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People

Capitein, Jacobus Elisa Johannes (1717?-1747)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Engraving of Jacobus Capitein
Image Ownership: Public Domain
As one of the first known sub-Saharan Africans to study at a European university, the freed slave Jacobus Capitein became a celebrity in Holland for his academic and religious achievements and later returned to his homeland to evangelize the indigenous population. Capitein was born on the Gold Cost but his exact place and date of birth are unknown. According to his own account, he was kidnapped from his parents at the age of seven or eight and sold to Dutch sea-captain named Arnold Steenhard who gave him as a present to his friend the merchant Jacob van Gogh. Capitein lived with his master for two years in the Dutch Fort of Elmina in Ghana before leaving with him for Holland in 1728.

With his entry into The Netherlands, Capitein won his freedom since slavery at that time was officially banned. He moved with his guardian to The Hague where he learned Dutch and after one year was able to attend the catechism class of the local Reformed Church where he was later baptized. Very early in his education he announced his desire to become a missionary in Africa. Being an excellent student, Capitein obtained the support of Van Gogh and other guardians to pay for his higher education and finally begin his studies in theology at the University of Leiden in 1737.
Sources: 
Allison Blakely, Blacks in the Dutch World: The Evolution of Racial Imagery in a Modern Society (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993); David Nii Anum Kpobi, Mission in Chains: The Life, Theology and Ministry of the Ex-Slave Jacobus E.J. Capitein (1717-1747) with a Translation of his Major Publications (Zoetermeer: Uitgeverij Boekencentrum, 1993); William J. Simmons, Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising (New York: Arno Press, 1968).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Brookins, Hamel Hartford (1926 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Courtesy of Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive,
Department of Special Collections,
Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA
The Reverend (now Bishop) Hamel Hartford Brookins became one of the leading black ministers and civil rights activists in Los Angeles in the 1960s.  Brookins arrived from Wichita, Kansas in 1960 to be the new pastor of the First African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Los Angeles.  Shortly after his arrival, Brookins helped form United Civil Rights Committee (UCRC).  Brookins and other members of the UCRC prodded city leaders on issues including housing, education and law enforcement.  Brookins’ efforts helped unite blacks in Los Angeles, at least temporarily, in the early 1960s around those issues.

One of Brookins’ earliest efforts was his involvement in securing representation on the Los Angeles City Council for African Americans.  Brookins played a key role in uniting black community support behind three candidates (Tom Bradley, Billy Mills and Gilbert Lindsay) all who were elected to the council in 1963.  Brookins and the UCRC also led unsuccessful efforts to end segregated schools and housing discrimination in California.
Sources: 
Robert Bauman, From Watts to East L.A.: Race and the War on Poverty in Los Angeles (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, forthcoming 2008); Robert Bauman, “The Black Power and Chicano Movements in the Poverty Wars in Los Angeles,” Journal of Urban History, 33:2 (January 2007), 277-295.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Washington State University, Tri-Cities

Murphy, John Henry, Sr. (1840-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born on December 25, 1840, in Baltimore, Maryland, John Henry Murphy grew up as a slave and freed by the Emancipation Act of 1863. He enlisted in the military at age 24, during the Civil War and quickly progressed to the rank of Sergeant by the end of the conflict.  When he returned home to Maryland, he married Martha Elizabeth Howard in 1868, the daughter of a successful farmer. They met at church where his father directed the choir. Murphy quickly became interested in the role of the church in education for African American children.  He worked with the Sunday school at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Baltimore and became superintendent of the District Sunday School in Hagerstown, Maryland in the late 1880s.

Murphy began to publish a Sunday school newspaper with an old manually operated printing press.  The newspaper, called the Sunday School Helper, was created to assist him with the instruction of the students at his school. In 1892, the pastor of a local Baptist church, Reverend William M. Alexander, started a rival paper, Afro-American to promote his church.  By the end of they year Murphy purchased the Afro-American for $200 and merged the two newspapers.

Sources: 
Martin Dann, The Black Press 1827-1890 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1971); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); http://www.mdoe.org/murphyjohnh.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Didier Drogba (1978-- )

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

Didier Yves Drogba Tebily, international soccer star, was born March 11, 1978 in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). His early childhood was spent in poverty. In an attempt to improve their son’s life, Didier’s parents sent him to France when he was just 5 years old to live with his uncle Michel Goba, an international soccer player also from the Ivory Coast. After a short three year stint in France, Didier returned to the Ivory Coast to live with his parents. But his stay would be short lived due to struggles at home. Both his parents had lost their jobs, so once again to escape poverty Didier moved to France to live with his uncle in the suburbs of Paris in 1991. In 1993 his parents followed Didier to France allowing the 15 year old to reunite with his family.The traveling over much of the course of his youth was difficult on Didier, but his hard times would become easier with the assistance of soccer.

At 17, Drogba signed his first professional contract with Levallois SC, a local club team in the northwestern suburbs of Paris. After two years with Levallois SC he signed with Le Mans in 1998 and spent four years sharpening his soccer skills. Once again Didier singed a new deal, this time with Guingamp and played just one season with club.

Sources: 
John McShane, Didier Drogba: Portrait of a Hero (London: John Blake, 2007), http://www.didierdrogba.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Allen, William G. (1820- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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.

Sources: 

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).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Masekela, Hugh Ramopolo (1939- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
As one of the most popular and influential jazz musicians from Africa, Hugh Masekela’s life reflects the creative ways of using music to confront injustices and generate change in his homeland.  Born in the coal-mining town of Witbank (near Johannesburg), South Africa on April 4, 1939, Masekela attended mission schools.  During a visit to Masekela's high school anti-apartheid activist and British Anglican priest Father Trevor Huddleston gave him a trumpet.  Shortly thereafter, Masekela began to take his first trumpet lessons from the band leader of the Johannesburg Native Municipal Band and later from saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi.  While receiving lessons from Moeketsi, he met trombonist Jonas Gwanga and Dollar Brand, whose musical combination of church music, African popular music, and American jazz captivated Masekela.  After listening to Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, and others, Masekela chose to blend these styles with the traditional African rhythms and melodies he knew.  Together with Gwanga and Brand, they formed the Jazz Epistles and in 1959 became the first black band in South Africa to record a jazz LP.  Their success was compromised by the South African political situation; gatherings of black Africans larger than 10 people were banned, effectively prohibiting African musical performances, creating a prohibition of musical performances.
Sources: 
Hugh Masekela & D. Michael Cheers, Still Grazing (New York: Crown Publishers, 2004); Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestly, Jazz: The Essential Companion (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

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

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

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

Massie, Samuel Proctor (1919-2005)

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

Born in 1919 in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Samuel Proctor Massie was as one of the few African American scientists to work on the Manhattan Project during World War II.  He later became a distinguished professor of chemistry.

Massie graduated from Dunbar High School in Little Rock at the age of 13.  At age 18, he earned his bachelor’s in science and was summa cum laude from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1937.  With a scholarship from the National Youth Administration he earned a master’s degree in chemistry at Fisk University in 1940 when he was only 21 years old.  Massie said his desire to find a cure for his father's asthma spurred him to become a chemist.

As he neared the completion of his doctorate in chemistry at Iowa State University in 1942, Massie lost his draft deferment.  When he was about to be drafted in his home state of Arkansas, his major professor at Iowa State, Henry Gilman, who was already working on the Manhattan Project, assigned Massie to his research team.  Massie performed his research at Iowa State University from 1942 to 1946 where he helped in the development of uranium isotopes for the atomic bomb.   
Sources: 
Samuel Proctor Massie (with Robert C. Hayden), Catalyst: The Autobiography of an American Chemist (Laurel, Md.: S.P. Massie, 2001); Neal Thompson, "The Chemist: An Interview with Samuel P. Massie," American Legacy 7 (Spring 2001); "Samuel Proctor Massie, Jr.," The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4443; “Obituary,” Jet, May 9, 2005, 24.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Webb, Francis Johnson [Frank J.] (1828-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of the Bodleian Library, University of 
Oxford, Shelf mark 249 v. 258.
Francis Johnson Webb, newspaper editor, educator, equal rights activist, and the second published African American novelist, was born free on March 21, 1828, in Philadelphia to Louisa Burr and Francis Webb.  His mother, Louisa Charlotte Burr (c1785-1878), was the illegitimate daughter of former vice president Aaron Burr.  His father, Francis Webb, served as founding member of the Pennsylvania Augustine Education Society, secretary of the Haytien Emigration Society, and Philadelphia distribution agent for Freedom’s Journal, the first black newspaper in the nation.

Little is known of Frank J. Webb’s education other than what can be deduced from his later creative output.  In 1845, at the age of seventeen, he married Mary, rumored to be the daughter of Spanish General Baldomero Espartero, and an African-born fugitive slave.  From 1850 until 1854 Webb worked as a commercial artist and designer in Philadelphia.  In 1854, he gave a lecture “The Martial Capacity of Blacks” to members of the Banneker Institute.  That same year he published his emigrationist views in a colonization paper in Norristown, near Philadelphia.  By the 1850s Webb associated with other abolitionists including William Cooper Nell, Robert Morris, Charles Sumner, and Frederick Douglass.
Sources: 
Mary Maillard, “‘Faithfully Drawn From Real Life’: Autobiographical Elements in Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (July 2013); Phillip Lapsansky, “Afro-Americana: Frank J. Webb and His Friends,” Library Company of Philadelphia: 1990 Annual Report (1990); Eric Gardner, “Webb, Frank J.,” American National Biography: Supplement 2, eds. Paul R. Betz and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brooke, Edward (1919- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain


Edward William Brooke III is the first African American to be elected by popular vote to the United States Senate.  Brooke, an African American, Protestant Republican, won elective office in the overwhelmingly white, Catholic, Democratic state of Massachusetts and emerged as a leader in the US Senate.  Edward Brooke III, the son of Helen (Seldon) Brooke and Edward W. Brooke, was born October 26, 1919 in Washington, D.C.  Brook's father, Edward, earned a law degree at the Howard University School of Law and later served as an attorney with the US Veterans Administration. 
After his graduation from Howard University in 1941, Edward Brooke III served as an officer in the Army with the all-African American 366th Combat Infantry Regiment.  He fought in Italy during World War II and won a Bronze Star for leading an attack on a German artillery battery.  While in Italy, he met his first wife, Remigia Ferrari-Scacco. After serving as a combat officer, Brooke entered Boston University Law School and graduated in 1948.

Sources: 

Edward Brooke, Bridging the Divide: My Life (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press; 2006); "Edward Brooke" in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (http: //bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index = B000871); “The Senate: An Individual Who Happens to be a Negro,” Time Magazine, Feb. 17, 1967.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Baird, Harry (1931-2005)

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

Nixon, Lawrence A. (1883-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Lawrence Aaron Nixon was born in Marshall, Texas and graduated from Wiley College (l902) and Meharry Medical College (l906). He began his medical practice in Cameron, Texas but moved to El Paso in l909. In l9l0, he was joined in El Paso by his first wife Esther (nee Calvin) and their infant son. While practicing as a physician in El Paso, Dr. Nixon became a founder, organizer and member of Myrtle Avenue Methodist Church as well as a charter member of the El Paso branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). A registered Democrat, Dr. Nixon challenged a 1923 state law that barred African Americans from participating in that party’s electoral primaries.

In Nixon v. Herndon in l927 and Nixon v. Condon in l932, the El Paso physician won two important United States Supreme Court rulings making unconstitutional the Democratic Party’s all white primaries. However, white state party leaders, through resistance and obfuscation, continued to prevent black Texans from participating in primary elections. Circumvention of the Court’s rulings continued until the decisive Smith v. Allwright case in l944 which effectively abolished the all-white primary. Dr. Nixon and his second wife, Drusilla Tandy (nee Porter) whom he married in l935, proudly voted that year.
Sources: 
Conrey Bryson, Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon and the White Primary (El Paso, Texas Western Press, l974); Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon Papers, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, University of Texas, Austin.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at El Paso

Russell, Herman J. (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
What started as a $125.00 purchase of a small parcel of land at 15 grew and blossomed over the years into a multi million-dollar company, and with this, Herman Jerome Russell came to epitomize black entrepreneurship by becoming one of the first black millionaires.

By the time of his retirement in 1997, Russell had built a conglomerate that included construction, property management, real estate development, airport concessions, and communications companies stretching across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Herman Russell was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1930 and attended Tuskegee Institute where he majored in construction, graduating in 1953. In 1957, he took over the family business, Russell Plastering Company. Employed by his father since the age of 10, Russell was no stranger to hard work. The many years under his father’s tutelage encouraged his entrepreneur spirit and gave him the needed preparation to handle the family business.
Sources: 
Source: Alston Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.answers.com; www.findarticles.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Schmoke, Kurt L. (1949- )

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

Parker, Charles Jr., "Charlie" (1920-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker was the most influential jazz musician to follow Louis Armstrong, and one of the music’s few true revolutionaries.  The style he helped to create, called bebop, or bop, established jazz as an intellectual music that was no longer viewed merely as entertainment.   

Parker was born August 29, 1920, and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri.  He began playing alto and baritone horn in high school before switching to alto saxophone.  His talents were not immediately evident – he was once laughed off the bandstand at a jam session for playing in the wrong key.  He began practicing zealously, and soon came under the tutelage of saxophonist Buster Smith, and important early influence.  He spent weeks learning the recorded solos of Lester Young.
Sources: 
Ross Russell, Bird Lives! (New York: Charterhouse, 1973); Ross Russell, Jazz Styles in Kansas City and the Southwest (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971); Dizzy Gillespie with Al Fraser, To Be or Not to Bop (New York: Doubleday, 1979); James Patrick, “Parker, Charlie”, Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed 6 January 2008), http://www.grovemusic.com .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Carnegie Hall

Porter, Maggie (1853-1942)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Fisk University Franklin Library's Special Collections
Maggie Porter was born in Lebanon, Tennessee around 1853.  At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Henry Frazier, a wealthy planter from Lebanon, took refuge in Nashville with his family and house slaves, among them a Mrs. Porter, his chief domestic servant, her husband, and three daughters, including her little girl Maggie. When Union troops reached the outskirts of the city, Frazier left the household under Mrs. Porter’s care, taking her husband and two of her daughters along with him, possibly as insurance against her absconding with Maggie behind Union lines. Frazier returned to Nashville, now under Federal control and freed the Porters upon the publication of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Mrs. Porter agreed to remain in his service. But when Frazier refused to pay her wages, she promptly hired herself out to another family.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Whitman, Alberry Allson (1851-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Alberry Allson Whitman was a romantic poet and a clergyman of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Whitman was born enslaved in Hart County, Kentucky. He became a freedman in 1863, but his family was unable to enjoy their freedom for long as his parents died shortly thereafter.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982);
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Robinson, Frank (1935- )

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

Frank Robinson played twenty-one seasons as a major league baseball player and was the first black manager in both the American and National Leagues. Born August 31, 1935, in Beaumont, Texas, Robinson grew up in West Oakland, California, where he played baseball in summer leagues, on the local American Legion team, and at McClymonds High School.

After graduating high school, Robinson signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1953. He began his career with the Reds minor league affiliate, the Ogden Reds, where he first experienced segregation. An avid movie watcher, a local movie house denied Robinson entry to see a film; it was not the last time Robinson faced discrimination. While the white players from the Ogden team lived in private homes, Robinson and his black teammate lived in a hotel. In 1954, Robinson moved up through the Reds minor league teams, playing for the Tulsa Oilers of the Texas Leagues and the Columbia Reds of the South Atlantic League. In Columbia, he faced the strict segregation of the South, especially while traveling with the team.

Sources: 

Robinson, Frank and Al Silverman, My Life is Baseball (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1968); Robinson, Frank and Berry Stainback, Extra Innings (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1988); http://www.answers.com/topic/frank-robinson.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Boateng, Paul Yaw (1951- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born to a Ghanaian father and a Scottish mother in Hackney, London, Paul Yaw Boateng became one of the first black British Members of Parliament in the general election of 1987. In 2002 he became the first Afro-Briton to serve in the Prime Minister's Cabinet.  The family moved to Ghana when Boateng was still a young boy, where his father, Kwaku Boateng, worked as a barrister and parliamentary cabinet minister. In 1966, the military coup in Ghana forced Eleanor Boateng, a Quaker, the 14 year old Boateng, and his sister, Rosemary, to return to England where they settled in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

Boateng continued his education at Apsley grammar school before pursuing a degree in Law at Bristol University. After graduating, Boateng trained to be a solicitor, devoting much energy to housing, police and women’s issues, and later became a lawyer specialising in civil rights. These beliefs he exercised at a variety of political protests in the late 1970s, and early 1980s.
Sources: 
The Times Newspaper, Profile: Paul Boateng (The Sunday Times, 16th November, 2008); Encyclopaedia Britannica, Paul Boateng (Available online at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/972767/Paul-Boateng); http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/paul_boateng/brent_south.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Mobutu, Joseph-Désiré/ Mobutu, Sese Seko Kuku Waza Banga (1930-1997)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
President and Mrs. Sese Seko Mobutu
Meeting Emperor Hirohito in
Tokoyo, Japan, 1971
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Joseph Mobutu, named Joseph-Désiré Mobutu at birth, was the second president of Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1965 to 1997.  Mobutu was born in 1930 in the Belgian Congo and studied journalism.  

In 1958, Mobutu became the country’s state secretary and then was named chief of staff of the Congolese Army by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasavubu when the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.  A year later, Mobutu helped President Kasavubu oust Lumumba.  Mobutu became the new prime minister.  In 1965, Mobutu exiled Kasavubu in a military coup and announced himself president, forming a one-party state around his Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution (MPR).
Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004); Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo (New York: Harper Collin Publisher, 2001); “Sese Seko Mobutu Biography,” bio.com, http://www.biography.com/articles/Sese-Seko-Mobutu-9410874.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dawson, Mary Lucinda (1894–1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Mary Lucinda Cardwell Dawson was a leader in the campaign to promote African American participation in and appreciation of opera.  Cardwell was born in 1896 in Madison, North Carolina, the second of six children.  In the early 1900s, her family became part of the African American migration from the rural South to the urban North when they settled in Homestead, Pennsylvania, an industrial suburb of Pittsburgh.

As with many young African American musicians, Mary Cardwell began singing in her family’s church.  She graduated with degrees in piano and voice from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1925 at the age of 31.  At the time she was the only African American in her class.  After further studies in Chicago and New York, she married Walter Dawson, a Master Electrician, in 1927, and returned to Pittsburgh.

For the next 14 years Dawson trained hundreds of young, often impoverished African Americans to sing the operas.  Her students included school children, laborers, and domestics who often bartered services for their lessons.  She directed a 500-voice ensemble which won national awards in 1935 and 1937.  In 1939, her students performed at the New York World’s Fair.    
Sources: 
“Founding of the National Negro Opera Foundation,” www.nationaloperahouse.org/past.html; “Radiating a Hope:  Mary Cardwell Dawson as Educator and Activist,” by Karen M. Bryan, JSTOR: Journal of Historic Research in Music Education, Vol.25, No.1 (Oct 2003); “An Irrepressible Voice,” http://www.post-gazette.com/magazine/19990801opera1.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jakes, Thomas Dexter (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Dexter Jakes, megachurch pastor, best-selling author, playwright and movie producer, came from humble beginnings. He was born on June 9, 1957 in Charleston, West Virginia. Jakes was born into an entrepreneurial family. His father Earnest, Sr., owned a janitorial service that had three offices and 52 employees. His mother Odith, although a schoolteacher, also sold Avon products in her spare time. At the age of eight Jakes began selling vegetables from his mother’s garden. While in high school he cut grass, delivered newspapers, and sold Avon and Amway products. Eventually overwhelmed by the death of his father in 1972 and ridicule from his peers about his faith, Jakes dropped out of high school and pursued a call to preach. He eventually took a high school education equivalency test and attended West Virginia State College. Unable to meet the demands of school, church, and a full-time job at a chemical plant, Jakes quit college after a year.
Sources: 
Shayne Lee, T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher (New York: New York University Press, 2005); Hubert Morken, “Bishop T.D. Jakes: A Ministry for Empowerment,” in Jo Renee Formicola and Hubert Morken, eds., Religious Leaders and Faith-Based Politics: Ten Profiles (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Vanderbilt University Divinity School

Remond, Sarah Parker (1824-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Barnett, Powell S. (1883-1971)

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

Powell S. Barnett was a child when his father arrived in Roslyn to work in the coal mines.  Seeing no future in mining, Powell left for Seattle in 1906, and quickly found work. Years later, after working in construction and for hotels, he served as a clerk for State Senator Frank Connor.  Barnett retired in 1971 as a maintenance man at the King County Courthouse.  He was a leader in the community and directed much of his energy toward improving race relations and civic unity.  In 1967, he organized the Leschi Improvement Council (a neighborhood organization), led in organizing the East Madison YMCA, and chaired a committee that revised the Seattle Urban League, thus saving its membership in the Community Chest. 

Barnett was instrumental in uniting blacks and whites in the YMCA and the USO.  As a tuba player, he was the first black person to become a member of the once all-white Musicians Union, Local 76.  He was a star baseball player who organized the semi-pro baseball Umpires Association of Seattle and secured its affiliation with the National Association of Umpires. He also assisted Japanese Americans who had been displaced during World War II. In 1949 a 4.4 acre park in Seattle was named in his honor.
Sources: 
Historylink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Powell S. Barnett (1883-1971)” (by Mary T. Henry) http://www.historylink.org/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Parsons, Lucy (1853-1942)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although Lucy Parsons was one of the first and most important African American activists on the left, there is scanty historical documentation about her origins. It is believed that Lucy Parsons was born on a plantation in Hill County, Texas around March of 1853. Significantly there is evidence that indicates Parsons was born a slave. Her biographer argues that Lucy may have lived for a while with a former slave by the name of Oliver Gathing. Later she married Albert Parsons in 1871. Albert became a white radical Republican and Reconstructionist, after first serving as a Confederate soldier in his youth. Due to their political viewpoint and interracial marriage, Lucy and Albert were forced to migrate from Texas to Chicago in 1873.

Albert and Lucy Parsons arrived in Chicago during a period stamped by an economic crisis (the Depression of 1873) and intense labor unrest. Living among Chicago’s impoverished yet militant workers served as the catalyst for the Parsons' political transformation from radical Republicanism to participants in the radical labor movement. Their initial association with the political left was through the Social Democratic Party and the First International, founded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It was through this contact that the Parsons became aware of the socialist ideology of Marxism. They later became members of the Chicago Chapter of the Workingmen's Party (WPUSA) and many of its meetings were held in the Parsons’ home.
Sources: 
John McClendon III, “Lucy Parsons (1853-1942) Anarchist, socialist, communist, journalist, poet” in Jessie Carnie Smith, ed., Notable Black American Women, Book II (New York: Gale Research, 1996) pp. 514-516; Carolyn Ashbaugh, Lucy Parsons, American Revolutionary (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1976); Lucy Parsons, Famous Speeches of the Eight Chicago Anarchists (New York: Arno Press and New York Times, 1969); and “Lucy Parsons: Woman of Will” http://www.lucyparsons.org/biography-iww.php
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Jemison, Mae C. (1956- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration
Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama to Charlie and Dorothy Jemison.  At the age of three, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois to further their educational opportunities.  Her parents stressed the importance of education and when she was four, her uncle sparked her interest in archaeology and anthropology.  She spent much of her time in libraries reading about all she could get her hands on.  Mae graduated high school with honors and entered Stanford University (California) with an interest in the biomedical engineering profession. She graduated in 1977 with a degree in chemical engineering and later a second bachelor’s degree in African American studies.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/ABSTRACTS/GPN-2004-00020.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gillespie, Dizzy (John Birks Gillespie) (1917-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jazz great Dizzy Gillespie had a long and distinguished musical career as a trumpeter, composer, and bandleader. Unlike many jazz musicians whose lives were cut tragically short, Gillespie’s career spanned the 1930s to the 1980s, from the big band swing era of the 1930s, through 1940s bebop, the Afro-Cuban jazz of the 1950s, to the recording in 1989 – when he was 72 – of his United Nations Band performance “Live at Royal Festival Hall.” He is one of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz, is considered one of the founders of modern jazz, and with Charlie Parker is credited with the invention of bebop.  
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage, pp. 100-01 (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1997); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music, p. 55 (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours, pp. 25, 108, 113, 175 (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://www.allaboutjazz.com; http://www.afrocubaweb.com; www.pbs.org/jazz.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smiley, Tavis (1964- )

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

Binga, Jesse (1865-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Tony Dungy (1955- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Tony Dungy, a former professional football player and current coach for the Indianapolis Colts, is the first African American coach to win the Super Bowl.  Dungy has been hailed as a coaching genius, changing losing organizations into winners.   Despite overwhelming personal and professional obstacles, he continues to be the picture of humility, simultaneously earning respect both on and off the field because of his strong convictions and high personal standards of ethics and behavior.

Tony Dungy was born on October 6, 1955, in Jackson, Michigan to Wilbur and CleoMae Dungy, both of whom were educators.  Early on, his family placed a great deal of emphasis on academics and intellectual achievements as much as athletic ones.  However, even in a household where the focus was on education, Dungy was drawn to sports, particularly football. He attended Jackson’s Parkside High School, where he played guard for the basketball team and quarterback for the football team. Dungy excelled as an athlete and was even featured in the Sports Illustrated section, “Faces in the Crowd,” in 1970.  His immense talent and numbers would not go unnoticed by colleges and recruiters around the nation.
Sources: 
Tony Dungy and Nathaniel Whitaker, Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007); http://www.colts.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

de Souza, Matthias ( ? -- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Mathias de Sousa Marker, St. Mary's City, Maryland
Image Courtesy of Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt Maryland

Matthias de Souza, an indentured servant, was the only black person to serve in the colonial Maryland legislature.  As such he is the first African American to sit in any legislative body in what would become the United States.

Matthias de Souza, one of nine indentured servants working for Father Andrew White, a Catholic priest, arrived at St Mary’s City, St Clements Island, Maryland, in 1634 on the ship The Ark along with White and other European settlers. De Souza was probably of mixed African and European (possibly Portuguese) descent judging by land records that record him being called a ‘Molato’ (Mulatto) by a priest in the colony.

For the first few years he lived in Maryland, de Souza worked for Jesuit priests although the exact details of his activities are not know.  Generally such servants built and maintained churches and houses for the Jesuits.  

Sources: 

Historic St. Mary’s City History, “Matthias de Souza” https://www.hsmcdigshistory.org/research/history/mathias-de-sousa/; Maryland State Archives and Maria A. Day ‘Exploring Maryland’s Roots: Library: Case Studies’  “Matthias de Souza” http://mdroots.thinkport.org/library/mathiasdesousa.asp.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Peters, Brock (1927-2005)

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

Drew, Charles R. (1904-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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.

Sources: 

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).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Fletcher, Benjamin Harrison (1890-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Peter Cole, Ben Fletcher: The Life and Writings of a Black Wobbly (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 2007); Peter Cole, Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); William Seraile, "Ben Fletcher, I.W.W. Organizer." Pennsylvania History 46:3 (July 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

West, Allen (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
http://innovation.cq.com/newmember/2010elexnguide.pdf. (Accessed November 24, 2010);  "U.S. officer fined for harsh interrogation tactics," CNN, December 13, 2003; Catalina Camia, "GOP Rep. Allen West draws fire for Muslim comments," USA Today, (February 2, 2011), http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2011/02/rep-allen-west-islam-2012-elections-/1. (Accessed February 2, 2011). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of North Texas

Mallory, Mark (1962-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Pubic Domain

On December 1, 2005, Mark Mallory was sworn in as the first black mayor elected by popular vote in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Three other black mayors preceded him but were chosen by the City Council.  Born on April 2, 1962, and raised on the West End of Cincinnati, Mallory attended high school at the city’s Academy of Math and Science and earned a BS in administrative management from the University of Cincinnati in 1984. Before becoming Mayor of Cincinnati, Mallory replaced his father, William L. Mallory Sr., in 1994 in the Ohio General Assembly.  In 1998 Mark Mallory was elected to the Ohio Senate eventually becoming the assistant minority leader. 

Sources: 
Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 62, “Mark L. Mallory” (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale 2008); City of Cincinnati, “Mayor’s Biography” http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/mayor/pages/-3052-/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinatti

Pittman, Tarea Hall (1903-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Tarea Hall Pittman Broadcasting her
“Negroes in the News” Program from
Oakland Radio Station, KDIA, May 1973
Image Courtesy of Earl Warren
Oral History Project,UC-Berkeley
Tarea (Ty) Hall Pittman was a civil rights worker, social worker, and community activist. Born in Bakersfield, California in 1903, she was the second of the five children of William Hall and Susie Pinkney. Her father, a farm laborer who moved from Alabama to Bakersfield in 1895, helped his brothers found the Bakersfield Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Although Pittman experienced racial prejudice in Bakersfield, she did attend integrated public schools and in 1923 enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley.  Black students were not allowed to reside in campus housing leading Pittman to use personal connections to find accommodations.   Through these connections she also met William Pittman, a dental student whom she married in 1927.
Sources: 
Gordon Morris Bakken and Alexandra Kindell, Encyclopedia of Immigration and Migration in the American West (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 2006); Tarea Hall Pittman, Joyce A Henderson, Earl Warren Oral History Project, Tarea Hall Pittman, NAACP Official and Civil Rights Worker: An Interview (Berkeley, California: Bancroft Library, University of California/Berkeley, 1974); Albert S Broussard, Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Equality in the West 1900-1954 (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Roxborough, John W. (1892-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Roxborough and Joe Louis
Sources: 
John W. Roxborough, “How I discovered Joe Louis: Ex-manager’s revealing story gives new insight into character of former world’s heavyweight champion,” Ebony, 64-76; Louis’ Ex-Manager’s Wife Asks Divorce: Mrs. John Roxborough brands husband ‘cruel.’ The Baltimore Afro-American, May 31, 1955, 21; Mrs. John Roxborough Wins Divorce, Big Settlement, Jet, May 3, 1956; American Experience, the Fight, available at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/fight/peopleevents/p_managers.html; Joe Louis - Turning Pro - Garden, Boxing, Heavyweight, and Roxborough, available at: http://sports.jrank.org/pages/2929/Louis-Joe-Turning-Pro.html; and http://www.answers.com/topic/joe-louis.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio University

Stout, Juanita Kidd (1919-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

“If I had nine lives, I’d want to be a lawyer every day of every one, I enjoy it so.”  With this sensibility and love for the legal system, Juanita Kidd Stout made the correct decision in choosing her life’s work.  Juanita Kidd Stout established a reputation long before she left Oklahoma to resettle in Philadelphia and become a prominent judge. 

Born an only child to educators Henry and Mary Kidd on March 7, 1919 in Wewoka, Oklahoma, Juanita learned to read at age 2 and remained a stellar student when she attended the segregated public schools in her hometown.  Juanita gained from the experience of having excellent black teachers, and won numerous prizes at school and agricultural exhibitions for her scholarship and creativity.  At age 16 she left for Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri.  While at Lincoln, she joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and personally observed black attorney Charles Hamilton Houston argue Gaines v. Missouri in the state supreme court.  Later, she transferred to the University of Iowa and earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1939.  At the time she was one of a mere 2% of black adults holding a four year college degree.  Three years later Juanita Kidd married Charles Otis Stout. By the end of the decade Juanita Kidd Stout held two law degrees from Indiana University and moved to Washington, D.C. where she became the administrative secretary to Charles Hamilton Houston.

Sources: 
Amy Kapp, “Biographical Sketch of Juanita Kidd Stout,”(Unpublished Document, January 8, 2002); V. P. Franklin, “Juanita Kidd Stout,” Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (eds.) Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Bridges, Leon (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Leon Bridges is recorded as the founder of the second African American-owned firm in Seattle. He was born on August 18, 1932 in Los Angeles, California. In high school he was told by a counselor that he couldn't become an architect because he was black, and then while a student in high school he met his mentor, famed African American architect, Paul Williams.

While a student at UCLA, Bridges was drafted into the military in 1952, and was stationed in Japan. While a soldier, he continued to study architecture. He earned his bachelor's of architecture degree from the University of Washington in 1960.

Bridges began working in Seattle architecture firms while still a student at the University of Washington and received his first job in 1956 as a draftsman. Bridges worked for the architecture firm Gotteland and Kocarski and designed Catholic churches and buildings in Seattle.

After becoming a registered architect in 1962, Bridges formed his own firm, Leon Bridges AIA in 1963. His first project was designing a building for the Seattle YMCA. In 1966, he formed a partnership with colleague Edward Burke and they worked together until 1972 when Bridges relocated his firm to Baltimore.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Turner, James Milton (1840-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Kingdom of Callaway
Historical Society in Fulton, MO
James Milton Turner was an African American Missourian who was a prominent politician, education advocate and diplomat in the years after the Civil War. Turner was born a slave in St. Louis, Missouri in 1840. His father, John Turner (also known as John Colburn), was a well-known “horse doctor” in St. Louis who had earlier purchased his freedom. In 1843 John Turner was able to buy freedom for his wife, Hannah, and his son James. When he was fourteen James attended Oberlin College in Ohio for one term until his father’s death in 1855 forced him to return to St. Louis to help support his mother and family.

During the Civil War Turner enlisted in the Union Army and served as the body servant for Col. Madison Miller. After the war, Governor Thomas Fletcher (Miller’s brother-in-law), appointed Turner Assistant Superintendent of Schools responsible for establishing freedmen schools in Missouri. Turner was also behind the effort to establish Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, Missouri, the first school to offer higher education for blacks in Missouri. Turner was also active in organizing African Americans as a political force in Missouri.
Sources: 
Irving Dillard, “James Milton Turner, A Little Known Benefactor of His People.” The Journal of Negro History Vol. 19, No. 4 (October 1934), 372-411; Gary R. Kremer, James Milton Turner and the Promise of America: The Public Life of a Post-Civil War Black Leader (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Saskatchewan

Clark, Marie Maynard Daly (1921-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marie Maynard Daly, born in Queens, New York to Helen and Ivan Daly, was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry.  Her father, an immigrant from the West Indies, had hoped to earn a degree in Chemistry at Cornell University but was unable to continue because of financial constraints.  Marie Daly’s parents were committed to her education and encouraged her interest in science.  She attended Hunter College High School where her teachers persuaded her that she could do well in chemistry.  

Daly enrolled in Queens College so that she could live at home. She earned her B.S. in 1942 with honors.  A fellowship and part-time job at Queens College allowed her to work on her master’s degree at New York University, which she completed in 1943.  Because of the shortage of male scientists during World War Two, Daly was awarded funding for her Ph.D. program at Columbia University where she studied under a white female chemist, Mary L. Caldwell.  She completed her dissertation in 1947.
Sources: 
Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser. “Roger Arliner Young,” in African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); James H. Kessler. “Marie Maynard Daly,” in Distinguished African American Scientists of the Twentieth Century (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1996); https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/daly.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Motley, Marion (1920-1999)

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

 

Sources: 
Pro Football Hall of Fame, http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.jsp?player_id=156; Legends by the Lake: The Cleveland Browns at Municipal Stadium, http://archive.profootballweekly.com/content/archives/features_1999/keim_062999.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lovick, John (1951- )

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University, Seattle

Edelman, Marian Wright (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, was born June 6, 1939 in Bennetsville, South Carolina. She was the youngest of five children born to Rev. Arthur Jerome Wright and Maggie Leola Wright.  Rev. Wright, a Baptist minister, died when she was fourteen.  He proved, however, an important influence on her life by teaching that Christianity required public service.  

Marian Wright attended racially segregated public schools, but excelled academically despite the inadequate opportunities offered to her in those institutions. After graduation Wright attended Spelman College, a prominent institution for black women in Atlanta, Georgia. While at Spelman Wright received scholarships to study abroad that took her to Paris, Switzerland, and the Soviet Union.  With that experience she planned to pursue a career in Foreign Service, but as the 1960s civil rights movement unfolded, she found herself involved in its activities. Wright participated in and was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia sit-ins in 1960.  These experiences made her realize that she could contribute to social progress through the study of law. She entered Yale Law School in 1960 on a scholarship and received her law degree in 1963.
Sources: 
“Marian Wright Edelman,” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); Edelman biography, Children’s Defense Fund, http://www.childrensdefense.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Payne, Daniel Alexander (1811-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born on February 24, 1811 to free Black parents London and Martha Payne in Charleston, South Carolina, Daniel Alexander Payne would become a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, President of Wilberforce University, abolitionist, educator and historian. When Payne was four his father passed away.  His mother died when he was nine. Payne was raised by his great aunt, Sarah Bordeaux, after their passing.

Daniel Payne studied at the Minors’ Moralist Society School for two years, and then was privately tutored by Mr. Thomas S. Bonneau. Payne went to work at age twelve to a shoe-merchant, as a carpenter at thirteen, and then as a tailor, finally entering the teaching profession and opening a school for Black children in 1829, when only nineteen years of age. In 1835, South Carolina passed bill No. 2639: An Act to Amend the Law relating to Slaves and Free Persons of Color which forced Payne to close his school.

Sources: 

Paul R. Griffen, Black Theology as the Foundation of Three Methodist
Colleges: The Educational Views and Labors of Daniel Payne, Joseph
Price, Isaac Lane
(Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984);
Josephus R. Coan, Daniel Alexander Payne: Christian Educator
(Philadelphia: A.M.E. Book Concern, 1935); Bishop Daniel Alexander
Payne, Recollections of Seventy Years (New York: Arno Press, 1968).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Rice, Susan Elizabeth (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Susan Rice is the current United States Ambassador to the United Nations 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.  

Sources: 
Morton H. Halperin, Power and Superpower: Global Leadership and Exceptionalism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Century Foundation Press, 2007); http://www.brookings.edu/experts/rices.aspx; http://www.stanfordalumni.org/erc/reunions/black_alumni_hall.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Coles, Solomon Melvin (1844-1924)

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

Majette, Denise L. (1955- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Denise Majette, former member of Congress, attorney, judge, and politician, was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 18, 1955 to Voyd Lee and Olivia (Foster) Majette.  In 1976, Majette graduated from Yale University.  She earned her law degree from Duke University, Durham, North Carolina in 1979.

After graduating, Majette joined the Legal Aid Society in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  During this period, she also served on faculty at the Wake Forest Law School. Majette relocated to Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1983.  During the early1980s, she held positions as a clerk and an assistant to judges.  From 1989 to 1992, Majette returned to private practice as a partner in the Atlanta law firm of Jenkins, Nelson, and Welch.  During this period, she also served on the boards of various community organizations.  In 1992, she was named an administrative law judge at the Georgia state board of workers' compensation.  The following year, Georgia Governor Zell Miller appointed her judge of the State Court of DeKalb County.  Majette held the judgeship for nine years.

Sources: 
Eli Kintisch, “ The Crossover Candidate,” The American Prospect (September 22, 2002), p.14;“The U.S. Congress Votes Database,” The Washington Post online version, http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/m001145/; “Denise L. Majette” in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Alexander, Archer (ca. 1810-1879)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Lincoln Emancipation Statue in
Washington,D.C. Archer Alexander is the
Model for the Slave Here
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Archer Alexander was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation around the year 1810.  His likeness, in face and figure, immortalizes all American slaves on a monument to emancipation that stands in Lincoln Park in Washington, D. C. The bronze monument "Emancipation," also known as the "Freedmen's Memorial," depicts Abraham Lincoln reaching out to a crouching figure who is working to free himself from his chains. Financed mainly by donations from former slaves, it was dedicated on April 14, 1876 by Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave.

Alexander was born to slave parents Aleck and Chloe on a farm outside of Richmond.  When Archer was in his teens, his father was sold in order to settle a plantation debt. Two years later when the plantation owner died, Alexander Archer was willed to the eldest son Thomas Delaney, with whom he had been raised. When Thomas Delaney moved to Missouri, Archer went with him. Settling in St. Louis, Archer met and married a slave named Louisa and started a family. When Thomas Delaney moved to Louisiana he sold Alexander to Louisa's owner, a farmer named Hollman.
Sources: 
William G. Eliot, The Story of Archer Alexander: From Slavery to Freedom (Boston: Cupples, Upham and Company, 1885; reprinted in Westport, Connecticut by Negro Universities Press, 1970); Candace O'Connor, “The Image of Freedom,” St. Louis Post Dispatch (February 23, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Coates, Dorothy Love (1928-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Dorothy Love Coates was an American gospel singer, songwriter, and composer.  She was born Dorothy McGriff on January 30, 1928 in Birmingham, Alabama.  Her minister father, Lillar McGriff, moved to the North when Coates was six, and her parents soon divorced.  Thereafter, Lillar McGriff raised their six children in Birmingham.  By the age of 10, Coates had begun playing piano at Evergreen Baptist Church in Birmingham.  As a teenager, she performed with the Royal Travelers and with her siblings in the McGriff Singers, who had a weekly live radio broadcast on WJLD.  She left school after the tenth grade to help support her family as a maid and a clerk.  In 1946, she married her first husband Willie Love (1925-1991) of the Fairfield Four, and the couple divorced a few years later.
Sources: 
Bill Carpenter, “Dorothy Love Coates,” Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005); Robert Darden, “Dorothy Love Coates,” Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, edited by W.K. McNeil (New York: Routledge, 2005); Anthony Heilbut, “‘I Won’t Let Go of My Faith’: Dorothy Love Coates,” The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times (New York: Proscenium Publishers, [1971] 2002), and Dave Marsh, “Dorothy Love Coates,” All Music Guide to the Blues, edited by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Vladimir Bogdanov, and Chris Woodstra (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Grimké, Charlotte Forten (1837-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charlotte Forten Grimké grew up in a rich intellectual and activist environment.  Born into a wealthy Black abolitionist family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charlotte Louise Forten became famous in her own right as a writer and poet.  Her grandparents, James, Sr. and Charlotte Forten, hosted leading black and white abolitionists into their home on a regular basis.  James Forten was one of the wealthiest blacks in Philadelphia, having amassed a fortune in the sail making business. Her parents, Robert Bridges Forten and Mary Woods Forten, continued the family’s activist tradition as had her uncles and aunts, including Sarah, Harriet, and Margaretta Forten, who helped establish the bi-racial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. 
Sources: 
Janice Sumler-Edmond, “Charlotte Forten Grimké,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993): 505-507; Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); and Brenda Stevenson, ed., The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, James Weldon (1871-1938)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Weldon Johnson, composer, social critic, and civil rights activist, was born of Bahamian immigrant parents in Jacksonville, Florida on June 17, 1871.   Instilled with the value of education by his father, James, a waiter, and teacher-mother, Helen, Johnson excelled at the Stanton School in Jacksonville. In 1889 he entered Atlanta University, graduating in 1894.  

In 1896, Johnson began to study law in Thomas Ledwith’s law office in Jacksonville, Florida.  In 1898, Ledwith considered  Johnson ready to take the Florida bar exam.  After a grueling two hour exam, Johnson was given a pass and admitted to the bar.  One examiner expressed his anguish by bolting from the room and stating “Well, I can’t forget he’s a nigger; and I’ll be damned if I’ll stay here to see him admitted.” In 1898, Johnson became one of only a handful of black attorneys in the state. 

Johnson, however, did not practice law.  Instead he became principal at the Stanton School in Jacksonville where he improved the curriculum and added ninth and tenth grades.  Johnson also started the first black newspaper, The Daily American, in Jacksonville.  With his brother Rosamond, who had been trained at the England Conservatory of Music, James W. Johnson’s interests turned to songwriting for Broadway.

Sources: 
Eugene Levy, James Weldon Johnson: Black Leader, Black Voice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973); Herbert Aptheker, “DuBois on James Weldon Johnson,” Journal of Negro History, 58 (July 1967); James W. Johnson, Black Manhattan (New York: Da Capo, 1991); James W. Johnson, Along This Way (New York: Penguin Books, 1990); V.P. Franklin, Living Our Stories, Telling Our Truths: Autobiography and the Making of the African-American Intellectual Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Trotter, William Monroe (1872-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Monroe Trotter was a major early twentieth century civil rights activist known primarily for launching the first major challenge to the political dominance of Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington and as an inspiration for the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Trotter was also the founder of the Boston Guardian (1901), the National Negro Suffrage League (1905), the Niagara Movement (1905), and the Negro American Political League (1908).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Garvey, Amy Ashwood (1897-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Amy Ashwood Garvey was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, but spent most of her childhood in Panama where her father supported the family as a businessman. She returned to Jamaica as a teen and attended Westwood High School in Trelawney, where she met her future husband, Marcus Garvey in 1914.

Ashwood and Garvey both held strong beliefs in African American activism and were involved in political activities and soon they began to collaborate on ideas and strategies for the liberation of Jamaica, then a British colony.  In 1916 they became secretly engaged. Ashwood’s parents did not approve and arranged for her to return to Panama that year. Garvey headed for the United States in the spring of that year.

However, Garvey and Ashwood were reunited in September of 1918 in New York City. This marked the beginning of Ashwood’s important role in the development of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) branches. She became Garvey’s chief aide and the general secretary of the UNIA in 1919.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia Volumes 1 and 2 (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); http://www.unia-acl.org; http://marcusgarvey.com; http://www.pbs.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dove, Rita (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photo by Fred Viebahn
American poet laureate Rita Frances Dove was born August 28, 1952 in Akron, Ohio. Rita’s father, Ray Dove, was the first African American chemist in the tire industry. Rita Dove excelled in school and in 1970 she received the Presidential Scholar Award.  Dove completed a B.A. in English in three years at Miami University in Ohio, graduating summa cum laude. In 1974-75 she was a Fulbright scholar at Eberhard Karls University in Tubingen, Germany Rita continued her education at the University of Iowa where she received her Master of Fine Arts in 1977.

In 1977 Dove met her husband, Fred Viebahn, a German poet/novelist.  She was asked to translate his writings while he was a participant in Iowa University’s International Writing Program. They married in 1979, and had a daughter, Aviva, in 1983.

In 1981 Dove became a member of the Arizona State University faculty and except for  one year when she was a writer-in-residence at Tuskegee Institute, she held that position until 1989.  Dove served on a number of literary panels while at Arizona State including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Associate Writing Programs. She held editorial positions in the Callaloo, TriQuarterly, and Gettysburg Review journals.  .
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); http://voices.cla.umn.edu; http://people.virginia.edu.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Owens, Charles (?-1882)

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

A successful business owner and real estate investor, Charles Owens became one of the most prominent African Americans in Los Angeles by the end of the nineteenth century. Born into slavery in Texas, Charles’s father, Robert Owens, purchased his family’s freedom and migrated to Los Angeles, California in 1850.

Sources: 
Beasley, Delilah, The Negro Trail-Blazers of California. Los Angeles: Times Mirror Print and Binding House, 1919; Taylor, Quintard. In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998; Flamming Douglas. Bound For Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005; “Biddy Mason.” In African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem. New York: Garland Publishing, 1993.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Browne, Theodore R. (c. 1910-1979).

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
A pioneer playwright, actor, author, and teacher, Theodore Browne was best known for his association with the Negro Unit of the Federal Theatre in Seattle Washington in the 1930s. He was also an original member of the American Negro Theatre (ANT) and one of the founders of the Negro Playwrights Company, both in New York. Brown was born in Suffolk, Virginia, and educated in the public schools of New York City. Browne received advanced degrees at the City College of New York (1941) and at Northeastern University (1944) in Boston.
Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Jones, James Earl (1931 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS
Award winning actor James Earl Jones was born Todd Jones on January 17, 1931 in Arkabutla Township, Tate County, Mississippi.  His father, Robert Earl Jones, an actor, boxer, butler and chauffeur, deserted the family and young Todd, at age of five moved from his mother’s care to live with his maternal grandparents, Maggie and John Henry Connolly on their farm near Jackson, Michigan.  This traumatic life change caused him to develop a severe stutter and refuse to speak.  

Jones credits one of his high school teachers, Donald Crouch with helping him master his speaking ability.  Crouch saw Jones’ gift in poetry and made him recite his poems everyday before the class in hopes that this would build his confidence and end his silence. 

In 1949 Jones entered the University of Michigan with the aspiration of becoming a doctor.   He spent four years, however, realizing his dramatic talent and shifted his career goal.  Jones left the University of Michigan in 1953 without a degree but with four years of Reserve Officer Training Corps training.  He was soon drafted into the U.S. Army.  While waiting for orders to active duty, he found a part-time job at the Manistee Summer Theater.
Sources: 
James Earl Jones and Penelope Niven, James Earl Jones: Voices and Silences (New York: Scribner, 1993); Documentary on James Earl Jones at TCM.com (Turner Classic Movies): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=467026&category=Overview
History of Ramsdell Theatre: http://www.ramsdell-theater.org/pages/history.asp?content=2
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fontaine, William Thomas (1909-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Bruce Kuklick, Black Philosopher, White Academy: The Career of William
Fontaine
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Pennsylvania

Bishop, Maurice (1944-1983)

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

Maurice Bishop, revolutionary and Grenadian Prime Minister, was born in Dutch Aruba May 29, 1944 to Grenadian parents Rupert and Alimenta Bishop. The family moved to Grenada in 1950 to benefit from the economic prosperity of the time, and there Bishop grew up, excelling in his schooling. He moved to London 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.

Bishop returned to Grenada in 1970 as the Black Power movement was gaining popularity in the Caribbean. He founded a law practice in St. George’s and became involved in left wing movements supporting the current revolution in neighboring Trinidad and opposing the current autocratic Grenadian government of Eric Gairy, often invoking violent retaliation from Gairy’s security force. In 1972 he organized the Movement for Assemblies of the People (MAP), which merged with the Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education and Liberation (JEWEL) in 1973 to become the New JEWEL Movement (NJM). The NJM proclaimed independence for Grenada in 1974.

Sources: 

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

Banks, Ernest “Ernie” (1931 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Dave's Dougout, Inc.
Ernest “Ernie” Banks was the first African American baseball player for the Chicago Cubs and the first African American manager in Major League Baseball (MLB). Banks earned the nickname “Mr. Cub” while playing shortstop and first base from 1953-1971 for the team.

Ernest Banks was born on January 31, 1931 in Dallas, Texas. Ernie’s father bribed him to play baseball at a young age, but in high school he was a standout in basketball, football and track. When Banks was 17, he signed a contract with the Amarillo Colts, an all-black barnstorming (exhibition) team for $15 per game, and then in 1950 he signed with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League.  He spent two years serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and then returned back to the Negro leagues in 1953. After a season with the Kansas City Monarchs, he signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs, becoming the first African American player for the Cubs. Banks debuted in the major leagues with the Cubs on September 17, 1953, wearing the number 14.
Sources: 
Lew Freedman, African American Pioneers of Baseball (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007); Alan Ross, Cubs Pride: For the Love of Ernie, Fergie & Wrigley (Nashville, TV: Cumberland House, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hastings, Alcee L. (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Alcee Hastings with the Dali Lama
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alcee Lamar Hastings, the son of Julius C. and Mildred L. Hastings, was born on September 5, 1936 in Altamonte Springs, Florida.  His parents were domestic servants who eventually left Florida to take jobs to pay for his education.  Hastings remained in the state, living with his maternal grandmother while he attended and eventually  graduated from Crooms Academy in Sanford, Florida in 1953.  He then attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee where he received his B.A. in 1958 and then Howard University School of Law.  He received a J.D. degree, however from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee in 1964.

After graduation, Hastings went into private practice as a civil rights attorney for thirteen years .  In 1977 he was appointed a judge of the circuit court of Broward County, Florida, a position he held until 1979.  In 1979 President Jimmy Carter appointed Hastings as the United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida.  
Sources: 
Ruth Marcus, "Senate Removes Hastings,” Washington Post, October 21, 1989, p. A01;
Kenneth J. Cooper, "Hastings Joins His Former Accusers," Washington Post, January 6, 1993, p. A10; http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=H000324
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jeffries, Jasper Brown (1912-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on April 15, 1912, Jasper Brown Jeffries was an African American physicist and mathematician who worked on the Manhattan Project in World War II.  The eldest child of Brown and Edna Jeffries, Jasper had three younger brothers, Carl, Hubert, and Robert.

Jeffries earned his B.S. degree in 1933 from West Virginia State College (WVSC), an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Institute, West Virginia. While attending West Virginia State College, Jeffries enrolled in classes taught by Dr. Angie Turner King, also a 1927 graduate of the institution. King earned a masters degree in mathematics and chemistry in 1931 from Cornell University and later earned a doctoral degree in mathematics and chemistry in 1955 from the University of Pittsburgh. This is very significant because King represented the small numbers of African American women earning graduate degrees in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields during this time period. It is highly plausible that King encouraged Jeffries to further his education and pursue a graduate degree.   After earning his B.S. degree from West Virginia State College, Jeffries briefly attended the University of Illinois (1933-35). He later earned his M.S. degree in physical sciences from the University of Chicago in 1940.
Sources: 
U.S. National Archives, Record Group 77, Records of the Chief of Engineers, Manhattan Engineer District, Harrison-Bundy File, folder #76; Vivian Ovelton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing, 1980);  Wini Warren, Black Women Scientists in the United States (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1999); Greensboro’s Treasured Places. The Secrets of East Greensboro. http://preservationgreensboro.typepad.com/page/3/ (accessed Jul 22, 2011); B.B. Paine. Trip to Control Instrument Co., August 27, 28, 29 and September 3, 1952.  http://dome.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.3/39230/MC665_r05_M-1633.pdf?sequence=1 (accessed Jul 23 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
College of Wooster

Fleetwood, Christian Abraham (1840-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Christian Fleetwood, soldier, choir master, clerk, and abolitionist, was born free in Baltimore, Maryland to Charles Fleetwood and Anna Marie Fleetwood on July 21, 1840. At an early age Christian Fleetwood showed signs of intelligence and quickly endeared himself to the wealthy sugar merchant John Brune who thought of Fleetwood as a son and provided him with an education.

Fleetwood continued his education with the Maryland Colonization Society which was attempting to found a colony for free blacks in Liberia. During his early life, Fleetwood was greatly involved in promoting the African colonization movement. At the age of 16, he took a trip to Liberia and Sierra Leone in order to experience African colonial life for himself. For years Fleetwood considered leaving the United States forever and permanently moving to Liberia but eventually decided against it believing he would make a bigger difference as an abolitionist in the United States.
Sources: 
Melvin Claxton and Mark Puls, Uncommon Valor: A Story of Race, Patriotism, and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006); http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/christian-fleetwood.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Haynes, Elizabeth Ross (1883-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: 
Public Domain

In the early twentieth century Progressive era reformers largely ignored the needs of African American women.  Lacking settlement houses and other resources African American reformers such as Elizabeth Ross Haynes turned to one of the few institutions available to them, the YWCA.  Ross Haynes was at the forefront of developing institutional resources for young African American women seeking better employment and living conditions.  Born in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1883, Elizabeth Ross obtained a sterling education culminating with an A.B. from Fisk University in 1903.  She later moved north to New York City where she served as the YWCA’s student secretary for work among black women from 1908 to 1910.  In that capacity she met and married the prominent sociologist George E. Haynes, who co-founded the National Urban League.

Like many African American women Ross Haynes continued her reform work after the birth of her son, George Jr., in 1912.  She continued working with the YWCA, promoting the establishment of new branches to help female migrants find employment and job training.  Recognizing her activism, in 1922 the Y.W.C.A. appointed Haynes to its new Council on Colored Work.  The following year she earned an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University and became the first African American women appointed to the YWCA’s national board.

Sources: 
Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability: African-American Women in Interwar Detroit (University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America ((Bantam Books, 1984); Darlene Clark Hine, editor, Black Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia (Carlson Publishing, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, 1993), 548-49.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Rochester

Wilkins, J. Ernest, Jr. (1923-2011)

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

Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. is often described as one of America’s most important contemporary mathematicians. At 13, he became the University of Chicago’s youngest student. Wilkins continued his studies there, earning bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees in mathematics. When he finished his Ph.D. at 19, he was hailed by the national press as a “negro genius.”

Wilkins was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 27, 1923 to Lucile Beatrice Robinson Wilkins who held a master's degree and taught in the Chicago Public School system.  His father, J. Ernest Wilkins, a prominent attorney, was assistant Secretary of Labor during the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration. 

After completing his Ph.D., Wilkins taught mathematics for one year at Tuskegee Institute (1943-1944) before being recruited to work at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago where he contributed to the Manhattan Project.  Wilkins worked there between 1944 and 1946.

Sources: 
Nkechi Agwu and Asamoah Nkwanta, “Dr J Ernest Wilkins, Jr.: The Man and His Works (Mathematician, Physicist and Engineer)” in Nathaniel Dean, ed., African Americans in Mathematics (Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society, 1997), 195-205; J.J. O’Connor, and E. F. Robertson. “Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr.” The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive April 2002. University of St. Andrews, Scotland. 11 July 2006. < http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Wilkins_Ernest.html >; Johnny L. Houston, “Jesse Wilkins.” National Association of Mathematicians Newsletter: Fall Issue, 1994. http://www.maa.org/summa/archive/WilkinsJ.htm >.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cayton, Revels (1907-1995)

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

Revels Cayton, born in Seattle, Washington, was the son of Horace and Susie Cayton, and the grandson of U.S. Senator Hiram Revels. As a highly respected labor leader, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco District Council of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific and, later, the business agent for the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.

Sources: 
Chicago Defender, November, 23, 1940, December 22, 1945; June 8, 1946; Robert A. Hill, The FBI’s Racon: Racial Conditions in the United States during World War II (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1995); San Francisco Examiner, November 7, 1995
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for African American Historical Research and Preservation (AAAHRP)

Kilson, Martin L., Jr. (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Willard R. Johnson
Harvard University’s Frank G. Thomson Professor of Government Emeritus, Dr. Martin L. Kilson, Jr. bears his professional prominence very easily, descending from three generations of clergy with skills of persuasion, presentation and organization. Before the Civil War, his great-great-grandfather, The Reverend Isaac Lee, founded the first A.M.E. church among free Negroes in Kent County, Maryland.  Dr. Kilson’s maternal great-grandfather was also among the founders of a church.

Kilson was the valedictorian of his 1953 graduating class at Lincoln University. Winning several prominent scholarships and fellowships, he earned a Masters and a Doctoral degree in Political Science at Harvard University where he wrote a dissertation titled “United Nations Visiting Missions to Trust Territories.” Winning additional fellowships to undertake field research in Africa, he published Political Change in a West African State, a study of the origins, character and challenges of the emergent political class in Sierra Leone.
Sources: 
Martin Kilson, “Probing the Black Elite’s Role for the 21st Century,” The Black Commentator, Issue 133 (April 7, 2005) http://www.blackcommentator.com/133/133_kilson_1.html
Martin Kilson, “From the Birth to a Mature Afro-American Studies at Harvard, 1969-2002,” in Lewis Gordon/Jane Gordon, Editors, A Companion to African American Studies (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Blassingame, John W. (1940-2000)

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

McKinney, Cynthia Ann (1955- )

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

Cynthia Ann McKinney was born on March 17, 1955 in Atlanta, Georgia to parents Billy McKinney, who was a police officer and to a mother, Leola Christion McKinney, who was a nurse. Her father was a political activist who challenged his employer, the Atlanta Police Department, for its practice of racial discrimination.  This desire to use activism in the cause of racial justice was inherited by Cynthia McKinney who initiated her first petition against racism while still in school. In 1971 she challenged a teacher at the Catholic institution for using racist language.  Meanwhile, her father, Billy McKinney was elected to the Georgia State Legislature in 1973 as a Democrat.

After completing St. Joseph’s High School in Atlanta in 1973, McKinney in 1978 received a degree in international relations from the University of Southern California. This degree would serve her well in the future as became increasingly concerned about the role and impact of U.S. foreign around the world.  McKinney then entered the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.  There she met and Jamaican politician Coy Grandison and returned to Jamaica with him.

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine. “Cynthia McKinney” Black Women in America. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scrpits/biodisplay.pl?index=m000523; Congresspedia, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Cynthia_Mckinney
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Morris (1770-1849)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Morris Brown was born in Charleston, South Carolina on February 13, 1770. His family belonged to a sizeable African American population in the city who were mostly enslaved.  Brown’s parents, however, were part the city’s tiny free black community.  In the year of Brown’s birth, more than 5,800 enslaved blacks and 24 free blacks resided in the city, compared to a total of 5,030 whites.  Within this city where African Americans were the majority, Brown’s family circulated within an elite black society, whose members were often so closely related to aristocratic whites in the city that they were exempt from the racist restrictions imposed on the majority of enslaved people.

A prosperous shoemaker by trade and charismatic religious leader, Brown travelled to Philadelphia to collaborate with the Rev. Richard Allen in the founding of the country’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1816.  Brown worked tirelessly to forge an independent African Methodist Church in Charleston.  In 1818, Brown left a predominantly white but racially segregated Methodist Church in Charleston in protest against discrimination. More than 4,000 black members of the white churches in the city followed Brown to his new church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, later named Emanuel AME Church.   
Sources: 
Margaret Washington, “The Meanings of Scripture in Gullah Concepts of Liberation and Group Identity,” in Vincent Wimbush, ed., African Americans and the Bible: Sacred Texts and Social Textures (NY Continuum, 2000), pp. 321-30; Bernard E. Powers, Jr., “Seeking the Promised Land: Afro-Carolinians and the Quest for Religious Freedom to 1830,” in James Lowell Underwood and W. Lewis Burke, eds., The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2006), 138, 139; Philip D. Morgan, “Black Life in Charleston,” in Bernard Bailyn, et al., eds., Perspectives in American History, v. 1 (1984), 187-232; and Peter Bergman, The Chronological History of the Negro in America (NY: Harper & Row, 1969), 45.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reid, Ira de Augustine (1901-1968)

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People
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African American History
Ira de Augustine Reid, sociologist, author and professor, was born on July 2, 1901 in Clifton Forge, Virginia. His father, David A. Reid, was a Baptist minister and his mother, Willie A. James, a homemaker. Reid attended mostly private schools in Germantown, Pennsylvania throughout his childhood. When his father accepted a pastoral position in Savannah, Georgia, he spent his high school years at Morehouse Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, and then entered Morehouse College at the age of sixteen.
Sources: 
Kenneth Ives, Rosalind Cobb Wiggins, Anna Bustill Smith, Cynthia Kerman Carleton Mabee, and William Powers, Black Quakers: Brief Biographies (Chicago: Progressive Publishers, 1986);   Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Perry, Christopher J. (1854-1920)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Philadelphia Tribune Historic Marker, Philadelphia
Image Ownership: Public Domain

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.

Sources: 

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.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Turner, Joseph Vernon ["Big Joe"] (1911-1985)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Big Joe Turner, known by many as the “Boss of the Blues,” was born Joseph Vernon in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 18, 1911. Turner is considered a major contributor to the development of the sound of Kansas City Jazz, and the early development of Rock n’ Roll. Drawing from Blues music vocal traditions, Turner’s style earned him the nickname of a “Blues Shouter,” with his resonant voice enabling him to cross over into Jazz, Rock n’ Roll and Rhythm & Blues.

Turner and his musical partner, pianist Pete Johnson, were discovered by record producer John Hammond at the Sunset Café in Kansas City in 1936. Later that same year, Hammond brought Turner and Johnson to New York, where they played for several months at the nightclub, The Famous Door. In 1938 Turner and Johnson returned to New York and were part of Hammond’s first “Spirituals to Swing” concert. The duo was well-received by the public, and in late 1938 Turner and Johnson made their first recordings, "Roll 'Em Pete" and "Goin' Away Blues" for Vocalion Studios.
Sources: 
Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix, Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop–A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Terry Currier, “Big Joe Turner,” BluesNotes (October 2002), in http://www.cascadeblues.org/History/BigJoeTurner.htm ; Arthur and Murray Kempton, “Big Joe Turner, The Holler of a Mountain Jack” in Pete Welding & Toby Byron, eds., Bluesland: Portrait of Twelve Major American Blues Masters (New York: Penguin Books, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bailey, DeFord (1899-1982)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
David C. Morton and Charles K. Wolfe, DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991); Rick Petreycik, "The Harmonica Wizard," American Legacy Magazine (Summer 2007), pp. 15-21; http://www.tnstate.edu/library/digital/bailey.htm; http://www.pbs.org/deford/biography/index.html

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, James Lloyd (1920-2008)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership:
Public Domain
James Lloyd Jackson was one of the little known heroes of the D-Day Landing at Normandy Beach in France in 1944.  Jackson was born in Lakeland, Florida on February 25, 1920 to Essie May Holly and Amos Jackson. He graduated from Lakeland High School in 1938. For the next five years he worked for the Lakeland Fertilizer Company.

Jackson joined the U.S. Army in 1943 as a private.  In 1944, just a year after joining the military, Sergeant James Jackson led a unit of the 531st Combat Engineers onto Normandy Beach at dawn in preparation for the much larger invasion that was to follow. Jackson's unit also captured German soldiers including Max Schmeling, the boxer who fought Joe Louis in 1937 and 1938. Jackson's unit continued to work in battlefield settings for the rest of World War II.  

James Jackson decided in 1945 to make the Army a career. In 1951 he was promoted to second lieutenant while serving in Korea.  On December 27, 1953 Jackson married Octavia Mills, a former elementary school teacher from Oklahoma. The couple had five children.  

At the end of the Korean War Jackson used his years in the military to further his education.  While in the Army and stationed at various posts, Jackson studied at the University of Maryland, the University of Puget Sound, the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and finally Western Washington University where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1975.  
Sources: 
National Archives and Records Administration, Jackson Family Records.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McDonald, Norris (1958- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The African American
Environmentalist Association

Norris McDonald, a leading black environmentalist, is the founder and president of the African American Environmental Association (AAEA), an organization dedicated to protecting the environment, enhancing human, animal and plant ecologies, and increasing African American participation in the environmental movement.

Norris McDonald was born to parents Sandy Norris McDonald Sr. and Katie Louvina Best in 1958 in Thomasville, North Carolina.  Norris McDonald Sr. was a high school principal and Katie Louvina Best worked for the local public school system. She died of breast cancer at the age of 26.

McDonald attended Wake Forest University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1977. After college, McDonald moved to Washington, D.C. hoping to find a job as a Congressional staffer.  Instead, he was hired as a staffer at the Environmental Policy Institute in 1979 (now called Friends of the Earth) where he worked for the next seven years. McDonald’s primary duties included media relations, public education, researching, lobbying, and fund raising. During this time, McDonald was introduced to environmental issues across the nation.  He also noticed that there were no black professionals working for environmental groups in the Washington, D.C. area. The absence of black professionals in those organizations inspired him to create the AAEA in 1985.

Sources: 
http://grist.org/article/norris/; http://meldi.snre.umich.edu/node/12335; Norris McDonald, Norris McDonald: Diary of an Environmentalist (Washington, D.C.: Privately Published, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Stephen (1795-1873)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Stephen Smith was born into slavery in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At 21 he purchased his freedom for $50 and soon afterwards began to ally with the abolitionist cause that he would support through most of his adult life.   In 1830 Smith became the chairman of the African American abolitionist organization in Columbia, Pennsylvania while developing a successful lumber business.  The Columbia Spy reported that in 1835 his success “…excited the envy or hatred of those not so prosperous and of the ruling race.”  In that year unknown persons vandalized his office and destroyed his papers, records and books.  Shortly after this incident, Smith moved to Philadelphia where he again entered the lumber business and after a few years regained his prosperity.

Sources: 
S. Webb, History of Pennsylvania Hall Which Was Destroyed by a Mob, on the 17th of May, 1838 (Philadelphia: Merrihew and Gunn, Printers, 1838).  Ira V. Brown, “Racism and Sexism: The Case of Pennsylvania Hall,” Phylon, 37:2 (2nd Qtr., 1976), 126-136; The Columbia Spy, Sept. 9, 1830, Dec. 12, 1868 and Jan. 29, 1870.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Hayes, Ralph (1922-1999)

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

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

Hansberry, William Leo (1894-1965)

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

Historian and anthropologist, William Leo Hansberry began his college education at Atlanta University, but (at the urging of W.E.B. DuBois) he transferred to Harvard in 1917. Based on his reading of classical texts and his study of archeological evidence, Hansberry became convinced as an undergraduate that sophisticated civilizations had existed in Africa–especially in Ethiopia–for centuries prior to the rise of the Greeks and Romans in Europe. He pursued that premise for the rest of his life.

A circular letter announcing his desire to develop courses in African civilization landed him a temporary job at Howard University in Washington D.C., following his graduation from Harvard in 1921. There he quickly built his new program into one of the most popular undergraduate majors on the campus, and he hosted international conferences to stimulate the study of ancient and medieval African societies. By the mid-1920s, however, he ran afoul not only of the wider white academic community, which was extremely skeptical of Hansberry’s ambitious claims, but also of senior colleagues at Howard, who believed he was giving the university a bad name by teaching assertions for which there was little or no compelling evidence. The Howard board settled the dispute by retaining the popular African program, while relegating Hansberry himself to a secondary position without tenure.

Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America; L. Mpho Mabunda, ed., The African Almanac; “The Global African Community” at http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry.html (6-20-06) and http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry2.html (6-20-06); “Mississippi Writers Page” at http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/hansberry_william_leo/index.html; and “Africa Within” at http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry_profile.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Norton, Eleanor Holmes (1937- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House
of Representatives Photography Office
Eleanor Holmes Norton was born on June 13, 1937 in Washington, D.C. to parents Coleman and Vela Holmes.  Both her parents were government employees.  Growing up in a well educated and politically conscious household caused Eleanor Holmes to be very aware of the surrounding struggles for African Americans.  At the age of 12, she recalled watching protests against a Washington, D.C. department store which allowed black shoppers but refused them entry into its bathrooms.

In 1955, Eleanor entered Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where she became heavily involved with civil rights work.  While in college she headed the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter and became a local activist working to desegregate public facilities in Ohio.  The emerging civil rights movement influenced her decision to enter Yale University in 1960 with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.  In 1963 Holmes worked in Mississippi for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  She graduated from Yale in 1963 with a Master’s in American Studies and a law degree in 1964.  
Sources: 
Joan Steinau Lester, Eleanor Holmes Norton: Fire in My Soul (New York: Atrai Books, 2003); Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.norton.house.gov/; http://www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/resources/legends_in_the_law/norton.cfm; http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1955.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Watts, Andre (1946- )

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People
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African American History
Andre Watts is the subject of one of the more memorable stories in American music. In 1963, the 16 year old high school student won a piano competition to play in the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concert at Lincoln Center, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.  Within weeks of the contest the renowned conductor tapped Watts to substitute for the eminent but ailing pianist Glenn Gould, for a regular performance with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The performance was televised nationally, with Watts playing Liszt’s E-flat Concerto, and his career was launched. From this storied beginning, Watts went on to become the first internationally famous black concert pianist.

Watts was born in Nuremburg, Germany on June 20, 1946 to an African American soldier, Herman Watts, who was stationed in Germany, and a piano-playing Hungarian refugee mother, Maria Alexandra Gusmits. His early childhood was spent on military bases, until at the age of eight his family moved to Philadelphia.
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, pp. 272-73; www.cmartists.com/artists/andre_watts.htm; http://info.music.indiana.edu. 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

DeLarge, Robert Carlos (1842-1874)

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

In 1868, DeLarge was a member of the South Carolina Constitutional Convention which revised the state’s existing constitution.  At this convention, DeLarge lobbied for a petition which asked the U.S. Congress for a one a million dollar grant to purchase lands to be sold to the state’s land-hungry poor.  After the constitutional convention, DeLarge moved quickly from one important position to another.  During the 1868 and 1869 sessions of the state legislature, DeLarge chaired the Ways and Means Committee.  In 1871, the state legislature chose DeLarge as land commissioner for the state.  As land commissioner, he was implicated, but then cleared of charges of land fraud.  
Sources: 
Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress (New York: Thomas Y Crowell Company, 1976); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Watt, Melvin Luther (1945- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Congressman Mel Wattt (far right) Speaking for the
Congressional Black Caucus, 2005
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Carolina in the 20th century, Mel Watts is a current member of the United States House of Representatives. Watts was born on August 26, 1945 in the small community of Steele Creek in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and attended high school in Charlotte. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967. Watt was a Phi Beta Kappa and was president of the business honors fraternity. He also has a J.D. degree from Yale University Law School as well as honorary degrees from North Carolina A&T State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Bennett College and Fisk University.

Watt had a varied career before serving in Congress. Between 1971 and 1992 he practiced law with the firm formerly known as Chambers, Stein, Ferguson, and Becton.  He was also a small business owner and managed the campaigns of Harvey Gantt for Charlotte City Council, for Mayor of Charlotte and for the United States Senate from North Carolina. Watt also served in the North Carolina Senate from 1985 to 1987.  He did not seek a second term, postponing his political activity until his children were high school graduates. Watt was known during his single term as “the conscience of the senate.”
Sources: 
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=w000207; Watt for Congress Website, http://www.wattforcongress.com/melwatt.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Washington, Harold (1922 – 1987)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Harold Washington and Colleague
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago, was born on April 15, 1922, to Roy Washington, a lawyer, Methodist minister and one of the first black precinct captains in Chicago.  Washington’s mother, and Bertha Washington, was a well-known singer in the city.

Washington attended segregated public schools including the newly completed DuSable High School where he set records as a track star.  Despite that success, Washington dropped out of high school at the end of his junior year and worked in a meat packing plant until his father helped him obtain a job at the U.S. Treasury office in Chicago.  There he met Dorothy Finch, his future wife.  The couple married in 1941 when Harold Washington was 19 and Dorothy was 17.  They divorced ten years later.

In 1942 Washington was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent overseas as part of a segregated unit of the Air Force Engineers, then part of the U.S. Army.  Washington served three years in the South Pacific and rose to the rank of First Sergeant.   
Sources: 
Bruce Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990); Florence Hamlish Levinsohn, Harold Washington: A Political Biography, (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1983); “Biographical Directory of the Harold Washington,”   http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=W000180;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coston, Julia Ringwood (?- ?)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare
Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture, The New York Public Library,
Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
 

The date of birth for Julia Ringwood Coston, one of the first black women to edit a magazine, is unknown. We do know that she was named after Ringwood farm in Warrenton, Virginia, where she was born. While she was still an infant, Ringwood moved to Washington D.C. with her family and attended public schools there. She had almost completed school when her mother died and she was forced to withdraw.

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

Colonel Tye (1753-1780)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Tye Leading Troops, PBS Dramatization
Image Ownership: Public Domain

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.

Sources: 

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.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Bogle, Robert (1774-1848)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Robert Bogle Sign, Philadelphia 
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Nicholas Biddle, An Ode to Bogle (Philadelphia: Privately printed, 1865); W. E. B. DuBois, The Philadelphia Negro:  A Social Study (New York: Schocken Books, 1967); John N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman, African-American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994)

Bonga, Stephen (1799–1884)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of William L. Katz

Stephen Bonga was part of a prosperous Minnesota fur trading family, the first African American residents of that state. Fluent in Native American languages, Stephen and his brothers traveled as translators and voyageurs throughout the upper Great Lakes region of the Midwest.

Bonga was born in June 1799 on the shores of Lake Superior in the area joining present-day Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin.  He was the son of Pierre Bonga and his Native American Ojibwe wife, Ogibwayquay, and he was grandson of Jean and Marie Jeanne Bonga, who had lived as slaves at the fur trading depot of Michigan’s Mackinac Island.  

As a young man, Bonga was sent to Albany, New York to become a Presbyterian missionary.  Although he later left the seminary to join the family fur trading business, Stephen was known throughout his life for his piety and in 1881 helped organize the Methodist Episcopal Church in Superior, Wisconsin.

Stephen Bonga, along with his brothers George and Jack, are listed as American Fur Company representatives visiting the Grand Portage fort along Lake Superior during the winter of 1823 and 1824.  Stephen was a clerk for the company until 1833 and traveled frequently along the upper Midwest’s trade water routes.

Sources: 
“Letters on the Fur Trade,” Minnesota Historical Collections 37: (1910):132–206; Teresa A. Carbone, Eastman Johnson, and Patricia Hills, Eastman Johnson: Painting America (Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1999); Henry Schoolcraft, Henry R. Schoolcraft's "Narrative Journal of Travels", edited by Mentor L. Williams and Philip P. Mason, (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1992); William Warren, History of the Ojibway People (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1885); Martin Hintz, Wisconsin Portraits: 55 People Who Made a Difference (Black Earth, WI: Trails Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

dan Fodio, Usman (1754-1817)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Map of the Sultanate of Sokoto
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Islamic preacher, reformer, scholar, and statesman, Usman dan Fodio was born on December 15, 1754 in the village of Maratta, in the Hausa city-state of Gobir, in what is today northern Nigeria.  He was a descendant of the early Fulani settlers in Hausaland in the 15th century.  He spent his youth in the devout pursuit of Islamic religious education, and his early manhood preaching, teaching, and writing.

Dan Fodio became an itinerant Muslim preacher in 1774, moving among rural communities.  He was a leader in the expansion of Islam across the Hausa countryside, increasing the popular basis for religious teaching and bringing literacy to numerous small communities.   He wrote poems and stories of mysticism that increased his popularity as a teacher and preacher.    

Throughout his proselytizing dan Fodio told of being given the “Sword of Truth” to advance Islamic law and defeat the enemies of Allah.  His "sword" was the written and oral word through prose and verse.  Usman found, however, that Hausa rulers, following common Hausa practice, had mixed “pagan” practices with Islamic ones and did not adhere closely to Islam.  He began to criticize these rulers.
Sources: 
Nehemia Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels, eds., The History of Islam in Africa (Athens:  Ohio University Press, 2000); Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wilson, Frederica (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
House of Representatives
Democratic Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was born on November 5, 1942 in Miami, Florida to Beulah Finley and Thirlee Smith. Wilson learned the importance of community activism at a young age. Her father was a small business owner and civil rights activist who worked to promote voter-registration in Miami’s black neighborhoods.

After graduating from Miami Northwestern Senior High School, Wilson attended Fisk University in Memphis, Tennessee where she graduated with a degree in Elementary Education in 1963. That same year Wilson married an investment banker, Paul Wilson, with whom she had three children. While working as an elementary school teacher in the Miami-Dade school district Wilson earned her Master of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Miami in 1971.  In 1980 she became principal of Skyway Elementary in the upper middle class black suburb of Miami Gardens. During her time as principal Wilson led a successful campaign to shut down an Agripost compost plant that was polluting the community and preventing the school children from playing outside during recess.  The pollution also caused a mold problem at the elementary school.
Sources: 
"Frederica Wilson," Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 92 (Detroit: Gale, 2011); http://wilson.house.gov/biography/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fraser, Sarah Loguen (1850-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sarah Fraser, born Sarah Marinda Loguen, was the first female African American to graduate from the Syracuse University College of Medicine. She was also one of the first African American female physicians specializing in obstetrics and pediatrics.

Sarah Loguen was born on January 29, 1850, in Syracuse, New York, the fifth of eight children to the Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen, a former slave and prominent abolitionist, and his wife, Caroline Loguen, the daughter of prominent local abolitionists. Her father started the first school for black children in the Syracuse area and used his home as a safe house for hundreds of slaves traveling the Underground Railroad.  In 1868 Rev. Loguen became a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church the same year Sarah graduated from high school.

Sources: 
American National Biography, http://www.anb.org/articles/13/13-02676.html; Journal of the National Medical Association, 92:3 (March 2000); Celebrating Sarah Loguen Fraser, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, http://www.hws.edu/academics/english/fraser.aspx; Dr. Sarah Loguen’s Dominican Republic, Upstate Medical College, http://issuu.com/upstate/docs/loguen-puerto_1-6.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Foote, Julia (1823-1900)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in Schenectady, New York, to former slaves, Julia was converted at age fifteen. Several years later, she married George Foote, a sailor, moved to Boston, and joined an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church, where she began to testify about her experiences of conversion and sanctification. Her husband and pastor disapproved of her teaching on sanctification, but she persisted, even though she was expelled from her home congregation in 1844.
Sources: 
Julia Foote, A Brand Plucked from the Fire (1878); Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Bankhead, Lester Oliver (1912-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lester Oliver Bankhead was among a handful of pioneering black architects in Los Angeles in the 1950s.  Although he faced the racial prejudice of his time, he was able to obtain work from Hollywood celebrities, such as actor Lorne Greene of the television series Bonanza; Kelly Lang, a well-known Los Angeles news anchor; and H.B. Barnum, noted music producer and arranger for Frank Sinatra and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.

Lester Bankhead, the eldest of six children, was born on April 20, 1912, in Union, South Carolina.  His parents were John Hayes Bankhead and Pearl Eugenia Eskew.  Bankhead had hoped to attend Tuskegee Institute, but the lack of financial support forced him to seek training elsewhere.  He wrote to Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, and was later enrolled in 1937.  Bankhead stated that he graduated from Voorhees with a degree in agriculture and a certificate in carpentry in 1941.  

After graduating from college, Bankhead was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942.  Upon completion of basic training his unit was ordered to assist in the liberation of North Africa.  After being discharged from the Army, Bankhead moved Los Angeles and settled within the Central Avenue community.  He attended the Los Angeles City College, Otis Art Institute, and Los Angeles Trade Technical College.  Bankhead worked various jobs and eventually began his own practice in the 1950s.
Sources: 
http://www.nilekingdoms.org/bio.htm ;Interview with Lester Bankhead by Wesley Henderson, Los Angeles, California, 1992, University of California at Los Angeles Oral History Program; Wendel Eckford, “Lester O. Bankhead,” in African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945, Dreck Spurlock Wilson, Editor (New York, 2004).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Tanner, Jack (1919-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jack Tanner was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1919.  His father, Ernie Tanner, was a respected local leader in the Tacoma local of the International Longshoremen’s Union, an organization that Jack Tanner eventually joined when he worked on the city’s docks.  Before joining the union, however, Tanner was a star student-athlete at Stadium High School in Tacoma. Upon graduation he joined the U.S. Army in World War II and served in the Pacific in a segregated unit, an experience that provided this Pacific Northwest native his first view of racial discrimination as it was practiced in much of the United States. That view would influence Tanner’s actions as a lawyer and later as a federal judge.

When he returned from World War II Tanner enrolled in the College of Puget Sound while working on the docks.  Upon graduation he enrolled in the University of Washington Law School and received a J.D. degree in 1955.  In the early 1950s Tanner was the only African American enrolled in the law school. Even after passing the bar Tanner kept his longshore job because the prospects for black attorneys in the Tacoma area in the 1950s were slim.
Sources: 
The Honorable Jack E. Tanner Papers, Washington State History Museum, Tacoma, Washington.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
United States Magistrate Judge

Williams, Marguerite Thomas (1895-1991?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Marguerite Thomas Williams, born in 1895, was the first African American (male or female) to earn a Ph.D. in geology.  Like Roger Arliner Young, Williams was mentored by African American biologist Ernest Everett Just.  
Sources: 
Wini Warren, “Marguerite Thomas Williams: Geologist,” in Black Women Scientists in the United States (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999); https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/marguerite_williams.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson, Lydia Flood (1862-1963)

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

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

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

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Albert, Octavia Victoria Rogers (1853-1890)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Octavia V. Rogers Albert, The House of Bondage or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: The Early Years, 1619-1899 (New York: Facts on File, Inc, 1997); Frances Smith Foster. "Albert, Octavia Victoria Rogers" American National Biography Online (Feb. 2000); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wiggins, Charlie (1897-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Charlie Wiggins, Indianapolis, Aug. 7, 1926
Image Ownership: Public Domain

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.”

Sources: 

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. 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Jenkins, John (1952- )

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

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

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

Goode, Sarah E. (c.1855?-1905)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Drawing of Sarah E. Goode's Cabinet Bed
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Sarah Elisabeth Goode was one of the first African-American women to obtain a patent from the United States government in 1885. She shares the distinction with Judy Reed, who invented a dough-kneading machine that was patented in 1880, and Miriam Benjamin, who received a patent in 1888 for a hotel chair that signaled the service of a waiter.

Little has been confirmed of Goode’s early life, but it is believed that in 1860, at age five, she was living as Sarah Jacobs, a free inhabitant of Toledo, Ohio. By 1870, she had moved to Chicago, Illinois and by 1880 was married to Archibald Goode, a carpenter/stair builder. The couple had children, but the exact number is unknown.

On July 14, 1885, Sarah Goode was granted patent number 322,177 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a folding cabinet bed. The bed was designed to make maximum efficient use of small spaces where surface area was limited. Known today as the “hide-away bed,” Goode’s invention had hinged sections that were easily raised or lowered. When not functioning as a bed, the invention could easily be used as a desk because there were small compartments for storing supplies. This was ideal for urban apartments of Chicago where living space was shared and limited.

Sources: 
Autumn Stanley, Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995); Anne L. MacDonald, Feminine Ingenuity: Women and Invention in America (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993); http://www.uspto.gov/news/pr/2002/02-16.jsp; http://furniture.about.com/b/2010/03/14/sarah-goodes-folding-cabinet-bed.htm; United States Census (years 1910, 1880, 1870, 1860, 1850); Cook County Birth Certificates 1878-1922; Cook County Birth Registers 1871-1915; Illinois Statewide Death Index Pre-1916.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Franklin, Shirley Clarke (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Shirley Clarke Franklin became Atlanta, Georgia’s first African American female mayor in 2001, as well as the first woman to be a mayor of a major southern city.  Clarke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 10, 1945 to parents Eugene Haywood Clarke and Ruth Lyons Clarke.  She attended public schools in Philadelphia. In 1963 at the age of 18, Clarke participated in the March on Washington where she saw and was inspired by Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King.   

Clarke graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1968.  She then attended the University of Pennsylvania and earned her master's degree in 1969.  Clarke married David McCoy Franklin in 1972.  The couple has three adult sons.

After teaching political science at Talladega College in Alabama for nearly a decade, in 1978 Shirley Clarke Franklin was appointed by Mayor Maynard Jackson to the post of Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of Atlanta.  When Jackson was succeeded by Mayor Andrew Young, she was named Chief Administrative Officer and City Manager.  Franklin gained notoriety as one of the officials who helped bring the Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1992.  
Sources: 
Kim O’Connell, “Most valuable player: Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin combines 1960’s-style populism with 21st century business-savvy,” American City and County, 120: 13 (December 2005); Candace LaBalle “Franklin, Shirley Clarke,” Contemporary Black Biography (December 2009); J. Phillip Thompson, Double Trouble: Black Mayors, black communities, and the Call for a Deep Democracy (New York: Oxford Publishing, 2006); Richard Fausset, "Kasim Reed Confirmed as Atlanta Mayor," Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2009
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williamson, Lisa AKA Sister Souljah (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lisa Williamson, also known as Sister Souljah, is an author, lecturer, rap singer, activist, community organizer and political commentator. Through her music, books, lectures and community work she advocates black power, personal responsibility and activism.  She proudly challenges black Americans to strengthen their communities and character by embracing spirituality and self-confidence. A New York Times best-selling author, Williamson now reaches the younger generation through her novels written in the popular style known as street-lit.

Lisa Williamson was born in New York City in 1964. When her parents divorced, her mother moved the family into a public housing project in the Bronx where Lisa lived until the age of 10. The family then moved to Englewood, New Jersey where Lisa attended high school. While there she won the American Legion's Constitutional Oratory Contest and was later enrolled in Cornell University's advanced placement summer program and Spain's Universidad de Salamanca study-abroad program.

In 1985 Williamson graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in American history and African studies. Soon after her graduation she took a job with the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice in Harlem where she founded the African Youth Survival Camp, a 6-week summer sleep away camp in Enfield, North Carolina serving children of homeless families.
Sources: 
Sister Souljah, No Disrespect (New York: Times Books Random House, 1994); Sister Souljah, The Coldest Winter Ever (New York: Pocket Books,  1999); Akoto Ofori-Atla, “Sister Souljah: More Than a Street-Lit Author,” The Root (Summer 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Reid, Philip (1820-1892)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Statue of Freedom on the U.S. Capitol Dome
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Craftsman Philip Reid is best known as the enslaved African who worked on the casting of the Statue of Freedom which sits atop the Capitol building housing the United States Congress.  Reid is the most famous of the enslaved workers who comprised 50% of the workforce which built the structure that currently houses the United States Senate and House of Representatives.  
Sources: 
Ernest B. Furgurson, Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War (New York: Vintage, 2005); Jesse J. Holland, Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C. (Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot, 2007); Wevonneda Minis, “Magazine Highlights Charleston Connection to Bronze Cast,” The Charleston Post and Courier, March 24, 2009, http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20090324/PC1205/303249915 ; Peter Zavodnyik, The Rise of the Federal Colossus: The Growth of Federal Power from Lincoln to F.D.R. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Walker, David (1785-1830)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The fiery-militant David Walker was born on September 28, 1785, in Wilmington, North Carolina.  His father was an enslaved African who died a few months before his son’s birth, and his mother was a free woman of African ancestry. Walker grew up to despise the system of slavery that the U.S. government allowed in America.  He knew the cruelties of slavery were not for him and said, “As true as God reigns, I will be avenged for the sorrow which my people have suffered.”  He eventually moved to Boston during the 1820s and became very active within the free black community.  Walker’s intense hatred for slavery culminated in him publishing his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World in September 1829. The Appeal was smuggled into the southern states, and was considered subversive, seditious, and incendiary by most white men in both northern and southern states.  It was, without a doubt, one of the most controversial documents published in the antebellum period.

Walker was concerned about many social issues affecting free and enslaved Africans in America during the time.  He also expressed many beliefs that would become commonly promoted by later black nationalists such as: unified struggle for resistance of oppression (slavery), land reparations, self-government for people of African descent in America, racial pride, and a critique of American capitalism.  His radical views prompted southern planters to offer a $3000 bounty for anyone who killed Walker and $10,000 reward for anyone who returned him alive back to the South.  Walker was found dead in the doorway of his Boston home in 1830.  Some people believed he was poisoned and others believed that he died of tuberculosis.

Sources: 
Thabiti Asukile, "The All-Embracing Black Nationalist Theories of David Walker's Appeal," Black Scholar, 29 (Winter 1999), 16–24.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinnati

McAllister, Jane Ellen (1899-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dr. Jane McAllister was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on October 24, 1899. Born into a time of overt racism that severely limited black opportunity, McAllister’s family managed to escape poverty’s grip and join the small percentage of middle-class African American families in early 20th century Mississippi. Her father’s work as a mail carrier, and her mother’s position as a school teacher, enabled the McAllister family to avoid the cyclic economic problems of the occupations that most African Americans were forced to pursue like sharecropping and domestic service.

Dr. McAllister flourished in school, graduating from high school at age 15 and from Talladega College in Alabama in 1919 where she became the youngest Talladega graduate by earning her degree at the age of 19. This groundbreaking pattern continued into 1929 when Jane Ellen McAllister became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from Columbia University. From there, Dr. McAllister chose to share her wealth of knowledge with others, teaching psychology and education at Southern University, Grambling State, Fisk College, Virginia State and Dillard among others until her retirement in 1970. Dr. McAllister died in January 1996, at the age of 96.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Webb, Wellington E. (1941- )

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Wellington Webb was born in Chicago in 1941.  He came to Denver at a very early age and before entering politics he was a forklift operator. Webb’s public service career began in 1972 when he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. In 1977, he was selected by President James Carter to serve as regional director of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Then in 1981, Colorado Governor Richard Lamm appointed Webb to his cabinet as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. In 1987, he was elected as the Denver City Auditor.

In 1991, Webb became the first African American mayor of Denver.  He won reelection twice, serving a total of twelve years. During his tenure he named the first Hispanic police chief, the first African American fire chief and the first Hispanic Clerk and Recorder.  He also oversaw the construction of Denver International Airport and ensured that many of its concessions would be operated b women and minority entrepreneurs.  Mayor Webb hosted nearly 200,000 people from around the world to celebrate World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II on August 11-15, 1993, and in 1997 welcomed President Clinton and eight world leaders at the Denver Summit of the Eight, the annual economic summit.

Sources: 
Wallace Yvonne Tollette, Colorado Black Leadership Profiles (Denver: Western Images Publications, 2001); Wellington E. Webb: A Tribute to 12 Years. (A Commemorative Booklet), Urban Spectrum Newspaper, 2003.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Garvey, Amy Jacques (1896-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Amy Jacques Garvey became the second wife of famous United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) leader Marcus Garvey in July 1922, only a few months after his divorce from his first wife, Amy Ashwood. Ironically Jacques was not only a friend but the maid of honor at the Garvey-Ashwood wedding on Dec. 25, 1919. In 1920, Jacques became Garvey’s companion and personal secretary.

Jacques was a pioneer of Pan-African emancipation who was born in Kingston, Jamaica on Dec. 31, 1885. Challenged intellectually by her father and growing up privileged gave Jacques the opportunity to go to the finest schools in Jamaica. Jacques’ lineage was deeply rooted in an upper-class British heritage. Her great-great grandfather, John Jacques, was the first mayor of Kingston. Coming from such a background, her father, George, like Amy, had the opportunity to receive a formal education.
Sources: 
Ula Yvette Taylor, The Veiled Garvey; The Life and Times of Amy Jacques Garvey (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); http://www.unia-acl.org; http://www.marcusgarvey.com; http://pbs.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hyman, John Adams (1840-1891)

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

At the age of 25 Hyman was freed by the Thirteenth Amendment and returned to his family in North Carolina. He quickly enrolled in school where he received an elementary education. Hyman also became a landowner and merchant.  Hyman, a Mason, soon emerged as a leader of the post-Civil War North Carolina black community.  

By 1868 John Hyman was an active member of the Republican Party.  Despite intimidation attempts by the Ku Klux Klan, Hyman and 132 other Republicans were elected to a constitutional convention which crafted a new constitution for the state of North Carolina.  The Constitution called for public education available to all students and voting rights for African American men.   
Sources: 
Stephen Middleton, ed. Black Congressmen During Reconstruction (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002); George W. Reid, “Four in Black: North Carolina’s Black Congressmen, 1874-1901” Journal of Negro History 64 (Summer 1979): 229-43; http://bioguide.congress.gov.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moton, Robert R. (1867-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: 
Public Domain

Robert Russa Moton was born on the William Vaughan Plantation in 1867 in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Moton attended the local freedman’s school and eventually went on to college at the Hampton Institute (now called Hampton University).

At Hampton Institute Moton distinguished himself academically and after graduation was appointed the school’s Commandant in charge of military discipline, a post he held for 25 years.  Moton also became a Hampton fundraiser, traveling north to lecture on the school’s programs. 

In 1915, Moton left the Hampton Institute to accept a post as Tuskegee Institute as its second president after the death of founder Booker T. Washington.  Soon after his arrival Moton began to expand the Institute’s academic programs, adding a new department to educate future black school teachers.  He also initiated the construction of what would become the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital which would treat African American World War I veterans.  Despite local white opposition, Moton insisted that the federal hospital be staffed by black doctors, nurses, and administrators.

Sources: 
Robert Russa Moton, Finding a Way Out: An Autobiography (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1920); William Hardin Hughes and Frederick D. Patterson, Robert Russa Moton of Hampton and Tuskegee (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956); Lerone Bennett, “Chronicles of Black Courage: Robert R. Moton Risked Life in Fight for Black Doctors at Tuskegee Veterans Hospital,” Ebony, July 2002; www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/flood/peopleevents/p_moton.html;
www.hamptonu.edu, www.gloucesterva.info/moton1.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Ellsworth “Bumpy” (1906–1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson was an American gangster in Harlem in the 20th century. He has been the subject or character of a number of Hollywood films including The Cotton Club, Hoodlum, and most recently, American Gangster

Johnson was originally from Charleston, South Carolina. During his formative years, his family moved north to Harlem. He was given the name “Bumpy” due to a large bump on his forehead. Known for his “flashy” style and dapper look, Johnson was at various times a pimp, a thief and a burglar.  He was always armed and did not hesitate to resort to violence to achieve his objectives. 

By his 30th birthday, Johnson had spent almost half his life in prison. During those periods of incarceration he read incessantly and developed an affinity for writing poetry. Some of his poems were published during the Harlem Renaissance. Despite his talent, his constant clashes with other inmates and guards resulted in spending more than three years of a ten year sentence for burglary in solitary confinement. Because of his difficult and abrasive attitude, Johnson was transferred to various prisons until his release in 1932. Upon his release from prison he was financially destitute and desperate for employment.
Sources: 
Ron Chepesiuk, Gangsters of Harlem (New York: Barrick Books, 2007); John H. Johnson, Fact Not Fiction in Harlem, (Northern Type Printing, 1980); Genevieve Fabre and Michel Feith, Temples For Tomorrow: Looking Back At The Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); Crime Library website, Black Gangs of Harlem 1920-1939 http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/gangs/harlem_gangs/5.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Poitier, Sidney (1927 - )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Sidney Poitier from
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
Image ©Bob Adelman/Bettmann/Corbis
Award winning actor, director, and author, Sidney Poitier broke racial barriers and stereotyping in the film industry to become the leading African American male actor of the 20th Century.  In a career that spanned 57 years, Poitier was a featured performer or starred in 48 films and directed six.  
Sources: 
Aram Goudsouzian, Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004; Sidney Poitier, The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000); Henry Louis Gates and Cornel West, The African-American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country (New York: Free Press, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Adu, Freddy (1989-- )

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

Fredua Koranteng Adu, known to much of the world as Freddy Adu was born June 2, 1989 in the port city of Tema, Ghana. Growing up in Ghana, Freddy often received attention for his tremendous soccer skills as a youngster. Even at a young age he was asked by older kids and even adults to participate in their pick-up soccer games. Playing soccer against others who were often two or three times his age displayed his potential for soccer stardom. Today Adu is often considered one of the greatest of the youngest generation of American soccer players.

Adu’s mother Emelia Adu, provided a strong base for his young soccer career. She worked multiple jobs to provide soccer equipment for Freddy and his younger brother. She also wanted to give the Adu family a chance at higher education and prosperity. They realized this chance in November 1997 when Freddy was just eight years old. His mother and father won a Green Card lottery which allowed them to permanently relocate from Ghana to the United States. He and his family first moved to Maryland and then later to Washington DC. In 2003, Adu and his family became naturalized United States citizens.

Sources: 

Grant Wahl, “Who’s Next? Freddy Adu,” Sports Illustrated, July 6, 2008; Jeff Savage, Freddy Adu (Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2006); “Freddy Adu” in Amazing Athletes, July 5, 2008, pp. 15-18; http://jockbio.com/Bios/Adu/Adu_bio.html; http://www.answers.com/topic/freddy-adu.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hayford, Adelaide Smith Casely (1868-1960)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Broonzy, William Lee Conley “Big Bill” (1893-1958)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although he struggled throughout his life to produce a sufficient income, Big Bill Broonzy played an integral role in launching the global popularity of Southern blues.  Born to sharecropper parents on June 26, 1893 in Scott, Mississippi, Broonzy grew up in Mississippi and Arkansas.  As a child he experimented with homemade guitars and fiddles and by the age of 15 proved he was skilled enough to play at special occasions.  During the next five years he mastered his unique vocal techniques and guitar skills that would assist him in his career which began after a stint in the U.S. Army in World War I.  

In 1920 Broonzy moved to Chicago to work as a professional musician. He had some luck landing live performances for mostly black crowds at Chicago nightclubs.  In 1926 he made his first recording with Paramount Records, playing backup guitar for local blues artists Cripple Clarence Lofton and Bumble Bee Slim.  By the early 1930s Broonzy was finally given the opportunity to record under his own name for the Melotone, Oriole, and Champion labels.  By the end of the decade he was the top selling male blues vocalist on the Perfect and Vocalion labels and established the widely known Bluebird Beat Chicago Blues sound while recording with the Bluebird label.  By this time Broonzy was no longer a solo performer.  He began to play with small groups that incorporated the piano, trumpet, saxophone, and sometimes a rhythm section.
Sources: 
Charles Alexander, Masters of Jazz Guitar (London: Balafon Books, 1999); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Leonard Feather, The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Horizon Press, 1955); Yannick Bruynoghe, Big Bill Blues (New York: Grove Press, 1957).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Turner, Darwin T. (1931- 1991)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Joe Weixlmann, "A Tribute to Darwin T. Turner (1931- 1991)," Black American Literature Forum 25:1 (Spring 1991); http://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/21/obituaries/darwin-turner-59-a-professor-of-english.html; http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0001/e3933.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Russell, Edwin Roberts (1913-1996)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image courtesy of the South Carolina
African American Calendar
Born in Columbia, South Carolina on June 19, 1913, Edwin Roberts Russell was an African American chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project in World War II which produced the first atomic bombs and initiated the Nuclear Era.  The middle child of Nathan and Mary Russell, Edwin had one older brother, Nathan and three sisters, Henrietta, Marguerite, and Vivian.

Russell earned his B.S. degree in 1935 from Benedict College, an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Columbia, South Carolina. Russell continued his education at Howard University where he earned an M.S. degree in chemistry in 1937.  Russell worked as an instructor in the Chemistry Department at Howard University from 1936 to 1942 before entering the University of Chicago to pursue a Ph.D. in surface chemistry.
Sources: 
Edwin Roberts Russell Bill, 4907. South Carolina General Assembly, 111th Session, 1995-96. http://schouse.gov/sess111_1995-1996/bills/4907.htm; Vivian Ovelton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing, 1980); Howard University Chemistry Alumni Association. M.S. Graduates (Chronological). http://www.coas.howard.edu/chem/alumni/graduates_ms_chronological.html); An African-American Bibliography: Science, Medicine, and Allied Fields. http://historicaltextarchive.com/print.php?action=section&artid=49); The Faces of Science: African Americans in Science. https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/russell.html; Edwin Roberts Russell. http://scafricanamerican.com/honorees/view/1995/8/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
College of Wooster

Kelley, William Melvin (1937- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Melvin Kelley is a renowned African American author known for his experimental style and exploration of African American cultural identity.  Born on November 1, 1937 in the Bronx, New York, to Narcissa Agatha Kelley and William Kelley, an editor, he attended the elite Fieldston School and was accepted to Harvard University in 1957.  It was at Harvard, studying under novelist John Hawkes and poet Archibald MacLeish, that Kelley published his first short story.  

Kelley’s professional career blossomed in the 1960s and his writing appeared in a host of periodicals such as the Saturday Evening Post, Mademoiselle, Negro Digest, and Esquire. The author’s principal works were also published during this prolific decade, including a collection of short stories, Dancers on the Shore (1964), and the novels A Different Drummer (1962), A Drop of Patience (1965), d?m (1967), and Dunfords Travels Everywheres (1970).  

Critics have noted the influence of James Joyce and William Faulkner on Kelley’s style.  Distinctive elements of Faulkner, for example, can be seen in the interrelated cast of characters which appear in Kelley’s novels, as well as his use of a fictional Southern state for the setting of his texts.  The author’s application of language on the other hand has drawn comparisons to Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.  
Sources: 
Michel Fabre, “William Melvin Kelley and Melvin Dixon: Change of Territory,” From Harlem to Paris: Black American Writers in France, 1840-1980 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1991); Robert E. Fleming, “Kelley, William Melvin,” The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, (New York: Oxford Press, 1997); Jill Weyant, “The Kelley Saga: Violence in America.” CLA Journal 19 (1975): 210-220.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Scott, Emmett J. (1873-1957)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Redding, J. Saunders (1906-1988)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Thomas Saunders Redding was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1906 to Lewis Alfred Redding and Mary Ann Holmes.  Redding earned a bachelor of philosophy (Ph.B.) in 1928 and later a master of arts (M.A.) in 1932 from Brown University.  Redding also earned the right to Phi Beta Kappa honors but the racial climate of the time did not permit him to receive the distinction until 1943.  He later attended Columbia’s graduate school from 1933-34.  

Redding’s career as an educator included both historically black and white colleges and universities.  John Hope hired Redding as an instructor at Morehouse College (1928-31).  He later taught at Louisville Municipal College (1934-36), Southern University, Baton Rouge (1936-38), and served as head of the English Department; Elizabeth City State College (1938-43).  He worked at Hampton Institute (1943-55), as professor of literature and creative writing. He was a member of the faculty at George Washington University (1968-69), and the first African American to hold the rank of professor in the College of Arts & Sciences and the first to hold an endowed chair at Cornell University (1970).  He was a Guggenheim Fellow (1944-45, 1959-60).  
Sources: 
Steven J. Leslie and Alexis Walker, “Redding, Jay Saunders,” in Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Detroit, 2006); Helen R. Houston, “J. Saunders Redding,” in Notable Black Men in America (Detroit, 1999); Saunders Redding, No Day of Triumph (1942), and On Being Negro in America (New York, 1951).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Brown, George L. (1926-2005)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although George L. Brown was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, he played a significant roll in Colorado politics for nearly twenty-five years.  Following his graduation from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 1950, Brown moved to Denver where he worked as a reporter and editor for The Denver Post.  He continued working for the Post after being appointed to the Colorado senate in 1955, and he covered the civil rights movement in the south during the 1960s. Voters returned him to office for another four terms.

In 1975 Colorado Democrats selected Brown run for lieutenant governor on the same ticket as gubernatorial candidate Richard Lamm. Both Brown and Lamm were elected.  Brown and Mervyn Dymally, who was elected lieutenant governor of California on the same day, became the first African Americans to hold the post of lieutenant governor in the 20th century.

Brown’s term as one of the nation’s first 20th century black lieutenant governors did not go smoothly, however.  He first pardoned a man convicted of murder while Governor Lamm was on vacation. The governor also withheld part of Brown’s salary for overspending his budget, prompting the lieutenant governor to initiate a lawsuit against Colorado’s chief executive.  The resulting bad press led to Brown’s loss in the 1979 Democratic primary election.
Sources: 
The History Makers at www.historymakers.com; The Political Graveyard at www.politicalgraveyard.com; obituary, “First Black to Hold Statewide Office in U.S.,” Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2005 at www.latimes.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Blige, Mary J. (1971- )

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

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

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

Lampkin, Daisy (1884-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Due to Lampkins exceptional activism for African Americans, she was profiled in the Pittsburgh Courier in December of 1912. In response, Lampkin became a strong advocate of the Courier and even received a cash prize in 1913 for selling the most subscriptions. After several years of investing time and money to this newspaper, Lampkin was elected vice-president of the Courier Publishing Company in 1929.

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

Dixon, Aaron (1949– )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Aaron Dixon was born in Chicago on January 2, 1949.  He moved with his family to Seattle at a young age and grew up in the city’s historically black Central District. Influenced by his parents’ commitment to social justice, Dixon became one of the leading activists in the Seattle area and a founding member of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party.

While a student at the University of Washington, Dixon played a key role in the formation of the first Black Students’ Union (BSU), as well as the Seattle chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Through the BSU, Dixon worked to organize BSU chapters and protests at Garfield, Franklin and Rainier Beach High Schools.

In the spring of 1968, while attending the funeral of teenager Bobby Hutton in Oakland, California, Dixon met Bobby Seale who along with Huey P. Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP).  The Panther leadership was impressed by 19 year-old Dixon and he was given instructions to form the Seattle Chapter.   With his appointment as Captain of the Seattle Chapter, he formed the first branch of the BPP outside of California. 

Dixon and his fellow Panthers were able to turn their Panther chapter into a thriving center of militant Black activism and community service in Seattle’s Central District.
Sources: 
Interview with Dixon, focusing on his work in the Black Panther Party in Seattle:
University of Washington’s Seattle Civil Rights Project
http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/aaron_dixon.htm
Neil Modie, “Former Black Panther Aaron Dixon to Run for Senate,” Seattle Post Intelligencer http://seattlepi.nwsources.com/local/262119_senate08.html; James W. John son, “Oral Interview with Aaron Dixon,” July 11, 1970, University of Washington Special Collections.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sheppard, Ella (1851-1915)

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

 

Image Courtesy of Fisk University Special Collections

Ella Sheppard, soprano, pianist and reformer, was the matriarch of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a social reformer, confidante of Frederick Douglass, and one of the most distinguished African American women of her generation. Sheppard was born a slave in 1851 on Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage plantation. A biracial relation of Jackson’s family, her father Simon Sheppard had purchased his freedom by hiring himself out as a Nashville, Tennessee liveryman and hack driver. When Sheppard was a little girl, her slave mother Sarah threatened to drown Ella and herself if their owners refused to permit her Simon to purchase Ella’s freedom. But an elderly slave prevented her, predicting that “the Lord would have need of that child.” Her owners refused to release Sarah, but allowed Ella to go with her father, who soon remarried and, fearful he and his daughter might be reenslaved, fled penniless to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Morgan, Clement Garnett (1859-1929)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Clement Garnett Morgan, a lawyer and civil rights leader, was born in 1859 to slave parents, Clement and Elizabeth Garnett Morgan in Stafford County, Virginia. Shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the family moved to Washington D.C., where Morgan went to Preparatory High School for Colored Youth. With no way to use his diploma, Morgan became a barber. Unsatisfied with this work, Morgan moved to St. Louis, Missouri where he taught school for four years. Still unsatisfied, he decided to return to school.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, Moses Fleetwood (1857-1924)

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

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.

Sources: 

David W. Zang, Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Hooks, Benjamin L. (1925-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Benjamin L. Hooks is most notably known for serving as leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1977 to 1992.  Born on January 31, 1925 in Memphis, Tennessee to Robert and Bessie White Hooks, he was the fifth of seven children.

Hooks grew up in racially segregated Tennessee. He attended LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis from 1941 to 1943 but graduated from Howard University in 1944.  He then joined the U.S. Army and recalled watching Italian prisoners he guarded eat at restaurants that excluded him and other black soldiers.  He left the army in 1945 as a staff sergeant and soon afterwards enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago to study law because no Tennessee university would accept him because of his race.  Graduating in 1948 with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) , Hooks returned to Memphis.  Four years later he married schoolteacher Frances Dancy in Memphis.  

In 1956 Hooks became a Baptist minister and one year later joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) then headed by Dr. Martin Luther King.   By the early 1960s Hooks, now a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), helped organize sit-ins in Memphis.  By the late 1960s Hooks was pastor at Great Middle Baptist Church in Memphis and at Greater Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Detroit.

Sources: 
Steven A. Holmes, “Benjamin L. Hooks, Leader of N.A.A.C.P. for 15 Eventful Years, Is Dead at 85,” New York Times (April 16, 2010);  http://benhooks.memphis.edu/biography.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dash, Julie (1952- )

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

Filmmaker Julie Dash was born on October 22, 1952 in Queens, New York. She received her B.A. in film production from City College of New York in 1974 and went on to earn a two-year fellowship to the Center for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles.  At AFI, Dash studied under filmmaker Jan Kadar and produced Four Women, an experimental dance film that received the 1978 Gold Medal for Women in Film award at the Miami International Film Festival.  Dash continued her graduate studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, where in 1977 she directed Diary of an African Nun, an adaptation of a short story by Alice Walker.  In 1985, she earned her M.F.A. in Film & Television production at UCLA.

In 1981, the Guggenheim Foundation awarded Dash a grant to research Gullah culture in the Sea Island communities of South Carolina and Georgia.  Part of her research was included in her 1991 independent film, Daughters of the Dust.  The groundbreaking Pan-African themed and female-centered film depicts a group of Gullah women celebrating their African ancestry.  Daughters of the Dust was the first nationally released feature-length film by an African-American woman and it won the best cinematography category at the Sundance Film Festival.  The Library of Congress placed the film on its National Film Registry, joining a distinguished group of films preserved as national treasures.

Sources: 
Vincent F. Rocchio, Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood’s Construction of Afro American Culture (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2000); Norma Manatu, African American Women and Sexuality in the Cinema (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, 2003); Mark A. Reid, Redefining Black Film (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Lisa M. Anderson, Mammies No More: The Changing Image of Black Women On Stage and Screen (Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997); Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (New York: Continuum, New York. 2001); Phyllis R. Klotman, Screenplays of the African American Experience (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Mosley, Walter (1952- )

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

Walter Mosley, a prominent African American novelist who specializes in criminal mystery fiction, was born on January 15, 1952 in Los Angeles to Ella and Leroy Mosley. Mosley was born in Watts but grew up from age 12 in relatively affluent West Los Angeles.  Mosley's mother was a Polish Jewish American personnel clerk and his father was an African American custodian at a public school. Mosley's father was among the first to encourage him to pursue a writing career.

In his late teens and early twenties, Mosley went through a long-haired "hippie" stage where he traveled from Santa Cruz, California to Europe and back. Soon after this phase, he attended two colleges in Vermont, graduating from the second one, Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, with a Political Science degree in 1979. He entered a doctoral program in political theory but instead turned to computer programming as a career.

In 1981 Mosley moved to New York City where he began to work for Mobile Oil. He also began taking courses at City College in Harlem where his instructor, Edna O'Brien, further influenced him to pursue a career in literature.   The same year he met Joy Kellman, a dancer and choreographer.  They married in 1987 but divorced in 2001.

Sources: 
Walter Mosley's official website bio http://www.waltermosley.com/bio/; Hatchette Book Group website - Walter Mosley http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/waltermosley/; "Covering Mosley," The New Yorker, January19, 2004; <http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/01/19/040119on_onlineonly01?currentPage=1>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bentley, Gladys (1907-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
James T. Wilson, Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010); Irene Monroe, “Honoring Notorious Gladys,” The Huffington Post Blog (February 12, 2010), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/irene-monroe/honoring-notorious-gladys_b_459929.html; http://www.queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/Bentley/BentleyBio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Stewart, T. McCants (1853-1923)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Teacher, author, clergyman, and civil rights leader, Thomas McCants Stewart was born in Charleston on December 28, 1853,  to George Gilchrist and Anna Morris Stewart.  Young Stewart attended the Avery Normal Institute before enrolling in Howard University in 1869. Although only fifteen when he arrived on Howard’s campus, Stewart, nonetheless, distinguished himself as a student and contributed occasional articles to the Washington New National Era, an African American newspaper.

Yet Stewart grew increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of instruction at Howard and became one of the first black students to enroll in the University of South Carolina at Columbia in 1874. In December 1875, Stewart graduated with Bachelor of Arts and L.L.B. degrees.

After graduation, Stewart married Charlotte Pearl Harris and taught mathematics at the State Agricultural and Mechanical College in Orangeburg between 1877 and 1878. He also he joined the law firm of South Carolina Congressman Robert Brown Elliott. In 1877 Stewart became an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and three years later was appointed pastor of the Bethel AME Church in New York in 1880.

Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, African American Odyssey: The Stewarts, 1853-1963 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998); Charles E. Wynes, T. McCants Stewart: Peripatetic Black South Carolinian,@ South Carolina Historical Magazine 80 (October, 1979): 311-317.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Blackwell, Robert “Bumps” (1918-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Bumps Blackwell with Quincy Jones
on Trumpet
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert "Bumps" Blackwell was a musician, producer and composer who worked with the top names in early jazz and rock and roll.  Blackwell was born in Seattle on May 23, 1918.  By the late 1940s his Seattle-based "Bumps Blackwell Junior Band" featured Ray Charles and Quincy Jones, and played with artists like Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway and Billy Eckstine. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s and hired on with Art Rupe's Specialty Records.

In 1955, Blackwell flew to New Orleans to record Little Richard (Richard Penniman), a singer who they hoped would become the next Nat King Cole. During a break in the tepid recording session everybody headed to a nearby bar where Mr. Penniman started banging out an obscene club song on the piano. "Daddy Bumps" knew he had a hit so he brought in a local songwriter to clean up the lyrics. "Tutti-Frutti, good booty" became "Tutti Frutti, all rootie," and Little Richard became a star. Bumps wrote or co-wrote other early rock hits including "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Long Tall Sally," and "Rip It Up."
Sources: 
Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:cr5j8qmtbt04~T1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Low, W. Augustus (1913-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Wilfred Augustus Low -- or “Gus,” as he was universally known to friends and colleagues -- was born to a sharecropping family in the Delta country of Mississippi. When Low was a teenager, his family relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, which gave him the opportunity to graduate from high school and enroll at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. There he helped edit the student newspaper and earned a B.A. degree magna cum laude in 1937. Low immediately matriculated as a graduate student in the Department of History at University of Iowa, where he earned an M.A. degree in 1938 and a Ph.D. degree in 1941. During WWII, he fought as an infantry man in the Italian campaign. After the war, he became a professor of history at Maryland State University (now University of Maryland Eastern Shore), where he taught from 1948 to 1966. He also served as a visiting professor at Florida A & M, Virginia State College, Lincoln University (Missouri), and Fort Valley State College, among others.
Sources: 
UMBC Departmental Records; archives of Lincoln University and the University of Iowa; W. A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America; Journal of Negro History; oral comments during twenty years as a friend and colleague.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Cochran, Johnnie, Jr. (1937-2005)

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

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

Norton, Ken (1943-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Matthews, Victoria Earle (1861-1907)

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

Brown, Corrine (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Corrine Brown at Press Conference With Other Florida
Democrats to Protest Oil Drilling Off Florida Coast
Image Courtesy of Representative Corrine Brown's Office

Corrine Brown, now in her eighth term in office, is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She represents Florida’s Third Congressional District which includes Jacksonville and the surrounding area.  Brown was born on November 11, 1946 in Jacksonville, Florida and grew up there. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University and an M.A. from the University of Florida in 1971. Before entering Congress, Brown owned a travel agency, taught at several Florida colleges, and worked as a counselor at Florida
Community College (1977-1992).

In 1983 Brown was elected to the Florida State House of Representatives. She held this position until 1992, when she ran and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sources: 
http://www.house.gov/corrinebrown/biography.shtml; http://www.congress.org/bio/id/164; http://www.votesmart.org/bio.php?can_id=26797
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Loury, Glenn C. (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Glenn C. Loury was the first African American Professor to earn tenure at Harvard.  He also achieved prominence as a public intellectual, first as a conservative and then as a more liberal commentator.  Born in 1948, Loury grew up on Chicago’s South Side.  His father was a lawyer and his mother worked as a secretary, although the two divorced when Loury was young.  He characterized his childhood circumstances as lower-middle-class.

As a teenager Loury fathered two children, and worked in a printing plant while attending community college.  A scholarship allowed him to graduate from Northwestern University in 1972.  During his last two years in college, he abandoned plans to go to law school, and decided to earn a doctorate in economics.  He moved to Massachusetts to pursue a PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, finishing a dissertation on the concept of social capital in 1976.  Loury returned to Chicago that year to teach at his alma mater.  He later moved to University of Michigan.  
Sources: 
Adam Shatz, “About Face,” The New York Times Magazine, 20 January 2002; Booknotes, “The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, by Glenn Loury,” interviewed by Brian Lamb (4 August 2002); “Glenn C. Loury,” Boston University, http://www.bu.edu/irsd/loury/lourybio.htm .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Scott, David (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Representative
David Scott's Office
David Scott represents Georgia’s 13th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 13th district includes portions of Cobb, Clayton, Douglas, Fulton, Henry, and DeKalb counties.

The son of a minister, Scott was born in Aynor, South Carolina, on July 27, 1946. He attended elementary school in Scranton, Pennsylvania, junior high in Scarsdale, New York, and high school in Daytona, Florida. In 1967 he received his B.A. degree in finance with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.B.A. with honors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance in 1969. Scott founded Dayn-Mark Advertising in 1978 in Atlanta, Georgia, which is currently run by his wife Alfredia Scott.

David Scott was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1974 and served as a member until 1982. He then served in the Georgia Senate from 1983 until his successful election bid for Congress in 2002.
Sources: 
"VOTERS GUIDE 2002: U.S. HOUSE, STATE HOUSE, AND STATE SENATE RACES :[Home Edition]." The Atlanta Journal - Constitution  August 15, 2002, JI.12. “U.S. Congressman David Scott: 13th District of Georgia” http://davidscott.house.gov/Biography/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Morton, Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe “Jelly Roll” (1885-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe Morton, more popularly known as “Jelly Roll” Morton, was an influential early 20th Century composer and pianist. Jelly Roll, the son of Creole parents, E.P. La Menthe and Louise Monette, was born in Gulfport, Mississippi in 1885. His father, E.P. Morton, was a trombonist who encouraged his son’s musical abilities. Morton’s early childhood was somewhat turbulent as he spent much of his time with his wandering father, who had deserted Louise Monette.

Morton showed fairly prodigious musical talent, gaining proficiency in many instruments quickly. He learned the harmonica at age 5, and his repertoire grew to include the violin, drums, trombone, and his claim to fame, the piano. Jelly Roll’s bohemian lifestyle under his father’s influence continued until his father’s disappearance. Jelly Roll returned to Gulfport to live with his mother and step-father, Willie Morton, until his mother’s death when he was 14. At that time, he and his two sisters were in the care of his godmother, Eulalie Echo, and his Aunt Lallie. Like many poor youth, he quickly found menial employment for 3 dollars a week. \
Sources: 
Alan Lomax, Mister Jelly Roll: The Fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans Creole and Inventor of Jazz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Peter Hanley, “Jelly Roll Morton: An Essay in Genealogy,” http://www.doctorjazz.co.uk/genealogy.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wood, Robert (1844 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Natchez, Mississippi in the 1870s
Image Ownership: Public Domain

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.  

Sources: 

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.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Recaptives

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1803
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Sir Reginald Coupland, The British Anti-Slavery Movement, (Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., London, 1933); Adam Jones, From Slaves to Palm Kernals: A history of the Galinhas Country (West Africa) 1730-1890,  (Frank Steiner Verlag GMBH, Wiesbaden, 1983); Frank J. Klingberg, The Anti-Slavery Movement in England: A study on English Humanitarianism, (Yale University Press, 1926).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Bullock, Charles H., Sr. (1875-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Harmon Bullock was a prominent leader in the early 20th Century Colored Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) movement.  Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, on March 2, 1875, the son of former slaves Burkley and Mary Washington Bullock, Charles Bullock later graduated as salutorian of his class at Jefferson Normal School on June 27, 1892.  He became a teacher in the segregated Charlottesville public schools and simultaneously worked as a correspondent for The Daily Progress, a local African American newspaper.

In 1890 the national office of the YMCA decided to create a "Colored Men's Department" which would sponsor individual Colored YMCA's across the nation.  The national office envisioned these facilities as providing temporary housing, lending libraries, swimming pools and gyms for black men along with spiritual and educational training.  In an era when black public school facilities were often inadequate and cultural and civic facilities non-existent, these Colored YMCAs provided additional educational and cultural outlets in racially-segregated communities throughout the country.  Although endorsing segregated YMCAs in the North was often controversial with many civil rights groups, Bullock and others supported segregation, which brought a degree of autonomy that many in the African American community welcomed.
Sources: 
Nina Mjagkij, Light in the Darkness: African Americans and the YMCA, 1852-1946 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994); “ A Brief History of the YMCA and African American Communities," Kautz Family YMCA Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries, http://special.lib.umn.edu/ymca/guides/afam/afam-history.phtml; "Y Head Retires after 33 Years," Baltimore Afro-American, April 6, 1935.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

hooks, bell / Gloria Jean Watkins (1952- )

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

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

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

Wineberry, Jesse Calvin (1955- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Former Washington State Legislator and current internet business entrepreneur, Jesse Calvin Wineberry was born in 1955 in Sedro Woolley, Washington, and adopted by parents Peter and Mary Wineberry. Wineberry grew up in Seattle’s Central District and attended Queen Anne High School. He earned a degree in Business Administration in 1979 from the University of Washington, Seattle, and his Juris Doctorate from University of Puget Sound (UPS) Law School in 1986. Wineberry and his wife, Brenda, have two children, Jesse Jr. and Mia.

After graduating from the University of Washington, Wineberry worked as a television news reporter for KSTW in Tacoma and then a special correspondent for the station’s news coverage of the White House and Capitol Hill. In 1982 he was appointed a Congressional Black Caucus Association-Congressional Fellow on the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Consumer Protection, and Finance. While there Wineberry provided background information in the United States vs. AT&T lawsuit that ended the 75 year AT&T monopoly on telephone service and created competition in the field of long-distance and wireless communication.
Sources: 
“Jesse Wineberry,” The Lawyer (Seattle University School of Law, Winter 1993);  
http://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/thelawyer/12; "BLSA Honors Founding Members Hightower and Wineberry," Amicus Brief (Seattle University School of Law, 2010).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gibson, Robert “Bob” (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Famous Major League baseball pitcher Robert “Bob” Gibson was Pack and Victoria Gibson’s seventh child born November 9, 1935 in Omaha, Nebraska. Pack died three months before Bob Gibson was born.  Young Gibson suffered with asthma, pneumonia, rickets, hay fever, and a rheumatic heart. He and his family lived in a four bedroom dilapidated frame house in North Omaha and later moved to a segregated government housing project.

By high school Gibson had overcome most of his childhood illnesses and become a multisport athlete at Omaha Technical High School. By his senior year, however, he concentrated on baseball, and in 1952 the Kansas City (Missouri) Monarchs attempted to sign the seventeen year old.  When he graduated one year later the St. Louis Cardinals attempted to sign him to a minor league contract. He declined, opting to attend Creighton University in Omaha which extended him a scholarship to play basketball.  He would become Creighton’s first African American athlete to play both varsity basketball and baseball.

Sources: 
David L. Porter, "Bob Gibson" in Frank J. Olmstead, ed., African American Sports Greats: A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995); John C. Skipper, "Robert Gibson" in A Biographical Dictionary of the Baseball Hall of Fame (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2000); Tim Wendel, Summer of '68: The Season That Changed Baseball-- and America—Forever (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Haynes, Lemuel (1753-1833)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Lemuel Haynes was born on July 18, 1753  in the home of his mother’s employer, John Haynes of Hartford, Connecticut.  His father, an enslaved African, and his mother, a Scottish immigrant servant, abandoned him at birth.  Fired after giving birth to him, his mother refused to speak to him when their paths later crossed.  John Haynes indentured the unwanted infant at the age of five months to the family of Deacon David Rose in the farming community of Granville, Massachusetts, where Lemuel remained until the age of twenty-one.  As a child he absorbed strong Calvinist theology and occasionally was permitted to attend local schools. 

In 1783, after fighting for several years in the American Revolution, Haynes married a white schoolteacher who proposed to him and over the next decades raised a family of ten children with her.  He accepted a pulpit in a predominantly white Congregational Church in the west parish of Rutland, Vermont in 1788.  Although Haynes felt that the color of his skin prevented his full acceptance in the white community, he served the Rutland congregation for thirty years.  His power to inspire revivals helped the church to grow enormously.  In 1818, however, he was dismissed from his Rutland parish due to his Federalist politics and criticism of Republicans’ policies in the War of 1812.  Haynes went on to serve for three years at a congregation in Manchester, Vermont.  Throughout his life he combined evangelical Calvinist fervor with staunch opposition to slavery and oppression.  One of the first African Americans to be ordained and to publish, Haynes authored many eloquent sermons advocating interracial benevolence, liberty, natural rights, and justice.

Sources: 
Richard D. Brown, “ ‘Not Only Extreme Poverty, but the Worst Kind of Orphanage’: Lemuel Haynes and the Boundaries of Racial Tolerance on the Yankee Frontier, 1770-1820.”  New England Quarterly 61.4 (Dec. 1988): 502-18;  Timothy Mather Cooley, Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A.M. (New York, 1837; Rptd. New York, 1969);  John Saillant, Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-1833 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

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

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

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

Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1814-1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mary Ellen Pleasant was born on Aug. 19, 1814 in Virginia and spent her early years in Nantucket.  She worked as a bond servant to the Hussey family, an abolitionist family.  She later married James Smith, a wealthy former plantation owner and an abolitionist.  Mary Ellen and James worked on the Underground Railroad.  After Smith’s death four years later, Mary Ellen continued her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Mary Ellen married John James Pleasant around 1848.  To avoid trouble with slavers for their abolitionist work, the couple moved to San Francisco in April 1852.  Mrs. Pleasant established several restaurants for California miners, the first named the Case and Heiser.  With the help of clerk Thomas Bell, Mrs. Pleasant amassed a fortune by 1875 through her investments and various businesses by 1875.  She also helped to establish the Bank of California.

Pleasant earned her title as the “Mother” of California’s early civil rights movement, establishing the local Underground Railroad.  She financially supported John Brown from 1857 to 1859.   In the 1860s and 1870s, Mrs. Pleasant brought several civil rights lawsuits in California, especially against the trolley companies, most of which she won.
Sources: 
Lynne Hudson, The Making of Mammy Pleasant: A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth Century San Francisco (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Savage, W. Sherman (1890-1981)

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

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

Kennedy, Adrienne (1931- )

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

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

Poussaint, Alvin F. (1934 --)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Senghor, Léopold Sédar (1906-2001)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Moten, Etta (1901-2004)

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

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.

Sources: 

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.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Burney, William (1951- )

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

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

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

Johnson, Robert Louis (1946 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert Louis Johnson, founder, chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Black Entertainment Television (BET), is also the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the first African American billionaire. He was born in Hickory, Mississippi in 1946 as the ninth of 10 children.  After his family relocated to Freeport, Illinois, Johnson earned a Bachelor of Arts in History at the University of Illinois in 1968. He also received a Masters in Public Administration from Princeton University in 1972.

Johnson then moved to Washington D.C. where he worked for both the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Urban League. In 1976, Johnson became the vice president of governmental relations for the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), an organization comprised of various cable television companies.

Johnson’s work with NCTA inspired him to develop television programming that was dedicated to African American viewers who at that time were unrecognized as a target audience group. He initially borrowed $15,000 from the president of the NCTA, Tom Wheeler, to fund his plan of gaining a black viewership in television. Later, he persuaded John Malone, the president of Telecommunications, Inc., to invest $500,000 in the project.

Sources: 
David Hatchett, “The Crisis Interview: Robert Johnson,” The Crisis (New York: October 1, 1985): vol. 92, no. 7, p. 32-37; http://www.biography.com/articles/Robert-L.-Johnson-41036; http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/F-L/Johnson-Robert-L-1946.html; http://www.zeromillion.com/entrepreneurship/stories/robert-johnson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lewis, Elma (1921 – 2004 )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Lomax, Louis Emanuel (1922-1970)

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

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

Dee, Ruby Ann Wallace (1924-2014)

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

Broadway performer and film actress, Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio on October 27, 1924 to Gladys Hightower and Marshall Edward Wallace. Her mother was a domestic and her father worked as a cook, waiter, and porter. After her mother left the family, Dee's father married Emma Amelia Benson, a schoolteacher.

Desperate for better job opportunities, the family moved to New York City, New York, and settled in Harlem. Determined not to allow their children fall victim to drugs, crime, and other vices of urban life, the parents introduced Dee and her siblings to the arts, including music and literature. Young Ruby became a passionate student of poetry and as a teenager began submitting poetry to The Amsterdam News.  

Ruby Wallace attended the academically rigorous Hunter High School and while there decided to pursue an acting career.  After graduating from Hunter High in 1940, she enrolled in Hunter College, graduating with a degree in French and Spanish in 1944. While at Hunter College, she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and married blues singer Frankie Dee.  The couple soon divorced but Dee kept the last name and made it her career name.

Sources: 
Ruby Dee, My One Good Nerve: Rhythms, Rhymes, Reasons (Chicago: Third World Press, 1986); Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together (London: It Press, 1998); http://www.biography.com/people/ruby-dee
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Bouchet, Edward Alexander (1852-1918)

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

Edward Alexander Bouchet was born on September 15, 1852 in New Haven, Connecticut to William Francis and Susan Cooley Bouchet. Edward attended the segregated primary school in New Haven and later finished his secondary education at Hopkins Grammar School in 1870. An outstanding student, Edward’s academic accomplishments included serving as the valedictorian of his high school class.

The Bouchet family was quite prominent in New Haven’s small African American community. In addition to holding the position of deacon in the church, William Francis Bouchet was also employed at Yale College as a janitor and Susan did the laundry of Yale students. Well aware of Edward’s talent and scholarly ability, William and Susan had hoped their son would one day join the ranks of the Yale College student body. The fulfillment of this aspiration would be no small feat given the fact that no African American had ever attended Yale.

Sources: 
Ronald E. Mickens, “Bouchet and Imes: First Black Physicists” in Ronald E. Mickens, ed., The African American Presence in Physics (Atlanta, 1999), pp. 20-24;Garry L. Reeder, “The History of Blacks at Yale University” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 26. (Winter, 1999-2000) pp. 125-126; “Yale Pays Tribute to Its First Black Graduate,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 22. (Winter, 1998-1999), pp. 63-64.
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Lee, Jarena (1783-?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Cape May, New Jersey, the early years of Jarena Lee were spent working as a domestic servant.  In her twenties, she was converted, sanctified, and received a call to preach.  When her request for approval to preach was rebuffed by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, she married an AME minister.  His death within a few years of the marriage left Lee a widow with two young children.  In order to support her family she renewed her request to the Rev. Richard Allen, the Bishop of the African Methodist Church who then granted her official church approval to preach. 

Lee’s evangelistic meetings took place in her home city of Philadelphia and also throughout New England, Canada and west into Ohio.  She recounted her meetings in her autobiography, the first to be published in the United States by an African American woman. In that autobiography, Lee  frequently mentions the denominational and racial composition of her audience, which, in both cases, was quite inclusive.  Between 1849 and 1857, there is no recorded history about her.  The last known event in her life was a visit she made to the home of Rebecca Cox Jackson, a Shaker leader, on New Year’s Day in 1857.  After that occasion, at the age of 73, nothing is known about her life or death.

Sources: 
Jarena Lee, The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee, A Coloured Lady (1836) and Jarena Lee, Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee (1849); Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Leidesdorff, William Alexander (1810-1848)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Although little remembered today, Leidesdorff was a social, economic and political force in pre-gold rush San Francisco, with a number of “firsts” credited to his name. When he was named the U.S. Vice Consul to Mexico in 1845, he became the nation’s first African American diplomat.   He was elected to San Francisco’s first city council and its first school board in 1847.  He built the first hotel, the first shipping warehouse, he operated the first steamboat on San Francisco Bay, and he laid out the first horse race track in California.

Born on the island of St. Croix in the Danish West Indies in 1810, William was the son of Danish sugar planter Alexander Leidesdorff and Anna Marie Sparks, a light-skinned woman of mixed race ancestry.  In 1841 Leidesdorff sailed his 106-ton schooner Julia Ann around Cape Horn to California and settled in the Mexican village of Yerba Buena on San Francisco Bay.  Over the next three years he became a successful merchant by making frequent trips between California, Mexico and Hawaii.  In 1844 governor Micheltorena confirmed his land grant of 35,000 acres on the American River.  Ranch Rio de Los Americanos was located near the spot where James Marshall discovered gold in January 1848. When Leidesdorff died unexpectedly in May 1848 he was given the honor of being buried inside Mission Dolores Church, where his gravestone may still be seen today.

Sources: 
Gary Mitchell Palgon, William Alexander Leidesdorff: First Black Millionaire, American Consul and California Pioneer (Atlanta: Lulu Press, 2005); Sue Bailey Thurman, “William Alexander Leidesdorff” in Pioneers of Negro Origin in California ( San Francisco: Acme Publishing Company, 1952) http://www.sfmuseum.net/bio/leidesdorff.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Wormley, James (1819-1884)

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

After owning a successful restaurant, Wormley decided to purchase a hotel in 1871 which he called the Wormley House. Located near the White House, at the southwest corner of 15th and H Streets Northwest, Wormley House soon became popular among the wealthy and politically prominent in the nation’s capital.  Wormley’s experience as caterer, club steward and traveler in Europe helped him to perfect his culinary skills while his keen eye for detail ensured that his hotel guests were satisfied during their stay. The hotel was most famous for its well-managed rooms, early telephone and the dining room where Wormley served European-style dishes.

Wormley also became active in Washington, D.C. community politics. On July 21, 1871, Wormley led a successful campaign to persuade Congress to fund the first public school for the city’s African Americans. The school, named after Wormley, was built in Georgetown at 34th and Prospect Streets.  Despite Congress’s allocation local politics delayed the opening of the school until 1885.
Sources: 
Sandra Fitzpatrick and Maria Goodwin, The Guide to Black Washington. (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1999); Nicholas E. Hollis, “A Hotel for the History Books” Washington Post, (March 18, 2001); http://www.culturaltourismdc.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bosley, Freeman Roberson, Jr. (1954- )

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


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

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

Powell, William J., and the Bessie Coleman Aero Club (1897-1942)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Second Lt. William J. Powell in France, 1917
Image Ownership: Public Domain

William J. Powell was born in Kentucky on July 27, 1897. His family soon moved to Chicago where he attended school. In 1914 at the age of 17 Powell was accepted into the University of Illinois Engineering program. His studies were put on a temporary hiatus when World War I broke out and Powell left school to serve in the racially segregated 370th Illinois Infantry Regiment as a lieutenant.

After surviving a poison gas attack while in serving in France, Powell moved back to Illinois to finish his degree and to recuperate from the damage done to his health. Although he did complete his degree, his health was never the same and the gas attack most likely contributed to his early death.

William Powell was fascinated by flight and the idea of becoming a pilot so he began to apply to flight schools in the area. He was rejected by all area flight schools and the Army Air Corps because of his race, but he persevered and in 1928 was accepted at the Los Angeles School of Flight. In four years he was licensed not only as a pilot, but as a navigator and an aeronautical engineer. He soon gained prominence in the Los Angeles aviation community.

Sources: 
William J. Powell and Von Hardesty, Black Aviator: The Story of William J. Powell (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994); Douglas Flaming, Bound For Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); http://www.nasm.si.edu/blackwings/hstudent/bio_powell.cfm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

St. Clair, Stephanie (1886–1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Stephanie St.Clair Hamid in Custody
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Stephanie St. Clair was born in Martinique, an island in the East Caribbean in 1886 and came to the United States via Marseilles, France. In 1912 she arrived in Harlem. She was known for her deep involvement in the seedy gangster underworld. According to those who knew her, she was arrogant, sophisticated and astute to the ways of urban life. She reportedly told people that she was born in “European France” and was able to speak “flawless French” as opposed to the less refined French spoken by those in the Caribbean. Whenever people questioned her national origin, she would always respond in French. St. Clair also spoke Spanish.  Noted for her fierce temper, St. Clair spouted profanity in various languages when angered or outraged by some perceived slight or injustice. Her eloquent sense of fashion was well- known throughout Harlem where she was referred to as Madame St.Clair.  In other boroughs such as Manhattan, she was referred to as “Queenie.”
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Connerly, Ward (1939 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Hayes, Isaac (1942-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Stax Museum
of American Soul Music

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.

Sources: 

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.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Anderson, George B. (? --?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Perry, Jim (1858–1918)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jim Perry was an African American cowboy and top hand, the highest-ranked cowboy, on the three million-acre XIT Ranch near Dalhart, Texas. Perry established himself as an expert roper, rider, bronc buster, cook and musician.

Perry was born on February 2, 1858, in Texas. Very little is known about his early life. Since his teens in the 1870s he worked for the Horse Shoe T Cross Ranch before joining the XIT, which was up and running by 1885. Perry helped string over seven hundred miles of barbed wire fencing along the entire XIT Ranch property by 1887 making it the largest fenced ranch in the world.  

Jim Perry was regarded as such an accomplished steer roper. In his later years Perry was revered for his culinary skills as a ranch house and chuck wagon cook for the XIT. He was also quite renowned as a top fiddler, which added to his likeability for he was loved and revered by his peers.

Perry remained a loyal employee of the XIT Ranch for two decades despite the fact that his race precluded him from becoming of one of the ranch’s foremen, a position for which he was well qualified. On September 29, 1908 he married Emma Beaseley. The couple had no children.  In 1918 Jim Perry died in Oldham County, Texas from a brain tumor.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, Black Cowboys of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2011); Sara R. Massey, ed., Black Cowboys of Texas (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2000); Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jefferson, William J. (1947-- )

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

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

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

Coffey, Cornelius R. (1903-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Cornelius Coffey was the first African American to establish an aeronautical school in the United States.  His school was also the only non-university affiliated aviation program to become part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP).  His pioneering efforts led to the integration of African American pilots into the American aviation industry.  

Cornelius Robinson Coffey was born in Newport, Arkansas on September 6, 1903.  In 1916, when he was 13, Coffey's first airplane ride sparked his interest in aviation.  Nine years later, in 1925, Coffey left Arkansas for Chicago, Illinois, to study auto mechanics.  Soon after he arrived, Coffey and another African American, John C. Robinson, founded the Challenger’s Air Pilot’s Association to support their attempts to enroll in aviation programs in the Chicago area.  At the time African Americans were denied entry into these programs.  Engaging in self-education, Coffey and Robinson built a one-seat airplane powered by a motorcycle engine. They then taught themselves to fly.  
Sources: 
Samuel L. Broadnax, Blue Skies, Black Wings: African American Pioneers of Aviation (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008); http://www.aeromuseum.org/exhibitsHistory_coffey.html;
http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/The-Other-Harlem-Airport.html?c=y&page=6;
Los Angeles Times website:  http://articles.latimes.com/1994-03-07/news/mn-30994_1_tuskegee-airmen; The Chicago Tribune website:  http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-03-04/news/9403040085_1_fellow-black-mechanic-mechanic-s-training-program-cornelius-coffey
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock

Sharpe, Samuel (ca. 1780-1832)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Samuel Sharpe on the $50 Jamaican Banknote
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Samuel “Sam” Sharpe (or “Daddy Sharpe”) led a rebellion which led to the end of legal slavery in the British colony of Jamaica.  Records of who his parents were have been lost.  Sharpe was a slave of an English attorney and namesake who practiced in Montego Bay.

Sharpe was baptized and subsequently became a lay deacon and leader of the congregation at the Burchell Baptist Church.  Because the British allowed slaves to hold religious meetings, Sharpe started preaching about freedom from slavery. In 1831 the British Parliament began discussing the abolition of slavery throughout the Empire, and that displeased many Jamaican planters. Sharpe followed the Parliament arguments by reading local and foreign newspapers, and he made certain his congregation was apprised of the latest news concerning the abolition debates.

In December 1831, under the mistaken belief that freedom had already been granted to Jamaica’s enslaved people by the British Parliament and that local planters refused to abide by the decision, Sharpe organized a protest.  That rebellion was timed to have maximum impact on the sugar cane harvest because Sharpe knew that if the cane was not cut, most of the island’s crops would be ruined.
Sources: 
Jamaican National Library http://www.nlj.gov.jm/content/sam-sharpe-1; Junius P. Rodriguez, ed. Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2006); Delroy Reid-Salmon, Burning for Freedom: A Theology of the Black Atlantic Struggle for Liberation (Kingston, W.I. Ian Randle Publishers, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Randolph, Asa Philip (1889-1979)

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

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

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

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

Baldwin, James (1924-1987)

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

James Arthur Baldwin, fiction writer, essayist, dramatist, and poet, was born on August 2, 1924 in Harlem, New York during the Harlem Renaissance. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in 1942, he began his formal career as a writer.  Baldwin was inspired by Richard Wright, despite his being called to the ministry at age fourteen in the Pentecostal faith and church dominated by his father, David Baldwin. 

Although James Baldwin emerged as a major American literary voice by 1953 when he published his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, his candid and militant essays found in Nobody Knows my Name (1961) and The Fire Next Time (1963) identified his writing with the emerging Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Baldwin stood with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, when the civil rights leader delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Sources: 
Warren Carson, “James Baldwin.” Encyclopedia of African American Literature. Edited by Wilfred D. Samuels (New York: Facts on File, 2007); David Leeming, James Baldwin (New York: Knopf, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Wagoner, Henry O. (1816-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in 1816 in Maryland to a freed slave mother and a German father, Henry O. Wagoner (often spelled Waggoner) had the benefit of a brief exposure to education in Pennsylvania. This limited education gave him a base for further self-education and independent thought. In the 1850s Frederick Douglass employed Wagoner as the Chicago correspondent to his Rochester, New York newspaper, known as Frederick Douglass' Paper after 1851.

Wagoner's obituary notes that he owned a "small mill " in Chicago that burned in 1860, prompting him to move to Denver City, Colorado Territory. His friend Barney Ford may have influenced that decision as the two of them had worked together in Chicago supporting Douglass's abolition movement and his Underground Railroad activities.

In Denver, Wagoner opened various barbering and restaurant businesses and was among the most affluent of Denver's African American residents. While Ford moved from place to place, Wagoner stayed in Denver where he remained a political activist in league with black pioneers Edward Sanderlin and William Jefferson Hardin.
Sources: 
Henry O. Wagoner Obituary, Rocky Mountain News, January 28, 1901; Eugene Berwanger, The Frontier Against Slavery: Western Anti-Negro Prejudice and the Slavery Extension Controversy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1967).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Travis, Dempsey Jerome (1920- )

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

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

Jones, Barbara Ann Posey (1943 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1958, Barbara Ann Posey, then a high school student, emerged as one of the most important youth leaders in the campaign which began that year to desegregate the major public accommodations in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Posey’s public stand against racial injustice began when she was fifteen and already a leader in the Oklahoma City branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council which initiated sit-ins at lunch counters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  These sit-ins predated the more famous Greensboro college student sit-ins by two years. 

Throughout her life, Posey has been a leader in education, women’s issues, and civil rights.  Posey was born to Mr. and Mrs. Weldon Posey in Oklahoma City in 1943. As a teen, she attended Douglas High School in Oklahoma City, graduating in June 1960. She later attended the University of Oklahoma.
Sources: 
Paulette Olson and Zahren Emami, eds., Engendering Economics: Conversations with Women Economists of the United States (New York: Routledge, 2002). www.tulsalibrary.org/research/ok/women.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Central University (Oklahoma)

Bolden, Buddy (1877-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Buddy Bolden Band
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles “Buddy” Bolden is said to be the first musician to play jazz music. While this is debatable, it is clear that Bolden’s music helped form the jazz movement. Bolden was born on September 6, 1877 in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the age of six, Bolden’s father died of pneumonia, leaving behind wife, Alice, daughter Cara and young Bolden.  The father’s death led the family to remain close for the rest of their lives.

Bolden began playing the coronet as a teenager.  He joined a small New Orleans dance band led by Charlie Galloway. It was at Galloway’s barber salon that Buddy honed his technical skills as a musician.  By the age of 20 he left the band to begin his own group.
Sources: 
Donald M. Marquis, In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006); Danny Barker, Buddy Bolden and the Last Days of Storyville (New York: Continuum, 1998); David Perry, Jazz Greats (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Paul, Nathaniel (1793?-1839)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Early 19th Century abolitionist minister Nathaniel Paul was born into a free black family in Exeter, New Hampshire and was one of six Paul sons to enter the Baptist ministry.  His elder brother, Thomas Paul, Sr., was the first pastor of the First African Baptist Church in Boston in 1806.  Shadrach Paul was an itinerant preacher who rode throughout New Hampshire for the Domestic Mission Society.  Benjamin Paul worked alongside Nathaniel as an antislavery agent and minister.  Nathaniel Paul moved to Albany, New York, a way station on the Underground Railroad to Canada, where he served as the first pastor of the Union Street Baptist Church.  

A leader in the city’s black community, Rev. Paul participated in a variety of projects designed to improve educational opportunities for blacks in Albany. He was an organizer of the Wilberforce School in Canada, the only school for black youth until 1873, although some blamed him for the financial failure of Wilberforce.  Paul was also a founder and leader of the Union Society of Albany for the Improvement of the Colored People in Morals, Education, and Mechanic Arts.  Paul was also an active abolitionist and a vocal opponent of the colonization movement.  One of his speeches, delivered in New York City in 1829, appeared in the abolitionist journal, The Rights of All.  
Sources: 
J. Marcus Mitchell, “The Paul Family,” Old Time New England, LXIII (Winter, 1973): 74-76; Lorenzo Greene, The Negro in the Colonial Period (New York: Atheneum, 1969); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982), 481-2; William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease, Black Utopia: Negro Communal Experiments in America (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1964), and Milton C. Sernett, Afro-American Religious History: A Documentary Witness (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1985); New York Genealogical Records, 1675-1920 in www.ancestry.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ulysses Grant Lee, Jr. (1913-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Ulysses Grant Lee, Jr. was a historian, author, professor, editor and army officer. Born on December 4th, 1913 in Washington D.C. to Ulysses Grant, a business owner, and Maggie Lee Grant, he was the oldest of seven children. Lee graduated from Dunbar High School in 1931. He then attended Howard University where he earned his B.A. and graduated summa cum laude in 1935.  He then received his M.A. from Howard in 1936 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago where he again graduated with honors.

Lee began his career as a graduate assistant at Howard. He became an instructor and eventually assistant professor at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he taught from 1936 to 1948. In 1940 he was a visiting professor at Virginia Union University. Lee eventually joined the English faculty at Lincoln University in Missouri where he stayed until 1956. That same year he began teaching at Morgan State College in Baltimore and the University of Pennsylvania. Known as an excellent, well respected teacher, Lee was voted the Distinguished Teacher Award in 1963 by his students at Morgan State.

In 1941 Ulysses Lee edited The Negro Caravan with Sterling A. Brown and Arthur P. Davis.  This widely used anthology was one of the first to bring together all of the major writing by African American authors of the era.

From 1936 to 1939 Lee worked as a research assistant, editor, and consultant for the Federal Writers Project which sponsored publications such as Washington: City and Capital (1937) and The Negro in Virginia (1940).

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

Cone, James Hal (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jordan, Louis (1908-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Louis Jordan, alto saxophonist, vocalist, and recording artist is considered by many to be an under-recognized trailblazer in the early foundations of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jordan was one of the first African American musicians in the 1940s to crossover from the race records industry to the popular music industry.

Jordan was born on July 8, 1908 in Brinkley Arkansas. He began playing the clarinet around the age of 7 with the Brinkley Brass Band, a band coached and co-organized by his father, musician James Jordan. In 1920, Jordan left Arkansas, joining Ma and Pa Rainey’s Rabbit Foot Minstrels. This was the first in a series of engagements with different traveling minstrel shows, until in 1930, Jordan’s family relocated to Philadelphia. In 1936, Jordan moved to New York City and began playing alto saxophone in Chick Webb’s band.

Jordan played with Webb until May of 1938, leaving to form his own band, Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five in August of 1938. Soon after, Jordan began recording with Decca Records and the band’s first album was released in December 1938. Jordan remained with Decca until 1954, leaving the company to sign with the West Coast label, Aladdin Records.
Sources: 
John Chilton, Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan and his Music (London: Quartet Books Ltd., 1992); Nick Tosches, Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Birth of Rock in the Wild Years Before Elvis (New York: Da Capo Press, 1999); http://rockhall.com/inductees/louis-jordan/bio
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

Seacole, Mary Jane (1805 –1881)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mary Jane Grant Seacole was an early nurse in the British Empire during the 19th Century. Born in Kingston, Jamaica as Mary Grant, she was the daughter of a Scottish officer and a black mother. Mary’s mother ran a hospital/boarding house in Kingston and she, after a brief period as a servant, returned to her family home and worked alongside her mother. It was during this period that Mary's skills as a nurse were first recognised and she spent a good deal of time travelling throughout the Caribbean providing care.  Mary Jane Grant married Edwin Seacole in 1836 but he died eight years later.

In 1850, Mary Seacole resided briefly in Panama with her half brother, Edward, where they ran a hotel for travelers bound for Gold Rush California. Seacole's reputation as a nurse grew as she provided care for these mostly American travelers during several outbreaks of cholera.
Sources: 

Ron Ramdin, Mary Seacole (Life & Times) (London: Haus Publishing 2005); Jane Robinson, Mary Seacole: The Charismatic Black Nurse who became a heroine of the Crimea (London: Constable Press, 2004); http://www.maryseacole.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Miles, William (1931-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Miles was a self-taught documentary filmmaker who has produced several documentaries on the history of black Americans.  Miles was born in Harlem, New York on August 19, 1931.  He grew up in Harlem on 126th Street near the Apollo Theater.  His mother ran a boarding house there that often provided accommodation for out-of-town entertainers performing at the Apollo.  Miles first learned about film from the Apollo’s projectionist.

In 1948 at the age of 17 Miles joined the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, ultimately reaching the status of Sergeant.  His film career began at Killiam Shows, a company that worked with archival films. There he began in the shipping department and moved up to editor.  

William Miles produced his first film, Men of Bronze, in 1977.  It chronicled the achievements of the 369th   Infantry Regiment during World War I.  The film was the culmination of 12 years of research beginning in the 1960s.  Miles interviewed several surviving members of the historic all-black regiment popularly known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” including one of its white officers, Hamilton Fish III, who later became a prominent Republican Congressman from New York. Although originally relegated to non-combat duties by the United States military, this regiment eventually fought with the French Army at the battles of Champagne-Marne and Meuse-Argonne alongside Moroccan, Senegalese, and French soldiers.
.  
Sources: 
Candace Ming, “Bill Miles: Independent Producers and the State of the Archive,”  (Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program, Spring 2011),  URL:<www.nyu.edu/tisch/preservation/program/.../11s_thesis_Ming.doc>;  
“William Miles Collection,”  Washington University in St. Louis,  Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, URL:<http://library.wustl.edu/units/spec/filmandmedia/collections/william-miles-collection/index.html>;  
“Tribute to documentary filmmaker Bill Miles,” New York Amsterdam News, 103.39 (September 27, 2012); “272 to Share $5.9 Million in Guggenheim Awards,” New York Times (April 13, 1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fortune, T. Thomas (1856-1928)

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

Robert Lloyd Smith (1861-1942)

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

Taylor, Alrutheus Ambush (1893-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Fisk University Franklin Library's
Special Collections
A[lrutheus] A[mbush] Taylor, historian, was born in Washington D.C. where he also went through the public school system. He earned a B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1916 and taught at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama and at the West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now West Virginia State College) in Institute, West Virginia. In 1922, Carter G. Woodson brought this able young historian back to Washington D.C. to serve as a research associate with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Supported by a grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund, Taylor began researching the role of African Americans in the South during Reconstruction.
Sources: 
W.A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America and Journal of Negro History as well as prefaces and introductions to the three Taylor monographs cited above.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Richardson, Gloria (1922- )

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

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

Savage, Augusta (1892-1962)

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

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

Thompson, Era Bell (1906-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Era Bell Thompson was an author, editor and a pioneering female African American journalist.  She was born in Des Moines, Iowa.  When she was eight years old her family moved to North Dakota.  Her father worked various jobs including farmer, messenger to the governor and shop keeper.  In 1925 at the age of nineteen, Thompson enrolled at the University of North Dakota.   While she was attending UND, Thompson excelled as a writer and began working for the campus newspaper.  She also excelled as an athlete where she established several university track records.  Two years after enrolling at the University of North Dakota Thompson was forced to drop out due to health problems.  She later moved to Sioux City, South Dakota and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Morningside College.

In 1933 Thompson moved to Chicago. Though college educated, she was forced to work as a house keeper. She would eventually publish a newspaper for a Works Progress Administration (WPA).  While working for the WPA Thompson conducted post graduate studies at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
Sources: 
Era Bell Thompson, American Daughter. (Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1967); American National Biography, http://www.anb.org.offcampus. lib.washington.edu/articles/home.html; New York Times obituary, “Era Bell Thompson.”  Jan 3, 1987. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html? res=9B0DE0DA1130F930A35752C0A961948260
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Butler, Octavia E. "Junie" (1947-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Octavia was born in Pasadena California to Laurice and Octavia Butler.  Her father passed away when she was a baby, so she was raised by her grandmother and her mother.  As a girl, she was known as Junie, derived from "Junior" since her mother was also named Octavia.  Butler’s mother worked as a maid to provide for the family after her father died, but nonetheless they continued to struggle in a poor but racially mixed neighborhood throughout her childhood.  

Junie grew up shy, losing herself in books despite having dyslexia. Octavia Senior could not afford books, but she brought home the discards of the white families for whom she worked.  Butler began writing when she was 10 years old and told friends she embraced science fiction after seeing a B-movie called "Devil Girl from Mars" and thought, "I can write a better story than that."
Sources: 
Margalit Fox, “Octavia E. Butler, Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 58,” New York Times. March 1, 2006, http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/butler_octavia_estelle.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Nascimento, Abdias do (1914 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Abdias do Nascimento, famous Brazilian writer, scholar, and politician, was born on March 14, 1914, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. From a humble family, his mother, Josina, was a candy maker and his father, Bem-Bem, was a musician and shoemaker, Abdias do Nascimento joined the Brazilian Army at age 15, moving to the state capital, São Paulo, where he became politically active. In Rio de Janeiro, he founded, in 1944, the Teatro Nacional do Negro (Black National Theater). A member of Brazil’s Congress from 1983 to 1987 and a Senator in 1991, 1996-1999, Abdias do Nascimento dedicated his life to fighting racial prejudice.

Sources: 
Kimberly Jones-de-Oliveira, “The Politics of Culture or the Culture of Politics: Afro-Brazilian Mobilization, 1920-1968,” Journal of Third World Studies, v. 20, part I (2003), pp. 103-120; Elizabeth Marchant and Fernando Conceição, “An Interview with Fernando Conceição,” Callaloo, v.25, n.2 (Spring 2002), pp. 613-619; Abdias do Nascimento biografia, available at  http://www.abdias.com.br/biografia/biografia.htm; Itaú Cultural, Enciclopédia Itaú Cultural available at http://www.itaucultural.org.br/aplicexternas/enciclopedia_teatro/index.cfm?fuseaction=cias_biografia&cd_verbete=649.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Domino, Antoine "Fats" (1928- )

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

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.

Sources: 

Rick Coleman, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’
Roll
(Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2006); Rolling Stone, December 1, 2008,
http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/fatsdomino/biography

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robinson, Jo Ann (1912-1992)

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

Crenchaw, Milton Pitts (1919- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Tuskegee Airmen Pilots in Training, ca. 1942,
Milton Crenchaw is in the Cap in the Middle
Image Courtesy of Edmund Davis

Milton Crenchaw is the only living civilian flight instructor (of the first class) for the Tuskegee Airmen. He was the first Arkansas African American to be called a Tuskegee Airman.

Milton Pitts Crenchaw was born on January 13, 1919 in Little Rock, Arkansas to Ethel Pitts Crenchaw, a beautician, and Reverend Joseph C. Crenchaw. Milton Crenchaw studied auto mechanics at Dunbar Junior College and in 1939 enrolled in the mechanical engineering program at Tuskegee Institute. He was in the school’s pilot training program and did not continue his studies after earning his pilot’s license. 

He learned to fly at Gunter Airfield (now Maxwell Air Force Base) near Montgomery, Alabama. In 1940 pioneering African-American aviator Charles A. Anderson persuaded Crenchaw to become a flight instructor for the newly formed Tuskegee Airmen. He served in that capacity from 1941 until 1946, training hundreds of African American cadets and pilots at various airfields around Tuskegee Institute.

Sources: 

Robert A. Rose, D.D.S., Lonely Eagles (California: Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, Los Angeles Chapter, 1976); Charles Dryden,  A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman (Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1997); http://www.lwfaam.net/ww2/aaf_66th_ftd/66th.htm; http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4925http://www.cmrousefund.org/milton-pitts-crenchaw.htmlhttp://earlyaviators.com/eanderso.htmhttp://www.central.aero/about-us/

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arkansas Baptist College

Frazer, Victor O. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

Berry, Mary Frances (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Mary Frances Berry
Mary Frances Berry is a scholar, professor, author, and civil rights activist who served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Berry was born in Nashville, Tennessee on February 17, 1938 to parents Frances Southall Berry and George Ford Berry.  Due to her mother’s poverty and the desertion of her father, she and her brothers spent time in an orphanage. She attended the segregated public schools in Nashville but in the 10th grade she found a mentor in her teacher, Minerva Hawkins, who challenged Berry to excel in academics.

Berry graduated with honors from Pearl High School in Nashville in 1956 and began college at Fisk University. After transferring to Howard University she earned her B.A. in history in 1961.  She earned a history Ph.D. in 1966 from the University of Michigan. In 1968 Berry became a faculty member at the University of Maryland and supervised the establishment of an African American Studies Program at that institution.

Berry earned her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1970 and became the acting director of the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Maryland.  From 1974 to 1976 she served as University Provost, becoming the first African American woman to hold that position.
Sources: 
David De Leon, Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994); Catherine Ellis and Stephen Drury Smith, Say it Loud!: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African American Identity (New York: New Press, 2010); Mary Frances Berry, And Justice for All: The United States Commission on Civil Rights and the Continuing Struggle for Freedom in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Frazier, Kenneth C. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Kenneth C. Frazier is the first African American President of Merck & Co., a major pharmaceutical corporation. Frazier was elected by the Board of Directors to be the next CEO on May 1, 2010, and assumed the post on January 1, 2011.  

Kenneth Frazier was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Otis and Clara Frazier on December 17, 1954. Along with his three siblings, Frazier was raised by his father after his mother passed when he was 12 years old. His father, Otis, migrated to Pennsylvania at age 14. With the equivalent of a third grade education, Otis Frazier worked most of his life as a custodian for the U.S. Parcel Service.  

Kenneth Frazier graduated from high school at age 15.  He hoped to enter the United States Military Academy at West Point. Denied entry due to his young age, he instead entered the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated in 1975. Immediately afterward he enrolled in Harvard Law School where he graduated with his Juris Doctorate degree in 1978.

Sources: 
"Kenneth C. Frazier," Penn State Black History / African American Chronicles. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014; Kenneth C. Frazier," Businessweek.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014; "Master of the Game," Law.com. The Minority Law Journal, 13 Feb. 2002; "A Dose of Optimism," Harvard Law School Bulletin. N.p., 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Paige, Leroy Robert "Satchel (1906-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

White, Lulu B.(1900-1957)

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

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

Smith, Nolle (1888-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Nolle Smith, cowboy, politician, diplomat, was born on his parents’ ranch in Horse Creek, Wyoming in 1888 but grew up in Cheyenne where he graduated as valedictorian of his high school class at Cheyenne High School in 1907.  The son of a white father and African American mother, Smith attended the University of Nebraska where he studied engineering and math while playing football, and basketball and competing in track.  After graduation, Smith held engineering jobs briefly in Rock River, Wyoming and Denver, Colorado. In 1915, however, he was offered a job in Hawaii as an engineer with the Honolulu Department of Public Works. The following year he became Superintendent of Docks for Matson Navigation Company, a major shipping firm. In 1917 Smith married Eva Beatrice Jones, a childhood friend from Cheyenne who had moved to San Francisco, California.     
Sources: 
Bobette Gugliotta, Nolle Smith, Cowboy, Engineer, Statesman (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1971); Daphne Barbee Wooten and Miles M. Jackson, “Law and Politics in Hawaii” in Miles M. Jackson, ed., They Followed the Trade Winds: African Americans in Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004) pp. 128-130.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Mortimer, Prince (ca. 1724-1834)

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Fauset, Jessie R. (1882-1961)

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

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

Lester, Julius (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Julius Lester was born January 27, 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a Methodist minister. Lester spent much of his childhood in Missouri, where in the 1940s and 1950s he dealt with southern attitudes about race and segregation before and during the Civil Rights movement. In 1960 Lester graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee with a degree in English.

He then became politically active in the Civil Rights movement, going to Mississippi in 1964 as part of the movement called the Mississippi Summer Project.  Lester then began working full time for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as head of its photography department in Atlanta, Georgia. SNCC was the most outspoken of civil rights groups at the time, and in the summer of 1966 coined the phrase black power, a cry millions of blacks across the United States responded to and adapted as their own.

Lester’s writing career began in 1967 when a publisher read his essay The Angry Children of Malcolm X, and offered him a contract to develop it into a book. The book, titled Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gonna’ Get Your Mama, was published in 1968, and would be the first book to explain the term black power and place it in the context of African American history.
Sources: 
Julius Lester, On Writing for Children and Other People ( New York: Dial Books, 2004); Julius Lester, Lovesong: Becoming A Jew (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moore, Frederick Randolph (1857-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Frederick Randolph Moore, a political activist and journalist, was born in 1857 to his slave mother and white father in Virginia. While Moore was still very young, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Moore attended public schools and to make money, sold newspapers on street corners.

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

McNeil, Claudia (1917-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

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.

Sources: 

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,
1993.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, William Henry (1901-1970)

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

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

Jacobs, Alma S. (1916-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Librarian Alma Smith Jacobs was the first African American to serve as the Montana State Librarian. She was a lifelong advocate of free access to library resources and was active in local and state civil rights causes.

Alma Victoria Smith Jacobs was born in Lewistown, Montana on November 21, 1916. She was one of five children born to Martin Luther Smith, a cook for the Great Northern Railroad, and Emma Louise Riley Smith, a prolific quilter whose work is registered with the Montana Historic Quilt Project.  When she was six, her family moved to Great Falls, Montana. After high school, she received a scholarship to Talladega College in Alabama and graduated from there with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in psychology in 1938.

While Alma Smith Jacobs aspired to become a social worker, she was offered a job as a clerical assistant in the Talladega College library.  She remained there for eight years as assistant librarian. During that time she received a scholarship to Columbia University’s prestigious library school, and she traveled back and forth to New York City during the summers to take courses, earning a B.A. in library science in 1942. In 1946 Jacobs returned to Great Falls as a catalog librarian and later served as library director for the city’s public library from 1954 to 1973. During the 1960s, Jacobs was instrumental in the construction of the Great Falls Public Library building that opened in 1967.
Sources: 
Lelia Gaston Rhodes, A Critical Analysis of the Career Backgrounds of Selected Black Female Librarians (Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State University, 1975); Lucille Smith Thompson and Alma Smith Jacobs, The Negro in Montana, 1800-1945 (Helena: Montana State Library, 1970); Travis Coleman, “Great Falls Library dedicates arch to pioneering black librarian, leader,” Great Falls Tribune (June 21, 2009); Michele Fenton, Little Known Black Librarian Facts http://www.indianablacklibrarians.org/Little%20Known%20Black%20Librarian%20Facts%202011.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Farmer, James, Sr. (1886-1961)

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Pratt, Geronimo (1947-2011)

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

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

Lee, Andrea (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Expatriate novelist, journalist, and memoirist Andrea Lee was raised in a well-to-do African American family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The youngest of three children, her father was a Baptist minister and her mother an elementary school teacher.  The product of private school education, she recalls both writing fiction and desiring to live in Europe since childhood. Her privileged upbringing did not completely shelter her from discomfiting incidents in racially integrated schools which led her to revisit issues pertaining to racial and national identity in later writings.
Sources: 
Mar Gallego, “Lee, Andrea,” African American National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008); Milena Vercellino,“Andrea Lee,” retrieved at  http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?article=556&p=full
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Rogers, J. A. (1880-1966)

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

Self-trained historian, novelist, and journalist Joel Augustus Rogers spent most of his life debunking pseudo-scientific and racist depictions of people of African ancestry while popularizing the history of persons of black people around the world. Rogers was born September 6, 1883 in Negril, Jamaica. He and his siblings were raised, after their mother passed, by their schoolteacher father, Samuel John Rogers.  Rogers emigrated to the United States in 1906 and Joel Rogers became a naturalized citizen in 1917.  Rogers lived briefly in Chicago before eventually settling in New York City.  

Sources: 
W. Burghardt Turner, “J.A. Rogers: Portrait of An Afro-American Historian,” Black Scholar (January-February, 1978); Malik Simba, “Joel Augustus Rogers: Negro Historian in History, Time, and Space,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, vol. 30, no.2 , July 2006; Thabiti Asukile, "Joel Augustus Rogers: Black International Journalism, Archival Research, And Black Print Culture," Journal of African American History (Special Issue "To Be Heard in Black and White: Historical Perspective on Black Print Culture"), Vol. 95, Nos. 3-4 (Summer-Fall 2010); Thabiti Asukile, "J. A. Rogers on ‘Jazz at Home’ and Jazz in Paris during the Jazz Age,” The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research Black Issues, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Fall 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University-Fresno

Rumford, William Byron, Sr. (1908-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Courtland, Arizona, William Byron Rumford, Sr., the younger of the two sons of a housemaid, arrived in Los Angeles, California with his mother and stepfather in 1915.  His family returned to Arizona where he shined shoes, sold newspapers, and graduated from a segregated George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix in 1926.  After finishing his studies at Sacramento Junior College, in 1931 he earned his pharmacy degree at the University of California at San Francisco.  His marriage to Elsie Carrington in 1932 produced two sons and a daughter.
Sources: 
Lawrence P. Crouchett, William Byron Rumford, The Life and Public Services of a California Legislator (El Cerrito, CA: Downey Place Pub. House, 1984); “Legislator for Fair Employment, Fair Housing, and Public Health: William Byron Rumford” (Earl Warren Oral History Project), http://www.oac.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb8n39p2g3&query=&brand=oac4.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University