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People

Turner, Henry McNeal (1834-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Stephen Ward Angell, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and African American Religion in the South (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Edwin S. Redkey, Black Exodus, Black Nationalist and Back-to-Africa Movements, 1890-1910 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969); The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, African American Desk Reference (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1999); Kenneth Estall, ed., The African American Almanac 6th edition (Detroit: Gale Research, Inc. 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ben-Jochannan, Yosef (1918-2015)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cotter, Joseph Seamon, Sr. (1861-1949)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr., the father of poet-playwright Joseph Seamon, Jr., distinguished himself as a playwright, poet, author, and educator. Cotter was born in Bardstown, Kentucky in 1861, but was reared in Louisville. He was one of the earliest African American playwrights to be published. His father, Michael J. Cotter, was of Scots-Irish ancestry, and his mother, Martha Vaughn, was an African American. Cotter, Sr. married Maria F.

Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

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

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

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

Brown, James (1933-2006)

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

Born May 3, 1933, into poverty in racially segregated Barnwell, South Carolina, James Brown became the most assertively black rhythm and blues singer ever accorded mainstream acceptance before audiences throughout the world.  

Arrested for breaking and entering at age 15, Brown’s early run-ins with the authorities served as his initiation into the rough edges of the black experience that were eventually reflected in both his pleading ballads and aggressive in-your-face funk.  Brown’s rough musical style and sensual, suggestive lyrics are even credited with ushering in the age of Hip-Hop. His almost primal renditions of “Please, Please, Please,” his first hit in 1956, and later “Bewildered” and “Prisoner of Love” contrasted vividly with the serene and controlled deliveries of artists such as Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Dionne Warwick.

Sources: 
Peter Shapiro, Rough Guide to Soul and R&B (London, England: Penguin Books, 2006).  Also read Michael Haralambos, Soul Music: Birth of a Sound in Black America (DaCapo Press, 1985)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Staples, George McDade (1947-- )

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

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

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

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

Baker, Ella (1903-1986)

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

Scott, Tyree (1940-2003)

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

Tyree Scott was a Seattle civil rights and labor leader who opened the door to women and minority workers in the construction industry.  Scott was born in Hearne (Wharton County), Texas and before moving to Seattle in 1966, he served in the U. S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.  His father was an electrician in Seattle who found that jobs in the construction industry were off limits to blacks, limiting his ability to compete for large contracts.  In 1969, when Seattle’s Model Cities Program was attracting large federal contracts, the anti-poverty agency encouraged black contractors to organize in order to gain access to them.

Sources: 
Mary T. Henry, “Tyree Scott (1940-2003),” HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, http://www.historylink.org/ ; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District form 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Chavis, John (1763-1838)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Chavis, early 19th Century minister and teacher, was the first African American to graduate from a college or university in the United States. Chavis was born on October 18, 1763.  His place of birth is debated by historians.  Some scholars think that Chavis hailed from the West Indies.  Others believe that he was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, or that he was born in North Carolina.  Available records document that Chavis was a free African American who probably worked for Halifax, Virginia attorney James Milner beginning in 1773.   It is likely that Chavis utilized the books in Milner’s extensive law library to educate himself.  
Sources: 
Helen Chavis Othow, John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor 1783-1838, Mentor (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2001); William S. Powell, Ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 1, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), John Chavis Letters, #2014, 1889-1892; Wilson Library Manuscripts Department , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; John Chavis Biography, North Carolina State University Division of Archives and History, http://www.ncsu.edu/ligon/about/history/chavis.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Johnson C. Smith University

Patterson, William L. (1891-1980)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Steve Trussel
William L. Patterson, born in San Francisco on August 27th, 1891, was a Marxist lawyer, author, and civil rights activist. His mother had been born a slave on a Virginia plantation in 1850 and lived there until she was ten. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, Patterson’s mother was liberated and sent west to California, where she met James Edward Patterson, William’s father. Although his family was forced to move from home to home and often struggled with poverty, William L. Patterson managed to graduate from Tamalpais High School at the age of 20 in 1911. Patterson then attended the University of California on and off until he was forced to leave because of irregular attendance.

In 1915, Patterson enrolled at the Hastings College of Law of the University of California in San Francisco. While attending law school, Patterson began to read The Crisis, the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and became interested in various Marxist and Socialist publications such as The Masses, and The Messenger. After graduating from Hastings with a law degree in 1919, Patterson joined the NAACP.
Sources: 
William L. Patterson, The Man Who Cried Genocide (New York: International Publishers, 1991); Spartacus Educational, William L. Patterson Bio. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USApattersonW.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McClendon, Rose (1884-1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Rose McClendon was an African American actress born in South Carolina in 1884.  McClendon’s original name was Rosalie Virginia Scott.  Her parents were Sandy and Tena Scott.  In 1890 McClendon’s parents worked for a well established family as a housekeeper and coachman in New York City.  McClendon received her education through the public schools in New York where acting became her main focus of interest.

In October 1904 Scott married Henry Pruden McClendon who was trained as a chiropractor but who could only find work as a Pullman porter.  Together they moved from lower Manhattan to Harlem where McClendon was actively involved in the St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church often using her theatrical talent. 

After studying by scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts between 1916 and 1918, McClendon gave her first stage performance in 1919 in the play, Justice.  She would eventually perform in other productions including In Abraham’s Bosom, Porgy and Bess, and Deep River.  Along with McClendon’s acting and directing in 1935 she and Dick Campbell created the Negro People’s Theatre. 

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

Fuller, Thomas (1710–1790)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Thomas Fuller, often called “the Virginia Calculator,” was born in 1710, somewhere between the “Slave Coast” of West Africa (present-day Liberia) and the Kingdom of Dahomey (modern-day Benin).  When the pre-colonial scramble for slaves replaced the earlier trade in gold, Fuller was snatched from his native land, sold as a slave, and brought to Colonial America in 1724, at age 14. Although considered “illiterate” because he could not read and write in English, he consistently demonstrated an unusual talent for solving complex math problems in his head. Northern Virginia planters, Presley and Elizabeth Cox, both of whom were also “illiterate,” quickly recognized his surprising abilities and put them to use in every phase of the management of their 232-acre plantation farm, about four miles from Alexandria, Virginia.
Sources: 
“Thomas Fuller Obituary,” Columbian Centinial, December 29, 1790; Gary B. Nash, Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720-1840 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991); Robin Walker (Author) and John Matthews (Contributor), African Mathematics: History, Textbook and Classroom Lessons (Minneapolis: Create Space Publishing, 2014); http://www.csmonitor.com/1980/0212/021207.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Redding, Otis (1941-1967)

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

Otis Redding was one of the great American soul singers, who, although only enjoying a short career due to his early death in a plane crash at the age of 26, has been described as the embodiment of soul and one of the most important cultural icons of the civil rights movement.

Otis Ray Redding, Jr., son of sharecropper Otis Redding, Sr., and Fannie Mae Redding, was born on September 9, 1941, the fourth child of six, near Dawson, Georgia.  The next year the family moved to Macon, Georgia. From an early age Otis’s passion lay in music, drawing inspiration from fellow Macon entertainer Little Richard Penniman.  By the time he was ten Redding was singing with a choir at Vineville Baptist Church and playing drums in a gospel group.  At age eleven Redding participated in a local talent show, eventually winning 15 monthly contests in a row.

In 1958 at the age of 17 Redding started his professional singing career.  He briefly toured with the “Pat Tea Cake” band before forming his own band, “The Pinetoppers” in 1959, with well known Macon guitarist Johnny Jenkins. The Pinetoppers performed Elvis Presley songs and country music songs in the Macon area.  They also toured on the “Chitlin’ circuit,” a network of black nightclubs throughout the Southeast and the white frat house circuit across the Deep South.

Sources: 

Scott Freeman, Otis!: The Otis Redding Story (New York:  St. Martin's
Griffin Press, 2001); Rhino Records, Los Angeles, Otis!: the definitive
Otis Redding
[sound recording], (1993).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Campbell, Jr. George (1945– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Physicist George Campbell Jr. was born on December 2, 1945, in Richmond, Virginia, to Lilia and George Campbell. George’s parent divorced when he was in elementary school. Because of the disappearance of his father’s financial support and his mother’s low-paying domestic job, Campbell grew up in dire poverty. After the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Campbell was labeled a “disruptive” child and often got in trouble in class and with the police. But his mother was convinced that he acted out because he was bored by unchallenging schoolwork, so she had him apply for the gifted students’ program at Philadelphia’s Central High School. He was accepted and was exposed to a whole new caliber of academics.

It was there that Campbell met representatives from Bell Telephone Laboratories, who visited the school to give science demonstrations to encourage students to consider careers in science and technology. Campbell was fascinated by these demonstrations, and when he won the four-year Simon Guggenheim Scholarship in 1963 (which would pay tuition and fees at the university of his choice), he decided to attend Drexel University to pursue a degree in engineering.
Sources: 
James K. Kessler, Distinguished African American Scientists of the 20th Century, (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996); Jonah Kokodyniak, “George Campbell Jr. PhD, Board of Trustees,” Institute of International Education, http://www.iie.org/en/Who-We-Are/Governance/Board-of-Trustees/george-campbell-jr; “George Campbell Jr. Biography,” The HistoryMakers, May 17, 2001, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/george-campbell-jr.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sun Ra (Le Sony’r Ra) (1914-1993)

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

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

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

Bonga, George (1802–1880)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of William L. Katz"
George Bonga was a 19th century fur trader of black and Native American heritage.  He lived along the shores of Lake Superior, one of the Midwestern Great Lakes. Fluent in French, English, and Native American languages, Bonga served as an interpreter during Indian-U.S. negotiations and worked for the American Fur Company before establishing his own trading post.

Bonga was born on August 20, 1802 near the present-day city of Duluth, Minnesota. His grandparents were Marie Jeanne and Jean Bonga, who as slaves lived at the prominent fur trading depot of Fort Michilimackinac in the northern Michigan territory. George’s father Pierre Bonga travelled to Minnesota as a fur trader and married Ogibwayquay of the Native American Ojibwe nation.  Bonga was educated in Montreal, Canada and returned to Minnesota to carry on the family business along with his two brothers.

In 1820, Bonga used his language fluency to serve as interpreter for Lewis Cass, Governor of Michigan Territory, at a treaty council held in Fond du Lac territory with the Ojibwe. In 1868, he again served as interpreter for Indian agent Joel Bean Bassett in negotiations with the Mississippi Band of Ojibwe at White Earth in Minnesota.  And in 1837, he tracked suspected murderer Che-ga-wa-skung for six days and brought him to Fort Snelling for trial.

Sources: 
“Letters of George Bonga,” Journal of Negro History 12 (1927): 41–54; June Drenning, “Black Pioneers of the Northwest,” Negro Digest 8:(1950): 65–67; Charles Flandreau, “Reminiscences of Minnesota During the Territorial Period,” in Hiram Stevens, ed., History of the Bench and Bar of Minnesota, (Los Angeles: Commercial Printing House, 1901); Kenneth Wiggins Porter, The Negro on the American Frontier (New York: Arno Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell (1898-1989)

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

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

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

Metcalfe, Ralph Harold (1910-1978)

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

Ralph Metcalfe, was an outstanding U.S. sprinter, track coach, and politican born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in Chicago, Illinois. During Metcalfe’s years as a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1932 through 1934, he was arguably the world’s fastest human. His strong finishes earned him four Olympic medals (gold, 2 silver, and bronze), eight Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles, and six National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles from 1932 through 1936. Perhaps Metcalfe’s most interesting moments in track were not his wins but his virtual dead heat second place finishes in the 100 meter dash at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles, California and Berlin, Germany to rivals Eddie Tolan and Jesse Owens, respectively.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Ambar, Malik (1548--1626)

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

Raines, Franklin (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Benjamin Mchie
Franklin Raines was born in Seattle on January 14, 1949, and graduated from Franklin High School in Seattle.  From here, he went to Harvard and graduated in 1971 with a B.A. in Government.  He was awarded the prestigious Rhodes scholarship and attended Oxford University for two years, returning to Harvard to earn a law degree in 1976.

Raines was hired into President Carter’s administration as the assistant director of the White House Domestic Policy Staff.  When Carter lost his reelection bid, Raines was hired as an investment banker by a Wall Street company.  He moved on to become the vice chairman at Fannie Mae.  After five years, President Clinton asked him to return to government work, and Raines accepted a decrease in salary of more than $300,000 to become the director of the Office of Management and Budget where he worked to find compromises in the budget process between the Democratic executive and the Republican Congress.
Sources: 
Charles Whitaker, “Franklin Raines: First Black Head of a Fortune 500 Corporation,” Ebony, April 2001, p. 106-112; Alton Hornsby, Jr. & Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders, p.175-176.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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

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

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

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

Saddler, Joseph/Grandmaster Flash (1958 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although he will more than likely be remembered best for releasing “The Message,” the first rap song to delve into social commentary about the plight of African Americans in the inner-city, Grandmaster Flash was also the original technological virtuoso of the early hip-hop movement to emerge from the Bronx borough of New York in the 1970s. A child of Barbadian immigrants, Flash was driven by the mechanical imperfections of his immediate predecessors’ equipment to create new, home-made mixing tools. Along with his technological savvy, an obsessive drive for rhythmic perfection led him to essentially create the art form of ‘turntablism,’ the use of the record player as a musical instrument.

Beginning in 1977, Grandmaster Flash began to make his name in the Bronx for the wide range of technological tricks he used to electrify the party. Though DJ Kool Herc was the first to loop the percussive break-beat of a record, his technique was, in Sadler’s mind, sloppy and lacked precision in terms of keeping time with the rhythm of the beat. Flash created a cross-fader to improve upon Herc’s innovations, dubbing his style the “Quick Mix Theory,” which also incorporated a virtuoso 13-year-old named Grand Wizard Theodore’s technique of scratching a record back and forth for musical effect. As well, Flash’s routine also utilized a new electronic percussion machine called the beatbox to great effect.
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., 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gordon, Walter Arthur (1894-1976)

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

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

Yerby, Frank G. (1916-1991)

Vignette Type: 
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

Sampson, Edith Spurlock (1901-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Looby, Z. Alexander (1899-1972)

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

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

Gaines, Ernest James (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ernest J. Gaines was born on January 15, 1933 on River Lake Plantation near Oscar, Louisiana, in Point Coupee Parish.  His parents, Manuel and Adrienne worked as sharecroppers on the same plantation their ancestors had labored as slaves. Ernest was the oldest of seven children Adrienne had with Manuel Gaines, who abandoned the family in 1941 when Ernest was eight years old.  Adrienne would remarry and have five more children with her new husband, Raphael Norbert Colar, Sr.

In 1948, at the age of fifteen, Gaines moved from southern Louisiana’s bayou country to Vallejo, California to join his mother and stepfather, who had relocated to California after World War II in search of work.  In California, Gaines took advantage of educational opportunities he had been denied in Louisiana and graduated from high school in 1951.  After graduation from Vallejo Junior College in 1953 Gaines was drafted into the U.S. Army where he spent the next two years serving in both the U.S. and Guam.
Sources: 
Karen Carmean, Ernest J. Gaines: A Critical Companion (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998); Valerie Melissa Babb, Ernest Gaines (Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers, 1991); http://www.louisiana.edu/Academic/LiberalArts/ENGL/Creative/Gaines.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Innis, Roy (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Roy Emile Alfredo Innis is the current National Director of the Congress for Racial Equality. He is a controversial civil rights activist whose conservative stance on many issues continues to draw national attention.
Sources: 
"Roy Innis." Congress Of Racial Equality. 2008. http://www.core-online.org/Staff/roy.htm; Harlem Commonwealth Council Incorporated History. Isaiah Robinson, Founding Member. 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hill, Peter (1767-1820)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Peter Hill, a clockmaker, was born on July 19, 1767 in the Burlington Township, New Jersey.  He is assumed to be the son of slaves owned by a clockmaker named Joseph Hollinshead, Jr.  Peter Hill grew up in the Hollinshead household and as he grew older was allowed to learn clock making from his master in order to assist Hollinshead in his store.  In 1794, Hollinshead manumitted Peter who was 27.  His freedom was certified the following year in an official court document. 

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

Avant, Nicole (1968- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Ambassador Nicole Avant and Husband ted Sarandos at
Golden Globe Awards, Los Angeles, January 2014
"Image Ownership: Pubilc Domain"
Nicole Avant served a two-year term as U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas from 2009 to 2011. President Barack Obama nominated her for the position in 2009 and after U.S. Senate confirmation, Hilary Clinton, then Secretary of State, swore her into office on September 9, 2009.  Avant arrived in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, and presented her credentials on October 22, 2009.

Avant, born on March 6, 1968, is the daughter of Clarence Avant and Jacqueline Avant, both veterans of the music recording industry.  She graduated from California State University Northridge with a B.A. in communications in 1984.  Soon afterwards she joined A&M Records in Los Angeles and worked in its promotions division until 1998 when she was named Vice President of Interior Music Publishing. Avant was also an actress who had appeared in television shows such as JAG, Moesha and the Bernie Mac Show.  
Sources: 
“Nicole Avant Biography,” http://nicoleavant.com/, 2012; Noel Brinkerhoff, “Ambassador to the Bahamas: Who is Nicole Avant?”  ALLGOV: Everything our Government Really Does, http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassador-to-bahamas-who-is-nicole-avant?news=839309 August 3, 2009; Josh Rogin, “Another Obama Fundraiser Turns Out to be a Bad Ambassador,” The Cable: Reporting on the Foreign Policy Machine, http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/02/23/another-obama-fundraiser-turns-out-to-be-a-bad-ambassador/  February 23rd, 2012, “Obama’s $500,000 Power Couple,” Hollywood Reporter, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/obama-ted-sarandos-netflix-nicole-avant-315830.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Joaquin Delta College

Ritchey, John Franklin (1923-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of Amy Essington"

John Ritchey integrated the Pacific Coast League, the AAA-level minor baseball league on the West Coast, when he played as a San Diego Padre in 1948. The second-generation baseball player was born in 1923, in San Diego, California and was the youngest of nine children. His father William played catcher and managed the San Diego Giants, a local African American team for which John served as batboy.

Ritchey played baseball at Memorial Junior High School and San Diego High School as an outfielder and then catcher. He also played on a local team for the American Legion, a youth baseball program. In 1938, the San Diego team went to the American Legion tournament finals in South Carolina. Tournament officials did not allow Ritchey and another black teammate, Nelson Manuel, to play. In 1941, the San Diego team returned to the finals, this time in North Carolina. Ritchey and Manual played in the semi-finals, integrating the league, but again officials prevented the pair from playing in the finals. After graduating from San Diego High School in 1941, Ritchey began his studies at San Diego State College.

Sources: 

Essington, Amy “Segregation, Race, and Baseball: The Integration of the Pacific Coast League, 1948-1952,” (PhD diss, Claremont Graduate University, 2009).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Mazrui, Ali Al’amin (1933–2014)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ali Al’amin Mazrui was a Kenyan intellectual in the fields of political science, African studies, and Islamic studies. The father of the African Liberalism ideology (an economic perspective on Africa critical of western powers and Marxism/Socialism) was an often controversial figure due largely to his favorable view of political Islam and staunch criticism of the state of Israel. Mazrui was the Albert Schweitzer professor in the Humanities and the director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York. Other notable positions include special advisor to the World Bank and president of the African Studies Association, an American organization.
Sources: 
Hatem Bazian, “An Intellectual Giant: Ali Mazrui (1933–2014),” Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera, October 18, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/10/an-intellectual-giant-ali-mazru-201410177120665454.html; “Ali Al'Amin Mazrui 1933–2014,” Africana, Cornell University, http://www.asrc.cornell.edu/people/mazrui.cfm; “Ali Mazrui—Biography,” Reform of Islamic Thought, International Institute of Islamic Thought, http://iiit.org/Research/IIIT%20Scholars/AliMazrui%20Biography/tabid/394/Default.aspx.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Eric Eustace (1911-1981)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Historian, educator, and politician Eric Eustace Williams was born in 1911 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to working class parents.  His family's struggles to survive economically introduced Williams to the brutal social and racial hierarchy of the British colony.  As an adult, he gave up a faculty position at Howard University to return to his homeland, eventually becoming its prime minister.
Sources: 
Colin A. Palmer, Eric Williams & the Making of the Modern Caribbean (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006); Selwyn D. Ryan, Eric Williams: The Myth and the Man (Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2009); Barbara L. Solow and Stanley L. Engerman, British Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery: The Legacy of Eric Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Palmer, Ben (c. 1817- 1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ben Palmer, pioneer 19th Century Nevada Territory rancher, was born in South Carolina sometime around 1817.  Little is known about Palmer's childhood background.  Palmer and his sister, Charlotte, who was married to white settler D.H. Barber, were among the first settlers in the Carson Valley near the present city of Reno.  Barber and Palmer were emigrants bound for California in the early 1850s.  Upon reaching the well-watered Carson Valley, they decided instead to settle and raise cattle that would be sold to other emigrants on the California Trail.

Palmer and his brother-in-law Barber made land claims of 320 acres and 400 acres respectively in 1853.  Their claims were side by side on the west side of the Carson Valley.  Palmer and Barber made their claims when the region was officially still part of Utah Territory.  Its capital, Salt Lake City, was 500 miles east which meant there was virtually no civil authority before they arrived.  
Sources: 
Untitled and Unpublished Manuscript by Elmer Rusco, historian at the University of Nevada, Reno; Elmer Rusco, Good Time Coming? Black Nevadans in the Nineteenth Century (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McRae, Carmen (1920-1994)

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

Knowles, Beyoncé Giselle (1981- )

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

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

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

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

Rose, Edward (c. 1780- c. 1833)

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

Edward Rose, also known by the names Five Scalps, Nez Coupe and “Cut Nose,” was the son of a white trader father and a Cherokee and African American mother.  Little else is known about his early life including where he was born. He may have spent some years working on the Mississippi River between southern Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana

Sources: 
Bruce E. Johansen and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997); Daniel F. Littlefield,   Cherokee Freedmen  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1978); Carl Waldman and Alan Wexler, "Rose, Edward," Encyclopedia of Exploration, Vol 1 (New York: Facts on File, Inc, 2004; LeRoy R. Hafen, ed., The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, Vol. IX (Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1966).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Brice, Carol (1918-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

Hayes, Ralph (1922-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ralph Hayes grew up poor in rural, segregated Cairo, Illinois, the fourth of twelve children. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and then transferred to the University of Washington, where he earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in political science. In 1950 he married Elaine Ishikawa, who was his wife for 49 years. As a couple they embraced local activism and joined the Christian Friends for Racial Equality where, as Editor-in-Chief of the newsletter, Ralph wrote about national civil rights news and Japanese American issues stemming from WWII.

In 1956 Hayes became the second African American academic teacher hired by Seattle School District. He taught history and government classes in public high schools for thirty years at West Seattle, Garfield and Franklin (in Seattle) and Newport (in Bellevue).  He also taught evenings at Edison Technical College and Bellevue Community College.  For eight summers beginning in 1966, Hayes was a teacher and later director of the Upward Bound program at the University of Washington.
Sources: 
Obituary by Carole Beers, Seattle Times, 5/13/99; Obituary by Judd Slivka, Seattle Post Intelligencer, 5/21/99; “Historians Honored with 1990 Governor’s Ethnic Heritage Awards,” Mark Boyar, Northwest Ethnic News, June 1990; Elaine Ishikawa Hayes statement in Mary Willix, ed., Remembering Ralph Hayes (Creative Forces Publishing, 2007); Mary Willix, Ibid.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gorden, General Fred (1940- )

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

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

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

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

Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins (1825-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A poet and essayist, Frances Ellen Watkins was born in Baltimore, Maryland 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.  
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

Calhoun, William Henry (1890–1967)

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

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

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

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

Still, William (1821-1902)

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

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

Frazier, Joe (1944-2011)

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

Joe Frazier, 20th Century heavyweight boxing champion, is principally known for his rivalry with fellow boxer Muhammad Ali.  Frazier was born on January 12, 1944 in Beaufort County, South Carolina. One of eleven children, he moved to New York when he was 15 years old to live with an older brother. Unable to find work, he relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he took up boxing to lose weight in late 1961. Exhibiting a knack for the game, Frazier began boxing as an amateur, and reigned as the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves heavyweight champion for three straight years. Hoping to make the 1964 U.S. Olympic team, he lost to Buster Mathis in the finals of the Olympic Trials, but was subsequently named the heavyweight representative when Mathis injured his hand.  Frazier won a gold medal by defeating the German heavyweight.

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

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

Lovick, John (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Snohomish County Sheriff's Office

John Lovick was born on May 9, 1951 in Shreveport, Louisiana to Mrs. Dorothy Lovick. He graduated from Allen High School in Shreveport and then studied for one year at Northwestern State College in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  At the age of 19, Lovick joined the U.S. Coast Guard, traveling to Alameda, California in the San Francisco Bay Area for boot camp. The company commander immediately selected him as assistant recruit commander and in 1970 Lovick arrived in Seattle stationed aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind.

In 1971, John Lovick attended the Coast Guard quartermaster and signalman schools in Newport, Rhode Island. On his first day, a supervisor selected him to serve as class president.  Lovick returned to Seattle to serve aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Wachusetts, a weather vessel.  In 1972, while in the Coast Guard, John Lovick married Debbie Miller.  The coupled had three children and remained married for 17 years.

Lovick continued to serve in the Coast Guard in the Seattle area.  He was stationed on Seattle’s Pier 91 from 1972 to 1974 where he conducted oil pollution investigations.  Lovick retired from the Coast Guard in 1971 as a petty officer second class.  On April 1, 1974, Lovick joined the Washington State Patrol.  Four years later he joined the Coast Guard Reserves, serving until 1983.  In 1980 John Lovick graduated from Shoreline Community College with an Associate Arts degree in Criminal Justice.  

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University, Seattle

Maynard, Robert C. (1937-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Nancy & Robert Maynard
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert C. Maynard, the first African American editor and owner of a major daily newspaper in the United States, was known as a trailblazing journalist who led efforts to desegregate newsrooms and educate minority students to pursue careers in journalism.

Maynard was born in 1937 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. He dropped out of high school when he was 16 to work as a freelance writer for newspapers including the black weekly, The New York Age. He landed his first journalism job in 1961, when he joined The York Gazette and Daily in York, Pennsylvania. Five years later, he received a prestigious Nieman fellowship to Harvard University then served as a national correspondent, ombudsman, and editorial writer for The Washington Post.

In 1979, Maynard became editor of The Oakland (California) Tribune, which had been called “the second worst newspaper in the United States.” But he quickly turned it around and purchased the paper in 1983, making him the first African American to own a major metropolitan newspaper. The Tribune subsequently won hundreds of awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Maynard also received dozens of awards, including eight honorary doctorates and the Elijah Parish Lovejoy award, named for the abolitionist who was killed by a pro-slavery mob in Illinois in 1837.
Sources: 
Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education; Bruce Lambert, “Robert C. Maynard, 56, Publisher Who Helped Minority Journalists,” The New York Times, August 19, 1993; Alice Carol Bonner, Changing the Color of the News: Robert Maynard and the Desegregation of Daily Newspapers (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Williams, Bisa (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Bisa Williams was a career member of the Foreign Service of the United States Department of State. She was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2010 to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Niger.  After Senate confirmation, she headed the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger from 2010 to 2013.

Williams was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1954. Her father Dr. Paul T. Williams was a surgeon while her mother Eloise Owens Williams was a professor of Social Work at the College of New Jersey. Williams’s sister Ntozake Shange is known for writing her award winning 1976 Broadway play, “for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf.” Williams’s other sister, Ifa Bayeza, who is also a playwright, wrote a multi-generational novel, Some Sing, Some Cry, with Shange in 2010.
Sources: 
Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, "Ambassador to Niger: Who Is Bisa Williams?" AllGov, http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassador-to-niger-who-is-bisa-williams?news=842021; Fletcher Forum. "An Interview with U.S. Ambassador to Niger Bisa Williams, "Fletcher Forum of World Affairs RSS. http://www.fletcherforum.org/2013/06/13/ambassadorwilliams; U.S. Department of State, "Williams, Bisa." U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/bureau/218235.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bass, Karen (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Karen Bass Entering the California Assembly Chamber to
Become the Next Speaker, March 13, 2008
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Congressmember Karen Bass was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2011 following a successful six-year post as a California Assemblymember. As Representative of California’s 37th district, Bass spearheads initiatives specifically designed to reform the foster care system and U.S.-African relations. Prior to her congressional election, Bass made history when she was selected California Assembly’s 67th Speaker and became the first African American woman in U.S. History to earn this prestigious position in any government branch. In addition, she stands as the first black woman elected speaker in California.

Born on October 3, 1953 to Dewitt and Wilhelmina Bass, Karen grew up in the Venice-Fairfax district of Los Angeles. After graduating from Hamilton High School, Bass attended the newly constructed California State University branch at Dominguez Hills and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences. Bass then studied to become a Physician’s Assistant at the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine, and later, went on to earn a position as a Physician’s Assistant, nurse, and instructor at the university’s medical center.

Sources: 

Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass-California State Assembly Democratic Caucus, “Biography,” http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/A47/biography.htm (Accessed September 5, 2008); Karen Bass Speaker of the Assembly, http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/speaker/default.aspx (Accessed September 11, 2008); Nancy Vogel, “Assembly Speaker Sworn In; L.A. Democrat Karen Bass, The First Black Woman To Hold The Post, Says She'll Focus On The budget Crisis,” Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2008, pg. B3; Jim Sanders and Shane Goldmacher, “L.A.’s Bass to Become New Assembly Leader,” Sacramento Bee, February 28, 2008.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Dickinson College

Krystian Legierski (1978– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Krystian Legierski, an LGBT activist, politician, lawyer, and entrepreneur, is the first openly gay person elected to public office in Poland. He was born on April 22, 1978, in the village of Koniakow in southwestern Poland. His mother is Polish and his father is from Mauritania. Legierski, known for his progressive political and social views, frequently discusses being brought up by his religious mother and grandmother in a traditionally conservative community. He notes, however, that both his family and his community have always been supportive of him. He graduated from the Faculty of Law and Administration at the University of Warsaw.
Sources: 
Krystian Legierski’s profile at the Warsaw City Council, http://www.radawarszawy.um.warszawa.pl/archiwum/rada/radni/Legierski/Strony/profil.aspx; Katarzyna Surmiak-Domanska, “Goral i Madame,” Gazeta Wyborcza - Du?y Format, January 1, 2006, reprint at: http://www.e-teatr.pl/pl/artykuly/20154,druk.html; Krystian Legierski’s official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Krystian.Legierski/timeline.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Washington, Walter Edward (1915-2003)

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

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

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

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

Swanson, Howard (1907-1978)

Vignette Type: 
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

Harold, Erika (1980- )

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

Harold was 22 years old when she won the title of Miss America. She did not enter the pageant circuit until she was 18 years old. Soon after she was crowned, Harold adopted a dual platform “Preventing Youth Violence and Bullying" and “Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself.”  The latter topic encouraged sexual abstinence and refraining from engaging in drug and alcohol abuse.
Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Nikitta Foston, “Miss America Takes a Stand on Abstinence and Bullying,” Ebony, March 2003, p.165;  Lara Riscol, "Miss America’s Stealth Virility Campaign,” Salon.com, October 28, 2002; http://missamerica.org/; Emily Cahn, "Ann Callis, Rodney Davis to Face Off in Targeted Illinois District," Roll Call, March 18, 2014, http://www.rollcall.com/news/ann-callis-rodney-davis-illinois-primary.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Morrow, Everett Frederic (1909-1994)

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

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

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

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

Cuffe, Paul, Jr. (?-?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Paul Cuffe was born into a Pequot family that had intermarried with freed or escaped slaves in New England. His father, Paul Cuffe, Sr., became known for his attempt to begin an African American colony in Sierra Leone.  Paul Cuffe, Jr., made his living as a whaling harpooner and probably came to know Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick and other works.  It is probable that Melville modeled his character Queequeg, the aboriginal harpooner, after the younger Cuffe.
Sources: 
Bruce E. Johansen and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography (New York: Da Capo Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York, Buffalo

Browne, Hugh Mason (1851-1923)

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

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

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

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

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

Ragsdale, Lincoln J., Sr. (1926-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Lincoln J. Ragsdale, Sr. was a leading activist in the battle for civil rights in Arizona.  After graduating from Tuskegee flying school in Alabama in 1945, he relocated to Luke Air Field in Litchfield Park, Arizona, becoming one of the first black pilots to serve at that installation.  

Ragsdale believed that it was his “Tuskegee experience” that emboldened him and gave him direction.  “It gave me a whole new self-image,” he maintained.  He “remembered when we [Tuskegee Airmen] used to walk through black neighborhoods right after the war, and little kids would run up to us and touch our uniforms.  ‘Mister, can you really fly an airplane’ they’d ask.  The Tuskegee airmen gave blacks a reason to be proud.”  Their service also gave the 2.5 million black veterans of World War II incentive to believe that they could achieve much more in their communities and the nation.
Sources: 
Matthew C. Whitaker, Race Work: The Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West  (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005); Lincoln Ragsdale, Sr., interview by Mary Melcher, April 8, 1990, Phoenix.  Tape recording. Arizona Historical Foundation, Hayden Library, Arizona State University, Tempe; Lincoln Ragsdale, Sr. and Eleanor Ragsdale. Interview by Dean E. Smith, April 4 and November 3, 1990, Phoenix. Transcript. Arizona Collection, Hayden Library, Arizona State University, Tempe.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Scott, Harriet Robinson (ca. 1820-1876)

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

Brown, Ronald H. (1941-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Alma Brown Interview:  http://www.idvl.org/thehistorymakers/Bio484.html; Stephen A. Holmes, Ron Brown:  An Uncommon Life (New York:  Wiley & Sons, 2001); Tracey L. Brown, The Life and Times of Ron Brown (Pittsburgh:  William Morrow, 1998); Godfrey Hodgson, “Obituary:  Ron Brown,”  The Independent (April 5, 1996); Cheryl McCullers, “A Natural Born Leader,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin (Nov. 2000) http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0011/rbrown.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Gayleatha Beatrice (1947-2013)

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

Clemente, Roberto (Walker) (1934-1972)

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

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

Abernathy, Ralph (1926-1990)

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

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

St. Clair, Stephanie (1886–1969)

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

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

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

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Davis, Belva (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Award-winning broadcast journalist and author Belva Davis made history in 1966 when she was hired by San Francisco, California’s Channel 5, KPIX-TV, becoming the first female African American television news reporter on the West Coast.  

Born Belvagene Melton on October 13, 1932 in Monroe, Louisiana, she was the oldest of five children born to John Melton, a sawmill worker, and Florence Howard Melton, a laundress. When she was eight years old her family moved to Oakland, California to live with relatives. John Melton worked as a carpenter for the Navy, and Florence Melton was hired by Southern Pacific Railroad to polish silver for SP’s dining cars. In the late 1940s the Melton family purchased a house in Berkeley. Melton was the first in her family to earn a high school diploma, graduating from Berkeley High School in 1951.

Although Melton considered college, the family’s finances forced her to get a job at the Oakland Naval Supply Center as a typist. On January 1, 1952, at age nineteen, she got married. Two children, Darolyn and Steven, were born to her and husband Frank Davis, but the marriage faltered.
Sources: 
Wanda Sabir, “Belva Davis: ‘Never in my wildest dreams’ – What a night to remember,” San Francisco Bay View, March 7, 2013; http://www.mediabistro.com/So-What-Do-You-Do-Belva-Davis-Pioneering-Broadcast-Journalist-TV-Host-and-Author-a12154.html; http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/belva-davis-40.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Franklin, John Hope (1915--2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Hope Franklin
with Young Fan
Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Hope Franklin, one of the nation's leading historians, is the only African American who has served as president of both the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH).

Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma on January 2, 1915 to parents Buck, a Tulsa attorney, and Mollie Franklin. He recalled growing up in Tulsa, in a Jim Crow society that stifled his senses and damaged his “emotional health and social well being.” While his family was in Rentiesville, Buck Franklin not only survived the June 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, but also successfully sued the city. This suit, before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, overturned a Tulsa ordinance which prevented the city’s blacks from rebuilding their destroyed community.

Sources: 

John Hope Franklin, Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005); August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, Black Historians and the Historical Profession 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986; and John Hope Franklin, “The Dilemma of the American Negro Scholar,” in Herbert Hill, ed., Soon, One Morning: New Writing by American Negroes, 1940-1962 (New York: Knopf, 1963); Biography of John Hope Franklin, http://www.fhi.duke.edu/about/john-hope-franklin.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Esposito, Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro (1958– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro Esposito is a Danish-American actor and director best known for his portrayal of Gustavo “Gus” Fring on the AMC TV series Breaking Bad, for which he won the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama award and was nominated for an outstanding Supporting Actor in Drama Series award at the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards. He is also well known for his roles in Spike Lee films:  School Daze, Do the Right Thing, and Mo' Better Blues.

Esposito was born on April 26, 1958, in Copenhagen, Denmark, to an Italian father, Giovanni Esposito, and African-American mother, Elizabeth Foster. His mother was an opera and nightclub singer from Alabama; his father was a stagehand and carpenter from Naples, Italy. Esposito was raised in Europe until the age of six when his family relocated to Manhattan, New York. He attended Elizabeth Seton College in New York and received a two-year degree in radio and television communications.

Sources: 
“Giancarlo Esposito,” Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002064/; “Giancarlo Esposito,” All Movie, http://www.allmovie.com/artist/p22133; “Giancarlo Esposito,” Encyclopedia, http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/film-and-television-biographies/giancarlo-esposito.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bluford, Lucile (1911-2003)

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

Walker, Wyatt Tee (1929- )

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

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

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

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

Rawlings, Jerry (1947- )

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

"Jerry J. Rawlings," Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009; Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 07 Jun. 2009 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/492337/Jerry-J-Rawlings; Kevin Shillington, Ghana and the Rawlings Factor (New York: St Martin's Press, 1992).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McKenzie, Vashti Murphy (1947- )

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

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

Tanner, Henry Ossawa (1859-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

The first African American artist to gain international notoriety, Henry Ossawa Tanner, the son of a prominent cleric, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 21, 1859.  At age 13, inspired by an artist painting a landscape in a local park, he committed himself to a career in art despite his father’s initial discouragement.  Entering the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1879, he was influenced by the revered painter, Thomas Eakins, and developed his own introspective, empathetic realist style.  For quite some time Tanner had wanted to work in Europe where there was greater racial tolerance and where he could expand his artistic horizons, but his modest success as an artist in Philadelphia and as a photographer in Atlanta, Georgia, prevented him from earning enough money to cover his transportation costs to cross the Atlantic.   

Sources: 
Notable Black American Men Vol. 1. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1999; American National Biography Vol. 21. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.  Internet Site: http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/tanner_henry_ossawa.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Desdunes, Rodolphe Lucien (1849-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes was a prominent editor, author, and civil rights activist from New Orleans, Louisiana.  He is best known for his work in Plessy v. Ferguson, the most important civil rights case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 19th Century, and a book he authored about the history and culture of Creoles in Louisiana. 

Desdunes was born November 15, 1849 in New Orleans.  His father was a Haitian exile, and his mother was Cuban.  Desdunes came from a family that owned a tobacco plantation and manufactured cigars.  He was a law student at Straight University in the early 1870s.  He also worked for the United States Customs House in New Orleans first as a messenger from 1879 to 1885, and as a clerk from 1891 to 1894, and again from 1899 to 1912.

Sources: 
Sharlene Sinegal DeCuir, Attacking Jim Crow: Black Activism in New Orleans 1925-1942 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2009); Rebecca J. Scott, “The Atlantic World and the Road to Plessy v. Ferguson,” The Journal of American History 94:3 (December 2007); Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes, Our People and Our History: Fifty Creole Portraits (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1973).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Granger, Lester Blackwell (1896-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lester Blackwell Granger was a social worker and civil rights and labor rights activist best known for leading the National Urban League (NUL) from 1941 to 1961.  Granger was born on September 16, 1896, in Newport News, Virginia, to William “Ran” Randolph and Mary Louise Granger; William, a Barbadian immigrant, was a medical doctor.  Determined to live in a racially-tolerant community where educational opportunities were available to black people, the Grangers raised Lester and his five brothers in Newark, New Jersey.  Lester Granger earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1918 after serving in the US Army as artillery lieutenant during World War I.
Sources: 
http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/about/blogs/african-american-studies-beinecke-library/2010/09/01/lester-blackwell-granger-papers; http://ivy50.com/blackhistory/story.aspx?sid=2/5/2007; http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_granger_lester_blackwell/; Susan Altman and Joel Kemelhor, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage (New York: Checkmark Books, 2001); Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African American Experience (New York: Perseus, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Hrabowski, Freeman A., III (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the University of Maryland,
Baltimore

Influential educational leader Freeman A. Hrabowski III has occupied many roles in his life, as a child civil rights activist in the 1960s, as professor, as university president, as philanthropist, and as consultant.  He was born on August 13, 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama to parents Maggie G. and Freeman A. Hrabowski II, who were both teachers. 

Sources: 
Biography of Freeman Hrabowski III, The History Makers, 21 July 2003, available at http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/freeman-hrabowski-39; Byron Pitts, “Hrabowski: An Educator Focused on Math and Science,” 60 Minutes, 13 November 2011, available at http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57319098/hrabowski-an-educator-focused-on-math-and-science/; http://president.umbc.edu/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Crogman, William H. (1841-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William H. Crogman was born on the West Indian island of St. Martin’s in 1841.  At age 12 he was orphaned; by age 14, he took to the sea with B.L. Bommer where he received an informal but international education as he traveled to such places as Europe, Asia, and South America. After the urging of Mr. Bommer, in 1868 he entered Pierce Academy in Massachusetts.  Throughout his schooling experience he was an exceptional and advanced student.  At Pierce he was considered the top student as he mastered in one quarter what usually took students two quarters to complete. Later as a student of Latin at Atlanta University, he completed the four-year curriculum in three years.

Sources: 
William H. Crogman Talks for the Times (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Thompson, John Edward West (1855-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Edward West Thompson was an African American non-career diplomat. He served as U.S. Minister Resident/Consul General to Haiti from June 30, 1885 to October 17, 1889. Thompson simultaneously served as U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) from 1885 to 1889.

John E. W. Thompson was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1855, but moved with his family to Providence, Rhode Island in 1865.  He received his early education in public schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  In 1883 Thompson graduated with “high honors” from Yale Medical School.  He married a woman from New Haven, Connecticut, known only as “Miss McLinn.” He and his new bride traveled to Paris, France where he pursued medical studies and became proficient in the French language. In 1884, Thompson returned to New York City and began his medical practice.
Sources: 
U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/thompson-john-e-w; Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hayden, Harriet (c.1820-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hayden House
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
National Park Service
Harriet Bell Hayden and her husband, Lewis Hayden (c.1811-1889), escaped slavery in Kentucky in 1844, traveling first to Ohio, then Michigan and finally settling in Massachusetts, where they became active abolitionists in Boston.  In addition to caring for their two children, Joseph and Elizabeth, Harriet ran a boarding house out of their home at 66 Phillips Street, while Lewis ran a successful clothing store.  

The Hayden home also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad and is now listed as a national historic site. In 1850, they assisted a fugitive slave couple, William and Ellen Craft, who had escaped from Georgia, protecting them from slave catchers on the prowl in Boston as a result of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  Lewis also led in the well-publicized rescue of Shadrach Minkins in 1851 from a Boston courthouse.  After Harriet died, part of the Hayden estate was donated to Harvard University to start a scholarship fund for African American students.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); 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

Kelly, Sharon Pratt Dixon (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sharon Pratt Dixon was born on January 30, 1944 in Washington, D.C. to parents Carlisle Pratt and Mildred (Petticord) Pratt.  Carlisle was a Washington, D.C. Superior Court Judge.  Mildred Pratt died of breast cancer when Sharon was four years old.  Pratt’s father played a major role in her life by instilling certain values and encouraging her commitment to public service.  Sharon Pratt attended public schools in Washington, D.C. and graduated with honors from Roosevelt High School in 1961. 

Although she initially wanting to pursue an acting career, her father persuaded Pratt to attend Howard University where in 1965 she received a B.A. degree in Political Science.  She then enrolled in Howard University’s School of Law.  While in law school, she married Arrington Dixon in 1966 who later became a Washington, D.C. city councilmember.  In 1968 Dixon earned her law degree and gave birth to their first daughter, Aimee Arrington Dixon.  A second daughter, Drew Arrington Dixon, was born in 1970. 
Sources: 
Jessie Carnie Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.exploredc.org/index.php?id=288; http://www.worldbook.com/features/whm/html/skelly.html; http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/kelly8.html
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Taylor, Hobart Jr. (1920-1981)

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

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

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

Roach, Maxwell Lemuel "Max" (1924–2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Drummer, composer, and percussionist Max Roach was noted for his innovative contrapuntal polyrhythms, and was one of the founders of the bebop movement in jazz. He is widely considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, able to keep separate simultaneous rhythms going with each hand, revolutionizing jazz drumming. He played on many of the most famous jazz recordings, including “Jazz at Massey Hall” with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Bud Powell, and “Birth of the Cool” with Miles Davis. He worked with other icons of jazz including Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown, Thelonious Monk, singer Dinah Washington, and free jazz saxophonist Anthony Braxton.  His work spanned a remarkable six decades.

Roach was born in Newland, North Carolina on January 10, 1924, and moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York when he was four. His mother was a gospel singer, and he played in orchestras and bands while in school, studying at the Manhattan School of Music. He was still a student when he played for three nights with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, filling in for an ill Sonny Greer. By 1944 Roach was performing at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Coleman Hawkins, and was the drummer on one of the first bebop recordings.

Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); David Rosenthal, Hard Bop and Black Music, 1955-1965 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Scott DeVeaux, The Birth of BeBop: A Social and Musical History (Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1997); http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/ .
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lester, William Alexander (Bill), III (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Veteran auto racer Bill Lester was born February 6, 1961, in Washington, D.C. Lester earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984 and worked at Hewlett-Packard for a year before becoming a race car driver.

Lester became a professional driver when in 1985 he entered and won the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Series Northern California Region Rookie of the Year title.  One year later he won the SCCA GT-3 Regional Road Racing Championship.  In 1989, Lester began racing in the International Motor Sports Association's (IMSA) GTO Series and several other sports car series in the United States.

Lester has raced in all three divisions of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR): the Craftsman Truck Series, Busch (now Nationwide) Series, and the premier series, the Sprint (formerly Nextel) Series. Between 1998 and 2001 he raced in the SCCA Trans-Am Series and in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

In 1999, Lester entered his first NASCAR competition, a race at Watkins Glen, New York, in the Busch Grand National Series. He started in the 24th position, and moved into the top ten before finishing 21st. Then in 2000, Lester competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.  He started at 31st and finished in the 24th position.
Sources: 
Sonia Alleyn and T.R. Witche, "The New Face of NASCAR," Black Enterprise Magazine (April 2004); http://www.billlester.com/index.php?page=bio
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Murray, George Washington (1853–1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

South Carolina Congressman George Washington Murray was born near Rembert, Sumter County, South Carolina, on September 22, 1853 to slave parents. He attended public schools, the University of South Carolina, and the State Normal Institute at Columbia, where he graduated in 1876. After graduating, Murray taught school and worked as a lecturer for the Colored Farmers’ Alliance for 15 years. In 1890 he became an inspector of customs at the port of Charleston.  Two years later in 1892, Murray, a Republican, was elected to represent South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District which included Charleston. 

Murray took his seat in the Fifty-third Congress on March 4, 1893.  He immediately focused his efforts on protecting black voting rights in the South at a time when growing numbers of black voters were being excluded from the polls.  Murray was also a member of the Committee on Education.   He also took a seat on the Committee on Expenditures in the Treasury Department.

George W. Murray fought Jim Crow laws which undermined the efforts of black people to improve their status.  As a member of Congress he urged funding for the Cotton States and International Exhibition in Atlanta in 1895 to make the white South and the wider nation aware of black achievements. Ironically Booker T. Washington would become famous at that Exposition by criticizing the efforts of African American politicians like Murray to concentrate on voting rights. 

Sources: 
Bruce Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990);  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M001106; Biographical Directory of the George Washington Murray.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Miyamoto, Ariana (1994- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On March 12, 2015, Ariana Miyamoto became the first Miss Universe Japan of mixed-race descent. The beauty queen was born on May 12, 1994, the product of a brief marriage between an African American serviceman and a Japanese woman. Shortly after her birth, her father returned to America and she was raised by her mother’s side of the family in the southern port city of Sasebo, Japan.

Miyamoto and others of half-Japanese descent are commonly referred to as “hafus.” Because Japan is one of the most homogenous countries in the world, mixed-race people often encounter stigmatism. Miyamoto, for example, endured racism all throughout her childhood.  Some children refused to touch her, fearing that her black skin would “rub off” on them. Others mocked her, calling her “kurombo”-a derogatory term for people of color.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles Pierce College

Allen, Macon Bolling (1816-1894)

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

Macon Bolling Allen is believed to be the first black man in the United States who was licensed to practice law. Born Allen Macon Bolling in 1816 in Indiana, he grew up a free man.  Bolling learned to read and write on his on his own and eventually landed his first a job as a schoolteacher where he further refined his skills.

In the early 1840s Bolling moved from Indiana to Portland, Maine. There he changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen and became friends with local anti-slavery leader General Samuel Fessenden, who had recently begun a law practice.  Fessenden took on Allen as an apprentice/law clerk. By 1844 Allen had acquired enough proficiency that Fessenden introduced him to the Portland District court and stated that he thought Allen should be able to practice as a lawyer. He was refused on the grounds that he was not a citizen, though according to Maine law anyone “of good moral character” could be admitted to the bar. He then decided to apply for admission by examination. After passing the exam and earning his recommendation he was declared a citizen of Maine and given his license to practice law on July 3, 1844.

Sources: 

J. Clay Smith, Jr. Emancipation, (University of Pennsylvania Press: 1993); Allen, Macon Bolling(1816–1894) http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4102/Allen-Macon-Bolling-1816-1894.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mallett, Ronald (1945– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The theoretical physicist Ronald Mallett, known for his scientific position on the possibility of time travel, was born on March 3, 1945, in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania. When Mallett was only ten years old, his father died of a heart attack at the age of thirty-three. Because of this tragedy, Mallett was intrigued by physics and the idea of time travel as a possible way for him to go back in time and save his father. This idea was inspired by the 1895 science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, The Time Machine, which focused on the idea of a vehicle that could be operated to travel through time.

Following the death of his father, Mallett’s family plunged into poverty, causing them to suffer from problems with depression. Consequently, in school, Mallett was only an average student, except for electronics, English, and math where he excelled.

Sources: 
Tom Moroney, “A Physicist is Building a Time Machine to Reconnect with His Dead Father,” Bloomberg Business, March 27, 2015; Mary Kuhl, “A Circulating Beam of Light as a Way of Time Travel; Ronald Mallett’s Physics Career Grew from an Early Fascination with an Offbeat Concept,” The Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 2002; http://www.phys.uconn.edu/~mallett/MallettCV.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Patton, Georgia E.L. (1864-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Georgia E. L. Patton, "Brief Autobiography of a Colored Woman Who Has Recently Emigrated to Liberia," Liberia 3 (Nov. 1893); Mary Krane Derr, "Georgia E.L. Patton," in African American National Biography: Volume Six, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, ed. Alfreda M. Duster (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Marchbanks, Lucretia (1832–1911)

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

Lucretia Marchbanks, well-documented in western lore for her upright character and superb culinary talents, was one of the first African American women to venture into the Black Hills of South Dakota. Marchbanks was born enslaved on March 25, 1832 near Turkey Creek in Putnam County, Tennessee, the eldest of 13 children born to Edmund and Mary Marchbanks.

Courtesy Adams Museum, Deadwood, South Dakota

When Lucretia was 17, she and her younger brother William accompanied her new owners, Robert and Anne Marchbanks Martin, to Siskiyou County in California where Lucretia cared for the Martins’ growing family and William assisted with a livestock venture. She stayed on with the family after gaining her freedom in 1865 but in 1870 moved to Colorado to join her brothers Finley and Burr and sister Martha Ann “Mattie” Marchbanks.                      

Sources: 
Todd Guenther, “Lucretia Marchbanks: A Black Woman in the Black Hills,” South Dakota History 31 (Spring 2001): 1–25; Lilah Morton Pengra, Corporals, Cooks and Cowboys: African Americans in the Black Hills and Surrounding Areas (Buffalo Gap, South Dakota: Self-published, 2000).
Contributor: 

Francis, Mayann Elizabeth

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the
Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia
Her Honour the Honourable Mayann Elizabeth Francis, O.N.S., DHumL, is the first African Nova Scotian and only the second woman to have held the position of Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia in its 400-year history.  Francis was born and raised in the Whitney Pier district of Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the daughter of Archpriest George A. Francis and Thelma D. Francis.  

By pushing her limits, she achieved her dreams through education.  Upon completing high school in Whitney Pier and attending junior college, she went to X-ray technical school and gained her certification as an X-ray technologist.  After graduating from St. Mary’s University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts, she accepted a position with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

In 1974 she moved to New York City, New York where she studied to be a paralegal at Long Island University. While working, she also studied for her Master's in Public Administration at New York University, graduating in 1984.  Additionally, she completed a Certificate in Equal Opportunities Studies from Cornell University. From 1986 to 1990 she was Administrative Manager in the Office of the District Attorney, Kings County, New York.
Sources: 
Official website for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, http://lt.gov.ns.ca
Newsletter: Maroon & White For Alumni and Friends of Saint Mary’s University Fall 2001.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Day, Ava Speese (1912-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in 1912, Ava Speese (Day) traveled with her family in 1915 to homestead in Cherry County, Nebraska.  Taking advantage of the Kincaid Homestead Act of 1904, the Speese family, Charles and Rosetta Meehan Speese and their nine children, were among forty African American families who made land claims throughout the county. Some of the settlers founded a small town they named DeWitty after a local black store owner.  

Years later, Ava Speese wrote about her life in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, an account that would provide a rare glimpse into African Americans on the Nebraska frontier.  Ava’s narrative recalled a difficult life for African Americans in north central Nebraska but she also described a resourceful and vital community.  Like most homesteaders of the era, the Speeses lived in a sod home which originally consisted of one room but which grew as the family prospered.  She recalled many a night watching her mother bake bread and sew their clothing by hand.  Learning to be resourceful, Ava and her siblings made toothbrushes out of burnt corn cobs, and natural herbs were used to ward off colds and the flu. Ava Speese attended two one room, wood frame schools in Cherry County where she learned to value education.   
Sources: 
Sod House Memories, Vol. I-IV, ed. Frances Jacob Alberts (Hastings, Neb.: Sod House Society, 1972), Vol. 3:253-267; Forrest H. Stith, Sunrises & Sunsets For Freedom, p. 26-36; http://www.nebraskahistory.org/lib-arch/research/manuscripts/family/ava-day.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Payton, Benjamin Franklin (1932- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the Tuskegee University Archives,
Tuskegee University

Former Tuskegee University president Benjamin Franklin Payton was born in 1932 in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  His father, Reverend Leroy Payton, was a Baptist minister, farmer, and teacher while his mother, Sarah Mack Payton, was a homemaker.  Benjamin Payton graduated with honors from South Carolina State in 1955, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology.  In 1958 he was awarded the Bachelor of Divinity degree in philosophical theology from Harvard.  He earned a master’s in philosophy from Colombia University in 1960, followed by the Ph.D. in Ethics from Yale University.

In 1963, Payton became assistant professor of sociology, religion, and social ethics at Howard University.  During this time he also served as the director of the school’s Community Service Project in Washington, D.C.  Two years later he became the director of Office of Church and Race for the Protestant Council of the City of New York.  In 1967 he became the president of Benedict College.  He left the post in 1972 to become program officer of Education and Public Policy for the Ford Foundation.

Sources: 
"Benjamin F. Payton (1932-    ) University President,” in Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 23 pp. 151-153 (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale Group Inc., 2000); “Benjamin F. Payton Tuskegee University President,” African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1997); “Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton,” tuskegee.edu http://www.tuskegee.edu/about_us/legacy_of_leadership/benjamin_f_payton.aspx 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Central University

Bush, George (1789?-1863)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Henderson House
As one of the earliest permanent American settlers on Puget Sound in 1845, George Bush played a vital role in the beginnings of Washington Territory. Bush’s story is even more remarkable because he was a man of mixed race who overcame prejudice and discrimination to succeed as one of the area’s most beloved figures.

Little is known of Bush’s early life.  It is believed that his father was Mathew Bush, a West Indian who married the Irish maid of a wealthy Quaker family in Pennsylvania. Goorge Bush married Isabella James, a white American of German ancestry, on July 4, 1831, in St. Louis, Missouri.  They became the parents of nine sons, six of whom survived to adulthood.
Sources: 
Darrell Millner, “George Bush of Tumwater: Founder of the First American Colony on Puget Sound,” Columbia Magazine, Winter1994/95, pp. 14-19. Paul Thomas, “George Bush” (M.A. Thesis, University of Washington, 1965).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Thurston County Historical Commission

Boseman, Benjamin Anthony (1840-1881)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin A. Boseman, physician, politician, and postmaster, was free born in New York in 1840 to Benjamin A. and Annaretta Boseman.  He was the oldest of five children, two girls and three boys.  Boseman grew up in Troy, New York where his father served as a steward on the steamboat Empire in the mid-1800s and then as a sutler (a civilian merchant selling provisions to the army).

Boseman was educated in the segregated schools of Troy and showed an interest in becoming a physician.  At the age of 16, he began an eight year apprenticeship in the office of prominent Troy physician Dr. Thomas C. Brinsmade, before completing his education at the Medical School of Maine at Bowdoin College, where he received his medical degree in 1864.  

With his degree in hand, Boseman turned his efforts towards obtaining a position as a surgeon with the Union Army during the American Civil War.  After writing to Acting Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes requesting a position as a surgeon with the “colored regiments,” Boseman received an appointment as a contract acting assistant surgeon.  He was assigned to a recruiting position for the United States Colored Troops (USCT) at Camp Foster in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and served for a year examining recruits and tending to sick and wounded soldiers of the 21st regiment of the USCT.  
Sources: 
Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, B.A. Boseman, Records Relating to Medical Officers and Physicians, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Record Group 94, Entry 561; William C. Hine, “Dr. Benjamin A. Boseman, Jr.: Charleston’s Black Physician-Politician,” Southern Black Leaders of the Reconstruction (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Debas, Haile T. (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Praised as one of the world’s most distinguished academic physicians, from 1993 to 2003 Dr. Haile Tesfaye Debas served as Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.  Prior to becoming dean, for six years he was chairman of the Department of Surgery at UCSF.  

Born in Asmara, Eritrea on February 24, 1937, he graduated from the University College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earned his medical doctorate at McGill University, and worked at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Washington before arriving at UCSF in 1987.  

Renowned as a researcher and credited with nearly 40 scientific papers, Debas was elected president of the International Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Association in 1991.  He was also a director of the American Board of Surgery, and a fellow of both the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  At UCSF he revamped the medical school’s curriculum to focus on training medical students and established the Academy of Medical Educators which was renamed in his honor.
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science, 21st Ed. Vol. 2. (New York: Bowker, 2003); http://www.cure.med.ucla.edu/PDF/Debas.pdf
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Taylor, Michelle (1992- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Michelle Taylor is a 22 year old African American woman who was crowned Miss Alaska in 2013. Taylor was the first black woman to hold that title. After winning the title of Miss Alaska, she went on to compete in the national contest in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Taylor attended the University of Alaska at Anchorage at the time of the pageant where she majored in hotel and restaurant management.  Her childhood ambition, however, was to be a gymnast.

Taylor’s exceptional academic ability was evident long before she began college. While in high school, she was awarded $11,000 for graduating in the top ten percentile of Alaskan high school students.  Because of her strong academic ability Taylor received financial aid and scholarship offers from a number of colleges and universities, but decided on the University of Alaska at Anchorage because of its generous scholarship offer as well as her proximity to family and friends.   
Sources: 
www.missamerica.org; Student Spotlight: Michelle Taylor, Green and Gold News, September 3, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

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 the 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.
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

Young, Whitney M., Jr. (1921-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
National Urban League
Whitney Moore Young, Jr. was born July 31, 1921 in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky on the campus of Lincoln Institute where his father was President. Young received a Bachelor of Science degree from Kentucky State College for Negroes in 1941.

Upon graduation, Young joined the Army Specialist training program and was assigned to a road construction crew composed entirely of black soldiers led by Southern white officers. He was promoted from private to first sergeant three weeks after joining his unit. The promotion created resentment among both the black soldiers and white officers.  Young credited the controversy surrounding his rapid promotion as sparking his lifelong interest in racism and in fighting for civil rights.  

After World War II ended Young attended the University of Minnesota where he earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work.  He was hired to lecture at the university after his graduation.  Young then served as director of the National Urban League (NUL) branch in Omaha, Nebraska in the early 1950s.  In 1954 at the age of 33 Young was named Dean of the School of Social Work at Atlanta University.  Young became active in the Atlanta National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and in 1960 was elected president of the Georgia NAACP.
Sources: 
Dennis Dickerson, Militant Mediator: Whitney M. Young Jr. (Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1998); Nancy J. Weiss, Whitney M. Young, Jr., and the Struggle for Civil Rights (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989); http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/unitarians/young.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harlan, Robert James (1816-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert James Harlan was an entrepreneur, businessman, and army officer who devoted the second half of his life to political and civic service. Among his many accomplishments, in an 1879 speech before Congress titled "Migration is the Only Remedy for Our Wrongs," Harlan argued for the right of blacks to migrate wherever they chose within the United States.  Within the next year, 6,000 black "Exodusters" would leave Mississippi and Louisiana for Kansas.

Harlan was born in Harrodsburg, Kentucky on December 12, 1816 to a mulatto mother and a white father, Judge James Harlan. Although born enslaved, Harlan was raised in his father's home, and his keen intellect meant that he was a good fit in a household that included a future Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Harlan's half-brother, John Marshall Harlan, wrote the dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Since there were no schools for African American children in Kentucky during this era Harlan was tutored by his two older half-brothers.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); William J. Simmons, Mark of Men: Eminent, Progressive, and Rising (Cleveland, Ohio: Geo. M. Rewell & Co., 1887).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coleman, William T. Jr. (1920-2017)

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, Pennsylvania 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.

Sources: 
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, Seattle

Lucy, Autherine Juanita (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Roy Wilkins, Autherine Lucy and Thurgood Marshall
at a Press Conference, March 2, 1956
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Born on October 5, 1929 in Shiloh, Alabama, Autherine Lucy was one of ten children in a family of farmers. Despite this modest background, Lucy would impact history as the first African American to integrate the University of Alabama. Lucy will also be remembered as the first black student in the history of desegregation to experience the anger of an organized mob.

Autherine Lucy attended high school at Linden Academy in Shiloh, graduating in 1947. She then attended all-black Selma University in Selma, Alabama before transferring to another black institution, Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama. In 1952, Lucy graduated from Miles College with a B.A. in English. Lucy’s next educational goal was to obtain a master’s degree in education at the University of Alabama.
Sources: 
Howell Raines, My Soul Is Rested, New York: Viking Press, 1988; The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr., http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/kingweb/about_king/details/560206.htm; Diane McWhorter, “The Day Autherine Lucy Dared to Integrate the University of Alabama,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education Vol. 32 (Summer 2001); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993).

Cassell, Albert I. (1895-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Albert Irving Cassell, a prominent African American architect, planner, engineer, educator, and entrepreneur, was born on June 25, 1895 in Towson, Maryland.  His parents were Albert and Charlotte Cassell.  Albert’s father was a coal truck driver and trumpet player and his mother washed laundry to help with the family finances.  Albert himself had three wives and children by each of them for a total of six children and two step-children.  Cassell’s education began in a Baltimore public elementary and high school.  He later moved to Ithaca, New York and enrolled in a city high school there.  He was admitted into Cornell University for college, where he worked on campus to pay for his tuition.

Before Cassell could complete his college education, he served in the United States Army during World War I from 1917-1918.  Commissioned a second lieutenant in the heavy field artillery, he served as a training officer in France.  After his brief stint in the military, he returned to Cornell University and completed his bachelor architectural degree in 1919.  His first project included the design of five buildings at the Tuskegee Institute with fellow architect William A. Hazel. In 1920 he designed silk mills and other industrial plants in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Later that year Cassell joined the Architecture Department of Howard University as an assistant professor.

Sources: 
“Albert I. Cassell & The Founders Library: A Brief History,” Howard University Website, http://www.howard.edu/library/Development/Cassell/Founders.htm; Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wells, Barry L. (1942- )

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

Wells served as Associate Professor and Assistant Dean at Howard University Graduate School of Social Work in Washington, D.C. from 1972 to 1978. While at Howard University, his interest and involvement in the international arena began to flourish. Wells was instrumental in establishing summer field placements for Howard University graduate students with the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.
Sources: 
“Biography: Barry L. Wells,” U.S. Department of State, http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/w/79786.htm; “Ambassador-designate Barry Wells to The Gambia,” Senate Confirmation Hearing Transcript, September 19, 2007, http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2007/09/20070919153723xjsnommis3.399295e-02.html#axzz3nerJIu8q; “Barry L. Wells,” Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/blwells007/about?section=education.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Guinier, Lani (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the
University of Rochester

Lani Guinier was the first black woman professor to be tenured at Harvard Law School. Her father, Ewart Guinier, was the first director of Harvard’s African American Studies program. She was better known, however, as a controversial nominee for assistant attorney general during the Clinton Administration. Born in New York City, Guinier decided in high school to pursue a legal career after following the work of civil rights attorney Constance Baker Motley in the 1960s.  Guinier eventually attended Radcliffe College and Yale Law School (where she was a classmate of Bill and Hillary Clinton), before becoming an assistant legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1974. During the President Jimmy Carter Administration, she worked as a special assistant for Assistant Attorney General Drew S. Days in the Civil Rights Division. She also served as a tenured Professor at the University of Pennsylvania from 1988 to 1998.

Sources: 

Lani Guinier, Lift Every Voice: Turning a civil rights setback into a new vision of social justice (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998); Lani Guinier, "Confirmative Action," 25 Law and Social Inquiry 565 (2000); http://www.minerscanary.org/whoweare/lani_guinier.htm; William Jefferson Clinton, My Life (New York: Random House Inc., 2004).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gates, Sylvester James (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The theoretical physicist Sylvester James Gates, known for his work in supersymmetry, string theory, superconformal algebra, Adinkra symbols, and bihermitian manifolds, was born on December 15, 1950 in Tampa, Florida. Dr. Gates has three siblings: two younger brothers, and one younger sister. Sylvester James Gates Sr., Dr. Gates’ father, worked as a career military man for the United States Army for 24 years.  Following this, Gates Sr. worked for the postal service and as a union organizer. Consequently, due to Dr. Gates’ father’s job, his family was forced to move often, resulting in Gates having lived in six different cities by the time he had reached the 6th grade.

At the age of 11, Gates’ mother, Charlie Engels Gates, died of cancer. Later when his father remarried, Gates’ new stepmother, a teacher, helped provide books for Gates to read and thus supplement the education he received in public schools.

Sources: 
Emily J. McMurray, Notable Twentieth Century Scientists (Gale Research, 1995); Boyce Rensberger “Superstrings,” The Washington Post, December 11, 1996.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Madhubuti, Haki R. (Don L. Lee) (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Regina Jennings, Malcolm X and the Poetics of Haki Madhubuti (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2006); Lita Hooper, Art of Work: The Art and Life of Haki R. Madhubuti (Chicago: Third World Press, 2007); Jeffrey Louis Decker, The Black Aesthetic Movement (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jenkins, John (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Jenkins is the former mayor of Lewiston, Maine and the recently elected mayor of Auburn Maine. Jenkins is the first African American to serve as mayor in both cities.  He served as mayor of Lewiston from 1993 to 1995.  He has held the mayor's post in Auburn since 2008.   

Jenkins was born in Newark, New Jersey on May 29, 1952. He was the youngest of three children, he grew up in an abusive home. Newark during Jenkins’ youth was a cauldron of violence, drugs and gang violence. Jenkins was rescued from these tragic influences by stellar educational opportunities and a firm religious faith. His mother was a devout Christian and a strict Baptist.

In 1967, Jenkins, while still in high school, became involved with the American Friends Service Committee, a Philadelphia Quaker organization. Under this program, he spent a summer in Princeton’s University’s Cooperative School Program (PCSP) a program designed to expose students from disadvantaged backgrounds to post-secondary education. The following year Jenkins participated in a similar academic program in Brandon, Vermont and during that summer he worked for the Lowell, Massachusetts Upward Bound Program with working class Blacks and Latinos. In these two programs, Jenkins was exposed to a variety of community and political activities and met people from various walks of life.
Sources: 
Susan Johns, “Jenkins Wins Mayors Seat,” Lewiston Star Journal, December 8, 1993; Elwood Watson, “A Tale of Maine’s African American Mayors” Maine History 40 (Summer 2001): 113-125.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

McKinney, Samuel Berry (1926- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Rev. Samuel McKinney with Bullhorn
Image Courtesy of Seattle P-I Collection, Museum of 
History & Industry (1986.5.5923.4).

Born on December 28, 1926 to Reverend Wade Hampton McKinney and Ruth Berry McKinney in Flint, Michigan, Samuel Berry McKinney would become a Baptist minister, author, and civil rights advocate in Seattle, Washington. He served as pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, one of the largest and oldest black churches in the Pacific Northwest, from 1958 to 1998 and again from 2005 to 2008.

Sources: 
L' Erin A. Donahoe and Shaun A. Spearmon, Oba: Men of African Descent Making a Difference in Seattle (Seattle: L. Donahoe and S. Spearmon,1997); Mary T. Henry, “McKinney, Samuel Berry (1926-   ),” HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, http://www.historylink.org/; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: A History of Seattle's Central District from 1870 to the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Reddick, Lawrence Dunbar (1910-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Department of
Special Collections, W.E.B DuBois
Library, University of Massachusetts
Amherst
During his life historian Lawrence Dunbar Reddick used his scholarly expertise to fight for civil rights.  Born in Jacksonville, Florida, on March 3, 1910, Reddick received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in history from Fisk University in 1932 and 1933, respectively.  He went to the University of Chicago to earn his PhD in history, which he completed in 1939.  That same year he married Ella Ruth Thomas to whom he was married for 57 years.  

Before Reddick received his PhD, he had begun his career as a historian and activist.  In 1934 he led the Works Project Administration slave narratives project at Kentucky State College which collected 250 slave testimonies and interviews by other former slaves in Kentucky and Indiana.  By 1936 Reddick was hired at Dillard University in New Orleans.  
Sources: 
“Dr. Lawrence Dunbar Reddick, historian and biographer, 85, dies,” Jet, 52 (October 1995); August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession: 1915-1980 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986); David Christopher Brighouse, "Reddick, Lawrence Dunbar," African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0001/e2365.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McCabe, Edward P. (1850-1920)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Edward P. McCabe was an African American politician and businessman most notable for his promotion of black settlement in Oklahoma and Kansas. Born in 1850 in Troy, New York, McCabe would attend school until his father’s death when he left school to support his family as a clerk on Wall Street. In 1872, he earned a job as a clerk in Chicago. Two years later, McCabe left Chicago for Kansas and arrived in the growing black community of Nicodemus in 1878.

In Nicodemus, McCabe established himself as an attorney and land agent. When Graham County was established in 1880, McCabe was appointed temporary clerk and officially elected as county clerk the next year. In 1882, he successfully stood as the Republican candidate for state auditor, a victory which made him the most important black office holder outside of the south. However, as Nicodemus’s fortunes reversed and the town began to hemorrhage residents, McCabe left first for Washington and then for Oklahoma.

Sources: 
Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1998); William Loren Katz, Black People Who Made the Old West (Trenton: Africa World Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

McFerrin, Robert Keith, Sr. (1921–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1953 baritone Robert McFerrin Sr. made history as the first African American to win the Metropolitan Opera House’s Auditions of the Air radio contest.  On January 27, 1955, in the role of Ethiopian King Amonasro in Verdi’s Aida, McFerrin made history again by becoming the first African American male to perform as a member of the Met (and the second black American to do so, less than three weeks after contralto Marian Anderson broke the Met’s color barrier).  

Born on March 19, 1921 in Marianna, Arkansas, Robert McFerrin was the fourth of eight children of Melvin McFerrin and Mary McKinney McFerrin.  The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, when McFerrin was two years old.  McFerrin first sang as a boy soprano in a church gospel choir.  During his early teens McFerrin and two of his siblings travelled with their itinerant preacher father, singing hymns, spirituals, and gospel songs at churches in the area.

Wishing for him to get a better education, in 1936 McFerrin’s parents sent him to live with his uncle and aunt in St. Louis, Missouri.  It was when he was a student at Sumner High School in St. Louis during an audition for the school choir that McFerrin so impressed the choir director he was given private classical vocal training.
Sources: 
Adam Bernstein, “Robert McFerrin Sr.; Was First Black Man to Sing With the Met,” The Washington Post, November 29, 2006; The Associated Press, "Robert McFerrin Sr., 85, Operatic Baritone at Met, Dies,'" New York Times, November 28, 2006; <http://stlouiswalkoffame.org/inductees/robert-mcferrin-sr.html >
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Blackwell, Robert “Bumps” (1918-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Bumps Blackwell with Quincy Jones
Sources: 
Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://www.allmusic.com/artist/bumps-blackwell-mn0000634319
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Herring, James V. (1887-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Oil Painting of James V. Herring
by James Porter, 1923
(Image Courtesy of Howard University)
James Vernon Herring was an influential American artist and teacher in the early twentieth century.  He played an integral role in devising new ways by which art would be viewed from both academic and commercial standpoints.  He was also an important figure in the promotion of works of little known African American artists.
Sources: 
Janet Gail Abbott, “The Barnett Aden Gallery: A home for diversity in a segregated city” (2013), retrieved from Udini: http://udini.proquest.com/view/the-barnett-aden-gallery-a-home-for-goid:304495536/; University of Maryland, “Artist Biographies” (2002), retrieved from Narratives of African American Art and Identity: http://www.driskellcenter.umd.edu/narratives/exhibition/artists/bio.htm#herr.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Silva, Tatiana (1985- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Tatiana Silva Braga Tavares is best known as the woman who was crowned Miss Belgium in 2005 and who represented Belgium in the Miss World competition in Sanya, China later that year.  Silva was born in the Brussels suburb of Uccle on February 5, 1985.   She was born into a middle class family.  Her mother is from Belgium and her father is Cape Verdean.  

Nineteen-year-old Silva was studying to be a personal assistant (secretary) and working as a shop attendant at the time of the contest.  Silva was crowned Miss Belgium because of her appearance, her talent in dance, and her knowledge of a number of languages including French (her native language), Dutch, English, Portuguese, and Cape Verdean.

Sources: 
Catherine Delvaux, “Stromae et Tatiana Silva ont rompu,” http://www.7sur7.be/7s7/fr/1527/People/aticle/detail/1622464/2013/04/26Stromae-et-Tatiana-Silva-ont-rompu.dhtml; Anaïs Lefebure, Miss France: l’histoire d’un mythe (Paris: JOL Press, 2014).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Emeritus Professor, University of Paris

Purvis, Robert (1810-1898)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Purvis was born on August 4, 1810 in Charleston, South Carolina, the second of three sons to a wealthy cotton broker and a free woman of color.  With the benefits of a financially successful family, Purvis began his opposition to slavery at a very young age.  When Purvis was nine, his father moved the family to Philadelphia where Purvis attended the Pennsylvania Abolition Society’s Clarkson School.  Shortly thereafter, Purvis continued his education at Amherst College in Massachusetts.  

In 1831, Robert Purvis married Harriet Forten, the daughter of Philadelphia African American businessman and abolitionist James Forten. The death of Purvis’s father left his family financially stable and enabled Purvis to commit his efforts entirely to his antislavery activity.  He began to work very closely with the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee which sheltered runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.  His residence soon became know as the Purvis “safe house.”  
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); Margaret Bacon, But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis (New York: Albany State University press, 2007); Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rolle, Esther (1920-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Esther Rolle as Stagecoach Mary Fields,
in South by
Northwest TV Series, 1974
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Esther Rolle was an actress primarily recognized for her role as principled, spirited Florida Evans who was first the maid on the Norman Lear sitcom Maude (starring Beatrice Arthur) and later was spun off into the starring role as the mother in the Lear sitcom Good Times (1974-79).

Despite the success of the series, Rolle clashed with the Hollywood producers because of their depiction of the oldest son, J.J. (played by Jimmie Walker) as a buffoon.  She and her co-star, John Amos, who played the father and shared her concerns, briefly quit the series.  Rolle returned during the final series to show the television family had reconciled.
Sources: 
Alvin Klein, ‘The River Niger’ in Scorching Style,” The New York Times, September 25, 1983; Eric Pace, “Chronicle,” The New York Times, August 14, 1990; James Sterngold, “Esther Rolle, 78, Who Played Feisty Maid and Matriarch,” New York Times, November 19, 1998.  B14.
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)

Murray, Daniel A. P. (1852-1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Daniel A. P. Murray was born on March 3, 1852 in Baltimore, Maryland.  At the age of nine he left Baltimore to live in Washington, D.C., where his brother managed the U.S. Senate restaurant.  In 1871 Murray acquired a job as a personal assistant to the librarian of Congress, Ainsworth R. Spofford.  Under Spofford's tutelage Murray gathered invaluable research skills and learned several languages. In 1879 he married Anna Evans, an Oberlin College graduate whose uncle and cousin had taken part in John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry.  Two years later, in 1881, he advanced to assistant librarian of the Library of Congress, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1923.

Sources: 
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection (1818-1907): Library of Congress
http://rs6.loc.gov/ammem/aap/aaphome.html; Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Joshua Bowen (1813-1879)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Joshua Bowen Smith, caterer, abolitionist, and state senator, was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania in 1813.  Details regarding his childhood remain obscure.  However, it is known that he was educated in the public school system of Pennsylvania with the assistance of a wealthy Quaker.  
Sources: 
Lucius Robinson Paige, History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1877, with a Genealogical Register (Boston: H. O. Houghton and Company, 1877); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Emiline Smith, Statement of the Claim of the Late Joshua B. Smith against the Commonwealth for Subsistence Furnished the 12th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers (May 14, 1879), petition.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Coker, Annie Virginia Stephens (1903-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Attorney Annie Virginia Stephens Coker was born in Oakland, California, on April 7, 1903 to William Morris and Pauline Logan Stephens. Coker attended public schools in Oakland. Her family moved to Pacific Grove, California, where she graduated from high school in 1921.

Coker later attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a bachelor’s degree in science in 1924. Encouraged by her father to attend law school, she enrolled in Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and earned a degree in 1929. At that time she was only the second woman to receive a law degree from the school and the first African American woman to complete the program.  Coker passed the California Bar in the same year, the first African American female attorney in California.

The doors of most law firms in California were not open to African American attorneys in the early 1930s.  Coker then moved to Alexandria, Virginia, and maintained a private law practice there for almost a decade.
Sources: 
Brenda F. Harbin, “Black Women Pioneers in the Law,” The Historical Reporter 6 (Spring 1987): 6-8; Nancy McCarthy, “Annie Coker: A Pioneer California Lawyer,” California Bar Journal, February 2008, http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Member/Detail/11458; Jonathan Watson, “Legacy of American Female Attorneys,” 2015 revised.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Mills, Florence (1896-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

The 1927 Times of London (UK) obituary noted of Florence Mills, “There is no doubt that she was a real artist full of individuality and intelligence, and her premature death is a sad loss to the profession.”  Florence Mills was an internationally-recognized and multifaceted performer who paved the way for other black female stars during the Harlem Renaissance.

Born Florence Winfrey in 1896, in Washington, D.C. to former slaves Nellie and John Winfrey, Mills moved with her parents to New York City, New York in 1905. To help her financially struggling family, Mills and her two older sisters created “The Mills Sisters,” a dance and singing troupe that performed in theatres in Harlem, New York.

Sources: 

Bill Egan, Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004); http://www.florencemills.com/biography.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

John Abraham Godson (1970– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
John Abraham Godson in the Polish Parliament
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Abraham Godson, a conservative politician, university lecturer, businessman, and former Pentecostal preacher, is the first person of African descent elected to public office in Poland. He was born on November 25, 1970, in Umuahia, Nigeria, as Godson Chikama Onyekwere. His father, Silvanus Nwokocha Onyekwere, was a teacher, high school principal, and Methodist preacher. His mother was an elementary school principal. Godson admits he was a troubled teenager and credits Christianity and joining the Church Of God in Christ for finding a sense of purpose in life. After graduating from the Abia State University (Uturu, Nigeria) with B.S. in agriculture in 1992, he was a researcher at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan. At the time, he decided to become a missionary, and in 1993, he chose an assignment in Poland. A year later he met his wife, Aneta. The Godsons have four children.
Sources: 
John Godson’s official website, http://www.johngodson.pl/index.html; Bianka Miko?ajewska, “John Godson: Pos?annik pos?em,” Polityka, December 15, 2010, http://www.polityka.pl/tygodnikpolityka/kraj/1511234,2,john-godson-poslannik-poslem.read; John Godson’s conversation with Hanna Gill-Piatek and Waldemar Marzec, “Godson: imigrant, pastor, radny,” Krytyka Polityczna, November 19, 2010, http://www.krytykapolityczna.pl/Serwissamorzadowy/GodsonImigrantpastorradny/menuid-1.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jackson, Alphonso R. (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Khanga, Yelena (1962- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Yelena Khanga is a journalist and writer who was born in 1962 in Moscow, Russia. She is the daughter of Abdulla Khanga, who was the onetime vice president of Zanzibar, and Lily Golden, a Russian woman who was a historian and educator. She was also the granddaughter of a black Christian, Oliver Golden and a Polish Jew, Bertha Bialek. The pair met in jail after being arrested during a union demonstration and migrated to the Soviet Union in 1931 after being disowned by Bialek’s family for being in an interracial relationship.

Khanga grew up in Moscow, attending schools where she was often the only child of African ancestry. She said that she "was never made to feel less intelligent, less capable, less likely to achieve than my white schoolmates." However, Khanga said that she did realize that she was different and she felt like an outsider. As a teen Khanga started playing tennis and was able to travel the Soviet Union as a member of the Army Tennis Team. After finishing public school, she attended Moscow State University and graduated in 1984 with a degree in journalism.
Sources: 
Yelena Khanga, Soul to Soul: The Story of a Black Russian American Family, 1865-1992 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992); "Yelena Khanga," in Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: The Gale Group, 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chubby Checker (Ernest Evans) (1941-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Chubby Checker, the man credited with inventing “The Twist,” was born Ernest Evans in Spring Gully, South Carolina. He moved to Philadelphia with his parents and two brothers and attended South Philadelphia High School. Evans aspired to become a performer from a young age and eventually caught a small break after graduating from high school making novelty records that were impressions of singers like Elvis Presley and Fats Domino.

Evans' career took off when he met Barbara Clark, wife of American Bandstand host, Dick Clark. Barbara Clark is credited with giving young Evans his full stage name. He’d picked up the nickname ‘Chubby’ while working in a Philadelphia poultry market. When Barbara Clark met him he was working on his Fats Domino impression at the recording studio. She said “You’re Chubby Checker, like Fats Domino.” The name stuck.

With Barbara Clark's help, Evans got a job recording a Christmas greeting card for Dick Clark’s associates. This record spawned another called “The Class," which contained impressions of famous singers. It was a hit. Unfortunately, Chubby Checker fell into obscurity and his record label was ready to drop him.
Sources: 
John Jackson, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire (New York, Oxford University Press, 1997); http://www.chubbychecker.com/bio.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dunbar, Paul Laurence (1872-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris, eds., The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Braxton, Joanne M, ed. The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993); http://www.dunbarsite.org/biopld.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Gabaldon, Nicolas Rolando ["Nick"] (1927-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Surfing aficionados credit Nick Gabaldon as California’s first documented surfer of African and Mexican American descent. A skilled recreational surfer, his legacy has inspired many, including especially surfers of color, to consider him as a role model. Born Nicolas Rolando “Nick” Gabaldon, Jr. in Los Angeles, California to parents Cecilia and Nicolas Gabaldon Sr., he grew up in Santa Monica.

Graduating from Santa Monica (SAMO) High in 1945, Gabaldon was one of the few African American students matriculating at the school during this era. Gabaldon served in the United States Navy from 1945–1946. Upon returning home, he enrolled in Santa Monica College where he became an honor student and aspiring writer while he worked as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier and resumed surfing.

As a teenager, Gabaldon began surfing in the Pacific Ocean at the Bay Street beach.  This beach was derogatorily called the “Inkwell” by Anglos referencing the skin color of the beachgoers who visited the area.  Gabaldon and other African Americans in Southern California, however, transformed the hateful moniker into a badge of pride.  
Sources: 
Rick Blocker, “Black Surfer Nick Gabaldon,” Legendary Surfers, February 2005, Surfing Heritage Foundation, http://files.legendarysurfers.com/blog/2005/02/black-surfer-nick-gabaldon.html; Jeff Ducols, “Black Surfers of the Golden State,” Surfer Magazine, August 1983, Vol. 24, No. 8: 96-101; Rick Grigg, Big Surf, Deep Dives and the Islands: My Life in the Ocean (Honolulu: Editions Limited, 1998).
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

White, Lulu B.(1900-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lulu Belle Madison White, civil rights activist in the 1940s and 1950s, devoted most of her adult life to the struggle against Jim Crow in Texas.  She campaigned for the right to vote, for equal pay for equal work, and for desegregation of public facilities.  

Born in 1900 in Elmo, Texas to Henry Madison, a farmer, and Easter Madison, a domestic worker, Lulu Belle Madison White received her early education in the public schools of Elmo and Terrell, Texas.  She graduated from Prairie View College where she received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1928. After marrying Julius White and teaching school for nine years, White resigned her post to devote full time service to the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its campaign to eliminate the state’s all-white Democratic primary.
Sources: 
Merline Pitre, In Struggle against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP 1900-1957 (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Bolden, Abraham (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Abraham Bolden, often erroneously referred to as the first black Secret Service Agent, was in fact the first black agent assigned to the prestigious White House Detail.  Bolden was born to Daniel and Ophelia Bolden in East St. Louis, Illinois on January 19, 1935.  He graduated from East St. Louis’s Lincoln High School in 1952 and attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri on a music scholarship, graduating cum laude in 1956.  After graduation, Bolden married his longtime friend and schoolmate Barbara L. Hardy.  The marriage lasted 49 years until her death on December 27, 2005.  The couple had three children.

In 1956 Bolden became the first African American to be employed as a detective by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.  He then served as an Illinois State Highway Patrolman.  In October 1960, Bolden joined the US Secret Service, becoming their second black agent (after Charles L.
Sources: 
Abraham Bolden, The Echo from Dealey Plaza (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008); Del Quentin, “The First Black Secret Service Agent,” The Washington Post, August 10, 2011; interview with Abraham Bolden by the author, January 4, 2014; UNITED STATES v. BOLDEN 355 F.2d 453 (1965); “Admits Bolden Trial Perjury: Spagnoli Tells of Trying to Aid Self,” Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1965; “Blunders and Wonders of Nov. 22, 1963,” Flagpole Magazine, November 19, 2008.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Warren M. Washington (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Meteorologist Warren Morton Washington was born in Portland, Oregon on August 28, 1936.  He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees at Oregon State University, and his Ph.D. in meteorology at Pennsylvania State University in 1964.  He began his professional career as a research assistant at Penn State.  From 1968 to 1971 he was an adjunct professor of meteorology and oceanography at the University of Michigan.  In 1972 he began long-term employment at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado where in 1987 he became Director of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of NCAR.  When Washington was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering in 2002 he was praised as a scientist of international renown who pioneered “the development of coupled climate models, their use on parallel supercomputing architectures, and their interpretation.”  Most significant has been his work in climate modeling that helps measure increasing greenhouse gas emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 19th Ed. Vol. 7 (New York: Bowker, 1995);
www.ucar.edu/.../staffnotes/0203/washington.html ; www.ucar.edu/.../staffnotes/0206/washington.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Ganaway, King Daniel (1882- 1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
King Daniel Ganaway, a 39-year-old butler on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois rose to fame in 1921 by winning the first place prize in national photographic contest sponsored by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Department Store Owner John Wanamaker. Titled “The Spirit of Transportation,” the photograph was one of 900 entries. Ganaway’s camera lens captured the two engines of the 20th Century Limited as they came to the end of their run at the La Salle Street Station in Chicago. His entry was chosen over others submitted by professional photographers. He also won an Honorable Mention for another photograph, titled “Children in the Country.”

Born October 22, 1882 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, King Daniel’s parents were King and Hattie Ganaway. He was named after his father King and his grandfather Daniel. His devout Christian faith led King in 1903 at the age of 21 to leave Tennessee to join the Christian Catholic Church, a religious community in Zion, Illinois under the leadership of John Alexander Dowie. After nine months of waiting tables there he decided to move to Chicago.  

Sources: 
Edith M. Lloyd, “This Negro Butler Has Become Famous,” American Magazine, March 1925; America To-Day Combined with Fort Dearborn Magazine Digital Scans https://books.google.com/books?id=cEstAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA101&lpg=PA101&dq=american+today+combined+with+fort+dear+born+magazine&source=bl&ots=f9CgSPTIzv&sig=wZdqX0-O7A_h4exLnD61oMQ_zxU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=F8LoVN6XKoKlyATy9ID4BA&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage q=american%20today%20combined%20with%20fort%20dear%20born%20magazine&f=false; The National Geographic Magazine, April 1923, May 1924; and September 1928; John Gruber, “Ganaway Captures Train’s Spirit,” Railroad Heritage 3, 2001.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Micheaux, Oscar (1884–1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of John A. Ravage
Oscar Micheaux was the quintessential self-made man.  Novelist, film-maker and relentless self-promoter, Micheaux was born on a farm near Murphysboro, Illinois.  He worked briefly as a Pullman porter and then in 1904 homesteaded nearly 500 acres of land near the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  Micheaux published novels in Nebraska and New York and made movies in Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California.
Sources: 
Pearl Bowser and Louise Spence, Writing Himself Into History: Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films and His Audiences (Piscataway, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000); Betty Carol Van Epps-Taylor, Oscar Micheaux: Dakota Homesteader, Author, Pioneer Film Maker (Rapid City: Dakota West Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Washington, Henry (ca. 1740-post 1801)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Henry Washington, slave, loyalist, and colonizer, was born in Africa, perhaps in the Senegambia (present day Senegal and Gambia). Transported as a slave to America, he was bought by George Washington in 1763 to work on a project for draining the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia.  By 1766, he was living at Mount Vernon, Washington's Virginia plantation and caring for Washington’s horses.  Briefly a runaway in 1771, he fled again in 1776 to join royal Virginia governor Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment of freed slaves. Moving to New York in late 1776, Washington served as corporal in a corps of Black Pioneers attached to a British artillery unit.  The unit was briefly stationed at Charleston, South Carolina in 1780 but returned to New York by 1782.  He was among the several thousand “loyal blacks” evacuated from the city in July 1783 to British Nova Scotia where he married a woman named Sarah and acquired a town lot and forty acres of land in Birchtown.

In 1791, with his wife and three children, Washington elected to join the expedition financed by the British government that would allow black loyalist refugees unhappy with their treatment in Nova Scotia to join the free black community established in Sierra Leone in West Africa. There, he settled outside Freetown and became a successful farmer.  In 1799, however, he joined in a protest movement against the autocratic rule of the white-run Sierra Leone Company and was banished to the colony’s desolate northern shore. His last years, after 1801, are unknown.  In ironic parallel to that other Washington, his onetime master in Virginia, Henry Washington lived through years of strife to become a founding father of a new society in his native land.
Sources: 
Cassandra Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and their Global Quest for Liberty(Boston: Beacon Press, 2006); Ellen Gibson Wilson, The Loyal Blacks (New York: Capricorn Books, 1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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.
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

Pele (Deon Arrantnes Do Nasciemento) (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

 

Born on October 23, 1940 in Tres Coracoes, Minas Gerais in Brazil, Deon Arratnes Do Nasciemento, known to the world as “Pele,” is revered as one of the most influential football (soccer) players in history. From the time he began his legendary football career at the age of 15, until his finale match in 1977, Pele set numerous international records and is believed to have scored over 1,281 goals throughout his 22 years as a professional football player.

Pele’s love for football began when he was a young child growing up in Bauru, Sao Paulo State, Brazil. Although his family could not afford a leather football, he improvised by playing with grapefruits and sock rolls. Additionally, Pele and his friends helped finance their Bauru youth team by selling roasted peanuts.

Sources: 
Rod Smith, Pele (Boston: Pearson Education, 2000); Noel Machin, Pele: King of Soccer (New York: Longman, 1984); SoccerPulse.com, http://www.soccerpulse.com/view_legends.php?id=10; Latino Legends in Sports, “A Biography of Pele,” http://www.latinosportslegends.com/Pele_bio.htm; ESPN Classic, “Pele, King of Futbol,” http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Pele.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Evans, Annie/Evanti, Lillian (1891-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Source/Moorland-Spingarn Research
Center, Howard University
Lillian (Evans) Evanti, one of the first African American women to become an internationally prominent opera performer, was born in Washington D.C. in 1891.  Evanti was born into a prominent Washington, D.C. family.  Her father, Wilson Evans, was a medical doctor and teacher in the city.  He was the founder of Armstrong Technical High School and served many years as its principal.  Anne Brooks, Evanti’s mother, taught music in the public school system of Washington D.C.

Evanti received her education from Armstrong Technical High School and graduated from Howard University in 1917 with her bachelor’s degree in music.  A gifted student and performer, she was able to speak and sing in five different languages.  The following year she and Roy W. Tibbs, her Howard University music professor, married and had a son, Thurlow Tibbs. 
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Carl Van Vechten, "Lillian Evanti." Extravagant Crowd, http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/cvvpw/gallery/evanti.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harding, Vincent Gordon (1931-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Vincent Harding

Vincent G. Harding, civil rights leader, teacher, scholar, engaged citizen, and seeker was especially noted for his close association with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his decades of social justice work. Harding was born on July 25, 1931 in Harlem. His mother Mabel Harding was one of the most influential people in his life. In 1960, he married Rosemarie Freeney Harding (1930-2004) in Chicago, Illinois. The couple had two children, Rachel and Jonathan.

Sources: 
Rose Marie Berger, “I’ve Known Rivers: The Story of Freedom Movement Leaders Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Vincent Harding,” Sojourners, online archive (www.sojo.net). Vincent Harding, interview with Tisa M. Anders, Denver, Colorado, April 19, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Woodson, Robert L., Sr. (1937– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born into poverty on April 8, 1937, in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Robert L. Woodson Sr. is often described as the “godfather” of the movement to empower community-based organizations to help themselves. Widely known today as a leading black conservative, Woodson rose from liberal-oriented neighborhood civil rights activism in the 1960s to coordinating national community development programs in the 1970s.

From 1971 to 1973, Woodson headed the National Urban League’s Administration of Justice Division, followed by the Neighborhood Revitalization Project from 1973 to 1976, and a fellowship with the American Enterprise Institute (1976–1981). Along the way, he gradually embraced conservative approaches to combating crime and poverty.

Sources: 
Jason L. Riley, “A Black Conservative's War on Poverty,” The Wall Street Journal (April 2014); Robert Woodson, The Triumphs of Joseph: How Today’s Community Healers Are Reviving Our Streets and Neighborhoods (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998); https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/02/25/the-missed-opportunity-of-robert-woodson.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Touré, Ahmed Sékou (1922-1984)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Ahmad Sekou Toure in Bamako
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ahmed Sékou Touré, first president of Guinea, trade unionist, Pan-Africanist and authoritarian leader, was born on January 9, 1922 at Faranah, Guinea, a town on the banks of the Niger River. His parents, Alpha Touré and Aminata Fadiga, were peasant farmers of the Malinké ethnic group. Sékou Touré was first educated at the local Koranic school and pursued further studies at the regional school of Kissidougou, south Guinea. In 1938, he was expelled from school in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, for leading a hunger strike. He continued educating himself through correspondence courses while taking on various jobs.

Sources: 

Hakim Adi and Marika Sherwood, Pan-African history: political figures from Africa and the Diaspora since 1787 (New York: Routledge, 2003); Ibrahima Baba Kaké, Sékou Touré: le héros et le tyran (Paris: Jeune Afrique livres, 1987).

Affiliation: 
University of Nantes, France

Johnson, Joseph William "Billy" (1934–2012)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Joseph William “Billy” Johnson, an import officer for the state metal industries of Ghana, played a foundational role in establishing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in that African nation in the 1960s. Johnson was born on December 17, 1934, in Lagos, Nigeria. While Johnson’s prepared autobiography for American audiences identifies him as a devout Catholic, Ghanaian Mormonism’s local chronicler, Emmanuel Kissi, identifies Johnson as a reverend in the Church of the Lord (Aladura). Rooted in visions, prophecies, and the production of sacred scripts, Johnson’s religious background would have prepared Johnson to be receptive to the narrative histories undergirding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

Sources: 
Joseph William “Billy” Johnson, “We Felt the Spirit of The Pioneers,” in E. Dale LeBaron, ed., All Are Alike Unto God (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990): 13-23; Emmanual Kissi, Walking in the Sand: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 2004); Russell Stevenson, For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014); Russell Stevenson, ‘’We Have Prophetesses’: Mormonism in Ghana, 1964–1979,” Journal of Mormon History 41:3 3 (July 2015): 221-257.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Scott-Heron, Gil (1949-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Poet, novelist, musician, and songwriter Gil Scott-Heron was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 1, 1948 to parents Bobbie Scott Heron, a librarian, and Giles (Gil) Heron, a Jamaican professional soccer player. He grew up in Lincoln, Tennessee and the Bronx, New York, where he attended DeWitt Clinton High School. Heron attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and received an M.S. in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University.

By age 13, Scott-Heron had written his first collection of poems. He published his first novel, The Vulture, a murder mystery whose central themes include the devastating effects of drugs on urban black life, in 1968 at age 19.  Four years later,  Scott-Heron published his second novel, The Nigger Factory (1972), which, set on the campus of a historically black college (HBCU), focused on the conflicting ideology between the more traditionally Eurocentric-trained administrators; the younger, more nationalistic students—founders of  Members of Justice for Meaningful Black Education (MJUMBE); and the more moderate students and their leader, Earl Thomas.

Sources: 
Hank Bordowitz, “Music Notes: Gil Scott Heron.” American Vision 13 no.3 (June 1998):40; Terry Rowden, “Gil Scott-Heron,” Encyclopedia of African American Literature Wilfred D. Samuels, ed., (New York: Facts on File, 2007): 452-454.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Turner, Charles Henry (1867-1923)

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

Charles Henry Turner was the first African American psychologist and the first African American comparative behavior psychologist.  Turner was born on February 3rd 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Turner was raised by his mother, Addie Campbell, a practical nurse and his father, Thomas Turner, a church custodian.  His father had a great love for books, and owned an extensive library where Turner became fascinated with reading about the habits and behavior of insects.  

Charles Turner attended Woodward High School in Cincinnati where he was the valedictorian of his class.  He then went on to earn his B.S at the University of Cincinnati in 1891.  The following year he earned his Masters degree in Biology at the same University.  After earning his first two degrees Turner married and fathered three children.  With a young family to support, Turner did not finish his doctorate degree in zoology at the University of Chicago, Illinois until 1907.  Although offered a position to work as a professor at the University of Chicago, Turner, who wanted to help young African Americans, took a position as a high school teacher in St. Louis, Missouri.

Sources: 

Charles I. Abramson, Latasha D. Jackson, and Camille L. Fuller, Selected Papers and Biography of Charles Henry Turner (1867-1923) Pioneer of Comparative Animal Behavior Studies (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, Ltd. 2003); Michael Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators  (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mensah, Raphael Abraham Frank (1924-1990s)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Johnson and Abraham Mensah
at the Microphone, 1965, Accra, Ghana, ca. 1965

"Image Courtesy of Russell Stevenson"
Sources: 
Emmanuel Kissi, Walking in the Sand: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 2004); Russell Stevenson, For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014); Russell Stevenson, “’We Have Prophetesses’: Mormonism in Ghana, 1964-1979,” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 3 (July 2015): 221-257.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Killens, John Oliver (1916-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, John Oliver Killens was an editor, essayist, activist, critic and novelist who inspired a generation of African American writers through his Harlem Writers Guild. He inspired such literary artists as Rosa Guy, Maya Angelou, Ossie Davis and Audrey Lorde. The great grandson of former slaves, whose stories he heard first hand, Killens was born in Macon, Georgia in 1916. The segregated, racist world of his youth in the South and the military during young adulthood, in which he served during World War II, became the backdrop and central themes of his work.  He attended Morris Brown College, Howard University, Columbia University and New York University.  He later taught at Fisk and Howard Universities and was writer-in-residence at New York’s Medgar Evers College.
Sources: 
Keith Gilyard, Liberation Memories: The Rhetoric And Poetics Of John Oliver Killens (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2003); Ray Black, "John O. Killens," Encyclopedia of African American Literature Wilfred D. Samuels, ed., (New York: Facts on File, 2007): 300-302.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Gardner-Chavis, Ralph (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 

James Michael Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993); The HistoryMakers, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/ralph-gardner-chavis-38.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bivins, Horace W. (1862-1937)

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

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

Jeffrey, Hester C. (1842-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Myers, Stephen (1800-1870)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Stephen Myers held a variety of jobs over his lifetime but he is best known as a leader of the local Albany, New York Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Myers was also a prominent publisher who became an effective abolitionist lobbyist.

Myers was born into slavery in Hooksick, New York, a town just north of Albany. He was freed when he was 18 years old. In 1827 he married Harriet Johnson and together they had four children. Myers worked as a grocer and a steamboat steward on vessels sailing between New York City and Albany. Into the late 1830s, he began helping escaped slaves, and eventually began publishing.

In 1842 Myers began publishing the Elevator, a short-lived abolitionist sheet. Soon, he began working with the Northern Star Association, an abolitionist group, and founded its newspaper, the Northern Star and Freeman’s Advocate. This anti-slavery and reform newspaper was directed toward local free blacks and was published with the assistance of his wife, Harriet. The Northern Star office and the Myers home were used on occasion to provide comfort and support to fugitive slaves. As such Stephen and Harriet Myers helped hundreds of escaping slaves face the last leg of their northward journey to Canada. Because of their work, the Albany station developed the reputation for being the best organized section of the Underground Railroad in New York State.
Sources: 
Peter Williams, et al., “Letters from Negro Leaders to Gerrit Smith,” The Journal of Negro History 27:4 (October 1942); C. Peter Ripley, ed., The Black Abolitionist Papers, Vol. I, III, IV (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986); http://ugrworkshop.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cotter, Joseph Seamon, Jr. (1895-1919)

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

John Seamon Cotter, Jr., a talented playwright, journalist, and poet, was born and reared in Louisville, Kentucky. The son of journalist, playwright, poet, teacher and community developer Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr., the younger Cotter’s education began with his sister Florence Olivia teaching him to read. Cotter graduated from Louisville’s Central High School in 1911, where his father was the school principal and his teacher. His mother, Maria F. Cox, was also a teacher at the school. Cotter attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee for two years before being stricken with tuberculosis, a disease that earlier claimed the life of his sister Florence in 1914.  

Joseph Cotter, Jr., completed a collection of one-act plays and poetry during the last seven years of his life. He also wrote one play, On the Fields of France, a protest play in one act which was published in 1920 after his death.  It followed the last hours of two American army officers, one black, one white, both mortally wounded, who ultimately died hand in hand on a battlefield in northern France wondering why they could not have lived in peace and friendship in the United States.  Cotter wrote two other plays, The White Folks’ Nigger and Caroling Dusk which were never published.  Cotter died of tuberculosis in Louisville in 1919 at the age of 24.

Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Herman, Alexis Margaret (1947-- )

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

Alexis Herman, US Secretary of Labor, political activist, civic leader, social worker, and entrepreneur, was born on July 16, 1947 in Mobile, Alabama to politician Alex Herman and educator Gloria Caponis.  Herman graduated from Heart of Mary High School in Mobile in 1965 and enrolled in Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and then Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama before transferring to St. Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 1969.  She joined the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta during her college years and supported this sorority throughout her career.

Sources: 
http://www.washingtonspeakers.com/speakers/speaker.cfm?SpeakerId=3178; http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/herman.htm; http://www.toyota.com/about/diversity/diversity_advisory_board/alexis_herman.html; http://encore.utep.edu/iii/encore/search/C__Salexis%20herman__Orightresult__U1?lang=eng&suite=cobalt
Affiliation: 
University of Texas El Paso

Dawson, William Levi (1886-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Levi Dawson was a well-known Chicago, Illinois lawyer who became one of the city’s most influential politicians.  His career paralleled the rising significance of African Americans in the Democratic Party.  Dawson was born in Albany, Georgia on April 26, 1886.  Little is known of his formative years.  In 1912, Dawson graduated magna cum laude from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Shortly afterwards he migrated to Chicago where he studied law at Northwestern University.  Once the United States entered World War I in 1917, Dawson joined the US Army and was soon commissioned a second lieutenant with the 365th Infantry when it served in France.  Dawson returned to the United States in 1919, passed the Illinois Bar Exam, and the following year began the practice of law in Chicago.
Sources: 

Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Tresse, Black Americans in Congress 1870-1989 (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1990); James Q. Wilson, “Two Negro Politicians: An Interpretation.”  Midwest Journal of Political Science 4, November 1960: 346-69.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Bullen, Roland Wentworth Boniface (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Roland Wentworth Bullen was born on Carriacou, one of the six islands that comprise the nation of Grenada. The product of a prominent family that owned several businesses, including the popular restaurant “Callaloo,” Bullen arrived in the United States in 1966. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in public administration at San Diego (California) State University in 1971, Bullen earned a master’s degree in city planning at Alliant International University (formerly United States International University) in 1973.
Sources: 
“West Indian Born Ambassadors in US Diplomatic Corp,” article at http://www.ecaroh.com/bmp/articles/wibornambassadors.htm; State Department release at  http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/b/22869.htm; Wikileaks article at https://saveguyana.wordpress.com/tag/dea/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Walcott, “Jersey” Joe (1914–1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Charles Hoff, Photographer
Born on January 31, 1914 in Merchantville, New Jersey, Arnold Raymond Cream was the son of immigrants from Barbados.  He took up boxing at age fourteen after his father died and debuted professionally at age 16 as a lightweight where on September 9, 1930 he defeated Cowboy Wallace in a first round knockout.  Walcott ultimately grew into a heavyweight. He was often compared to the great welterweight champion Joe Walcott who was also from Barbados, and he later decided to adopted the name “Jersey” Joe Walcott as a tribute to the older fighter.

Walcott fought Joe Louis for the heavyweight title for the first time on December 5, 1947, dropping the champion twice during a bout which resulted in a controversial split decision loss.  He lost again in a rematch with Louis on June 25, 1948 in an eleventh round knockout.  Walcott fought for the title three more times, before finally capturing the crown on his fifth try by knocking out Ezzard Charles in seven rounds on July 18, 1951. Walcott was 37 at the time, the oldest man ever to win the heavyweight crown up until that time. He retained that distinction until George Foreman won the title in 1994 at age 45.  
Sources: 
Peter Brooke-Ball, The Boxing Album, An Illustrated History (New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1995); www.ibhof.com/walcott.htm, www.boxrec.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Yates, Josephine Silone (1852-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Teacher, writer and civil rights activist Josephine Silone, the youngest daughter of Alexander and Parthenia Reeve-Silone, was born in Mattiluck on Long Island, New York in 1852.  At age eleven, Yates moved to Philadelphia to live with her uncle, Rev. J.B. Reeve, in hopes of finding greater educational opportunity. There she attended the Institute of Colored Youth run by Fannie Jackson Coppin. By the time Silone was old enough to attend high school, an aunt invited her to live and go to school in Newport, Rhode Island. Silone, the only black student in her class and the first to graduate from Rogers High School in Newport in 1877, was selected class valedictorian.  Silone’s high school teachers encouraged her to attend a university but instead she chose Rhode Island State Normal School, a teacher’s college and again graduated as the only African American student in 1879.

After passing the Rhode Island State Teacher Certification, Silone moved to Jefferson City, Missouri to begin teaching at Lincoln Institute (later Lincoln University) and to head the Department of Natural Sciences. She resigned in 1889 to marry Professor W.W. Yates, then the principal of the Wendell Phillips School in Kansas City.  Josephine Silone Yates, who also taught at the Phillips School, soon became known and admired as one of the best teachers in the state of Missouri.  
Sources: 
Daniel Wallace Culp, Twentieth Century Negro Literature: Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to The American Negro (Palo Alto, California:  J. L. Nichols & Company, 1902).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Norman, Jessye (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Best known as an opera singer, Jessye Norman has also lent her rich, dramatic, and powerful voice to recordings and recitals of spirituals and hymns– including a particularly compelling version of “Amazing Grace” and Christmas carols, in addition to recording jazz. She has never limited herself to any one musical genre, and her voice can widely range from contralto to high soprano.

Norman was born on September 15, 1945 in Augusta, Georgia, the child of Silas Norman, an insurance broker, and Janie Norman, a schoolteacher. She began singing in church choirs as a young child, and was taking piano lessons by age eight. Her singing enabled her to attend Howard University on a full scholarship, where she studied with voice teacher Carolyn Grant, and she graduated in 1967. Winning first prize at an international music competition in Germany in 1968 propelled her into international recognition, and by 1972 she had performed her triumphal debut in the title role of Verdi’s Aida at the legendary La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy.

Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, “Jessye Norman,” Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale, 1992); http://www.notablebiographies.com/ .
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

O’Ree, Willie (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) first black player, is an African-Canadian, born on October 15, 1935, in Fredricton, New Brunswick. He began skating at an early age and quickly developed into one of the best players in eastern Canada.  O’Ree joined the Quebec Frontenacs, a junior hockey league team in 1954.  While there a puck struck O’Ree in the right eye during a game in Ontario. Eight weeks after being injured he returned to hockey but had lost almost all of the vision in his right eye.

Despite his injury O’Ree in 1956 was acquired by the Quebec Aces, a professional team.  O’Ree led them to a championship during his first season of play.  During the following season in Quebec, O’Ree was noticed by NHL scouts and invited to join the Boston (Massachusetts) Bruins to replace an injured player. He made his NHL debut on January 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the first black player in the League’s history. At that time in hockey there was little medical testing and no eye exams.  As a result O’Ree played 21 professional seasons with vision in only one eye.
Sources: 
Willie O’Ree and Michael McKinley, Autobiography of Willie O’Ree: Hockey’s Black Pioneer (Toronto: Somerville House, 2000); Robin Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997); http://www.fredricton.ca/en/recleisure/2008Jan15OReePlaceNamed.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barry, Marion Jr. (1936-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marion Barry Jr., a civil rights activist and later three term mayor of Washington D.C., was born on March 6, 1936, in Itta Bena, Mississippi. His parents, Marion Barry and Mattie Barry, were sharecroppers; the family lived in relative poverty. When Marion was eight years old, his mother took the family to live in Memphis, Tennessee.

Barry graduated from high school in Memphis and then in 1958 earned his bachelor’s degree at Le Moyne College, a small black college in the city. He received a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Le Moyne College in Nashville in 1960.  Barry then completed three years of a doctoral program in chemistry at the University of Tennessee.

Sources: 

Jonetta Rose Barras, The Last of the Black Emperor: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in the New Age of Black Leaders (Baltimore: Bancroft Press, 1998); Councilmember Ward 8, http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/BARRY/about/default.htm; The Washington Post, “Marion Barry: The Making of a Mayor,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dc/barry/barry.htm. "Marion Berry 4-Time Mayor of D.C., dies at 78," The Washington Post, Nov 23, 2014.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mays, William G. (1945-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William “Bill” G. Mays, entrepreneur, philanthropist and civic leader, was born in Evansville, Indiana to Joy and Theodore C. Mays, Sr. on December 4, 1945.  The youngest of three sons, his older brothers, Theodore Jr. and Robert, were twins.  Both parents were educators who encouraged their children to excel in their studies. 

Mays graduated from Evansville’s Lincoln High School, an institution that was segregated until his senior year.  When he graduated in 1963, Mays’ academic accomplishments led to his recognition as the number one graduating male student from Evansville Lincoln High School. 

His father’s academic training inspired Mays to study chemistry at Indiana University in Bloomington where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1970.  In 1973, he earned a Master of Business Administration Degree from Indiana University.

Sources: 
Indiana University Kelley School of Business Alumni Awards (n.d.),  Michael Anthony Adams, “Indianapolis businessman Bill Mays dead at age 69,” Indianapolis Star, December 4, 2014, http://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2014/12/04/bill-mays-businessman-dead-at-69-indianapolis/19924109/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

Lewis, Sir William Arthur Lewis (1915-1991)

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

William Arthur Lewis was a public intellectual in the field of development economics, who in 1971 became the first African American to receive a Nobel Prize in category other than peace.  Lewis was honored for his work in economics.  Lewis was the author of 12 books and more than 80 technical works in developmental economics

William Arthur Lewis was born in St. Lucia in the British West Indies in 1915, the fourth of five children, to schoolteacher parents George and Ida Lewis. He finished high school at the age of fourteen, enabling him to win a government scholarship to study in Great Britain.  At 18 he entered the London School of Economics to work for a degree in commerce.

Sources: 

Colin A Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: the Black Experience in the Americas. 2nd Edition (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006) Michael W. Williams, The African American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp. 1993).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Walker, Tristan (1984– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Tristan Walker at the Silicon Valley CODE2040 Office
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The Silicon Valley (California) entrepreneur Tristan Walker is best known as the founder and CEO of Walker & Company Brands Incorporated. Walker was born in the Queens area of New York City, New York, on July 5, 1984. When Walker was only three years old, his father was shot and killed, forcing his mother to work long hours at two administrative jobs and live off of welfare. Despite this difficult environment, in 2002 Walker graduated from The Hotchkiss School, a boarding school in Lakeville, Connecticut. He then began college at the State University of New York at Stony Brook where he studied economics. While at Stony Brook, Walker was a member of Phi Beta Kappa International Honor Society and a participant in the Sponsors for Education Opportunity career program. In 2005 he graduated summa cum laude as class valedictorian.

Following college, Walker enrolled in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. While there, Walker began an internship at the social media company Twitter. He later became director of Business Development at the company Foursquare, a tech company known primarily for its development of location based mobile applications.

Sources: 
Trent Gillies, “Tristan Walker aims to change the world – starting with razors,” CNBC, March 14, 2015); J. J. McCorvey, “Tristan Walker: The Visible Man,” Fast Company, November 11, 2014; J. J. McCorvey, “Tristan Walker’s Walker & Company Raises $24 Million, Scores Target Distribution Deal,” Fast Company, September 28, 2015; and Laurie Segall, “Tristan Walker’s path through Silicon Valley’s color barrier,” CNN, November 3, 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lewis, Kossola Cudjo (c. 1841–1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy Erik Overbey Collection
University of South Alabama Archives
Sources: 
Sylviane A. Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (NY: Oxford University Press, 2007); http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1403
Contributor: 

Peters, Brock (1927-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Brock Peters, who emerged as a prominent actor of the 1960s, was born George Fisher in 1927, to Sonny and Alma Fisher in New York City. Prior to concentrating on an acting career that spanned nearly six decades, he attended the University of Chicago, and later City College in New York.
Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Anonymous,Telegraph.co.uk. Brock Peters obituary; August 25, 2005;  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1496874/Brock-Peters.html; accessed May 19, 2009; Tom Vallance, "Brock Peters: Actor best known for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,'" The Independent [London], August 25, 2005; Mel Watkins, "Brock Peters of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird' Is Dead at 78,'" New York Times, August 24, 2005; http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B05EED7113EF937A1575BC0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. Accessed May 19, 2009.
Contributor: 

Coles, Solomon Melvin (1844-1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Edna Jordan, Black Tracks to Texas: Solomon Melvin Coles—From Slave to Educator (Corpus Christi: Golden Banner Press, 1977); Moses N. Moore, Jr. and Yolanda Y. Smith, “Solomon M. Coles: The First Black Student Officially Enrolled in Yale Divinity School,” Spectrum: Yale Divinity School History, 6-7; Moses N. Moore, Jr. and Yolanda Y. Smith, “Solomon M. Coles: Preacher, Teacher, and Former Slave—The First Black Student Officially Enrolled in Yale Divinity School,” http://www.yale.edu/divinity/storm/Coles.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historians

Jones, Quincy Delight, Jr. (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. was born in Chicago's South Side on March 14, 1933 but grew up in Bremerton and Seattle, Washington.  While in elementary school Jones picked up the trumpet, and his skill with the instrument led him to receive a scholarship to Berklee College of Music.  However, he dropped out of Berklee after he was given an offer to go on the road with bandleader Lionel Hampton.  After his time with Hampton, Jones began work as a freelance arranger.  He also traveled the world with the Dizzy Gillespie band as well as Harold Allen's jazz musical Free and Easy.  Jones then settled in New York and went to work for Mercury Records.  Jones advanced at Mercury and in 1964 he became the first African American to hold the position of vice president of a white-owned record company.

During the 1960s and 1970s Jones worked as a social activist, supporting such programs as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Operation Breadbasket in Chicago.  He also joined the board of Rev. Jesse Jackson's People United to Save Humanity (PUSH).  Jones also helped form the Institute for Black American Music in an effort to bring more appreciation to African American music and culture.
Sources: 
Gerald Early, "Quincy Jones: The Story of an American Musician," American Masters.  PBS.org, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/jones_q.html ; Quincy Jones, The Autobiography of Quincy Jones (New York, New York: Doubleday, 2001); "Quincy Jones Biography," The Academy of Achievement: A Museum of Living History.  2006. http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/jon0bio-1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Knox, William Jacob, Jr. (1904-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Harvard University Archives,
HUD 325.25
Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on January 5, 1904, William Knox is remembered for two achievements.  He was among a handful of black scientists to work on the top secret Manhattan Project, which produced the atom bomb during World War II, and following the war he held a key development position at the Kodak Corporation, a major manufacturer of camera equipment.

Knox was the oldest of three brothers born to William and Estelle Knox. The elder Knox was a clerk at the U.S. postal service in New Bedford.  All of the brothers attended Harvard University as undergraduates with William graduating from the institution in 1925.  All three Knox brothers would go on to earn Ph.D.s.  The middle son, Everett, studied history.  The youngest son, Lawrence, studied chemistry and, during World War II, joined his eldest brother on Manhattan Project research.    
Sources: 
Jessie Parkhurst Guzman, et al., Negro Year Book: A Review of Events Affecting Negro Life, 1941-1946 (Tuskegee Institute, Alabama: Dept. of Records and Research, 1947); Patricia Carter Sluby, The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2004); Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moster, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Jordan, George (1849?-1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
George Jordan, buffalo soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, hailed from rural Williamson County in central Tennessee.  Enlisting in the 38th Infantry Regiment on 25 December 1866, the short and illiterate Jordan proved a good soldier.  In January 1870, he transferred to the 9th Cavalry’s K Troop, his home for the next twenty-six years.  Earning the trust of his troop commander, Captain Charles Parker, Jordan was promoted to corporal in 1874; by 1879, he wore the chevrons of a sergeant.  It was during these years that Jordan learned how to read and write, an accomplishment that certainly facilitated his advancement in the Army.

On 14 May 1880, following a difficult forced march at night, a twenty-five man detachment under Jordan successfully repulsed a determined attack on old Fort Tularosa, New Mexico, by more numerous Apaches.  The next year on 12 August, still campaigning against the Apaches, Jordan’s actions contributed to the survival of a detachment under Captain Parker when they were ambushed in Carrizo Canyon, New Mexico.  Although neither engagement received much attention initially, in 1890 Jordan was awarded a Medal of Honor for Tularosa and a Certificate of Merit for Carrizo Canyon.

By the time of his retirement in 1896 at Fort Robinson, Jordan had served ten years as first sergeant of a veteran troop renowned for its performance against the Apache and Sioux.  Jordan joined other buffalo soldier veterans in nearby Crawford, Nebraska, and became a successful land owner, although his efforts to vote bore little fruit.
Sources: 
Charles L. Kenner, Buffalo Soldiers and Officers of the Ninth Cavalry, 1867-1898: Black and White TogetherBlack Valor: Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898 (Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources Incorporated, 1997); Frank Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldiers II: New and Revised Biographies of African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866-1917 (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004).
(Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Estes, Simon (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Simon Lamont Estes is a prominent and critically acclaimed African American opera singer.  He has made singing appearances before six US presidents, including Barack Obama, numerous other presidents and world leaders, and dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  He has appeared in opera houses worldwide, sung under the baton of the greatest conductors of our time, has extensive recording contracts, and has received six honorary degrees and awards.

He was born to Simon Estes, Sr., a coal miner and the son of a slave, and Ruth Jeter Estes, a homemaker.  He grew up in the small south central Iowa town of Centerville.  His mother stimulated his interest in music and he began singing in church at an early age.
Sources: 
Simon Estes and Mary L. Swanson, Simon Estes: In His Own Voice, An Autobiography (Cumming, Iowa:  LMP, L.C., A. Landauer, Co., 1999);
http://wartburg.edu/estes/ (accessed 4/1/13).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Baird, Harry (1931-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The physical presence that black British actor Harry Baird brought to the movie screen was largely a consequence of the United Kingdom going through the birthing pain of racism during the 1950s and 1960s.  Born in Guyana, this premier black actor was no Paul Robeson, but Harry Baird carried with him a presence that spoke to Britain’s patronizing advancement out of the stone-age of colonial imperialism.
Sources: 
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks (New York: Continuum, 1992); Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) title search by key word, “Harry Baird”; Tom Milne, ed., The Timeout Film Guide, Penguin Books, 3rd Edition, 1992.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Christie, Rachel (1988- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Rachel Sophia Adina Christie was crowned Miss England on July 20, 2009. She was the first women of African descent to hold the title.  Previously she was Miss London City 2009.  Christie’s reign as Miss England was brief; she was forced to relinquish her title in November 2009.   

Rachel Christie is biracial. Her mother Diana Christie is a white Irish Catholic. Her father, Afro-Briton Russel Christie, the brother of former British Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie, was stabbed to death when young Rachel was eight.  She has three siblings, James, Rhease, and Rebecca.
Sources: 
Frances Hardy, “I Won Miss England to Prove Being Black is Never an Excuse for Failure Says Linford Christie's Niece,” The (London) Daily Mail, July 25, 2009; Ruth Barnett, “Arrested Ms. England Hands Back The Crown,” Sky News, November 6, 2009; “Linford Christie's niece faces arrest after missing breathalyzer trial,” London Evening Standard, July 8, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Henson, Matthew (1866-1955)

Vignette Type: 
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

DuBois, William Edward Burghardt (1868–1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Derrick P. Aldridge, The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History (New York: Teachers College Press, 2008); David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, 1919-1963: The Fight for Equality and the American Century (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Fleming, Thomas Courtney (1907-2006)

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

Thomas Fleming was a founding editor and columnist of one of the leading African American newspapers in California, the San Francisco-based Sun-Reporter. Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1907, Fleming migrated to Chico, California in 1918 to live with his mother upon her divorce from Thomas’s father. After working as a cook for the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1920s, Fleming attended Chico State College in the 1930s where he studied journalism. Persistent racial discrimination limited his employment options.  Aside from contributing several articles to a local San Francisco newspaper on the 1934 General Strike, he was unable to find steady work as a journalist.

World War II brought dramatic changes to the San Francisco Bay Area, including a sizable influx of African Americans who came to work in the region’s war industries. At the height of the war, in the summer of 1944, Fleming was hired as the first editor of the Reporter, a newspaper serving the burgeoning San Francisco African American community. Fleming used his new position to crusade against racism while covering local and state politics.

Sources: 
Carl Nolte, “A Titan of Bay Area Newspapers,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11 April 2004; Virtual Museum of San Francisco, http://www.sfmuseum.org/sunreporter/fleming.html
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

Binga, Jesse (1865-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jesse Binga's rise from relative poverty to become the wealthiest African American entrepreneur and banker in Chicago in the late 19th century earned him a national reputation. Binga was born on April 10, 1865, in Detroit to William W. Binga, a barber and native of Ontario, Canada, and Adelphia Lewis Binga, the owner of extensive property in Rochester and Detroit.  He dropped out of high school and at first collected rents on his mother’s property in Detroit.  He later moved to Seattle and Tacoma, Washington and then Oakland, California, working as a barber in each city.  Binga also worked as a Pullman porter and during that time acquired property in Pocatello, Idaho which he profitably sold.

Binga finally settled in Chicago in 1893.  His first real estate ventures were relatively modest. He began by purchasing run down buildings, repairing, and renting them. By 1908 Binga had built up enough wealth that he was able to establish a private bank.  Binga also married Eudora Johnson who provided him with additional assets and considerable social prestige.  As the African American population of Chicago began to grow in the first two decades of the 20th Century Binga opened the Binga State Bank in 1921 with deposits of over $200,000.  Within three years the bank had deposits of over $1.3 million. Binga, now the owner of a number of South Side Chicago properties was also a leading philanthropist.

Sources: 
Carl Osthaus, "The Rise and Fall of Jesse Binga, Black Banker,” Journal of Negro History (January 1973); "Jesse Binga" Chicago Tribune: Markers of Distinction. http://chicagotribute.org/Markers/Binga.htm;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Myers, Isaac (1835-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Isaac Myers, a labor leader and mason, was born in Baltimore on January 13, 1835.  He was the son of free parents but grew up in a slave state.  Myers received his early education from a private day school of a local clergyman, Rev. John Fortie, since the state of Maryland provided no public education for African American children at the time.  At 16 years, he became an apprentice to James Jackson, a prominent black Baltimore ship caulker.  Four years later Myers was supervising the caulking of clipper ships operating out of Baltimore.

During the Civil War Myers worked as a porter and shipping clerk for a grocer and then returned to his original profession as a caulker.  Soon after the war ended, Myers found himself unexpectedly unemployed when a group of white caulkers protested the employment of black caulkers and longshoremen.  In response to the strike, Myers proposed the creation of a union for black caulkers. 

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Sara Opdycke, “Myers, Isaac,” American National Biography Online (Feb. 2000); http://www.anb.org.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/articles/15/15-01264.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Perry, June Carter (1943- )

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

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

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

Fluellen, Joel (1908-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Joel Fluellen, an instrumental figure in the fight to end Hollywood bias during the 1940’s and 1950’s, was born in 1908 in Louisiana. Prior to beginning his acting career, Fluellen resided in Chicago where he worked as a milliner and store clerk.  After appearing on stage in New York, he relocated to Hollywood in the early 1940’s and gained his first role as a bit player in Cabin in the Sky (1943).

Sources: 

“Joel Fluellen; Actor fought Hollywood bias,” Los Angeles Times,
February 7, 1990, p. A18; "Joel Fluellen 81, A longtime actor in Films
and TV,” New York Times, "February 7, 1999; p. B7; Donald Bogle,
Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography, (New York: Amistad Press, 1997); Edward
Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts: First Edition, (New
Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hobson, Mellody (1969– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Mellody Hobson and George Lucas
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Mellody Hobson is the president of Ariel Investments (AI), which was founded in 1983 by John W. Rogers, Jr. With the continued growth of the African American middle class, the number of black investors has risen. Ariel Investments is one of the nation’s few African American-owned investment companies that focuses primarily on the needs of those investors. Ariel’s current assets sit at $10.1 billion. Hobson views stocks as the best channel to growing significant wealth for African Americans. Combining her knowledge of investments with her drive for bettering the black community, Hobson has been able to use her platform at Ariel to convey and promote these ideas.   
Sources: 
“Our Team” Ariel Investments, LLC, website, https://www.arielinvestments.com/our-team/; Jeanne Lesinski, “Hobson, Mellody, l969–,” Contemporary Black Biography, 2004 in Encyclopedia.com. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2874200042.html; Beth Kowitt, “Why Mellody Hobson Stopped Apologizing for Being a Black Woman,” Fortune, December 3, 2014, http://fortune.com/2014/12/03/mellody-hobson-next-gen/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Murray, Albert (1916-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Albert Murray, an African American novelist, jazz critic, professor, and essayist, was born in Nokomis, Alabama on May 12, 1916.   His birth parents were Sudie Graham and John Young but he was adopted by Hugh and Mattie Murray and grew up in Magazine Point, Alabama. 

Sources: 
Albert Murray and John F. Callahan, eds., Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray (New York: The Modern Library, 2000); Roberta S. Maguire, Conversations with Albert Murray (Mississippi: The University Press of Mississippi, 1997); http://www.tuskegee.edu/Global/story.asp?S=1260209; http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article?tocId=9002879; Mel Watkins, "Albert Murray, Essayist Who Challenged the Conventional, Dies at 97, Books Section, New York Times, August 20, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Marichal, Juan Antonio (1937- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 
Jonah Winter, Béisbol! : Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends (New York: Lee and Low Books, 2001); http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Juan_Marichal_1937.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Powell, C. B. (1894-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clilan (C.B.) Powell, longtime owner of the Amsterdam News, was born in 1894 to former Virginia slaves.  Very little is known about his childhood.  He received his medical degree in 1920 from Howard University School of Medicine and began his career specializing in x-ray technology.   Powell was the first African American x-ray specialist and owned a laboratory in Harlem.  It was at his lab where he met Dr. Philip H.M. Savory, his future business partner.  The two physicians collaborated to create the Powell-Savory Corporation in 1935.

With this new corporation, they switched their focus from medicine to business, and became two of the leading African American entrepreneurs in the 1930s.  They first purchased the failing Victory Life Insurance Company in 1933 in Chicago, Illinois and revived it to a thriving business.  In 1935 they purchased the Amsterdam News, the largest newspaper in Harlem, for $5,000.  Powell became publisher of the New York paper and retained that post until its sale in 1971.  Powell studied other successful newspapers including the New York Times and patterned the Amsterdam News after them.   He also made the Amsterdam News home for numerous African American journalists such as Earl Brown, Thomas Watkins, James L. Hicks, and Jesse H. Walker.  Powell expanded the paper's coverage to include national and international news.   
Sources: 
The Amsterdam News ,(Our Newspaper-About Us), http://www.amserdamnews.com/our_newspaper/about_us/; Jet Magazine, June 29, 1978; Ebony Magazine, September 1978; Kiera Hope Foster, "The Amsterdam News," in Molefei  K. Asante,  ed., The Encyclopedia of Black Studies (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, inc., 2005); www.unityfuneralchapels.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Pratt , Edwin T. (1930-1969)

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

Edwin Thomas Pratt had been a leader in Seattle, Washington’s civil rights movement for a decade when he was assassinated at the front door of his home on January 26, 1969. At the time, Pratt was Executive Director of the Seattle Urban League. His murder remains unsolved.

Pratt was born in 1930 into a tight-knit community of Bahamian immigrants in Coconut Grove, Florida, a Miami suburb. His parents, Miriam and Josephus Pratt, raised five children.  Josephus was a construction laborer and Miriam was a housekeeper and laundress in the hotel industry.

Sources: 
Michael J. Parks, “A Decade of Involvement in Rights Movements,” The Seattle Times, February 2, 1969, p. 35; Caption, “Services Held for Pratt,” The Seattle Times, February 1, 1969, p.1; Interview by the contributor with Charles Whittle, Jr., Miami, Florida, by telephone, November 8, 2012; Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (New York: Doubleday, 2008); Interview by the contributor with Walter Frierson, Miami, Florida, by telephone, November 16, 2012; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994); Nancy J. Weiss, Whitney M. Young, Jr. and the Struggle for Civil Rights (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994); Interview by the contributor with (Retired) Bishop John Hurst Adams, Atlanta, GA, May 11, 2012.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Davy, Gloria (1931-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gloria Davy, a rich-voiced (lirico-spinto) soprano who “sang for the sheer joy of singing” had a four decade career as a concert singer. Early in her career she replaced Leontyne Price as Bess in the 1954 international tour of Porgy and Bess. In 1958 she broke color barriers when she was chosen for the lead in Aida with the Metropolitan Opera. After moving to Europe she gained international recognition for singing, acting, and teaching.

Davy was born on March 29, 1931 in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents from St. Vincent in the Caribbean. After graduation from the High School of Music and Art, she received a degree from Juilliard School (1953). By that time she had already twice (1951, 1952) received the Marian Anderson Award for young singers, established in 1943 by Ms. Anderson, who was the first black singer to appear at the Metropolitan Opera House. Davy’s singing career soon became well established in New York City and included a Town Hall presentation of Benjamin Britten’s Les Illuminations, in 1953.
Sources: 
John Gray, Blacks in Classical Music: A Bibliographical Guide (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988); “New Voices on the Air,” Opera News, December 1, 1958; “Double Launching,” Time, February 2, 24, 1958; Margalit Fox, “Gloria Davy” obituary, New York Times, December 10, 2012; Herb Boyd, “Gloria Davy, opera pioneer, dead at 81,” New York Amsterdam News, January 9, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Robert Lloyd Smith (1861-1942)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Lloyd Smith, politician and businessman, was born in 1861, to free black parents, one of whom was a schoolteacher.  Smith attended the public elementary schools in Charleston.  In 1875 he entered the University of South Carolina and remained there until 1877.  Leaving the University of South Carolina when it shut its doors to black students, Smith entered Atlanta University, where he graduated in 1880 with a Bachelor of Science degree in English and mathematics.   Smith moved to Oakland, Colorado County, Texas, where he became principal of the Oakland Normal School.  Later, he became a member of the County Board of School Examiners.  In order to help blacks economically, Smith founded the Oakland Village Improvement Society and the Farmer's Improvement Society.  In 1895 he became involved in politics and ran successfully for the legislature in predominantly white Colorado County.
Sources: 
Merline Pitre, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: The Black Leadership of Texas, 1868-1900 (Austin: Eakin, 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Wheeler, Emma Rochelle (1882-1957)

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

Born in Gainesville, Florida on February 7, 1882, Emma Rochelle Wheeler had gained an interest in medicine at the young age of six after her father had taken her to a white female doctor for an eye problem. Seeing the rare female doctor persuaded young Emma that she could pursue that profession as well. Emma remained friends with the physician who followed her progress through high school and later Cookman Institute in Jacksonville.

Rochelle graduated from Cookman in 1899 at the age of 17 and married Joseph R. Howard, a teacher, in 1900. Within a year of their marriage Howard fell ill with typhoid fever and died before seeing his son, Joseph Jr.  Soon after her husband’s death, Wheeler moved with her son to Nashville, Tennessee where she would continue to pursue her goal of becoming a physician.

Emma Howard attended Walden University in Nashville, graduating from Meharry Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical College in 1905. The week of her commencement she married John N. Wheeler, who was also a physician. Together they would have two daughters, Thelma and Bette, and an adopted son George, who was Emma’s nephew.

Sources: 
Rita Lorraine, "Dr. Wheeler’s Pre-Paid Health Plan," African Americans of Chattanooga;  Jessie Carney Smith, "Emma Rochelle Wheeler," in Notable Black American Women: Book II (Detroit: Gale Research, 1996); "Walden Hospital Marker," http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=13932.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Stewart, Maria W. Miller (1803-1879)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Maria W. Stewart's Publication "Meditations"
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Maria W. Stewart, best known as one of the earliest female public speakers, was born Maria Miller in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1803. Her parents’ first names and occupations are not known. Stewart was orphaned by age five and became an indentured servant, serving a clergyman until she was fifteen. She also attended Connecticut Sabbath schools and taught herself to read and write.

In 1826 Miller married James W. Stewart. Her husband, a shipping agent, had served in the War of 1812 and had spent some time in England as a prisoner of war. With her marriage, she became part of Boston’s small free black middle class and soon became involved in some of its institutions including the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which worked for immediate abolition of slavery.  When James W. Stewart died in 1829, the white executors of her husband’s will took her inheritance through legal actions, leaving her penniless.
Sources: 
Marilyn Richardson, Maria W. Stewart, America’s First Black Woman Political Writer: Essays and Speeches, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987); Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge Classics, 2008); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America: The Early Years, 1619-1899 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dudley, Edward Richard (1911-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Edward Dudley was the first black American to lead a U.S. Mission abroad with the rank of Ambassador. Dudley was born on March 11, 1911 in South Boston, Virginia to Edward Richard and Nellie (Johnson) Dudley. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith College in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1932, Dudley briefly taught in a one-room Virginia school. He later moved to Washington, D.C., and enrolled in Howard University’s dentistry program. After deciding dentistry was not for him, Dudley moved to New York City, New York, eventually enrolling at St. John’s University where he earned a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree in 1941.  While at St. John’s he served on its prestigious Law Review.
Sources: 
The New York Times, February 11, 2005; “Black Chiefs of Mission Oral History Project, Judge Edward Richard Dudley,” Phelps Stokes Fund, April 3, 1981; Pioneering African Americans in the Courts and the Legal Community Past and Present  (New York: Unified Court System of New York, February 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Moses, Robert P. (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Harlem, New York in 1935, Robert Parris Moses first appeared on the civil rights scene during the 1960s. After being inspired by a meeting with Ella Baker and being moved by the student sit-ins, as well as the Civil Rights fervor in the South, he joined the movement. His first involvement came with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) where he organized a youth march in Atlanta to promote integrated education.  In 1960 Moses joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and two years later became strategic coordinator and project director with the newly formed Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) which worked in Mississippi.  In 1963 Moses led the voter registration campaign in the Freedom Summer movement. The following year he helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which tried to replace the segregationist-dominated Mississippi Democratic Party delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Moses left SNCC after the organization embraced “black power” under its new chairman, Stokely Carmichael.
Sources: 
http://www.algebra.org/; Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Colin A Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Vol. M-P (Missouri: Thomson Gale, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wilson, Flip (1933-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Kathleen
Fearn-Banks 
Flip Wilson was the first African American to host a hit variety series on television.   The Flip Wilson Show aired from 1970 to 1974 and in addition to high ratings, Wilson won two Emmy Awards, one was for Outstanding Variety Series and the other for Outstanding Writing Achievement.  He also won the Golden Globe Award.  The Flip Wilson Show was the second highest rated show of the 1970-71 season topped only by the controversial but popular All in the Family sitcom.  Unusual for the time, Wilson was also part owner of his show.

Wilson played numerous characters but he is remembered primarily for his controversial portrayal of the sassy Geraldine.  Wilson, following the lead of comedians Milton Berle and Jonathan Winters who had also done characters in falsetto voice, developed Geraldine.  Wilson’s production team suggested he dress up as a woman.  He consented but insisted that Geraldine would be well-coiffed, well-dressed, and would demand respect.  Other characters include Rev. Leroy of the Church of What’s Happening Now and Freddy, the Playboy.  

The biggest names in show business guest starred on the show including Lucille Ball, Lena Horne, Muhammad Ali, Ray Charles, The Temptations, The Jackson Five, B.B. King, Bing Crosby, and Bill Cosby were among them.  Said Producer Henry, “The show was so hot, celebrities asked to be on as guests.”
Sources: 
Kathleen Fearn-Banks, The Historical Dictionary of African-American Television, Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2006.
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 (Haiti). 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

Poussaint, Alvin F. (1934 --)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alvin Poussaint was born in East Harlem in New York City on May 15, 1934.  After graduating from Stuyvesant High School he received a Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in 1956 and an M.D. from Cornell University in 1960.  Poussaint completed his postgraduate training at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Neuropsychiatric Institute, where he served as the chief resident in psychology from 1964 to 1965.   Between 1965 and 1967 Poussaint was the southern field director of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Jackson, Mississippi.  With this organization Poussaint provided health care to civil rights workers and also worked on the desegregation of health care facilities throughout the South.  After leaving Mississippi he became an assistant professor at Tufts University Medical School.  Here he was the director of a psychiatry program in a low-income housing development.  Dr. Poussaint began teaching and researching at Harvard Medical School in 1969.  

Dr. Poussaint’s research interests include studies on the nature of grief, self-esteem, parenting, violence and the social adaptation of children of interracial marriages.  His first book, Why Blacks Kill Blacks (1972) explores the effects of White racism on Black psychological development.  He has also co-authored two other books, Raising Black Children and Lay My Burden Down, as well as numerous articles in professional journals.  

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, and Cornell West, eds., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Macmillan Library Reference USA Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1996); W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: De Capo Press, 1981); Harvard Medical School: http://www.hms.harvard.edu/orma/poussaint/biography/html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Proctor, Henry Hugh (1868-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Daniel Murray
Collection, Library of Congress
Henry Hugh Proctor was an author, lecturer and a clergyman of the Congregational Church. Proctor was born on December 8, 1868 near Fayetteville, Tennessee to former slave parents Richard and Hannah (Murray) Proctor. Proctor attended local schools but was only able to take classes for three months out of the year, as he had to help his parents on their farm for the remaining months. After completing his schooling Proctor became a teacher at Pea Ridge, Tennessee and later at Fayetteville. Receiving his B.A. degree from Fisk University, Proctor dug ditches and preached sermons to pay for his degree.

In 1893 Proctor married Adeline L. Davis, a fellow student he had met at Fisk. The following year, he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale University and in 1904, Clark University honored him with the Doctor of Divinity degree.
Sources: 
Henry Hugh Proctor, Between Black and White. (Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1925);
Altona Trent Johns, “Henry Hugh Proctor.” The Black Perspective in Music 3:1 (1975); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bean, Maurice Darrow (1928-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 1977, career diplomat Maurice D. Bean was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Burma (in 1989 the military government changed the name of the country to Myanmar). Bean was born on September 9, 1928, in Gary, Indiana. His father Everett worked as a laborer for the U.S. Steel Corporation; his mother Vera was a housewife.

Bean attended racially segregated schools in Gary and graduated from Howard University in 1950 with a B.A. in Government. A year later, Bean’s career in the U.S. Foreign Service began when he was assigned to work with the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) in Indonesia. From 1951 to 1956, he served in Djakarta, the nation’s capital, as clerk, assistant program officer, and program analyst for the ECA.

Sources: 
“Maurice Darrow Bean,” 1930 & 1940 United States Federal Census; and U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 http://www.ancestry.com/; Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, “Jimmy Carter: ‘United States Ambassador to Burma Nomination of Maurice D. Bean,’ August 15, 1977” http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=7959; United States Office of the Federal Register, “Jimmy Carter: 1977” (1981) http://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/ppotpus/4732130.1977.002?rgn=main;view=fulltext.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Weah, George (1966- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

George Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah, born in the slums of Monrovia, Liberia on October 1, 1966, is considered one of the best soccer players on the African continent.  For much of his youth, he was raised by his grandmother, Emma Klonjlaleh Brown, who provided for Weah while allowing him to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.

Weah played for Monrovia teams including the Young Survivors, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barolle, and Invincible Eleven before leaving Africa for Europe.  In 1987, at the age of 21, Weah signed for the French Ligue 1 giants, AS Monaco.  Throughout his career at the club Weah scored 55 goals in 155 appearances from 1987 to 1992.  From Monaco he played on a series of other European teams including Paris St. Germain (1992-1995), AC Milan (1995-1999), Chelsea (1999-2000), Manchester City (2001) and Olympic Marseille (2001-2002).  Over his 15-year career in Europe, Weah amassed an astonishing 172 goals.

Sources: 

Henry Winter, “On The Spot: George Weah,” London (?) Daily Telegraph, January 22, 2000; Michael Lewis, “Guiding light: player, coach, and financier, George Weah means everything to Liberian soccer--and Liberia means everything to Weah,” Soccer Digest Magazine, January 2002.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fields, George Washington (1854–1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
George Washington Fields was born into slavery in Hanover County, Virginia on April 25, 1854. He was one of 11 children of Martha Ann Berkley and Washington Fields. Of the children, one died in infancy, three were sold off, and one was a runaway. Fields and the others grew up on Clover Plain Plantation in northeastern Virginia.

In July 1863, during a battle between Union and Confederate soldiers on the plantation, Fields’ mother escaped along with him and five other siblings. After a few months travel, they reached the safety of Fortress Monroe near Hampton, Virginia.  Fortress Monroe was one of the first Union-occupied fortifications which received escaping slaves.  Those who arrived in 1861 and 1862 were labeled "contraband" and their status as free people was disputed.  By the time Fields and her children reached the fort, they were granted freedom by the Emancipation Proclamation since Hanover County was still in Confederate hands.  
Sources: 
Kevin M. Clermont, “The Indomitable George Washington Fields: From Slavery to Attorney” (CreateSpace independent Publishing Platform, 1st edition, June 9, 2013); Hanover County Historical Society, “Nutshell: An Historical Background,” http://www.hanoverhistorical.org/nutshell.html;  Robert Francis Engs, “ Freedom's First Generation: Black Hampton, Virginia, 1861-1890” ( Fordham University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tademy, Lalita (1948- )

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

In 1995, author Lalita Tademy left her prestigious and well-paid position of vice-president and general manager at Sun Microsystems and began to search for a new direction for her life. Her long corporate climb, including stints at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Memorex, led her in her 40s to a life of 12-hour days, a long commute to Silicon Valley, and little time to herself. Although she loved the challenges of her corporate rise, she quit her job and with a three-year financial cushion began researching her family history.

After several years of extensive genealogical research that included gathering approximately 1,000 documents – photographs, census records, diaries, letters, birth certificates, newspaper articles, wills, land deeds, and also the bill of sale for her great-great-great-great-grandmother – she began to write. Tademy wove these historical materials into a novel that blends fact and fiction and tells the story of her maternal Louisiana ancestors over the turbulent years from 1834 to 1936, from slavery to freedom to Reconstruction to Jim Crow.
Sources: 
Lalita Tademy, Cane River (Warner Books: New York, 2001); Jean Hanff Korelitz, “She Ditched the Corner Office,” More magazine, May 2008, 73-76; http://www.lalitatademy.com/bio.html; http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/tademyLalita.php; http://www.Oprah.com/obc/pastbooks/lalita_tademy/;
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Clayton, Alonzo (1876–1917)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, who reached stardom at the age of 15 when he became the youngest rider to win the Kentucky Derby, was born on March 27, 1876 in Kansas City, Missouri to Robert and Evaline Clayton.  

Alonzo Clayton moved with his parents and eight siblings to North Little Rock, Arkansas at the age of 10.  His father, Robert Clayton was a carpenter while his mother, Evaline Clayton stayed at home with the children.  In North Little Rock, Alonzo attended school and worked as a hotel boy and a shoeshine boy to help support his family.

At the age of 12, Clayton started his riding career when he ran away from home to follow his brothers’ footsteps as a jockey.  He landed a job with Lucky Baldwin’s Stable in Chicago as an exercise boy.  One year later, at 13, he was riding and competing in races on the East coast.  At 14, he raced in New York City at Morris Park and in the Jerome Stakes where he recorded his first win as a rider in a major race.  

On May 11, 1892, Clayton rode in and won the Kentucky Derby where he recorded a time of 2:41.50.  Riding Azra, he also set a record as the youngest rider to win the prestigious race.  

Throughout Clayton’s remarkable career, he won other major races including the Champagne Stakes (1891), Jerome Handicap (1891), Clark Handicap (1892, 1897), Travers Stakes (1892), Monmouth Handicap (1893), Kentucky Oaks (1894, 1895) and the Arkansas Derby (1895).

Sources: 

Cary Bradburn, "Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton (1876-1917)" The Encyclopedia
of Arkansas History & Culture
,
http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?ent...
Edward Hotaling, The Great Black Jockeys (Rocklin, California: Forum
Publishing, 1999).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Knight, Etheridge (1931-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Etheridge Knight took a very unconventional path on his way to becoming one of the most popular poets during the Black Arts Movement.  America’s first introduction to Knight’s literary skills came with his first book publication, Poems from Prison in 1968.  Mr. Knight’s troubled past and time in prison led to an unorthodox style of “street” language, drug culture vocabulary, and black slang that immediately separated him from other poets of the era.

Sources: 
Linda Cullum, Contemporary American Ethnic Poets (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2004); Joyce Pettis, African American Poets (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hines, Earl “Fatha” (1903-1983)

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

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

Hall, Prince (c. 1735-1807)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Prince Hall was an important social leader in Boston following the Revolutionary War and the founder of black freemasonry. His birth and childhood are unclear. There were several Prince Halls in Boston at this time. He is believed to have been the slave of a Boston leather worker who was granted freedom in 1770 after twenty-one years of service. He then opened a successful leather goods store, owned his house, was a taxpayer, and a voter. Hall supplied the Boston Regiment with leather goods and may have fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

In 1775, fifteen free blacks, including Hall, joined a freemason lodge of British soldiers. They formed their own lodge, African Lodge #1, when the British left. However, they were not granted full stature by the Grand Lodge of England until 1784. The actual charter arrived in 1787, at which time Hall became the Worshipful Master. Even though they had full stature, most white freemason lodges in America did not treat them equally. Hall helped other black Masonic lodges form. Upon his death in 1807, they became the Prince Hall Grand Lodges.  There are 46 lodges across the United States today.

Sources: 
“Prince Hall,” Africans in America. 1998. WGBH and PBS. 12 July 2006, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p37.html ; “Prince Hall,” Encyclopedia of Black America, Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981), p. 412; “Prince Hall,” Gale Bibliography Resource Center. 12 July 2006, http://www.gale.com/BiographyRC/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jackson, Hal (1915-2012 )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Harold “Hal” Jackson, legendary broadcaster, radio station owner, and philanthropist was born November 3, 1915 in Charleston, South Carolina to Eugene and Laura Jackson. Eugene Jackson owned a successful tailor shop in Charleston allowing the family to live in a comfortable home in an affluent black neighborhood. When Hal Jackson was nine, both of his parents unexpectedly passed away within several months of one another. Jackson lived with relatives in New York and Washington, D.C. until he reached the age of 13 when he independently moved into a District of Columbia boarding house.

Jackson attended Dunbar High School in D.C. and supported himself by working as a shoeshine boy. While in school, he excelled in sports and during his free time worked as an usher for Washington Senators baseball games. After high school Jackson attended Howard University where he worked as a sports announcer for basketball games.
Sources: 
Ashyia Hendeson, "Hal Jackson" Contemporary Black Biography Vol. 41 (Farmington Hill: Thomson/Gale, 2004);  Hal Jackson and James Haskins, The House That Jack Built: My Life As a Trailblazer in Broadcasting and Entertainment (New York: Amistad, 2001); http://www.radiohof.org/discjockey/haljackson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sul-Te-Wan, Madame (Nellie Conley) 1873-1959

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Madame Sul-Te-Wan was born on September 12, 1873 as Nellie Conley in Louisville, Kentucky where her widowed mother worked as a laundress.  Madame Sul-Te-Wan was a pioneering stage and film actress who became one of the most prominent black performers in Hollywood during the silent film era.  Her career spanned more than seventy years and she is best known as the first African American actress contracted to appear in D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking and racist cinematic epic, Birth of a Nation (1915).    

Madame Sul-Te-Wan’s interest in performing was awakened when she delivered laundry to Louisville’s Buckingham Theater where the white actresses who were her mother’s customers often invited young Nellie in to watch the shows.  Two white actresses, Mary Anderson and Fanny Davenport, wrangled an audition for her at a talent contest at the Buckingham which the youngster won.  Moving to Cincinnati, Ohio with her mother, Madame Sul-Te-Wan worked in dance troupes and theater companies throughout the East and Midwest billed as “Creole Nell.” She later formed her own musical performing company, The Black Four Hundred. She reconstituted the group as the Rair Back Minstrels and toured the East Coast to great acclaim.
Sources: 
Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, “Your Life is Really Not Just Your Own,” in Lawrence B. De Graaf, Kevin Mulroy, and Quintard Taylor (eds.), Seeking El Dorado: African Americans in California  (Los Angeles: Autry Museum of Western Heritage and Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001).
Affiliation: 
California State University, Sacramento

Rucker, Darius Carlos (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership, Public Domain
Singer and songwriter Darius Rucker was born on May 13, 1966 to Carolyn Rucker in Charleston, South Carolina.  His mother, who worked as a nurse, supported him and his five brothers and sisters because his father, a traveling musician, was rarely able to spent time with the family.  Darius attended Charleston Middleton High School and the University of South Carolina.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Kochiyama, Yuri (1921-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Yuri Kochiyama was born Mary Yuriko Nakahara in 1921 and raised in San Pedro, California, in a small working-class neighborhood.  When Pearl Harbor was bombed, the life of Yuri’s family took a turn for the worse.  Her father, a first-generation Japanese immigrant, was arrested by the FBI. When President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066 ordering the removal of persons of Japanese descent from “strategic areas,” Yuri and her family were sent to an internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas.  Due to these events, Yuri started seeing the parallels between the treatment of African Americans in Jim Crow South and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in remote internment camps during World War II. Subsequently she decided to devote her life to struggles against racial injustice.  

Sources: 
Yuri Kochiyama, Passing It On – A Memoir, ed. Marjorie Lee, Akemi Kochiyama-Sardinha, and Audee Kochiyama-Holman (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 2004); “Yuri Kochiyama: With Justice in Her Heart” (an interview transcript) http://www.revcom.us/a/v20/980-89/986/yuri.htm; William Yardley, "Yori Kochiyama, Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 93," New York Times, June 4, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Kanagawa University, Japan

Jeter, Howard Franklin (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Howard Jeter, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana and later to Nigeria, was born in Maple Ridge, Union County, South Carolina on March 6, 1947 to James Walter Jeter, Jr. and Emma Mattocks Jeter. Howard Jeter first attended school in a one-room schoolhouse in Maple Ridge. The school had no electricity, heat, or indoor plumbing. In high school, Jeter played the clarinet and drums in the school band and was in the drama club. Howard Jeter graduated from Sims High School in 1964 as the class valedictorian.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Carson, Benjamin S. (1951- )

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

Benjamin S. Carson, neurosurgeon and Republican Presidential Candidate in 2016, was born on September 18, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan.  Carson was raised in a single parent home when his father deserted the family in 1959 when he was eight years old, leaving his mother, Sonya, and his older brother, Curtis.  Because of the turmoil in the family, Carson and his brother fell behind in school and he was labeled a “dummy” by his classmates in fifth grade.  Once his mother saw their failing grades, she stepped in to turn their lives around.  They were only allowed to watch two or three television programs a week and were required to read two books per week and write a book report for her despite her own limited reading skills. Carson developed a love for books and scholarship and eventually graduated third in his high school class.  He enrolled in and graduated from Yale University and from there completed medical school at the University of Michigan after training to become a neurosurgeon.

Sources: 
Laura Chang, Scientists at Work (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000); http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/car1bio-1; Aliyah Frumin, "Carson Admits He Never Applied to West Point," http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/carson-admits-lying-about-west-point-scholarship; Rebecca Kaplan, "Why Is Ben Carson Dropping in the Polls," CBS.com, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-is-ben-carson-dropping-in-the-polls/. Yamiche Alcindor, "Ben Carson is Confirmed as HUD Secretary, New York Times, March 2, 2017.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Neal, William “Curly” (1849 –1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
William Curly Neal with Granddaughter
(Photo Courtesy of the Oracle Historical Society)
William “Curly” Neal helped turn a frontier western mining camp in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Arizona into a booming town that attracted businessmen and financiers, elite vacationers, and royals from around the world. His various business ventures as a teamster, passenger and freight hauler, rancher, hotelier, and entrepreneur point toward the pioneering spirit that helped him settle Oracle, Arizona Territory and become one of the areas wealthiest citizens.
Sources: 

Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Barbara Marriott, Annie’s Guests – Tales from a Frontier Hotel. (Tucson, Arizona: Catymatt Productions, 2002). Donald N. Bentz, “The Oracle Historian.” (Oracle, Arizona: Oracle Historical Society, Summer, 1982 V5, Winter, 1984-85 V7, Summer 1983 V6, Spring, 1988 V7).

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Rapier, James Thomas (1837-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center, Howard University

James Thomas Rapier was a Republican representative from the state of Alabama elected to the 43rd United States Congress. Rapier was born on November 13, 1837 in Florence, Alabama and attended high school in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1856 at the age of 19 he traveled to attend the King School in Buxton, Ontario, Canada, an experimental black community. There, along with his education he experienced a religious conversion and decided to devote his life to helping southern blacks. Rapier also attended the University of Glasgow and Franklin College in Nashville before receiving a teaching certificate in 1863.

Rapier moved to Maury County, Tennessee and in 1865 started campaigning for African American suffrage. He delivered the keynote address at the Tennessee Negro Suffrage Convention in Nashville that same year. When the movement saw no success he took up cotton farming in his home town of Florence, Alabama and became successful.

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

Clarke, George Elliott (1960- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History