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People

Philander, S. George (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Samuel George Harker Philander is Knox Taylor Professor of Geosciences at Princeton University.  Born in Caledon, Republic of South Africa on June 25, 1942, he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town in 1962 and his Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University in 1970 with a thesis titled “The Equatorial Dynamics of a Homogeneous Ocean.”  After completing a year as a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he spent six years as a research associate in the Geophysics Fluid Dynamics Program at Princeton University where in 1990 he became a professor in the Department of Geosciences.  

Philander has been a visiting professor at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, a distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, a consultant to the World Meteorological Organization in Switzerland, and a trustee of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 21st Ed. Vol. 5. (New York: Bowker, 2003); http://www.aos.princeton.edu/faculty/philander.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Monnerville, Gaston (1897–1991)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born in Cayenne, French Guiana to parents Marc Saint-Yves Monnerville and Marie-Françoise Orville, Gaston Monnerville was the grandson of a slave. His family was from Case-Pilote in Martinique, but moved to French Guiana where two sons were born: Pierre and Gaston.

Gaston was a brilliant student at Cayenne High School, and with a fellowship moved to Lycée Pierre-de-Fermat in Toulouse, France in 1912. He resented the cold French winters but his record was excellent especially in Philosophy and Mathematics.  He won numerous awards before graduating in 1915.  He then enrolled in Toulouse University, following a double academic program: literature and law. In 1921 he completed his Law thesis cum laude. His brother Pierre graduated in medical studies.
Sources: 
Rodolphe Alexandre, Gaston Monnerville et la Guyane (Paris: Ibis Rouge Editions, 1999); Jean-Paul Brunet, Gaston Monnerville, le Républicain qui défia de Gaulle (Paris: Albin Michel, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Emeritus Professor, University of Paris

Douglass, Grace Bustill (1782-1842)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Grace Bustill Douglass, a Quaker abolitionist, was born into a distinguished black activist family in Burlington, New Jersey.  She was the fifth of eight children born to Cyrus Bustill, a baker, and Elizabeth Morey Bustill, the daughter of an Englishman and a Delaware Indian woman.  Grace’s father was the son of a slave and had baked bread for George Washington’s army during the War for American Independence.  As a child, Grace attended a school for black children in Philadelphia.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), and Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blackwell, Unita (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Washington University Libraries,
Film and Media Archive
Unita Blackwell, a civil rights activist and the first black female mayor in the state of Mississippi, was born the daughter of sharecropping parents in Coahoma County, Mississippi on March 18, 1933. She worked throughout the civil rights era urging and recruiting blacks to register to vote, while holding positions in numerous organizations to fight for black civil rights in the United States.

Blackwell began her education by attending a school in West Helena, Arkansas, because of the lack of educational opportunities for African Americans in Mississippi.  She received an eighth grade education and then joined her parents as sharecroppers. In the early 1960s, with determination and willfulness, she chopped cotton for $3 per day while she patiently began her work in civil rights.

By 1964, Blackwell was teaching Sunday School at a church. When the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) visited her hometown of Mayersville, Mississippi, Blackwell signed up to be a field worker.  Her assignment was to persuade her neighbors to register and vote.  
Sources: 
Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: Civil Rights: an A-Z Reference of the Movement that Changed America (New York: Running Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Scott, Tyree (1940-2003)

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

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

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

Bechet, Sidney (1897-1959)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Soprano saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet was one of the most important soloists of early jazz.  Together with Louis Armstrong, he was the first to develop the loose, fluid rhythmic style that set jazz apart from ragtime and that came to be known as “swinging.”  

Sidney Joseph Bechet was born on May 14, 1897 to a middle-class Creole family in New Orleans.  He began playing clarinet at age six, and although he studied briefly with such legendary early New Orleans clarinetists as George Baquet and Lorenzo Tio, Jr., he was mostly self taught.  By the age of twenty, when he left New Orleans for Chicago, Bechet had played with nearly every major figure in early jazz, including Joseph “King” Oliver, Bunk Johnson, and Freddie Keppard.

In 1919, composer and conductor Will Marion Cook asked Bechet to join his Southern Syncopated Orchestra on a tour of Europe.  Upon hearing Bechet for the first time, Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet called him “an artist of genius.”  While in London with Cook’s group, Bechet purchased a soprano saxophone, which soon became his primary instrument, although he continued to play clarinet as well.
Sources: 
Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968); James Lincoln Collier, “Bechet, Sidney”, Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed 7 January 2008), http://www.grovemusic.com ; http://www.sidneybechet.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Carnegie Hall

Evans, Greene (1848-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University Special Collections
Greene Evans, Fisk Jubilee Singer, Memphis City Councilman and Tennessee State Assemblyman, was born somewhere in Tennessee and emancipated after the Civil War.  Evans attended night school at a Memphis freedmen’s school until it was burned down in the Memphis Riot in 1866. After working briefly as a hotel porter, Evans proceeded to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he paid his way through school working as a groundskeeper. Dignified, fastidious and enterprising, Evans taught at a small school in the summer near the Tennessee-Mississippi border. Scrounging timber from the surrounding woods, he built his own desks, benches and a schoolhouse which at least “did not lack for ventilation, for a bird could fly through anywhere.” Evans joined the first Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1872 and he proudly participated in the first tour that took them to eight states and Great Britain.  
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); United States Freedman Records, 1865-1874: Record 4836; Tennessee State Library and Archives,  http://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/exhibits/blackhistory/bios/evans.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Attaway, William (1911-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
William Attaway, writer and composer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi.    His mother, Florence Parry Attaway, worked as a teacher and his father, William Alexander Attaway, was a doctor who helped create the National Negro Insurance Association.  In the 1910s, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois.

Langston Hughes's work inspired Attaway to start writing in high school, an avocation he continued while studying at the University of Illinois.  When his father died in 1931, Attaway took a two-year leave of absence from school.  Traveling around the country, Attaway worked a variety of jobs, including seaman, dockworker, and salesman. 

After Attaway returned to college in 1933, he wrote the play Carnival (1935) for his sister Ruth's theatre group which was first staged at the University of Illinois.  The same year, Attaway also became involved in the Federal Writers Project (FWP).  Through the FWP, he met Richard Wright, who would become an important literary influence and friend.  In 1936, he earned his B.A. from the University of Illinois and Challenge published his short story, "The Tale of the Blackamoor."

Sources: 
Edward Margolies, Native Sons (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1968); Harold Bloom, ed., Modern Black American Fiction Writers (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1995); Christina Accomando, "William Attaway," The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, ed. William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster and Trudier Harris (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Nascimento, Milton (1942- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Milton Nascimento, famous Brazilian singer and composer, was born in October 26, 1942 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After the death of his biological mother, Maria do Carmo Nascimento, Milton Nascimento moved with his adoptive family, Lilia Silva Campos and Josino Brito Campos, to the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Milton Nascimento’s career included collaboration with the exponents of Brazilian popular, jazz, and reggae music. He also played with foremost musicians in Europe and the United States.
Sources: 
Marcos Napolitano, “A Invenção da Música Popular Brasileira: um Campo de Reflexão para a História Social,” in Latin America Music Review, v. 19, n.1 (Spring-Summer 1998), pp. 92-105; Gerad Buehage, “Rap, Reggae, Rock or Samba: the Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music (1985-1995),” in Latin America Music Review, v. 27, n.1 (2006), pp. 79-90;  Itaú Cultural, Dicionario Cravo Albin da Música Popular Brasileira (2002), available at http://www.dicionariompb.com.br/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smith, Bessie (1894-1937)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Along with Ma Rainey and Mamie Smith, singer Bessie Smith helped pioneer the genre of blues music and propel it into popular culture. Her early death at the age of 43 cut short a career that influenced the direction of American music and contributed to the success of African Americans in the performing arts.

Smith was born into poverty most likely on April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to William Smith, a preacher, and Laura Smith. Both parents died when Bessie was young. To help support her orphaned siblings, Bessie began her career as a Chattanooga street musician, singing in a duo with her brother Andrew to earn money to support their indigent family.

In 1912 at the age of 18 she joined the traveling Moses Stokes Company, where she met and became friends with Georgia blues performer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey. Smith traveled with the show as a singer and dancer and then as a performer with the Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA), the leading vaudeville circuit for black American performers during the 1920s and 1930s. With TOBA, Smith gradually built up a regional and eventually a national following. In 1921 she was ready to record, but early auditions with recording companies like Okeh were unsuccessful.
Sources: 
Chris Albertson, Bessie (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003); Angela Y. Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (New York: Random House, 1998); Nanette de Jong, “Smith, Bessie (15 Apr. 1894-26 Sept. 1937),” American National Biography Online (New York: Oxford University Press, February 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Domino, Antoine "Fats" (1928- )

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

Antoine "Fats" Domino, early rock and roll musician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 26, 1928 to Antoine Domino, a former plantation worker, and Donatile Gros, a Creole of light complexion.  Fats, as he was soon called because of his weight, was raised in a large family of seven children including his four brothers and two sisters.  From a young age Fats was influenced by his father, a musician who played the banjo and fiddle.

At the age of ten, Domino began to play an old piano the family purchased, learning the instrument from his older brother-in-law Harrison Werrett, who had played in a New Orleans band.  Fats' passion for and expertise with the piano continued to grow.  When he was fourteen he quit school and went to work as a musician.  Learning songs from jukeboxes, Domino began playing at local bars and nightclubs.

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Banning, James Herman (1899-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
J. Herman Banning was an aviation pioneer. He was the first black male aviator to be granted a license by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the first black pilot to fly coast to coast across the United States.

Banning was born in 1899 in Oklahoma, the son of Riley and Cora Banning. The Bannings moved to Ames, Iowa in 1919 and Herman Banning briefly studied electrical engineering at Iowa State University before he dropped out to pursue his interest in aviation. Banning was repeatedly turned away from flight schools due to his race. He was forced to learn how to fly from a private instructor, an army aviator who taught him at Raymond Fisher’s Flying Field in Des Moines, Iowa.

Banning owned and operated an auto repair shop in Ames from 1922 until 1928.  In 1929 he moved to Los Angeles, where he became the chief pilot for the Bessie Coleman Aero Club, which was named for the first black female to receive a pilot’s license. The organization’s mission was to encourage interest in aviation among African Americans.

Banning performed in air circuses and flew politicians during their campaigns. In 1930, for example, he flew Illinois Representative Oscar De Priest, who was the first black person to serve in Congress since Reconstruction, in an excursion over South Los Angeles.
Sources: 
Betty Kaplan Gubert, Miriam Sawyer, and Caroline Fannin, Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002); Philip S. Hart, America’s First Black Aviators (Minneapolis: First Avenue Editions, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Rollins, Sonny (1930- )

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

Richard Palmer, Sonny Rollins The Cutting Edge (New York, London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004); http://www.sonnyrollins.com/bio.php, http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/rol0gal-1

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Haynes, Elizabeth Ross (1883-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: 
Public Domain

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

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

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

Hrabowski, Freeman A., III (1950- )

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

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

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

Charles, Ezzard Mack (1921-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ezzard Charles, also known as “The Cincinnati Cobra,” was a quiet, modest individual who went on to become a relatively unheralded world heavyweight champion. Born in Lawrenceville, Georgia on July 7, 1921, Ezzard moved to Cincinnati at the age of nine to live with his grandmother. He began boxing as an amateur in his teens and won the AAU National middleweight title in 1939. He turned professional in March of 1940. His early bouts were against the top middleweights and light heavyweights in the world. A clever boxer, over the course of his professional career he defeated many of boxing’s greatest fighters including Charley Burley, Joey Maxim, Archie Moore (three times), “Jersey” Joe Walcott, Gus Lesnevich, and Joe Louis.

His professional career was interrupted for two years in 1944 and 1945 when he served a stint in the army during World War II.  Upon the completion of his service he returned to boxing in 1946 and defeated Archie Moore, Lloyd Marshall, and Jimmy Bivins to earn a number two ranking in the light heavyweight class. He fought a total of five light heavyweight champions, defeating four of them, but never received an opportunity to fight for the division’s title. Despite this, many consider him one of the greatest light heavyweight fighters of all time on the basis of his record in that weight class.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Perkins, Edward Joseph (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Edward Perkins has served as U.S. Ambassador on four occasions; more than all but two other African Americans. He was born Edward Joseph Perkins, Jr. on June 8, 1928 in Sterlington, Louisiana to Edward Perkins, Sr. and Tiny Estella Noble. After moving to Portland, Oregon and graduating from high school, Perkins served in the U.S. military with three years’ service to the Army and four to the U.S. Marines.

In 1958, after completing his military service, Perkins continued working overseas as a civilian, with the U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Services until 1966. Following marriage and children, he decided to return to school, which led to an internship at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and an assignment at the U.S. Operations Mission in Thailand.  
Sources: 
Edward Perkins, Mr. Ambassador: Warrior for Peace (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006); “American Profile,” An Interview with Ambassador Edward Perkins, aired on C-Span, 2/20/93. http://www.c-span.org/video/?38275-1/life-career-edward-perkins; Oklahoma University, Faculty Bios: http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/P/Edward.J.Perkins-1/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training

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.

In high school, Floyd earned a scholarship to Darlington, a prestigious boarding school in Rome, Georgia. During his time there, 1972-74, he was Student Council president, vice president of the Explorers, and Honor Council vice president. He was on the track and basketball teams and co-captain of the varsity football team. He also was the first African American to graduate from the school. After Darlington, Floyd earned a bachelor’s in political science and speech, a master’s of education in adult education, and a doctor of philosophy in higher and adult education, all from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.
Sources: 
“Darlington School mourns the loss of Elson Floyd ('74), first black graduate and lifelong friend,” Darlington School Today, 6/22/15, http://www.darlingtonschool.org/daily/newsView.aspx?newsID=3424943; “Floyd (’74) named Distinguished Alumnus,” Darlington School Today, 10/15/2004, http://www.darlingtonschool.org/daily/newsView.aspx?newsID=2460956;  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

Stokes, Carl B. (1927-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Carl B. Stokes, lawyer, anchorman, U.S. diplomat and the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city, was born on June 21, 1927 to Charles and Louise Stokes in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1944, Stokes dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and worked briefly for Cleveland-based aerospace and automotive company Thompson Products/TRW before enlisting in the US Army in 1945. Returning to Cleveland in 1946 after his discharge, he reentered high school and earned his diploma in 1947 before enrolling in West Virginia College. Stokes transferred to Western Reserve University and then the University of Minnesota, from which he received his BA in 1955. Stokes returned to Cleveland where he completed law school at Cleveland-Marshall Law School in 1958. He was hired as an assistant prosecutor for Cuyahoga County for four years before establishing his own firm, Stokes, Stokes, Character, and Terry in 1962 with his brother, Louis Stokes.

Sources: 
Susan Schmidt Horning, “Stokes, Carl B. (21 June 1927 – 3 April 1996).” http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=SCB2; Leonard Moore, Carl B. Stokes and the Rise of Black Political Power (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Scarborough, William S. (1852-1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William S. Scarborough was born in 1852 in Macon, Georgia to a free black father and a multiracial mother, who was enslaved.  Scarborough learned to read and write from his white neighbors and a free black family in Macon.  He continued his education in Macon’s Lewis High School and then attended college at Atlanta University before completing his education at Oberlin College in 1875.   

Scarborough returned to Lewis High School where he taught classical languages.  He met Sarah Bierce, a white missionary, who was then Principal and who would eventually become his wife in 1881.  Scarborough left Lewis High School when arsonists burned it to the ground.  After a brief period as Principal of Payne Institute in Cokesburg, South Carolina, Scarborough returned to Oberlin to complete a master’s degree.  

In 1877, twenty-five year old Scarborough became a professor of Latin and Greek at Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio.  To help his students Scarborough wrote a textbook, First Lessons in Greek.  The book was published in 1881 and eventually became widely used in colleges and universities throughout the nation including Yale University.  Scarborough published a second book, Birds of Aristophanes in 1886.  
Sources: 
William S. Scarborough and Ronnick Michele, The Autobiography of William Saunders Scarborough: An American Journey From Slavery To Scholarship (Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cotton, Toby Joseph, Jr. (1913–1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Toby Joseph Cotton, Jr., was born in Louisiana on March 2, 1913.  By 1916, his family had migrated to Portland, Oregon before moving to Los Angeles, where his father worked as an auto mechanic.  In 1925, Toby Cotton, Sr. was severely injured when a truck he was working on slipped off a jack.  It crushed him, leaving him incapacitated and with his large family facing poverty.

Toby Jr., the oldest of three boys, saw a chance to help his family when he read about the $25,000 first prize offered to the winner of the “Bunion Derby,” the nickname for the first footrace across America, scheduled to begin in Los Angeles on March 4, 1928.  The prize money, a small fortune in the 1920s, lured this barely fifteen year old high school freshman to convince his parents to let him enter.  

On March 4, 1925, Toby joined 198 “bunioneers” at the start. He was listed as “T. Joseph” in press reports.  He was one of five African Americans in the race. His father and his two younger brothers, Wesley, 13, and James, 10, followed Toby across the nation in the family’s well-worn car.  Wesley drove while James brought his brother food and water as he ran.
Sources: 
Charles B. Kastner, Bunion Derby: The First Footrace Across America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007); “Benefit to Help Young Bunion Derby Runner Go Back Home, June 19,” New York Age, 16 June 1928; “Tobey Josephs Gets Diamond Medal and Auto From N. Y. Friends,” New York Age, 30 June 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hayden, Earl Robert (1913-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The son of Asa and Ruth Sheffey who named him Asa Bundy at birth, poet Robert Hayden was born in Detroit, Michigan and reared in “Paradise Valley,” an inner city ghetto.  Adoptive parents, William and Sue Ellen Westerfield Hayden, gave him the name by which he is known.  A graduate of Detroit City College (now Wayne State University), Hayden earned a M.A. degree in English from the University of Michigan, where on two occasions (1938 and 1942), he received the Avery Hopkins awards for poetry

During the Great Depression Hayden worked as a researcher for the Federal Writers’ Project, an experience that exposed him to writers such as Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and Margaret Walker, and gave him a great appreciation for African history and folk culture.  In 1940 Hayden married Erma Inez Morris and converted to the Baha’i faith. After teaching at Fisk University for twenty-three years, Hayden returned to the University of Michigan, to end his teaching career where he began it.    
Sources: 

Mark A. Sanders, “Robert Hayden,” in The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, William L. Andrews, et al., eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Darwin T. Turner, ed., Black American Literature: Poetry (Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, 1969).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Rillieux, Norbert (1806-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
George Meade, “A Negro Scientist of Slavery Days,” Negro History Bulletin (April 1957, pp.159-164); James M. Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: Bill Adler Books, Inc., 1993); http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/norbertrillieux.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hilliard, Earl (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Monmouth University

Boseman, Benjamin Anthony (1840-1881)

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

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

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

Thomas, Vivien (1910-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Described as the “most untalked about, unappreciated, unknown giant in the African American community,” by Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., Vivien Thomas received an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1976, and while this was undoubtedly memorable, the decades which preceded this moment were equally unforgettable. In Nashville, Tennessee, this high school honors graduate dreamed of becoming a physician. Thomas, a skilled carpenter, saved for seven years to pay for his education. However, he lost his savings during the Great Depression.  Beginning in 1930, he worked at Vanderbilt University's Medical School as a laboratory assistant to Alfred Blalock, a white physician who became a pioneer in cardiac surgery. Blalock mentored Thomas and taught him to conduct experiments.
Sources: 
Vivien Thomas, Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985); www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/partners/today/t_views.html
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Branton, Leo, Jr. (1922-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Legal and civil rights activist Leo Branton, Jr. was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on February 17, 1922 to Leo Branton, Sr., and Pauline Wiley.  His father ran a family-owned taxicab business and his mother was a school teacher. Branton received a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1942. He served in a segregated unit of the United States Army during World War II.
Sources: 
Yussuf Simmonds, “Leo Branton, Jr.,” Los Angeles Sentinel, May 1, 2008; Elaine Woo, “Leo Branton, Jr., 1922-2013. Lawyer took on unpopular cases,” Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2013; Benjamin Todd Jealous, Memorandum to NAACP Units and State Conferences, January 2012, www.naacp.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Hamer, Fannie Lou (1917-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Fannie Lou Hamer was a grass-roots civil rights activist whose life exemplified resistance in rural Mississippi to oppressive conditions. Born on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi, to a family of sharecroppers, she was the youngest of Lou Ella and Jim Townsend’s twenty children.  Her family moved to Sunflower County, Mississippi in 1919 to work on the E. W. Brandon plantation.

Hamer’s activism began in the 1950s when she attended several annual conferences of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership organized by Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a wealthy businessman and civil rights leader in the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi.  There, Hamer encountered prominent civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Michigan Congressman Charles Diggs.
Sources: 
Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999); Kay Mills, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (New York, New York: Dutton, 1993); http://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/fannie-lou-hamer/.
Affiliation: 
Tuskeegee University

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 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.

From 1973 to 1984 Akuetteh served as a Program Officer for the U.S. Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. and then was Deputy Director of the Corps’s program in Ghana.
Akuetteh joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1984.  Her embassy assignments between 1984 and 2004 included serving as the U.S. Trade Officer in Niamey, Niger and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Policy Officer in Ottawa, Canada; and as Senior Desk Officer in Caracas, Venezuela.

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/Portals/0/certcomp_gabon_saotome_principe.pdf; “US opposes ‘coup’ in Gabon; opposition mounts against Bongo,” The News, http://thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2015/01/13/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

Haynes, Martha Euphemia Lofton (1890-1980)

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

Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. Her dissertation, Determination of Sets of Independent Conditions Characterizing Certain Special Cases of Symmetric Correspondence was advised by Aubrey Landry, a professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Haynes was born to parents Dr. William Lofton and Mrs. Lavina Day Lofton in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 1890.  William Lofton was a prominent dentist and a financial supporter of black institutions and charities. Her mother was active in the Catholic Church. Later Haynes would also become active in the Catholic Church, earning a Papal medal, “Pro Ecclesia and Pontifex,” in 1959, for her service to the church and to her community.

Haynes started her educational journey at Miner Normal School, Washington D.C. where she graduated with distinction in 1909. She then attended Smith College in Massachusetts and earned her Bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in psychology in 1914. Later, she earned her Master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago in 1930. Finally, at the age of 53, she earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from Catholic University of America in 1943.

Sources: 
http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/PEEPS/haynes.euphemia.lofton.html; http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/haynes-euphemia.html; Patricia Kenschaft, Change is Possible: Stories of Minorities and Women in Mathematics (Providence, Rhode Island: American Mathematics Society, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jones, Claudia (1915-1964)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
With the birth name of Claudia Cumberbatch, Claudia Jones was born on February 21, 1915 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Her family migrated to the United States in 1924 and became residents of Harlem. Claudia’s mother was a garment worker and due to the effects of harsh working conditions and overwork, she died when Claudia was twelve years old. Ultimately poverty overcame the family and young Claudia eventually dropped out of high school.

While Jones’s formal education came to an end, her actual education did not terminate. Instead she found a political education in social activism.  At the age of eighteen Jones became a member of the Young Communist League (YCL). It was at this juncture that Jones became involved in the international movement to defend the Scottsboro Boys. Charged with raping two white women in Scottsboro, Alabama, nine young African American men faced execution in the form of legalized lynching. Jones wrote on the behalf of the Scottsboro Boys’ legal defense as a journalist for the YCL journal, Weekly Review. Later she wrote for the Communist Party newspaper, The Daily World.  

Claudia Jones was a Communist for her entire adult life and a leader in several major movements that marked the twentieth century. These included: the African American liberation movement in the United States, the international Communist movement, the struggle for the rights of women, the battle for world peace, and the Caribbean fight for independence and unity.
Sources: 
Carole Boyce Davies, Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007); Claudia Jones, Ben Davis, Fighter for Freedom (New York: New Century Publishers, 1954); Claudia Jones, “The Caribbean Community in Britain,” Freedomways V. 4 (Summer 1964), 341-57; John H. McClendon III, "Claudia Jones (1915-1964) political activist, black nationalist, feminist, journalist" in Jessie Carney Smith, ed., Notable Black American Women, Book II ( New York: Gale Research Inc., 1996), 343-348.
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Craft, William and Ellen (1824-1900; 1826-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownershp: Public Domain
William and Ellen Craft were born into slavery.  William was born in Macon, Georgia to a master who sold off his family to pay his gambling debts.  William’s new owner apprenticed him as a carpenter in order to earn money from his labor.  Ellen was born in Clinton, Georgia and was the daughter of an African American slave and her white owner.  Ellen had a very light complexion and was frequently mistaken for a member of her white family.  At the age of 11, she was given away as a wedding gift to the Collins Family in Macon, Georgia.  It was in Macon, Georgia where William and Ellen met.

In 1846 Ellen and William were allowed to marry, but they could not live together since they had different owners.  The separation took its toll and they started to save money and plan an escape.  In December of 1848, the Crafts escaped enslavement.  Ellen’s light complexion allowed her to dress as a white man.  She then claimed William was her slave.  This plan worked and they settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where they became famous because of their remarkable and romantic escape.  Their story briefly generated a sizeable income. 
Sources: 
William and Ellen Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery [originally published in 1860] Miami, Florida: Mnemosyne Pub. Company, 1969); Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson, William and Ellen Craft (Alexandria, Va.: Alexander Street Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Father Divine (1879-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Father Divine in Parade
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Father Divine, religious founder of the International Peace Missions Movement, businessman, and civil rights activist was born George Baker in Rockville, Maryland to George and Nancy Baker.  Viewed by many to be a cult leader, his doctrine was a compilation of optimistic thinking based on many widely accepted mainstream religions.  Father Divine and his followers believed that he was the second coming of Christ.  He required his followers to adhere to his International Modest Code which required strict commitment to a celibate lifestyle and abstinence from immoral actions.

Father Divine began receiving widespread public attention when in 1919, he and his first wife and several of his interracial religious followers moved to Sayville, New York and established a Peace Mission “heaven.”  Peace Missions heavens were interracial communal living facilities that fostered Father Divine’s belief in a desegregated society and represented heaven on earth to his followers.  In the 1930s Divine’s network of Peace Missions spread across the nation.  His mostly white followers in Los Angeles, California and other west coast cities contrasted with the overwhelmingly black missions east of the Mississippi River.  Around 1930 Father Divine moved his Peace Mission headquarters to Harlem, New York.  Since the late 1940s the organization has been based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sources: 
Jill Watts, God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Robert Wiesbrot, Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brea College

Christensen, Donna Marie (1945–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the
U.S. House of Representatives
Photography Office

Donna Marie Christian-Christensen, the non-voting delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the United States House of Representatives, was born in Teaneck, Monmouth Country, New Jersey on September 19, 1945 to the late Judge Almeric Christian and Virginia Sterling Christian. Christensen attended St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she received her Bachelor of Science in 1966. She then earned her M.D. degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. in 1970. Christensen began her medical career in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1975 as an emergency room physician at St. Croix Hospital. Between 1987 and 1988 she was medical director of the St. Croix Hospital and from 1988 to 1994 she was Commissioner of Health for the Virgin Island.  During the entire period from 1977 to l996 Christensen maintained a private practice in family medicine.  From 1992 to 1996 she was also a television journalist.

Christensen also entered Virgin Island politics.  As a member of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, she has served as Democratic National Committeewoman, member of the Democratic Territorial Committee and Delegate to all the Democratic Conventions in 1984, 1988 and 1992.  Christensen was also elected to the Virgin Islands Board of Education in 1984 and served for two years.  She served as a member of the Virgin Islands Status Commission from 1988 to 1992. 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University Of Washington

Mumia Abu-Jamal (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Mumia Abu-Jamal and Son
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Political activist and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 24, 1954. Born Wesley Cook, he took the name Mumia (“Prince”) in high school while taking a class on African cultures. In 1971, he added Abu-Jamal (“father of Jamal”) after the birth of his first son, Jamal. He has been married three times.

Abu-Jamal's first encounter with the police came when he was 14.  He was beaten by a white Philadelphia police officer for disrupting a “George Wallace for President” rally in 1968. Eventually he dropped out of high school and joined the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party. Jamal was appointed BPP’s “Lieutenant of Information,” putting him in charge of the organization’s media relations and placing him on the radar for surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He eventually earned his graduate equivalency high school degree (GED) and briefly attended Goddard College in Vermont.

In 1975 Abu-Jamal began working for a series of radio stations, using his commentary on issues of the day to advocate for social change.  Due to his growing popularity he was elected president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. Despite his popularity, Abu-Jamal was forced to take a second job as a taxi driver to supplement his income.  
Sources: 
Daniel R. Williams, Executing Justice: An Inside Account of the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001); Mumia Abu-Jamal and Noelle Hanrahan, All Things Censored (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2000), Mumi Abu-Jamal, We Want Freedom: A Life In The Black Panther Party (Cambridge, Massachusettes: South End Press, 2004); Mumia Abu-Jamal and John Edgar Wideman, Live from Death Row (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995); “Mumia Abu-Jamal”, Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 15 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Research, 1997).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ferris, William Henry (1874-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William Henry Ferris was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 20, 1874 to David Henry, a volunteer for the Union Army during the Civil War, and Sarah Anne Jefferson Ferris. After high school, Ferris attended Yale University, where he was heavily influenced by polymath William Graham Sumner – a staunch Social Darwinist who firmly believed that the privileged social classes owed nothing to the underprivileged ones.  

After graduating in 1895, William Ferris worked as a freelance writer and lecturer and studied for the ministry at Harvard Divinity School until 1899.  In 1900, he received a Master of Arts in Journalism from Harvard, and went on to teach at Tallahassee State College in Florida and Florida Baptist College (1900-1901) and Henderson Normal School and Kittrell College in North Carolina (1903-1905).  

In 1905, Ferris served a five-year term as Pastor of the Congregational Church in Wilmington, North Carolina.  In 1910, after being ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, he engaged in mission work in Lowell and Salem, Massachusetts.  

Sources: 

Kevin K. Gaines, Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics and Culture in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996); “William Henry Ferris,” The Journal of Negro History, 26:4 (Oct., 1941), pp. 549-550; Rayvon Fouche, Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Berry, Edwin C. “Bill” (1910- 1987)

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

 

Image From the Urban League of
Portland Records

Civil rights activist Edwin C. “Bill” Berry was affiliated with the Urban League for over 30 years and served as executive director of the Chicago Urban League from 1956 to 1970. When he arrived in Chicago he denounced the city’s segregationist practices and drove anti-discrimination legislation in the city and state. He was a leader of the Chicago Freedom Movement.

Edwin Berry was born on November 11, 1910 in Oberlin, Ohio to John A. Berry, an attorney, and Kitty Berry, a homemaker. He was one of five children. At the age of six Berry’s father died. Kitty struggled to make ends meet, working as a boarder, seamstress and cook.

Edwin Berry grew up in Oberlin and attended Oberlin College on an academic scholarship. In 1935 he moved to Pittsburg and graduated from Duquesne University in 1938 with a degree in education. Berry began his career with the Pittsburgh Urban League as group work secretary. 

Sources: 
Lerone Bennett, Jr., “North’s Hottest Fight for Integration.” Ebony Magazine 31:8 (March 1962); Jerry Crimmins, "Bill Berry, Ex-Urban League Director, Civil Rights Activist,” Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1987; Darrell Millner, On the Road to Equality: A Fifty Year Retrospective (Portland: The Urban League of Portland, 1995); Arvarh E. Strickland and Christopher Robert Reed, History of the Chicago Urban League (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1966).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Bishop, Maurice (1944-1983)

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

Maurice Bishop, revolutionary and Grenadian Prime Minister, was born in Dutch Aruba May 29, 1944 to Grenadian parents Rupert and Alimenta Bishop. The family moved to Grenada in 1950 to benefit from the economic prosperity of the time, and there Bishop grew up, excelling in his schooling. He moved to London (UK) in 1963 and attended the University of London for his law degree. He went on to practice law for two years in London, showing much interest in politics. He married Angela Redhead in 1966 and had two children, John and Nadia.

Sources: 

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

Paige, Leroy Robert "Satchel (1906-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Davy, Gloria (1931-2012)

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

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

Sullivan, Louis Wade (1933- )

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

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.

Sources: 
Louis Wade Sullivan, America's Ailing Families: Diagnosing the Problem, Finding a Cure (Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation, 1992); Marilee Creelan, “Louis Sullivan,” The New Georgia Encyclopedia (Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Washington, Jr., James (1909-2000)

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

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

The painter and sculptor James Washington, Jr. was a leading member of the Northwest School, a group of artists, writers, and sculptors who became internationally prominent in the mid-20th Century. Washington was born and raised in Gloster, Mississippi, one of six children of Baptist minister James Washington and his wife, Lizzie.  While Washington was a child, his father fled Mississippi due to threats of violence and the two never met again. 

Washington's mother encouraged his talents. He began to draw around the age of 12, becoming an expert pavement chalk-artist, making random marks by other children into figures and faces. In 1938 at the age of 29 he became involved with the Federal Works Progress Administration when he was employed as an assistant art instructor at the Baptist Academy in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Excluded from shows in Mississippi that featured white artists, he organized the first WPA-sponsored exhibition for black artists in the state. 

Sources: 
HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Washington, James Jr.: Art as Holy Land" (by Deloris Tarzan Ament), http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=5328; Paul Karlstrom, The Spirit in the Stone: The Visionary Art of James W. Washington, Jr. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
HistoryLink.org

Wheeler, Emma Rochelle (1882-1957)

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

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

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

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

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

Barbosa, Pedro, III (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A native of Guayama, Puerto Rico, Pedro Barbosa III is a distinguished entomologist (a scientist who studies insects) who has taught at the University of Maryland since 1979.  Born on September 6, 1944, he acquired his bachelor’s degree at the City College of New York in 1966 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Massachusetts.  Upon earning his terminal degree Barbosa taught entomology at Rutgers University from 1971 to 1973, then at the University of Massachusetts from 1973 to 1979.   

He has utilized research grants from the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Stations and the National Biological Control Institute, has been a fellow of both the Ford Foundation and the Entomological Society of America, and honored by the Ciba-Geigy Recognition Award, the Science Award from the Institute of Puerto Rico of New York, and the Bussart Memorial Award, among others.
Sources: 
Who’s Who Among Hispanic Americans (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994).
http://www.barbosalab.umd.edu/top3.jpg
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Carter, Randolph Warren (1913-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Courtesy of the Randolph Carter Family"
Civil rights leader and political activist Randolph Warren “Randy” Carter of Seattle, Washington, was born November 15, 1913 in Riverside, California to Charles and Hettie Carter, the youngest son of four boys. Carter was a track star in Riverside, receiving national recognition as the All Conference Track Champion in the National College competitions at San Diego State University in 1937.
Sources: 
"Randolph Warren Carter: Winning, Serving, Loving," (Seattle: The Randolph Carter Industrial Workshop Association, 1988); Sixty-Ninth Annual Commencement, University of Southern California, June 14, 1962; “Randolph Warren “Randy” Carter, ’38,” Plaque of the Whittier College Athletic Hall of Fame, 1981, Whittier College, Whittier, California.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Healy, Patrick (1834-1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Patrick Healy was one of the successful Healy siblings of the early 19th century who openly acknowledged being of part African or black ancestry. Known as the first American of acknowledged African descent to earn a doctorate, Patrick Healy was also the first African American to become a Jesuit priest and the first to become president of a major university in the United States.

Patrick Healy was born on February 2, 1834 in Macon, Georgia to an Irish American father and a mother who was a mulatto domestic slave. These loving parents wanted their children to receive a good education, which they could not receive in their home state due to laws restricting illegitimate children and slaves by birth from attending school. They were sent north to a Quaker school to be educated.

Patrick Healy and his two brothers, James and Sherwood, eventually enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Here the brothers would follow their Catholic faith and later join the priesthood.

In 1850, Patrick Healy graduated and entered a Jesuit order. He was sent to Europe to study in 1858.  Healy attended the University of Louvain in Belgium and earned his doctorate. At the same time, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 3, 1866. After he returned to the United States, Healy taught philosophy at Georgetown University. Eight years later, in 1874, Patrick Healy became the schools 29th president.
Sources: 
Albert S. Foley, Bishop Healy: Beloved Outcaste: The Story of a Great Priest Whose Life has Become a Legend (New York: Strauss and Young, 1954); God’s Men of Color: The Colored Catholic Priests of the United States, 1854-1954 (New York: Strauss and Young, 1955); http://www.library.georgetown.edu
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Aaron, Henry Louis “Hank” (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Henry Louis Aaron was born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama, the third of eight children to Herbert Aaron, a shipyard worker at Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Company, and his wife, Estella. Aaron decided he wanted to be a major league baseball player after hearing a speech by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson while visiting Mobile on April 3, 1950, during spring training. While in high school, Aaron began playing for the Mobile Black Bears, a semi-pro team, and in 1952 began a season with the Indianapolis, Indiana Clowns. Aaron was the last player to come from Negro Leagues and achieve success in Major League Baseball.  

In 1954 Aaron was brought up to the Milwaukee Braves to replace an injured outfielder.  Aaron hit a home run in his first major league at-bat. He would continue to hit home runs in remarkable fashion for the next two decades. Aaron was the only major league player to hit at least 20 home runs in every season for 20 consecutive years, at least 30 for 15 years, or at least 40 for 8 years. He was the first player to record more than 3.000 hits and 500 home runs. On April 8, 1974, Aaron hit his 715th career home run, breaking the record long held by Babe Ruth.
Sources: 

Tom Stanton, Hank Aaron and the Home Run that Changed America (New York: William Morrow, 2004);
National Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/aaron_hank.htm;
The New Georgia Encyclopedia: Hank Aaron, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-739

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blanke, John (16th Century)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
John Blanke, Musician at the
Court of Henry VIII
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Historians have documented the arrival of black people in Britain as members of the Roman Army. The first reference to a black African in Britain in the historical record is at a Roman military settlement at Carlisle, in ca. 210 AD. Shortly after, in the years 253-58 AD, Hadrian's Wall on the Empire's northern frontier was guarded by a division raised in North Africa. Other Africans were brought to Britain at various times although the continuous presence of black people in Britain is traced to 1555, when Africans arrived in the company of a London merchant.

John Blanke, a black trumpeter, was a regular musician at the courts of both Henry VII and Henry VIII.  Musicians' payments were noted in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber, who was responsible for paying the wages. There are several payments recorded to a “John Blanke, the blacke trumpeter.” This trumpeter was paid 8d [8 pence] a day, first by Henry VII and then from 1509 by Henry VIII.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Molyneux, Thomas (1784–1818)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Fred Henning, Fights For The Championship, Volume II (London: Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette, 1899); Henry Miles, Pugilistica, Volume I (London: Weldon & Co., 1880); http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/tom-mol.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Macauley, Herbert (1864-1946)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Early African independence advocate Herbert Macauley was born in Lagos, Nigeria on November 14, 1864. His father was the founder and first principal of the Church Missionary Society Grammar School in Lagos, and his mother was a daughter of the Reverend Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first registered student of West Africa’s oldest University, Fourah Bay College. Herbert started his tertiary education at Fourah Bay College, which the British established in 1827 to train talented English speaking West Africans to serve the colonial government in various administrative positions. In 1890, Macauley obtained a scholarship to study in Plymouth, England where he qualified as a land surveyor and a civil engineer.

Upon his graduation in 1893, he returned to Nigeria where the colonial government appointed him surveyor of crown lands for the colony of Lagos. In 1898, he resigned from his position and established a private civil engineering company in Lagos, Nigeria.
Sources: 
Joseph  Adetoro,  A Short History of Western Nigeria  (London: Macmillan &Co, 1964); John Bull, The Making of Modern Nigeria (London: University of London Press, 1964); Adewunmi Fajana, Nigeria and Her Neighbors  (Lagos: African University Press, 1964).
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Shepard, James Edward (1875-1947)

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

In 1910 James Edward Shepard founded North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham, North Carolina. Shepard was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina along with eleven other siblings. His father was Reverend Augustus Shepard and his mother was Harriet E. Shepard. Shepard received his education through the North Carolina public school system. He worked as a pharmacist for a short time after graduating from Shaw University in 1894 after receiving his Ph.G. (Graduate Pharmacist) degree. James Shepard married Annie Robison in 1895 and the couple had two children.

In 1898 Shepard along with John Merrick established North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company in Durham. Eventually Shepard founded Farmers and Mechanics Bank in Durham as well.

Sources: 

Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); "The History of North Carolina Central University,” http://www.nccu.edu/discover/history.cfm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Light, Allen B. (1805- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Allen Light's Sailor's Papers, 1827
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The African American experience in California in the years just prior to the Gold Rush included more than just overland immigrants. Allen B. Light, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arrived in Santa Barbara, California in 1835 as a crew-member of the American ship Pilgrim. After his arrival in California, Light would bear the titles of mercenary, hunter, Mexican citizen, and even “comisario general” during his time in the West.

Upon arriving in Santa Barbara, Light signed on with a sea-going hunting party led by George Nidever to hunt sea otter off the Californian and Mexican coast. The shortage of otters from over-hunting caused intense competition in the pelt market; otter pelts could be had for as much as $37 each that decade. This competition would escalate to the level of naval skirmishing between Mexico-based parties and with “contrabandistas” - Native Americans (often from present-day Alaska) supported by American brigs. Allen Light became a skirmisher himself when attacked by contrabandistas from the Convoy off Santa Rosa Island. He, Nidever, and two other hunters killed three men with gunfire in order to escape.
Sources: 
Marivi S. Blanco, "Allen Light," San Diego History Center, http://www.sandiegohistory.org/education/light8/biolight.htm; “African Americans in the Far West,” The New Encyclopedia of the American West (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jennings, Thomas L. (1791- 1856)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Thomas L. Jennings was the first black man to receive a patent. The patent was awarded on March 3, 1821 (US Patent 3306x) for his discovery of a process called dry-scouring which was the forerunner of today’s modern dry-cleaning.  Jennings was born free in New York City, New York in 1791.  In his early 20s he became a tailor but then opened a dry cleaning business in the city.  While running his business Jennings developed dry-scouring.   

The patent to Jennings generated considerable controversy during this period.  Slaves at this time could not patent their own inventions; their effort was the property of their master. This regulation dated back to the US patent laws of 1793.  The regulation was based on the legal presumption that "the master is the owner of the fruits of the labor of the slave both manual and intellectual.” Patent courts also held that slaves were not citizens and therefore could not own rights to their inventions. In 1861 patent rights were finally extended to slaves.  

Sources: 

Mary Bellis, Thomas Jennings: Thomas Jennings was the first African
American to receive a patent
,
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bljennings.htm; Joan Potter, African American Firsts (New York: Kensington Publishing Group, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Jackson, Hal (1915-2012 )

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

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

Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha (1928 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

Image ownership: Public Domain

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.

Sources: 

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.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Gloster, Hugh (1911-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hugh Gloster (left) with Student Frank T. Bozeman at Morehouse Graduation, 1986
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Dorothy Granberry, Dr. Hugh Gloster Interview, Atlanta, GA 1990; William Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life  (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Rucker, Darius Carlos (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Adams, Victoria Jackson Gray (1926-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Hattiesburg, Virginia on November 5, 1926, Victoria Jackson Gray Adams became one of the most important Mississipians in the Civil Rights Movement.  Her activities included teaching voter registration courses to domestics and sharecroppers, opening of the Freedom Schools during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964, and serving as a National Board Member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Ms. Gray began service as the field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1962.  
Sources: 
The Victoria Jackson Gray Adams Papers in the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archives; http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8001.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch McGregor University

Grimké, Francis (1850–1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Francis Grimké was a Presbyterian minister and a leading advocate of civil rights. He was born to a wealthy landowner, Henry Grimké and his slave mistress Nancy Weston. After his father’s death in 1852, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he lived as a free person until 1860 when his white half-brother, Montague, brought him into his household as a servant. After a severe beating he ran away, and for two years became a valet in the Confederate Army. He was discovered and returned to Montague who, after sending him to the workhouse as punishment, sold him to a Confederate officer.

After the fall of Charleston Grimke attended Morris Street School, a school for free blacks in the city. At age sixteen he moved north to attend Lincoln College, in Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1870 as class valedictorian whereupon he taught mathematics, served as the school's financial agent and studied law. Francis entered Howard Law School in 1874, but the following year enrolled in the Princeton Theological Seminary. Upon graduation in 1878 he became a Presbyterian minister at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and remained at that church as pastor for the next half century.  
Sources: 
Dickson D. Bruce, Jr., Archibald Grimké, Portrait of a Black Independent (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); “Francis Grimke,” American National Biography, Volume 9 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 627;
http://www.westminster-stl.org/Sermons/050220.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Taylor, Hobart Jr. (1920-1981)

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

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

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

Peterson, Oscar Emmanuel (1925-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Oscar Peterson was born on August 15, 1925 in Montreal, Quebec. He grew up in Place St-Henri, a bustling Montreal district with a small but close knit black community. Considered by many to be one of the greatest jazz piano players of all time, Peterson performed at thousands of live concerts to audiences worldwide in a career that lasted more than sixty-five years.

Peterson’s dazzling technique combined with a unique style made him one of the most influential jazz pianists in the world. The Montreal native developed a following for his brilliant playing early in his life, and he credited many teachers including his sister, brother, and pianist and composer Paul de Marky, with giving him the inspiration and instruction needed to pursue a career that made him one of Canada’s national treasures.

The pianist’s international breakthrough came after he accepted an invitation from the American jazz impresario Norman Granz to be in the audience at Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) presentation at Carnegie Hall in September of 1949. Granz brought Peterson on stage as a surprise guest.  Peterson received critical acclaim for his performance, which launched his career.

Some of Peterson’s most legendary works include “Canadiana Suite” which features jazz themes inspired by various Canadian cities and regions, and his Hymn to Freedom.
Sources: 
The Regina Leader Post (24 December 2007); Oscar Peterson, A Jazz Odyssey: A Biography of Oscar Peterson (New York: Continuum-Bayou Press Ltd, 2002); Gene Lees, The Will to Swing (Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing & Communications, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Laney, Lucy Craft (1854-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Georgia
Women of Achievement
Lucy Craft Laney, educator, school founder, and civil rights activist, was born in Georgia on April 13, 1854 in Macon, Georgia to free parents Louisa and David Laney.   David Laney, a Presbyterian minister and skilled carpenter, had purchased his freedom approximately twenty years before Lucy Laney’s birth.  He purchased Louisa’s freedom shortly after they were married. Lucy Laney learned to read and write by the age of four and by the time she was twelve, she was able to translate difficult passages in Latin including Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War.
Sources: 
Asa C. Griggs, “Notes: Lucy Craft Laney,” Journal of Negro History 19 (January 1934); Mary M. Marshall, “’Tell Them We Are Rising!’ Black Intellectuals and Lucy Craft Laney in Post Civil War Augusta, Georgia” (Ph.D., dissertation, Drew University, 1998); Gloria Taylor Williams-Way, “Lucy Craft Laney, ‘The Mother of the Children of the People’: Educator, Reformer, Social Activist” (Ph.D., dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1998): Barbra McCaskill, Post-Bellum, Pre-Harlem: African American Literature and Culture, 1877 (New York: New York University Press, 2006); http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9372857
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Prester John

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
1603 Dutch Map Showing the Kingdom of Prestor John in East Africa
Image Ownership: Public Domain

The legend of Prester John, a wealthy Christian king with a kingdom somewhere outside of the Western European realm, pervaded European thought throughout the Middle Ages.  The limited understanding of the unexplored regions of the world and the inability to find his kingdom resulted in shifting versions of the legend.  Over the course of the Middle Ages, Europeans believed his kingdom existed in the Far East, India, and, finally, the interior of Africa

Sources: 
S.C. Munro-Hay, Ethiopia, the unknown land: a cultural and historical guide (London: I.B. Tauris, 2001); Irene Waters, "Ethiopia: The Land of Prester John," The Contemporary Review 279 (2001); Johnny Wyld, "Prester John in Central Asia," Asian Affairs, 31:1 (2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ruggles, David (1810-1849)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

David Ruggles, abolitionist, businessman, journalist and hydrotherapist, was born in 1810 in Norwich, Connecticut. He attended the Sabbath School for the poor which admitted people of color starting in 1815. In 1827 he left Connecticut for New York City where he operated a grocery store for the next four years.  He then quit the grocery business to open his own bookshop in early 1834.  Ruggles is generally known as the first African American bookseller. While working at the bookstore he extended many publications and prints promoting the abolition of slavery and in opposition to the efforts of the American Colonization Society which promoted black settlement in Liberia.  Ruggles also took on job printing, letterpress work, picture framing, and bookbinding to augment his income.  In September 1835, a white anti-abolitionist mob burned his store. 

In 1833 Ruggles began to travel across the Northeast promoting the Emancipator and Journal of Public Morals, an abolitionist weekly. Ruggles, who wrote articles and pamphlets and gave lectures denouncing slavery and Liberian colonization, made him a figure of rising prominence in abolitionist circles in the late 1830s. 

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

Turner, Viola Mitchell (1900-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Pauli Murray Project

Viola Mitchell Turner, an early black executive with North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1900. The only child of poor, impoverished, teenage African American parents she would succeed in becoming the first female African American member of the North Carolina Mutual Board of Directors.  

Turner was educated in a private black school in Macon sponsored by the American Missionary Association and then continued her education at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, studying business, which for women in the late 1910s meant primarily clerical work. After graduation from Morris Brown in 1918 Turner became a secretary at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where she met leading professors such as George Washington Carver.

Her time at the Tuskegee Institute was short however as she worked briefly for the Superintendent of Negro Education for the State of Mississippi who made her his personal secretary. Turner moved to Mississippi but held her new position for six months.  She was hired by North Carolina Mutual Insurance (NCMI) in 1920, setting up branch offices in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi. In 1924 Turner applied for and received a position at North Carolina Mutual headquarters in Durham, North Carolina.

Sources: 
Interview with Viola Turner, http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/C-0016/menu.html; Leslie Brown, Upbuilding Black Durham: Gender, Class, and Black Community Development in the Jim Crow South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cornish, Samuel Eli (1795-1858)

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

Samuel Cornish, an abolitionist and editor, was born in Sussex County, Delaware and raised in Philadelphia and New York City.  Since both of his parents were free African Americans Cornish was born free.  After graduating from the Free African School in Philadelphia Cornish began training to become a Presbyterian minister and was ordained in 1822.  Shortly afterward he moved to New York City where he organized the first black Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.  

In addition to his duties as pastor, Cornish also became a journalist.  Working with fellow African American John B. Russwurm, he founded the first African American newspaper in the United States, Freedom’s Journal. Cornish was the senior editor of the paper while Russwurm served as junior editor. The first issue appeared in New York City on Friday, March 16, 1827.  After living in a world dominated by white media, Cornish and Russwurm stated in their first editorial, “We wish to plead our own cause.  Too long have others spoken for us.  Too long have the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things that concern us dearly…,” clearly showing their intentions of publishing the news without white bias against the African American news.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, eds., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Simon & Schuster
Macmillan, 1996); Lerone Bennett Jr., Pioneers in Protest (Chicago:
Johnson Publishing Company Inc., 1968).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ben-Jochannan, Yosef (1918-2015)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sayers, Gale Eugene (1943 - )

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

Gale Sayers and Al Silverman, I Am Third (New York: Viking Press, 1970); George Sullivan, Power Football: The Greatest Running Backs (New York: Atheneum, 2001); "Gale Sayers: Pro Football's Rambling Rookie," Ebony 21: 3 (1966): 70-76.; The Topeka Capital-Journal, August 31, 2009; http://www.answers.com/topic/gale-sayers

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Scott, Emmett J. (1873-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Herman, Alexis Margaret (1947-- )

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

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

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

Faucette Jr., John M. (1943-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Joseph Faucette
One of the less known of the tiny group of African American science fiction writers and one of the first black authors to publish in that genre, John M. Faucette, Jr. grew up in New York’s Harlem.  A contemporary of the celebrated black science fiction writer Samuel Delany, another Harlem resident, Faucette graduated from the Bronx High School, attended the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn where he majored in chemistry, and later studied writing at New York University’s School of Continuing Education.  

While a college freshman Faucette penned his first science fiction novel, Warriors of Terra, inspired by the gang wars in Harlem, which was published in 1970 by Belmont Books.  His story of a purple-skinned swordsman in The Age of Ruin (Ace, 1968) was his favorite character because, he said, it “satisfied the rebel in me.”  Faucette wanted to showcase black heroes in his work and complained that white readers and white publisher were reluctant to accept them.  Violent conflict and revenge were often-repeated themes in his novels such as Crown of Infinity (Ace, 1968) and Seize of Earth (Belmont Books, 1968).  Faucette also published the mainstream urban novel Disco Hustle (Holloway House, 1976) and short stories in Artemis Magazine and AIM Magazine.  Faucette died in January 2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Reinhardt, John Edward (1920- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Edward Reinhardt, ambassador and diplomat, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1920. After serving in World War II, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Knoxville College in 1939, a Masters degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1947, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin in 1950. Reinhardt was the first African American to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. He was assigned there from 1971 to 1975.
Sources: 
"John Reinhardt," http://www.academyofdiplomacy.org/members/bios/Reinhardt.htm; U.S. Diplomacy, An Online Exploration of Diplomatic, Historical, and Foreign Affairs, http://www.usdiplomacy.org/history/service/history_johnereinhardt.php; National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), http://www.globaltiesus.org/; U.S. Institute of Peace Organization, NNBD Notable Names Database, http://www.nndb.com/people/598/000120238/; Glenn Urban, “A Country Must Tell its Story, Ex-Diplomat Says,” Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, May 10, 1989.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central College

Bailey, D’Army (1941-2015)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
D’Army Bailey, The Education of a Black Radical, A Southern Civil Rights Activist’s Journey, 1959–1964 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 2009); Linda Block, “Lifelong fight for civil rights,” Worcester: Telegram & Gazette, February  2, 2009); Jim Keogh, “A Radical Life,” Clark Voices-Clark University Magazine (January 2011); Bill Dries, “Circuit Court Judge D’Army Bailey Dies at Age 73,” (Memphis Daily News, July 13, 2015). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Marshall W. (1878-1932)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
He was a black pioneer in sports long before Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, and even the legendary Jack Johnson. He did not play baseball as Robinson did, nor was he a pugilist as were Johnson and Louis, and although he participated in a sport where the main objective was speed, he was not a track and field person as was Jesse Owens.

His name was Marshall "Major" Taylor, and he rode a bicycle. He was born in 1878 near Indianapolis and was soon recognized as a young black man with a natural talent for riding a bicycle. He had won a number of races in Indianapolis and Chicago by the time he was only fifteen years old. Because of the unadulterated racism directed toward him in the Midwest, he moved to Worchester, Mass., when he was seventeen, and he soon became one of the fastest American amateur cyclists. He turned professional in 1896 and became an overwhelming sensation. It is said that the spectators loved his bold courage. Because of his ability to ride and to win so often, as a black man he had to endure intense racist opposition. Yet he persevered and refused to allow racism to break his spirit.
Sources: 

Michael W. Williams ed., The African American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1993); http://www.majortaylorassociation.org/who.htm.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Handy, W.C. (1873-1958)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Musician and composer William Christopher “W.C.” Handy was born on November 16, 1873, in Florence, Alabama.  Widely known as the “Father of the Blues,” Handy is recognized as one of the leaders in popularizing blues music.  Young Handy’s interest in music was discouraged by his family and his church.
Sources: 
W.C. Handy, Father of Blues: An Autobiography (New York, Da Capo Press Inc., 1969); http://www.yearoftheblues.org/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rawles, George Washington (1845–1922)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West

 

Sources: 
Stewart Sifkas, Compendium of Confederate Armies (Baltimore: Heritage Books,  2003); US Federal Census 1910, Microfilm number T624-1662, Page 3B, Enumeration District 188, Seattle Ward 11, King County, Washington acknowledges his service in the Confederate Army.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smiley, Tavis (1964- )

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

Stokes, Louis (1925-2015)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office

Ohio’s first African American Congressman, Louis Stokes was born to Charles and Louis Stokes on February 23, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended its public schools before joining the United States Army in 1943. Stokes served in the army for three years and then attended Western Reserve University from 1946 to 1948 where he earned a B.A.  In 1953 he received a Doctor of Law degree from Cleveland Marshall Law School of the Cleveland State University. Stokes was admitted to the Ohio bar the same year and began practicing law in Cleveland.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov; Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots”: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wilson, Margaret Bush (1919-2009)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Robert Joiner, “Margaret Bush Wilson, hailed as civil rights ‘giant’ dies at 90,” St Louis Beacon,  August 14, 2009; Patricia Sullivan, “Margaret Bush Wilson dies at 90. First Black woman to head the National NAACP Board,” The LA Times, August 15, 2009; www.thehistorymakers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Meek, Kendrick (1966- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Kendrick Meek, former highway patrolman, Florida state representative, and state senator, has served in the United States House of Representatives as a Democratic representative from Florida’s 17th District since 2003. Meek was born on September 6, 1966 in Miami, Florida, and is the son of former U.S. Representative Carrie Meek, who also represented Florida’s 17th District before her son took over her position.

Meek’s childhood was influenced by his mother’s role as an elected official.  He remembers sleeping under his mother’s desk at the Florida House Office Building on days when she worked late. Carrie Meek, whose grandmother was a slave, was the first African American elected to Congress from Florida since the Reconstruction. Kendrick Meek as a teenager understood her important symbolic role to the entire African American population of the state.  

Despite dyslexia, Meek worked his way through high school and attend Florida A&M University on a football scholarship. He graduated in 1989 with a degree in science.

After graduating, Meek joined the Florida Highway Patrol and was assigned to the security detail for Democratic Lieutenant Governor Buddy MacKay. Meek used the opportunity to further his knowledge of state politics, often attending political meetings when he was off duty.  During his four year career with the Florida Highway Patrol, Meek became the first African American to reach the rank of captain.
Sources: 
Tristram Korten, “The Meek Shall Inherit the House,” Miami New Times, 7-18-2002; Richard C. Cohen, “The Buddy System,” National Journal 39:46/47 (Nov. 17, 2007); http://kendrickmeek.house.gov; http://www.votesmart.org/bio.php?can_id=BS026295;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Baker, Augusta Braxston (1911-1998)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of South Carolina Center
for Children's Books and Literacy
Librarian, author, and storyteller Augusta Braxston Baker was the first African American woman to hold an administrative position with the New York Public Library (NYPL). She was a pioneering advocate of the positive portrayal of blacks in children’s literature, and beginning in the 1930s removed books with negative stereotypes from the NYPL shelves.

Baker was born in Baltimore, Maryland on April 1, 1911 to educators Winfort and Mabel Braxston. She graduated at age 16 from the all-black high school where her father taught, and in 1927 she entered the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Three years later she married James Henry Baker, Jr., and transferred to New York College for Teachers (now State University of New York at Albany), where she earned her BA in 1933 and a BS in library science in 1934.
Sources: 
Nancy Tolson, “Making books available: The role of early libraries, librarians, and booksellers in the promotion of African American children’s literature,” African American Review (Spring 1998); Nancy Tolson, Black children’s literature got de blues: The creativity of Black writers and illustrators (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008); “The Augusta Baker Collection of African-American Children’s Literature & Folklore,” University of South Carolina Rare Books and Special Collections, http://www.sc.edu/library/spcoll/kidlit/baker.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Williams, Spencer (1893-1969)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Radio Characters from Amos 'N' Andy,
Spencer Williams (left)
and Alvin Tim Moore (right)
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

Spencer Williams is widely known for his portrayal of the character Andy in the controversial 1950s television comedy series Amos ‘n Andy.  His contributions to the world of film and television, however, far surpassed the limitations of the popular but widely criticized Amos ‘n Andy sitcom. Born July 14, 1893 in Vidalia, Louisiana, Williams moved to New York City during his teens and studied comedy under vaudeville comedian Bert Williams.

He attended the University of Minnesota, but interrupted his studies to serve several years in the United States Army during and after World War I. After being honorably discharged from the service in 1923, Williams returned to New York City and concentrated on a career in show business. He eventually landed a job with Christie Studios in Hollywood, where he co-wrote and appeared in Paramount Pictures’ first all-black talking film, Melancholy Dame (1928). He was subsequently retained as a consultant, continuity writer, and performer for the Christie Comedies – a comedy series that focused on black life in urban Alabama.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia
(New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Thomas Cripps, Black Film as
Genre
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Wheeler Dixon, The
“B” Directors: A Biographical Directory
(Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1985); Phyllis Klotman, Frame By Frame: A Black Filmography
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Henry T. Sampson, Blacks
in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films
(Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1977); Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1994).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smith, Will (1968-- )

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

Willard Christopher Smith, Jr., better known as Will Smith, actor, rap and recording artist, was born in Wynnefield, Pennsylvania on September 25, 1968.  His father, Willard Christopher Smith, is an entrepreneur and engineer, and his mother, Caroline Bright Smith, is a public school administrator.  Raised in a middle-class “Baptist” home, his parents sent Will to Overbrook High School, a Catholic school, where they felt he would get the best education.  In high school, his precociousness sometimes got him in trouble, but his charm, good-natured personality, quick-wittedness, good looks, and award-winning smile easily got him off the hook, and he soon won the nickname, “Prince.”  As a senior with high SAT scores, Smith had an offer to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after high school, but he opted out of college to pursue what had already become a successful career in entertainment.

Sources: 
http://www.biography.com/articles/Will-Smith-9542165; Patrick Healy, “Celebrity Schedules Could Delay ‘Fela!’ Opening,” Arts Beat, New York Times,  October 30, 2009; http://www.aceshowbiz.com/celebrity/will_smith; Lisa Iannucci, Will Smith: A Biography, (New York: Greenwood Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Paine College

Delany, Henry Beard (1858-1928)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Henry Beard Delany is known for his contributions in architecture and for being the first African American bishop elected in North Carolina and the second in the United States. Delany was born on February 5th 1858 in Saint Mary’s, Georgia of slave parents, Thomas Delany, a ship and house carpenter, and Sarah, a house servant.  Delany grew up in Fernandina, Florida where he received his earliest formal education.  He and his brothers also learned brick laying and plastering trades from their father.  In 1881 Delany entered Saint Augustine’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina where he studied theology.  After graduating in 1885, he joined the college faculty, remaining there until 1908.  He also married Nannie James Logan of Danville, Virginia, another St. Augustine's faculty member, who taught home economics and domestic science.  The couple had ten children including Sarah Louise and Annie Elizabeth who became famous with their 1993 joint autobiography Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years.

Delany joined Raleigh’s Ambrose Episcopal Church, and in June 1889 was ordained a deacon of the church.  Three years later he was ordained as a priest.  He steadily rose in the Episcopal Church hierarchy, becoming Archdeacon in 1908 and Bishop in 1918.

Sources: 

Sarah Louise Delany and Annie Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth,
Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First Hundred Years (New York:
Kodansha International, 1993); Dreck Spurlock Wilson, African-American
Architects: a Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945
(New York: Routledge,
2004); http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc2/NF00000181_00001.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Garland, Walter Benjamin Stephen (1913-197?)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Veteran of the Spanish Civil War and World War II, Walter Garland was born in New York City on 27 November 1913.  After serving in the U.S. Army for two years, he enrolled at Brooklyn College where he studied mathematics.  Garland joined the Communist Party in 1935 and became active in the National Negro Congress.  When the International Brigades formed to fight for Republican Spain, Garland volunteered , sailing for France in January 1937.

Sources: 
Danny Duncan Collum (editor) and Victor A. Berch (chief researcher), African Americans in the Spanish Civil War: “This Ain’t Ethiopia, But It’ll Do” (New York, New York: G.K. Hall & Co, 1992); William L. Katz, Fraser M. Ottanelli, and Christopher Brooks, “African Americans in the Spanish Civil War,” Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at New York University (<https://www.alba-valb.org >, November 2006); James Yates, Mississippi to Madrid (Seattle, Washington: Open Hand Publishing, 1989).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Estes, Simon (1938- )

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

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

Thurman, Wallace (1902-1934)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Langston Hughes, The Big Sea (New York: Hill and Wang, 1940); Eleonore van Notten, Wallace Thurman’s Harlem Renaissance (Atlanta: Rodopi, 1994); Lawrence T. Potter, Jr., “Wallace Thurman,” in Encyclopedia on African American Writers, Wilfred D. Samuels, ed. (New York: Facts on File, 2007).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Odusoga, Lola (1977- )

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

Parks, Gordon (1912-2006)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, Sarah and Andrew Parks welcomed their fifteenth child, Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks, into their home. Though struggling against poverty and racism in Fort Scott, young Gordon was nurtured there. His mother was especially influential, and her early lessons sustained him throughout his remarkable life. Because of Parks’s vast intellectual and artistic accomplishments, he was described as a “Renaissance man.” He accomplished many firsts, including the distinction of being the first black photographer at Vogue, Glamour, and Life magazines. He worked at Life for nearly 25 years and completed over 300 assignments. He was a documentary and fashion photographer; a film director, writer, producer; a poet, novelist, essayist; and a composer. Among his notable films are Shaft and The Learning Tree.

Though largely self-taught, he received over fifty honorary doctorates. Parks’s life was a paradox: he was as comfortable modeling a Brooks Brothers suit in New York as he was wearing his western hat and cowboy boots on the Kansas prairie. He moved with the same ease in the modest Washington, D.C. home of Ella Watson, African American charwoman whose image became the famous American Gothic, as he did on the Italian island of Stromboli with actor Ingrid Bergman. Parks’s humanity was evident in his life’s work, as is epitomized in the amazing Flavio de Silva story.
Sources: 
John Edgar Tidwell “Gordon Parks and the Unending Quest for Self-fulfillment,” in Virgil W. Dean, ed., John Brown to Bob Dole: Movers and Shakers in Kansas History; http://www.pdngallery.com/legends/parks
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Baquet, Charles R., III (1941- )

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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

Crumpler , Rebecca Davis Lee (1831?-1895)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
For many years Dr. Rebecca Cole was considered to be the first black woman physician.  However, historical research has shown that the honor rightly belongs to Dr. Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler who completed her M.D. in 1864, three years before Dr. Cole.  

Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler was born free around 1831 to Absolum and Matilda Davis in Delaware.  She was raised by an aunt in Pennsylvania who is noted to have provided health care to her neighbors.  In 1852 Davis was living in Charlestown, Massachusetts where she worked as a nurse for eight years.  She enrolled in the New England Female Medical College in 1860.  Her acceptance at the college was highly unusual as most medical schools at that time it did not admit African Americans.  Despite its reluctance, the faculty awarded Davis her medical doctorate.  That year she also married Arthur Crumpler.

Dr. Crumpler practiced medicine in Boston and specialized in the care of women, children, and the poor.  She moved to Richmond, Virginia in 1865 to minister to freedpeople through the Freedmen’s Bureau.  Crumpler returned to Boston in 1869 where she practiced from her home on Beacon Hill and dispensed nutritional advice to poor women and children.  In 1883 she published a medical guide book, Book of Medical Discourses, which primarily gave advice for women in the health care of their families.  
Sources: 
Sarah K. A. Pfatteicher, "Crumpler, Rebecca Davis Lee," American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000.; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/partners/early/e_pioneers_crumpler.html; http://rlsonline.org/53350_12922.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

L'Ouverture, Toussaint (1742-1803)

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
Known to his contemporaries as “The Black Napoleon,” Toussaint L’Ouverture was a former slave who rose to become the leader of the only successful slave revolt in modern history, the Haitian Revolution.

Born into slavery on May 20, 1743 in the French colony of Saint Dominque, L’Ouverture was the eldest son of Gaou Guinon, an African prince who was captured by slavers.  At a time when revisions to the French Code Noir (Black Code) legalized the harsh treatment of slaves as property, young L’ Overture instead inspired kindness from those in authority over him.  His godfather, the priest Simon Baptiste, for example, taught him to read and write.  Impressed by L’Ouverture, Bayon de Libertad, the manager of the Breda plantation on which L’Ouverture was born, allowed him unlimited access to his personal library.  By the time he was twenty, the well-read and tri-lingual L’Ouverture—he spoke French, Creole, and some Latin—had also gained a reputation as a skilled horseman and for his knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs.  More importantly, L’Ouverture had secured his freedom from de Libertad even as he continued to manage his former owner’s household personnel and to act as his coachman.  Over the course of the next 18 years, L’Ouverture settled into life on the Breda plantation marrying fellow Catholic Suzanne Simon and parenting two sons, Isaac and Saint-Jean.
Sources: 
Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004); Martin Ros, Night of Fire: The Black Napoleon and the Battle for Haiti (New York: Sarpedon, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Chenault, Kenneth Irvine (1951- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Kellogg School of
Management, Northwestern University
Hand-picked by his American Express predecessor, CEO Harvey Golub, to lead the company upon Golub’s retirement, Kenneth Chenault is an attorney and the CEO and chairman of American Express.  Named one of the fifty most powerful African American executives by Fortune magazine in 2001, Chenault is one of only a handful of African-American CEO’s of a Fortune 500 company.

Chenault’s solid middle-class upbringing in the mostly white neighborhood of Hempstead, Long Island may have predicted his future.  Born in Mineola, New York on June 2, 1951 to Hortenius Chenault, a dentist, and Anne N. Quick, a dental hygienist, Chenault was the second born of four children.  Both of Chenault’s parents attended Howard University and Chenault likewise enjoyed the advantages of a good education, attending the private, innovative Waldorf School in Garden City through the twelfth grade.  Chenault was captain of the track and basketball teams.  His athletic ability earned him an athletic scholarship to Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Leaving Springfield before completing his degree, Chenault transferred to Bowdoin College in Maine, earning a B.A. in history, magna cum laude, in 1973.  Chenault next attended Harvard Law School, receiving his J.D. in 1976.  Chenault’s 1977 marriage to Kathryn Cassell, an attorney with the United Negro College Fund, produced two sons, Kenneth Jr. and Kevin.  
Sources: 
Richard Sobel, “Chenault, Kenneth Irvine” African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham; Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com; “Kenneth Chenault: Corporate CEO” Cnn.com In-depth, Black History Month (February 2002), http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2002/black.history/stories/08.chenault/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harrison, Samuel (1818-1900)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Samuel Harrison, a minister, political activist, and former slave, became one of Berkshire County, Massachusetts’s most ardent abolitionists. Harrison was born enslaved in Philadelphia in 1818 but he and his mother were freed in 1821.  Shortly afterwards the widowed mother and her son moved to New York City. When Harrison was nine years old, he returned to Philadelphia to live with an uncle. 

Throughout his childhood, Harrison worked as an apprentice to his uncle in a shoemaking shop, learning a trade that would support him for years. He also attended church services with his mother regularly, and it was during his adolescence that Harrison decided to become a Presbyterian minister. 

Samuel Harrison tried hard to educate himself. In 1836, he enrolled in a manual school run by the abolitionist Gerrit Smith in Peterboro, New York. After only a few months, he transferred to the Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio (now Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio), an institution known for its abolitionist sympathies.   Financial difficulties, however, forced him to return to Philadelphia in 1839.

Soon after returning to Philadelphia, Harrison married Ellen Rhodes who he had known since the two were children. Over the next twenty years, Ellen gave birth to thirteen children, seven of whom died in early childhood.

Sources: 
Samuel Harrison, An Appeal of a Colored Man to his Fellow Citizens of a Fairer Hue in the United States (Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Chickering & Axtell, 1877); Samuel Harrison, Rev. Samuel Harrison, His Life Story, As Told By Himself (Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Privately printed, 1899); Dennis Dickerson, "Reverend Samuel Harrison: A Nineteenth Century Black Clergyman,” in Black Apostles at Home and Abroad: Afro-Americans and the Christian Mission from the Revolution to Reconstruction, edited by David W. Wills and Richard Newman (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Clarke, Yvette Diane (1964– )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Yvette Diane Clarke Website

Yvette Diane Clarke won her first political office when she was elected a member of the New York City Council representing part of Brooklyn in 2001. Clarke succeeded her mother, former City Councilmember, Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, making them the first mother-daughter succession in the history of the New York City Council.  

Clarke was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 21, 1964. She attended New York’s public schools and then entered Oberlin College in Ohio, graduating in 1986.

Clarke served as the first Director of Business Development for the Bronx Empowerment Zone where she administered the $51 million budget that resulted in the revitalization and economic development of the South Bronx.  Clarke also chaired the powerful Contracts Committee and co-chaired the New York City Council Women's Caucus.

In 2006 Clarke was elected to the United States Congress to represent New York’s 11th Congressional District.  She holds the seat first won by Shirley Chisholm in 1970.  Chisholm was the first African American woman and the first Caribbean American elected to Congress.

Clarke is currently a member of three House committees and two subcommittees within each committee. Her House committee assignments are as follows: Education and Labor Committee, Homeland Security Committee, and the Small Business Committee.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reed, Leonard (1907-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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.

Sources: 
Rusty Frank, TAP! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories 1900-1955 (New York: W. Morrow, 1990); Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman and Donald McNeilly, Vaudeville, Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America (New York: Routledge, 2007); "Tap Dance Pioneer, Producer,” Los Angeles Times (April 9, 2004); Danny Walker, “World Renowned Nowata Dancer’s Life Left Huge Legacy,” Nowata Star (April 21, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Northwestern Oklahoma State University

Burroughs, Margaret (1917-2010 )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Margaret Burroughs at Texas A&M University,
March 2006
Image Ownership: Public Domain

In 1961, Margaret Burroughs and her husband, Charles Burroughs founded the Ebony Museum of Chicago, later called the DuSable Museum of African American History.  The DuSable is the oldest museum of its type in the United States.

Margaret Burroughs was born Margaret Taylor on November 1, 1917 in Saint Rose, Louisiana.  Her parents, Alexander and Octavia Taylor, moved to Chicago and young Margaret completed her education in the city’s public schools, graduating from Englewood High School in 1933.  She earned her teacher’s certificate in 1937 from Chicago Normal College. She continued her education at Chicago Teachers College as well as the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned a B.E. in Art Education in 1946, followed by an M.A. in 1948.

Taylor married artist Bernard Goss in 1939.  The couple had one daughter, Gayle.  Through the 1940s Taylor Goss taught in Chicago’s schools and in 1947 produced her first children’s book, Jasper, the Drummin’ Boy.  She and Goss divorced and on December 23, 1949, she married Charles Gordon Burroughs.  

Sources: 

Sterling Stuckey, Life with Margaret: The Autobiography of Dr. Margaret Burroughs (New York: In Time Publishing & Media Group, 2003); www.fineartstrader.com; http://dickinsg.intrasun.tcnj.edu/akaauthors2/Taylor.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Guillén, Nicolás (1902-1989)

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

Afro-Cuban writer Nicolás Guillén used his poetry as a form of social protest in pre-Castro Cuba. Guillén was born in Camagüey, Cuba on July 10, 1902 and by the mid 1920s had emerged as a leader of the Afro-Cuban movement. He was committed to social justice and through his loyalty to the Communist party he became a prominent voice of revolutionary Cuba.

Guillén was a student of law at the University of Havana until 1921 when he decided to drop out and focus on writing poetry. He utilized his Spanish and African background of speech, legends, songs, and dances to influence his message and style of writing. His first volume of poetry Motivos de son (“Motifs of son”) published in 1930 quickly gained popularity and recognition.

Sources: 
"Nicolás Guillén," in Verity Smith, ed., Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997); "Nicolás Guillén," in Encyclopedia Britannica (2011), retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/248753/Nicolas-Guillen.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hayford, Adelaide Smith Casely (1868-1960)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Latimer, Lewis H. (1848-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Lewis H. Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on September 4, 1848.  His parents were former slaves who escaped bondage and settled in Boston.  Abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass secured the necessary funds to obtain their freedom.  After a stint in the Union Navy during the Civil War, Latimer worked as an office assistant in the patent law firm of Crosby and Gould.  It was there that he taught himself drafting.  He quickly began to experiment with ideas for inventions. 

In 1874 Latimer received his first patent for improving the toilet paper on passenger railroad cars.  In all, he was given eight patents.  He is popularly known as the inventor who prepared drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s patent application for the telephone.  He eventually worked on electric lights, became superintendent of the incandescent lamp department of the United States Electric Lighting Company, and supervised the installation of light for buildings in the United States and Canada. 

In 1890 Lewis Latimer published a book entitled Incandescent Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System.  He also served as chief draftsman for General Electric/Westinghouse Board of Patent Control when it was established in 1896.  Some of the individuals who worked with Edison formed the Edison Pioneers in 1918 to preserve memories of their early days together and to honor Edison’s genius and achievements.  Latimer was a founding member of this group and he was the only African American among them.  He died in Flushing, New York, on December 11, 1928.

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Hine, and Stanley Harrold, The African-American Odyssey, Third Edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005), p. 408; Rayyon Fouche, Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation: Granville T. Woods, Lewis H. Latimer, and Shelby J. Davidson (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Clarke, Hansen Hashem (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
U.S. House of Representatives
Hansen Clarke is a Democratic politician, lawyer, and artist who represented the 13th District of Michigan in the U.S. Congress between 2011 and 2013.  Born March 2, 1957 in Detroit, his father, Mozaffar Ali Hashem, was an undocumented Bangladeshi immigrant, and his mother Thelma Clarke was African American.

Clarke grew up on Detroit’s lower east side where, in1964, his father showed him a picture of Dalip Saund (the first Indian congressman) a year before the representative passed away. Clarke who was eight became interested in politics.  His mother, a crossing guard, raised him with the assistance of food stamps, and encouraged his interest in oil painting. He attended Cass Technical High School and then graduated from Governor Dummer Academy in 1975.  The following year he was admitted to Cornell University on an academic scholarship. During his freshman year, his mother passed away.

While at Cornell Clarke successfully ran for the student seat on the University’s Board of Trustees to defend need-based scholarships to disadvantaged students. He graduated with a B.F.A. with a focus on painting in 1984, and acquired a Juris Doctor degree at Georgetown University in 1987.
Sources: 
Jennie L. Ilustre, “Hansen Clarke, 1st U.S. Congressman from Bangladesh,” Asian Fortune News (April 1, 2011); Ronald H. Bayor, Multicultural America: An Encyclopedia of the newest Americans (Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Publishing, 2011); http://web.archive.org/web/20070205183412/http://www.senate.mi.gov/clarke/about.htm ; http://www.washingtontimes.com/campaign-2012/candidates/hansen-clarke-55113/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Washington, Walter Edward (1915-2003)

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

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

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

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

Somerville, John Alexander (1882-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Alexander Somerville emigrated to the United States from Jamaica around 1900.  He and his wife, Vada Watson Somerville, were both graduates of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry.  Graduating with honors in 1907, he was the first black graduate, and his wife was later the first black woman graduate.  In 1914, only three years after its founding in New York City, New York, the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP was created at the home of John and Vada Somerville.  His first major business venture, the Somerville Hotel, was a principal African American enterprise on Central Avenue, in the heart of the Los Angeles African American community.  When it opened in 1928 it was one of the most upscale black hotels in the United States, and counted a number of African American celebrities among its guests.
Sources: 
John A. Somerville Biographical Sketch: http://www.jamaicaculture.org/; Douglas Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Durham, Richard (1917-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Richard Durham’s Destination Freedom radio program, which aired on WMAQ in Chicago, Illinois from June 27, 1948 until its cancellation in August of 1950, was unlike anything else being broadcast over the airwaves. For over two years audiences tuned in every Sunday night and were treated to dramatized stories featuring prominent African Americans. The creator of Destination Freedom, Richard Durham, attempted to infuse each program with as much history as possible, while maintaining enough drama to keep the stories interesting enough to inspire his audience.

Born September 6, 1917 in Raymond, Mississippi, Richard Durham and his family moved north as part of the Great Migration. In 1920 the Durham family settled in Chicago. Durham learned how to become a radio operator while working with the Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Before this he also held a job with The Chicago Defender as an editor and attended Northwestern University. Before the creation of Destination Freedom he worked on several other radio programs in Chicago, namely Democracy U.S.A. and Here Comes Tomorrow. He is, however, most well-known for Destination Freedom.
Sources: 
Richard Durham and J. Fred Macdonald, Richard Durham's Destination Freedom: Scripts from Radio's Black Legacy, 1948-50 (New York: Praeger, 1989); “Richard Durham Papers, 1939-1999,” Chicago Public Library,  http://www.chipublib.org/cplbooksmovies/cplarchibve/archivalcoll/durham.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Crews, Phillip O. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1974, when organic chemist Phillip O. Crews browsed through a book on marine biology that stated the chemistry of sponges was unknown he refocused the direction of his research and his career to solving this mystery. He was born in the university town of Urbana, Illinois on August 15, 1943.  Earning his undergraduate degree at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1966, he was later granted the doctorate at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1969.  Crews has taught chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz since 1970 and was a National Science Foundation fellow at Princeton University from 1969 to 1970.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science, 14th Ed. (New York: Bowker, 1979);
“Marine Pharma,” NIH Report (Spring 2002); http://www.chemistry.ucsc.edu/crews_p.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Morrow, John Howard (1910-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Morrow was a teacher, scholar, and diplomat who became America’s first leader at two key postings, the West African country of Guinea, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

He was born John Howard Morrow on February 5, 1910 in Hackensack, New Jersey to John and Mary Hayes Morrow. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree (A.B., 1931) from Rutgers University, Morrow also earned his Master’s degree (M.A., 1942) and his Doctoral degree (Ph.D., 1952) both from the University of Pennsylvania. He also studied in France, receiving an advanced certificate from Sorbonne, University of Paris (1947).
Sources: 
Jet magazine, June 18, 1959; Time magazine, June 29, 1959; John H. Morrow, First American Ambassador to Guinea (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1968); U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume XIV, Africa, Document 332.”
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

McCoy, Elijah (1843-1929)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Elijah McCoy was born on May 2, 1843 in Colchester, Ontario to runaway slave parents who used the Underground Railroad to escape.  Once the McCoy family settled in Canada, they were extremely poor.  Nonetheless they saved money for their son to get an education.  When Elijah was 15 years old, he was sent to a boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland to study mechanical engineering.

Once he returned to the United States, McCoy had a difficult time in finding a job because of his race despite his numerous credentials.  He eventually settled for a menial job as a fireman for the Michigan Central Railroad oiling the various working parts of the trains.  These tasks were slow and boring for the certified mechanical engineer who began to wonder why the moving parts of the train couldn’t oil themselves.  From this, he became interested in the challenges of self-lubrication for machines and began to test various ideas for automatic lubrication.
Sources: 
Gossie Harold Hudson, W. Sherman Jackson, Edward S. Jenkins and Exyie C. Ryder, American Black Scientists and Inventors (Washington D.C.: National Science Teachers Association, 1975); http://www.blackhistorysociety.ca/EMcCoy.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mays, Willie (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Willie Howard Mays Jr. was born May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama to Ann and William Howard Mays.  Both of his parents had been athletes.  Ann Mays was a high school track star while William Howard Mays had played semi-professional baseball in Birmingham’s Industrial League before becoming a steel mill worker and Pullman Porter.  Willie Mays Jr., loved baseball and by the time he was 14 he was playing on his father’s semi-pro club, the Fairfield Gray Sox.  At 16 Mays began his professional career with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Southern League.  Although he had become a professional, his father insisted he only play on weekends while school was in session.

The New York Giants noted Mays’s athletic ability and offered him a contract while he was still in high school.  He began playing with the Giants in 1951 at the age of 20.  During his first year in Major League Baseball Mays won Rookie of the Year honors. Mays excelled at every aspect of baseball; he hit for both power and accuracy, had great speed, a strong throwing arm, and perfect defense in the outfield. He is the only outfielder ever with more than 7,000 putouts. When asked if he ever misjudged a fly ball, Mays replied that he “missed two fly balls. Ten years apart.”
Sources: 

Willie Mays with Lou Sahadi, Say Hey: The Autobiography of Willie Mays (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988); Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/mays_willie.htm; Academy of Achievement, http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/may0bio-1; Larry Schwartz, “Mays brought joy to baseball” http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016223.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gaye, Marvin Pentz, Jr. (1939-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C. Marvin Pentz Gaye, Jr. was named after his father, a minister of the apostolic church.  From a young age, the church played a large role in Gaye’s music career.  He began his musical profession in his father’s church choir and began playing the organ and drums.  After several years in the church, in 1957 Gaye left his father’s church and joined a group known as the Marquees.  After a year, the group was guided by the producer and singer Harvey Fuqua who inspired Marvin’s musical career.  When Fuqua moved to Detroit to further pursue his music, Gaye went with him.  In Detroit, Harvey was able to join forces with another music talent, Berry Gordy, where Gaye became a session drummer and soloist for the Motown Records label.

Shortly after in 1961, Gaye married Berry Gordy’s sister Anna Gordy.  During this same year, Gaye was also offered a solo recording record with Motown Records.  In the first year of his solo contract, Marvin was a jazz singer, but was soon persuaded to sing Rhythm and Blues (R&B).  His first hit single was “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” which became a top 10 selling hit on the R&B charts.  By 1965, Gaye became known as Motown’s best selling male vocalist and had added to the charts the famous song “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” followed by two more number one selling R&B hits, “I'll Be Doggone” and “Ain't That Peculiar.” 
Sources: 
Michael Eric Dyson, Mercy Mercy Me (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005);  
http://www.marvingayepage.net/biography/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bailey, Pearl Mae (1918–1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Pearl Bailey, Between You and Me: A Heartfelt Memoir on Learning, Loving and Living (New York: Doubleday, 1989); Morgan Monceaux, Jazz: My Music, My People (New York: Knopf, 1994); Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women (New York: Gramercy Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Christophe, Henri (1767-1820)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Henri Christophe Statue, Port-au-Prince
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Henri Christophe was a military leader in the Haitian Revolution as well as president and later king of the young nation. Born into slavery in 1767, Christophe was brought to French colonial Haiti, known as Saint Domingue, most likely from Kitts. There he worked a wide variety of posts including sailor, mason, bartender, and billiard marker. Like many slaves and free people of color in Saint Domingue, Christophe was familiar with military matters from a young age, having accompanied the French expedition to Savannah, Georgia in 1779. By his early twenties, Christophe was able to purchase his freedom and joined the growing class of free blacks.

Sources: 
Lester D. Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolution: 1750-1850 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996); Walter Monfried, "The Slave who became King: Henry Christophe,” Negro Digest, December 1963, retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=ZToDAAAAMBAJ; Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

McCall, Carl H. (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Carl McCall, former comptroller for the State of New York, was the first African American nominated by the Democratic Party for the office of governor.  McCall lost the election to Republican incumbent governor George Pataki.  As comptroller from 1994 to 2002, McCall was the first African American to win statewide office in New York. 

McCall was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1935.  In 1958 he graduated from Dartmouth College and then attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.  McCall eventually received an M.A. degree from Andover-Newton Theological School located in Massachusetts. 

In 1994, in his first bid for statewide office, McCall was elected New York comptroller.   McCall was reelected in 1998 winning over one million votes. As comptroller McCall, the state’s chief fiscal officer, audited the state government and public authorities of New York and served as the state’s sole pension fund trustee.

Before his election as comptroller McCall had established a long and distinguished career in public service.  He was deputy administrator of the New York City Human Resources Administration from 1966 until 1969.  In 1975 he was elected to the New York State Senate representing Harlem.  In 1982, McCall was the unsuccessful candidate for Lieutenant Governor running on a ticket with Mario Cuomo for Governor.  Cuomo won his race and appointed McCall to serve as the State Commissioner of Human Rights. 

Sources: 
Elizabeth Benjamin, "Daily News." Elizabeth Benjamin, The Daily Politics. New York Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2008/03/mccall-agrees-no-charges-for-s.html, "Black History Month: H. Carl McCall: New York State comptroller. 2003,” http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2002/black.history/stories/15.mccall/index.html;“H. Carl McCall,” Top Blacks, http://www.topblacks.com/government/h-carl-mccall.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, George Ellis, Sr. (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George and Joan Johnson
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Ellis Johnson, Sr. was an African American entrepreneur and founder of Johnson Products Company, a hair care firm, and Independence Bank in Chicago, Illinois.  Johnson was born on June 16, 1927 in Richton, Mississippi to Priscilla Johnson.  He is perhaps best known for being the first African American to have his company listed on the American Stock Exchange.

In 1929 when Johnson was two years old, he moved to Chicago, Illinois with his mother after she separated from his father.  He grew up in Chicago, and attended Wendell Phillips High School.  At eight Johnson began working as a shoe shine boy and later held jobs as a bus boy, a pin setter at a bowling alley, and paper boy for the Chicago Herald Tribune.  In 1944 he dropped out of school and accepted a job as a production chemist for the Samuel B. Fuller cosmetics firm.

Johnson remained at Fuller Cosmetics until 1954 when he left to found his own firm, Johnson Products Company.  He and his wife, Joan (Henderson) Johnson, started the company with only $500. Unlike earlier African American cosmetics firms which targeted women, Johnson developed his first products exclusively for male customers.  Johnson Products first success was Ultra Wave Hair Culture, which was a hair relaxer for men.    
Sources: 
"George Johnson Biography. Interview December 18, 2003" (The History Makers);
“Passing the Baton” (Johnson Products Media, 2010); http://www.johnsonproducts.com/about_us_heritage.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Blayton, Jesse B., Sr. (1879-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph of Jesse Blayton,
Atlanta University Photographs,
Atlanta University Center
Robert W. Woodruff Library

Jesse B. Blayton, Sr., was a pioneer African American radio station entrepreneur.  Blayton founded WERD-AM in Atlanta, Georgia on October 3, 1949 making him the first African American to own and operate a radio station in the United States.

Jesse Blayton was born in Fallis, Oklahoma, on December 6, 1879. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1922 and then moved to Atlanta, Georgia to establish a private practice as an accountant. Blayton passed the Georgia accounting examination in 1928, becoming the state's first black Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and only the fourth African American nationwide to hold the certification.

Blayton also taught accounting at Atlanta University where he encouraged younger blacks to enter the profession.  He had little success. Blayton later recalled that much of his recruiting difficulty came from the students' knowledge that no white-owned accounting firms would hire them and his, the only black-owned firm in the South, was small and had few openings. A decade after Blayton became a CPA there were still only seven other blacks in the U.S. who had achieved that status.  

Sources: 

William Barlow, Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio (Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 1999); Theresa A. Hammond, A White-Collar
Profession: African American Public Accountants since 1921
(Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); "WERD" in the New
Georgia Encyclopedia (online), http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Henderson, Fletcher Hamilton, Jr. (1897-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born December 18, 1897 to a middle class family in Cuthbert, Georgia, Fletcher Henderson grew up to become one of the key figures in the development of the form and style of the large jazz orchestra.  Despite the fact that he grew up in a family devoted to music and practiced constantly, he graduated from Atlanta University with a degree in mathematics and chemistry.  After moving to New York in 1920, however, Henderson found that a color barrier stood against his chances of becoming a chemist, and so it was at this time that he turned to his musical skills to make a living.

After a short time Henderson became a music director for Black Swan Records, and through this work he was able to assemble some of New York’s best musicians to start his own band.  In 1924 Henderson began playing in the Roseland Ballroom, and over the next ten years he helped transform the Roseland into a premier venue for jazz in New York while his band became known as the greatest jazz orchestra in the city.

Sources: 
Alyn Shipton, Jazz Makers: Vanguards of Sound  (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, William [Willie “the Lion”] (1897-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jazz pianist, Willie “the Lion” Smith was born William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff on November 25, 1897. Smith was born to parents Ida Oliver and Frank Bertholoff in Goshen, New York. Bertholoff passed away in 1901, and Oliver married mechanic John Smith. The two raised William Smith in Newark, New Jersey, where he attended public schools.  Smith lived with his mother, stepfather, maternal grandmother Ann Oliver, brothers George and Jerome, step-siblings Robert, Melvin, Norman, and Ralph, and 12 more of John Smith’s children all of whom died before the age of seven.

Smith claims to have had his first experience playing the piano at age six. He first learned to play from his mother, his uncle Rob, and teachers in school.  By age 12 he had mastered famous ragtime pieces which he performed in local saloons, dance halls, and theaters.  In his teenage years Smith made money by playing in Newark bars and saloons.  He often danced or played the piano as those who watched put money in his hat.
Sources: 
Willie Smith and George Hoefer, Music on My Mind: The Memoirs of an American Pianist (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964); “William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff (Willie-the-Lion) Smith,” The Black Perspective in Music, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn, 1973), p. 200, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1214489; "Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith," All About Jazz, N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012, http://musicians.allaboutjazz.com/musician.php?id=4460.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sands, Diana (1934-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Diana Sands, 1963 (Photo permissions granted by 
Bruce Kellner, Trustee of the Estate of Carl Van Vechten)
Diana Sands, the first black actress to be cast in a major Broadway play without regard to color, was born in New York City in 1934 to Rudolph Thomas, a carpenter, and Shirley Sands, a milliner. Sands made her first stage debut in George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara at New York City's High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. After graduating from high school, Sands performed as a dancer while seeking work on Broadway. 

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.

Sources: 
Anonymous, "Diana Sands In Death Struggle With Cancer," Jet, October 4, 1973; Anonymous, "Final Rites Held for Diana Sands," Jet, October 11, 1973; Maurice Peterson, "Diana, Diana," Essence, June 1972.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Robinson, Ida Bell (1891-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Ida Bell Robinson grew up in Pensacola, Florida, the seventh of twelve children born to Robert and Annie Bell. After her conversion as a teenager at an evangelistic street meeting, she led prayer services in homes. In 1909 she married Oliver Robinson, and they soon relocated to Philadelphia for better employment opportunities. She did street evangelism in Philadelphia under the auspices of The United Holy Church of America. In 1919, the church ordained her and appointed her to a small mission church, where she was successful in pastoral ministry and itinerant evangelism.

Sources: 
Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Brownlee, Lawrence E., Jr. (1972- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Ken Howard
Larry Everston Brownlee, Jr., one of six children, was born on November 24, 1972 in Youngstown, Ohio.  His father, a General Motors plant worker who was also choir director at Phillips Chapel Church of God in Christ, commanded his son to perform so often that he later recalled, “I used to absolutely hate singing.”  Intending to become a lawyer when he enrolled at Youngstown State University, he soon changed his major to music and transferred to Anderson University, a private Christian school near Indianapolis, Indiana, where he developed a passion for opera.  A full scholarship allowed him to graduate with a master’s degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2001, the same year that he won the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and, in the summer, he participated in the Young Artist Program at the Wolf Trap Opera Company in Vienna, Virginia.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Wallace, Walter L. (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 Sociologist Walter L. Wallace was born in Washington, D.C. on August 21, 1927.
Sources: 
Contemporary Authors. Vols. 81-84. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1979.
Who’s Who in America (Marquis Who’s Who, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

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

Liston, Charles “Sonny” (1932-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle
Charles “Sonny” Liston was born on May 8, 1932 in Sand Slough, Arkansas. He was the 24th of 25 children by a sharecropper named Tobe Liston, and one of ten by Tobe’s wife Helen. Sonny received little in the way of schooling and was essentially illiterate all his life.

When his mother left his father and moved to St. Louis in 1946, Sonny ran away from home and joined her. As a teenager he participated in an armed robbery of a gas station and was sentenced to prison where his talent for boxing was discovered by a Catholic priest and it ultimately resulted in an early parole.

Sonny turned professional on September 2, 1953 and promptly won a first round knockout in his first fight. Standing 6’ 1 ½”, weighing 215 pounds, and possessing a long reach, powerful jab, knockout power in either hand and a nasty scowl, Sonny was an extraordinarily intimidating fighter. He quickly compiled an impressive record.
Sources: 
A.S. “Doc” Young, The Champ Nobody Wanted (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1963); Nick Tosches, The Devil And Sonny Liston (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2000); http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Liston_Sonny.html, http://www.ibhof.com/liston/htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Nash, Diane Judith (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Diane Nash
Civil rights activist Diane Judith Nash was born on May 15, 1938 in Chicago, Illinois to Leon Nash and Dorothy Bolton Nash.  Nash grew up a Roman Catholic and attended parochial and public schools in Chicago.  In 1956, she graduated from Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois and began her college career at Howard University in Washington, D.C. before transferring to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sources: 
Rosetta E. Ross, Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003); http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=N003.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sowell, Thomas (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Thomas Sowell,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
An influential African American economist who is known for his controversial views on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, Thomas Sowell was born in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1930.  When he was eight, his family moved to Harlem, New York.  His father, a construction worker, did not encourage Sowell to pursue higher education even though he showed early signs of academic promise. Sowell dropped out of high school in the tenth grade, worked at various jobs, and obtained a high school degree in an evening program. After two years of service with the U.S. Marines receiving training as a photographer, Sowell entered Howard University where he matriculated for three semesters before transferring to Harvard University. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and later earned Master's and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University and the University of Chicago, respectively. Sowell’s major intellectual mentor at the University of Chicago was Nobel Prize winning conservative economist Milton Friedman.  
Sources: 
Thomas Sowell, A Personal Odyssey (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002);
Thomas Sowell website, www.tsowell.com/; Advocates for Self Government, "Thomas Sowell – Libertarian," http://www.theadvocates.org/celebrities/thomas-sowell.html;
SUA News.com, "Thomas Sowell,” http://www.suanews.com/biothomas.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Lewis, Edmonia (1845-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edmonia Lewis, the first woman of African American and Native American ancestry to gain notoriety as a sculptor, was born near Albany New York on July 4, 1845 to a Chippewa Indian woman and an African American man.  Her parents died when she was very young, so she was raised by her mother’s sister and the Chippewa people in Niagara Falls.  Edmonia also had an older brother, Samuel Lewis, who migrated west during the California Gold Rush.  Lewis made a small fortune in the gold fields, part of which he used to send Edmonia to Oberlin College in Ohio.  Although the college was one of the first to admit African American women and men as well as white women, Lewis encountered racial problems.  In 1862 she was accused of attempting to poison two white coeds.  She was cleared of the charges but continued to be subject to verbal attacks and a beating that left her bedridden for days. Oberlin's administration refused to allow her to enroll the next year to complete her graduation requirements.
Sources: 
Rinna Wolfe, Edmonia Lewis: Wildfire in Marble (Parsippany, New Jersey: Dillon Press, 1998); http://womenshistory.about.com/od/edmonialewis/p/edmonia_lewis.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Moorland, Jesse (1863–1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jesse Moorland was an educator, minister, and a philanthropist, but was most renowned for his extensive work with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).  Born on September 10, 1863, in Coldwater, Ohio, he was the only child of a local farmer, William Edward Moorland and his wife, Nancy Jane Moorland.  He was raised by his grandparents after his mother passed away and his father decided to leave him in their care.  His grandparents sent him to a local school in Coldwater and then later to the Northwestern Normal School in Ada, Ohio.  

In 1886, Moorland married Lucy Corbin and the couple began teaching together in Urbana, Ohio.  They later moved to Washington, D.C. to continue their studies at Howard University.  Moorland studied theology and graduated with his Master’s degree in 1891.  In the same year, Moorland also became an ordained minister in the Congregational Church and was appointed Secretary of the Colored Branch of the YMCA in Washington, D.C.  Two years later, he resigned from the YMCA and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to become pastor of Howard Chapel.  In 1896, he moved again to become pastor at Mount Zion Congregational Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sources: 
Eric Bennett, Africana (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Dwight Burlingame, Philanthropy in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia (California: ABC-CLIO, 2004); http://www.aaregistry.com/detail.php?id=1141 (Accessed December 16, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fuller, Solomon Carter (1872-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Solomon Carter Fuller, an early 20th century psychiatrist, researcher, and medical educator, was born on August 11, 1872 in Monrovia, Liberia.  His parents, Solomon C. and Anna Ursilla (James) Fuller, were Americo-Liberians.  Solomon Carter Fuller was the first African American psychiatrist.  He also performed considerable research concerning degenerative diseases of the brain.  Solomon’s grandfather was a Virginia slave who bought his and his wife’s freedom and moved to Norfolk, Virginia.  The grandfather then emigrated to Liberia in 1852 to help establish a settlement of African Americans.  
Sources: 
Mary Kaplan and Alfred R. Henderson, “Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D. (1872-1953): American Pioneer in Alzheimer’s Disease Research,” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences 9:3 (2000); Carl C. Bell, “Solomon Carter Fuller: Where the Caravan Rested,” Journal of American Medical Association 95:10 (2005); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); G. James Fleming and Christian E. Burckel, eds., Who’s Who in Colored America (New York: Christian E. Burckel & Associates, 1950).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Whitehead, James T., Jr. (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
U2 Spy Plane
Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Whitehead, Jr., the first African American Lockheed U2 pilot, was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1934.  From a young age Whitehead was surrounded by a strong military presence in his family including relatives who served in World War II.  Coming of age during that war he also remembered the Tuskegee Airmen who inspired his desire to learn to fly.   

Whitehead enlisted in the New Jersey Army National Guard in May 1952 and served until 1955. He later became the first African American graduate of the University of Illinois Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).  He graduated in June 1957 with a degree in Physical Education and was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Before leaving his home in New Jersey for officer training, Whitehead purchased a guide for blacks on travel across segregated America.  As an African American officer in The United States Air Force at a time when segregation was still prevalent in parts of the United States, Whitehead wanted to know how to travel across the nation without incident. 

Sources: 
Whitehead, James. Personal Interview by Elliot Partin. 16 DEC 2010; "Black Generals of the National Guard," On Guard (Feb. 1990) Vol. 29(5), http://www.ng.mil/news/theonguard/1990/1990-02.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Page, Clarence E. (1947 - )

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

Clarence Eugene Page is a newspaper columnist, essayist, and political analyst.  His syndicated column which specializes in urban issues appears in numerous newspapers across the United States.

Page was born on June 2, 1947 in Dayton, Ohio to Clarence H. and Maggie (Williams) Page.  Page's mother owned a catering service and his father was a factory worker.  Page has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) which was undiagnosed during his childhood.  He started reporting for his high school newspaper as a junior and found it to be a perfect match—perhaps, he says, because of ADD; news writing was short, and deadlines helped him stay on track.  After his senior year, Page took a summer job in a steel mill and made time to freelance.  He sold stories and photographs to two Ohio newspapers in the summer of 1965 as a 17-year-old high school graduate.

Page earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University in 1969 and started reporting for the Chicago Tribune right after graduation.  Six months later, he was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War.  Page was assigned to public relations duty at Fort Lewis, Washington and in Germany.

Sources: 

Clarence Page, Showing My Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity,
New York: HarperCollins Publishers (1996); Clarence Page, “Bio,”
Chicago Tribune, accessed online at chicagotribune.com (November 19,
2008); University of Maryland, “Clarence Page," Front and Center
Magazine, Chicago Tribune
(May 8, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Desdunes, Rodolphe Lucien (1849-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Greene, Beverly Loraine (1915-1957)

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

"Woman Architect Blazes a New Trail for Others," Amsterdam News, June 23, 1945; "Miss Beverly L. Greene," Chicago Daily Tribune, August 26, 1957; "Beverly Greene," Jet Magazine, September 5, 1957; Dreck Spurlock Wilson, African-American Architects: a Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Randolph, Asa Philip (1889-1979)

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

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

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

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

Brown, Henry "Box" (1816-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
To escape enslavement on a plantation near Richmond, Virginia, Henry “Box” Brown in 1849 exploited maritime elements of the Underground Railroad.  Brown’s moniker “Box” was a result of his squeezing himself into a box and having himself shipped 250 miles from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Henry Brown, born enslaved in 1816 to John Barret, a former mayor of Richmond, eventually married another slave named Nancy and the couple had three children.  Brown became an active member of Richmond’s First African Baptist Church where he was known for singing in the choir.  In 1848 Brown’s wife and children were abruptly sold to away to North Carolina.  Using “overwork” (overtime) money, Brown decided to arrange for his freedom.

He constructed a wooden crate three feet long and two feet six inches deep with two air holes. With help from Philadelphia abolitionists, he obtained a legal freight contract from Adams Express.  This freight company with both rail and steamboat capabilities arranged to ship his package labeled “Dry Goods” to Philadelphia.  The package was a heavy wooden box holding Brown’s 200 pounds.

Sources: 
Henry Brown, Narrative of the Life of Henry “Box” Brown (Manchester, England: Lee and Glynn Publisher, 1851); Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color, the Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); David Cecelski, The Waterman’s Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent, Spectacular Stories of Race and Freedom 1850-1910 (Duke University Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2008); Suzette Spencer, Online Encyclopedia of Virginia, August  23, 2013, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Brown_Henry_Box_ca_1815#start_entry.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Freeman, Fillmore (1936-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
With expertise in the mechanisms and kinetics of the oxidation of transitions metals and in agricultural chemistry, Fillmore Freeman has become one of the three most frequently cited African American chemists in the nation (the other two being Donald J. Darensbourg at Texas A&M University and Joseph S. Francisco of Purdue University), according to a survey conducted by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.  

Born on April, 1936 in Lexington, Mississippi, Freeman earned his bachelor of  science degree from historically black Central State University in 1957 and his Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from Michigan State University in 1962.  From 1962 to 1964 he worked as a research chemist with a private firm and from 1964 to 1965 was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) fellow at Yale University.  Later, he was an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellow, a Fulbright-Hays senior research scholar, a visiting professor at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry in West Germany and at the University of Paris, and an adjunct chemistry professor at the University of Chicago.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science, 22nd Ed. Vol. 2 (2005); Kirstina Lindgren, “Irvine Researcher Get $507,750 Grant,” Los Angeles Times, 15 May 1991; “News and Views,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Issue 35 (April 2002); http://www.chem.uci.edu/people/faculty/ffreeman/.
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

James, Sylvester (1947-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sylvester James, American singer and songwriter, was born in the Watts section of Los Angeles, California to Sylvester James and Letha Weaver on September 6, 1947.  He grew up with his mother and stepfather Robert Hurd, as well as five siblings: John James, Larry James, Bernadette Jackson, Bernadine Stevens, and Alonzo Hurd.  Raised attending the Palm Lane Church of God and Christ in Los Angeles, James became a young gospel star performing at churches and conventions across California.

James graduated from Jordan High School in Los Angeles in 1969.  He studied interior design for two years at Leimert Beauty College, Los Angeles and also studied archeology, working at the Museum of Ancient History at the La Brea Tar Pits.  During this time, he co-founded the recording group, the Disquotays.

After moving to San Francisco in 1967, he joined the Cockettes, a theater troupe, singing jazz and blues standards of the 1920s and 1930s; in November 1971, the Cockettes performed at the Anderson Theater in New York City’s East Village.  Sylvester made his debut album on the Blue Thumb label with Lights Out (1971), followed in 1973 by Sylvester and Bazaar.  In 1976, Sylvester hired the singers Martha Wash and Izora Armstead-Rhodes. Record producer Harvey Fuqua discovered the group and signed them with Fantasy Records which produced the album Sylvester in 1977.  
Sources: 
Jake Austen, “Sylvester,” Roctober 19 (1997), http://www.roctober.com/roctober/greatness/sylvester.html; David Masciotra, “Queen of Disco: The Legend of Sylvester,” popmatters (12 February 2013), http://www.popmatters.com/column/167895-queen-of-disco-the-legend-of-sylvester/; Joshua Gamson, The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the 70s in San Francisco (New York City: Henry Holt and Co., 2005); Luca Prono, “Sylvester (1946-1988),” Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Popular Culture (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008), pp. 252-254. “Sylvester James Discography,” http://www.discogs.com/artist/16794-Sylvester
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Elder, Lee (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lee Elder, a member of the United Golfers Association (UGA), Professional Golfers Association (PGA), and the PGA Senior Tour, was the first African American to break the color barrier and play in the Masters Golf Tournament.

Lee Elder was born in 1934 in Dallas, Texas.  His father died in WWII, and his mother very shortly after.  With Elder’s sister running the household, Lee was lured to golf as a way to earn additional income for the family.  He began caddying at the all-white Tennison Park Golf Club in Dallas and soon became favored by the head pro of the course, who allowed Elder slip in after hours to play on the mostly obscured back six holes.  Elder became an accomplished golfer who eventually attracted the attention of hustler and con artist “Titanic” Thompson.  Using Thompson’s financial backing, Elder began playing in tournaments while honing his skills in the game and developing the ability to succeed under pressure.  

Elder joined the all-black United Golfers Association (UGA) in 1959 and began the domination of the Association that would last for nearly eight years.  He won four Negro National Open Championships and during one period in 1966 Elder won an astonishing 18 of the 22 tournaments he played in. This success enabled Elder to earn the required $6,500 he needed to enter the 1967 qualifying school for the PGA Tour.  He qualified easily.
Sources: 
Pete McDaniel, Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African-Americans in Golf (Greenwich, Connecticut: The American Golfer, Inc., 2000); Pete McDaniel, “The Trailblazer”, Golf Digest (October 2000); Eric L. Smith, “Star Profile: Lee Elder,” Black Enterprise (September 1995); www.hickoksports.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harris, Patricia Roberts (1924-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Patricia Roberts Harris was born on May 31, 1924 in Mattoon, Illinois. She excelled academically and received a scholarship to Howard University. During her time at Howard, Roberts was elected Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1945. While she was in college Roberts participated in civil rights protests in Washington, D.C. In 1943, she took part in one of the earliest student sit-ins at a whites-only cafeteria.  While at Howard, Roberts served as Assistant Director for the American Council of Human Rights.  In 1955 she married William Harris, a Howard University law professor.

Patricia Roberts Harris received a law degree from George Washington University in 1960.  She graduated number one in her class and was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Harris worked briefly for the U.S. Department of Justice and was appointed co-chair of the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights by President John F. Kennedy. A year later, she returned to Howard as an associate dean of students while lecturing occasionally at the university’s law school.
Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York, Da Capo Press Inc., 1981); http://www.huarchivesnet.howard.edu/0005huarnet/harris1.htm; http://www.greatwomen.org/component/fabrik/details/2/199.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ross-Lee, Barbara (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Congresswoman
Barbara Lee’s Official Website
Barbara Ross was born in 1942 in Detroit, Michigan, the eldest of six siblings.  She graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry and Biology in 1965.  Briefly married to James Lee, they divorced in 1970 although she kept the name Ross-Lee.  In 1969, after working for the National Teaching Corps, Barbara Ross-Lee received a Master of Arts Degree in Teaching Special Populations.  In 1973, Barbara Ross-Lee received a Doctor of Osteopathy Degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and operated her family practice in Detroit for ten years.  

Dr. Ross-Lee also served as an education consultant for the United States Department of Health and Human Services and a community representative on the Michigan State Governor’s Minority Health Advisory Committee.  In 1991, she became the first osteopathic physician Fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship Program. Ross also served as Legislative Assistant on Health to New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley.   
Sources: 
“Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee,” Networking Who’s Who, What’s What for Business Executives (February 2002); http://www.networkwomen.com/archives/02_02/coverstory_0202.html ;  Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, http//www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_279.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

DeLarge, Robert Carlos (1842-1874)

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

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

Payne, Donald Milford (1934-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Representative
Donald Milford Payne's Office
Donald Payne, a Democrat, was the first African American elected to Congress from the State of New Jersey.  Payne was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 16, 1934. He earned a B.A. degree in social studies from Seton Hall University in 1957 and also has honorary doctorates from Chicago State University, Drew University, Essex County College, and William Patterson University.

After graduating in 1957 Payne began working for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), traveling around the world as its representative.  In 1970 Payne became its first African American president. From 1973 to 1981 he chaired the YMCA Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee that was based in Geneva.  In 1972 he was elected to the Essex County (New Jersey) Board of Chosen Freeholders, and became its director in 1977.

Donald Payne challenged longtime Congressional incumbent Peter W. Rodino Jr. in the Democratic primary in both 1980 and 1986 but failed both times. In 1988 however, when Rodino said he would not seek a 21st term, Payne won nomination and was elected to Congress.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); http://www.house.gov/payne/biography/index.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fuller, Hoyt W. (1923-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Atlanta University
Photographs,  Atlanta University Center,
Robert W. Woodruff
Library

Hoyt W. Fuller, editor and writer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1923. After an illness caused his mother, Lillie Beatrice Ellafair Thomas, to become an invalid and after the death of his father, Thomas Fuller, in 1927, Fuller went to live with his aunt in Detroit, Michigan.  As a child, Fuller often returned to Atlanta to visit his grandmother, who encouraged him to explore black culture.

Fuller attended Wayne State University, graduating in 1950 with a BA in literature and journalism.  Fred Williams, a local amateur historian of Detroit’s black community, became Fuller’s mentor while he attended Wayne State.  Aside from giving Fuller readings about Africa and African Americans, Williams also brought Fuller along on his research trips to interview older members of the black community.  After graduation, Fuller pursued a career in journalism.  He worked at the Detroit Tribune (1949-1951), the Michigan Chronicle (1951-1954), and Ebony magazine (1954-1957).
Sources: 
Hoyt W. Fuller, Journey to Africa (Chicago: Third World Press, 1971); Dudley Randall, ed., Homage to Hoyt Fuller (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1984); “Hoyt Fuller,” in The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Berry, Halle (1968- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Halle Berry, who was born Maria Halle Berry, is a multiracial model, actress, and former beauty queen who was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1968.  Her mother Judith Hawkins Berry, who is white, worked as a psychiatric nurse in a Cleveland hospital.  Berry’s African American father, Jerome Berry, was an attendant at the same hospital.  Berry’s parents divorced when she was four and she was subsequently raised by her mother.    

Halle Berry grew up in an African American neighborhood in her younger years, but then her mother Judith relocated the family to a white neighborhood.  Berry attended Bedford High in Cleveland and quickly became involved in cheerleading and the school newspaper.  She was also class president, a member of the honor society, and Prom Queen of her class.  Berry became Miss Teen Ohio in 1985 which led her to winning the Miss Teen All-American title the same year and then Miss Ohio in 1986.  Berry came in second place in Miss USA in 1986 and was the first African American to compete for the Miss World competition in 1986.  
Sources: 
"Celebrity Central Halle Berry." Halle Berry: People.com. 2008, http://www.people.com/people/halle_berry; Dominick Wills, "Halle Berry Biography," Tiscali Film & TV., http://www.tiscali.co.uk/entertainment/film/biographies/halle_berry_biog.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Galamison, Milton A. (1923-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Milton Galamison (left) with Picketers in New York, Feb. 3, 1964
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis

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.

Sources: 
Clarence Taylor, “Robert Wagner, Milton Galamison, and the Challenge to New York City Liberalism,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 31:2 (July 2007); Alexander Urbiel, “City Schools as Mirrors of Modern Urban Life,” Journal of Urban History 27:511 (May 2001); Clarence Taylor, Knocking At Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mitchell, John, Jr. (1863–1929) and the Richmond Planet (1883 -1996)

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

John Mitchell, Jr. edited and published the Richmond Planet newspaper from one year after its founding in 1883, until his death in 1929.  He was known as the “fighting editor” for his writing against racism.

In 1863, John Mitchell, Sr. and his wife Rebecca were living on the Lyons family estate in Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond.  The Mitchells were slaves; John was a coachman and Rebecca was a seamstress.  On July 11, 1863, they had John, Jr., the first of two sons.  After the Civil War, the Mitchell family moved to Richmond, where Rebecca and John, Jr. continued to work for the Lyons family.

Mitchell graduated high school at the top of his class in 1881.  He taught in Virginia Public Schools until state politics led to the firing of many black teachers, including him.

In 1883 the black lawyer Edwin Archer Randolph founded the Richmond Planet.  After just a year, the newspaper was in the red and on the verge of collapse.  Mitchell led a group of former teachers who resurrected it.

Sources: 

Ann Field Alexander, Race Man: The Rise and Fall of the “Fighting
Editor,”
John Mitchell Jr., Charlottesville: University of Virginia
Press (2002); Richmond Planet, Richmond, Virginia (1884 – 1929);
William J. Simmons, Men of Mark, Cleveland: George M. Rewell & Co
(1887).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ambar, Malik (1548--1626)

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

Davis, Ernie (1940-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ernie Davis with the Heisman Trophy, 1961
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ernie Davis is best known for being one of the greatest football players in college football history and the first black person to win the Heisman trophy. In the process, Davis became an icon for an integrated America and for African Americans achieving the American Dream in a manner similar to Jackie Robinson desegregating Major League Baseball in 1947.

Ernie Davis was born in New Salem, Pennsylvania, and raised in Uniontown, Pennsylvania and Elmira, New York. At the Elmira Free Academy he was a standout academically and athletically where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He earned All-American honors in football in his junior and senior years at the Academy. As a result, Davis was offered over 50 scholarships. He chose Syracuse University (SU) at the request of SU alum and football legend, Jim Brown. At Syracuse he was immediately compared to Brown.  He was promoted to the varsity team as a freshman and given Brown’s number 44—which started SU’s storied tradition of legendary players (usually running backs) wearing and passing down number 44.

Sources: 

Robert C. Gallagher, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story (New York: Ballantine Books, 2008); Universal Pictures, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story (2008); Syracuse University, Ernie Davis: A Tribute to the Express (URL: http://erniedavis.syr.edu/ernie.aspx); Syracuse University, “The Legend of 44” (URL: http://erniedavis.syr.edu/legend_of_44.aspx); and Gary and Maury Youmans, The Story of the 1959 Syracuse University National Championship Football Team (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Nell, William C. (1816-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William C. Nell was an African American civic activist, abolitionist, and historian. Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Nell was the son of William Guion Nell, a prominent tailor and black activist. William C. Nell was introduced to racial inequality and black activism from birth. In the 1830s, he became politically active as a member of the Juvenile Garrison Independent Society where he wrote plays and hosted political debates while being mentored by William Lloyd Garrison.  Nell was a printer’s apprentice for Garrison’s newspaper, the Liberator. Nell came of age in the 1840s, as a leader in the campaign to desegregate the Boston railroad (1843) and Boston performance halls (1853). He was also a founding member of the New England Freedom Association in 1842, a black Boston organization that assisted fugitive slaves in their efforts to gain freedom.

Sources: 
“William Cooper Nell (1816 - 1874),” in Boston African-American National Historic Site, National Park Service, (2002); William C. Nell, “The Triumph of Equal School Rights in Boston,” in Philip S. Foner and Robert James Branham (eds.), Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900 (Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Henderson, Freddye Scarborough (1917-2007)

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

Freddye Scarborough Henderson, entrepreneur, columnist, and educator, was born on February 18, 1917 in Franklinton, Louisiana. She was educated in her hometown and graduated valedictorian from Booker T. Washington High School in Franklinton.  In 1937, Scarborough earned a B.S. in home economics from Southern University.  Four years later, on July 4, 1941, she married Jacob Robert Henderson in Atlanta, Georgia. Freddye Henderson continued her educational pursuits, becoming the first African American to earn a M.S. degree in fashion merchandising from New York University in 1950.

In 1944 Henderson opened a custom dress store in Atlanta. She operated the store until 1950 when she became an associate professor of applied art and clothing at Spelman College. She also held an adjunct position during the summer months at Atlanta University. Along with her teaching duties, Henderson became fashion editor for the Associated Negro Press where she reached a national audience with her syndicated column which appeared in black newspapers throughout the country.  

Sources: 
Kay Powell, “Freddye Henderson, 89, Let Blacks Travel En Vogue,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (January 22, 2007); Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women: Book II  (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc., 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

White, Walter F. (1893-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Walter Francis White was a leading civil rights advocate of the first half of the twentieth century.  As executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1931 to 1955, he was one of the major architects of the modern African American freedom struggle.

White, whose blond hair and blue eyes belied his African American ancestry, was born in Atlanta, Georgia on July 1, 1893, the fourth of seven children.  His parents, George W. White, a graduate of Atlanta University and a postal worker, and Madeline Harrison White, a Clark University graduate and school teacher, were solidly middle class at the time when the vast majority of Atlanta blacks were working class.
Sources: 
“Walter White (1893-1955),” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University), http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/white-walter.cfm, accessed January 1, 2014; Walter F. White, A Man Called White: The Autobiography of Walter White (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995); The New Georgia Encyclopedia:
http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-747.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

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

Browne, Roscoe Lee (1925-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Steven Otfinoski, African Americans in the Performing Arts (2003); Walter Rigdon, ed., The Biographical Encyclopedia & Who’s Who of the American Theatre (1966); Quincy Troupe, “Roscoe Lee Browne,” Essence (December 1976). See also http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/1800037298/bio
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

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

Chesnutt, Charles Waddell (1858-1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Waddell Chesnutt was born the son of free black parents on June 20, 1858 in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents had recently moved to Cleveland from Fayetteville, North Carolina in response to the growing restrictions placed on free blacks in that slave state.
By 1866, Chesnutt worked part time in the family store while regularly attending Cleveland’s Howard School for Blacks.  

In 1872 Chesnutt was forced to end his formal education at the age of fourteen because he had to help support his parents.  However, the school’s principal invited him to stay at the school as a distinguished pupil-teacher and turn his modest salary over to his father.  

By sixteen, Chesnutt was employed in Charlotte, North Carolina as a full-time teacher and in 1877, returned to Fayetteville, North Carolina as the assistant principal of Howard School.  In 1880 Chesnutt became the school’s principal.

In search of more lucrative employment, Chesnutt resigned his school-administrator post in 1883 and moved to New York City where he worked as a stenographer and journalist on Wall Street.  By 1887, Chesnutt returned to Cleveland and was admitted to the Ohio Bar.   As a teacher, lawyer, businessman and writer, Chesnutt was a prominent member of Cleveland’s African American elite.  By 1900, however, Chesnutt gave up his business and professional life to write and lecture full-time.
Sources: 
Helen Chesnutt, Charles Waddell Chesnutt, Pioneer of the Color Line (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1952); Linda Metzger, Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dixon, George "Little Chocolate" (1870-1909)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Dixon, also known as “Little Chocolate,” was born on July 29, 1870 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Standing only 5’ 3 ½” and weighing no more than 118 pounds over the bulk of his career, “Little Chocolate” was described as long armed and skinny legged, swift of hand and foot, and possessing an ideal fighting temperament and great stamina. Ring magazine founder and editor, Nat Fleischer, described him as a marvel of cleverness, yet indicated that he could slug with the best of them. Fleischer rated him as the # 1 bantamweight of all time.

Dixon became the first black man to win a world championship when he captured the bantamweight title just shy of his 20th birthday by defeating Nunc Wallace of England in 18 rounds on June 27, 1890. Only 13 months later he knocked out Abe Willis of Australia to garner the featherweight crown. He held that title for the next six years, finally losing it by decision to Solly Smith on October 4, 1897. He regained it on November 11, 1898 by defeating Dave Sullivan, but then lost it for good when Terry McGovern knocked him out on January 9, 1900.
Sources: 
John D. McCallum, The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions (Radner, Pennsylvania; Chilton Book Co. 1975); www.cyberboxingzone.com and www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jefferson, Blind Lemon (c. 1890-1929)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Blind Lemon Jefferson was born in Couchman, Texas, sometime around the 1890s although the exact date is not known and several are claimed. He was the youngest of seven children and the only one of them born blind. The details of his birth and young life are not well known, nor are the reason that he first began to play guitar and sing, but his influence on the development of blues is well known. He gained the respect of his peers with what were termed inimitable skills, and left traces of his musical characteristics in most of the blues that came after him.

Even though he started out playing on street corners near his hometown, by 1917 Lemon was living in Dallas and was already well known and admired by his peers. He began traveling by train to surrounding areas and journeyed extensively, where he met other blues greats such as: Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), Robert Wilkins and Son House. It was widely thought that he played in every Southern state at one time or another and several artists recount stories of playing with him multiple times. Lemon was a firm businessman, playing only for money, with a reputation for stopping as soon as it did.
Sources: 
Keith Shadwick, The Encyclopedia of Jazz and Blues (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Quintet Publishing, 2001); http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9043478/Blind-Lemon-Jefferson
http://www.sfu.ca/~hayward/van/glossary/lemon.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mills, Harold (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Harold Mills
Courtesy of Mark Sharley 

Harold Mills is a boat racing pioneer and award winning driver.  Born August 16, 1953 in Seattle, Washington, he spent nine years in Houston, Texas as a child. He came back to Seattle and grew up as a fan of boat racing. 

In the late 1970s, up until 1985, Mills raced his own craft on the local hydroplane circuit. He won his first race in 1985, the Jim Spinner Memorial Regatta at Lake Sammamish outside Redmond, Washington. He retired from driving for the next four years, preferring to promote the sport as an organizer. In 1989, he returned to boat racing as a partner in a 7-litre boat team,  From that point he continued to race through the 1990s.  In 2000, he won 23 of 26 races he entered, driving a 2.5 liter modified hydroplane he called "Fast Freddy."

Harold Mills has won more than 100 races in his career. In 2001, he moved up to the Unlimited class as the first African American to pilot a turbine-powered unlimited hydroplane.  In 2002 he received the Association For Diversity In Motorsports Trailblazer Award.

Sources: 
George Fosty, "Hydroplane Racing," African American Sports Magazine (Vol. 6, 2006);
website: http://www.ulhra.org/news/news-06x02.htm.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dill, Augustus Granville (1881-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Augustus Granville Dill, sociologist, business manager, musician, and colleague of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois, is best known for his work overseeing the publication of Du Bois’s journal, The Crisis, between 1913 and 1928.  He also helped publish The Brownies’ Book, a pioneering magazine for black children published from 1920 to 1921.  In many ways, A.G. Dill represented the possibilities but also the difficulties of the college-educated “talented tenth” generation that Du Bois lauded as civil rights pioneers in his seminal Souls of Black Folk (1903).

Born in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1881, Dill came of age in the era of Jim Crow. After graduating from Atlanta University with a B.A. in 1906, he earned a second B.A. at Harvard University in 1908.  Dill was one of a handful of black students who matriculated at universities such as Harvard at the turn of the century but like his mentor Du Bois, he found few opportunities for advancement outside of the black institutions that had developed in response to segregation’s proscriptions. Atlanta University awarded Dill a Master’s degree in Sociology in 1909 and hired him as both a professor and organist for the school in 1910.  
Sources: 
W.E.B. DuBois, "Brownies' Book Opening Statement," The Brownies' Book 1 (February 1920); W.E.B. DuBois and Augustus Granville Dill, eds., The College-Bred Negro (Atlanta: Atlanta University Press, 1910); Theodore Kornweibel, “Augustus Granville Dill” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography  (New York:  W.W. Norton, 1982); David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963  (New York:  H. Holt, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University.

Peters, Thomas (1738-1792)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Monument in Honor of Black Loyalists, Nova Scotia
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Africa and enslaved in America, Thomas Peters is best known for his influence in settling Canadian blacks in the African colony of Sierra Leone. The earliest documentation of Peters’ life is as a 38-year-old slave in North Carolina.  When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Peters escaped to British-occupied territory.
Sources: 
Simon Schama, Rough Crossings (Toronto: Penguin Group, 2005); James W. St G. Walker, “Peters (Petters), Thomas”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (2000) http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2115&interval=25&&PHPSESSID=njv4l5j5dglrp8buu4elf70is1.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Last Poets, The (1968 - )

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

The Last Poets, a group of musicians and poet performers, originated out of the civil rights movement, with an emphasis on the black re-awakening. The original Last Poets were founded on Malcolm X’s birthday, May 19, 1968 at the former Mount Morris Park (Now Marcus Garvey Park), at 124th Street and Fifth Avenue in East Harlem, New York City. The original members, Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain, and David Nelson took the name from a poem by South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, who believed that he was in the last era of poetry before guns would take over.  They brought together music and spoken word.

The Original Last Poets would soon be overshadowed however by a group of the same name that spawned from a 1969 Harlem writer’s workshop called “East Wind.” Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, Umar Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole, and percusionist Nilaja are considered the core members of this group. In 1970 this group appeared on their self titled album. The Original Last Poets garnered some attention for their soundtrack to the 1971 film “Right On!” Following their debut album which made the top-ten lists, The Last Poets released The Last Poets (1970) and This is Madness (1971). Due to their politically charged lyrics both groups were targeted by COINTELPRO, Richard Nixon’s counter intelligence program along with other politically active organizations such as the Black Panthers.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reddick, Lawrence Dunbar (1910-1995)

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

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

Anderson, George B. (? --?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Farrakhan, Louis Abdul (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Louis Abdul Farrakhan was born on May 11, 1933 in Bronx, New York as Louis Eugene Walcott.  Walcott, who grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts, excelled as a musician, singer and track star.  He attended a Boston-area school for gifted children and was given national exposure at age 14 when, as one of the first African Americans to appear on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, he won the competition for that episode.  After high school Walcott attended Winston-Salem Teachers College for two years and then worked as a calypso guitarist-singer. Walcott joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1955 and changed his name to Louis X and later Louis Farrakhan.  Initially he was a follower of Malcolm X, but became a competitor in the period before Malcolm’s assassination in 1965.

Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999), 732, 33; Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua and Clarence Lang, “Providence, Patriarchy, Pathology: Louis Farrakhan's Rise & Decline,” New Politics, vol. 6, no. 2 (new series), whole no. 22, Winter 1997. http://www.wpunj.edu/~newpol/issue22/chajua22.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Camilla (1919-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Indiana University
Professional opera singer Camilla Williams was born October 18, 1919 in Danville, Virginia to Fannie Carey Williams and Cornelius Booker Williams. The youngest of four siblings, Williams began singing at a young age and was performing at her local church by age eight. At age 12, she began taking lessons from a Welsh singing teacher, Raymond Aubrey, but because of Jim Crow laws the lessons had to be conducted in private in Aubrey’s home.

After high school, Williams attended Virginia State College for Negroes, now Virginia State University, in Petersburg, Virginia. She graduated in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. After graduation, Williams taught 3rd grade and music at a black public school in Danville. In 1943, fellow Virginia State College alumni paid for the gifted singer to move to Philadelphia and study under influential voice coach Marion Szekely-Freschl. Williams began touring in 1944 and during one concert in Stamford, Connecticut she met Geraldine Farrar, a respected soprano opera singer and the original star of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s Madame Butterfly. Farrar was so impressed with Williams’ voice that she soon took her under her wing and became her mentor. Farrar even helped Williams to sign a recording contract with RCA Victor and to break into the highest levels of American opera.  
Sources: 
Veronica A. Davis, Inspiring African American Women of Virginia (New York: IUniverse, 2005); http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/03/arts/music/camilla-williams-opera-singer-dies-at-92.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, Alphonso R. (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Pegg, John Grant (1869-1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Owneship: Public Domain
John Grant Pegg was born around 1869 in Virginia.  He began his career in about 1890 as a Pullman porter, working out of Chicago. It was there that he met Mary Charlotte Page of Kansas, a seamstress. After their marriage they moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1898.  Pegg became involved in Omaha politics as a Republican committeeman who became known informally as the “councilman for the Black community.”  In 1910 Pegg became the first African American appointed Inspector of Weights & Measures for the City of Omaha.  His work in the black community led him to be known as a “race man” dedicated to improving the African American section of Omaha’s population. Pegg, for example, was a Shriner and a member of the local Masonic Lodge.

The Kincaid Homestead Act of 1904 opened up thousands of acres of northern Nebraska for homesteaders.  In 1911, John Pegg sponsored a number of black settlers who went by wagon out to Cherry County, Nebraska to homestead.  Among them were his brother Charlie Pegg and his nephew James. They homesteaded land in John Pegg’s name in Cherry County although John Pegg never lived on the homestead. His brother and nephew operated a cattle ranch that supplied beef to the South Omaha packing plants.  John Grant Pegg died in 1916 in Omaha.
Sources: 
Personal letters and journal entries of William Gaitha Pegg, son of John Grant Pegg, 1982.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wheatley, Phillis (1754-1784)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Enslaved in Senegal [in a region that is now in Gambia] at age eight and brought to America on a schooner called the Phillis (for which she was apparently named), was purchased by Susannah and John Wheatley, who soon recognized her intellect and facility with language.  Susannah Wheatley taught Phillis to read not only English but some Latin.  While yet in her teens, Phillis Wheatley became the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry, and the third woman in the American colonies to do so.  That book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, became controversial twice.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America’s First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2003); http://www.jmu.edu/madison/center/main_pages/madison_archives/era/african/free/wheatley/bio.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brigham Young University

Wills, Mary Jo (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Mary Jo Wills has worked in international affairs for over three decades. Her service to the United States has taken her to Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Most recently, she held the position of U.S. Ambassador to the island nations of Seychelles and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

Wills holds several degrees. She earned a bachelor’s degree in History from Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1973. Wills received a master’s degree in Business Administration from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College in Washington, D.C. As of this writing, she is a doctoral candidate at Virginia Tech’s Center for Public Administration and Policy.
Sources: 
“Mary Jo Willis,” United States Office of the Historian, https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/wills-mary-jo; “Ambassador: Embassy of the United States Port Louis, Mauritius,” Embassy of the United States, http://mauritius.usembassy.gov/amb.html; “Mary Wills,” All Gov, http://www.allgov.com/officials/wills-mary?officialid=29078.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Clemente, Roberto (Walker) (1934-1972)

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

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

Abernathy, Ralph (1926-1990)

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

Horne, Lena (1917-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lena Horne was a major 20th Century entertainer.  Born in Brooklyn, New York into an upper middle class black family on June 30, 1917, Horne battled racial injustice throughout her career. Despite her obstacles she became one of the most well known African American performers of the 20th Century, achieving fame as a singer and actor.
Horne’s legendary career began in 1933 when at 16 she was hired to perform in the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem. There she was surrounded by up in coming jazz legends including Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson and Duke Ellington.  For the next five years, Horne performed in several night clubs, on Broadway, and toured with the Charlie Barnett swing band as a singer.   Barnett’s band was white thus allowing Horne to become one of the first African American star performers who developed an appeal across American racial boundaries.    

In 1938, Horne moved to Hollywood where she was cast in several movies. Years later Horne recalled, "In every other film I just sang a song or two; the scenes could be cut out when they were sent to local distributors in the South. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of a chance to act."

Sources: 
James Haskins, A Personal and Professional Biography of Lena Horne, (Detroit: Scarborough House, 1991); AlJean Harmetz, "Lena Horne Obituary," New York Times, May 10, 2010; http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/horne_l.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cromwell, John Wesley (1846-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Wesley Cromwell was a historian, editor, educator and lawyer who was born into slavery on September 5th, 1846 in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was the youngest child of Willis Hodges Cromwell and Elizabeth Carney Cromwell, who had twelve children. In 1851 Willis Cromwell obtained his family’s freedom and they moved to West Philadelphia. John attended Bird’s Grammar School at the age of ten and the Institute for Colored Youth in 1856. He graduated in 1864 and taught briefly in Colombia, Pennsylvania.

Cromwell returned to Virginia in 1865 at the age of eighteen and opened a private school for freedmen in Portsmouth, which was eventually taken over by the American Missionary Association. He returned to Philadelphia and worked with the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People. In December of 1865, the principal of the Association recommended Cromwell to teach in the American Missionary Association’s freedman’s schools being formed across the South. Cromwell taught briefly in Maryland and Virginia through 1867.

John Wesley Cromwell soon got involved with local politics in Virginia. In 1867 he was named a delegate to the first Republican convention in Richmond. He was also named clerk in the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1868.

Sources: 
Adelaide M. Cromwell, Unveiled Voices, Unvarnished Memories: The Cromwell Family in Slavery and Segregation, 1692-1972 (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2007); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Prioleau, George (1856-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Prioleau was chaplain of the 9th Cavalry of Buffalo Soldiers in the late 19th century. After witnessing inequality and mistreatment of his men, he publicly challenged the hypocrisy and racial line being drawn against black soldiers.

Born in 1856 to slave parents in Charleston, South Carolina, Prioleau earned his theology degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio. He was a teacher and served as an A. M. E. pastor and denominational leader for Ohio congregations, and in 1889 he became professor of theology and homiletics at Wilberforce. Six years later, President Grover Cleveland appointed him to replace Henry Plummer as chaplain of the 9th Cavalry, U. S. Army, with a rank of captain.

In 1898 upon the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, the 9th Cavalry left the western United States for the first time in its history and was deployed to bases in Georgia and Florida for military activities in Cuba and the Caribbean.  Chaplain Prioleau was eager for an opportunity for African American soldiers to prove themselves on the field of battle, but he became ill with malaria and was unable to travel to Cuba with the rest of the 9th. Upon recovering from his illness, he served as a recruitment officer in the segregated South. While there, Prioleau was shocked by the racism the 9th faced on a daily basis.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Glasrud and Michael N. Searles, Buffalo Soldiers in the West: A Black Soldiers Anthology (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2007); Frank N. Schubert, Voices of the Buffalo Soldier: Records, Reports, and Recollections of Military Life in the West (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2003); Irene K. Schubert and Frank N. Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004); Richard R. Wright, Jr., Centennial Encyclopedia of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Philadelphia, PA: A. M. E. Church, 1916); Anthony L. Powell, “An Overview: Black Participation in the Spanish-American War,” The Spanish American War Centennial Website http://www.spanamwar.com/AfroAmericans.htm; “History of Bethel A.M.E. Church,” http://www.bethelamela.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46:history-of-bethel&catid=34:history&Itemid=59.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mitchell, Abbie (1884-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Taylor, John (1952- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John David Beckett Taylor, the Baron of Warwick, was born on September 21, 1952 in Birmingham, England. His parents, Derief, a professional cricket player, and Enid, a nurse, were originally from Jamaica. Taylor was educated at Moseley Grammar School and later studied English Literature and Law at Keele University before moving to London to pursue a career in Law. He was called to the Bar in 1978 and began a successful career as a Barrister. In 1981 he married his first wife, Jean Katherine Binysh, a pediatrician, with whom he had three children.
Sources: 
BBC Profile of Lord Taylor: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/talking_politics/1304393.stm; Onyekachi Wambu: John Taylor Lord Taylor of Warwick - Barrister (Tamarind 1 Jan 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kilpatrick, Kwame M. (1970--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kwame Kilpatrick & Christine Beatty
Image Ownership: Public Domain

In 2002, Kwame Malik Kilpatrick, at the age of 31, became the youngest person to be elected mayor of Detroit, Michigan.  Six years later in 2008, Kilpatrick resigned his post as mayor after his conviction for obstruction of justice stemming from a sex scandal involving the mayor and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty. Kilpatrick, married and the father of three sons, had an affair with Beatty, a divorced single mother and then committed perjury in a 2007 trial when he denied the relationship under oath.  Kilpatrick was forced to resign from his office and spent 120 days in jail as part of a guilty plea to the charges of obstructing justice.

Kilpatrick, the son of U.S. Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Bernard Kilpatrick, former Chief of Staff for Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara, was born in Detroit on June 6, 1970.  Kilpatrick was the captain of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s football team.  He earned a B.A. degree in political science there.  He returned to Detroit and taught at the Marcus Garvey Academy.  

Sources: 

Can Kwame Kilpatrick Grow Up, Steven Gray/Detroit Thursday, Sep. 20, 2007, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1663791,00.html; Kwame Kilpatrick, M.J. Stephey, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008, /www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1854335,00.html; Kwame Kilpatrick exits, with Barack Obama holding the door, Edward McClelland September 4, 2008, www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/09/04/detroit/; Resources for Elected Officials, DLC, Profile, May 15, 2003,100 To Watch :: 2003 The Next Generation of Leadership, www.ndol.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=251633&kaid=104&subid=210.

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Grant, George Franklin (1847-1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dr. George Franklin Grant was the first African American professor at Harvard. He was born in Oswego, New York to former slaves. When he was fifteen years old a local dentist, Dr. Albert Smith, hired him as an errand boy. He soon became a lab assistant, and Dr. Smith encouraged him to pursue a career in dentistry. In 1868 he and Robert Tanner Freeman, another son of former slaves, became the first blacks to enroll in Harvard Dental School. After receiving his degree in 1870, he became the first African American faculty member at Harvard, in the School of Mechanical Dentistry, where he served for 19 years.

While there he specialized in treating patients with congenital cleft palates. His first patient was a 14 year-old girl, and by 1889 he had treated 115 cases. He patented the oblate palate, a prosthetic device that allowed patients to speak more normally. He was a founding member and president of the Harvard Odontological  Society, and, in 1881, he was elected President of the Harvard Dental Association.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1818-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley is best known as Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker and confidant and as the author of Behind the Scenes By Elizabeth Keckley, Formerly a Slave, But More Recently Modiste, and Friend to Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868).  

Elizabeth Hobbs was born into slavery on the Col. Armistead Burwell farm in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, in 1818 to Agnes and George Pleasant Hobbs (although her biographer Jennifer Fleischner asserts that Col. Burwell was in fact Hobbs’s father).  Agnes and George had an “abroad” marriage meaning that except for one brief period of time when George resided on the Burwell property, the family lived apart.  George Hobbs was parted from his family permanently when his master relocated west.  
Sources: 
Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes By Elizabeth Keckley, Formerly a Slave, But More Recently Modiste, and Friend to Mrs. Abraham Lincoln,  Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868), available electronically at:  http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/keckley/keckley.html;  Jennifer Fleischner, Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly (New York: Broadway Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, Wyatt Tee (1929- )

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

Barnett, Ida Wells (1862-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Linda O. McMurry, To Keep the Waters Troubled: the Life of Ida B. Wells, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); John Hope Franklin and August Meier, Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Kitzmiller, John (1913-1965)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Far better known as a popular and versatile actor in Italy and parts of Europe than in his native country, the United States, John Kitzmiller was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, on December 4, 1913, one of two children of John B. and Mary E. Kitzmiller.  In his youth he seemed destined for a career in science and technology.  In high school Kitzmiller joined the Chemistry Club and at the University of Michigan he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1937.

When World War II intervened, Kitzmiller, as an Army captain, was stationed in Italy in 1943 serving with the all-African American 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division which rebuilt bombed roads and bridges.  He was one of the few black soldiers who chose to remain in Italy after the war rather than face the racial situation in the United States.  The fact that both his parents died while he was in military service further loosened his ties to home.
Sources: 
Saverio Giovacchini, “Living in Peace After the Massacre,” Global Neorealism: The Transnational History of a Film Style (University Press of Mississippi, 2011); http://www.thewildeye.co.uk/blog/performers-directors/black-actors-in-italy/john-kitzmiller/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Bambaataa, Afrika (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

One of hip-hop culture's most influential pioneers, Afrika Bambaataa was the first to articulate an ideology for the emerging youth culture, using the music to illustrate hip-hop's expansive potential as a global movement. As a DJ and recording artist, Bambaataa embraced every musical genre to establish hip-hop as an aesthetic form based on juxtaposition and appropriation. As a leading spokesman for the hip-hop generation, Bambaataa delineated the four elements of hip-hop as rapping, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti-writing, giving the manifold trends of late seventies minority youth in New York City a definitive coherence.

From his childhood in the Bronx River Projects, Bambaataa was a natural leader and by his early teens he rose to command ranks in the neighborhood’s dominant youth gang. As his focus moved to throwing parties around the neighborhood, he was blessed with an instant following, which only grew as his recognition as the borough’s preeminent DJ became widespread. In 1982, along with his crew of MCs and DJs, the Soul Sonic Force, Bambaataa released “Planet Rock,” one of the most influential early hip-hop songs, which is also credited as one of the leading inspirations for the forthcoming electronic musical genres.

Sources: 
Jeff Chang, Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (New York: Picador Press, 2005); Steven Hager, “Afrika Bambaataa’s Hip-Hop” in Raquel Cepeda, ed., And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years (New York: Faber and Faber Inc.).
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

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

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

Baker, Ella (1903-1986)

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

Cole, Rebecca J. (1846-1922)

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

Dr. Rebecca J. Cole was the first black woman doctor in the United States.  Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 16, 1846, Cole was one of five children.

Cole began her schooling at the Institute for Colored Youth and graduated in 1863.  She then attended the New England Female Medical College and graduated in 1864 after completing her thesis titled “The Eye and Its Appendages.”  With her graduation she became the first formally trained black woman doctor in the United States.  She received a second medical degree in 1867 when she graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.   

After graduation, Cole went to work at Elizabeth Blackwell’s Infirmary for Women and Children in New York.  After gaining experience there, she moved to Columbia, South Carolina to practice but then later returned to Philadelphia.  Cole also set up practices in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. during her medical career.

Sources: 
Darlene Hine, Black Women in America:an Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Pub., 1993);  Harry A. Ploski and James Williams, The Negro Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Incorporated, 1989); http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_66.html (Accessed November 20, 2009); Sandra Harding, The "Racial" Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future (Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1993); Dorthy Sterling, “We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century” (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Thomas, Clarence (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the U.S. 
Supreme Court

Clarence Thomas, the second African American to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Pin Point, Georgia, a small community south of Savannah.  His mother, Leola Williams, a single parent, raised Thomas until he was seven.  He and his brother, Myers, were sent to Savannah where they were raised by their maternal grandfather, Myers Anderson. To help his grandsons to survive in the Jim Crow South, Anderson, a Democrat, local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) member, and recent convert to Catholicism, instilled in them a discipline and pride that would counterpoint the harshness of southern racism.  Thomas remembers that after purchasing a new truck, his grandfather removed the heater because he believed its use would make the boys lazy.

Thomas was educated in St. Benedict the Moor, an all-black Catholic school in Savannah and later became the only African American student at St. John Vianney Minor Seminary just outside Savannah.  In 1967 he entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in northwestern Missouri to prepare for the priesthood.  He withdrew after viewing one fellow student’s pleasure at the news that Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated.

Sources: 
Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007); Ken Goskett, Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas (New York: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2004); William Grimes, “The Justice Looks Back and Settles Old Scores,” New York Times, Wednesday, October 19, 2007, B1; David Savage, “In rulings, little hint of his meager start,” Los Angeles Times, Sunday, October 28, 2007, A22; Jeffrey Toobin, “Unforgiven: Why is Clarence Thomas so Angry?” New Yorker, November 12, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Grizzle, Stanley G. (1918- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Courtesy of Sandra Danilovic, TV documentary,
"Portrait of a Street: The Soul and Spirit of College"
(2001, Rodna Films Inc.)
Stanley G. Grizzle founded the Railway Porter’s Trade Union Council and served as president of the Toronto Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) Division of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) from 1946 to 1962.

Grizzle was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1918, to Jamaican parents who immigrated to Canada in 1911. He became a railway porter at the age of 22 to help support his family. In 1938 Grizzle helped form the Young Men’s Negro Association of Toronto, initiating a period of activity which would make him one of the leaders in the black Canadian campaign for civil rights.  
Sources: 
Stanley G. Grizzle and John Cooper, My Name’s Not George: The Story of Sleeping Car Porters (Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1997); Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997). http://www.answers.com/topic/stanley-g-grizzle.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Nellie Stone (1905-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Social activist and black labor leader Nellie Stone Johnson was born Nellie Saunders Allen in Lakeville, Minnesota in 1905, the eldest daughter of an activist farmer, William R. Allen and a schoolteacher, Gladys Allen.  As a child, Nellie worked on her family’s farm near Hinckley, Minnesota.  On her way to and from school, she distributed flyers for the Non-Partisan League, a radical rural organization of which her father was a member.  

When she was 17, she left the farm for Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she finished high school through the GED program at the University of Minnesota in 1925.  She attended but did not graduate from the University of Wisconsin.  In 1931, Allen married Clyde Stone, an auto mechanic.  

During the Great Depression Stone worked for the Minneapolis Athletic Club.  Concerned about a pay cut food workers received in 1935, she helped found Local 665 of the Hotel and Restaurant International Union, of which she would become Vice-President.  While with the union Stone helped to start the first health and welfare program for food workers.  She was also the first woman to serve as vice-president of the Minnesota Culinary Council.  
Sources: 

Nellie Stone Johnson, Nellie Stone Johnson:  The Life of an Activist (St. Paul, MN:  Ruminator Books, 2000); Mary Christine Pruitt, “Women Unite! The Modern Women’s Movement in Minnesota” (Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1988); Monica Bauerlein, "Nellie Stone Johnson: 19005-2002: Minneapolis Loses a Legendary Figure," City Pages, April 10, 2002.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Poindexter, James (1819-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Poindexter clergyman, abolitionist, politician, and civil rights activist, was born in Richmond Virginia in 1819. He attended school in Richmond until he was about sixteen when he started to apprentice as a barber. In 1837 Poindexter married Adelia Atkinson and the coupled moved to Columbus, Ohio where they remained for the rest of their lives.

In Columbus Poindexter joined the Second Baptist Church, a small black church in the city.  He officiated at the services until an ordained Baptist minister could be found. In 1847 when a recently arrived black family joined the church, Poindexter and others learned they had been slaveholders in Virginia.  Poindexter and forty other Second Baptist Church members withdrew in protest and formed the Anti-Slavery Baptist Church. Poindexter led this church for the next ten years until the congregation rejoined the Second Baptist Church in 1858.  Poindexter, now an ordained minister, became the pastor of the combined church and remained in this position until his resignation in 1898.

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

Bousfield, Midian Othello (1885–1948)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Midian O. Bousfield (left) Receives the
Legion of Merit Award, 1945
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Physician and businessman Dr. Midian Othello Bousfield was a leader in Chicago’s insurance industry. His diverse career included work in medicine and in the military, advocating for African American health care and for the training of black medical personnel. He was the first black person promoted to the rank of colonel in the Army Medical Corps while commanding the Army’s all-African American hospital, an appointment that was marred by controversy amid criticism that he was contributing to segregationist policies.

Bousfield was born on August 22, 1885 in Tipton, Missouri to Willard Hayman Bousfield, a barber and businessman, and Cornelia Catherine Gilbert Bousfield. The family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and after high school Midian Bousfield graduated from the University of Kansas in 1907 with a bachelor of arts degree. He then entered medical school at Northwestern University in Chicago where he earned an M.D. in 1909. The following year Bousfield began working as an intern at Howard University's Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. and then worked briefly in Kansas City.

Sources: 
Peter Marshall Murray,  “Midian 0. Bousfield, M.D., 1885-1948," Journal of the National Medical Association (May 1948): 120; Vanessa Northington Gamble, Making a Place for Ourselves: The Black Hospital Movement, 1920-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Vanessa Northington Gamble and Theodore M. Brown, “Midian Othello Bousfield: Advocate for the Medical and Public Health Concerns of Black Americans,” American Journal of Public Health (July 2009) 99:1186; Merah Steven Stuart, An Economic Detour: A History of Insurance in the Lives of American Negroes (New York: McGrath Publishing, 1969).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Shepperson, James E. (1858 - ?)

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

 

Sources: 

Through Open Eyes (Ninety-Five Years of Black History in Roslyn,
Washington), http://epl.eburg.com/Roslyn/openeyes.html; Quintard
Taylor, “A History of Blacks in the Pacific Northwest, 1788-1970,”
Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1977; www.ancestry.com

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Myers, Stephen (1800-1870)

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

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

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

Cosby, Bill (1937-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Bill Cosby and Jesse Ja
Sources: 

http://entertainer.billcosby.com/biography/images/biography/bill_cosby_biography.pdf; Henry Louis Gates, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Henry Louis Gates, African American National Biography, Vol. 2, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Linda K. Fuller, The Cosby Show: Audiences, Impact, and Implications (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Holland, Endesha Ida Mae (1944-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland was born into abject poverty in Greenwood, Mississippi. She experienced extreme racism, lack of options, and little support to change her life. As a teenager she quit school, turned to prostitution and theft as a way to make it in the world she knew – a world that included being raped by a neighbor, multiple “fathers” and broken dreams.

Her first time in jail was as a teenager having dropped out of school and turned towards a life of prostitution and theft. She was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail – but this wouldn’t be the last time. She went to prison on assault and battery charges after having married, given birth, and found her husband cheating. When she was released from prison, her options were narrow and she returned to “streetwalking” – the life she knew.

This time, the man she pursued was active in SNCC. Holland pursued him all the way back to SNCC offices where she was introduced to the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Holland would go to jail many times in her future, not for streetwalking but for protesting with the Movement. One these trips included the state penitentiary with other Civil Rights activists. After thirty-three days, she was released and shortly thereafter met Dr. Jackson and Dr. King.

Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University, Antioch McGregor University

St. Maurice (ca. 250-ca. 287)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Statue of St. Maurice c. 1240-1250, Magdeburg
Cathedral of St. Maurice and St. Catherine, Author
Unknown, Pictures @ 1979 Menil Foundation, 
Houston, Texas
Image Courtesy of the Menil Foundation
St. Maurice is commemorated throughout churches in modern Germany as a black African dressed as a Roman Solider.  That depiction originated with the renowned statue in the Cathedral of St. Catherine and St. Maurice in Magdeburg, Germany.  However, according to some historical authorities, he was probably not black and possibly never existed.  What is known is the date he became a saint and when he first became depicted as black.

In 287 AD, a Theban Legion of Christian Roman soldiers in Egypt led by Maurice was commanded by Emperor Maximian Hereculeus (ca. 250-ca. 310 AD) to march to Agaunum, now the modern day St-Maurice en Valais in Switzerland.  Exactly what Maurice’s Legion was ordered to do there by the Emperor is disputed:  they were either required to participate in pagan rites or to harass and kill local Christians.
Sources: 

Gude Suckale-Redlesfen, The Black Saint Maurice (Houston: Menil Foundation, 1987); Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and David Bindman (editors), The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume II, Part 1, From the Demonic Threat to the Incarnation of Sainthood (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wiggins, Forrest Oran (1907-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Forrest Oran Wiggins was born in 1907 to Charles and Cora Cosby Wiggins. A native of Vincennes, Indiana, Wiggins attended public schools in Vincennes and Indianapolis. In 1928 Wiggins received his B.A. from Butler University and in the following year earned a certificate in French from the Sorbonne. Wiggins would go on to teach French and well as philosophy on various college campuses. He received his Master’s (1929) and Ph.D. (1931) in philosophy with both degrees earned from University of Wisconsin.

Wiggins became the first African American to teach at University of Minnesota. Wiggins was one of only four African American philosophers that by 1950 had regular faculty posts on predominantly white colleges. A long time member of the American Philosophical Association, Wiggins came to Minnesota highly recommended as a scholar and teacher. When Wiggins arrived in the Twin Cities, he had considerable teaching experience, having been an instructor for13 years at a number of black institutions including: Morehouse College, Howard University, Johnson C. Smith, North Carolina Central, and Louisville Municipal College. Despite his credentials and experience, Wiggins was hired at the rank of (untenured) instructor.
Sources: 
Dick Bruner, “Around the U.S.A., The Wiggins Case” The Nation (March 22, 1952) p. 2; Clark Johnson, “Biographical Sketch of Forrest Oran Wiggins” in the Forrest Oran Wiggins Papers, University of Minnesota Archives (November 2003).
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

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

Kenia Martinez (1988– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Twenty-two-year-old Kenia Martinez was crowned Miss Universe Honduras on July 8, 2010. She went on to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, in August of the same year. Kenia was the second black woman to win the title in Honduras. Ms. Martinez is originally from Tela, a town on the Honduran Caribbean coast, and she proudly claims to be Garifuna. The Garifuna are descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people. (The latter two are indigenous peoples of various Caribbean islands). In 1797 the English deported some Garifuna from St. Vincent to the island of Roatan off the Honduran coast. From there, they were moved to Trujillo, and then they migrated to Tela in 1808 where they founded their own community.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Van Der Zee, James (1886-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James VanDerZee was an African American photographer during the Harlem Renaissance who was best known for his pictures that captured the lives of African Americans in New York City, New York. He had a gift for capturing the most influential individuals and riveting artistic moments of the era.  Early 20th century black activist Marcus Garvey, black entertainer/ dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and renowned black poet Countee Cullen were among his more prominent subjects.

VanDerZee was born in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1886.  He demonstrated a gift for music and initially aspired to a career as a professional violinist.  
Sources: 
James VanDerZee, Drop Me Off in Harlem (Washington D.C., The Kennedy Center, 1922: Photographs).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Sampson, Edith Spurlock (1901-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Looby, Z. Alexander (1899-1972)

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

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

Matthews, Victoria Earle (1861-1907)

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

Europe, James Reese (1881-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
James Reese Europe and Band Members, 1918
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Reese Europe, one of the first African American to record music in the United States, was born on February 22, 1881 in Mobile Alabama to Henry and Lorraine Europe.  When he was ten, his family moved to Washington D.C. where he began to study violin with Enrico Hurlei, the assistant director of the Marine Corps Band.  In 1904, Reese moved to New York to continue his musical studies.  

In 1910, Europe founded one of the most well known African American organizations during that time, The Clef Club, a part union and part fraternal organization which owned a building on West 53rd Street.  Europe was the Clef Club's first elected president as well as the conductor of its symphony orchestra.  The Clef Club Orchestra appeared at Carnegie Hall for the first time on May 2, 1912 and later in 1913 and 1914.  The Carnegie Hall concerts gave the Clef Club Orchestra respectability in upper class circles and as a result, they were engaged to play at many of the most elite functions in New York, London, Paris, and on yachts traveling worldwide.  The Orchestra generated over $100,000 in bookings during the period.  In 1913 Europe also made the first of a series of phonograph records for the Victor Talking Machine Company.
Sources: 
F. Reid Badger, A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, “Europe, James Reese,” Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983); http://jass.com/Others/europe.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, Caroline Still Wiley (1848-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Caroline Still Wiley Anderson, physician and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to William and Letitia Still.  Supporting his family through coal mining investments and a stove store, William Still, a prominent antebellum abolitionist, helped escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad.  He wrote about these fugitive slaves in his book The Underground Railroad.  

Caroline Still attended Mrs. Henry Gordon’s Private School, The Friends Raspberry Alley School, and the Institute for Colored Youth.  At sixteen, she went to Oberlin College where she was the only black woman in her class.  After graduating from Oberlin College’s Literary Course in 1868, Still moved back to Philadelphia to teach.  In 1869, she married Edward A. Wiley, a former Alabama slave, who she met at Oberlin.  Before Wiley’s death in 1873, they had two children, William and Letitia. Caroline Wiley left Philadelphia for Washington, D.C. and Howard University where she was hired to teach music, drawing, and elocution.

Once there she decided to become a medical doctor.  After attending Howard University Medical School for one term, Wiley transferred to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1876.  She graduated in the spring of 1878 and then interned at Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children.  When she returned to Philadelphia in 1879, she became one of the state’s first black female doctors.
Sources: 
Margaret Jerrido, “Caroline Still Anderson,” in Notable Black American Women, ed. Jessie Carney Smith (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1996); Darlene Clark Hine, “Co-Laborers in the Work of the Lord: Nineteenth-Century Black Women Physicians,” in ‘Send Us a Lady Physician’: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920, ed. Ruth J. Abram (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1985);  Susan Wells, Out of the Dead House: Nineteenth Century Women Physicians and the Writing of Medicine (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Stewart, John (1786-1823)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Stewart (also sometimes spelled Steward) was a missionary to the Wyandotte Indians of Ohio and founder of what is often considered the first Methodist mission in America. Stewart was born in Powhatan County, Virginia to free Negro parents who were of mixed ancestry; a mix of white, black, and Indian. Due to his parents’ freedom, John was able to obtain a modest public education. His brother was a Baptist minister which possibly indicates that he received religious training at home. Stewart was a frail and sickly child.
Sources: 
Joseph Mitchell, The Missionary Pioneer: Or, A Brief Memoir of the Life, Labours, and Death of John Stewart (Man of Colour), Founder, Under God, of the Mission Among the Wyandotts, at Upper Sandusky, Ohio ( New York: J.C. Totten, 1827); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dumas, Alexandre (Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie), (1802 – 1870)

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

Alexandre Dumas père, prolific playwright, novelist, travel writer and historian, was born on the 24th July 1802 to Marie Louise Labouret and her husband Thomas Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, who was a military general under Napoleon I. Dumas’ paternal grandfather was the Marquis Antoine-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie who fell in love with and married Dumas’ grandmother, Marie Louise Cessette Dumas, an African-Caribbean slave from San Domingo (now Haiti).
Sources: 
F.W.J. Hemmings, The King of Romance: A Portrait of Alexandre Dumas (Hamish Hamilton, London: 1979); G.R. Pearce, Dumas Pere: Great Lives (The Camelot Press Ltd., London & Southampton, 1934); The Alexandre Dumas pere website, www.cadytech.com/dumas/biographie.php; The Literary Network, www.online-literature.com/dumas (Jalic Inc. 2000-2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Mahal, Taj (Henry St. Claire Fredericks) (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
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