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People

Clarke, Hansen Hashem (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
U.S. House of Representatives
Hansen Clarke is a Democratic politician, lawyer, and artist who represented the 13th District of Michigan in the U.S. Congress between 2011 and 2013.  Born March 2, 1957 in Detroit, his father, Mozaffar Ali Hashem, was an undocumented Bangladeshi immigrant, and his mother Thelma Clarke was African American.

Clarke grew up on Detroit’s lower east side where, in1964, his father showed him a picture of Dalip Saund (the first Indian congressman) a year before the representative passed away. Clarke who was eight became interested in politics.  His mother, a crossing guard, raised him with the assistance of food stamps, and encouraged his interest in oil painting. He attended Cass Technical High School and then graduated from Governor Dummer Academy in 1975.  The following year he was admitted to Cornell University on an academic scholarship. During his freshman year, his mother passed away.

While at Cornell Clarke successfully ran for the student seat on the University’s Board of Trustees to defend need-based scholarships to disadvantaged students. He graduated with a B.F.A. with a focus on painting in 1984, and acquired a Juris Doctor degree at Georgetown University in 1987.
Sources: 
Jennie L. Ilustre, “Hansen Clarke, 1st U.S. Congressman from Bangladesh,” Asian Fortune News (April 1, 2011); Ronald H. Bayor, Multicultural America: An Encyclopedia of the newest Americans (Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Publishing, 2011); http://web.archive.org/web/20070205183412/http://www.senate.mi.gov/clarke/about.htm ; http://www.washingtontimes.com/campaign-2012/candidates/hansen-clarke-55113/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

hooks, bell / Gloria Jean Watkins (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Writer, teacher, and cultural critic bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to a poor working class family.  Her father, Veodis Watkins, was a janitor for the local post office, and her mother, Rosa Bell Watkins, was a homemaker, raising Gloria and her six siblings.

Gloria Watkins attended racially segregated public schools in Hopkinsville as a child.  She performed poetry readings for her church community and was heavily influenced by her great-grandmother, Bell Hooks, who was known for her sharp opinions.  As a writer, she chose the pseudonym, bell hooks, in tribute to her mother and great-grandmother.  She decided not to capitalize her new name to place focus on her work rather than her name, on her ideas rather than her personality.

Watkins attended Stanford University on scholarship.  She graduated in 1973 and went to The University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she earned a Master’s degree in English literature in 1976.  In 1983, she obtained her Ph.D. at the University of California-Santa Cruz, having completed her dissertation on the work of novelist Toni Morrison.
Sources: 
Lara E. Dieckmann, “bell hooks,” in Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook, ed. Jennifer Scanlon (Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 1999); bell hooks, Bone Black:  Memories of A Girlhood (New York:  Henry Holt and Company, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Matzeliger, Jan E. (1852-1887)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Rachel Kranz, The Biographical Dictionary of Black Americans (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1992), pp. 102-103; A Salute to Black Scientists & Inventors (Chicago: Empak Publishing Company), 1993, pp. 22-23.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Law, Oliver (1900-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
William Loren Katz and Marc Crawford, The Lincoln Brigade: A Picture History (New York: Apex Press, 2001); William Loren Katz, “Fighting Another Civil War,” American Legacy (Winter 2002); http://www.alba-valb.org/curriculum/index.php?module=2
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barbosa, Pedro, III (1966- )

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

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

Hunton, William Alphaeus, Jr. (1903-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Alphaeus Hunton at a South Africa Famine
Relief Rally, Abyssinian Baptist Church, 1946
Image Ownership: Public Domain
 
A leading intellectual and activist of the post-WWII period, Alphaeus Hunton, Jr. was the executive director of the Council on African Affairs (CAA) and editor of the CAA's publication, New Africa, from 1943 through the organization's dissolution in 1955. In this capacity, Hunton did more than perhaps any other individual to articulate an anticolonial critique of post-war liberalism and racial capitalism and to advance a vision of Pan-African black identity that stressed the inextricable linkage between African Americans, Africans, and colonized peoples around the world.

Hunton was born in Atlanta in 1903. His family migrated to Brooklyn in the wake of the Atlanta race riot of 1906. He graduated from Howard University in 1924, earned a master's degree in Victorian literature from Harvard in 1925, and studied for a doctorate at New York University from 1934-1938. Hunton's political voice began to emerge during his years at New York University. Attracted to Marxism-Leninism, he was involved in union organizing, joined the Communist Party, and served on the executive board of the National Negro Congress in 1936.
Sources: 
Penny M. Von Eschen, Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997); Hollis R. Lynch, Black American Radicals and the Liberation of Africa: The Council of African Affairs, 1937-1955 (Ithaca: Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harris, Moses [aka Black Moses / "Black Squire"] (1800?-1849)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Moses (Black) Harris on Left in Alfred Jacob Miller Painting
Image Ownership:  Public Domain
Information on Moses Harris’ birth and lineage is limited.  It is believed that he was born in either Union County, South Carolina or somewhere in Kentucky.  Harris was also known as Black Moses or the “Black Squire.”  During the 1820’s Harris moved west and began work as a fur trapper.  His work brought him as far west as the Yellowstone River valley.  During his years as a trapper, Harris gained valuable information on wilderness, mountain and winter survival.  

Moses Harris’ reputation as both a mountain man and his knowledge of wilderness gave him employment as a wagon train guide.  While still fur trapping, he began working as a trail guide, leading trains of supplies to other fur traders.

As the fur trade declined in the 1840s, Harris began regularly working as a guide for missionaries and wagon trains heading west to Oregon.  In 1844 he led one of the largest immigrant wagon trains heading to Oregon.   Later that year, after successfully guiding the wagon train to the Willamette Valley, Harris helped rescue another wagon train lost in the desert of central Oregon.  This would not be the last time Harris would rescue lost and stranded immigrants; a few years later in 1846 he was called on again to help a wagon train stranded in the same desert.
Sources: 
Elizabeth McLagan, A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940. (Portland: Georgian Press Company, 1980); Jerome Peltier, Black Harris (Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1996)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Grier, Eliza Ann ( ? - 1902)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eliza Ann Grier was born a slave, but became emancipated and eventually earned her M.D., becoming in 1898 the first African American woman to practice medicine in Georgia.  Little is known of Grier’s early life beyond her growing up in Atlanta.  In 1883, nearly 20 years after her emancipation, Grier entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee with the goal of becoming a teacher.  She earned a degree in education from Fisk eight years later in 1891 because she took every other year off to pick cotton and perform other work to earn her tuition to continue her studies.
Sources: 

Dorothy Sterling, We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984), http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_132.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Paterson, David A. (1954- )

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

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

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

Meeks, Gregory W. (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

U.S. Congressman Gregory W. Meeks was born on September 25, 1953 in East Harlem, New York City. He was raised in a public housing project in East Harlem and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a minor in Political Science from New York’s Adelphi University. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 1978 from Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C.

After graduating, Meeks joined the Queens County District office, worked for the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, then for the State Investigation Commission, and eventually was appointed Supervising Judge of the New York State Worker’s Compensation System. He won his first public office when he was elected to the New York State Assembly where he served from 1992 to 1997.

Sources: 
Gregory Meeks on the Issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/NY/Gregory_Meeks.htm ; Gregory Meeks Official Webpage: http://www.house.gov/meeks/en.us.about.shtml ; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m001137.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, William (1917-1992)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smith, Mamie (1883-1946)

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

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

Burney, William (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of James Clarke Studio
William Burney, a business consultant who lives in southern Maine, was elected as the first black mayor of Augusta, Maine, the state capital, in November 1988.  He served two four-year terms in this position until 1996.

Burney was born in Augusta on April 23, 1951. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Litchfield, Maine where they resided until Burney was ten years old. Returning to Augusta, the Burney family became active in political and social affairs, gaining the respect of most of the town’s citizens. In 1965, Burney entered Coney High School. The only black student in the high school, and athletically inclined, he was able to develop a close relationship with other athletes. As an honor roll student, he also earned the respect of his teachers.

After graduating in 1969, Burney entered Boston University. He arrived on campus during a time of great social upheaval. While white and black students demonstrated for racial equality, they maintained largely segregated social lives.  As Black Nationalism became increasingly popular among African American students, Burney, who grew up in a predominately-white environment, was caught between warring racial factions. The conflict forced Burney to acclimate himself to the dynamics of interracial politics.  During his freshman year, his social circle was primarily white. In his sophomore year, he joined a black fraternity and developed stronger ties with African American students on campus.  
Sources: 
Elwood Watson, "A Tale of Maine’s Two African American Mayors," Maine History,
40 (Summer 2001): 113-125.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Smith, William [Willie “the Lion”] (1897-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jazz pianist, Willie “the Lion” Smith was born William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff on November 25, 1897. Smith was born to parents Ida Oliver and Frank Bertholoff in Goshen, New York. Bertholoff passed away in 1901, and Oliver married mechanic John Smith. The two raised William Smith in Newark, New Jersey, where he attended public schools.  Smith lived with his mother, stepfather, maternal grandmother Ann Oliver, brothers George and Jerome, step-siblings Robert, Melvin, Norman, and Ralph, and 12 more of John Smith’s children all of whom died before the age of seven.

Smith claims to have had his first experience playing the piano at age six. He first learned to play from his mother, his uncle Rob, and teachers in school.  By age 12 he had mastered famous ragtime pieces which he performed in local saloons, dance halls, and theaters.  In his teenage years Smith made money by playing in Newark bars and saloons.  He often danced or played the piano as those who watched put money in his hat.
Sources: 
Willie Smith and George Hoefer, Music on My Mind: The Memoirs of an American Pianist (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964); “William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff (Willie-the-Lion) Smith,” The Black Perspective in Music, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn, 1973), p. 200, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1214489; "Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith," All About Jazz, N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012, http://musicians.allaboutjazz.com/musician.php?id=4460.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lewis, Elma (1921 – 2004 )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Elma Lewis is an influential educator and advocate for the arts.  Born in 1921 in Boston, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of immigrant parents from the West Indies.  Lewis, a product of the Boston public school system, earned a Bachelors of Arts from Emerson College in 1943 while working as an actress.  She continued her schooling, earning a Master’s in Education in 1944 from Boston University.  

After teaching dance and drama for a few years, Lewis opened the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in 1950 in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston.  Originally housed out of an apartment, the school quickly grew and expanded.  Lewis formed a friendship with Eli Goldston and was able to have the old Hebrew Academy and Synagogue building in Roxbury appraised at 1.4 million and then donated to become the site of the Elma Lewis School.  

Sources: 
Dick Russell, Black Genius and the American Experience (New York: Carroll & Gaff Pub., 1998); Jennifer Dunning, “Elma Lewis, 82, Arts Educator and Mentor,” New York Times, (January 26, 2004); Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African American Musicians (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983); http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=435 (Accessed November 21, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Barclay, Paris K.C. (1956- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Paris K.C. Barclay is an award-winning American television director, producer, and LGBT rights activist.  In 2013, he broke new ground when he was named President of the Directors Guild of America, making him the first out gay male and the first African American to hold the post.

Barclay was born on June 30, 1956 in Chicago Heights, Illinois and grew up in nearby Harvey, Illinois.  His parents married at a young age and had seven children.  Their marriage was not happy but they remained together for over 20 years.

A precocious child, Barclay excelled academically and athletically while attending La Lumiere School for Boys, a Catholic college preparatory school in La Porte, Indiana, on a football scholarship.  He was also one of the first African Americans to attend the school.  In 1975, Barclay enrolled at Harvard University where he majored in English literature.  Additionally, he participated in musical theatre productions and writing musicals, two of which were produced as part of the institution’s Hasty Pudding shows.
Sources: 
Linda Rapp and Paris Barclay, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2014), retrieved from
http://www.glbtq.com/arts/barclay_paris.html; Evan Puschak, “Barclay Becomes First Black President of the Director’s Guild,” retrieved from http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/paris-barclay-becomes-first-black-president-o; Harvard University, “Prominent Harvard Alumni,” retrieved from http://www.gocrimson.com/information/mediacenter/Alumni_Media_Center.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Coffin, Alfred O. (1861- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Although he was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in a field of the biological sciences, Alfred Oscar Coffin ended his career as Professor of Romance Languages at Langston University in Oklahoma.  Born in Pontotoc, Mississippi on May 14, 1861, Coffin earned his bachelor’s degree at Fisk University and his master’s and Ph.D. in biology at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1889.  Beginning in 1887, Coffin taught for two years at Alcorn Agricultural & Mechanical College in Mississippi.  From 1889 to 1895 he was Professor of Mathematics and Romance Language at Wiley University in Marshall, Texas where he found time to write a treatise on the native plants there.  Back at Alcorn A&M from 1895 to 1898 he worked as the campus disbursement agent.  From 1898 to 1909 Coffin was a public school principal in San Antonio, Texas and in Kansas City, Missouri.  Starting in 1910 for several years he worked as an advance agent for Blind Boone Concert Company, promoting the blind ragtime musician.
Sources: 
Who’s Who of the Colored Race (Chicago: F. L. Mather, 1915); Harry H. Greene. Holders of Doctorates Among American Negroes (Boston: Meador Pub. Co., 1946); http://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/coffin.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Jeffrey, George S. (1830-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Although he never held public office, George S. Jeffrey barber, orator, and post-reconstruction civil rights leader, emerged as one of the most important African American political figures in late 19th Century Connecticut.  Jeffrey was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1830, to free parents George W. and Mary Ann (Campbell) Jeffrey. By 1851, Jeffrey settled in Meriden, Connecticut and became a successful barber. Nine years later he married Martha Agnes Williams who by the late 1870s established a successful hairdressing emporium.

Sources: 
Colleen Cyr, George Jeffrey and the Insurance Bill of 1887 (October 2003); Meriden Public Library, vertical file collection; Eric A. Smith, Blacks in Early Connecticut, Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society Inc., National Conference, Washington, D.C. (October 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, Inc.

Philander, S. George (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Samuel George Harker Philander is Knox Taylor Professor of Geosciences at Princeton University.  Born in Caledon, Republic of South Africa on June 25, 1942, he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town in 1962 and his Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University in 1970 with a thesis titled “The Equatorial Dynamics of a Homogeneous Ocean.”  After completing a year as a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he spent six years as a research associate in the Geophysics Fluid Dynamics Program at Princeton University where in 1990 he became a professor in the Department of Geosciences.  

Philander has been a visiting professor at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, a distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, a consultant to the World Meteorological Organization in Switzerland, and a trustee of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 21st Ed. Vol. 5. (New York: Bowker, 2003); http://www.aos.princeton.edu/faculty/philander.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Walker, Madam C. J. (Sarah Breedlove, 1867–1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of A'Lelia Bundles/
Walker Family Collection
Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove to former slaves, Owen and Minerva Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana on December 23, 1867.  Breedlove became an orphan at age seven when her parents died.  Three years later, ten-year-old Sarah and her sister moved across to river to Vicksburg, Mississippi to work as maids.  By her fourteenth birthday, Sarah married Moses McWilliams of Vicksburg and three years later gave birth to her only daughter Lelia (who later changed her name to A’Lelia).  Breedlove became a widow in 1887.  She and her daughter moved to St. Louis to join her older brothers who were barbers.  While in St. Louis she found work as a washer woman earning $1.50 per day.  She also married her second husband, John Davis, in 1894.  The marriage lasted nine years.
Sources: 
A’Lelia Bundles, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker (New York: Scribner, 2001); Kathryn Lasky, Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker (Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2000); www.walkertheatre.com; www.madamcjwalker.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Brown, Hallie Quinn (1850-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Teacher, writer and women’s activist Hallie Quinn Brown was born on March 10, 1850 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of former slaves who in 1864 migrated to Ontario, Canada.  The Brown family returned to the United States in 1870, settling in Wilberforce, Ohio.  Brown attended Wilberforce College and received a degree in 1873.  She then taught in freedman’s schools in Mississippi before moving to Columbia, South Carolina in 1875 where she served briefly as an instructor in the city’s public schools.  By September 1875 she joined the faculty at Allen University.  Brown taught at Allen between 1875 and 1885 and then for the next two years (1885-1887) served as Dean of the University.  Brown also served as Dean of Women at Tuskegee Institute during the 1892-1893 school year before returning to Ohio where she taught in the Dayton public schools.     

Brown had since childhood held an interest in public speaking.  In 1866 she graduated from the Chautauqua Lecture School.  By the time she began working at Allen University Brown was already developing a reputation as a powerful orator for the causes of temperance, women’s suffrage and civil rights.  In 1895 Hallie Q. Brown addressed an audience at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Conference in London.  In 1899, while serving as one of the United States representatives, she spoke before the International Congress of Women meeting in London.  Brown also spoke before Queen Victoria.
Sources: 
Hazel V. Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Basie, Count (William Allen “Count” Basie) (1904-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A jazz pianist and bandleader, Count Basie was one of the leading musicians of the Big Band “Swing” era. His Count Basie Orchestra was formed in 1936, and featured singers such as Billie Holliday, and notable musicians including Lester Young, Jo Jones, and Walter Page. The band lasted for many decades, outliving Basie himself.  

He was born William Allen Basie in Red Bank, New Jersey on August 21, 1904. His mother was his childhood piano teacher, and he was taught to play the cinema organ by Fats Waller. As a young man, he toured with vaudeville acts playing ragtime and stride piano, and after being stranded in Kansas City in 1927, played the organ for silent films. He joined the Blue Devils, a jazz band, in 1928. Basie later formed his own group, playing at the renowned Apollo in New York City, and in 1937 recorded “One O’Clock Jump” on the Decca label, which became the band’s signature song.

The importance of radio exposure in this pre-television era was shown by the heartland enthusiasm for his band’s tours after Basie was broadcast from New York’s 52nd Street Famous Door on the CBS Network in 1938. By the end of the thirties, the band had an international reputation. When Count Basie’s band was hired by a major New York hotel in 1943, it was considered a breakthrough for black musicians, who were often limited to playing in black clubs at that time.
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage (New York: Facts on File, 1997); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music (San Diego, California: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); www.pbs.org/jazz/biography .
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Church, Robert Reed, Jr. (1885-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of 
Tennessee State University
Robert Reed Church, Jr. was born on October 26, 1885 in Memphis, Tennessee.  He was the youngest son of Robert Church Sr., a prominent African American businessman in the city and his second wife, Anna Wright Church. Like his father, he became an important businessman, political activist, and politician during the 1920s.

Robert Church, Jr. was educated at Morgan Park Military Academy in Illinois. After high school he earned a B.A. from Oberlin College in Ohio and an M.B.A. from the Packard School of Business in New York. He also spent two years working on Wall Street. When he returned to Memphis he managed one of the family businesses, Church Park and Auditorium on Beale Street. Afterwards, he became cashier of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company, a bank founded by his father.  Church became its President upon his father's death in 1912.  Church also presided over the family’s extensive real estate holdings in Memphis.  On July 26, 1911, Robert Church, Jr., married Sara P. Johnson of Washington, D. C. They had one child, Sara Roberta.  
Sources: 
Annette E. Church and Roberta Church, The Robert R. Churches of Memphis: A Father and Son Who Achieved in Spite of Race (Memphis: A. E. Church, 1974); Gloria B. Melton, “Blacks in Memphis, Tennessee, 1920-1955: A Historical Study” (Ph.D. diss., Washington State University, 1982); Lester Lamon, Black Tennesseans, 1900-1930 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977); The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/; Shirelle Phelps, ed., Contemporary Black Biography, various volumes. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Elliott, Robert Brown (1842–1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Robert Brown Elliott, Reconstruction-era Congressman, was born in 1842 in Liverpool, England. He attended High Holborn Academy in London, England and then studied law, graduating from Eton College in 1859. From there he joined the British Royal Navy.  Elliott decided to settle in South Carolina in 1867.  He was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1868 and began practicing law in Columbia, the state capital.  Elliott worked under the future Congressman Richard H. Cain as associate editor of the South Carolina Leader and was an elected delegate to the 1868 state constitution convention.  Later that year he won a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives. In 1869, partly because of his military background, Elliott was appointed assistant adjutant-general for South Carolina.  He became the first African American commanding general of the South Carolina National Guard which as the state militia was charged with fighting the Ku Klux Klan.  
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 Robert Elliott Brown.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Buck, Warren (1946 - )

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People
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African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the University of Washington

Warren Buck was Chancellor (now Emeritus and professor) of the University of Washington, Bothell (UWB), from June 1999 through June 2005.  Dr. Buck was born on February 16, 1946 to Mr. & Mrs. Warren W. Buck, Jr., in Washington, D.C.   Buck earned his high school diploma in1963, at Spingarn High School, Washington, D.C., and then enrolled for two years of study (1963-65) at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.  He earned his B.S. in Mathematics at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland in 1968 and two years later received an M.S. in Physics (1970: Experimental and Theoretical Plasma) from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  He received a Ph.D. in Physics (Theoretical Relativistic Nuclear), from William and Mary in 1976.  

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University, Seattle

Howell, Lembhard Goldstone (1936- )

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

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

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

Danner, Margaret E. (1915-1984)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gatson, Dewey (AKA Rajo Jack DeSoto) (1905-1956)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Rajo Jack De Soto at Silvergate Speedway, San Diego, Ca. in 1934
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Automobile racer Rajo Jack DeSoto was born Dewey Gatson on July 28, 1905 in Tyler, Texas. (Previously published biographies have incorrectly listed his racing name as Rojo Jack.) Rajo Jack was barred from racing in many organized venues because of his African American heritage, but he had several notable wins and a number of historic crashes. He was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2003.

Dewey Gatson’s parents were Noah, a railroad employee, and Frances (Gee). He had three sisters and two brothers. Sometime in his teens, Gatson and his family moved from Texas to California. In 1921 Gatson got a job with a travelling entertainment show, acquiring skills as a mechanic. He later worked as a mechanic for racing teams and began racing on his own in 1923 in a souped-up Model T Ford.  Later that year he was hired by Rajo Motor Manufacturing to sell its after-market racing kits. Gatson's sales skills earned him the nickname of “Rajo.” In 1936 he had a big victory at the Los Angeles Speedway in a stock Ford two-seater. He won by over two laps.
Sources: 

Larry L. Ball, Jr., “Rajo Jack,” 2007 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum, http://www.sprintcarhof.com./FileGet.aspx?ID=268; Todd Gould, For Gold and Glory: Charlie Wiggins and the African-American Racing Car Circuit (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002); Cecilia Rasmussen, “For Auto Racers and Fans, It Was the Roaring ‘30s,” Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2006; Shav Glick, “The Hall Welcomes a Black Pioneer,” Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jefferson, William J. (1947-- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William J. Jefferson is a former Democratic politician who represented Louisiana’s Second Congressional District from 1991 to 2009. He was the first African American congressman elected from the state since Reconstruction. His career ended in a bribery scandal that resulted in his conviction in November 2009. 

William Jefferson was born in 1947 in Lake Providence, Louisiana. He was one of ten children in his family, one of the few black landowning families in an area inhabited mostly by black sharecroppers and white plantation owners. Jefferson earned a BA degree from Southern University A & M College in 1969, and then earned a JD from Harvard Law School in 1972. From 1973 to 1975 he was a legislative assistant to Louisiana Senator J. Bennett Johnston.  

In 1978, Jefferson ran for a seat representing New Orleans’ Uptown section in the Louisiana State Senate, defeating a white incumbent candidate. He remained in the State Senate for twelve years, although twice he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of New Orleans. In 1990 Jefferson ran for and won the hotly-contested congressional seat of retiring Representative Corinne (Lindy) Boggs.
Sources: 
United States House of Representatives, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 2008); Jonathan Tilove, "William Jefferson Sentenced to 13 years in Prison,” Louisiana Politics & Government (November 13, 2009); “William Jefferson Verdict: Guilty on 11 of 16 counts,” New Orleans Times-Picayune (August 5, 2009).
Contributor: 

Johnson, Yvonne Jeffries (1942- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Yvonne Jeffries Johnson, the first African American mayor of Greensboro, North Carolina, was born on October 26, 1942 in Greensboro to Ruby Jeffries.  She graduated from Dudley High School in 1960 and Bennett College in 1964, with a BA in Psychology.  She then enrolled in Howard University and received a Graduate Fellowship in 1965.  In 1978 Johnson received a Master of Science degree in Guidance Counseling from North Carolina A&T University.

Sources: 
Personal interview with the author, June 2011, http://www.greensboro-nc.gov/index.aspx?page=104; Personal resume.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Owen, Chandler (1889-1967)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
"Chandler Owen," in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds. (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); William M. Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Morial, Ernest Nathan (1929-1989)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in New Orleans, Ernest Morial grew up in the city’s Seventh Ward.  His father was a cigar maker and his mother was a seamstress.  Graduating from Xavier University, a historically black Catholic institution, he became the first African American to receive a law degree from Louisiana State University.  Battling segregation in the courtroom, he was elected president of the local NAACP chapter, and later elected to the Louisiana State legislature, becoming the first black member since Reconstruction.  Later, he became the first Juvenile Court judge, and the first Circuit Court of Appeals judge of his race in Louisiana.   
Sources: 
Edward M. Meyers, Rebuilding America’s Cities (New York, 1986); Arnold Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon, Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Yerby, Frank G. (1916-1991)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frank Garvin Yerby was born in Augusta, Georgia on September 5, 1916. His parents were Wilhelmina and Rufus Yerby.  Frank Yerby was the product of an interracial marriage. His father was African American and his mother was of European origin.  Yerby grew up in Augusta and attended two local institutions.  He graduated from Haines Institute in 1933. Four years later he earned a second degree from Paine College.  The following year Yerby entered Fisk University in Nashville where he earned a masters degree.  Yerby began studies toward a doctorate in education from the University of Chicago but dropped out before obtaining a degree.

Frank Yerby taught briefly at Florida A&M College and later at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He later migrated north, to Dearborn, Michigan where he worked as a technician at the Ford Motor Company and then to Jamaica, New York, where he worked in the aviation industry.

Eventually Yerby gained success as an author. His story “Health Card” won the 1944 O. Henry Memorial Award for best first published short story of the year.  Two years later his first novel, The Foxes of Harrow, received critical acclaim. Yerby would write more than thirty novels over his career.  His best known novel, The Dahomean, appeared in 1971. His publications sold more than fifty-five million hardback and paperback books worldwide, making him one of the most commercially successful writers of the 20th Century.  
Sources: 
Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gale, 1989), s.v. “Frank Yerby.”; James L. Hill, “The Anti-Heroic Hero in Frank Yerby’s Historical Novels,” Perspectives of Black Popular Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio: Popular Press, 1990);., The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), s.v. “Frank Yerby.”
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Combs, Sean “Diddy” (1970- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born November 4, 1970 in Harlem, New York, Sean “Diddy” Combs is a multi-platinum selling producer, rapper, and successful record company executive. Combs was raised in Harlem, where his father was killed when Combs was three.  His mother moved the family to suburban Mount Vernon, New York.  Combs attended Howard University for two years before dropping out to become an intern at Uptown Records in New York. Combs rose to Vice-President of Uptown Records after just a year.  Nonetheless he was fired in 1993.

Combs’s dismissal from Uptown prompted him to start his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment. The next year Bad Boy found success with two rap acts: Craig Mack, and The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher George Wallace) whose album Ready to Die, released in 1994 went double-platinum and solidified Bad Boy’s place in the rap community.

In March 1997 as Sean Combs -- who performed at the time as Puff Daddy -- was working on his first solo album, The Notorious B.I.G. was killed.  Combs first solo album No Way Out, which was released in the summer of 1997, included a track that was a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. and which relied heavily on a sample from the British rock group, The Police, called I’ll Be Missing You.  Combs performed the song live along with B.I.G.’s widow, Faith Evans, R&B group 112, and The Police lead singer Sting at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.
Sources: 
Nelson George, Hip-Hop America (New York: Penguin Books, 2005); James Haskins, One Nation Under a Groove: Rap Music and its Roots (New York: Hyperion Books, 2000); John Bush & Bradley Torreano, "Diddy."  Allmusic.com 14 Mar. 2007. < http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:9lc8b5p4nsqh~T1>.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, George Washington (1849-1891)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Brown, Sterling A. (1901-1989)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The last of six children and the only boy born to the Rev. Sterling Nelson and Adelaide (Allen) Brown, Sterling Allen Brown graduated as the top student from Washington’s renowned Dunbar High School (1918).  His success enabled him to accept the token gesture of an academic scholarship Williams College annually extended to Dunbar’s valedictorian.  At this prestigious small, liberal arts school in Massachusetts, from 1918–1922, Brown set aside his own feelings of isolation and performed with distinction: election to Phi Beta Kappa his junior year, winning the Graves Prize for his essay “The Comic Spirit in Shakespeare and Moliere,” and receipt of highest honors from the English Department his senior year.  These accolades won for him a scholarship to study at Harvard University, where he graduated with an MA degree in English in 1923.
Sources: 
Sterling A. Brown, The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1980); Sterling A. Brown,  A Negro Looks at the South, eds. John Edgar Tidwell and Mark A. Sanders (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Joanne Gabbin, Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985); and Mark A. Sanders, Afro-Modernist Aesthetics and the Poetry of Sterling A. Brown (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Harrison, Hubert Henry (1883-1927)

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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

Ray, Charles B. (1807-1886)

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People
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African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Bennett Ray journalist, clergyman, and abolitionist was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts on December 25, 1807. He attended school in his hometown, and then in the 1830s he was given the opportunity by abolitionists to attend Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts to study theology. He also studied in Middletown Connecticut at Wesleyan University, but left because of racial tension. Ray worked for five years on his grandfather’s farm, then later went on to learn the boot making trade. When he moved to New York City in 1832 he opened a boot and shoe store. Ray also became a Methodist minister.

In 1834 Charles Ray married Henrietta Green Regulus on October 27, 1836 she along with her newborn died while giving birth. Then in 1840 he married Charlotte Augusta Burroughs; they had seven children together.  Two daughters, Charlotte T. Ray and Florence Ray, became the first black female attorneys in the nation in the 1870s.

In 1833 Charles Ray joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and was a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. He dedicated most of his life to the abolitionist movement. In 1837 Ray changed denominations and became a Congregational minister. Then in 1843 he joined the New York Vigilance Committee, which involved thirteen black and white men who assisted runaway slaves. In 1848 Ray became the corresponding secretary for the Committee and remained an active member for fifteen years.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Oct., 1919), pp. 361-371 Publisher: Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc.  Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2713446
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cook, Samuel DuBois (1928- )

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

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

Jennings, Thomas L. (1791- 1856)

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People
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African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

Thomas L. Jennings was the first black man to receive a patent. The patent was awarded on March 3, 1821 (US Patent 3306x) for his discovery of a process called dry-scouring which was the forerunner of today’s modern dry-cleaning.

Jennings was born free in New York City in 1791.  In his early 20s he became a tailor but then opened a dry cleaning business in the city.  While running his business Jennings developed dry-scouring.   

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Morris, Morris W. / Lewis Morrison (1845-1906)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Lewis Morrison as “Mephistopheles”
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lewis Morrison was one of the most prominent stage actors of his time. He was best known worldwide for his portrayal of “Mephistopheles” in Faust. He was also the first black Jewish officer to serve during the Civil War.

Lewis Morrison was born in Kingston, Jamaica on September 4, 1845. He was named Morris W. Morris at birth, although some sources claim that Moritz W. Morris is the correct spelling. Very little is known about his family history. After the Civil War, he changed his name to Lewis Morrison for unknown reasons. His great great grandson, Phil Downey, later claimed that Morris changed his name to escape his African and Jewish heritage.

Morris left Jamaica for the United States as a youth. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, the first official black military regiment in the Confederacy, with other free blacks. He soon rose to the rank of lieutenant, becoming the first black Jewish officer to serve in the Confederate Army. When the Louisiana State Legislature banned people of color from serving in the Confederate Army in February 1862, the regiment was disbanded.  Morris and about 10% of the other former 1st Louisiana Native Guard joined the Union Army in September 1862 and were organized into a new unit that was assigned the same name.  There Morris became the first black Jewish officer in the Union Army.
Sources: 
Errol Hill, The Jamaican Stage, 1655-1900: Profile of a Colonial Theatre (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992); Brian Kellow, The Bennetts: An Acting Family (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004); James G. Hollandsworth, The Louisiana Native Guards: the Black Military Experience during the Civil War (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

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

Havens, Richard Pierce ["Richie"] (1941-2013)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Music’s Over Website
Richie Havens, born Richard Pierce Havens, was an esteemed musician, writer, educator, and actor. Havens was born in Brooklyn on January 21, 1941 to a music-infused family. His father, Richard Havens, was a Blackfoot Native-American ear piano player, and his mother, Milfred, was a singer from the British West Indies. Havens was the eldest of nine children.

Havens is best remembered for his three-hour opening performance on August 15, 1969 at the Woodstock Concert on Max Yasgur’s farm. Havens was selected to open the concert when the original act was delayed in traffic. His performance ended with an improvised rendition of an old African American spiritual, “Motherless Child,” which became known as “Freedom” and was immediately identified with the pivotal movements of the period: civil rights, anti-war, free love, and feminism.

Haven’s illustrious career began much earlier in 1954, when he started singing doo-wop music at age 13. By the age of 16, Havens had formed a gospel group known as McCrea Gospel singers. In 1967, Havens signed with Verve Records in a deal arranged by Bob Dylan's manager Albert Grossman.

After Woodstock, Haven’s popularity skyrocketed and later in 1969, he formed his own record label, Stormy Forest, a label which eventually released six albums. In total, Havens recorded twenty-five albums over his five decade career.
Sources: 
Rachel Marco-Havens, “Richie Havens Daughter Says Good-Bye,” The Progressive (April 23, 2013); Richie Havens and Steve Davidowitz, They Can't Hide Us Anymore (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1999); Derek Schofield, “Richie Havens,” The Guardian (April 23, 2013); http://richiehavens.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ailey, Alvin (1931-1989)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Alvin Ailey, Photo by Eric N. Hong

Alvin Ailey was born in Rodgers, Texas during the Great Depression. He overcame racism, poverty, and homophobia to become one of the most celebrated choreographers in American history. His single teenage mother Lula Ailey washed clothes, picked cotton, and worked in domestic service in various Texas towns. In Milano, Texas, Ailey attended Mount Olive Baptist Church, spending joy-filled hours that would shape his signature masterpiece, Revelations, 24 years later.

Sources: 
Thomas De Frantz, Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey’s Embodiment of African American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press. 2004); Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater webpage: http://www.alvinailey.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Miller, Thomas E. (1849-1938)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Politician and educator, Thomas E. Miller was born in Ferrebeeville, Beaufort County, South Carolina on June 17, 1849.  Miller was the son of free black parents, and moved with them to Charleston, South Carolina in 1851 where he attended the all-black schools in the city.  After the Civil War, Miller moved to Hudson, New York where he worked and continued his education.  He then received a scholarship that allowed him to attend Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Miller graduated from Lincoln in 1872.

Miller returned to South Carolina and was appointed school commissioner of Beaufort County.  He then moved to Columbia, the state capital where he studied law at the recently integrated University of South Carolina.  Miller was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1875.

While preparing for a career in the law Miller had already entered politics.  He served as a member of the South Carolina Assembly between 1874 and 1880.  Then in 1880 he was elected to the State Senate and nominated for lieutenant governor.  Miller did not enter the race because the South Carolina Republican Party chose not to put forward a ticket in the wake of anti-black violence.  Miller nonetheless remained politically active.  He was the Republican Party state chairman in 1884.
Sources: 
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Tresse, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, Cornel West, eds.,  Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History Vol 4 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Amanda Berry (1837-1915)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Amanda Smith, An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, The Colored Evangelist (1921); Adrienne M. Israel, Amanda Berry Smith: From Washerwoman to Evangelist (1998); Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004.)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian, Seattle Pacific University

Marshall, Thurgood (1908-1993)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Thurgood Marshall was an American civil rights activist with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.  He is remembered as a lawyer who had one of the highest rates of success before the Supreme Court and the principal counsel in a number of landmark court cases.  Marshall won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the high court. 

Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland, the great-grandson of a slave.  His father, William Marshall, a railroad porter, instilled in him an appreciation of the Constitution at an early age. When young Marshall got in trouble at school he was required to memorize sections of the US Constitution.   His mother, Norma Arica Williams, an elementary school teacher for 25 years, placed great emphasis on his overall scholarship. 

Sources: 
Mary L. Dudziak, Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey ( New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Carl T. Rowan, Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Thurgood Marshall ( New York:  Welcome Rain Publishers, 2002);  Mark Tushnet, Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1956-1961 ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1994);  Mark Tushnet, Making Constitutional Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1961-1991 ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Juan Williams, American Revolutionary (Broadway, VA: Broadway Publishers: 2000).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins (1825-1911)

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

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

Walters, Bishop Alexander (1858-1917)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alexander Walters was born in 1858 into a slave family in Bardstown, Kentucky, the sixth of eight children.  By the age of ten, Walters had shown such academic progress that he was awarded by the African Episcopal Zion Church a full scholarship to attend private schooling. In 1877 at the age of nineteen, Walters received his license to preach and began his pastoral duties in Indianapolis, Indiana. In his career as a pastor, Walter served in cities across the country including Louisville, San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Chattanooga, Knoxville and New York. In 1892, as a minister at the Seventh District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Walters was selected as bishop.  

In 1898, Bishop Alexander Walters began to devote his attention to the ongoing African American civil rights struggle.  In partnership with T. Thomas Fortune, the editor of the New York Age, Walters founded the National Afro-American Council and served as its president.  This organization focused primarily on challenging racially discriminatory legislation and in particular the “separate but equal” Plessy vs. Ferguson U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1896.  Walters also challenged Booker T. Washington’s ideas of accommodation to segregation and discrimination.  
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Randall Burkett and Richard Newman, eds., Black Apostles: Afro-American Clergy Confront the Twentieth Century (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coleman, William T. Jr. (1920- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The Library of Congress
William T. Coleman, Jr., a prominent Republican lawyer and businessman, served as Secretary of Transportation under President Gerald Ford.  Born in 1920 to a middle class Philadelphia family, Coleman attended a segregated elementary school.  When he moved to Germantown High School he confronted racism as one of only seven blacks in the school.  Teachers thought his good grades would lead to a career as a chauffeur.  Coleman had other plans; he wanted to be a lawyer.

Coleman, an undergraduate member of Phi Beta Kappa, graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941.  He then entered Harvard Law School, but left after a year to join the United States Army Air Corps.  After World War II, Coleman returned to law school, and became the first African American to serve on the Harvard Law Review.  He graduated magna cum laude in 1946.  Initially no large law firms would hire Coleman because he was black, so he landed his first job as a United States appellate court law clerk.  In 1948 William T. Coleman became the U.S. Supreme Court’s first black law clerk.  He married Lovida Hardin in 1945.
Sources: 
“Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient William T. Coleman, Jr.,” http://www.medaloffreedom.com/WilliamTColemanJr.htm; Stuart Taylor Jr., “Man in the News; No Stranger to the High Court, New York Times, 20 April 1982, D21; Jay Horning, “A Passion for the Law that Never Waned,” St. Petersburg Times, 8 September 1996, A14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Martin Luther King, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Clayborne Carson, ed. (New York: Intellectual Properties Management in association with Warner Books, 1998); Lerone Bennett, What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1989); Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years (New York: Touchstone, 1989); Christine King Farris, My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003). For additional information on Dr. Martin Luther King please see The Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute. http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stanford University

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

Lee, Canada (1907-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Canada Lee (the adopted name of Lionel Cornelius Canegata) was a noted 20th Century jockey, boxer, and actor.  Born on May 3, 1907 in New York City’s San Juan Hill district, he attended Public School 5 in Harlem. Canegata began his musical education at the age of seven, studying violin with the composer J. Rosamond Johnson. At the age of fourteen he ran away to the Saratoga Race Track in upstate New York to become a jockey. After two years of jockeying he became a horse exerciser for prominent racehorse owners.

In 1923 Canegata moved to Harlem and became an amateur prize fighter, entering the ring with manager Jim Buckley. Over the next three years he emerged the victor in 90 of 100 fights and won the Metropolitan Inter-City and Junior National Championships.  Then he went on and won the national amateur lightweight title. In 1926 he turned professional, changed his name to Canada Lee, and by 1930 he was a leading contender for the welterweight championship. Lee fought in over 200 fights as a professional boxer, only losing 25.  In 1933 a detached retina ended his boxing career and he returned to music.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Perkins, John [aka "Jack Punch"] ( -1812)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
HMS Tartar, ca. 1804
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Captain John Perkins, nicknamed Jack Punch, was the first black commissioned officer in the Royal Navy.  His date of birth and origins are unknown but Perkins first appeared in Navy records in 1775 when he joined as a ship’s pilot aboard HMS Antelope, the flagship of the Jamaica station. In 1778 he was put in command of the Punch schooner and in 1778 and 1779 it captured 315 enemy vessels under his leadership. He then commanded the schooner Endeavour and was promoted to commander by Admiral Sir George Rodney, the commander in chief at Jamaica. The promotion was disallowed and in 1783 at the end of the American War of Independence Perkins left the Navy and remained in reserve as a half-pay lieutenant, a practice that was common at the time. What he did between 1783 and 1790 is unknown.
Sources: 
William James, The naval history of Great Britain: from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV, volume 2 & 3 (London: R. Bentley 1837); J.S. Clarke, Naval Chronicle, Volumes 17 & 27 (London: Bunney & Gold 1807 & 1812); Basil Mundy, The Life and Correspondence of the Late Admiral Lord Rodney, volume 2 (London: Kessinger Publishing Co. 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Page, Clarence E. (1947 - )

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Staupers, Mabel Keaton (1890-1989)

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

Mabel Keaton Staupers, R.N., was instrumental in ending the United States Army’s policy of excluding African American nurses from its ranks in World War II. In 1948 Staupers also successfully lobbied for full integration of the American Nurses Association.

Mabel Keaton Staupers (née Doyle) was born in Barbados, West Indies on February 27, 1890 to Thomas Clarence Doyle and his wife, Pauline. In 1903 Doyle and her mother immigrated to New York City, New York, and Thomas Doyle joined them there a few years later. After gaining U.S. Citizenship in 1917, Doyle received her R.N. diploma from the Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. In 1917 Doyle married James Max Keaton, a marriage that ended in divorce.

Sources: 
Andrew Salinas, "Mabel Keaton Staupers Papers, 1930-1977, Amistad Research Center, http://www.amistadresearchcenter.org/archon/?p=collections/findingaid&id=273&q=&rootcontentid=99685; Mabel Keaton Staupers (1890-1989) 1996 Inductee, American Nurses Association,  http://www.nursingworld.org/MabelKeatonStaupers.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robinson, Jo Ann (1912-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Jo Ann Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It (Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 1987); Russell Freedman, Freedom Walkers: the Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (New York: Holiday House, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Williams, Camilla (1919-2012)

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

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

Frazer, Victor O. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Victor O. Frazer, attorney and politician, was born May 24, 1943 in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands to Albert Frazer and Amanda Blyden.   He graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1960.  In 1964, he earned a B.A. degree from Fisk University. In 1971, he received his J.D. from Howard University Law School and subsequently was admitted to legal bars of New York, Maryland, District of Columbia, and Virgin Islands.

In 1974 Frazer began his law career in Washington, D.C. at the Office of the Corporation Counsel (later known as the Office of the Attorney General of D.C.).  He later served as a lawyer for the Interstate Commerce Commission and the U.S. Patent Office.

In 1987 he served as general counsel for the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority.  Frazer’s congressional interest developed while working as an administrative assistant for California Representative Mervyn Dymally and as a special assistant for Michigan Representative John Conyers.

Sources: 
“Victor O. Frazer,” Who’s Who Among African Americans; Politics in America, 1996 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1995): 1476; Black Americans in Congress website, http://baic.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=72; Almanac of American Politics, 1996 (Washington, D.C.: National Journal Inc., 1995), 1483.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Brace, Jeffrey (1742?-1827)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Jeffrey Brace Descendants: Ronald Jeffrey Brace, Sr.;
Rhonda Marie Brace; and Jeffrey Sylvester Brace, Jr.
Image courtesy of Rhonda Marie Brace
Born in West Africa Jeffrey Brace (born Boyrereau Brinch) was enslaved at the age of sixteen and transported to Barbados, where he was sold to a ship captain from Connecticut who used him as an enslaved sailor-soldier during the Seven Years War.  At the war’s end he was transported to Connecticut and sold to a Yankee Puritan. In 1777, after enduring several sadistic masters, Brace enlisted the Continental Army. Six years later he was honorably discharged with a badge of merit.  In 1784, after persuading his master to manumit him, Brace headed for Vermont, the first state to make slavery illegal.  In Poultney, Vermont, he married, bought a farm, and raised a family.

Through hard work and persistence Jeffrey and his wife Susan achieved a modicum of stability but also suffered profound injustice.  Susan had two children from a previous marriage who were forced by powerful white people to work in their households as indentured servants. Around 1802, when neighbors attempted to force the children that Jeffrey and Susan had together into indentured servitude, the family decided to sell their farm and move to northern Vermont.

Sources: 
Jeffrey Brace as told to Benjamin F. Prentiss, The Blind African Slave; or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace Ed. Kari J. Winter.  (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

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

Crews, Phillip O. (1943- )

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

Woods, Eldrick “Tiger” (1975- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was born on December 30, 1975 in Cypress, California to parents Earl and Kultida Woods.  Woods was given the nickname Tiger after a Vietnamese soldier and friend of his father’s.  He grew up watching his father play golf and at the age of two, he was putting with Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show.  Woods was featured in Golf Digest at the age of five and between the ages of eight and fifteen, he won the Optimist International Junior tournament six times.  Tiger Woods entered his first professional tournament in 1992 at the age of 16.  He attended Stanford University in 1994 and within two years, had won 10 collegiate titles including the NCAA title.

By the age of 32, Tiger Woods has had an unprecedented career.  Woods has won 75 tournaments including 55 on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour.  His victories include the 1997, 2001 and 2005 Masters Tournaments, the 1999, 2000, and 2006 PGA Championships, 2000 and 2002 U.S. Open Championships and the 2005 and 2006 British Open Championships.  In 1997, Woods, at 22, became the youngest player ever to win the Masters Championship and the first ever winner of African or Asian heritage.  In 2001, Tiger became the first ever golfer to hold all four major championship titles.  
Sources: 
Patrick B. Miller and David K. Wiggins, Sport and the Color Line, Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Routledge, 2004); http://www.tigerwoods.com/defaultflash.sps.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

de' Medici, Alessandro (1510–1537)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alessandro de' Medici, called “Il Moro” (“The Moor”), was born in the Italian city of Urbino in 1510. His mother was an African slave named Simonetta who had been freed. Alessandro’s paternity is uncertain.  Most sources name Lorenzo de' Medici, ruler of Urbino. But Alessandro might also have been the son of Pope Clement VII, the brother of Lorenzo II who became the head of the Medici family after Lorenzo's death.

Clement VII chose the nineteen-year-old Alessandro to become the first Duke of Florence in 1529. Pope Clement at that time was at odds not only with the Florentines who had driven out the Medici family in 1497, but also with the emperor Charles V. To solidify the allegiance that the papacy owed to the Holy Roman Empire, Alessandro was named Duke of Florence and promised the emperor's daughter Margaret. With the help of Charles V, Clement could restore the rule of the Medici family in Florence in 1530 and make Alessandro the first reigning Duke. Supported initially by the best families, Alessandro became an absolute prince, overthrowing the city’s’ republican government.
Sources: 
T.F. Earle and K.J. Lowe, Black Africans in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); J.A. Rogers, World's Greatest Men of Color, Volume II (New York: Macmillan, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Watson, Diane Edith (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Diane Edith Watson was born November 12, 1933 in Los Angeles, California and has spent the majority of her life in the Los Angeles area. Her father was a Los Angeles policeman and her mother worked nights at a post office after her parents divorced when Watson was seven.

In 1950 Watson graduated from Dorsey High School and obtained a bachelor’s degree in education from UCLA in 1956. Here she became friends and sorority sisters with fellow congresswoman Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.  Eleven years later, at California State University at Los Angeles, Watson received her master’s degree. Watson received a doctorate in education from Claremont Graduate University in 1986.

In 1956 Watson became a public school teacher in Los Angeles and worked up the ranks to assistant principal in 1969.  During that time she held visiting teacher positions in France and Japan.  By 1971 Watson worked as a Los Angeles Unified School District health education specialist where she focused on mental health issues among the district’s 500,000 students.  
Sources: 

Dorothy Ehrhart-Morrison, No Mountain High Enough: Secrets of Successful African American Women (Berkeley: Conari, 1997).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Factor, Pompey (1849–1928)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Calloway, Cab (1907-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Energetic jazz singer, bandleader, performer, and composer, Cabell “Cab” Calloway III was born on Christmas Day, 1907 to Cabell Calloway Jr. and Martha Eulalia Reed in Rochester, New York. Calloway was raised in Baltimore, Maryland and in high school he sung with a group called the Baltimore Melody Boys.

Calloway attended Crane College in Chicago for pre-law but soon abandoned his studies for a career in the music industry, following the path of his sister, Blanche, an established singer. He started out performing for various Chicago night clubs, eventually securing a spot as a drummer and singer at the Sunset Club, a popular jazz venue in Chicago’s South Side. While working at the Sunset, Calloway earned the reputation of being a charismatic, lively performer and in 1928 served as the club’s master of ceremonies. One year later he led the house band, the Alabamians.

Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds., African American Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Jeffrey Lehman, ed., The African American Almanac (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003); Colin A. Palmer, ed., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Spencer (1893-1969)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mboya, Thomas (Joseph Odhiambo) (1930-1969)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Tom Mboya, born on August 15, 1930 in Kilimambogo, Kenya on a sisal plantation estate, was a Kenyan nationalist, trade union leader, and government minister. His parents were Luo agricultural workers who as recently converted Catholics, sent him to mission schools from an early age. By 1947, Mboya was en route to graduation, but because of his father's modest income he couldn’t afford to complete the final pre-examination course. He decided instead to attend the Royal Sanitary Institute’s medical school which paid for his training and allowed him to support his younger brother’s studies. Mboya began his involvement in labor organizing at the school, where he also became president of the student council and participated in the debating club.

Upon graduating in 1951, Mboya was given sanitary inspection duties in Nairobi. Around the same time, the anticolonial Mau Mau rebellion was erupting and much of Kenya’s trade union and political leadership were detained by British authorities. Mboya resigned from his inspector position in 1953 and began a series of full-time commitments to the growing union movement.

Sources: 
“Mboya, Tom (Thomas Joseph Odhiambo),” in Norbert C. Brockman, ed., An African Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1994); “Tom Mboya,” in Anne Commire, ed., Historic World Leaders, volume 1 (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994).; “Tom Mboya,” in Harvey Glickman, ed., Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara : A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, William Henry (1901-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Henry Johnson was an African American expressionist painter.  He was born on March 18, 1901 in Florence, South Carolina to mother Alice Smoot Johnson (known as “Mom Alice” or “Aunt Alice”) and father Henry Johnson.  William H. Johnson was the oldest of five children: Lacy, Lucy, James, and Lillian.  Johnson spent his childhood helping out his family, finding a joy for painting, and attending rural grade schools in Florence.

At age 17 Johnson moved to New York where he worked as a cook, hotel porter, and stevedore.  In September 1921 he enrolled at the School of the National Academy of Design (NAD).  Between 1923 and 1926 during the academic year he studied with Charles W. Hawthorne at the NAD and during the summers at The Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Sources: 
Richard J. Powell, Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1991); Steve Turner and Victoria Dailey, William H. Johnson: Truth Be Told (Los Angeles, California: Seven Arts Publishing, 1998); William H. Johnson, Adelyn Dohme Breeskin, National Collection of Fine Arts, William H. Johnson, 1901-1970 (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1818-1907)

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

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

Farmer, James, Sr. (1886-1961)

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

Jere L. Jackson, "James Leonard Farmer" http://www.cets.sfasu.edu/Harrison/Farmer/farmhome.htm; "Texas State Historical Marker" http://www.cets.sfasu.edu/harrison/farmer/marker.htm; James Farmer (Jr.), Lay Bare The Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Arbor House, 1985).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Shakur, Assata Olugbala (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Assata Olugbala Shakur—political activist, author, fugitive, and step-aunt of the famed, slain hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur—was born JoAnne Deborah Bryon on July 16, 1947 in New York City, New York.  Following her parents’ divorce in 1950, she moved with her mother and maternal grandparents to Wilmington, North Carolina.  Shakur spent much of her adolescence alternating residences between her mother, who remarried and returned to New York, and relatives in Wilmington.

Shakur enrolled in Borough of Manhattan Community College before transferring to City College of New York, where her exposure to Black Nationalist organizations profoundly impacted her activism.  Shakur attended meetings held by the Golden Drums, where she met her husband, Louis Chesimard.  Members of the organization familiarized her with black historical figures that resisted racial oppression and social violence.  She also began interacting with other activist groups and subsequently participated in student rights, anti-Vietnam war, and black liberation movements.  In 1971, she adopted a new name: Assata (“she who struggles”) Olugbala (“love for the people”) Shakur (“the thankful”).
Sources: 
Shakur, Assata, Assata: An Autobiography (Chicago:  Zed Books Ltd., 1987); Mychal Denzel Smith, “Assata Shakur is Not a Terrorist,” The Nation (7 May 1913); Shakur, Assata, “An Open Letter from Assata” 1998; www.fbi.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bryan, Andrew (1737-1812)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

First named First Colored Baptist Church and located in Savannah, Georgia, First African Baptist Church traces its roots to December 1777, and is officially designated the oldest African American church in the United States.  George Liele, the Church’s founder, continued to evangelize and baptize both the free and enslaved black populations of the Savannah area during the rest of the Revolutionary War period.  One of those enslaved people was Andrew Bryan.  Liele baptized Andrew Bryan, who was born in 1737, and his wife Hannah in 1782.

When David George and George Liele, along with hundreds of blacks, evacuated Savannah with the British in July 1782, Bryan remained and retained spiritual leadership of the First Colored Baptist Church.  Andrew Bryan was allowed to preach by his master, Jonathan Bryan of Brampton Plantation, and became an ordained minister on January 20, 1788.  The First Colored Baptist Church became certified by the Georgia Baptist Association in May 1790 and pre-dated the establishment of the white Baptist Church in the city by five years.  Andrew Bryan remained the church’s pastor until his death in 1812.

Sources: 
Africans in America, PBS Online, July 22, 2006; Walter H. Brooks, D. D., A History of Negro Baptist Churches in America (Washington, D.C.: Press of R. L. Pendelton, 1910) © 2004 University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Online July 22, 2005, http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/brooks/brooks.html.  New York Public Library Digital Library Collections Records, First African Baptist Church Records, 1873-1977, http://digilib.nypl.org/dynaweb/ead/scm/scmgfabc/@Generic__BookTextView/136;pt=114
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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 and imprisoned for nine months for desertion.

Following his release, Schuyler worked odd jobs in New York, joining the Socialist Party of America and the anti-Marcus Garvey organization, Friends of Negro Freedom.  During this time he submitted articles and editorials to the newly created, socialist-oriented Messenger magazine. He eventually wrote a regular column for The Messenger, entitled “Shafts and Darts: A Page of Calumny and Satire.”  By 1924 he was also writing a weekly column for The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the two largest black newspapers in the United States at the time.

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://www.lewrockwell.com/orig7/kickler2.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Adams, Victoria Jackson Gray (1926-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Hattiesburg, Virginia on November 5, 1926, Victoria Jackson Gray Adams became one of the most important Mississipians in the Civil Rights Movement.  Her activities included teaching voter registration courses to domestics and sharecroppers, opening of the Freedom Schools during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964, and serving as a National Board Member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Ms. Gray began service as the field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1962.  

After graduation from high school, Ms. Gray began her education at Wilberforce University but was unable to finish due to lack of tuition funds. She later completed her education and became qualified as a teacher through her studies at the Tuskegee Institute and Jackson State College.  In addition to being a teacher, she traveled the country as a lecturer and served as campus minister to Virginia State University.  Gray called herself a “spiritual and social activist.”
Sources: 
The Victoria Jackson Gray Adams Papers in the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archives; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic.html
http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8001
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch McGregor University

Foreman, George (1949 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Edward Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas on January 10, 1949 and raised in Houston’s Fifth Ward.  He took up boxing in his teens while working in the Job Corps. A successful amateur career was capped with a gold medal in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Foreman turned professional in 1969 and quickly worked his way up the heavyweight ranks to earn a shot at the title against Joe Frazier. He captured the heavyweight crown with an impressive two round knockout of Frazier on January 22, 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica. Most knowledgeable boxing fans thought the intimidating fighter would hold the title for the next decade, but he lost the crown to Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire on October 30, 1974.

In 1977 Foreman lost for the second time, this time to Jimmy Young in a 12-round decision in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Following the fight Foreman became a born-again Christian and announced his retirement from boxing.  He returned to Houston where he opened a church and the George Foreman Youth Center. Ten years later, and running short on funds, 38-year old Foreman embarked upon a boxing comeback. Starting slowly, he gradually worked himself into contention for another shot at a title but fell short in his first attempt against Evander Holyfield, losing a 12-round decision in 1991. He received another opportunity two years later, but once again failed, losing to Tommy Morrison for the World Boxing Organization title.
Sources: 
George Foreman, By George: The Autobiography of George Foreman (Baltimore: Villard Books, 1995); George Foreman, George Foreman’s Knock-Out-The-Fat Barbeque and Grilling Cookbook (Baltimore: Villard Books, 1996); www.ibhof.com/foreman.htm; www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Giovanni, Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 
"There's no life in safety," said three-time National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award winner Nikki Giovanni who began her own life on June 7, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee. She moved with her mother and sister to a small black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, although she traveled back to Knoxville during the summers to live with her grandparents.

In 1960 seventeen-year-old Giovanni entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee at the beginning of the student protest movement. She was promptly dismissed from Fisk in her first semester for expressing "attitudes [which] did not fit those of a Fisk woman." Giovanni returned to Fisk in 1964 and helped restart their chapter of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1967 she graduated from the honors program with a Bachelor’s degree in history. She then attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia College.
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004);  http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/giovanniNikki.php.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coleman, Ornette (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
It may be impossible today to understand fully the shock and outrage which alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman's 1959 arrival in New York caused within the jazz community.  Coleman's innovations freed his quartet from traditional structures of form, chordal harmony, tonality, and rhythm, and though his work has sharply divided opinion, he is widely acknowledged as having transformed the way in which jazz is heard and performed.

Born in 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas, Coleman began playing tenor saxophone in rhythm and blues (R&B) bands, his own style rooted in the bebop idiom.  Though undocumented, his early development suggests something unique – Coleman was assaulted and his tenor saxophone destroyed after a particularly off-putting dance solo in Baton Rouge.  In 1949 Coleman settled in Los Angeles where he worked as an elevator operator and independently studied music theory.  On the alto saxophone, which remains his primary voice, Coleman developed a plaintively raw and vocalized tone, exploring micro-tonalities and speech-like cries.  In Los Angeles Coleman befriended drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, as well as trumpeter Don Cherry, all of whom would later become mainstays in Coleman’s ground-breaking Atlantic quartets.  In 1958 Coleman found a willing partner in pianist Paul Bley, and with Higgins, Cherry, and bassist Charlie Haden the quintet recorded a live performance at the Hillcrest Club, The Fabulous Paul Bley Quintet.  
Sources: 
Valerie Wilmer, As Serious as Your Life (London: Serpent's Tail, 1992); Peter Niklas Wilson, Ornette Coleman: His Life and Music (Berkeley: Berkeley Hills Books, 1999); Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Eighth Edition) (London: Penguin Books, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Church, Robert Reed, Sr. (1839-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
Tennessee State University
Robert Reed Church, Sr., was a millionaire business leader and philanthropist in Memphis, Tennessee.  Born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on June 18, 1839, he was the product of an interracial union. His father was a steamboat captain, Charles B. Church, and his mother, Emmeline, was an enslaved seamstress who died when Robert was twelve years old. His father employed Robert as a cabin boy and a steward.  Surviving a near fatal steamboat sinking in 1855, Robert in 1862 was forced to be a cabin steward on a Union steamer during the Civil War.  Church married Louisa Ayres, also a former slave, in 1862.  The couple had one child, Mary Eliza, who became a prominent civil rights and women’s rights advocate.  After his marriage to Louisa ended in divorce, Church married Anna Wright in 1885 and they had Robert, Jr. who eventually followed his father into business and politics.       
Sources: 
Annette E. Church and Roberta Church, The Robert R. Churches of Memphis: A Father and Son Who Achieved in Spite of Race (Memphis: A.E. Church, 1974); Mary C. Terrell, A Colored Woman in a White World (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2006; Lester Lamon, Black Tennesseans, 1900-1930 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977); Robert A. Sigafoos, Cotton Row to Beale Street: A Business History of Memphis (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1979); The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/;.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Bond, Horace Julian (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Julian Bond at the Georgia State Legislature,
January 10, 1966
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Julian Bond is a scholar, poet, former legislator and activist in the American Civil Rights Movement.  Julian Bond as he came to be known, was born on January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee to Julia Washington Bond and Horace Mann Bond an educator who served as the first African American president of Lincoln University and as dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University.  Bond has been married twice, first to Alice Copland (1961) and to Pamela Horowitz (1990).  He has five children.
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); John Neary, Julian Bond: Black Rebel (New York: Morrow, 1971), Roger M. Williams, The Bonds: An American Family (New York: Atheneum, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Harris, Barbara C. (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Church
of Alban the Martyr,
Diocese of Long Island

Religious leader Barbara Clementine Harris was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Walter and Beatrice (Price) Harris on June 12, 1930. After graduating from the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising and Journalism, she joined Joseph V. Baker Associates, Inc., a black-owned public relations firm in Philadelphia. She became president of the company in 1958 but left ten years later to become director of the Community Relations Department of the Sun Oil Company.

Meanwhile, Harris, an Episcopalian, was a volunteer at her church and in local jails and prisons. In 1960 she joined the activist Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia. That church had become a center for the civil rights movement then evolving in Philadelphia, supported both local protests and the national movement. Harris led a church delegation that marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma in 1965. Three years later the church hosted a national convention of the Black Panther Party (BPP), which attracted ten thousand people.

Sources: 

Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006); “Biography of Bishop Harris,” Episcopal Diocese of Washington, http://www.edow.org/diocese/bishops/harris_bio.html.

Contributor: 

Bullard, Eugene Jacques (1894-1961)

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

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

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

Smith, Damu (1952–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Damu Smith at the United For Peace and
Justice Conference, Chicago, 2003
Image Courtesy of Diane Greene Lent, Photographer

Leroy Wesley Smith was born in St. Louis Missouri on December 6, 1951, and became a late 20th Century social activist for justice. Son of a fireman and a licensed practical nurse, Smith spent his childhood growing up in a St. Louis housing project.  He participated in an after school program for disadvantaged male youth which gave him the opportunity to travel to Cairo, Illinois where he heard other activists and community organizers for the first time.  Impressed by their passion and their organizing skills, Smith was influenced to follow a similar path.

After graduating high school in 1970, Smith entered St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota where he became the leader of The Organization of Afro-American Students.  Through this organization, Smith fought for a Black Studies program that would hire more black professors.

Sources: 

Sharon Melson Fletcher, “Damu Smith Biography” African American Biographies. (Net Industries, 2009) http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2880/Smith-Damu.html Retrieved 2009-03-06; Sara Powell, “In Memoriam: Damu Smith 1951-2006” Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. (Jul 2006). http://www.wrmea.com/archives/July_2006/0607080.html Retrieved 2009-03-04.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wallace, Michele Faith (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Michele Wallace;
Barbara Wallace, Photographer
Michele Wallace, a feminist scholar, writer and educator, was born on January 4, 1952 in New York City to Robert Earl Wallace, a musician, and Faith Ringgold, a well-known artist and author. In 1978, at age 26, she published her first book, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, setting off a maelstrom of controversy in the black community and beyond.  In 1990 Wallace published Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory.  That same year Black Macho was re-released with a 20-page introduction by the author titled ”How I Saw It Then, How I See It Now,” detailing her views regarding the controversy.

In Black Macho Wallace asserted that the Black Power movement of the 1960s was the black man’s pursuit of his own power and that it was motivated by revenge, not equality. She also noted black male attraction to white women and questioned whether the black male could truly love a black woman. The book is an exploration of the black female in creating a voice and defining life, rather than leaving it to someone else’s interpretation. Significant is Wallace’s later understanding that history, in order “to be 'true' in any sense,...has to be dialogic,” meaning it has to include other contexts, experiences and views.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women In America, 2nd edition Vol. 3 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Michele Wallace, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (New York: The Dial Press, 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hall, Stuart (1932- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marxist intellectual Stuart Hall was born on February 3, 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica to a middle class family.  He attended primary school in Jamaica and was exposed to a variety of thinkers in the Western canon as well as Caribbean writers.  Hall moved to England in 1951 with his mother as part of the large-scale postwar migration to England of people from the former colonies in the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent.  As a person of color in postwar England, Hall experienced racial discrimination, but he also won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where he was introduced to British left-wing thought, European philosophy, and Socialism.  Hall wrote his PhD dissertation on Henry James before becoming the editor of the New Left Review

Sources: 
Chris Rojek, Stuart Hall (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2003); James Procter, Stuart Hall (London: Routledge, 2004); Brian Meeks and Stuart Hall, Culture, Politics, Race and Diaspora: The Thought of Stuart Hall (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Aynaw, Yityish “Titi” (1992- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Yityish “Titi” Aynaw was crowned Miss Israel on February 27, 2013.  She made history when she became the first Miss Israel of African ancestry.  Born in Gondar Province, Ethiopia, Aynaw arrived in Israel in March 2003 along with her older brother and grandparents at the age of 12 after the death of her mother in 2002.  Her father died when she was two years old.

Aynaw lived in the hardscrabble immigrant town of Netanya.  Despite having no knowledge of spoken or written Hebrew, she was transported to a Hebrew boarding school in Haifa that catered to newly arrived immigrants.  Over time her competency in Hebrew steadily increased and she eventually became fluent in Yiddish as well.  Aynaw was a standout student in high school who distinguished herself from the outset.  She was student council president, excelled in track and field, and won first place in a national film competition that was loosely based on her own life experiences.

Sources: 
Daniel Estrin, “Israel’s Bold New Queen,” Tablet Magazine, March 3, 2013; Aaron Kalman, “Miss Israel is Ethiopian Immigrant,” The Times of Israel, February 28, 2013; Robert Tait, “Barack Obama To Dine with First Black Miss Israel,” Telegraph, March 22, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennesse State University

Houston, Charles Hamilton (1895-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Hamilton Houston, a renowned civil rights attorney, was widely recognized as the architect of the civil rights strategy that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education.  He was also a mentor to Thurgood Marshall who successfully litigated the pivotal Brown case.

Houston was born on September 3, 1895 in Washington, DC to parents William Houston, an attorney, and Mary Houston, a hairdresser and seamstress. He attended M Street High School (later Dunbar High School) in Washington, DC. Following graduation, he enrolled at Amherst College in Massachusetts where he was the only black student in his class. Houston was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society there. Upon graduating in 1915, he was selected to deliver that year’s valedictory address.

After graduating from Amherst, Houston returned to Washington.  He joined the U.S. Army in 1917 and was trained in the all-black officers training camp in Fort Des Moines, Iowa in 1917. Houston was later deployed to France. While there, Houston and his fellow black soldiers experienced racial discrimination which deepened his resolve to study law.
Sources: 
William M. Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life (New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996); Rawn James, Jr., Root and Branch: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation (New York, Berlin, London: Bloomsbury Press, 2010); Carole Boston Weatherford, Great African-American Lawyers: Raising the Bar of Freedom (Berkeley Heights: Enslow Publishers, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent historian

Charles, Ezzard Mack (1921-1975)

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

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

Young, Charles (1864-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Colonel Charles Young enjoyed a decorated military career after his graduation from West Point Military Academy in 1889.  A Buffalo Soldier serving with the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 25th Infantry, Young eventually became the first African American to achieve the rank of Colonel in United States Army.

Charles Young was born to ex-slaves in Mays Lick, Kentucky in 1864.  His father, Gabriel, served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  At the age of 20 Charles Young was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point.  In 1889 he became the third African American to graduate from the Academy.

As a second lieutenant Young’s assignment options were limited to the four Buffalo Soldier regiments then stationed in Nebraska, Utah, and Montana.  After serving five years on the “Western Front” with the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, Young left to become a professor of Military Science and Tactics for four years, between 1894 and 1898, at all-black Wilberforce University in Ohio where he became close lifetime friends with fellow faculty member W.E.B. DuBois. Young, an accomplished linguist, taught Latin, Greek, French, Spanish and German at the school as well as military science.
Sources: 
Abraham Chew, A Biography of Colonel Charles Young (Washington, D.C.: R. L. Pendelton, 1923); TaRessa Stovall, The Buffalo Soldier (Chelsea House Publishers, Philadelphia, 1997); T. G. Stewart, Buffalo Soldiers: The Colored Regulars in the United States Army (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2003); http://www.buffalosoldier.net; http://www.nps.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wonder, Stevie (Steveland Morris) (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
©Bettmann-Corbis
Grammy Award winning artist Stevie Wonder, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, was born May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan. An excess of oxygen and a disorder affecting his retina called retinopathy resulted in him being born blind.  In 1954 his mother Lula moved all six of her children to Detroit, Michigan.

Stevie began singing and dancing at a young age in his church. He developed an ear for music rapidly. By the age of nine he was playing the piano, harmonica, and conga drum. When Stevie Wonder was 12 years old he was discovered by Ronnie White, a member of the Motown group the Miracles. White brought young Stevie to a Motown Record Company audition. Barry Gordy, the founder of Motown, was soon amazed by his talents and renamed him "Little Stevie Wonder."

Influenced by Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, Stevie began working immediately in the studio under record producer Clarence Paul. Wonder's first number one hit Fingertips, Part 2 (1963) displayed his skill on the harmonica. Other hits including Uptight (Everything's Alright) and Hey Harmonica Man made this instrument a trademark for Stevie.
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); http://www.steviewonder.net/; http://www.steviewonder.org.uk/
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bridgetower, George (1780-1860)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eighteenth and nineteenth century classical violinist George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower is perhaps now best remembered for his association with Ludwig von Beethoven, who composed his Kreutzer Sonata for the young Afro-European musician, and personally performed the sonata for violin and piano with Bridgetower. A copy of the sonata autographed by Beethoven is inscribed: “Sonata mulattica composta per il mullato.”

Sources differ on details of Bridgetower’s life. His birth date is variously given as 1778, 1779, or 1780, most likely February 29, 1780. It is known his mother was a Polish European, his father was of African ancestry, and he was born in Poland. While there are several versions of where his father came from – from Africa, or from Barbados - it is unquestioned that he was of African descent.
Sources: 
Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music, tenth edition edited by John Owen Ward (London: Oxford University Press, 1970); www.black-history.org.uk/prodigy.asp ; www.100greatblackbritons.com/bios/george_bridgetower.html; www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/features/blackeuro/bridgetowerbackground.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brady, Saint Elmo (1884-1966)

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

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884, Saint Elmo Brady became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in the field of chemistry when he completed his graduate studies at the University of Illinois in 1916. The eldest child of Thomas and Celesta Brady, Saint Elmo had two younger sisters, Fedora and Buszeder.

Sources: 
Saint Elmo Brady, University of Illinois, Department of Chemistry, http://www.scs.uiuc.edu/chem/bios/brady.html ; Mitchell Brown, The Faces of Sciences: African Americans in Science, https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/faces.html ; D.F. Martin and B.B. Martin, “St. Elmo Brady (1884-1966): Pioneering Black Academic Chemist,” Florida Scientist, 2006, 69(2), 116-123; Collins, S.N. “African Americans and Science,” Chemical and Engineering News, 2009, 87(43), p3.; S.E. Brady and S.P. Massie, “1,1,-Dichloroheptane,” Academy of Science, 1952, 261-262.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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.  Two years later in 1906 he received a diploma and was granted the Institute’s highest award. 

Following graduation Barnett returned to Chicago and became a postal worker.    Through his new employment he read numerous magazines and newspapers.  Fascinated by the advertisements, in 1913 Barnett began reproducing photographs of notable black luminaries, which he sold through advertising in African American newspapers.  By 1917 Barnett had transformed this endeavor into a thriving mail-order enterprise. 

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

Bassett, Ebenezer D. (1833-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ebenezer D. Bassett was appointed U.S. Minister Resident to Haiti in 1869, making him the first African American diplomat.  For eight years, the educator, abolitionist, and black rights activist oversaw bilateral relations through bloody civil warfare and coups d'état on the island of Hispaniola.  Bassett served with distinction, courage, and integrity in one of the most crucial, but difficult postings of his time.

Born in Connecticut on October 16, 1833, Ebenezer D. Bassett was the second child of Eben Tobias and Susan Gregory.  In a rarity during the mid-1800s, Ebenezer attended college, becoming the first black student to integrate the Connecticut Normal School in 1853.  He then taught in New Haven, befriending the legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Later, he became the principal of Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth (ICY).

During the Civil War, Bassett became one of the city’s leading voices into the cause behind that conflict--the liberation of four millions of black slaves -- and helped recruit African American soldiers for the Union.  In nominating Bassett to become Minister Resident to Haiti, President Ulysses S. Grant made him one of the highest ranking black members of the United States government.
Sources: 
Christopher Teal, Hero of Hispaniola: America's First Black Diplomat, Ebenezer D. Bassett (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State

Blackwell, David Harold (1919-2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Edwards, James (1871-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
James Edwards, ca. 1930
Image Courtesy of James Guenther

James Edwards was one of the most successful African American homesteaders in the state of Wyoming.  Born in Ohio on February 14, 1871, local tradition in Wyoming suggests that prior to venturing west, Edwards had served in an African American cavalry unit in Cuba, though no documentation has been found to substantiate the claim.

In 1900, Edwards accompanied his father and a group of Italian miners westward in response to eastern newspaper advertisements of work at the Cambria coal mine in Newcastle, Wyoming.  After being driven away from the mine, Edwards walked south to the area near Lusk, finding work on March 31, 1903 on Eugene Bigelow Wilson and George Luther Wilson's Running Water Ranch on the Niobrara River in present day Niobrara County, Wyoming.   He was regarded by the owners of the ranch as a good and trustworthy worker, sheepman, and horse trainer.  Edwards worked on the Wilson Brothers’ ranch until December of 1914.  By the end of his employment on the ranch he had been promoted to foreman, putting him in a supervisory role over white employees.

Sources: 
Todd Guenther, "'Y'all Call Me Nigger Jim Now, But Someday You'll Call Me Mr. James Edwards': Black Success on the Plains of the Equality State," Annals of Wyoming 61:2 (Fall 1989); Anne Wilson Whitehead, “Letters to the Editor,” Annals of Wyoming 62:2 (Summer 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Wyoming

Sutton, Percy (1920-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Percy Sutton, attorney, politician, civil rights activist, and businessman, was born on November 24, 1920 in San Antonio, Texas to school teachers Samuel and Lillian Sutton.  Percy Sutton attended Prairie View A&M University, Tuskegee Institute, and Hampton Institute.  In 1942 Sutton joined the military.  He became a skilled World War II pilot, serving as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.  He also earned combat medals as an intelligence officer.

In 1950 Sutton earned a law degree from Brooklyn College Law School.  He returned to the military during the Korean War, but after his honorable discharge at the end of the conflict in 1953 he opened a law firm in New York City's Harlem district.  During the peak of the civil rights movement, Sutton became a nationally recognized civil rights attorney representing political activists such as Malcolm X.

Sutton also entered the political scene in the 1960s.  He became a leader in the Harlem Clubhouse, a political group that controlled Democratic politics in Harlem.  Soon after joining he formed a powerful alliance with other black politicians including future New York City mayor David Dinkins, Congressman Charles Rangel, and Basil Paterson who eventually served as the first black Secretary of State for New York and whose son, David Paterson, became the state's first black governor in 2008.
Sources: 
Peter Goldman, The Life and Death of Malcolm X (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979); Notable Black American Men (Detroit: Gale, 1998); Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, June 18, 1996; March 15, 2003; New York Times, August 5, 1997; May 11, 1998; August 16, 2002, p. B3.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

McKinney, Louise Jones (1930–2012)

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

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

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

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

Baraka, Amiri (1934-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Amiri Baraka

Everett Leroi Jones, poet, playwright, activist, and educator, was born on October 7, 1934, in Newark, New Jersey to Coyt Leverrette Jones and Anna Lois Jones.  He attended primary and secondary schools in Newark and in 1954 he earned a B.A. in English from Howard University.  Jones joined the military that same year, serving three years in the Air Force as a gunner. 

Following his honorable discharge, Jones he settled in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan where he socialized with Beatnik artists, musicians, and writers.  While living in the Village, he also met and married Hettie Cohen, a Jewish writer.  The couple co-edited the progressive literary magazine Yugen.  They also founded Totem Press, which published the works of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and other political activists.

Sources: 

Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006); Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999), 181; http://www.amiribaraka.com/

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Thomas, Vivien (1910-1985)

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

Paul, Susan (1809–1841)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The youngest daughter of Baptist minister Rev. Thomas Paul and Catherine Waterhouse Paul, Susan Paul was a primary school teacher and an active member of the bi-racial Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.  The Pauls were a highly regarded family in the free black abolitionist community in Boston.  Thomas Paul’s brother, Rev. Nathaniel Paul, was also an outspoken opponent of slavery.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992) and Lois Brown, “Out of the Mouths of Babes: the Abolitionist Campaign of Susan Paul and the Boston Juvenile Choir,” New England Quarterly, 75 (March 2002): 52-79.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Burns, Anthony (1834-1862)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The youngest of 13 children, Anthony Burns was born May 31, 1834 into slavery; his family was owned by the Suttle family of Virginia. His mother married three times; Burns’s father was her third husband. Burns’s father died when his last child was very young.

A few years later their owner, John Suttle, died leaving his wife with financial problems which prompted her to sell five of Burns’s siblings. To gain more income, she hired out the remaining siblings including Anthony. Burns performed a variety of jobs including personal servant, sawmill worker and tavern employee. He also was given the responsibility of managing four other slaves owned by Mrs. Suttle; he was allowed this freedom as long as he paid his master a fee from his earnings.

In March of 1854, Burns escaped from his master in Virginia and boarded a ship to Boston. When he arrived in Boston he found employment with a clothing store operated by Lewis Hayden, an abolitionist.

His freedom was short-lived, however.  On May 24, 1854, Burns was arrested under the Fugitive Slave Act, a component of the Compromise of 1850. This controversial federal law allowed owners to reclaim escaped slaves by presenting proof of ownership.
Sources: 
Joseph Meredith Toner, Boston Slave Riot, and Trial of Anthony Burns: Containing the Report of the Faneuil Hall (Detroit: Fetridge and Company, 1854); http://pbs.org; http://www.masshist.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Thomas, Piri (1928-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Suzie Dod Thomas
Author and activist Piri Thomas became one of the first Americans of Puerto Rican descent to win literary acclaim when he published his 1967 memoir Down These Mean Streets.  Born John Thomas to Cuban and Puerto Rican parents on September 30, 1928 in Harlem, Thomas spent the first years of his life in extreme poverty.  His father lost his job during the Great Depression and worked on public relief.  When Thomas was a teenager, his parents became more prosperous and the family moved to Long Island.

The move was hard on Thomas, who had inherited his father’s dark skin.  He felt isolated from his light skinned sister and brothers.  His Long Island schoolmates regarded him as black and harassed him for dating white girls.  When he was sixteen, Thomas left his family and returned to Harlem.  There he began to use drugs and eventually became a heroin addict.  He also befriended African Americans, and began to grapple with the racial status society imposed on him.  This grappling led him to tour the South with a black friend.  He would later recall being forced to give up his seat in the front when their bus crossed the Mason Dixon line at the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.  
Sources: 
Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets (New York: Vintage Books, 1967, 1997); Eugene Mohr, “Piri Thomas: Author and Persona,” Caribbean Studies 2 (1980): 61-74.; Ilan Stavans, “Race and Mercy: A Conversation with Piri Thomas,” The Massachusetts Review 37 (1996): 344-354; Telephone Interview with Suzie Dod Thomas by Tisa Anders, June 12, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Attucks, Crispus (1723-1770)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Crispus Attucks, the first martyr of the Boston Massacre in 1770, was probably born near Framingham, Massachusetts, a Christianized and multitribal town of Indians, whites, and blacks, in 1723.  Unusually tall for the era at six feet, two inches, Attucks was of mixed ancestry, the son of an African American man and an American Indian woman.  It is believed that he was the slave of William Brown since he was reported in the Boston Gazette on October 2, 1750 as having escaped from Brown; Attucks was listed as age 27 at the time. By the time of the Massacre he was 47 and working as a sailor in Boston and around the Atlantic Basin.
Sources: 
The Liberator, March 28, 1862; Sidney Kaplan and Emma Nogrady Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989); The Trial of William Wemms, James Hartegan, William M'Cauley, Hugh White, Matthew Killroy, William Warren, John Carrol, and Hugh Montgomery, soldiers in His Majesty's 29th Regiment of Foot, for the murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr, on Monday-evening, the 5th of March, 1770, at the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and general goal delivery, held at Boston. The 27th day of November, 1770, by adjournment. Before the Hon. Benjamin Lynde, John Cushing, Peter Oliver, and Edmund Trowbridge, Esquires, justices of said court: Published by permission of the court (Boston, MA: printed by J. Fleeming, and sold at his printing-office, nearly opposite the White-Horse Tavern in Newbury-Street, 1770); Mitch Kachun, “From Forgotten Founder to Indispensable Icon: Crispus Attucks, Black Citizenship, and Collective Memory, 1770-1865,” Journal of the Early Republic, June 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Diddley, Bo (1928-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Boxer and singer Bo Diddley (birth name Ellas Bates McDaniel), was born on December 30, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi. He was adopted by his mother’s cousin when the mother’s husband died in the mid 1930s.  McDaniel moved her family to Chicago where young Ellas took violin lessons from Professor O.W. Frederick at the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. He studied the violin for twelve years and composed two concertos. In 1940 his sister bought McDaniel an acoustic guitar for Christmas. He soon started to play the guitar, largely duplicating his actions on the violin.  Soon afterward he formed his first group of three named The Hipsters and later known as The Langley Avenue Jive Cats. It was during this time that band leaders gave him the nickname, Bo Diddley.

Diddley recorded his first single “Bo Diddley”/”I’m A Man on March 2, 1955 on Checkers Records. It topped the R&B chart for two weeks.  Soon afterwards Diddley began to tour, performing in schools, colleges, and churches across the United States.  Regardless of the venue he taught people the importance “of respect and education and of the dangers of drugs and gang culture.”

Bo Diddley was known for many new musical styles and innovations. He was one of the first musicians of the 1950s to incorporate woman musicians including Lady Bo. He hired her full-time to play all of his stage performances whereupon she became the first female lead guitarist in history to be employed by a major act.
Sources: 
“Bo Diddley- The Originator.” David Blakey. 1998-2008, http://members.tripod.com/~Originator_2/history.html; “Bo Diddley” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum, http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/bo-diddley; Ben Ratliff. “Bo Diddley, Who Gave Rock His Beat, Dies at 79,” New York Times,
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/03/arts/music/03diddley.html?scp=1&sq=Bo+Diddley+dies&st=nyt
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Freeman, Morgan (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Porterfield Freeman, Jr. was born June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Morgan Porterfield, Sr. a barber, and Mayme Edna Morgan.  Throughout his childhood the Freeman family moved often, living in Mississippi, Indiana and Chicago.  Freeman showed early promise as an actor but turned down a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University to enter the United States Air Force in 1955.

Throughout the early 1960s, after leaving the Air Force, Freeman studied acting and dance in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.  It was in New York that Freeman made his professional theater debut with The Nigger Lovers, a 1967 off-Broadway play about the Civil Rights Era Freedom Riders.  In 1971 Freeman broke into television, becoming widely known on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s show The Electric Company, where he worked from 1971 to 1976.

Sources: 
Sabrina Fuchs, “Morgan Freeman,” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Volume II., Colin A. Palmer, ed. (New York: Thompson Gale, 2006); "Morgan Freeman," Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 62 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2008); Eleanor Clift, "Freeman, Obama and Hollywood Immortality,” Newsweek, April 2, 2008; "Freeman Replaces Cronkite on CBS," Boston Globe, January 5, 2010; Revelations Entertainment official website: http://www.revelationsent.com/index.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Shepperson, James E. (1858 - ?)

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

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Kadalie, Clements (1896-1951)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clements Kadalie, an early South African trade unionist and political activist, was born in April 1896 in Nkhata Bay District in Nyasaland (now Malawi). His parents Musa Kadalie Muwamba had two sons with Clements the youngest. Kadalie graduated in 1913 at age seventeen from Livingstonia, a mission school administered by Church of Scotland missionaries. He was certified to teach elementary school and assigned to district schools in the region. Kadalie taught school for five years but like many of his contemporaries he was attracted by the much higher wages paid in South Africa and decided to move there.

In 1918 he settled in Cape Town, South Africa where he befriended Arthur F. Batty, a white trade unionist and political activist. Batty viewed the poorly paid African working class as a prime target for continued exploitation unless they unionized. He urged Kadalie to create such a union. Kadalie responded by founding the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU) in 1919, the first major black union in South Africa.

In December 1919 Kadalie led his first work stoppage, a dockworker’s strike. The strike involved over 2,000 workers and lasted fourteen days, stopping the export of all goods through Cape Town Harbor facilities. The strike catapulted Kadalie to national prominence in South Africa.  
Sources: 
Clements Kadalie, My Life and the I.C.U.: The Autobiography of a Black Trade Unionist in South Africa (London: Cass, 1970); D. D. Phiri, I See You: Life of Clements Kadalie, the Man South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Namibia Should Not Forget (Blantyre, Malawi: College Publishing Company, 2000);  Encyclopedia of World Biography (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2009); http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/people/bios/kadalie-c.htm; http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/people.php?id=122;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Dett, R. Nathaniel (1882-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
From precocious five-year-old piano player in the 1890s to internationally known choral director, composer, concert pianist, and poet, R. Nathaniel Dett became champion for preservation of the black spiritual which he called authentic American folk music: He dedicated his life to finding a musical form to bridge the gap between the music’s simple origins and its concert performance.

Robert Nathaniel Dett was born October 11, 1882 in Drummondville, Ontario, Canada, a town founded prior to the American Civil War by fugitive slaves from the U.S.  His early experience included absorbing spirituals his grandmother sang, playing piano in church, and studying piano locally. He then majored in piano and composition at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio.  In 1908 Dett was its first African American to graduate from Oberlin after winning Phi Beta Kappa honors. His formal education continued throughout his life including studies at Harvard University where his 1920 essay “Negro Music” won a prize. In 1932 he received a Master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music (1932).

In 1911 Dett published his only book of poetry, The Album of the Heart.  Three years later he began touring as a concert pianist and soon after was widely acclaimed by critics.  In 1916 he married Helen Elise Smith, a pianist and the first black graduate of the Damrosch Institute of Musical Art (later Juilliard School of Music.)
Sources: 
Anne Key Simpson, Follow Me: The Life and Music of R. Nathaniel Dett (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1933); Dominique-Rene de Lerma, The Collected Piano Works of R. Nathaniel Dett (Miami: Summy-Birchard, 1973); “Biography R. Nathaniel Dett,” Performing Arts Encyclopedia, Library of Congress, August 26, 2011; Jon Michael Spencer, “R. Nathaniel Dett’s Views on the Preservation of Black Music,” The Black Perspective in Music (Autumn 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Kevin Maurice (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Kevin Johnson Campaigning for Mayor of Sacramento, 2008
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, California, was born in California's capital city in 1966. He graduated from Sacramento High School, where he led the state in basketball scoring during his senior year, with a point average of 32.5 points. Johnson then played college basketball at the University of California at Berkeley.  While there he became the all-time leader in scoring for that varsity team.  After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1987, Johnson was drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA).

As the seventh round draft pick, Johnson was chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was quickly traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1988, where he remained for the duration of his career in the NBA. Johnson played point guard, and with his high point-scoring, was considered by many teams as a threat. The Phoenix Suns' overall record improved with his selection and so did Johnson's performance.

During his first year with Phoenix (1988-1989), Johnson was named the NBA's most improved player.  He also competed in all-star games in 1990, 1991, and 1994 and played on the U.S. Olympic Basketball team (Dream Team II) which won a gold medal in Toronto, Canada in the 1994 World Championship of Basketball.  Kevin Johnson officially retired from the NBA on August 8, 2000 after 13 years in the league.

Sources: 
Leanor Boulin Johnson and Robert Staples, Black Families at the Crossroads (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005); David L. Porter, Basketball: a Biographical Dictionary (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005); http://www.kevinjohnsonformayor.com/about/bio
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

Wheatley, Phillis (1754-1784)

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

Herndon, Angelo (1913 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Angelo Herndon was the defendant in one of the most publicized and notorious legal cases of the 1930s. In 1932, nineteen-year-old Herndon was arrested under an obscure 19th century servile insurrection law for attempting to organize a peaceful demonstration of unemployed workers in Atlanta. Largely due to the efforts of the Communist Party-affiliated International Labor Defense, the arrest and subsequent trial ignited a firestorm of protest that, alongside the Scottsboro case, helped expose the gross injustice of the southern legal system and introduced African Americans on a broad scale to the militant anti-racism of the Communist Party.  

Herndon was born on May 6, 1913 in Wyoming, Ohio, outside of Cincinnati. As a teenager he migrated to Kentucky and then Alabama in search of employment. It was in Birmingham in 1930 that he was first introduced to the Communist Party. Impressed by the Party's uncompromising avowal of interracial unity, Herndon joined and began working with the local Unemployed Council. In 1931, Herndon briefly worked for the International Labor Defense on its campaign to free the Scottsboro defendants.
Sources: 
Charles H. Martin, The Angelo Herndon Case and Southern Justice (Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State University Press, 1976); Angelo Herndon, Let Me Live (New York:  Random House, 1937).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hannibal, Abram Petrovich \ Gannibal, A. P. (1696?–1781)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sold into Turkish slavery, Abram Petrovich Hannibal was brought as a black servant to Czar Peter I, known as Peter the Great. He became one of the royal favorites, a general-in-chief, and one of the best educated men in Russia in his era. His great-grandson was Alexander Pushkin, the famous Russian writer who later glorified the deeds of his black ancestor in his book, The Negro of Peter the Great.

Hannibal was born on an unknown date around 1696 in the principality of Logon in present day Cameroon. Abducted by a rival ethnic group, Hannibal was sold to Turkish slave traders who brought him to Constantinople in 1703. As an eight-year-old boy he was brought to the court of Peter the Great who adopted him immediately. Being the Czar's godson, Hannibal assumed his name, Petrovich, and became his valet on Peter's various military campaigns and journeys. When the Czar visited France in 1716, Hannibal was left behind in Paris to study engineering and mathematics at a military school. Two years later, he joined the French army and fought in the war against Spain. In January 1723, Hannibal finally returned to Russia.
Sources: 
Hugh Barnes, Gannibal: The Moor of Petersburg (London: Profile Books, 2005); Allison Blakely, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1986); N. K. Teletova, “A.P. Gannibal: On the Occasion of the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Alexander Pushkin's Great-Grandfather,” Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness, Ed. Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, Nicole Svobodny, and Ludmilla A. Trigos (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg (Germany)

Brown, Clara (1803–1885)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clara Brown was a kind-hearted, generous woman whose determination led her on a life-long quest to be reunited with her daughter. Born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia in 1803, her earliest memory was of being sold on the auction block. She grew up in Logan County, Kentucky, married at age 18, and had four children. At age 36 her master, Ambrose Smith, died and her family was sold off to settle his estate. Despite her continued enslavement, Clara Brown vowed to search for her ten-year-old daughter, Eliza Jane.
Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Roger Baker, Clara an Ex-Slave in Gold Rush Colorado (Central City, Colorado: Black Hawk Publishing, 2003). 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Robinson, Bill “Bojangles” (1878-1949)

Vignette Type: 
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

Saunders, Prince (1775–1839)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Prince Saunders was a prominent advocate for the education of African Americans and for the colonization of African Americans in Haiti during his lifetime.  He was born in Connecticut and died in Haiti.

Prince Saunders was born around 1775 in Lebanon, Connecticut.  He was baptized in 1784 at Thetford, Vermont and was raised by Vermont lawyer George Oramel Hinckley.  Hinckley became Saunders’ sponsor from 1807 to 1808.  With Hinckley’s sponsorship, Saunders was able to attend Dartmouth College.  Dartmouth President John Wheelock in turn recommended Saunders, in 1808, to Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing who set him up to work among black students in Boston.

In November 1808, Saunders began his four-year career as a teacher of Boston’s African School.  In 1811, he became a secretary for the African Masonic Lodge while founding the Belle Lettres Society, an integrated literary group.

In 1815, Saunders negotiated with Abiel Smith, a wealthy merchant, to provide funds for other schools for blacks in Boston.  Smith eventually granted Saunders about $4,000 for the education of African American children in the city.  Other funds came from Smith’s estate after his death but by 1820 Boston city taxes helped support the schools.  It was at one of these schools that Saunders met Thomas Paul, a leading Boston Baptist minister.  
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700–1860 (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997); White, Arthur O., “Prince Saunders: An Instance of Social Mobility Among Antebellum New England Blacks,” The Journal of Negro History 60:4 (Oct. 1975);
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Duncan, Todd (1903-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records,
Archives Center,
National Museum of American History,
Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution
Born Robert Todd Duncan in Danville, Kentucky in 1903, Todd Duncan was the first African American to perform in an otherwise all-white cast in the New York City Opera’s production of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

He began his professional stage career in 1933 in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana at the Mecca Temple in New York City with the Aeolian Opera, a black opera company.  Duncan’s resounding baritone and commanding stage presence won him the role of “Porgy” in Gershwin’s 1935 Porgy and Bess. He was the personal choice of Gershwin for the role.  Following this premiere, Duncan performed his role of “Porgy” in two subsequent revivals in 1937 and 1942. Throughout his tenure as “Porgy” Duncan played the role in over 1,600 performances. His portrayal of “Porgy” is recognized as a classic, serving as the model for subsequent singers cast in the role. During one performance of Porgy and Bess at the National Theater in 1936, however, Duncan led the cast in a protest of the theater's policy of segregated seating.   Duncan vowed to never again perform before a segregated audience.   The National Theater eventually gave in to the cast's demands and ended its segregation policy.
Sources: 
M. Evans, “Todd Duncan: Trailblazer of the Concert Stage,” American Visions, 5.5 (1990); Allan Kozinn, "Todd Duncan, 95, Sang Porgy and Helped Desegregate Opera," New York Times, March 2, 1998; Elizabeth Nash, Autobiographical Reminiscences of African American Classical Singers, 1853-Present (Lewiston, New York: Edward Mellen Press, 2007); James A. Standifer, “Reminiscences of Black Musicians,” Annals of American Music, 4.2: 194-205 (1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Marsh, Henry L., III (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Virginia
Senate Democratic Caucus
Henry Marsh is a prominent political figure, black activist, and lawyer in Richmond, Virginia.  He was born on December 10, 1933 in Richmond but when his mother died at age five, he was sent to live with relatives in rural Virginia.  Marsh, who attended Moonfield School, a racially segregated one room school with seven grades, one teacher and 78 students, knew first hand the consequences of school segregation.

Marsh eventually returned to Richmond and graduated with honors from Maggie L. Walker High School in 1952.   He then enrolled in Virginia Union University, a predominately black college in Richmond, where he received his bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences (BA.) in 1956. Marsh majored in sociology at Virginia Union. During his senior year Marsh testified before the Virginia General Assembly against the "massive resistance" campaign designed to circumvent the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.  While at the Assembly he met veteran civil rights attorney Oliver Hill who encouraged Marsh to go to law school.  Marsh followed his advice and in 1959 Marsh obtained a bachelor of law degree (L.L.B.) from Howard University.  Marsh served in the U.S. Army for the next two years.
Sources: 
Lewis A. Randolph, Rights for a Season: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender in Richmond, Virginia (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2003); http://wayneorrell.com/id54.html; http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=656; http://www.virginia.edu/publichistory/biographies/hm.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington, Denzel Hayes, Jr. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Robert Parish, Denzel Washington: Actor (New York: Ferguson Publishing Company, 2005); 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 Guardian Official Website, http://www.guardian.co.uk);

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gloucester, John (1776-1821)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
00
Image Ownership, Public Domain
John Gloucester, founder of the first black Presbyterian Church in the United States, was born enslaved in 1776 in Tennessee.  Despite that enslavement, Rev. Gideon Blackburn, a young evangelical Presbyterian minister with abolitionist sympathies, noticed that young Gloucester—before his 21st birthday, and without formal religious training—had already converted a number of black and white people to the Christian faith.

Blackburn was impressed and purchased Gloucester in the hope of freeing him.  When Blackburn petitioned the state of Tennessee for Gloucester’s freedom, his petition was denied.  The Legislature took note that Reverend Blackburn planned to train him to become a Presbyterian minister.  While the legislature had long accepted the practice of enslaved preachers giving sermons to other enslaved people and of white preachers ministering to slaves, a free black man preaching to slaves, in their view, represented a challenge to the slave system since those who were listening might hear and interpret freedom in Christ to mean freedom in life as well.
Sources: 
Shelton B. Waters, We Have This Ministry: A History of the First African Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia: Gloucester Memorial and Historical Society, 1994); http://westminstersermons.blogspot.com/2010/02/john-gloucester-and-first-african.html; http://www.nationalabolitionhalloffameandmuseum.org/african-american-attendee.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Foster, Andrew "Rube" (1879-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Andrew Rube Foster was born in Calvert, Texas, on September 17, 1879.  The son of Andrew and Sarah Foster, Rube started a baseball tradition that would be followed by his brother Willie Bill Foster.  Rube quit school after the eighth grade, barnstorming with the Waco Yellow Jackets, an independent black team in 1897.  By 1902, Rube’s baseball abilities gave him an opportunity to play with the Chicago (Illinois) Union Giants.  After a short stint with Union Giants, Rube played for the Cuban X-Giants.  In 1903, Rube Foster was the top pitcher in black baseball, and was the pitcher of record as the Cuban X-Giants won the Black World Series.  Rube sometimes played with white semi-pro teams and exhibition games against white players. Rube established himself as the premier pitcher challenging major league pitchers such as Rube Waddell, Chief Bender, Mordecai Brown, and Cy Young.  Honus Wagner stated that Rube Foster was one of the greatest pitchers of all times and one of the smartest pitchers he had ever seen.

Sources: 
Robert Charles Cottrell, The Best Pitcher in Baseball: The Life of Rube Foster, Negro League Giant (New York: New York University Press, 1970).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

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

Wallace, Walter L. (1927- )

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

Farmer, James (1920-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Farmer was born in Marshall, Texas in 1920, the grandson of a slave, and son of a minister and college professor, who was believed to be the first black man from Texas to obtain a doctorate. Farmer obtained advanced degrees from Wiley College and Howard University. A staunch pacifist and opponent of the military, Farmer refused to serve during World War II.  

Farmer’s pacifism and belief in a racially integrated society steered him toward a life of activism. With colleagues George Houser and Bernice Fisher, James Farmer co-founded the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in 1942 in Chicago.  The civil rights organization would eventually grow to 82,000 members in 114 chapters around the nation by the mid-1960s with Farmer as its executive director.  
Sources: 
James Farmer. Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of Civil Rights Movement (Arbor House: New York, 1985); Richard Severo, “James Farmer, Civil Rights Giant,” New York Times, July 10, 1999.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Turner, Benjamin Sterling (1825-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin Sterling Turner, a member of the United States House of Representatives from Alabama during the Reconstruction period, was born on March 17, 1825 in Weldon, North Carolina. He was raised as a slave and as a child received no formal education. In 1830 Turner moved to Selma, Alabama with his mother and slave owner. While living on the plantation he surreptitiously obtained an education and by age 20 Turner was able to read and write fluently. 

While still a slave Turner managed a hotel and stable in Selma.  Although his owner received most of the money for Turner’s work, he managed to save some of his earnings and shortly after the Civil War he used the savings he had accumulated to purchase the property.   The U.S. Census of 1870 reported Turner as owning $2,500 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property, making him one of the wealthiest freedmen in Alabama.

Turner also became a teacher in 1865 and helped establish the first school for African American children.  Two years later he became involved in politics.  After participating in the Republican State Convention in 1867, Turner was named tax collector of Dallas County  The following year he won his first elective office when he became a Selma City Councilman.  In 1870 Turner was elected to the United States Congress as the first African American Representative in Alabama history. 
Sources: 
Stephen Middleton, ed., Black Congressmen During Reconstruction (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002); http://bioguide.congress.gov
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clyburn, James Enos (1940– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
James Enos Clyburn was born in Sumter, South Carolina on July 21, 1940 to parents Enos and Almeta Clyburn.  James Clyburn’s father was a minister and his mother was a cosmetologist.  In 1957 James Clyburn graduated from Mather Academy located in Camden, South Carolina.  Four years later he graduated with a B.A. in history from South Carolina State University.

After graduation Clyburn worked as a teacher for C.A. Brown High School in Charleston.  In 1971 he became a member of Governor John C. West’s staff, becoming the first African American to be an advisor to a Governor of South Carolina.  In 1974 Clyburn was appointed Commissioner of South Carolina’s Human Affairs Office by Governor West.  Clyburn held this position until he stepped down in order to pursue a seat in Congress in 1992.

In 1992 Clyburn decided to run for office after South Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District was redrawn to include an African American majority.  Clyburn campaigned for the seat as a Democratic candidate and won the seat.  He is currently in the House of Representatives and has received important positions during his tenure as a Congressman.  In 2003 he was named vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.  Three years later, in 2006, he became chairman.  Clyburn is also the majority whip making him the third most powerful Democrat in Congress and the most important African American in Congress. 
Sources: 
Kevin Merida, “A Place In the Sun, Jim Clyburn Rides High on A New Wave of Black Power,”  Washington Post. January 22, 2008 p. CO1: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/21/AR2008012102405.html
Silla Brush, “Hidden Power on the Hill,” U.S. News & World Report.  Feb. 25, 2007. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/070225/5clyburn.htm
U.S Congressman James E. Clyburn’s official House site: http://clyburn.house.gov/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bullins, Ed (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ed Bullins was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1935. He was raised by his mother on Philadelphia’s North side, a community considered troubled and crime-ridden. Bullins has often recounted his near fatal death by stabbing while he was a youth. Many scholars note that this life-changing experience was the thematic basis for several of his early plays. Bullins joined the US Navy after dropping out of high school in 1952, and in 1958 (after returning to Philadelphia for a short time) he moved to southern California.

Bullins first exercised his love of writing and literature while a student at Los Angeles City College. In 1964 he moved to San Francisco. A year later while a creative writing student at San Francisco State College he wrote his first play, How Do You Do? In 1965 two other plays by Bullins appeared, Dialect Determinism (or The Rally), and Clara's Ole Man.
Sources: 
Nathan L. Grant, “Ed Bullins” The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, Ed. William Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Ed Bullins, “The Official Website of the Playwright and Producer,” http://www.edbullins.com/, accessed October 20, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Armstrong Atlantic State University

Muddy Waters [aka McKinley Morganfield] (1913-1983)

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

Blues singer, songwriter and musician Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4, 1913 in Issaquena County, Mississippi. Waters acquired his nickname (and later stage name) because as a young child he liked to play in the mud.  When he began his musical career he adopted Muddy Waters as his legal name.

Waters, influenced by Mississippi Delta musicians Robert Johnson and Son House, first started his career as a blues singer and musician on the harmonica and then switched to the guitar.  In his late teens he played at parties in small towns in the Delta region of Mississippi.  By the early 1940s Waters had earned enough as a performer to open a small club, where he expressed his musical talent in daily performances.  Word of his music got out and in 1941 the famous folk musicologist Alan Lomax came to Mississippi to record Waters for the Library of Congress.  The attention garnered Waters his first recording contract with Testament Records.  The encounter also persuaded Waters that he could become a full-time musician.  Waters moved to Chicago to promote his career.
Sources: 
Robert Gordon, Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters. (Boston: Little, Brown, 2002); Sandra B. Tooze, Muddy Waters: The Mojo Man (Toronto: ECW Press, 1997).  The Official Muddy Waters Website, http://www.muddywaters.com/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jordan, John Henry (1870-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Henry Jordan, wife, Mollie and son, Edward
“Image Courtesy of Karen Jordan”
Sources: 

History of American Negro; History of Coweta County, Georgia; Bill Banks, “Sharing Untold Stories,” The Atlanta Journal Constitution (February 1, 2001); Karen Jordan, “From a Dream to a Legacy,” The Tennessean (November 16, 2003); Karen Jordan, “Meharry Legacy Continues,” Interpreter Magazine (February-March 2004); W. Winston Skinner, “Descendant Plans Book about Pioneer Local Black Doctor,” Newnan Times-Herald (July 10, 2006); www.karenjordanwrites.com.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dykes, Eva Beatrice (1893-1986)

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

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

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

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

Swanson, Howard (1907-1978)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

King, Angie Lena Turner (1905–2004)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in Elkhorn, West Virginia in 1905, Angie Lena Turner King was a chemist and mathematician who dedicated her life and career to teaching and mentoring students in the sciences. The eldest daughter of William and Laura Turner, Angie had two siblings, Sylvia and Irving.

Turner graduated in 1923 from Bluefield Colored Institute (a training high school that became Bluefield State College) in Bluefield, West Virginia. She then studied chemistry and mathematics and earned her BS degree (cum laude) in 1927 from West Virginia State College (WVSC), a Historically Black College and University (HCBU) located in Institute, West Virginia. She taught mathematics at the Teacher-Training High School of WVSC for eight years and eventually was offered a teaching position on the WVSC college faculty. She taught and mentored many African American students at WVSC including Jasper Brown Jeffries, a physicist and mathematician who would later work on the Manhattan Project in World War II. Jeffries earned his BS in 1933 from WVSU.

Turner continued her education and in 1931 earned an MS degree in chemistry from Cornell University under the direction of Professor Thomas R. Briggs. The title of her thesis was “Interactions Between Solutions of Tannic Acid and Hydrous Ferric Oxide.” She then returned to the faculty at WCSC.
Sources: 
Harry Washington Greene, Holders of Doctorates Among American Negroes (Boston: Meador Publishing, 1946); Angie Turner, “Interactions Between Solutions of Tannic Acid and Hydrous Ferric Oxide,”  M.S. thesis, Cornell University, 1931; Angie Turner King, “An Analysis of Early Algebra Textbooks Used in the American Secondary Schools Before 1900,” Ph.D. thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1955; Wini Warren Black, Women Scientists in the United States (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1999);  Zeena Nackerdien, Black Women Scientists of Underrepresented Role Models. http://selections.rockefeller.edu/cms/science-and-society/black-women-scientists-studies-of-underrepresented-role-models.html; West Virginia History. http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh53-7.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
College of Wooster

Ali, Ayaan Hirsi (1969- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel (New York: Free Press, 2007); Ida Lichter, Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2009); R. D. Grillo, The Family in Question: Immigrant and Ethnic Minorities in Multicultural Europe (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008).
Contributor: 

Bogle, Paul (1822-1865)

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

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

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

Brown, Claude (1937- 2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Claude Brown and Anthony Machi, Manchild Revisited A Commentary by Claude Brown (Alexandria, Va., PBS Video, 1987); Rebecca Carroll, Swing Low: Black Men Writing (New York: Carol Southern Books, 1995); Renford Reese, American Paradox: Young Black Men (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2004).
Contributor: 

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

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

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

Henson, Matthew (1866-1955)

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

Matthew Henson was an American explorer who accompanied Robert Peary, most famously on an expedition intended to reach the Geographic North Pole in 1909. Subsequent research and exploration has revealed that Peary and Henson did not reach the North Pole but their failed attempt is still recognized as an important contribution to scientific knowledge. 

Sources: 
Matthew Henson, A Negro Explorer at the North Pole (New York: Copper Square Press, 2001); Robinson Bradley, Dark Companion (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Books, 1947); Floyd Miller, Ahdoolo! Ahdoolo! The Bigoraphy of Matthew A. Henson (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1963).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Sanchez, Sonia (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004);
http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/sanchez_sonia.html;
http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/276
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Oden, Ron (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ron Oden is the first African American and the first openly gay man to hold the office of Mayor of Palm Springs, California. Born on March 21, 1950 in Detroit, Michigan, Oden attended Oakwood College (now University) in Huntsville, Alabama where he received a Bachelor of Arts in History, Sociology and Theology. He continued his studies in Family Life and Counselling at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, earning a Master of Arts Degree in Theology. Oden continued his education at the State University of New York in Albany, completing a Master of Arts Degree in Ethnic Studies. He has also pursued post-graduate courses in Marriage, Family and Child Counselling Studies at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California.  

Oden began his career in community and political involvement in 1990 when he moved to Palm Springs and began teaching as an adjunct Sociology instructor at College of the Desert. Oden also worked at Desert Career College, Chapman University and has served as pastoral care consultant at the Betty Ford Center.  

Concern about educational and social issues led Oden to enter local politics. In 1995 he was elected to Palm Springs City Council only five years after he arrived in the city. While on the council he advocated for social causes.  
Sources: 
“Oden Honored by Star No. 300” The [Palm Springs] Desert Sun (16 December 2007); Mona De Crinis, “The Mayor’s Tale” The Bottomline 27:7 (December 2007); http://www.cityofpalmsprings.com/ .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Robinson, Samuel L. (1896-1964?)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

(Image Courtesy of Chartles Kastner)
Samuel L. Robinson was born in Kansas in 1896. He arrived in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in his teens, where he attended the city's integrated high school.  He joined the school's football team and became a close friend of the team captain and the future sports editor of the Press-Union newspaper, Lou Greenberg.  After serving in World War I, Robinson came home to Atlantic City and fought as a professional boxer.  He earned his nickname "Smiling Sammy" because of his seemingly perpetual good mood.  He was deeply religious, preaching an ethos of hard work and faith in God to anyone who would listen.

In 1928, Robinson entered the first footrace across America, run from Los Angeles to New York City in eighty-four days.  The press nicknamed the race a "bunion derby." Sammy had no experience as a distance runner, but he was a superbly trained and gifted athlete.  His old friend Lou Greenberg gave him a check for three hundred dollars for training expenses and the promise of fifty dollars for each state he crossed.  Robinson joined four African Americans who entered the race out of a field of 199 "bunioneers."
Sources: 
Charles B. Kastner, Bunion Derby:  The First Footrace Across America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007); "10,000 Roar Welcome to Smiling Sammy," Afro-American, 2 June 1928; "Bunion Runners Disrupt Lincoln County Track Meet," Black Dispatch, 19 Apr. 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moore, Richard Benjamin (1893-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Richard Benjamin Moore, lecturer, author, political activist, and book dealer, was born in Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados, on August 9, 1893.  He was born into a prosperous middle-class family, and attended James J. Lynch’s Middle Class School, a self-defined institution.  His childhood experiences included very few instances of racial discrimination possibly, because of his light complexion. 

Following the death of his father Richard Henry Moore, Moore and his immediate family relocated to the United States on July 4, 1909.  Unknown to the Moore family, Richard Henry Moore had a number of outstanding debts, which upon his death forced their Christ Church home into foreclosure as they faced insolvency.  They became some of the earliest blacks to settle in Harlem, New York, an emerging milieu of social, political, and Black Nationalist activism.

Harlem introduced Moore to the realities of European colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the injustices of Jim Crow and lynching in the American South.   By his 22nd birthday Moore became a follower of Socialist and fellow West Indian émigré Hubert Henry Harrison. He became active in the 21st Assembly District Socialist Club in Harlem in 1915. 

Sources: 
Louis J. Parascandola, “Look for Me All Around You,” Anglophone Caribbean Immigrants in the Harlem Renaissance (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005), pp. 227-29; Linden Lewis, “Richard B. Moore: The Making of A Caribbean Organic Intellectual,” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 25, No. 5 (May, 1995), pp. 589-609 (Sage Publications, Inc.).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Braithwaite, William Stanley Beaumont (1878-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
William Stanley Braithwaite, the acclaimed poet and anthologist, was born in Boston on December 6, 1878. He was the second of five children born to William Smith Braithwaite and Emma Dewolfe Braithwaite. William Stanley Braithwaite’s father, originally from British Guiana, was a man of mixed racial heritage who had spent considerable time in England studying medicine, using the legacy left to him by a French grandmother. His mother, who almost passed for white, was the daughter of a mulatto ex-slave who had come North in the years following Civil War.

While William Stanley’s father was alive, the children were tutored at home in the usual subjects, as well as less common subjects such as French. Along with a superior education, William Stanley was also raised to consider only white children as his peers and to associate himself with the best and brightest among them whenever possible. These attitudes about race were inherited from his father, but would have less influence over him as the years went by.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Britannica Student Encyclopedia, http://student.britannica.com/comptons/article-9317968/William-Stanley-Braithwaite
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ortuno, Edgardo (1970- )

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

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

Kilpatrick, Kwame M. (1970--)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Desmond, Viola Davis (1914-1965)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Canadian entrepreneur Viola Desmond was arrested in 1946 for refusing to leave a segregated section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre. She was physically injured by police in the incident but was convicted and fined by local courts. She was posthumously pardoned in 2010.

Born Viola Irene Davis on July 6, 1914 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she was the daughter of James Davis, a self-employed barber and businessman, and Gwendolyn Irene Johnson, a homemaker. Growing up she wanted to be a hairdresser. When she was refused admittance to Nova Scotia’s hairdressing school because of her race, Desmond was forced to move to  Montreal, then New York City, and eventually Atlantic City, New Jersey, to complete her training. She returned to Halifax where she married Jack Desmond and opened her first salon. She later opened a school to train other beauticians.  

On November 8, 1946 during a business trip to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia she experienced car trouble. While waiting for her car to be repaired she took in a movie at the local Roseland Theatre, which was segregated with a main floor for white patrons and a balcony for black patrons. Unaware of the segregation policy, Desmond proceeded to the main floor. She was ordered by the manager to go to the balcony.      
Sources: 
Dean Jobb, "Ticket to Freedom: Today, they call her Canada's Rosa Parks. But back in 1946, Viola Desmond seemed an unlikely civil rights activist," The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine (April/May, 2009);  Constance Backhouse, The Historical Construction of Racial Identity and Implications for Reconciliation (Halifax: The Department of Canadian Heritage for the Ethno Cultural, Racial, Religious, and Linguistic Diversity and Identity, 2001);  His Majesty the King v. Viola Irene Desmond, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, RG39, “C” Halifax, v. 937, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, No. 13347, The King v. Desmond (1947); Canada’s Debates of the Senate, 3rd Session, 40th Parliament, Volume 147, Number 58, report date October 21, 2010.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bradley, Rudolph Edward, Jr. (1941-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Edward Rudolph Bradley Jr., journalist, was born June 22, 1941, in Philadelphia.  His father was a businessman and his mother a housewife.  After Bradley’s parents divorced, he spent summers with his father in Detroit.  He attended primary and secondary school in Philadelphia.  In 1960 he attended Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and played defensive end and offensive tackle on the football team.  After earning a degree in 1964 in education, Bradley taught sixth grade. He also worked nights at WDAS-FM radio in Philadelphia as a jazz disc jockey and basketball play-by-play announcer.

His first reporting assignment included the north Philadelphia riot in 1964.  In 1967, WCBS Radio, an all-news station in New York City, hired Bradley.  In 1971, Bradley moved to Paris and became a stringer (freelance reporter) for CBS News.  Four years later he became a reporter at the CBS Washington bureau, covering Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign.  

In 1976 Bradley was the first African American reporter at CBS to serve as a White House correspondent and anchor the station’s Sunday evening news program. In 1978 Bradley became a correspondent for “CBS Reports,” reporting from Cambodia, China, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.  

Sources: 
Jacques Steinberg, “Ed Bradley, TV Correspondent, Dies at 65,” New York Times, November 10, 2006; Patricia Sullivan, “Ed Bradley of '60 Minutes' Dies at 65,” Washington Post, November 10, 2006; http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1998/07/08/60minutes/bios/main13501.shtml.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Badin, Adolf (1747-1822)

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

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

Durem, Ramón (1915-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Spanish Civil War veteran and militant poet Ramón Durem was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1915 of mixed heritage.  Leaving home at fourteen, he briefly served in the U.S. Navy before suffering a leg injury that forced his discharge.  He then worked as a laborer until enrolling at the University of California in Berkeley where he joined the Communist Party in 1931.  A radical from an early age, it is hardly surprising that Durem volunteered to join the Loyalist cause in Spain.

Durem departed the United States in March 1937 and was wounded in the Brunete Offensive of that year.  During his long recuperation at the American hospital in Villa Paz, Durem met and married a Brooklyn nurse named Rebecca Schulman.  Durem returned to the front in 1938 and participated in the Ebro Offensive.  In October, around the same time Rebecca was having his first child (named Dolores for La Pasionaria) in New York, Ramón marched in Barcelona’s farewell parade.  He was expatriated in December.

Sources: 
Danny Duncan Collum and Victor A. Berch, African Americans in the Spanish Civil War: “This Ain’t Ethiopia, But It’ll Do” (New York, New York: G.K. Hall & Co, 1992); Ray Durem, Take No Prisoners (London, UK: Paul Breman, 1971); Peter Wyden, The Passionate War (New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Thurman, Wallace (1902-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Stewart, Maria Miller (1803-1879)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Maria Miller was born a free-black in Hartford, Connecticut in 1803.  Little is known about her early life.  She married James Stewart in 1826 and took up public speaking in order to support herself after her husband’s death three years later.  Cheated out of her inheritance by corrupt white Boston businessmen, Stewart relied upon income from teaching and her public speaking engagements.  As one of the first women to speak in public, Stewart was not always well-received.  In a speech to a mixed audience of men and women, she asked, “What if I am a Woman,” reminding her audience that women since ancient times had been revered for their wisdom and accomplishments.  According to Stewart, free blacks had not accorded women the same respect.  

Stewart frequently encountered hostile audiences when she openly chastised black men for intemperance.  As a result, her speaking career was short.  In 1833 she delivered a farewell address in Boston, announcing her decision to leave public speaking.  Her last speech revealed her bitterness and disappointment, stating that it was “no use for me as an individual, to try to make myself useful among my color in this city.” Stewart eventually left New England to pursue a successful career in teaching in New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.  Before she left, she recorded the themes of her speeches in a pamphlet, Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart in 1832, which was reprinted shortly before she died.  Stewart died in December 1879 and was buried at Graceland Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992) and Harry A. Reed, “Maria W. Stewart,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. II (New York: Carlson, 1993): 1113-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mortimer, Jack (1700's)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jack and his wife Sophy were enslaved in Middletown, Connecticut to Philip Mortimer (1710-1794), a wealthy Irish businessman.  Philip Mortimer freed them in his will, but his son-in-law, George Starr, contested and succeeded in overturning the will.  Mortimer’s will also intended to give Jack and Sophy the use of one and three-quarters acres of land that, upon their deaths, was to be divided between their three sons, Lester, Dick, and John. The three boys were ordered to be kept in school until the age of fourteen, then apprenticed as house joiners until the age of twenty-one, when they were to be freed.  In a codicil to his will, Mortimer also left Jack, Sophy, and their sons some kettles and a fishing place in Chatham.

Jack Mortimer’s rage against George Starr for overturning Philip Mortimer’s will in 1796 was immense. Although by 1810 he had gained his freedom, in December 1811 he was accused of “maliciously intending to poison & murder George Starr.”  The prosecutor alleged that Jack “did unlawfully & wickedly, solicit, instigate, advise, persuade, & procure Prince [Mortimer]. . . to give & administer a quantity of Arsenic or Ratsbane” to Starr. The case against Jack was inexplicably dropped, but eleven years later, in 1822, he was convicted of arson for burning to the ground a house belonging to Starr’s daughter. Jack was then sentenced to five years imprisonment in Newgate, the first state prison in the United States.
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

Fuller, Charles Henry, Jr. (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Center for Program in
Contemporary Writing, University of Pennsylvania
  
Charles Fuller was born on March 5, 1939 to parents Charles H. Sr. and Lillian Anderson Fuller of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Fuller was the oldest of three children, but would see his parents welcome some twenty foster children into their home over the years.  Fuller attended Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School and graduated in 1956.  During his high school years, Fuller spent countless hours in the school library, and competed with a friend, Larry Neal, to become the first to read every book in the school’s collection.  This experience helped spawn Fuller’s dream of becoming a writer.   

After graduation from high school, Fuller attended Villanova University in Pennsylvania between 1956 and 1958.  He then enlisted in the U. S. Army and spent the next four years stationed in Japan and Korea.  Fuller returned to civilian life in 1962 and in August of that year he married Miriam A. Nesbitt.  
Sources: 
Thadius M. Davis and Trudier Harris, eds., Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 38: Afro-American Writers After 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1985); www.whyy.org/about/pressroom/documents/CharlesFullerbio.doc 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Maples, William Lineas (1869-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Lineas Maples, a physician and musician, was born in Sevierville, Tennessee, on March 31, 1869. The son of Edward Maples and Martha Jane Runions, William graduated in the first class of the segregated high school in Knoxville in 1888.  Showing a talent for science, oratory, and music, he received the Dodson medal upon graduation.  

Maples taught high school for one year in Austin, Tennessee and then entered medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1889.  He received an M.D. degree in 1893 and returned to Knoxville to establish a medical practice.  The Spanish-American War in 1898 interrupted that practice as he joined the U.S. Army’s medical unit of the all-black Third Regiment of the North Carolina Volunteers. He ended his service a year later and returned to Knoxville to resume his practice.

In 1900 agents for the Hawaii Commercial and Sugar Company (HC&S Co.) on Maui traveled through Tennessee and Alabama looking for workers for Hawaii’s plantations. They also sought a physician to staff the hospital that would serve the contract workers. Maples was recruited as the anesthetist for the HC&S hospital. His older brother, Samuel, a lawyer, also accepted a position as a representative of the black contract laborers recruited for the HC&S plantations.

Prior to leaving Knoxville, Maples married Sadie (maiden name unknown), who accompanied him on the voyage to Hawaii. He was assigned to the hospital in Puunene,
Sources: 
Miles M. Jackson, And They Came: A Brief History of Blacks in Hawaii (Durham: Four Gs Publishers, 2001); Paul Wermager, They Followed the Trade Winds: African Americans in Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

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, Edward A. (1860-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Edward Austin Johnson was a businessman, historian, educator, lawyer and politician. Born enslaved in Raleigh, N.C. on November 23rd, 1860, his parents Columbus and Eliza Johnson, had twelve children. He was educated by Nancy Walton, a free African American woman who also taught white children from wealthy families.
Sources: 
Edward A. Johnson, “A Student at Atlanta University,” Phylon, Vol. 3, No. 2 (2nd Quarter 1942) 135-148; Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Edward A Johnson,” http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/johnson/bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Robinson, Matthew MacKenzie "Mack" (1912-2000)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

An exceptional athlete and one of America’s leading sprinters of the 1930s, Matthew Mackenzie “Mack” Robinson, was born in Cairo, Georgia in 1912.  Matthew grew up with three other siblings, including the famed Jackie Robinson. After their father left following the birth of the last child, mother Mallie Robinson decided to take her five children to California.  The Robinson family, along with other migrants, moved to Pasadena by train in 1920 where the athletic careers of the Robinson brothers would blossom.

Sources: 
Arnold Rampersad, Jackie Robinson: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997); Duff Hart-Davis, Hitler's Games (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986); Mack Robinson, 85, Second to Owens in Berlin,"  Obituary; Biography - NYTimes.com. 2000. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/03/14/sports/mack-robinson-85-second-to-owens-in-berlin.html?sec=&spon=; David K. Wiggins, Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1997); "Early Era Stars," Leadership and Legacy - Athletics and the University of Oregon. 2010 http://sportshistory.uoregon.edu/details/show/8; "Biography," Mack Robinson - GoDucks.com, The University of Oregon Official Athletics Web Site. 2006, “Matthew ‘Mack’ Robinson Post Office – Pasadena, CA – People-Named Places on Waymarking.com,” Matthew “Mack” Robinson Post Office – Pasadena, CA. 2010 http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM5REQ
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Childress, Alvin (1907-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Spencer Williams and Alvin Childress (right)
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alvin Childress is best remembered for his role as the philosophical easy-going character Amos on the Amos n’ Andy show, a popular all-black cast sitcom of the early 1950s that depicted the antics of three friends in Harlem. Childress was born on September 15, 1907 in Meridian, Mississippi.

Childress began his career on stage, appearing in such productions as Sweet Land (1931) and Savage Rhythm (1931). A year later, he embarked on a successful film career, appearing in such films as Out of the Crimson Fog and Harlem is Heaven and went on to appear in several minor film roles throughout the 1930s. In the 1940s, he concentrated on a career in theater and worked as an instructor for the American Negro Theater in Harlem.

In 1951, Childress returned to the screen when he landed the role of the leading character Amos on the short-lived Amos n’ Andy sitcom. The TV show was canceled after two years because the NAACP protested the series as fostering racial stereotypes, even though many of episodes showed blacks with professional and entrepreneurial backgrounds.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Illustrated
Encyclopedia
, (New York: Fireside, 1988);  Anonymous. Diabetes: Let's
make it history—Alvin Childress
.
http://www.bet.com/articles/1,,c13gb1602-2265,,00.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Williams, Mary Lou (1910-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mary Lou Williams was an African American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger who wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements and recorded over one hundred records.  Williams was born as Mary Elfireda Scruggs on May 8, 1910 in Atlanta, Georgia, but grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was one of eleven children, and taught herself to play piano at a very young age, performing her first recital at age ten. She became a professional musician at the age of fifteen, when she played with Duke Ellington and the Washingtonians. In 1925, she joined a band led by saxophonist John Williams, and married him in 1927.

Williams and her husband moved to Oklahoma City, where in 1929 John joined Andy Kirk's band, Twelve Clouds of Joy. Mary Lou Williams worked for a year as a solo pianist and a music arranger until she joined the band in 1930.  By that point she took the name "Mary Lou" and was recording jazz albums.  By the late 1930s Mary Lou Williams was now well known as a producer, composer, and arranger working for bandleaders Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey.
Sources: 
Tammy L. Kernodle, Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams (Boston: Northeastern University, 2004); Linda Dahl, Morning Glory: a biography of Mary Lou Williams (New York: Pantheon Books, 1999); http://www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_williams_mary_lou.htm;
http://newarkwww.rutgers.edu/ijs/mlw/intro1.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

Verrett, Shirley (1931-2010)

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

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

Verrett was passionate about music but after high school, with her father’s support, she became a real estate agent. After selling houses for few years, Verrett realized that her life could only be fulfilled by pursuing singing. With help from her vocal instructor, she appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s program Talent Scouts in 1955. From this appearance she was awarded a scholarship at The Julliard School, where she studied for five years with Anna Fitziu and Marion Szekely Freschl.  Verrett made her operatic debut in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in 1957.  The following year she made her New York City Opera debut as Irina in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars.  Her European debut came in 1959 when she performed in Nabokov’s Rasputin’s Tod in Cologne, Germany.

Sources: 
Elizabeth Nash, Autobiographical Reminiscences of African-American Classical Singers (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2007); Anthony Tommasini, “Shirley Verrett, Opera Singer of Power and Grace, Is Dead at 79,” New York Times (November 6, 2010); Barry Millington, “Shirley Verrett Obituary,” The Guardian (November 8, 2010); Shirley Verrett dies at 79; acclaimed mezzo-soprano," Los Angeles Times, Associated Press (November 7, 2010), retrieved November 7, 2010; http://www.shirleyverrett.com/
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barrow, Dean Oliver (1951- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On February 7, 2008, Belize elected Dean Barrow as its first black Prime Minister. Born March 2, 1951, in Belize City, Barrow earned his LL.M. from the University of Miami in the United States and became partner at a Belizean law firm in 1977.  Two years later he established his own practice. Barrow married his long-term girlfriend, Kim Simpliss, in 2009, and they have one child together; he also has three children from a previous marriage with Lois Young.

The nation of Belize attained independence from the British in 1981, and Barrow entered politics two years later when he was elected to the Belize City council in 1983. Barrow broke into the national political scene in 1994 when he ran as a candidate under the United Democratic Party (UDP) banner during parliamentary elections.   Barrow won the election and the attention of Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel (1984-1989), who appointed the 33 year old attorney to his executive cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs on December 17, 1984. In June of 1986, Barrow, while still serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, received a second appointment to serve as Attorney General.
Sources: 
Centro de Estudios Internacionales de Barcelona, “Dean Barrow,” http://www.cidob.org/es/documentacio/biografias_lideres_politicos/america_central_y_caribe/belice/dean_barrow; Marti Parham, “Belize Elects First Black Prime Minister,” Jet, March 10, 2008; Catherine Bremer, “Belize Elects First Black Prime Minister, Ousts Incumbent,” Reuters, February 8, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Hendrix, Jimi (1942-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Legendary self-taught, left-handed guitarist Jimi Hendrix was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, the son of Lucille Jeter Hendrix and Al Hendrix.  Jimi grew up in poverty but he loved science fiction, art, nearby Lake Washington and music, especially the R&B masters, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles. By high school he was an accomplished guitarist.  Hendrix left high school to join the 101st Airborne so he could jump out of airplanes.

After his stint with the U.S. Army Jimi resumed his musical career and eventually played with some of the best rhythm and blues bands in the U.S. at the time.   In early 1964 he moved to New York, was hired by the Isley Brothers, and then he toured with Little Richard and Ike and Tina Turner.  By 1965 he set off on his own as Jimi James and the Blue Flames.  Hendrix applied blues harmony to rock progressions and played psychedelic rock solos in the middle of blues classics. By 1966 he had mastered techniques of sound distortion by using a fuzz box that made a “light string sound heavy and a heavy string sound like a sledgehammer” and by overdriving his amplifier. He played the guitar with his teeth, behind his back and under his legs.

Sources: 
Charles R. Cross, Room Full of Mirrors, A Biography of Jimi Hendrix (New York: Hyperian, 2005); Mary Willix, Jimi Hendrix Voices from Home  (Seattle: Creative Forces Publishing, 1996); Bill Milkowski, “Jimi the Composer,” Guitar World, March 1988; James A. Hendrix, My Son Jimi (Seattle: AIJ Enterprises, 1999); Harry Shapiro & Caesar Glebbeek, Electric Gypsy, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990);  Nelson George, The Death of Rhythm and Blues (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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.
Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey on April 9, 1898, to Reverend William Drew Robeson, the pastor of Princeton’s Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, and Maria Louisa Bustill Robeson.  His mother was from a prominent local mixed-race family and his father was a former slave who escaped from a plantation before the Civil War. Robeson was the youngest of four children.

Robeson’s mother died when he was six and his father struggled to care for the two youngest children. By 1912 the family had moved to Somerville, New Jersey where the young Robeson already was a standout athlete and stage performer.  He also preached in his father’s church.
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: 
Arizona State University

Charles, Ray (1930-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ray Charles Robinson, a talented musician, singer and composer, was one of the first African American artists to merge the blues with gospel to pave the way for rhythm and blues (R&B) music.  Robinson was born September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia.  At five he began to go blind and by the age of seven his sight was completely gone.  In order to help teach him to be self-sufficient his mother sent Robinson to the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, a racially segregated school in Florida.  There he learned to read music in Braille as well as to play both classical and jazz music on the piano.

Robinson’s mother passed away when he was 15 years old. Now on his own, he decided to move to Seattle, Washington where he continued his musical development.  By 1948 he had become a professional musician, shortening his name to Ray Charles, and forming his own trio. Before his 20th birthday Robinson had become a local sensation in the bars and clubs along Seattle’s Jackson Street.  
Sources: 
Eleanora E. Tate, Black Stars: African American Musicians (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000); "Ray Charles" American Masters.  PBS.org.
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/charles_r.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Powell, Colin (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Colin Powell is a retired Four-Star United States Army General who was the first African American to serve as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff and Secretary of State.

Colin Powell was born in 1937 in the Bronx, New York to Jamaican immigrant parents.  He attended public schools in the Hunts Point area of South Bronx and was eventually accepted to New York University.  Lacking the funds to attend this private university, Powell instead enrolled at the City University of New York, where he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), graduating with a degree in geology and as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry. Taking his first post abroad in West Germany, Powell soon realized that the advanced racial integration of the armed forces would yield tremendous upward opportunities and he decided to make a career in the Army.
Sources: 
Karen DeYoung, Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell (Knopf, New York, NY 2006);  Jim Haskins, The Black Stars: African American Military Heroes (John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York, NY 1998);  Colin Powell, My American Journey (Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1995);  Kai Wright, Soldiers of Freedom (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dumas, Thomas-Alexandre (1762–1806)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was a mulatto born in the French colony of Saint Domingue. He joined the French Army as a private and rose to the rank of a General during the French Revolution. Dumas is probably best known for fathering the famous French writer Alexandre Dumas (père).

The son of the lesser French nobleman Alexandre-Antoine Davy, Marquis de la Pailleterie, and a black slave woman, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was born on the island of Saint Domingue on March 25, 1762. In 1772, the Marquis returned to France, followed by his son in 1776. As Dumas grew into manhood he moved to Paris, enjoying life with the financial support of his father. But soon after the senior Davy married his second wife, he suspended the payments to his son.

Without any income, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas decided to join the French Army in 1786. At the request of his father, he enlisted under his mother's name Marie Dumas, in order to preserve the family's reputation. During the French Revolution Dumas became a devout republican serving in an all-black unit known as “La Légion Américaine.” This dedication helped him being catapulted from the rank of a corporal to that of a general of a division in less than two years.
Sources: 
Jon G. Gallaher, General Alexandre Dumas: Soldier of the French Revolution (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997); André Maurois, The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957); J.A. Rogers, World's Greatest Men of Color, Volume II (New York: Macmillan, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Fisher, Abby (1832- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Abby Fisher’s cookbook, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. published in 1881, is the oldest known cookbook written by a former slave. Abby (maiden name unknown), was born in 1832, and grew up in the plantation kitchens in South Carolina. There she honed her culinary skills and became a phenomenal cook, which catapulted her to success later in life.

Abby Fisher married Alexander C. Fisher and the couple had eleven children.  By the end of the Civil War she and her family gained their freedom.  In 1877 the Fishers relocated from Mobile to San Francisco where her talents as a cook and caterer soon were in high demand among the city’s upper class.  Her reputation and award winning delicacies enabled the Fishers to open their own business listed in the San Francisco directories as “Mrs. Abby Fisher & Company” and later as “Mrs. Abby Fisher, Pickle Manufacturer.”

Abby Fisher expertly blended African and American cultures by combining the foods and spices from two continents. Her unique dishes with their distinctive flavor represented some of the best Southern cooking of the day. At the insistence of her friends and patrons to record her “knowledge and experience of Southern cooking, pickle, and jelly making” Mrs. Fisher authored a cookbook. Since she could neither read nor write, her recipes were carefully described to writers who compiled them in the cookbook under her name.
Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Abby Fisher, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. (Facsimile edition, with historical notes by Karen Hess. (Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books, 1995); Janice B. Longone, “Early Black-Authored American Cookbooks.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture (February 2001) “Welcome to Applewood Books Publisher’s of America’s Living past”. http://www.applewoodbooks.com
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Adams, Henry [Kentucky] (1802–1872)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Henry Adams was a prominent black Baptist minister and advocate for African American education who worked in Georgia and later in Louisville, Kentucky. Adams was born in Franklin County, Georgia in 1802.  He obtained a license to preach at the age of 18 and was ordained on October 29, 1825.  Adams preached for four years in Georgia and South Carolina.

Sources: 
Marion B. Lucas, A History of Blacks in Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation, 1760 – 1891 (Kentucky Historical Society: University Press of Kentucky, 2003); George C. Wright, Life Behind a Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky 1865–1930 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

After graduating in 1964, Mahal moved to Los Angeles, California and formed the Rising Sons, which consisted of Ry Cooder, Ed Cassidy, Jesse Lee Kinkaid, Gary Marker, and Kevin Kelly. After signing a contract with Columbia Records, the Rising Sons broke up before releasing their first album. Mahal still stayed with Columbia, releasing three records: Taj Mahal (1968), The Natch'l Blues (1969), and Giant Step/De Old Folks at Home (1969).

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

James, LeBron (1984-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

Wright, Jane Cooke (1919- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Smith College
Dr. Jane Cooke Wright was a physician and cancer researcher who dedicated her professional career to the advancement of chemotherapy techniques.  Jane Cooke Wright was born in New York City, New York on November 20, 1919.  She was the older of two daughters to parents Louis Tompkins Wright and Corinne (Cooke) Wright.  Wright attended private schools in New York City and in 1942 graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  Wright’s father, one of the first African American graduates at Harvard Medical School, established the Cancer Research Center at Harlem Hospital, New York in 1947.  After her undergraduate studies Wright attended New York Medical College on a four-year scholarship.  She graduated with an M.D. in 1945.  
Sources: 
Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, eds., Notable Women in the Life Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996); http://www.nlm.nih.gov/
changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_336.html
; Lisa Yount, A to Z of Women in Science and Math (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Allen, Debbie (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Deborah “Debbie” Allen, dancer, choreographer, actress, director, and producer was born January 16, 1950 in Houston, Texas to Arthur Allen, a dentist and Vivian Ayers, a poet. Allen comes from a creative family: Allen’s brother “Tex” Allen is a jazz musician, and older sister Phylicia Rashad is an actress best known for her role as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show.  Allen began dancing at a very early age and at age 12 she auditioned for the Houston Ballet School, but was denied admittance because she was African American. Luckily, a Russian dancer who saw Allen perform was so impressed with her that he secretly enrolled her in the school where she eventually became one of the top students.

At age 16 Allen auditioned at the North Carolina School of the Arts but was told that she did not have the right body type for ballet, a common criticism given to many aspiring black ballerinas to exclude them from classical ballet. Allen was so devastated by her rejection that she put her dancing career on hold for several years.
Sources: 
Ashyia Henderson, “Debbie Allen," Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 42 (Farmington Hill, Michigan: Thomson/Gale, 2004); Kenneth Estell, “Debbie Allen,” The African American Almanac, 8th ed. (Farmington Hill, Michigan: Thomson/Gale, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Taylor, Robert Rochon (1899–1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
D. Bradford Hunt, Blueprints for Disaster (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009); Michelle Cottle, "The Woman to See," thenewrepublic.com, August 27, 2008; Clarence G. Williams, "From 'Tech' to Tuskegee: The Life of Robert Robinson Taylor, 1868-1942," libraries.mit.edu/archives/mithistory/blacks-at-mit/taylor.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fleming, Louise Celia “Lulu” (1862-1899)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Louise Cecelia Fleming, the first African American to graduate from the Women’s Medical College at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was born January 28, 1862 to slave parents on a plantation near Hibernia in Clay County, Florida.  Her father is unknown; she was raised by her mother who served as a maid in the plantation house.  As a child she travelled along with her owners and her mother to Jacksonville, Florida to attend Bethel Baptist Church, which in 1859 had a membership of 40 whites and 250 black slaves.  In 1865, immediately after the Civil War, the white and black members of the church separated and formed their own congregations.
Sources: 
Lulu C. Fleming, “A Letter from the Congo Valley,” Missionary Review of the World, n.s. 1 (1888): 207-209 in Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Sharon Harley and Andrea Benton Rushing, eds., Women in Africa and the African Diaspora (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1996); Joseph R. Moss, “The Missionary Journey of Louise 'Lulu' Fleming, M.D,” address given to the Florida Baptist Historical Society, May 4, 1996, found at http://www.floridabaptisthistory.org/docs/monographs/lulu_fleming.pdf; Donald Hepburn & Earl Joiner, “Lulu Fleming: The Daughter of a Florida Slave Who Served as a Medical Missionary,” Florida Baptist Witness, February 15, 2011, http://www.gofbw.com/print.asp?ID=12611; Gerald H. Anderson, ed., Dictionary of African Christian Biography, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bertonneau, E. Arnold (1834-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
“Image Courtesy of Thomas F. Bertonneau”
Sources: 
Eric Foner (ed.), Freedom's Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996); James G. Hollandsworth, Jr, The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998); and Charles Vincent, Black Legislators in Louisiana During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse 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

Bambaataa, Afrika (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Hayden, Lewis (c.1811-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lewis Hayden was born a slave in Lexington, Kentucky in 1811 into the household of the Rev. Adam Runkin, a Presbyterian minister.  In 1840 he married fellow slave, Harriet Bell (c.1811-1893).  The Haydens successfully escaped slavery in 1844.  They traveled to Ohio, Canada, Michigan, and finally settled in Boston, where they became active participants in abolitionist activities.  While Harriett ran a boarding house from their home at 66 Phillips Street and raised their two children, Joseph and Elizabeth, Lewis ran a successful clothing store on Cambridge Street, where he also held abolitionist meetings and outfitted runaway slaves. Their home, which contained a secret tunnel, served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Hayden home is now listed as a national historic site.

Lewis Hayden was a member of the city’s abolitionist Vigilance Committee, whose goal was to protect fugitive slaves from being captured and returned to slavery under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.  In 1850, the Haydens assisted a fugitive slave couple, William and Ellen Craft, who had escaped from Georgia.  Lewis also led in the well-publicized rescues of Fredric Wilkins, alias Shadrach Minkins, in 1851 from a Boston courthouse, and Anthony Burns in 1854.
Sources: 
Stanley J. And Anita W. Robboy, “Lewis Hayden: From Fugitive Slave to Statesman,” New England Quarterly, 46 (1973): 591-613, and www.nps.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rice, Condoleezza (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Condoleezza Rice has earned distinction as a scholar, expert on international politics, and with her appointments as the first African American woman National Security Advisor and Secretary of State of the United States.

Rice was born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama to John Wesley Rice, Jr., a Presbyterian minister and school counselor and Angelena (Ray) Rice, a public school teacher.  Influenced heavily by her parents, Rice, their only child, showed an exceptional intelligence and scholastic focus at a very early age.  Despite growing up in the black middle-class neighborhood of Titusville in Birmingham, Condoleezza and her family could not escape the “Jim Crow” policies of that city.  Denise McNair, one of four young girls who died in the 16th St. Baptist Church Bombing in September 1963, was Rice’s childhood friend and playmate.  
Sources: 
Antonio Felix, Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story (New Market Press, New York, NY 2002); http://www.whitehouse.gov; http://www.hoover.org/bios/rice.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lewis, John R. (1940- )

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

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

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

Coppin, Fannie Jackson (1837-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Fannie Jackson was born a slave in Washington D.C. on October 15, 1837.  She gained her freedom when her aunt was able to purchase her at the age of twelve.  Through her teen years Jackson worked as a servant for the author George Henry Calvert and in 1860 she enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio.  Oberlin College was the first college in the United States to accepted both black and female students.

While attending Oberlin College Jackson enrolled and excelled in the men’s course of studies.  She was elected to the highly respected Young Ladies Literary Society and was the first African American student to be appointed in the College’s preparatory department.  As the Civil War came to an end she established a night school in Oberlin in order to educate freed slaves.

Sources: 
Fanny Jackson Coppin, Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching (Philadelphia: A.M.E. Book Concern, 1913); Ellen N. Lawson and Marlene Merrill, “The Antebellum ‘Talented Thousandth’: Black College Students at Oberlin Before the Civil War,” The Journal of Negro Education 87 (1983):390-402; http://www.oberlin.edu/news-info/02jun/discover_fannieJCoppin.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Remond, Charles Lenox (1810-1873)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Charles Lenox Remond was born into an elite free Black family in Salem, Massachusetts.  His parents, John and Nancy Lenox Remond, had been married by the Rev. Thomas Paul, a prominent African American minister and anti-slavery activist, in 1807.  Nancy Lenox’s father was a veteran of the American Revolution, having fought with the Continental Army.  John Remond had emigrated from the Dutch colony of Curacao as a young boy in 1798.  In Salem, John Remond was first a barber and, then, with the assistance of his wife, he operated a successful catering business.  The Remonds were also active abolitionists.  John became a life-long member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Association.
Sources: 
Dorothy Burnett Porter, “The Remonds of Salem, Massachusetts: A Nineteenth-Century Family Revisited,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 95(1985); Mark J. Sammon and Valerie Cunningham, Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage (Durham: Univ. of New Hampshire Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wertz, Irma Jackson Cayton (1911-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Irma Cayton Wertz on right, 1942
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Irma Jackson Cayton Wertz was a member of the first Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAACS) Officer training class commissioned at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, during World War II.  Born in Brunswick, Georgia, on May 8, 1911, Jackson was the product of a military household.  Her family was stationed in Des Moines while her father, who served as a captain in the segregated army during World War I, attended officer’s training camp.  

After graduating from Fisk University and Atlanta University, Jackson moved to Chicago, Illinois where she gained employment as a social worker in the South Parkway Community Center. There she married her first husband, Horace Cayton, a noted University of Chicago sociologist. The couple divorced in 1942.

The same year, Jackson applied for entrance into the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.  After successfully passing a battery of examinations, completing a six-week training course, and taking the oath to become an officer in August of that year, Jackson was briefly assigned to the WAAC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. as a recruiter. Shortly thereafter, she relocated to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where she met and married William Wertz and joined the Thirty-second WAAC Post Headquarters Company.

Sources: 

Robert F. Jefferson, Fighting for Hope:  African American Troops of the 93rd Infantry Division in World War II and Postwar America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008); Brenda L. Moore, To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race:  The Story of the Only African American WACs Stationed Overseas during World War II (New York: New York University Press, 1996).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Xavier University

Gibbs, Jr., George W. (1916-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George Gibbs, Jr. in the Antarctic, 1941
Image Courtesy of Leilani Henry (Gibbs)

George W. Gibbs, Jr. was the first person of African descent to set foot on Antarctica (the South Pole).  He was also a civil rights leader and World War II Navy gunner.

Gibbs was born in Jacksonville, Florida on November 7, 1916. He moved to Brooklyn, New York where he enrolled in Brooklyn Technical School and later received his GED. He also served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bennett, Gwendolyn (1902-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Gwendolyn Bennett a poet, author, educator, journalist and graphic artist, was born July 8, 1902 in Giddings, Texas, to Joshua and Maime Bennett.  Her parents worked as teachers in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Gwendolyn’s family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1906 when she was four years old. Soon after, Bennett’s mother divorced her father and took custody of six year old Gwendolyn. Joshua eventually kidnapped Gwendolyn and they settled in with her stepmother in Brooklyn, New York.

Bennett attended Brooklyn’s Girls High from 1918 to 1921 where she became the first African American to join the Drama and Literary societies and where she was rewarded first place in a school-wide art contest.  After graduating from high school, Bennett enrolled at Columbia University and Pratt Institute to pursue fine arts.  She graduated in 1924.

Bennett began to write poetry in college and in November 1923, her poem “Nocturne” was published in The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  The following month another poem, “Heritage” appeared in Opportunity, the magazine of the National Urban League.  In 1924, Bennett became an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at Howard University.  Continuing her education in fine arts, Bennett went to Academic Julian and Ecole de Pantheon in Paris in 1925.

Sources: 

Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Detroit-London: Gale
Research Inc. 1992).
http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/bennett_gwendolyn.html.http://...

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

James, C.L.R. (1901-1989)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frank Rosengarten, Urbane Revolutionary: C. L. R. James and the Struggle for a New Society (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008); Selwyn Reginald Cudjoe and William E. Cain, C.L.R. James: His Intellectual Legacies (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994); Farrukh Dhondy, C.L.R. James: A Life (New York: Pantheon Books, 2001); Anna Grimshaw, The C.L.R. James Reader (Oxford, UK; Cambridge, USA: Blackwell, 1992).
Contributor: 

Cooper, Jack Leroy (1888-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jack L. Cooper is widely acknowledged as the first African American radio broadcaster. Cooper, born in Memphis, Tennessee on September 18, 1888, was the youngest of 10 children. He was raised in a poor, single-parent home, and, at the age of 10, quit school and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to work at a racetrack. Aside from his work at the racetrack, Cooper worked a number of odd jobs as a teen and was a successful boxer, winning the Ohio Negro welterweight title in the late 1910s. Cooper began his entertainment career as a dancer and comic on the Theater Owners Booking Association, a popular African American vaudeville circuit in the 1920s and 1930s. Here he met his first wife, Estelle Mansfield (Madam Lamar) Cooper, and they created the Cooper and Lamar Music Company.
Sources: 
William Barlow, Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999); Donald G. Godfrey and Frederic A. Leigh, Historical Dictionary of American Radio (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998); http://www.radiohof.org/discjockey/JackLCooper.htm.
Contributor: 

McKay, Claude (1889-1948)

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

Harlem Renaissance writer Festus Claudius McKay was born on September 15, 1889, in Sunny Ville, in the Clarendon Hills of Jamaica, to peasant farmers Hannah Ann Elizabeth Edwards  and Thomas Frank McKay. Young Claude was tutored by his elder schoolmaster brother, Uriah Theodore McKay, who introduced him to a library dominated by the ideas of the great free thinkers, particularly Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer. While working in Kingston as a constable, McKay became the protégé of Walter Jekyll, a British aristocrat and anthropologist who also placed his personal library at Claude McKay’s disposal.    

McKay published his first two volumes of poetry, Songs of Jamaica (1912) and Constab Ballads (1912), written in the island’s rich dialect, before migrating to America to study agronomy at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and later at Kansas State University. By 1917, however, he was no longer in college and living in Harlem. 

Sources: 
Wayne Cooper, ed., The Passion of Claude McKay (New York: Schocken Books, 1973); Wilfred D. Samuels, Five Afro-Caribbean Voices in American Culture, 1917-1929 (Boulder: Belmont, 1977).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Freeman, Fillmore (1936-- )

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

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

Bennett, Lerone (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Washington Interdependence Council
[Administrators of the Banneker Memorial]
Lerone Bennett Jr., historian of African America, has authored articles, poems, short stories, and over nine books on African American history.  Bennett was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi the son of Lerone Bennett Sr. and Alma Reed. He and his family moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he attended public schools. Bennett graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. The same year Bennett enrolled in Atlanta University for graduate studies. He also became a newspaper journalist for the Atlanta Daily World.  Bennett moved to Chicago in 1952 to become city editor for JET magazine, founded by John H. Johnson.

In 1954 Lerone Bennett became an associate editor at Ebony, also owned by Johnson.  By 1958 when Bennett had become the senior editor at Ebony, Johnson encouraged Bennett to write books on African American history for a popular audience. 

A series of history articles that Bennett had written over time for Ebony emerged in 1963 as his first book, Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 1619-1962. Bennett described the long history of black slavery and racial segregation while reminding his readers that African American roots in the American soil are deeper than those of the Puritans who arrived in 1620.
Sources: 
Lerone Bennett, Jr., Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America 1619-1966 (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1966); Lerone Bennett, Jr., The Negro Mood (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1964); http://www.nathanielturner.com/leronebennettbio.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Keyes, Alan L. (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A controversial and conservative Republican, Alan Lee Keyes has perhaps one of the most extensive resumes to date in public and political life.

His positions and appointments include but are not limited to: U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer of the consular office in Bombay, India from 1979-1980; desk officer in Zimbabwe from 1980-1981 and then policy planning staff, 1981-83; U.S. representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO) from 1983 to 1985; assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs from 1985 to 1988; Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Maryland in 1988 and in 1992; President of Citizens Against Government Waste from 1989-1991; Interim President for Alabama A&M University in 1991, and host of nationally syndicated "America's Wake-Up Call" show.  Alan Keyes launched candidacies for President of the United States in 1996 and in 2000.

Born in Long Island, New York, Keyes attended Cornell University and then Harvard University where he earned a B.A. in Government Studies in 1972 and his doctoral degree in 1979.
Sources: 
Sources: Alton Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Baker, Josephine (1906-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

In 1925 Josephine Baker took Paris, France by storm, appearing on stage in “La Revue Negre” wearing nothing but a skirt of artificial bananas in Danse Sauvage.  Born Josephine Freda MacDonald in St. Louis, Missouri on June 3, 1906, she was nicknamed “Tumpy” because she was a chubby baby.  Her mother, Carrie MacDonald was part black and part Apalachee Indian, while her father Eddie Carson was part black and part Spanish. Both were popular dance hall entertainers in the St. Louis area in the early 1900s. After her brother, Richard, was born, Baker’s father abandoned the family and left them nearly destitute. Carrie MacDonald soon married Arthur Martin with whom she had two daughters, Margaret and Willie May.

Sources: 
Josephine Baker & Jo Bouillon, Josephine (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1976); David Levering Lewis, ed., The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader (New York: Viking, 1994); http://womenshistory.about.com/ .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Banneker, Benjamin (1731-1806)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Cover of Benjamin Banneker's 1792 Almanac
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin Banneker, free black, farmer, mathematician, and astronomer, was born on November 9, 1731, the son of freed slaves Robert and Mary Bannaky, probably near the Patapsco River southeast of Baltimore, Maryland, where his father owned a small farm. For some years, Benjamin seems to have served as an indentured laborer on the Prince George’s County plantation of Mary Welsh, who had dealings with the Bannaky family and in 1773 executed her dead husband’s instructions to release several of her labor force including “Negro Ben, born free age 43.” Walsh was surely not Banneker’s grandmother, as argued by many biographers, but she did leave him a substantial legacy. He then lived alone as a tobacco farmer near the Patapsco River.

By tradition, Banneker received only a brief education from a Quaker schoolmaster.  But he showed an early talent for mathematics and construction when, aged 21, he built a model of a striking clock, largely out of wood, that became renowned in his neighborhood. He read widely and recorded his researches.  His skills drew him into contact with a wealthy white family, the Ellicotts, who had established flourmills and an iron foundry on the outskirts of Baltimore in the mid-1770s.
Sources: 
Silvio Bedini, The Life of Benjamin Banneker (New York: Scribner’s, 1972); Charles A. Cerami, Benjamin Banneker: Surveyor, Astronomer, Publisher, Patriot (New York: Wiley, 2002); George Ely Russell, “Molly Welsh: Alleged Grandmother of Benjamin Banneker,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 94 (December 2006): 305-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bell, James Madison (1826-1902)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

Pippin, Horace (1888-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Horace Pippin, a soldier in World War I and later a painter, was born on February 22nd, 1888 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, but his family moved to Goshen, New York when he was three. His grandparents were slaves, and his parents worked as domestics. Pippin attended public schools and therefore segregated schools while living in New York.

By the age of 10, Pippin became disenchanted with school and left to work menial jobs. When World War I began, Pippin quickly enlisted with the all-black 15th New York National Guard Regiment which was renamed the 369th Infantry Regiment when it arrived in France in 1918. Pippin fought in the war with his unit, and was awarded the Purple Heart for the injury he received. He was shot and crippled in his right shoulder by German soldiers. Pippin later remarked that the war supplied him with the inspiration and imagery that allowed him to paint.

After returning to the United States, Pippin married a widow, Ora Jennie Featherstone Wade, and together they returned to West Chester, Pennsylvania. Pippin worked odd jobs including in an iron foundry and helping his wife deliver the laundry she did. He sometimes sang in a choir.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Meet Horace Pippin, http://www.nga.gov/education/classroom/counting_on_art/bio_pippin.shtm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moten, Benjamin “Bennie” (1894-1935)

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

Cleaver, Eldridge (1935-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Eldridge Cleaver, author and civil rights activist, was born on August 31, 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas.  Cleaver, a child of six, lived in a household where his father abused his mother.  The Cleavers moved to Phoenix and finally settled in Los Angeles where Cleaver spent much of his childhood in and out of reform schools for petty crimes.  In 1957, at the age of 22, he was convicted of assault with intent to commit murder and sent first to California’s San Quentin Prison and then transferred to Folsom Prison.  As an inmate, Cleaver spent most of his time reading works by Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Karl Marx, and Richard Wright.  He was also inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X who was assassinated during his incarceration. Their writings influenced him to write, in prison, a collection of essays on race and the black revolution.  Those essays were published as the book Soul on Ice in 1968, two years after his release from prison.  

Sources: 

Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1968);  Joseph Peniel E., Waiting ‘Til The Midnight Hour (New York: Henry Holt And Company, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Whitaker, Forest (1961 -- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Forest Whitaker at the
2007 Oscar Ceremony
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Forest Steven Whitaker, actor, producer, and director, was born in Longview, Texas, July 15, 1961, but was raised in South Central Los Angeles, where his parents moved when he was four years old.  His father, Forest Whitaker, Jr., was an insurance salesman, and his mother, Laura Francis Smith, was a special education teacher.  Whitaker was the second of four children, having one older sister and two younger brothers.

Whitaker commuted to Palisades High School, twenty miles away on the west side of Los Angeles, where he developed his love for singing and acting in musicals and plays. He was also an all-league defensive tackle on the school’s football team and received a football scholarship to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he enrolled following his graduation in 1979.  When a back injury ended his future as a football player, he changed his major to voice and soon transferred to the University of Southern California (USC) where he studied opera and enrolled in the University Drama Conservatory.  He graduated from USC in 1982.  Whitaker’s break into show business came when an agent saw him singing in a production of  The Beggar’s Opera while in the USC conservatory program.  
Sources: 
Caitlin A. Johnson, “Forest Whitaker: The King Of The Oscars?," CBS News, February 4, 2007; Mike Sager, "What I've Learned: Forest Whitaker," Esquire, February 26, 2007; Adam Sternbergh, "Out of the Woods: How Forest Whitaker Escaped his Career Slump." New York Magazine, January 9, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Paine College

Mondlane, Eduardo Chivambo (1920-1969)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, Mozambique: from Colonialism to Revolution, 1900-1982 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983); Eduardo Mondlane, ed. Ronald Segal, The Struggle for Mozambique (Penguin African Library, 1969, 1970); Population-Development-Environment Project, IIASA website: www.iisas.ac.at, (2001)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Lloyd A. Barbee (1925-2002)

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

Alexander, Raymond Pace (1897-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
H. Viscount Nelson, Black Leadership Responds to Crisis: The Great Depression in Philadelphia (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

White, Walter F. (1893-1955)

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

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

Butler, Jerry (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jerry Butler was born to sharecropping farmers in Sunflower, Mississippi, but at the age of three his family joined the Great Migration and moved to Chicago, Illinois (to an area now known as the Cabrini-Green Housing Projects).  His initial introduction to music began as a choir boy in church in Chicago, where he met Curtis Mayfield, and the two joined a rhythm and blues (R&B) group called The Roosters in 1957.  Later in 1957 the group changed its name to Jerry Butler and the Impressions and released its only hit “For Your Precious Love,” which Jerry wrote, on the black-owned VeeJay label in 1958.
Sources: 
Jerry Butler and Earl Smith, Only the Strong Survive: Memoirs of a Soul Survivor (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000); http://www.vh1.com; http://www.onlinetalent.com; http://www.mtv.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, Maggie Lena (1867-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Maggie Lena Mitchell was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1867 to parents who were former slaves.  Walker’s mother, Elizabeth Draper Mitchell, was an assistant cook and father William Mitchell a butler in a mansion own by the Van Lew family. As a young girl she was forced to take on a number of responsibilities after the tragic death of her father. Mitchell worked as a delivery woman and babysitter while attending segregated public schools in Richmond. Nonetheless Mitchell graduated at the very top of her class in 1883. She then taught grade school for three years at the Lancaster School, at the same time she took classes in accounting and business.

In 1886, Maggie Mitchell married Armistead Walker, Jr., a wealthy black contractor and member of her church. They had two sons, Russell and Melvin, whom she took care while her husband worked.
Sources: 

Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); http://www.nps.gov/malw/details.htm.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Moranda (1915–1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Moranda Smith was a union organizer and rank-and-file leader of tobacco workers in North Carolina, who throughout the 1940s initiated a challenge to the racial discrimination, disfranchisement, and economic exploitation of workers in the South. The first African-American woman to sit on an international union’s executive board, Smith’s life marks the development of an integrated, civil rights–focused tradition of unionism in America.

Born in Dunbar, South Carolina to a sharecropping family, Smith moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, when she was five years old.  After graduating from high school in 1933, Smith began working at R.J. Reynolds, the manufacturer of Camel cigarettes and one of the largest tobacco corporations in the world. The Winston-Salem factory, with a workforce that was 40% black and majority female, represented the largest concentration of industrial workers in the region.  Paid little more than minimum wage, subject to arbitrary discipline, and, like every factory in the South, segregation with the plant, workers formed the Tobacco Workers Organizing Committee (TWOC) in 1942 to challenge these conditions.  They were assisted by Communist Party (CP) which had long sought to build multiracial unions in the South.
Sources: 
Robert Rodgers Korstad, Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blackwell, Otis (1932-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Otis Blackwell was an American songwriter, singer, and pianist whose work significantly influenced rock ‘n’ roll. His compositions include Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel," "All Shook Up" and "Return to Sender,” Little Willie John's "Fever,” Jerry Lee Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire" and "Breathless" (with Winfield Scott), and Jimmy Jones's "Handy Man."

Otis Blackwell was born in Brooklyn, New York.  He won a local talent contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York in 1952, at 21.  He could not, however, transform his initial accomplishment into a successful career as a performer. His own recordings never cracked the Top 40 on the hit parade charts. “When you hit them with your best stuff and they just look at you, well, it’s time to go home,” he said.  
Sources: 
Holly George-Warren and Anthony Decurtis, eds., The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, 3rd Edition (New York: Random House, 1976); Biography of Otis Blackwell, Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved on November 20, 2006.; Brian Dalton, “Songwriter Otis Blackwell Left Music All Shook Up,” Investors Business Daily,  March 16, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Revels, Hiram Rhoades (1827?–1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hiram Rhoades Revels was the first African American United States Senator, filling the seat left vacant by Jefferson Davis in 1861 when Mississippi seceded from the Union.

Born in the 1820s in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Hiram Revels was the son of free parents of mixed African American and Native American ancestry. Revels moved with his family to Lincolnton, North Carolina in 1842, where he became a barber. Two years later he left the South and enrolled at Beech Grove Seminary, a Quaker institution near Liberty, Indiana. In 1845 he entered Darke County (Ohio) Seminary for Negroes.  The same year Revels was ordained a minister in a Baltimore African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In the early 1850s he married Phoebe A. Bass of Zanesville, Ohio, and together they had six children.
Sources: 
“Hiram Rhoades Revels,” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982);
“Hiram Rhoades Revels,” in Encyclopedia: The State Library of North Carolina, http://statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us/nc/bio/afro/revels.htm; Kenneth H. Williams, "Revels, Hiram Rhoades" in Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds.,  African American National Biography Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0001/e0482.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Savary, Joseph (? — 1800's)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Joseph Savary, a hero at the Battle of New Orleans, was a native of Saint-Dominque (Haiti) who had fought with the French during the Haitian Revolution.  When Haiti became independent, Savary and his family fled and settled in New Orleans.  Savary’s occupation in New Orleans between 1809 when he arrived and the War of 1812 is unknown.  There is some evidence that he may have worked with Pierre and Jean Lafitte, notorious pirates who operated off the coast of Louisiana and Spanish Texas.   

By the time of the War, General C.C. Claiborne, the U.S. military commander in Louisiana, who was familiar with Savary and other former Haitian soldiers, suggested to Commanding General Andrew Jackson that they be incorporated in the United States Army against the British.  Jackson extended the offer to Savary who single-handedly raised a battalion from among the Free Negro emigrants from Santo Domingo, most of whom had fought as loyalists under the French flag in their native land.  
Sources: 
Robert Ewell Greene, Black Defenders of America, 1775-1973 (Johnson Publishing Company Inc. Chicago: 1974); Roland C. McConnell, Negro Troops of Antebellum Louisiana: A History of the Battalion of Free Men of Color (Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge: 1968).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mitchell, Arthur (1934- )

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

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

Danenberg, Sophia (1972- )

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

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

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

Danenberg became involved in mountaineering in 1999 after a childhood friend encouraged her to try rock climbing.  During this two year period, while doing technical climbs through her local Appalachian Mountain Club Chapter, she met her future husband David Danenberg.

Sources: 

Carly A. Mullady, "Never Underestimate Yourself, and Never Let Others
Underestimate You," Southtown Star Newspaper, Chicago (Sunday, February
3, 2008), p. 3; Teresa Pelham, "Glastonbury Woman Makes History With
Everest Climb," The Hartford Courant  (Monday, November 13, 2006);
http://www.danenberg.org/; Jeffrey Felshman, "Up Everest, Quietly" Our
Town
(2006), www.ChicagoReader.com http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/ourtown/060714/everest/

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Garrison, Zina (1963- )

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

Born November 16, 1963 in Houston, Texas, tennis star Zina Garrison was the youngest of seven children and was raised by her widowed mother, Mary Garrison. She began playing tennis at the age of 10 through the MacGregar Park Tennis Program. The program was run by John Wilkerson who later became Garrison’s coach throughout her tennis career. She