the Sorbonne. Wiggins would go on to teach French and well as philosophy on various college campuses. He received his Master’s (1929) and Ph.D. (1931) in philosophy with both degrees earned from University of Wisconsin.

Wiggins became the first African American to teach at University of Minnesota. Wiggins was one of only four African American philosophers that by 1950 had regular faculty posts on predominantly white colleges. A long time member of the American Philosophical Association, Wiggins came to Minnesota highly recommended as a scholar and teacher. When Wiggins arrived in the Twin Cities, he had considerable teaching experience, having been an instructor for13 years at a number of black institutions including: Morehouse College, Howard University, Johnson C. Smith, North Carolina Central, and Louisville Municipal College. Despite his credentials and experience, Wiggins was hired at the rank of (untenured) instructor.
Sources: 
Dick Bruner, “Around the U.S.A., The Wiggins Case” The Nation (March 22, 1952) p. 2; Clark Johnson, “Biographical Sketch of Forrest Oran Wiggins” in the Forrest Oran Wiggins Papers, University of Minnesota Archives (November 2003).
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Olajuwon, Hakeem (1963-- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hakeem Olajuwon was a professional and collegiate basketball player, and is now retired. Olajuwon was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in January 1963, and lived there until he moved to Texas in 1980 to attend the University of Houston.  

Olajuwon grew up in Lagos playing mostly soccer but changed his focus to basketball at the age of 15 because of his height, then six feet, nine inches. However the years he spent playing goalkeeper on the soccer field paid off later in his basketball career, helping him develop good footwork and agility. Although Olajuwon did not attract a lot of attention from college basketball programs, he did catch the eye of the coach from the University of Houston and moved to the United States to attend school and play basketball for the Cougars under coach Guy Lewis. Lewis had never actually seen Hakeem play, but offered him a try out based on the recommendation of a friend who saw Olajuwon play in a tournament.
Sources: 
Hakeem Olajuwon and Peter Knobler, Living the Dream: My Life and Basketball (Boston: Little Brown, 1996); Othello Harris, Claire Elaine Nolte, and George B. Kirsch, eds., Enyclopedia of Ethnicity and Sports (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000); “Hakeem Olajuwon,” NBA.com http://www.nba.com/playerfile/hakeem_olajuwon/index.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Van Der Zee, James (1886-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James VanDerZee was an African American photographer during the Harlem Renaissance who was best known for his pictures that captured the lives of African Americans in New York City, New York. He had a gift for capturing the most influential individuals and riveting artistic moments of the era.  Early 20th century black activist Marcus Garvey, black entertainer/ dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and renowned black poet Countee Cullen were among his more prominent subjects.

VanDerZee was born in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1886.  He demonstrated a gift for music and initially aspired to a career as a professional violinist.  
Sources: 
James VanDerZee, Drop Me Off in Harlem (Washington D.C., The Kennedy Center, 1922: Photographs).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Guinier, Ewart (1910-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture

Ewart Guinier, labor activist and political candidate, was the first chairman of Harvard University’s Afro-American Studies Department. Born in Panama in 1910, Guinier migrated to the United States in 1925 and attended high school in Boston, Massachusetts. After his acceptance into the Harvard University Class of 1933, Guinier was denied a scholarship because he allegedly did not submit a photograph with his application and because of his race he was not permitted to reside in the all-white dormitories. Guinier nonetheless started classes at Harvard but dropped out in 1931 due to the high tuition costs.  He transferred to the City University of New York where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1935.  He later received his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1939 and his law degree from New York University in 1959.

Sources: 
Ewart Guinier, “Impact of Unionization on Blacks,” Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 30:2 (Dec. 1970): 173-181; http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/07/obituaries/ewart-guinier-79-who-headed-afro-american-studies-at-harvard.html; http://www.nypl.org/archives/3674; http://mvgazette.com/article.php?22763.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Sampson, Edith Spurlock (1901-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Edith Anne Lewis and Lorraine M. Gutierrez, Empowering Women of Color (New York, Columbia University Press, 1999); Jessie Carney Smith, Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events (Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003); http://www.stanford.edu/group/WLHP/papers/edith.html; http://www.nathanielturner.com/edithsampson.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Basquiat, Jean Michel (1960 –1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The Estate of Jean Michel Basquiat
Artist Jean Michel Basquiat was born on December 22, 1960 to a Puerto Rican mother, Matilde Andradas, and a Haitian father, Gérard Basquiat, who raised him in the Puerto Rican barrio of Park Slope in Brooklyn, New York. Fluent in English, Spanish, and French, Basquiat was a sensitive and creative middle-class child who railed against authority, refusing to finish high school and running away from home multiple times as a teenager to live in Washington Square Park in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Fifteen-year-old Basquiat began his artistic career as a graffiti artist in lower Manhattan under the pseudonym SAMO in 1976 and over the next three years he gained notoriety and fame. Basquiat and a friend, Al Diaz, invented SAMO (Same Old Shit) in an article for a school newspaper in 1977. It became Basquiat’s notorious graffiti signature on the streets of New York. SAMO brought Basquiat into contact with a variety of artists, including Keith Haring who facilitated his unofficial entry into the art world.

In 1978, Basquiat left home for good both penniless and homeless, living with various acquaintances when he could. He produced $1 punk-inspired postcards for sale on the street to earn money and created a band called “Gray” after the anatomy book “Gray’s Anatomy.” He also frequented the Mudd Club, a hotspot for rising stars such as Klaus Nomi, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and Sid Vicious.
Sources: 
Leønhard Emmerling, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1960-1988 (Los Angeles: Taschen, 2006); Eric Fretz, Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Biography (Denver: Greenwood Press, 2010); Phoebe Hoban, Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art (New York: Viking Press, 1998); Frederick H. Lowe, "Sale of Basquiat Painting at $48 Million-Plus Breaks His Record," The NorthStar News, 17 May 2013, available online at: http://www.thenorthstarnews.com/may-17-2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Looby, Z. Alexander (1899-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Z. Alexander Looby was among the small cadre of African American lawyers who began practicing in the southern United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Often considered the “second generation of black attorneys,” these lawyers followed the first cadre of African Americans who began practicing in the 1880s.  They also provided much of the legal work that led to the dismantling of segregation in the late 20th Century.

Zephaniah Alexander Looby was born in Antigua, British West Indies in 1899 and immigrated to the United States in 1914 after the death of his father.  He earned a B.A. degree from Howard University and a law degree from Columbia University.  Looby came to Nashville, Tennessee in 1926 to work as an assistant professor of economics at Fisk University. Three years later he was admitted to the Tennessee bar and practiced in Memphis for three years.  In 1934 he married Grafta Mosby, a Memphis schoolteacher.  Around 1935 Looby returned to Nashville and helped found the Kent College for Law for African Americans.  
Sources: 
Linda T. Wynn, “Zephaniah Alexander Looby” in The Encyclopedia of Tennessee History and Culture edited by Carroll Van West (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998); John Egerton, Oral history interview with Adolpho A. Birch, June 22, 2005, housed at the Nashville Public Library, Nashville, Tennessee.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Holloway, Anne Forrester (1941- 2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Anne Forrester Holloway was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mali on November 6, 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. She was the first African American woman to hold that post.  

Forrester was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 2, 1941.  She attended public schools in Philadelphia but then transferred to a predominantly white school, Northfield Mount Hermon School, in Gill, Massachusetts, graduating June 1959.  She graduated from Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont in 1963 and later received her master’s degree in African Studies at Howard University in 1968. Ms. Forrester’s doctoral work culminated with a 1975 degree from the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Sources: 
"Anne Forrester, Ambassador to Mali" (2006, July 3), retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/02/AR2006070200695.html; U.S. State Department, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/holloway-anne-forrester.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Perry, June Carter Perry (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador June Carter Perry was born November 13, 1943 in Texarkana, Arkansas.  After completing grade school, Perry was accepted at the Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois where in 1965 she earned her degree in history.  Two years later she earned a master’s degree in European History at the University of Chicago.  Shortly afterwards she married Frederick M. Perry and the couple had two children, Chad and Andre.  

From May 1972 to October 1974, Perry served as the Public Affairs Director and broadcaster for WGMS/RKO Radio in Washington, D.C.  In October 1974, she became a Special Assistant in the Community Services Administration, a national anti-poverty agency. In September 1976, Perry became the Public Affairs Director for the Peace Corps, the ACTION agency, and VISTA.  Perry remained the Public Affairs Director of the three programs until 1982.

Sources: 
“June Carter Perry,” U.S. Department of State Archives, http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/91290.htm; “June Carter Perry,” US Department: Diplomacy in Action, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/pix/blackhistory/2009/116116.htm; LinkedIn: Ambassador June Carter Perry, https://www.linkedin.com/pub/ambassador-june-carter-perry-ret/6a/2a3/570.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Matthews, Victoria Earle (1861-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Victoria Earle Smith was an accomplished journalist, author, lecturer, clubwoman, social worker, and missionary.  She was born on May 27, 1861 in Fort Valley, Georgia, to Caroline Smith, a slave, and a man who was believed to be the family’s master.  Caroline fled the plantation at the start of the Civil War, but returned after emancipation and regained custody of Victoria and her sister.  The family eventually moved to New York City, where Victoria excelled in public school until financial and family conditions made it necessary for her to quit and go into domestic service.  Victoria continued her education by using the library of her employer, special studies and other opportunities to improve herself. When she was 18 years old she married William Matthews and they had one son, Lamartine.  
Sources: 
Hallie Q. Brown, Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction (Xenia, Ohio:  Aldine Publishing Company, 1926); Floris Barnett Cash, “Victoria Earle Matthews,” Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research, 1992); http://www.africanamericans.com/VictoriaMatthews.htm .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Europe, James Reese (1881-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
James Reese Europe and Band Members, 1918
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Reese Europe, one of the first African American to record music in the United States, was born on February 22, 1881 in Mobile Alabama to Henry and Lorraine Europe.  When he was ten, his family moved to Washington D.C. where he began to study violin with Enrico Hurlei, the assistant director of the Marine Corps Band.  In 1904, Reese moved to New York to continue his musical studies.  

In 1910, Europe founded one of the most well known African American organizations during that time, The Clef Club, a part union and part fraternal organization which owned a building on West 53rd Street.  Europe was the Clef Club's first elected president as well as the conductor of its symphony orchestra.  The Clef Club Orchestra appeared at Carnegie Hall for the first time on May 2, 1912 and later in 1913 and 1914.  The Carnegie Hall concerts gave the Clef Club Orchestra respectability in upper class circles and as a result, they were engaged to play at many of the most elite functions in New York, London, Paris, and on yachts traveling worldwide.  The Orchestra generated over $100,000 in bookings during the period.  In 1913 Europe also made the first of a series of phonograph records for the Victor Talking Machine Company.
Sources: 
F. Reid Badger, A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, “Europe, James Reese,” Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983); http://jass.com/Others/europe.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Stewart, John (1786-1823)

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

Mahal, Taj (Henry St. Claire Fredericks) (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Blues, jazz, and folk musician Taj Mahal was born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem, New York on May 17, 1942.   He was raised in Springfield, Massachusetts by musically gifted parents. Mahal's father was a jazz musician and his mother a gospel singer.  As a child, Mahal learned how to play various instruments, such as the piano, harmonica, clarinet, and guitar.

Mahal attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst during the early 1960s. He played in the institution's band, the Electras. Mahal became a blues performer who specializes in a variety of musical genres, including country blues, reggae, jazz, rhythm and blues, ragtime and folk music. As a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer, he plays the guitar, harmonica, and banjo. Mahal has traveled the globe, and has learned to fuse different nontraditional forms of music into blues.

Sources: 

Robert Santelli, The Big Book of Blues (New York: Penguin Books, 1993); Taj Mahal and Stephen Foehr, Taj Mahal: Autobiography of a Bluesman (London: Sanctuary Publishing, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Carey, Archibald, Jr. (1908-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Singleton, Benjamin "Pap" (1809-1892)

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

 

Sources: 
Nell Irvine Painter, Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1976); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West 1528-1900 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998); "The "Exodusters" Movement" in The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide to the Study of Black History & Culture,  http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam009.html; Lin Frederickson, "He Was Once a Slave" on the Kansas Memory Blog of the Kansas Historical Society, http://www.kansasmemory.org/blog/post/73490075
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Kincaid, Jamaica [aka Elaine Potter Richardson] (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Writer Jamaica Kincaid was born Elaine Potter Richardson on the Caribbean island of Antigua on May 25, 1949, when it was still under British colonial rule. At age three, Kincaid was taught to read by her mother but was later neglected when three boys were born to the family.  Kincaid attended schools on the island, however with few opportunities available to females, she began apprenticing as a seamstress after school as a very young girl. Childhood experiences of exploitation and oppression would be integral themes in her later writing.

In 1965, soon after she turned 16, Kincaid left Antigua to work as an au pair in Scarsdale, New York.  She earned a high school equivalency diploma and enrolled in photography classes.  After finding her writing voice through poetry to accompany her photographs, Kincaid wrote a series of articles for Ingenue magazine, interviewing celebrities about their teen years.  In1974, she began writing for the New Yorker column, “Talk of the Town.”  Her first book, At the Bottom of the River (1983), gathers the stories she had published in the New Yorker between 1978 and 1979.
Sources: 
Justin D. Edwards, Understanding Jamaica Kincaid  (Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press, 2007); Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Jamaica Kincaid:  A Literary Companion (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Domingo, Wilfred A. (1889-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The Jamaican born Wilfred A. Domingo was part of an influential community of West Indian radicals active in Harlem's New Negro movement in the early 20th century. A member of the Socialist Party and a journalist by trade, Domingo contributed to Cyril Briggs' Crusader and A. Philip Randolph's Messenger, along with a host of other community publications. He became the first editor of Marcus Garvey's New World and played a key role in shaping Garvey's race-conscious, nationalist ideology. However, as a class-conscious member of the Socialist Party, Domingo clashed with Garvey's capitalist orientation and ultimately broke with the UNIA. At the same time, Domingo was frustrated with the Socialist Party's failure to make African American rights a priority and drifted toward Briggs' more militant African Blood Brotherhood, which was closely aligned with the Communist Party in the early 1920s.

In the 1930s Domingo became increasingly focused on his homeland and the issue of Jamaican independence. In 1936 he cofounded the Jamaica Progressive League in Harlem, which agitated for Jamaican self-rule, universal suffrage, unionization, and the organization of consumer cooperatives. Domingo returned to Jamaica in 1938 to join Norman Manley's People's National Party and served as vice-chair of the Trades Union Advisory Council. After returning to New York in 1947, Domingo broke with the PNP. Wilfred A. Domingo died in Harlem in 1968.

Sources: 
Mary Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, Dan Georgakas, eds., Encyclopedia of the American Left (New York:  Garland Publishing, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

McElwee, Samuel Allen (1857– 1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
During the first twenty-five years following the American Civil War and the emancipation, many African American men in the South were elected to state legislatures and local government posts. Among those in Tennessee was Samuel Allen McElwee from Haywood County, one of the two western counties with a majority black population. McElwee, a lawyer, became the most powerful Republican Party leader in Haywood County in the late 19th Century. He served in the Tennessee legislature from 1882 to the rigged election of 1888. As a legislator he earned a reputation as a skilled orator and was a presenter at the National Convention of the Republican Party in 1884 in Chicago.

McElwee was born in Madison County, Tennessee and grew up in neighboring Haywood County. He was educated at local freedmen’s schools and Oberlin College in Ohio before starting a teaching career in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. McElwee also attended Fisk University, graduating in 1883 and the following year at the age of 26 he was elected to the Tennessee Legislature, representing Haywood County. While serving in the Legislature McElwee obtained a law degree from Central Tennessee Law School in Nashville in 1886. McElwee was the first and only African American to practice law in Brownsville, Tennessee until the 1960s.
Sources: 
Richard A. Couto, Lifting the Veil: A Political History of Struggles for Emancipation (Knoxville: 1993); Dorothy Granberry, “When the Rabbit Foot Was Worked and Republican Votes Became Democratic Votes: Black Disfranchisement in Haywood County, Tennessee,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Spring 2004: 35 – 47.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Gumbel, Bryant (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Bryant Gumbel and Soviet Leaders on the Today Show, 1984
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bryant Gumbel was the first African-American co-host of the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) The Today Show and is well known as a broadcast journalist and sportscaster.  Gumbel was born in1948 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Rhea Alice and Richard Dunbar Gumbel, a city clerk and a judge, respectively.  He grew up with two younger sisters and a younger brother, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Gumbel graduated from Maine’s Bates College in 1970 with a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts.  He first worked as a salesman for Westvaco Corporation, an industrial paper company in New York City.  He left the job after six months and, in 1971, became a sports writer for Black Sports magazine.  The following year, Gumbel became a sportscaster for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, California. In the fall of 1975, he became a co-host for NBC Sports National Football League’s pre-game show, Grandstand.  
Sources: 
"Contemporary Black Biography”: Volume 14, Profiles from the International Black Community (Book, 1997) [WorldCat.org]." WorldCat.org: The World's Largest Library Catalog. http://www.worldcat.org/title/contemporary-black-biography-volume-14-profiles-from-the-international-black-community/oclc/527366242 (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1997; Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Men (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1998), Bryan Gumbel Biography, http://www.filmreference.com/film/11/Bryant-Gumbel.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Still, William (1821-1902)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Still was born in Burlington County, New Jersey in 1821, as the last of eighteen children of former slaves Levin and Charity Still. By 1844, Still moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he spent the majority of his life and where he was appointed secretary of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Still was the first black man to join the society and the first to hold this position.

Still was also active in the Underground Railroad in the two decades between his arrival in Philadelphia and the end of the Civil War.  Still became well known in various circles as a major “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, helping fugitives make their way to Canada and freedom.  Still also campaigned for an end to racial discrimination in Philadelphia.  In 1859 he organized the effort to end black exclusion from Philadelphia streetcars.  This campaign was described in Still’s first publication, Struggle for the Civil Rights of the Coloured People of Philadelphia in the City Railway Cars in 1867.
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASstill.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moore, Kermit (1929-2013)

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

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

Frazier, Joe (1944-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Joe Frazier (Right) and Muhammad Ali Fight
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Joe Frazier was born on January 12, 1944 in Beaufort County, South Carolina. One of eleven children, he moved to New York when he was 15 years old to live with an older brother. Unable to find work, he relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he took up boxing to lose weight in late 1961. Exhibiting a knack for the game, Frazier began boxing as an amateur, and reigned as the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves heavyweight champion for three straight years. Hoping to make the 1964 U.S. Olympic team, he lost to Buster Mathis in the finals of the Olympic Trials, but was subsequently named the heavyweight representative when Mathis injured his hand.  Frazier won a gold medal by defeating the German heavyweight.

Sources: 
Joe Frazier and Phil Berger, Smokin’ Joe: The Autobiography of a Heavyweight Champion of the World, Smokin’ Joe Frazier (New York, N.Y.: MacMillan Publishing Co. 1996); www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jenkins, Harold “Slim” (1890-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Harold Jenkins was an African American entrepreneur and owner of the renowned Slim Jenkins Supper Club in Oakland, California, made popular during the 1930s to 1960s.  Jenkins was born July 22, 1890 in Monroe, Louisiana and relocated to Oakland shortly after World War I, and found work as a waiter. 

Oakland served as an urban center for African Americans migrating from the South and black businesses flourished along Seventh Street, Oakland’s black business district.  Slim Jenkins saw the economic opportunity in the business district and opened the city’s first liquor store December 5, 1933, the same day as the repeal of Prohibition. 
Sources: 
Donna Jean Murch, Living for the City: Migration, Education and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010); Justin Goldman, “7th Street Blues,” Diablo Magazine, http://www.diablomag.com/June-2007/7th-Street-Blues/; Lee Hillenbrand, “Blues on Seventh Street,” The Monthly, http://www.themonthly.com/upfront1302.html; Online Archive of California, “Guide to the Harold Jenkins Photograph Collection” http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8xd12f2/.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dixon, Eustace Augustus, II (1934-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Euell Nielsen
Eustace A. Dixon II, 20th century author and environmental health advocate, was born at home in Brooklyn, New York on July 9, 1934. He was the youngest child of Eustace A. Dixon, a native of Jamaica and Beulah Talbot, a native of Bermuda. Dixon graduated from Boys High School, Brooklyn, New York, in 1952 and enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Korean War where he served as a radio communications specialist.  

After being discharged from the military, he enrolled in Brooklyn College and received his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1956.  In 1977 he received an M.A. degree from Glassboro State College in New Jersey and four years later he received a Ph.D. in public health from Union Institute and University.  In 1995 at the age of 61, Dixon received an M.A. in Music from Glassboro State University.
Sources: 
“Eustace Dixon Obituary,” The Daytona Beach Sunday News Journal, January 16, 2000; Eustace Dixon, New Jersey: Environment and Cancer (Mantua, New Jersey: Eureka Publications, 1982); Eustace Dixon, Syndromes for the Layperson (Mantua, New Jersey: Eureka Publications, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cruz Escalante, Ericka Yadira (1981- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ericka Yadira Cruz Escalante became the first Miss Mexico of African descent. With that victory she completed in the Miss Universe pageant in Roberto Clemente Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2002. Cruz was born in Mérida, Yucatán, México, on November 16, 1981 to parents Yadira Maria Escalante and Martin Cruz Alain Sena. She has two brothers, Martin and Glorevy. Currently, she is married with two children.

Cruz had an unusual background for a successful beauty contestant.  She was a widely recognized athlete before she was a beauty queen. She represented her home state of Yucatán in various sports competitions and has held the state long jump record since 1995.  In 1997 Cruz won a bronze medal in the Central American Games in San Salvador, El Salvador, also for the long jump, and for the 4x100 relay.
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Independent Historian