Jackson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 8, 1962, and was adopted two weeks after her birth. She grew up in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, which became infamous during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Her adoptive mother continued to live in New Orleans until the hurricane flooded the city. Jackson, who had planned to become a doctor, instead switched her studies to engineering and graduated summa cum laude with a BS in chemical engineering from Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering in 1983. She received a masters degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1986. Jackson was one of only two women in her engineering class at Princeton.
Robert C. Weaver was a noted economist and administrator. From 1966 through 1968, he was the first African American cabinet official, serving as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Weaver was born and raised in Washington D.C. From 1929 through 1934, he attended Harvard University, earning economic degrees at the Bachelor of Science, Masters’, and Ph.D. levels. As an administrator, Weaver worked as an adviser to the Secretary of the Interior (1933-37), special assistant for the Housing Authority (1937-40), and an administrative assistant with the National Defense Advisory Commission (1940). During the Second World War, he worked in several capacities concerned with mobilizing black labor into industrial employment contracted by the federal government.
Myles Anderson Paige, the first African American to be appointed a New York City Criminal Court Judge, was born on July 18, 1898 in Montgomery, Alabama. Paige was a star football player at Howard University, graduating from the Washington D.C. institution with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1921. While at Howard he joined Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
Paige served in the United States Army during the World War I as captain of the 369th regiment. Paige’s ascension to captain was swift and impressive considering he began his military career as a corporal in September of 1917 and was promoted to second lieutenant a week later. The following week he became first lieutenant and before the end of September he was captain and company commander.
In 1921 Paige entered the Columbia University Law School and received his LLB degree in 1924. In 1926 he was a founding member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Alpha Gamma Lambda graduate chapter as well as its first chapter president from 1927 to 1930. Paige later served as 19th General (national) President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity from 1957 to 1960. Also in 1940 Paige received an honorary doctor of law degree from Howard University, rounding out his education.
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).
William Herbert Gray III was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 20, 1941. His mother, Hazel Yates Gray, was a high school teacher. His father, William Herbert Gray Jr. was a Baptist Minister and over his career, the president of two Florida colleges. Upon taking a job as pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, William H. Gray Jr. moved his family to the Philadelphia area. Following in his father’s footsteps, Gray became an assistant pastor of a church in Montclair, New Jersey, after graduating from Franklin and Marshal College in 1963. Gray received a master of divinity degree in 1966 from Drew Theological School. He became senior minister at his church that same year. In 1970, Gray earned a degree in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. As a Baptist minister Gray became involved in the fair housing campaign in New Jersey. In one instance Gray successfully sued a landlord who had refused to rent to him because of his race.
After his father died in 1972, William Gray returned to Philadelphia and became the minister of Bright Hope Baptist Church. Four years later, Gray made his first run for Congress in 1976, campaigning on his experience of promoting fair housing. He lost to incumbent Pennsylvania Congressman Robert Nix in the Democratic Primary but won his second bid in 1978 ending Nix’s 20 year tenure in Congress.
Charles R. Drew, a renowned physician and medical researcher and the first black surgeon examiner of the American Board of Surgery, revolutionized medicine by creating a system that allowed the immediate and safe transfusion of blood plasma.
Born on June 3, 1904 in Washington, D.C. to Richard T. Drew and Nora Burrell, Drew grew up in the city. He attended Dunbar High School, where his excellence in academics and athletics earned him an athletic scholarship to Amherst College in Massachusetts.
After graduating from Amherst in 1926, he worked as Director of Athletics at Morgan College. In 1929, he attended medical school at McGill University in Canada, where he studied with Dr. Beattie and developed his interest in blood storage just before he graduated in 1933. In 1935, Drew returned to Washington D.C. to become a professor at Howard University’s medical school.
Spencie Love, One Blood: The Death and Resurrection of Charles R. Drew (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Chrisanne Becker, 100 African Americans who Shaped American History: Charles R. Drew (San Francisco: Blue Wood Books, 1995).
“Sugar” Ray Robinson is generally acknowledged as the greatest pound for pound fighter in boxing history. Born Walker Smith, Jr. on May 3, 1921 in Detriot, Michigan to parents Walker Smith, Sr., and Lelia (Hurst) Robinson. His father was a cotton, peanut, and corn farmer near Ailey, Georgia who moved north during the early years of World War I. Robinson's parents separated and he moved to New York City with his mother at the age of 12. It was there the underage aspiring boxer became known as Ray Robinson when he borrowed an Amateur Athletic Union membership card from a friend by that name in order to qualify for a Golden Gloves tournament. When his future trainer, George Gainford, watched him box for the first time and commented that his style and fluid motions were “sweet as sugar” he became known as “Sugar” Ray Robinson.
Clayton Pitre is a long time Seattle, Washington-based community activist, former Chief Housing Developer for the Central Area Motivation Project (CAMP), and a retired Montford Point Marine.
Born on June 30, 1924 to Gilbert Pitre and Eugenie Lemelle, Clayton Pitre was the fourth child of seven siblings. He was born and raised in Opelousas in Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana. His father was a cotton and yam farmer, and his mother was a homemaker. Pitre attended Catholic schools until the 9th grade when he gave up his education to work in various defense plants in early World War II Texas.
Academy Award-winning composer and musician Isaac Hayes, Jr. was born to Isaac Sr. and Eula Hayes on August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee. Hayes began his career at the age of 20 when he joined Stax Records as a studio musician. By the late 1960s he was a songwriter/producer, crafting hit singles for Sam and Dave and other Stax acts.
A year after emerging as a solo artist, Hayes’s debut album Hot Buttered Soul (1969) took soul music in a new direction – incorporating spoken segments (he called raps), fewer, longer songs accompanied by orchestras, and eccentric album covers that featured what was to become Hayes’s signature shaved head and gold chains upon his bare chest.
Although his success in the music industry continued with his follow up album Black Moses, Hayes simultaneously pursued a film and television career. In 1971, Hayes created the score for the film Shaft. Recording the sound track in just four days, Shaft rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Chart and garnered a Grammy and an Academy Award for Best Song and Best Score in 1972, making Hayes the first African American composer to win an Oscar. He also appeared in films such as Shaft (1971); Truck Turner (1974), his only starring role.
Isaac Hayes Biography, http://www.filmreference.com/film/84/Isaac-Hayes.html; “Isaac Puts Chef Behind Him,” New York Post, January 24, 2007; The Vancouver Sun (12 August 2008); http://www.isaachayes.com/myframes.html.
James Nathaniel Brown was born February 17, 1936, in St. Simon Island, Georgia. A talented athlete from an early age, Brown earned 13 letters playing a variety of sports at Manhasset High School in New York.
Brown attended Syracuse University in New York where he played football, basketball, ran track, and played lacrosse. As a senior in 1956-7, Brown was a unanimous All-American in football and a second-team All-American in lacrosse, and remains the only athlete to be inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame for both sports, as well as the NFL Hall of Fame.
The Cleveland Browns selected Jim Brown as their number one pick in the 1957 NFL draft, and the rookie would capture the league rushing title, Rookie of the Year honors, as well as earn the league Most Valuable Player award. Over the next eight years, Brown would lead the league in rushing seven more times, be elected to every Pro Bowl, and win another Most Valuable Player award in 1965. Some of his most notable records include career rushing yards (12,312) and average gain per attempt (5.2 yards). In nine seasons as a premier fullback, he never missed a game.
Nineteenth-century lecturer and educator William G. Allen endured physical violence and barely escaped murder when he proposed marriage to the daughter of a white minister in upstate New York. Their relationship later was the inspiration for a story about interracial love by author Louisa May Alcott, herself an abolition sympathizer.
Born in Virginia in 1820, the son of a free mulatto mother and a Welsh father, Allen was orphaned as a young boy and adopted by a free African American family. His academic talents were noticed by New York philanthropist Gerrit Smith, who sponsored his education at the Oneida Institute, a progressive interracial school in upstate New York. Allen graduated in 1844 and became editor of the National Watchman, a temperance and abolitionist paper for African Americans, and then clerked for the Boston law firm of Ellis Gray Loring. While in Boston, he lectured on African American history and argued for a complete blending of the races.
Richard J. Blackett, “William G. Allen, The Forgotten Professor,” Civil
War History, 26, 39-52 (March 1980); Sarah Elbert, The American
Prejudice Against Color (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002);
Jack A. Garraty, American National Biography, Vol. 1 (New York: Oxford
Press, 1999); Jack Salzman, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture
and History, Volume 1 (New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996).
John Willis Menard, abolitionist, author, journalist and politician, was born in 1838 in Kaskaskia, Illinois, to French Creole parents. He was the first African American elected to Congress, but was not seated after a dispute over the election results. Menard attended Iberia College, an abolitionist school in Iberia, Ohio.
Twenty-two year old Menard expressed his abolitionist views in his widely read 1860 publication, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois. During the Civil War, he became the first African American to serve as a clerk in the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. While there, President Abraham Lincoln dispatched him to research British Honduras (now Belize) as a possible colony for the African American population.
The legacy of architect Julian Francis Abele was brought into focus in the mid-1980s when in the midst of a student protest at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, his great grandniece reminded the campus community that her long unsung ancestor was responsible for the eleven original architectural drawings for the campus. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 21, 1881, Abele was the youngest of eight children born to Charles and Mary Adelaide Jones Abele. Throgh his mother he was a descendant of Rov. Absalom Jones, the founder of the Free African Society and St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.
Dreck Spurlock Wilson, ed., African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004);
Willie Mays with Lou Sahadi, Say Hey: The Autobiography of Willie Mays (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988); Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/mays_willie.htm; Academy of Achievement, http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/may0bio-1; Larry Schwartz, “Mays brought joy to baseball” http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016223.html.
In 1925 Josephine Baker took Paris, France by storm, appearing on stage in “La Revue Negre” wearing nothing but a skirt of artificial bananas in Danse Sauvage. Born Josephine Freda MacDonald in St. Louis, Missouri on June 3, 1906, she was nicknamed “Tumpy” because she was a chubby baby. Her mother, Carrie MacDonald was part black and part Apalachee Indian, while her father Eddie Carson was part black and part Spanish. Both were popular dance hall entertainers in the St. Louis area in the early 1900s. After her brother, Richard, was born, Baker’s father abandoned the family and left them nearly destitute. Carrie MacDonald soon married Arthur Martin with whom she had two daughters, Margaret and Willie May.
Claude Albert Barnett, entrepreneur and founder of the Associated Negro Press (1919-1967), was born in Sanford, Florida to William Barnett and Celena Anderson. At nine months he was brought to Mattoon, Illinois to live with his maternal grandmother. Barnett grew up in Illinois, attending schools in Oak Park and Chicago. In 1904 he entered Tuskegee Institute. Two years later in 1906 he received a diploma and was granted the Institute’s highest award.
Following graduation Barnett returned to Chicago and became a postal worker. Through his new employment he read numerous magazines and newspapers. Fascinated by the advertisements, in 1913 Barnett began reproducing photographs of notable black luminaries, which he sold through advertising in African American newspapers. By 1917 Barnett had transformed this endeavor into a thriving mail-order enterprise.
Andrew Rube Foster was born in Calvert, Texas, on September 17, 1879. The son of Andrew and Sarah Foster, Rube started a baseball tradition that would be followed by his brother Willie Bill Foster. Rube quit school after the eighth grade, barnstorming with the Waco Yellow Jackets, an independent black team in 1897. By 1902, Rube’s baseball abilities gave him an opportunity to play with the Chicago (Illinois) Union Giants. After a short stint with Union Giants, Rube played for the Cuban X-Giants. In 1903, Rube Foster was the top pitcher in black baseball, and was the pitcher of record as the Cuban X-Giants won the Black World Series. Rube sometimes played with white semi-pro teams and exhibition games against white players. Rube established himself as the premier pitcher challenging major league pitchers such as Rube Waddell, Chief Bender, Mordecai Brown, and Cy Young. Honus Wagner stated that Rube Foster was one of the greatest pitchers of all times and one of the smartest pitchers he had ever seen.
Christopher J. Perry, a pioneering black businessman who championed racial equality, established the Philadelphia Tribune in 1884. The Tribune is the oldest continuously published African American newspaper in the nation.
Perry was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 11, 1854 to parents who were free. He attended school there despite sub-standard conditions in the local segregated schools. Eventually, when he was still very young, he moved to Philadelphia. With a desire to continue his education Perry took night classes in the city, and perhaps motivated by memories of the deplorable conditions his early education, he studied diligently.
In 1867 when he was fourteen, Perry began writing irregularly for local newspapers. His articles were praised highly by educated men of the city and he met with success even at this early stage of his journalism. In 1881 he began writing for the Northern Daily, a Philadelphia newspaper. Eventually he became editor of the Colored Department in another Philadelphia newspaper called The Sunday Mercury.
Irvine Garland Penn, The Afro-American Press and Its Editors, (New York: Wiley & Co. 1891); Charles Pete Banner-Haley, "The Philadelphia Tribune and the Persistence of Black Republicanism During the Great Depression," Pennsylvania History 65:2 (Spring 1998): pp 190-202.
Although he never held public office, George S. Jeffrey barber, orator, and post-reconstruction civil rights leader, emerged as one of the most important African American political figures in late 19th Century Connecticut. Jeffrey was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1830, to free parents George W. and Mary Ann (Campbell) Jeffrey. By 1851, Jeffrey settled in Meriden, Connecticut and became a successful barber. Nine years later he married Martha Agnes Williams who by the late 1870s established a successful hairdressing emporium.
Dexter Gordon was a pioneering jazz saxophonist who made a career of expertly blending rhythm and romance on the bandstand and the silver screen. Nicknamed "Long Tall Dex" for his 6-foot 5-inch frame, the Los Angeles native was born on Feb. 27, 1923. Gordon's father, Dr. Frank Gordon, M.D., was one of the first prominent African American physicians in Los Angeles and counted Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton among his patients.
Young Gordon took up the clarinet at the age of 13 before switching to saxophone (initially alto, then tenor) at 15. His big break came in 1940 at the age of 17 when he joined Lionel Hampton’s band. From 1943 to 1944 he was featured in the bands of Louis Armstrong, Billie Eckstine and Fletcher Henderson. Gordon made his first recordings under his own name in 1945 when he signed with the Savoy label.
By 1945, Gordon had moved to New York City where he began performing and recording with Charlie Parker. Gordon also was famous for his saxophone duels with fellow tenor sax player Wardell Gray. They recorded several albums between 1947 and 1952. In 1955 Gordon wrote the musical score for the Broadway play The Connection.
Shonda Rhimes is the first African American woman to write and produce a top-10-rated show on network television. She is most known for her work writing and producing the shows Grey’s Anatomy (2005- ), Private Practice (2007- ), and Scandal (2012- ).
Rhimes was born January 13, 1970 in Chicago, Illinois as the youngest of six children. Her mother was a college professor and her father a university public information officer. She has two adopted daughters, Harper Rhimes, born in 2002, and Emerson Rhimes, born in 2012.
Rhimes graduated from Dartmouth College in 1991, earning a B.A. degree in English literature. She then attended the University of Southern California, where she earned an MFA in filmmaking in 1994. She acquired an agent based on the strength of her final film school project and was asked to write a spec script, which promptly got sold, although the movie was never filmed. One of her first jobs in film making came when she was hired to write the script for the 1998 movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy.
Dr. Rebecca J. Cole was the first black woman doctor in the United States. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 16, 1846, Cole was one of five children.
Cole began her schooling at the Institute for Colored Youth and graduated in 1863. She then attended the New England Female Medical College and graduated in 1864 after completing her thesis titled “The Eye and Its Appendages.” With her graduation she became the first formally trained black woman doctor in the United States. She received a second medical degree in 1867 when she graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
After graduation, Cole went to work at Elizabeth Blackwell’s Infirmary for Women and Children in New York. After gaining experience there, she moved to Columbia, South Carolina to practice but then later returned to Philadelphia. Cole also set up practices in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. during her medical career.
Colonel Tye was an escaped slave who fought with the British in the American Revolution. Challenging Patriot forces primarily in New York and New Jersey, Tye became one of the most respected leaders of the Loyalist troops during the Revolution, a respected and feared guerrilla commander.
Born in 1753 as Titus, ‘Tye’ was one of four slaves owned by Quaker John Corlies from Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey. In November 1775, when Titus was 22 years old, Lord John Murray Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation that not only declared martial law, but also offered freedom to those slaves who would join the royal forces. Titus along with 300 other escaped slaves fled to join the British, assuming the adopted name of Tye and joining the Royal Ethiopian Regiment. Here he quickly found respect and saw his first action at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, during which he captured a rebel militia captain.
Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: an Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2004); History 571: Colonial and Revolutionary America, Lord Dunmore and the Ethiopian Regiment, http://www.studythepast.com/history571/pam/ColonelTye.html; PBS.org Africans in America, Part 2: Revolutions, Colonel Tye http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p52.html.
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.
Christopher Metress, The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative
(Virginia: The University of Virginia Press, 2002); www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/earlycivilrights/emmett.html
Barry Bonds is one of the most controversial figures in modern sports. The former major league star holds the record for career home runs (762) but that record and his other accomplishments on the field have been marred by accusations that he took performance enhancing drugs.
Barry Lamar Bonds was born in Riverside, California on July 24, 1964 but grew up in San Mateo, California where he attended Junipero Serra High school. He was honored as a prep All-American there for baseball. His father, Bobby Bonds, also a major league All-Star, inspired Barry to become a professional baseball player.
In 1982 Barry Bonds was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the major league baseball (MLB) draft while he was still in high school. When contract negotiations failed Bonds attended Arizona State University on a baseball scholarship. He was quickly named a College All-American and set a NCAA record of seven consecutive hits in the College World Series as a sophomore. Bonds graduated in 1986 with a degree in criminology.
Carl B. Stokes, lawyer, anchorman, U.S. diplomat and the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city, was born on June 21, 1927 to Charles and Louise Stokes in Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1944, Stokes dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and worked briefly for Cleveland-based aerospace and automotive company Thompson Products/TRW before enlisting in the US Army in 1945. Returning to Cleveland in 1946 after his discharge, he reentered high school and earned his diploma in 1947 before enrolling in West Virginia College. Stokes transferred to Western Reserve University and then the University of Minnesota, from which he received his BA in 1955. Stokes returned to Cleveland where he completed law school at Cleveland-Marshall Law School in 1958. He was hired as an assistant prosecutor for Cuyahoga County for four years before establishing his own firm, Stokes, Stokes, Character, and Terry in 1962 with his brother, Louis Stokes.
Florence Beatrice Smith, the first black woman composer to garner an international reputation, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1887, to James H. Smith, a dentist, and Florence Gulliver Smith, a former school teacher and private lesson piano teacher who also managed several local businesses. Under her mother’s musical tutelage, Smith was quickly recognized as a prodigy. While attending Capitol Hill School in Little Rock, she published her first composition when she was eleven. At fourteen, she studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, graduating in 1907 with a Bachelor of Music degree. Smith taught at the Cotton Plant-Arkadelphia Academy and at Shorter College until 1910 when she accepted a position as Chair of the Music Department at Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time she was 23.
In 1912 Smith returned to Arkansas where she wed Thomas Jewell Price, a well-known Little Rock, Arkansas attorney. The couple had three children, a son, who died in infancy, and two daughters. Price started a music school and continued to compose piano pieces, but she was denied membership in the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association because of her race. When serious racial unrest erupted in Little Rock, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1927. It was here that Price was able to reach her full musical potential, but unfortunately, it came with the end of her marriage in 1935.
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.
U.S. Congressman Gregory W. Meeks was born on September 25, 1953 in East Harlem, New York City. He was raised in a public housing project in East Harlem and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a minor in Political Science from New York’s Adelphi University. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 1978 from Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C.
After graduating, Meeks joined the Queens County District office, worked for the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, then for the State Investigation Commission, and eventually was appointed Supervising Judge of the New York State Worker’s Compensation System. He won his first public office when he was elected to the New York State Assembly where he served from 1992 to 1997.
Charlie Wiggins, known as “the Negro Speed King,” was an African American motor racing pioneer who competed in the segregated Midwest in the early decades of the 20th Century. In addition, he was a highly skilled mechanic, often sought after by white racing drivers competing in the annual Indianapolis 500 Motor Race. Throughout his career Wiggins fought for the rights of black mechanics and drivers.
Born in 1897 in Evansville, Indiana, Charlie Wiggins grew up in a poor home; his father was a coalminer. After the death of his mother, Wiggins worked at a shoe shine stand outside a car repair shop where he was eventually hired as an apprentice in 1917. His opportunity came when many of the white garage mechanics left to join the Army. Wiggins was the first black mechanic in Evansville and quickly rose to become chief mechanic.
Wiggins and his wife, Roberta Sullenger, whom he married in 1917, left the area in 1922 for Indianapolis. Two years later the couple opened their own garage and Wiggins quickly became that city's top mechanic. In his spare time Wiggins assembled parts from auto junkyards to develop his own car, known as “the Wiggins Special.”
La Risa Lynch, "First Blacks in Sports; Charlie Wiggins: The Negro Speed King," Chicago Weekend, 34: 4 (Feb. 9, 2005); John Baburnich, "Charlie Wiggins-The 'Negro Speed King,' The American Boneyard, May 2004; http://www.evansville.net/user/boneyard/babs07.htm.
Spanish Civil War veteran and militant poet Ramón Durem was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1915 of mixed heritage. Leaving home at fourteen, he briefly served in the U.S. Navy before suffering a leg injury that forced his discharge. He then worked as a laborer until enrolling at the University of California in Berkeley where he joined the Communist Party in 1931. A radical from an early age, it is hardly surprising that Durem volunteered to join the Loyalist cause in Spain.
Durem departed the United States in March 1937 and was wounded in the Brunete Offensive of that year. During his long recuperation at the American hospital in Villa Paz, Durem met and married a Brooklyn nurse named Rebecca Schulman. Durem returned to the front in 1938 and participated in the Ebro Offensive. In October, around the same time Rebecca was having his first child (named Dolores for La Pasionaria) in New York, Ramón marched in Barcelona’s farewell parade. He was expatriated in December.
Musician, clergyman and civil rights supporter Gloster B. Current was instrumental in the growth of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP, founded 1909). Born in 1913 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to John T. Current and Earsy Bryant, Gloster grew up Chicago and Detroit. He earned a BA degree from West Virginia State College in 1941 and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Wayne State University in 1950.
Current’s role with the NAACP spanned 37 years between 1936 and 1978. He began his career with a position with the organization’s youth council in Detroit. Two years later, he married Leontine Turpeau Current (later Kelly), who would become the first African American woman elected bishop in a mainstream denomination. They had three children and before divorcing.
Three years into his NAACP service, Current became vice chairman of national college chapters and chair of the central youth council committee. He later held positions in the national office as a deputy to the executive director and served most of his time as director of branch and field services, supervising all NAACP membership, field service, and organizational activities.
Born in Cuba on April 7, 1917, Mongo Santamaria is an Afro-Cuban percussionist who became an influential musician in the United States in the 1950s. His given name is Ramón Santamaría Rodríguez. Nicknamed Mongo by his father, Santamaria believes his nickname comes from the Mali people in West Africa. Mongo means the chief of the tribe.
Santamaria grew up in Havana, Cuba. His father, a construction worker, died when he was a child. His mother raised him while she sold coffee and cigarettes in public markets. Growing up black and impoverished in Cuba, Santamaria often turned to playing music and dancing on the streets like other poor Afro-Cubans in Havana.
In 1937 Santamaria got his first big job as a musician when he joined the group Septeto Boloña. By the early 1940s Mongo Santamaria played congas with Orquesta Cubaney on regular radio broadcasts in Havana. Through its broadcasts, Orquesta Cubaney introduced a number of musicians who would later achieve fame to a national Cuban audience.
Born into a preacher’s family in rural Georgia, Thomas Dorsey began playing the family organ at age six. At eight he started writing his own music, and by 13, was playing piano in Atlanta, accompanying some of the famous jazz artists of the day. In 1916, Dorsey moved to Chicago to study at the Chicago School of Composition and Arranging. Although his beginnings were in the jazz and blues tradition, he was also influenced by music he heard through his religious affiliations. His first attempts to combine the two styles, which he called the “gospel song,” were met with resistance, however, because of their heavy blues influence. “Several times I have been thrown out of some of the best churches,” Dorsey remembered in a 1980 interview. “But they just didn’t understand.”
Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, Angolan insurgent fighter and longtime leader of The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), was born in Munhango, Angola on August 3, 1934 to Helena Mbundu Savimbi and Loth Savimbi. Savimbi’s father was a railway stationmaster and part-time Protestant church worker. The local Catholic missions in then-Portuguese-occupied Angola were often in conflict with Loth Savimbi because of the effectiveness of his evangelizing.
Jonas Savimbi attended Protestant missionary schools where he thrived academically. In 1958, he was granted a scholarship from United Church of Christ to attend university in Lisbon, where he began his involvement in anti-colonial politics. The Portuguese secret police detained Savimbi thrice before he decided on finishing his schooling in Switzerland, first at Fribourg University, then Lausanne University, where in 1965 he completed his coursework with honors in political science and juridical sciences. Having begun his studies in medicine, Savimbi would refer to himself as “Doctor” thereafter.
King Curtis was a famous tenor sax player during the 1950s and 1960s and was known for his signature honking sound. Born in Fort Worth, Texas on February 7, 1934, with the birth name Curtis Ousley, King Curtis got his musical education in the public schools of his hometown. Curtis started out on alto sax at the age of 12 and then switched to tenor at 13. After graduating from high school, he began touring with Lionel Hampton’s jazz band. In 1952, Curtis moved to New York and began to venture out from jazz to a rising musical genre called rock and roll.
King Curtis by the late-1950s was a well-known session musician working with numerous rock and roll and rhythm and blues artists including Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Buddy Holly, and Wilson Pickett. He’s also remembered for his solo on the Coasters’ hit with “Yakety Yak” in 1958. Over his playing career as a session musician, it is estimated that King Curtis performed with over 125 jazz, pop, R&B, and rock and roll artists.
Joe Frazier was born on January 12, 1944 in Beaufort County, South Carolina. One of eleven children, he moved to New York when he was 15 years old to live with an older brother. Unable to find work, he relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he took up boxing to lose weight in late 1961. Exhibiting a knack for the game, Frazier began boxing as an amateur, and reigned as the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves heavyweight champion for three straight years. Hoping to make the 1964 U.S. Olympic team, he lost to Buster Mathis in the finals of the Olympic Trials, but was subsequently named the heavyweight representative when Mathis injured his hand. Frazier won a gold medal by defeating the German heavyweight.
Robert Curry Owens was born in Los Angeles, California in January of 1860 to Charles Owens, a livery stable owner, and Ellen Mason-Owens. As the first born grandson to the Owens-Mason union, Robert rose to prominence in Los Angeles after inheriting both his father’s and grandmother, Bridget “Biddy” Mason’s, estate. Throughout the Progressive Era, Owens’ social, political, and economic influence in Los Angeles made him one of the most powerful African American men on the west coast.
When Charles Owens and Ellen Mason were married in 1856, they united two of Los Angeles’ most powerful pioneering families. As the first born heir to the Owens-Mason family, Robert was reared to continue his family’s legacy. During his childhood, Owens attended J.B. Sanderson’s School for Blacks in Oakland, California and completed his education in 1879 after studying business. Both the Owens and the Mason families took pride in hard work, which they instilled in Robert. Throughout his youth, Owens worked as a ranch laborer, a charcoal peddler, and even drove the street sprinkler for Los Angeles city contractors.
Delilah Beasley, The Negro Trail-Blazers of California (Los Angeles: Times Mirror Print and Binding House, 1919); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998); Lonnie G. Bunch, Black Angelenos: The Afro-American in Los Angeles, 1850-1950 (Los Angeles: California Afro-American Museum, 1988); F.H. Crumbly, “A Los Angeles Citizen,” The Colored American Magazine, September, 1905, p. 485; “Robert C. Owens: A Pacific Coast Negro,” The Colored American Magazine, July, 1905, p.391-392; “1900 United States Federal Census,” http://ancestrylibrary.com/ (Accessed August 7, 2008).
Legendary self-taught, left-handed guitarist Jimi Hendrix was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, the son of Lucille Jeter Hendrix and Al Hendrix. Jimi grew up in poverty but he loved science fiction, art, nearby Lake Washington and music, especially the R&B masters, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles. By high school he was an accomplished guitarist. Hendrix left high school to join the 101st Airborne so he could jump out of airplanes.
After his stint with the U.S. Army Jimi resumed his musical career and eventually played with some of the best rhythm and blues bands in the U.S. at the time. In early 1964 he moved to New York, was hired by the Isley Brothers, and then he toured with Little Richard and Ike and Tina Turner. By 1965 he set off on his own as Jimi James and the Blue Flames. Hendrix applied blues harmony to rock progressions and played psychedelic rock solos in the middle of blues classics. By 1966 he had mastered techniques of sound distortion by using a fuzz box that made a “light string sound heavy and a heavy string sound like a sledgehammer” and by overdriving his amplifier. He played the guitar with his teeth, behind his back and under his legs.
Maurice Bishop, revolutionary and Grenadian Prime Minister, was born in Dutch Aruba May 29, 1944 to Grenadian parents Rupert and Alimenta Bishop. The family moved to Grenada in 1950 to benefit from the economic prosperity of the time, and there Bishop grew up, excelling in his schooling. He moved to London (UK) in 1963 and attended the University of London for his law degree. He went on to practice law for two years in London, showing much interest in politics. He married Angela Redhead in 1966 and had two children, John and Nadia.
Erick Langer and Jay Kinsbruner, Encyclopedia of Latin American History
and Culture, Vol. 1 (Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008); Colin
Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Vol. 1
(Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006);
In the late 1920s, Ophelia Settle Egypt conducted some of the first and finest interviews with former slaves, setting the stage for the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) massive project ten years later. Born Ophelia Settle in 1903, she was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher for the black sociologist Charles Johnson at Fisk University in Nashville.
Over the course of her career Settle helped expose the infamous Tuskegee study of syphilis among black sharecroppers, and played a leading role in Charles Johnson’s "Shadow of the Plantation" study of the sharecropper system. As the Depression wore on, she left Fisk to assist with relief efforts in St. Louis. She accepted a scholarship from the National Association for the Prevention of Blindness to study medicine and sociology at Washington University, where, as a black woman, she was required to receive all her lessons from a tutor. She also became head of social services at a hospital in New Orleans, and five years later conducted research for James Weldon Johnson, about whom she wrote a children's book. Egypt was a social worker in southeast Washington, D.C., and for eleven years was the director of the community’s first Planned Parenthood clinic, which was named for her in 1981.
Ophelia Settle Egypt died in Washington, D.C. in 1984.She was 81.
Preston Wilcox, human rights activist and professor, was a proponent of black studies and advocated community control over education. He was born in 1923 and raised in Youngstown, Ohio along with his four siblings. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, but left to serve in the United States Army. He later returned to school and completed his Bachelor of Science in Biology at City College in 1949. He later earned a Masters of Social Work from Columbia University where he taught for several years.
During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Wilcox became a prominent leader and activist for the decentralization of public schools in Central Harlem. He was a leader in the movement for community control, which placed power over education into the hands of community members. Wilcox spoke frequently at conferences sponsored by the African American Teachers Association where he helped disseminate ideas of community control to the larger public. His efforts assisted in the creation of new jobs for African American teachers, administrators, and supervisors in education.
Harvey B. Gantt, architect and politician, was born January 14, 1943 in Charleston, South Carolina to Christopher and Wilhelmenia Gantt. In 1961, Gantt attended Iowa State University. After one year of study, he returned to South Carolina and soon afterwards sued to enter racially segregated Clemson University. On January 16, 1963, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Clemson to admit Gantt who became its first African American student. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Clemson with honors in 1965. In 1970, Gantt earned a M.A. in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
During the 1970s Gantt worked at various architectural firms in Charlotte, North Carolina where he settled after receiving his degree from MIT. Between 1970 and 1971 he collaborated with civil rights activist Floyd B. McKissick to design Soul City, North Carolina, an experimental interracial community in eastern North Carolina. In 1971 Gantt left the Soul City project, returning to Charlotte to launch an architectural firm with Jeffrey Huberman. Some of the firm’s projects include the construction of the Charlotte Transportation Center, Transamerica Square, and First Ward Recreation Center.
Born in Florence, South Carolina, October 19, 1922, Benjamin Franklin Scott was an African-American chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project in World War II. The son of Benny and Viola Scott, Benjamin had two older sisters, Mary and Rosa.
Scott earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1942 from Morehouse College, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Atlanta, Georgia. Scott continued his education at the University of Chicago where he earned a Master of Science degree in 1950.
Between the years of 1943-1946, Scott worked as a chemist on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory. The Manhattan Project, one of the most important scientific projects of the 20th century, led to the development of the atomic bomb, which ended World War II. Other notable African-American scientists who worked with Scott at the Chicago laboratory include Harold Delaney, Moddie Taylor, and Jasper Brown Jeffries. Scott – like both Jeffries and Taylor – earned a graduate degree from the University of Chicago, but his came after World War II and his involvement on the Manhattan Project.
During his youth, Powell lived a reckless life filled with gambling. At the age of 19, Powell experienced a religious conversion to Christianity at a revival meeting. After failing to gain entrance into Howard University School of Law, he decided to study religion. In 1888, he enrolled in a theology program at Wayland Seminary and College in Washington, D.C. earning his degree in 1892.
Richard Benjamin Moore, lecturer, author, political activist, and book dealer, was born in Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados, on August 9, 1893. He was born into a prosperous middle-class family, and attended James J. Lynch’s Middle Class School, a self-defined institution. His childhood experiences included very few instances of racial discrimination possibly, because of his light complexion.
Following the death of his father Richard Henry Moore, Moore and his immediate family relocated to the United States on July 4, 1909. Unknown to the Moore family, Richard Henry Moore had a number of outstanding debts, which upon his death forced their Christ Church home into foreclosure as they faced insolvency. They became some of the earliest blacks to settle in Harlem, New York, an emerging milieu of social, political, and Black Nationalist activism.
Harlem introduced Moore to the realities of European colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the injustices of Jim Crow and lynching in the American South. By his 22nd birthday Moore became a follower of Socialist and fellow West Indian émigré Hubert Henry Harrison. He became active in the 21st Assembly District Socialist Club in Harlem in 1915.
Moses Fleetwood Walker, often called Fleet, was the first African American to play major league baseball in the nineteenth century. Born October 7, 1857, in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, Walker was the fifth of six children born to parents, Dr. Moses W. Walker, a physician, and Caroline Walker, a midwife.
Oberlin College admitted Walker for the fall 1878 semester. In 1881, he played in all five games of the new varsity baseball team at Oberlin. Before the end of the year, however, Walker left Oberlin to play baseball for the University of Michigan. In July 1882, Walker married Bella Taylor and the couple had three children.
Fleetwood Walker was able to earn money as a catcher. He played individual games for the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland (August 1881), the New Castle (Pennsylvania) Neshannocks (1882), and with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the Northwestern League (1883). In August 1883, Adrian “Cap” Anson, manager of the Chicago White Stockings, stated his team would not play Toledo with Walker in the lineup. Although both teams played, the incident marked the beginning of baseball’s acceptance of a color line.
David W. Zang, Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).
George Samuel Schuyler, conservative columnist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on February 25, 1895 to George Francis and Eliza Jane Schuyler. Upon his father’s death in 1898, George and his mother moved to Syracuse, New York. In 1912, at age 17, George enlisted in the Army, serving in the all-black 25th US Infantry. Eventually he achieved the rank of Lieutenant. Despite his status as an officer, Schuyler went AWOL in 1918 in response to the systemic racism he experienced in the Army. He was captured in Chicago and imprisoned for nine months for desertion.
Following his release, Schuyler worked odd jobs in New York, joining the Socialist Party of America and the anti-Marcus Garvey organization, Friends of Negro Freedom. During this time he submitted articles and editorials to the newly created, socialist-oriented Messenger magazine. He eventually wrote a regular column for The Messenger, entitled “Shafts and Darts: A Page of Calumny and Satire.” By 1924 he was also writing a weekly column for The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the two largest black newspapers in the United States at the time.
Dr. Regina Marcia Benjamin, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General of the United States, is an accomplished physician whose professional and personal roots are planted deeply in rural America. Dr. Benjamin was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1956 and grew up in nearby Daphne, Alabama.
Regina Benjamin’s parents divorced when she was a child and her mother worked as a domestic and waitress to support Regina and her older brother. Although the family owned land, financial necessity forced them to sell it. She recalled that her family often fished in the Gulf of Mexico to catch their evening meal.
Despite her family's poverty Regina Benjamin set her sights on college. She enrolled in Xavier University in New Orleans where she met an African American physician for the first time. This encounter persuaded her to pursue a career in medicine. Earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Xavier in 1978, she then attended Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta between 1980 and 1982 but completed her medical degree at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Robert Wood is believed to be one of the first African American mayors in the United States. He served as mayor of Natchez, Mississippi in the early 1870s. Wood was born in 1844 to Susie Harris, an African American housekeeper, and Dr. Robert Wood, a white doctor from Virginia. His parents never married, but lived side by side. According to oral histories, Wood was never a slave and lived mostly with his father, a former mayor of Natchez himself.
Mississippi Governor James L. Alcorn appointed Robert Wood as mayor of Natchez, Mississippi in 1869. He later was elected mayor in 1870. His election was part of the “Black and Tan Revolution,” a short-lived political shift in Mississippi in which citizens of Mississippi elected many African Americans to state offices between 1868 and 1875. At its peak in 1873, half of Mississippi's state elected officials were black.
David Duncan Collum, Black and Catholic in the Jim Crow South: The
Stuff that Makes Community. (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2006);
Mike Brunker, “Race, Politics and the Evolving South: A Black Mayor,
130 Years Later” MSNBC.com. Aug. 17, 2004.
Harlem Renaissance writer Festus Claudius McKay was born on September 15, 1889, in Sunny Ville, in the Clarendon Hills of Jamaica, to peasant farmers Hannah Ann Elizabeth Edwards and Thomas Frank McKay. Young Claude was tutored by his elder schoolmaster brother, Uriah Theodore McKay, who introduced him to a library dominated by the ideas of the great free thinkers, particularly Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer. While working in Kingston as a constable, McKay became the protégé of Walter Jekyll, a British aristocrat and anthropologist who also placed his personal library at Claude McKay’s disposal.
McKay published his first two volumes of poetry, Songs of Jamaica (1912) and Constab Ballads (1912), written in the island’s rich dialect, before migrating to America to study agronomy at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and later at Kansas State University. By 1917, however, he was no longer in college and living in Harlem.
Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Porterfield Freeman, Jr. was born June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Morgan Porterfield, Sr. a barber, and Mayme Edna Morgan. Throughout his childhood the Freeman family moved often, living in Mississippi, Indiana and Chicago. Freeman showed early promise as an actor but turned down a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University to enter the United States Air Force in 1955.
Throughout the early 1960s, after leaving the Air Force, Freeman studied acting and dance in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. It was in New York that Freeman made his professional theater debut with The Nigger Lovers, a 1967 off-Broadway play about the Civil Rights Era Freedom Riders. In 1971 Freeman broke into television, becoming widely known on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s show The Electric Company, where he worked from 1971 to 1976.
Judith Anna Jamison is among the most influential African American dance figures of the late 20th Century. She began her dance career at the age of ten and served as the Artistic Director at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 1989 to 2011. Her efforts in the dance industry also opened the doors to many young aspiring women and African Americans.
Jamison was born May 10, 1943 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania where she attended Germantown High School. At the age of 21 she was discovered by noted choreographer Agnes de Mille in 1964 and recruited to the American Ballet Theatre in New York. Her American Ballet debut was “The Four Marys” later that year. Jamison then became a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey’s protégé where she held leading roles to many of his productions. Jameson danced for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater until 1979.
In 1988 Jameson started her own company, The Jamison Project, which appeared on PBS. Through this project, she produced Judith Jamison: The Dancemaker which aired nationally the same year.
Michael W. Williams ed., The African American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1993); http://www.majortaylorassociation.org/who.htm.
Caterina Jarboro was born one of three children in Wilmington, North Carolina, to an American Indian mother and a black father who was a local barber. She was christened Katherine Lee Yarborough at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Wilmington. She received elementary school education at St. Thomas, and later attended Gregory Normal School. Her parents died when she was thirteen years old, and in 1916, she traveled to Brooklyn, New York, to live with an aunt.
Jarboro studied music in New York where her exceptional ability soon became apparent. By 1921 she appeared in popular theater musicals, such as Sissle and Blake’s “Shuffle Along,” and later in James P. Johnson’s, “Running Wild.” Like many black musicians and performers, she sought more opportunity for study and experience in Europe. Under contract to the San Carlo Opera Company, Jarboro debuted in Verdi’s Aida in 1930 at the Puccini Theater in Milan, Italy. She continued to study in France and to perform in small productions in Europe until 1932 when she returned to the United States.
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.
U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters has dedicated over thirty years of her life to local and national politics. Born Maxine Moore Carr in St. Louis, Missouri on August 15, 1938, Waters moved to Los Angeles in 1961. While working in a garment factory and for a local telephone company, she enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles. After earning a B.A. in Sociology in 1966, Waters worked as a teacher and as Coordinator of Head Start Programs in Watts.
Maxine Waters developed a keen interest in Los Angeles politics when she began working for city councilman David Cunningham in the 1970s. Waters ran for California State Assembly in 1976, winning the election and serving seven two-year terms in Sacramento. In 1990 Waters won a seat as Democratic representative of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. As Representative of the 35th district, which encompasses South Central Los Angeles, Playa Del Ray, Inglewood, and several other Los Angeles communities, Waters has spearheaded health care, child care, education, and welfare reform.
Energetic jazz singer, bandleader, performer, and composer, Cabell “Cab” Calloway III was born on Christmas Day, 1907 to Cabell Calloway Jr. and Martha Eulalia Reed in Rochester, New York. Calloway was raised in Baltimore, Maryland and in high school he sung with a group called the Baltimore Melody Boys.
Calloway attended Crane College in Chicago for pre-law but soon abandoned his studies for a career in the music industry, following the path of his sister, Blanche, an established singer. He started out performing for various Chicago night clubs, eventually securing a spot as a drummer and singer at the Sunset Club, a popular jazz venue in Chicago’s South Side. While working at the Sunset, Calloway earned the reputation of being a charismatic, lively performer and in 1928 served as the club’s master of ceremonies. One year later he led the house band, the Alabamians.
Etta Moten, a multifaceted pioneer in the world of entertainment, was born in Weimar, Texas in 1901. She was raised as the only child of her parents, Freeman Moten, a Methodist minister, and his wife Ida Mae Norman. In 1915, Rev. Moten moved to Kansas City where Etta Moten began singing in church choirs.
Moten married one of her school teachers at the age of 17 and had three children. She divorced her husband in 1924 and asked her parents to care for her children while she went on to attend the University of Kansas to study voice and drama. While at the University of Kansas, Moten briefly joined the Eva Jessy Choir in New York before her ambitions lead her to Hollywood where she immediately embarked upon a film career that enabled her to parlay her vocal and dramatic skills in a dignified manner.
Moten made her film debut as a widow (who sang the song My Forgotten Man) in the 1933 movie The Gold Diggers. The same year, she appeared in her sophomore and final film entitled Flying Down to Rio in which her moving vocal performance of The Carioca received positive reviews. Although she did not receive billing for subsequent film roles, Moten was one of the first singers to be employed as a dub for the voices of several other leading actresses, including Barbara Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers.
Joy B. Kinnon, “Etta at 100: Etta Moten Barnett, Pioneer Actress,
Singer and Activist Celebrates Centennial,” Ebony (December 2001); Joy
B. Kinnon, “A Diva for All Times,” Ebony (March 2004); Anonymous, "KU
Fine Arts Dean Connects with Alumna Etta Moten Barnett," Collage 2:1
(Spring 2000); Stephen Bourne, “Etta Moten: Actress Who Broke the
Stereotype for Black Women in Hollywood,” The Independent (London),
January 7, 2004.
Prominent educator Walter Eugene Massey was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 5, 1938. His father, Almar, was a steelworker and his mother, Essie, a teacher. Massey had an exceptional mind, even at an early age. By the time he finished 10th grade, his skills in mathematics were strong enough to earn him a college scholarship. Massey enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated with a BS in math and physics in 1958.
While working on his master’s and doctorate degrees at Washington University in St. Louis, Massey conducted research on the quantum of liquids and solids. He received a PhD in 1966. Massey began his teaching career as an associate professor at the University of Illinois then moved to Brown University in 1970, becoming a full professor five years later.
Susan Rice is the current National Security Advisor for the Barack Obama Administration. She is the first African American, the third woman, and the second youngest person to hold the position. Prior to being selected by President Obama for the post, Rice served as a key foreign policy advisor for the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential race.
Born in Washington, D.C. on November 17, 1964 to Emmett J. Rice, a Cornell University economics professor and former governor of the Federal Reserve System, and Lois Dickson Fitt, an education policy scholar, Rice was raised in the Shepherd Park community, where she attended Washington’s National Cathedral School, an elite preparatory academy. An active participant in student government, Rice was elected president of her school’s student council. In addition to excelling at basketball, Rice was a dedicated student and upon her graduation was named class valedictorian.
Rice attended Stanford University on a Truman Scholarship, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in History in 1986. Rice was elected to Phi Beta Kappa while at Stanford. She then attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving a Master’s of Philosophy Degree in 1988, and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in International Relations in 1990. In 1988 while working on her doctorate, Rice took a position as a foreign policy aide with the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign.
Pioneer jazz musician Freddie Keppard was one of the most famous cornet players of the early 20th Century. Born February 27, 1890 in New Orleans, Keppard came from a musical family which included his brother Louis Keppard, who also became a professional musician playing the piano and tuba. Freddie Keppard began his musical career with the mandolin, followed by the violin, accordion, and finally finding his passion with the cornet. At the age of 16 he organized the Olympia Orchestra to showcase his talents and perform throughout New Orleans.
Keppard became part of the migration of Creole jazz musicians to the West Coast in the first two decades of the 20th Century. After traveling to Los Angeles, he founded the Original Creole Orchestra in 1912. The Orchestra introduced New Orleans jazz to a wider audience and quickly became one of the most popular acts on the West Coast. By 1919 it had a following in large cities across the United States. As his popularity rose, the Victor Talking Machine Company eventually offered Keppard the chance to be one of the first to record the new jazz sound. Keppard refused the recording offer saying he was fearful people would “steal his stuff.”
Caesar Carpenter "C.C." Antoine is best known as a leading African American politician in Louisiana during Reconstruction (1863-1877). Antoine was born in New Orleans to a Black father who fought the British as an American soldier at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and to a West Indian mother. His father’s mother was from Africa and the daughter of a captured African chief. Her reputed self-purchase from slavery and accumulation of a minor fortune allowed C.C. Antoine and his father to live out their lives as free blacks. Prior to entering politics, Antoine ran a successful grocery business in New Orleans.
In 1862, one year after the Civil War began, New Orleans was captured and occupied by Union troops, Antoine joined the Union Army and quickly rose to the rank of Captain. From 1862 to 1865 Captain Antoine was attached to one of the nation’s first all-black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards. As Captain, Antoine recruited former bondsmen for service and developed Company I of the Seventh Native Guard primarily stationed at Brashear (now Morgan City) about 85 miles southwest of New Orleans.
Warren Buck was Chancellor (now Emeritus and professor) of the University of Washington, Bothell (UWB), from June 1999 through June 2005. Dr. Buck was born on February 16, 1946 to Mr. & Mrs. Warren W. Buck, Jr., in Washington, D.C. Buck earned his high school diploma in1963, at Spingarn High School, Washington, D.C., and then enrolled for two years of study (1963-65) at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. He earned his B.S. in Mathematics at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland in 1968 and two years later received an M.S. in Physics (1970: Experimental and Theoretical Plasma) from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He received a Ph.D. in Physics (Theoretical Relativistic Nuclear), from William and Mary in 1976.
John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil was born November 13, 1911, in Carrabelle, Florida. Working with his father on a Florida celery farm when he was 13, the young O’Neil said to himself “Damn. There’s got to be something better than this.” After traveling to West Palm Beach to see Rube Foster’s baseball team at the Royal Poinciana Hotel, O’Neil decided baseball was going to be his way out.
O’Neil’s professional career began in 1937 with a short stint with the Memphis Red Sox. Later that season O’Neil would sign with the Kansas City Monarchs, where he would spend the rest of his playing career. In 1942 O’Neil led the Monarchs in a four-game sweep of the Homestead Grays in the league championship, batting with a .353 average. In two different seasons, 1940 and 1946, O’Neil won the league batting title, hitting .345 and .350.
In 1948 O’Neil replaced Frank Duncan as manager of the Kansas City Monarchs. As a manager and scout, O’Neil sent more African Americans to the Major Leagues in his career than any other individual, including future Hall-of-Famers like Ernie Banks and Lou Brock. O’Neil was renowned for his knowledge of the game, but also for his leadership of younger players, and he never lost a contest when selected to manage a team in the All-Star games of 1950, 1953, 1954, and 1955.
The only break in O’Neil’s baseball career came with a two year tour with the United States Navy from 1944 to 1945. In 1956, O’Neil was hired as a scout by the Chicago Cubs, and in 1962 the Cubs made him the first African American manager of a major league team.
Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford was a Victorian feminist who dedicated her life to the education of girls in Sierra Leone. Born on June 2, 1868 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Casely Hayford was the second youngest of seven children of parents William Smith Jr. and Anne Spilsbury. Her prosperous, educated family was part of the Freetown Creole elite. When Adelaide was four years old her family moved to England where she was raised and educated. Her mother died soon afterwards. Raised by her father, Hayford excelled in her studies. When she turned 17 she was sent to Germany to study music. In 1888 Casely Hayford moved back to England where she joined her father and new English stepmother. In 1892, 24-year-old Hayford moved to Freetown to try teaching as a career. This experience gave her an opportunity to study the education systems in West Africa.
Cromwell, Adelaide M., An African American Feminist: The Life and Times of Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford, 1868-1960 (London: Frank Cass & Co. LTD., 1986); Desai, Gaurav, “Gendered Self-Fashioning: Adelaide Casely Hayford’s Black Atlantic,” Research in African Literatures 35:3 (Fall 2004).
Tananarive Due is a contemporary novelist who interweaves powerful themes and dilemmas among African Americans into unconventional story-telling. Due was born in Tallahassee, Florida on January 5, 1966. Her parents, John and Patricia Stephens Due, met at Florida A&M and were civil rights activists. John was a prominent attorney who eventually headed Leon County's Office of Black Affairs while her mother participated in many protests and sit-ins that led to injuries and in one ins
Mordecai Wyatt Johnson was born in Paris, Tennessee in 1890, the son of a former slave. He graduated from what is now Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1911 where he became an accomplished orator and debater. Johnson was also a student athlete who played football and tennis. Johnson was hired by Morehouse soon after his graduation to teach history, English and economics. Later Johnson served as dean of the college for two years.
Mordecai Johnson later enrolled in the Rochester Divinity School in upstate New York while serving as pastor at a nearby church. In 1922, when he graduated from Harvard Divinity School, Johnson was chosen to give the commencement address which he titled: "The Faith of the American Negro.” Four years later Mordecai Johnson was appointed the thirteenth and first permanent African American president of Howard University, a position he held for the next thirty-four years.
Under Johnson, Howard became one of the nation’s leading universities and, certainly, the leading African American university. He was responsible for raising substantial sums from both Congress and private donors. The number of faculty tripled, the salaries doubled, academic and admission requirements were toughened, and Johnson insisted on devoting resources to accreditation of Howard’s graduate and professional schools.
Dr. Lawrence Howland Knox, noted chemist, was born on September 30, 1906 in New Bedford, Massachusetts to William Jacob and Estella Knox. Knox was one of five children, two girls and three boys, and remarkably for that time, all of the boys earned PhDs; the oldest brother, William Jr. also earned a PhD in chemistry, and the younger brother, Clinton, earned a PhD in history.
Knox attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine for his undergraduate schooling. He majored in chemistry and played on the school football team. He graduated in 1928 and began teaching chemistry at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. After teaching at Morehouse for two years Knox attended Stanford and in 1931 attained his Master’s degree. That same year he married his wife, Hazel and the two had one son. After receiving his Master’s degree, Knox began teaching at the Agriculture and Technical College of North Carolina in Greensboro, and in 1933 he transferred to North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham. In 1936 he took another break from teaching and began working for his doctorate at Harvard. In 1940 he achieved a PhD in organic Chemistry and went back to teaching at North Carolina College.
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.
Republican Charles Edmund Nash served in the 44th Congress as Louisiana’s only black representative. Nash was born in Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, on May 23, 1844. Before his time in Congress Nash attended common schools, was a bricklayer in New Orleans, and had enlisted as a private for the U.S. volunteers in July of 1863. He was later promoted to Sergeant Major, but his military service proved to be disastrous as he lost the lower third of his right leg just before the Civil War’s end.
As a result of his military service and strong support of the Republican Party, he was appointed to the position of night inspector in the New Orleans Customs House – a powerful post in the local political machine. In 1874 he was elected, uncontested, to the House of Representatives from the 6th Congressional District.
Despite his easy election, Nash made little political impact during his time in Congress. He was assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor. On June 7th, 1876 Nash made the only major address during his term as Congressman. His speech condemned the violent and anti- democratic actions of some Southern Democrats, called for greater education among the populace, and also for increased racial and political peace especially in the South.
James Madison Bell, poet, orator and activist was born in Gallipolis, Ohio on April 3, 1826. Bell lived in Ohio most of his life although he briefly resided in Canada and California before eventually returning to Ohio. When Bell was 16 he moved to Cincinnati to live with his brother-in-law George Knight who taught him the plastering trade. Knight and Bell were talented plasterers who in 1851 were awarded the contract to plaster the Hamilton County public buildings.
On November 9, 1847, Bell married Louisiana Sanderlin. The couple eventually had seven children and lived in Cincinnati until 1854 when they moved to Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Chatham was a major destination for the Underground Railroad, and while there Bell became involved in abolitionist activities and later returned to Cincinnati to continue his antislavery work.
Although he supported himself primarily as a plasterer, Bell soon became known for his speeches and poems which he used in the campaign against slavery. His most famous poem, “The Day and the War,” was read at Platt’s Hall in Cincinnati in January 1864 for the Celebration of the first Anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Bell dedicated “The Day and the War” to friend and fellow abolitionist John Brown who was executed in 1859 for his role in the raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
Trinidad-born dental surgeon and Spanish Civil War veteran Arnold Donowa was born in December 1895 and earned his D.D.S. from Howard University in 1922. Donowa worked at the Royal College of Dental Surgeons in Toronto as well as the child-oriented Fosythe Clinic in Boston before returning to Howard in 1929 as dean of its new College of Dentistry. After two years, Howard resigned to start a private practice in Harlem.
Rufus Burrow, Jr., James H. Cone and Black Liberation Theology
(Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co, 1994); Dwight N. Hopkins, Black
Faith and Public Talk: Critical Essays on James H. Cone's Black
Theology and Black Power (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1999); Harry H.
Singleton, Black Theology and Ideology: Deideological Dimensions in the
Theology of James H. Cone (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2002).
Antoine "Fats" Domino, early rock and roll musician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 26, 1928 to Antoine Domino, a former plantation worker, and Donatile Gros, a Creole of light complexion. Fats, as he was soon called because of his weight, was raised in a large family of seven children including his four brothers and two sisters. From a young age Fats was influenced by his father, a musician who played the banjo and fiddle.
At the age of ten, Domino began to play an old piano the family purchased, learning the instrument from his older brother-in-law Harrison Werrett, who had played in a New Orleans band. Fats' passion for and expertise with the piano continued to grow. When he was fourteen he quit school and went to work as a musician. Learning songs from jukeboxes, Domino began playing at local bars and nightclubs.
Rick Coleman, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’
Roll (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2006); Rolling Stone, December 1, 2008,
Cora Mae Brown was part of a generation of African American women who translated their community work into political struggle during the first half of the twentieth century. Born in 1914 in Bessemer, Alabama, Brown’s family migrated to Detroit, Michigan when she was eight years old. There she was nurtured by a lively community of female activists who encouraged her to attend Fisk University after her graduation from Cass Technical High School. At Fisk she studied with the renowned sociologist, E. Franklin Frazier, and graduated with a degree in sociology.
Upon her return to Detroit Brown obtained one of the few white-collar jobs available to black women in Detroit’s public sector, as a social worker in the Women’s Division of the Police Department. Working closely with the community during the Great Depression and into the war years, Brown aided and encouraged young African American women during a tumultuous time. In the early 1940s Brown began attending Wayne State University Law School. Upon her graduation in 1948 Brown began to explore the possibility of running for public office. The 1940s had seen an increasingly powerful political coalition between organized labor and civil rights advocates in Detroit. Brown hoped to take advantage of this alliance.
An exceptional athlete and one of America’s leading sprinters of the 1930s, Matthew Mackenzie “Mack” Robinson, was born in Cairo, Georgia in 1912. Matthew grew up with three other siblings, including the famed Jackie Robinson. After their father left following the birth of the last child, mother Mallie Robinson decided to take her five children to California. The Robinson family, along with other migrants, moved to Pasadena by train in 1920 where the athletic careers of the Robinson brothers would blossom.
James Bevel was one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most trusted advisors during the American Civil Rights campaigns of the mid-20th century. Bevel was born on October 19, 1936 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. During his childhood years, he resided in both Itta Bena and in Cleveland, Ohio working as a plantation laborer in the Mississippi town and as a steel mill worker in the Ohio metropolis.
In 1957 Bevel attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee. Bevel dropped out of the seminary in 1961 to work in the civil rights movement. He also attended Highlander Folk School during this time where he met several other prominent civil rights leaders including his future wife, Diane Nash.
Bevel’s civil rights activism began in 1960 when he joined the student sit ins in Nashville. One year later he participated in the Freedom Rides across the Deep South. In 1962 Bevel met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and joined King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as Director of Direct Action Campaigns and Director of Nonviolent Education.
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.
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.
Henry “Hank” Johnson Jr. represents Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. The district includes DeKalb County, where Johnson has lived and worked for the past several decades, as well as parts of Gwinnett and Rockdale Counties. Johnson is a Democrat, and one of the first two Buddhists elected to the United States Congress.
Johnson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1954. His father worked for the Bureau of Prisons, where his position as director of classifications and paroles was the highest ever held in the Bureau by an African American up to that time. Johnson received his undergraduate degree from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1976 and his law degree from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 1979.
Claudia McNeil is best remembered for her laudatory performance as the matriarch in the stage and screen versions of Lorraine Hansberry’s widely-acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun (1961). McNeil was born in 1917 in Baltimore, Maryland to Marvin Spencer McNeil and Annie Mae Anderson McNeil. She was adopted by a Jewish family, named the Toppers, in her teenage years and briefly married by the age of 18. McNeil then worked as a registered librarian before the inception of her entertainment career.
McNeil first performed as a dancer with the Katherine Dunham troupe during the tour of South America in 1951. She later performed as a nightclub and vaudeville singer before making her acting debut in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953); and later performed in Langston Hughes’s Simply Heavenly (1957), for which she received a Tony nomination. In 1965, she appeared in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, for which she garnered the London Critics Poll Award for best actress.
Hazel Garland, “Claudia McNeil Claim’s Star’s Life Isn’t Easy,”
Pittsburgh Courier, March 17, 1962; Edward Mapp, ed., Directory of
Blacks in the Performing Arts (Meluchan, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press,
1978); Eric Pace, The New York Times Biographical Service, November 29,
New York Times bestselling author Everette “E” Lynn Harris was born June 20, 1955, in Flint, Michigan. Openly homosexual, Harris was best known for his depictions of gay African American men who were concealing or “closeting” their sexuality. Although he did not participate in gay rights activism, Harris introduced millions of readers to the “invisible life” of gay black men.
Harris grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, with his father, Ben Odis Harris, a sanitation truck driver; his mother, Etta Mae Williams, and three sisters. Harris endured a difficult childhood as his father taunted him for wanting to become a teacher while his mother suffered physical abuse. After his parents divorced in 1970, Harris discovered and was reunited with his biological father, James Jeter. The reunion, however, was short-lived, as Jeter died in an automobile accident a year later.
Harris found refuge and success in his educational pursuits. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and was the school’s first black yearbook editor, the first black male cheerleader and president of his fraternity. He graduated with honors in 1977 with a BA in journalism.
Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland, the great-grandson of a slave. His father, William Marshall, a railroad porter, instilled in him an appreciation of the Constitution at an early age. When young Marshall got in trouble at school he was required to memorize sections of the US Constitution. His mother, Norma Arica Williams, an elementary school teacher for 25 years, placed great emphasis on his overall scholarship.
Rodney E. Slater, former cabinet member, attorney, and state government official, was born in Marianna, Arkansas, on February 23, 1955. In 1977, Slater graduated from Eastern Michigan University. He earned his law degree in 1980 from the University of Arkansas.
In 1980, Slater became the Assistant Attorney General for the litigation division for Arkansas’s Attorney General’s Office. From 1983 to 1987, Slater served as Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s executive assistant for Economic and Community Programs and then as the Special Assistant for Community and Minority Affairs. In 1987, Clinton appointed Slater to the Arkansas Highway Commission. Slater also held other positions in the state of Arkansas such as Director of Governmental Relations at Arkansas State University and was a special liaison for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Slater as the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Slater’s effectiveness in that position catapulted him into the position of Secretary of Transportation in 1997. As Secretary, he oversaw transportation projects between federal and state governments.
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.
Religious leader Barbara Clementine Harris was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Walter and Beatrice (Price) Harris on June 12, 1930. After graduating from the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising and Journalism, she joined Joseph V. Baker Associates, Inc., a black-owned public relations firm in Philadelphia. She became president of the company in 1958 but left ten years later to become director of the Community Relations Department of the Sun Oil Company.
Meanwhile, Harris, an Episcopalian, was a volunteer at her church and in local jails and prisons. In 1960 she joined the activist Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia. That church had become a center for the civil rights movement then evolving in Philadelphia, supported both local protests and the national movement. Harris led a church delegation that marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma in 1965. Three years later the church hosted a national convention of the Black Panther Party (BPP), which attracted ten thousand people.
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006); “Biography of Bishop Harris,” Episcopal Diocese of Washington, http://www.edow.org/diocese/bishops/harris_bio.html.
John Henry "Pop" Lloyd was born April 25, 1884, in Palatka, Florida. Reportedly discovered by baseball legend Rube Foster, Lloyd would begin his professional career with the Cuban X-Giants, where fans would give him the nickname “El Cuchara” (“The Shovel”) due to his steady hands and ability to grab any ground ball coming at him. His tremendous play at shortstop would be matched by only one other player, Hall-of-Famer Honus Wagner, who declared “it is a privilege to have been compared to him.”
Beginning play in America in 1910 for Fosters Chicago Leland Giants, Lloyd was an amazing all-around player. On offense in the “deadball” era of baseball, Lloyd hit with skilled accuracy, but could deliver power when needed. On defense, Lloyd was the most dominating shortstop in the Negro Leagues, whose quickness and intensity could not be matched.
In 1918 Lloyd became player-manager of the Brooklyn Royal Giants, and spent the next few years jumping around teams until settling with the Hilldale Daisies in 1922. The next year Lloyd batted a sensational .418 and lead Hilldale to the inaugural pennant of the Eastern Colored League. He would move after that season, however, to the Bacharach Giants due to reported disputes with management.
George B. “Spider” Anderson is considered one of the greatest African American jockeys in horse racing history. There are no details available on George Anderson's early life, not even the place or date of his birth.
Anderson achieved his greatest accomplishment by being the first African American jockey to win the Preakness Stakes held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The Preakness Stakes is the 2nd stage of the Triple Crown series, between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in New York.
On May 10, 1889, the day of the race, Anderson struck one of his coaches, James Cook, across the head with a whip. The reason for this altercation between the two remains unknown. There is however speculation that because the 1889 Preakness Stakes only consisted of two horses; Buddhist, rode by Anderson, and Japhet, owned by former Maryland Governor Oden Bowie, there was tension between Cook, who was a friend of Governor Bowie, and Anderson. There may have been words exchanged before the race which led to Anderson's attack. Despite the altercation, Anderson was allowed to participate in the Preakness Stakes before receiving any punishment for his assault on Cook by authorities.
Anderson won the race riding Buddhist and easily beating Japhet. Anderson finished the race with an astonishing time of 2:17.50 and became the 17th winner of the Preakness Stakes.
In 1891, Anderson had two other significant victories to his career, the Alabama Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course in Upstate New York and the Philip H. Iselin Handicap at the Monmouth Race Course in New Jersey.
Edward Hotaling, The Great Black Jockeys: The Lives and Times of the Men Who Dominated America's First National Sport (Rocklin, California: Forum, 1999); http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/scripts/jimcrow/sports.cgi?sport=Horseraci... Glenn C., Smith, "George "Spider" Anderson: First Black Jockey to Win the Preakness." Los Angeles Sentinel. 2000. HighBeam Research., http://www.highbeam.com.
George Sherman Carter, research chemist, was born on May 10, 1911 in Gloucester County, Virginia. Carter, called Sherman, was one of four boys and one girl born to George Peter and Emily Maude Carter. Not much is known of Carter’s childhood or of his move north but in 1936 Carter began his studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he majored in biology. Carter was very active in the school community, joining Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the track team, the New York Club and Wissenschaft Verein (Science Club). After graduation in 1940 Carter attended Columbia University’s Teachers College as well as the College of the City of New York.
Carter married Kathleen Francis and the two of them had a daughter, Beverly Kathleen. In 1943 Carter was hired at Columbia University in New York to work in tandem with the University of Chicago studying nuclear fission. This project was set up by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the famed Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bomb. While at Columbia, Carter worked for Isidor Isaac Rabi, who led the Columbia group of scientists. That group included William and Lawrence Knox.
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.
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).
Jefferson Franklin Long, a Republican who represented Georgia in the 41st Congress, was the first black member to speak on the floor of the House of Representatives, and was the only black representative from Georgia for just over a century. Long was born a slave in Knoxville, Georgia on March 3, 1836. Little is known of his early years, however by the end of the civil war he had been educated and was working as a tailor in the town of Macon. He was prosperous in business and involved in local politics.
By 1867 he had become active in the Georgia Educational Association and had traveled through the state on behalf of the Republican Party. He also served on the state Republican Central Committee. In 1869 Long chaired a special convention in Macon, Georgia which addressed the problems faced by the freedmen.
In December of 1870 Georgia held elections for two sets of congressional representatives – one for the final session of the 41st Congress (the first two of which Georgia had missed due to delayed readmission to the Union), and one for the 42nd Congress, set to begin in March of 1871. Georgia Republicans nominated Long, an African American, to run for the 41st congress, while Thomas Jefferson Speer, a white American, was chosen to run for the 42nd. Long was elected on January 16th, 1871.
James Monroe Whitfield, a black abolitionist and colonizationist, was born on April 10, 1822 in New Hampshire. Little is known about his early life except that he was a descendant of Ann Paul, the sister of prominent black clergyman Thomas Paul. Whitfield had little formal education. Nonetheless by the age of 16, he was publishing papers for Negro rights conventions.
Egbert Austin "Bert" Williams was born in New Providence, Nassau on November 12, 1874. When he was eleven or twelve his family settled in Riverside, California, and it was not long before Williams became attracted to show business. In 1893 Williams got his start in show business and one of his first jobs was with a minstrel group called Martin and Selig's Minstrels. While in this group Williams met George Walker, a song-and-dance man with whom Williams soon formed an illustrious partnership called Williams and Walker.
Throughout his career Williams achieved many firsts. In 1901 he became the first African American to become a best selling recording artist, and in 1902 he became an international star with his performance in the show In Dahomey, the first black musical to be performed on Broadway. Also, in 1910 Williams became the first black to be regularly featured in a Broadway revue when he joined the Ziegfeld Follies, and he even came to claim top billing for the show.
Iain Cameron Williams, Underneath A Harlem Moon: the Harlem to Paris
Years of Adelaide Hall (London: Continuum, 2002);
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, born June 7, 1917 in Topeka, Kansas, moved to Chicago, Illinois where she was reared and launched her literary career. Marrying Henry Blakely in 1939, the couple had two children.
Brooks's formal education consists of an associate degree in literature and arts from Wilson Junior College but she has also received over seventy honorary degrees from several leading universities. In her early years, Brooks served as the director of publicity for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Chicago.
Individual poems published in the Chicago Defender during her high school years preceded Brooks's first collection of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville (1945). This book focused on “community consciousness.” Brooks's Annie Allen was published in 1949 with a focus on “self-realization” and “artistic sensibility” of a young black woman. That volume made her the first African American to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. The Bean Eater, her third book, was released in 1960.