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People

Vanzant, Iyanla (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Rev. Dr. Iyanla Vanzant was born as Rhonda Eva Harris in Brooklyn, New York on September 13, 1953. In 1983, after being ordained as a Yoruba priestess, she renamed herself Iyanla, meaning “great mother.”  Vanzant is now a famous relationship coach, author, TV host, ordained minister, and motivational speaker.  

Rhonda Eva Harris was born in the back of a taxi to Sarah Jefferson, a railroad car maid. Her father, Horace Harris, a petty criminal, was largely absent from Rhonda’s life.  When Sarah Jefferson died from breast cancer in 1957, Rhonda went to live with various paternal relatives, one of whom raped her at the age of nine.  She gave birth to her first child, Gemmia in 1969, her second Daman in 1974, and third, Nisa in 1979.  Frequently assaulted by her first husband she finally fled the violence in 1980 at the age of 27 with three young children to rear.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bryant, Ira B., Jr. (1904-1989)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Ira Babington (I.B.) Bryant, Jr., Ed.D., was an educator, author, researcher, and administrator from the Houston, Texas area.  Bryant was born October 18, 1904, in Crockett, Texas, to Ira B. Bryant, Sr., and Ellen Starks Bryant, both educators. In 1905, the family relocated to Caldwell, Texas, before settling in Houston in 1920. Ira, Jr., attended Colored High School in the city. While at Colored High School, Ellen Starks Bryant passed away and Ira, Sr., remarried and moved to Alabama, leaving Bryant and his two brothers, Cecil and Eugene, to finish their educations in Houston.

After graduating in 1924, Bryant worked on a ship based out of New Orleans, Louisiana in order to save money for college and to travel. The same year, he entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, completing a B.A. degree in 1928. In 1929, he moved back to Houston and gained a job teaching social science at Phillis Wheatley High School. During summers, he continued his education, earning an M.A. degree at the University of Kansas in 1932.  Bryant returned to Houston and married Thelma Scott, another teacher at Wheatley.  The couple moved into a newly-built house in Houston’s Third Ward.
Sources: 
Willie Lee Gay, "BRYANT, IRA BABINGTON, JR.," Handbook of Texas Online http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbrdt; Teresa Tompkins-Walsh, “Thelma Scott Bryant: Memories of a Century in Houston’s Third Ward,” The Houston Review (Fall 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Simone, Nina (1933-2003)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tyron, North Carolina in 1933, Nina Simone began playing the family piano at the age of three.  Her mother Mary Kate Waymon, a minister and choir director at a Methodist church in Tyron, interpreted her daughter’s gift as a God-given talent.  Waymon began to study piano at age six with Muriel Massinovitch, an English pianist and Bach devotee married to a Russian painter husband. Waymon credited “Miss Mazzy” for teaching her to understand Bach; she credited Bach for dedicating her life to music. The lessons were paid for by family friends including a white couple in the town.  Eunice’s father, John Divine Waymon, had been an entertainer before he chose to move his family to Tyron, a North Carolina resort town, and set up a barbershop and dry cleaners to support his family. In her autobiography – I Put a Spell on You, the Autobiography of Nina Simone – Waymon describes her relationship with her father as loving and supportive and Tyron as “uncommon” for a southern town because blacks and whites lived together in a series of circles around the center of town, which allowed them to mingle and form friendships.

Sources: 
Nina Simone, I Put a Spell on You, the Autobiography of Nina Simone (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press,1993); Sylvia Hampton, David Nathan, and Lisa Simone Kelly, Nina Simone: Breakdown and Let it All Out (London: Sanctuary Publishing Limited, 2004); Jody Kolodzey, “Remembering Nina Simone,” Culture, May 5, 2003; Adam Shatz, “Nina Simone Obituary,” The Nation, May 19, 2003; Roger Nupie, Dr. Nina Simone Biography: http://www.ninasimone.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Holmes, Emory Hestus (1924-1995)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
“Won’t Bow to Bigots,” Jet Article on Emory Holmes, Jan. 7, 1960 
Dr. Emory Hestus Holmes, World War II veteran, social scientist, professor, and California civil rights leader, was born on November 17, 1924 in Birmingham, Alabama to David H. and Dora Catherine Holmes. He attended segregated schools in Alabama and, at the age of 17, joined the U.S. Army. During World War II he helped construct the Burma Road from India across northern Burma into China and was wounded in combat.  Decorated for his wartime valor, Holmes returned to the United States where he pursued his undergraduate and graduate education at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sources: 
Frank Barnes, “Statement of Frank Barnes, President, NAACP, Southern California Area Conference,” Hearings Before the United States Commission on Civil Rights (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1960); David E.  Brady, “Emory Hestus Holmes; Civil Rights Activist,” Los Angeles Times, April 14, 1995; US Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940): T627, 4,643 rolls, accessed online through http://ancestrylibrary.com on March 25, 2015.
Affiliation: 
University of California Center for Racial Studies

Burbridge, Thomas Nathaniel (1921–1972)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of San Francisco History Center,
San Francisco Public Library
Medical professor and civil rights leader Thomas Nathaniel Burbridge was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on July 12, 1921. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama, in 1941. From 1942 through 1945, he served in the United States Navy.

In 1948 Burbridge earned a medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He served in the United States Public Health Service as visiting lecturer in Indonesia from 1952 to 1955. The following year, he received a doctoral degree from UCSF and joined the faculty of the school of medicine as assistant professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics. His main research interests were alcohol metabolism, drug metabolism, and comparative pharmacology.
Sources: 
“In Memoriam,” The Crisis 74 (November 1972): 322; Donna Chaban, “UCSF Public Service Awards Given,” May 17, 1974, News from the University of California, San Francisco (1974), p. 2; “Burbridge, Thomas Nathaniel, 1921-1972,” http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/; Paul T. Miller, The Postwar Struggle for Civil Rights: African Americans in San Francisco, 1945-1975 (New York: Routledge, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Robinson, Bill “Bojangles” (1878-1949)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Bill Robinson was born in Richmond, Virginia on May 25, 1878 to Maxwell and Maria Robinson.  Due to the death of both of his parents when he was an infant, Bill and his younger brother Percy were brought up by his grandmother.  As a young child, Bill was given the nickname of “Bojangles” although Robinson himself was unsure of the origin of the name. 

Sources: 
Susie Box, “National Tap Dance Day: Resonating Far and Wide” The International Tap Association Newsletter 4:1 (May-June, 1993), James Haskins and N.R. Mitgang, Mr. Bojangles: The Biography of Bill Robinson (New York: W. Morrow, 1988); Henry Louis Gates and Cornel West, eds., The African-American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country (New York: Free Press, 2000); http://www.tapdance.org/tap/people/bojangle.htm.  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dawson, Daisy Lee Tibbs (1924-2013)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Courtesy of the Dawson Family"
Daisy Tibbs Dawson, a Seattle, Washington peace activist and educator, is the only African American to be memorialized in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. Tibbs was born in Toney, Alabama on July 27, 1924 to Calvin and Martha Tibbs.  At a very early age, her parents died, leaving her and her two siblings in the care of their maternal uncle, Robert Tibbs and his wife, Mary Leslie. She attended segregated public schools during her primary years and then attended a private black high school, Trinity High School, established by white Presbyterian missionaries. Tibbs worked in order to pay for her tuition.  She took classes from a diverse cohort of faculty that included both black and white teachers and a Japanese music instructor who was interned by U.S. authorities after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Sources: 
Floyd W. Schmoe, Japan Journey (Seattle: Seattle Silver Quoin Press, 1950); Daisy Dawson interviewed by Jonathan Houston on April 27, 2009, transcript (Daisy Tibbs Dawson Family Private Collection); “Mission to Hiroshima,” Ebony Magazine, Jan.1950; “Daisy Lee Tibbs Dawson,” Obituary, The Seattle Times, May 28, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Musa, Mansa (1280-1337)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Fourteenth Century Italian Map of West Africa
Showing Mansa Musa 
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Mansa Musa, fourteenth century emperor of the Mali Empire, is the medieval African ruler most known to the world outside Africa.  His elaborate pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in 1324 introduced him to rulers in the Middle East and in Europe.  His leadership of Mali, a state which stretched across two thousand miles from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Chad and which included all or parts of the modern nations of Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad, ensured decades of peace and prosperity in Western Africa. 

Sources: 
Djibril Tamsir Niane, “Mansa Musa” in New Encyclopedia of Africa, John Middleton and Joseph C. Miller, eds. (New York: Scribner’s, 2008); Djibril Tamsir Niane, Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century (London: Heinemann, 1984): David C. Conrad and Djanka Tassey Conde, Sunjata: A West African Epic of the Mande Peoples (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

King, Don (1931- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hayford, Joseph Ephraim Casely (1866-1930)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

O'Reilly, Salaria Kee (1913-1991)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born 13 July 1913 in Akron, Ohio, Salaria Kee was orphaned in her infancy and raised by family and friends.  After high school, she resolved to become a nurse but was denied by three nursing schools on account of her race.  Leveraging connections to Eleanor Roosevelt, the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing accepted her application and Kee moved to New York City.  Graduating in 1934, she worked as head nurse in the terminal ward of the Sea View Hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis.

When Italy invaded Ethiopia in late 1935, Kee joined a group of Harlem nurses collecting medical supplies for the Ethiopians.  Like many other African American anti-fascists, Kee shifted her support to the Spanish Republic with the rise of Franco.  Her efforts to join the Red Cross in Spain were rejected, again due to her race, but she soon found a place in the American Medical Bureau contingent in support of the International Brigades and departed the United States in March 1937.

A devoted Catholic, she felt it was her duty to go. While assigned to the American hospital at Villa Paz, she met and later married John Patrick O’Reilly, an Irish volunteer in the International Brigades.  As one of a very small number of African American women in Spain on behalf of the Republic, she inspired a highly-promoted pamphlet entitled “A Negro Nurse in Republican Spain” in which several details of her life were altered to support a political agenda.

Sources: 
Bob August, “Salaria Kea and John O’Reilly: Volunteers Who Met and Wed in Spain, 1938,” Cleveland Magazine (1975); 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); John Gerassi, The Premature Anti-Fascists: North American Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939: an Oral History (New York, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1986). 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).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Langford, Sam (1886-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle

Sam Langford was one of the greatest fighters in boxing history. Born in Weymouth Falls, Nova Scotia on March 4, 1886, the 5’ 7” dynamo migrated to Boston, Massachusetts, and engaged in close to 300 officially recorded professional contests from 1902 to 1926. He was an exceptionally courageous and intelligent fighter with long arms and an impressive upper torso. He also packed a tremendous wallop in both hands and knocked out many of the much larger and talented boxers of his day. In 2003, Ring Magazine’s writers listed him second on their list of the 100 greatest pound for pound punchers of all-time.

Sources: 
Jack Dempsey (as told to Bob Considine and Bill Slocum), Dempsey, By the Man Himself (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960); Clay Moyle, Sam Langford: Boxing's Greatest Uncrowned Champion (Seattle: Bennett & Hastings, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Just, Ernest Everett (1883-1941)

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

Dr. Ernest E. Just was one of the first African Americans to receive worldwide recognition as a scientist.   Born August 14, 1883 in Charleston, South Carolina,  Just was only four years old when his father, Charles Fraser Just, died in 1887.  Due to mounting debt, his mother, Mary Just, moved with her children from Charleston to James Island, a Gullah community off the coast of South Carolina to work in its phosphate mines.  While on the Island, Mary Just became a highly respected leader of the community and convinced a number of residents on the Island to purchase land and start their own community.  The residents renamed the community Maryville in her honor.

Sources: 
Kenneth Manning, Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983); "Ernest Everett Just," in Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis, Gates, Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Williams, Marguerite Thomas (1895-1991?)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Marguerite Thomas Williams, born in 1895, was the first African American (male or female) to earn a Ph.D. in geology.  Like Roger Arliner Young, Williams was mentored by African American biologist Ernest Everett Just.  

Williams earned her bachelor's degree in geology from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1923.  Just considered Williams for a position at the University but chose to award it to Roger Arliner Young.  However, Williams found work as an assistant professor at Miner Teacher’s College in Washington, D.C. where she was chair of the Division of Geography between 1923 and 1933.  She was allowed a leave of absence so that she could pursue a master’s degree at Columbia University which she received in 1930.  She continued teaching at Miner for a decade before she earned her doctorate in geology from Catholic University in 1942.  Her dissertation titled “The Study of the History of Erosion in the Anacostia Drainage Basin” examined a local geological feature.  

After Williams earned her Ph.D., she was promoted to full professor at Miner.  Her career focused on teaching rather than research.  Williams taught classes in geography and the social sciences, and taught night courses at Howard.  She retired in 1955. 
Sources: 
Wini Warren, “Marguerite Thomas Williams: Geologist,” in Black Women Scientists in the United States (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999); https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/marguerite_williams.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson, Lydia Flood (1862-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lydia Flood Jackson was a champion of women’s rights and suffrage in California for African American women and other people of color. The outspoken activist was the first black student to attend an integrated public school in Oakland, California.

Flood’s mother, Elizabeth Thorn Scott Flood, led the 19th Century campaign for desegregated education in California and founded the state’s first African American school in Sacramento in 1854.  Her father Isaac Flood, one of the first African American residents of Oakland, California, also fought for education and equality for blacks.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Delilah L. Beasley, The Negro Trailblazers of California (New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1919); “Elizabeth Flood’s School: Oakland’s First African American Institution” (Oakland Heritage Alliance News, Winter 1992-93); George F. Jackson, Black Women Makers of History (Sacramento: Fong & Fong, 1977).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Charles, Suzette (1963- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Suzette Charles (born Suzette De Gaetano), the second African American woman to hold the crown of Miss America, was born in Mays Landing, New Jersey on March 2, 1963. She is the daughter of Charles Gaetano, a businessman, and Suzette (Burroughs) Gaetano, a music teacher. Charles represented New Jersey in the September 1983 Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the time. Charles performed very well during the pageant competition. She won her preliminary competition in the talent division and finished first runner up to Vanessa Williams, Miss New York, who became the first black Woman to win the Miss America title on September 17, 1983.

When Williams was forced to relinquish the crown due to a scandal involving nude photographs, on July 24, 1984, Charles became the second black woman to wear the Miss America crown and fulfilled her duties for the remaining seven weeks of William's reign. This was the shortest time period served by any Miss America.
Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Susan Chira, “To First Black Miss America, Victory is a Means to an End,” New York Times, September 19, 1983, F10, A1.; http://missamerica.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Taylor, John (1952- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John David Beckett Taylor, the Baron of Warwick, was born on September 21, 1952 in Birmingham, England. His parents, Derief, a professional cricket player, and Enid, a nurse, were originally from Jamaica. Taylor was educated at Moseley Grammar School and later studied English Literature and Law at Keele University before moving to London to pursue a career in Law. He was called to the Bar in 1978 and began a successful career as a Barrister. In 1981 he married his first wife, Jean Katherine Binysh, a pediatrician, with whom he had three children.
Sources: 
BBC Profile of Lord Taylor: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/talking_politics/1304393.stm; Onyekachi Wambu: John Taylor Lord Taylor of Warwick - Barrister (Tamarind 1 Jan 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ali, Duse Mohamad (1866-1945)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Scholar, playwright, journalist, and African nationalist, Duse Mohamad Ali was born in Alexandria, Egypt on November 24, 1866 to an Egyptian father, Ali Abdul Salam and a Sudanese mother, whose name is unknown. At a very young age Ali was sent to study in England under the tutelage of Captain Duse of the French Army, a classmate who his father had studied alongside at the French Military Academy. In April of 1882, at the age of fifteen, Ali discontinued his studies and returned to Egypt. Soon after his return both his brother and father were killed during the Urabi Uprising and the British Bombardment of Alexandria that took place later that year.   Soon after the death of his father and brother, his family was evacuated to Sudan.

Sources: 
Ali, Duse Mohamed, “Leaves from an Active Life,” The Comet, 1937-1938; The African Times and Orient Review (1912-1918); Ian Duffield, “Duse Mohamed Ali, Afro-Asian Solidarity and Pan-Africanism in Early Twentieth-Century London,” in S. Jagdish and Ian Gundara Duffield, eds., Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain: From Roman Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century (Aldershot: Avebury, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Vanderbilt University Divinity School

Johnson, William Henry (ca. 1835-1864)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
William Henry Johnson served as the personal valet to Abraham Lincoln.  Johnson was born around 1835; however, his exact date of birth, parentage, and birthplace remain unknown.  He began working for the Lincoln family in Springfield, Illinois as a barber and valet in 1860 and accompanied Lincoln to Washington, D.C.
Sources: 
Roy P. Basler, "Did President Lincoln Give the Smallpox to William H. Johnson?"  Huntington Library Quarterly, 1972, 35:3 (1972); Tim Dennee, “African-American Civilians Interred in Section 27 of Arlington National Cemetery, 1864-1867,” www.freedmenscemetery.org
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Elaine (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
From 1974 to 1977, Elaine Brown was Chairwoman of the Black Panther Party.  As a Panther, Brown also ran twice for a position on the City Council of Oakland, California.  Since the 1970s she has been active in prison and education reform and juvenile justice.

Born in heavily black and impoverished North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1943, Brown attended a predominantly white experimental elementary school where she studied ballet and classical piano.  Brown’s childhood was starkly divided between the comfort of her schooling and the realities of her home life.  Following high school Brown entered Temple University but left the campus for Los Angeles, California before the end of her first year.  
Sources: 
Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992); Robert O. Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003); Elaine Brown, The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002); http://www.elainebrown.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reddick, Eunice S. (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Eunice S. Reddick, an American diplomat and United States Ambassador to the Republic of Niger, was born in 1951 in New York City, New York. Reddick received her Master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International Affairs in 1975 and then worked for several years at the Africa-America Institute in New York City, New York and Washington, D.C.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Chester, William H. (1914-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Dr. Martin Luther King with Bill Chester,
January 25, 1963
"Image Courtesy of Anne Rand Library, International
Longshore and Warehouse Union"
William “Bill” Chester, Vice President and Assistant to Harry Bridges, President of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU), was the highest ranking African American in the ILWU and a leading trade union official and civil rights leader in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1950s through 1970s.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on January 6, 1914, Chester’s mother’s maiden name was Fuller. Chester, an only child, moved with his parents to Kansas City, Missouri when he was a year old and spent his entire childhood there.  His father, a railroad worker, died when he was 11.  Chester graduated from high school in 1932 and spent two years at Western College in Quindaro, Kansas.

Sources: 
William Chester, Interview by Robert E. Martin, Howard University, July 23, 1969, transcript at ILWU Library, San Francisco; “Bill Chester: ILWU Civil Rights and Community Leader, 1938-1969,” ILWU Oral History Project, Volume VI, Part I, Introduction and interview by Harvey Schwartz, ILWU Dispatcher, February 2003, pp. 8-9; “Bill Chester helped lead ILWU during tough times,” ILWU Dispatcher, November 12, 1985, p. 5.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Antoine, Caesar Carpenter (1836-1921)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Brown, Marie Van Brittan (1922–1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Marie Van Brittan Brown was the inventor of the first home security system. She is also credited with the invention of the first closed circuit TV.  Brown was born in Queens, New York, on October 22, 1922, and resided there until her death on February 2, 1999, at age seventy-six. Her father was born in Massachusetts and her mother was from Pennsylvania.

The patent for the invention was filed in 1966, and it later influenced modern home security systems that we still use today. Brown’s invention was inspired by the security risk that her home faced in the neighborhood where she lived. Marie Brown worked as a nurse and her husband, Albert Brown, worked as an electronics technician. Their work hours were not the standard 9-5, and the crime rate in their Queens, New York City neighborhood was very high. Even when the police were contacted in the event of an emergency, the response time tended to be slow. As a result, Brown looked for ways to increase her level of personal security. She needed to create a system that would allow her to know who was at her home and contact relevant authorities as quickly as possible.
Sources: 
Raymond B. Webster, African American firsts in science & technology,  (1999); The Inventor of the Home Security System: Marie Van Brittan Brown by Think Protection; Patent: US 3482037 A; “Brown Interview with the New York Times,” New York Times, December 6, 1969.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
York University, Toronto

Connerly, Ward (1939 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Norman, Maidie (1912-1998)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gardner, Christopher Paul (1954- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, Lisa Perez (1962-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency
Lisa Perez Jackson, the first African American Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), brings a wealth of experience to that agency.  A scientist by profession, she has spent more than 20 years working as an advocate for the better use and awareness of the environment.
Sources: 
"Lisa P. Jackson," Encyclopedia Britannica Online (2009) https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lisa-P-Jackson; “Another woman scientist on the Obama team: Lisa Perez Jackson of the EPA,” Women in Science: Past, Present, and Future, (February 23, 2009) http://blog.sciencewomen.com/2009/02/another-woman-scientist-on-obama-team.html; “Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet,” The Library of Congress Webcasts (March 5, 2009), http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4536.
Affiliation: 
Howard University

King, John Thomas (1846-1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John T. King was born in Girard (now Phenix City), Alabama in 1846. He was the son of covered bridge designer and builder Horace King.  John King carried on the family business by designing and building bridges, houses, and commercial buildings in Georgia and Alabama.  The King family did much to develop West Georgia and East Alabama and open up the area for commerce.  John King also served long tenures as a church leader, and trustee of Clark College in Atlanta.

King started his career at age fourteen as bridge keeper for the Dillingham Bridge in Columbus, Georgia.  He moved to LaGrange in 1872 with other family members.  As his father’s health began to fail, John became head of King Brothers Bridge Company, a thriving business in western Georgia and eastern Alabama in the late nineteenth century.  The company not only built bridges, but also designed and built in the town of LaGrange the Lloyd Building on East Court Square, a sash and blind factory operated by the Kings, the Hotel Andrews, numerous houses, and the LaGrange Cotton Oil Factory which was the town’s first “modern” textile mill to be built following the Civil War.  Covered bridges that John King designed and constructed included one in LaGrange, West Point, Columbus, and eastern Alabama.

Sources: 
Dreck Spurlock Wilson, ed., African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Egypt, Ophelia Settle (1903-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

In the late 1920s, Ophelia Settle Egypt conducted some of the first and finest interviews with former slaves, setting the stage for the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) massive project ten years later. Born Ophelia Settle in 1903, she was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher for the black sociologist Charles Johnson at Fisk University in Nashville.

Over the course of her career Settle helped expose the infamous Tuskegee study of syphilis among black sharecroppers, and played a leading role in Charles Johnson’s "Shadow of the Plantation" study of the sharecropper system. As the Depression wore on, she left Fisk to assist with relief efforts in St. Louis. She accepted a scholarship from the National Association for the Prevention of Blindness to study medicine and sociology at Washington University, where, as a black woman, she was required to receive all her lessons from a tutor. She also became head of social services at a hospital in New Orleans, and five years later conducted research for James Weldon Johnson, about whom she wrote a children's book. Egypt was a social worker in southeast Washington, D.C., and for eleven years was the director of the community’s first Planned Parenthood clinic, which was named for her in 1981.

Ophelia Settle Egypt died in Washington, D.C. in 1984.She was 81.

 

Sources: 
Ann Allen Shockley Interview with Mrs. Ophelia Settle Egypt conducted December 12, 1972 at Mrs. Egypt’s home in Washington, D.C., Fisk University Oral History Program, 1972; www.naswfoundation.org/pioneers/e/egypt.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Quarles, Benjamin A. (1904-1996)

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

Noted historian, scholar, and educator Benjamin Author Quarles was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 23, 1904.  His father, Arthur Benedict Quarles was a subway porter and his mother, Margaret O'Brien Quarles, was a homemaker. In his twenties, Quarles enrolled at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, the oldest historically black college in the South, where he earned a B.A. in 1931.  From Shaw, Quarles went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, where he earned an M.A. in 1933 and a Ph.D. in American History in 1940. 

Sources: 
John Hope Franklin, “We mourn the death of Benjamin A. Quarles 1904-1996,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (Winter 1996-97); Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, “Benjamin A. Quarles,” Negro History Bulletin (Jan-March, 1997); W.A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Wormley, James (1819-1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Washington D.C. on January 16, 1819, James Wormley was the son of free-born citizens Lynch and Mary Wormley. As a young boy, Wormley’s first job was working with his family’s hackney carriage business. This job would help Wormley gain skills and an appreciation for hard work involved in business ownership which he put to good use in post-Civil War Washington.

After owning a successful restaurant, Wormley decided to purchase a hotel in 1871 which he called the Wormley House. Located near the White House, at the southwest corner of 15th and H Streets Northwest, Wormley House soon became popular among the wealthy and politically prominent in the nation’s capital.  Wormley’s experience as caterer, club steward, and traveler in Europe helped him to perfect his culinary skills while his keen eye for detail ensured that his hotel guests were satisfied during their stay. The hotel was most famous for its well-managed rooms, early telephone, and the dining room where Wormley served European-style dishes.
Sources: 
Sandra Fitzpatrick and Maria Goodwin, The Guide to Black Washington. (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1999); Nicholas E. Hollis, “A Hotel for the History Books” Washington Post, (March 18, 2001); http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/portal/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hyman, John Adams (1840-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Adams Hyman was born into slavery on July 23, 1840 in Warren County, North Carolina. Hyman's thirst for knowledge resulted in him being sold away from his family for attempting to read a spelling book that was given to him by a sympathetic white jeweler. He continued to seek knowledge at his new residence in Alabama and was sold again for fear that he would influence other slaves. Hyman was sold eight more times for his attempts to educate himself.  

At the age of 25 Hyman was freed by the Thirteenth Amendment and returned to his family in North Carolina. He quickly enrolled in school where he received an elementary education. Hyman also became a landowner and merchant.  Hyman, a Mason, soon emerged as a leader of the post-Civil War North Carolina black community.  
Sources: 
Stephen Middleton, ed. Black Congressmen During Reconstruction (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002); George W. Reid, “Four in Black: North Carolina’s Black Congressmen, 1874-1901” Journal of Negro History 64 (Summer 1979): 229-43; http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=H001025.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Atlanta Daily World, W.A. Scott & C.A. Scott (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
C.A. Scott, Editor of the Atlanta Daily World
Image Courtesy of Photos by Griff Davis
William Alexander Scott II, the founder of the Atlanta Daily World newspaper, was born in 1902 in Edwards, Mississippi. Scott, who was educated at Morehouse College around World War I, initially began publishing a business directory in Atlanta. However, he was interested in encouraging conversation and interaction among the black residents of Atlanta so, with the encouragement of black business owners in the city, he began to publish the Atlanta Daily World on August 5, 1928.  At the time Scott was 26.

The Atlanta newspaper began as a weekly paper, gradually publishing on a bi-weekly basis by 1930. On March 13, 1932, the newspaper went into daily distribution, becoming the first African American paper in the nation to achieve that status. With the closure of the Atlanta Independent the following year, the Daily World became the black community's sole newspaper.
Sources: 
Atlanta Daily World website, www.atlantadailyworld.com; "Soldiers Without Swords, The Black Press, Newspapers: The Atlanta Daily World," http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/news_bio/newbios/nwsppr/atlnta/atlnta.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Stanford, Maxwell Curtis, Jr. (aka Muhammad Ahmad, 1941 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
Dr.Muhammad Ahmad (Maxwell C. Stanford Jr.)
Maxwell Curtis Stanford, Jr., known since 1970 as Muhammad Ahmad, is a civil rights activist and was a founder of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), a black power organization active during the 1960s. Born on July 31, 1941 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he graduated from West Philadelphia High School and attended Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio from 1960 to 1962. Stanford left college after founding RAM in the summer of 1962.
Sources: 
Matthew Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); John H. Bracey and Sharon Harley, The Black Power Movement: Part 3: Papers of the Revolutionary Action Movement (LexisNexis: Bethesda, Maryland); Robin D.G. Kelley, “Stormy Weather: Reconstructing Black (Inter)Nationalism in the Cold War Era,” in Eddie S. Glaude (ed), Is It Nation Time?: Contemporary Essays On Black Power and Black Nationalism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sydney, Australia

Still, James (1812-1882)

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

James Still, medical doctor and herbalist, was born on April 9, 1812 in Burlington County, New Jersey.  Still was born to Levin and Charity Still, two former slaves living in the Pine Barrens to avoid being captured and sold back into slavery. Although the Still family was poor, the children attended school periodically and had some of their own textbooks, such as the New Testament and a spelling book.  When Still was three years old, a Dr. Fort, a Philadelphia physician, came to the Pines to vaccinate the children. His visit was the spark of inspiration that led to Still’s desire to be a doctor.

Just before Still turned 18 he was voluntarily hired out as an indentured servant by his father. During the three years of his servitude, Still read everything available about medicine and botany, and learned all he could from the Native Americans of the area. On his twenty-first birthday, he was released from his service, given $10.00 and a new suit. He left immediately for Philadelphia. Still’s racial and financial status prevented him from attending medical school. Nonetheless, he continued to gain medical knowledge, reading everything he could find while working menial jobs to support himself.  

Sources: 
James Still, Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Company, 1877); Carole Ann Lang, “James Still: New Jersey’s Black Physician of the Pines,” Negro History Bulletin 43:1 (March 1980).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Tone, Jr. (1944-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Tone Johnson (left) and Fellow Vietnam War Era Veterans,
Joe Pena and Vince Cantu
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Tone Johnson, medical doctor, Vietnam hero, and civic leader was born on November 9, 1944 to Lyzer (Elizabeth) Marks Johnson and sawmill worker and farmer Henry Johnson.  After graduating from Carrie Martin High School in Plain Dealing, Louisiana in 1963, he went to Vietnam as part of company D, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment of the First Cavalry Division.  His unit, assigned to West-Central South Vietnam, Ia Drang Valley near the Cambodian border, met the North Vietnamese on November 14, 1965 at the base of a limestone mountain, Chupong Massif.

The Ia Drang battle—named after the river which flowed through the valley—was immortalized by CBS news footage and later a movie, We Were Soldiers, based on Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway’s book, We Were Soldiers Once … And Young. This battle marked the first time the United States Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam clashed during the Vietnam War.  During this combat, American forces killed over 1,400 Vietnamese, and the United States casualties amounted to more than 120 over the next few days.  The 1st Battalion, 7th cavalry fought hard for three days, but with the arrival of B-52s, they rested. The 2nd Battalion with Tone Johnson was sent in to help.
Sources: 
William E. Swan, Jr., M.D., “Tone Johnson, Jr., M.D. Physician Hero,” Coastal Bend Medicine (February/March 1997); communications and newspaper clippings from Geraldine Johnson collection.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Jackson, James Albert “Billboard” (1878–1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
James Albert “Billboard” Jackson was a critic, reporter, editor, spokesman, actor, and booster of black entertainment. Jackson, the eldest of 14 children of Abraham V. Jackson and Nancy Lee Jackson, was born on June 20, 1878 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He attended public schools in Bellefonte, but left home at a young age to pursue a career in entertainment. He married Gabrielle Hill in 1916 and they raised a son, Albert Jackson, Jr.

By the end of the second decade of the 20th century Jackson had become one of the first African Americans to recognize the importance of entertainment in the African American consumer market.  In 1920 he was named the first African American editor of the Negro Department of Billboard magazine, hence, his nickname. Billboard magazine, located in New York City, New York, was then the largest theatrical paper in the world. Nonetheless they wanted to increase their circulation by reaching the new consumer market of African Americans who were part of the Great Migration to Northern cities.
Sources: 

"Billboard Jackson Historical Marker," Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Eastern Region, http://www.pbseast.org/billboard-jackson-historical-marker/; Anthony D. Hill, Pages from The Harlem Renaissance, A Chronicle Of Performance (New York: Peter Lang International Academic Publisher, 2006); Jason Chambers, Madison Avenue and the Color Line, African Americans in the Advertising Industry (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lenhardt, Alfonso E. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Alfonso E. Lenhardt is currently Acting Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania from 2009 to 2013.

A native of New York City, New York, Ambassador Lenhardt began his career in the United States Army in 1966. During his time in the service he was chief of staff to the Director for the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, Director of Personnel and Installation Management for the largest unit in the U.S. Army, head of military police, and finally commanding general of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.  Lenhardt retired in August 1997 after 31 years of service.

From 1997 to 2001 Lenhardt served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Council on Foundations, a nonprofit membership association of grant making foundations and corporations whose mission is to promote responsible and effective philanthropy.
Sources: 
“Alfonso E. Lenhardt: Acting Administrator,” USAID: From the American People, http://www.usaid.gov/who-we-are/organization/alfonso-e-lenhardt; “President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts,” The White House Office of the Press Secretary, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/27/president-obama-announces-more-key-administration-posts-0, March, 27, 2014;  “President Obama Nominates Alfonso Lenhardt to Serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania,” U.S. Embassy of Tanzania, http://www.usaid.gov/who-we-are/organization/alfonso-e-lenhardt, June 12, 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Joaquin Delta College

Long, Jefferson Franklin (1836-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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

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

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

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

Grier, William H. (1926-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
William H. Grier (left) and Price Cobbs
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William H. Grier was a psychiatrist who published the groundbreaking book, Black Rage, along with fellow psychiatrist Price M. Cobbs in 1968. Published in the aftermath of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and subsequent outburst of race riots, the book sought to explain the cause of black anger as the psychological consequence of racism and white oppression. Because of its timely publication and its then-novel idea of analyzing the “Negro Problem” not by treating African Americans as an undifferentiated mass but through psychoanalysis, the book received critical acclaim. It became a public phenomenon and lead to an ABC TV special in 1969 titled “To Be Black.”
Sources: 
Steve Chawkins, "William H. Grier Dies at 89; Psychiatrist and Co-author of 'Black Rage,'" Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-william-grier-20150911-story.html; William Grimes, "William H. Grier, Psychiatrist Who Delved Into ‘Black Rage’ in 1960s, Dies at 89," The New York Times, Sept. 11, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/books/william-h-grier-psychiatrist-who-delved-into-black-rage-in-1960s-dies-at-89.html; Justin William Moyer, "How Psychiatrist William Grier, Dead at 89, Predicted Black Lives Matter with ‘Black Rage,’" The Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/09/10/how-pioneering-psychiatrist-william-grier-dead-at-89-predicted-black-lives-matter-with-black-rage/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Straker, David Augustus (1842-1908)

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

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

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

Varick, James (1750-1827)

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

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

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

Pace, Harry (1884-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Carey, Archibald J., Sr. (1868-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Rev.
Sources: 
Allan Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967); Christopher Robert Reed, Black Chicago's First Century (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005); http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4159/Carey-Archibald-J-Sr-1868-1931.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Tobias, Channing H. (1882-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Channing H. Tobias acquired fame through his work with the YMCA.  Born in Augusta, Georgia on February 1, 1882 to Fair and Bell Robinson Tobias, young Channing received his bachelor’s degree from Paine College in 1902.  Tobias left Georgia to study religion at Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey.  After spending time at the University of Pennsylvania, Tobias returned to Paine and served as a professor of Biblical Literature.  Meanwhile, Tobias received a doctorate in Divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary. 

As early as 1905 Tobias joined the YMCA and eventually became Secretary of the National Council.  He also served the organization as the student secretary for the International Committee.  In 1923 Tobias was appointed Senior Secretary in the Department of Interracial Services within the Colored Work Department, a position he held for twenty-three years.  As head of the Interracial Services Division, Tobias strenuously endeavored to enhance race relations in the United States and abroad.  As a member of the Executive Committee of the National Interracial Conference and as the associate director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, Tobias campaigned to promote interracial cooperation and redress racial grievances.  His crowning public achievement in interracial affairs occurred when he became a delegate and speaker at the 1926 World Conference in Finland.

Sources: 
“Channing H. Tobias: An Inventory of His Papers;” “YMCA Colored Work Department;” and “Phelps-Stokes Fund Names Southerner President and Negro Director,” Journal of Negro Education, November 21, 1945, 255-256.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Schuyler, George (1895-1977)

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


George Samuel Schuyler, conservative columnist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on February 25, 1895 to George Francis and Eliza Jane Schuyler. Upon his father’s death in 1898, George and his mother moved to Syracuse, New York. In 1912, at age 17, George enlisted in the Army, serving in the all-black 25th US Infantry.  Eventually he achieved the rank of Lieutenant. Despite his status as an officer, Schuyler went AWOL in 1918 in response to the systemic racism he experienced in the Army.  He  was captured in Chicago, Illinois and imprisoned for nine months for desertion.

Sources: 
Oscar R. Williams, George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007); Troy Kickler, “George S. Schuyler: Black Conservative, Intellectual, and Iconoclast.” http://archive.lewrockwell.com/orig7/kickler2.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Collins, Marva (1936-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Marva Collins was born in Monroeville, Alabama to Bessie and Henry Knight where her father, who had an indelible impact on her, was one of the richest black men in town.  She attended segregated schools, and contrary to many views, these institutions were often places where students received a superior education that was rooted in high expectations and community support.  To this end, Collins developed her well-noted teaching philosophy and approach directly from her teachers in segregated settings.  Building on the communal expectation for educational excellence she graduated from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia then taught two years in Alabama before teaching 14 years in Chicago.

Displeased with both the public and private schools in Chicago, Collins took $5,000 out of her pension to start the Westside Preparatory School in 1975 on the second floor of her home; two of her children and four students from the neighborhood were her first students. During her first year she enrolled children who had been labeled as being learning disabled and mildly retarded by the pubic school system. Marva, who was resolute in her educational approach, at the end of the first year had improved the educational level of her students by at least five grades. Her practice as an educator gained national attention as many of her graduates attended such universities as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.

Sources: 
Marva Collins and Civia Tamarkin, Marva Collins’ Way (Los Angeles: J.P. Teacher, Inc. 1982); http://www.marvacollinspreparatory.com/history.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Pico, Pio de Jesus (1801-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Pio Pico was the last governor of Mexican California. He was of African, Indian, and Spanish ancestry. He was born in San Gabriel in 1801 and resided there until his father’s death in 1819; he then moved to San Diego. It is not clear how he became California’s governor in 1845. Some accounts state that he took over Governor Manuel Micheltorena’s position in 1845 “following a revolt that ended with a bloodless artillery duel near Cahuenga Pass that forced out Governor Manuel Micheltorena.” As governor, Pico participated in the final process of the secularization of the California missions. There are different interpretations of this measure by the Mexican government: one asserts that it was part of the liberal discourse of the post-independence movement in Mexico; another asserts that it was a desperate measure intended to obtain revenue by selling the missions for the impending conflict with the United States over California. In any event, Pio Pico finalized the sale of the missions on October 28, 1845.
Sources: 
Jessie Elizabeth Bromilow, “Don Pio de Jesus Pico: His Biography and Place in History,” Master of Arts Thesis, University of Southern California, August, 1931. Pio de Jesus Pico (1808-1894), San Diego Historical Society; http://www.sandiegohistory.org/archives/biographysubject/piopico/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Blige, Mary J. (1971- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
When Mary J. Blige was born on January 11, 1971 in Bronx, New York, few observers would have imagined her becoming one of the most successful rhythm and blues (R&B) artists within a musical world increasingly dominated by hip-hop. Blige's father abandoned the family when she was four.  She and her mother and sister moved to the Schlobam Housing Project in the Bronx and became one of thousands of impoverished single-parent families in New York’s public housing system. Blige was sexually assaulted as a child and later dropped out of high school.

In 1988 Blige recorded a demo in a shopping mall self-recording booth. The demo made its way to Uptown Records in Harlem and she signed a recording contract a year later. For her first album, Blige was guided by then little-known producer Sean Combs. Her debut album What's the 411? changed the sound of both hip-hop and soul for artists in both of the genres. The album integrated soul and rap music. Blige's raw singing and rugged image reflected her project-raised youth.  Her song would also be sampled by other rap artists including The Notorious B.I.G., which added to her streetwise credibility.

Mary J. Blige would record another six albums, all of which achieved spectacular success, reaching platinum (over one million albums sold) status. Along with commercial success Blige has also earned a number of awards including two NAACP image awards, and six Grammys.
Sources: 
Terrell Brown, Mary J. Blige (New York: Mason Crest, 2006); Joan Morgan, "What You Never Knew About Mary," Essence Magazine Online, November, 2001. 15 Mar. 2007, http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1264/is_7_32/ai_79547861; Stacia Proefrock, "Mary J. Blige" Allmusic.com 15 Mar. 2007, http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:8u66mpp39f7o~T1
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Schmoke, Kurt L. (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Kurt L. Schmoke, born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1949, came from a middle class background.  His father, Murray, a civilian chemist for the U.S. Army, was a graduate of Morehouse College, and his mother, Irene was a social worker. Schmoke attended the city's prestigious public high school, Baltimore City College, winning both academic and athletic distinctions, and leading his school to a state championship in football.  Schmoke entered Yale University in 1967 and three years later, he acted as a student leader to help defuse a crisis in 1970 over the New Haven murder trial of Black Panther Bobby Seale.  After graduating from Yale, Schmoke studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.  In 1976 he graduated from Harvard Law School.  Following a brief career in Washington, D.C., serving on the White House Domestic Policy Staff and at the Department of Transportation during the Administration of President Jimmy Carter, he returned to Baltimore and was elected to the position of State's Attorney in 1982, and five years later he won the election for mayor of Baltimore.    
Sources: 
http://www.law.howard.edu, "Kurt L. Schmoke biography"; http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2429/Schmoke-Kurt.html; Joe Burris, "Back on his own terms, former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke has enjoyed being out of the public spotlight, but he's not above returning to make a political point," Baltimore Sun, (Baltimore, Maryland), December 27, 2005, p. 1C
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Turner, Tina (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: 
Public Domain
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee  and eight-time Grammy Award-winning singer Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939 in Nutbush, Tennessee. The youngest daughter of a family of sharecroppers, Turner's father, Floyd Richard Bullock, was an African American Baptist deacon and her mother, Zelma Currie, was a farmer of part-Cherokee and Navajo descent.

At the age of 10, Turner and her older sister were sent to live with their grandparents who also lived in Nutbush. In 1956, they moved to St. Louis, Missouri to live with their estranged mother. During the same year, Turner was introduced to guitarist Ike Turner and his band Kings of Rhythm in an East St. Louis nightclub after spontaneously performing a song with them. She joined the group the next year, and adopted the stage name "Tina" in 1960. The band became The Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

Sources: 
Mark Bego, Tina Turner: Break Every Rule (Lanham: Taylor Trade Pub., 2003); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); The Biography Channel Website, http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/home.html;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Parsons, Richard D. (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Huffington Post,
www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/
20090121/citygroup-chairman/image
Richard Dean Parsons, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Time Warner Inc., is the current Chairman of Citigroup. Despite his working class origins, Parsons’ achievements have been recognized by the African American community and he has become an influential role model for racial uplift. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1948, he was one of five children. He was raised in South Ozone Park, Queens and attended New York City public schools. After graduating high school at the age of sixteen, he attended the University of Hawaii where he excelled academically and athletically. At the university, he was a varsity basketball player and the social chairman of Omega Psi Phi and he met his future wife Laura Ann Bush who he married in 1968.  
Sources: 
Thomas Hayden, "The Man Who Keeps the Peace: AOL Time-Warner's Richard Parsons," Newsweek (January 24, 2000): p. 36; http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1873165,00.html; http://www.notablebiographies.com/news/Ow-Sh/Parsons-Richard.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Anderson, Charles A. "Chief" (1907-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles Anderson, April 1941
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Alfred Anderson, often called the "Father of Black Aviation," because of his training and mentoring of hundreds of African American pilots, was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb, on February 9, 1907.  His parents were Janie and Iverson Anderson. Charles Anderson earned the name “Chief” because he was the most ranked and experienced African American pilot before coming to Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) in 1940.  By that point he had amassed 3,500 hours of flight prompting most of his contemporaries, and students to call him by that name as a sign of their respect for his accomplishments.  Anderson was also the Chief flight Instructor for all cadets and flight instructors at Tuskegee, Alabama during World War II.   
Sources: 
Milton Pitts Crenchaw Interview, Little Rock, Arkansas July 28, 2011; George L. Washington, The History of the Military and Civilian Pilot Training of the Negroes at Tuskegee, Alabama, 1939-1945 (Washington D.C: George L. Washington, 1972); http://www.bjmjr.net/tuskegee/chief.htm; Tuskegee Institute, National Historic Site, 1212 West Montgomery Rd. Tuskegee Institute, Alabama 36088 http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/tuskegee/airanderson.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock

Monroe, George Frazier (c. 1844-1886)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Yosemite stagecoach driver George Frazier Monroe was born in Georgia possibly around 1844.  His father, Louis Augustus Monroe, arrived from Georgia in the Gold Rush and settled as a barber in Mariposa in 1854.  He was also locally known as a civil rights advocate because he promoted the integration of local schools.  George’s mother, Mary, was an Ohioan and thus a free woman of color but it is unclear if Louis had been enslaved.  Although the parents were in California by 1855, young George stayed behind to complete a school year in Washington, D.C., before being brought to Mariposa around the age of 11 by his uncle in 1856.

By 1866 young Monroe began working as a tourist guide at Henry Washburn’s lavish resort hotel, Big Tree Station, at Yosemite.  By 1872, when the hotel could be reached by stagecoach routes maintained by the Southern Pacific Railroad, Monroe became one of the stagecoach drivers.

Stage drivers, like airline pilots today, commanded great prestige: upon their skills rested the lives of passengers. Testimonials reveal the fame of George F. Monroe.  As a rule, stagecoach drivers drove only a portion of a route, going back and forth so that they knew all of its idiosyncrasies. The twisty road from Mariposa to Yosemite Valley was Monroe’s segment. Chicago journalist Benjamin Taylor wrote in August 1877 that Monroe was “a born reinsman.”
Sources: 
Mariposa Gazette, November 27, 1886; Benjamin Franklin Taylor, Between the Gates (Chicago: S.C. Griggs and Company, 1878); Benjamin C. Truman, “The Passing of a Sierra Knight,” Overland Monthly 42 (July 1903): 32-39, and in Gary F. Kurutz, ed. Knights of the Lash: The Stagecoach Stories of Major Benjamin C. Truman (San Francisco: Book Club of California, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Short, Robert “Bobby” Waltrip (1924-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Recording artist and three-time Grammy award nominee Bobby Short, a self-taught piano prodigy during his childhood, was regarded as the quintessential sophisticated cabaret and supper-club vocalist and piano player of his time.  Short, who learned to play piano by ear at the age of four, performed intimate renditions of American song standards over seven decades, and for 36 of those years, from 1968 through 2004, Short and his jazz combo had a long-term contract at the exclusive Café Carlyle in New York. Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, and Duke Ellington were Short’s favorite composers, and he was especially known for his interpretations of the sophisticated and witty compositions by Cole Porter. Short’s repertoire of African American songwriters included Eubie Blake, Billy Strayhorn, Fats Waller, Bessie Smith, and Andy Razaf.
Sources: 
Enid Nemy, “Bobby Short, Icon of Manhattan Song and Style, Dies at 80,” New York Times, March 21, 2005; Dennis McLellan, “Black Bobby Short, 80; Cabaret Performer Symbolized a Sophisticated Musical Era,” Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Nelson, Charles Joseph (1921-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Ambassador Charles J. Nelson, Interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy, November 18, 1991, The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, http://www.adst.org/OH TOCs/Nelson, Charles J.1991.toc.pdf; Community Development and the Progress of Latin American Countries: Community Development Division, Office of Public Services, International Cooperation Administration (June 26, 1961), http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnabh894.pdf; Adam Bernstein, Obituaries: “Charles J. Nelson, Ambassador,” The Washington Post (January 19, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jackson, Rev. Mance (1931-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Rev. Mance Jackson (seated in front) as
Rev. Samuel McKinley Speaks
Image Courtesy of Seattle P-I Collection, Museum of
History & Industry (1986.5.5923.4)
Sources: 
Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (United States of America: University of Washington Press, 2003); http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/lifestyle/59696_blackhistory26.shtml.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wilson Jr., Harrison B. (1925– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Esteemed educator, legendary basketball coach, and successful university president, Harrison Wilson Jr. was born on April 21, 1925, in Amsterdam, a small city in upstate New York. His mother Marguerite Ayers was a school teacher, and his father Harrison Wilson Sr. worked in construction. Dr. Wilson’s grandson is the 2014 Super Bowl champion football player and quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson.   
Sources: 
The History Makers, 5/11-13/2015, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/harrison-b-wilson-41;  “2013 JSU Hall of Fame Inductee: Harrison B. Wilson,” Jackson State Athletics Media, 8/22/2013, http://www.jsutigers.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=29000&ATCLID=209224821; Office of the President, Norfolk State University, https://www.nsu.edu/president/past-presidents.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mfume, Kweisi (Frizzel Gray) (1948 - )

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

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

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

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

Batson, Flora (1864-1906)

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

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

Mathis, Johnny (1935 - )

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

John “Johnny” Royce Mathis, singer, was born in Gilmer, Texas on September 30, 1935, the fourth of seven children born to Clem, a chauffeur and handyman, and Mildred, a maid.  The Mathis family moved to San Francisco, California's Fillmore District when Mathis was a young child.  When Clem Mathis, who had worked for a time in vaudeville, recognized his son's musical talent, the family scraped together $25, bought a piano and began teaching him songs and routines. Soon afterwards young Mathis started performing in church and school shows.

At the age of thirteen Mathis began taking lessons with Connie Cox, a San Francisco music teacher, paying for his training by working in the Cox home.  Mathis studied with Cox for the next six years, receiving voice training in classical music including opera

Sources: 

J. Green, "Forever Johnny: What It Takes to Maintain the Mathis Lifestyle," New Yorker Magazine, July 3, 2000: 54-58.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lewis, Hylan Garnet (1911-2000)

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

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

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

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

Miller, Doris [“Dorie”] (1919-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership, Public Domain
World War II war hero Doris “Dorie” Miller was born in Waco, Texas on October 12, 1919 to Conery and Henrietta Miller who were farmers just outside the city.  Miller grew to 6 feet 3 inches, weighed over 200 pounds, and played football at Waco’s A.J. Moore Academy.  He dropped out of school at the age of 17 and enlisted in the US Navy in 1939 at the age of 20.  He was made a mess attendant, one the few positions available to African Americans at the time.  Miller was eventually elevated to Cook, Third Class and assigned to the USS West Virginia stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Clark and Stanley Harrold, The African American Odyssey, Combined Volume  (New York: Prentice Hall, 2003); Matthew C. Whitaker, Peace Be Still: Modern Black America from World War II to Barack Obama (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Guerrero, Vicente (1783-1831)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Vicente Guerrero was born in the small village of Tixla in the state of Guerrero.  His parents were Pedro Guerrero, an African Mexican and Guadalupe Saldana, an Indian. Vicente was of humble origins. In his youth he worked as a mule driver on his father’s mule run.  His travels took him to different parts of Mexico where he heard of the ideas of independence. Through one of these trips he met rebel General Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. In November 1810, Guerrero decided to join Morelos. Upon the assassination of Morelos by the Spaniards, Guerrero became Commander in Chief. In that position he made a deal with Spanish General Agustin de Iturbide.
Sources: 
Theodore G. Vincent, The Legacy of Vincente Guerrero: Mexico’s First Black Indian President (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001); Lane Clark, “Guerrero Vicente,” Historical Text Archive.  http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&amp;artid=563.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Evers, Medgar (1925-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 Medgar Evers, at the time of his assassination in 1963, was the Field Secretary for the Mississippi NAACP and thus one of the leaders of the civil rights movement in that state. Evers was born on July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. Evers was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in Normandy in the following year. After his discharge from the service, Evers enrolled at Alcorn College.
Sources: 
Medgar Wiley Evers, The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: a Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005); http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms-writers/dir/evers_medgar/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Cochran, Johnnie, Jr. (1937-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Johnnie Cochran Jr. was born on October 2, 1937 in Shreveport, Louisiana into a family descended from slaves.  His father was an insurance salesman and his mother sold Avon products. When he was a young boy, his family moved to Los Angeles, California where he grew up in an affluent and stable household with parents who stressed education and a color-blind attitude towards the world.  Cochran attended public schools where he excelled.  While his family was well-off, he always managed to find friends who had more than he did and seeing this pushed him even harder.

Cochran attended the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree.  From there he went to the Loyola Marymount University School of Law where he graduated in 1962 with a law degree.  After passing the California Bar exam in 1963 Cochran began working as a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles.  In 1965 he formed his own law firm, Cochran, Atkins & Evans where he dealt with criminal and civil cases.  In 1966, he fought a case on behalf of a young black man who was shot by Los Angeles police officers while trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital.  Cochran argued unsuccessfully that the police had used unnecessary violence.
Sources: 
Johnnie Cochran, A Lawyer’s Life (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002); http://authors.aalbc.com/johnnie_cochran.htm; http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542444.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Norton, Ken (1943-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Ken Norton, Going the Distance (Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing, 2000); www.ibhof.com; www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rodney, Walter (1942-1979)

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

Walter Rodney, one of the most important Guyanese intellectual and political figures of the 20th Century, was born on March 23, 1942 in Georgetown, Guyana. Because of his working-class background, the period in which he lived, and his parents' political awareness, Rodney was introduced to issues of race, class, and empire at an early age.  He lived in a West Indian society in transition and experienced violence, racism, decolonization, and the rise of local elites in this former European colony who propagated the old colonial systems and structures. 

Sources: 
Rupert Lewis, Walter Rodney's Intellectual and Political Thought (Barbados: Press University of the West Indies, 1998); Walter Rodney, Walter Rodney Speaks: The Making of an African Intellectual (Trenton, N.J.: African World Press, 1990); Anthony Bogues, Black Heretics, Black Prophets: Radical Political Intellectuals (New York: Routledge, 2003).
Contributor: 

Erving, Julius Winfield II (1950 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Julius Erving with the New York Nets
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Professional basketball player Julius Winfield Erving II, respected by teammates and the fans alike, is best known for his on-court flair and inventive movements, introducing the slam dunk into the game of professional basketball.  Erving, nicknamed “Dr. J,” was born on February 22, 1950 in Roosevelt, New York.  He began his professional career in the American Basketball Association (ABA) for the Virginia Squires (1971-1973) and later the New York Nets (1973-1976).  From 1976 to 1987 he played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Philadelphia 76ers.

While playing basketball at Roosevelt High School, Erving's teammates nicknamed him “The Doctor”, which later was changed to “Dr. J”.  Erving attended the University of Massachusetts for his college career under Coach Jack Leaman. After two years of NCAA College Basketball, Erving averaged 26.3 points and 20.2 rebounds per game.

In 1971, he left college and joined the Virginia Squires in the ABA. After two seasons with the Squires, Erving entered the NBA Draft where he was picked 12th by the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Erving tried to sign with the Atlanta Hawks but due to legal issues Erving was required to play another season in the ABA. The Virginia Squires sold Erving's contract to the New York Nets before the 1973 season.

Sources: 
Vincent Mallozzi, Doc: The Rise and Rise of Julius Erving (New York: Wiley, 2009); http://www.nba.com/history/players/erving_summary.html; http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/erv0bio-1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Berry, Edwin C. “Bill” (1910- 1987)

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

 

Image From the Urban League of
Portland Records

Civil rights activist Edwin C. “Bill” Berry was affiliated with the Urban League for over 30 years and served as executive director of the Chicago Urban League from 1956 to 1970. When he arrived in Chicago he denounced the city’s segregationist practices and drove anti-discrimination legislation in the city and state. He was a leader of the Chicago Freedom Movement.

Edwin Berry was born on November 11, 1910 in Oberlin, Ohio to John A. Berry, an attorney, and Kitty Berry, a homemaker. He was one of five children. At the age of six Berry’s father died. Kitty struggled to make ends meet, working as a boarder, seamstress and cook.

Edwin Berry grew up in Oberlin and attended Oberlin College on an academic scholarship. In 1935 he moved to Pittsburg and graduated from Duquesne University in 1938 with a degree in education. Berry began his career with the Pittsburgh Urban League as group work secretary. 

Sources: 
Lerone Bennett, Jr., “North’s Hottest Fight for Integration.” Ebony Magazine 31:8 (March 1962); Jerry Crimmins, "Bill Berry, Ex-Urban League Director, Civil Rights Activist,” Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1987; Darrell Millner, On the Road to Equality: A Fifty Year Retrospective (Portland: The Urban League of Portland, 1995); Arvarh E. Strickland and Christopher Robert Reed, History of the Chicago Urban League (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1966).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Price, Florence Beatrice Smith (1887-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of AfriClassical.com

Florence Beatrice Smith, the first black woman composer to garner an international reputation, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1887, to James H. Smith, a dentist, and Florence Gulliver Smith, a former school teacher and private lesson piano teacher who also managed several local businesses. Under her mother’s musical tutelage, Smith was quickly recognized as a prodigy. While attending Capitol Hill School in Little Rock, she published her first composition when she was eleven.  At fourteen, she studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, graduating in 1907 with a Bachelor of Music degree. Smith taught at the Cotton Plant-Arkadelphia Academy and at Shorter College until 1910 when she accepted a position as Chair of the Music Department at Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time she was 23.

In 1912 Smith returned to Arkansas where she wed Thomas Jewell Price, a well-known Little Rock, Arkansas attorney. The couple had three children, a son, who died in infancy, and two daughters.  Price started a music school and continued to compose piano pieces, but she was denied membership in the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association because of her race.  When serious racial unrest erupted in Little Rock, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1927. It was here that Price was able to reach her full musical potential, but unfortunately, it came with the end of her marriage in 1935.

Sources: 
Florence Beatrice Smith Price Papers, Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas;  http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1742;  http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/price.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jarboro, Caterina (1903-1986)

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

Caterina Jarboro was born one of three children in Wilmington, North Carolina, to an American Indian mother and a black father who was a local barber. She was christened Katherine Lee Yarborough at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Wilmington.  She received elementary school education at St. Thomas, and later attended Gregory Normal School.  Her parents died when she was thirteen years old, and in 1916, she traveled to Brooklyn, New York, to live with an aunt.

Jarboro studied music in New York where her exceptional ability soon became apparent. By 1921 she appeared in popular theater musicals, such as Sissle and Blake’s “Shuffle Along,” and later in James P. Johnson’s, “Running Wild.” Like many black musicians and performers, she sought more opportunity for study and experience in Europe. Under contract to the San Carlo Opera Company, Jarboro debuted in Verdi’s Aida in 1930 at the Puccini Theater in Milan, Italy.  She continued to study in France and to perform in small productions in Europe until 1932 when she returned to the United States.

Sources: 
Interview with Caterina Jarboro in the Hatch-Billops Collection at the New York City Public Library; http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20070226 /NEWS/702260342; http://www.nytimes.com/1986/08/16/obituaries/caterina-jarboro.html?pagewanted=print
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lambert, William (1817-1890)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Abolitionist and civil rights activist William Lambert was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1817, the son of a manumitted father and a freeborn mother. As a young man Lambert was educated by abolitionist Quakers.

Twenty-three year old Lambert arrived in Detroit, Michigan in 1840 as a cabin boy on a steamboat, and eventually started a profitable tailoring and dry cleaning business.  Upon his death Lambert left behind an estate estimated at $100,000.  Lambert was also a founder of the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and served as one of its wardens.

In Detroit Lambert soon became active in the movement to secure suffrage for the black men of Michigan. He founded the Colored Vigilant Committee, Detroit’s first civil rights organization. In 1843 Lambert helped to organize the first State Convention of Colored Citizens in Michigan. He was subsequently elected chair of the convention and gave an address regarding the right to vote that was directed not only towards black people, but also to the white male citizens of the state. Lambert also worked to bring public education to the black children of Detroit.
Sources: 
Katherine DuPre Lumpkin, “The General Plan Was Freedom”: A Negro Secret Order on the Underground Railroad," Phylon, 28:1 (1st Qtr., 1967); “William Lambert," Detroit African-American History Project, Wayne.edu website; Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation, http://www.elmwoodhistoriccemetery.org/biographies/william-lambert/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Robert (1911-1938)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Johnson was the eleventh child of Julia Major Dodds.  Born out of wedlock, Johnson did not take the Dodds name. He grew up with his mother in Hazlehurst, Mississippi but soon moved up to live with his father, Charles Dodds, in Memphis. Charles Dodds changed his last name to Spencer and so Robert was known in his younger years as Robert Spencer. Around 1918, Johnson moved to an area around Robinsonville and Tunica, Mississippi to rejoin his mother who had remarried. Not much is known about Johnson’s childhood other than he was always interested in music. People in the Delta who knew Johnson claimed played the diddley bow when he was younger. A diddley bow is wire attached to nails sticking out of houses. A person could then hit the wire with a stick and use an empty bottle that slides along the wire to change the pitch.
Sources: 
Peter Guralnick, Searching for Robert Johnson (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1989); Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch, Robert Johnson: Lost and Found (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Patricia R. Schroeder, Robert Johnson: Mythmaking and Contemporary American Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lavizzo, Dr. Philip V. (1917-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Photo Courtesy of Lavizzo Family"
Dr. Philip V. Lavizzo, one of the first African American doctors to practice surgery in the Pacific Northwest, was born in 1917.  Very little is known about his early life.  He graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and initially practiced medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana

While in New Orleans, Dr. Lavizzo developed a national reputation as a medical innovator. He coauthored “Observations on the General Adaptation of Syndrome: Surgery as Measured by the Eosinophil Response.” This prized paper was delivered at the first annual Charles Drew Memorial Forum in August 1951.

Sources: 
Philip Lavizzo and Matthew Walker, “Observations on the General Adaptation Syndrome: Surgery as Measured by the Eosinophil Response,” Journal of the National Medical Association 1952, Mar. Vol. 44, No. 2 (March 1952), pp, 87-96, found in http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2617112/; Thomas J. Ward, Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central College

Harris, Kamala Devi (1964– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On November 8, 2016, Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate from California, becoming the second African American woman to sit in that body after Carol Mosely Braun of Illinois was elected to represent Illinois 24 years earlier in 1992. Before her election to the U.S. Senate, Harris served two-terms as the Attorney General of California.  She was also the first black woman and first person of color to hold elective office as attorney general of any state.
 
Kamala Devi Harris was born in Oakland, California, on October 20, 1964 to Donald J. Harris, a Stanford University economics professor from Jamaica and Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer specialist who immigrated from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Harris attended high school in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where her mother worked at McGill University Hospital.  
Sources: 
Jason B. Johnson, “San Francisco/D.A. creates environmental unit/3 staff team takes on crime mostly affecting the poor,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 1, 2005; Kerry-Ann Hamilton, “Howard Alumna Becomes First Woman Elected as California Attorney General,” University News, December 14, 2010, Howard University, News Room, www.howard.edu; Barbara Parker and Rebecca Kaplan, “Kamala Harris’ foreclosure deal a win for the state,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 5, 2012; Michael Finnegan, “How Race Shaped Kamala Harris’ Politics,” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2015, "Kamala Harris is Elected California's New U.S. Senator," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University

Towns, Edolphus (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Office of
Representative Edolphus Towns
Currently in his 13th term in Congress, Edolphus Towns is a Democratic Representative from the State of New York.  Towns was born in Chadbourn, North Carolina on July 21, 1934, and attended the public schools of Chadbourn before graduating with a B.S. degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in 1956. After graduating he served for two years in the U.S. Army and then taught in several New York City public schools, Fordham University, and Medgar Evars College. He received his master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University in 1973.

Between 1965 and 1975 Towns worked as program director of the Metropolitan Hospital and as assistant administrator at Beth Israel Hospital. He was also employed by several Brooklyn area healthcare and youth and senior citizen organizations.

In 1972 Towns was elected Democratic state committeeman in Brooklyn.  Four year later, in 1976, he became the first African American Deputy Borough president of Brooklyn, a position he held until 1982. That same year Representative Frederick W. Richmond resigned from the House.  Towns won the vacated seat in the November election.   
Sources: 
http://www.house.gov/towns/bio.shtml; Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Katherine Goble (1918- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Katherine Goble Johnson, heralded as the first African American woman in Aerospace Engineering, was born on August 26, 1918 in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, a city where schooling for “colored” people then ended with the eighth grade. In 1933, she graduated summa cum laude (with highest honor), with a Bachelor of Science degree in French and Mathematics, from West Virginia State University (formerly West Virginia State College). Twenty years later, married with three children, she transitioned from a teaching career to a coveted research mathematician position, at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, 1915-1958), the predecessor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, 1958-   ). Johnson’s mathematical prowess led her to assist NACA’s all-male team of engineers tasked with finding solutions to America’s space-flight navigation problems.
Sources: 
Tamara Dietrich, “Newport News Woman Recalls Career as NASA Langley ‘Computer,’” (Newport News Daily Press, December 2012); Jim Hodges, “She Was a Computer When Computers Wore Skirts,” NASA-Langley Researcher News (August 2008); http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/katherine-g-johnson-42.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Diop, Cheikh Anta (1923-1986)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Distinguished historian and Pan-Africanist political leader, Cheikh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel, Senegal on December 23, 1933 to a Muslim Wolof family. Part of the peasant class, his family belonged to the African Mouride Islamic sect. Diop grew up in both Koranic and French colonial schools. Upon completing his bachelor’s degree in Senegal, Diop moved to Paris, where he began his graduate studies at the Sorbonne in 1946 in physics.

Sources: 
John Middleton and Joseph C. Miller, eds., New Encyclopedia of Africa (Detroit: Thomson/Gale, c2008); Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Evergreen State College

Ingram, Rex (1895-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs Division,
Carl Van Vechten Collection

Rex Ingram, one of the first African American male actors to serve on the Board of the Screen Actors Guild, was born in 1895 on a houseboat on the Mississippi River near Cairo Illinois. Ingram claimed to have sailed as a crewman on a windjammer after receiving a medical degree from Northwestern University in Illinois, though little is actually known about his personal life prior to his entry into acting.

Ingram’s film career began in 1918, when he made his acting debut by appearing in bit parts of Tarzan films.  He went on to appear in silent films such as The Ten Commandments (1923). Between filming, Ingram worked as a professional boxer to support himself and later appeared in a number of Broadway plays, including Porgy and Bess and Stevedore. During his Broadway interim in New York, Ingram traveled back and forth to Hollywood where he obtained small parts in a number of movies, including the 1933 film The Emperor Jones opposite Paul Robeson. His big break came when he appeared in the 1936 film Green Pastures, for which he received acclaim for his multifaceted ability to portray the characters De Lawd, Adam, and Hezdrel.

Sources: 

Rex Ingram, “I Came Back from the Dead: Actor tells of his
Determination to Return to Stardom after Period of Disaster.” Ebony,
Vol. 10, (March 1955); The New York Times, “Rex Ingram, the Actor, Dies
in Hollywood at 73,” September 20, 1969; Donald Bogle. Blacks in
American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia
, (New York: Garland
Publishing, Inc, 1988).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Stanley, Sara G. (1837-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Born in 1837 in North Carolina, Sara G. Stanley was a member of a free, educated and economically secure family.  She attended Oberlin College and later moved to Delaware after her family immigrated there.  Following the tradition of other free black women Sara joined the local ladies antislavery society.  As a representative of her organization she delivered a strong and forceful address at the 1856 meeting of the all male Convention of Disfranchised citizens of Ohio.

Sources: 
Ellen NicKenzie Lawson and Marlene D. Merrill, “The Three Sarahs: Documents of Antebellum Black College Women” in Edwin Mellen Press Studies in Women and Religion, Vol. 13. (New York, 1984); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women In America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. 11 (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Carlson Publishing, 1993), p. 1104.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Vermont

Truth, Sojourner, Isabella Baumfree (ca. 1791-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Olive Gilbert and Frances Titus, Narrative of Sojourner Truth; A Bondswoman of Olden Time, Emancipated by the New York Legislature in the Early Part of the Present Century; with a History of her Labors and Correspondence Drawn from her “Book of Life” (1875); Carleton Mabee, Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend (1993); Nell Irvin Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol (1996), Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Edwards, Thyra J. (1897-1953)

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

Thyra J. Edwards, born in 1897, the granddaugher of runaway slaves, grew up in Houston, Texas and started her career there as a school teacher.  Eventually she moved to Gary, Indiana and later Chicago, Illinois where she was employed as a social worker.  Edwards would eventually become a world lecturer, journalist, labor organizer, women's rights advocate, and civil rights activist all before her 40th birthday.   

Sources: 
Gregg Andrews, Thyra J. Edwards: Black Activist in the Global Freedom Struggle (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011); E. Carlton-LaNey, ed., African American Leadership: An Empowerment Tradition in Social Welfare History (Washington, D.C.: National Association of Social Workers, 2001). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Howard University

Savage, W. Sherman (1890-1981)

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

Born on the Eastern Shore of Virginia on March 7, 1890, William Sherman Savage was forced to withdraw from primary school at age 11 to help his family in the fields, but he never gave up his dream of attaining a full education.  Finally finishing elementary school in Richmond and high school in Baltimore, he earned an A.B. from Howard University in 1917.  After teaching at high schools in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, Savage obtained a permanent teaching post at Lincoln University in Missouri in 1921, where he would remain for thirty-nine years.  Along the way, he took time off to earn an M.A. in History at the University of Oregon in 1925, and a Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1934.  His was the first doctorate in History awarded by OSU to an African American and among the earliest awarded to any African American in History by a predominately white university.
Sources: 
Lorenzo Greene, “W. Sherman Savage,” Journal of Negro History (1981);  “Savage, William Sherman,” in W. A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981); “African-American History,” Department of History, Ohio State University; Archives and Special Collections, University of Oregon.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Kennedy, Adrienne (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Adrienne Kennedy has earned a place as one of contemporary America’s most renowned and admired African American authors, lecturers and playwrights. Kennedy was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 13, 1931 to Cornell Wallace and Etta (Haugabook) Hawkins. Kennedy spent her childhood in Cleveland, Ohio, where she attended public schools.  She graduated from Ohio State University with a B.A in Education in 1953. In May of that same year she wed Joseph C. Kennedy with whom she had two children. After the birth of her oldest son, Kennedy continued to pursue her education by attending Columbia University (1954-56), the American Theatre Wing, the New School of Social Research, and Circle in the Square Theatre School. Kennedy also participated in Edward Albee's Theatre Workshop, in New York City.

Kennedy is most known for her role in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and early 1970s.  She was a founding member of the Women’s Theatre Council in 1971.  Her publications include An Evening with Dead Essex, The Owl Answers, Deadly Triplets, and A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White. Other writings include the autobiographical works, Funnyhouse of a Negro and Pale Blue Flowers.  
Kennedy also served as editor of Black Orpheus: A Journal of African and Afro-American Literature.
Sources: 
"Adrienne Kennedy" in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press);
“Adrienne Kennedy” <http://www.upress.umn.edu/misc/kennedy/kennedy.html>
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Vincent, Marjorie (1964- )

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

Marjorie Judith Vincent, the fourth African American to be crowned Miss America, was born on November 12, 1964 in Oak Park, Illinois. She was Miss America 1991. Vincent is the daughter of Lucien and Florence Vincent of Cap Haitien, Haiti. Vincent’s parents migrated to the United States in the early 1960s and Marjorie was the first of their children to be born on American soil. During her youth, Vincent attended Chicago catholic schools and took piano and ballet lessons. In the mid 1980s she entered DePaul University as a music major, eventually switching to business in her third year and graduating in 1988. The money she earned from beauty pageants enabled her to fund her education.

After failing to win twice at the state level, once as Miss North Carolina and as Miss Illinois, the third time was the charm as she became Miss Illinois 1990.  Winning at the state level allowed her to move on to the national competition in Atlantic City. During the September 1990 pageant she performed the Fantaisie-Impromptu (Op.66) by Chopin. Vincent wowed the audience with her proficiency and went on to win the crown of Miss America 1991. She succeeded another black woman, Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990. Her victory marked the first time there were back-to-back black Miss Americas.

Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Valerie Helmbreck, “Miss America’s Changing Face,” Wilmington News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) September 18, 1990; Lynn Norment, “Back- to- Back Black Miss America’s,” Ebony, December 1990, 46-49, http://www.missamerica.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Qaddafi, Muammar, Al- (1942-2011)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Muammar al-Qaddifi With Italian Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Muammar al-Qaddafi has been Libyan head of state since 1969 and one of the most controversial and divisive leaders in the Middle East and Africa in the twentieth century.  Qaddafi was born in the spring of 1942 to an Arabized Berber family near the Sirt desert on Libya’s northern coast.  He was sent to a local primary school in central Sirt, where he was taunted for being of impoverished Bedouin background. At nights, he slept in the neighborhood mosque and returned home to the city’s outskirts on weekends and holidays.

Sources: 
“Qadafi, Muammar (c.1941),” in Robin Leonard Bidwell, Dictionary of Modern Arab History (London; New York: Kegan Paul International, 1998); “Muammar Qaddafi (1942-   ),” in Bernard Reich, ed., Political Leaders of the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990);  “Libya: Gaddafi (Qadhdhafi) and Jamahiriyya (Libyan Revolution),” in Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tate, Mary Magdalena Lewis (1871-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Church of the Living God
Mary Magdalena Lewis Tate founded a Pentecostal denomination and became one of the first American women to hold the title, Bishop. Born in Vanleer, Tennessee on January 5, 1871, to Belfield Street and Nancy (Hall) Street, she married her first husband, David Lewis, at age nineteen; they had two sons. As that marriage broke up, she began preaching close to home. Soon she traveled several hundred miles as she crossed state lines into Kentucky and Illinois. Along the way, she gathered converts into “Do Rights” bands, so named because people responded to her message by wanting to “do right.” These associations in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee purchased property to house a meeting place for their worship services of song, testimony, Bible study, and preaching. In 1903, she gathered these groups into the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth.
Sources: 
Estrelda Y. Alexander, Limited Liberty: The Legacy of Four Pentecostal Women Pioneers (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim, 2008); Meharry H. Lewis, ed., Mary Lena Lewis Tate: Collected Letters and Manuscripts (Nashville: The New and Living Way, 2003).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Anderson, Violette Neatley (1882-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
In 1926 Violette Neatley Anderson became the first African American female attorney admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.  Anderson was born on July 16, 1882 in London, England to Richard and Marie Neatley.  The family immigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago, Illinois when Anderson was a young child.  She graduated from a Chicago high school in 1899, furthering her education at the Chicago Athenaeum and the Chicago Seminar of Sciences.  Violette Neatley married Albert Johnson in 1903; however, the marriage quickly ended in divorce.  In December 1906, she married Dr. Daniel H. Anderson, an African American general practitioner, and she took his last name.
Sources: 
Virginia G. Drachman, Sisters in Law: Women Lawyers in Modern American History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); Women’s Law History, Stanford University, http://wlh.law.stanford.edu/biography_search/biopage/?woman_lawyer_id=11329; “Violette Neatley: Trailblazer for Women”, Los Angeles Sentinel, 14 May 2009, http://www.lasentinel.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6110:violette-neatley-trailblazer-for-women.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Capitein, Jacobus Elisa Johannes (1717?-1747)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Engraving of Jacobus Capitein
Image Ownership: Public Domain
As one of the first known sub-Saharan Africans to study at a European university, the freed slave Jacobus Capitein became a celebrity in Holland for his academic and religious achievements and later returned to his homeland to evangelize the indigenous population. Capitein was born on the Gold Cost but his exact place and date of birth are unknown. According to his own account, he was kidnapped from his parents at the age of seven or eight and sold to Dutch sea-captain named Arnold Steenhard who gave him as a present to his friend the merchant Jacob van Gogh. Capitein lived with his master for two years in the Dutch Fort of Elmina in Ghana before leaving with him for Holland in 1728.
Sources: 
Allison Blakely, Blacks in the Dutch World: The Evolution of Racial Imagery in a Modern Society (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993); David Nii Anum Kpobi, Mission in Chains: The Life, Theology and Ministry of the Ex-Slave Jacobus E.J. Capitein (1717-1747) with a Translation of his Major Publications (Zoetermeer: Uitgeverij Boekencentrum, 1993); William J. Simmons, Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising (New York: Arno Press, 1968).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Cook, Will Mercer (1903-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Will Mercer Cook served as the United States ambassador to the Republic of Niger from 1961 to 1964. Cook directed U.S. economic, social, and cultural programs in Niger, which included the Peace Corps. During the mid-1960s he also became the special envoy to Gambia and Senegal.

Will Mercer Cook was born on March 30, 1903, in Washington, D.C., to Will Marion Cook, a composer and Abbie Mitchell Cook, an actress and classical singer.  Cook had one sibling, Abigail, an older sister. During his childhood, he frequently traveled with his family as they performed at various venues throughout the United States and abroad.  Jazz superstar Duke Ellington lived on the same block in Cook’s middle class Washington, D.C. neighborhood.    

Sources: 
Mercer Cook and Dantes Bellegarde, eds., The Haitian American Anthology: Haitian Readings from American Authors (Port-au Prince, Haiti: Imperimerie de l’Etat, 1944); “Will Mercer Cook, 84, Ambassador, Educator, Dies,” Jet, 73 (October 26, 1987);
Office of the Historian -Department History - People – Cook, Mercer: http://www.history.state.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Stringfield, Bessie (1911–1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 1930 Bessie Stringfield became the first African American woman to ride her motorcycle across the United States solo. Her feat was credited with breaking down barriers for both women and African-American motorcyclists.

Born Betsy Leonora Ellis on February 9, 1911, in Kingston, Jamaica, she was the daughter of Maria Ellis, a domestic servant, and James Ferguson, her employer. Betsy and her parents migrated to Boston, Massachusetts but both died of smallpox. Orphaned when Betsy was five years old, she was adopted by a wealthy Irish woman who raised her as a Catholic. It is unclear when and why Bessie rather than Betsy became her given name. On Bessie’s sixteenth birthday, her mother gave her a motorcycle, “even though good girls didn’t ride motorcycles.”

Sources: 
Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame, Bessie Stringfield, http://www.motorcyclemuseum.org/halloffame; “Bessie Stringfield, Motorcyclist”; Good Spark Garage, http://goodsparkgarage.com/bessie-stringfield-motorcyclist/; “Bessie Stringfield, a True Legend,” Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys, March 2, 2012, http://www.russbrown.com/blog/bessie-stringfield-a-true-legend; Natalie Windsor and Ann Ferrar, Hear Me Roar: Women, Motorcycles and the Rapture of the Road (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dunn, Oscar J. (ca. 1825-1871)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper’s Perennial, 2002); W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (New York: Touchstone, 1995); “Lieut.-Gov. Oscar J. Dunn—Cause of His Death—Some Reminiscences of His Career” The New York Times, November 28, 1871.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Shober, James Francis (1853–1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dr. James Francis Shober was an African American doctor and the first known black physician to practice in North Carolina. Shober was born on August 23, 1853, in or near the Moravian town of Salem (now Winston-Salem), North Carolina. Shober’s father, believed to be Francis Edwin Shober, was successful white businessman and politician in the Salem Moravian community who served in the North Carolina state legislature and the United States Congress.

Francis Shober earned his law degree at the University of North Carolina in 1851 and was a co-founder of the first Sunday school in the state. Meanwhile James Shober’s mother, Betsy Ann Waugh, was a mulatto slave who was only eighteen years old when Shober was born. Betsy Ann, who lived in Salem, passed away in 1859 when Shober was between the age of six and seven. He was sent back to the Waugh Plantation near Waughtown, North Carolina, where his grandmother lived with other family relatives.

Sources: 
Ben Steelman, “James Shober, North Carolina Doctor,” http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/james-shober-north-carolina-doctor; William S. Powell, “Shober, James Francis,” http://ncpedia.org/biography/shober-james-francis; Elizabeth Reed, “James Shober” in, Find A Grave- Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=23080615.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Waldon, Alton Ronald, Jr. (1936–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of 
Representatives Photography Office
Alton Ronald Waldon Jr. was the first African American Congressman elected from Queens, New York.  Waldon was born in Lakeland, Florida on December 21, 1936. He attended Boys High School in Brooklyn, New York and after graduation in 1954 joined the United States Army.  Discharged in 1959 Waldon attended John Jay College in New York City where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1968.  He received a J.D. from New York Law School in 1973.

While still in college Waldron joined the New York City Housing Authority’s police force in 1962 and served until 1975 when he was appointed deputy commissioner of the State Division of Human Rights. He also served as assistant counsel for the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

In 1982 Waldon was elected to represent the Thirty-third District in the New York Assembly, where he served until his election to Congress.

On April 10, 1986, Sixth District Congressman Joseph Addabbo died in office.  In the special election that followed in June, Waldon defeated Floyd H. Flake, a prominent African Methodist Episcopal Church minister, and was sworn into Congress on June 10, 1986. He was seated on the Committee of Education and Labor and the Committee on Small Business.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) http://bioguide.congress.gov/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Tucker, Lorenzo (1907-1986)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Crosthwait, David Nelson Jr. (1898-1976)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Kirk, Ronald (1954-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ronald "Ron" Kirk is the U.S. Trade Representative for U.S. President Barack Obama.  Kirk was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 18, 2009, and officially sworn in two days later.  Kirk is the 16th trade representative and the first African American to hold the Cabinet-level post.  As trade representative, he serves as the president's principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson.  He is also responsible for the development of U.S. trade policy and the oversight of existing trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Kirk was born in 1954 in Austin, Texas.  He received a BA degree in political science and sociology from Austin College in 1976 and then went on to the University of Texas Law School where he received a J.D. three years later. While attending law school, he accepted an internship with the Texas Legislature.  After graduating, Kirk worked for Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas as an aide and later was appointed Texas Secretary of State by Texas Governor Ann Richards, also a Democrat.

In 1995, Kirk, in his first bid for public office and with major support from the local business community, ran for mayor of Dallas, Texas.  He won a landslide victory, securing 62% of the vote to become mayor.  During his mayoral campaign, Kirk promoted racial harmony in a city that had experienced considerable racial tension.
Sources: 
“United States Representative Ron Kirk,” Office of the United States Trade Representative, http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/biographies-key-officials/united-states-trade-representative-ron-kirk; Alston Hornsby Jr., and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots (Montgomery, AL: E-Book Time LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ruffin, Josephine St. Pierre (1842 - 1924)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was born into one of Boston’s leading families on August 31, 1842.  St. Pierre’s mother was an English-born white woman and her father was from the island of Martinique, and founder of the Boston Zion Church.  The St. Pierre’s sent their young daughter to Salem where the schools were integrated due mainly to the work of John Lenox Remond. 

St. Pierre married George Lewis Ruffin at the age of 15.  Ruffin was the first African American to graduate from Harvard Law School and later served on the Boston City Council, the state legislature, and became the first black municipal judge in Boston. After marriage, Mrs. Ruffin graduated from a Boston finishing school and completed two years of private tutoring in New York.  During the civil war, the Ruffins were involved in various charity works, civil rights causes, and Mrs. Ruffin, especially, was involved in the women’s suffrage movement where she worked with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Sources: 
Susan L. Albertine, ed., A Living of Words: American Women in Print Culture (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995); Roger Streitmatter, Raising Her Voice: African American Women Journalists Who Changed History (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1994); www.in.gov/icw/archives/ruffin.html
www.mfh.org/specialprojects/shwlp/site/honorees/ruffin.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch McGregor University

DePriest, Oscar (1871-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
S. Davis Day, “Herbert Hoover and Racial Politics: The De Priest Incident.” Journal of Negro History 65 (Winter 1980); Charles Branham, “Oscar DePriest,” The Encyclopedia of Chicago (Chicago: The Newberry Library, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Hayes, Charles Arthur (1918-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
African American Congressman, Charles Arthur Hayes, will forever be remembered for his commitment to legislate equal rights for black labor workers.  After noticing racism aimed toward black workers in his hometown of Cairo, Illinois, Hayes moved to Chicago and started unionizing activities in 1942.  As a unionist, he helped end discriminatory hiring practices and improved job benefits for black laborers.  Hayes also was one of the first African American leaders to address the issues facing black women in Chicago’s African American community.  

During the 1950s he helped persuade the United Packinghouse Workers (UPWA-CIO), a major, predominately white union in Chicago, to establish its headquarters in the African American community, fought against segregated housing patterns, and raised money to prosecute the murderers of Emmett Till.  Hayes later worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) in the Chicago civil rights movement.  In the 1970s and 1980s he helped found the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), assisted Operation PUSH and supported the campaigns of two black Congressmen who were elected in the state of Illinois.  In August 1983, he himself was elected to Congress in a special election to fill the vacant seat created when Harold Washington was elected Mayor of Chicago.  Hayes served in Congress for ten years.  
Sources: 
Obituary of Charles Arthur Hayes, 1997: “Congressman Charles Hayes”; http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=Hooo388.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Susan (Susie) Baker King (1848-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
Library of Congress

Born on the Grest Farm in Liberty County, Georgia, on August 6, 1848, Susie Baker King Taylor was raised as an enslaved person.  Her mother was a domestic servant for the Grest family.  At the age of 7, Baker and her brother were sent to live with their grandmother in Savannah. Even with the strict laws against formal education of African Americans, they both attended two secret schools taught by black women. Baker soon became a skilled reader and writer.

By 1860, having been taught everything these two black educators could offer, Baker befriended two white individuals, a girl and boy, who also offered to teach her lessons even though they knew it violated Georgia law and custom.

Sources: 
Susie King Taylor, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp: An African American Woman’s Civil War Memoir (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bosley, Freeman Roberson, Jr. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Freeman Roberson Bosley, Jr., is the first African American Mayor of St. Louis, Missouri.  Bosley was born in St. Louis on July 20, 1954, the son of Freeman Roberson and Marjorie Bosley.  His father, a long-time alderman in St. Louis, unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1985.  Bosley received a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Affairs in 1976 and a Juris Doctor (law) degree in 1979 from St. Louis University.  Active in politics as both an undergraduate and a law student, Bosley served as the clerk of the Circuit Courts for eleven years, beginning in 1982, and was the city of St. Louis’s Democratic Party chairman from 1991 to 1993.

In 1993, at the age of 38, Bosley, a Democrat, was elected mayor defeating a relatively unknown Republican, John Gorman, and two independent candidates by winning 67 percent of the vote.  He won the Democratic primary over frontrunner Thomas Villa and his 1 million dollar campaign war chest by going door-to-door in African American, white, and racially-mixed neighborhoods accompanied by his wife and their two-year-old daughter.  His platform promoted racial harmony, reduced crime, and improved public schools.  He also proposed to allocate more funds for neighborhood redevelopment.  
Sources: 
Source: Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), pp. 30-31.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Bagnall, Robert W., Jr. (1883-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Minister and civil rights activist Robert W. Bagnall served as Director of Branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during the organization’s first significant period of growth in the early 20th century.  A graduate of Bishop Payne Divinity School in Petersburg, Virginia, Bagnall presided over several African Methodist Episcopal (AME) congregations along the Atlantic seaboard before arriving at Detroit’s St. Matthews AME Church in 1911.  At St. Matthews, he earned a reputation as both a committed religious leader and community activist.  One of the founding members of Detroit’s branch of the NAACP, Bagnall went on to serve as a regional NAACP recruiter before being appointed as national Director of Branches between 1921 and 1932.  

Like many other black civic leaders of the era, Bagnall mixed protest against racism with a vision of “racial uplift.”  As a spokesperson for the Detroit NAACP branch in the 1910s, he denounced the growth of segregation and discrimination that appeared in the wake of expanded black migration to the North while seeking to promote migrants as loyal, responsible industrial workers.  Throughout the early 20th century, Bagnall remained optimistic that black migration northward had politically invigorated African American protest politics.
Sources: 
“The NAACP,” The Crisis 2 (October 1911), 241-42;  “Robert Bagnall with N. A. A. C. P.,” The Messenger III (March 1921), 196;  Robert W. Bagnall, “The Three False Gods of Civilization,” The Messenger V (August 1923), 789-791;  Bagnall, “The Madness of Marcus Garvey,” The Messenger V (March 1923), 638, 648;  Bagnall, “Michigan--The Land of Many Waters,” The Messenger VIII (April 1926), 101-102, 123;  Bernice Dutrieuelle Shelton, “Robert Wellington Bagnall,” The Crisis 50 (November 1943), 334, 347;  Charles Flint Kellogg, NAACP, A History of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1967); Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability:  African American Women in Interwar Detroit (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University.

Churchville, John (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Elliott Churchville is a civil rights activist and black nationalist who founded Philadelphia's Freedom Library Community Project, which would become the Freedom Library Day School.

Born in Philadelphia in 1941, Churchville attended Simon Gratz High School, and, on graduation, began studying music education at Temple University. He dropped out in 1961 to become a jazz musician, and moved to New York, where he met Malcolm X at the Nation of Islam headquarters in Harlem.

Inspired by Malcolm’s black nationalism, Churchville attended the Inter-Collegiate Conference on Northern Civil Rights at Sarah Lawrence College in April 1962, where he was recruited to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Despite disagreeing with the Committee’s integrationist philosophy, Churchville joined its field staff and traveled south to Georgia and Mississippi to register voters. His experience in Freedom Schools, helping blacks in Greenwood, Mississippi pass the state’s literacy test, inspired him to see education as crucial to the civil rights movement.
Sources: 
Matthew Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); John Elliott Churchville, LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnelliottchurchvillephd; Paul M. Washington and David Gracie, Other Sheep I Have: The Autobiography of Father Paul M. Washington (Philadelphia: Temple University Press,1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sydney, Australia

Banning, James Herman (1899-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
J. Herman Banning was an aviation pioneer. He was the first black male aviator to be granted a license by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the first black pilot to fly coast to coast across the United States.

Banning was born in 1899 in Oklahoma, the son of Riley and Cora Banning. The Bannings moved to Ames, Iowa in 1919 and Herman Banning briefly studied electrical engineering at Iowa State University before he dropped out to pursue his interest in aviation. Banning was repeatedly turned away from flight schools due to his race. He was forced to learn how to fly from a private instructor, an army aviator who taught him at Raymond Fisher’s Flying Field in Des Moines, Iowa.

Banning owned and operated an auto repair shop in Ames from 1922 until 1928.  In 1929 he moved to Los Angeles, where he became the chief pilot for the Bessie Coleman Aero Club, which was named for the first black female to receive a pilot’s license. The organization’s mission was to encourage interest in aviation among African Americans.

Banning performed in air circuses and flew politicians during their campaigns. In 1930, for example, he flew Illinois Representative Oscar De Priest, who was the first black person to serve in Congress since Reconstruction, in an excursion over South Los Angeles.
Sources: 
Betty Kaplan Gubert, Miriam Sawyer, and Caroline Fannin, Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002); Philip S. Hart, America’s First Black Aviators (Minneapolis: First Avenue Editions, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Peace, Hazel Harvey (1903-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership:Public Domain
Fort Worth educator Hazel Bernice Harvey Peace was born on August 4, 1903, in Waco, Texas, to Allen H. and Georgia Mason Harvey.  Peace graduated from the Fort Worth Colored High School (later I. M. Terrell High School) in Fort Worth in 1919.  She obtained her B.A. degree in Education at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1923, and began her teaching career at I. M. Terrell High School in 1924. She also received an M.A. from Columbia University and did postgraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Vassar College, Hampton University, and Atlanta University. Hazel Harvey married Joe Peace of Fort Worth in September 1938.  They were married 21 years and were childless.

During Peace's early tenure as an educator, the Fort Worth public libraries often excluded African American patrons.  When she started a debate team at I.M. Terrell High, Peace checked out books from local universities to encourage her students to read and help the debate team members prepare for debate competitions.
Sources: 
CBS11TV.com, "Texas Educator Hazel Harvey Peace Dead at 100," available at: http://cbs11tv.com/local/Hazel.Harvey.Peace.2.744015.html; Dallas Morning News, June 10, 2008; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 11, 12, 2008; Katie Sherrod, "Honoring Hazel Harvey Peace," Desert's Child: A Blog, available at: http://wildernessgarden.blogspot.com/2007/08/honoring-hazel-harvey-peace.html; "Peace, Hazel Bernice Harvey,” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Commission, available at: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpeac; Bob Ray Sanders, “Our Mother of Mercy Playground a Fitting Tribute to Hazel Harvey Peace," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 31, 2012; http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/01/31/3702034/our-mother-of-mercy-playground.html#storylink=cpy; http://schools.fwisd.org/peace/Pages/Default.aspx
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McHenry, Donald Franchot (1936 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador Donald McHenry at the United Nations, ca. 1980
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Donald McHenry is a diplomat, scholar, corporate governor and educator who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN).  Because the hospitals of his home town, East St. Louis, Illinois, where he would grow up, were segregated, McHenry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on October 13, 1936. After his parents divorced he and his two siblings were raised by their mother.

McHenry received his bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University in 1957, and his master’s degree from Southern Illinois University in 1959. He found his niche in diplomacy and international affairs between 1963 and 1971, while working at the U.S. Department of State in its Office of Dependent Area Affairs. While there, he received its Superior Honor Award in 1966.
Sources: 
Partnership for a Secure America http://www.psaonline.org/userdata_display.php?modin=51&uid=21; J. S. Morris and J. G. Cook, Africa Policy in the Clinton Years: Critical Choices for the Bush Administration (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Affairs, 2001); and Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project. Interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy, March 23, 1993 and October 1, 1998.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

LeMelle, Wilbert J., Sr. (1931-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Wilbert J. LeMelle, Sr., was a scholar, development specialist, and ambassador to Kenya and the Republic of Seychelles between 1977 and 1980.  In both his academic and diplomatic work, LeMelle urged the United States to become more engaged in Africa, focusing on economic development and human rights issues.
Sources: 
Transcript, Ambassador Wilbert LeMelle Interview, 3 December 1998, by Richard Jackson for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project.  Online: http://www.adst.org/OH TOCs/LeMelle, Wilbert.toc.pdf; Wilbert J. LeMelle, The First Development Decade in Africa: An Assessment. The African Economic Revolution and the Afro-American (Princeton: Princeton University, 1972); Wilbert J. LeMelle, “The Changing Role of the Planning Advisor in East Africa,” The African Review: A Journal of African Politics, Development and International Affairs 3 (1973); Wilbert J. LeMelle, “The OAU and Superpower Intervention in Africa,” Africa Today 35 (1988):
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Johnson, Willard, Sr. (1901-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
(Image Courtesy Willard Johnson, Jr.)
Willard Johnson, bacteriologist, science educator, business proprietor, was born in Leavenworth Kansas, the third of the eleven children of Joseph Johnson and Hattie McClanahan. Taught by his high school’s founder, Blanche Kelso Bruce, nephew of the Reconstruction era Senator of the same name, he was the first in his family to go to college. Johnson attended Kansas University (KU), where he joined the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. In 1922, he was admitted to the Kansas University Medical School. Probably the second African American ever admitted, Willard struggled through nearly three years of medical course work but did not transfer to a black medical school to finish as KU required at the time.

Willard Johnson was awarded his Bachelor’s at KU in 1924 and then taught biological science courses at Rust College in Mississippi. In 1928 he completed a year of graduate work in bacteriology at the University of Chicago. In 1929, he joined the faculty of Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College in Nashville where he and his bride, Dorothy N. Stovall, of Humboldt, Kansas, had their first son, Richard E. He headed the Biology Department and taught zoology, comparative vertebrate anatomy, physiology, botany, hygiene and bacteriology. In 1932 he did further graduate study at Emporia State College in Kansas.

Sources: 
Willard Johnson Family Papers in the possession of the author; The Kansas Collection of The Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas; Kansas City Call, May 7, 1937, October 28, 1938; Amber Reagan-Kendrick, “Ninety Years of Struggle and Success: African American History at the University of Kansas, 1870-1960,” (doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tyson, Bernard J. (1959- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Bernard J. Tyson is a leading figure within the field of healthcare, a notable African American businessman, and more recently a commentator on U.S. race relations with the release of a highly regarded essay on his experiences being black in America. Tyson is the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Kaiser Permanente which with 175,000 employees including 18,000 physicians and over ten million members in eight states and the District of Columbia, is one of the nation’s largest health care providers.  Promoted on July 1, 2013 to CEO, he is the first African American to hold the position. Tyson, who has has worked for Kaiser for over three decades, also serves on the board of the American Heart Association.  In 2014 he was ranked the second most influential person in healthcare by Modern Healthcare. He ranked third in 2015. Tyson lives in San Francisco, California with his wife Denise Bradley-Tyson and his three sons.
Sources: 
Chad Turhune, "Kaiser Promotes Tyson to Be CEO, Chairman," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 6, 2012, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov/06/business/la-fi-kaiser-ceo-20121106; Victoria Colliver, "To Down-to-earth Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson, Helping Is Healing," SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 8, 2015, http://www.sfgate.com/visionsf/article/To-down-to-earth-Kaiser-CEO-Bernard-Tyson-6122429.php; "How Did I Get Here? Bernard Tyson," Bloomberg.com, http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-how-did-i-get-here/bernard-tyson.html: "About Us: Bernard J. Tyson," Kaiser Permanente Share, Mar. 2, 2016, http://share.kaiserpermanente.org/bio/bernard-j-tyson/;  Bernard J. Tyson, "It's Time to Revolutionize Race Relations," LinkedIn, Dec. 4, 2014, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141204174020-261404895-it-s-time-to-revolutionize-race-relations.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harrison, Hubert Henry (1883-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Photographs and Prints
Division, Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture, The New York Public Library, 
Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

Hubert Henry Harrison, author, lecturer, editor, and labor leader, was born in Concordia, St. Croix, Danish West Indies (now United States Virgin Islands) on April 27, 1883.  Upon the completion of his elementary schooling in 1900, he moved to New York City, New York.  There he took on various service-oriented positions, including that of telephone operator and hotel bellman.  Beginning in 1901 he attended an evening high school program, finishing at the top of his class in 1907.  After graduation Harrison became a postal clerk. 

Sources: 
Louis J. Parascandola, “Look for Me All Around You,” Anglophone Caribbean Immigrants in the Harlem Renaissance (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005), pp. 131-34; Jeffrey B. Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Evans, Melvin Herbert (1917–1984)

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

Sweatt, Heman Marion (1912-1982)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cotten, Elizabeth “Libba” (c. 1892-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten , an American folk and blues musician, made her professional debut in 1959 at the age of 67. Discovered by the musically renowned Seeger family in the 1950s, Cotten was soon recognized for her unique self-taught guitar and banjo picking style and her songs "Freight Train," "Oh, Babe, It Ain't No Lie" and "Shake Sugaree."

Born in 1892 (though some sources state 1893 or 1895) near Chapel Hill, North Carolina to a musically inclined family, Elizabeth Nevills started singing and performing pre-blues, finger-picked music at a young age. Secretly borrowing her brother's banjo, the left-handed Nevills taught herself to play the right-handed instrument by turning it upside down and playing the bass with her fingers and the treble with her thumb, inadvertently creating a unique picking style that was later referred to as "Cotten Picking." She bought her first guitar when she was 11 years old and continued to employ her upside-down picking technique.

Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, ed.,  Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); Bruce Bastin, Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1986); http://facstaff.unca.edu/sinclair/piedmontblues/cotten.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Langston, Charles Henry (1817-1892)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Charles Henry Langston
(Ohio Historical Society)

Charles Henry Langston, the grandfather of poet Langston Hughes, was born a free man on a Virginia plantation in 1817 to Captain Ralph Quarles and Lucy Jane Langston, Quarles’ mulatto slave. He had two brothers, John Mercer (who would become a Virginia Congressman in 1888) and Gideon. After the death of his father in 1834, Charles inherited a large part of his father’s estate, and he went to be educated at Oberlin College in 1842 and 1843.

Sources: 
Richard B. Sheridan, “Charles Henry Langston and the African American Struggle in Kansas,” Kansas History 22 (Winter 1999/2000); Eugene H. Berwanger, “Hardin and Langston: Western Black Spokesmen of the Reconstruction Era,” Journal of Negro History 64 (Spring 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Carver, George Washington (1864?-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Washington Carver began life inauspiciously on the frontier of southwestern Missouri. Born a slave, the precise date, indeed, even the year, is unknown. He never knew either of his biological parents, but was raised by his former owners as if he were their own. A sickly child, his workload on the Carvers’ farm was reasonably light. Consequently, he spent much of his childhood wandering through fields and woods where he developed an affinity for the natural world. Faced with limited educational opportunities, he left Missouri for Kansas, where he graduated from high school. After a try at homesteading on the western plains of Kansas, he found his way to Iowa where he enrolled at the Iowa Agricultural College in Ames. Recruited by Booker T. Washington to head up Tuskegee’s Agricultural Department, Carver left the Midwest for Alabama’s cotton belt shortly after he became the first African American to secure an advanced degree in agricultural science.
Sources: 
Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), and Mark Hersey, “Hints and Suggestions to Farmers: George Washington Carver and Rural Conservation in the South,” Environmental History 11 (April 2006), 239-268 available online at http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/eh/11.2/hersey.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Jackson, Maynard, Jr. (1938-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The great-grandson of slaves, Maynard Jackson, Jr. was born in Dallas, Texas, on March 23, 1938.  His father, Maynard Jackson, Sr., was a leading figure in the 1930s campaign for black voting rights in Dallas and a founder of Democratic Progressive Voter’s League in 1936.  His mother, Irene Dobbs Jackson, was a professor of French at Spelman College who desegregated the Atlanta city library system.  His aunt Mattiwilda Dobbs was the first African American to sing at the La Scala Opera in Milan, Italy.  When Maynard was seven years old his father, a clergyman, moved the family to Atlanta, Georgia, where he assumed pastorship of the Friendship Baptist Church.
Sources: 
Gary Pomerantz, Where Peachtree Street Meets Sweet Auburn (New York: Scribner’s, 1996); “Former Atlanta Mayor Dies,” Michigan Daily, June 23, 2003; New Georgia Encyclopedia, “Maynard Jackson, 1938-2003”: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/government-politics/maynard-jackson-1938-2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

King, Marjorie Edwina Pitter (1921-1996)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marjorie Edwina Pitter King, the youngest of the Pitter sisters, was born March 8, 1921, to Edward A. Pitter and Marjorie Allen Pitter, in Seattle, Washington. When she graduated from Garfield High School, she joined her sisters at the University of Washington to study for an accounting degree in the College of Economics and Business. Like her father, she had a passion for numbers, business and the value of a dollar. So, to help the family with college expenses for her and her sisters, she came up with an entrepreneurial venture called “Tres Hermanas,” or “Three Sisters.” Together they earned money by typing, printing and writing speeches to help pay for their books, tuition and the like. Aside from having fun with her sisters, she enjoyed herself at the University. She worked for a sociology professor who counseled students in and outside of his discipline, including Pitter (later King). According to her, he always seemed to have a receptive ear for her concerns and tried to advise her as best he could, knowing little about her major. Commercial Law, Anthropology and Statistics were her three most enjoyable courses, because of the creative manner in which they were taught—interactive, with a team approach.

Sources: 
Juana R. Royster Horn, “The Academic and Extracurricular Undergraduate Experiences of Three Black Women At The University of Washington 1935 to 1941,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington, 1980).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Travis, Dempsey Jerome (1920- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dempsey Jerome Travis is a civil rights activist, business leader, military veteran, and author. From the inception of his first realty company to his time serving three presidential administrations, Travis has served in both local and national theaters of private and civic life.

Born 1920 in Chicago, Illinois, Dempsey Travis attended Roosevelt University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. He then applied and was accepted into the School of Mortgage Banking at Northwestern University where he pursued an M.B.A. and graduated two decades later in 1969. Between 1949 and 1953, Travis founded Travis Realty Company, Travis Insurance Company, and Sivart Mortgage Company all in Chicago. He also created Urban Research Press in 1969 which published books on African American history and politics including Chicago Sun Times: An Autobiography of Black Chicago, An Autobiography of Black Jazz, and An Autobiography of Black Politics.
Sources: 
Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.dempseytravis.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blassingame, John W. (1940-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Wesley Blassingame was one of the preeminent scholars in the study of enslaved African Americans.  His early monographs The Slave Community (1972) and Black New Orleans, 1860-1880 (1973) shattered racist and stereotypical portrayals of African American life by using testimony and evidence left by blacks themselves, evidence which had been largely ignored or dismissed by earlier historians.  With his edited volume, New Perspectives on Black Studies (1972), Blassingame helped to define the developing field of African American Studies.  A prolific scholar, Blassingame also co-wrote and edited, and co-edited many other works.  Among his important contributions are The Frederick Douglass Papers, Antislavery Newspapers and Periodicals, and Slave Testimony.
Sources: 
Robert L. Paris, “John W. Blassingame: March 23, 1940-February 13, 2000,” The Journal of African American History, Vol. 86, No. 3, (summer, 2001), pp.422-423. “In memoriam: John Wesley Blassingame,” Department of African American Studies, www.yale.edu/afamstudies/jwb.html; “Historian John Blassingame, Pioneer in Study of Slavery, Dies,” Yale Bulletin & Calendar, February 25, 2000 Volume 28, Number 22.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Lindsay, Powell (1905-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Henry T. Sampson, Blacks in Black and White (Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1995); Errol G. Hill, A History of African American Theatre (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Loften Mitchell, Black Drama (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1967). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

C.R. Patterson & Sons Company (1893-1939)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The C.R. Patterson & Sons Company was a carriage building firm, and the first African American-owned automobile manufacturer. The company was founded by Charles Richard Patterson, who was born into slavery in April 1833 on a plantation in Virginia. His parents were Nancy and Charles Patterson. Patterson escaped from slavery in 1861, heading west and settling in Greenfield, Ohio around 1862.

At some point after his arrival in Ohio, Patterson went to work as a blacksmith for the carriage-building business, Dines and Simpson. In 1865 he married Josephine Utz, and had five children from 1866 to 1879. In 1873, Patterson went into partnership with J.P. Lowe, another Greenfield-based carriage manufacturer. Over the next twenty years, Patterson and Lowe developed a highly successful carriage-building business.

In 1893 Patterson bought out J.P. Lowe’s share of the business and reorganized it as C.R. Patterson & Sons Company. The company built 28 types of horse-drawn vehicles and employed approximately 10-15 individuals. While the company managed to successfully market its equine-powered carriages and buggies, the dawn of the automobile was rapidly approaching.
Sources: 
http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/p/patterson/patterson.htm; http://www.highland-ohio.com/patterson_automobile.htm; Monette Bailey, “CR Patterson and Son: America’s Only African-American Automobile Manufacturers,” African Americans on Wheels, January 2005 (accessed at http://www.highland-ohio.com/patterson%20auto_tommy%20smith.htm).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Will (1968-- )

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

Willard Christopher Smith, Jr., better known as Will Smith, actor, rap and recording artist, was born in Wynnefield, Pennsylvania on September 25, 1968.  His father, Willard Christopher Smith, is an entrepreneur and engineer, and his mother, Caroline Bright Smith, is a public school administrator.  Raised in a middle-class “Baptist” home, his parents sent Will to Overbrook High School, a Catholic school, where they felt he would get the best education.  In high school, his precociousness sometimes got him in trouble, but his charm, good-natured personality, quick-wittedness, good looks, and award-winning smile easily got him off the hook, and he soon won the nickname, “Prince.”  As a senior with high SAT scores, Smith had an offer to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after high school, but he opted out of college to pursue what had already become a successful career in entertainment.

Sources: 
http://www.biography.com/articles/Will-Smith-9542165; Patrick Healy, “Celebrity Schedules Could Delay ‘Fela!’ Opening,” Arts Beat, New York Times,  October 30, 2009; http://www.aceshowbiz.com/celebrity/will_smith; Lisa Iannucci, Will Smith: A Biography, (New York: Greenwood Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Paine College

Rhimes, Shonda (1970- )

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

Shonda Rhimes is the first African American woman to write and produce a top-10-rated show on network television. She is most known for her work writing and producing the shows Grey’s Anatomy (2005-    ), Private Practice (2007-    ), and Scandal (2012-    ).

Rhimes was born January 13, 1970 in Chicago, Illinois as the youngest of six children. Her mother was a college professor and her father a university public information officer. She has two adopted daughters, Harper Rhimes, born in 2002, and Emerson Rhimes, born in 2012.

Rhimes graduated from Dartmouth College in 1991, earning a B.A. degree in English literature. She then attended the University of Southern California, where she earned an MFA in filmmaking in 1994. She acquired an agent based on the strength of her final film school project and was asked to write a spec script, which promptly got sold, although the movie was never filmed. One of her first jobs in film making came when she was hired to write the script for the 1998 movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

Sources: 
http://www.shemadeit.org/meet/summary.aspx?m=165; Christopher Lisotta, “Special Report: Hot List 2005,” Television Week 24:29 (7/18/2005); http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0722274/bio.
Contributor: 

St. Benedict the Moor (1526-1589)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Benedetto Manasseri, an Italian of African descent, was born near Messina, Italy to Cristoforo and Diana Manasseri in 1526. His parents, captured as slaves from Africa in the early 16th century, were brought to San Fratello, near Messina.  They converted to Catholicism and, due to their loyalty to the Church, obtained their son Benedict’s freedom at birth. Benedict did not attend school because his family was impoverished. When Benedict worked as a shepherd in his youth, he would give any extra money he could to the poor. At age twenty-one Benedict was befriended by a nobleman, Jerome Lanze, who encouraged the youth to join a society of hermits under the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. Upon becoming a member of this enclave Benedict gave the few possessions he had accumulated to the poor. Eventually he became one of Lanze’s principal advisors and, when he was about twenty-eight years old, Benedict succeeded Lanze as superior of the Franciscan-affiliated group of hermits.

During the third Council of Trent in 1564 Pope Pius IV decided to disband the hermit societies, whereupon he encouraged their communities to join the Franciscan orders. When Benedict became a member of the Order of Friars Minor he was sent to Palermo, to the Franciscan Friary of St. Mary of Jesus.

Sources: 
http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=871; http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/st-benedict-the-moor.html; Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States. (New York: Crossroad, 1990).
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Pierce, Roger Dwayne (1951--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership:Public Domain"
Roger D. Pierce, U.S. Ambassador to Cape Verde, was born in Omaha, Nebraska.  Pierce earned his B.A. degree in Spanish Language and Latin American Studies at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia.  He received his M.A. in Latin American Literature at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland.  He also attended the National War College in Washington, D.C. in 1995.  Pierce speaks fluent Spanish, Turkish and Portuguese.  

Sources: 
“Ambassador Pierce Joins Office of Career Service (login required),” http://search.proquest.com/pqcentral/docview/749107547/55DF4D111C844326PQ; “U.S. Ambassador Pierce Inaugurates United States African Development Foundation Enterprise Development Project in Maio (login required),” http://search.proquest.com/pqcentral/docview/473117799/55DF4D111C844326PQ.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Massaquoi, Hans-Jürgen (1926–2013)

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

Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi was born on January 19, 1926 in the city of Hamburg, Germany. The son of the German nurse Bertha Baetz and the Liberian businessman Al-Hajj Massaquoi, Hans-Jürgen spent the first years of his life with the family of his paternal grandfather, Momolu Massaquoi, the Consul General of Liberia in Germany. When political turmoil broke out in the ambassador's homeland in 1929, he and his son, Al-Hajj Massaquoi, returned to Liberia, leaving Bertha Baetz and her son Hans-Jürgen in Germany.

Sources: 
Hans J. Massaquoi, Destined to Witness: Growing up in Nazi Germany (New York: HarperCollins, 1999); Audrey Fischer, “Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin 59:3 (March 2000); http://www.answers.com/topic/hans-massaquoi; Obituary, Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2013. 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Collins, Daniel A. (1916-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dentist and civil rights leader Daniel A. Collins was born in Darlington, South Carolina, on June 11, 1916. His father ran a heavy equipment company and his mother was a school principal and an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Following high school graduation in 1932, Collins received a bachelor’s degree in science from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, in 1936 and four years later (1940) he earned a D.D.S. degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sources: 
Sabin Russell, “Daniel Collins dies – dentist and Bay Area Urban League founder,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 25, 2007; Richard Halstead, “Dr. Daniel Collins, Marin black civil rights leader pioneer, dies at 91,” News, September 27, 2007, marinij.com; Paul T. Miller, The Postwar Struggle for Civil Rights: African Americans in San Francisco, 1945-1975 (New York: Routledge, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Gray, William Herbert, III (1941–2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Office of
Representative Gray

William Herbert Gray III was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 20, 1941. His mother, Hazel Yates Gray, was a high school teacher. His father, William Herbert Gray Jr. was a Baptist Minister and over his career, the president of two Florida colleges. Upon taking a job as pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, William H. Gray Jr. moved his family to the Philadelphia area. Following in his father’s footsteps, Gray became an assistant pastor of a church in Montclair, New Jersey, after graduating from Franklin and Marshal College in 1963. Gray received a master of divinity degree in 1966 from Drew Theological School. He became senior minister at his church that same year.  In 1970, Gray earned a degree in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. As a Baptist minister Gray became involved in the fair housing campaign in New Jersey.  In one instance Gray successfully sued a landlord who had refused to rent to him because of his race.

After his father died in 1972, William Gray returned to Philadelphia and became the minister of Bright Hope Baptist Church. Four years later, Gray made his first run for Congress in 1976, campaigning on his experience of promoting fair housing. He lost to incumbent Pennsylvania Congressman Robert Nix in the Democratic Primary but won his second bid in 1978 ending Nix’s 20 year tenure in Congress.   

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; "Gray, William Herbert, III," in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr, eds.,  Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition. Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0002/e1710;
“William H. Gray, III Bio and Photo,” The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., http://www.ncccusa.org/news/2000GA/gray.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cook, Will Marion (1869-1944)

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

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

Anderson, Ernest (1916-2011)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dickerson, Earl Burrus (1891-1986)

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

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

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

Scott, Dred (1795-1858)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dred Scott, was an enslaved person noted mainly for the unsuccessful lawsuit brought to free him from bondage. The decision rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857 in the Dred Scott case, said that no blacks slave or free were U.S. citizens and allowed slavery in all U.S. territories.  The decision helped propel the United States toward the Civil War.

Sources: 
Paul Finkleman, Dred Scott v. Sanford: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Bedford/St.Martin's, 1997); Thomas & Gale Online (http://www.gale.com/policy.htm#terms )
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Marsh, Vivian Osborne (1897-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Vivian Osborne Marsh was a community activist and government official, becoming one of the most influential African Americans in the San Francisco area.  She was born in Houston, Texas, on September 5, 1897.  When she applied to the University of California Berkeley, because of her southern schooling she was required to take several entrance exams despite high grades.  Her excellent results on the entrance exams helped to discontinue this policy of discriminating against southern applicants.  She received both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Anthropology, becoming among the first African Americans to receive a master’s degree from UC-Berkeley.
Sources: 
“Vivian Osborne Marsh,” Notable Black American Women, Book 2, Gale Research, 1996, reproduced in Biography Resource Center, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Meredith, James (1933 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
James Meredith withU.S. Marshals,
University of Mississippi, 1962
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 

James Meredith, Three Years in Mississippi (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966); http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/meredith_james/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Richardson, Gloria (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Gloria Richardson and Protestors facing
National Guard Troops
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gloria Hayes Richardson was born on May 6, 1922 in Baltimore, Maryland to parents John and Mabel Hayes.  During the Great Depression her parents moved the family to Cambridge, Maryland, the home of Mabel Hayes.  Young Gloria grew up in a privileged environment.  Her grandfather, Herbert M. St. Clair, was one of the town’s wealthiest citizens.  He owned numerous properties in the city’s Second Ward which included a funeral parlor, grocery store and butcher shop.  He was also the sole African American member of the Cambridge City Council through most of the early 20th Century.  

Gloria attended Howard University in Washington at the age of 16 and graduated in 1942 with a degree in sociology.  After Howard, she worked as a civil servant for the federal government in World War II-era Washington, D.C. but returned to Cambridge after the war.  Despite her grandfather’s political and economic influence, the Maryland Department of Social Services, for example, refused to hire Gloria or any other black social workers.  Gloria Hayes married local school teacher Harry Richardson in 1948 and raised a family for the next thirteen years.  
Sources: 
Peter Levy, Civil War on Race Street: The Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2003); Jeff Kisseloff, Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s: An Oral History (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2007); http://www.abbeville.com/civilrights/washington.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Savage, Augusta (1892-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Imae Ownership: Public Domain
African American sculptor, teacher, and advocate for black artists Augusta Savage was born Augusta Christine Fell in Green Cove Springs, Florida on February 29, 1892, the child of Edward Fells, a laborer and Methodist minister, and Cornelia Murphy. Her daughter, Irene Connie Moore, was born when Savage was 16, in the first of her three marriages. She retained the last name of her second husband, a carpenter named James Savage; they were divorced in the early 1920s.  

After moving to Harlem in New York in 1921, Savage studied art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art where she finished the four-year program in three years. She was recommended by Harlem librarian Sadie Peterson (later Delaney), for a commission of a bust of W.E.B. DuBois.  The sculpture was well received and she began sculpting busts of other African American leaders, including Marcus Garvey.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); David C. Driskell, The Other Side of Color (Rohnert Park, California: Pomegranate Communications, Inc., 2001); http://www.biography.com/search.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

George, David (1742-1810)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Artist Drawing of the Silver Bluff
Sources: 
Simon Schama, Rough Crossings ( Toronto: Penguin Group, 2005); Walter H. Brooks, The Silver Bluff Church: A History of Negro Baptist Churches in America (Washington, D.C.: Press of R. L. Pendleton, 1910) http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/brooks/brooks.html; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p30.html; James St G. Walker, The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783-1870 (New York: Africana Publishing Co., 1976); Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada: A History, 2nd ed. (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1997); Pearleen Oliver, A Brief History of the Coloured Baptists of Nova Scotia (Halifax, N.S.: s.n., 1953).
Contributor: 

Robertson, Oscar Palmer (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 

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

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

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

Guillén, Nicolás (1902-1989)

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

Afro-Cuban writer Nicolás Guillén used his poetry as a form of social protest in pre-Castro Cuba. Guillén was born in Camagüey, Cuba on July 10, 1902 and by the mid 1920s had emerged as a leader of the Afro-Cuban movement. He was committed to social justice and through his loyalty to the Communist party he became a prominent voice of revolutionary Cuba.

Guillén was a student of law at the University of Havana until 1921 when he decided to drop out and focus on writing poetry. He utilized his Spanish and African background of speech, legends, songs, and dances to influence his message and style of writing. His first volume of poetry Motivos de son (“Motifs of son”) published in 1930 quickly gained popularity and recognition.

Sources: 
"Nicolás Guillén," in Verity Smith, ed., Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997); "Nicolás Guillén," in Encyclopedia Britannica (2011), retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/248753/Nicolas-Guillen.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McRae, Carmen (1920-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of James Kriegsmann
Carmen McRae, a jazz singer and songwriter, was born on April 8, 1920 in Harlem, New York.  Her father, Oscar McRae, and her mother, Evadne, immigrated to the United States from Costa Rica and Jamaica.  Oscar McRae owned a health club at the McAlpin Hotel in Harlem.  McRae learned to play piano at a young age and she won an amateur singing contest at the Apollo Theatre around 1939.  As a teenager she befriended musician and songwriter Irene Kitching, who helped McRae become involved in the Harlem jazz scene.  McRae graduated from Julia Richman High School in 1938.  She achieved her first notoriety the following year when she wrote the song “Dream of Life” and Billie Holiday recorded it for the Vocalion/Okeh label.
Sources: 
Leslie Gourse, Carmen McRae: Miss Jazz (New York: Billboard Books, 2001); Robbie Clark, “Carmen McRae,” in Black Women in America, second edition, ed. Darlene Clark Hine (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Barry Kernfeld, “Carmen McRae,” African American National Biography, vol. 5, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Knowles, Beyoncé Giselle (1981- )

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

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles, one of the most successful African American women artists in today’s music industry, was born on September 4, 1981 in Houston, Texas, to Mathew and Célestine Ann Knowles. Her father was a salesman and her mother owned a hair salon. Beyoncé began performing when she was seven years old when her dance teacher insisted that she participate in her school’s talent show. Beyoncé's surprisingly poised performance before this audience, despite her shyness, persuaded her parents to begin preparing her for a music career.

In 1990, at the age of nine, Beyoncé successfully auditioned to become the lead singer for the music group Girl’s Tyme which two years later performed on the national television show Star Search. The group, which also included Támar Davis, Kelly Rowland, LaTavia Roberson, Nikki Taylor, and Nina Taylor, did not win, which prompted the girls to work intensely to improve their dancing and singing skills. They also performed once a week during the school year and twice a week during the summer. In 1995, Silent Partner Productions/Elektra offered Girl’s Tyme its first contract when most of the girls were 14 years old.

Sources: 
Janice Arenofsky, Beyoncé Knowles: A Biography (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 2009); Beyonce?, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams, Soul Survivors: the Official Autobiography of Destiny's Child (New York: Regan, 2002); Kathleen Tracy, Beyoncé  (Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brice, Carol (1918-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
Courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust

Contralto singer Carol Brice was born in Sedalia, North Carolina on April 16, 1918 into a musical family.  Eventually she became one of the first African American classical singers with an extensive recording repertoire.  Brice trained at Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia and then enrolled in Talladega College in Alabama, where she received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1939. She later attended Julliard School of Music between 1939 and 1943 where she trained with Francis Rogers. In 1943 Brice became the first African American musician to win the prestigious Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Award.

Carol Brice first attracted public acclaim at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 when she performed in the opera, “The Hot Mikado.”  Her next major public performance came in 1941, when she sang at a Washington concert honoring the third inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her brother, the pianist Jonathan Brice, was frequently her accompanist at concerts and competitions.

Sources: 
Masterworks Broadway, http://www.masterworksbroadway.com/artist/carol-brice; Bach Cantatas Website,  http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Brice-Carol.htm; John Gray, Blacks in Classical Music: A Bibliographical Guide to Composers, Performers, and Ensembles (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gorden, General Fred (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
General Fred A. Gorden was the first black Commandant of Cadets, the officer in charge of the training, discipline, and physical condition of the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  The Commandant of Cadets position is second only to the position of Superintendent of the Academy.   

Born in Anniston, Alabama in 1940, Gorden’s family moved shortly afterward to Atlanta, Georgia.  Gorden was the fourth of five children and was raised by his childless aunt, who lived around the corner from his family.  When she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan to marry, he went with her.  There he attended the local high school and excelled in both academics and athletics.  He was in the National Honor Society and played on an all-city basketball team.

Gorden had been attending a local junior college in 1958 when he was notified about his appointment to West Point as a cadet.  He received the call from a lawyer from his hometown who in turn had been contacted by the area’s Congressman about the appointment.  Gorden was to be the only black cadet in his class.

Sources: 
Catherine Reef, African Americans in the Military (New York: Facts on File, 2010); Gail Lumet Buckley, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm (New York: Random House, 2002); James Feron, “At West Point, Symbol of Change for Army,” The New York Times, October 28, 1987, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/28/nyregion/at-west-point-symbol-of-change-for-army.html; Angie Thorne, “One Man, One Family Makes a Difference,” March 4, 2009, retrieved from http://www.army.mil/article/17752/One_man__one_family_makes_difference/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Burke, Selma Hortense (1900-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Laurie Collier Hillstrom and Kevin Hillstrom, eds., Contemporary Women Artists (Detroit: St. James Press, 1999); Charlotte Striefer Rubinstein, American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions (Boston: G. K. Hall & Company, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Calhoun, William Henry (1890–1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Courtesy of The Black Heritage
Society of Washington"
Dr. William Henry Calhoun, a prominent early 20th century Seattle, Washington physician, was born on December 29, 1890 in Jackson, Tennessee.  Little is known about his parents or his childhood.  

Calhoun attended Meharry Medical School located in Nashville, Tennessee.  The college was established in 1876 (just 14 years before he was born) as the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College.  It was one of the first medical schools in the South for African Americans, although Howard Medical School in Washington, D.C., was the first, chartered in 1868.

Following his graduation from Meharry Medical College in the early 1920s, Dr. Calhoun migrated to Seattle, Washington.  In the early Seattle years, he practiced medicine from the Chandler Annex located on East Madison Street.  He and his wife, Verna, lived in an apartment above his office.

Sources: 
Geraldine Rhodes Beckford, Biographical Dictionary of American Physicians of African Ancestry 1800-1920, (New York: Africana Homestead Legacy Publishers 2011); “William H. Calhoun,” American Medical Association Masterfile, 1906-1969; http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/physician-data-resources/physician-masterfile.page; James N. Simms, Simms Blue Book and National Negro Business and Professional Directory (Chicago: James N. Simms, Publisher, 1923); “Joyner, Robert Nathaniel M.D. (1913-1999),” HistoryLink, http://www.historylink.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Boone Sr., Raymond Harold/ “Ray” (1938–2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Prominent Virginia journalist Ray Boone Sr. was born February 2, 1938, in Suffolk, Virginia.  His parents, foreign-born Japanese father, Tsujiro Miyanski, and mother, Leathia M. Boone, of mixed African and Native American descent, were banned from marrying in Virginia because of their different races. Yet they remained together, running a successful Asian-Soul Food restaurant until 1943.

Inspired by his parents’ belief that education crushed barriers of bigotry, and by a teacher who told him he wrote well, Boone won a county-wide poetry contest. Soon afterward, he started East Suffolk High School’s first newspaper and while there also wrote human interest stories in the “colored section” of a white daily newspaper, his hometown Suffolk News-Herald.

Sources: 
“Heritage marred by racial injustice…” (2014, June 5-7) Richmond Free Press. p. A4; Carrington, Ronald E. (2003, March 21), Interview with Raymond H. Boone (video recording) - Voices of Freedom: videotaped oral histories of leaders of the Civil Rights movement in Virginia. Virginia Commonwealth University/ James Branch Cabell Library, Special Collections and Archives, Richmond, Virginia; http://copylinemagazine.com/2014/06/09/richmond-free-press-farewell-to-ray-boone-crusading-editor-champion-journalist-dead-at-76/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Alexander, Lincoln MacCauley (1922-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lincoln Alexander, prominent attorney and politician, was born on January 21, 1922 in Toronto, Ontario, the son of West Indian immigrants. His mother was a maid, and his father a carpenter by training.  In Canada, however, he had to work as a railway porter, which in those days was one of the few jobs available to a man of colour.

In 1942 Alexander joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and served in Europe during World War II. Following the war, he attended McMaster University in Hamilton, receiving a degree in History and Political Economics in 1949. Continuing his education, he graduated in 1953 with a law degree from Osgood Hall Law School in Toronto. Initially, employment proved difficult when many established law firms turned him away.  In 1954 Alexander joined the first interracial law firm in Canada, Miller, Tokiwa and Isaacs in Hamilton.  In 1962 he became a partner in the firm and three years later was appointed Queen’s Counsel.
Sources: 
Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, Go to School, You’re a Little Black Boy (Toronto: Dundurn, 2006); Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997); http://www.ParliamentofCanada.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Vaughan, Dorothy Johnson (1910–2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dorothy Johnson Vaughan was a teacher who became a leading mathematical engineer in the first aerospace program with NACA (now NASA), and the first African American female promoted as supervisor in the program.
Sources: 
“Dorothy Johnson Vaughan Biography,” Biography.com http://www.biography.com/people/dorothy-johnson-vaughan-111416; Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Mathematicians Who Helped Win The Space Race, (New York: Harper Collins, 2016); Beverly Golemba, “Human Computers: The Women in Aeronautical Research,” (unpublished manuscript 1994, NASA Langley Archives).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Senghor, Léopold Sédar (1906-2001)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Scholar, African traditionalist poet, and Senegal’s first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor was born on October 9, 1906 in Joal, Senegal. His father, Basie Diogoye Senghor, was a Malinké landowner. His mother, Gnilane Bakhoum, came from a Christian Fulani family. They gave Senghor a European name to reflect both the noble Serer culture they identified with, as well as their Catholic faith. Senghor grew up with his father’s four wives and his twenty-four siblings.

At the age of seven, Senghor was sent to a Catholic mission school, where he first learned French. At 13, he decided to enter the Catholic priesthood. He attended Libermann seminary in Dakar but in 1926, dissuaded by the seminary, switched to the secondary school Lycée Van Vollenhoven. He graduated from high school with honors and his classical languages teacher persuaded the colonial administration to grant Senghor a scholarship to pursue literary studies in France.

Sources: 
Melvin Dixon, Léopold Sédar Senghor: The Collected Poetry, Trans. by Melvin Dixon (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991); Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Evergreen State College

Polk, Oscar (1900-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photo Courtesy of
the Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs
Division, Carl Van
Vechten Collection

Actor Oscar Polk began his career in the early 1930s as a stage performer in the musical production of Swingin’ the Dream, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream. The Arizona native studied dancing at Jack Blue’s Dance Studio and later became a tap dance instructor. He made his film debut in 1936 as Gabriel the Angel in The Green Pastures, an adaptation of the play by Marc Connelly. The Green Pastures was perhaps Polk’s most pivotal film role.

Subsequently, he appeared in the film It’s a Great Life (1936), Oscar Micheaux’s 1937 film Underworld, and primarily race (all-black cast) films until actor turned casting agent Ben Carter arranged for Polk the substantial role of the house servant, Pork, in the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind.  Polk co-starred with Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography, (New York: Amistad Press,
1997; Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life
Together
, (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.,1998; Edward
Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts, 1st edition, (Lanham,
Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bath, Patricia (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Patricia Bath

Patricia Era Bath, a prominent ophthalmologist and innovative research and laser scientist, was the first African American woman physician to receive a patent for a medical invention.  Bath was born on November 4, 1942 in Harlem, New York to Rupert Bath, a Trinidadian immigrant and the first black motorman in the New York City subway system, and Gladys Rupert, a domestic worker.  In 1959 while in high school at Charles Evans Hughes, she received a grant from the National Science Foundation to attend the Summer Institute in Biomedical Science at Yeshiva University. There, she studied the relationship between stress, nutrition, and caner.  In 1964, Bath graduated from Hunter College in New York City with a B.S. in chemistry.  Four years later, she received her medical degree from Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C.

Sources: 

The National Library of Medicine. Changing the Face of Medicine:
Celebrating America’s Women Physicians
, “Dr. Patricia E. Bath,” https://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_26.html;
The HistoryMakers, “Dr. Patricia Bath,” http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/dr-patricia-bath.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Remond, Sarah Parker (1824-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waller, John Lewis (1850-1907)

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

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

Mortimer, Prince (ca. 1724-1834)

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Fauset, Jessie R. (1882-1961)

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

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

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

Harold, Erika (1980- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Erika Harold Being Crowned
Miss America, 2003, in Atlantic
City, New Jersey, September 2002.
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ericka Harold, Miss America 2003, was the sixth black woman to win the Miss America title,.  Harold was born on February 20, 1980 in Urbana, Illinois, the daughter of James Harold, a businessman and athletic director, and Fannie Harold, a college counselor and foster parent trainer. The product of a white father and African American and Native American mother, the multiracial Harold identifies as African American. She also describes herself as a politically conservative Christian.

Harold was 22 years old when she won the title of Miss America. She did not enter the pageant circuit until she was 18 years old. Soon after she was crowned, Harold adopted a dual platform “Preventing Youth Violence and Bullying" and “Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself.”  The latter topic encouraged sexual abstinence and refraining from engaging in drug and alcohol abuse.
Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Nikitta Foston, “Miss America Takes a Stand on Abstinence and Bullying,” Ebony, March 2003, p.165;  Lara Riscol, "Miss America’s Stealth Virility Campaign,” Salon.com, October 28, 2002; http://www.missamerica.org 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Morrow, Everett Frederic (1909-1994)

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

Everett Frederic Morrow, the son of John Eugene Morrow, a library custodian who became an ordained Methodist minister in 1912 and Mary Ann Hayes, a former farm worker and maid, was born on April 9, 1909 in Hackensack, New Jersey.  He graduated from Hackensack High School in 1925, where he not only served on the debate team for three years, but was their president his senior year.  

Morrow attended Bowdoin College between 1926 and 1930 and at the time was one of only two African American students enrolled there.   Morrow did well academically, but was forced to withdraw his senior year to help his family.  He worked as a bank messenger on Wall Street and then secured a social work job. In 1935, Morrow joined the National Urban League as a business manager of Opportunity Magazine, and two years later became field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), traveling across the nation to promote membership and fundraising.

Sources: 
E. Frederic Morrow, Black Man in the White House: A Diary of the Eisenhower Years by the Administrative Officer for Special Projects, The White House, 1955-1961 (New York: Coward-McCann, 1963): Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Wolfgang Saxon, "E. Frederic Morrow," The New York Times, July 21, 1994; http://veterans.hackensackschools.org
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Browne, Hugh Mason (1851-1923)

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

Hugh M. Browne was a civil rights activist and educator.  Born June 12, 1851, in Washington D.C. to John and Elizabeth (Wormley) Browne, he is known for his work as the principal of the Institute for Colored Youth and his advocacy for vocational education.

After graduating from a segregated public school in Washington D.C., he studied at Howard University and graduated in 1875. That year he enrolled in the Theological Seminary of Princeton, graduating three years later and licensed as a Presbyterian minister.

After further education in Scotland, he became a professor at Liberia College in the Republic of Liberia, serving there from 1883 to 1886.  He introduced a course on Industrial Education there, and attempted to reform Liberian higher education. This culminated in an essay he was invited to write, “The Higher Education of the Colored People of the South,” in which he advocated elementary and industrial education over abstract higher education, espousing the opinion that Liberians and blacks in the south currently need practical education and are not ready for a more literary education. His cultural and educational criticisms of Liberia created tension with the principal of Liberia College, leading to his restriction from teaching.

Sources: 
The Crisis, Vol. 27, No. 4, (New York: The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc., Feb 1924); Princeton Theological Seminary, Necrological reports and annual proceedings of the Alumni Association ... : 1875-1932 (Princeton, New Jersey: C.S. Robinson, 1891); Faustine C. Jones-Wilson, Encyclopedia of African American Education (Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Company, 1996); http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4144/Browne-Hugh-M-1851-1923.html#ixzz0bzcyIaRl
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Scott, Harriet Robinson (ca. 1820-1876)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Harriet Robinson Scott was an enslaved person who is best remembered for being the second wife of Dred Scott.  Harriet was born a slave on a Virginia plantation around 1820.  From a young age she was a servant to Lawrence Taliaferro, a US Indian Agent.  In 1834 Taliaferro left his home in Pennsylvania for a post as agent to the Sioux Nation at St. Peter’s Agency in the Wisconsin Territory.  He took Harriet with him to his new post.
Sources: 
Lea VanderVelde, Mrs. Dred Scott (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2009); "Famous Dred Scott Case," The New York Times, December 22, 1895; http://shs.umsystem.edu/historicmissourians/name/s/scotth/index.html; Paul Finkelman, Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ross, Michael K. (1941-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Michael Ross with Washington
Governor Daniel J. Evans, ca. 1970
Image Ownership: Public Domain 
Michael K. Ross was a Washington State legislator, civil rights activist, and contractor who, although he worked from within established political channels, was not afraid to go against the grain to affect social change.
Sources: 
Charles E. Brown, “Civil-Rights Leader Was Never Afraid to Buck the Tide: Michael Ross Served as Legislator, Worked for Job-Opportunities,” The Seattle Times, 26 August 2007, B. 7; “Community Mourns the Loss of Michael K. Ross—Washington State’s Last Black Republican Legislator,” The Medium, August 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Gayleatha Beatrice (1947-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On July 2, 2009 President Barack Obama appointed Gayleatha Beatrice Brown to be the United States ambassador to Burkina Faso, a nation in West Africa.  This was her second ambassadorial appointment. Previously, Brown had been appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Benin, a post she held from 2006 to 2009.
Sources: 
“Ambassador Gayleatha B. Brown,” http://web.archive.org/web/20090922093219/http://cotonou.usembassy.gov/bio.html; “Ambassador Gayleatha Beatrice Brown,” U.S. Department of State Archive, http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/70159.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

King, Betty Eileen (1957– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador Betty Eileen King Greeting Secretary
of State Hilary Clinton at the Geneva Airport, December 6, 2001.
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Betty Eileen King is a public servant, philanthropist, and diplomat who has spent her career working to improve the lives of people around the world. Born in 1957 on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, King attended Grenadine Girls High School in Kingstown, the island nation’s capital, before setting off to pursue her higher education in Canada and the United States.

Sources: 
Statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ambassador Betty King, Ambassador-designate to the US/UN Geneva, December 1, 2009; U.S. Department of State, Archived Official Bio: http://1997-2001.state.gov/www/picw/acwbio_king.html; Interview with S. Jerry George on “Up Next!” https://vimeo.com/20569303.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cassius, Samuel Robert (1853-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of Disciples of Christ Historical Society,
(Nashville, Tennessee)
 

Samuel Robert Cassius was an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life.  A former enslaved African American from Virginia, Cassius was the product of a bi-racial union, a house-slave, Jane, and probably his physician and politician owner, James W. F. Macrae, a relative of General Robert E. Lee.

During the Civil War, Cassius and his mother relocated to Washington, D. C., where he worked as a “contraband” and enrolled in the first school for African American children in the nation’s capital.  In this school, young Samuel encountered a white school teacher from Connecticut, Frances W. Perkins, who whetted his appetite for knowledge, steered him toward the ministry, and inspired to teach in his adult years.  While residing in the Washington, D. C., Cassius also “shook hands” with President Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and a host of other white and black dignitaries.

Sources: 
Edward J. Robinson, “From Heaven to Hell: Samuel Robert Cassius and Black Life in Oklahoma” Chronicles of Oklahoma (Spring 2006): 78-99; Edward J. Robinson, To Save My Race from Abuse: The Life of Samuel Robert Cassius (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007); Edward J. Robinson, To Lift Up My Race: The Essential Writings of Samuel Robert Cassius (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Abilene Christian University

Fields, James Apostle (1844–1903)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
James Apostle Fields was a former enslaved person who became an influential black lawyer and teacher serving in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1890 to 1891. Although sources differ on the exact date in 1844 on which Fields was born, his birth is celebrated on the fourteenth of October.

James Apostle was born into slavery in Hanover County, Virginia, in 1844. Although both his parents, Washington Fields and Martha Ann Fields, were slaves, they lived on separate plantations. His mother’s maiden name is historically recorded as Berkley and Thornton.

Fields first became interested in law during his early years as a slave in Hanover County where he took care of white lawyers’ horses as they arrived for work. While tending to the horses, Fields observed courtroom proceedings and other work conducted at the Hanover courthouse.

Sources: 

Donald W. Gunter, “James A. Fields (1844–1903),” http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Fields_James_A_1844-1903#start_entry; Donald W. Gunther, “James A. Fields,” Library of Virginia, http://mlkcommission.dls.virginia.gov/lincoln/pdfs/bios/fields_james_apostles.pdf.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Haralson, Jeremiah (1846–1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library Of Congress
Jeremiah Haralson was born near Columbus, Georgia on April 1, 1846. The slave of Georgia planter John Haralson, he was taken to Alabama where he remained in bondage until 1865. It is unclear as to what he did in the earlier years of his freedom, but there are records that suggest he may have been a farmer and clergyman. Haralson taught himself to read and write and later became a skilled orator and debater.

In 1868, Haralson made his first unsuccessful attempt for a seat in the Forty-first Congress, representing Alabama’s First District of Alabama.  Two years later he won a seat in Alabama’s House of Representatives and in 1872 was elected to the State Senate.  In 1874 Haralson again ran for the U.S. House of Representatives.  Haralson narrowly won the Republican primary over Liberal Republican Frederick G. Bromberg.  Soon after the primary Bromberg accused Haralson of voter fraud and sought to deny him his seat.  The Democrats who controlled the U.S. House of Representatives supported Haralson and on March 4, 1875 he took his seat in Congress.   
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress
http://bioguide.congress.gov/ ; Biographical Directory of Jeremiah Haralson
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Haynes, Daniel (1894-1954)

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

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Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks In American Film (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing Company,1999); Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1978); Michael Mills, Midnight Ramble: Films 1930s, http://moderntimes.com/palace/black/film_images.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moore, Tim (1888-1958)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kuti, Fela (1938-1997)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Fela Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria in the year 1938 as Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-KutFela Anikuplap Kuti. He later shortened his name to Fela Kuti, as he saw his birth name as a symbol of slavery and oppression.  He also was popularly known as Fela Ransome-Kuti, the stage name he used for a number of years.  Kuti was considered both a political firebrand and one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century.

Fela was born into a middle class family of Nigerian political activists.  His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a leader in the anti-colonial campaign against the British.  His father, Rev. Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, was the Protestant minister and school principal who became President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers.  
Sources: 
http://africanmusic.org/artists/felakuti.html; Karl Maier, This House Has Fallen: Midnight in Nigeria (New York: Publicaffairs, 2000); Richard Nidel, World Music: The Basics (New York: Routledge, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Robeson, Paul (1898-1976)

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

Cullen, Countee (1903-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Forman, James (1928-2005)

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

Leonard, “Sugar” Ray (1956 - )

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

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

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

Bluford, Lucile (1911-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Lucile Bluford, "Missouri ‘Shows' the Supreme Court," The Crisis 46 (August 1939), 231-232, 242, 246;  Dorothy Davis, "She Knocks at the Door of Missouri University," The Crisis 47 (May 1940), 140;  Daniel T. Kelleher, "The Case of Lloyd Gaines:  The Demise of the Separate But Equal Doctrine," Journal of Negro History 56 (October 1971), 262-271;  Diane E. Loupe, "Storming and Defending the Color Barrier at the University of Missouri School of Journalism:  The Lucile Bluford Case," Journalism History 16 (1989), 20-31;  Aimee Edmondson and Earnest L. Perry, Jr., "Objectivity and "The Journalist's Creed": Local Coverage of Lucile Bluford's Fight to Enter the University of Missouri School of Journalism," Journalism History 33 (Winter 2008), 233-244;  and http://shs.umsystem.edu/famousmissourians/journalists/bluford/bluford.shtml
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University.

Morgan, Garrett A., Sr. (1877?-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Inventor, entrepreneur, and publisher Garrett A. Morgan, Sr. received patents for a three-position traffic signal and a safety hood that was designed to aid breathing in smoke-filled areas. He gained national attention when he utilized his mask to rescue men trapped during a tunnel explosion in 1916.

Garrett Augustus Morgan was born in 1875 or 1877 in Paris, Kentucky to farmers Sydney and Elizabeth Morgan. Garrett received an elementary school education and left home at the age of 14, finding work in Cincinnati, Ohio as a mechanic. In 1895 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked for 12 years repairing sewing machines and in 1901 invented a sewing machine belt fastener.
Sources: 
Charles W. Carey, Jr., American Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Visionaries (New York: Facts On File, 2002); Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ben-Jochannan, Yosef (1918-2015)

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

Yosef Ben-Jochannan is an Afrocentric historian whose work is focused mainly on black presence in ancient Egypt. He contends in his writings that the pharaohs came out of the heart of Africa and that the original Jews were from Ethiopia and were black Africans, and the white Jews adopted the faith and customs later. He has been accused of distorting history, and, since his work contradicts the prevailing view of Egyptian and African history, it is, therefore, controversial.

Ben-Jochannan was born an only child to an Ethiopian father and an Afro-Puerto Rican Jewish mother in a Falasha community in Ethiopia. He attended schools in Brazil, Spain, Puerto Rico, and Cuba and earned degrees in engineering and anthropology. He continued his education at the University of Havana, Cuba, where he earned a Master’s degree in architectural engineering. He earned a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology from the same school, and finally, he attended the University of Barcelona, where he earned another doctoral degree, this time in Moorish history.

Sources: 

Mary Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History (New York: Basic Books, 1997); Tanangachi Mfuni, ”Dr. Yosef Alfredo Antiono ben-Jochannan in his own words,” New York Amsterdam News 97:6 (February 2006); http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=1369&category=Educationmakers; "Dr. Ben Joins the Ancestors," New York Amsterdam News, March 19, 2015. 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Boone, Ashley A., Jr. (1938-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The son of a postal worker and stay-at-home mother, Ashley Augustus Boone Jr.  was born and raised in what he described as a “lower middle class” environment in Springfield, Massachusetts.  His parents, nonetheless, recognized the primacy of education and, like his brother and two sisters who all finished college, Boone graduated with a degree in economics from Brandeis University in 1960.

Initially, he hoped to land a position at the World Bank improving the finances of underdeveloped nations, but upon graduation he sought employment in the entertainment industry and at television stations in New York City.  Failing to get hired even as a page, he eventually found work at American Airlines.  
Sources: 
Collette Wood, “Hollywood’s Top Black Executive,” Sepia (May 1978); Ken Smikle, “Inside Hollywood,” Black Enterprise (December 1986); http://www.thefreelibrary.com/ASHLEY+A.+BOONE+JR.-a015188143
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Staples, George McDade (1947-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownershp: Public Domain"
George McDade Staples was appointed by President Bill Clinton to be ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda, where he served from 1998 to 2001.  He was later appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as ambassador to Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea.  He served in that post between 2001 and 2004.

Staples was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1947.  He received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Southern California and an M.A. in Business from Central Michigan University. He and his wife, Jo Ann Fuson Staples, have one daughter, Catherine.  The couple have a permanent home in Pineville, Kentucky.
Sources: 
The American Academy of Diplomacy, http://www.academyofdiplomacy.org/members/bios/Staples.html; U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/staples-george-mcdade.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Parker, Maurice S. (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Maurice S. Parker is a career Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Minister-Counselor at the U.S. Department of State.  On April 30, 2007 Parker was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Swaziland.  After U.S. Senate confirmation, Parker arrived at Mbabane, the capital, and presented his credentials to the King of Swaziland on September 21, 2007.  He served as ambassador until June 12, 2009.

Parker was born in 1949 in California to parents Robert and Gertrude Parker. Parker received his Bachelors in Arts in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1972. In 1974 he earned his Master's degree in education administration at San Francisco State University. Parker is also a 1993 graduate of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He was also a participant in the Senior Seminar of the Department of State between 2000 and 2001.
Sources: 
U.S. Congress, "Maurice S. Parker," Congressional Record, Volume 153, Number 105 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office (2008); University of Illinois Chicago, "Previous Diplomat in Residence Biography Maurice S. Parker," Office of International Affairs, University of Illinois Chicago, https://oia.uic.edu/about/diplomat-in-residence/previous-diplomats-in-residence-at-uic/maurice-s-parker-biography; U.S. Department of State, "Maurice S. Parker," U.S. Department of State, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/parker-maurice-s.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Elders, Joycelyn Minnie (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Joycelyn Elders, the former U.S. Surgeon General, was born Minnie Lee Jones in Schaal, Arkansas on August 13, 1933 to Curtis and Hailer Jones; she added the name Joycelyn when she was in college. As the eldest of eight children of sharecroppers, Joycelyn Elders experienced extreme poverty in segregated rural Arkansas. At age fifteen, Elders earned a scholarship to Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1952, she received a Bachelor of Science degree and a medical degree in 1960 from Philander Smith and the University of Arkansas Medical School, respectively.

Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College / University of Mississippi

Welsing, Frances Cress (1935–2016)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Frances Cress Welsing, a psychiatrist best known for writing The Isis Papers, was born Frances Luella Cress in Chicago, Illinois, on March 18, 1935. Welsing, who was the child of physician Henry Cress and teacher Ida Mae Griffen, grew up the middle of three daughters. She would receive her Bachelor of Science degree from Antioch College in Ohio in 1957 and her medical degree (M.D.) from Washington D.C.’s Howard University in 1962.

After earning her M.D., Welsing stayed in Washington D.C., pursuing a career in child and general psychiatry. Welsing would spend nearly twenty-five years working as a staff physician for D.C.’s Department of Human Services, and also as the clinical director of two schools catering to children with emotional troubles. Welsing opened her own private practice in D.C. in 1967. Through her published works and her research, Welsing sought to help bring about a solution to the mental health problems of the black community by understanding racism.
Sources: 
Frances Cress Welsing, “The Cress Theory of Color-Confrontation,” The Black Scholar 5:8 (May 1974); “Dr. Frances Cress Welsing Dead at 80,” The Root, January 2016; http://www.theroot.com/articles/news/2016/01/dr_frances_cress_welsing_dead_at_80.html;
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/02/461765446/activists-mourn-race-theorist-dr-frances-cress-welsing.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Barnett, Claude Albert (1889-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Photography by Vincent Saunders, Jr.,
courtesy of the Chicago History Museum,
ICHi-16314.

Claude Albert Barnett, entrepreneur and founder of the Associated Negro Press (1919-1967), was born in Sanford, Florida to William Barnett and Celena Anderson. At nine months he was brought to Mattoon, Illinois to live with his maternal grandmother.  Barnett grew up in Illinois, attending schools in Oak Park and Chicago.  In 1904 he entered Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  Two years later in 1906 he received a diploma and was granted the Institute’s highest award. 

Sources: 
Lawrence D. Hogan, A Black National News Service, The Associated Negro Press and Claude Barnett, 1919-1945 (Cranbury: Associated University Presses, 1984); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); The Chicago Defender (August 3, 1967, p. 2), obituary.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hackley, Emma Azalia (1867-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Emma Azalia Smith Hackley was an African American singer and Denver political activist born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1867.  Her parents, business owners Henry and Corilla Smith, moved to Detroit where she attended Washington Normal School, graduating in 1886.  Smith, a child prodigy learned to play the piano at three and later took private voice, violin and French lessons.

Emma Smith worked as an elementary school teacher for eighteen years.  During that period she met and married Edwin Henry Hackley a Denver attorney and editor of the city’s black newspaper, the Denver Statesman.  In 1900 Hackley received her music degree from Denver University.  In 1905-1906 she studied voice in Paris with former Metropolitan Opera star Jean de Reszke.

Hackley was active in black Denver’s civic and social life.  She founded the Colored Women’s League and served as executive director of its local branch.  She and her husband also founded the Imperial Order of Libyans which fought racial discrimination and promoted patriotism among African Americans.
Sources: 
M. Marguerite Davenport, Azalia: The Life of Madame E. Azalia Hackley (Boston: Chapman & Grimes, 1947); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982);  "Seven--As Large As She Can Make It": The Role of Black Women Activists in Music, 1880-1945” in Cultivating Music in America, http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft838nb58v&doc.view=content&chunk.id=d0e8684&toc.depth=1&anchor.id=0&brand=eschol
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Washington, Forrester B. (1887-1963)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Tutu, Osei Kofi (c. 1680-1717)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
The Golden Stool of the Ashanti Empire
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005); John Iliffe, Africa: the History of a Continent (New York : Cambridge University Press, 1995); S.N. Eisenstadt, The Early State in African Perspective: Culture, Power, and Division of Labor (New York : E.J. Brill, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reason, Charles Lewis (1818-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Brooks, Gwendolyn (1917-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

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

Scott, Nathan A. (1925-2006)

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

Brown, Grafton Tyler (1841-1918)

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

Espy, Mike (1953- )

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

Lampkin, Daisy (1884-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Sun Ra (Le Sony’r Ra) (1914-1993)

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

Jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, and cosmic philosopher Le Sony'r Ra, or Sun Ra, remains an influential and controversial figure in jazz history. He is largely remembered for his Astro Black Mythology that incorporated aspects of ancient Egyptian philosophy and science fiction, as well as his contributions to avant-garde jazz and afrofuturism.

Sources: 
John F. Szwed, Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (NY: Pantheon Books, 1997); Graham Lock, Blutopia: Visions of the Future and Revisionist of the Past in the Work of Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, and Anthony Braxton (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999); John Corbett, Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun-Ra, El Saturn and Chicago's Afro-futurist Underground 1954-68 (Chicago: White Walls, 2006).
Contributor: 

Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell (1898-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born two decades before American women won the right to vote, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander overcame obstacles as a female and also as an African American in the elite profession of law. In 1927 she became the first black woman to gain admission to the Pennsylvania Bar, beginning a long career advocating for civil and human rights.

Sarah Tanner Mossell Alexander was born into a distinguished family on January 2, 1898 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her grandfather was Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner (1835-1923), editor of the Christian Recorder and the AME Church Review. Her uncle was surgeon Dr. Nathan F. Mossell (1856-1946), founder of the Frederick Douglass Hospital (now Mercy-Douglass Hospital), and her aunt, Dr. Hallie Tanner Johnson (1864-1901), founded Tuskegee Institute’s Nurses’ School & Hospital. Other uncles were the painter, Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) and Lewis Baxter Moore (1866-1928), Dean of Howard University.

Alexander’s father was Aaron Mossell (1863-1951), an attorney who deserted his wife Mary and two daughters a year after Sadie’s birth. Suffering from depression, Mary Mossell often traveled to Washington, D.C., where relatives cared for the girls.
Sources: 
Lia B. Epperson, Knocking Down Doors: The Trailblazing Life of Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, Pennsylvania’s First Black Woman Lawyer (Stanford, CA: Women’s Legal History Biography Project, Stanford University Law School: 1998) www.law.stanford.edu/library/.../papers/Alexander-epperson98.pdf; J. Clay Smith, Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press: 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ambar, Malik (1548--1626)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of Musee des Arts
Asiatiques-Guiment, Paris
Malik Ambar was among the tens of thousands of men, women, and children captured in Africa and sold into slavery in the Middle East and India over nearly nine centuries.  His story is also an indication of the ability of some in the predominantly Muslim Indian Ocean world to rise far above their initial servile status. Born Chapu in 1548 in Harar Province, Ethiopia, Ambar (as he was later called) was stripped of his family, his name, and permanently removed from his homeland.  Nevertheless, half a century later he had transformed himself into a king-maker in southern India’s interior region known as the Deccan where he led the area's most powerful army against Mughal rule.
Sources: 
Richard M. Eaton, “Malik Ambar” in A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761 (Cambridge University Press, 2005); Richard Pankhurst, “The Ethiopian Diaspora to India,” in The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean (Africa World Press, 2003); Omar H. Ali, “The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World,” Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library (online exhibit, 2011) See http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africansindianocean/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Lofton, Ramona ["Sapphire"] (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ramona Lofton, better known as Sapphire, is a self-admitted bisexual, novelist, poet, and performance artist. She gained prominence for her 1996 debut novel, Push, and other works that focus on the alarming realities of inner city life.

Lofton was born on August 4, 1950 in Fort Ord, California, the second oldest of four children born to military parents. Her father was an army sergeant and her mother was a soldier in the Women's Army Corps. Throughout her childhood, her family maintained a middle-class façade while hiding incest and alcoholism.

When Lofton was thirteen, her father retired from the Army and moved the family to Los Angeles. Her mother, who was battling alcoholism, did not join them and instead abandoned the family. Years later they reconnected, but her mother succumbed to alcoholism in 1986.  That same year Lofton’s homeless brother was murdered in a Los Angeles park. Their deaths later played pivotal roles in Lofton's emerging writing career.

Lofton dropped out of high school and moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s, briefly studying chemistry and dance at the City College of San Francisco, before adopting what she described as a hippie lifestyle.  She moved to New York City in 1977, where she supported herself by working as a housekeeper and as a topless dancer.
Sources: 
Claude J. Summers and Sapphire, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2011), Retrieved from ww.glbtq.com/social-sciences/lofton_l.html; Marq Wilson, A Push out of Chaos: An Interview with Sapphire (Storrs, Connecticut: Melus, 2012); Elizabeth McNeil, Un-"Freak"ing Black Female Selfhood: Grotesque-Erotic Agency and Ecofeminist Unity in Sapphire's Push (Storrs, Connecticut: Melus, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gordon, Walter Arthur (1894-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Walter Arthur Gordon, attorney and civil rights activist, was born on October 10, 1894, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Henry B. and Georgia Bryant Gordon.  He was the son of a Pullman porter and the grandson of slaves. His family moved to Riverside, California, in 1904. He graduated from Riverside Polytechnic High School in 1913.

In 1914, Gordon entered the University of California at Berkeley. He was an intercollegiate boxer and wrestler, winning the state championship in both categories. He also played every position except center on the offensive and defensive lines of the varsity football team. Gordon was named to the annual football All-American team in 1918, the second African American to receive the award.
Sources: 
Alvin Shuster, “New Governor of Virgin Islands Is Sworn in by the Chief Justice,” New York Times, October 8, 1955; “Walter A. Gordon of Virgin Islands,” New York Times, April 6, 1976; Jonathan Wafer, “Walter Gordon,” Riversider.org; Rodolfo F. Acuna, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, 7th ed. (Boston: Longman, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Frazer, Jendayi E. (1961- )

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

Ambassador Jendayi E. Frazer is currently on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.  She has been there since 2009 as the university’s Distinguished Public service Professor in the Heinz College School of Public Policy and Management.  Frazer is also the Director of Center for International Policy and Innovation.  Along with her prominent positions at Carnegie Mellon, Frazer serves as an Adjunct Senior Fellow for African Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Frazer is a native of Virginia who was born in 1961.  She is the daughter of Ida Frazer. Frazier attended Stanford University in California receiving a B.A. in Political Science and African/Afro-American Studies and an MA in International Policy Studies in 1985.  In 1989, she received another master’s in International Development Education before earning her PhD in Political Science in 1994 both at Stanford University.  Later that year she served as a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford.  

Sources: 
“Carnegie Mellon University, Center for International Policy and Innovation,” http://www.cmu.edu/cipi/people/frazer-jendayi.html; “The White House, President George W. Bush: Ask the White House,”http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/government/frazer-bio.html; “All GOV: Everything Our Government Really Does,” http://www.allgov.com/officials/frazer-jendayi?officialid=28461.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Douglas, H. Ford (1831-1865)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

Yohannes, Daniel W. (1952– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Ambassador Daniel Yohannes with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Daniel W. Yohannes, a businessman, philanthropist, and diplomat, was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on September 22, 1952. He moved to the United States at age 17 as an exchange student in the 11th grade, attending high school in Los Angeles, California.

After working as a stock room clerk in a clothing store and later as a teller at a local bank in Los Angeles, he earned a B.A. in economics from Claremont McKenna College (1976) and a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Pepperdine University (1980).
Sources: 
Official Bio, U.S. Mission to the OECD; Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Daniel W. Yohannes, U.S. Ambassador-Designate, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, October 31, 2013; “Yohannes Takes Ambassador Post at Top Global Policy Group,” Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post, 4/27/2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Canty, Hattie (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
In 1990, more than thirty years after moving west with her family from rural Alabama, Hattie Canty was elected president of the Las Vegas Hotel and Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a position that enabled her to significantly improve the standard of living for tens of thousands of workers in Las Vegas’s booming hotel and casino industry.
Sources: 
Sara Mosle, “Letter from Las Vegas: How the Maids Fought Back,” The New Yorker (February 26/March 4, 1996); Courtney Alexander, “Rise to Power: The Recent History of the Culinary Union,” in The Grit Beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas edited by Hal Rothman and Mike Davis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Claytee D. White, An Interview with Hattie Canty (Las Vegas: Las Vegas Women Oral History Project, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, J. Rosamond (1873-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Composer, actor, and pioneer in his field, John Rosamond Johnson was one of the most successful of the early African American composers. Born on August 11, 1873 in Jacksonville, Florida, Johnson was the younger brother of prominent composer and civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson. Starting in 1890, John Johnson attended Boston’s New England Conservatory, and for a brief time studied in Europe as well. He began his career as a music teacher in Jacksonville public schools but in 1899 moved to New York with his brother, James Weldon, to pursue a career in show business.

One year later the Johnson brothers established a song writing partnership with Robert “Bob” Cole, a lyricist and vaudeville entertainer. Their working relationship lasted until Cole’s death in 1911 and would prove to be quite profitable, producing two popular all-black operettas on Broadway, The Shoo-Fly Regiment (1906) and The Red Moon (1908). With Cole, Johnson also wrote Congo Love Songs, My Castle on the Nile, and the enormously successful Under the Bamboo Tree in 1902.
Sources: 
Jeffrey Lehman, ed., The African American Almanac (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carter, Ben (1907-1946)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Frazier, E. Franklin (1894-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Obama, Barack, Jr. (1961- )

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

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

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