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People

Till, Emmett Louis (1941-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Emmett Till was a fourteen year-old African American boy who was tortured and killed in Money, Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly insulting a white woman.  Born in Chicago, Illinois, Till lived with his mother, Mamie Till. His father, Louis Till, died while serving in the U.S. Army in Italy in 1945. In the summer of 1955, Till went to visit with his 64 year old great-uncle, Mose Wright and family. Before leaving home, Till’s mother instructed him to follow Southern customs and mind his manners, but having grown up in a Northern city like Chicago, Till was unaware of the legacy of lynching and the rigid social caste system in the South. 
Sources: 

“The Murder of Emmett Till,” The American Experience, pbs.org; Ruth Feldstein, “I Wanted the Whole World to See’: Race, Gender, and Constructions of Motherhood in the Death of Emmett Till” in Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945-1960, Joanne Jay Meyerowitz, ed., (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994); Mamie Till Bradley, “Speech given at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Baltimore, Maryland, Oct. 29, 1955,” in Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965, eds., Davis W. Houck and David E. Dixon, (Oxford: University Press of Mississippi, 2009).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, Howard Kent (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Howard Kent Walker is a military veteran, diplomat, and educator who was born on December 3, 1935 in Newport News, Virginia. His father was a high school chemistry and mathematics teacher and his mother a homemaker. Upon graduation from high school Walker enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he studied until 1958.

During his time in Ann Arbor Walker eventually majored in political science and was also part of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), which meant he would have a three-year obligation to the U.S. Air Force after graduation, which he fulfilled (1962-1965). After his military service and a brief stint as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Walker passed the Foreign Service exam, becoming a Foreign Service Officer in 1969.  His first assignment was in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Inter-Africa Affairs, working on Africa-United Nations issues.
Sources: 
Interview with Ambassador Howard K. Walker: Charles Stuart Kennedy, November 11, 2001,The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) Foreign Affairs Oral History Project: http://www.adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Walker,%20Howard%20K.toc.pdf; ADST Country Reader on Togo: http://www.adst.org/Readers/Togo.pdf; American Foreign Service: http://www.afa.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Ali, Muhammad [aka Cassius Clay] (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Muhammad Ali, arguably the most famous professional boxer in the 20th Century and the only fighter to win the heavyweight championship three times, was born Cassius Clay in 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, to Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr. and Odessa Grady Clay.  At the age of 12 Clay began training as a boxer.  During his teen years he won several Golden Gloves titles and other amateur titles.  At the age of 18 he won a gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy and then turned professional.  In one of the most famous boxing matches of the century, Clay in 1965 stunned the world by beating apparently invincible world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in six rounds.

Sources: 
David Remmick, King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero (New York: Vintage Books, 1999); Hana Yasmeen Ali, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004); Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Minkins, Shadrach (1814?-1875)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born into slavery in Norfolk, Virginia (the actual year is uncertain), Shadrach Minkins spent the first thirty years of his life in his hometown, but in May of 1850 he decided to run for freedom and escaped to Boston, where he became a waiter.

At that time, about 2,500 blacks lived in Boston. Runaway slaves found refuge there with fellow runaways, and a population of active black and white abolitionists. Most slaves who reached Boston expected the strong anti-slavery community would protect them and that they would be able to hide or blend in without being recaptured. The other option for fugitives was to pass through Boston to another safe location using the Underground Railroad.

The Fugitive Slave Act, part of the Compromise of 1850, however, undermined Boston’s reputation as a save haven.  This law allowed slave owners, or their representatives, to reclaim runaway slaves, with proof of ownership, throughout the United States.  Slave-catching now carried the force of law which meant all law-enforcement agencies throughout the North were required to assist those seeking fugitives. Law enforcement officers were required to arrest and hold any suspected fugitives and assist their return to slaveholders.  

On February 15, 1851, Minkins was captured by two Boston police officers while he worked at Taft’s Cornhill Coffee House. While he was being taken to the courthouse, word spread and hundreds of black and white abolitionists crowded into the courthouse.
Renowned abolitionist lawyers Robert Morris, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Ellis Gray Loring, and Samuel E. Sewall came to Minkins’ assistance, but under the Fugitive Slave Act, his seizure was legal.
Sources: 
Gary Lee Collison, Shadrach Minkins: From Fugitive Slave to Citizen (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson, Jesse Louis. Jr. (1965- )

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

Jesse Jackson, Jr., an African American Congressman, represented Illinois’ Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from December 12, 1995 to November 21, 2012. On March 11, 1965, in Greenville, South Carolina, in the middle of the voting rights campaign, Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. was born to renowned activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Jacqueline Jackson. The younger Jackson’s political career has been deeply impacted by his educational upbringing and his family’s activism.

In 1987, Jackson earned a Business Management Bachelor of Science Degree from North Carolina A & T State University, where he graduated magna cum laude. In 1990, he graduated from the Chicago Theological Seminary earning a Master of Arts Degree in Theology. Three years later Jackson graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law with a Juris Doctorate.

Before his election to Congress in 1995, Jackson served as the National Rainbow Coalition’s National Field Director, registering millions of new voters.  In the 1980s he led protests against South African apartheid. In 1986, Jackson spent his 21st birthday in a jail cell in Washington, D.C. for participating in an anti-apartheid protest at the South African Embassy.

Sources: 
U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.: Representing the People of the 2nd District of Illinois, www.house.gov/jackson/Bio.shtml; Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.: Congressman, Second Congressional District of Illinois, www.jessejacksonjr.org; and Mema Ayi and Chicago Defender, Jackson Jr. bails on mayoral run; says with Dems in control he can do more for Congress, www.chicagodefender.com/page/local.cfm?ArticleID=7561
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Coltrane, John William (1926-1967)

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

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A jazz pianist and bandleader, Count Basie was one of the leading musicians of the Big Band “Swing” era. His Count Basie Orchestra was formed in 1936, and featured singers such as Billie Holliday, and notable musicians including Lester Young, Jo Jones, and Walter Page. The band lasted for many decades, outliving Basie himself.  

He was born William Allen Basie in Red Bank, New Jersey on August 21, 1904. His mother was his childhood piano teacher, and he was taught to play the cinema organ by Fats Waller. As a young man, he toured with vaudeville acts playing ragtime and stride piano, and after being stranded in Kansas City in 1927, played the organ for silent films. He joined the Blue Devils, a jazz band, in 1928. Basie later formed his own group, playing at the renowned Apollo in New York City, and in 1937 recorded “One O’Clock Jump” on the Decca label, which became the band’s signature song.

The importance of radio exposure in this pre-television era was shown by the heartland enthusiasm for his band’s tours after Basie was broadcast from New York’s 52nd Street Famous Door on the CBS Network in 1938. By the end of the thirties, the band had an international reputation. When Count Basie’s band was hired by a major New York hotel in 1943, it was considered a breakthrough for black musicians, who were often limited to playing in black clubs at that time.
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage (New York: Facts on File, 1997); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music (San Diego, California: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); www.pbs.org/jazz/biography .
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Councill, William Hooper (1849-1909)

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

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

Whipper, Leigh (1876-1975)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Talbert, Mary B.(1866–1923)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dixon, Thomas (1931- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Williams, Vanessa (1963- )

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

Vanessa Lynn Williams was born in Tarrytown, New York on March 18, 1963. She is the daughter of Helen and the late Milton Williams who were music teachers. She has a younger brother, Christopher, who is also an actor.  Williams was the first African American woman to win the Miss America title on September 17, 1983. Interestingly, her parents put “Here she is: Miss America” on her birth announcement that they sent out to friends, twenty years earlier.

During her childhood, Williams took music lessons, learning to play the piano and French horn.  Singing, however, was her first love. After graduating from Horace Greeley High School in Tarrytown in 1981, she attended Syracuse University where she majored in theater arts. It was also at this time that Williams began to compete in a number of beauty pageants. In 1983, she won the Miss Greater Syracuse pageant, followed by the title of Miss New York and eventually the title of Miss America 1984.

Sources: 
Suzanne Freedman, Vanessa Williams (Philadelphia:  Chelsea House Press, 2000); Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Sefolosha, Thabo (1984– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Thabo Sefolosha, the first Swiss-born National Basketball Association (NBA) player, was born May 2, 1984, in Vevey, Switzerland, to Patrick Sefolosha, a South African musician, and Christine Sefolosha, a Swiss painter. Sefolosha is a member of the Swiss National basketball team and currently plays for the Atlanta (Georgia) Hawks.  

Sefolosha started playing basketball at age eleven and soon became one of the best players in Switzerland. After playing two years in the First League there, he took his talent to France, where he played for Elan Chalon, one of the top basketball teams in Europe. His career culminated in his third season, as he was picked to play in the all-star game and was regarded as one of the best players in Europe. From there, Sefolosha played one season in Italy before entering the NBA in 2006.  

Sources: 
James C. McKinley Jr., “Thabo Sefolosha, Atlanta Hawks Player, Is Acquitted of All Charges,” New York Times, October 9, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/10/nyregion/thabo-sefolosha-atlanta-hawks-player-is-acquitted-of-all-charges.html; Anne E. Stein, “Thabo Sefolosha: Coming to America,” Bulls.com, 09/14/2006, http://www.nba.com/bulls/news/sefolosha_feature_060914.html; Michael McCann, “Examining Thabo Sefolosha’s lawsuit vs. NYC, NYPD: Five Biggest Questions,” SI.com, 10/22/2015, http://www.si.com/nba/2015/10/22/thabo-sefolosha-new-york-city-police-civil-lawsuit-atlanta-hawks.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Reed, Judy W. (c. 1826- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Listing for J.W. Reed's Patent in the U.S. Patent Office Records
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Little is known about Judy W. Reed, considered to be the first African American woman to receive a United States patent.

In January of 1884, Reed applied for a patent on her “Dough Kneader and Roller.” The application was for an improved design on existing dough kneaders. Reed’s device allowed the dough to mix more evenly as it progressed through two intermeshed rollers carved with corrugated slats that would act as kneaders. The dough then passed into a covered receptacle to protect the dough from dust and other particles in the air.

On September 23, 1884, Reed received Patent No. 305,474 for her invention. There is no record of her life beyond this document.

Since women sometimes used their first and/or middle initials when signing documents, often to disguise their gender, and patent applications didn’t require the applicant to indicate his or her race, it is unknown if there are earlier African American women inventors before Reed.


Sources: 
B. Zorina Khan, The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920 (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Patricia Carter Sluby, The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Adams, John Quincy ["J. Q."] (1848-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Educator, newspaper publisher and politician John Quincy Adams is best known as the editor of the Western Appeal/The Appeal of St. Paul, Minnesota. He held the position from 1886 to 1922.

John Quincy Adams was born free in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 4, 1848, to the Reverend Henry and Margaret Priscilla Adams (née Corbin). He was one of four children. Adams attended private academies in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and Yellow Springs, Ohio, and graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio. He then moved to Arkansas where he taught in schools in Little Rock before taking a position assisting his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, who was Arkansas’ Superintendent of Public Instruction. Between 1870 and 1876 he also was involved in Republican Party politics and served as Engrossing Clerk in the state senate and as Deputy Commissioner of Public Works.

Between 1876 and 1886 Adams lived in Louisville, Kentucky, where he taught school and was engaged in Republican Party politics at the state and national levels, serving as Ganger and Storekeeper in the United States Revenue Service. He lost that appointment with the election of Grover Cleveland in 1884. During that period, he and his brother Cyrus Field Adams published the weekly Louisville Bulletin between1879 and 1886. In 1880 Adams was responsible for convening the first Colored National Press Convention and was elected its first president, a position that he held for two years.
Sources: 
The Appeal (St. Paul), September 16, 1922, 1-2; David V. Taylor, “John Quincy Adams: St. Paul Editor and Black Leader,” Minnesota History 43:8 (Winter 1973); David V. Taylor, “The Blacks,” in June D. Holmquist, ed., They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State's Ethnic Groups (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1981); I. Garland Penn, The Afro-American Press and Its Editors (Springfield, Massachusetts: Willey and Company, 1891).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Garland, Walter Benjamin Stephen (1913-197?)

Vignette Type: 
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

Northup, Solomon (1808- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Solomon Northup in his Plantation Suit,
Illustration from the Book, Twelve Years a Slave
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Solomon Northup was a free black man who was illegally held in bondage for twelve years before he regained his freedom.  Northup was born to free parents in Minerva, New York in 1808. Little is known of his mother other than she was born a free mulatto.  His father Mintus Northup, an emancipated slave, was a farm owner, voted in local elections, and valued education for his sons, Solomon and elder brother Joseph.

On December 25, 1829 Solomon Northup married Anne Hampton and the couple had three children:  Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. The Northup family sold the family farm and moved to Glens Falls, New York where he worked numerous seasonal jobs around their county of residence.  His wife also contributed to the family’s income as a part-time cook at various taverns in rural New York State.  Northup eventually gained a reputation as a brilliant violinist who entertained large audiences throughout rural New York.

Sources: 
Solomon Northup. Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841 and Rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana (Buffalo: Derby, Orton, and Mulligan, 1853); David Fiske, Solomon Northup: His Life Before and After Slavery. (Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2012); Michael Cipley. “Escape From Slavery Now a Movie, Has Long Intrigued Historians,” New York Times. (September 23, 2013). B4.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Eastern Kentucky University

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); http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/partners/today/t_views.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Moreno Zapata, Paula Marcela (1978- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
From June 2007 until August 2010 Paula Marcela Moreno Zapata served as one of the highest government officials in Colombia, the first woman of African descent and at 29 the youngest person ever to occupy a cabinet-level post in that nation.

Moreno was born on November 11, 1978 in Bogotá, District of Colombia.  Her father Armando Moreno is retired from civil service, and her mother, Maria Zényde Zapata, is a lawyer.  

Born and raised in the coastal territory of Cauca in southwestern Colombia, Moreno graduated from the Universidad Autónoma de Colombia (FUAC) in 2001, with a degree in industrial engineering.

Proficient in Italian, French, and English, Moreno received a 2004 Master of Philosophy in Management Science at the University of Cambridge in England.  Her thesis was titled “Sustainable Use of Biodiversity by Local Communities in Colombia.”
Sources: 
Paula Moreno Zapata, “The Unifier,” Americas Quarterly, 4 (Winter 2010); Yale World Fellows profile at http://worldfellows.yale.edu/paula-moreno.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Fagen, David (1875- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
David Fagen was the most celebrated of the handful of African American soldiers who defected to the Filipino revolutionary army led by Emilio Aguinaldo during the Filipino American War of 1899-1902.  Fagen was born in Tampa, Florida around 1875. Details of his life remain sketchy. His father was a merchant and a widower. For a time he worked as a laborer for Hull’s Phosphate Company.

On June 4, 1898 at the age of 23, Fagen enlisted in the 24th Infantry, one of the four black regiments of that time that was coincidentally based in Tampa. Fagen would see combat a year later as he shipped off from San Francisco, California to Manila on June 1899. By then, the Filipino American war had been raging for four months, as Filipino patriots sought to defend their newly established Republic which they had won in a revolution against Spain. Fagen was soon in combat against Filipino guerillas in Central Luzon. Reports indicate that he had constant arguments with his commanding officers and requested to be transferred at least three times which contributed to his growing resentment of the Army.
Sources: 
Michael C. Robinson and Frank N. Schubert, “David Fagen: an Afro-American Rebel in the Philippines, 1899-1901,” The Pacific-Historical Review, vol. 44, No. 1, (Feb. 1975), pp.68-83.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, William Wells (1814?-1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Wells Brown was an African American antislavery lecturer, groundbreaking novelist, playwright and historian.  He is widely considered to have been the first African American to publish works in several major literary genres. Known for his continuous political activism especially in his involvement with the anti-slavery movement, Brown is widely acclaimed for the effectiveness of many of his writings.  
Sources: 
William E. Farrison, William Wells Brown: Author and Reformer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969); Paul Jefferson, The Travels of William Wells Brown (New York: Markus Wiener, 1991); Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hemings, Sally (1773-1835)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hemings-Jefferson Descendants, 2001
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sally Hemings was born into slavery in Virginia, probably at Guinea Plantation in Cumberland County, the youngest of six children of Elizabeth Hemings allegedly fathered by her white master John Wayles. Her mother was herself the child of an enslaved African woman and an English sea-captain, making Sally three-fourths white in ancestry.

On Wayles’ death in 1773, the Hemings family was inherited by Martha, his eldest legitimate child, and brought to the Monticello plantation of Thomas Jefferson whom Martha had married the previous year.  There the children grew up as house slaves staffing Monticello during the years that encompassed Martha Jefferson’s death in September 1782 and Jefferson’s departure to Paris, France on diplomatic service in 1784.  Three years later, Sally Hemings traveled to France as companion and maid to Jefferson’s eight-year-old daughter Maria, staying until 1789.  
Sources: 
Fawn Brodie, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (New York: Norton, 1974); Annette Gordon-Read, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1997); Jan Ellen Lewis and Peter S. Onuf, eds., Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bridgetower, George (1780-1860)

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

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

Porter, Maggie (1853-1942)

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

Primus, Pearl (1919-1994)

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

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

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

Hunter, Jane Edna (1882 –1971)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Coleman, Michael B. (1954- )

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

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

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

Fletcher, Benjamin Harrison (1890-1949)

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

Otis, Clarence (1956– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Corporate CEO Clarence Otis was born April 11, 1956, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His father, Clarence Otis Sr., worked as a janitor while his mother, Calanthus Hall Otis, stayed home to raise their three children. The family moved to the Watts section of Los Angeles, California, when Otis was four years old. Although Watts was at the time a sprawling ghetto that in 1965 would become the site of the Watts riot, Clarence Otis Sr. drove the family through Beverly Hills to show his children that a different life was possible. Otis credits these drives, as well as a stable family life, for keeping him away from the gang activity prevalent in Watts.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles Pierce College

Fishburne, Lillian E. (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Navy
Lillian E. Fishburne, the first African American woman to become a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, was born on March 25, 1949 in Patuxent River, Maryland. Fishburne was raised in Rockville, Maryland where she attended Richard Montgomery High School.  In 1971, she graduated from Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. In February 1973, Fishburne became an Ensign after graduating from the Women Officers School at Newport, Rhode Island.

Fishburne’s first naval assignment was at the Naval Air Test Facility, Lakehurst, New Jersey, as a Personnel and Legal Officer.  From August 1974 to November 1977, Fishburne was an Officer Programs recruiter in Miami, Florida. For the next three years, 1977 to 1980, Fishburne was the Officer in charge of the Naval Telecommunications Center at the Great Lakes, Illinois Naval Base.
Sources: 
Joan Potter, ed., African American Firsts: Famous, Little-Known and Unsung Triumphs of Blacks in America (New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2009); William Stewart, 1st ed., Admirals of the World: A Biographical Dictionary, 1500 to the Present (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2009); Bethanne Kelly Patrick, “Rear Adm. Lillian Fishburne” Navy Daughter Rose To Become Service's First Female African-American Flag Officer,” 2009, Accessed Nov 22, 2010, http://www.military.com/Content/MoreContent?file=ML_fishburne_bkp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

King-Aribisala, Karen (n.d.)

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

Karen Ann King-Aribisala is a Guyanese-born novelist who was raised and currently resides in Nigeria. She left Guyana as a young child, moving with her parents to Nigeria around the time of the Nigerian Civil war (1967-1970).  Her father introduced her to books at an early age, and the two would discuss literature, poetry and the Bible. He encouraged her to write as well, and she began composing her own stories around the age of eight.

Karen King-Aribisala began her education at the Ibadan International School in Nigeria. She received an international education in Guyana, Barbados, Italy and at the London Academy for the Dramatic Arts in England. She met her Nigerian husband during her time studying abroad in Italy as a teenager.

Sources: 
“Karen King-Aribisala,” Peepal Trees Press, http://www.peepaltreepress.com/author_display.asp?au_id=156; “Conversation with Karen Ann King-Aribisalla,” Nigerians in America, http://www.nigeriansinamerica.com/articles/275/1/Conversation-with-Karen-Ann-King-Aribisala/Page1.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Paige, Leroy Robert "Satchel (1906-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Lucas, Ruth Alice (1920-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ruth Alice Lucas, who overcame race and sex barriers back in 1968 by becoming the first African American woman to be promoted to the rank of full colonel in the United States Air Force, was born in Stamford, Connecticut on November 28, 1920. By the time she retired from the Service in 1970, Lucas remained the highest-ranking black woman in the Air Force. The Defense Meritorious Service Medal was among her military decorations.

Lucas was educated at what is now Tuskegee University in Alabama, studying on a scholarship and majoring in education with a minor in sociology. At the same time, she taught English at the school.

Shortly after graduation in 1942, Lucas joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) where she found herself among the few black women to attend what is now the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. When the United States Air Force was formed in 1947, Lucas transferred from the Army to the new armed services branch.

The young Air Force officer transferred to Headquarters Far East Air Force Base in Tokyo, Japan from 1951 to 1954, where she became chief of the Awards Division; Lucas could be found teaching English to Japanese children and college students during her off-duty hours.
Sources: 
Megan McDonough, “Ruth A. Lucas, first black female Air Force colonel,” The Washington Post, April 27, 2013; Patricia Sullivan, “Air Force’s first African American female colonel buried,” The Washington Post, May 29, 2013; Air Force’s Education Expert, Ebony, November 1969.
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

Holloway, Anne Forrester (1941- 2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Anne Forrester Holloway was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mali on November 6, 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. She was the first African American woman to hold that post.  

Forrester was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 2, 1941.  She attended public schools in Philadelphia but then transferred to a predominantly white school, Northfield Mount Hermon School, in Gill, Massachusetts, graduating June 1959.  She graduated from Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont in 1963 and later received her master’s degree in African Studies at Howard University in 1968. Ms. Forrester’s doctoral work culminated with a 1975 degree from the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Sources: 
"Anne Forrester, Ambassador to Mali" (2006, July 3), retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/02/AR2006070200695.html; U.S. State Department, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/holloway-anne-forrester.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wright, Jonathan J. (1840-1885)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jonathan Jasper Wright, the first African American to serve on a state Supreme Court, was born in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania and grew up in nearby Susquehanna County in the northeastern corner of the state.  In 1858, Wright traveled to Ithaca, New York where he enrolled in the Lancasterian Academy, a school where older students helped teach younger ones.  He graduated in 1860 and for the next five years taught school and read law in Pennsylvania.

Wright’s first known political activity came in October 1864 when he was a delegate to the National Convention of Colored Men meeting in Syracuse.  The convention, chaired by Frederick Douglass, passed resolutions calling for a nationwide ban on slavery, racial equality under the law and universal suffrage for adult males.  When Wright applied for admission to the Pennsylvania bar, however, he was refused because of his race.
Sources: 
Frederic D. Schwarz, “The Reluctant Judge,” American Legacy 10:3 (Fall 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Jackson, Shirley Ann (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Shirley Ann Jackson
Shirley Ann Jackson, born in 1946 in Washington, D.C., has achieved numerous firsts for African American women.  She was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.); to receive a Ph.D. in theoretical solid state physics; to be elected president and then chairman of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); to be president of a major research university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York; and to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering.  Jackson was also both the first African American and the first woman to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Sources: 
Diann Jordan, Sisters in Science: Conversations with Black Women Scientists on Race, Gender and Their Passion for Science (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2006); http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/physics/jackson_shirleya.html; http://www.rpi.edu/president/profile.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Corrothers, James David (1869-1917)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Michigan in 1869, James David Corrothers became an important literary figure in the 1890s. Corrothers grew up in South Haven, a southern Michigan town established by abolitionists, fugitive slaves, and free blacks during the years before the civil war. For a time he was the only African American child in the town who attended public school on a regular basis and he often recalled confrontations with fellow white students.  

Corrothers was raised by his grandfather.  He and his grandfather moved to Muskegon when Corrothers was fourteen where he worked odd jobs to support the two of them.    When his grandfather died two years later in 1885 Corrothers moved to Indiana and then Springfield, Ohio. He waited tables, worked as a lumberjack and for a time as an amateur boxer all by his 18th birthday.  

Corrothers moved to Chicago in 1887 where he met journalist-reformer Henry Demarest Lloyd.  After reading some of Corrothers’s poetry, Lloyd persuaded the Chicago Tribune to hire the young writer.  Corrothers eventually received an assignment to write on Chicago’s black upper class. When the article he submitted was rewritten by a white reporter in black “dialect,” Corrothers quit the paper in protest.   With support from temperance leader Francis Willard and Lloyd, Corrothers entered Northwestern University in 1890.  Although he left before earning a degree, Corrothers was now sought by the major Chicago daily newspapers.  
Sources: 
Kevin K. Gaines, Uplifting The Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in The Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Dickson D. Bruce, Jr., Black American Writing from the Nadir: The Evolution of a Literary Tradition, 1877–1915 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1989).   
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Moranda (1915–1950)

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

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

Scott, David (1946- )

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

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

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

Russell, Bill (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Legendary basketball star William Felton (Bill) Russell was born on February 12, 1934, in Monroe, Louisiana. His family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area of California, where he attended McClymonds High School in Oakland.  Russell was a center on his high school basketball team.  Towering in height at 6’10”, he earned a scholarship to attend the University of San Francisco (USF) in 1954. At USF Russell developed into a defensive powerhouse and led his team to two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in 1955 and 1956. Russell averaged 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds in his three-year varsity career.  He was also on the U.S. Olympic Team where he and teammates won gold medals in 1956.
Sources: 
Zander Hollander, The Modern Encyclopedia of Basketball (New York: Dolphin Books, 1979); http://www.nba.com/history/players/russell_bio.html; Linda Heywood, Allison Blakely, Charles Stith, and Joshua C. Yesnowitz, eds., African Americans in U.S. Foreign Policy: From the Era of Frederick Douglass tothe Age of Obama (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gray, Fred D. (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Campbell, Grace P. (1883-1943)

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

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

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

Marsh, Henry L., III (1933- )

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

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

Lynch, Loretta Elizabeth (1959- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Attorney and public prosecutor Loretta Elizabeth Lynch was born on May 21, 1959 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her father was a Baptist minister and her mother was an English teacher and school librarian. Lynch received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1981. Three years later, she earned a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.

Lynch joined the New York City, New York law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel in 1984. Six years later, she became a drug and crime prosecutor in the office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. From 1994 to 1998, she directed the Long Island office and worked on several cases involving corruption in the government of Brookhaven, New York.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Ink Spots (1932-1953)

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

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

Olden, Georg (1920-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The graphic designer George Elliot Olden, known for his work in television and advertising, was born in Birmingham, Alabama on November 13, 1920. Olden’s father, James Clarence Olden, was a Baptist minister and his mother, Sylvia Ward Olden, was a music teacher. When he was only a few months old, Olden’s family moved to Washington, D.C. so his father could serve as a minister in the Plymouth Congregational Church. Then, in 1933, Olden’s father mysteriously left his family in the same year that Olden began attending all-black Dunbar High School where he was first exposed to cartooning and art.
Sources: 
Jason Chambers, “Meet One of the Pioneering Blacks in the Ad Industry,” Advertising Age, February 16, 2009; Julie Lasky, “The Search for George Olden,” in Graphic Design History (New York: Allworth Press, 2001); Julie Lasky, “Georg Olden Biography,” AIGA, The Professional Association for Design, 2007, http://www.aiga.org/medalist-georgolden/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Morris, Morris W. / Lewis Morrison (1845-1906)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Lewis Morrison as “Mephistopheles”
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Lewis Morrison was one of the most prominent stage actors of his time. He was best known worldwide for his portrayal of “Mephistopheles” in Faust. He was also the first black Jewish officer to serve during the Civil War.

Lewis Morrison was born in Kingston, Jamaica on September 4, 1845. He was named Morris W. Morris at birth, although some sources claim that Moritz W. Morris is the correct spelling. Very little is known about his family history. After the Civil War, he changed his name to Lewis Morrison for unknown reasons. His great great grandson, Phil Downey, later claimed that Morris changed his name to escape his African and Jewish heritage.

Morris left Jamaica for the United States as a youth. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, the first official black military regiment in the Confederacy, with other free blacks. He soon rose to the rank of lieutenant, becoming the first black Jewish officer to serve in the Confederate Army. When the Louisiana State Legislature banned people of color from serving in the Confederate Army in February 1862, the regiment was disbanded.  Morris and about 10% of the other former 1st Louisiana Native Guard joined the Union Army in September 1862 and were organized into a new unit that was assigned the same name.  There Morris became the first black Jewish officer in the Union Army.
Sources: 
Errol Hill, The Jamaican Stage, 1655-1900: Profile of a Colonial Theatre (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992); Brian Kellow, The Bennetts: An Acting Family (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004); James G. Hollandsworth, The Louisiana Native Guards: the Black Military Experience during the Civil War (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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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

Bruce, Samuel (Sam) Martin (1915–1944)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 1942 Sam Martin Bruce was a second lieutenant assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron, a unit piloted by men who were part of the Tuskegee Airmen. They were the African American pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and other personnel responsible for keeping the planes in the air. From 1941 to 1946, nearly one thousand airmen were trained at Tuskegee.   

The 99th Pursuit Squadron was the first all-African American pursuit squadron. They were the direct result of the constant pressure on the Franklin Roosevelt Administration from African Americans demanding a larger role in the military and an end to the ban on black pilots. In 1940 the federal government created the Tuskegee Airmen program and located it at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. Members of the 99th Pursuit Squadron were some of the first Tuskegee airmen to complete their training and be sent to Europe after the United States entered World War II.
Sources: 
Jerry Large, “Saluting a Seattle WWII Tuskegee Airman,” The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/saluting-a-seattle-wwii-tuskegee-airman/; “Bruce, Samuel M., 2nd Lt.,” Together We Served, http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/usaf/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApp?cmd=ShadowBoxProfile&type=Person&ID=172042; “Northwest Connection: The Tuskegee Airmen,” 4 Culture, http://www.naamnw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/NAAM.TuskgeeHiRes2bestcopy1.pdf; “Airmen History,” Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Same Bruce Chapter, http://sambrucetai.org/about-tuskegee-airmen/; “A Brief History,” Tuskegee Airmen Inc., http://tuskegeeairmen.org/explore-tai/a-brief-history/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Edwards, James (1871-1951)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
James Edwards, ca. 1930
Image Courtesy of James Guenther

James Edwards was one of the most successful African American homesteaders in the state of Wyoming.  Born in Ohio on February 14, 1871, local tradition in Wyoming suggests that prior to venturing west, Edwards had served in an African American cavalry unit in Cuba, though no documentation has been found to substantiate the claim.

In 1900, Edwards accompanied his father and a group of Italian miners westward in response to eastern newspaper advertisements of work at the Cambria coal mine in Newcastle, Wyoming.  After being driven away from the mine, Edwards walked south to the area near Lusk, finding work on March 31, 1903 on Eugene Bigelow Wilson and George Luther Wilson's Running Water Ranch on the Niobrara River in present day Niobrara County, Wyoming.   He was regarded by the owners of the ranch as a good and trustworthy worker, sheepman, and horse trainer.  Edwards worked on the Wilson Brothers’ ranch until December of 1914.  By the end of his employment on the ranch he had been promoted to foreman, putting him in a supervisory role over white employees.

Sources: 
Todd Guenther, "'Y'all Call Me Nigger Jim Now, But Someday You'll Call Me Mr. James Edwards': Black Success on the Plains of the Equality State," Annals of Wyoming 61:2 (Fall 1989); Anne Wilson Whitehead, “Letters to the Editor,” Annals of Wyoming 62:2 (Summer 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Wyoming

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

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People
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African American History

 

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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

Jakes, Thomas Dexter (1957- )

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

Robinson, Ida Bell (1891-1946)

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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

Todman, Terence A. (1926-2014)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Named Career Ambassador, a title equivalent to a four-star general, U.S. ambassador to six different countries, Terence A. Todman was an outstanding diplomat in the service of the United States. He challenged the racial prejudice he encountered at the State Department, paving the way for hiring of more people of color there and he was a pioneer in integrating human rights issues into foreign policy.

Clarence Alphonso Todman was born on March 13, 1926, in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands to parents Alphonso and Rachael Todman, grocery clerk/stevedore, and laundress/maid. He attended the local university for one year and then was drafted into the US Army.  He served four years in the Army and when stationed in post-World War II Japan, he helped organize that defeated nation’s first post-war elections.
Sources: 
Emily Langer, “Terence A. Todman, U.S. ambassador to six nations, dies at 88,” The Washington Post (August 16, 2014); “Being Black in a ‘Lily White’ State Department,” Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training http://adst.org/oral-history/fascinating-figures/being-black-in-a-lily-white-state-department/; Arnold Highfield, “Virgin Islander Terence Todman, ambassador extraordinaire,” Virgin Island Daily News, March 11, 2011; Douglas Martin, “Terence Todman, Envoy to 6 Nations, Is Dead at 88,” The New York Times, August 20, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Turner, Rufus P. (1907-1982)

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People
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African American History
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The unusual academic career of Rufus Paul Turner, born on Christmas Day 1907, was foreshadowed when the then 15-year-old Houston, Texas native began experimenting with crystal devises.  At age 17 he wrote the first of his nearly 3,000 articles, mostly having to do with radio electronics, which were published in magazines, encyclopedias and edited books, and as trade papers and house organs.  Some of his publications were translated into foreign languages.  

Turner’s fascination with the emerging technology of radio communication initially led him to publish articles and pamphlets on crystal diodes and, later, with the announcement of the transistor in 1948, Turner began making his own experimental devises using germanium diodes.  His May 1949 article “Build a Transistor” in Radio-Electronics, and his May 1956 article in Popular Electronics titled “Transistors Probable With a Punch” were widely read benchmark publications encouraging amateur radio construction.  
Sources: 
James A. Page and Jae Min Roh, Selected Black American, African, and Caribbean Authors (Littleton, Co.: Libraries Unlimited, 1985);
Directory of American Scholars. 6th Ed. (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1974).
http://users.arczip.com/rmcgarra2/pe051956.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Taylor, Teddy B. (1953- )

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

Washington, Margaret Murray (1865-1925)

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People
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African American History
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Margaret Murray Washington, born March 9, 1865, was one of ten children born to sharecroppers. Her father was of Irish descent and her mother was African American.  Murray attended Fisk University for eight years and graduated in 1889. The following year she became “Lady Principal” at Tuskegee Institute where she met Booker T. Washington. In 1892 she married Washington, becoming his third wife.

Murray wrote Washington’s speeches, assisted him in expanding the school, and accompanied him on lecture tours as his fame grew.  Her own presentations usually directed at audiences of African American women, promoted what she termed self-improvements in habits and hygiene.  Murray also served on Tuskegee’s executive board and later became dean of women.  In February 1892, Murray began a Tuskegee program which provided child care, education and training in literacy, home care and hygiene for women in central Alabama which she called “mother's meetings.”
Sources: 
Sources: Wilma King Hunter, “Three Women, at Tuskegee, 1825-1925: The Wives of Booker T. Washington,” Journal of Ethnic Studies 4 (September 1976); Jacqueline Anne Rouse, “Out of the Shadow of Tuskegee: Margaret Murray Washington, Social Activism, and Race Vindication,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 81, Vindicating the Race: Contributions to African-American Intellectual History (Winter-Autumn, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wattleton, Alyce Faye (1943- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Columbia University
Alyce Faye Wattleton, born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 8, 1943, became both the youngest person and the first African American president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a post she held from 1978 to 1992.  As only the second woman president of the organization (founder Alice Sanger was the first), Wattleton fought for women’s reproductive rights by expanding the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its birth control services.

Wattleton’s mother was a traveling preacher and her father a construction worker.  Wattleton moved frequently as a child and in 1959 she graduated at age 16 from Calhoun High School in Port Lavaca, Texas. In 1964 Wattleton completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at Ohio State University. Three years later she received her Masters degree in Maternal and Infant Care, and became a certified midwife through courses she completed at Columbia University in New York.
Sources: 
Loretta Ross, Marlene Gerber Fried, and Jael Silliman, Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice (South End Press, 2004);
Womenshistory.about.com/od/birthcontrol/p/faye_wattleton.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reed, George Robert (1939- )

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

Born on October 2, 1939 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, George Robert Reed is a former American College football and Canadian Football League (CFL) player. Reed is considered one of the premier fullbacks to play in the CFL. Reed played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 13 seasons, from 1963 until his retirement in June of 1975.

Reed, whose family moved to Renton, Washington, played football at Washington State University both as fullback and linebacker between 1959 and 1963.  After his graduation in 1963 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education, he came to Canada to play professional football with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina, Saskatchewan. As a professional football player George Reed amassed numerous awards such as the Schenley Award for the Most Outstanding Player and set records including most rushing yards (16,116) for all of professional football.  His jersey, # 34, is permanently retired in the Canadian Hall of Fame and Museum in Hamilton, Ontario.

Sources: 
CFL.ca Network: Official site of the Canadian Football League; Graham Kelly, The Grey Cup (Red Deer, Alberta: Johnson Gorman, 1999); Graham Kelly, Green Grit: The Story of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2001) Canadian Football League facts, figures and records (Toronto: Canadian Football League, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Blake, Eubie (1883-1983)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Marshall, Paule (1929--)

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

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

Paige, Roderick Raynor (1933- )

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

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

Galindo, Maykel (1981- )

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People
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African American History

 

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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

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

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

Johnson, Hazel W. (1927-2011 )

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gaspard, Patrick (1967- )

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People
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African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Patrick Gaspard’s career in politics and diplomacy spans three decades. Gaspard’s work has involved him in politics at the city and national level and has put him in contact with constituencies traditionally associated with the Democratic Party. As of this writing, Gaspard serves as United States Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa.

Gaspard was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Haitian parents. His father, a lawyer, moved the family to the African nation after Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba issued an appeal for French-speaking intellectuals of African descent to relocate there after the Congo’s independence. After Lumumba’s death in 1961, Gaspard’s family then moved to New York City, New York when he was three years old.   
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Harris, Lorenzo [“Rennie”] (1963- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Rennie Harris, hip hop dancer, artist, teacher, artistic director, choreographer, and founder of Rennie Harris Puremovement (RHPM), was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1963. At the age of 15, Harris began teaching workshops and classes at universities around the country, educating the public of the relevance of street dances from any cultural origins. He is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Master of African American Choreography award, the 2007 Governor’s Artist of the Year Award (Pennsylvania), the 2007 United States Artist Fellowship Award, and has been highlighted in Rose Eichenbaum’s Masters of Movement: Portraits of America’s Great Choreographers (2007).

A life-long Philadelphia resident, Harris formed RHPM in 1992 to counteract the commercialized stereotypes the mass-media industry presents of hip hop dance and culture. RHPM was founded on the conviction that hip hop dance provides a medium of expression for  new generations to move beyond the boundaries of racial, religious, and economic differences through the power of original movement expression. Through his choreographic works for RHPM, Harris uses the ever-evolving style of hip hop street dance to reflect the distinct dance and movement impulses of current generations, while simultaneously representing the distinctive African American traditions of the past.
Sources: 
Brenda Dixon Gottschild, “Prince Scarekrow & the Emerald City,” Dance Magazine (February 2007); Heidi Henderson, ed., Growing Place: Interviews with Artists, 25 Years at the Bates Dance Festival (Lewiston, ME: Bates Dance Festival, 2007); http://www.rhpm.org/index.php
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wood, Robert A. (ca. 1966– )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Robert A. Wood is a diplomat who has spent his career in public affairs, helping to shape the image of the United States, and in roles that guide the country’s relations with multilateral organizations.
Sources: 
U.S. Department of State, Official Bio (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/231689.htm); Introductory Statement by Ambassador Robert A. Wood at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) Plenary, Tuesday, August 19, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Garrison, Zina (1963- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
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Born November 16, 1963 in Houston, Texas, tennis star Zina Garrison was the youngest of seven children and was raised by her widowed mother, Mary Garrison. She began playing tennis at the age of 10 through the MacGregar Park Tennis Program. The program was run by John Wilkerson who later became Garrison’s coach throughout her tennis career. She graduated from Ross Sterling High School in 1981.

Garrison had an illustrious amateur career. She burst onto the scene in 1978 when she reached the finals in the U.S. Girls National Championship. Then from 1978 to 1982 she won three more major tournaments. As an amateur she became the 1981 International Tennis Federation Junior of the Year and the 1982 Women’s Tennis Association Most Impressive Newcomer.

Sources: 
Marilyn Marshall, "Zina Garrison: Aiming for the Top in Tennis," Ebony Magazine, June 1986; Jane Dur, "Zina Garrison," Texas Monthly, September 2001;  "Zina Garrison named 1st African-American U.S. Fed Cup captain," New York Amsterdam News, January 2004.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Foxx, Jamie (1967- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Actor, singer, comedian, and musician, Jamie Foxx was born Eric Morlon Bishop in Terrell, Texas on December 13, 1967. He was adopted by his maternal grandparents Mark and Estelle Tolley after his parents’ divorce when he was still an infant. His grandmother introduced him to the piano at age three, and by age 15 Bishop was the musical director and choir leader at Terrell’s New Hope Baptist Church. He attended United States International University in San Diego on a piano scholarship, studied classical piano at Juilliard, and left school in 1988 without graduating.

On a dare, Bishop decided to perform at a stand-up comedy open mic night in Los Angeles in 1989, which jump started his comedy and acting career.  As he got more comedy engagements, he created a stage name (Foxx in ode to comedian Red Foxx, and the gender-neutral name Jamie because women tended to get priority spots for open mic nights). This led to Foxx being cast on the Fox television series In Living Color (1990-1994). Foxx then starred in WB Network’s The Jamie Foxx Show, which ran from 1996 to 2002.
Sources: 
Torriano Berry and Venise T. Berry, Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow, 2007); "Jamie Foxx | The Official Website," Jamie Foxx The Official Website; Steven Otfinoski, African Americans in the Performing Arts (New York: Facts On File, 2010).
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

Steward, Austin (1793-1869)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Austin Steward, author, businessman, abolitionist, and temperance leader, was born a slave in Prince William County, Virginia to Robert and Susan Steward sometime around 1793. By the age of seven he was working as a house slave on the plantation of Capt. William Helm. The Helm family left Virginia, after being involved in several embarrassing scandals, settled in upstate New York. Austin Steward went with them along with many other slaves.

While living in upstate New York, Steward taught himself to read in secrecy, for which he was severely beaten and his books burned. This beating, along with many others he received, gave him severe reoccurring head pains from which he suffered for the rest of his life. In 1814 Steward sought the help of the New York Manumission Society to secure his freedom. An agent of the society informed Steward that he was legally free on the grounds that he had been rented out by Capt. Helm to other farmers, which violated New York State’s slave laws. The agent told Steward to continue his services to Capt. Helm until the agent could fully provide Steward with everything he would need to make his freedom official.
Sources: 
Austin Steward, Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002); http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/steward/bio.html; http://www.math.buffalo.edu/~sww/0history/hwny-steward.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Morial, Ernest Nathan (1929-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in New Orleans, Ernest Morial grew up in the city’s Seventh Ward.  His father was a cigar maker and his mother was a seamstress.  Graduating from Xavier University, a historically black Catholic institution, he became the first African American to receive a law degree from Louisiana State University.  Battling segregation in the courtroom, he was elected president of the local NAACP chapter, and later elected to the Louisiana State legislature, becoming the first black member since Reconstruction.  Later, he became the first Juvenile Court judge, and the first Circuit Court of Appeals judge of his race in Louisiana.   
Sources: 
Edward M. Meyers, Rebuilding America’s Cities (New York, 1986); Arnold Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon, Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Burroughs, Jr., John Andrew (1936–2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Andrew Burroughs, Jr. was an equal opportunity advocate and diplomat who was born in Washington, D.C. on July 31, 1936. He spent his youth in Washington, D.C. before moving to the Midwest to attend the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.  While there he played on the varsity football team, helping it win two conference championships and two Rose Bowl games. He graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree in 1959. After graduation, Burroughs returned to Washington, D.C., where he became a social sciences teacher in the city’s public school system.

In 1960 Burroughs left teaching to become an employee in the U.S. Department of State. His first job was as an employee in the passport examiner’s office from 1960 to 1963. In 1963 he was promoted to Assistant Chief of Special Services Branch of the Passport Office, a post he held until 1964.  
Sources: 
Jet magazine, May 20, 1985 and October 20, 1986; “Ambassador Nomination,” http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=36008; Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) Country Reader on Malawi: http://adst.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Malawi.pdf; Obituary Notice, Washington Post, September 26, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fletcher, Arthur (1924-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Arthur Fletcher is perhaps best known as the Father of Affirmative Action for his authorship of the Revised Philadelphia Plan, which required federal government contractors to hire ethnic minorities.

Sources: 
Author interview of Arthur Fletcher (Washington, June 4, 2003); Arthur Fletcher, The Silent Sellout: Government Betrayal of Blacks to the Craft Unions (New York: Third Press, 1974); Kevin Merida, “The Firm Founder of Affirmative Action,” The Washington Post (June 13, 1995, p. C1); Michelle O'Donnell, “Arthur Fletcher, G.O.P. Adviser, Dies at 80,” The New York Times (July 14, 2005, p. C17).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dixon, Sheila (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Gerald G. Jackson, We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore (U.S.: Beckham Publications Group, 2005); http://baltimore.about.com; http://www.ci.baltimore/md/.us.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Thomas, William Hannibal (1843-1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Hannibal Thomas
at Otterbein College, 1922
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Hannibal Thomas was born in Pickaway County, Ohio, on May 4, 1843 to free black parents.  During his early childhood Thomas’s family moved frequently in search of economic advancement before returning to Ohio in 1857.  As a teenager Thomas performed manual labor, attended school briefly, and broke the color line by entering Otterbein University in 1859.  Thomas’s matriculation at the school sparked a race riot and he withdrew.  Denied entry to the Union Army in 1861 because of his race, Thomas served briefly as principal of Union Seminary Institute, a manual training school near Columbus, Ohio.

After twenty-two months’ service as a servant in two white Union regiments, in 1863 Thomas enlisted in Ohio’s first all-black military unit, the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  Appointed sergeant, he became a decorated combat solider.  At Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in February 1865 Thomas received a gunshot wound in the right arm that resulted in its amputation.  He suffered pain and medical complications from this wound for the remainder of his life.
Sources: 
John David Smith, Black Judas:  William Hannibal Thomas and “The American Negro” (Athens:  University of Georgia Press, 2000; Chicago:  Ivan R. Dee, 2002); John David Smith, “The Lawyer vs. the Race Traitor:  Charles W. Chesnutt, William Hannibal Thomas, and The American Negro,” Journal of The Historical Society, 3:2 (Spring 2003); http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/thomas/menu.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Winkfield, Jimmy (1882-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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


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

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

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

Coleman, Ornette (1930-2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rollin, Frances Anne (1845-1901)

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Charles S. (1893-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Gayle, Addison, Jr. (1932-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the University
of Illinois Press

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

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

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

Mulzac, Hugh (1886-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Robert A. Hill, Emory J. Tolbert, and Deborah Forczek, The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Vol. III, Vol. IV (University of California Press 1984); http://www.marad.dot.gov/education_landing_page/k_12/k_12_salute/k12_hugh_mulzak/Hugh_Mulzac_detail_page.htm; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/garvey/index.html; http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/harmon/mulzharm.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Mabley, Jackie “Moms” (1894–1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Jackie “Moms” Mabley found fame and fortune as a stand-up comedian during the twentieth century. Beginning as a staple on the chitlin’ circuit and late night talk show favorite, she went on to become an internationally known entertainer whose career spanned five decades.

One of twelve children, Mabley was born Loretta Mary Aiken on March 19, 1894 to businessman and volunteer firefighter James Aiken and Mary Smith, a stay-at-home mother in Brevard, North Carolina. When Loretta was eleven, her father was killed in an explosion, and later her mother was killed on Christmas day by a truck. During her adolescence, Loretta was raped; both episodes resulted in pregnancy and the children being given up through adoption.

Mabley relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, at age fourteen and joined the black vaudeville scene as an all-around entertainer. While on this circuit, she met and fell in love with fellow performer Jack Mabley. After the short-lived love affair, she adopted his name. The sobriquet “Moms” came a short time later as other performers noticed her protection and kindness for budding entertainers.
Sources: 
Jason Ankeny and Moms Mabley, Moms Mabley biography,(San Francisco: All Media Network, LLC, 2015); Allison Keyes, "The Apollo Theater to Induct 3 Black Comedy Legends Into Its Walk of Fame: Moms Mabley, Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor will be honored the same night the legendary theater kicks off its new comedy club" http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2015/10/apollo_theater_walk_of_fame_moms_mabley_redd_foxx_and_richard_pryor_1st.html; Mekado Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg, "The Comedy Pioneer in the Floppy Hat: Whoopi Goldberg’s Documentary on Moms Mabley," http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/arts/television/whoopi-goldbergs-documentary-on-moms-mabley.html?_r=1 Biography.com Editors, Moms Mabley Biography: Comedian (1894–1975), http://www.biography.com/people/moms-mabley-38691;  Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley, (Philadelphia: Equality Forum, 2015), http://lgbthistorymonth.com/jackie-%E2%80%9Cmoms%E2%80%9D-mabley?tab=biography.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dorcas the blackmore (ca. 1620- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Settled Areas in New England in 1640 around the time
Dorcas joined First Church at Dorchester.
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The brief entry for “Dorcas the blackmore” that appears in the Records of the First Church at Dorchester in New England, 1636-1734 suggests that Dorcas may have been one of the first enslaved persons to be freed in British North America.  

On April 13, 1641, “Dorcas the blackmore” joined the Dorchester, Massachusetts Congregational church.  John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, commented on the ease with which she was accepted into membership as based on her knowledge of scripture and her godly character.  As Winthrop noted in his journal, “A negro maid, servant to Mr. Stoughton of Dorchester, being well approved by divers years’ experience, for sound knowledge and true godliness, was received into the church and baptized.”  Like many other Congregational churches, Dorchester had a predominantly female congregation; between 1630 when the church was gathered and 1641 when Dorcas joined, for example, only seventy-four men had joined the church as compared with one-hundred and twenty-two women.  Unlike the other women of Dorchester’s congregation, however, Dorcas was enslaved.  
Sources: 
Deborah Colleen McNally, "Within Patriarchy: Gender and Power in Massachusetts's Congregatonal Churches, 1630-1730." (Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 2013), 89-95; Records of the First Church at Dorchester in New England, 1636-1734 (Boston, Massachusetts: George H. Ellis, 1891); Records of the First Church in Boston, 1630-1868 (Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1961); John Winthrop, Winthrop's JOurnal: History of New England, 1630-1649 vol. I, ed. James Kendall Hosmer (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908); Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1968).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jealous, Benjamin Todd (1973- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the NAACP

Civic leader, activist and journalist Benjamin Jealous is the seventeenth president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). With his appointment to the position in 2008, 35-yar-old Jealous became the youngest person to head the NAACP.

Benjamin Todd Jealous was born on January 18, 1973 to Ann Todd and Fred Jealous in Pacific Grove, California. His father Fred Jealous helped integrate lunch counters in the South. Ann Jealous also was a civil rights activist who worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the South in the 1960s.  

By the age of fourteen Ben Jealous followed his parent’s example by working in voter registration campaigns on California’s Monterey Peninsula. Four years later, after entering Columbia University in 1990, he worked as a community organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Harlem on health care access for the poor. During his freshman year at Columbia he led protests for homeless rights and campaigned to retain full-need scholarships at the university. He was also one of a number of students suspended following their protest of the university's plans to convert Malcolm X’s assassination site at the St. Theresa Hotel in central Harlem into a research facility. Unable to attend school, Jealous moved to Mississippi in 1994 where he assisted the NAACP in preventing the state of Mississippi from closing two of its three state-funded black colleges and turning one into a prison.

Sources: 
Adam Serwer, “The Other Black President: The NAACP Confronts a New Political and Racial Era,” The American Prospect (March 2009); “The Chosen One,” Essence (December 2008); "Lia Epperson to Wed Ben Jealous,” The New York Amsterdam News (July 25-July 31, 2002); “Benjamin Todd Jealous: NAACP CEO Designate,” Crisis (Summer 2008).
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi

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

Jackson, Curtis James III ["50 Cent"] (1975- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership:  Public Domain
50 Cent, rapper, actor, and entrepreneur was born Curtis James Jackson III in Queens, New York to Sabrina Jackson on July 6, 1975.  His mother, who had given birth when she was 15 years old, raised him by herself while dealing cocaine.  She died when Jackson was eight.  After his mother’s death, Jackson lived with his grandparents in Queens.

Jackson’s adolescence coincided with the rise and spread of crack cocaine in urban America, and his teenage years were defined by hustling and run-ins with the law.  After briefly taking up boxing, the lure of fast cash drew Jackson to the street life.  He was arrested and jailed multiple times for selling crack, and by the mid-1990s began to drift into music.  As a rapper, he borrowed the name “50 Cent” from a well-known 1980s stick-up kid from Brooklyn named Kelvin Martin.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Thurman, Wallace (1902-1934)

Vignette Type: 
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

Brazeal, Aurelia Erskine (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Aurelia Erskine Brazeal was a career diplomat and the first black woman to be named ambassador by three Presidents. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed her ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia.  Three years later President Bill Clinton named her ambassador to Kenya.  In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Brazeal U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia.
Sources: 
U.S. State Department, “Biographies: Aurelia E. Brazeal” (2002-2005) http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/b/15243.htm; Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State, Aurelia E. Brazeal (2014) https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/brazeal-aurelia-erskine; NNDB Mapper, Aurelia E. Brazeal (2014) http://www.nndb.com/people/137/000131741/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Aldridge, Ira (1807-1867)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ira Frederick Aldridge was the first African American actor to achieve success on the international stage. He also pushed social boundaries by playing opposite white actresses in England and becoming known as the preeminent Shakespearean actor and tragedian of the 19th Century.
Sources: 
Bernth Lindfors, Ira Aldridge, the African Roscius (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2007); Bernth Lindfors, Ira Aldridge: The Early Years, 1807-1833 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2011); Bernth Lindfors, Ira Aldridge: The Vagabond Years, 1833-1852 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2011); Herbert Marshall, Ira Aldridge: Negro Tragedian (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1993); Anthony D. Hill, An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Leftwich, John C. (1867-1923)

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

John Carter Leftwich was born on June 6, 1867 in Forkland, Alabama.  The first son of Frances Edge and Lloyd Leftwich, one of Alabama’s last black Reconstruction Era state senators, John graduated from Selma University in 1890.  As a young man, Leftwich held a deep admiration for Booker T. Washington, and wrote to him constantly for aid and advice.  In 1897, possibly with Washington’s support, Leftwich was appointed Alabama’s Receiver of Public Money by President William McKinley.  During this time Leftwich also founded an all-black town named Klondike.  In 1902, however, Leftwich lost the support of Washington.  Later that year Alabama blacks were disfranchised.  These events led Leftwich to migrate to Oklahoma Territory to begin anew.

Sources: 
Melissa Stuckey, “‘All Men Up’: Race, Rights, and Power in the All Black Town of Boley, Oklahoma, 1903-1939” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Asante, Molefi Kete/Arthur Lee Smith Jr. (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Molefi Kete Asante (Arthur Lee Smith, Jr.), an educator, was born in Valdosta, Georgia, the son of Arthur Lee and Lillie B. (Wilson) Smith. In 1964 he received a B.A. degree (cum laude) from Oklahoma Christian College.  He was awarded an M.A. degree the following year from Pepperdine College.  In 1968 he earned a Ph.D. degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.  

While at Southwestern Christian College, Asante met Essien Essien, a Nigerian scholar, who inspired Asante to learn more about Africa.  After completing his undergraduate degree, Smith undertook studies of African languages and literature. He began to visit Africa frequently and spent a year on the continent in 1982, while serving as director of the English language journalism curriculum at the Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communications.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), p. 12-14.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College

Oden, Ron (1950- )

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

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

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

Brown, Morris (1770-1849)

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

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

Jones, Frederick McKinley (1893-1961)

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

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

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

Townsend, Robert (1957 - )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Malone, Annie Turnbo (1869-1957)

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

Bogle, Robert (1774-1848)

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

Jacobs, Louisa Matilda (1833–1917)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Jean Fagan Yellin
Louisa “Lulu” Matilda Jacobs, teacher, equal rights activist, and entrepreneur, was born a slave in Edenton, North Carolina, on October 19, 1833. She was the daughter of congressman and newspaper editor Samuel Tredwell Sawyer and his mixed-race enslaved mistress Harriet Jacobs.  
Sources: 
Harriet Jacobs, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000); Jean Fagin Yellin, Kate Culkin, Scott Korb, eds.,  Harriet Jacobs Family Papers (Chapel Hill: UNC Press 2008); Annie Wood Webb Papers, private collection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Missouri History Museum Archives, St. Louis.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gist, Carole Ann-Marie (1969- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Carole Anne-Marie Gist, the first African American woman to win the Miss USA title, was born on May 8, 1969 in Detroit, Michigan.  Gist, the daughter of Joan Gist and David Turner, is of African American and Cherokee heritage.  Her parents divorced when she was a young child.  Gist graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit in 1987 where she had been an honor student.  

Gist first won the tile of Miss Michigan USA in 1989 and went on to win the title of Miss USA on March 2, 1990 in Wichita, Kansas.  She was the first contestant from Michigan to win the Miss USA (not Miss America) title and she also broke the five year streak of winners from the state of Texas. At 5'11" Gist was also the tallest Miss USA. At the time of her crowning, she was a junior majoring in marketing and management at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, from which she eventually received her B.A. degree.
Sources: 
Maxine Leeds Craig, Ain’t I A Beauty Queen: Black Women, Beauty and The Politics of Race (New York: Oxford, 2002); “Detroit Finalist Wins Miss USA Pageant,” Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1990; Laurie Simpson “Black Beauty Wins Miss USA Crown,” Jet Magazine, March 26, 1990.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Rive, Richard Moore (1931-1989)

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

The novelist Richard Moore Rive was born March 1, 1931 in Cape Town, South Africa.  His mother was Nancy Rive, a black South African woman and his father was Richardson Moore, an African-American ship hand.  Moore abandoned his newly born son, Richard, a few months after he was born, never to be seen again.

Richard Moore Rive grew up in a tenement building called Eaton Place in Cape Town's impoverished black neighborhood, District Six.  He was raised by his mother and several half siblings, particularly his half sister Georgina Rive.  Rive was also raised Catholic and baptized at the St. Mark’s church in District Six, though he later became an atheist as an adult.

Rive attended primary school at St. Mark’s.  At age 12, his high marks earned him a municipal scholarship to the prestigious Trafalgar High School.  Along with his studies Rive found time to enjoy hiking and sport, and won several prizes for athletics in amateur competitions.

Sources: 
Simon Gikandi, The Routledge Encyclopedia of African Literature (London: Routledge, 2009); Bernth Lindfors and Reinhard Sander, Twentieth-Century Caribbean and Black African Writers (Detroit: Gale Research, 1993).
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

Hale, Helene H. (1918-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Helene (Hilyer) Hale, the first African American woman elected to the Hawaii Legislature, was born March 23, 1918 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Her father was an attorney in Minneapolis and her grandfather was one of the first African American attorneys to graduate from the University of Minnesota. Her uncle, Ralph Bunche, was the first African American to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. Over the course of her life, Hale was a teacher, realtor, and politician. Helene Hilyer married William Hale, a teacher from Nashville, Tennessee.  The Hales were teaching in California in 1947 when she heard a presentation by poet Don Blanding about the pleasures of living in a small Hawaiian town called Kona.  The Hales decided they would move to Kona and raise a family in a multicultural society.

When the Hales moved to Kona, Hawaii, the Japanese, Hawaiian, and Caucasian communities had little social interaction.  Since Helene and William Hale were African American, they easily associated with all of Kona’s diverse communities which facilitated her later entry into local politics. Helene Hale taught in the public schools and opened the Menehune Book Store in Kona.  Shortly afterwards she became active in politics as a Democrat.
Sources: 
Ebony, April 1963; Interviews with Helene Hale, 2000 and 2008 by Daphne Barbee-Wooten for Mahogany Magazine; Helene Hale Political Brochure in the author’s possession.
Contributor: 

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)

Kelly, Samuel Eugene (1926-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Samuel Eugene Kelly, soldier and educator, was born in Greenwich, Connecticut on January 26, 1926 to James Handy Kelly, a minister, and Essie Matilda Allen-Kelly, a homemaker.  Educated at Greenwich public schools, Kelly dropped out of high school in 1943 and joined the United States Army the following year.  Although he entered the Army as an eighteen-year-old private, fifteen months later he had completed Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and in August 1945 was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. With World War II over in the same month, Kelly became part of the U.S. occupying forces in Japan, serving there until 1950.  
Sources: 
Samuel E. Kelly (with Quintard Taylor), Dr. Sam: Soldier, Educator, Advocate, Friend, An Autobiography (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Abele, Julian F. (1881-1950)

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

The legacy of architect Julian Francis Abele was brought into focus in the mid-1980s when in the midst of a student protest at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, his great grandniece reminded the campus community that her long unsung ancestor was responsible for the eleven original architectural drawings for the campus.  Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 21, 1881, Abele was the youngest of eight children born to Charles and Mary Adelaide Jones Abele. Throgh his mother he was a descendant of Rov. Absalom Jones, the founder of the Free African Society and St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. 

Sources: 

Dreck Spurlock Wilson, ed., African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004);
http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/21458
http://www.lib.duke.edu/archives/history/julian_abele.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Calloway, Nathaniel Oglesby (1907-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of
Nathaniel Oglesby Calloway II
A native of Tuskegee, Alabama, Nathaniel Olgesby Calloway was a pioneer in the field of chemistry. As a child growing up in Tuskegee, he spent time with George Washington Carver, a well-known soil chemist and faculty member at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). In 1930, Calloway earned a B.S. degree in chemistry from Iowa State University. Three years later, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from Iowa State University.

As a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at Iowa State University, Calloway studied synthetic organic chemistry, a branch of chemistry that focuses on compounds that contain the element carbon. Calloway’s Ph.D. adviser was Henry Gilman, a well-known organic chemistry professor at Iowa State University. Gilman actively recruited African American chemistry majors from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) such as Fisk University and Tuskegee University to pursue doctorates at ISU.

After completing his doctoral studies at Iowa State University, Calloway accepted a faculty position in the Department of Chemistry at Fisk University. As a faculty member, Calloway was a very successful researcher, publishing several peer-reviewed articles in top chemistry journals such as the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Sources: 
Sibrina Collins, "The Gilman Pipeline: A Historical Perspective of African American Ph.D. Chemists from Iowa State University,” in Patricia Thiel, ed., Chemistry at Iowa State: Some Historical Accounts of the Early Years (Ames: Iowa State University, 2006); Henry Gilman Papers, University Archives, Iowa State University Library.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Holiday, Billie (1915-1959)

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

Billie Holiday is considered by many to be the greatest and most famous jazz vocalist of the 20th century.  Her difficult life of poverty, abusive relationships, and drug abuse, helped give her voice a deep, raw emotion that was expressed in the music she sang.    

Billie Holiday was born Eleanor Fagan on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia to a teenaged mother.  She changed her name in her teens, choosing her first name after a favorite movie actress Billie Dove, and adopting the surname of her absent musician father Clarence Holiday.  Holiday’s early life of poverty eventually led her to prostitution.  However, she was discovered by John Hammond in an audition and began to sing in Harlem night clubs in 1933.

Sources: 
Michael Erlewine, All Music Guide to Jazz (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 1998); Billie Holiday with William Dufty, Lady Sings the Blues (New York: Penguin Books, 1956); Tonya Bolden, The Book of African American Women (Holbrook, Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation, 1996); http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/holiday_b.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jones, Absalom (1746-1818)

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

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

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

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

Bland, James A. (1854-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James A. Bland was an entertainer and a prolific composer who wrote sentimental songs about the American South for use in minstrel shows. Bland was born in Flushing, New York on October 22, 1854 to educated, free parents. He briefly studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C., but inspired by the spirituals and folk songs he heard performed by ex-slaves working on the Howard campus, he soon abandoned academics in favor of a profession in music. A self-taught banjo player, Bland initially sought work at clubs and hotels and then turned his attention to composition and minstrel entertainment.

In the late 1870s, Bland began his professional career as a member of the first successful all-black minstrel company, the Georgia Minstrels. Following the style of traditional all-white minstrel companies, such as the Virginia Minstrels, Bland’s company blackened their faces, painted on red lips, and used stereotypical exaggerated movements and dances in their shows.
Sources: 
David Ewen, Great Men of American Popular Song (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Kidd, Mae Street (1909-1999)

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

Businesswoman, politician, and civil rights activist, Mae Street Kidd, was born February 8, 1904 in Millersburg, Kentucky to a black mother and white father.  Kidd’s biological father refused to acknowledge her as his daughter.  She attended a segregated black primary school in her community.  As a teenager, Kidd enrolled at Lincoln Institute in Simpsonville, Kentucky, a boarding school for African Americans.

After completing school, Kidd moved to Louisville.  She became a successful life insurance agent at the black owned Mammoth Life Insurance Company.  During World War II, Kidd served with the American Red Cross in England.  Following the war, she became an entrepreneur, opening a cosmetic and an insurance company in the Midwest.

Sources: 

Wade Hall, Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae
Street Kidd
(Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1997); George
C. Wright, A History of Blacks in Kentucky: In Pursuit of Equality,
1890-1989, Vol. 2
(Frankfort: Kentucky Historical Society, 1992);
http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_kidd.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Fields, Cleo (1962- )

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

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

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

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

Wright, Jane Cooke (1919- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Smith College
Dr. Jane Cooke Wright was a physician and cancer researcher who dedicated her professional career to the advancement of chemotherapy techniques.  Jane Cooke Wright was born in New York City, New York on November 20, 1919.  She was the older of two daughters to parents Louis Tompkins Wright and Corinne (Cooke) Wright.  Wright attended private schools in New York City and in 1942 graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  Wright’s father, one of the first African American graduates at Harvard Medical School, established the Cancer Research Center at Harlem Hospital, New York in 1947.  After her undergraduate studies Wright attended New York Medical College on a four-year scholarship.  She graduated with an M.D. in 1945.  
Sources: 
Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, eds., Notable Women in the Life Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996); http://www.nlm.nih.gov/
changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_336.html
; Lisa Yount, A to Z of Women in Science and Math (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McGann, C. Steven (1951 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
C. Steven McGann joined the Foreign Service in 1992 and has since attained the status of Career member, Senior Foreign Service, with the rank of Minister-Counselor (FE-MC).  His overseas posts have included Taiwan, Zaire, South Africa, Australia, and Kenya.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mills Brothers, The (1925-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Mills Brothers with Unidentified Man in Center.
Image Courtsey of New York World's Fair 1939-1040
Records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York
Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.
The Mills Brothers, a musical quartet, originally featured John Jr. (b. 1910), Herbert (b. 1912), Harry (b. 1913), and Donald Mills (b. 1915).  Born in Piqua, Ohio, the Mills Brothers lived with their father John Hutchinson Mills, a barber, and their mother, Eathel Harrington. As children, the Mills Brothers sang at local churches. For extra money, they also sang on street corners and at May's Opera House, a local movie theater, between films. During these performances, the Mills Brothers began to develop their distinctive sound, which would later influence other doo-wop and rhythm and blues performers.  While singing four-part harmonies, John Jr. played guitar and the brothers imitated the instruments of an orchestra, such as the saxophone, trumpet, and tuba.  
Sources: 
Bruce J. Evensen, “Harry and Herbert Mills,” in African American National Biography, vol. 5, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); William Barlow and Cheryl Finley, From Swing to Soul: An Illustrated History of African-American Popular Music from 1930 to 1960 (Washington, D.C.: Elliott & Clark Pub, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Satcher, David (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

David Satcher, physician, educator, and administrator, was born in Anniston, Alabama, on March 2, 1941 to Wilmer and Anne Satcher.   In 1963 Satcher graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta.  He earned a M.D. and Ph.D. in cytogenetics from Case Western Reserve University in 1970.  

In 1979 Satcher became a professor and later chair of the Department of Community Medicine and Family Practice at Morehouse School of Medicine.  In the early 1980s, he also served on the faculty of the UCLA School of Medicine and Public Health and the Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he developed and chaired the King/Drew Department of Family Medicine. While in his position, Satcher negotiated the agreement with the UCLA School of Medicine and the Board of Regents that created a medical education program at King/Drew. In this new program, he directed sickle cell research.  In 1982, Satcher began his five year presidency at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sources: 
Mike Mitka, "US Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD," Journal of the American Medical Association 280 (August 19, 1998): 590-91; Rebecca Voelker, "The Surgeon General Moves On," Journal of the American Medical Association 287 (May 1, 2002): 2199-200; Federal government official website: www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/youthviolence/satcher.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman) (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Little Richard with the Beatles, 1963
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock  (New York: Da Capo, 1994); Bob Gulla, Icons of R&B and Soul: An Encyclopedia of the Artists Who Revolutionized Rhythm (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2008); Kandia Crazy Horse, Rip It Up: The Black Experience in Rock'n'roll (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Reed, Frankie A. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Frankie Annette Reed is a career Foreign Service officer who has held a variety of diplomatic postings in Europe, Africa, and Pacific Island nations.   Between 2011 and 2013, she served as concurrent Ambassador to the Republic of the Fiji Islands, the Republic of Nauru, the Kingdom of Tonga, Tuvalu, and the Republic of Kiribati.  Reed was also promoted in 2011 to her current standing as a Minister-Counselor within the Senior Foreign Service.
Sources: 
“An Interview with Frankie A. Reed, U.S. Ambassador to Fiji,” http://thepolitic.org/an-interview-with-frankie-a-reed-u-s-ambassador-to-fiji/ ); “Howard Alumna Reed Sworn in as Ambassador to Fiji,” http://www.howard.edu/newsroom/releases/2011/20110929HowardAlumnaReedSworninasAmbassadortoFiji.htm;  and “U.S. Consul General Frankie A. Reed,”
http://melbourne.usconsulate.gov/consul_general.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Rice, Claudius William (1892?-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Claudius W. Rice was a political activist and labor leader in Houston, Texas from the 1920s through the 1940s.  He was the owner of Negro Labor News, president of the Texas Negro Business Association, and advocate of Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee philosophy of self help.

Rice was born in 1897 to Mary and Ezekiel Rice in Haywood County, Tennessee. Formally educated in the rural schools of Haywood County, in 1909 he moved to the city of  Jackson, Tennessee and worked as a domestic servant while enrolled in the Lane College high school department.

Rice then moved to Houston, Texas, and by 1914 was giving lectures to local blacks about their patriotic duty to support the United States if it entered World War I.  Rice's patriotic fervor lessened however after touring the Deep South and witnessing firsthand the racial discrimination African Americans faced.  He then began his quest to eliminate discrimination and racism.

While in Houston, Rice became an entrepreneur, using his position to rally local blacks into challenging discrimination and focusing attention on the unfair treatment of the region’s black workforce. He stirred controversy within the black and white Houston communities in his encouragement for blacks to “organize in a solid bloc” and use racial solidarity as an effective weapon to challenge their plight.
Sources: 
Ernest Obadele-Starks, Black Unionism in the Industrial South (College Station, TX: TAMU Publishing, 2001); Ernest Obadele-Starks, “Black Workers, the Black Middle Class, and Organized Protest along the Upper Texas Gulf Coast, 1883-1945,” in The African American Experience in Texas: An Anthology, Bruce A. Glasrud and James Smallwood, eds. (Lubbock, TX: 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ellison, Marvin (1966– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Marvin Ellison is the current CEO of J.C. Penney. He is the first African American CEO of the company in its one-hundred-fourteen-year history, and as of 2016 is one of only six African American CEOs to run a Fortune 500 company. J.C. Penney ranks two hundred fiftieth of the Fortune 500 corporations.

Ellison was born in 1966 in Haywood County, Tennessee, and grew up in Brownsville, a small town about sixty miles northeast of Memphis, Tennessee. He was born to working-class parents and was the middle child of seven siblings. Neither his mother nor father graduated from high school, although his father had stable employment as a door-to-door insurance salesman.

Ellison’s early life was marked by poverty and the limitations of living in rural and impoverished Haywood County, Tennessee. Despite this, Ellison was accepted into the University of Memphis as a business major in 1984. During his five and a half years at the University of Memphis, he worked various odd jobs in order to pay his tuition and support himself. These jobs included graveyard shifts at a convenience store, janitorial work at a women’s department store, and driving a plumbing supplies truck in the summer. Ellison graduated with a Business Administration degree in Marketing. He later earned his MBA at Emory University.
Sources: 
Maria Halkias, “Marvin Ellison’s Story is Classic J.C. Penney,” The Dallas Morning News, June 22, 2015, http://www.dallasnews.com/business/retail/20150622-marvin-ellisons-story-is-classic-j.c.-penney.ece; Angela Wilson, “J.C. Penney Appoints its First Black CEO, Marvin Ellison,” Uptown, October 14, 2014, http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/10/jcpenney-first-black-ceo-marvin-ellison/ “JCPENNY Names Marvin Ellison President and CEO-Designee,” Company News, October 13, 2014, http://ir.jcpenney.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=70528&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1976923; David Thomas, “Former Brownsville Resident is JCPenney CEO, The Jackson Sun, November 19, 2015, http://www.jacksonsun.com/story/news/2015/11/19/former-brownsville-resident-jcpenney-ceo/76074334/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Desmond, Viola Davis (1914-1965)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Canadian entrepreneur Viola Desmond was arrested in 1946 for refusing to leave a segregated section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre. She was physically injured by police in the incident but was convicted and fined by local courts. She was posthumously pardoned in 2010.

Born Viola Irene Davis on July 6, 1914 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she was the daughter of James Davis, a self-employed barber and businessman, and Gwendolyn Irene Johnson, a homemaker. Growing up she wanted to be a hairdresser. When she was refused admittance to Nova Scotia’s hairdressing school because of her race, Desmond was forced to move to  Montreal (Quebec), then New York City, New York, and eventually Atlantic City, New Jersey, to complete her training. She returned to Halifax where she married Jack Desmond and opened her first salon. She later opened a school to train other beauticians.  
Sources: 
Dean Jobb, "Ticket to Freedom: Today, they call her Canada's Rosa Parks. But back in 1946, Viola Desmond seemed an unlikely civil rights activist," The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine (April/May, 2009);  Constance Backhouse, The Historical Construction of Racial Identity and Implications for Reconciliation (Halifax: The Department of Canadian Heritage for the Ethno Cultural, Racial, Religious, and Linguistic Diversity and Identity, 2001);  His Majesty the King v. Viola Irene Desmond, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, RG39, “C” Halifax, v. 937, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, No. 13347, The King v. Desmond (1947); Canada’s Debates of the Senate, 3rd Session, 40th Parliament, Volume 147, Number 58, report date October 21, 2010.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Hillary, Barbara (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ModernAge Photo Services

Barbara Hillary is the first African American woman on record to reach both the North and South Poles. Born in New York City, New York on June 12, 1931 to Viola Jones Hillary and raised in Harlem, Hillary attended the New School University in New York, N.Y. where she earned both her Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degrees. She used her studies in Gerontology to establish a career in nursing, focusing on staff training in the concepts of patient aging and their service delivery systems in nursing homes and similar facilities. She was also founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Peninsula Magazine, a non-profit and multi-racial magazine in Queens, New York. This magazine was the first of its kind in the region.

Sources: 
http://barbarahillary.com/bio.html; Melody Hoffman, “Barbara Hillary Skis Into History As First Black Woman to Reach the North Pole,” Jet 111:21 (May 28, 2007); http://video.foxnews.com/v/1470704535001/barbara-hillarys-arctic-travels-make-history/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Lee-Chin, Michael (1951- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Michael Lee-Chin is best known as a business magnate, investor, and philanthropist.  He is the founder and Chairman of Portland Holdings Inc., a privately held investment company which owns a collection of diversified operating companies in media, tourism, health care, telecommunications, and financial services.  He is also currently Executive Chairman of AIC Limited (a Canadian mutual fund), and the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica.  Canadian Business has named him as one of the richest people in Canada and estimates his wealth to be over CAD$2.0 billion.

Lee-Chin was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Both of his parents were black and Chinese Jamaican.  Lee-Chin is the descendant on both sides of his family of indentured Chinese workers brought to Jamaica in the mid-19th Century.  When Lee-Chin was aged seven, his mother married Vincent Chen, and they had seven children. Lee-Chin’s mother sold Avon products, and worked as a bookkeeper for various local firms, while his stepfather ran a local grocery store.  He attended the local high school, Titchfield High, between 1962 and 1969.

Sources: 
“Rich 100 2014 full List: the complete List of Canada’s 100 Richest People,” Canadian Business, January 9, 2014 (http://www.canadianbusiness.com/lists-and-rankings/rich-100-the-full-2014-ranking/); Christopher Helman, “Get Rich Slow,” Forbes, April 15, 2002, http://www.forbes.com;  Denise Williams, “Michael Lee-Chin- Every mickle makes a muckle- The acquisition,” Jamaica Gleaner,  February 6, 2004, http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Perry, Robert C. (1945- )

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

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

Jacobs, Harriet (c.1815-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina, Harriet Ann Jacobs was the daughter of slaves, Delilah and Daniel Jacobs.  Harriet Jacobs is best known for her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, edited by white abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, and published in 1852.   Using the pseudonym “Linda Brent,” Jacobs tells the story of her life as a slave of a “Dr. Flint,” to whom she was willed as a young girl after her mistress died.  At this point in her young life, Harriet encountered unceasing sexual advances from Flint.  She escaped Flint’s household in 1835, but remained nearby, living in an attic for several years in order to stay near her son.  She made her final escape in 1842 and was able to reunite with her children. She settled in Rochester, New York, where she joined the network of abolitionists.  At the urging of white abolitionist Amy Post, Jacobs wrote her autobiography.  Still pursued by slave catchers, Jacobs fled to Massachusetts.
Sources: 
Jean Fagan Yellin, “Harriet Ann Jacobs,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993), 627-29; Harriet Brent Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861); 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

Burke, Yvonne Braithwaite (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born Perle Yvonne Watson on October 5, 1932 in Los Angeles, California, Yvonne Burke became the first black woman elected to the California legislature (1966), the first black woman elected to Congress from California (1972), and the first black woman to serve as Chair of the Los Angeles County Supervisors (1993).

Educated in Los Angeles public schools, Burke received her B.A. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1953. Three years later, Burke received a J.D. from the University of Southern California School of Law.  Soon afterwards she entered private practice.

Before her election to the state Assembly in 1966, Burke was a hearing officer for the Los Angeles Police Commission and Deputy Corporation Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles.  She served as an attorney for the McCone Commission which investigated the Watts Riots.   

In 1972, California Assemblywoman and Congressional Candidate Yvonne Burke was selected to address the Democratic National Convention meeting in Miami Beach, Florida in 1972.  With such prominent national exposure she easily won her Congressional Seat for California’s 28th District.  Burke served in Congress until 1979. In 1978 she ran for California Attorney General, losing to Republican George Deukmejian in the first political defeat of her career.  Following the defeat, Burke was appointed to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 1979, a post she held until 1980.
Sources: 
bioguide.congress.gov; http://burke.lacounty.gov/Pages/Biobb.htm;
Yvonne Bynol, Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership and Hip Hop Culture (Soft Skull Press, 2004); Pamela Lee Gray, “Yvonne Braithwaite Burke: The Congressional Career of California’s First Black Congresswoman, 1972-1978” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, 1987).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar (1823-1915)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 17, 1823, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs apprenticed as a carpenter. By his early 20s he was an activist in the abolition movement, sharing platforms with Frederick Douglass and helping in the Underground Railroad. Black intellectual ferment of the era gave him a superb education outside the classroom, and he became a powerful writer. In 1850 he migrated to San Francisco, California; starting as a bootblack, he was soon a successful merchant, the founder of a black newspaper, Mirror of the Times, and a leading member of the city’s black community.

Sources: 
Crawford Kilian, Go Do Some Great Thing: The Black Pioneers of British Columbia (Vancouver BC: Douglas & McIntyre, 1978); Tom W. Dillard, “The Black Moses of the West: A Biography of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, 1823-1915.” (M.A. Thesis, University of Arkansas, 1975.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Capilano College (British Columbia)

Hawkins, Coleman (1904-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Coleman Hawkins with Miles Davis
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Coleman Randolph Hawkins was born November 21, 1904, in Saint Joseph, Missouri.  He began his musical education early with lessons on both the piano and cello.  Despite parental encouragement towards more classic instruments, Hawkins focused on the saxophone after he received a “C melody” tenor saxophone for his ninth birthday.  This gift was the start of a career that would establish Hawkins as a premier jazz saxophonist.    

By age twelve, Coleman was already being asked to play his sax at school dances and local events.  At 17 Hawkins became a professional musician when he joined pianist Jesse Stone’s group, the Blues Serenaders, in 1921 to play tenor sax.  Two years later he joined Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hound but quickly left to freelance with musical groups in the New York area.  It was during one of these engagements in 1923, where band leader Fletcher Henderson took note of Hawkins and asked him to join his band.
Sources: 
John Chilton, The Song of the Hawk: The Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990);  PBS, http://www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_hawkins_coleman.htm; Len Weinstock, Coleman Hawkins, Father of the Tenor Sax (http://www.redhotjazz.com/hawkinsaticle.html); Parabrisas Biography, http://www.parabrisas.com/d_hawkinsc.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Paterson, David A. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
David Paterson Sworn in as Lt. Governor
of New York, January 2007
Image Ownership: Public Domain

David A. Paterson, sworn in as Governor on March 17, 2008, is the first legally blind American Governor, the first black Governor of New York State, and only the fourth black Governor of any state.

Sources: 
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/david_a_paterson; http://www.ny.gov/governor/indes-ltgov.html; http://www.sipa.columbia.edu/academics/directory/dp417-fac.html; www.news24.com.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Spaulding, Charles Clinton (1874-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Clinton Spaulding, one of the most successful and influential African American businessmen of the 20th century, was born August 1, 1874 on a farm near Whiteville, North Carolina. His parents, Benjamin McIver and Margaret Moore Spaulding of free ancestry, were prosperous landowners and respected leaders in their community. As a young boy, Charles spent most of his time working on the farm. He did attend school but the educational possibilities were very limited in his community, so when he was twenty years old he moved to Durham to join his uncle, Aaron Moore. There he enrolled at Whitted School and gained his high school diploma in 1898 at the age of 23.
Sources: 
“Charles Clinton Spaulding” in Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); “Charles Clinton Spaulding” in Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 5: 1951-1955 (New York: American Council of Learned Societies, 1977).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Vieira, Patrick (1976- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Patrick Vieira, one of Europe’s leading soccer players, was born in the Cape Verdean community of Dakar, Senegal, on June 23, 1976.  He left Senegal at the age of eight when his family moved to Europe and settled in Dreux, in northwest France.  Soon after their arrival the family became citizens of France.  

Vieira began his professional soccer career playing for several local youth clubs in France.  Then in 1993, at age 17, he joined AC Cannes Soccer Club.  The French club provided an atmosphere for the young 6-foot-4 center midfielder to advance.  After three seasons with AC Cannes, Vieira signed with AC Milan, one of the leading clubs in Italy.  Although he hoped to break through to the first team in the 1995-96 season, Vieira spent much of his time on the reserve squad.

Sources: 

Trevor Huggins, “Vieira out of crunch Italy clash,” Four Four Two Magazine, June 16, 2008; Patrick Vieira, “Vieira,” The Orion Publishing Group, November 2006.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bambara, Toni Cade (1939-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Toni Cade Bambara on a
Gahnaian Stamp
Originally named Miltona Mirkin Cade at birth, Toni Cade Bambara was a civil rights activist, writer, teacher, and filmmaker.  She was born in 1939 in Harlem, New York.  At the age of six, she changed her name to Toni, and in 1970 she added the surname Bambara after finding it among her great-grandmother’s belongings.    

Bambara earned her BA in theater arts/English at Queens College in 1959, the same year she published “Sweet Town,” her first short story.  She was a social investigator from 1959 to 1961, and then worked in the psychiatry department of New York City’s Metropolitan Hospital.  During that time she studied in Florence as well as Paris, and earned an MA degree from City College of New York in 1964.  In 1965, she was hired to teach English at the City University of New York’s fledgling SEEK program for economically-disadvantaged students.  While there, she published short stories and became interested in film production.  From 1969 to 1974 she was an associate professor of English at Livingston College.
Sources: 
Linda Janet Holmes and Cheryl A. Wall, Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007); Elizabeth Brown-Guillory, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2006); Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gale, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Lacey Kirk (1871-1940)

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

Lacey Kirk Williams was the President of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., from 1922 to 1940 and Vice President of the World Baptist Alliance between 1928 and 1940.  He also succeeded in creating an interracial alliance which he called a "cooperative" between the wealthy American Baptists, a white denomination, and the National Baptist Convention which greatly contributed to the latter's growth and the black community as a whole.  Williams was President of the National Baptist Convention when he died in a plane crash in 1940 on his way to deliver a speech in Flint, Michigan.

Williams was born to a former slave couple, Levi and Elizabeth Williams, on the Shorter Plantation near Eufaula, Alabama.  His family migrated to Texas in 1878.  He received his education at Bishop College in Texas and Arkansas Baptist College and was ordained to ministry in 1894 at the Thankful Baptist Church in Pitt Bridge, Texas. The same year he was married to Georgia Lewis and they had one son together.  Williams became the pastor of the Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Ft. Worth in 1910 and soon afterwards was elected president of the Texas Baptist State Convention.  

Sources: 

J. Gordon Melton, Religious Leaders of America: A Biographical Guide to
Founders and Leaders of Religious Bodies, Churches, and Spiritual
Groups in North America
(Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991);   
http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/WW/fwiag.html.                                                                                    

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Willis, Dorsie (1886-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photo Courtesy of Boyd Hagen
Of the 167 enlisted black soldiers of the 25th Infantry discharged from the U.S. Army “without honor” by order of President Theodore Roosevelt after the shooting in Brownsville, Texas in 1906, Pvt. Dorsie Willis was the only to live long enough to see justice.

According to census records, Willis was born in Mississippi in 1886. His parents, Corsey and Dochie Willis were free born.  Willis joined Company D, 25th Infantry of the U.S. Army on January 5, 1905.  In July 1906 Willis’s battalion was sent to Fort Brown in Brownsville on the American bank of the Rio Grande and near its mouth.  His battalion replaced the white 26th Infantry.  The local residents, mostly Mexican and about 20% white, were not happy with the prospect of African American soldiers being stationed there, and the soldiers of the 25th Infantry immediately encountered harassment.  

Less than three weeks later, between 12 and 20 men shot up Brownsville, killing one civilian and badly wounding another.  Witnesses identified the shooters either as black or as soldiers, which meant the same thing since all the enlisted soldiers at Fort Brown were black. Their motive was thought to be revenge for the harassment they had suffered.  
Sources: 
Harry Lembeck, Taking On Theodore Roosevelt: How One Senator Defied the President on Brownsville and Shook American Politics (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2015); Mary Church Terrell, “A Sketch of Mingo Saunders,” Voice of the Negro, March 1907; John D. Weaver, The Brownsville Raid (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992) John D. Weaver, The Senator and the Sharecropper’s Son: Exoneration of the Brownsville Soldiers  (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Burgess, Franklin D. (1935-2010)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Franklin D. Burgess's remarkable life as a star basketball player at Gonzaga University and a Federal Judge in Western Washington earned him the description "a legend on two courts."  Franklin Burgess was born on March 9, 1935 in Eudora, Arkansas. Raised with seven siblings, he completed high school there and after graduation enrolled in Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College in 1953.   After one year, Burgess enlisted in the Air Force and remained in the service from 1954 to 1958.  While in the Air Force Burgess began to make a name on the basketball court and attracted attention from many leading college basketball programs such as the University of Kansas and the University of Southern California.  

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Kennard, William Earl (1957– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William E. Kennard is a telecommunications expert, attorney, and American diplomat. He was born in Los Angeles, California, on January 19, 1957, to his father, Robert Kennard, an architect, and his mother, Helen King, an elementary school teacher. William attended Stanford University, receiving his bachelor’s degree in communications in 1978, and Yale Law School, earning his juris doctor degree in 1981. 

Kennard began his professional career as an attorney at the multinational law firm Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson, and Hand (now DLA Piper), headquartered in New York City, New York. He left the firm as partner and member of the board. He would later establish a career in government service as a general counsel at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the regulator of the telecommunications industry, from 1993 to 1997. In 1997 President Bill Clinton tapped Kennard to become chairman of the FCC, making him the first African American in history to hold that post.

Sources: 
Congressional Record, 113 Congress (2013-014) Honoring the Public Service of Ambassador William Kennard; Federal Communications Commission (2001). Principal FCC Achievements during Chairman Kennard’s Tenure 1997-2001; Official Bio, U.S. Mission to the EU.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Yared (Saint), 505-571 AD

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Composer, scholar, and pioneer of musical notation, Saint Yared was born in Axum, Ethiopia on April 25, 505 AD.  Little is known regarding his family background but scholars suggest he was part of the Axum priesthood. Yared studied intermittently throughout his life starting at the age of six. Legend has it that Yared had an epiphany while observing a caterpillar that was adamant in climbing to the top of a tree despite numerous failed attempts. His experience observing nature inspired him to maintain focus with his studies of the Holy Scriptures.
Sources: 
Bekerie Ayele, Ethiopic, An African Writing System: Its History and Principles (Lawrenceville, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1997); Belai Giday, Ethiopian Civilization (Addis Ababa: Belai Giday, 1992); Ashenafi Kebede, Roots of Black Music  (Englewood, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1992); Ashenafi Kebede, "The Sacred Chant of Ethiopian Monotheistic Churches: Music in Black Jewish and Christian Communities," The Black Perspective in Music, Vol 8, 1 (Spring 1980): 26-33.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Lewis, Charles (ca. 1760-1833)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
1780 Document Indicating Wills' Service in the U.S. Army
During the American Revolution 
Image Courtesy of Anita Wills

Charles Lewis was a sailor and soldier during the American Revolutionary War.  Lewis was born sometime around 1760 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia on Bel Aire, the Lewis Family Plantation owned by John Lewis. John and a free mulatto woman, Josephine Lewis, were the parents of Charles and his younger brother, Ambrose.  Lewis and his brother were born free but their mother was indentured to John Lewis. 

On April 15, 1776, Charles Lewis and his brother entered into the naval service of Virginia when they served on board the Galley Page, a warship commanded by Captain James Markham.  On March 20, 1778, they entered the Naval Service of the United States when they joined the crew of the USS Dragon commanded by Captain Eleazor Callender.

Sources: 
Michael L. Cook, Pioneer Lewis Families (Evansville, Indiana: Cook Publications, 1984); Anita L. Wills, Notes and Documents of Free Persons of Color, Some Free Persons of Color: Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania County (Virginia) 1750-1850 (Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu Press: 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Talley, André Leon (1949-)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Known as one of the fashion world’s most recognized personalities, Talley stepped down as Vogue’s editor-at-large after three decades to become the editor-in-chief for Numero Russia, an international magazine based in Russia.

Talley is the son of William C. Talley, a taxi driver, and Alma Ruth Davis, and was born on October 16, 1949 in Durham, North Carolina. However, he was raised by his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, who worked as a domestic in the Durham area. Davis had a profound effect on him and he credits her with his uncommon flair for fashion. As a teen, he ventured to the library in the white section of town. It was there that he discovered Vogue and quickly became a devoted reader.

Talley’s postsecondary experience began at North Carolina Central University and, later he was granted a scholarship to Brown University where he earned an M.A. in French Studies in 1973. He initially planned to teach French, but the fashion world beckoned him. He first worked as an assistant for Andy Warhol. In 1983, he began working as the editor-at-large for Vogue magazine and soon became the most notable African American in the world of designer fashion.

Sources: 
Close-Up Media, Inc., André Leon Talley, eds. André Leon Talley to Redesign Zappos Couture Web Presence, (Jacksonville, FL: Close-Up Media, January 27, 2014), Rust, Suzanne, A.L.T.: A Memoir, (Fairfax, VA: Black Issues Book Review, November/December, 2003), Thompson, Arienne, ed., Andre Leon Talley leaving 'Vogue' for Russian mag.(MacLean, VA: USA Today.com, March 6, 2013), Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2013/03/06/andre-leon-talley-leaving-vogue-taking-on-russian-mag/1968127/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Charles, Ezzard Mack (1921-1975)

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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

Raspberry, William James (1935-2012)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William James Raspberry, who wrote a prominent public affairs column for The Washington Post for nearly 40 years, was one of the first extensively read African American journalist commentators with a wide readership in the mainstream press. From 1995 to 2008 Raspberry also taught journalism at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. Before his retirement from the Post in 2005, Raspberry’s popular syndicated column appeared in over 200 newspapers.  During his career Raspberry wrote over 5,000 articles reflecting his distinctly independent and often provocative observations about race, the legacy of civil rights victories, poverty, urban violence, and education.  In 1982 Raspberry won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, only the second black columnist, after Carl T. Rowan (1980) to achieve this honor.  That same year he also won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).
Sources: 
Dennis Hevesi, “William Raspberry, Prizewinning Columnist, Dies at 76,” obituary, New York Times, July 17, 2012; http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/raspberry_william/; http://mswritersandmusicians.com/writers/william-raspberry.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Jack (1878-1946)

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

Jack Johnson, the first African American and first Texan to win the heavyweight boxing championship of the world, was born the second of six children to Henry and Tiny Johnson in Galveston on March 31, 1878.  His parents were former slaves.  To help support his family, Jack Johnson left school in the fifth grade to work on the dock in his port city hometown.  In the 1890s Johnson began boxing as a teenager in "battles royal" matches where white spectators watched black men fight and at the end of the contest tossed money at the winner.

Johnson turned professional in 1897 but four years later he was arrested and jailed because boxing was at that time a criminal sport in Texas.  After his release from jail he left Texas to pursue the title of “Negro” heavyweight boxing champion. Although he made a good living as a boxer, Johnson for six years sought a title fight with the white heavyweight champion, James J. Jeffries.  Jeffries denied Johnson and other African American boxers a shot at his title and he retired undefeated in 1904. 

Sources: 
Jack Johnson, Jack Johnson is a Dandy (New York: Chelsea House, 1969); Al-Tony Gilmore, "Bad Nigger!" The National Impact of Jack Johnson (Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1975); Thomas R. Hietala, The Fight of the Century: Jack Johnson, Joe Louis and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2002); http://www.pbs.org/unforgivableblackness/about/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

O’Leary, Hazel Rollins Reid (1937- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
Department of Energy
The first and only woman to hold the position of U.S. Secretary of Energy, Hazel Rollins Reid was born May 17, 1937 in Newport News, Virginia.  During this time of public school segregation, Reid’s parents, hoping for better schooling opportunities, sent their daughter to live with an aunt in New Jersey. There Reid attended a school for artistically gifted students.

Reid entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1955 and graduated with honors four years later. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society at Fisk.  Seven years later she received a law degree from Rutgers University and soon became an attorney in the New Jersey State Attorney General’s Office.

By the early 1970s Reid moved to Washington, D.C., where she became a partner at Coopers and Lybrand, an accounting firm. Soon she joined the Gerald Ford Administration as general counsel to the Community Services Administration which administered most of the federal government’s anti-poverty programs.  President Ford later appointed Reid director of the Federal Energy Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs. In this position she became well known as a representative of the concerns of consumers who challenged the power and influence of the major energy producers.
Sources: 
United States, Congress, Senate, Committee of Energy and Natural Resource Hazel R. O’Leary nomination: hearing before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Unites States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, on the nomination of Hazel R. O’Leary, to be Secretary, Department of Energy, January 19,1993 (Washington: U.S. G.P.O, Supt. Of Docs., Congressional Sales Office, 1993); Mary Anne Borrelli, The President’s Cabinet: Gender, Power, and Representation (Boulder, Colorado: L. Rienner Publishers, 2002); http://www.dom.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barrett, Jacqueline Harrison (1940- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Jacqueline Harrison, the Sheriff of Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia, was born on November 4, 1940 in Charlotte, North Carolina, to Cornelius and Ocie Perry Harrison. In 1972, she earned her bachelor's degree in sociology, concentrating in criminology. She received a master's degree in criminology from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1973.

After graduation, Barrett, now married, began a career in criminal justice. She worked as a criminal justice planner in East Point, College Park, and Hapeville, Georgia.

Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, "From the Grassroots" Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), p. 16-18.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College / University of Mississippi

Holstein, Casper (1876-1944)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Clyburn, James Enos (1940– )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
James Enos Clyburn was born in Sumter, South Carolina on July 21, 1940 to parents Enos and Almeta Clyburn.  James Clyburn’s father was a minister and his mother was a cosmetologist.  In 1957 James Clyburn graduated from Mather Academy located in Camden, South Carolina.  Four years later he graduated with a B.A. in history from South Carolina State University.

After graduation Clyburn worked as a teacher for C.A. Brown High School in Charleston.  In 1971 he became a member of Governor John C. West’s staff, becoming the first African American to be an advisor to a Governor of South Carolina.  In 1974 Clyburn was appointed Commissioner of South Carolina’s Human Affairs Office by Governor West.  Clyburn held this position until he stepped down in order to pursue a seat in Congress in 1992.

In 1992 Clyburn decided to run for office after South Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District was redrawn to include an African American majority.  Clyburn campaigned for the seat as a Democratic candidate and won the seat.  He is currently in the House of Representatives and has received important positions during his tenure as a Congressman.  In 2003 he was named vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.  Three years later, in 2006, he became chairman.  Clyburn is also the majority whip making him the third most powerful Democrat in Congress and the most important African American in Congress. 
Sources: 
Kevin Merida, “A Place In the Sun, Jim Clyburn Rides High on A New Wave of Black Power,”  Washington Post. January 22, 2008 p. CO1: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/21/AR2008012102405.html
Silla Brush, “Hidden Power on the Hill,” U.S. News & World Report.  Feb. 25, 2007. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/070225/5clyburn.htm
U.S Congressman James E. Clyburn’s official House site: http://clyburn.house.gov/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Keith, Damon Jerome (1922--)

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

U.S. Appeals Court Judge Damon Jerome Keith, the son of Perry A. and Annie L. (Williams) Keith, was born in Detroit, Michigan on July 4, 1922. He earned a B.S. degree at West Virginia State College in 1943, an L.L.B. from Howard University in 1949, and LL.M. from Wayne State University in 1956. His experiences in the then-segregated military reinforced his interest in the law and his commitment to fight segregation. Between 1952 and 1956 he was an attorney in the Office of the Friend of the Court in Detroit. He served on the Wayne County Michigan (for which Detroit is the seat and largest city) Board of Supervisors and the Detroit Housing Commission from 1958 to 1963 before entering a private law practice with a Detroit firm, from 1964 to 1967. He was politically and socially active in the Democratic Party and the NAACP.

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 

Spencer, Kenneth (1913-1964)

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

Compared at the time to his more famous colleague, Paul Robeson, and heralded by major publicity outlets of his day as one of black America’s most exceptional baritone vocalists, singer-actor Kenneth Spencer was one of the most prominent black artists of the early 20th Century. Spencer was born in Los Angeles, California in 1913. He studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1938.

Early in his career, Spencer performed as a baritone singer on a variety of network radio stations while working odd jobs to supplement his income. Determined to advance his career, Spencer traveled and performed with the St. Louis Opera Company and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Eventually he became a soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.  

Sources: 

Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts (Metuchen,
N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1978); Thomas Cripps, Making Movies Black (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Williams, Venus Ebony Starr (1980- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Williams with Fourth
Wimbledon Crown, 2007
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Top-ranked professional female tennis player Venus Williams was born June 17, 1980 in Lynnwood, California. She is the daughter of Richard Williams and Oracene Price. Both parents coached Venus and her younger sister, Serena, who is also a top-ranked professional tennis player. Venus Williams, the second youngest of five children and whose older siblings are from Price's previous marriage, grew up in Compton, California where she began to play tennis at the age of five. After moving to West Palm Beach, Florida with her family, Williams joined professional ranks in 1994. A year later at the age of 15, the 6 ft. 1 in. child prodigy had already signed a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Reebok which at the time was the largest contract ever awarded to a female athlete.

Sources: 
Venus William, Serena Williams, and Hilary Beard, Serving from the Hip: Ten Rules for Living, Loving and Winning (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006); Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Official Website, http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com; CNN Official Website, http://www.cnn.com
Contributor: 

Butts, Cassandra Quin (1965-- )

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

Cassandra Quin Butt is Deputy White House Counsel to President Barack Obama on issues relating to civil rights, domestic policy, healthcare, and education.  She brought seventeen years of experience in politics and policy to her position.  She is a long-time friend of the President, acting as an advisor during his term in the U.S. Senate and throughout his presidential campaign. Additionally, she served as a member of the presidential transition team.

Butts was born on August 10, 1965, in Brooklyn, New York, and at age nine moved to Durham, North Carolina.  She graduated from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill with a BA in political science. While at UNC she participated in anti-apartheid protests.  She entered Harvard Law School in 1988 where her friendship with future President Barack Obama began when both were filling out forms in the student financial aid line.   Butts continued her activism at Harvard where she joined in protests regarding hiring practices for faculty of color.  She received a JD from Harvard in 1991.  

The first black woman to function as Deputy White House Counsel gradually rose to prominence  Her first job was as a counselor at the YMCA in Durham, North Carolina, and after graduating from UNC she worked for a year as a researcher with the African News Service in Durham.  For six years she was a registered lobbyist with the Center for American Progress (CAP), rising to Senior Vice President.  

Sources: 
“The New Team,” The New York Times (November, 24, 2008 and April 29, 2009);  Organizing for America, http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/hearingfromyoubios; "Obama's Leaders: 5 Black Women to Watch,” Diversity, Inc. (February 17, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Amelia Boynton Robinson (1911–2015)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Amelia Boynton Robinson (in Blue) at the 50th Anniversary of
the Selma to Montgomery March, 2015

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Although most known for widely-publicized photographs that depicted her assault during the 1965 Bloody Sunday civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, Amelia Boynton Robinson lived a long life of civil rights activism in both Georgia and Alabama. Her critical role promoting African American voting rights in the South remains undervalued in published histories of the Civil Rights Movement, but Ava DuVernay’s 2014 Academy Award-nominated film Selma provided some renewed recognition on the eve of Boynton Robinson’s death.
Sources: 
Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bridge Across the Jordan (Washington, D.C.: Schiller Institute 1991);  Denise L. Berkhalter, “Bridge over Troubled Water,” Crisis 112 (March/April 2005); Margalit Fox, “Amelia Boynton Robinson, a Pivotal Figure at the Selma March, Dies at 104,” New York Times, August 26, 2015; and “Amelia Boynton Robinson and the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL),” at: https://www.teachingforchange.org/boynton-robinson-and-dcvl.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Hutton, Ina Ray, née Odessa Cowan (1916–1984)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Susan Stordahl Porter
Ina Ray Hutton led the Melodears, one of the first all-female swing bands to be recorded and filmed.  She passed as white throughout her musical career, as the leader of several bands from the 1930s through the 1960s.  But when Hutton was a child, United States Census records called her and her family “negro,” and “mulatto,” when the Bureau used that term.  Her family occasionally appeared in the society pages of a black newspaper.  As of this writing, other biographies of Hutton do not acknowledge her black heritage.

Hutton was born Odessa Cowan at her parents' home in Chicago, Illinois on March 13, 1916.  Her mother, Marvel (Williams) Cowan, was a newlywed housewife, married to Odie Cowan, a salesman.  By the time Odessa was three years old, she and her mother were living with her maternal grandmother, and her step-grandfather, a dining car waiter for a railroad.  That year, Odessa’s sister, June, was born at home.  When the census taker arrived a few months later, their father was not recorded as a resident of the family home.
Sources: 
Author interview of Susan Stordahl Porter, January 26, 2011.  US Census 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 3, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_312; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 882. US Census 1930; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 419; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 85; Image: 53.0; Nora Douglas Holt, “Dancing Dolls a Success,” The Chicago Defender (July 14, 1923, p. 5);  Kristin A. McGee, Some Liked It Hot: Jazz Women in Film and Television, 1928-1955 (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Homer, LeRoy W., Jr. (1965-2001)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
LeRoy Homer, Jr. as an Air Force Cadet
Image Ownership: Public Domain

LeRoy Homer, co-pilot of United Airlines Flight #93, was born on August 27, 1965 in Long Island, New York.  Homer and his three sisters were raised on Long Island by their German mother, Ilse, and their African-American father who died from a stroke when Homer was twelve.  Homer’s interest in airplanes started at an early age and he began taking flying lessons when he was fifteen.  He joined the Air Force and after graduating from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he served as a pilot in both the Desert Shield and Desert Storm military operations in the Middle East and later flew aircraft in humanitarian operations in Somalia.  Homer served seven years on active duty in the Air Force, eventually becoming a Captain before switching into the reserves, where he rose to the rank of Major.

Sources: 
The LeRoy Homer Foundation, http://www.leroywhomerjr.org/; Melodie Homer, From Where I Stand: Flight #93 Pilot's Widow Sets the Record Straight (Minneapolis: Langdon Street Press, 2012); Salute to the Memory of LeRoy W. Homer Jr., United 93 Co-Pilot and Hero, available at: http://blackcollegian.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Singleton, Benjamin "Pap" (1809-1892)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West

 

Sources: 
Nell Irvine Painter, Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1976); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West 1528-1900 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998); "The "Exodusters" Movement" in The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide to the Study of Black History & Culture,  http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam009.html; Lin Frederickson, "He Was Once a Slave" on the Kansas Memory Blog of the Kansas Historical Society, http://www.kansasmemory.org/blog/post/73490075
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

West, Kanye Omari (1977- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Kanye West, rapper, singer, producer, and entrepreneur was born in Atlanta, Georgia on June 8, 1977 to Donda and Ray West.  Donda was an English professor, and Ray, a former Black Panther, was an award winning photojournalist.  West’s parents divorced when he was three, and he moved to Chicago’s south side with his mother when she took a job at Chicago State University.  He spent summers in Atlanta with his father.  As a teen, West immersed himself in the Chicago, Illinois hip-hop scene, writing lyrics and learning production techniques.

Following his graduation from Polaris High School in 1995, West briefly enrolled at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before transferring to Chicago State University where his mother was the Chair of the English Department.  In 1997 West dropped out of college to pursue a full-time music career.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

White, Walter F. (1893-1955)

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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

Baltimore, Richard Lewis, III (1947- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Richard Lewis Baltimore III was born on December 31, 1947 in New York City, New York to Judge Richard Lewis Baltimore, Jr. and Lois Madison-Baltimore. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 1969 and earned a juris doctor from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1972. Upon graduating from law school, Baltimore entered the Foreign Service. He accepted a position with the U.S. State Department and was posted to the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, where he served as Economic/Political Officer until 1975. After his post in Lisbon ended, Baltimore accepted a special assignment to Zambia during the civil war in Rhodesia.
Sources: 
"Baltimore, Richard Lewis, III," Contemporary Black Biography, 2009, Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-1841900009.html;
Biography: Richard Lewis Baltimore, III, Ambassador, Oman, http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/b/14304.htm; Laura Ewald, “Shaping Modern Oman,”www.gwu.edu/~magazine/archive/2005_fall/docs/alumni_newsmakers/dept_alumni_oman.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Hansberry, Lorraine (1930-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lorraine Hansberry was one of the most significant and influential playwrights of the 20th Century. Her landmark play A Raisin in the Sun, which opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City in 1959, was the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. Hansberry’s account of the struggles of an urban black family was an overnight success, running some 530 performances, and winning a New York Drama Critics Circle Award and four Tonys for Best Play, Director, Actress and Actor. It is generally credited with breaking down the racial barriers to Broadway, and ushering in a new era of opportunity for black women playwrights. The play was made into a movie in 1961 with Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil reprising their roles, and Ms. Hansberry writing the screenplay.
Sources: 
Anthony D. Hill, An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Hubert (H. Rap) /Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
H. Rap Brown succeeded Stokely Carmichael as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was a prominent figure in the Black Panther Party. A leading proponent of Black Power and a polarizing media icon, Brown symbolized both the power and the dangers – for white Americans and for radical activists themselves – of the civil rights movement's new militancy in the late 1960s.

Brown was born in 1943 and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  In 1960 he joined the Non-Violent Action Group (NAG) and moved to Washington, D.C. In 1964 he became NAG chairman. His activities with NAG soon drew him to SNCC, which was then engaged in voter-registration drives in the Deep South. Brown quickly distinguished himself as a charismatic leader and effective organizer. He was appointed director of voter registration for the state of Alabama in 1966 and replaced Carmichael as national chairman a year later.
Sources: 
James Haskins, Profiles in Black Power (New York:  Doubleday & Co. 1972), 217-238; H. Rap Brown and Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Die Nigger Die! A Political Autobiography (Lawrence Hill Books, 1969); Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, "H. Rap Brown/Jamil Al-Amin: A Profoundly American Story," The Nation, February 28, 2002; http://www.thenation.com/doc/20020318/thelwell
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Arrington, Richard (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Richard Arrington, the first African American mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, was born in Livingston, Alabama on October 19, 1934 to sharecroppers.  He received a Bachelor's degree from Miles College (Alabama), a M.A. in Biology from the University of Detroit in Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Zoology and Biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma

Before becoming mayor of Birmingham in 1979, Arrington taught at his alma mater, Miles College, the University of Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma.  He also served for nine years as the Executive Director of the Alabama Center of Higher Education, a consortium of eight black colleges in the state of Alabama. From 1971 to 1979, he was a member of Birmingham's city council.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), p. 11-12.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College/University of Mississippi

Baker, Josephine (1906-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

In 1925 Josephine Baker took Paris, France by storm, appearing on stage in “La Revue Negre” wearing nothing but a skirt of artificial bananas in Danse Sauvage.  Born Josephine Freda MacDonald in St. Louis, Missouri on June 3, 1906, she was nicknamed “Tumpy” because she was a chubby baby.  Her mother, Carrie MacDonald was part black and part Apalachee Indian, while her father Eddie Carson was part black and part Spanish. Both were popular dance hall entertainers in the St. Louis area in the early 1900s. After her brother, Richard, was born, Baker’s father abandoned the family and left them nearly destitute. Carrie MacDonald soon married Arthur Martin with whom she had two daughters, Margaret and Willie May.

Sources: 
Josephine Baker & Jo Bouillon, Josephine (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1976); David Levering Lewis, ed., The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader (New York: Viking, 1994); http://womenshistory.about.com/ .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sheppard, Ella (1851-1915)

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

 

Image Courtesy of Fisk University Special Collections

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

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

Roudanez, Louis Charles (1823-1890)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Physician and newspaper publisher, Louis Charles Roudanez was born free in June of 1823 in Saint James Parish, Louisiana. He was the son of a French merchant named Louis Roudanez and a black woman named Aimée Potens. Though his baptismal record registers him as white, Roudanez identified as a person of color throughout his life. He received his early education in New Orleans, where he also worked in a shop and invested his money in municipal bonds.

Like many “gens de coleur libre” (free people of color) in New Orleans, Roudanez went to France for higher education. At twenty-one years old, Roudanez was living in Paris where he studied medicine. He completed his degree in seven years and returned to the United States in 1851. The New Orleans Tribune lists his enrollment into Dartmouth’s medical school to continue his study of medicine, but other sources list Cornell University.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography  (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); http://www.neworleanstribune.com/roudanez.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Evergreen State College

Lee, Spike (1957 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Model Christie Brinkley and Director Spike Lee Attending a Charity
Event in New York

Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee, producer, actor, director, was born on March 20, 1957 in Atlanta Georgia.  His parents are William Lee, a jazz musician and composer, and Jacqueline Shelton Lee, a teacher of art and literature. Lee, the oldest of five children in a relatively well off African American family, moved to Brooklyn when he was a child and began making amateur films by the age of twenty.  His first film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn, was completed while he was an undergraduate at Morehouse College. After receiving his B.A. he enrolled in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he received an M.F.A. in film production.

While at New York University Lee produced several student films and was awarded a Student Academy Award for his M.F.A. thesis film Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop, a project that was broadcast by some public television stations and received notice from critics.  Lee's production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983.  Lee has also produced commercials for a number of companies including Nike, Jaguar, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry's.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, Ed., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Publisher Simon &
Schuster Macmillan, 1996); A & E, December 2, 2008,
http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542361

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Petry, Ann Lane (1908-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
Library of Congress
Writer Elisabeth Petry, At Home Inside: A Daughter's Tribute to Ann Petry (Jackson:  University of Mississippi Press, 2009); Hazel Arnett Ervin, ed., The Critical Response to Ann Petry (Westport:  Praeger, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robinson, Jo Ann (1912-1992)

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

Thompson, John Wendell (1949– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born April 24, 1949, to working-class parents in Fort Dix, New Jersey, John Wendell Thompson climbed the high-tech world’s business ranks from entry level sales to executive positions at International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and Symantec Corporation for a combined forty years. In 2014 however he became only the second chairman of the board at Microsoft Corporation, replacing the corporation’s co-founder, William Henry “Bill” Gates III. Thompson’s rise was even more remarkable, given that only a handful of tech industry CEOs are African American and only 1.5 percent of high-tech employees are African American.
Sources: 
Lean’tin Bracks, African-American Almanac: 400 Years of Triumph, Courage and Excellence (Canton: Visible Ink Press, 2011); Alan Hughes, “The Best CEO in Silicon Valley,” Black Enterprise magazine (September 2004); http://www.bet.com/news/national/2014/02/05/thompson-becomes-first-black-chairman-of-microsoft-s-board.html; http://fortune.com/2014/02/07/who-is-john-thompson/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Anthony (? – 1670)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Anthony Johnson's Virginia and Maryland:
Map of Colonial Settlement by 1700
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Anthony Johnson was the first prominent black landholder in the English colonies.  Johnson arrived in Virginia in 1621 aboard the James.  It is uncertain if Johnson arrived as an indentured servant or as a slave, early records list him as “Antonio, a Negro.”  Regardless of his status, Johnson was bound labor and was put to work on Edward Bennett’s tobacco plantation near Warresquioake, Virginia.  In March of 1622 local Tidewater Indians attacked Bennett’s plantation, killing fifty-two people.  Johnson was one of only five on the plantation who survived the attack.  

In 1622 “Mary, a Negro Woman” arrived aboard the Margrett and John and like Anthony, she ended up on Bennett’s plantation.  At some point Anthony and Mary were married; a 1653 Northampton County court document lists Mary as Anthony’s wife.  It was a prosperous and enduring union that lasted over forty years and produced at least four children including two sons and two daughters.  The couple was respected in their community for their “hard labor and known service,” according to court documents.  
Sources: 
T.H. Breen, Stephen Innes, “Myne Owne Ground”: Race and Freedom on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, 1640-1676 (New York: Oxford U Press, 2004); Peter Wood, Strange New Land, Africans in Colonial America (New York: Oxford U Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Okri, Ben (1959-- )

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

The author Ben Okri was born March 15, 1959 in the small town of Minna in northern Nigeria.  His mother, Grace Okri, was of the Igbo ethnic group while his father, Silver Oghekeneshineke Loloje Okri was an Urhobo.  Ben’s father was a clerk with Nigerian Railways until after the Nigerian independence of 1960, when he left for London, UK to study law.

Ben Okri joined his father in 1962, and attended the John Donne Primary School at Peckham in London.  He had to return to Nigeria with his mother in 1966, however, where he attended the schools Ibadan and Ikenne before beginning his secondary education at Urhobo College at Warri.  He was the youngest in his class when he began his studies at Urhobo in 1968 and was only 14 at the end of his secondary education in 1972.  He then moved home to Lagos, Nigeria to study on his own.

Sources: 
Simon Gikandi, The Routledge Encyclopedia of African Literature (London: Routledge, 2009); Pushpa Naidu Parekh and Siga Fatima Jagne, Postcolonial African Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998); Jane Wilkinson, Talking with African Writers: Interviews with African Poets, Playwrights, & Novelists (London: J. Curry, 1992).
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

Lowther, George W. (1822-1898)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George W. Lowther, barber, abolitionist, equal school rights activist, and Massachusetts legislator, was born a slave in Edenton, North Carolina, to Polly Lowther.  His father’s identity is unknown.  His mother, Polly Lowther (c.1780-1864) was an Edenton baker, the slave of wealthy planter Joseph Blount Skinner until she was emancipated around 1824.  Lowther’s siblings were Anthony Lowther, Fanny Skinner, Annie Skinner, Jenny, Eliza Poppleston, and Thomas Barnswell.

Remembered in Skinner’s 1850 Will as “my favourite and faithful Body Servant whom I have freed,” George Lowther received a private education from Skinner.  Early in 1845, encouraged by his hometown friend, John S. Jacobs, Lowther left Skinner and went to New York.  But in the late summer of 1847, he reunited with Skinner, serving as his former owner’s valet on a trip from New York to Boston.  By 1850, George Lowther had established his hairdressing business in Boston and was living in the household of abolitionist William H. Logan, his future father-in-law.
Sources: 
Mary Maillard, “Introduction to the Skinner Family Papers,” unpublished manuscript; Jean Fagan Yellin, ed., The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008); The Skinner Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina.
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

Córdoba Ruiz, Piedad Esneda (1955- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Politician, social and peace activist Piedad Córdoba was born in Medellin, Colombia, on January 25, 1955. She was the second of ten children of Zabulón Córdoba, an Afro-Colombian who rose from humble origins to become a sociology professor and university dean.  Her mother, blue-eyed blonde Lía Esneda Ruiz, married Zabulón as a teenager.

Their first child died in infancy. All nine of the surviving children became professionals including Córdoba, who as a young woman opened a bar to help finance the education of her younger siblings. She earned her law degree at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in 1977.

Sources: 
Nicolas Villa Moya, “Piedad Cordoba: A Political Biography,” http://www.colombia-politics.com/piedad-cordoba-a-political-biography/ (April 24, 2014); “Profiles: Piedad Cordoba,” http://colombiareports.co/piedad-cordoba-1/ (December 31, 2011); Victoria Bruce, Karin Hayes, and Jorge Enrique Botero, Hostage Nation: Colombia’s Guerilla Army and the Failed War on Drugs (New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Walker, Margaret (1915-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander's contributions to American letters--four volumes of poetry, a novel, a biography, and numerous critical essays--mark her as one of this country's most gifted black intellectuals. These accomplishments are even more remarkable given that she achieved most of them after 1943 when she was a college professor, wife, and mother of four children. Despite the cumulative demands of these pursuits, Walker prevailed, and left a nurturing literary legacy.

Walker was born on July 7, 1915, in Birmingham, Alabama. Her father, a well educated minister, and her mother, a music teacher, provided an environment in which their daughter thrived. In 1931 she met Langston Hughes, who encouraged her to seek an education outside the South. Walker completed her B.A. at Northwestern University (Illinois) when she was only nineteen, and while living in Chicago she was affiliated with several important writing groups. During the Depression, she worked for the Federal Writers' Project and contributed a dialect piece, "Yalluh Hammuh," whose folk hero would later appear in For My People (1942). As a member of the South Side Writers Group, Walker was a close colleague of Richard Wright. Walker completed her M.A. at the University of Iowa by writing For My People, a work for which she later became the first African American to win the Yale Younger Poets award.  Her Ph.D. dissertation, also at Iowa, became her highly acclaimed Jubilee.
Sources: 
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/walker/bio.htm ; William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, Trudier Harris, eds., The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature (Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Chase, William Calvin (1854-1921)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William Chase was born in 1854 to a free black family in Washington, D.C.  Chase was raised in integrated neighborhoods and attended local area schools including Howard University Law School.  Chase combined the practice of law with journalism for most of his career and was also active in Republican politics, serving as District of Columbia delegate to the party's national convention in 1900 and again in 1912.

William Chase is most well known for his nearly forty years of service as editor of the Washington Bee, a weekly publication that, during its run, was the oldest secular newspaper in continuous publication in the country.  As one of the great 19th-century editors, Chase served as a formidable “race man” and used his newspaper to voice a variety of opinions about all issues relating to African Americans and American race relations. William Chase’s Washington Bee was published weekly from 1882 through 1922 and documented extensive opposition to segregation and discrimination throughout the United States.  His newspaper fought for equal rights at a time when only a handful of black publications existed at all.  
Sources: 

Appiah, Kwame and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic  Civitas Books 2004); http://www.exploredc.org/index.php?id=381

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Monk, Thelonious (1917-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jazz pianist Thelonious Monk became one of the 20th Century’s most influential and innovative jazz musicians.  Born on October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the son of Thelonious and Barbara Monk, young Thelonious Monk grew up in New York City after the family moved there in 1922 and began playing the piano without formal training.  Monk, who was raised in the midst of gospel traditions and street music, later studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.  

At age 17, Monk toured the United States as an organist with a traveling evangelist.  By the early 1940s he began working as a sideman with New York City jazz groups.  Eventually he became the house player (regular performer) at Minton's Playhouse, a legendary Manhattan nightclub. While there Monk came into contact with other musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and Milt Jackson.  Along with these artists, Monk became one of the creators of the bebop jazz tradition.  
Sources: 
Amiri Baraka, (Leroi Jones), Blues People: Negro Music in White America (New York: William Morrow, 1963); Leslie Gourse, Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk (New York: Schirmer Books, 1997).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Oliver, Joseph “King” (1885-1938)

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

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

Ward, Douglas Turner (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Douglas Turner Ward, an actor, director and playwright is considered a living legend in the world of African American theatre. Although he has achieved much during his lifetime, his co-founding of the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) in 1968, ranks as his greatest achievement. NEC has spawned over 200 productions within a 35 year period. It has been the incubator of opportunity for such talents as Denzel Washington, Phylicia Rashad, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Giancarlo Esposito, Laurence Fishburne, Esther Rolle, Cleavon Little, Frances Foster, Sherman Helmsley, David Alan Grier, and Lynn Whitfield.

Playwrights such as Paul Carter Harrison, Charles Fuller, Judy Ann Mason, Joseph A. Walker, Philip Hayes Dean, J. E. Franklin, Endesha Mae Holland, and Aisah Rahman have all found a nurturing environment for the production of their plays. NEC was the flagship theatre for the torrid black arts movement of the halcyon 1960s civil rights movement.  
Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historians

Price, Mary Violet Leontyne (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Born to James and Kate Price on February 10, 1927, in Laurel, Mississippi, Leontyne Price became one of the world’s leading opera sopranos and among the first African Americans to gain prominence in major performance halls in that musical genre. Her parents were amateur musicians and instilled in their daughter a love of music from an early age. In 1944 she attended the College of Education and Industrial Arts (now Central State College) in Wilberforce, Ohio with the intention of becoming a music teacher. Her teachers soon encouraged her to pursue voice instead.  In 1949 Price moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School of Music on a four year, full-tuition scholarship. Her performance as Mistress Ford in the school’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Falstaff caught the eye of composer Virgil Thomson. He offered her the role of Cecilia in the 1952 revival of his 1934 opera Four Saints in Three Acts and her professional career took off.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds., African American Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Jeffrey Lehman, ed., The African American Almanac (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003); Colin A. Palmer, ed., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Manley, Effa (1900-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Abe and Effa Manley
Image Courtesy of Negro Leagues
Baseball  Museum

Born in 1900, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Effa Brooks began her life in controversy. Her mother, Bertha Brooks, a white woman married to Benjamin Brooks, a black man, claimed Effa resulted from an affair with her white employer, John Bishop. There is no other evidence to corroborate Effa’s paternity, however, Benjamin Brooks filed and prevailed in a lawsuit against John Bishop for alienation of his wife’s affections. Effa, believed her mother’s claim and noted Bishop as her father throughout the duration of her life.

Growing up with her biracial siblings and a black stepfather, Effa Manley continually walked the line between black and white. Sometimes defined by others as black, sometimes as white, Effa used her ambiguous status to her advantage. As a young adult she worked, as a white woman, in a department store in New York City, though she lived in predominantly black neighborhoods and married black men.

Her second marriage of four was the lengthiest. Abraham Manley, whom she met at the 1932 World Series, was a “numbers banker” and at least fifteen years her senior. They remained married until Abraham’s death in 1952.

Sources: 

Amy Essington, “‘She Loved Baseball’: Effa Manley and the Negro Leagues,” Chap. in Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001), 275-295; James Overmyer, Queen of the Negro Leagues: Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles, (Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, 1998).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Marshall, Harriet Gibbs (1868-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A pioneer in the world of African American music education, Harriet Gibbs Marshall was born in Victoria, British Columbia on February 18, 1868 to Mifflin Wistar Gibbs and Maria Ann (Alexander) Gibbs. In 1869 her family moved to Oberlin, Ohio. Marshall began her study of music at the age of nine and continued the pursuit at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where she studied piano, pipe organ, and voice culture. Graduating in 1889, she was the first African American to complete the program and earn a Mus.B. degree, which at the time was Oberlin’s equivalent of a Bachelor of Music degree.

Marshall trained in Europe after graduating and in 1890 returned to the United States to found a music conservatory at the Eckstein-Norton University, an industrial school in Cane Springs, Kentucky. At the beginning of the 20th century, Marshall held the position of supervisor for the District of Columbia’s African American public schools, Divisions X-XIII, and served as the divisions’ director of music.

To provide African American students with advanced musical training within the conservatory structure, she founded the Washington Conservatory of Music in 1903. It was later renamed the Washington Conservatory of Music and School of Expression when the school expanded to include drama and speech. In establishing a school exclusively operated by African American musicians for the advancement of African American education, Marshall realized a lifelong goal.
Sources: 
Alice Allison Dunnigan, The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians: Their Heritage and Traditions (Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1982); Doris E. McGinty, “Gifted Minds and Pure Hearts: Mary L. Europe and Estelle Pinckney Webster,” The Journal of Negro Education 51:3 (Summer 1982);  Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Vereen, Ben (1946- )

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

Ben Augustus Vereen, actor, singer, and dancer, was born on October 10, 1946 in Miami, Florida, but while still an infant his family moved north to Brooklyn, New York.  From a young age Vereen showed a talent in dancing and drama, often performing in local variety shows.  With his mother realizing his talent and potential, Vereen was enrolled at the New York High School of Performing Arts at the age of fourteen to pursue these skills.  After high school Vereen struggled to find work, often taking odd jobs to get by. 

Sources: 

Kenneth Estell, African American Portrait of a People (Detroit: Visible
Ink, 1994); A & E, December 2, 2008,
http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542361

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Jesse (1944-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jesse Brown, wounded veteran and government official, was born on March 27, 1944 to Lucille Brown in Detroit, Michigan.  His single-parent mother raised him in Chicago.  Brown first attended Roosevelt University in Chicago and later graduated from Kennedy- King College in that same city.

In 1963, Brown enlisted into the United States Marine Corps.  During the Vietnam War, he was seriously wounded while patrolling near DaNang.  The injury left his right arm completely paralyzed.  For his sacrifice, Brown received the Purple Heart and an honorable discharge.

In 1967, Brown found employment at the Chicago Bureau of the Disabled American’s Veterans (DAV).   Six years later in 1973, Brown had been promoted to supervisor of the appeals office for the DAV headquarters in Washington, D.C. Within ten years, Brown became headquarters manager.  In 1988, he became the DAV’s first African American executive director.  In this position, he often testified on veteran health issues before Congress. He challenged Congress’s efforts to decrease veteran’s benefits and criticized the deterioration of the veteran’s hospital system. While at the agency, he also created the system for health officials to diagnose and treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and physical side effects of Agent Orange.

Sources: 
“Jesse Brown,” African American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 1993); Mitchell, Locin, “I Was Just One of the 300,000,” Chicago Tribune, December 18, 1992: section N, pg. 22; “Jesse Brown, 58, Ex-Marine Who Headed Veteran’s Dept,” New York Times, August 17, 2002: section A, pg. 12.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Fenty, Adrian M. (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Carroll's Municipal Directory (Carroll Publishing, 2006); Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2007); New York Times, September 14, 2006, p. A24; Washington Post, August 31, 2006, p. C1, January 12, 2007, April 4, 2007, October 25, 2008, September 14, 2010, and Adrian M. Fenty, Biography.  October, 27, 2008, http://dc.gov/mayor/bios/fenty.shtm><http://dc.gov/mayor/bios/fenty.shtm>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Gloucester, Elizabeth A. Parkhill (1817-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Elizabeth A. Parkhill Gloucester, the wife of the Rev. Dr. James Gloucester, was an abolitionist, a supporter of the Underground Railroad, business owner, and considered one of the wealthiest women of her race at the time of her death in 1883. 

Born in Virginia to a free woman, Elizabeth Parkhill moved to Philadelphia at the age of six after her mother's death. Before her death, Elizabeth’s mother had arranged for her to live in the home of Rev. John Gloucester, founder of the first black Presbyterian Church in the United States.  She was raised along with his ten children as part of the family.

By the time she was 21, Elizabeth worked as a domestic for John Cook, a prominent Philadelphia Quaker. A few years later she became reacquainted with one of the children she grew up with, James Gloucester, and after a short courtship, the two were married in 1838. James worked in Philadelphia as a teacher and Elizabeth had taken some of her savings and opened a second hand clothing shop. James, also an ordained Presbyterian minister, was offered the opportunity to start a new church and the couple relocated to New York City, New York in 1840. Together they had six children; Emma, Stephen, Elizabeth, Eloise, Charles, and Adelaide.
Sources: 
Montrose Morris, “Walkabout: The Gloucester Family of Brooklyn, Part 1” (Brownstowner.com, October 9, 2012), http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2012/10/walkabout-the-gloucester-family-of-brooklyn-part-1/; In pursuit of freedom, Abolitionist biographies, http://pursuitoffreedom.org/abolitionist-biographies/; Chuck Taylor, “Heights History: Gloucester’s Remsen House @ Remsen & Clinton Streets” (October 10, 2012), http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/49051; Edward Rothstein, “When Slavery and Its Foes Thrived in Brooklyn ‘Brooklyn Abolitionists’ Reveals a Surprising History” (Jan 16, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/arts/design/brooklyn-abolitionists-reveals-a-surprising-history.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Thomas, Isiah Lord, III (1961 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
NY Knicks Head Coach Isiah Thomas at
Madison Square Garden
Image ©John A. Angelillo/Corbis

Professional basketball star Isiah Lord Thomas III was the Detroit Pistons’ point guard from 1981-1994, helping to lead the team to back-to-back National Basketball Association (NBA) championships in 1989 and 1990. Thomas was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History during the Association's 50th Anniversary celebration.  

Isiah Thomas, nicknamed “Zeke,” was born on April 30, 1961 in Chicago, Illinois to Mary Thomas, a single mom who raised her nine children after their father abandoned the family in 1964. The family lived in poverty, sometimes without food or heat, in West Chicago while Mary Thomas ran the youth center at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Chicago. Her life as a single mother was dramatized in a 1989 television movie, “A Mother’s Courage: The Mary Thomas Story.”

Thomas received a scholarship to attend St. Joseph High School, a private high school in Westchester, Illinois (the location for the 1994 documentary film Hoop Dreams). Thomas led St. Joseph to the Illinois State championship game during his junior season. After high school, Thomas was recruited by the Indiana University Hoosiers to play for Coach Bobby Knight.

Sources: 
Paul Challen, The Book of Isiah: The Rise of a Basketball Legend  (New York: ECW Press, 1997); Jonathan Abrams and Lynn Zinser, "Thomas Returns to Knicks as Part-Time Consultant,” The New York Times, August 6, 2010; http://sports.jrank.org/pages/4814/Thomas-Isiah.html; http://www.nba.com/history/players/thomas_bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carruthers, George (1939- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The physicist and inventor George Carruthers, known for inventing the ultraviolet camera and spectrograph, was born on October 1, 1939 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Carruthers is the oldest of four siblings. Carruthers’s father, George Carruthers, Sr., died when Carruthers was only 12 years old. However, before his death the senior Carruthers, a civil engineer in the United States Army, played a significant role in Carruthers’s budding interest in science. For example, Carruthers had built his own telescope from cardboard tubing and mail-order lenses from the money he had made as a delivery boy at the age of 10 years old.

Following the loss of his father, Carruthers’s mother, Sophia Carruthers, moved the family to Chicago, Illinois in search of employment.  She eventually worked for the U.S. Postal Service. Carruthers’s love for science remained strong, eventually becoming one of only a handful African American students to attend Chicago’s Englewood High School. During his time at Englewood, Carruthers won three science fair awards.

Sources: 
Kamau Rashid, Jacob H. Carruthers and the African-Centered Discourse on Knowledge, Worldview, and Power (London: Pluto Press, 2004); George Carruthers, Rocket Observation of Interstellar Molecular Hydrogen (Washington, D.C.: E.O. Hulburt Center for Space Research, 1970); Donna McKinney, NRL’S Dr. George Carruthers Honored with National Medal of Technology and Innovation (Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Research Laboratory, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Whitaker, Forest (1961 -- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Forest Whitaker at the
2007 Oscar Ceremony
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Forest Steven Whitaker, actor, producer, and director, was born in Longview, Texas, July 15, 1961, but was raised in South Central Los Angeles, where his parents moved when he was four years old.  His father, Forest Whitaker, Jr., was an insurance salesman, and his mother, Laura Francis Smith, was a special education teacher.  Whitaker was the second of four children, having one older sister and two younger brothers.

Whitaker commuted to Palisades High School, twenty miles away on the west side of Los Angeles, where he developed his love for singing and acting in musicals and plays. He was also an all-league defensive tackle on the school’s football team and received a football scholarship to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he enrolled following his graduation in 1979.  When a back injury ended his future as a football player, he changed his major to voice and soon transferred to the University of Southern California (USC) where he studied opera and enrolled in the University Drama Conservatory.  He graduated from USC in 1982.  Whitaker’s break into show business came when an agent saw him singing in a production of  The Beggar’s Opera while in the USC conservatory program.  
Sources: 
Caitlin A. Johnson, “Forest Whitaker: The King Of The Oscars?," CBS News, February 4, 2007; Mike Sager, "What I've Learned: Forest Whitaker," Esquire, February 26, 2007; Adam Sternbergh, "Out of the Woods: How Forest Whitaker Escaped his Career Slump." New York Magazine, January 9, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Paine College

White, George Henry (1852-1918)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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George H. White served as a member of the fifty-fifth and fifty-sixth United States Congresses (March 4, 1897-March 3, 1901) from North Carolina’s Second Congressional District during what historian Rayford Logan has termed the nadir in race relations for the post-Reconstruction South. Born in Rosindale, North Carolina on December 18, 1852, White graduated from Howard University in 1877, and was admitted to the bar in 1879.  White practiced law and served as the Principal of the State Normal School of North Carolina until he entered politics in 1881, at which time he served for a year in the North Carolina House of Representatives.  Four years later he served for a term in the state’s senate.  From 1886 to 1894, White worked for the second judicial district of North Carolina as solicitor and prosecuting attorney. 

Sources: 
Benjamin R. Justensen, George Henry White: An Even Chance In the Race of Life (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2001); “White, George H.,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/ ; “White, George H.,” Documenting the South, <http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/whitegh/whitegh.html>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Johnson C. Smith University

McDonald, Norris (1958- )

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

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

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

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

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

Johnson, James Weldon (1871-1938)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Younge, Samuel (“Sammy”) Leamon, Jr. (1944-1966)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Samuel (“Sammy”) Leamon Younge Jr. was a young civil rights activist who was shot to death on January 3, 1966 when he attempted to use a whites-only restroom at a gas station in Macon County, Alabama. He was 21 years old.  Younge was killed 11 years after and 40 miles from where the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott began. At the time of his death he was a military veteran and Tuskegee Institute political science student.  

Younge was born on November 17, 1944 in Tuskegee, Alabama. His parents were educated professionals; Samuel Sr. was an occupational therapist, and Younge’s mother, Renee, was a schoolteacher. Unlike most black men in Macon County, Sammy Younge and his younger brother, Stephen (“Stevie”), grew up with middle class privileges and comforts.

Sources: 
http://newsone.com/2824521/samuel-sammy-younge-jr/; James Forman, Sammy Younge, Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement (Washington, D.C.: Open Hand Publishing, 1986) [first published 1968]; “Samuel Younge, Jr.,” Encyclopedia of Alabama, http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1669; Michael F. Wright Ph.D., J.D., Sammy Younge Jr. Memorial Address http://www.crmvet.org/mem/younges.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Adams, Victoria Jackson Gray (1926-2006)

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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

Dixon, Eustace Augustus, II (1934-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Euell Nielsen
Eustace A. Dixon II, 20th century author and environmental health advocate, was born at home in Brooklyn, New York on July 9, 1934. He was the youngest child of Eustace A. Dixon, a native of Jamaica and Beulah Talbot, a native of Bermuda. Dixon graduated from Boys High School, Brooklyn, New York, in 1952 and enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Korean War where he served as a radio communications specialist.  

After being discharged from the military, he enrolled in Brooklyn College and received his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1956.  In 1977 he received an M.A. degree from Glassboro State College in New Jersey and four years later he received a Ph.D. in public health from Union Institute and University.  In 1995 at the age of 61, Dixon received an M.A. in Music from Glassboro State University.
Sources: 
“Eustace Dixon Obituary,” The Daytona Beach Sunday News Journal, January 16, 2000; Eustace Dixon, New Jersey: Environment and Cancer (Mantua, New Jersey: Eureka Publications, 1982); Eustace Dixon, Syndromes for the Layperson (Mantua, New Jersey: Eureka Publications, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Day, Eliza Ann Dixon ( ? - 1800's)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
A member of the John Street Methodist Church and founding member of the A.M.E. Zion Church in New York City, Eliza Day combined religious devotion with abolitionist politics.  Day was an active abolitionist who established a pattern of activism for her children.

Eliza Day was a regular participant in the abolitionist movement and had been one of many to flee an abolitionist meeting at the Chatham Street Chapel in 1833 when it was attacked by a mob. For days after the incident, as anti-abolitionist mobs ravaged the city, the Days kept their home barricaded.

Eliza struggled to support her family after her husband, John, a sail maker and veteran, died at sea in 1829.  Her eldest son supplemented her meager resources by securing a job on a ship.  She was able to provide a good education for her youngest son, William Howard Day (1825-1900), who later went on to become a minister, newspaper editor, orator, and black nationalist leader.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), and R. J. M. Blackett, Beating Against the Barriers: Biographical Essays in Nineteenth-Century Afro-American History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wilder, Lawrence Douglas (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Richmond, Virginia on January 17, 1931, Lawrence Douglas Wilder was the first African American to be elected governor in the United States of America. For four years Wilder served as the governor of Virginia (1990-1994).  Currently he is serving as the mayor of Richmond, Virginia.

Wilder began his education in a racially segregated elementary school, George Mason Elementary, and attended all-black Armstrong High School in Richmond.  In 1951 he received a degree in chemistry from Virginia Union University in his hometown.  After college, Wilder joined the United States Army and served in the Korean War, where he earned a Bronze Star for heroism. After the war, Wilder worked in the Virginia state medical examiner’s office as a chemist. Using the G.I. Bill, Wilder graduated from Howard University Law School in 1959 and soon afterwards established Wilder, Gregory and Associates.
Sources: 
Donald P. Baker, Wilder: Hold Fast to Dreams: A Biography of L. Douglas Wilder (University of Michigan, Seven Locks Press, 1989); Judson L. Jeffries, Virginia’s Native Son: the election and administration of Governor L. Douglas Wilder (Purdue University Press, 2000); http://www.vahistorical.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/l-douglas-wilder.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barnett, Ferdinand Lee (1858-1936)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Ferdinand Barnett, Ida B. Wells and Their Family, 1917 
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Tennessee and educated at the law school later affiliated with Northwestern University, Ferdinand Lee Barnett was an attorney, writer, lecturer, and the editor and founder of Chicago’s first black newspaper, the Chicago Conservator.  Although he is often remembered today as the husband of anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), Barnett was at the time a widely known advocate of racial equality and justice.  His speech, “Race Unity,” given in May of 1879 to a national convention of African American men in Nashville, Tennessee, for example, illustrates his commitment to racial justice as does his work for the Conservator.
Sources: 
Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1970); The Black Press in the Middle West, 1865-1985, ed. Henry Lewis Suggs (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Vaughan, Sarah (1924-1990)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sarah Louise Vaughan was born in 1924 in Newark, New Jersey.  Both of her parents were amateur musicians and they provided their daughter piano lessons as a child as well as a solid background in vocals, as a member of her mother’s church choir.  By 1943, 19-year- old Sarah was ready to make music her career.  Despite her natural shyness and lack of stage polish, she won an amateur contest at Harlem’s renowned Apollo Theatre.  That performance led to Sarah’s “discovery” by Billy Eckstine who helped her become a vocalist and musician with the Earl Hines Band.  Vaughn left Hines’s band to join Eckstine’s new orchestra and make her recording debut.  

By 1946 Sarah Vaughn was a solo artist who was rapidly becoming well known as one of the first jazz artists to use “bop” phrasing in her singing.  During the 1950s, she adopted a new style which allowed her to record numerous “pop” tunes that were commercially successful.  While her embrace of pop music scandalized jazz purists, it greatly widened Sarah’s fan base and demonstrated her business acumen, which many of her colleagues eventually grew to admire.
Sources: 
Leslie Gourse, Sassy: The Life of Sarah Vaughan (New York: Da Capo Press, 1993); Joyce West Stevens, Smart and Sassy: The Strengths of Inner City Black Girls (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/vaughan_s.html; Rutgers Women’s History Project, http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/njwomenshistory/Period_5/vaughan.htm; Soulwalking, http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Sarah%20Vaughn.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson-Lee, Sheila (1950 - )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sheila Jackson-Lee was born on January 12, 1950 in Queens, New York.   She graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens, New York in 1968.  She then graduated from Yale University in Connecticut with a B.A. in political science in 1972 followed in 1975 by a J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School.     

After graduating from law school Jackson-Lee moved to Houston, Texas after her husband, Dr. Elwyn C. Lee accepted a job offer from the University of Houston.  Dr. Lee is currently Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Houston.  Jackson-Lee was in private practice from 1975 to 1987 when she was elected a Houston municipal judge.  Jackson-Lee then ran for a seat on the Houston City Council in 1990.  In 1994 Shelia Jackson-Lee was elected as a Democrat to represent the 18th Congressional District of Texas.  She currently holds that seat. 

Sources: 
Congressional Biography:  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=j000032; Jim Doyle, “Five members of Congress arrested over Sudan protest,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2006:  http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Five-members-of-Congress-arrested-over-Sudan-2498797.php; Tim Fleck, “What's Driving Miss Sheila?” Houston Press, February 20, 2007: http://www.houstonpress.com/1997-02-20/news/what-s-driving-miss-shelia/Sheila; Jackson’s Campaign website:  http://www.sheilajacksonlee18.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Edelman, Marian Wright (1939- )

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

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

Selassie, Amha, Emperor of Ethiopia (1916-1997)

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

Amha Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, was proclaimed ruler of the state three times, first in 1960 then in 1975 and finally while in exile in 1989.  Selassie was born Asfaw Wossen Tafari in the walled city of Harrar in August 1916 to Dejazmach Tafari Makonnen, then the governor of Harrar and future emperor of Ethiopia, and his wife Menen Asfaw. Amha Selassie became Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen of Ethiopia when his father was crowned empero