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People

Montgomery, John Leslie “Wes” (1925-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Washington DC
Jazz Network

Wes Montgomery was a jazz guitarist whose natural genius and distinctive sound earned him recognition as one of the most important jazz musicians of the 20th century. Montgomery was born on March 6, 1925 in Indianapolis, Indiana into a musically inclined family. Although he was given his first instrument as a child, Montgomery’s interest in guitar would not be ignited until he was 19 years old and married. After first hearing records from swing and jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, he bought an affordable guitar and amplifier and taught himself how to play.  Partly in order to lower the volume for neighbors and because he found it awkward to use a pick, he soon adopted his own style of using his right thumb to pluck the strings. Although somewhat unconventional, the softer and deeper tone it produced still serves as one of his trademarks.

Sources: 
Charles Alexander, Masters of Jazz Guitar (London: Balafon Books, 1999); Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestly, Jazz: The Essential Companion (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987); Leonard Feather, The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Horizon Press, 1955); Leslie Gourse, Fancy Fretwork: The Great Jazz Guitarists (1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Selassie, Haile Gebre (1973-)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Haile Gebre Selassie is regarded by many observers as the greatest Ethiopian long-distance runner of all time. He was born in the province of Arsi in central Ethiopia and was inspired by runners Abebe Bikila and Miruts Yifter. As a child he was said to have run 20 kilometers every day going to and from school. At age 16, without any formal training, he entered the Addis Ababa marathon and finished in 2:42.

Selassie rose to international prominence in 1992 when he won the 5K and 10K world junior championships. In 1993, at the Stuttgart (Germany) world championships, he won gold in the 10K and silver in the 5K competition. Haile set his first world record in 1994 by breaking the six-year-old world record of Said Aouita.

Sources: 

Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Frazier, Walt (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
National Basketball Association star player Walt “Clyde” Frazier Jr., was born the oldest of nine children in Atlanta, Georgia on March 29, 1945. While attending the segregated Howard High School in Atlanta, Frazier excelled in football, baseball, and basketball. Despite receiving football scholarships from elite colleges, Frazier accepted a basketball scholarship from the lesser known Southern Illinois University. Frazier led the school to its first National Invitation Tournament championship in 1967. Following his senior year, the two-time All-American became the New York Knickerbockers first-round choice and the fifth overall pick that same year.

During his rookie season, a Knicks official nicknamed Frazier, “Clyde” after the infamous 1930s bank robber Clyde Barrow. The name stuck as Frazier personified African American pride and culture in the early 1970s. His stylish dress and his cool demeanor on and off the court resembled some of the popular characters in Blaxploitation movies of the era such as John Shaft in Shaft and Priest in Superfly.

As a Knick, Frazier played in seven NBA All-Star Games and named to four All-NBA First Teams and seven NBA All-Defensive First Teams.  While with the Knicks, Frazier also set team highs for points scored, games played, and assists. He led the team to its only NBA titles in 1970 and 1973.

Sources: 
Jack Friedman, “Belatedly Learning That Father Knows Best, Walt Frazier III Tries to Be a Clyde Off the Old Block” People, 27 February 1989; Sarah Kershaw, “Walt Frazier Buys Three Harlem Penthouses,” New York Times, 24 September 2010.http://www.nba.com/history/players/frazier_bio.html
Contributor:
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Ferguson, Lloyd (1918- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Lloyd Ferguson, the first African American to receive a Ph.D in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, was born February 9, 1918 in Oakland, California. Growing up in Oakland, Ferguson was always passionate about school, particularly science. In the eighth grade, he brought a chemistry set which allowed him to do experiments and create substances such as gunpowder. Raised by his parents and grandparents, Ferguson was forced to get a job while in high school because his father lost his job during the Great Depression. At first Ferguson became a paper boy and then after high school he worked as a laborer for the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) to save money for college.

Ferguson attended the University of California, Berkeley earning a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1940 and a Ph.D in chemistry in 1943. One of his main contributions at Berkeley was developing a compound that could lose and gain oxygen rapidly. This compound was a type hemoglobin and was later used as a source of oxygen for submarines. He later went on to study the sense of taste through chemistry.

Sources: 

Gabrielle S. Morris, Head of the Class: An Oral history of
African-American Achievement in Higher Education and Beyond
(New York,
Twayne Publishers, 1995);
http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/JCEWWW/Features/eChemists/Bios/Ferguson.htm....

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dett, R. Nathaniel (1882-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

Rector, Sarah (1902–1967)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Sarah Rector at Age 12
Sarah Rector received international attention at the age of eleven when The Kansas City Star in 1913 publicized the headline, “Millions to a Negro Girl.” From that moment Rector’s life became a cauldron of misinformation, legal and financial maneuvering, and public speculation. 

Rector was born to Joseph and Rose Rector on March 3, 1902, in a two-room cabin near Twine, Oklahoma on Muscogee Creek Indian allotment land.  Both Joseph and Rose had enslaved Creek ancestry, and both of their fathers fought with the Union Army during the Civil War. When Oklahoma statehood became imminent in 1907, the Dawes Allotment Act divided Creek lands among the Creeks and their former slaves with a termination date of 1906.  Rector’s parents, Sarah Rector herself, her brother, Joe, Jr., and sister Rebecca all received land. Lands granted to former slaves were usually the rocky lands of poorer agricultural quality. Rector’s allotment of 160 acres was valued at $556.50.

Sources: 
Tonya Bolden, Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America, (New York: Abrams Books, 2014); http://african-nativeamerican.blogspot.com/2010/04/remembering-sarah-rector-creek.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Amin (Dada), Idi (1925-2003)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 

Samuel Decalo, Psychosis of Power: African Personal Dictatorships (London: Westview Press, 1989); Thomas and Margaret Melady, Idi Amin Dada: Hitler in Africa (Kansas City: Universal  Press Syndicate, 1977); David Martin, General Amin (London: Faber and Faber, 1974).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Verrett, Shirley (1931-2010)

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

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

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

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

Daniels, Preston A. (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Preston Daniels, the first African American elected Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1945.  Shortly afterwards his parents moved to Des Moines and he grew up in the Chesterfield section of southeast Des Moines, a working-class area also known as the “southeast bottoms.”   

After graduating from high school in 1963 he served four years in the United States Army, and was honorably discharged at the rank of Sergeant. Daniels returned to Des Moines and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Drake University in 1971.  Daniels also obtained his Master of Science Degree in Health Science from the same institution in 1972.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Pinckney, Clementa C. (1973-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Clementa Carlos "Clem" Pinckney, was an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) pastor, South Carolina State Senator, and rising star in the national Democratic Party. On June 17, 2015, he and eight local black leaders were assassinated in Charleston, South Carolina, during Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that Pinckney pastored.

Raised in the liberation theology tradition, Pinckney seamlessly intersected his faith with civil rights activism and public policy. Born on July 30, 1973, in Beaufort, South Carolina to John and Theopia (Stevenson) Pinckney, young Pinckney in 1987 followed in the path of his great-grandfather, Rev. Lorenzo Stevenson, and uncle, Rev. Levern Stevenson, and began apprentice preaching in St. John AME Church in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Four years later during his freshman year at the AME-run Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina, Pinckney became a preacher and freshman class president. He also gained valuable exposure to the South Carolina legislature as a page at the Statehouse. By Pinckney’s junior year, these experiences set the foundation for his becoming the palmetto state’s emerging star in electoral politics. While at Allen University Pinckney joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Sources: 
Rebecca Lurye, “Sen. Clementa Pinckney mourned in Jasper County hometown,” in Beaufortgazzete.com http://www.islandpacket.com/2015/06/18/3801166/sen-clementa-pinckney-mourned.html; Eugene Scott, “The shooting victim Obama mentioned by name,” in CCN Politics http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/politics/south-carolina-church-shooting-clementa-pinckney/; CBSNews, “Charleston shooting suspect charged with 9 counts of murder,” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/charleston-shooting-suspect-dylann-roof-charged-with-nine-counts-of-murder/; Todd C. Frankel, “Clementa Pinckney, preacher and legislator, spoke out for justice,” The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/pastor-and-state-senator-remembered-for-preaching-calls-for-justice/2015/06/18/793c0162-15cc-11e5-89f3-61410da94eb1_story.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Matzeliger, Jan E. (1852-1887)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Hamilton, Lewis (1985– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Formula 1 race car driver Lewis Hamilton was born January 7, 1985, in Stevenage, Herefordshire, England, to parents Carmen Larbalestier and Anthony Hamilton. His parents divorced when he was two, and as a result he lived with his mother and half-sisters. He studied at the John Henry Newman School and then at Cambridge Arts and Sciences. He was often bullied on account of his mixed race (his mother was white, and his father, black), and because of this he learned karate at age five to defend himself.

Hamilton began racing go-karts at the age of eight, and by age ten, he was the youngest ever to win the British Cadet Kart Championship. It was there that Hamilton met his future boss, Ron Dennis (CEO of McLaren Technology), and informed him that he was going to drive one of his F1 cars some day. Hamilton continued to race and won numerous karting races, and his father often had to work several jobs at once to support Lewis’s racing career. This changed when Ron Dennis signed him on to the McLaren’s Young Driver Program at age thirteen, effectively sponsoring his career until he began racing professionally.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wright, Louis T. (1891-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
“Louis Tompkins Wright,” in W. Augustus Low & Virgin A. Cliff, Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981); “History of Medicine: The Wright Stuff,” American Legacy Magazine 10:3 (Fall 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Brown, Wesley (1927-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Navel
Historical Center

Wesley Brown earned distinction in 1949 as the first African American to graduate from the United States Naval Academy.  Wesley Brown grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Dunbar High School.  A “voracious reader,” Brown joined the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to study his history and heritage.  At Dunbar, Brown was a member of the Cadet Corps and worked evenings as a youth mailman at the Navy Department.  Brown was nominated by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a New York Congressman, for appointment into the Naval Academy and was accepted.

Wesley Brown began classes in 1945 and voluntarily decided to room alone.  “I wasn’t sure I wanted them to share my burden,” he said.  He faced racism in the first year, picking up 140 out of a possible 150 demerits, but as his education continued found that many were “supportive and protective” of him.  

Sources: 
Gerald Astor, The Right to Fight: A History of African Americans in the Military (Novato, Ca.: Presidio Press, 1998);  Kai Wright, Soldiers of Freedom (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2002); “This week in Black History,” Jet Magazine (June 9, 2003); http://www.navysports.com; The Seattle Times, May 27, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ellington, Edward “Duke” (1899-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington is one of the greatest jazz composers, performers, and bandleaders in American history.  His compositions, and the travels of his band, exposed the world to jazz and earned him the nickname, “The Ambassador of Jazz.”

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington, D.C. in 1899 to Daisy and James Ellington.  Ellington’s parents appreciated good manners, dress, food, and a love of music (both played piano, though neither could read music) and diligently passed these characteristics on to their son.  This “duked up” appearance earned him the nickname “Duke” growing up, and it stuck for the rest of his life.  Starting with piano lessons at age six, and continuing with private lessons from local bar players, Duke developed a love and talent for ragtime music.  
Sources: 
Richard Terrill, Duke Ellington (Chicago: Raintree, 2003);  http://www.dukeellington.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Coltrane, John William (1926-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John William Coltrane emerged as one of the most innovative and influential jazz musicians of the 20th century. Born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926, the son of John Robert and Alice Blair Coltrane, he grew up in High Point, North Carolina where his grandfather, Rev. William W. Blair, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was one of the community leaders.  John Coltrane's childhood attendance at his family's black church shaped the spiritual dimensions of his musical orientation.  Following his father's death and the family’s sudden impoverishment, he and his mother moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1943 to ensure he would have a proper education.  Coltrane’s mother Alice worked as a domestic servant while nurturing her son's musical interest and encouraged him to enroll at the Ornstein School of Music.  
Sources: 
Lewis Porter, John Coltrane: His Life and Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998); C.O. Simpkins, Coltrane: A Biography (Baltimore, Maryland: Black Classic Press, 1975).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Vivian, Cordy Tindell “C.T.” (1924- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Rev. C.T. Vivian & Sheriff Jim Clark at
Selma, 1965

Image Ownership: Public Domain 

The life of the Revered C.T. Vivian is practically the story of the modern black freedom struggle.  Vivian actively participated in the Nashville desegregation movement, Freedom Rides, Birmingham, Selma, Chicago, and other chapters of the fight for equal rights.

Born Boonville, Missouri on July 28, 1924, Vivian moved with his mother to Macomb in rural west-central Illinois a few years later.  Vivian spent his formative years there, in a tiny black community, graduating from high school in 1942.  He soon enrolled at Western Illinois University, also in Macomb, though he moved to Peoria before finishing his degree.

In 1947 Vivian participated in his first civil rights protest, successfully desegregating Peoria’s lunch counters.  Also while in Peoria, Vivian met and married Octavia Geans of Pontiac, Michigan. They are still married and had six children together; Vivian also has a child from an earlier relationship. 

Sources: 
C.T. Vivian, Black Power and the American Myth (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970); Lydia Walker, Challenge and Change: The Story of Civil Rights Activist C.T. Vivian (Alpharetta, Georgia: Dreamkeeper Press, 1993);
http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/about_king/encyclopedia/vivian_ct.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Edwards, Donna (1958 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Donna Edwards is a Democratic member of U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 4th Congressional District of Maryland since 2008. Early in 2009 she was among a group of U.S. Congress members who were handcuffed and arrested while protesting the expulsion of aid groups from Darfur in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.  

Edwards earned her BA from Wake Forest University where she was one of six African American women in her class. She later earned a JD from Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire.  Prior to her political career, she worked as a systems engineer with the Spacelab program at Lockheed Corporation’s Goddard Space Flight Center. During the 1980s, Edwards worked as a clerk for then district judge Albert Wynn when he served in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Sources: 
Paul Courson, "U.S. lawmakers arrested in Darfur protest at Sudan embassy," CNN.com April 27, 2009; Rep. Donna Edwards’ official website: http://donnaedwards.house.gov
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Harry Clay (1863-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society

Harry Clay Smith was a newspaper editor and politician, born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, on January 28, 1863. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio at an early age and stayed in the area for the remainder of his life. After graduating from Cleveland’s Central High School in 1882, he established the Cleveland Gazette, and became the publisher and editor of the newspaper for nearly sixty years. The Gazette was a popular eight-page weekly that published local black activities and events in the greater Cleveland area, as well as many other cities in Ohio. Readership was at a steady 10,000 before World War I and circulated within the state of Ohio and parts of the Midwest.

Smith used the Cleveland Gazette to promote civil rights issues and engage in politics. Smith lobbied the state government of Ohio to do more to preserve the civil rights of African Americans.  Using the Gazette as a medium to communicate to the masses, Smith attacked segregation and racial discrimination. He advocated three strategies to challenge racial discrimination: political pressure, legal action and boycotts.  He was in particular, an ardent supporter of the campaign to desegregate Ohio schools in 1887.

Sources: 
Kenneth L. Kusmer, A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American
Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Zadie (1975– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Zadie Smith, writer and essayist, was born in the London, UK borough of Brent on October 25, 1975. Smith was named Sadie by her mother, a Jamaican immigrant who arrived in London in the late 1970s, and her English father. Smith enjoyed tap dancing as a child and attended the Hampstead Comprehensive in Cricklewood, a section of London. It was here, during her adolescence, that she developed an appetite for literature and also changed her name to Zadie. Smith recalls that race was never the barrier she felt most keenly during this time. She was, however, consciously aware of not being middle class, and even more so of being a woman.
Sources: 
Zadie Smith’s profile on “Contemporary Writers”: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth257; “She’s young, black, British – and the first publishing sensation of the millennium,” by Stephanie Merritt, published in The Observer, January 2000: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2000/jan/16/fiction.zadiesmith; “Learning Curve,” by Aida Edemarian, published in The Observer, September 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Jones, Ruth Braswell (1914-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Educator Ruth Braswell Jones was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on November 21, 1914, the seventh daughter, of William and Arkaanna (Sanders) Braswell. Her education includes a diploma with distinction from Brick Junior College, Brick, North Carolina, in 1933 and a B.S. degree in Education with distinction from Elizabeth City State Teachers College, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, in 1948. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, awarded her the M.S. degree in Education in 1960.

Sources: 

Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).

Contributor: 

Bryant, Kobe (1978- )

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

Professional basketball superstar Kobe Bryant has played for the Los Angeles (California) Lakers since 1996 when he came to the team as an 18-year-old, the youngest player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. Bryant is a long-time philanthropist, using his well-known name to fundraise for a number of causes. His stellar career was tarnished in 2003 when he was arrested for alleged sexual assault, resulting in a suit that was settled out of court a year later.

Bryant is the youngest of three children born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to former National Basketball Association player and Women’s National Basketball Association head coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. His parents named him after the popular Japanese steak of the same name. In 1983, Bryant’s father left the NBA and moved his family to Italy to play professional basketball. Young Kobe quickly adapted to his environment, learning to speak fluent Italian and Spanish. Besides learning to play basketball at an early age, Bryant also became a skilled soccer player. Following his father’s retirement from basketball in 1991, the family returned to Philadelphia.

Sources: 
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro and Jennifer Stevens, Kobe Bryant: The Game of His Life (Portland, Oregon: Revolution Publishing, 2004): http://www.nba.com/playerfile/kobe_bryant/; http://www.afterschoolallstars.org/; http://www.forbes.com/2010/11/04/nba-best-paid-players-business-sportsmoney-nba-top-paid-players.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Carlos, John (1945-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Tommie Smith and John Carlos,
Mexico City, 1968
Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Carlos is best known for his black-gloved fist salute on the winner’s podium (with Tommie Smith) at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Carlos was born and raised in Harlem, New York.  He was a promising student-athlete in high school who, following graduation, attended East Texas State University (ETSU) on a track and field scholarship. After a year at ETSU, Carlos transferred to San Jose State University (SJS).

Carlos attended SJS during the late 1960s at the time of the “revolt of the Black athlete” which was symbolized by the University canceling its opening day football with University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) on September 18, 1967 due to a boycott of black student athletes.  At the time, Carlos was a world-class sprinter and student-member of the SJS United Black Students for Action (UBSA).

As a track and field athlete Carlos was not directly affected by the student boycott of the football game.  He continued to successfully compete and was chosen for the American Olympic team that would participate in the Mexico City Games in 1968.

Sources: 

Harry Edwards, The Revolt of the Black Athlete (New York: the Free Press, 1970); HBO, Fists of Freedom: The Story of the '68 Summer Games (1999); Herbert G. Ruffin II, Uninvited Neighbors: Black Life and the Racial Quest for Freedom in the Santa Clara Valley, 1777-1968 (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertation Publishing, 2007); USA Track & Field, Inc (URL: http://www.usatf.org/halloffame/TF/showBio.asp?HOFIDs=195).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Allen, Debbie (1950- )

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

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

Bongo, Omar/ Albert-Bernard Bongo (1935-2009)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Omar Bongo (in Brown Suit)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Omar Bongo was President of Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009, over 42 years, and thus ruled longer than any other African leader.  Bongo was born in the Beteke region of Gabon on December 10, 1935.  He was the youngest of twelve children and was a member of the Bateke people.  Named Albert-Bernard Bongo at birth, he later converted to Islam in 1973, changing his name to El Hajj Omar Bongo.  In 2003 he added Ondimba, his father’s name.

Bongo’s first wife was Marie Josephine Kama and they had two children together, but they divorced in 1986.  In 1990, Bongo married Edith Lucie Sassou-Nguesso, daughter of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), and together they had nine children.  
Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005); http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article6458071.ece.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Byrd, Donald (1932-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Donald Byrd (Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II) was born on December 9, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan; his father was amateur musician and Methodist minister D.T. Byrd.  He attended Cass Technical High School, had a stint in the US Air Force, graduated from Wayne State University, and then earned his master’s in music education at the Manhattan School of Music.  Later he received a law degree from Howard University, and in 1982 earned his doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University.

With a hard-driving lyrical trumpet style, Donald Byrd blew into New York’s bebop era: 23 years old, clean-living, ready to take on the music world.  He did.  Within a year, in 1955, he had joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, replacing the legendary late Clifford Brown.  His career, based on his growing innovation and style, focused on his African American roots, and toward his own formal education.  Fellow musicians considered him a born teacher, sharing and encouraging any sincere seeker.  One of these was a young Herbie Hancock, who always expressed thanks for Byrd’s pointed mentoring.
Sources: 
John Fordham, “Donald Byrd Obituary,” http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/feb/12/donald-byrd (February 12, 2013); “Donald Byrd,” Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians, jazz.com; Karlton E. Hester, “Donald Byrd,” From Africa to Afrocentric Innovations Some Call “Jazz” - Vol. 4 (Ithaca, New York: Hesteria Records & Publishing Co., Ithaca, 2000); William Yardley, “Donald Byrd, Jazz Trumpeter, Dies at 80,” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/arts/music/donald-byrd-renegade-jazz-trumpeter-dies-at-80.html (February 11, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Akuetteh, Cynthia Helen (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 2014, Cynthia Akuetteh, career Senior Foreign Service officer, was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as ambassador to Gabon and the island nation of Sao Tomé & Principe. After U.S. Senate confirmation she arrived in Libreville, capital of Gabon, to take up her post.

Akuetteh (née Cynthia Archie) was born in Washington, D.C. in 1948 to Richard Louis Archie II and Sallie Dolores Hines. In 1970 she graduated from Long Island University in New York with a B.A. degree in History.  In 1973 she earned a Master’s Degree in National Security Resource Policy from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

Sources: 
“Ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé & Príncipe: Who Is Cynthia Akuetteh?” AllGov, (http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassador-to-gabon-and-sao-tome-and-pr%C3%ADncipe-who-is-cynthia-akuetteh-131214?news=851910); American Foreign Service Association, “Report for the Committee on Foreign Relations: United States Senate,” http://www.afsa.org/sites/default/files/Portals/0/certcomp_gabon_saotome_principe.pdf; “US opposes ‘coup’ in Gabon; opposition mounts against Bongo,” The News, http://thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2015/01/us-opposes-coup-in-gabon-opposition-mounts-against-bongo/; “Cynthia Akuetteh,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/236745.htm; U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Statement of Cynthia Akuetteh United States Ambassador-Designate to the Gabonese Republic and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Principe: Senate Foreign Relations Committee, http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Akuetteh%20final.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Coffin, Alfred O. (1861- ?)

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

Horatio Viscount “Berky” Nelson, Jr. (1939-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Horatio Viscount “Berky” Nelson was a widely recognized scholar of 20th Century African American political history and particularly class dynamics in the modern black community. His first major work, The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership, was a searing critique of the inability of twentieth century black leaders to fully explicate the true horrific conditions facing the black underclass. Nelson’s work argues that the social conditions of poverty, high rates of incarceration, and deteriorating family structure needed leaders who devised strategies that would ameliorate these conditions. He listed the many leaders who developed those strategies and those who in his opinion did not.

Dr. Nelson furthered examined the class dilemma of African Americans in his second major work, Black Leadership’s Response to the Great Depression in Philadelphia. Here he analyzed the symbiotic relationship between the black educated class and the black proletariat. This work revealed that if the economic fortunes of the working class declined, it often had a more detrimental impact on black professionals such as physicians, lawyers, and small entrepreneurs, than among other racial or ethnic groups.
Sources: 
H. Viscount “Berky” Nelson, The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership (2003); H. Viscount Nelson, Black Leadership’s Response to the Great Depression (2006); H. Viscount Nelson, Sharecropping, Ghetto, Slum: A History of Impoverished Blacks in Twentieth-Century America (2015); H, Viscount Nelson Obituary, The Philadelphia News, October 14, 2015; Press Release, University of California Los Angeles, Office of the Vice Chancellor-Student Affairs, October 6, 2015.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Beauchamp, Henry (1933-2013)

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

Born November 9, 1933 in Clinton, Louisiana to a farming family, Henry Beauchamp, Jr., was the youngest of Henry Clay, Sr., and Cornellia Beauchamp’s seven children.  Shortly after Henry’s 13th birthday his family moved to Yakima where he received his secondary education. Henry married his long time friend, Wilma Jean Mitchell in 1955 and they were blessed with three children.

Although beginning work as a journeyman brick mason, Henry’s talent to build with brick and mortar soon evolved to building institutions to help people. First seeing the need for a multi-service community center in Yakima, but with no fund raising experience, he nonetheless inspired a group of supporters who raised over $550,000, and the Southeast Yakima Community Center opened in 1971.  The center was then the largest anti-poverty community action center in central Washington.

Meeting Dr. Leon Sullivan, founder of the Opportunity Industrialization Centers of America (OIC) was a transformative moment for Beauchamp.  With branches around the world, OIC’s mission is to eliminate unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. The 100th OIC center soon opened in Yakima and Beauchamp became its Executive Director. Under his leadership it has evolved to become the largest OIC in America with services provided in eight cities in Washington state.

Affiliation: 
Independent Historians

Khazan, Jibreel/ Ezell Blair Jr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
One of the original Greensboro Four who took part in the Woolworth sit-ins. It is reported that as a nine-year-old he boasted to friends that he would “one day drink from the white people’s fountains and eat at their lunch counters.” Blair was the most uncertain of the four who decided to stage the Woolworth protest, and recalls calling his parents to ask their advice. They told him to do what he must and to carry himself with dignity and grace. He never strayed very far from the example of his parents, who were active in the civil rights movement, or the lessons of the people he had known as a child growing up in the south.
Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, N.C.: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Johnson C. Smith University, respectively

Ringold, Millie (1845-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Millie Ringold was a gold prospector, boarding house proprietor, and long-time resident of the Yogo mining district in the Little Belt Mountains of central Montana. According to the 1900 census, Millie Ringold—whose names are variously spelled Molly, Ringo, and Ringgold—was born a slave in 1845 in Virginia. By the 1870s she had settled in Fort Benton, Montana Territory, and worked as a nurse for the U.S. Army.

In 1879 miners discovered gold along Yogo Creek near Helena, Montana, kicking off a short-lived gold rush. Ringold was among the prospectors who flooded the region, reportedly with a wagon, a pair of mules, and an $1,800 grub stake. Although most miners left the area by 1883, Ringold remained, never relinquishing her faith that additional gold deposits would be found.

The 1900 census listed her as prospector-owner of her claim. By that point she had hired an African American man to work for her, who may have been Abraham Carter, the other African American resident listed in the 1900 census for the Yogo District, and one of those who remained after the initial boom played out. When Ringold ran out of funds to pay him, she reportedly did the manual work herself, often wearing men’s overalls.
Sources: 
Montana Historical Society library vertical file, Ringold file, Fergus County Democrat, October 1906; and Kenneth W. Hay, “I Remember Old Yogo and the Weatherwax,” Montana the Magazine of Western History 25:2 (Spring 1975), 62-9.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jackson, Michael (1958-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Eleanora E. Tate, African American Musicians (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000); Adam Woog, From Ragtime to Hip-Hop: A Century of Black American Music (Detroit: Lucent Books, 2007); Steve Huey, "Michael Jackson,"  Allmusic.com 14 Mar. 2007. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:aex1z83ajyv5~T1.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Banneker, Benjamin (1731-1806)

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

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

Williams, George Washington (1849-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

Sources: 
John Hope Franklin, George Washington Williams (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); Clyde N. Wilson, ed., American Historians, 1866-1912 (Detroit: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1986), Linda Heywood, Allison Blakely, Charles Stith, and Joshua C.Yesnowitz, eds., African Americans in U.S. Foreign Policy: From the Era of Frederick Douglass to the Age of Barack Obama (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dickerson, Isaac (1852-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Fisk University Franklin Library's
Special Collections
Fisk Jubilee Singer and preacher Isaac Dickerson was born enslaved in Wytheville, Virginia in 1852 and orphaned by the age of five. His earliest memory was his father’s sale to a slave trader in Richmond, Virginia. Young Isaac was treated kindly by his master, a colonel of Confederate Home Guards. When Union troops overran Wytheville in December 1864, his master escaped on horseback. But Dickerson was captured, marched 75 miles and paroled. He promised to serve as valet to a Union officer, but when he saw his master’s Home Guard straggle by, he ran after and eventually rejoined them. Two weeks after the close of the war, his master released him, and Dickerson eventually ended up working in Chattanooga, Tennessee for a Jewish shopkeeper, whose son taught Dickerson to read and write.

Dickerson moved to Memphis and was among the students burned out of a mission school in the Memphis Riot of 1866. Before coming to the Fisk Free Colored School, he taught for a time in Wauhatchie, Tennessee, where he was greeted many mornings by racist slogans and threats of violence daubed on the trees in his school yard. Promised twenty-five dollars a month, he was never paid. He quit his teaching job and proceeded to Fisk. While there he proved an ardent student of the Bible with an extraordinary gift for extemporaneous speaking.
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

Zuma, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa (1942-- )

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

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, the fourth president of post-apartheid South Africa, was elected to that post by the nation's parliament after the African National Congress (ANC) swept to victory in the 2009 general election.  Zuma was born on April 12, 1942, in Inkandla, South Africa, and is an ethnic Zulu member.  Zuma did not attend school and taught himself to read and write while spending his childhood in Zululand and Durban, South Africa.

In 1959, at the age of 17, Zuma joined the ANC, South Africa's largest political party, which at the time was a non-violent party campaigning against apartheid.  When the party was banned in 1961, it went underground, and Zuma became a member of the ANC's militant armed resistance wing.  He also joined the South African Communist Party in 1963.

Sources: 
"South Africa's divided ANC elects Zuma as new party president," Facts on File: Weekly World News Digest with Cumulative Index 67 (2007); “Jacob Zuma Biography”; Barry Bearak, "Waiting to Helm South Africa: President or Convict? Or Both?,” The New York Times (March 10, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Work, Monroe Nathan (1866-1945)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Monroe Nathan Work, a leading early 20th Century sociologist, was born on August 15, 1866 to his ex-slave parents in Iredell County, North Carolina. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Cairo, Illinois where Monroe’s father worked as a tenant farmer. They aspired to own their own land and in the early 1870s moved to Kansas and purchased a 160-acre farm in Summer County. Work received his elementary education in a local church building and stayed in Summer County to help on the farm until 1889, when his mother died and his father went to live with one of the married children.

At the age of 23 Monroe Work enrolled in high school in Arkansas City, Kansas. After graduating (third in his class), he tried teaching, preaching, and homesteading before continuing his education at the Chicago Theological Seminary. Work became disenchanted with seminary and transferred to the Sociology Department of the University of Chicago in 1898.

Work’s passion for sociology was driven by his belief that education eradicated racial prejudice.  He once noted, “In the end, facts will help eradicate prejudice and misunderstanding, for facts are the truth and the truth shall set us free.” Thus began a life long career dedicated to finding and documenting the facts of black life in the United States.
Sources: 
“Monroe Work” in Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); “Monroe Work” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro (1934-2002)

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

Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, Angolan insurgent fighter and longtime leader of The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), was born in Munhango, Angola on August 3, 1934 to Helena Mbundu Savimbi and Loth Savimbi. Savimbi’s father was a railway stationmaster and part-time Protestant church worker. The local Catholic missions in then-Portuguese-occupied Angola were often in conflict with Loth Savimbi because of the effectiveness of his evangelizing.

Jonas Savimbi attended Protestant missionary schools where he thrived academically. In 1958, he was granted a scholarship from United Church of Christ to attend university in Lisbon, where he began his involvement in anti-colonial politics. The Portuguese secret police detained Savimbi thrice before he decided on finishing his schooling in Switzerland, first at Fribourg University, then Lausanne University, where in 1965 he completed his coursework with honors in political science and juridical sciences. Having begun his studies in medicine, Savimbi would refer to himself as “Doctor” thereafter.

Sources: 
“Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro,” in Norbert C. Brockman, ed., An African Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1994); “Jonas Malheiro Savimbi,” in Harvey Glickman, ed., Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara : a Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992); “Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro,” in W. Martin James, ed., Historical Dictionary of Angola (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Harris, Theresa (1911-1985)

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

Actress Theresa Harris once shared with a reporter that her “greatest ambition was to be known someday as a great Negro actress.” Harris was born in 1911 in Houston, Texas to Anthony and Ina Harris. Her father was a construction worker and her mother was a well-known dramatic reader and school teacher. In the late 1920s, her family relocated to Southern California, where Harris graduated from Jefferson High School with scholastic honors and then studied music at the University of Southern California Conservatory of Music and Zoellner’s Conservatory of Music. She briefly pursued a career in theatre, gaining her most acclaimed role as the title character in the Lafayette Player’s musical production of Irene.

Sources: 

Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994);
Earl J. Morris, “Wrath of Fans Hits ‘Grapes of Wrath Type of Publicity
on Actress Theresa Harris,” Pittsburgh Courier, January 27, 1940;
Madison Harry, "Madison Harry Digs Out the Story of the Rocky Success
Which Has Led to Theresa Harris' Success,” Pittsburgh Courier, October
19, 1940.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Horton, James Africanus Beale (1835-1883)

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

Christopher Fyfe, Africanus Horton 1835-1883: West African Scientist and Patriot, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972); James Africanus Beale Horton, Davidson Nicol, ed., Black Nationalism in Africa 1867: Extracts From Political, Educational, Scientific and Medical Writings of Africanus Horton,(New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1969).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Thomas, Harry K., Jr. (1956- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Though born in New York City, New York’s Harlem community, Harry Keels Thomas, Jr. was raised in a middle-class neighborhood in Queens where most parents were civil servants.   His mother was a social worker and his father, a World War II veteran, operated small businesses.  Thomas finished Brooklyn Technical High School and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Massachusetts in 1978 with a degree in political science.  Upon earning a master’s degree in urban planning at Columbia University, he was employed for three years as an urban planner in the South Bronx.
Sources: 
Joyce Xi, “An Interview with Harry K. Thomas, US Ambassador to the Philippines,” http://thepolitic.org/an-interview-with-harry-k-thomas-u-s-ambassador-to-the-philippines/; Michelle M. Murphy, “Alumnus Carries Spirit of Holy Cross to Bangladesh,” http://www.holycross.edu/departments/publicaffairs/hcm/03fa/features/feature4.html ; Ray Butch Gamboa, “Getting to Know H.E. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr.,” http://www.philstar.com/business/2012-06-23/820335/getting-know-he-ambassador-harry-k-thomas-jr
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Carrington, Walter Charles (1930 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Walter Charles Carrington served as the United States Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Senegal from 1980 to 1981, and to Nigeria from 1993 to 1997. He married Arese Ukpoma, a Nigerian physician, and has lived in three Nigerian cities since the late 1960s.
Sources: 
“Walter Carrington,” The History Makers http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/honorable-walter-c-carrington; “Ambassador Walter C. Carrington,” Interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy, March, 9, 1988, The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project; Chido Nwangwu, “Walter Carrington: An African-American Puts Principles Above Self for Nigeria,” USAfrica Online, http://www.usafricaonline.com/Carrington.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Raymond L., Sr. (1922-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Raymond Johnson and Family in Los Angeles, 1961
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sources: 
Elaine Woo, “Raymond L. Johnson Sr. dies at 89; lawyer, civil rights activist,” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2012; “Tuskegee Airman and Civil Rights Icon Atty. Raymond L. Johnson, Sr. Succumbs,” Los Angeles Sentinel, January 12, 2012; Andie Parrish, “Raymond L.  Johnson, Sr.,” January 20, 2012, www.findagrave.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Martin, Ora Mae Lewis (1918–2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ora Mae Lewis on Her Wedding Day, 1946
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Newspaper columnist and poet Ora Mae Lewis was born March 29, 1918, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her father, Nathan Leopold Lewis, was a native of Jamaica and a decorated soldier in the British Colonial Army, and her mother Cecelia Della Atkinson, a New Orleans Creole, was a pianist. Cecelia Atkinson died when Ora was seven years old, and her father later re-married. Ora Mae and her siblings lived with her grandmother and great-grandmother. Her parents and grandparents spoke English, French, German, and Creole; however, her father forbade her from speaking anything but the King’s English. Lewis attended New Orleans public schools. Her short story, “The First Christmas,” was published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the city’s largest newspaper, when Lewis was nine.
Sources: 
Ora M. Lewis.com; Jari Honora, “The Twinkling Smiles of Ora Mae Lewis’ Twinkle Magazine,” http://www.creolegen.org/2015/11/20/the-twinkling-smiles-of-ora-mae-lewis-twinkle-magazine/; Sister Mary Anthony Scally, R.S.M., Negro Catholic Writers (1900-1943) A Bio-Bibliography, http://www.nathanielturner.com/negrocatholicwriters2.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fraser-Reid, Bertram O. (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

In the early 1990s Bertram Oliver Fraser-Reid was being touted as the first person of African descent to have a serious chance at winning the Nobel Prize in a branch of science.  In fact, this native of Coleyville, Jamaica, born February 23, 1934, was nominated for the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1998.  Fraser-Reid was awarded his B.Sc. (first-class honors) and M.Sc. degrees at Queen’s University in Canada in 1959 and his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Alberta in 1964.  From 1964 to 1966 he was a postdoctoral fellow at Imperial College, the University of London where he studied under Nobel Laureate Sir Derek Barton.  He was a chemistry professor at the University of Waterloo from 1966 to 1980, at the University of Maryland from 1980 to 1982, and from 1985 until his retirement in 1996 he was Professor of Chemistry at Duke University. 

In retirement Fraser-Reid founded the non-profit Natural Products/Glycotechnology Research Institute Inc., operating in Pittsboro, North Carolina, dedicated to studying carbohydrate chemistry/biology that relates to tropical parasitic diseases in Third World countries and specifically targeting the development of a carbohydrate-based vaccine to fight malaria.  Some of Fraser-Reid’s earlier work focused on transforming sugars into complex noncarbohydrate compounds and linking sugars into biologically active compounds to produce oliogosaccharides which could impact the combating of devastating diseases.

Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 21st Ed. Vol. 2. (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 2003). CBFSA News (December-March 1990).
http://www.takingitglobal.org/express/panorama/article.html?ContentID=5431.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Bickford, Sarah Gammon (1855-1931)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
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Sarah Blair was born into slavery on Christmas Day, 1855, on the Blair Plantation near Greensboro, North Carolina. After the Civil War Sarah lived with an aunt in Knoxville, Tennessee and changed her name to Gammon, the aunt’s name.  In 1870, Knoxville Judge John L. Murphy was appointed to a judicial post in Virginia City, Montana Territory.  Sarah, about 15 years of age, was offered free transportation to Montana in exchange for caring for the Murphy children.  She accepted and the family arrived in Virginia City, Montana in January 1871.  

Sarah entered Virginia City during its gold rush and quickly found work as a chambermaid at Virginia City’s Madison House Hotel.  In 1872 she married William Leonard Brown, a successful gold miner.  They had two sons and a daughter.  Within a few years, however, both her sons and her husband died of diphtheria.
Sources: 
Marlette C. Lacey, From Slave to Water Magnate (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McKinney, Richard I. (1906-2005)

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People
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African American History
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African American philosopher Richard I. McKinney was born on August 8, 1906 in Live Oak, Florida on the college campus of Farmer Institute (later named Florida Memorial College). The son of educators, he graduated from Morehouse College in 1931 with a major in philosophy and religion. Following his graduation from Morehouse, McKinney enrolled at Newton Theological Seminary and he completed his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1934 with a thesis entitled, "The Problem of Evil and its Relation to the Ministry to an Under-privileged Minority." In 1937, he also earned the Masters of Sacred Theology degree at Newton.

McKinney obtained his Ph.D. from Yale in 1942 with a doctoral dissertation on "Religion in Higher Education among Negroes." After Yale, McKinney conducted post-doctoral work at the University of Chicago, Columbia University and the Sorbonne in Paris. McKinney’s first academic appointment was at Virginia Union; he was an assistant professor and Director of religious activities. He later assumed the post of Dean of the School of Religion.

Sources: 
John H. McClendon III, “Dr. Richard Ishmael McKinney: Historical Summation on the Life of a Pioneering African American Philosopher,” American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience (Spring 2006); Richard I. McKinney, “Existentialist Ethics and Protest Movement,” Journal of Religious Thought 22:2(1965-1966); Joan Morgan, “Teaching the Young keeps Him Young: 90 Year Old Dr. Richard McKinney of Morgan State Still Going Strong,” Black Issues in Higher Education (August 22, 1996); and “Richard McKinney” on Historymakers.com
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Walker, Maggie Lena (1864-1934)

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People
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African American History
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Maggie Lena Mitchell was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 15, 1864. Walker’s mother, Elizabeth Draper, was an assistant cook and her father, Eccles Cuthbert, was an Irish-born newspaperman on the Van Lew estate. Her step-father, William Mitchell, was a butler on the estate. As a young girl she was forced to take on a number of responsibilities after the tragic death of her father. Mitchell worked as a delivery woman and babysitter while attending segregated public schools in Richmond. Nonetheless Mitchell graduated at the very top of her class in 1883. She then taught grade school for three years at the Lancaster School, at the same time she took classes in accounting and business.

In 1886, Maggie Lena Mitchell married Armistead Walker, Jr., a wealthy black contractor and member of her church. They had two sons, Russell and Melvin, whom she took care while her husband worked.
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); National Park Service, "Maggie Lena Walker," http://www.nps.gov/mawa/learn/historyculture/index.htm.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blackwell, Otis (1932-2002)

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

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

Smith, Moranda (1915–1950)

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

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

Brown, Corrine (1946- )

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People
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African American History
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.

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Samuel (1846-1901)

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
Cover, The History of the Yorubas
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Rev. Samuel Johnson was a nineteenth-century Anglican priest and historian of the Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria. Samuel Johnson is most noted for his manuscript The History of the Yorubas, which was posthumously published in 1921.  

Born to Henry and Sarah Johnson, in Hasting, Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1846, Samuel Johnson’s father was originally from the nation of Oyo in what is now southwestern Nigeria.  Henry Johnson claimed to be a descendent of Abiodun, the last great king of Oyo.  Captured by slavers, he was later liberated by the British Royal Navy and brought to Freetown, Sierra Leone. There he joined other "recaptives" who had grown large enough in number to dominate the politics and culture of the British Colony by the 1850s.

Sources: 
Paul Jenkins, ed., Recovery of the West African Past: African Pastors and African History in the Nineteenth Century (Basel: Basel Afrika Bibliographien, 2000); Elijah Olu Akinwumi, “Samuel Johnson,” Dictionary of African Christian Biography (2002); http://www.dacb.org/stories/nigeria/johnson_1samuel.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Thomas, James P. (1827-1913)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

James P. Thomas, a noted African American barber and businessman, was born in 1827 in Nashville, Tennessee.  He was the mulatto son of a famous antebellum judge, John Catron (one of the justices in the Dred Scott case), and a slave mother, Sally Thomas, who purchased James’s freedom when he was six years old.  However, under Tennessee law, he remained a slave as long as he resided in the state.  Therefore, he was not legally freed until March 6, 1851.

Sources: 
James Thomas, ed., Loren Schweninger, From Tennessee Slave to St. Louis Entrepreneur: The Autobiography of James Thomas  (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984); Juliet E.K. Walker “Review,” The Journal of Southern History, 51:3 (Aug. 1985); 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

Sessions, Lucy Stanton Day (1831-1910)

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People
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African American History
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Educator and abolitionist Lucy Stanton Day Sessions is believed to be the first African American woman to graduate from college, completing a Ladies Literary Course from Oberlin College in 1850. For over a century the Ohio college has recognized its early Literary Course program as equivalent to a degreed program even though it did not award graduates with a bachelor’s degree. In 1862 Oberlin College formally awarded the first bachelor’s degree to an African American woman when Mary Jane Patterson graduated with a B.A.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women: Book II (Detroit: Gale Research, 1996); Allison Keller, “Sessions, Lucy Stanton Day," Oxford African American Studies Center (Oxford University Press: 2006); Ellen N. Lawson,: "Lucy Stanton: Life on the Cutting Edge,” Western Reserve Magazine 10(1983): 9-10.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moses, Lucia Lynn (c. 1906- )

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People
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African American History
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Lauded for her masterful performance in her only film, Lucia Lynn Moses began her show business career as a chorus girl at New York’s legendary Cotton Club in the early 1920s and went on to perform in the theater. She made her film debut when David Starkman, the Caucasian owner and founder of the Philadelphia-based Colored Player’s Film Corporation (a largely white-owned and operated company that initially had a predominately white clientele but chose to cater to the growing population of African American theater goers rather than relocate) teamed up with black vaudevillian Sherman Dudley to recruit a group of black actors to appear in the company’s silent race films. Because Oscar Micheaux, leader of race films, was also producing all-black cast, silent films with themes examining intra-racial conflict, The Scar of Shame is widely mistaken as being a Micheaux film.

Lucia Lynn Moses was the daughter of Minister W.H. Moses of the New York National Baptist Church. Against her father’s wishes, Lucia and her two sisters Ethel (later a leading lady and sex symbol in Micheaux’s films) and Julia (later a Broadway performer), pursued show business careers and became part of the Cotton Club Girls lineup.

Sources: 

Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies introduction to Scar of Shame,
2004; Anonymous, “Cotton Club Girls,” Ebony, April 1949, Vo. 4, No. 6,
Bret Wood, "The Scar of Shame,"
http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article.jsp?cid=74413&mainArticleId=176227.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Quarterman, Lloyd Albert (1918-1982)

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People
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African American History
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Born May 31, 1918 in Philadelphia, Lloyd Albert Quarterman, a chemist, was one of the few African American scientists and technicians to work on the Manhattan Project, the top secret effort to design and build the atomic bomb during World War II.

Quarterman developed an interest in chemistry from a young age partly by using toy chemistry sets his parents gave him.  He attended St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina where he developed a reputation as a scholar and star football player.  After receiving his bachelor's degree from St. Augustine’s in 1943, he was quickly recruited by the War Department to work on the Manhattan Project.  Though he was only a junior chemist on the project, Quarterman had the opportunity to work closely with Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago and with Albert Einstein at Columbia University.  

Quarterman was a member of the team of scientists who isolated the isotope of uranium (U 238) necessary for the fission process, which was essential to the creation of the atom bomb.  Once the war ended, he continued to work at the University of Chicago’s laboratory hidden beneath the campus football stadium during the war and later rebuilt in a Chicago suburb and renamed the Argonne National Laboratory.  After the war, Quarterman returned to school and earned a master of science from Northwestern University in 1952. He would return to Argonne and remain at the national laboratory for the next thirty years.
Sources: 
Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moster, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); Julius H. Taylor, et al., The Negro in Science (Baltimore: Morgan State University, 1955); Ivan Van Sertima, Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1991); Stephane Groueff, The Manhattan Project: The Untold Story of the Making of the Atomic Bomb (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1967).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Johnson, William Henry (1901-1970)

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People
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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

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: For His Times and Ours

 

Image Courtesy of the Royal College of Music

In the article below Hilary Burrage, Executive Chair of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation, a United Kingdom (UK)-based non-profit organisation, describes the composer and how she came to regard and preserve his work and legacy.

It has taken three times the duration of his own lifetime for the reputation of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Britain’s greatest black classical composer, to begin to make an impact on our contemporary world.  At the time of his tragically early death in 1912, aged 37 from a chest infection, Coleridge-Taylor was a nationally feted musical figure.  His Hiawatha Trilogy of staged opera-cantatas based on the poem by Longfellow were massive commercial successes even though he gained almost nothing from them financially.  

Summary: 
<i>In the article below Hilary Burrage, Executive Chair of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation, a United Kingdom (UK)-based non-profit organisation, describes the composer and how she came to regard and preserve his work and legacy.</i>
Sources: 
Jeffrey Green, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a Musical Life (London, UK: Pickering & Chatto Publishers, 2011); Geoffrey Self, The Hiawatha Man: The Life And Work Of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (Aldershot, UK: Scolar Press, 1995); The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation: http://www.sctf.org.uk.
Contributor: 
Affiliation2: 
The Samuel Coleridge Taylor Foundation

Odusoga, Lola (1977- )

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
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Eighteen-year-old Lola Odusoga was crowned Miss Finland in 1996 (Miss Suomi in Finnish). Her full maiden name is Iyabode Ololade (Lola) Remilekun Odusoga and she was born on June 30, 1977 in the coastal city of Åbo (Turku), Finland. Her father was born in Nigeria and her mother in Finland. The name “Ololade” means "The wealthy one has come" in Youruba. In her teens Lola was a competitive dancer.

At the same time she won the title of Miss Finland, Odusoga also won Miss Press and Favourite of the TV audience awards, showing that the decision taken by the jury judging the Miss Finland contest was popular. Following the Miss Finland title, Odusoga participated in the 1996 Miss Universe competition in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 17, where she was named second runner up. Odusoga was then crowned Miss Scandinavia in 1997. She is 174 cm tall and had a weight of 54 kg during her reign as Miss Finland.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Scott, Benny (1945–2009)

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People
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African American History in the West
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William Benjamin Scott, known in the racing world as “The Professor” because of his other career as a college instructor and administrator, was a second-generation African American race car driver.  He was born on February 4, 1945 in Los Angeles, California. Scott’s father, Willie (Bill) “Bullet” Scott, raced midget cars in Southern California in the 1930s and later became a mechanic.  Benny Scott, while in high school, worked on cars with his father and raced go-carts.  
Sources: 
“Racer, Benny Scott plans to become first black driver at Indy 500,” Ebony Magazine, December 1972;  “Benny Scott,” Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, Jessie Carney Smith, editor, (California, Greenwood, December 2011);  “Black American Racers Inc.” https://industrydocuments.library.ucsf.edu/documentstore/n/y/j/v//nyjv0084/nyjv0084.pdf: Leonard T. Miller, Racing while black, how an African-American Stock Car Team Made its mark on NASCAR (New York: Seven Stories Press, February 2011); Lacy J. Banks, “The Black American Racers: Breaking in on a fast track,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 9, 1975.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ailey, Alvin (1931-1989)

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People
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African American History

 

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

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

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

Howell, Martha Ann Jane Stevens Perkins (1875–1954)

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People
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African American History in the West
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Martha Ann Jane Stevens Perkins Howell, born on January 20, 1875, was named for her maternal grandmother, Martha Vilate Crosby Flake, who had been a slave during the Mormon migration to the West. Martha Howell’s maternal grandfather was Green Flake, also born a slave, who was in the Vanguard Company for the Mormon pioneers. Martha’s mother was Lucinda Flake, and her father, of Mexican origin, was George Washington Stevens.

Black Mormons comprised a small group in the intermountain west, and the few families with many children constituted the largest marriage pool for blacks at a time where anti-miscegenation laws were solidly in place.  

On October 11, 1899, Martha and her bridegroom, Sylvester Perkins, celebrated a double wedding with Louis Leggroan and Nettie James, granddaughter of Jane Manning and Isaac James. The Perkins family was also prominent. Sylvester Perkins was the brother of Jane James’s daughter-in-law and the son of Franklin Perkins, who had been briefly married to Jane James herself.  
Sources: 
Thomas G. Alexander, Utah: The Right Place (Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1995). Alan Cherry, “Lucile Bankhead: Oral History Interview,” April 11, 1985, LDS Afro-American Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Brigham Young University, “Abner Howell Oral Interview,” Undated Audiotape, provided by Boyd Burbidge.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brigham Young University

Brown, Odessa (1920-1969)

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People
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African American History in the West
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Odessa Brown, for whom the Children’s Clinic in Seattle is named, was born April 30, 1920, in Des Arc, Arkansas.  She moved to Seattle in 1963 after receiving training as a licensed beautician at the C. J. Walker Beauty School in Chicago.  A mother of four, she supported her family by working as Community Organizer for the Central Area Motivation Program beginning in 1965, and as a beautician.  Brown was a staunch supporter of a health care facility for children in the Central Area.  She worked tirelessly in this mostly African American neighborhood to make residents aware of the health needs of the area and to express these needs to the planners at Seattle Model Cities, a federally-funded anti-poverty agency. 

Odessa Brown was a quiet, private person but when she spoke people listened, particularly when it concerned health care for children.  Her efforts persuaded Seattle Model Cities to develop a children’s clinic to serve the city’s Central District.  During her campaign for the clinic, few friends or associates were aware of her battle with leukemia which she had fought during her years as a CAMP community organizer.  Brown died on October 15, 1969.  When the time came to name the children’s clinic after it opened its doors in 1970, there was never a question but that it be named the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic.

Sources: 
Odessa Brown (1920-1969)

Mary T. Henry, Tribute: Seattle Public Places Named for Black People (Seattle: Statice Press, 1997).


Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Turner, James Milton (1840-1915)

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People
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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.
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

Dean, Mark (1957- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Three of the nine patents on the original personal computer (PC) by International Business Machines (IBM) are registered to Dr. Mark Dean, making him a key contributor in the development of the PC.  

Dean was born in 1957 to Barbara and James Dean in Jefferson City, Tennessee.  He attended an integrated school, Jefferson City High School, where white teachers and classmates were amazed by his intellect and straight-A grades.  Dean earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and an M.S. from Florida Atlantic University in 1982.  
Sources: 
Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser, “Mark Dean” in African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bldean_moeller.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Drake, Mary Jane Holmes Shipley (1841–1925)

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People
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African American History in the West
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Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake, born in Missouri in 1841, was one of six children of Robin and Polly Holmes. From 1852 to 1853 Mary Jane was the subject of a fifteen-month legal battle known as Holmes v. Ford to obtain her freedom.  That battle also helped determine the status of slavery in Oregon Territory.  

The Holmes family was owned by Missouri farmer Nathaniel Ford.  In 1844 Ford brought the family west on the Oregon Trail, promising Robin and Polly their freedom if they would help him establish a farm in the Oregon Territory.   Ford refused to honor his promise for five years after their arrival, finally relenting in 1849.  He freed the parents and their newborn son but refused to release nine-year-old Mary Jane and her other siblings including two who had been born in Oregon Territory.  Ford intended to sell each of the four children when they reached adulthood.

Ford’s refusal to release Mary Jane Holmes and her siblings prompted Robin and Polly Holmes to file suit to regain custody over their children.  The case worked its way through lower courts and finally reached the bench of Chief Justice George A. Williams of the Oregon Territory Supreme Court.  Chief Justice Williams ruled that slavery could not exist in the territory without specific legislation to protect.  He then declared the Holmes children free.  The Holmes case was the last attempt to establish slavery in Oregon through the judicial process.    
Sources: 

Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Fred Lockley, “The Case of Robin Holmes vs. Nathaniel Ford,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 23:2 (June 1922):111-137; Elizabeth McLagan, A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940 (Portland: Georgian Press, 1980).  

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Waters, Maxine (1938- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West

 

Image Courtesy of CHOSENphotography.com

U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters has dedicated over thirty years of her life to local and national politics. Born Maxine Moore Carr in St. Louis, Missouri on August 15, 1938, Waters moved to Los Angeles in 1961. While working in a garment factory and for a local telephone company, she enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles. After earning a B.A. in Sociology in 1966, Waters worked as a teacher and as Coordinator of Head Start Programs in Watts.

Maxine Waters developed a keen interest in Los Angeles politics when she began working for city councilman David Cunningham in the 1970s. Waters ran for California State Assembly in 1976, winning the election and serving seven two-year terms in Sacramento.  In 1990 Waters won a seat as Democratic representative of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. As Representative of the 35th district, which encompasses South Central Los Angeles, Playa Del Ray, Inglewood, and several other Los Angeles communities, Waters has spearheaded health care, child care, education, and welfare reform.

Sources: 
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000373 (Accessed December 5); Official Website for Representative Maxine Waters, http://www.house.gov/waters/ (Accessed December 4, 2007); Maxine Waters Skill Center Provides “Expanding Opportunities,” http://www.laschools.org/news/item?item_id=1489182 (Accessed December 6, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

White, Portia (1911-1968)

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People
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Global African History
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Portia White was the first Afro-Canadian singer trained only in Canada to reach an international stage. As an African-Canadian, her popularity helped to open previously closed doors for talented blacks who followed.

Portia May White was born in Truro, Nova Scotia, the third child of Izie Dora and William Andrew White. Her father, a Baptist minister, graduated from Acadia University in Nova Scotia in 1903. When he became the minister at Cornwallis Street Baptist Church in Halifax, young Portia joined the choir at age six, thus beginning her musical career. When she was eight years old, Portia White had learned the soprano parts from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor, and was given the opportunity to sing on Canadian radio broadcasts.
Sources: 
Lian Goodall, Singing Towards the Future: The Story of Portia White (Toronto: Napoleon Publishing, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Muhammed Toure / Askia Muhammad I (c. 1442-1538)

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
Tomb of Askia Muhammad Toure at Gao, Mali
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Thomas A. Hale, Scribe, Griot, and Novelist: Narrative Interpreters of the Songhay Empire (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1990); John O. Hunwick, Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ransom, Reverdy Cassius (1861-1959)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Reverdy Cassius Ransom was a civil rights leader, editor and the forty-eighth bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Ransom was born in Flushing, Ohio to George and Harriet (Johnson) Ransom. In 1869, Ransom’s family moved to Cambridge, Ohio, where he spent several years in segregated public schools. As his mother did not believe this education to be equal to education whites were receiving, she had young Ransom tutored by some of the members of the white families for whom she worked for as a domestic servant. Due to the determination of his mother, who deemed that if young white men and women were able to enter college, then her son should as well, Ransom enrolled at Wilberforce University, an all-black institution, in 1881.

The next year Ransom transferred to Oberlin College, an ostensibly integrated institution which nonetheless still segregated its social and recreational activities. After addressing a protest meeting to fight the college’s recent decision to segregate the Ladies Dining Hall, he lost his scholarship at Oberlin, and then transferred back to Wilberforce where he graduated in 1886. Three years before his graduation, Ransom had been licensed to preach. He was ordained as a deacon in 1886 and in 1924 was elected the forty-eighth bishop of the AME Church at Louisville, Kentucky; he remained an active bishop until 1952.
Sources: 
Anthony B. Pinn, ed. Moral Evil and Redemptive Suffering (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McQueen, Thelma “Butterfly” (1911-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of www.nndb.com
Actress Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen was born in Tampa, Florida on January 8, 1911. Her father, Wallace McQueen, worked as a stevedore and her mother, Mary Richardson, was a housekeeper and domestic worker. After McQueen’s parents separated, her mother moved from job to job and McQueen lived in several cities on the East Coast before settling in Augusta, Georgia. As a young teen, McQueen moved to Harlem, New York, where her mother worked as a cook.  

McQueen enrolled in the Lincoln Training School for Nursing in the Bronx before pursuing an acting career. She joined Venezula Jones’s Youth Theatre Group in Harlem and performed in the Group’s 1935 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As a result of her role in the production’s “Butterfly Ballet,” she adopted “Butterfly” as her stage name.  In 1937, McQueen debuted on Broadway in Brown Sugar.  She also appeared in What a Life (1938) and the Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong musical, Swingin the Dream (1939).

McQueen received her big break in Hollywood when David O. Selznick cast the 28-year-old actor as Prissy in Gone with the Wind (1939). McQueen’s role as Prissy brought her national fame and it remains her most remembered performance.
Sources: 
Stephen Bourne, Butterfly McQueen Remembered (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008); Axel Nissen, Actresses of a Certain Character (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2007); Dwandalyn R. Reece, “Butterfly McQueen,” in African American National Biography, vol. 5, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Upshaw, Eugene (Gene) Thurman (1945-2008)

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

Paste over your article text hereGene Upshaw was a Hall of Fame professional football player for the Oakland Raiders and Executive Director of the National Football League (NFL) Players’ Association.

Upshaw was born in Robstown, Texas in 1945 where he picked cotton as a child and played high school football. He later played football at mostly Latino Texas College of Arts and Industries (now Texas A&M University, Kingsville), before being drafted as a guard for the Oakland Raiders in 1967.

Upshaw’s professional football career as a guard with the Oakland Raiders lasted from 1967 until 1981.  He was considered one of the best offensive linemen in the history of the sport.  During his illustrative career he was voted top lineman in 1977 and runner-up for that honor in 1980. Upshaw was the only player in the NFL history to play in three Super Bowls in three different decades for the same team.  In 1987 Upshaw became the first guard to be voted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

In 1983 Upshaw became the first African American to serve as executive director of the NFL players union.  Assuming the leadership at a time when the union was in dire financial straits, he rebuilt the organization, led the players through a strike in 1987 and afterwards helped build the NFL into the most prosperous professional sports league in the country.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bolden Jr., Charles F. (1946-)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of NASA
Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., NASA’s first permanent black administrator, was born to Charles Frank and Ethel Bolden, both teachers, on August 19th, 1946 in Columbia, South Carolina.  He rose to the rank of Major General in the United States Marine Corps and was a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut before being named to head the U.S. space agency.

Bolden graduated from C.A. Johnson High School in Columbia, S.C. in 1964.  In 1968, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Science from the United States Naval Academy.  He completed a Master’s degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California in 1977.
Sources: 
Carol S. Bostch, "Charles F. Bolden Jr." University of Southern California, Dec. 23, 2009; "Charles F. Bolden Jr." Times Topics. The New York Times, 26 May 2009; http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/charles_f_bolden_jr/index.html; NASA - Charles F. Bolden, Jr., NASA Administrator (July 17, 2009 - Present)." NASA – Home. http://www.nasa.gov/about/highlights/bolden_bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Preer, Evelyn (1896-1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Evelyn Preer, one of the first African American silent screen actresses to transition into sound Hollywood films, was born on July 21, 1896 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After her father’s death, Preer and her mother relocated to Chicago, Illinois where she completed high school before pursuing acting.

Preer’s big break came when she landed a role in Oscar Micheaux’s first film, The Homesteader (1919), in which she played a tragically unhappy woman abandoned by her husband for a mulatto woman whom he believed to be white. Impressed with her talent, Micheaux cast Preer in several roles in which she generally played dramatic characters, challenging many of the prevailing black film stereotypes. Preer expanded her acting abilities into the area of theater, frequently alternating between the screen and stage as she became a staple for Micheaux’s dramatic films and an esteemed actress for the Lafayette Players.

Preer met and married stage actor Edward Thompson while traveling with the players and the duo headlined productions for the traveling section of the Lafayette Players throughout the early 1920s. Preer’s impressive theatricality led her to Broadway where she recorded with the legendary musical composer Duke Ellington, performed with Ethel Waters, and won acclaim for her role as Sadie Thompson in the revival of Somerset Maugham’s classic melodrama Rain.

Sources: 

Pearl Bowser, Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films and His Circle: African-American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2001); Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black. The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977); Francesca Sr. Thompson, Drop me off in Harlem, http://www.artedge.kennedy-center.org/exploring/harlem/themes/lafayette.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gumbel, Bryant (1948- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Bryant Gumbel and Soviet Leaders on the Today Show, 1984
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bryant Gumbel was the first African-American co-host of the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) The Today Show and is well known as a broadcast journalist and sportscaster.  Gumbel was born in1948 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Rhea Alice and Richard Dunbar Gumbel, a city clerk and a judge, respectively.  He grew up with two younger sisters and a younger brother, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Gumbel graduated from Maine’s Bates College in 1970 with a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts.  He first worked as a salesman for Westvaco Corporation, an industrial paper company in New York City.  He left the job after six months and, in 1971, became a sports writer for Black Sports magazine.  The following year, Gumbel became a sportscaster for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, California. In the fall of 1975, he became a co-host for NBC Sports National Football League’s pre-game show, Grandstand.  
Sources: 
"Contemporary Black Biography”: Volume 14, Profiles from the International Black Community (Book, 1997) [WorldCat.org]." WorldCat.org: The World's Largest Library Catalog. http://www.worldcat.org/title/contemporary-black-biography-volume-14-profiles-from-the-international-black-community/oclc/527366242 (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1997; Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Men (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1998), Bryan Gumbel Biography, http://www.filmreference.com/film/11/Bryant-Gumbel.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Anderson, Charles W., Jr. (1907-1960)

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

In 1935, Charles W. Anderson became the first black legislator in Kentucky and in the South since the Reconstruction.  He championed the cause of civil rights in Kentucky including greatly improving the access of African Americans to education during six terms as a legislator.

Anderson was born in 1907 in Louisville, Kentucky to Dr. Charles W. and Tabetha Murphy Anderson.  He attended Kentucky State College and Wilberforce University (B.A. 1927) and received a J.D. degree from Howard University in 1931.  In 1933 he passed the bar exam and started his own practice in Louisville.  

In 1935 Anderson ran as a Republican for the Kentucky House of Representatives and won.  He served in the Kentucky Legislature until 1958.  One of his most important legislative accomplishments was the Anderson-Mayer State Aid Act which provided $7,500 annually to African American students to attend out of state colleges because Kentucky's segregated college system could not accommodate all the blacks at the one all-black state school, Kentucky State College, in Frankfort.  He also passed bills improving public school facilities and legislated for a $100 education and travel fund for each black student who was forced to travel outside of his or her county to attend segregated schools.  Combating lynching in Kentucky, Anderson was credited with the repeal of the state’s public hanging law.

Sources: 

John Benjamin Horton, Not Without a Struggle: An Account of the Most Significant Political and Social-Action Changes That Have Occurred in the Lives of Black Kentuckians in the  Twentieth Century, (New York: Vantage Press, 1979); http://kchr.ky.gov/gallergreatblack.htm?&pageOrder=0&selectedPic=1; http://www.kyenc.org/entry/a/ANDER01.html;

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Boykin, Keith (1965- )

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

Author, commentator, speaker, political advisor, and columnist Keith Boykin was born in St. Louis, Missouri on August 28, 1965 but was raised in the suburb of Florissant, Missouri.

Boykin’s parents separated during his childhood, but he enjoyed close relationships with both sides of his family and thrived in his new environment. He excelled in school, participated in student government, and played on several sports teams. At fifteen, Boykin’s mother, a government employee, was transferred to California and he went to live with his father in Florida.

An excellent student, Boykin excelled academically at Dartmouth College where he was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, track team member, and an exchange student at the Universidad de Grenada in Spain.  He graduated from Dartmouth with a B.A. degree in 1987.

Sources: 
Keith Boykin, Respecting the Soul: Daily Reflections for Black Lesbians and Gays (New York: Avon Books, 1999); Linda Rapp and Keith Boykin, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2006), Retrieved from www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/boykin_k.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Belle, Dido Elizabeth (1761-1804)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray, 1779
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dido Elizabeth Belle is best known for the 1779 painting of her alongside her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, the great-niece of William Murray, The First Earl of Mansfield. The Earl, also known as Lord Mansfield, was at the time the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the highest ranking jurist in Great Britain. Mansfield was famously involved in two important cases involving slavery, the Sommersett Case in 1772 where he ruled that English law did not sanction slavery in Great Britain (a ruling highly praised by abolitionists), and the Zong Massacre Case (1783) where he ruled in favor of insurers who refused to pay a ship captain who had purposely threw overboard a number of slaves on his ship.
Sources: 
Gene Adams, “Dido Elizabeth Belle: A Black Girl at Kenwood. An Account of a Protégé
of the 1st Lord Mans?eld,” Camden History Review, 12 (1984); Reyahn King, “Belle, Dido Elizabeth (1761?–1804),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Paula Byrne, "Portrait of the Mystery Lady: The Incredible Story behind the 18th-century Painting That Inspired a New Movie," Daily Mail, N.p., May 3, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2618656/Portrait-mystery-lady-The-incredible-story-18th-century-painting-inspired-new-movie.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bowers, Thomas J. (1823-1885)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Thomas J. Bowers, businessman, pianist, and activist, was best known as an African American opera singer, who was compared favorably with the leading world tenors of the mid-nineteenth century.  

Bowers was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1823, one of John C. Bowers Sr. and Henrietta Bowers’s thirteen children. John was a secondhand clothing dealer, organist, vestryman (warden), and school trustee at St. Thomas African Episcopal Church.

Thomas showed a strong desire to learn music at a young age. His older brother John became his first music teacher, and, by the age of eighteen, Thomas succeeded his brother as the organist at St. Thomas. Despite his natural abilities, his parents did not approve of any public performances outside of the church, and, for quite some time, Thomas respected their wishes. Instead he and John were trained as tailors by their father who had opened a fashionable merchant tailor shop at 71 South Second Street that catered to upper class gentlemen and businessmen in Philadelphia.
Sources: 
James Monroe Trotter, Music and some highly musical people (1878, reproduced New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1968); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and the African American Experience New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brace, Jeffrey (1742?-1827)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Dial, Thornton (1928-2016)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Thornton Dial in His Studio in Bessemer, Alabama, 2011
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Thornton Dial, a native Alabamian, was an artist and sculptor famous for yard show-influenced, mixed media pieces that used discarded everyday objects to symbolize the history and experience of African Americans in the South. While he did not belong to any formal school of art, Dial is widely considered to be one of the most important voices in the outsider art movement.

Thornton Dial was born on September 10, 1928 on a cotton plantation near Emelle, Alabama. His mother, Mattie Bell, was an unwed teenager at the time and asked her grandmother to raise her child. Dial lived with his great-grandmother on the sharecropper farm of his cousin, Buddy Jake Dial, and took his last name. Dial recalls that he spent more time working on the farm than attending school: “They told me, ‘Learn to figure out your money and write your name. That’s as far as a Negro can go.’” At age 12, Thornton Dial dropped out of school. Even though he had made it through third grade, he could not read or write.
Sources: 
Richard Lacayo, “Outside the Lines,” TIME Magazine, March 14, 2011, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2056700-1,00.html; William Grimes, “Thornton Dial, Outsider Artist Whose Work Told of Black Life, Dies at 87,” New York Times, January 26, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/27/arts/thornton-dial-outsider-artist-whose-work-told-of-black-life-dies-at-87.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Anderson, Marian (1897-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Raymond Arsenault, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert that Awakened America (New York: Bloomsbury Press_, 2009); Russell Freedman, The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights (New York: Clarion Books, 2004)
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Seymour, William J. (1870-1922)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William J. Seymour was born in Centerville, Louisiana, to former slaves Simon and Phillis Seymour, who raised him in the Baptist church. While living in Cincinnati, Ohio, he was influenced by holiness teachings, and then he moved to Houston, Texas, where he heard Charles Fox Parham’s teaching on Apostolic Faith. The teaching, simply put, combined the baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues (glossalalia), such as was experienced in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. Seymour embraced the teaching, moved to Los Angeles, California, and began preaching in the spring of 1906 in an abandoned church on Azusa Street, which he named the Apostolic Faith Mission. From this place, the Pentecostal movement spread across the globe.

Sources: 
William J. Seymour, ed. The Azusa Street Papers: A Reprint The Apostolic Faith Mission Publications, Los Angeles, California (1906–08). Foley, Ala.: Together in the Harvest Publications, 1997; Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2001); http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/199904/026_azusa.cfm.
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Newton, Huey P. (1942–1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Monroe, Louisiana, the youngest and seventh son, Newton was named after the populist governor Huey Long.  His parents moved to Oakland, California during World War II seeking economic opportunities.  Newton attended Merritt College, where he met Bobby Seale. At Merritt, Newton fought to diversify the curriculum and hire more black instructors.  He also was exposed to a rising tide of Black Nationalism and briefly joined the Afro-American Association.  Within this group and on his own, he studied a broad range of thinkers, including Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, E. Franklin Frazier, and James Baldwin.
Sources: 
Huey P. Newton, To Die For The People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton (New York, Random House, 1972); Newton, War against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (New York: Harlem River Press, 1996); and Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ‘til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dunbar-Nelson, Alice Ruth Moore (1875-1935)

Vignette Type: 
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
Alice Ruth Moore, educator, author and social activist, was born on July 19, 1875 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Patricia (Wright) Moore and Monroe Moore.  She attended public school in New Orleans and enrolled in the teacher training program at Straight University in that city in 1890. Two years later she graduated and began teaching in New Orleans.    
Sources: 
Eleanor Alexander, Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow, The Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore (New York: Penguin Group, 2001); Patsy B. Perry, “Alice Dunbar-Nelson,”  in J.C. Smith, ed., Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale  Research, 1992); The Alice Dunbar-Nelson Papers, University of Delaware.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Winkfield, Jimmy (1882-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jimmy Winkfield, born on April 12, 1882, became famous as an early 20th Century horse jockey.  Winkfield, the youngest of 17 children, was born in Chilesburg, Kentucky, a town just outside of Lexington.  As a child, he had a routine that included performing chores on the farm where his father was a sharecropper and overseeing the thoroughbred parades down the country roads. He and his family moved to Cincinnati in 1894.


On August 10, 1898, Winkfield rode his first race. Aboard Jockey Joe at Chicago's Hawthorne Racetrack, he raced his horse out of the gate and rode across the path of the three inside horses, in an effort to get to the rail. This aggressive behavior did not go over well with racetrack officials and he earned a one year suspension.  Winkfield learned from his mistake and on September 18, 1899, won his first race.  Six months later he rode for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.

In 1901, at 19, Winkfield captured his first Kentucky Derby title astride a horse named Eminence. He went on to win 161 races that year, including key victories in the Latonia Derby on Hernando and Tennessee Derby where he rode Royal Victor. While these were spectacular accomplishments, he returned to the Kentucky Derby in 1902 and won again in the most important race of his career.  

Sources: 
Ed Hotaling, Wink: the Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004); Neil Schmidt, “Black Jockey’s journey spanned different worlds.” The Cincinnati Enquirer. April 29, 2002.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A jazz pianist and bandleader, Count Basie was one of the leading musicians of the Big Band “Swing” era. His Count Basie Orchestra was formed in 1936, and featured singers such as Billie Holliday, and notable musicians including Lester Young, Jo Jones, and Walter Page. The band lasted for many decades, outliving Basie himself.  
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage (New York: Facts on File, 1997); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music (San Diego, California: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/jazz/home/.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ballance, Frank W., Jr. (1942 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frank W. Ballance, Jr., was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2003 to 2004, representing the 1st Congressional District in North Carolina.  Prior to his tenure as a member of Congress, Ballance served in the North Carolina State House of Representatives as well as its State Senate.

Ballance was born in 1942 in Windsor, North Carolina.  He received his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University in 1963.  He then earned a law degree from the same university in 1965.  Ballance was a faculty member at the South Carolina State University School of Law before entering private practice in 1966.  
Sources: 
“Frank W. Ballance, Jr.” in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008): Don Carrington, “Ballance Pleads Guilty, Keeps Giving,” Carolina Journal, May 5, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Councill, William Hooper (1849-1909)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Hooper Councill, educator and race leader, was born into slavery in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on July 12, 1849. His parents were both slaves on the Councill plantation. When William was five, his father escaped to Canada and tried unsuccessfully to obtain freedom for his family.  In 1857, William, his mother, and his brother, Cicero, were sold at the Richmond slave market to a trader, who in turn sold them on to a planter in Alabama. His two other brothers were sold separately.  

When Union troops occupied Chattanooga, Tennessee during the Civil War, Councill and his family escaped through Union lines to the North.  He returned to Alabama in 1865 to attend a school for freedmen that had been started by Quakers. This would be Councill’s only formal schooling.  He worked and studied for three years before graduating in 1867.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982); August Meier, Negro Thought in America 1880-1915, Racial Ideologies in the Age of Booker T. Washington, (University of Michigan Press, 1964); Vivian Gunn Morris, Curtis L. Morris and Asa G. Hilliard, III, The Price They Paid: Desegregation in an African American Community (New York: Teachers College Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coleman, Gary (1968-2010)

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

 Gary Coleman and Conraid Bain from
"Different Strokes" tv show
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis
Gary Coleman, best known for his child star status from the hit television sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, was born on February 8, 1968, and raised in Zion, Illinois. A talent scout for TV producer Norman Lear spotted Coleman in a Chicago bank commercial, and at the age of 10 he was cast in the role of Arnold Jackson, the younger of two African American brothers adopted by a wealthy white man in New York City. Diff’rent Strokes, which premiered in 1978, ran for seven seasons on NBC and one season on ABC.  The last episode aired in 1986. During the show’s tenure, Coleman became famous for his signature catch-phrase, “What’chu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?,” and his impeccable comedic timing. Between 1980-1984, Coleman won four consecutive People’s Choice Awards as Favorite Young TV Performer for his portrayal of the character Arnold Jackson.

Adopted by W.G. “Willie” and Edmonia Sue Coleman at four days old, Coleman was born with a congenital kidney disease for which he would later receive two transplants, one at age 5 and one at age 16, as well as recurrent dialysis throughout his life. These treatments permanently affected Coleman’s growth patterns, leaving his height as an adult at 4 feet 8 inches tall.
Sources: 
Jim Cheng, “Gary Coleman dies at age 42,” USA Today (5/28/2010); Anita Gates, “Gary Coleman, Diff’rent Strokes Star, Dies at 42,” New York Times (5/28/2010); Dennis McLellan, “Gary Coleman dies at 42; child star of hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes,” Los Angeles Times (5/29/2010)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Whipper, Leigh (1876-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Leigh Whipper while making the film,
"The Oxbow Incident." 
Photo courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis

Leigh Whipper, the first black member of the Actors’ Equity Association (1913), was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1876. His father, William James Whipper, was a Civil War Veteran from Connecticut who settled in South Carolina during the Reconstruction period and became an attorney in Charleston. His mother, Frances Rollin Whipper, was a writer. Whipper attended public school in Washington, D.C. After leaving Howard University Law School in 1895, he immediately joined the theater.

Never a drama student, Whipper honed his acting abilities by observing the techniques of some of the most established actors of his day and interpreting the voices of some of his favorite writers, including Paul Laurence Dunbar. By the turn of the century, he had made his first Broadway appearance in Georgia Minstrels and went on to appear in classical Broadway productions of Stevedore, Of Mice and Men, and Porgy. Whipper achieved national fame for his characterization of the Crabman of the Catfish Row in Porgy, interposing into his part the Crabman’s Song. It was later incorporated into the film version.

Sources: 

Leigh Whipper Papers, 1861–1963, Schomburg Collection, New York Public Library; “Leigh Whipper, 98, Character Actor,” The New York Times, Sunday, July 27, 1975, p. 35.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Leary, Sherrard Lewis (1835-1859)

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

Lewis Leary was one of several Black men who were killed during John Brown’s raid on the Harpers Ferry arsenal in October 1859. It was a defining moment in African American history.

Born Sherrard Lewis Leary (sometimes referred to as Lewis Sheridan Leary), he was the second of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina to free Black parents. His father Matthew Leary, a saddle maker, was the mixed race son of Jeremiah O’Leary, a descendent of Irish immigrants. His mother Julia A. Menriel Leary was of mixed race, with conflicting accounts of her heritage.

Frustrated with southern racism, 21-year-old Leary moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1856 where he earned a living as a harness maker. It was no coincidence that Leary found a more hospitable environment at Oberlin. Members of his extended family lived in the area, including his nephew, John Anthony Copeland, Jr., who also participated in the Harpers Ferry raid. Located in Lorain County, southwest of Cleveland, Oberlin was at the time home to a concentrated network of Black and white abolitionists and served as an important site on the Underground Railroad. The town was also the site of Oberlin College, the first interracial and co-educational college in the country. Two years after moving to Oberlin he married Mary Sampson Patterson, and they had one daughter, Lois.

Sources: 
Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman, eds., Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Athens, OH: Ohio Univ. Press, 2005), Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer, eds. Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of Abolitionism (NY: The New Press,2006), and “Lewis S. Leary,” www.ohiohistorycentral.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Talbert, Mary B.(1866–1923)

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

Mary Burnett Talbert, clubwoman and civil rights leader, was originally born Mary Burnett on September 18, 1866 in Oberlin, Ohio, to Cornelius and Caroline Nicholls Burnett.  Mary Burnett graduated from Oberlin High School at the age of sixteen and in 1886 graduated from Oberlin College with a literary degree at nineteen.  Shortly afterwards, Burnett accepted a teaching position at Bethel University in Little Rock, Arkansas and quickly rose in the segregated educational bureaucracy of the city.  In 1887, after only a year at Bethel University, Burnett became the first African American woman to be selected Assistant Principal of Little Rock High School. Four years later in 1891, however, Burnett married William H. Talbert, an affluent business man for Buffalo, New York and resigned her position at Little Rock High School and moved to her husbands hometown. One year later Mary B. and William Talbert gave birth to their only child, a daughter, Sarah May Talbert.

Sources: 

Hallie Q. Brown, Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction (Xenia, Ohio: Aldine Publishing Company, 1926); Rayford Logan, ed., Dictionary of American Negro Biography, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982); Lillian Serece Williams, Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Yardley, William Francis (1844-1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Francis Yardley was a politician, businessman, lawyer, and civil rights advocate in post-Civil War Tennessee. Born free on January 8, 1844 to an Irish mother and a black father in Knoxville, Tennessee, he was abandoned at the doorstep of the Yardley family, a prominent white family who took him in, named, and raised him. The Yardleys apprenticed young William out to learn to read and write until he turned 21.  He was also mentored by Thomas Humes, the rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Sources: 
Jack Neely, “The Singular Career of William Francis Yardley,” MetroPulse, Vol. 12, No. 8 (Knoxville, Tennessee: Feb 21, 2002); Jack Neely, “A Progressive Age,” MetroPulse (Knoxville, Tennessee: Sept 3, 2008); West Tennessee Historical Society, The West Tennessee Historical Society Papers Issue 49 (Memphis: West Tennessee Historical Society, 1995);   http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entry.php?rec=1544
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Doe, Samuel Kanyon (1951-1990)

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

Samuel Kanyon Doe, army officer and Master Sergeant, was the unelected President of Liberia from 1980 to 1990.  Notorious for his human rights violations, Doe seized control of Liberia in April of 1980 through a bloody coup.  A polarizing figure throughout his tenure, Doe was both loved and hated within his own country.  Prolonging his power by brutally stifling all forms of opposition, by 1989 Doe’s actions created a resistance movement that eventually toppled his government.

An ethnic Krahn, Samuel Doe was born on May 6, 1951 in Tuzon, Grand Gedeh County, in southeastern Liberia.  Having come from humble origins, at age eighteen he enlisted in the Liberian army, completing his military training at the Communications School in the Ministry of Defense in Monrovia in 1971.  Exhibiting remarkable leadership capabilities, Doe in 1979 was selected to be trained by United States (US) Special Forces in Liberia, and within a year was promoted to Master Sergeant. 

Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004); A. O. Asibey, “Liberia: Political Economy of Underdevelopment and Military ‘Revolution Continuity of Change.’” Canadian Journal of Development Studies 2, no. 2 (1981): 386-407; L. Barret, “The Siege of Monrovia.” West Africa (23-29 November 1992): 816-818.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gittens, Charles LeRoy (1928–2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Charles L. Gittens was an American Secret Service agent.  He joined the Secret Service in 1956, becoming the agency's first African American agent.  An Army veteran, Gittens began his career at the agency's office in Charlotte, North Carolina.  However, he was soon posted to its New York field office, where he was part of an elite “special detail” that targeted counterfeiters and other criminals across the country.
Sources: 
Jenée Desmond-Harris, “First Black Secret Service Special Agent Dies,” The Root, posted August 10, 2011, 4:15 p.m.; Abraham Bolden, The Echo from Dealey Plaza (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008); Del Quentin Wilber, “Charles L. Gittens, First Black Secret Service Agent, Dies at 82,” Washington Post, August 10, 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gloucester, John (1776- 1822)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership:
Public Domain"
John Gloucester, founder of the first African American Presbyterian Church in the United States, was born enslaved in Blount County, Tennessee, in 1776. Before gaining his freedom, his name was Jack, and as a believer he began converting slaves to Christianity at an early age.

Rev. Gideon Blackburn, the new Pastor at New Providence Presbyterian Church in Blount County, Tennessee, recognized the potential in Jack and after personally teaching him theology and other subjects, he purchased Jack for the sole purpose of helping him gain his freedom. Although Blackburn's 1806 petition for freedom to the Tennessee legislature was denied, Blackburn received a certificate of manumission for Jack through the local courts the same year. Upon freedom, 30 year-old Jack changed his name to John Gloucester.
Sources: 
George Apperson, “Emancipation of a Tennessee Slave,” The Presbyterian Voice (September 1999); Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1789-1820; The Leon Gardiner Collection, The Historical Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historians

Baquet, Charles R., III (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Charles R. Baquet III was born December 24, 1941 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  He attended public schools in the city and in 1963 he earned his B.A. in history from Xavier University in New Orleans. In 1975, he earned his M.A. in public administration from the Maxwell School of Government at Syracuse University in New York.

After graduating from Xavier, Baquet became a volunteer for the Peace Corps. From 1965 to 1967, he taught English and Social Science in the Somali Republic.  In 1967, Baquet returned to the United States and joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which functioned as a domestic version of the Peace Corps.  

Sources: 
Peace Corps Online: The Independent News Forum Serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/2629/1010237.html; Xavier University of Louisiana, Unique History and Results: Alumni, http://www.xula.edu/history/alumni.php; The American Presidency Project: Nomination of Charles R. Baquet III to Be United States Ambassador to Djibouti,  http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=19266.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Bryan, Andrew (1737-1812)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Carolyn L. Robertson Payton (1925–2001)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dr. Carolyn L. Robertson Payton was the first African American and the first woman to become the director of the U.S. Peace Corps. She was appointed in 1977 by U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Carolyn L. Robertson Payton was born on May 13, 1925, in Norfolk, Virginia, to Bertha M. Flanagan, a seamstress, and Leroy S. Robertson, a ship steward. She graduated from Booker T. Washington High school in Norfolk in 1941 and received her B.S. degree in Home Economics from Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1945. Payton remained close to Bennett College, establishing a scholarship fund there in the late 1990s.

Payton then attended the University of Wisconsin where her tuition and other expenses were paid by the state of Virginia as part of the state’s policy of sending black graduate students to out-of-state institutions rather than allowing them to received advanced degrees at the state’s universities. Payton received her Master’s in Psychology from Wisconsin in 1948.
Sources: 
Gwendolyn P. Keita, “Heritage Column: Carolyn Robertson Payton (1925-2001),” in PsycEXTRA Dataset: Gwendolyn Keita and Tressie Muldrow, “Carolyn Robertson Payton,” in A.N. O'Connell & N. Felipe Russo (eds.), Women in psychology: A Bio-bibliographic sourcebook (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990); Carolyn L. Robertson Payton Obituary, Washington Post, April 22, 2001.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cayton, Horace Roscoe, Jr. (1903-1970)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Horace Roscoe Cayton, Jr., was the son of Horace and Susie Cayton and the grandson of Hiram R. Revels, the first black U.S. Senator. After graduation from Seattle's Franklin High School and the University of Washington, Cayton attended the University of Chicago. It was in Chicago that his career as a sociologist was defined. He was "determined to learn all there was about the Negro community." Teaching assignments at Tuskegee and Fisk University broadened his knowledge.


Returning to Chicago after his teaching sojourns, one of his first in-depth research efforts was interviewing black policemen on Chicago's police force. His first book, written in collaboration with economics professor George S. Mitchell, was Black Workers and the New Unions. Cayton and Clair St. Drake, a social anthropologist, co-authored Black Metropolis which was published in 1945. The book was based largely on data collected from a major research project ostensibly developed to investigate juvenile delinquency but was, in reality, a vehicle to study the social structure of Chicago's entire black community (Cayton-Warner Research Project). Still considered a landmark study, Black Metropolis won the Anisfield-Wolf Award for best book published on race relations.

Sources: 
Horace R. Cayton, Long Old Road (New York: Trident Press, 1965); Margaret Walker, Richard Wright Daemonic Genius: A Portrait of the Man, A Critical Look at His Work (New York: Warner Books, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for African American Historical Research and Preservation (AAAHRP)

Clarke, John Henrik (1915-1998)

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

John Henrik Clarke, historian, black nationalist, and Pan-Africanist, was a pioneer in the formation of Africana studies in the United States.  Principally a self-trained historian, Clarke dedicated his life to correcting what he argued was the prevailing view that people of Africa and of African decent had no history worthy of study.  Over the span of his career Clarke became one of the most respected historians of African and African American history.

Clarke was born on New Year’s Day, 1915, in Union Springs, Alabama.  He described his father as a “brooding, landless sharecropper,” who struggled to earn enough money to purchase his own farm, and his mother as a domestic.  Clarke’s mother Willie Ella (Mays) Clarke died in 1922, when he was about seven years old.

Sources: 
John Henrik Clarke, “Portrait of a Liberation Scholar;” Henrik Clarke, in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana (New York, Basic Civitas Books, 1999); http://africana.library.cornell.edu/.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Flipper, Henry Ossian (1856-1940)

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

Born near Thomasville, Georgia on March 21, 1856, Henry O. Flipper rose to prominence as the first African American graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1877. Despite being born into slavery to Festus, a shoemaker, and Isabella Flipper, Henry was reared in a family that emphasized excellence, and he and his younger brothers all became respected members of their communities as a military officer, AME bishop (Joseph), physician (E.H.), college professor (Carl), and farmer (Festus, Jr.).

Sources: 
Henry O. Flipper, The Colored Cadet at West Point: Autobiography of Lieut. Henry Ossian Flipper, U.S.A. First Graduate of Color from the U.S. Military Academy  (New York: H. Lee & Company, 1878); Henry O. Flipper, Negro Frontiersman: The Western Memoirs of Henry O. Flipper, First Negro graduate of West Point, Theodore D. Harris, ed., (El Paso: Texas Western College Press, 1963); Charles M. Robinson, III, The Court Martial of Lieutenant Henry Flipper (Texas Western Press: El Paso, Texas, 1994); The Online Handbook of Texas.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Pickens, William (1881-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The History Cooperative
William Pickens was born January 15, 1881 in Anderson County, South Carolina. His parents were liberated slaves who migrated to Arkansas when he was a young boy.  Young Pickens worked in cotton fields and in sawmills while attending the local segregated public school.  Pickens entered Talladega College in Alabama in 1898 and left four years later as the school’s most illustrious graduate in its history. In 1902 he entered Yale University in Connecticut and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa where he won the Henry James Ten Eyek Prize over thirty seven competitors in 1903.  Pickens became an expert linguist and graduated from Yale with a second B.A. degree in classics in 1904.  In 1905 Pickens married Minnie Cooper McAlpine. The couple had three children.  
Sources: 
William Pickens, Bursting Bonds (Boston: Jordan & More Press, 1923); William M. Brewer, The Journal of Negro History 39:3 (July 1954): 242-244: Sheldon Avery, Up from Washington: William Pickens and the Negro Struggle for Equality (Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Franks, Gary (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
When Gary Franks was elected to Congress in 1990, he was the first black representative from Connecticut and the first black Republican in Congress in nearly 50 years. Son of a brass factory worker and a dietary specialist, education was a high priority in Franks’s Waterbury family. In fact, Gary was the only one of the five Franks children who did not obtain a professional degree.

After he attended a private Catholic school in Connecticut, Franks received an academic scholarship to Yale, graduating in 1975 with a major in sociology. His first post-graduate experience came from working as an industrial and labor relations executive in Connecticut. When his father began to suffer from diabetes, Franks took over the management of his father’s property holdings and he eventually opened his own real estate business.

As a leading businessman in Waterbury, Franks took a keen interest in local affairs. He entered local politics as an alderman and served until 1990. After an unsuccessful race for the Connecticut State Legislature, he ran on the Republican ticket for the U.S. House of Representatives and won in 1990. This victory made him the nation’s top-ranking elected black Republican.
Sources: 
Gary Franks, Searching for the Promised Land: an African American’s Optimistic Odyssey (New York: Regan Books, 1996); “Franks, Gary A.,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=F000348.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bridgetower, George (1780-1860)

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

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

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

Dixon, Thomas (1931- )

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

Thomas Dixon, born in Sparta, Georgia, on March 28, 1931, was the founding director of the Tacoma Urban League and one of Tacoma’s civil rights leaders during the 1960s and 1970s.  Having spent his professional life in Tacoma, Dixon nonetheless retains a deep connection to his birthplace.  His grandfather, a former slave, began to buy land and plant cotton, eventually accumulating 1,500 acres and becoming one of the largest black landowners in the county.  Illiterate himself, his grandfather saw that all of his eighteen children were educated.  Dixon’s father graduated from Morehouse College and became a doctor.  The two men were powerful influences on Dixon, who was eleven when his father died.

Dixon credits an aunt who was an educator with encouraging him to attend college.  Unsure of his direction, he joined the Air Force in 1951 and in 1955 was assigned to Japan.  He completed college at Sophia University in Tokyo in 1960 with a degree in sociology and economics.  In 1971 Dixon received a master’s degree in urban studies from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.  

Sources: 

Jack Pyle, “Tom Dixon, from Georgia Farm to Urban League,” The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA), June 24, 1979; Transforming Tacoma: The Struggle for Civil Rights, Sid Lee, producer, director, and editor (produced in cooperation with Rainier Media Center for the Tacoma Civil Rights Project, 2008); Thomas Dixon and the Tacoma Urban League, University of Washington Tacoma Community History Project, interview transcript, 1991.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Primus, Pearl (1919-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records,
Archives Center, National Museum of
American History, Behring Center,
Smithsonian Institution
Pearl Primus, dancer and choreographer, was born on November 29th, 1919, in Trinidad. Her parents, Edward and Emily Primus, immigrated to the United States in 1921 when Pearl was still a small child.

Primus was raised in New York City, and in 1940 received her bachelor’s degree in biology and pre-medical science from Hunter College. However, her goal of working as a medical researcher was unrealized due to the racial discrimination of the time. When she went to the National Youth Association (NYA) for assistance, she was cast as a dancer in one of their plays.

Primus’s promise as a dancer was recognized quickly, and she received a scholarship from the National Youth Association’s New Dance Group in 1941. She soon began performing professionally both as a soloist and in dance groups around New York. In 1942, she performed with the NYA, and in 1943 she performed with the New York Young Men’s Hebrew Association. By 1943, she appeared as a soloist.
Sources: 
“Pearl Primus” in Britannica Encyclopedia, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/476589/Pearl-Primus; Arts Alive, “Pearl Primus,” http://www.artsalive.ca/en/dan/meet/bios/artistDetail.asp?artistID=179
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ashley, Maurice (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Maurice Ashley, the first African American chess grandmaster, was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica on March 6, 1966. At age 12, his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Ashley began to develop an interest in chess. Although he spent several hours a day playing and studying the game, he did not play well enough to qualify for his high school chess team, and instead had to develop his skills by playing in tournaments and informal games.

Ashley became a chess coach for New York City youth, a role which he filled from 1991 to 1997. Two of his youth teams, the “Raging Rooks” and the “Dark Knights,” won championships at a national level in the early 1990s. Ashley’s experience coaching young people in the city, where academic distractions were many, made advocating chess to youth an integral part of his life.

In 1993, Ashley graduated from the City College of New York. The same year, he married Michele Johnson. Their daughter, Nia, was born in 1994. Ashley released a CD-ROM called Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess in 1995. He also became a commentator for chess matches around this time, and commentated several of grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s famous chess matches, including those against Viswanathan Anand in 1995 and the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in 1996 and 1997.
Sources: 
http://main.uschess.org/content/view/142/195; http://www.chessville.com/Editorials/Interviews/20Questions/Ashley.htm; Melissa Ewey, “First Black Chess Grandmaster,” Ebony 54:9 (1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hunter, Jane Edna (1882 –1971)

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

Jane Edna Hunter is most famous for founding the Phillis Wheatley Association (PWA) in 1913.   Hunter was born on December 13, 1882 in Pendleton, South Carolina to Harriet Millner, a free-born daughter of freed slaves, and Edward Harris, the son of a slave woman and a plantation overseer.  Edward Harris died when Jane was ten years old, and her mother urged her into a loveless marriage with Edward Hunter, a man 40 years older than she was. The arrangement collapsed fourteen months after the wedding, and Jane Edna Hunter never married again.

Hunter migrated to Cleveland Ohio, arriving in 1905 as a 23 year old single African American woman. Hunter founded the PWA to aid and assist other single, newly arriving African American women.  She led the Association until her retirement in 1946. The PWA was the first institution designed to meet the needs of African American migrants and became, by 1927, the single largest private African American social service agency in Cleveland. The Cleveland PWA also became the largest residence for single African American women in the nation and served as the model for similar projects throughout the urban North.  

Sources: 

Jane Edna Hunter, A Nickel and a Prayer (Nashville: Parthenon Press,
1940); Virginia R. Boynton, "Jane Edna Harris and Black Institution
Building in Ohio" in Warren R. Van Tine and Michael Dale Pierce,
Builders of Ohio: A Biographical History, (Columbus: Ohio State
University Press, 2003); Women in History, Jane Edna Hunter biography
Last Updated: 1/25/2008, Lakewood Public Library, Date accessed
12/12/2008, http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/hunt-jan.htm;

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

Crowther, Bishop Samuel Adjai (1809 – 1891)

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

Jesse Page, Samuel Crowther: The Slave Boy Who Became Bishop of the Niger, (S.W. Partridge & Co. London, 1889.); James. F. Schon and Samuel A. Crowther, Journals of the Rev .James Frederick Schon and Mr Samuel Crowther who, With the Sanction of Her Majesty’s Government, accompanied the Expedition Up The Niger in 1841 on behalf of the Church Missionary Society, 2nd Ed. ( Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1970)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Johnson, Yvonne Jeffries (1942- )

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

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

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

Leslie M. Alexander (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador Leslie Alexander With Presidential
Candidate Bill Richardson, 2008
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Leslie M. Alexander was a Career Foreign Service Officer. He was appointed by President William J. Clinton to serve as U.S. Ambassador to three nations: Mauritius and the Comoros where he served from 1993 to 1996, Ecuador where he served from 1996 to 1999, and Haiti where he served from 1999 to 2000.
Sources: 
Ambassador Leslie M. Alexander, Interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy, October 17, 2005, The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, http://adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Alexander,%20Leslie%20M.toc.pdf; U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/alexander-leslie-m; “Leslie Alexander,” U.S State Department Archived Biographies, http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/biographies/alexander.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Teddy B. (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1953, Teddy Bernard Taylor graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Florida A&M University in 1975. During his time in Tallahassee, Taylor became a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Moreira, Juliano (1873–1932)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Psychiatrist and professor, Juliano Moreira was born on January 6, 1873, in the coastal city of Salvador in the state of Bahia, Brazil, an area long known for its predominantly African-descended population. Moreira was the son of a Portuguese public lighting inspector and a black housemaid whose employer, a physician, encouraged his early interest in medicine. By 1888, the year Brazil abolished slavery, Moreira, despite the handicap of mixed-racial heritage, was studying at the Bahia School of Medicine (Faculdade de Medicina da Bahia). At age eighteen, he completed his highly-commended doctoral thesis on malignant syphilis praecox, then traveled to Europe for further study under Rudolf Virchow in Germany, and Joseph Jules Déjérine and Valentin Magnan in France.
Sources: 
Robert Fikes Jr. and Douglas A. Cargille, “The Extraordinary Career of Juliano Moriera: Afro-Brazilian Psychiatrist,” Journal of the National Medical Association, 78 (1986; http://www.bahiana.edu.br/herois/heroi.aspx?id=NA==; http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1516-44462000000400007&script=sci_arttext.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Woodson, Carter G. (1875-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Ancella Bickley Collection,
West Virginia State Archives
Sources: 
Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, The Early Black History Movement, Carter G. Woodson, and Lorenzo Johnston Greene (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); Jacqueline Goggin, Carter G. Woodson:  A Life in Black History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); and Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, “Willing to Sacrifice”:  Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, and the Carter G. Woodson Home (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Preddy, Sarann Knight (1920- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image ownership: Public Domain
Sarann Knight migrated to Las Vegas in 1942, settling with her husband in the Westside African American community.  Preddy first sought employment on Jackson Street, the black business district, and soon became a Keno writer in the Cotton Club.  Preddy moved to Hawthorne, Nevada with her husband and purchased her first gaming venture, a nightclub for blacks offered to her for $600.00.  Borrowing the money from her father, Preddy renamed the enterprise the Tonga Club, and operated it for seven years. With club ownership she became the first black woman to own a gaming license in Nevada.  

Sarann returned to Las Vegas in 1955 and one year later went to work at Jerry’s Nugget as an experiment.  The NAACP had been told that Jerry’s Nugget would hire a black dealer if they could send in a qualified person.  Sarann accepted the challenge, intending to work at the North Las Vegas casino for six months.  She stayed there for seven years.  

Preddy went back into business for herself as the owner and operator of The People’s Choice Casino. She then purchased the famed Moulin Rouge.  Since its 1955 opening and closing, the resort had passed through several owners never realizing the success that it had enjoyed in its heyday.  The problems continued despite Preddy’s best efforts. The Rouge was closed in the late 1990s.  The famed hotel casino burned to the ground in 2003.
Sources: 
Claytee D. White,  An Interview with Sarann Preddy.  Las Vegas Women in Gaming and Entertainment Oral History Project, 1998.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada Las Vegas

Parsons, Lucy (1853-1942)

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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

Loguen, Jermain Wesley (1813-1872)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jermain Wesley Loguen was born on February 5, 1813 into slavery in Tennessee.  His mother was owned by Loguen’s father and master.  In 1834, Loguen escaped from bondage and fled to St. Catherine’s, Ontario where he stayed briefly before finding his way to Rochester, New York where, in 1837, he enrolled in Beriah Green’s Oneida Institute.  By 1840, Loguen, now an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) minister, had married and moved to Syracuse to lead a church.  Loguen stayed only briefly in Syracuse, New York before he spent three of the next few years at Bath, Maine and another two in Ithaca, New York serving as an AME Zion minister

Loguen was also an active school teacher and a “conductor” in the Underground Railroad.  Settling permanently in Syracuse, Loguen built apartments on his privately owned property to serve as hiding posts and lodging for freedom seekers or runaway slaves.  Many historians agree that Loguen’s own home was a widely known station on the Underground Railroad and his basement was fitted with bunks and other equipment for fugitive slaves.

In 1869 Loguen’s daughter, Amelia, married Lewis Douglass, the son of orator, author and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Another daughter, Marinda S. Loguen, later known as Sarah Loguen, graduated from the Syracuse University College of Medicine in 1876, becoming one of the first African American women in the country to practice medicine.  
Sources: 
Carol Hunter, To Set the Captives Free: Reverend Jermain Wesley Loguen and the Struggle for Freedom in Central New York, 1835-1872 (New York: Garland, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Herenton, Willie W. (1941- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Willie W. Herenton was born on April 23, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee and is currently the mayor of that city. Dr. Herenton is a graduate of LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis and the University of Memphis.

At a young age, Herenton demonstrated athletic prowess. When he was 11 years old, Herenton entered a boxing program at the local YMCA. During his first year, he made it to the semifinals and in 1953, he captured the flyweight title. By the time he graduated from high school in 1958, Herenton had won a number of southern AAU championships. He also won the Kentucky Golden Gloves competition and had been Tri-State Boxing Champion several times.

Because of his boxing prowess, Herenton was offered a full athletic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He refused the scholarship and instead moved to Chicago with the hopes of becoming a professional boxer. Realizing the limitations of a high school education, Herenton soon regretted his decision. He returned to Memphis and enrolled at LeMoyne College, a small black liberal arts school in the city. He met fellow student, Ida, and they were soon married.
Sources: 
Adam Faircloth, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality 1890-2000 (New York: Penguin, 2002); Lawrence Otis Graham, Inside America’s Black Upper Class (New York: Harper Perennial, 2000); The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
http://www.horatioalger.com/members/member_info.cgm?memberid=her88; John Branston, “Letter from Memphis,” Nashville Scene, June 21, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Jones, Absalom (1746-1818)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Sussex, Delaware in 1746.  He taught himself to read in his early teens from books he purchased by saving pennies given to him by visitors to his master’s home.  At the age of sixteen, Jones’ family was separated when his immediate family members were sold and he was taken to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by his new owner.  Jones worked as a clerk in his owner’s store by day and was allowed to work for himself and attend an all-black school at night.  
Sources: 
Benjamin Brawley, Negro Builders and Heroes (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1937); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1982); W. Augustus Low, ed., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1981).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Scott, David (1946- )

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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

Coleman, Michael B. (1954- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
 
Michael B. Coleman is the first African American Mayor of Columbus, Ohio.  Coleman was born on November 18, 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana to John Coleman, a medical doctor, and Joan Coleman, a local civil rights activist.  His family relocated to Toledo when Michael turned three.

Growing up in Toledo's middle-class black community helped to foster the importance of a strong community to ensure socially, culturally, and economically healthy cities.   Coleman attended St. John's Jesuit High School, graduating in 1973.  He then studied political science at the University of Cincinnati, graduating with a B.S. degree in 1977.  Coleman received a law degree from the University of Dayton in 1980.  He married his wife Frankie in 1985.  The couple has three children.

Coleman moved to Columbus in 1980 to work as an attorney in the Attorney General's office and in 1982 was hired as a legislative aide for Columbus City Council member Ben Espy.  Later he joined the law firm of Schottenstein, Zox, and Dunn before beginning his career in politics.  
Sources: 
J. Philip Thompson, Double Trouble: Black mayors, Black Communities, and the Call for a Deep Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); www.mayors.columbus.gov; Lester K. Spence, “Revisiting black participation and local participation,” Urban Affairs Review, 45 (June 2009); www.answers.com/topic/michael-b-coleman
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Russell, Bill (1934- )

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

Legendary basketball star William Felton (Bill) Russell was a five-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player and twelve-time All-Star. He was also the centerpiece of the Boston (Massachusetts) Celtics basketball dynasty when his team won eleven NBA championships during his thirteen seasons with the team. Russell is one of only seven basketball players to win an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship, and an Olympic Gold Medal.

Sources: 
Bill Russell and Taylor Branch, Second Wind (New York: Ballantine Books, 1979); Bill Russell and Alan Steinberg, Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend (New York: Harper, 2009); Zander Hollander, The Modern Encyclopedia of Basketball (New York: Dolphin Books, 1979); http://www.nba.com/history/players/russell_bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lam, Wilfredo (1902-1982)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
La Jungla by Wilfredo Lam
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Sagua la Grande, Cuba, Wilfredo Lam personally exemplified the complex multiethnic nature of Latin America:  his father was Chinese while his mother boasted a combined African, Indian, and European cultural background.  Utilizing some of this background, Lam, through art, would explore various African and Caribbean cultural themes and exhibit his art both in the United States and in Europe.

Already at an early age, Wilfredo’s talents as an artist were becoming recognized.  By the age of 14, he had enrolled at Havana’s fine arts institution, Escuela de Bellas Artes. Two years later his work began to come into the public eye through the various exhibitions initiated by Havana’s sculptor and painters association.  During this time, Lam primarily worked in still life and landscapes.
Sources: 
Karen Juanita Carrillo, “Cuba Celebrates Birth of Wilfredo Lam,” New York Amsterdam News 98:51 (Dec. 2007); Lowery Stokes Sims, Wilfredo Lam and the International Avant-garde, 1923-1982 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002); http://www.cubanet.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gray, Fred D. (1932- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Attorney, civil rights and human rights activist, Fred D. Gray, was born on December 14, 1930 in Montgomery, Alabama to Nancy and Abraham Gray.  The youngest of five children, he and his siblings were raised in a shotgun house in a segregated black section of the city.  

In 1947, Gray attended the Nashville Christian Institute.  After completing seminary, he enrolled at Alabama State College, where he paid for his education by working as a district manager of the Alabama Journal.  In 1951, Gray entered law school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his degree in 1954 and opened a law office in his hometown of Montgomery. 

Sources: 

Fred Gray, Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System (Montgomery, Alabama: Black Belt Press, 1995).  Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); http://www.fredgray.net/background.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Guinier, Ewart (1910-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture

Ewart Guinier, labor activist and political candidate, was the first chairman of Harvard University’s Afro-American Studies Department. Born in Panama in 1910, Guinier migrated to the United States in 1925 and attended high school in Boston, Massachusetts. After his acceptance into the Harvard University Class of 1933, Guinier was denied a scholarship because he allegedly did not submit a photograph with his application and because of his race he was not permitted to reside in the all-white dormitories. Guinier nonetheless started classes at Harvard but dropped out in 1931 due to the high tuition costs.  He transferred to the City University of New York where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1935.  He later received his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1939 and his law degree from New York University in 1959.

Sources: 
Ewart Guinier, “Impact of Unionization on Blacks,” Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 30:2 (Dec. 1970): 173-181; http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/07/obituaries/ewart-guinier-79-who-headed-afro-american-studies-at-harvard.html; http://www.nypl.org/archives/3674; http://mvgazette.com/article.php?22763.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Marsh, Henry L., III (1933- )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hansson, Malou Mercedes (1983- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Malou Hansson, a Miss Universe competitor in Puerto Rico in 2002, was crowned Miss Sweden earlier that year.  She had just turned 19 at the time. Miss Sweden was born Malou Mercedes Hansson on February 2, 1983, in Järfälla, a Stockholm suburb. Her mother is from Ghana and her father is a Swede.

Before winning the contest Hansson worked as a model while studying information technology in school. She won the regional Miss Uppland pageant and subsequently won the Miss Sweden pageant on February 25, 2002.  She went on to compete in the Miss Universe pageant held in Coliseo Roberto Clemente, San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 29, 2002, but did not qualify for the semi-finals.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Thompson, John Robert, Jr. (1941- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born in Washington, D.C. on September 2, 1941, legendary basketball coach-emeritus John Thompson, Jr., arose from segregated public-housing and asphalt playground-courts to the polished hardwoods of collegiate and professional basketball, becoming the first African American head coach -- in any major college sport-- to win a national title. Best known for leading the 1984 Georgetown University “Hoyas” to the coveted National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, as well as the iconic white towel draped over one shoulder, Thompson guided the Hoyas for 27 seasons to a distinctive record of 596-239 (.714), just four games shy of college basketball’s elite list of coaches with 600 or more career wins. Between 1972 and 1999, the Hoyas won seven “Big East” conference championships and reached postseason play 24 times, earning 20 NCAA and four National Invitational Tournament (NIT) bracket-berths. Named "Coach of the Year" seven times, between 1980 and 1987, Thompson retired in January 1999. Barely ten months later, at the age of 58, he was inducted into the “Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.” His student-athletes’ 97%-graduation rate (76 of 78 received degrees) was highlighted among his most impressive achievements.
Sources: 
Leonard Shapiro, Big Man on Campus: John Thompson and the Georgetown Hoyas (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1991); Bruce Lowitt and Ira Rosenfeld, "A Firm Hand at the Helm," Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Vol. 101, No. 64 (March 1985); Carolyn Maguire, “IAC (Intercollegiate Athletics Center) Named for Thompson Jr.,” The Georgetown University Hoya (March 2014).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smith, Amanda Berry (1837-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Eka, David W. (1945– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of LDS Church News
David William Eka, engineer, elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), first president of the Aba Nigeria stake, was born in Etinan, Nigeria, on May 20, 1945. His father, William Udo, was a carpenter, and his mother, Lucy Eduok Inyang Eka, was a homemaker. William and Lucy had eight children; David was the eldest child.

Eka was born in a Protestant mission in Etinan and grew up learning carpentry from his father. His participation with his father’s carpentry shop helped meet the family’s economic needs. When the Nigerian Civil War (also known as the Biafran War, 1967–1970) broke out, Eka volunteered for military service. During an engagement, Eka and other soldiers were in a bunker. He states that a divine voice instructed him to leave the bunker. He attempted to persuade his fellow soldiers to leave yet they refused. Just as Eka cleared the bunker, a bomb exploded and killed those who remained inside. From then on, Eka decided to dedicate his life to serve God.
Sources: 
“Our Heritage: David William Eka: Translator of Truth and Example of Service,” Africa West: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed August 17, 2016, http://africawest.lds.org/our-heritage-david-william-eka-translator-of-truth-and-example-of-service; “Area Authority Seventy in Africa.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed August 17, 2016, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2000/04/portraits/area-authority-seventy-in-africa?lang=eng; Gary James Bergera, “Tensions in David O. McKay's First Presidencies,” Journal of Mormon History, Vol.33, No.1 (Spring 2007), pgs. 179-246.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Logan, Rayford W. (1897-1982)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Leading 20th Century black historian Rayford Whittingham Logan was born on January 7, 1897 in Washington, D.C.  to working class parents,  Arthur C. and Martha Whittingham Logan.   Rayford Logan spent his formative years in Washington, D.C.  While in high school, he was taught by Carter G. Woodson.  A bright student, Logan was honored with a scholarship to Williams College where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1917.  Immediately, he joined the U.S. Army in World War I and like many black veterans of that era, was disillusioned as he witnessed the racism perpetrated against black troops by white officers.  

Sources: 
Kenneth Janken, Rayford W. Logan and the Dilemma of the African-American Intellectual (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press 1993); August Meir and Elliott Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Rayford Logan, What the Negro Wants (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press 1944); Rayford Logan, The Betrayal of the Negro (Cambridge: De Capo 1965), Rayford Logan, “Nat Turner: Fiend or Martyr?” Opportunity 9 (November  1931): 337-39.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Fortes, Seraphim “Joe” (1865-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Seraphim “Joe” Fortes was born in Barbados, West Indies. He was a seaman and came to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1885. There he worked as a barman at the Sunnyside Hotel. English Bay became his favourite spot as he loved the water and was an excellent swimmer. Every day he swam in the bay, and finally he gave up his hotel job to live in a little cottage on the shore where he became a well-known lifeguard.


Joe guarded the beach kindly, but firmly, and taught the children who came there how to swim. He is credited with rescuing over 100 lives of both children and adults who ventured too far and got in trouble. For his community service, the City of Vancouver made him a special constable. When Beach Avenue was being improved, Joe’s little cottage was moved beside the bandstand at Alexandra Park, and he lived there until he died. In 1924, a memorial drinking fountain was erected facing the beach where he had served as guardian and teacher for over twenty years. He is honoured as the first English Bay lifeguard after the Park Board decided to create such a post.

Sources: 
A Resource Guide on Black Pioneers in British Columbia (Victoria, B.C: The British Columbia Black History Awareness Society, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
British Columbia Black History Awareness Society

Cole, Nat “King” (1919–1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
African American Museum of Philadelphia

Jazz pianist and popular singer Nathaniel Adams Coles was born into a musical family in Montgomery, Alabama on March 17, 1919.  His mother Perlina was a choir director in his father Edward’s Baptist church.  His three brothers, Edward, Ike, and Freddy, became professional musicians.  Cole also had a half-sister, Joyce.  The family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1923 where Cole started playing the piano at age four; he organized his first jazz group, The Musical Dukes, in his teens.

Sources: 
Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro American and African Musicians (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982); Nicolas Slonimsky, Bokers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (London: Schirmer Books, 1984); Jim Irwin and Colin McLear, The Mojo Collection (NY: Cananongate, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Neal, Annie Box (1870–1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Annie Box Neal was the proprietor and manager of the Mountain View Hotel in Oracle, Arizona, a western mining town in the Catalina Mountains. Her secluded grand resort was recognized as the “epitome of western opulence” in its day and received distinguished guests from Russia, Australia, China and other places around the world. Neal had a flair for entertainment and was renowned for her gracious hostess skills, which brought her unprecedented success.

Anna Magdalena Box, of African American and Native American descent, was born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, in 1870. Her grandmother had come to the Territory on the Trail of Tears.  In 1876, Neal accompanied her parents and other Cherokee Freedpeople to Tucson, Arizona Territory. Annie was enrolled in St. Joseph’s Academy next to San Augustine’s Mission for Indians while her parents supported themselves through gambling and mining investments.
Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Barbara Marriott, Annie’s Guests – Tales from a Frontier Hotel (Tucson, Arizona: Catymatt Productions, 2002).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Blake, Eubie (1883-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Eubie Blake was born James Hubert Blake in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 7, 1883.   He died one hundred years later on February 12, 1983 having become one of the most important figures in early 20th-century African American music and a major contributor to ragtime and early jazz music and culture.  
Sources: 
J. Wynn Rousuck, A Singing, Winging Tribute to Eubie Blake (Baltimore: Baltimore Sun, 2007); Bobbi King, A Legend in His Own Lifetime: Conversation With Eubie Blake (New York: The Black Perspective in Music, 1973).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Motley, Constance Baker (1921-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

James Meredith and Constance Baker Motley, 1962

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Sources: 

Dorothy C. Salem, ed., African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1993); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); National Women’s History Project: http://www.nwhp.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Campbell, Grace P. (1883-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Grace Campbell Addressing a Harlem Rally
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Grace P. Campbell, the first of three African Americans to join the Communist Party, USA, was born in Georgia in 1882 to Emma Dyson Campbell, an African American woman from Washington, D.C., and William Campbell, an immigrant from Jamaica. After briefly relocating to Texas, the Campbell family settled down in Washington, D.C.  From there Grace Campbell moved to New York City around 1905.

In New York, Campbell dedicated herself to community work.  She donated her own salary to aid the founding of the Empire Friendly Shelter, a home for unwed mothers, where she worked as a supervisor.  Campbell additionally worked for the City of New York beginning in 1915. First employed as a probation officer, Campbell then worked as a parole officer, and in 1924, became a court attendant for the Courts of Sessions.

During this period Campbell gravitated towards left-wing radicalism. She was one of the founding members of the 21st Assembly branch of the Socialist Party (SP) and one of the first African American women to join the Socialist Party. Campbell ran on the Socialist ticket for the 19th District of the New York State Assembly in 1919 and 1920, receiving about 10% of the vote both years. Though unsuccessful, Campbell was the first woman of any race to run for public office in the state of New York.
Sources: 
Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth-Century America (New York: Verso, 1999); Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem During the Depression (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Scott, Robert “Bobby” (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of 
Representatives Photography Office
Congressman Robert Cortez “Bobby” Scott was born on April 30, 1947 in Washington, D.C. but later resided in Newport News, Virginia.  Scott attended Harvard University and later graduated from the Boston College School of Law.

Scott, a Democrat, entered politics in 1978, running a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates representing Newport News.  In 1983 he was elected to the Virginia State Senate.  During his years in the Virginia Assembly, Scott sponsored legislation related to healthcare, education, crime prevention, economic development, consumer protection and social services.  One of his measures increased the Virginia minimum wage and another produced improvements in healthcare benefits for women, infants, and children.  Scott also sponsored legislation that created the Governor’s Employment and Training Council.  His sponsorship of the Neighborhood Assistance Act led to granting tax credits to businesses for donations made to approved social service and crime prevention programs
Sources: 
www.house.gov/scott/bio.shtml;                www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id.=400364
MIX Magazine, January 2006; Portfolio Weekly, December 23, 2003
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Norfolk State University

Blakey, Art (1919-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Art Blakey, jazz drummer and band leader, was born Arthur William Blakey in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 11, 1919.  Blakey’s father, Burtrum, who worked as a barber, left his family when Blakey was a newborn.  Blakey lost his mother, Marie Roddericker, before his second birthday.  His cousin, Sarah Oliver Parran, and his extended family raised him until he moved out to work at the local steel mill around 1932.    

As a teenager, Blakey began playing piano in Pittsburgh nightclubs. Influenced by the work of Chick Webb, Sid Catlett, and Ray Bauduc, Blakey soon started drumming. Throughout his early career, Blakey played drums for a variety of bands, including Mary Lou Williams’s twelve-piece band, the Henderson band, and the Billy Eckstine orchestra.  He met and collaborated with Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis.  Blakey’s early work reflected swing style drumming, but he later popularized hard bop, which drew on bebop, blues, gospel, and African drumming styles.

In 1948, Blakey traveled to Africa.  The trip influenced him to convert to Islam and to change his name to Abdullah Ibn Buhaina.  Soon after his return he created the Jazz Messengers with Horace Silver. In 1956, Blakey became the sole leader of the band, which played and recorded until his death. The Jazz Messengers featured and mentored many upcoming jazz musicians, including Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Donald Byrd, Woody Shaw, and Lee Morgan among others.
Sources: 
Leslie Gourse, Art Blakey: Jazz Messenger (New York: Schirmer Trade Books, 2002); T. Dennis Brown, “Art Blakey,” African American National Biography, vol. 1, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Timothy O’Brien, “Art Blakey,” Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present, vol. 1, ed. Paul Finkelman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Marshall, Paule (1929--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Valenza Pauline Burke, later known as Paule Marshall, was born on April 9, 1929 in Brooklyn, New York.  She is the daughter of Ada and Samuel Burke, both emigrants from Barbados, and she grew up in a neighborhood with a significant number of other families from the West Indies.  Although she went through a period of rejecting her West Indian heritage as a child, her writing would ultimately be inspired by the conversations between her mother and other Bajan (Barbadian) women.  In her essay From the Poets in the Kitchen she explains how the women would use the English language as an instrument for narrative art, changing around the rhythm and accent to create a distinctive dialect.  

When Marshall completed high school she enrolled in Hunter College with plans of becoming a social worker.  After a one year absence from college due to illness, she decided, with the influence of some of her friends, to become an English Literature major instead.  She enrolled in Brooklyn College and by 1954 had graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.  
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); Dorothy C. Salem, ed., African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1993); The Heath Anthology of American Literature:  http://college.hmco.com/english/lauter/heath/4e/students/author_pages/contemporary/marshall_pa.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fields, Cleo (1962- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Cleo Fields, politician, lawyer, and United States Representative from Louisiana's Fourth Congressional District (1993-97), was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on November 22, 1962.  At four years old, Fields lost his father, Isidore Fields, a dockworker, in a car crash. His mother, Alice Fields, supported her ten children by working as a maid and taking in laundry.  Fields started working at a young age to help his family and save for college.

In 1980, Fields graduated from McKinley High School.  He attended Southern University, where he majored in mass communications and then enrolled in its College of Law.  In his final year of law school, he ran for the Louisiana State Senate. At twenty-four years old, Fields became the youngest elected state senator in Louisiana’s history. Fields championed environmental issues, job creation for minorities, and the elimination of illegal drugs.

In 1990, Fields ran for the House seat from Louisiana's Eighth Congressional District, but he lost to Republican Clyde Holloway.  After Louisiana redrew district lines, Louisiana's Fourth Congressional District elected Fields to the House of Representatives in 1992.  Fields became Louisiana’s second African American congressman.  

During his two terms, Fields served as parliamentarian as well as on the Small Business, Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committees.  His main legislative goals included job creation, affordable health care, and decreasing the deficit.  
Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008); Kristen L. Rouse, “Cleo Fields,” in African American National Biography, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Joanna Weiss, “Cleo Fields Emerges as a LA Political Force,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 16 November 1998.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Paige, Roderick Raynor (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Roderick Raynor Paige, the first African American and the first school superintendent to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Education, was born on June 17, 1933 in Monticello, Mississippi. The eldest of five children, Paige was born to his mother Sophie, a librarian, and father, Raynor C. Paige, a school principal and barber.

Roderick Paige attended segregated schools in Monticello where he saw the stark differences between the education and opportunities offered to white children and black children.  In 1951, Paige graduated from high school and enrolled at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi. He was an honor student and football player there. In 1955, after he graduated with a B.A. in physical education, Paige began teaching at a high school in Clinton, Mississippi. However, not long after he started, he was drafted and joined the U.S. Navy. Before he left for Okinawa (Japan) to work as a medical corpsman, Paige married his college sweetheart, Gloria Crawford.
Sources: 
Roderick Paige, The War Against Hope: How Teachers’ Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006); Donald R. McAdams, Fighting to Save Our Urban Schools—and Winning!: Lessons from Houston. (New York: Teachers College Press, 2000).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ink Spots (1932-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the University of New Hampshire
The Ink Spots, a musical quartet, originally included members Orville “Hoppy” Jones, Ivory “Deek” Watson, Jerry Daniels, and Charlie Fuqua. Some accounts claim Slim Greene also was a founding member. Influenced by the Mills Brothers, all four members sang together under the name “King, Jack, and the Jesters” in 1932.  In late 1933, the group renamed itself the Ink Spots.

The Ink Spots toured Britain in 1934 and their overseas success earned them a recording contract with Victor Records. In 1935, they recorded their first four songs, including “Swinging on the Strings."
Sources: 
Deek Watson, The Story of the Ink Spots (New York: Vantage Press, 1967); Marv Goldberg, More Than Words Can Say: The Ink Spots and Their Music (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Galindo, Maykel (1981- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born on January 28, 1981 in Villa Clara, Cuba, the Cuban born player Maykel Galindo has made a name for himself among the American soccer ranks over the last several years.  Galindo started playing soccer when he was eight years old.  He soon became an exceptional youth player and was selected to play on the Cuban national soccer team.  

Galindo made his youth national team debut in January of 2002 in a match against Guatemala.  Three years later he was on the senior squad which competed in the 2005 Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup which was to be played in the United States.  On July 9, 2005 when Cuba played Costa Rica at Quest Field in Seattle, Washington, Galindo scored Cuba’s only goal in a losing contest.  Later that evening in his hotel, Galindo contacted American officials and defected to the United States.

Sources: 

Beau Dure, “Cuba's Maykel Galindo finds USA, MLS to his liking,” USA Today, August 22, 2007; Elisa Han, “Cuban Defector talks about his Ordeal,” King 5 News, July 15, 2005; Maykel Galindo Bio, http://chivas.usa.MLSnet.com.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Comer, James P. (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy
Michael Marsland/Yale University
James Pierpont Comer, a leading black child psychiatrist and educational reformer, was born into a working class family in East Chicago, Indiana on September 25, 1934.  Although his parents, Maggie and Hugh Comer, had little education themselves, they strongly supported their children's education.  All five children graduated from college, earning 13 degrees collectively.  

Comer graduated from Indiana University in 1956 with an A.B.  Three years later in 1959, he married Shirley Arnold, with whom he had two children.  He received his M.D. from Howard University in 1960 and his M.P.H. from the University of Michigan in 1964.  Throughout the 1960s, Comer worked in different medical fields.  He was a staff member of the U.S. Public Health Service, worked with the National Institute of Mental Health and interned at Saint’s Catherine’s Hospital in East Chicago.   Comer also volunteered at the Hospitality House in Washington D.C.  During this time, Comer found his interest and passion in child development and education, particularly among disadvantaged students.        
Sources: 
George White, Jr., "Comer, James," Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century, edited by Paul Finkelman, Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0005/e0287; James P. Comer, Maggie’s American Dream (New York: NAL Books: 1988); Mark F. Goldberg, “Portrait of James P. Comer,” Education Leadership (September, 1990); Pamela Cross Young, “Comer, James P.," Encyclopedia of Educational Reform and Dissent, edited by Thomas C. Hunt, James C. Copper, Thomas J. Lasley II and C. Daniel Raisch, (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.: 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Hazel W. (1927-2011 )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Army

Hazel Johnson was the first African American woman to become a general in the U.S. Army. She was appointed the Chief of the Army Nurse Corps in 1979. Johnson held a doctorate in education administration from Catholic University (1978) and had honorary degrees from Morgan State University, Villanova University, and the University of Maryland.  

Johnson first became interested in nursing while growing up on a farm in Westchester, Pennsylvania.  Her career began when we she received her nursing degree from the Harlem Hospital in New York City, New York in 1950.  She then attended Villanova University where she received her bachelor’s and soon afterwards joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1955.  

Johnson served in Japan at a U.S. Army Evacuation Hospital.  She served at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1960 where she was a staff and operating room nurse.  Between 1963 and 1967, she was an operating room instructor and supervisor while on a tour of three different hospitals.  Johnson reached the rank of major in 1967.  

Sources: 

Henry E. Dabbs, Black Brass: Black Generals and Admirals in the Armed Forces of the United States (Charlottesville, Virginia: Howell P, 1997); http://www.womensmemorial.org/Education/BBH1998.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dixon, Charles Dean (1915-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Dean Dixon, conductor, was born January 10, 1915 in New York, New York to West Indian parents Henry Charles Dixon and McClara Rolston Dixon. Dixon’s parents exposed him to classical music at an early age and his mother taught him to play the violin, along with a number of other instruments. By the age of nine he was considered a musical prodigy and performed on local radio stations in New York. Dixon enrolled at Juilliard School of Music in 1932 as a violin major, but soon switched to the music pedagogy program and graduated in 1936. He then enrolled in Columbia University and earned a Master’s Degree in Music Pedagogy there in 1939.

Dixon was married three times: he married pianist Vivian Rivkin in 1948 and the couple had a daughter, Diane (1948-2000).  He married Finnish Baroness and playwright Mary Mandelin in 1954 and they had daughter Nina in 1954.  He married Australian Ritha Blume in 1973.
Sources: 
Langston Hughes, Famous Negro Music Makers; Illustrated with Photos (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1955); S. Saito, “Homage to Dean Dixon,” Biographical Overview, 8 Oct. 2008; "Dixon, Dean" Contemporary Black Biography, 2009, Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bonetta, Sarah Forbes (1843-1880)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
James Davies and Sarah Forbes Bonetta
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a princess of the Egbado clan of the Yoruba people, is best known as the goddaughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. Bonetta was born in 1843 in what is now southwest Nigeria. Her parents' names are unknown as are the names of her siblings who were all killed in the 1847 slave raid that made Bonetta a captive.  
Sources: 
“Sarah Forbes Bonetta: The African Princess in Brighton,” Afro-Europe International Blog, http://afroeurope.blogspot.com/2011/09/sarah-forbes-bonetta-african-princess.html; “Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davis, An African Princess in the British Monarchy Who Captured the Heart of Queen Victoria,” Trip Down Memory Lane, Kwekudee, 3 Sept. 2009;  http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2012/09/sarah-forbes-bonetta-davies-african.html; Walter Dean Myers, At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England (New York: Scholastic, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Floyd, Elson S. (1956–2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Elson S. Floyd was the first African American president of three universities, a visionary leader, and a skilled statesman.

Elson Sylvester Floyd was born on February 29, 1956, in Henderson, North Carolina. He was raised in this racially segregated town where his father, Elson, was a bricklayer, and his mother, Dorothy, worked in a tobacco factory. The family lived in poverty, and neither parent graduated from high school, but the Floyds taught their four boys the value of education, including their eldest, Elson.
Sources: 
Kathrine Long, “WSU’s late President Floyd leaves lasting legacy of accomplishments,” Seattle Times, June 24, 2015, http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/wsus-late-president-floyd-leaves-lasting-legacy-of-accomplishments/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=article_bottom; Nina Culver, “WSU President Elson Floyd dies after battle with cancer,” The Spokesman Review, June 20, 2015, http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/jun/20/wsu-president-elson-floyd-loses-cancer-battle/; “WSU President Elson S. Floyd Leaves Unparalleled Education Legacy,” WSU Office of the President, http://president.wsu.edu/eflo/obituary.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Washington State University

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

Boykin, Otis Frank (1920-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The inventor Otis Frank Boykin, known for inventing the wire precision resistor, was born on August 29, 1920 in Dallas, Texas. Boykin’s mother, Sarah Boykin, worked as a maid before dying in 1921 before Boykin’s first birthday. Boykin’s father, Walter Boykin, worked as a carpenter and later became a minister.

In 1934, Boykin entered Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas, later graduating in 1938 as valedictorian of his class.  Following high school, Boykin began college at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, simultaneously working at an aerospace laboratory in Nashville as a laboratory assistant testing automatic controls for aircraft.

Sources: 
“Otis Boykin, Improved Electrical Resistor,” Lemelson-MIT (September 2005), http://lemelson.mit.edu/resources/otis-boykin; “Otis Boykin, Biography: Inventor, 1920-1982,” Bio, http://www.biography.com/people/otis-boykin-538792; Frances T. Matlock, "Boykin's Electric Device Aid in Eisenhower Crisis," Pittsburgh Courier, September 14, 1968; “Otis Boykin,” Famous Black Inventors: A Rich Heritage Gives Way to Modern Ingenuity, http://www.black-inventor.com/Otis-Boykin.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Terrell, Mary Church (1863-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Mary Church Terrell, A Colored Woman in a White World (Humanity Books, 2005); Cynthia Neverdon-Morton, “Mary Church Terrell,” in African American Lives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Steele, Willie S. (1923-1989)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

 

Olympic athlete Willie Samuel Steele was born in El Centro, California on July 14, 1923.  At age 4 his family moved to San Diego where he graduated from Herbert Hoover High School in 1940.  While attending San Jose State University he was drafted into the U.S. Army and became a decorated veteran of World War, II having served in the invasion of Italy.  Returning to San Diego, in 1946 he entered San Diego State University (then San Diego State College) where he played basketball, football, and as a track star won two NCAA and one AAU broad jump championships in the late 1940s. 

Steele’s crowning achievement occurred in the 1948 Olympic Games in London where, despite an injured leg, he won a gold medal in the broad jump with a leap of 25 feet 8 inches.  In the wake of his Olympic triumph the 1949 school yearbook was dedicated to Steele.  That same year he signed a contract to play halfback for the Los Angeles Rams but only performed in some exhibition games before being cut from the team. 

Soft-spoken and unpretentious, Steele was the epitome of the student-athlete and he was a popular speaker at social and civic functions.  He was inducted into the Hall of Champions in San Diego’s Balboa Park.  Steele found steady employment in Oakland, California as a director in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.  A year after he retired Steele died of cancer on September 19, 1989.

Sources: 
Obituary. San Diego Union (24 September 1989), A-30; Robert Fikes Jr. The Black in Crimson and Black: A History and Profiles of African Americans at SDSU (San Diego: SDSU Library and Information Access, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Seale, Bobby (1936--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
As cofounder and Chairman of the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale was an important leader of the Black Power movement.  Born in Texas, Seale joined thousands of African Americans when his family migrated to Oakland, California during World War II.  At the age of 18, Seale joined the Air Force, where he was given a bad conduct discharge after three years of service.  He returned to Oakland and began attending Merritt College, intending to become an engineer.  At Merritt he was exposed to an emerging Black Nationalist discourse and first met Huey P. Newton.  Inspired by Malcolm X, independence movements in Africa, and anti-colonialist intellectuals such as Frantz Fanon, he founded with Newton in 1966 the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.  
Sources: 
Bobby Seale, A Lonely Rage: The Autobiography of Bobby Seale (New York, Times Books, 1978); Seale, Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton (New York, Random House, 1970); and Robert O. Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Belton, Sharon Sayles (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image courtesy of Sharon Sayles Belton
An activist, politician, and leader of her community, Sharon Sayles Belton was the first African American and first woman mayor of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A St. Paul native, Belton was born on May 13, 1951.  For most of her life she fought for racial equality, women, family and child care issues, youth development and neighborhood development.

Belton, one of four daughters of Bill and Marian Sayles, moved to Minneapolis to live with her father after her parents’ separation. In Minneapolis, Belton attended Central High School and volunteered at Mt. Sinai Hospital in her spare time but eventually accepted a paid position at the hospital as a nurse’s aide.  Belton received her Bachelor of Science in biology from Macalester College in 1973 and developed plans to become a pediatrician.
Sources: 
Jesse Carney Smith and Joseph M. Palmisano, eds., Reference Library of Black America (African American Publications, Proteus Enterprises; University of Michigan, 2000); Doris Weatherford, A History of Women in the United States: State-by-State Reference (University of Michigan, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Holstein, Casper (1876-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Genevieve Fabre and Michel Feith, Temples for Tomorrow: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); Crime Library, Black Gangs of Harlem: 1920-1939, http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/gang/harlem_gangs/4.html
“Holstein Set Free By Abductors,” The New York Times, September 24, 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Coleman, Ornette (1930-2015)

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

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

Born in 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas, Coleman began playing tenor saxophone in rhythm and blues (R&B) bands, his own style rooted in the bebop idiom.  Though undocumented, his early development suggests something unique – Coleman was assaulted and his tenor saxophone destroyed after a particularly off-putting dance solo in Baton Rouge.  In 1949 Coleman settled in Los Angeles where he worked as an elevator operator and independently studied music theory.  On the alto saxophone, which remains his primary voice, Coleman developed a plaintively raw and vocalized tone, exploring micro-tonalities and speech-like cries.  In Los Angeles Coleman befriended drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, as well as trumpeter Don Cherry, all of whom would later become mainstays in Coleman’s ground-breaking Atlantic quartets.  In 1958 Coleman found a willing partner in pianist Paul Bley, and with Higgins, Cherry, and bassist Charlie Haden the quintet recorded a live performance at the Hillcrest Club, The Fabulous Paul Bley Quintet.  

Sources: 
Valerie Wilmer, As Serious as Your Life (London: Serpent's Tail, 1992); Peter Niklas Wilson, Ornette Coleman: His Life and Music (Berkeley: Berkeley Hills Books, 1999); Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Eighth Edition) (London: Penguin Books, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Nelson, Prince Rogers ("Prince," "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince") (1958-2016)

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

Prince Rogers Nelson, songwriter, singer, producer, and all-round musical icon, was born on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Music was a part of Prince’s family; his father, John Nelson, was a jazz pianist whose stage name was Prince Rogers, and his mother, Mattie Nelson, was a vocalist. Prince’s home life, however, was turbulent, and he left home at the age of 12 and was adopted into another family.

From a young age Prince began to teach himself many musical instruments, including the drums, bass, and guitar. While in high school he joined the band Grand Central along with Andre Anderson and Charles Smith (who was later replaced by Morris Day). Prince left school at age 16, by which point he had already begun helping to create what would become known as the “Minneapolis Sound,” characterised by industrial-sounding drum machines and synthesizer riffs.

Sources: 
Jason Draper, Prince: Life & Times (London: Jawbone Press, 2008); Alex Hahn, Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince (New York: Billboard Records, 2004); Craig Werner, A Change is Gonna Come: Music, Race, and the Soul of America (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006); Last.fm website, http://www.last.fm/music (2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Mitchell, Clarence M., Jr. (1911-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Clarence Mitchell, Jr. with President Lyndon Baines Johnson
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. the chief lobbyist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1950 to 1978 played a central role in winning passage of the landmark civil rights legislation that transformed the nation in the 1950s and 1960s.  Clarence Mitchell was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 8, 1911.  He was the third of ten children of Clarence Maurice Mitchell and Elsie Davis Mitchell.  Clarence’s brother Parren Mitchell, eleven years younger, would become the first African American from Maryland elected to the United States House of Representatives.

Mitchell grew up in a working-class neighborhood that was more ethnically diverse than most segregated Baltimore neighborhoods of the era.  After graduating from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he went to work for a hometown newspaper, the Baltimore Afro-American.  As a young journalist Mitchell reported on lynchings and he first testified in Congress in 1933 in support of an anti-lynching bill.  In 1938, Mitchell married Juanita Jackson, a fellow Baltimorean who had founded a youth civil rights group and then headed the NAACP’s youth program.  The Mitchells had four sons.  After working for the Urban League and various federal agencies, Mitchell joined the NAACP in 1946 as labor secretary in its Washington Bureau.  
Sources: 
Denton L. Watson, Lion in the Lobby: Clarence Mitchell, Jr.’s Struggle for the Passage of Civil Rights Laws (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1990); Luther Brown, “Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr.: ‘The 101st Senator,’” The New Crisis, 105:6 (December 1998), pp. 10-13; http://www.oldwestbury.edu/faculty_pages/watson/mitchellpapers.htm; http://www.clarencemitchellpapers.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
HistoryLink.org

Battle, Kathleen (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
American soprano Kathleen Battle was born on August 13, 1948 in Portsmouth, Ohio. Battle’s father was a steelworker and her mother was an active participant in the gospel choir at the family’s local African Methodist Episcopal Church. Battle attended Portsmouth High School and upon graduation was awarded a scholarship to the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She received a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1970, and an M.A. degree the following year.  After graduation, Battle taught music to 5th and 6th graders at inner city public schools in Cincinnati. She also continued to study voice privately which furthered her interest in singing.

In 1972, Kathleen Battle began her professional singing career at The Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. She continued to sing in several other orchestras in New York, Los Angeles, and Cleveland. Shortly after, in 1973, Battle received a grant from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund which allowed her to continue pursuing a career in music. In 1975 she made her opera debut as “Rosina” in Rossini’s II Barbiere di Siviglia with the Michigan Opera Theatre.

Battle won numerous awards in the 1980s and 1990s including the 1985 Laurence Olivier Award for “Best Performance in a New Opera Production” for her work with the Royal Opera in London. She won five Grammy Awards between 1986 and 1993. Battle also won an Emmy for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Classical Music/Dance Programming and Performance” for her work with the Metropolitan Opera for their Silver Anniversary Gala.
Sources: 
“Kathleen Battle, The Official Website” Available at: http://www.kathleenbattle.com. 9 June 2010, Clyde T. McCants, American Opera Singers and their Recordings: Critical Commentaries and Discoveries (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004), “Kathleen Battle Biography” Available at: http://www.biography.com. 9 June 2010.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Rollin, Frances Anne (1845-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis
Image Courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis
Sources: 

Frank A. Rollin, Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany Boston:
Lee and Shepard
, (1868); Carole Ione, Pride of Family; Four Generations
of American Women of Color
(New York: Harlem Moon Classics: 2004); Eric
Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction 1863-1877 (New York: Harper
Collins, 1990); Dorothy Sterling, Black Foremothers; Three Lives (New
York: Feminist Press, 1979); www.Freedmansbureau.com

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bonds, Barry (1964- )

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

Barry Bonds is one of the most controversial figures in modern sports.  The former major league star holds the record for career home runs (762) but that record and his other accomplishments on the field have been marred by accusations that he took performance enhancing drugs.

Barry Lamar Bonds was born in Riverside, California on July 24, 1964 but grew up in San Mateo, California where he attended Junipero Serra High school. He was honored as a prep All-American there for baseball. His father, Bobby Bonds, also a major league All-Star, inspired Barry to become a professional baseball player.

In 1982 Barry Bonds was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the major league baseball (MLB) draft while he was still in high school.  When contract negotiations failed Bonds attended Arizona State University on a baseball scholarship. He was quickly named a College All-American and set a NCAA record of seven consecutive hits in the College World Series as a sophomore. Bonds graduated in 1986 with a degree in criminology.

Sources: 
Official website: http://www.barrybonds.com/; Joey Johnston, Baseball Digest (September 2004), http://www.mercurynews.com/barrybonds/ci_17667705?nclick_check=1; http://mlb.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=111188#sectionType=career&statType=1&season=&gameType='R'; http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0907112.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Charles S. (1893-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Fisk University
Franklin Library's Special Collections

Charles Spurgeon Johnson, one of the leading 20th Century black sociologists, was born in Bristol, Virginia on July 24, 1893. After receiving his B.A. from Virginia Union University in Richmond, he studied sociology with the noted sociologist Robert E. Park at the University of Chicago, Illinois where he earned a Ph.D.  in 1917.  Initially a friend of historian Carter G. Woodson, he did collaborative work with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History until his relationship with Woodson deteriorated. 

Sources: 

August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black Historians and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Earnest W. Burgess, Elmer A. Carter, and Clarence Faust, “Charles S. Johnson, “Social Scientist, Editor, and Educational Statesman,” Phylon, 17 (Winter, 1956); Joe M. Richardson, A History of Fisk University-1865-1946 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1980) ; Patrick J. Gilpin, “Charles S. Johnson, An Intellectual Biography” (Ph.D.  Dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1973).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Brazile, Donna (1959 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Donna Brazile, author, campaign manager, adjunct professor, political analyst, and current vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was born December 15, 1959 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Lionel and Jean Brazile. Brazile was the third of nine children, and her father (a janitor) and mother (a domestic worker) often had a hard time making ends meet. Brazile became interested in politics at age nine when she heard that a local candidate for city council had promised to build a playground in her neighborhood. The young Brazile volunteered for the campaign and passed out pamphlets to her neighbors. The candidate won, the neighborhood got a playground, and Brazile discovered her new passion for political activism.  At age 17 Brazile volunteered for the Carter-Mondale campaign in 1976, stuffing envelopes at the local campaign headquarters.

Brazile attended Louisiana State University where she earned her degree in industrial psychology in 1981. After graduation Brazile worked as a lobbyist for the National Student Education Fund in Washington, D.C. During the same time period Brazile was hired by Coretta Scott King to help plan a re-enactment of the 1963 civil rights march on Washington in 1983. Brazile worked with the Dr. Martin Luther King Foundation to help establish Dr. King’s birthday as a national holiday.
Sources: 
Donna Brazile, Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005); Ashyia Henderson, “Donna Brazile,” in Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 25 (Farmington Hill: Thomson/Gale, 2004); http://www.democrats.org/about/bio/donna_brazile
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Taylor, Koko (Cora Walton), (1928-2009)

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

Koko Taylor, dubbed the ‘Queen of the Blues,’ was one of the most revered female blues singers in history. She was born Cora Walton on September 28, 1928 in Bartlett, Tennessee to sharecropper parents who nicknamed her Koko for her love of chocolate. It was on the plantations where she grew up that she developed her love of music, listening to the gospel of the churches and artists such as Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith.

By the age of 11, Walton was orphaned and she continued to pick cotton, receiving little formal education, until moving to Memphis to clean houses. In 1952, Walton and her future husband Robert ‘Paps’ Taylor moved to Chicago with only “35 cents and a box of Ritz crackers,” (in their own words). In Chicago, Koko, now Mrs. Robert Taylor, continued to clean houses, but increasingly became absorbed with Chicago’s blues scene and she began to sing with the local bands of the nightclubs.

Sources: 
Koko Taylor Official Website, www.kokotaylor.com, (Koko Taylor, 2004-2009); Guardian newspaper Official Website, guardian.co.uk, (Guardian News and Media Limited 2009).


Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Chinn, Julia Ann (ca.1790-1833)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Julia Chinn, the putative common-law wife of 9th US vice president Richard Mentor Johnson (1780-1850), was born an octoroon slave in Scott County, Kentucky.  Her parents and exact date of birth are unknown, but she was raised and educated in Johnson’s household by his mother Jemima Suggett Johnson.  By 1812, Julia had become Richard Johnson’s close companion and mother of their two daughters: Adeline J. Johnson (Scott) (ca.1812-1836) and Imogene Malvina Johnson (Pence) (1812-1885).

When Richard’s father Colonel Robert Johnson, one of the wealthiest landowners in Kentucky, died in 1815, Richard inherited Julia.  Because interracial marriage was illegal in Kentucky and emancipation would have forced Julia to leave the state, Richard M. Johnson retained the title “bachelor” and Julia remained a slave.  Rumors circulated, however, that the two had been secretly married by their Baptist minister and some contemporary newspapers referred to Julia as Johnson’s wife.
Sources: 
Ann Bevins, “Richard M. Johnson narrative: Personal and Family Life," Georgetown and Scott County Museum, 2007; “Richard Mentor Johnson, 9th Vice President (1837-1841),” United States Senate Historical Office, http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/Senate_Historical_Office.htm; Carolyn Jean Powell, "What's love got to do with it? The dynamics of desire, race and murder in the slave South," PhD Diss., UMass Amherst (January 1, 2002); “The Workings of Slavery,” New York Daily Tribune, July 1, 1845.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Washington, Ruth V. (1921-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ruth V. Washington, a lifelong Republican, was appointed by President George Herbert Walker Bush as U.S. Ambassador to Gambia on November 21, 1989.  Washington was a rare “political” appointee, meaning she was not a member of the U.S. Foreign Service for years before landing her appointment. In fact, President’s Bush’s brother Jonathan Bush, a New York lawyer, recommended her for the ambassadorial post.

Despite having no background in the Foreign Service, Washington saw her appointment as an opportunity to enlist U.S. businesses and leading universities in the effort to address Gambia’s poverty and limited infrastructure development.  Unfortunately Washington never got the opportunity to pursue these initiatives.  She died in an auto accident on January 20, 1990, near her home in Greenburg, New York, at the age of 69.  While her appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she never had to opportunity to present her credentials to the Gambian government. 
Sources: 
American Presidency Project,” George Bush: Nomination of Ruth V. Washington to Be the United States Ambassador to Gambia,” October 6, 1989; Online Oral History Project edited by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley; http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=; “Black Woman Attorney Named to Head Board,” Oakland Post, May 1, 1974; “Liberal Backing of Ruth Washington Upsets Democrats,” New Pittsburgh Courier, National Edition, Aug. 26, 1961; Ruth Washington Obituary, New York Amsterdam News, Feb. 3, 1990.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central College

Britton, Theodore R., Jr. (1925- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Theodore Roosevelt Britton, Jr. was born on October 17, 1925 in North Augusta, South Carolina. In 1936, he and his family migrated to New York City, New York. Britton was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps out of high school soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although he was unaware at the time, Britton had been one of the first African Americans selected to join the U.S. Marine Corps. From its founding in 1775, the Corps was the only branch of U.S. military service that had always excluded African Americans.   

Although the Marines now accepted African Americans, they were to be trained in a segregated facility located at Montford Point, North Carolina, adjacent to Camp Lejeune.  For the remainder of World War II all black Marines were trained at Montford Point.
Sources: 
“Biography: The Honorable Theodore Britton, Jr,” The History Makers, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/honorable-theodore-britton-jr; Pete Mecca, “Marine Britton Fought Racism, perceptions during WWII, Korea,” Rockdale Citizen, http://www.rockdalecitizen.com/news/2011/dec/20/former-marine-fought-racism-perceptions-during/; “Service with Distinction: Ambassador R. Britton,” Exceptional People Magazine, http://www.exceptionalmag.com/ambassador-theodore-r-britton/; “Congress Honors Montford Point Marines,” U.S. House of Representatives, http://www.house.gov/content/features/20120627/; Domani Spero, “Happy 237th Birthday United States Marine Corps!,” Diplopundit, http://diplopundit.net/tag/theodore-r-britton/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Foster, Andrew "Rube" (1879-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Réjon, Pierre (1895–1920)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Pierre Réjon was the first black French military pilot to fly during the World War I and one of the first people of African ancestry to become a military pilot anywhere in the world. Réjon was one of the three pilots with the Allied Air Forces along with Eugene Bullard and Andre Parsemain. He was the first French pilot whose victories were recognized by the French armed forces.  

Pierre Réjon was born on 29 June 1895 at Trinity on the West Indian island of Martinique.  After excelling in schools in Martinique, he went to the Metropolitan France in order to study engineering at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers in Paris in 1914. A few months after his arrival, World War I began.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Rhodes University, South Africa

Haynes, Inez Maxine Pitter (1919-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Inez Maxine Pitter Haynes, the middle sibling of the Pitter sisters, was born February 06, 1919 to Edward A. Pitter and Marjorie Allen Pitter, in Seattle, Washington.  In 1936 she graduated from Garfield High School and entered the University of Washington as a pre-nursing major, later changing to sociology.  As with her sisters, she had struggled in the University of Washington both because of the Great Depression and racial discrimination.  

While both of her sisters experienced similar challenges, Inez Pitter suffered the added component of skin color. She was brown-skinned, while they were both fair-skinned.   The College of Nursing refused to admit her because of her race.  The Dean of Nursing insisted that as an African American she could not stay in the same room as white nurses in Harborview Hall, the required dormitory for nursing students, and thus could not complete the program.  
Sources: 
Juana R. Royster Horn, “The Academic and Extracurricular Undergraduate Experiences of Three Black Women At The University of Washington 1935 To 1941,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington, 1980)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Braun, Carol Moseley (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Carol Moseley Braun was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 16, 1947. She attended the Chicago Public Schools and received a degree from the University of Illinois in 1969.  She earned her degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1972.

Moseley Braun served as assistant prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago from 1972 to 1978. In the latter year she was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives and served in that body for ten years. During her tenure Moseley Braun made educational reform a priority. She also became the first African American assistant majority leader in the history of the Illinois legislature.  Moseley Braun returned to Chicago in 1988 to serve as Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
Sources: 
LaVerne McCain Gill, African American Women in Congress: Forming and Transforming History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1997); David Kenney, An Uncertain Tradition: U.S. Senators from Illinois, 1818-2003 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago

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

Greenfield, Elizabeth Taylor (1819-1876)

Vignette Type: 
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

Born a slave in 1819 in Natchez, Mississippi, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield had little reason to dream of the life that would eventually become her own.  Because of a series of unlikely circumstances and her own relentless efforts she would eventually become known as the first African American singer to gain recognition in both Europe and the United States.
Sources: 
No Author Given, The Black Swan at Home and Abroad; or A Biographical Sketch of Miss Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield (Philadelphia: W.S. Young, Printer, 1855); Edward T. and Janet W. James, eds., Notable American Women: 1607-1950; A Biographical Dictionary Vol. II (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), pp. 87-89.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Vermont

Allen, Richard (1760-1831)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Born into slavery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 14, 1760, Richard Allen went on to become an educator, writer, minister and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Benjamin Chew, a Quaker lawyer, owned the Allen family, which included Richard’s parents and three other children.  Chew eventually sold the Allen family to Stokeley Sturgis, a Delaware planter.  

At age 17 Allen was converted to Methodism by an itinerant preacher.  Allen’s master, Stokeley Sturgis, was said to have been influenced by Allen to become a Methodist as well. After his conversion, Sturgis offered his slaves the opportunity to buy their way out of slavery.  In 1783, by working at odd jobs for five years, Allen managed to purchase his freedom for $2,000. In the meantime, Allen began to preach in Methodist churches and meetings in the Baltimore area.  Through his Methodist connections Allen was invited to return to Philadelphia in 1786. Upon arriving in the city he joined St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, where he became active in teaching and preaching.
Sources: 
Richard Allen, The Life, Experience and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen, Written by Himself (Philadelphia, 1793; reprinted Nashville: Abingdon, 1960); Carol V. R. George, Richard Allen and the Emergence of Independent Black Churches (New York: Oxford University, 1973).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Oden, Ron (1950- )

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

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

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

Brown, Morris (1770-1849)

Vignette Type: 
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.

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

Gayle, Addison, Jr. (1932-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the University
of Illinois Press

Literary critic Addison Gayle, Jr., born in Newport News, Virginia in 1932, was educated in the local public schools before he attended City College of New York, where he earned a B.A. degree in 1965; and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he completed an M.A. degree in English in 1966. He began his career as an educator at Bernard M. Baruch College where he distinguished himself as a professor of English until his death in October 1991.

During the 1960s, a juncture in African American history associated with political, literary and cultural upheaval, militancy, and Black Nationalism, Gayle passionately felt compelled to call for a new Black Aesthetics that radically differed from the standard Eurocentric approach to literature. To advance his new theory Gayle outlined, in controversial public lectures and essays, his vision.  In 1972, he published Black Aesthetic, a collection of essays with contributors such as Darwin Turner, Maulana Karenga, Larry Neal, and Hoyt Fuller.  This important work revisited previous approaches to African American literary criticism and called for new theoretical frameworks that complemented the then ebullient socio- political Black Power Movement.  

Sources: 
Addison Gayle, Jr., ed. The Black Aesthetic  (New York: Anchor Books, 1972); Ervin, Hazel. ed. Africa American Literary Criticism 1773 to 2000  (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1999); Deidre Raynor, “Addison Gayle, Jr.” Encyclopedia of African American Literature, Wilfred D. Samuels, ed., (New York: Facts on File, 2007): 200-201.
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Jones, Frederick McKinley (1893-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of: Minnesota Historical Society
Frederick McKinley Jones was a prolific early 20th century black inventor who helped to revolutionize both the cinema and refrigeration industries.  Over his lifetime, he patented more than sixty inventions in divergent fields with forty of those patents in refrigeration. He is best known for inventing the first automatic refrigeration system for trucks.

Jones was born on May 17, 1893 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  His mother died when he was nine, and he was forced to drop out of school.  A priest in Covington, Kentucky, raised him until he was sixteen.

Upon leaving the rectory, Jones began working as a mechanic’s helper at the R.C. Crothers Garage in Cincinnati.  Jones would spend much of his time observing the mechanics as they worked on cars, taking in as much information as possible.  These observations, along with an insatiable appetite for learning through reading helped Jones develop an incredible base of knowledge about automobiles and their inner workings. Within three years his skills and love for cars had netted him a promotion to shop foreman.  By nineteen, he had built and driven several cars in racing exhibitions and soon became one of the most well know racers in the Great Lakes region.
Sources: 
James Michael Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993); Otha Richard Sullivan and James Haskins, African American Inventors (New York: Wiley, 1998); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Da Costa, Mathieu (17th Century?)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Collage Including Mathieu Da Costa
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mathieu Da Costa, a free black seaman, is believed to be the first person of African ancestry to reach Canada and he is the first recorded black man to visit the region of Port Royal in Nova Scotia.  Although little is known of his background before he reached Canada, Da Costa is said to have had some education and was also baptized.  Even his actual name is in dispute.  He was identified as Mathieu Da Costa in English documents, Mathieu De Coste in French documents, and in Dutch documents he was known as Matheus de Cost.  

There are conflicting stories as to where and when Da Costa was at different time periods.  Records show him guiding French explorers through the Lake Champlain region.  Between 1604 and 1607 he was a trader with the Acadians -- French settlers in early Nova Scotia -- when they began commerce with the Micmac Indians along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast.  He was described in those accounts as an interpreter of the Micmac and French languages.  Other reports have Mathieu, along with three other men, dying of scurvy during the winter of 1607 in Port Royal, Nova Scotia.  Yet he was also reported to be living in Holland in February 1607.
Sources: 
A.B.J. Johnston, Mathieu Da Costa and Early Canada, Possibilities and Probabilities (Halifax, Parks Canada: The National Parks and National Historic Sites of Canada, n.d.);
Bridglal Pachai and Henry Bishop, Historic Black Nova Scotia (Halifax, N.S.: Nimbus Publishing Limited, 2006); Bridglal Pachai, People of the Maritimes: Blacks (Tantallon, N.S.: Four East Publications, 1987); Donald Clairmont, Bridglal Pachai, Stephen Kimber, and Charles Saunders, The Spirit of Africville (Halifax, N.S.: Formac Publishing Company Limited, 1992).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Townsend, Robert (1957 - )

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

Robert Townsend, writer, producer, director, and actor, was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 6, 1957, the second oldest of four children to Shirley and Robert Townsend.  Growing up on the Westside of Chicago, Townsend was raised by his mother in a single parent home.  As a child Townsend watched TV where he learned to do impersonations of his favorite actors such as Jimmy Stewart and Bill Cosby for his family and classmates. Eventually his abilities caught the attention of Chicago’s Experimental Black Actors Guild X-Bag Theatre in Chicago and then moved him out to The Improvisation, a premiere comedy club in New York City.  Townsend also had a brief uncredited role in the 1975 movie, Cooley High.

Townsend's comedy career began to take off at the Improvisation and he soon headed to Hollywood where he performed on comedy specials such as Rodney Dangerfield: It’s Not Easy Being Me.  Townsend also landed minor role in films such as A Soldier’s Story (1984) with Denzel Washington, Streets of Fire (1984) with Diane Lane, and American Flyers, a 1985 movie staring Kevin Costner.  

Sources: 

Robert Townsend.com, December 5, 2008,
http://www.roberttownsend.com/bio.html; Jennifer M. York, ed. Who’s Who
Among African Americans
, 16th ed., (San Francisco: Thomson Gale, 2003)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Calvin, Floyd Joseph (1902-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Floyd Calvin was a journalist who also launched a newswire service and hosted the first black radio show during the Harlem Renaissance.

Calvin was born in 1902 to a school teacher and a farmer in Washington, Arkansas.  He graduated from Shover State Teacher Training College in Hope, Arkansas in 1920 and attended the City College of New York for another year after migrating to Harlem.

In 1922, after college, Calvin began working briefly as an associate editor of the Messenger, the political and literary magazine which many historians claim was at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance. There he worked with A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen, the founders of the magazine. In 1924 Calvin began working at the Pittsburgh Courier, which at the time was one of the two most widely circulated black newspapers in the country (the Chicago Defender was the other).  There, he was a writer and special features editor from 1924 to 1935 working in the New York office of the Courier.

In 1927, Calvin hosted a periodic radio talk show sponsored by the Courier.  It was broadcast on radio station WGBS, and it covered African-American-focused topics.  The show, the Courier Hour, was the first radio program ever sponsored by a black newspaper and the first radio talk program targeting an African American audience.
Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981); Ryan Ellett, Uncovering Black Radio’s Roots: 1927 – 1929 (http://otrr.org).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fletcher, Benjamin Harrison (1890-1949)

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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

Aynaw, Yityish “Titi” (1992- )

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

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

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

Sampson, Henry Thomas (1934- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1934, Henry Thomas Sampson, Jr. is a prolific inventor and pioneer in the field of nuclear engineering. Sampson is also a pioneer in the technology that is used in modern cell phones, but contrary to a widely held belief, he didn’t invent the cell phone. The eldest child of Esther and Henry T. Sampson, Henry, Jr. has a younger brother named John.
Sources: 
Keith Clayton Holmes, Black Inventors: Crafting Over 200 Years of Success (Brooklyn, New York: Global Black Inventor Research Projects, 2008), p 65; Vivian O. Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation, 1980), p 208; “Henry T. Sampson—Our People Purdue Engineering,”
https://engineering.purdue.edu/Engr/People/Awards/Institutional/DEA/DEA_2013/Sampson; Henry T. Sampson and George H. Miley, G.H. Gamma-Electric Cell. U.S. Patent 3,591,860, July 6, 1971; Henry T. Sampson, H.T. Process for Case Bonding Cast Composite Propellant Grains. U.S. Patent 3,734,982, May 22, 1973; Glenn E. Rodgers, Descriptive Inorganic, Coordination, and Solid-State Chemistry, 2nd Edition (Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Perry, Robert C. (1945- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Robert Perry was born in Durham, North Carolina in 1945.  He graduated from Hillside High School in that city in 1963. During his time in high school, Perry played in the marching band, was a member of the Honor Society, and served as president of his sophomore and senior classes. He was an acolyte at St. Titus Episcopal Church. As a member of Boy Scout Troop 55, Robert Perry earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

Perry graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio in 1967. He completed a Master’s Degree in International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C. the following year.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Anderson, Edward W. (1871–1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Entrepreneur, political organizer, and civilian pioneer, Edward William Anderson was born the son of former slaves, Wyatt and Fannie Anderson, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, September 26, 1871. He arrived in San Diego, California, in the mid-1890s with just $1.25 in his pocket but was confident in his ability to thrive as a business owner. His first successful venture was as owner, at age twenty-five, of IXL (I Excel) Laundry which grew to become the largest steam laundry in the region with thirty-five employees.  
Sources: 
Robert Fikes Jr., Biographical Sketches of the Presidents of the San Diego NAACP (San Diego NAACP, 2013); Richard Crawford, “Discrimination Takes Center Stage,” (April 14, 2010) at http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2010/apr/24/discrimination-takes-center-stage/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Owen, Chandler (1889-1967)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Collins, Seaborn J. (1852- ? )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Seaborn J. Collins was born and raised in Georgia. He migrated to Seattle, Washington with his wife Alzada and son William in 1885, where he worked as a mechanic and a carpenter.  Collins also invested in local real estate. In 1888 Collins bought property in the Yesler neighborhood, and built a two-story house on the property valued at $1,000. Three years later, the Collins family became the first African Americans to move to the Madison District, a middle class suburban community on the northeastern edge of Seattle.  

Collins was a charter member of the First African American Republican Club, and in 1892 he was nominated to run as the Republican nominee for the office of wreckmaster. He defeated Democratic nominee John A. Coleman and became the first African American elected official in King County.
Sources: 
Esther Hall Mumford, Seattle’s Black Victorians, 1852-1901 (Seattle: Ananse Press, 1980); Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community : Seattle's Central District, from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Reagon, Bernice Johnson (1942- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bernice Johnson Reagon, singer/composer, cultural historian, author, and producer, was born on October 4, 1942 in Dougherty County, Georgia, to Reverend Jessie Johnson and Beatrice Johnson. The third child of eight, she began singing at the age of five in her father’s church. As a high school senior in 1959 she served as secretary to the youth chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 1959 Johnson entered Albany State College in Georgia, where she majored in music. While there, she became one of the student leaders in the Albany Movement, serving as student representative on the Executive Committee. In December 1961 Johnson and 600 other African Americans were arrested for demonstrating against segregated facilities. As a result of their activism, Johnson and 38 fellow students were suspended by the college.

In 1962 Johnson became a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Field Secretary, joining SNCC’s Freedom Singers on their first national tour. After her marriage in 1963 to fellow SNCC member, Cordell H. Reagon, and the birth of their children, Toshi and Kwan, Reagon resumed her studies at Spelman College, graduating in 1970.  She then went on to do graduate work in history at Howard University, completing her doctoral dissertation on the songs of the Civil Rights Movement.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.bernicejohnsonreagon.com/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ford, Harold Sr. (1945- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Harold Eugene Ford, Sr., a United States Representative from Tennessee from 1975 to 1997, was born on May 20, 1945 in Memphis, Tennessee to Vera Davis and Newton Jackson Ford, a funeral home director.  Ford’s family was part of the local black elite dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century.  Ford graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville in 1967 and later earned an M.B.A. degree from Howard University in 1982.

In 1974, Ford won the Democratic nomination for the Memphis-based 8th Congressional District and the right to oppose four-term Republican incumbent Dan Kuykendall. Kuykendall had first been elected to Congress in 1964, the first of the “Goldwater Republicans” to be elected from the South.  Despite Kuykendall’s most recent reelection in 1972, the district was becoming more African American as many Memphis whites left the city for the suburbs.  Ford also took advantage of an unprecedented voter registration drive campaign in African American Memphis.  The campaign between the white conservative Republican and black liberal Democrat was hotly contested and quickly took on racial overtones.
Sources: 
Paula D. McClain and Joseph Stewart, Jr., Can We All Get Along: Racial and Ethnic Minorities in American Politics (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2006); Lawrence Graham, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class (New York: Harper Collins, 1999); http://www.wargs.com/political/fordh.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Oliver, Joseph “King” (1885-1938)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mentor to Louis Armstrong and pioneer of what would become known as the Harmon trumpet mute, Joe “King” Oliver was a key figure in the first period of jazz history.  His most significant ensemble, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, was a live sensation and also the first black New Orleans ensemble to gain recognition in the record industry.  

Born in Louisiana in 1885, Joseph Oliver began his musical studies on trombone, but switched to cornet as a teenager, touring with a brass band at the turn of the century.  Oliver worked in various marching and cabaret bands in and around New Orleans, including bands led by Kid Ory and Richard M. Jones, but moved north in 1918, settling in Chicago.  After a stay in California, Oliver returned to Chicago and formed his own ensemble which included bassist Bill Johnson, trombonist Honore Dutrey, clarinetist Johnny Dodds, his brother, drummer Warren “Baby” Dodds, and pianist Lillian Hardin.  King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, as it was called, debuted on June 17, 1922 at the Lincoln Gardens Café in Chicago.  Shortly thereafter, Oliver wired New Orleans requesting a second cornetist, his former apprentice Louis Armstrong.  The new ensemble was a hit, captivating audiences with its deep rhythmic vitality, improvised polyphony, and unbelievable double-cornet breaks – Oliver and Armstrong seemed to improvise on the spot, in perfect unison.
Sources: 
Gary Giddins, Visions of Jazz: The First Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); Richard Cook, Jazz Encyclopedia (London: Penguin Books, 2005); Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Eighth Edition) (London: Penguin Books, 2006); Scotty Barnhart, The World of Jazz Trumpet: A Comprehensive History & Practical Philosophy (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2005).
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

Malone, Annie Turnbo (1869-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mark C. Carnes and John A. Garraty, eds., American National Biography (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1999); Peter C. Zeppieri, "'For the Good of the Race:' A Case Study in Black Entrepreneurship, 1890-1940" (Thesis, De Paul University, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bland, James A. (1854-1911)

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People
H