On December 25, 1829 Solomon Northup married Anne Hampton and the couple had three children: Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. The Northup family sold the family farm and moved to Glens Falls, New York where he worked numerous seasonal jobs around their county of residence. His wife also contributed to the family’s income as a part-time cook at various taverns in rural New York State. Northup eventually gained a reputation as a brilliant violinist who entertained large audiences throughout rural New York.
U.S. Department of State, “John Withers II,” http://m.state.gov/md116125.htm; Los Angeles Times, “U.S. ambassador to Albania cleared in ammo cover-up,” http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/19/nation/na-diplomat-cleared19; Besar Likmeta, “WikiLeaks, Corruption Lost Albania Millions in Aid,” in BalkanInsight, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-lost-millions-of-us-aid-due-to-corruption.
Robert Carter enrolled at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania at the age of 16 and completed his degree four years later. In 1937 he entered Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C. After completing his law degree at Howard Carter earned his LLM (Master of Laws) degree at Columbia University after writing a thesis that would later define the legal strategy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on the right to freedom of association under the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Carter was drafted into the Army in 1941 and first encountered racism. After serving in the Army Air Corps, he was discharged from the service in 1944. Carter was then offered a job with the NAACP’s legal staff headed by chief counsel Thurgood Marshall. Carter accepted and became Marshall’s chief legal assistant in the fight against Jim Crow laws across the South. Carter served for example as the lead attorney of the Sweatt v. Painter Texas desegregation case in 1950.
John Nail graduated from a New York public high school and worked briefly in his father’s hotel. In 1904 he began working as a salesman at the Afro-American Realty Company, a firm headed by Philip A. Payton and based in Harlem. The Afro-American Realty Company, anticipating the migration of African Americans from central Manhattan to Harlem, encouraged black homeowners and business owners to relocate in the area. Nail, through the Afro-American Realty Company, also helped unite black renters and white landlords and aided a number of the earliest black residents of Harlem in finding new homes in the area.
Rowan was born August 11, 1925, in the mining town of Ravenscroft, Tennessee. When he was a baby his family moved to McMinnville, Tennessee, because his parents thought its lumberyards offered more opportunity. His father, Thomas, stacked lumber for construction, and his mother, Johnnie, cleaned houses, cooked, and did laundry for wealthier families. They had five children. The Rowan family home had no electricity, running water, telephone, nor even a clock. One of young Carl's teachers encouraged him to read and write as much as possible, even going to the library for him because, as a black person, Rowan wasn't allowed to check out books for himself. He graduated at the top of his high school class.
Carl Rowan, Breaking Barriers: a Memoir (Boston: Little, Brown 1991); Cynthia Kirk, “Carl Rowan: The Life Story of an Influential Newsman,” People in America, Voice of America (May 14, 2005); J.Y. Smith, “Columnist Carl Rowan Dies at 75,” The Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2000; p. A1.
Susan Rice is the current National Security Advisor for the Barack Obama Administration. She is the first African American, the third woman, and the second youngest person to hold the position. Prior to being selected by President Obama for the post, Rice served as a key foreign policy advisor for the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential race.
Joshua Johnston, also known as Joshua Johnson, was a portraitist active in Baltimore, Maryland between 1790 and 1825, and the first African American to gain recognition as an artist. Primarily a painter of members of the slave-holding aristocracy, he was rediscovered by Baltimore genealogist and art historian J. Hall Pleasants in 1939.
According to Baltimore County court chattel records, Johnston was the son of a white man, George Johnston, and an unknown enslaved black woman owned by William Wheeler Sr., a small farmer. Wheeler sold Joshua Johnston to George Johnston in 1764 for 25 pounds, half the price of an adult male field slave. George Johnston arranged that Joshua would be freed after completing a blacksmith apprenticeship, or on turning 21, whichever came first; Joshua would go on to complete his apprenticeship with William Forepaugh, and was freed on July 15, 1782. Between 1796 and 1824, he was listed in most Baltimore City directories as a painter or limner. In the 1817-1818 directory he was also recorded as a “Free Householder of Color.”
Karen Ann King-Aribisala is a Guyanese-born novelist who was raised and currently resides in Nigeria. She left Guyana as a young child, moving with her parents to Nigeria around the time of the Nigerian Civil war (1967-1970). Her father introduced her to books at an early age, and the two would discuss literature, poetry and the Bible. He encouraged her to write as well, and she began composing her own stories around the age of eight.
Karen King-Aribisala began her education at the Ibadan International School in Nigeria. She received an international education in Guyana, Barbados, Italy and at the London Academy for the Dramatic Arts in England. She met her Nigerian husband during her time studying abroad in Italy as a teenager.
Alan Page is a former professional football player and current Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Born on August 7, 1945 in Canton, Ohio, Page holds the distinction of being the only player to work on the construction of the National Football League (NFL) Hall of Fame as well as be enshrined in it. Page played his high school football at Canton Central Catholic High School where he excelled in all sports; his athleticism and quickness off the ball would later enable him to record 148.5 career sacks in the NFL. Following high school Page attended Notre Dame where he helped lead them to a 1966 National Championship and was awarded All-American honors the same year.
After graduating from Notre Dame in 1967, Page was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and was part of the famed “Purple People Eaters” defensive line from that year until 1978. Known for his durability, Page played an astounding 218 consecutive games without injury in which he recovered 22 fumbles, scored three touchdowns, and three safeties, the second most in NFL history. Page was a six-time all-pro and was voted to nine consecutive pro bowls. In 1971 page was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year and well as NFL most valuable player, an honor he was only the second defensive player to receive.
Margaret Esse Danner is an African American poet, born in Pryorsburg, Kentucky on January 12, 1915 to Caleb and Naomi Esse. Danner began writing poetry when she was in junior high school. In the eighth grade she won first place for a poem she wrote titled, “The Violin.” Her family moved to Chicago when Margaret began High School.
Danner later attended Loyola and Northwestern Universities, where she was taught by Karl Shapiro and Paul Engle. She continued her writing while in Chicago and first became recognized in 1945 when she won second place in the Poetry Workshop of the Midwestern Writers Conference at Northwestern University. In 1951, while in Chicago, Danner become an editorial assistant for Poetry: the Magazine of Verse. It was this publication that introduced her poem series “Far From Africa” for which she is best known. These poems won Danner the John Hay Whitney Fellowship on 1951, which was intended to fund a trip to Africa scheduled for that same year. Danner postponed the trip for personal reasons and in fact did not go to Africa until 1966. In 1955 Margaret Danner became the first African American to hold the position of Assistant Editor of Poetry: The Magazine of Verse...
During her lifetime, Margaret Danner was married twice and had one daughter with her first husband. A number of her later poems were inspired by her grandson, Sterling, which she referenced as “Muffin Poems.” In 1961, Danner became poet-in-residence at Wayne State University in Detroit. It was during this time that Danner became involved in the Baha'i faith, which would influence her poetry. From that point many of her poems would refer to that faith.
June M. Aldridge, “Margaret Esse Danner.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Poets since 1955. Vol. 41, T. Harris, Editor, (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985); Haki Madhubuti, Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s. (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1971).
After witnessing poverty and discrimination in Depression-era Georgia, Louis Wade Sullivan committed his career to education and public service, rising to become Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush. He also was the founder and long-time president of Morehouse College School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.
Louis Wade Sullivan was born in Atlanta in 1933, but when his family moved to a small Georgia farming community that did not offer educational opportunities for African Americans, he was sent to live with relatives in Savannah where he could attend school. After graduating at the top of his high school class, he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, earning a B.S. in the premedical program in 1954. He then received a scholarship to Boston University School of Medicine, where he was the only African American in his class. He graduated third in his class, earning an M.D. (cum laude) in 1958. During his internship and residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Sullivan conducted research into the correlation between blood and diseases. He made several discoveries concerning alcohol and blood health, and subsequently conducted further medical research at Harvard Medical School and a number of other institutions during the following decades. In 1976, he helped found the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools to promote a national minority health agenda.
Milton Arthur Galamison, minister and civil rights activist, was the leader of New York City’s school integration movement in the 1960s. Born and raised in Philadelphia, where he experienced poverty and hostile racial relations that influenced his later activism, Galamison received a B.A. with honors at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1945. He began his activism in Brooklyn, where he was appointed minister to the Siloam Presbyterian Church in 1948. As a prestigious institution long associated with activist ministers, the church offered Galamison a platform for his future involvement in improving education for minority children in public schools.
In 1955, Galamison was elected chair of the education committee of the Brooklyn branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Under his leadership, the branch became a noted advocate for working class black and Puerto Rican parents who fought for quality education for their children.
James Thomas Bell was born May 17, 1903, in Starkville, Mississippi. Playing baseball as a 19 year-old rookie Bell earned the nickname “Cool Papa” after proving to his older teammates that he was not intimidated by playing professionally in front of large crowds. Signing with the St. Louis Stars in 1922, Bell entered professional baseball as a pitcher, reportedly throwing a wicked curveball and fade-away knuckleball.
The speed of Bell would become apparent when he beat the Chicago American Giants Jimmy Lyons in a race for the title of “fastest man in the league.” He immediately switched to center field, where he would play shallow and always manage to run down long hits. Bell stayed with the Stars until 1930 when the league disbanded, and led them to league titles in 1928 and 1930.
Blackbaseball.com, http://www.blackbaseball.com/players/coolpapabell.htm ;
National Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/bell_cool_papa.htm ;
Negro League Baseball Players Association, http://www.nlbpa.com/bell__james_-_cool_papa.html
Kirke Smith was born July 22, 1865 in Montgomery County, Virginia. He graduated from Berea College in1894 and earned an M.A. degree from the University of Michigan. In 1894, Smith became the Superintendent of the Lebanon Colored Schools and the following year, Superintendent of Principals in the Lebanon, Kentucky school system, a post he held for fifteen years. During this period he also became an ordained minister.
On January 12, 1904, Democratic representative Carl Day, of Breathitt, Kentucky, introduced House Bill 25, “An Act to prohibit white and colored persons from attending the same school.” The so-called Day Bill was aimed at Berea College since separate public schools for blacks and whites had been the law in the state for some time. After a lawsuit to defend its interracial educational policy was defeated in the courts, Berea raised funds to establish a new school for blacks. From 1910-1912, the trustees employed Rev. Kirke Smith and Rev. James Bond, the grandfather of Julian Bond, to raise money for the new school which would be named Lincoln Institute.
Burton was brought to Fort Bend County, Texas as a slave from North Carolina in 1850 at the age of twenty-one. While enslaved, he was taught how to read and write by his master, Thomas Burton. After the Civil War his former owner sold Burton several large plots of land for $1,900 making him one of the wealthiest and most influential blacks in Fort Bend County. In 1869, Walter Burton was elected sheriff and tax collector of Fort Bend County. Along with these duties, he also served as the president of the Fort Bend County Union League.
Merline Pitre, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: The Black Leadership of Texas, 1868-1900 (Austin: Eakin, 1985); "Walter Moses Burton" in The Handbook of Texas History Online, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbu67.
Day’s early years were spent following in his father's footsteps in the cabinetry craft and from an early age he displayed proficiency in woodwork. In 1823, Day moved to Milton, North Carolina. Within a decade he had established himself as one of the South's most famous and celebrated furniture craftsmen. His work was widely recognized and he became sought after by plantation owners whose homes he embellished with stylish mantle pieces and stair railings, in addition to providing them with furniture. He would craft pieces for two of North Carolina's governors and was awarded a commission to furnish the interior woodwork of one of the original buildings of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
David Jones Peck was the first black man to graduate from an American medical school. He was born to John C. and Sarah Peck in Carlisle, Pennsylvania around 1826. John Peck was a prominent abolitionist and minister who founded the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Carlisle. Peck was also a barber and wigmaker.
John and Sarah Peck moved to Pittsburgh in the early 1830s where they established the first school for black children in the area. David was one of their first students. Between 1844 and 1846 David Peck studied medicine under Dr. Joseph P. Gaszzam, an anti-slavery white doctor in Pittsburgh. He then entered Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois in 1846, three years after the institution opened. After he graduated in 1847, Peck toured the state of Ohio with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass promoting abolitionist ideals. His status as the first black graduate of a medical college was used by abolitionists to promote the idea of full black citizenship and was implicitly an attack on slavery.
Michael J. Harris, "David Jones Peck, MD: A Dream Denied," Journal of the National Medical Association 88:9 (1996): pp. 600-604; "David Jones Peck, M.D., Rush Medical College, Class of 1847," Archives of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Vivian Ovleton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corp., 1990).
Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Zulu Chief and one of the founders of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), was born August 27, 1928 in Mahlabathinni, Natal. He was a descendent of the Zulu royal family, his mother being the granddaughter of King Cetshwayo. Buthelezi attended Impumalanga Primary School and then went on to study at Adams College in Amanzimtioti. In 1948 he attended Fort Hare University, where he would begin his lifelong involvement in politics by joining the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League and participating in sit-in demonstrations which would lead to his expulsion from the University.
Ben Temkin, Buthelezi: A Biography (London: Frank Cass, 2003); LA Times Website: http://articles.latimes.com/1992-02-14/local/me-2176_1_los-angeles-times.
Togo D. West Jr., attorney and government official, was born on June 21, 1942 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Togo D. West, Sr. and Evelyn Carter West. In 1959 he graduated as valedictorian from Atkins High School in that same city. In 1965, West enrolled at Howard University, earning his B.S. degree in electrical engineering. He switched to law and earned a J.D. degree from Howard University Law School in 1968, graduating first in his class. After he completed law school, West clerked for a federal judge in the Southern district of New York.
During the early 1970s, West served in the United States Army as a judge in the Judge Advocate General Corps. For his outstanding military service, West earned both the Legion of Merit award and the Meritorious Service Medal. Government officials recognized West’s distinguished military service and in 1973, he was appointed by President Gerald Ford as Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed West as general counsel to the Navy and in 1979, West served as Deputy Secretary to the Secretary of Defense and general counsel to the Department of Defense from 1980 to 1981.
In 1981, West retired from government to become managing partner of the Washington, D.C. law firm, Patterson, Belknap, Webb, and Tyler. In 1990, West became the senior vice president for the Arlington, Virginia-based Northrop Corporation, a military aircraft manufacturer.
Leonard Reed, noted dancer and entertainment businessman, co-created the famous Shim Sham Shimmy tap routine that has been replicated for centuries by tappers the world over. He was also associated with Joe Louis (1914-1981) during the heavyweight boxer’s efforts to break down golf’s color barrier.
Reed was born in Lightning Creek near Nowata, Indian Territory, on January 7, 1907, to a woman who was half African American and half Native American (Choctaw and Cherokee). Reed was orphaned at the age of two when his mother died of pneumonia and was raised by a series of relatives, foster parents and guardians in Kansas City, Missouri.
As a teenager, Reed began performing the Charleston dance at carnivals in the Kansas City area. His high school principal helped him gain entrance into Cornell University, but Reed dropped out to become a professional dancer. The blue-eyed Reed and another light-skinned African American named Willie Bryant (1908-1964) developed a successful vaudeville act, “Brains as Well as Feet,” passing as Caucasians so they could perform for all-white audiences. Together, they closed their acts with the Shim Sham Shimmy, a 32-bar tap routine. In the early 1930s, Reed and Bryant were barred from white clubs when their African American ancestry became common knowledge. Soon thereafter the duo broke up, and Reed began producing shows for black performers at famous venues like the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.
Clara Mae Luper was born in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, to Ezell and Isabell Shepard on May 3, 1923. She attended all-black schools and was bussed several miles to Grayson High School where she graduated in a class of five. After graduating from the segregated Langston University, Luper became the first African American student to enroll in the history department at the University of Oklahoma, earning a master’s degree in 1951.
Luper was one of the early leaders in the civil rights movement in Oklahoma during the 1950s. She taught history in various Oklahoma City public schools for forty-one years and became the sponsor of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council. In 1958, working with this group, she led the earliest “sit-ins” in Oklahoma and some of the first in United States. Through these protests she and other civil rights activists succeeded in integrating many public facilities in Oklahoma City and across the state by 1964.
James Arthur Baldwin, fiction writer, essayist, dramatist, and poet, was born on August 2, 1924 in Harlem, New York during the Harlem Renaissance. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in 1942, he began his formal career as a writer. Baldwin was inspired by Richard Wright, despite his being called to the ministry at age fourteen in the Pentecostal faith and church dominated by his father, David Baldwin.
Although James Baldwin emerged as a major American literary voice by 1953 when he published his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, his candid and militant essays found in Nobody Knows my Name (1961) and The Fire Next Time (1963) identified his writing with the emerging Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Baldwin stood with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, when the civil rights leader delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884, Saint Elmo Brady became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in the field of chemistry when he completed his graduate studies at the University of Illinois in 1916. The eldest child of Thomas and Celesta Brady, Saint Elmo had two younger sisters, Fedora and Buszeder.
Peter Williams Jr., clergyman, abolitionist, and opponent of colonization was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey around 1780. His family moved to New York City, where he first attended the New York African Free School operated by the Manumission Society. He was also taught privately by Episcopal Church leader, the Reverend Thomas Lyell. Williams joined a group of black Episcopalians who worshiped at New York’s Trinity Church on Sunday afternoons. There lay leader John Henry Hobart confirmed and tutored Williams as well as other future Episcopal clergymen. Hobart also officiated at Williams wedding. When Hobart died Williams was elected by the congregation as lay reader and licensed by the bishop.
In 1818 Williams led the other African American Episcopalians in creating their own church, St. Philip’s African Church. The new church was recognized by the Episcopal Church on July 3, 1819 as one of the earliest predominately black Episcopal Churches in the United States. On July 10, 1826, Peter Williams Jr. was advanced to the priesthood, becoming the second African American so ordained.
Amanda Randolph, one of the first black performers to appear consistently on television, was born in 1896 in Louisville, Kentucky. She began performing as a young teenager in Cleveland’s musical comedies and nightclubs. In the 1930s, she toured Europe and performed in several hit musical revues such as Chilli Peppers, Dusty Lane, and Radio Waves.
Randolph began her film career as an actress appearing in Swing (1938), Lying Lips (1939) and The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940) – three of Oscar Micheaux race films, which he routinely created for nearly three decades to appeal to black audiences and offer a truer reputation of black life than most Hollywood productions.
Donald Bogle. Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia,
New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Darlene C. Hine and Fenella
MacFarlane, Black Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia. Vol. II,
(Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing Inc. 1993); Edward Mapp, Directory of
Blacks in the Performing Arts, (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press
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.
Henry Adams was a Louisiana leader who advocated the emigration of southern freed blacks to Liberia after emancipation. Born a slave in Newton County, Georgia on March 16, 1843, Henry Adams was originally born as Henry Houston but changed his name at the age of seven. His enslaved family was relocated to Louisiana in 1850 and lived there until 1861.
Adams married a woman named Malinda during his enslavement and the couple had four children. Unlike most enslaved people, Adams and his wife were able to acquire property during the Civil War.
After the war Adams moved to DeSoto Parish in Louisiana where he started a successful peddling business. Adams eventually became a merchant but in 1866 at the age of 23 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Adams was discharged in September 1869 after rising to the rank of quartermaster sergeant. Adams learned to read and write in the Army, providing him a measure of self-confidence that encouraged his leadership of other ex-slaves once he returned to civilian life.
Horace King, born a slave on September 8, 1807 in Chesterfield District, South Carolina, was a successful bridge architect and builder in West Georgia, Northern Alabama and northeast Georgia in the period between the 1830s and 1870s. King worked for his master, John Godwin who owned a successful construction business. Although King was a slave, Godwin treated him as a valued employee and eventually gave him considerable influence over his business. Horace King supervised many of Godwin's business activities including the management of construction sites. In 1832, for example, King led a construction crew in building Moore’s Bridge, the first bridge crossing the lower Chattahoochee River in northwest Georgia. Later in the decade, Godwin and King constructed some of the largest bridges in Georgia, Alabama, and Northeastern Mississippi. By the 1840s King designed and supervised construction of major bridges at Wetumpka, Alabama and Columbus, Mississippi without Godwin's supervision. Godwin issued five year warranties on his bridges because of his confidence in King’s high quality work.
John S. Lupold, John S., and Thomas L. French Jr. Bridging Deep South
Rivers: The Life and Legend of Horace King (Athens: The University of
Georgia Press, 2004); John N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman, African
American Business Leaders (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press,
1993); Thomas L. French and Edward L. French, "Horace King, Bridge
Builder," Alabama Heritage 11 (Winter 1989): 34-47.
Musician, clergyman and civil rights supporter Gloster B. Current was instrumental in the growth of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP, founded 1909). Born in 1913 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to John T. Current and Earsy Bryant, Gloster grew up Chicago and Detroit. He earned a BA degree from West Virginia State College in 1941 and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Wayne State University in 1950.
Current’s role with the NAACP spanned 37 years between 1936 and 1978. He began his career with a position with the organization’s youth council in Detroit. Two years later, he married Leontine Turpeau Current (later Kelly), who would become the first African American woman elected bishop in a mainstream denomination. They had three children and before divorcing.
Three years into his NAACP service, Current became vice chairman of national college chapters and chair of the central youth council committee. He later held positions in the national office as a deputy to the executive director and served most of his time as director of branch and field services, supervising all NAACP membership, field service, and organizational activities.
The novelist Richard Moore Rive was born March 1, 1931 in Cape Town, South Africa. His mother was Nancy Rive, a black South African woman and his father was Richardson Moore, an African-American ship hand. Moore abandoned his newly born son, Richard, a few months after he was born, never to be seen again.
Richard Moore Rive grew up in a tenement building called Eaton Place in Cape Town's impoverished black neighborhood, District Six. He was raised by his mother and several half siblings, particularly his half sister Georgina Rive. Rive was also raised Catholic and baptized at the St. Mark’s church in District Six, though he later became an atheist as an adult.
Rive attended primary school at St. Mark’s. At age 12, his high marks earned him a municipal scholarship to the prestigious Trafalgar High School. Along with his studies Rive found time to enjoy hiking and sport, and won several prizes for athletics in amateur competitions.
Albert Cleage, jr., or Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, Black Nationalist and civil rights activist, was one of the most prominent black religious leaders in America. Agyemen preached a form of nationalism within the black community that stressed economic self-sufficiency and separation that relied on a religious awakening among black people.
Albert Cleage, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 13, 1911. Cleage graduated from Wayne State University in Michigan in 1937, earning a B.A. in sociology, and a M.A. in Divinity from Oberlin School of Theology in 1943. Cleage married Doris Graham and had two daughters. Cleage and Graham later divorced in 1955. Cleage ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 under the Freedom Now Party, and was a candidate in the Democratic primary for U.S. Representative from Michigan, 13th District, in 1966. Cleage later changed his name to Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.
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.
James Everett Chase, businessman and politician, was born the youngest of seven children in Wharton, Texas in 1914. He attended high school in Ballinger, Texas. During the Great Depression, Chase became an enrollee at a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp in El Paso. Upon completion of his CCC service, he migrated to Spokane, Washington with fellow Texans, Elmo Dalbert and Harry Blackwell. In 1934, when Chase first arrived in Spokane after hoboing across the west, he found a job shining shoes at a white barbershop.
In 1942 Chase married Eleanor Barrow, the granddaughter of 19th century Spokane black pioneer and entrepreneur Peter Barrow. The Chases had a child Roland. During World War II, James Chase’s employment situation improved. He repaired military vehicles at Spokane’s Geiger Air Field and in 1945 partnered with Elmo Dalbert to open Chase and Dalbert Body and Fender, an automotive body repair shop.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Chase served at different times as president and vice president of the Spokane Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). While at the helm of the branch, Chase brought Rosa Parks in as a guest speaker in 1956 and through the media he addressed local civil rights abuses in employment and housing.
Born on November 24, 1943 in Washington, D.C, David Bing was a skilled point guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA). His mother was a homemaker and his father was a bricklayer who founded a construction company.
Elizabeth Schleichert, Dave Bing: Basketball Great With a Heart (Springfield, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, 1995); Lou Sahadi, Basketball’s Fastest Hands (New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1977); John Hareas, NBA’s Greatest (New York: DK Publishers, 2003); www.nba.com; www.binggroup.com; www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/The-Bing-Company-History.htm.
Leroy Wesley Smith was born in St. Louis Missouri on December 6, 1951, and became a late 20th Century social activist for justice. Son of a fireman and a licensed practical nurse, Smith spent his childhood growing up in a St. Louis housing project. He participated in an after school program for disadvantaged male youth which gave him the opportunity to travel to Cairo, Illinois where he heard other activists and community organizers for the first time. Impressed by their passion and their organizing skills, Smith was influenced to follow a similar path.
After graduating high school in 1970, Smith entered St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota where he became the leader of The Organization of Afro-American Students. Through this organization, Smith fought for a Black Studies program that would hire more black professors.
Sharon Melson Fletcher, “Damu Smith Biography” African American Biographies. (Net Industries, 2009) http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2880/Smith-Damu.html Retrieved 2009-03-06; Sara Powell, “In Memoriam: Damu Smith 1951-2006” Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. (Jul 2006). http://www.wrmea.com/archives/July_2006/0607080.html Retrieved 2009-03-04.
Walter Edward Washington, attorney and politician, was born in Dawson, Georgia, on April 15, 1915 to Willie Mae and William L. Washington. After his mother’s death in 1921, Washington moved with his father to Jamestown, New York. Washington excelled academically and athletically in the public school. His trumpeting skills in school also earned him the nickname Duke II. In 1934, he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Washington earned his B.A. degree in 1938 and his law degree from the same institution in 1948. While attending law school, Washington met and married Benetta Bullock.
Following law school, Washington was employed as a supervisor for the District of Columbia’s Alley Dwelling Project. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named Washington the executive director the National Capitol Housing Authority, becoming the first African American to hold that position.
James Edwards was one of the most successful African American homesteaders in the state of Wyoming. Born in Ohio on February 14, 1871, local tradition in Wyoming suggests that prior to venturing west, Edwards had served in an African American cavalry unit in Cuba, though no documentation has been found to substantiate the claim.
In 1900, Edwards accompanied his father and a group of Italian miners westward in response to eastern newspaper advertisements of work at the Cambria coal mine in Newcastle, Wyoming. After being driven away from the mine, Edwards walked south to the area near Lusk, finding work on March 31, 1903 on Eugene Bigelow Wilson and George Luther Wilson's Running Water Ranch on the Niobrara River in present day Niobrara County, Wyoming. He was regarded by the owners of the ranch as a good and trustworthy worker, sheepman, and horse trainer. Edwards worked on the Wilson Brothers’ ranch until December of 1914. By the end of his employment on the ranch he had been promoted to foreman, putting him in a supervisory role over white employees.
James Baskett, the first male African American to win an Academy Award, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 16, 1904. After high school Baskett planned to study pharmacy, but after he was offered a small part in a show in Chicago, Illinois his career path was forever changed. Baskett continued to take small roles in Chicago plays for a time, but later he went to New York City, New York and joined the Lafayette Players Stock Company, where he stayed for many years.
Baskett first appeared on film in a feature role in Harlem is Heaven, and continued on in such films as Policy Man and Straight to Heaven. Baskett was not confined to film and theater; he also played Gabby Gibson, a slick-talking lawyer on the popular radio program Amos 'n' Andy.
Wellington Webb was born in Chicago in 1941. He came to Denver at a very early age and before entering politics he was a forklift operator. Webb’s public service career began in 1972 when he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. In 1977, he was selected by President James Carter to serve as regional director of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Then in 1981, Colorado Governor Richard Lamm appointed Webb to his cabinet as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. In 1987, he was elected as the Denver City Auditor.
In 1991, Webb became the first African American mayor of Denver. He won reelection twice, serving a total of twelve years. During his tenure he named the first Hispanic police chief, the first African American fire chief and the first Hispanic Clerk and Recorder. He also oversaw the construction of Denver International Airport and ensured that many of its concessions would be operated b women and minority entrepreneurs. Mayor Webb hosted nearly 200,000 people from around the world to celebrate World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II on August 11-15, 1993, and in 1997 welcomed President Clinton and eight world leaders at the Denver Summit of the Eight, the annual economic summit.
Brenda Ray Moryck was a Washington, D.C.-based black writer and social activist often associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. While Moryck and her female peers did not receive as much mainstream public attention as did many black male artists, she published short stories, essays, and book reviews in important journals such as the Urban League’s Opportunity and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Crisis.
Brenda Moryck was born in 1894 in Newark, New Jersey. The great-granddaughter of Reverend Charles Ray, editor of the important antebellum black newspaper, the Colored American, Moryck noted that “writing is a tradition in our family.” In 1916, she graduated from Wellesley College and returned to New Jersey to do volunteer work with the Newark Bureau of Charities. Married to Lucius Lee Jordan in 1917, Moryck was widowed within a year and later remarried Robert B. Francke in 1930. During this interim, she taught English at Armstrong Technical School, one of two segregated high schools for African American youth in Washington, D.C.
“A Point of View (An Opportunity Dinner Reaction),” Opportunity 3 (August 1925); “Our Prize Winners and What They Say of Themselves,” Opportunity 4 (June 1926), 188-189; Brenda Ray Moryck, “Days,” The Crisis 35 (June 1928): 187-188; and Lorraine Elena Roses and Ruth Elizabeth Randolph, “Moryck (Francke), Brenda Ray,” in Harlem Renaissance and Beyond: Literary Biographies of 100 Black Women Writers, 1900-1945 (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1990), 243-246.
In 1959, she debuted on Broadway as the character Beneatha Younger, a dignified, aspiring doctor in A Raisin in the Sun. Her stage performance earned her the 1959 Outer Circle Critics' Award and her first film appearance as the same character in the 1961 film version opposite Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, Ivan Dixon, and Sidney Poitier.
Born November 16, 1963 in Houston, Texas, tennis star Zina Garrison was the youngest of seven children and was raised by her widowed mother, Mary Garrison. She began playing tennis at the age of 10 through the MacGregar Park Tennis Program. The program was run by John Wilkerson who later became Garrison’s coach throughout her tennis career. She graduated from Ross Sterling High School in 1981.
Garrison had an illustrious amateur career. She burst onto the scene in 1978 when she reached the finals in the U.S. Girls National Championship. Then from 1978 to 1982 she won three more major tournaments. As an amateur she became the 1981 International Tennis Federation Junior of the Year and the 1982 Women’s Tennis Association Most Impressive Newcomer.
Roscoe Dunjee was a prolific journalist and civil rights activist. He was the son of Rev. John William Dunjee, a Baptist minister, and Lydia Ann Dunjee. Although his father was born in Jefferson County, West Virginia, Roscoe worked for various African American newspapers in Oklahoma while attending Langston University.
In 1915, Dunjee founded his own newspaper in Oklahoma City entitled the Black Dispatch which became one of the most prominent black newspapers in America. Throughout his life, in the Black Dispatch Dunjee wrote confrontational editorials attacking the institution of Jim Crow, encouraged African Americans to vote and fight for their Civil Rights, and named his paper the Black Dispatch because whites had degraded the term to refer to African Americans as gossipers and liars. Dunjee chose to invert the term “black dispatch” as something honorable concerning the image of African Americans.
Rose McClendon was an African American actress born in South Carolina in 1884. McClendon’s original name was Rosalie Virginia Scott. Her parents were Sandy and Tena Scott. In 1890 McClendon’s parents worked for a well established family as a housekeeper and coachman in New York City. McClendon received her education through the public schools in New York where acting became her main focus of interest.
In October 1904 Scott married Henry Pruden McClendon who was trained as a chiropractor but who could only find work as a Pullman porter. Together they moved from lower Manhattan to Harlem where McClendon was actively involved in the St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church often using her theatrical talent.
After studying by scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts between 1916 and 1918, McClendon gave her first stage performance in 1919 in the play, Justice. She would eventually perform in other productions including In Abraham’s Bosom, Porgy and Bess, and Deep River. Along with McClendon’s acting and directing in 1935 she and Dick Campbell created the Negro People’s Theatre.
Otis Redding was one of the great American soul singers, who, although only enjoying a short career due to his early death in a plane crash at the age of 26, has been described as the embodiment of soul and one of the most important cultural icons of the civil rights movement.
Otis Ray Redding, Jr., son of sharecropper Otis Redding, Sr., and Fannie Mae Redding, was born on September 9, 1941, the fourth child of six, near Dawson, Georgia. The next year the family moved to Macon, Georgia. From an early age Otis’s passion lay in music, drawing inspiration from fellow Macon entertainer Little Richard Penniman. By the time he was ten Redding was singing with a choir at Vineville Baptist Church and playing drums in a gospel group. At age eleven Redding participated in a local talent show, eventually winning 15 monthly contests in a row.
In 1958 at the age of 17 Redding started his professional singing career. He briefly toured with the “Pat Tea Cake” band before forming his own band, “The Pinetoppers” in 1959, with well known Macon guitarist Johnny Jenkins. The Pinetoppers performed Elvis Presley songs and country music songs in the Macon area. They also toured on the “Chitlin’ circuit,” a network of black nightclubs throughout the Southeast and the white frat house circuit across the Deep South.
Scott Freeman, Otis!: The Otis Redding Story (New York: St. Martin's
Griffin Press, 2001); Rhino Records, Los Angeles, Otis!: the definitive
Otis Redding [sound recording], (1993).
Bonga was born on August 20, 1802 near the present-day city of Duluth, Minnesota. His grandparents were Marie Jeanne and Jean Bonga, who as slaves lived at the prominent fur trading depot of Fort Michilimackinac in the northern Michigan territory. George’s father Pierre Bonga travelled to Minnesota as a fur trader and married Ogibwayquay of the Native American Ojibwe nation. Bonga was educated in Montreal, Canada and returned to Minnesota to carry on the family business along with his two brothers.
In 1820, Bonga used his language fluency to serve as interpreter for Lewis Cass, Governor of Michigan Territory, at a treaty council held in Fond du Lac territory with the Ojibwe. In 1868, he again served as interpreter for Indian agent Joel Bean Bassett in negotiations with the Mississippi Band of Ojibwe at White Earth in Minnesota. And in 1837, he tracked suspected murderer Che-ga-wa-skung for six days and brought him to Fort Snelling for trial.
Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Porterfield Freeman, Jr. was born June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Morgan Porterfield, Sr. a barber, and Mayme Edna Morgan. Throughout his childhood the Freeman family moved often, living in Mississippi, Indiana and Chicago. Freeman showed early promise as an actor but turned down a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University to enter the United States Air Force in 1955.
Throughout the early 1960s, after leaving the Air Force, Freeman studied acting and dance in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. It was in New York that Freeman made his professional theater debut with The Nigger Lovers, a 1967 off-Broadway play about the Civil Rights Era Freedom Riders. In 1971 Freeman broke into television, becoming widely known on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s show The Electric Company, where he worked from 1971 to 1976.
LeRoy Homer, co-pilot of United Airlines Flight #93, was born on August 27, 1965 in Long Island, New York. Homer and his three sisters were raised on Long Island by their German mother, Ilse, and their African-American father who died from a stroke when Homer was twelve. Homer’s interest in airplanes started at an early age and he began taking flying lessons when he was fifteen. He joined the Air Force and after graduating from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he served as a pilot in both the Desert Shield and Desert Storm military operations in the Middle East and later flew aircraft in humanitarian operations in Somalia. Homer served seven years on active duty in the Air Force, eventually becoming a Captain before switching into the reserves, where he rose to the rank of Major.
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.
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.
Peter Hill, a clockmaker, was born on July 19, 1767 in the Burlington Township, New Jersey. He is assumed to be the son of slaves owned by a clockmaker named Joseph Hollinshead, Jr. Peter Hill grew up in the Hollinshead household and as he grew older was allowed to learn clock making from his master in order to assist Hollinshead in his store. In 1794, Hollinshead manumitted Peter who was 27. His freedom was certified the following year in an official court document.
John Ritchey integrated the Pacific Coast League, the AAA-level minor baseball league on the West Coast, when he played as a San Diego Padre in 1948. The second-generation baseball player was born in 1923, in San Diego, California and was the youngest of nine children. His father William played catcher and managed the San Diego Giants, a local African American team for which John served as batboy.
Ritchey played baseball at Memorial Junior High School and San Diego High School as an outfielder and then catcher. He also played on a local team for the American Legion, a youth baseball program. In 1938, the San Diego team went to the American Legion tournament finals in South Carolina. Tournament officials did not allow Ritchey and another black teammate, Nelson Manuel, to play. In 1941, the San Diego team returned to the finals, this time in North Carolina. Ritchey and Manual played in the semi-finals, integrating the league, but again officials prevented the pair from playing in the finals. After graduating from San Diego High School in 1941, Ritchey began his studies at San Diego State College.
Essington, Amy “Segregation, Race, and Baseball: The Integration of the Pacific Coast League, 1948-1952,” (PhD diss, Claremont Graduate University, 2009).
Prominent educator Walter Eugene Massey was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 5, 1938. His father, Almar, was a steelworker and his mother, Essie, a teacher. Massey had an exceptional mind, even at an early age. By the time he finished 10th grade, his skills in mathematics were strong enough to earn him a college scholarship. Massey enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated with a BS in math and physics in 1958.
While working on his master’s and doctorate degrees at Washington University in St. Louis, Massey conducted research on the quantum of liquids and solids. He received a PhD in 1966. Massey began his teaching career as an associate professor at the University of Illinois then moved to Brown University in 1970, becoming a full professor five years later.
Elizabeth Catlett Mora was a prominent black political expressionist sculptor and printmaker in the 1960s and 1970s. Catlett was born to John and Mary Catlett who were public school teachers in Washington, D.C. She was the youngest of three children. After graduating from Dunbar High School in the District of Columbia in 1933, she studied design and drawing at Howard University, also in Washington, D.C. She graduated cum laude in 1935, after changing her major to painting and studying with Lois Mailou Jones among other art professors. In 1940, Catlett became the first student to receive a master’s of fine arts in sculpting from the University of Iowa.
The author Ben Okri was born March 15, 1959 in the small town of Minna in northern Nigeria. His mother, Grace Okri, was of the Igbo ethnic group while his father, Silver Oghekeneshineke Loloje Okri was an Urhobo. Ben’s father was a clerk with Nigerian Railways until after the Nigerian independence of 1960, when he left for London, UK to study law.
Ben Okri joined his father in 1962, and attended the John Donne Primary School at Peckham in London. He had to return to Nigeria with his mother in 1966, however, where he attended the schools Ibadan and Ikenne before beginning his secondary education at Urhobo College at Warri. He was the youngest in his class when he began his studies at Urhobo in 1968 and was only 14 at the end of his secondary education in 1972. He then moved home to Lagos, Nigeria to study on his own.
Alexa Canady was the first woman and the first African American to become a neurosurgeon. She was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1950 to parents who were graduates of black colleges – her father from the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry and her mother from Fisk University. She and her brother were the only black students at the local schools where she graduated as a National Achievement Scholar in 1967. Canady entered the University of Michigan as a math major, but when the opportunity arose, she transferred into the school’s pre-med program. She graduated in 1971 and was accepted into Michigan’s College of Medicine where she graduated magna cum laude in 1975. Canady interned at New Haven Hospital, Yale’s primary teaching hospital, before she became America’s first female and first black neurosurgeon as a resident at the University of Minnesota.
Their first child died in infancy. All nine of the surviving children became professionals including Córdoba, who as a young woman opened a bar to help finance the education of her younger siblings. She earned her law degree at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in 1977.
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.
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).
John Lovick was born on May 9, 1951 in Shreveport, Louisiana to Mrs. Dorothy Lovick. He graduated from Allen High School in Shreveport and then studied for one year at Northwestern State College in Natchitoches, Louisiana. At the age of 19, Lovick joined the U.S. Coast Guard, traveling to Alameda, California in the San Francisco Bay Area for boot camp. The company commander immediately selected him as assistant recruit commander and in 1970 Lovick arrived in Seattle stationed aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind.
In 1971, John Lovick attended the Coast Guard quartermaster and signalman schools in Newport, Rhode Island. On his first day, a supervisor selected him to serve as class president. Lovick returned to Seattle to serve aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Wachusetts, a weather vessel. In 1972, while in the Coast Guard, John Lovick married Debbie Miller. The coupled had three children and remained married for 17 years.
Lovick continued to serve in the Coast Guard in the Seattle area. He was stationed on Seattle’s Pier 91 from 1972 to 1974 where he conducted oil pollution investigations. Lovick retired from the Coast Guard in 1971 as a petty officer second class. On April 1, 1974, Lovick joined the Washington State Patrol. Four years later he joined the Coast Guard Reserves, serving until 1983. In 1980 John Lovick graduated from Shoreline Community College with an Associate Arts degree in Criminal Justice.
Congressmember Karen Bass was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2011 following a successful six-year post as a California Assemblymember. As Representative of California’s 37th district, Bass spearheads initiatives specifically designed to reform the foster care system and U.S.-African relations. Prior to her congressional election, Bass made history when she was selected California Assembly’s 67th Speaker and became the first African American woman in U.S. History to earn this prestigious position in any government branch. In addition, she stands as the first black woman elected speaker in California.
Born on October 3, 1953 to Dewitt and Wilhelmina Bass, Karen grew up in the Venice-Fairfax district of Los Angeles. After graduating from Hamilton High School, Bass attended the newly constructed California State University branch at Dominguez Hills and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences. Bass then studied to become a Physician’s Assistant at the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine, and later, went on to earn a position as a Physician’s Assistant, nurse, and instructor at the university’s medical center.
Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass-California State Assembly Democratic Caucus, “Biography,” http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/A47/biography.htm (Accessed September 5, 2008); Karen Bass Speaker of the Assembly, http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/speaker/default.aspx (Accessed September 11, 2008); Nancy Vogel, “Assembly Speaker Sworn In; L.A. Democrat Karen Bass, The First Black Woman To Hold The Post, Says She'll Focus On The budget Crisis,” Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2008, pg. B3; Jim Sanders and Shane Goldmacher, “L.A.’s Bass to Become New Assembly Leader,” Sacramento Bee, February 28, 2008.
Howard Swanson was an African American composer best known for his art songs based on the poetry of Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Swanson was born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 18, 1907. Born in a middle class home, Swanson's family sent his two older brothers to college which was for the time unusual.
Swanson’s music career started after the family relocated to Cleveland, Ohio in 1916. As a young boy he often sang in his church, sometimes performing duets with his mother. In 1925 when he was 18, Swanson's father died which immediately and dramatically changed the family's circumstances. Howard Swanson now had to earn money to support the family. After high school graduation he worked in the Cleveland Post Office.
In 1927, as his circumstances improved, Swanson decided to continue his education. He attended the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied piano, eventually graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in music theory a decade later. In 1939 he received a Rosenwald Fellowship which allowed him to study in Paris, France with famed music instructor Nadia Boulanger. Swanson had planned to pursue graduate studies in Paris but in 1940 he was forced to evacuate Paris as the German Army overran France.
Samuel A. Floyd, International Dictionary of Black Composers (Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999}; http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com; http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2699.
Alphonso R. Jackson cultivated a three-decade career in public service that included an appointment as head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the administration of his long-time friend, President George W. Bush. Born in Marshall, Texas, in 1946, Jackson grew up in South Dallas, the youngest of twelve children in a working-class family. He earned a B.A. in political science (1968) and a M.Ed. (1969) from Northeast Missouri State University. He then studied at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri, where he received a J.D. in 1972.
Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); http://blackinventor.com/james-forten/; http://www.biography.com/people/james-forten-9299324.
Barbara Hillary is the first African American woman on record to reach both the North and South Poles. Born in New York City, New York on June 12, 1931 to Viola Jones Hillary and raised in Harlem, Hillary attended the New School University in New York, N.Y. where she earned both her Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degrees. She used her studies in Gerontology to establish a career in nursing, focusing on staff training in the concepts of patient aging and their service delivery systems in nursing homes and similar facilities. She was also founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Peninsula Magazine, a non-profit and multi-racial magazine in Queens, New York. This magazine was the first of its kind in the region.
Lionel Leo Hampton, bandleader, jazz percussionist and vibraphonist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1908. Hampton and his mother Gertrude moved to Chicago after the death of his father, Charles Hampton, a promising pianist and singer, in World War I. At the age of 15 Hampton began his career as a drummer in the Les Hite Band. The band relocated to Los Angeles in the late 1920s and became a regular attraction at the city’s Cotton Club.
During a 193o recording session at NBC studios in Los Angeles Louis Armstrong and Hampton teamed to record jazz albums featuring Hampton on the vibraphone which would become his signature instrument. By the mid-1930s the “King of Vibes” joined the Benny Goodman Orchestra which was one of the first racially integrated jazz acts. By the 1940s Hampton left Goodman to form the Lionel Hampton Orchestra.
Lee-Chin was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Both of his parents were black and Chinese Jamaican. Lee-Chin is the descendant on both sides of his family of indentured Chinese workers brought to Jamaica in the mid-19th Century. When Lee-Chin was aged seven, his mother married Vincent Chen, and they had seven children. Lee-Chin’s mother sold Avon products, and worked as a bookkeeper for various local firms, while his stepfather ran a local grocery store. He attended the local high school, Titchfield High, between 1962 and 1969.
Although little remembered today, Leidesdorff was a social, economic and political force in pre-gold rush San Francisco, California with a number of “firsts” credited to his name. When he was named the U.S. Vice Consul to Mexico in 1845, he became the nation’s first African American diplomat. He was elected to San Francisco’s first city council and its first school board in 1847. He built the first hotel, the first shipping warehouse, he operated the first steamboat on San Francisco Bay, and he laid out the first horse race track in California.
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.
Jazz pianist virtuoso, organist, composer and grand entertainer, Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was born on May 21, 1904 in Harlem, New York. He became one of the most popular and influential performers of his era and a master of stride piano playing, finding critical and commercial success in both the United States and abroad, particularly in Europe. Waller was also a prolific songwriter, with many of his compositions becoming huge commercial successes. His technique and attention to decorative detail influenced countless jazz pianists including Art Tatum, Count Basie, and Thelonius Monk.
John Hope Franklin, one of the nation's leading historians, is the only African American who has served as president of both the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH).
Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma on January 2, 1915 to parents Buck, a Tulsa attorney, and Mollie Franklin. He recalled growing up in Tulsa, in a Jim Crow society that stifled his senses and damaged his “emotional health and social well being.” While his family was in Rentiesville, Buck Franklin not only survived the June 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, but also successfully sued the city. This suit, before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, overturned a Tulsa ordinance which prevented the city’s blacks from rebuilding their destroyed community.
John Hope Franklin, Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005); August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, Black Historians and the Historical Profession 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986; and John Hope Franklin, “The Dilemma of the American Negro Scholar,” in Herbert Hill, ed., Soon, One Morning: New Writing by American Negroes, 1940-1962 (New York: Knopf, 1963); Biography of John Hope Franklin, http://www.fhi.duke.edu/about/john-hope-franklin.