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People

Julian, Percy Lavon (1899-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A native of Montgomery, Alabama and grandson of slaves, Percy Lavon Julian was a trailblazer in the chemical sciences.  His parents Elizabeth Lena Adams, a school teacher, and James Sumner Julian, a railroad mail clerk who loved mathematics, raised six children, all of whom pursued a college education.  Two sons became physicians and three daughters received M.A. degrees.

After attending public school in Montgomery, Julian moved to Greencastle, Indiana in 1916 to enroll at DePauw University. While at DePauw he was named a member of the Sigma Xi honorary society and Phi Beta Kappa.  In order to finance his college education, he worked as a waiter and a ditch digger.  Julian was selected as the class valedictorian upon his graduation in 1920.  After completing his undergraduate degree, Julian was determined to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry despite the racism at the time which often kept African Americans from pursuing graduate degrees in all but a handful of universities.  
Sources: 
Bernhard Witkop, Percy Lavon Julian, A Biographical Memoir (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 1999); Sibrina Collins and Robert Lichter, “The Legacy of Dr. Percy Julian Celebrated at the 232nd ACS Meeting,” NOBCChE News OnLine, 2006, 36(4), 13-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brewer, Carl (1957-- )

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Carl Brewer, mayor of Wichita, Kansas, is a native of that city. Brewer, who was born in 1957, is the first African American to be elected as the mayor of the largest city in Kansas.  He previously served on the Wichita City Council from 2001 to 2007. Brewer is the second African American to hold the post of Mayor.  A. Price Woodard served as mayor from April 14, 1970 to April 13, 1971.

Brewer was raised in Wichita, and attended North High, where he graduated in 1975. After high school, he attended Friends University, also located in Wichita. Prior to serving on the city council, Brewer was employed as a Spirit Operations Manager for Boeing aerospace manufacturing, a Manufacture Engineer for Cessna aviation, and as a Captain for the Kansas Army National Guard. Brewer is also a member of multiple organizations, including the Arkansas Valley Masonic Lodge, the African American Catholic Council, the National Guard Association, and the Boeing Management Association.

Carl Brewer began serving on the Wichita City Council in 2001, representing District 1. He is a member of many governmental associations: the National League of Cities Board of Directors, the National Black Caucus, the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to name a few. 

Sources: 
http://www.wichita.gov/Government/CityCouncil/Mayor/; Chris Moon, "Brewer Easily Defeats Mayans for Mayor," Wichita Business Journal, April 4, 2007, p. 1.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Muhammad, Benjamin Chavis (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public domain
Born on January 22, 1948 as Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. in the city of Oxford, North Carolina, Benjamin Chavis Muhammad was a member of one of the most prominent African American families in North Carolina. His parents were well known educators and his ancestors included John Chavis, a Revolutionary War soldier with George Washington’s Army who became one of the first African Americans to attend Princeton University.  John Chavis later operated a private school in antebellum North Carolina that accepted both black and white students.

By age 13, Ben Chavis had established his civil rights activist credentials when he successfully integrated the all-white libraries in Oxford. Chavis became the first African American to receive a library card.
Sources: 
Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: An A-Z Reference of the Movement that Changed America (New York: Running Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

West, Allen (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Crouch, Stanley (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Stanley Crouch is a tough-minded and controversial jazz critic, playwright, essayist, novelist, and percussionist.  After a personal intellectual transformation in the late 1970s, Crouch became the contemporary champion of traditionalist jazz – an identity which he has defined with both powerful cultural criticisms and outbursts of intellectual and physical combativeness.

Stanley Crouch was born in Los Angeles, California in 1945.  His mother, Emma Bea Crouch, supported his family financially and intellectually.  Asthma kept Crouch confined to his home for much of his childhood, a period which he spent reading and listening.  By the time of his high school graduation in 1963, Crouch had independently read the complete works of Hemingway, Twain, and Fitzgerald, while also founding a school jazz club which explored the works of artists Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Eric Dolphy, among others.  

Crouch attended two separate junior colleges for the next three years, receiving a degree from neither.  It was in this period, however, that Crouch became interested in poetry and drama, being particularly influenced by poet and playwright LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka).  After the eruption of the Watts riots of 1965, Crouch became informally involved in the Watts Writers Workshop, often performing at the Watts Happening Coffee House.  From 1965 until 1967 Crouch was a member of Studio Watts, a local repertory theater.
Sources: 
Robert Boynton, “The Professor of Connection: A Profile of Stanley Crouch,”  The New Yorker, November 6, 1995; Stanley Crouch, The All-American Skin Game, or, The Decoy of Race (New York City: Pantheon Books, 1995); Steven L. Isoardi, The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Baker, Thomas Nelson, Sr. (1860-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Nelson Baker, Sr. was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in philosophy. He was a writer, orator, ethicist, and advocate for a positive black cultural identity.  Baker was born a slave on August 11, 1860 to Thomas Chadwick and Edith Nottingham Baker on Robert Nottingham’s plantation in Northampton County, Virginia.  Baker’s mother taught him to read the Bible and he attended public school from 1868 to 1872.  He left school at the age of 12 to help support his family.  Even while working as a farmhand, he continued his studies privately and in 1881 at the age of 21, he enrolled in the Hampton Institute High School program.  Baker graduated in 1885 as valedictorian of his class.

Determined to prepare for college entrance, in May of 1886 Baker enrolled in the Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts, where despite being one of only two black students in attendance he acted as substitute principal in the summer months.  He graduated from Mount Hermon in June 1889.  

Baker entered Boston University’s Liberal Arts School in 1890 and graduated with his B.A. in 1893.  From there he enrolled in the Yale Divinity School where he earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1896.  The following year he was ordained as minister at Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church in New Haven and remained there until 1901 while simultaneously studying philosophy at Yale Graduate School.
Sources: 
George Yancy, “Thomas Nelson Baker: Toward an Understanding of a Pioneer Black Philosopher,” Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience American Philosophical Association 95:2 (Spring 1996); Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (Va.), The Southern Workman (Hampton, Virginia: Hampton Institute Press, 1938); Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, Record of Christian Work Vol. 23 (East Northfield, Massachusetts: Record of Christian Work Co., 1904).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gloucester, John (1776-1821)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
00
Image Ownership, Public Domain
John Gloucester, founder of the first black Presbyterian Church in the United States, was born enslaved in 1776 in Tennessee.  Despite that enslavement, Rev. Gideon Blackburn, a young evangelical Presbyterian minister with abolitionist sympathies, noticed that young Gloucester—before his 21st birthday, and without formal religious training—had already converted a number of black and white people to the Christian faith.

Blackburn was impressed and purchased Gloucester in the hope of freeing him.  When Blackburn petitioned the state of Tennessee for Gloucester’s freedom, his petition was denied.  The Legislature took note that Reverend Blackburn planned to train him to become a Presbyterian minister.  While the legislature had long accepted the practice of enslaved preachers giving sermons to other enslaved people and of white preachers ministering to slaves, a free black man preaching to slaves, in their view, represented a challenge to the slave system since those who were listening might hear and interpret freedom in Christ to mean freedom in life as well.
Sources: 
Shelton B. Waters, We Have This Ministry: A History of the First African Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia: Gloucester Memorial and Historical Society, 1994); http://westminstersermons.blogspot.com/2010/02/john-gloucester-and-first-african.html; http://www.nationalabolitionhalloffameandmuseum.org/african-american-attendee.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Vivian, Cordy Tindell “C.T.” (1924- )

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

Image Ownership: Public Domain 

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

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

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

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

Poitier, Sidney (1927 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Didier Drogba (1978-- )

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

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

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

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

Mason, Charles Harrison (1866–1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Charles H. Mason &
(COGIC Museum)

Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, the founder of the Church of God In Christ, was born September 8, 1866 near Memphis, Tennessee.  His parents Jerry and Eliza Mason were ex-slaves.  When Charles was twelve years old his family moved to Plumerville, Arkansas due to a Yellow-Fever epidemic that struck the Memphis area.  While in Arkansas, the Masons lived and worked as tenant farmers on the John Watson Plantation. Jerry, incapacitated with Yellow-Fever, passed in 1879.  The following year Charles, at the age of fourteen, was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  He recovered from the disease some months later.  

Sources: 

Jerry Ramsey, The Late Apostle of C.H. Mason Speaks (Memphis: COGIC Inc., 1984); http://www.cogic.com/history.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

West, Togo D., Jr. (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Togo D. West Jr., attorney and government official, was born on June 21, 1942 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Togo D. West, Sr. and Evelyn Carter West. In 1959 he graduated as valedictorian from Atkins High School in that same city.   In 1965, West enrolled at Howard University, earning his B.S. degree in electrical engineering.  He switched to law and earned a J.D. degree from Howard University Law School in 1968, graduating first in his class.  After he completed law school, West clerked for a federal judge in the Southern district of New York.  

During the early 1970s, West served in the United States Army as a judge in the Judge Advocate General Corps.  For his outstanding military service, West earned both the Legion of Merit award and the Meritorious Service Medal.  Government officials recognized West’s distinguished military service and in 1973, he was appointed by President Gerald Ford as Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice.  In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed West as general counsel to the Navy and in 1979, West served as Deputy Secretary to the Secretary of Defense and general counsel to the Department of Defense from 1980 to 1981.

In 1981, West retired from government to become managing partner of the Washington, D.C. law firm, Patterson, Belknap, Webb, and Tyler.  In 1990, West became the senior vice president for the Arlington, Virginia-based Northrop Corporation, a military aircraft manufacturer.

Sources: 
Mary Kalfatovic, “West, Togo D. Jr.” Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); Washington Post, November 22, 1996, p. l; November 23, 1996, p.9; http://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/11/us/va-secretary-resigning.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Day, Ava Speese (1912-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in 1912, Ava Speese (Day) traveled with her family in 1915 to homestead in Cherry County, Nebraska.  Taking advantage of the Kincaid Homestead Act of 1904, the Speese family, Charles and Rosetta Meehan Speese and their nine children, were among forty African American families who made land claims throughout the county. Some of the settlers founded a small town they named DeWitty after a local black store owner.  

Years later, Ava Speese wrote about her life in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, an account that would provide a rare glimpse into African Americans on the Nebraska frontier.  Ava’s narrative recalled a difficult life for African Americans in north central Nebraska but she also described a resourceful and vital community.  Like most homesteaders of the era, the Speeses lived in a sod home which originally consisted of one room but which grew as the family prospered.  She recalled many a night watching her mother bake bread and sew their clothing by hand.  Learning to be resourceful, Ava and her siblings made toothbrushes out of burnt corn cobs, and natural herbs were used to ward off colds and the flu. Ava Speese attended two one room, wood frame schools in Cherry County where she learned to value education.   
Sources: 
Sod House Memories, Vol. I-IV, ed. Frances Jacob Alberts (Hastings, Neb.: Sod House Society, 1972), Vol. 3:253-267; Forrest H. Stith, Sunrises & Sunsets For Freedom, p. 26-36; http://www.nebraskahistory.org/lib-arch/research/manuscripts/family/ava-day.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Washington, George (1817-1905)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Washington was a prominent pioneer in the state named, like he was, for America's first president.  He founded Centralia in southwest Washington and was a leading citizen and benefactor of the town.  Washington's father was a slave, his mother of English descent.  When his father was sold soon after his birth in Virginia, his mother left him with a white couple named Anna and James Cochrane (or Cochran), who raised him in Ohio and Missouri.  At the age of 33, Washington joined a wagon train and headed west with the Cochranes, seeking to escape discriminatory laws.

In 1852 he staked a claim on the Chehalis River in what was then Oregon Territory. Because Oregon law prohibited settlement by African Americans, Washington had the Cochranes file the claim. After Washington Territory was created, they deeded the property to him.

When he was in his fifties, Washington married widow Mary Jane Cooness (or Cornie).  In January 1875, the Washingtons platted a town, which they called Centerville, on their property.  The name was changed to Centralia in 1883.  The Washingtons provided land for a Baptist church, cemetery, and public square (now George Washington Park).
Sources: 
HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "George and Mary Jane Washington found the town of Centerville (now Centralia) on January 8, 1875" (by Kit Oldham), http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=5276   "History of Centralia," Centralia, Washington website, http://www.centralia.com/PageDetails.asp?ID=25&Title=Historic%20Centralia#founder
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Staff Historian, HistoryLink.org

Applegate, Joseph R. (1925-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
It is believed that linguist Joseph Roye Applegate spoke as at least 13 languages and had reading knowledge of several others.  He was born to parents who operated a boarding house in Wildwood, New Jersey on December 4, 1925.  When his family moved to Philadelphia he interacted with Yiddish and Italian schoolmates and thus developed a fascination with languages. Applegate entered Temple University in 1941 where he made the varsity fencing team and did well in modern dance.  Work interrupted his studies but he persisted and earned a Ph.D. in linguistics at Temple in 1955.  Between 1946 and 1955 Applegate taught Spanish and English in vocational schools and high schools in Philadelphia and was active in teacher unionization.  

Upon completing his doctorate he was hired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to assist in its modern languages department’s efforts to adapt electronic methods of language translation.  In 1956 he was appointed assistant professor in the department teaching German, English to foreign students, and in 1959 was appointed director of MIT’s new language laboratory.  
Sources: 
Obituary. The Washington Post (22 October 2003); Directory of American Scholars (New York: Bowker, 1982); http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/1997/applegate-0205.html ; http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0504/0504obits.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Shorey, William Thomas (1859-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Known affectionately as the Black Ahab, William Thomas Shorey was born on January 25, 1859 on the island of Barbados in the British West Indies. He was the son of a Scottish sugar planter and a West Indian woman of mixed African and European ancestry. In 1875 he shipped to Boston, Massachusetts as a cabin boy and in the next year made his maiden voyage on a whaler. Learning navigation and moving up rapidly through the ranks, Shorey came to San Francisco, California on the whaler Emma F. Herriman in 1878. After only ten years at sea he became the only African American ship captain on the west coast. In 1886 Shorey married Julia Ann Shelton, daughter of one of the leading black families in San Francisco. Together they had five children and Captain Shorey occasionally took his family to sea with him.
Sources: 
Tompkins, E. Berkeley, “Black Ahab: William T. Shorey Whaling Master,” California Historical Quarterly 51 (Spring): 75-84.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Young, Willis Lester ("Pres") (1909-1959)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lester (Willis) Young, known as "Pres," was born in Woodville, Mississippi and died in New York City. Named Willis Lester at birth, he dropped "Willis" at an early age. Young developed a light tone and swinging style as a member of "territory bands," such as the Oklahoma City Blue Devils, whose members gave him the nickname "Pres" short for President of the Tenor Saxophone -- around 1932. By 1936 he played in Count Basie's Kansas City band and became one of the leading tenor saxophonists of the swing era. Basie's orchestra moved to New York City and Young performed and recorded not only with Basie, but also with most of the leading jazz musicians for three decades. Known mainly for his velocity and swinging style with Basie, in 1937 he recorded several ballads with singer Billie Holiday and pianist Teddy Wilson.
Sources: 
Douglas Henry Daniels, Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester "Pres" Young (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002); Lewis Porter, Lester Young (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985)
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Dinkins, David N. (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1989, David N. Dinkins defeated his challenger, former federal prosecutor Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani, to become the first African American mayor of New York City.

David Norman Dinkins was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1927. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 and served briefly in World War II.  After the war, he attended Howard University, graduating with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1950.  Dinkins moved to New York City and received a law degree from the Brooklyn Law School in 1956.  Dinkins is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

David Dinkins’s political career began when he joined the Carver Club headed by a charismatic politician, J. Raymond Jones who was known as the Harlem Fox.  Dinkins befriended three up and coming black New York politicians; Charles Rangel, Basil Paterson, Sr., and Percy Sutton.  In 1965, Dinkins won his first electoral office, a seat in the New York State Assembly. Shortly afterwards Dinkins was offered the position of deputy mayor of New York by then Mayor Abraham Beam.  Dinkins could not accept the post when it was revealed he had not paid income taxes for the past four years.
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders  (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lam, Wilfredo (1902-1982)

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

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

Reed, George Robert (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
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

Alexander, Archer (ca. 1810-1879)

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

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

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

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

Straker, David Augustus (1842-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
David Augustus Straker, author, lawyer, and politician, was born and raised in Bridgetown, Barbados, where he achieved success as a teacher and principal at St. Mary’s Public School.  In 1868 he moved to Kentucky, where he taught at a freedman’s school for one year.  He entered Howard University in 1869, graduating two years later with a degree in law.  

Straker returned to Kentucky but when he was unable to find work as a lawyer, he took a position as a postal clerk.  During this time he married Annie M. Carey and authored numerous editorials for Frederick Douglass’s New National Era, gaining him national exposure.  In 1875 he resigned his postal position to join a law firm in Charleston, South Carolina, where he and his wife relocated.  

A staunch Republican, Straker was first elected to public office in November, 1876 as the Orangeburg County Representative in the lower house of the state legislature.  Redeemer Democrats, however, refused to seat him and his fellow Republicans the following year as they anticipated the end of Reconstruction in the state.  Undeterred, Straker continued to run for office and was reelected by the citizens of Orangeburg County in 1878 and 1880 even as the Democrats continued to deny him his seat in the legislature.    
Sources: 
Eric Foner, Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Dictionary of Black Officeholders during Reconstruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Edwin S. Redkey, Black Exodus: Black Nationalist and Back-to-Africa Movements, 1890-1910 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1969).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Morgan, Clement Garnett (1859-1929)

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

Hale, Clara McBride (1905-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Clara Hale and Children
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Clara McBride Hale, founder of Hale House, a nationally recognized facility for the care of addicted children, was born on April 1, 1905 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When Hale was a youngster, her family experienced tragedy.  Her father died, forcing her mother to take in lodgers to support her four children.  After graduating from high school, Clara McBride married Thomas Hale and moved to New York City. Together they had two children, Nathan and Lorraine, and adopted Kenneth. Thomas died, leaving Hale to support her family as a domestic.  

While raising her children in Harlem, Hale developed a deep sympathy for abandoned and neglected children.  In the 1940s, she began providing short-term and long-term care for community children in her home. She also found permanent homes for homeless children and taught parents essential parenting skills. In 1960, she became a licensed foster parent, providing care for hundreds of children in her home. Hale’s success as a foster parent earned her the affectionate nickname of “Mother Hale.”

Sources: 

http://www.halehouse.org; Ron Alexander, “Chronicle,” New York Times, 26 Aug. 1994: 4; Diane Camper, “Mother Hale's Lasting Gift,” New York Times, 24 Dec. 1992: A16.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Butts, Cassandra Quin (1965-- )

Vignette Type: 
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

Moore, Archie (1913-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Tracy Callis

One of the great light heavyweights of all time, Archie Moore, a.k.a., the “Old Mongoose,” was born under the name of Archibald Wright on December 13, 1913 in Benoit, Mississippi. Archie turned professional in 1936, originally operating in the middleweight ranks, but ultimately moving up into the light heavyweight class by 1945. He fought a total of 222 recorded bouts over more than 27 years in the ring. He campaigned against most of the toughest men in the business during his long career, posting 187 wins, including 132 knockouts, against only 23 losses and 11 draws.

Moore campaigned for 16 years before gaining an opportunity to fight for a world championship. On December 15, 1952 he became the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World at age 39, defeating Joe Maxim by a decision in fifteen rounds, thereby becoming the oldest light heavyweight champion in history. He defeated Maxim twice in rematches and was nearly unbeatable as a light heavyweight, successfully defending the title nine times, and holding it for almost a decade before finally being stripped of it in February of 1962 for failing to defend the title within the required period of time.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gordon, Taylor Emmanuel (1893-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Taylor Emmanuel Gordon was born in 1893 in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, one of six children of a cook and a laundress.  He is best known for his career as a singer in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.  After leaving Montana in 1910 for a job in Minnesota, Gordon eventually made his way to New York. There he joined a vaudeville act called “The Inimitable Five,” and toured coast to coast.  As the Harlem Renaissance gathered steam in the mid-1920s, he found more opportunities to advance his singing career.  The most important of these was a partnership with J. Rosamond Johnson, who with his brother James Weldon Johnson, composed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and compiled the classic Book of American Negro Spirituals.   Gordon joined Rosamond Johnson as a singing partner and the pair quickly achieved fame, touring the United States, France, and England.  In 1927 they gave an acclaimed concert at Carnegie Hall sponsored by the Urban League.  W.E.B. Du Bois wrote afterwards that “No one who has heard Johnson and Gordon sing ‘Stand Still Jordan’ can ever forget its spell.”  
Sources: 
Taylor Gordon, Born to Be, With a New Introduction by Robert Hemenway (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1975).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Prosser, Gabriel (1775-1800)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gabriel Prosser was the leader of an unsuccessful slave revolt in Richmond, Virginia in 1800. Born into slavery around 1775, Gabriel Prosser was owned by Thomas H. Prosser of Henrico County, Virginia. Little is known of Prosser’s life before the revolt that catapulted him into notoriety. Prosser’s two brothers, Solomon and Martin and his wife, Nanny, were all owned by Thomas Prosser and all participated in the insurrection.

Gabriel Prosser at the time of the insurrection was twenty-four years old, six feet two inches, literate, and a blacksmith by trade. He was described by a contemporary as “a fellow of courage and intellect above his rank in life.” With the help of other slaves including Jack Bowler and George Smith, Prosser devised a plan to seize control of Richmond by killing all of the whites (except the Methodists, Quakers and Frenchmen) and then establishing a Kingdom of Virginia with himself as monarch.
Sources: 
Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts (New York: International Publishers, 1974); http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3p1576.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Bolin, Jane (1908-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture,
The New York Public Library
Jane Bolin was the first black women graduate of Yale Law School and the first black female judge in the United States. Bolin was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on April 11, 1908. From her earliest days in her father’s law office, Bolin knew she wanted to be an attorney. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1928 and earned her J.D. degree at the Yale Law School in 1931.

Bolin clerked in her father's law office until she passed the New York bar exam in 1932. She married fellow attorney Ralph E. Mizelle a year later, and together they opened up a practice in New York City. In 1937, Bolin was named Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of New York, serving on the Domestic Relation Court. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed Jane Bolin Judge of the Domestic Relations Court in 1939, where she served for 40 years. During her tenure with two other judges she achieved two major changes: the assignment of probation officers to cases without regard for race or religion, and a requirement that publicly funded private child-care agencies accept children without regard to ethnic background.
Sources: 
Jacqueline A. McLeod, “Persona non-grata: Judge Jane Matilda Bolin and the NAACP, 1930-1950,” Afro-Americans in New York and History, January 2005;  www.wellesley.edu/Anniversary/bolin.html
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Erving, Julius Winfield II (1950 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Julius Erving with the New York Nets
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Professional basketball player Julius Winfield Erving II, respected by teammates and the fans alike, is best known for his on-court flair and inventive movements, introducing the slam dunk into the game of professional basketball.  Erving, nicknamed “Dr. J,” was born on February 22, 1950 in Roosevelt, New York.  He began his professional career in the American Basketball Association (ABA) for the Virginia Squires (1971-1973) and later the New York Nets (1973-1976).  From 1976 to 1987 he played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Philadelphia 76ers.

While playing basketball at Roosevelt High School, Erving's teammates nicknamed him “The Doctor”, which later was changed to “Dr. J”.  Erving attended the University of Massachusetts for his college career under Coach Jack Leaman. After two years of NCAA College Basketball, Erving averaged 26.3 points and 20.2 rebounds per game.

In 1971, he left college and joined the Virginia Squires in the ABA. After two seasons with the Squires, Erving entered the NBA Draft where he was picked 12th by the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Erving tried to sign with the Atlanta Hawks but due to legal issues Erving was required to play another season in the ABA. The Virginia Squires sold Erving's contract to the New York Nets before the 1973 season.

Sources: 
Vincent Mallozzi, Doc: The Rise and Rise of Julius Erving (New York: Wiley, 2009); http://www.nba.com/history/players/erving_summary.html; http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/erv0bio-1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jones, Sissieretta (1869-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sissieretta Jones was a world-famous soprano who in June 1892, became the first African American to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City, New York. Touring internationally in the late 1800s and early 1900s, she sang both classical opera and performed in musical comedies with her own troupe.

Born Matilda Sissieretta Joyner on January 5, 1869, in Portsmouth, Virginia, she was the child of Jeremiah Joyner, a pastor, and Henrietta Joyner, a singer in the church choir. After moving with her family to Rhode Island when she was six, Sissieretta began singing in the church choir, which was directed by her father. When only fourteen, she married David Richard Jones, who became her first manager. Later, she formally studied voice at the Providence Academy of Music, the New England Conservatory, and the Boston (Massachusetts) Conservatory.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women (New York: Gramercy Books, 2000 edition); http://www.aaregistry.com.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jeffries, Jasper Brown (1912-1994)

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

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

Francis, Jacob (1754-1836)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jacob Francis Revolutionary War Pension Claim, 1834
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jacob Francis, Revolutionary War veteran, was born on January 15, 1754 in Amwell, New Jersey. His mother was African American and his father’s race was unknown. What is known of Francis’ childhood is found in the personal testimony included on his military pension application.

It is unknown if Francis was born free or into slavery, but as a child he was bound out to no fewer than five men before coming of age. His first indenture was with Henry Wambaugh, who then sold Francis’ time to Michael Hatt, who in turn sold the boy’s time to farmer Minner Gulick (1731-1804). When Francis was 13, Gulick sold his time to Joseph Saxton who, in May 1768, took the young man as his servant to New York, Long Island and then to the Island of St. John. In about November 1769, the two sailed to Salem, Massachusetts where Saxton sold the fifteen-year-old’s time to Salem resident Benjamin Deacon, with whom Francis remained until he turned 21 in January 1775.

Within a matter of weeks, the Revolutionary War erupted nearby. By October, Jacob Francis had enlisted as a private in the 8th Massachusetts Regiment, which became the 16th Continental Regiment under the command of Colonel Paul D. Sergeant. Jacob took the surname of one of his previous custodians upon enlistment, but later changed it after learning his surname from his mother.
Sources: 
Jacob Francis, Pension Application. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (Pension Number W459). (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1832); James P. Snell, History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey (Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1881); http://www.historyiscentral.org/HSI/case1C/JacobFrancis.pdf; http://goodspeedhistories.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Coleman, William T. Jr. (1920- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The Library of Congress
William T. Coleman, Jr., a prominent Republican lawyer and businessman, served as Secretary of Transportation under President Gerald Ford.  Born in 1920 to a middle class Philadelphia family, Coleman attended a segregated elementary school.  When he moved to Germantown High School he confronted racism as one of only seven blacks in the school.  Teachers thought his good grades would lead to a career as a chauffeur.  Coleman had other plans; he wanted to be a lawyer.

Coleman, an undergraduate member of Phi Beta Kappa, graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941.  He then entered Harvard Law School, but left after a year to join the United States Army Air Corps.  After World War II, Coleman returned to law school, and became the first African American to serve on the Harvard Law Review.  He graduated magna cum laude in 1946.  Initially no large law firms would hire Coleman because he was black, so he landed his first job as a United States appellate court law clerk.  In 1948 William T. Coleman became the U.S. Supreme Court’s first black law clerk.  He married Lovida Hardin in 1945.
Sources: 
“Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient William T. Coleman, Jr.,” http://www.medaloffreedom.com/WilliamTColemanJr.htm; Stuart Taylor Jr., “Man in the News; No Stranger to the High Court, New York Times, 20 April 1982, D21; Jay Horning, “A Passion for the Law that Never Waned,” St. Petersburg Times, 8 September 1996, A14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Nix, Robert Nelson Cornelius, Sr. (1898-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix, Sr. was born on August 9, 1905 in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where his father, Nelson, was dean of South Carolina State College. Nix graduated from Townsend Harris High School in New York City, and then from Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1921. In 1924, he received his law degree from University of Pennsylvania and began practice in Philadelphia the following year. Nix became active in Democratic politics and was elected a committeeman from the Forty-fourth Ward in 1932. From 1934 to 1938 he held a series of positions in a private law firm, in the Pennsylvania State Department of Revenue as special deputy attorney general, and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as special assistant deputy attorney general.  In 1956 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

After Representative Earl Chudoff resigned his Fourth Congressional District seat to become a Philadelphia judge, Nix defeated two opponents in a special election to fill the vacancy and was sworn on May 20, 1958.  Nix was the first African American to represent Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

Murphy, Carl (1889–1967)

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

Carl Murphy, publisher, was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 17, 1889.  In 1892, his father, John Henry Murphy edited and published the first issue of the paper the Baltimore Afro-American.  Murphy went to high school in Baltimore and after graduating attended Howard University receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1911. He then moved  to Harvard were he received his Masters in German in 1913, he continued his studies in Germany before returning to the United States to become an assistant professor at Howard University’s German department.

Murphy became editor of the Baltimore Afro-American due to the poor health of his father in 1918.  Later, after his father passed away in 1922 Murphy became the leader of one of the most influential African American publications in the United States. At the peak of its circulation the Baltimore Afro-American reached over 200,000 people, and Murphy helped the paper grow in size so that by the end of his time at the paper in 1961, it had expanded to cover Newark, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Richmond, Virginia.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, Ed., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Publisher Simon &
Schuster Macmillan, 1996); Black Press USA, December 5, 2008,
http://www.blackpressusa.com/history/GOG_Article.asp?NewsID=2049

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Greene, Beverly Loraine (1915-1957)

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hall, Prince (c. 1735-1807)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Prince Hall was an important social leader in Boston following the Revolutionary War and the founder of black freemasonry. His birth and childhood are unclear. There were several Prince Halls in Boston at this time. He is believed to have been the slave of a Boston leather worker who was granted freedom in 1770 after twenty-one years of service. He then opened a successful leather goods store, owned his house, was a taxpayer, and a voter. Hall supplied the Boston Regiment with leather goods and may have fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

In 1775, fifteen free blacks, including Hall, joined a freemason lodge of British soldiers. They formed their own lodge, African Lodge #1, when the British left. However, they were not granted full stature by the Grand Lodge of England until 1784. The actual charter arrived in 1787, at which time Hall became the Worshipful Master. Even though they had full stature, most white freemason lodges in America did not treat them equally. Hall helped other black Masonic lodges form. Upon his death in 1807, they became the Prince Hall Grand Lodges.  There are 46 lodges across the United States today.

Sources: 
“Prince Hall,” Africans in America. 1998. WGBH and PBS. 12 July 2006, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p37.html ; “Prince Hall,” Encyclopedia of Black America, Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981), p. 412; “Prince Hall,” Gale Bibliography Resource Center. 12 July 2006, http://www.gale.com/BiographyRC/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Abbott, Robert Sengstacke (1870-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Roi Ottley, The Lonely Warrior; The Life and Times of Robert S. Abbott (Chicago: Regnery Co., 1955);
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999);
http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/news_bios/defender.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Waller, John Lewis (1850-1907)

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

Sources: 
Randall Bennett Wood, A Black Odyssey: John Lewis Waller and the Promise of American Life, 1878-1900 (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1981); Clay Smith Jr., Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer 1844-1944 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999); "John Waller" in  Kansapedia, the Kansas Historical Society. May 2009, http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/john-waller/12232.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

James, Jane Elizabeth Manning (1813-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Jane Manning James Among Mormon Pioneers,
Salt Lake City, 1894
Image Courtesy of the Church Archives,
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Jane Elizabeth Manning was born in Wilton, Connecticut, one of five children of Isaac and Phyllis Manning, a free black family.  Although Jane was a member of the local Presbyterian Church, she remained spiritually unfulfilled until 1842 when she heard the message of a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/"Mormons").  Soon afterwards she joined the Mormon Church.  One year following her conversion, Jane Elizabeth and several family members who had also converted decided to move to Nauvoo, Illinois, the headquarters of the Mormon Church.  After traveling by boat to Buffalo, New York, the African American Mormons, unable to pay additional fares, began an eight-hundred-mile journey by foot to Nauvoo. In Nauvoo, Jane lived and worked in the home of Joseph Smith, Jr. the founder of the LDS Church and his wife, Emma.    
Sources: 
Ronald G. Coleman, “Is There No Blessing for Me?,” Jane Elizabeth Manning James, A Mormon African American Woman, in Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Moore Wilson, eds., African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Charles, Suzette (1963- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Suzette Charles (born Suzette De Gaetano), the second African American woman to hold the crown of Miss America, was born in Mays Landing, New Jersey on March 2, 1963. She is the daughter of Charles Gaetano, a businessman, and Suzette (Burroughs) Gaetano, a music teacher. Charles represented New Jersey in the September 1983 Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the time. Charles performed very well during the pageant competition. She won her preliminary competition in the talent division and finished first runner up to Vanessa Williams, Miss New York, who became the first black Woman to win the Miss America title on September 17, 1983.

When Williams was forced to relinquish the crown due to a scandal involving nude photographs, on July 24, 1984, Charles became the second black woman to wear the Miss America crown and fulfilled her duties for the remaining seven weeks of William's reign. This was the shortest time period served by any Miss America.
Sources: 
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); Susan Chira, “To First Black Miss America, Victory is a Means to an End,” New York Times, September 19, 1983, F10, A1.; http://www.missamerica.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Bruce, John Edward (1856-1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Edward Bruce was born into slavery in Piscataway, Maryland in 1856.  When Bruce was three years old his father was sold away to Georgia prompting young Bruce and his mother to escape to Washington, D.C. in fear of losing each other.  Bruce and his mother Martha resided with Martha's cousin Busie Patterson who was a body servant to Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton. This relationship with a powerful white congressman provided the Bruce family with opportunities and access to jobs in white upper-class communities. Martha Bruce, for example, obtained a job in Connecticut working closely with a white family. While in Connecticut, John Edward Bruce enrolled in an integrated school and received his first formal education. Traveling back to Washington, he received a private education and attended Howard University.
Sources: 
Ralph L. Crowder, John Edward Bruce: Politician, Journalist, and Self-trained Historian of the African Diaspora (New York: New York University Press, 2004);
http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/bruce.html; http://www.historicaldocuments.com/BloodRedRecord.htm
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mosley, Walter (1952- )

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

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

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

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

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

Walker, George Theophilus (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, George T. Walker

Winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music is one of the multitude of richly deserved tributes to composer, pianist, and educator George Theophilus Walker. His prolific career continues into his 90s with his commissioned Sinfonia No. 4 (Strands), premiered in 2012 by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

George Theophilus Walker was born June 27, 1922 in Washington, D.C. to George T. and Rosa Walker. His father emigrated from Jamaica and became a prominent physician. His mother began his obligatory piano lessons at five years old. He grew to love music and entered Oberlin School of Music at 14, receiving a B.M. degree with class honors in 1941.

Sources: 
George Walker, Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2009); Interviews by mosaicclassics, “George Walker, Composer,” State of the Arts, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Holder, Geoffrey Lamont (1930-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Geoffrey Lamont Holder, acclaimed choreographer and legendary figure in the dance world, was also a respected actor, Tony Award-winning director, costume designer, singer, music composer, voice-over artist, orator, painter, sculptor, and photographer.  Holder was born to a middle-class family in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on August 1, 1930.  His parents, Arthur Holder, a salesman, and Louise de Frense Holder, encouraged the artistic interests of each of their five children.  Holder’s siblings were Arthur (known as “Boscoe”), Jean, Marjorie, and Kenneth.
Sources: 
Jennifer Dunning and William McDonald, “Geoffrey Holder, Dancer, Actor, Painter and More, Dies at 84,” New York Times, October 6, 2014; http://www.guardian.co.tt/deathnotices/2013-10-01/boothman-marjorie-nee-holder; “Carmen and Geoffrey: (DVD) Directed by Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob, 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

de' Medici, Alessandro (1510–1537)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alessandro de' Medici, called “Il Moro” (“The Moor”), was born in the Italian city of Urbino in 1510. His mother was an African slave named Simonetta who had been freed. Alessandro’s paternity is uncertain.  Most sources name Lorenzo de' Medici, ruler of Urbino. But Alessandro might also have been the son of Pope Clement VII, the brother of Lorenzo II who became the head of the Medici family after Lorenzo's death.

Clement VII chose the nineteen-year-old Alessandro to become the first Duke of Florence in 1529. Pope Clement at that time was at odds not only with the Florentines who had driven out the Medici family in 1497, but also with the emperor Charles V. To solidify the allegiance that the papacy owed to the Holy Roman Empire, Alessandro was named Duke of Florence and promised the emperor's daughter Margaret. With the help of Charles V, Clement could restore the rule of the Medici family in Florence in 1530 and make Alessandro the first reigning Duke. Supported initially by the best families, Alessandro became an absolute prince, overthrowing the city’s’ republican government.
Sources: 
T.F. Earle and K.J. Lowe, Black Africans in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); J.A. Rogers, World's Greatest Men of Color, Volume II (New York: Macmillan, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

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

Senghor, Léopold Sédar (1906-2001)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Tyson, Mike (1966 - )

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

Michael Gerard Tyson was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1966. He was raised by a single mother in the slums of Brooklyn in what he described as awful living conditions, in poverty, and surrounded by peer pressure. By the time he was ten he had already developed a reputation as someone you didn’t want to tangle with, and he was cutting school, drinking, smoking, and robbing folks with his friends.

After numerous arrests Tyson was sent to a New York reform school for troubled juveniles. It was there that a former boxer, and then counselor and athletic coach, named Bobby Stewart took an interest in him and taught him how to box. Realizing Mike’s talent, Stewart arranged for him to meet with the trainer, Cus D’Amato. After watching the young boy spar D’Amato was convinced Tyson could one day become the heavyweight champion of the world. He became Tyson’s legal guardian, and an early parole was arranged. D’Amato was a big believer in the power of the mind, and he spent as much time passing along his personal philosophies to Tyson as he did the physical boxing skills.

D’Amato didn’t live to see the fulfillment of his vision, passing away on November 4, 1985, but the management team that he had put in place for Tyson, including co-managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, and the trainer, Kevin Rooney, carried out his plan. On November 22, 1986 Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history, at the age of 20 years.

Sources: 

Jose Torres, Fire & Fear. The Inside Story of Mike Tyson (New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1989); www.boxrec.com.   

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Delany, Henry Beard (1858-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Taylor, Robert Robinson (1868-1942)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Architect and educator Robert Robinson Taylor was the first African American to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  He is the father of architect and Chicago business leader Robert Rochon Taylor (1899-1957) and the great-grandfather of Valerie Jarrett (1956-  ), senior advisor to President Barack Obama (1961-  ). With a professional career as an architect and instructor that spanned four decades from 1893 to 1933, Taylor influenced generations of future African American architects in the United States.  

Robert Robinson Taylor was born on June 8th, 1868, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His father, a carpenter, and his mother were former slaves. Taylor’s earliest formal education occurred at Wilmington’s Williston School and the all-black Gregory Normal Institute (1868-1921), sponsored by the American Missionary Association (1846-?).  He entered MIT’s School of Architecture in 1888 and in 1892 was MIT’s first black graduate.
Sources: 
Dreck Spurlock Wilson, ed., African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004); Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee; Its Story and Its Work (Boston: Small, Maynard & Co., 1900); Clarence G. Williams, “From 'Tech' to Tuskegee: The Life of Robert Robinson Taylor,1868-1942,” http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/mithistory/blacks-at-mit/taylor.html; “MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections: An MIT Chronology” http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/timeline/index.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jeffrey, Hester C. (1842-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Hester Jeffrey, an organizer and activist who became involved in the women’s movement in the city of Rochester, New York, was born in Norfolk, Virginia around 1842. Jeffrey was the daughter of free parents Robert and Martha Whitehurst. In 1860 Jeffrey, along with her brother and sister, moved to Boston to live with their uncle Coffin Pitts. In 1865 she married Jerome Jeffrey, the son the Rev. Roswell D. Jeffrey, in Boston. Rev. Jeffrey was a political activist who stored the printing press of Frederick Douglass’s North Star in the basement of the Favor Street A.M.E. Church in Rochester, New York.  

Hester Jeffrey founded a number of local African American women’s clubs among the growing African American community in Rochester in the early 1890s. In 1897, Jeffrey was appointed to serve on the (Frederick) Douglass Monument Committee, to raise funds for a statue that was going to be erected in Rochester, New York, in the honor of Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, journalist, and champion of woman’s suffrage. After the commemoration of the Douglass Monument, Hester Jeffrey emerged as a leader in Rochester’s African American community. Jeffrey founded two women’s organizations, the Climbers and the Hester C. Jeffrey Club. The Jeffrey Club was an organization to raise funds for colored women to take classes at the Mechanics’ Institute (now called the Rochester Institute of Technology).

Sources: 
Ingrid Overacker, The African American Church Community in Rochester, New York, 1900-1940 (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1998); Rosalyn Penn-Terborg, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850- 1920 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: University of Indiana, 1998); Vicki Welch, Hester C. Whitehurst AKA Smith and Pitts, unpublished: March 14, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago

Hampton, Lionel L. (1908-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Billie Holiday and Lionel Hampton
at Metropolitan Opera House
Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

Lionel Leo Hampton, bandleader, jazz percussionist and vibraphonist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1908.  Hampton and his mother Gertrude moved to Chicago after the death of his father, Charles Hampton, a promising pianist and singer, in World War I.   At the age of 15 Hampton began his career as a drummer in the Les Hite Band.  The band relocated to Los Angeles in the late 1920s and became a regular attraction at the city’s Cotton Club. 

During a 193o recording session at NBC studios in Los Angeles Louis Armstrong and Hampton teamed to record jazz albums featuring Hampton on the vibraphone which would become his signature instrument.  By the mid-1930s the “King of Vibes” joined the Benny Goodman Orchestra which was one of the first racially integrated jazz acts.  By the 1940s Hampton left Goodman to form the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. 

Sources: 
Lionel Hampton with James Haskins, Hamp: An Autobiography (1989); Frank Tirro, Jazz: A History (1993); http://www.uidaho.edu/hampton/bio.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Hayes, Charles Arthur (1918-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
African American Congressman, Charles Arthur Hayes, will forever be remembered for his commitment to legislate equal rights for black labor workers.  After noticing racism aimed toward black workers in his hometown of Cairo, Illinois, Hayes moved to Chicago and started unionizing activities in 1942.  As a unionist, he helped end discriminatory hiring practices and improved job benefits for black laborers.  Hayes also was one of the first African American leaders to address the issues facing black women in Chicago’s African American community.  

During the 1950s he helped persuade the United Packinghouse Workers (UPWA-CIO), a major, predominately white union in Chicago, to establish its headquarters in the African American community, fought against segregated housing patterns, and raised money to prosecute the murderers of Emmett Till.  Hayes later worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) in the Chicago civil rights movement.  In the 1970s and 1980s he helped found the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), assisted Operation PUSH and supported the campaigns of two black Congressmen who were elected in the state of Illinois.  In August 1983, he himself was elected to Congress in a special election to fill the vacant seat created when Harold Washington was elected Mayor of Chicago.  Hayes served in Congress for ten years.  
Sources: 
Obituary of Charles Arthur Hayes, 1997: “Congressman Charles Hayes”; http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=Hooo388.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Granville, Evelyn Boyd (1924- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Evelyn Boyd was born in Washington, D.C. on May 1st, 1929, the second daughter of William and Julia Boyd.  Though she was raised by a single working class mother and attended segregated schools, Boyd became the second black woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics.  She credits the quality and dedication of the teachers at Dunbar High School who nurtured her interest in mathematics and science and prepared her for advanced study.  Boyd graduated as valedictorian and, with the help of her aunt and a scholarship, she enrolled in Smith College in 1941.  

At Smith, Boyd was one of a handful of black women on campus, though she claims not to have felt disadvantaged by her minority status.  She majored in mathematics but studied theoretical physics and astronomy as well.  In 1945, she graduated with academic honors, a summa cum laude designation, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  Evelyn Boyd earned scholarships from Smith and Yale that allowed her to continue her graduate studies the next fall.  At Yale, she studied with Dr. Einar Hille and earned her Ph.D. in the field of functional analysis in 1949.
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);  Evelyn Boyd Granville, "My Life as a Mathematician," Sage: A Scholarly Journal of Black Women 6:2 (1989). Retrieved from http://www.agnesscott.edu/LRIDDLE/WOMEN/granvill.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Porter Wesley, Dorothy (1905-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Constance
Porter Uzelac
Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995), a scholar-librarian and bibliographer was born in Warrenton, Virginia in 1905, to her father, Hayes Joseph Burnett, a physician, and her mother, Bertha Ball Burnett, a tennis champion.  After receiving her A.B., from Howard University in 1928, she became the first African American woman to complete her graduate studies at Columbia University receiving a Bachelors (1931) and a Masters (1932) of Science in Library Science.  

Dorothy Bennett joined the library staff at Howard University in 1928, and on December 29, 1929 married James Amos Porter. In 1930 University President W. Mordecai Johnson appointed her to organize and administer a Library of Negro Life and History incorporating the 3,000 titles presented in 1914 by Jesse Moorland.  The library opened in 1933 as the Moorland Foundation.  In 1946 Howard University purchased the Arthur Spingarn Collection.  By the time Porter retired in 1973 the library, which was now called the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, had over 180,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts and other primary sources.  Over 43 years, Porter had successfully created a leading modern research library that served an international community of scholars.  
Sources: 
Helen H. Britton, "Dorothy Porter Wesley; a bio-bibliographic profile" In American Black Women in the Arts and Social Sciences; a Bibliographic Survey. 3rd ed. (Metuchen, New Jersey: Greenwood Press, 1996); Dorothy Porter, “Fifty Years of Collecting.”  Introduction to: Black Access: A Bibliography of Afro-American Bibliographies by Richard Newman, Comp.  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1984)  pp. xvii-xxviii; "Dorothy Louise Burnett Porter Wesley (1905-1995)." http://www.dpw-archives.org, Thomas C. Battle, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. http://www.founders.howard.edu/moorland-spingarn/hist.htm
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Queen Latifah (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
  Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
Born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970 in Newark, New Jersey, Queen Latifah is the most influential woman in the history of rap music. The Muslim name "Latifah," which translates roughly to “delicate, sensitive and kind,” was adopted by Owens at the age of eight with help from a cousin.  

As a high school student Latifah began rapping with two friends under the moniker Ladies First. She also worked with the rap group Flavor Unit, and recorded a two song demo featuring Wrath of My Madness and Princess of the Posse. The demo reached Tommy Boy Records which promptly signed eighteen-year-old Latifah in 1988.

In 1989 Latifah added the "Queen" at the beginning of her name and released her first full-length album All Hail the Queen. The album was one of the first feminist hip-hop albums released.  Queen Latifah worked with an established rap pioneer KRS-One and future stars De La Soul.  The album featured a song called Ladies First, which referenced her first group and illustrated her soon to be trademark of unrelenting black feminist-centric rap.

Following her second album Nature of a Sista in 1991, Latifah founded the management company Flavor Unit Management which developed a number of upcoming groups including Naughty by Nature.
Sources: 

Simone Payment, Queen Latifah (New York: Rosen Publishing, 2006); Eleanora E. Tate, African American Musicians (New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2000).  

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bonga, Stephen (1799–1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of William L. Katz

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

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

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

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

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

Yergan, Max (1892–1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center,
National Museum of American History, Behring Center,
Smithsonian Institution
In a remarkable and controversial life, Max Yergan spanned both the globe and the ideological spectrum of American politics. An early champion of racial uplift and the social gospel in South Africa, Yergan transformed into a leading figure on the radical Black Left during the 1930s and 1940s, only to reincarnate once again as a ultraconservative anticommunist after 1950.

Yergan was born in Raleigh, NC in 1892 and given a strict Baptist upbringing by his grandfather, who also instilled in Max a deep fascination with Africa. While attending Shaw University, Yergan joined the campus chapter of the YMCA. In 1916 his life took a momentous turn when he embarked on a YMCA mission to India. His YMCA work eventually led him to South Africa, where would spend the better part of the next fifteen years rising in the YMCA hierarchy and acting as a liaison for a growing Pan Africanist movement in the United States and Europe. He was awarded the NAACP's Spingarn Medal in 1933.
Sources: 
Source:  David Henry Anthony III, Max Yergan:  Race Man, Internationalist, and Cold Warrior (New York:  NYU Press, 2006)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Travis, Geraldine Washington (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Montana Governor Thomas L. Judge Signing into Law
the first Bill Sponsored by Rep.
Geraldine Travis who is on the Right
Image Courtesy of Geraldine Travis
Geraldine W. Travis is the first African American elected to the Montana State Legislature House of Representatives.   She worked actively to promote civil rights for African Americans, women, and children, and to break down racial barriers in Montana from 1967 to 1989.

Geraldine Washington Travis was born in Albany, Georgia on September 3, 1931, the daughter of Joseph and Dorothy Washington.  She married Airman William Alexander Travis in Americus, Georgia in 1949 when he was stationed at nearby Turner AFB, Georgia.  William and Geraldine became parents of five children, three sons and two daughters, as they moved to various Air Force bases around the world. Geraldine Travis attended Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Sources: 
Jet Magazine, July 10, 1975; Great Falls Tribune, July 5, 1968; Ibid., November 4, 1976; Ibid., November 1980; Ibid., February 19, 2012; Ibid., March 2, 2012; Great Falls Pennant, November 9, 1974; Cascade County, MT, Abstract of Vote 1974-76.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fleming, Louise Celia “Lulu” (1862-1899)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Louise Cecelia Fleming, the first African American to graduate from the Women’s Medical College at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was born January 28, 1862 to slave parents on a plantation near Hibernia in Clay County, Florida.  Her father is unknown; she was raised by her mother who served as a maid in the plantation house.  As a child she travelled along with her owners and her mother to Jacksonville, Florida to attend Bethel Baptist Church, which in 1859 had a membership of 40 whites and 250 black slaves.  In 1865, immediately after the Civil War, the white and black members of the church separated and formed their own congregations.
Sources: 
Lulu C. Fleming, “A Letter from the Congo Valley,” Missionary Review of the World, n.s. 1 (1888): 207-209 in Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Sharon Harley and Andrea Benton Rushing, eds., Women in Africa and the African Diaspora (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1996); Joseph R. Moss, “The Missionary Journey of Louise 'Lulu' Fleming, M.D,” address given to the Florida Baptist Historical Society, May 4, 1996, found at http://www.floridabaptisthistory.org/docs/monographs/lulu_fleming.pdf; Donald Hepburn & Earl Joiner, “Lulu Fleming: The Daughter of a Florida Slave Who Served as a Medical Missionary,” Florida Baptist Witness, February 15, 2011, http://www.gofbw.com/print.asp?ID=12611; Gerald H. Anderson, ed., Dictionary of African Christian Biography, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Connerly, Ward (1939 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Fontaine, William Thomas (1909-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Pennsylvania

Merrick, John Henry (1859-1919)

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

John Henry Merrick insurance agent, entrepreneur, business owner was born in Clinton, North Carolina on September 7, 1859. Merrick was born a slave; he lived with his mother Martha Merrick and a younger brother. With the 1963 Emancipation Proclamation his family was freed. When Merrick was twelve he and his family relocated to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He got a job as a helper in a brickyard which provided support for his family. At the age of eighteen Merrick moved to Raleigh, North Carolina where he began work as a hod carrier.  Merrick eventually became a brick mason and worked on the construction of Shaw University in Raleigh.  

Merrick also worked as a shoe shine boy in a barbershop. When he was not shining shoes he watched and learned the trade of barbering. In 1880 his friend, John Wright, asked Merrick to join him in relocating in Durham, North Carolina to start a new barbershop business. After six months Merrick bought shares in the barbershop and became its co-owner. In 1892 Wright sold his shares to Merrick making him sole proprietor. Eventually Merrick owned eight barbershops in Durham.  Responding to the prevailing racial segregation patterns, Merrick owned shops that catered exclusively to black and white customers.

Sources: 

Walter B. Weare, Black Business in the New South: A Social History of
the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company
(Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 1973); Andrews, R. McCants “John Merrick. A
Biographical Sketch: Electronic Edition”
http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/andrews/andrews.html;  "John Henry Merrick,"
in Jessie Carney Smith, Millicent Lownes Jackson and Linda T. Wynn,
eds., Encyclopedia of African American Business (Westport, Conn:
Greenwood Press, 2006)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carson, Andre (1974 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Andre Carson Congressional Website, http://carson.house.gov; Reuters,http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN1164415020080312
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Jones, Quincy Delight, Jr. (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. was born in Chicago's South Side on March 14, 1933 but grew up in Bremerton and Seattle, Washington.  While in elementary school Jones picked up the trumpet, and his skill with the instrument led him to receive a scholarship to Berklee College of Music.  However, he dropped out of Berklee after he was given an offer to go on the road with bandleader Lionel Hampton.  After his time with Hampton, Jones began work as a freelance arranger.  He also traveled the world with the Dizzy Gillespie band as well as Harold Allen's jazz musical Free and Easy.  Jones then settled in New York and went to work for Mercury Records.  Jones advanced at Mercury and in 1964 he became the first African American to hold the position of vice president of a white-owned record company.

During the 1960s and 1970s Jones worked as a social activist, supporting such programs as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Operation Breadbasket in Chicago.  He also joined the board of Rev. Jesse Jackson's People United to Save Humanity (PUSH).  Jones also helped form the Institute for Black American Music in an effort to bring more appreciation to African American music and culture.
Sources: 
Gerald Early, "Quincy Jones: The Story of an American Musician," American Masters.  PBS.org, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/jones_q.html ; Quincy Jones, The Autobiography of Quincy Jones (New York, New York: Doubleday, 2001); "Quincy Jones Biography," The Academy of Achievement: A Museum of Living History.  2006. http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/jon0bio-1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Atkins, Hannah Diggs (1923-2010)

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

 

Sources: 
Paul English, “One Shot Transforms Woman’s Life,” The Sunday Oklahoman, November 28, 1999; Hannah Diggs Atkins Obituary, http://www.newsok.com/first-black-woman-elected-to-oklahoma-house-dies/article/3469633.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Northwestern Oklahoma State University

Jackson, Mahalia (1911-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Quintessential gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, born on October 26, 1911 to an impoverished family in New Orleans, Louisiana, was immediately exposed to the mélange of musical styles brimming from the city.  Though influenced by jazz and blues, she was drawn to gospel music and firmly established herself as a gospel singer.  Her father was a Baptist minister, and she sang fervently in the gospel choir after moving to Chicago as a teen.   

In 1929, Jackson met legendary composer Thomas A. Dorsey and toured with him for fourteen years.  She used her commanding contralto voice to move her audiences in the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia.  She met Indira Gandhi while performing in India, and performed for two U.S. presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.  Her mighty voice became part of the Civil Rights Movement, for she sang at the historic March on Washington and at the funeral of her friend, Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the 1950s, Mahalia Jackson performed at Carnegie Hall and at the Newport Jazz Festival, becoming the first gospel performer to do so.  She was a Grammy award winner and was inducted into both the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Months after collapsing at her final performance in Munich, Germany, she died in Chicago at the age of 60.
Sources: 
Laurraine Goreau, Just Mahalia, Baby: The Mahalia Jackson Story (Waco: World Books, 1975); www.galegroup.com/free_resources/bhm/bio/jackson_m_htm
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

McDaniel, Hattie (1895-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Hattie McDaniel Receives Oscar at the
Academy Awards Ceremony, 1940
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hattie McDaniel is best known as the first black Oscar winner.  She won the award on February 29, 1940, for Best Supporting Actress for her role as “Mammy” in Gone With the Wind. McDaniel's career began three decades earlier.  She gave her first public performances as a grade school student in Denver, Colorado. Her father, Henry McDaniel, traveled through Colorado with his own minstrel show, but would not allow his daughter to accompany him and her brothers Otis and Sam.  McDaniel was allowed to perform locally with the traveling minstrel shows staged at East Turner Hall in Denver.  In 1910, when she won the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s recitation contest with her rendition of “Convict Joe.”  The audience gave her both a standing ovation and the Gold Medal.  Although only a sophomore, McDaniel insisted that she wanted to perform and convinced her parents that she should quit school to join her father’s show.  She developed a talent for writing songs and dancing.  She also had an excellent singing voice.   
Sources: 
Carleton Jackson, Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel (Lanham, New York: Madison Books, 1990); Thomas L. Riis, Just Before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890 to 1915 (Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Malcolm X (1925-1965)

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

Malcolm X, one of the most influential African American leaders of the 20th Century, was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925 to Earl Little, a Georgia native and itinerant Baptist preacher, and Louise Norton Little who was born in the West Indian island of Grenada.  Shortly after Malcolm was born the family moved to Lansing, Michigan.  Earl Little joined Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) where he publicly advocated black nationalist beliefs, prompting the local white supremacist Black Legion to set fire to their home.  Little was killed by a streetcar in 1931. Authorities ruled it a suicide but the family believed he was killed by white supremacists.

Sources: 
Robert L. Jenkins and Mafanya Donald Tryman, The Malcolm X Encyclopedia (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002); Eugene V. Wolfenstein, The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Karl Evanzz, The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992); Malcolm X with Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Grove Press, 1965).   
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Shakur, Tupac (1971-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Tupac Shakur, the son of two Black Panther members, William Garland and Afeni Shakur, was born in East Harlem, New York on June 16, 1971, and named after Jose Gabriel Tupac Amaru II, an 18th century political leader in Peru who was executed after leading a rebellion against Spanish rule. Tupac's parents separated before he was born.  At the age of 12 Shakur performed in A Raisin in the Sun with the 127th Street Ensemble. Afeni and Tupac later moved to Baltimore, Maryland where he entered the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts as a teenager.  While at the school, he began writing raps and poetry.  He also performed in Shakespearian plays and took a role in The Nutcracker. 
Sources: 
Jonathan Jones, Tupac Shakur Legay (New York: Atria Books, 2006; Jacob Hoye, Tupac: Resurrection (New York: Atria Books, 2003; Jonathan Jones, "Tupac Comes to Life for Bay Area Teens". Northgate News Online, U.C.-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Nov. 18, 2003. Retrieved from http://journalism.berkeley.edu/ngno/stories/001588.html on Apr. 9, 2006; "Rapper Is Sentenced To 120 Days in Jail". New York Times. April 5, 1996;.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Archer, Dennis (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Alston Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.answers.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jacobs, Alma S. (1916-1997)

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

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

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

Barnett, Ferdinand Lee (1864?-1932)

Vignette Type: 
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

Williamson, Lisa AKA Sister Souljah (1964- )

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

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

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

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

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

Harrison, Hubert Henry (1883-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Photographs and Prints
Division, Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture, The New York Public Library, 
Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

Hubert Henry Harrison, author, lecturer, editor, and labor leader, was born in Concordia, St. Croix, Danish West Indies (now United States Virgin Islands) on April 27, 1883.  Upon the completion of his elementary schooling in 1900, he moved to New York City, New York.  There he took on various service-oriented positions, including that of telephone operator and hotel bellman.  Beginning in 1901 he attended an evening high school program, finishing at the top of his class in 1907.  After graduation Harrison became a postal clerk. 

Sources: 
Louis J. Parascandola, “Look for Me All Around You,” Anglophone Caribbean Immigrants in the Harlem Renaissance (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005), pp. 131-34; Jeffrey B. Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ulysses Grant Lee, Jr. (1913-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

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

Robinson, Frank (1935- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Jackson, Lisa Perez (1962-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency
Lisa Perez Jackson, the first African American Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), brings a wealth of experience to that agency.  A scientist by profession, she has spent more than 20 years working as an advocate for the better use and awareness of the environment.

Jackson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 8, 1962, and was adopted two weeks after her birth.  She grew up in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, which became infamous during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Her adoptive mother continued to live in New Orleans until the hurricane flooded the city.  Jackson, who had planned to become a doctor, instead switched her studies to engineering and graduated summa cum laude with a BS in chemical engineering from Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering in 1983.  She received a masters degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1986. Jackson was one of only two women in her engineering class at Princeton.

Sources: 
Biography, Administrator Lisa Jackson (2009), United States Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/administrator/biography.htm; "Lisa P. Jackson," Encyclopedia Britannica Online (2009) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1502192/Lisa-P-Jackson; “Another woman scientist on the Obama team: Lisa Perez Jackson of the EPA,” Women in Science: Past, Present, and Future, (February 23, 2009) http://sciencewomen.blogspot.com/2009/02/another-woman-scientist-on-obama-team.html;
“Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet,” The Library of Congress Webcasts (March 5, 2009), http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4536; Twenty-five Most Influential African Americans in Politics, BET.com (2009) http://www.bet.com/NR/exeres/E23833F3-7E28-43AE-9F06-3838EC3B5813.htm
Affiliation: 
University of Wyoming

Ashe, Arthur (1943-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Arthur Robert Ashe Jr., legendary tennis player, human rights activist, and educator, was born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Arthur Sr. and Mattie Cunningham Ashe.  At the age of four, he began playing tennis at Brook Field, a black-only park where his father worked as caretaker.
Sources: 
ArthurAshe.org, http://www.arthurashe.org/; Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersand, Days of Grace: A Memoir (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993); Herbert G. Ruffin, “Arthur Ashe” in Matthew Whitaker, Icons of Black America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2011); Richard Steins, Arthur Ashe: A Biography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Steward, Theophilus Gould (1843-1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Theophilus G. Steward, African Methodist Episcopal minister, U.S. Army chaplain, and historian, was born 17 April 1843 in Bridgeton, New Jersey.  Publicly educated, he entered the ministry in 1864 and immediately sought to “go South.”  His wishes were granted in May 1865 and he departed for South Carolina where he married Elizabeth Gadsen after a short courtship.  Under the direction of Bishop Daniel Payne, Steward assisted in the establishment of AME churches in South Carolina and Georgia for the next seven years.  Between 1882 and 1891, Steward performed missionary work in Haiti and served as a pastor in Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Sources: 
Frank N Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldiers II: New and Revised Biographies of African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866-1917 (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004); Steward, Fifty Years in the Gospel Ministry (electronic edition hosted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001 <http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/steward />); Steward, The Colored Regulars in the United States Army (New York, New York: Arno Press, 1969).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Turner, Nat (1800-1831)

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

Nathaniel “Nat” Turner was born in Southampton County, Virginia on October 2, 1800, the son of slaves owned by Benjamin Turner, a prosperous farmer. Taught to read by the son of his owner, Turner studied Christianity which he interpreted as condemning slavery. Turner also began to believe that God had chosen him to free his people from slavery. He soon became known among fellow slaves as “The Prophet.”

Turner was sold to slaveholder Joseph Travis in 1830. Less than a year after the sale, Turner received what he assumed was a sign from God when he witnessed the eclipse of the sun. After sharing this experience with a few close friends, they began to plan an insurrection. While still planning the uprising, Turner saw that the color of the sun had changed to a bluish-green, which he believed was the final sign to initiate the uprising. With this confidence, Turner and seven other slaves moved forward with their plans. They first murdered the entire Travis family and eventually fifty whites in the futile effort to incite a general slave uprising. Only 75 slaves and free blacks joined the rebellion.

Sources: 
Kenneth S. Greenburg, ed., Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nat_Turner; http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASturner.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

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

Robertson, Oscar Palmer (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 

Professional basketball player Oscar Palmer Robertson, nicknamed the “Big O,” was known as the most complete basketball player, with an excellent combination of scoring, passing, and rebounding skills. He still owns the record for most triple-doubles in a career with 181. Robertson played with the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks in the National Basketball Association (NBA) most of his professional career.

Robertson was born on November 24, 1938 in Charlotte, Tennessee. He grew up in poverty in Indianapolis and attended Crispus Attucks High School, then a segregated all-black school.  As a high school basketball player he led Crispus Attucks to two Indiana State Championships (1955-1956) during his junior and senior years and was named Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball.”

After high school he enrolled at the University of Cincinnati and made a major impact in college basketball, winning the scoring title and being named an All-American and College Player of the Year in each of his three seasons (1957-1959). After college, Robertson played for the 1960 United States Olympic basketball team.  He was named the co-captain of the USA team along with Jerry West and led them to an Olympic gold medal.  

Sources: 
Oscar Robertson, The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game (New York: Bison Books, 2010); Randy Roberts, “But They Can’t Beat Us!”: Oscar Robertson and the Crispus Attucks Tigers  (Urbana, IL: Sagamore Publishing, 1999); http://www.nba.com/history/players/robertson_summary.html; http://www.thebigo.com/AboutOscarRobertson/biography.php
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Russell, Edwin Roberts (1913-1996)

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

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

Wooten, Howard A. (1920-1948)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives
Tuskegee Airman Howard Adolphus Wooten was born on April 20, 1920 in Lovelady, Texas to parents Johnnie C. Morris Wooten and Howard L. Wooten.  His father was the principal of the “colored school” in Lovelady, a town 100 miles north of Houston, and his mother also was a teacher there.

Howard A. Wooten grew up on a farm near Lovelady and in 1937, at age 17, he entered Prairie View College on a football scholarship.  His main interest, however, was in aviation and he attempted to enroll in flight training programs.  His father objected because he didn’t think airplanes were safe and because he wanted his son to finish college.

Wooten dropped out of Prairie View College in 1940 and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private assigned to a Field Artillery unit.  He rose through the ranks, becoming a Staff Sergeant in the 46th Field Artillery Brigade by January 1942.

Now 24, and no longer needing his parent’s permission to enter flight training programs, he applied to the Army Flight School at Tuskegee, Alabama in 1944 and graduated in December of that year.  After graduation he was assigned to the 15th USAAF Brigade as a fighter pilot, in the 332nd Fighter Group.
Sources: 
Obituary of Howard A. Wooten published after his death in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, August 1948; conversations with his brothers Hayes L. Wooten, Octavius Wooten (deceased) and A.G. Wooten and his widow, Josephine A. Stokes.
Contributor: 

Thomas, Piri (1928-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Suzie Dod Thomas
Author and activist Piri Thomas became one of the first Americans of Puerto Rican descent to win literary acclaim when he published his 1967 memoir Down These Mean Streets.  Born John Thomas to Cuban and Puerto Rican parents on September 30, 1928 in Harlem, Thomas spent the first years of his life in extreme poverty.  His father lost his job during the Great Depression and worked on public relief.  When Thomas was a teenager, his parents became more prosperous and the family moved to Long Island.

The move was hard on Thomas, who had inherited his father’s dark skin.  He felt isolated from his light skinned sister and brothers.  His Long Island schoolmates regarded him as black and harassed him for dating white girls.  When he was sixteen, Thomas left his family and returned to Harlem.  There he began to use drugs and eventually became a heroin addict.  He also befriended African Americans, and began to grapple with the racial status society imposed on him.  This grappling led him to tour the South with a black friend.  He would later recall being forced to give up his seat in the front when their bus crossed the Mason Dixon line at the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.  
Sources: 
Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets (New York: Vintage Books, 1967, 1997); Eugene Mohr, “Piri Thomas: Author and Persona,” Caribbean Studies 2 (1980): 61-74.; Ilan Stavans, “Race and Mercy: A Conversation with Piri Thomas,” The Massachusetts Review 37 (1996): 344-354; Telephone Interview with Suzie Dod Thomas by Tisa Anders, June 12, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mfume, Kweisi (Frizzel Gray) (1948 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Kweisi Mfume was born as Frizzel Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on October 24, 1948, the eldest of four children.  Gray experienced a troubled childhood with the abandonment of his father and death of his mother as well as economic instability, but made a successful return to his academic studies in 1971.

Gray legally changed his name to Kweisi Mfume, “conquering son of kings”, in the early 1970s.  He obtained his GED, and began his studies at the Community College of Baltimore, where he served as the head of its Black Student Union and the editor of the school newspaper. He attended Morgan State University in Baltimore where he graduated magna cum laude in 1976 with a Bachelor of Urban Planning degree. Mfume then received an M.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1984.

In 1979 Mfume was elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1979.  While on the city council, Mfume helped enact legislation which divested Baltimore of investments in companies doing business in South Africa.

In 1985 when Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District Representative Parren J. Mitchell announced his retirement from Congress, Kweisi Mfume ran for the seat the following year and was successful in both the primary and general election.  
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990); www.bioguide.congress.gov; M. Elizabeth Paterra, Kweisi Mfume: Congressman and NAACP Leader (Berkeley Heights, N.J: Enslow, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Nascimento, Abdias do (1914 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

de Souza, Matthias ( ? -- ? )

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Cosby, Bill (1937-- )

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Powell, Adam Clayton, Jr. (1908-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Charles V. Hamilton, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of An American Dilemma (New York: Athenaeum, 1991); Will Haygood, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Hayes, Roland (1887-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

The son of former slaves, Roland Hayes, born June 3, 1887 in Curryville, Georgia, became the first African American male to become an internationally acclaimed concert vocalist.  As a youth, he sang in his Baptist church and on street corners for tips before attending Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee where he performed and toured with the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers, an experience that eventually landed him in Boston.  Working odd jobs, by 1915 Hayes had saved up enough money to rent Boston’s Symphony Hall and give his first recital to an audience stunned by his masterfully executed selection of Negro spirituals, lieder and arias by Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart.  Continuing to act as his own promoter and manager, Hayes next toured the United States and England where in 1920 he performed for King George V and Queen Mary and studied lieder with Sir George Henschel. 

Returning to the United States in 1922, Hayes was flattered by glowing reviews following concerts in Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, and at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.  He took additional voice lessons and there were several more tours of Europe, including a stop in the Soviet Union and a command performance for Queen Mother Maria Christina of Spain.  A rather brutal racial incident in 1942 in Rome, Georgia involving Hayes and his family persuaded him to leave his home in the segregated South.

Sources: 
MacKinley Helm, Angel Mo and Her Son, Roland Hayes (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1942);  American National Biography. Vol. 10. Oxford University Press, 1999. Internet Source: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?path=/TheArts/Music/Classical/IndividualArtists-2&id=h-1671
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Winfrey, Oprah (1954 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Repeatedly on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, Oprah Winfrey is a television host, media mogul – in television, radio, film, and print – and philanthropist.  Forbes magazine included her in its 2003 list of America’s billionaires, the first African American woman to become one.

The “Oprah Winfrey Show” is in its 22nd season, and is syndicated to 214 United States stations, and 139 countries. Launched in April 2000, O, The Oprah Magazine, has a current circulation of 2.3 million monthly readers, and is considered one of the most successful magazine launches in publishing history. In 2004, a companion publication, O at Home, made its debut.  
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, Facts on File, Inc., p. 277 (New York, 1997); William Andrews, et al., The Concise Oxford Guide to African American Literature, Oxford University Press, pp. 31, 209-12, 389, 444 (New York, 2001); www.oprah.com; www.biography.com; www.achievement.org; www.freshthinkingbusiness.com/oprah-winfrey 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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.  

Brown was born to a white father and enslaved mother on a plantation outside of Lexington, Kentucky, most likely in 1814.  He spent his childhood and much of his young adult life as a slave in St. Louis, Missouri working a variety of trades.  Brown slipped away from his owner's steamboat while it was docked in Cincinnati and thereafter declared himself a free man on New Year’s Day 1834.  Shortly thereafter he was taken in and helped to safety by Mr. and Mrs. Wells Brown, a white Quaker family. William would adopt their names in respect for the help they provided him.   

William Wells Brown settled briefly in Cleveland, Ohio where he married a free African American woman.  They had two daughters.  Later Brown moved his family to Buffalo, New York where he spent nine years working both as a steamboat worker on Lake Erie and a conductor for the Underground Railroad.  
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

Vincent, Marjorie (1964- )

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

Marjorie Judith Vincent, the fourth African American to be crowned Miss America, was born on November 12, 1964 in Oak Park, Illinois. She was Miss America 1991. Vincent is the daughter of Lucien and Florence Vincent of Cap Haitien, Haiti. Vincent’s parents migrated to the United States in the early 1960s and Marjorie was the first of their children to be born on American soil. During her youth, Vincent attended Chicago catholic schools and took piano and ballet lessons. In the mid 1980s she entered DePaul University as a music major, eventually switching to business in her third year and graduating in 1988. The money she earned from beauty pageants enabled her to fund her education.

After failing to win twice at the state level, once as Miss North Carolina and as Miss Illinois, the third time was the charm as she became Miss Illinois 1990.  Winning at the state level allowed her to move on to the national competition in Atlantic City. During the September 1990 pageant she performed the Fantaisie-Impromptu (Op.66) by Chopin. Vincent wowed the audience with her proficiency and went on to win the crown of Miss America 1991. She succeeded another black woman, Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990. Her victory marked the first time there were back-to-back black Miss Americas.

Sources: 
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); Valerie Helmbreck, “Miss America’s Changing Face,” Wilmington News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) September 18, 1990; Lynn Norment, “Back- to- Back Black Miss America’s,” Ebony, December 1990, 46-49, http://www.missamerica.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

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

Seacole, Mary Jane (1805 –1881)

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

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

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

Tomlinson, Maurice (1971- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Maurice Tomlinson is one of the most well-known gay rights activists in the world. He is an attorney-at-law, law lecturer, journalist, and HIV/AIDS and LGBTI (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered Intersexual) activist in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Sources: 
Maurice Tomlinson, “Violent prejudice against Jamaica’s gay people must stop,” The Guardian (January 27, 2012); “Jamaica—For gay activist, Maurice Tomlinson, country ‘disappoints and surprises,’” Actup.Org News (March 9, 2012), http://actup.org/news/jamaica-for-gay-activist-maurice-tomlinson-country-disappoints-and-surprises/; http://www.aidsfreeworld.org/; Interview with Maurice Tomlinson by Tisa M. Anders, February 2, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mendoza, Vanessa (1981- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
At the age of 20 Vanessa Mendoza was crowned Miss Colombia 2001. Although Afro-Colombians comprise 10.6% of Colombia’s population, this was the first year the title ever went to an Afro-Colombian beauty. Mendoza said she entered the Miss Colombia contest to represent her tiny village of Ungia, in the impoverished northern region of Choco [state], the only state in the nation that has a predominantly black population.  She won praises from the judges for her spontaneity and charisma. At her first press conference she said, "I always demonstrated that I came to the world to speak for my race and my State."

The Miss Colombia Festival, the Concurso Nacional de Belleza, has been held since the mid-1960s. There is an alternative competition held at the same time called the Reinado Popular de Cartagena, which often selects women with darker skin. In 2001 the winner of that contest was Claudia Esther Guerrero Zapata.  Mendoza, however, decided to compete for the national crown in the Miss Colombia Festival.
Sources: 
“First Afro-Colombian Miss Colombia 2001-2001,” www.afrocolombianosvisibles.blogspot.com, August, 2010; “New Miss Colombia, Vanessa Alexandra Mendoza Bustos, is the first African-descent winner,” www.theotherlookofcolombia.com, November 12, 2001.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hannibal, Abram Petrovich \ Gannibal, A. P. (1696?–1781)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sold into Turkish slavery, Abram Petrovich Hannibal was brought as a black servant to Czar Peter I, known as Peter the Great. He became one of the royal favorites, a general-in-chief, and one of the best educated men in Russia in his era. His great-grandson was Alexander Pushkin, the famous Russian writer who later glorified the deeds of his black ancestor in his book, The Negro of Peter the Great.

Hannibal was born on an unknown date around 1696 in the principality of Logon in present day Cameroon. Abducted by a rival ethnic group, Hannibal was sold to Turkish slave traders who brought him to Constantinople in 1703. As an eight-year-old boy he was brought to the court of Peter the Great who adopted him immediately. Being the Czar's godson, Hannibal assumed his name, Petrovich, and became his valet on Peter's various military campaigns and journeys. When the Czar visited France in 1716, Hannibal was left behind in Paris to study engineering and mathematics at a military school. Two years later, he joined the French army and fought in the war against Spain. In January 1723, Hannibal finally returned to Russia.
Sources: 
Hugh Barnes, Gannibal: The Moor of Petersburg (London: Profile Books, 2005); Allison Blakely, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1986); N. K. Teletova, “A.P. Gannibal: On the Occasion of the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Alexander Pushkin's Great-Grandfather,” Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness, Ed. Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, Nicole Svobodny, and Ludmilla A. Trigos (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg (Germany)

Factor, Pompey (1849–1928)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Pompey Factor, former slave, scout for the United States Army and Congressional Medal of Honor winner, was born in Arkansas in 1849 to Hardy Factor, a black Seminole chief and an unknown Biloxi Indian woman.

By the end of that 2nd Seminole War (1835-1842), most of the Seminole Indians and runaway slaves were captured and removed to the Indian Territory. The fear of enslavement drove many black Seminole to Mexico in the 1850s. Factor’s family was among those who emigrated.
On August 16, 1870, Factor enlisted in the Army and was assigned the rank of private with the Detachment of Seminole Negro Indian Scouts who worked with the Twenty-fourth Infantry, an all-black regiment. As a scout, he performed reconnaissance duties in Texas for the Army, tracking the movements of Comanches, Apaches, Kiowa and other Native Americans who refused to go to reservations.

Sources: 
Katz, William Loren, Black People Who Made the Old West, (Trenton, NJ: African World Press, 1992); The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture www.encyclopediaofarskansas.net/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Moore, Frederick Randolph (1857-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Garnet, Sarah J. Smith Tompkins (1831-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet was the first African American female principal in the New York public schools.  The eldest of eleven children, she was born Minsarah Smith in Brooklyn in 1831.  Her parents, Sylvanus and Ann Smith, were prosperous farmers of African, European, and Native American ancestry.  Sarah S.T. Smith was the older sister of Susan Smith McKinney Steward (1847-1918), the first African American female in New York state to graduate with a medical doctorate (M.D.).

Sources: 

Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1992); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York:  W.W. Norton, 1982).

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Davis, Ernie (1940-1963)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Williams, Serena (1981 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Five-time world No. 1 ranked professional tennis player Serena Williams was born September 26, 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan. Formerly coached by parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price, Williams is the younger sister of former world No. 1 professional tennis player Venus Williams.

Williams, the youngest of five siblings, grew up in Compton, California where she began to play tennis at the age of four. At the age of nine, Williams and her family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida where she dominated the field of junior tennis competitors. She joined the professional ranks in 1995. Four years after her debut, Williams established herself as a top-ranked player when she won the U.S. Open, the Grand Slam Cup, and three other Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) singles titles. By 2003, Williams was known as “Serena Slam,” winning singles at the Australian Open, again at the U.S. Open, and twice at Wimbledon, in addition to fourteen other WTA singles titles. During this stretch from 1999 to 2003, Williams won five Grand Slam titles, and in 2002, was ranked world No. 1 for the first time.
Sources: 
Venus Williams, 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.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Montgomery, Isaiah T. (1847-1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Isaiah Thornton Montgomery was an African American leader best known for founding the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi and for his public endorsement of black disenfranchisement.  Montgomery was born enslaved on May 21, 1847 to Benjamin Thornton and Mary Lewis Montgomery on the Hurricane Plantation at Davis Bend, an area along the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Hurricane Plantation was owned by Joseph E.
Sources: 
http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/55/isaiah-t-montgomery-1847-1924-part-I; Leon Litwack and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991); David H. Jackson, A Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine: Charles Banks of Mississippi (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Wright, Louis T. (1891-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Cullen, Countee (1903-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Gerald Early, ed., My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen, Voice of the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Anchor Books, 1991); David Levering Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981); Alden Reimonenq, “Countee Cullen’s Uranian ‘Soul Windows,’” in Critical Essays: Gay and Lesbian Writers of Color, ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson (New York: The Haworth Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at Austin

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; 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.

Jackson’s parents and teachers recognized her natural talent for science and nurtured her interest from a young age.  In 1964, after graduating as valedictorian from her high school, Jackson was accepted at M.I.T., where she was one of very few women and even fewer black students.  Despite discouraging remarks from her professors about the appropriateness of science for a black woman, she chose to major in physics and earned her B.S. in 1968.  Jackson continued at M.I.T. for graduate school, studying under the first black physics professor in her department, James Young.  In 1973, she earned her Ph.D.
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

Whipple, Dinah (c.1760-1846)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the Era of Dinah Whipple
Image Ownership: Public Domain
At the time of her death in1846, Dinah Whipple was the revered teacher of African American children in Portsmouth, New Hampshire but she was identified more prominently, at least according to the local white newspaper editor, as the widow of Prince Whipple. Prince had served in the Revolutionary War when he was the slave of William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  On February 22, 1781, the same day that Dinah reached her 21st birthday and was freed by her owner, she married Prince. It was not until 1784 that Prince became a free man.  He died in 1796 at the age of 46.  Dinah and Prince Whipple had seven children.    

Dinah Whipple was widely known and respected by both black and white residents of the region. Like her husband, Prince, Dinah had grown up as an enslaved servant in one of the most affluent and refined households of the southern New Hampshire and Maine seacoast.  While Prince served as the major-domo at elegant social events in the city, Dinah was behind the scenes employing her domestic skills to further ensure the success of such occasions.
Sources: 
Charles W. Brewster, Rambles About Portsmouth (1859; reprint, Somersworth, NH: New Hampshire Publishing Company, 1971); Mark Sammons and Valerie Cunningham, Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage (Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2004).
http://www.seacoastnh.com/Black_History/Black_History_of_the_Seacoast/First_Blacks_of_Portsmouth%2C_Part_2/2/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

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

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

Johnson, John Harold (1918-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Arkansas City, Arkansas on January 19, 1918, publisher, philanthropist, businessman, entrepreneur, John H. Johnson became the leading 20th Century publisher of African American news magazines. Johnson moved to Chicago in 1932 where he attended school and graduated with honors in 1936.  He attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern University but did not complete his degree. Over his lifetime, Johnson received numerous honorary degrees, including five doctorates.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Glasrud and Laurie Champion, "Ebony," in Encyclopedia USA, edited by Donald W. Whisenhunt, vol. 25, 139-143 (Gulf Breeze, Florida.: Academic International Press, 1998); A. James Reichley, “How John Johnson Made It,” Fortune 77 (January, 1968), 152-153; 178-180; John H. Johnson, Succeeding Against the Odds ( Chicago: Amistad Publishing, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pittman, Tarea Hall (1903-1991)

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

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

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

Coleman, Ornette (1930- )

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

Waldon, Alton Ronald, Jr. (1936–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of 
Representatives Photography Office
Alton Ronald Waldon Jr. was the first African American Congressman elected from Queens, New York.  Waldon was born in Lakeland, Florida on December 21, 1936. He attended Boys High School in Brooklyn, New York and after graduation in 1954 joined the United States Army.  Discharged in 1959 Waldon attended John Jay College in New York City where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1968.  He received a J.D. from New York Law School in 1973.

While still in college Waldron joined the New York City Housing Authority’s police force in 1962 and served until 1975 when he was appointed deputy commissioner of the State Division of Human Rights. He also served as assistant counsel for the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

In 1982 Waldon was elected to represent the Thirty-third District in the New York Assembly, where he served until his election to Congress.

On April 10, 1986, Sixth District Congressman Joseph Addabbo died in office.  In the special election that followed in June, Waldon defeated Floyd H. Flake, a prominent African Methodist Episcopal Church minister, and was sworn into Congress on June 10, 1986. He was seated on the Committee of Education and Labor and the Committee on Small Business.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) http://bioguide.congress.gov/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Adu, Freddy (1989-- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coachman, Alice Marie (1923-2014)

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

Alice Coachman became the first African American woman from any country to win an Olympic Gold Medal when she competed at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, UK. Born November 9, 1923, in Albany, Georgia, to Evelyn and Fred Coachman, Alice was the fifth of ten children. As an athletic child of the Jim Crow South, who was denied access to regular training facilities, Coachman trained by running on dirt roads and creating her own hurdles to practice jumping.

Even though Alice Coachman parents did not support her interest in athletics, she was encouraged by Cora Bailey, her fifth grade teacher at Monroe Street Elementary School, and her aunt, Carrie Spry, to develop her talents. After demonstrating her skills on the track at Madison High School, Tuskegee Institute offered sixteen-year-old Coachman a scholarship to attend its high school program. She competed on and against all-black teams throughout the segregated South.

Sources: 

http://www.alicecoachman.com; Jennifer H. Landsbury, “Alice Coachman: Quiet Champion of the 1940s,” Chap. in Out of the Shadows: A Biographical History of African American Athletes (Fayetteville, The University of Arkansas Press, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Carson, Julia May Porter (1938–2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Julia May Porter Carson, one of the first African American women to represent Indiana in Congress, was born Julia May Porter on July 8, 1938. She was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but in her early childhood she moved with her mother to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Carson would spend the remainder of her life.  Porter's single mother, Velma, worked as a domestic and Julia as a child worked part-time waiting tables, delivering newspapers, and harvesting crops to supplement the family income.

In Indianapolis, Carson attended Crispus Attucks High School, at the time a segregated school, along with future basketball star Oscar Robertson. She later studied at Martin’s University in Indiana, and attended Indiana University in Bloomington.   

Married early in life, Carson and her husband divorced leaving her to raise two children as a single mother.  In 1965 Carson left college to work as a secretary for the United Auto Workers but switched career paths in the 1960s when newly elected Indiana Representative Andrew Jacobs, Jr., hired her to work in his office. This would prove a fateful career move as in 1972 Jacobs encouraged Carson to run for the Indiana legislature. She won the campaign and held her first elective office.  
Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=400067, Civic Impulse, LLC; http://www.nndb.com/people/101/000035993/, Soylent Communications (2009); http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/c000191/, Washington Post Company, (2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Jordan, Michael J. (1963- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Michael Jordan in the Air
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Michael Jordan, National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar, was born February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of James R. and Deloris Jordan. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. Jordan became a standout athlete at Laney High School despite being rejected for the school’s varsity basketball team the first season he tried out. He grew four inches taller over the following year, made the team and became an All-American during his senior year at Laney.

Jordan played college basketball at the University of North Carolina where under coach Dean Smith’s tutelage he established a reputation as a clutch player when he made a game winning shot against Georgetown in the 1982 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game. This reputation would follow him into the NBA when he left school before his senior year to play professionally for the Chicago Bulls.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University-Fresno

Luper, Clara (1923-2011)

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

Clara Mae Luper was born in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, to Ezell and Isabell Shepard on May 3, 1923.  She attended all-black schools and was bussed several miles to Grayson High School where she graduated in a class of five.  After graduating from the segregated Langston University, Luper became the first African American student to enroll in the history department at the University of Oklahoma, earning a master’s degree in 1951.

Luper was one of the early leaders in the civil rights movement in Oklahoma during the 1950s.  She taught history in various Oklahoma City public schools for forty-one years and became the sponsor of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council.  In 1958, working with this group, she led the earliest “sit-ins” in Oklahoma and some of the first in United States.  Through these protests she and other civil rights activists succeeded in integrating many public facilities in Oklahoma City and across the state by 1964.

Sources: 
Linda W. Reese, “Clara Luper and the Oklahoma City Civil Rights Movement,” in Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Moore, eds., African American Women Confront the West: 1600-2000 (Norman, OK:  University of Oklahoma Press, 2003); “Oklahoma Civil Rights Icon Clara Luper Dies at 88,” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110609/ap_on_re_us/us_obit_luper.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Beauchamp, Henry (1933-2013)

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

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

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

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

Affiliation: 
Independent Historians

Collins, Marva (1936- )

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

Marva Collins was born in Monroeville, Alabama to Bessie and Henry Knight where her father, who had an indelible impact on her, was one of the richest black men in town.  She attended segregated schools, and contrary to many views, these institutions were often places where students received a superior education that was rooted in high expectations and community support.  To this end, Collins developed her well-noted teaching philosophy and approach directly from her teachers in segregated settings.  Building on the communal expectation for educational excellence she graduated from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia then taught two years in Alabama before teaching 14 years in Chicago.

Sources: 
Marva Collins and Civia Tamarkin, Marva Collins’ Way (Los Angeles: J.P. Teacher, Inc. 1982); http://www.marvacollinspreparatory.com/history.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Grimke, Angelina Weld (1880-1958)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Angelina Weld Grimke was born into a legacy of advocacy for racial justice. As the daughter of Archibald Grimke, the second black to graduate from Harvard law and vice-president of the NAACP, Grimké’s heritage of racial equality can be further traced to her grand aunts, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, prominent abolitionists and advocates of women’s rights.

Upon graduating the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics (now Wellesley College) in 1902, Angelina embarked on a career teaching English in Washington, D.C. that would last until 1926. It is during her teaching career that she begins to write.  Her poetry, short stories and essays were published in The Crisis, Alain Locke’s The New Negro, in Countee Cullen’s Caroling Dusk and in Robert Kerlin’s Negro Poets and Their Poems.

Sources: 

Carolivia Herron, Selected Works of Angelina Weld Grimke (London: Oxford University Press, 1991); http://www.dclibrary.org/blkren/bios/grimkeaw.html

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wattleton, Alyce Faye (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
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

Catlett, Elizabeth (1915-2012)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Elizabeth Catlett and Husband Francisco Mora,
ca. 1950
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Elizabeth Catlett Mora was a prominent black political expressionist sculptor and printmaker in the 1960s and 1970s. Catlett was born to John and Mary Catlett who were public school teachers in Washington, D.C.  She was the youngest of three children. After graduating from Dunbar High School in the District of Columbia in 1933, she studied design and drawing at Howard University, also in Washington, D.C. She graduated cum laude in 1935, after changing her major to painting and studying with Lois Mailou Jones among other art professors. In 1940, Catlett became the first student to receive a master’s of fine arts in sculpting from the University of Iowa.

Sources: 
Melanie Herzog, Elizabeth Catlett; Elizabeth Catlett: in the image of the people (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2005); http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aaworld/arts/catlett.html; http://www.sculpture.org/documents/catlett/cat_special.shtml.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Parks, Rosa (1913-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Revered as one of the most influential people of the twentieth century, Rosa Parks is best known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956.  Parks was born on February 4, 1913 to Leona and James McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama.  Leona worked as a teacher and James as a carpenter.  Parks was schooled by her mother until the age of 11 when she moved to Montgomery with an aunt and started attending the Montgomery Industrial School for girls.  She even took a job as a janitor to support her private school education.  Though Parks began to attend Alabama State Teacher’s College High School, she dropped out to care for ill family members.
Sources: 
Edna Chappell McKenzie, “Rosa Parks” in Black Women in America: Social Activism, edited by Darlene Clark Hine (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1997); Lisa Hill, “Rosa Parks” in African American Women: a Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993); Rosa and Raymond Parks Institution for Self Development http://www.rosaparks.org/bio.html (accessed November 11, 2007); E.R. Shipp, “Rosa Parks, 92, Founding Symbol of Civil Rights Movement Dies,” New York Times, October 25, 2005; Patricia Sullivan, “Bus Ride Shook a Nation's Conscience,” Washington Post, October 25, 2005; Andrea James, “Rosa Parks Biography,” PBS NewsHour, October 25, 2005, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/remember/july-dec05/parks_biography.html (accessed December 29, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lomax, Louis Emanuel (1922-1970)

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

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

Dixon, William James ["Willie"] (1915-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Willie Dixon was a pioneering Chicago blues musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, producer, and philanthropist.  He was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1915 to Anderson Bell and Daisy Dixon, was married to Marie Booker, and had 12 children (five with wife Marie, and seven with Eleanora Franklin).  His grandchildren include blues musician Alex Dixon.
Sources: 
Robert Palmer, Deep Blues (New York: Penguin Group, 1981); Gayle Dean Wardlow, Chasin’ That Devil Music (San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Barnett, Claude Albert (1889-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Photography by Vincent Saunders, Jr.,
courtesy of the Chicago History Museum,
ICHi-16314.

Claude Albert Barnett, entrepreneur and founder of the Associated Negro Press (1919-1967), was born in Sanford, Florida to William Barnett and Celena Anderson. At nine months he was brought to Mattoon, Illinois to live with his maternal grandmother.  Barnett grew up in Illinois, attending schools in Oak Park and Chicago.  In 1904 he entered Tuskegee Institute.  Two years later in 1906 he received a diploma and was granted the Institute’s highest award. 

Following graduation Barnett returned to Chicago and became a postal worker.    Through his new employment he read numerous magazines and newspapers.  Fascinated by the advertisements, in 1913 Barnett began reproducing photographs of notable black luminaries, which he sold through advertising in African American newspapers.  By 1917 Barnett had transformed this endeavor into a thriving mail-order enterprise. 

Sources: 
Lawrence D. Hogan, A Black National News Service, The Associated Negro Press and Claude Barnett, 1919-1945 (Cranbury: Associated University Presses, 1984); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); The Chicago Defender (August 3, 1967, p. 2), obituary.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Downing, Henry Francis (1846-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Henry Francis Downing was an author, playwright, consul and sailor. He was born in New York City in 1846, the son of Henry and Nancy Downing. His family maintained an oyster business that had been owned by his grandfather, Thomas Downing, a well known freeman.  His uncle was famed New York businessman and civil rights leader, George Thomas Downing.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Jeffrey Green, “Future Research,” Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Autumn, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Perry, Christopher J. (1854-1920)

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

Christopher J. Perry, a pioneering black businessman who championed racial equality, established the Philadelphia Tribune in 1884.  The Tribune is the oldest continuously published African American newspaper in the nation.

Perry was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 11, 1854 to parents who were free. He attended school there despite sub-standard conditions in the local segregated schools. Eventually, when he was still very young, he moved to Philadelphia. With a desire to continue his education Perry took night classes in the city, and perhaps motivated by memories of the deplorable conditions his early education, he studied diligently.

In 1867 when he was fourteen, Perry began writing irregularly for local newspapers. His articles were praised highly by educated men of the city and he met with success even at this early stage of his journalism. In 1881 he began writing for the Northern Daily, a Philadelphia newspaper.  Eventually he became editor of the Colored Department in another Philadelphia newspaper called The Sunday Mercury.

Sources: 

Irvine Garland Penn, The Afro-American Press and Its Editors, (New York: Wiley & Co. 1891); Charles Pete Banner-Haley, "The Philadelphia Tribune and the Persistence of Black Republicanism During the Great Depression," Pennsylvania History 65:2 (Spring 1998): pp 190-202.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Kirk, Ronald (1954-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ronald "Ron" Kirk is the U.S. Trade Representative for U.S. President Barack Obama.  Kirk was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 18, 2009, and officially sworn in two days later.  Kirk is the 16th trade representative and the first African American to hold the Cabinet-level post.  As trade representative, he serves as the president's principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson.  He is also responsible for the development of U.S. trade policy and the oversight of existing trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Kirk was born in 1954 in Austin, Texas.  He received a BA degree in political science and sociology from Austin College in 1976 and then went on to the University of Texas Law School where he received a J.D. three years later. While attending law school, he accepted an internship with the Texas Legislature.  After graduating, Kirk worked for Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas as an aide and later was appointed Texas Secretary of State by Texas Governor Ann Richards, also a Democrat.

In 1995, Kirk, in his first bid for public office and with major support from the local business community, ran for mayor of Dallas, Texas.  He won a landslide victory, securing 62% of the vote to become mayor.  During his mayoral campaign, Kirk promoted racial harmony in a city that had experienced considerable racial tension.
Sources: 
“United States Representative Ron Kirk,” Office of the United States Trade Representative, http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/biographies-key-officials/united-states-trade-representative-ron-kirk; Alston Hornsby Jr., and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots (Montgomery, AL: E-Book Time LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bontemps, Arna (1902-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hoping for a much better life outside the racially oppressive South and Alexandria, Louisiana where Arnaud Wendell Bontemps was born, the middle class Bontemps family moved to the Watts community just south of Los Angeles.  They soon abandoned Catholicism and became devout Seventh Day Adventists.  Bontemps’ mother was a schoolteacher and his father, a bricklayer, was determined to have the family assimilate into the dominant white culture.  In 1923, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College, an Adventist school in California, and found work in the US Post Office.  He next used his church connections to secure a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City in 1924.
Sources: 
Kirkland C. Jones, Renaissance Man from Louisiana: A Biography of Arna Wendell Bontemps (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992); Robert E. Fleming,“ Arna Wendell Bontemps (1902-1973): http://www.blacksdahistory.org/arna-bontemps.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Guerrero, Vicente (1783-1831)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Vicente Guerrero was born in the small village of Tixla in the state of Guerrero.  His parents were Pedro Guerrero, an African Mexican and Guadalupe Saldana, an Indian. Vicente was of humble origins. In his youth he worked as a mule driver on his father’s mule run.  His travels took him to different parts of Mexico where he heard of the ideas of independence. Through one of these trips he met rebel General Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. In November 1810, Guerrero decided to join Morelos. Upon the assassination of Morelos by the Spaniards, Guerrero became Commander in Chief. In that position he made a deal with Spanish General Agustin de Iturbide.
Sources: 
Theodore G. Vincent, The Legacy of Vincente Guerrero: Mexico’s First Black Indian President (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001); Lane Clark, “Guerrero Vicente,” Historical Text Archive.  http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&amp;artid=563.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Whipper, William (1804-1885)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 William Whipper was born in Little Britain, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on February 22, 1804. Whipper was best known for his activities promoting the abolition of slavery, temperance and “moral suasion” which he defined as the power of non-violence as the most effective way to eradicate racism in America. Whipper’s philosophy of non-violence rested on two principles. “First, to be non-violent reflected humanity’s divine essence.
Sources: 
The Columbia Spy, August 4, 1866, Jan. 29, 1870, courtesy of Lancaster Historical Society; Donald Yacovone, “The Transformation of the Black Temperance Movement, 1807-1854: An Interpretation,” Journal of Early Republic, 8:3 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 281-297; and Tunde Adeleke, “Violence as an option for Free blacks in Nineteenth-Century America,” Canadian Review of American Studies, 35:1 (2005), pp.87-107.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

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

McRae, Carmen (1920-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of James Kriegsmann
Carmen McRae, a jazz singer and songwriter, was born on April 8, 1920 in Harlem, New York.  Her father, Oscar McRae, and her mother, Evadne, immigrated to the United States from Costa Rica and Jamaica.  Oscar McRae owned a health club at the McAlpin Hotel in Harlem.  McRae learned to play piano at a young age and she won an amateur singing contest at the Apollo Theatre around 1939.  As a teenager she befriended musician and songwriter Irene Kitching, who helped McRae become involved in the Harlem jazz scene.  McRae graduated from Julia Richman High School in 1938.  She achieved her first notoriety the following year when she wrote the song “Dream of Life” and Billie Holiday recorded it for the Vocalion/Okeh label.
Sources: 
Leslie Gourse, Carmen McRae: Miss Jazz (New York: Billboard Books, 2001); Robbie Clark, “Carmen McRae,” in Black Women in America, second edition, ed. Darlene Clark Hine (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Barry Kernfeld, “Carmen McRae,” African American National Biography, vol. 5, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Coffey, Cornelius R. (1903-1994)

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

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

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

Fuller, Charles Henry, Jr. (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Center for Program in
Contemporary Writing, University of Pennsylvania
  
Charles Fuller was born on March 5, 1939 to parents Charles H. Sr. and Lillian Anderson Fuller of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Fuller was the oldest of three children, but would see his parents welcome some twenty foster children into their home over the years.  Fuller attended Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School and graduated in 1956.  During his high school years, Fuller spent countless hours in the school library, and competed with a friend, Larry Neal, to become the first to read every book in the school’s collection.  This experience helped spawn Fuller’s dream of becoming a writer.   

After graduation from high school, Fuller attended Villanova University in Pennsylvania between 1956 and 1958.  He then enlisted in the U. S. Army and spent the next four years stationed in Japan and Korea.  Fuller returned to civilian life in 1962 and in August of that year he married Miriam A. Nesbitt.  
Sources: 
Thadius M. Davis and Trudier Harris, eds., Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 38: Afro-American Writers After 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1985); www.whyy.org/about/pressroom/documents/CharlesFullerbio.doc 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gray, William Herbert, III (1941–2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Office of
Representative Gray

William Herbert Gray III was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 20, 1941. His mother, Hazel Yates Gray, was a high school teacher. His father, William Herbert Gray Jr. was a Baptist Minister and over his career, the president of two Florida colleges. Upon taking a job as pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, William H. Gray Jr. moved his family to the Philadelphia area. Following in his father’s footsteps, Gray became an assistant pastor of a church in Montclair, New Jersey, after graduating from Franklin and Marshal College in 1963. Gray received a master of divinity degree in 1966 from Drew Theological School. He became senior minister at his church that same year.  In 1970, Gray earned a degree in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. As a Baptist minister Gray became involved in the fair housing campaign in New Jersey.  In one instance Gray successfully sued a landlord who had refused to rent to him because of his race.

After his father died in 1972, William Gray returned to Philadelphia and became the minister of Bright Hope Baptist Church. Four years later, Gray made his first run for Congress in 1976, campaigning on his experience of promoting fair housing. He lost to incumbent Pennsylvania Congressman Robert Nix in the Democratic Primary but won his second bid in 1978 ending Nix’s 20 year tenure in Congress.   

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; "Gray, William Herbert, III," in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr, eds.,  Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition. Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0002/e1710;
“William H. Gray, III Bio and Photo,” The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., http://www.ncccusa.org/news/2000GA/gray.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cardozo, William Warrick (1905-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William Warrick Cardozo, physician and pediatrician, was a pioneer investigator of sickle cell anemia and a leader in medical research of problems affecting people of African descent.

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

Drew, Charles R. (1904-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Charles R. Drew, a renowned physician and medical researcher and the first black surgeon examiner of the American Board of Surgery, revolutionized medicine by creating a system that allowed the immediate and safe transfusion of blood plasma.

Born on June 3, 1904 in Washington, D.C. to Richard T. Drew and Nora Burrell, Drew grew up in the city. He attended Dunbar High School, where his excellence in academics and athletics earned him an athletic scholarship to Amherst College in Massachusetts.

After graduating from Amherst in 1926, he worked as Director of Athletics at Morgan College. In 1929, he attended medical school at McGill University in Canada, where he studied with Dr. Beattie and developed his interest in blood storage just before he graduated in 1933. In 1935, Drew returned to Washington D.C. to become a professor at Howard University’s medical school.

Sources: 

Spencie Love, One Blood: The Death and Resurrection of Charles R. Drew (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Chrisanne Becker, 100 African Americans who Shaped American History: Charles R. Drew (San Francisco: Blue Wood Books, 1995).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Shuttlesworth, Fred (1922-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n14_v86/ai_15710236, http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/about_king/encyclopedia/carey_archibald.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Greene, Lorenzo Johnston (1899-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Lorenzo J. Greene and Arvarh E. Strickland, Working with Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History: A Diary, 1928-1930 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989); Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, The Early Black History Movement, Carter G. Woodson, and Lorenzo Johnston Greene (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); John H. McClendon, Perspectives: The Contributions of Black Missourians to African American History (Columbia, Mo: Black Culture Center, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bell, James ["Cool Papa"] (1903-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Thomas Bell was born May 17, 1903, in Starkville, Mississippi. Playing baseball as a 19 year-old rookie Bell earned the nickname “Cool Papa” after proving to his older teammates that he was not intimidated by playing professionally in front of large crowds. Signing with the St. Louis Stars in 1922, Bell entered professional baseball as a pitcher, reportedly throwing a wicked curveball and fade-away knuckleball.

The speed of Bell would become apparent when he beat the Chicago American Giants Jimmy Lyons in a race for the title of “fastest man in the league.” He immediately switched to center field, where he would play shallow and always manage to run down long hits. Bell stayed with the Stars until 1930 when the league disbanded, and led them to league titles in 1928 and 1930.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, Marian (1897-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Anderson, Eddie "Rochester" (1905-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born September 18, 1905 in Oakland, California, Eddie Anderson's career as an entertainer began at the age of 14 when he teamed up with his brother Cornelius in a song-and-dance act.  Anderson's career continued onto the silver screen where he had parts in movies such as What Price Hollywood? (1932) and Green Pastures (1936), although it was not until 1937 when he appeared as a railway porter on The Jack Benny Program that Anderson truly got his big break. Though he was initially slated as only having a one-shot role, Anderson was so well received that he was offered the part of "Rochester Van Jones," Jack's valet.

"Rochester" turned out to be Anderson's most popular role by far, and he continued with it until 1965 when The Jack Benny Program was taken off the air.  "Rochester" was not Anderson’s only role during this time; he also kept on in movies and can be found in such films as Gone with the Wind (1939), Cabin in the Sky (1943), and It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).
Sources: 
William Barlow, Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999); Radio Hall of Fame Inductee Biographies, "Eddie Anderson" http://www.museum.tv/rhofsection.php?page=162.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Atlanta Daily World, W.A. Scott & C.A. Scott (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
C.A. Scott, Editor of the Atlanta Daily World
Image Courtesy of Photos by Griff Davis
William Alexander Scott II, the founder of the Atlanta Daily World newspaper, was born in 1902 in Edwards, Mississippi. Scott, who was educated at Morehouse College around World War I, initially began publishing a business directory in Atlanta. However, he was interested in encouraging conversation and interaction among the black residents of Atlanta so, with the encouragement of black business owners in the city, he began to publish the Atlanta Daily World on August 5, 1928.  At the time Scott was 26.

The Atlanta newspaper began as a weekly paper, gradually publishing on a bi-weekly basis by 1930. On March 13, 1932, the newspaper went into daily distribution, becoming the first African American paper in the nation to achieve that status. With the closure of the Atlanta Independent the following year, the Daily World became the black community's sole newspaper.
Sources: 
Atlanta Daily World website, www.atlantadailyworld.com; "Soldiers Without Swords, The Black Press, Newspapers: The Atlanta Daily World," http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/news_bio/newbios/nwsppr/atlnta/atlnta.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Crenchaw, Milton Pitts (1919- )

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arkansas Baptist College

Walls, Josiah Thomas (1832–1905)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
First elected to the Congress in 1870, Josiah T. Walls became Florida’s first elected African American Congressman. Walls was born a slave in Winchester, Virginia on December 30, 1842.  He was conscripted by the Confederate Army and captured in Yorktown by Union forces in 1862.  Walls then enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiment in 1863 where he rose in rank to First Sergeant.  Prior to his discharge from the Army in 1865, Walls married Helen Ferguson of Newnansville, Florida

After leaving the U.S. Army Walls settled in Alachua County, Florida and became active in local politics.  After passage of the U.S. Military Reconstruction Act of 1867, Walls joined the newly formed Republican Party in Florida.  He was an elected delegate to the 1868 state constitutional conventions and shortly afterward was elected to the lower house of the State Legislature in 1868.  He advanced to the State Senate representing the 13th District, which was mostly Alachua County, in 1869.  
Sources: 
Maurice Christopher, Americas Black Congressman (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1971); http://inst.sfcc.edu/~stuorg/bsu/FEB2004/josiahwalls.html
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Wilson, Frederica (1942- )

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

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

Talley, André Leon (1949-)

Vignette Type: 
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

Clyburn, James Enos (1940– )

Vignette Type: 
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

Haralson, Jeremiah (1846–1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library Of Congress
Jeremiah Haralson was born near Columbus, Georgia on April 1, 1846. The slave of Georgia planter John Haralson, he was taken to Alabama where he remained in bondage until 1865. It is unclear as to what he did in the earlier years of his freedom, but there are records that suggest he may have been a farmer and clergyman. Haralson taught himself to read and write and later became a skilled orator and debater.

In 1868, Haralson made his first unsuccessful attempt for a seat in the Forty-first Congress, representing Alabama’s First District of Alabama.  Two years later he won a seat in Alabama’s House of Representatives and in 1872 was elected to the State Senate.  In 1874 Haralson again ran for the U.S. House of Representatives.  Haralson narrowly won the Republican primary over Liberal Republican Frederick G. Bromberg.  Soon after the primary Bromberg accused Haralson of voter fraud and sought to deny him his seat.  The Democrats who controlled the U.S. House of Representatives supported Haralson and on March 4, 1875 he took his seat in Congress.   
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress
http://bioguide.congress.gov/ ; Biographical Directory of Jeremiah Haralson
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hayes, Isaac (1942-2008)

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

Academy Award-winning composer and musician Isaac Hayes, Jr. was born to Isaac Sr. and Eula Hayes on August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee. Hayes began his career at the age of 20 when he joined Stax Records as a studio musician. By the late 1960s he was a songwriter/producer, crafting hit singles for Sam and Dave and other Stax acts.

A year after emerging as a solo artist, Hayes’s debut album Hot Buttered Soul (1969) took soul music in a new direction – incorporating spoken segments (he called raps), fewer, longer songs accompanied by orchestras, and eccentric album covers that featured what was to become Hayes’s signature shaved head and gold chains upon his bare chest.

Although his success in the music industry continued with his follow up album Black Moses, Hayes simultaneously pursued a film and television career. In 1971, Hayes created the score for the film Shaft. Recording the sound track in just four days, Shaft rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Chart and garnered a Grammy and an Academy Award for Best Song and Best Score in 1972, making Hayes the first African American composer to win an Oscar. He also appeared in films such as Shaft (1971); Truck Turner (1974), his only starring role.

Sources: 

Isaac Hayes Biography, http://www.filmreference.com/film/84/Isaac-Hayes.html; “Isaac Puts Chef Behind Him,” New York Post, January 24, 2007; The Vancouver Sun (12 August 2008); http://www.isaachayes.com/myframes.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Allen, William G. (1820- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Nineteenth-century lecturer and educator William G. Allen endured physical violence and barely escaped murder when he proposed marriage to the daughter of a white minister in upstate New York.  Their relationship later was the inspiration for a story about interracial love by author Louisa May Alcott, herself an abolition sympathizer.  

Born in Virginia in 1820, the son of a free mulatto mother and a Welsh father, Allen was orphaned as a young boy and adopted by a free African American family. His academic talents were noticed by New York philanthropist Gerrit Smith, who sponsored his education at the Oneida Institute, a progressive interracial school in upstate New York.  Allen graduated in 1844 and became editor of the National Watchman, a temperance and abolitionist paper for African Americans, and then clerked for the Boston law firm of Ellis Gray Loring.  While in Boston, he lectured on African American history and argued for a complete blending of the races.

Sources: 

Richard J. Blackett, “William G. Allen, The Forgotten Professor,” Civil
War History
, 26, 39-52 (March 1980); Sarah Elbert, The American
Prejudice Against Color
(Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002);
Jack A. Garraty, American National Biography, Vol. 1 (New York: Oxford
Press, 1999); Jack Salzman, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture
and History, Volume 1
(New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Menard, John Willis (1838-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Willis Menard, abolitionist, author, journalist and politician, was born in 1838 in Kaskaskia, Illinois, to French Creole parents. He was the first African American elected to Congress, but was not seated after a dispute over the election results. Menard attended Iberia College, an abolitionist school in Iberia, Ohio.  

Twenty-two year old Menard expressed his abolitionist views in his widely read 1860 publication, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois. During the Civil War, he became the first African American to serve as a clerk in the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.  While there, President Abraham Lincoln dispatched him to research British Honduras (now Belize) as a possible colony for the African American population. 

Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008); "John Willis Menard," Notable Black American Men Book II (Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2006); John Willis Menard, Lays in Summer Lands, edited by Larry Eugene Rivers, Richard Matthews, & Canter Brown, Jr. (Tampa, FL: University of Tampa Press, 2002); John Willis Menard, Black and White. No Party—No Creed: A Lecture. (Philadelphia, no date); John Willis Menard, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois (no city, ca. 1860).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Bishop, Maurice (1944-1983)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Gantt, Harvey Bernard (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Harvey B. Gantt, architect and politician, was born January 14, 1943 in Charleston, South Carolina to Christopher and Wilhelmenia Gantt.  In 1961, Gantt attended Iowa State University.  After one year of study, he returned to South Carolina and soon afterwards sued to enter racially segregated Clemson University.  On January 16, 1963, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Clemson to admit Gantt who became its first African American student.  He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Clemson with honors in 1965. In 1970, Gantt earned a M.A. in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During the 1970s Gantt worked at various architectural firms in Charlotte, North Carolina where he settled after receiving his degree from MIT. Between 1970 and 1971 he collaborated with civil rights activist Floyd B. McKissick to design Soul City, North Carolina, an experimental interracial community in eastern North Carolina.  In 1971 Gantt left the Soul City project, returning to Charlotte to launch an architectural firm with Jeffrey Huberman.  Some of the firm’s projects include the construction of the Charlotte Transportation Center, Transamerica Square, and First Ward Recreation Center.

Sources: 
M.L. Clemons, "The Mayoral Campaigns of Harvey Gantt: Prospect and Problems of Coalition Maintenance in the New South," Southeastern Political Review 26:1 (1998): B. Yeoman, "Helms Last Stand?  Harvey Gantt Tries Again to Beat the Senate's Last Reactionary," The Nation 263:11 (1996); H. Lewis Suggs, "Harvey Gantt and the Desegregation of Clemson University, 1960-1963," in Skip Eisiminger, ed., Integration with Dignity (Clemson: Clemson University Digital Press, 2003);  <http://www.clemson.edu/caah/cedp/gantt/pdfs/004.pdf>; Peter Applebome, “Carolina Race is Winning the Wallets of America,” New York Times, October 13, 1990; <http://www.scafricanamerican.com>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Williams, Daniel Hale (1856-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Daniel Hale Williams III was a pioneering surgeon best known for performing in 1893 one of the world’s first successful open heart surgeries.  Williams was born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania to Sarah Price Williams and Daniel Hale Williams II.  Following the death of his father, Williams lived with family friends in Baltimore, Maryland, and with family in Illinois, from 1866 to 1878 where he was a shoemaker’s apprentice and barber until he decided to pursue his education.  In 1878, Williams’s interest in medicine began when he worked in the office of Henry Palmer, a Wisconsin surgeon.
Sources: 
http://www.biography.com/people/daniel-hale-williams-9532269?page=2; http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/danielwilliams.html; http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-chicagodays-heartoperation-story,0,4001788.story; http://www.providentfoundation.org/history/index.html; http://www.providentfoundation.org/history/williams.html; Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (eds.), Africana: Encyclopedia of The African and African American Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Darlene Clark Hine (ed.), The African-American Odyssey (New York: Prentice Hall, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

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

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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


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

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

Jackson, Maynard, Jr. (1938-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The great-grandson of slaves, Maynard Jackson, Jr. was born in Dallas, Texas, on March 23, 1938.  His father, Maynard Jackson, Sr., was a leading figure in the 1930s campaign for black voting rights in Dallas and a founder of Democratic Progressive Voter’s League in 1936.  His mother, Irene Dobbs Jackson, was a professor of French at Spelman College who desegregated the Atlanta city library system.  His aunt Mattiwilda Dobbs was the first African American to sing at the La Scala Opera in Milan, Italy.  When Maynard was seven years old his father, a clergyman, moved the family to Atlanta, Georgia, where he assumed pastorship of the Friendship Baptist Church.
Sources: 
Gary Pomerantz, Where Peachtree Street Meets Sweet Auburn (New York: Scribner’s, 1996); “Former Atlanta Mayor Dies,” Michigan Daily, June 23, 2003; New Georgia Encyclopedia, “Maynard Jackson, 1938-2003”: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/government-politics/maynard-jackson-1938-2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Washington, Margaret Murray (1865-1925)

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

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

Johnson, Beverly (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Beverly Johnson is a model, actress, singer, and businesswoman who in 1971 became the first African American woman to appear on the cover of a major magazine.  Johnson was born on October 13, 1952, in Buffalo, New York to middle class parents.   Her father was a machine operator and her mother was a surgical technician.

Ambitious and successful even as a child, she was a competitive swimmer who nearly qualified for the 1968 Olympics in the 100-meter freestyle.  She grew up wanting to be an attorney.  She attended Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts on a full scholarship where she studied criminal justice in preparation for law school.

Johnson had never considered modeling until her friends at Northeastern suggested she explore possibilities in the industry.  While on summer break in 1971, at the age of 19, Johnson and her mother visited Madison Avenue in New York to interview at various modeling agencies.  After she was turned down by a number of prestigious agencies, she was hired on the spot to model for Glamour Magazine.  Her initial success with Glamour persuaded Johnson to leave Northeastern to focus on her modeling career.
Sources: 
Beverly Johnson, Guide to a Life of Beauty (New York: Times Books, 1981); http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2005-Fo-La/Johnson-Beverly; http://www.mademan.com/chickipedia/beverly-johnson/.
Contributor: 

Thompson, Noah (1878-?)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Accomplished journalist and activist Noah Thompson became one of the most influential leaders in Los Angeles, California during the early twentieth century. Born in Baltimore, Maryland on June 9, 1878, Thompson fled Baltimore as a young adult in search of success in the United States’ burgeoning urban centers. After rising to prominence in Los Angeles as a dedicated journalist and real estate investor, Thompson utilized his social, political, and economic gains to promote the improvement of black Angelenos.

Like many African Americans at the end of the nineteenth century, employment opportunities encouraged Thompson to migrate to Chicago, Illinois. While working in various industrial sectors, he took courses at Greg’s Business College. In 1909, Thompson accepted a position at Booker T. Washington’s Educational Institute and moved to Tuskegee, Alabama. After learning about the economic success of the emerging black community in Los Angeles, California, Thompson fled to Los Angeles in 1911.

Sources: 
Beasley, Delilah. The Negro Trail-Blazers of California. Los Angeles: Times Mirror Print and Binding House, 1919; Taylor, Quintard. In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998; Flamming, Douglas. Bound For Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Pratt, Geronimo (1947-2011)

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

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

KRS-One [Lawrence Kris Parker] (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
KRS-One, MC (Master of Ceremonies) producer, philosopher, and activist was born on August 20, 1965 to Jacqueline Jones and Sheffield Brown in South Bronx, New York City, New York.  KRS’s mother was a secretary while his father, who worked as a handyman, was deported to his native Trinidad when KRS was an infant.  When his mother remarried in 1970 and had two more children, a son and a daughter, KRS took the new family name and became Lawrence Kris Parker.

Growing up in poverty, KRS left home in his early teens and lived on the streets of the Bronx as hip-hop culture began to emerge.  He ended up at the Franklin Avenue Armory Shelter in the Bronx where he met a social worker named Scott Sterling, a.k.a. Scott La Rock.  Scott, already an experienced DJ, connected immediately with KRS who had developed an identity as a graffiti writer that signed “KRS-ONE” (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Powell, Adam Clayton, Sr. (1865-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. was born on May 5 in Franklin County, Virginia to former slaves of African American, Native American, and German ancestry.  He was raised in a family of 17 children.

During his youth, Powell lived a reckless life filled with gambling.  At the age of 19, Powell experienced a religious conversion to Christianity at a revival meeting.  After failing to gain entrance into Howard University School of Law, he decided to study religion.  In 1888, he enrolled in a theology program at Wayland Seminary and College in Washington, D.C. earning his degree in 1892.

Sources: 
Charles V. Hamilton, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma (New York: Athenaeum, 1991); Will Haygood, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993); “Dr. A. C. Powell Sr., Minister, 88, Dead.” New York Times (June 13, 1953), 15.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Moore, Richard Benjamin (1893-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Richard Benjamin Moore, lecturer, author, political activist, and book dealer, was born in Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados, on August 9, 1893.  He was born into a prosperous middle-class family, and attended James J. Lynch’s Middle Class School, a self-defined institution.  His childhood experiences included very few instances of racial discrimination possibly, because of his light complexion. 

Following the death of his father Richard Henry Moore, Moore and his immediate family relocated to the United States on July 4, 1909.  Unknown to the Moore family, Richard Henry Moore had a number of outstanding debts, which upon his death forced their Christ Church home into foreclosure as they faced insolvency.  They became some of the earliest blacks to settle in Harlem, New York, an emerging milieu of social, political, and Black Nationalist activism.

Harlem introduced Moore to the realities of European colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the injustices of Jim Crow and lynching in the American South.   By his 22nd birthday Moore became a follower of Socialist and fellow West Indian émigré Hubert Henry Harrison. He became active in the 21st Assembly District Socialist Club in Harlem in 1915. 

Sources: 
Louis J. Parascandola, “Look for Me All Around You,” Anglophone Caribbean Immigrants in the Harlem Renaissance (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005), pp. 227-29; Linden Lewis, “Richard B. Moore: The Making of A Caribbean Organic Intellectual,” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 25, No. 5 (May, 1995), pp. 589-609 (Sage Publications, Inc.).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ray, Charles B. (1807-1886)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Bennett Ray journalist, clergyman, and abolitionist was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts on December 25, 1807. He attended school in his hometown, and then in the 1830s he was given the opportunity by abolitionists to attend Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts to study theology. He also studied in Middletown Connecticut at Wesleyan University, but left because of racial tension. Ray worked for five years on his grandfather’s farm, then later went on to learn the boot making trade. When he moved to New York City in 1832 he opened a boot and shoe store. Ray also became a Methodist minister.

In 1834 Charles Ray married Henrietta Green Regulus on October 27, 1836 she along with her newborn died while giving birth. Then in 1840 he married Charlotte Augusta Burroughs; they had seven children together.  Two daughters, Charlotte T. Ray and Florence Ray, became the first black female attorneys in the nation in the 1870s.

In 1833 Charles Ray joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and was a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. He dedicated most of his life to the abolitionist movement. In 1837 Ray changed denominations and became a Congregational minister. Then in 1843 he joined the New York Vigilance Committee, which involved thirteen black and white men who assisted runaway slaves. In 1848 Ray became the corresponding secretary for the Committee and remained an active member for fifteen years.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Oct., 1919), pp. 361-371 Publisher: Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc.  Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2713446
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, Moses Fleetwood (1857-1924)

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

Moses Fleetwood Walker, often called Fleet, was the first African American to play major league baseball in the nineteenth century. Born October 7, 1857, in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, Walker was the fifth of six children born to parents, Dr. Moses W. Walker, a physician, and Caroline Walker, a midwife.

Oberlin College admitted Walker for the fall 1878 semester. In 1881, he played in all five games of the new varsity baseball team at Oberlin. Before the end of the year, however, Walker left Oberlin to play baseball for the University of Michigan. In July 1882, Walker married Bella Taylor and the couple had three children.

Fleetwood Walker was able to earn money as a catcher. He played individual games for the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland (August 1881), the New Castle (Pennsylvania) Neshannocks (1882), and with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the Northwestern League (1883). In August 1883, Adrian “Cap” Anson, manager of the Chicago White Stockings, stated his team would not play Toledo with Walker in the lineup. Although both teams played, the incident marked the beginning of baseball’s acceptance of a color line.

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Benjamin, Regina Marcia (1956– )

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

Dr. Regina Marcia Benjamin, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General of the United States, is an accomplished physician whose professional and personal  roots are planted deeply in rural  America.  Dr. Benjamin was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1956 and grew up in nearby Daphne, Alabama.  

Regina Benjamin’s parents divorced when she was a child and her mother worked as a domestic and waitress to support Regina and her older brother.  Although the family owned land, financial necessity forced them to sell it.   She recalled that her family often fished in the Gulf of Mexico to catch their evening meal.    

Despite her family's poverty Regina Benjamin set her sights on college.  She enrolled in Xavier University in New Orleans where she met an African American physician for the first time.  This encounter persuaded her to pursue a career in medicine.  Earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Xavier in 1978, she then attended  Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta  between 1980 and 1982 but completed her medical degree at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.  

Sources: 
Gardiner Harris, “A Doctor From the Bayou, New York Times, July 14,
2009; Rick Bragg, “Poor Town Finds an Angel in a White Coat,” New York Times, April 3, 1995; Ebony Magazine, March 1997, January 1998; Catholic News Service, “Nation Called ‘Fortunate’ to Have Alabama Physician as Obama Nominee,” News Briefs, July 13, 2009; The Catholic Transcript Online, July 14, 2009; Answers.com, “Black Biography: Regina Benjamin Physician Personal Information.”
Affiliation: 
California State University, Sacramento

Schomburg, Arturo Alfonso (1874-1938)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, writer, activist, collector, and important figure of the Harlem Renaissance was born in Saturce, Puerto Rico. His mother, a black woman, was originally from St. Croix, Danish Virgin Islands, and his father was a Puerto Rican of German ancestry. Schomburg migrated to New York City in 1891. Very active in the liberation movements of Puerto Rico and Cuba, he founded Las dos Antillas, a cultural and political group that worked for the islands’ independence. After the collapse of the Cuban revolutionary struggle, and the cession of Puerto-Rico to the U.S., Schomburg, disillusioned, turned his attention to the African American community. In 1911, as its Master, he renamed El Sol de Cuba #38, a lodge of Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants, as Prince Hall Lodge in honor of the first black freemason in the country. The same year, he also founded the Negro Society for Historical Research. In 1922 he was elected president of the American Negro Academy.

Sources: 
Jesse, Hoffnung-Garskof, “The Migrations of Arturo Schomburg: On Being Antillano, Negro, and Puerto Rican in New York, 1891-1938,” Journal of American Ethnic History, vol. 21, no 1 (November 2001): 3-49; Elinor Des Verney Sinnette, Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, Black Bibliophile and Collector: A Biography (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Marsh, Vivian Osborne (1897-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Vivian Osborne Marsh was a community activist and government official, becoming one of the most influential African Americans in the San Francisco area.  She was born in Houston, Texas, on September 5, 1897.  When she applied to the University of California Berkeley, because of her southern schooling she was required to take several entrance exams despite high grades.  Her excellent results on the entrance exams helped to discontinue this policy of discriminating against southern applicants.  She received both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Anthropology, becoming among the first African Americans to receive a master’s degree from UC-Berkeley.
Sources: 
“Vivian Osborne Marsh,” Notable Black American Women, Book 2, Gale Research, 1996, reproduced in Biography Resource Center, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Washington, Fredi (1903-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

This image first appeared in the June 21, 2012 issue of
The Christian Post. Used with permission.

Fredi Washington was an actress and founding member of the Negro Actors Guild of America as well as a journalist for People’s Voice. Born in Savannah, Georgia, Washington moved as a child to New York and began her professional career as a chorus dancer in the stage production of Shuffle Along in 1924. Fredi Washington appeared opposite Paul Robeson in the Frank Dazey’s 1926 play, Black Boy. Washington then left the United States with Al Moiret in 1927 and formed the dance duo, “Moiret and Fredi.” They toured clubs in Paris, Monte Carlo, London and Berlin for two years.

Sources: 
Alicia I. Rodriquez-Estrada, “From Peola to Carmen: Fredi Washington, Dorothy Dandridge, and Hollywood’s Portrayal of the Tragic Mulatto” in Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, eds., African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles Trade and Technical College

O’Leary, Hazel Rollins Reid (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
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

McKinney, Samuel Berry (1926- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Rev. Samuel McKinney with Bullhorn
Image Courtesy of Seattle P-I Collection, Museum of 
History & Industry (1986.5.5923.4).

Born on December 28, 1926 to Reverend Wade Hampton McKinney and Ruth Berry McKinney in Flint, Michigan, Samuel Berry McKinney would become a Baptist minister, author, and civil rights advocate in Seattle, Washington. He served as pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, one of the largest and oldest black churches in the Pacific Northwest, from 1958 to 1998 and again from 2005 to 2008.

Sources: 
L' Erin A. Donahoe and Shaun A. Spearmon, Oba: Men of African Descent Making a Difference in Seattle (Seattle: L. Donahoe and S. Spearmon,1997); Mary T. Henry, “McKinney, Samuel Berry (1926-   ),” HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, http://www.historylink.org/; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: A History of Seattle's Central District from 1870 to the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Barrett, Jacqueline Harrison (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
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

Sommersett, James (c1741-c1772)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
18th Century British Slave
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Sommersett was the subject of a landmark legal case in Great Britain, which was the first major step in imposing limits on Trans-Atlantic African slavery. Sommersett entered the pages of history when in 1771, he fled his North American owner, Charles Stewart, while both were living in London, England.  Sommersett was originally purchased in Virginia and had been bought to Britain by Stewart from Boston, Massachusetts in 1769.  He fled two years later and was apprehended on the Ann and Mary, a ship bound for Jamaica.  
Sources: 
Francis Hargrave, An Argument in the Case of James Sommersett, a Negro, Lately Determined by the Court of King’s Bench:  wherein it is attempted to demonstrate the present unlawfulness of Domestic slavery in England. To Which is Prefixed, a State of the Case. By Mr. Hargrave, one of the counsel for the Negro (London and Boston, reprinted by E. Russell, 1774; William M, Wiecek, “"Somerset: Lord Mansfield and the Legitimacy of Slavery in the Anglo-American World," University of Chicago Law Review 42 (1974), 86-146; Steven Wise, Though the Heavens May Fail: The Landmark Case that Led to the End of Human Slavery (Cambridge: Perseus/Da Capo Press, 2005)
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Cruz

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: 

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

Canty, Hattie (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
In 1990, more than thirty years after moving west with her family from rural Alabama, Hattie Canty was elected president of the Las Vegas Hotel and Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a position that enabled her to significantly improve the standard of living for tens of thousands of workers in Las Vegas’s booming hotel and casino industry.
Sources: 
Sara Mosle, “Letter from Las Vegas: How the Maids Fought Back,” The New Yorker (February 26/March 4, 1996); Courtney Alexander, “Rise to Power: The Recent History of the Culinary Union,” in The Grit Beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas edited by Hal Rothman and Mike Davis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Claytee D. White, An Interview with Hattie Canty (Las Vegas: Las Vegas Women Oral History Project, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jefferson, Isaac (1775-1853)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Isaac Jefferson, a slave of the third President of the United States, was born in December 1775 in Monticello, on the Thomas Jefferson plantation in Virginia. His family was an important part of the Monticello labor force. His father, Great George, was the only enslaved person on the Jefferson plantation to rise from foreman to overseer. His mother, Ursula, was requested by Thomas Jefferson’s wife Martha because of her trustworthiness. Young Isaac Jefferson helped his mother and father by carrying wood and making fires. As he got older he was trained as a blacksmith.

In 1779 four year old Isaac Jefferson and other Jefferson slaves were captured by British forces while Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia government fled to Richmond.  Issac Jefferson and his family remained under the control of the British until the surrender of General Charles (Lord) Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.  The Jefferson slaves were then brought back to Monticello and Isaac, now six, was returned to his life as a slave.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Isaac Jefferson,” http://www.monticello.org/gettingword/isaac.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Colonel Tye (1753-1780)

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

Colonel Tye was an escaped slave who fought with the British in the American Revolution.  Challenging Patriot forces primarily in New York and New Jersey, Tye became one of the most respected leaders of the Loyalist troops during the Revolution, a respected and feared guerrilla commander.

Born in 1753 as Titus, ‘Tye’ was one of four slaves owned by Quaker John Corlies from Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey. In November 1775, when Titus was 22 years old, Lord John Murray Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation that not only declared martial law, but also offered freedom to those slaves who would join the royal forces. Titus along with 300 other escaped slaves fled to join the British, assuming the adopted name of Tye and joining the Royal Ethiopian Regiment. Here he quickly found respect and saw his first action at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, during which he captured a rebel militia captain.

Sources: 

Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: an Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2004); History 571: Colonial and Revolutionary America, Lord Dunmore and the Ethiopian Regiment, http://www.studythepast.com/history571/pam/ColonelTye.html; PBS.org Africans in America, Part 2: Revolutions, Colonel Tye http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p52.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Bonga, George (1802–1880)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of William L. Katz"
George Bonga was a 19th century fur trader of black and Native American heritage.  He lived along the shores of Lake Superior, one of the Midwestern Great Lakes. Fluent in French, English, and Native American languages, Bonga served as an interpreter during Indian-U.S. negotiations and worked for the American Fur Company before establishing his own trading post.

Bonga was born on August 20, 1802 near the present-day city of Duluth, Minnesota. His grandparents were Marie Jeanne and Jean Bonga, who as slaves lived at the prominent fur trading depot of Fort Michilimackinac in the northern Michigan territory. George’s father Pierre Bonga travelled to Minnesota as a fur trader and married Ogibwayquay of the Native American Ojibwe nation.  Bonga was educated in Montreal, Canada and returned to Minnesota to carry on the family business along with his two brothers.

In 1820, Bonga used his language fluency to serve as interpreter for Lewis Cass, Governor of Michigan Territory, at a treaty council held in Fond du Lac territory with the Ojibwe. In 1868, he again served as interpreter for Indian agent Joel Bean Bassett in negotiations with the Mississippi Band of Ojibwe at White Earth in Minnesota.  And in 1837, he tracked suspected murderer Che-ga-wa-skung for six days and brought him to Fort Snelling for trial.

Sources: 
“Letters of George Bonga,” Journal of Negro History 12 (1927): 41–54; June Drenning, “Black Pioneers of the Northwest,” Negro Digest 8:(1950): 65–67; Charles Flandreau, “Reminiscences of Minnesota During the Territorial Period,” in Hiram Stevens, ed., History of the Bench and Bar of Minnesota, (Los Angeles: Commercial Printing House, 1901); Kenneth Wiggins Porter, The Negro on the American Frontier (New York: Arno Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cleage, Albert, Jr. (Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) (1911-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Albert Cleage, jr., or Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, Black Nationalist and civil rights activist, was one of the most prominent black religious leaders in America. Agyemen preached a form of nationalism within the black community that stressed economic self-sufficiency and separation that relied on a religious awakening among black people. 

Albert Cleage, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 13, 1911.  Cleage graduated from Wayne State University in 1937, earning a B.A. in sociology, and a M.A. in Divinity from Oberlin School of Theology in 1943.  Cleage married Doris Graham and had two daughters. Cleage and Graham later divorced in 1955.  Cleage ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 under the Freedom Now Party, and was a candidate in the Democratic primary for U.S. Representative from Michigan, 13th District, in 1966. Cleage later changed his name to Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.  

Sources: 
“Albert Cleage,” in African American Encyclopedia, Michael Williams, ed., (New York: 1989); “Albert Cleage,” in Encyclopedia of American Culture and History, Colin Palmer, ed., (New York: 2006); http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/people/albert_cleage.html
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Poor, Salem (1747-1780)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
African American patriot Salem Poor of Andover, Massachusetts fought with distinction in the American Revolution. He purchased his freedom in 1769 for 27 pounds (about one year’s salary).  Soon after, he married a freedwoman named Nancy by whom he had a son.  In May of 1775 Poor enlisted in the Continental Army and distinguished himself at the Battle of Bunke