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People

Blackwell, Lucien E. (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lucien E. Blackwell, U.S. Congressman and labor official, was born in Whitset, Pennsylvania.  He attended West Philadelphia High School, but left before obtaining his diploma.  Blackwell also served in the United States Armed Forces during the Korean War, and received the National Defense Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and the Good Conduct Medal.  
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), pp. 26-28.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Church, Robert Reed, Jr. (1885-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of 
Tennessee State University
Robert Reed Church, Jr. was born on October 26, 1885 in Memphis, Tennessee.  He was the youngest son of Robert Church Sr., a prominent African American businessman in the city and his second wife, Anna Wright Church. Like his father, he became an important businessman, political activist, and politician during the 1920s.

Robert Church, Jr. was educated at Morgan Park Military Academy in Illinois. After high school he earned a B.A. from Oberlin College in Ohio and an M.B.A. from the Packard School of Business in New York. He also spent two years working on Wall Street. When he returned to Memphis he managed one of the family businesses, Church Park and Auditorium on Beale Street. Afterwards, he became cashier of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company, a bank founded by his father.  Church became its President upon his father's death in 1912.  Church also presided over the family’s extensive real estate holdings in Memphis.  On July 26, 1911, Robert Church, Jr., married Sara P. Johnson of Washington, D. C. They had one child, Sara Roberta.  
Sources: 
Annette E. Church and Roberta Church, The Robert R. Churches of Memphis: A Father and Son Who Achieved in Spite of Race (Memphis: A. E. Church, 1974); Gloria B. Melton, “Blacks in Memphis, Tennessee, 1920-1955: A Historical Study” (Ph.D. diss., Washington State University, 1982); Lester Lamon, Black Tennesseans, 1900-1930 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977); The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/; Shirelle Phelps, ed., Contemporary Black Biography, various volumes. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

St. Clair, Stephanie (1886–1969)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Stephanie St.Clair Hamid in Custody
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Stephanie St. Clair was born in Martinique, an island in the East Caribbean in 1886 and came to the United States via Marseilles, France. In 1912 she arrived in Harlem. She was known for her deep involvement in the seedy gangster underworld. According to those who knew her, she was arrogant, sophisticated and astute to the ways of urban life. She reportedly told people that she was born in “European France” and was able to speak “flawless French” as opposed to the less refined French spoken by those in the Caribbean. Whenever people questioned her national origin, she would always respond in French. St. Clair also spoke Spanish.  Noted for her fierce temper, St. Clair spouted profanity in various languages when angered or outraged by some perceived slight or injustice. Her eloquent sense of fashion was well- known throughout Harlem where she was referred to as Madame St. Clair.  In in the rest of Manhattan and other city boroughs, she was referred to as “Queenie.”
Sources: 
Mayme Johnson, Harlem Godfather: The Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson (New York: 2007); John H. Johnson, Fact Not Fiction in Harlem (New York: Norther Type Printing, 1980).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Healy, Eliza [Sister Mary Magdalen] (1846-1918)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Sister Eliza Healy was both an educator and noted first African American Mother Superior of a Catholic convent. Healy was born on a plantation near Macon Georgia on December 23, 1846 to a white father, Michael Morris Healy and one of his mulatto slaves, Eliza Smith. Healy spent her childhood on the plantation until her mother died suddenly in the spring of 1850, and her father died that August, leaving Eliza Healy and two of her younger siblings, Amanda and Eugene, orphaned.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); James M. O’Toole, Passing for White: Race, Religion and the Healy Family 1820-1920 (Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Waller, Thomas Wright “Fats” (1904-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jazz pianist virtuoso, organist, composer and grand entertainer, Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was born on May 21, 1904 in Harlem, New York.  He became one of the most popular and influential performers of his era and a master of stride piano playing, finding critical and commercial success in both the United States and abroad, particularly in Europe.  Waller was also a prolific songwriter, with many of his compositions becoming huge commercial successes. His technique and attention to decorative detail influenced countless jazz pianists including Art Tatum, Count Basie, and Thelonius Monk.

Sources: 
Maurice Waller and Anthony Calabrese, Fats Waller (New York: Schirmer Books, 1977); Alyn Shipton, Fats Waller: the Cheerful Little Earful (New York: Continuum, 2002); Paul S. Machlin, Stride, the Music of Fats Waller (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Franklin, John Hope (1915--2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Hope Franklin
with Young Fan
Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Hope Franklin, one of the nation's leading historians, is the only African American who has served as president of both the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH).

Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma on January 2, 1915 to parents Buck, a Tulsa attorney, and Mollie Franklin. He recalled growing up in Tulsa, in a Jim Crow society that stifled his senses and damaged his “emotional health and social well being.” While his family was in Rentiesville, Buck Franklin not only survived the June 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, but also successfully sued the city. This suit, before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, overturned a Tulsa ordinance which prevented the city’s blacks from rebuilding their destroyed community.

Sources: 

John Hope Franklin, Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005); August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, Black Historians and the Historical Profession 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986; and John Hope Franklin, “The Dilemma of the American Negro Scholar,” in Herbert Hill, ed., Soon, One Morning: New Writing by American Negroes, 1940-1962 (New York: Knopf, 1963); Biography of John Hope Franklin, http://www.fhi.duke.edu/about/john-hope-franklin.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Bluford, Lucile (1911-2003)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Lucile Bluford, "Missouri ‘Shows' the Supreme Court," The Crisis 46 (August 1939), 231-232, 242, 246;  Dorothy Davis, "She Knocks at the Door of Missouri University," The Crisis 47 (May 1940), 140;  Daniel T. Kelleher, "The Case of Lloyd Gaines:  The Demise of the Separate But Equal Doctrine," Journal of Negro History 56 (October 1971), 262-271;  Diane E. Loupe, "Storming and Defending the Color Barrier at the University of Missouri School of Journalism:  The Lucile Bluford Case," Journalism History 16 (1989), 20-31;  Aimee Edmondson and Earnest L. Perry, Jr., "Objectivity and "The Journalist's Creed": Local Coverage of Lucile Bluford's Fight to Enter the University of Missouri School of Journalism," Journalism History 33 (Winter 2008), 233-244;  and http://shs.umsystem.edu/famousmissourians/journalists/bluford/bluford.shtml
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University.

Walker, Wyatt Tee (1929- )

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

Morgan, Garrett A., Sr. (1877?-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Inventor, entrepreneur, and publisher Garrett A. Morgan, Sr. received patents for a three-position traffic signal and a safety hood that was designed to aid breathing in smoke-filled areas. He gained national attention when he utilized his mask to rescue men trapped during a tunnel explosion in 1916.

Garrett Augustus Morgan was born in 1875 or 1877 in Paris, Kentucky to farmers Sydney and Elizabeth Morgan. Garrett received an elementary school education and left home at the age of 14, finding work in Cincinnati, Ohio as a mechanic. In 1895 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked for 12 years repairing sewing machines and in 1901 invented a sewing machine belt fastener.
Sources: 
Charles W. Carey, Jr., American Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Visionaries (New York: Facts On File, 2002); Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Banning, James Herman (1899-1933)

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

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

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

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

Peace, Hazel Harvey (1903-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership:Public Domain
Fort Worth educator Hazel Bernice Harvey Peace was born on August 4, 1903, in Waco, Texas, to Allen H. and Georgia Mason Harvey.  Peace graduated from the Fort Worth Colored High School (later I. M. Terrell High School) in Fort Worth in 1919.  She obtained her B.A. degree in Education at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1923, and began her teaching career at I. M. Terrell High School in 1924. She also received an M.A. from Columbia University and did postgraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Vassar College, Hampton University, and Atlanta University. Hazel Harvey married Joe Peace of Fort Worth in September 1938.  They were married 21 years and were childless.

During Peace's early tenure as an educator, the Fort Worth public libraries often excluded African American patrons.  When she started a debate team at I.M. Terrell High, Peace checked out books from local universities to encourage her students to read and help the debate team members prepare for debate competitions.
Sources: 
CBS11TV.com, "Texas Educator Hazel Harvey Peace Dead at 100," available at: http://cbs11tv.com/local/Hazel.Harvey.Peace.2.744015.html; Dallas Morning News, June 10, 2008; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 11, 12, 2008; Katie Sherrod, "Honoring Hazel Harvey Peace," Desert's Child: A Blog, available at: http://wildernessgarden.blogspot.com/2007/08/honoring-hazel-harvey-peace.html; "Peace, Hazel Bernice Harvey,” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Commission, available at: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpeac; Bob Ray Sanders, “Our Mother of Mercy Playground a Fitting Tribute to Hazel Harvey Peace," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 31, 2012; http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/01/31/3702034/our-mother-of-mercy-playground.html#storylink=cpy; http://schools.fwisd.org/peace/Pages/Default.aspx
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McHenry, Donald Franchot (1936 - )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador Donald McHenry at the United Nations, ca. 1980
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Donald McHenry is a diplomat, scholar, corporate governor and educator who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN).  Because the hospitals of his home town, East St. Louis, Illinois, where he would grow up, were segregated, McHenry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on October 13, 1936. After his parents divorced he and his two siblings were raised by their mother.

McHenry received his bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University in 1957, and his master’s degree from Southern Illinois University in 1959. He found his niche in diplomacy and international affairs between 1963 and 1971, while working at the U.S. Department of State in its Office of Dependent Area Affairs. While there, he received its Superior Honor Award in 1966.
Sources: 
Partnership for a Secure America http://www.psaonline.org/userdata_display.php?modin=51&uid=21; J. S. Morris and J. G. Cook, Africa Policy in the Clinton Years: Critical Choices for the Bush Administration (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Affairs, 2001); and Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project. Interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy, March 23, 1993 and October 1, 1998.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Coker, Annie Virginia Stephens (1903-1986)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Attorney Annie Virginia Stephens Coker was born in Oakland, California, on April 7, 1903 to William Morris and Pauline Logan Stephens. Coker attended public schools in Oakland. Her family moved to Pacific Grove, California, where she graduated from high school in 1921.

Coker later attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a bachelor’s degree in science in 1924. Encouraged by her father to attend law school, she enrolled in Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and earned a degree in 1929. At that time she was only the second woman to receive a law degree from the school and the first African American woman to complete the program.  Coker passed the California Bar in the same year, the first African American female attorney in California.

The doors of most law firms in California were not open to African American attorneys in the early 1930s.  Coker then moved to Alexandria, Virginia, and maintained a private law practice there for almost a decade.
Sources: 
Brenda F. Harbin, “Black Women Pioneers in the Law,” The Historical Reporter 6 (Spring 1987): 6-8; Nancy McCarthy, “Annie Coker: A Pioneer California Lawyer,” California Bar Journal, February 2008, http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Member/Detail/11458; Jonathan Watson, “Legacy of American Female Attorneys,” 2015 revised.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

John Abraham Godson (1970– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
John Abraham Godson in the Polish Parliament
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Abraham Godson, a conservative politician, university lecturer, businessman, and former Pentecostal preacher, is the first person of African descent elected to public office in Poland. He was born on November 25, 1970, in Umuahia, Nigeria, as Godson Chikama Onyekwere. His father, Silvanus Nwokocha Onyekwere, was a teacher, high school principal, and Methodist preacher. His mother was an elementary school principal. Godson admits he was a troubled teenager and credits Christianity and joining the Church Of God in Christ for finding a sense of purpose in life. After graduating from the Abia State University (Uturu, Nigeria) with B.S. in agriculture in 1992, he was a researcher at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan. At the time, he decided to become a missionary, and in 1993, he chose an assignment in Poland. A year later he met his wife, Aneta. The Godsons have four children.
Sources: 
John Godson’s official website, http://www.johngodson.pl/index.html; Bianka Miko?ajewska, “John Godson: Pos?annik pos?em,” Polityka, December 15, 2010, http://www.polityka.pl/tygodnikpolityka/kraj/1511234,2,john-godson-poslannik-poslem.read; John Godson’s conversation with Hanna Gill-Piatek and Waldemar Marzec, “Godson: imigrant, pastor, radny,” Krytyka Polityczna, November 19, 2010, http://www.krytykapolityczna.pl/Serwissamorzadowy/GodsonImigrantpastorradny/menuid-1.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Romar, Lorenzo (1958- )

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

Longtime University of Washington head basketball coach Lorenzo Romar was born November 13, 1958, and grew up in Compton, California, where he went on to play at Cerritos Community College after high school. After playing two years for Cerritos, he transferred and played for the University of Washington from 1978 to 1980, where he averaged 7.7 points and 1.9 rebounds a game. After his collegiate career, he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors and then later played for the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Bucks and Detroit (Michigan) Pistons where over five years he averaged 5.9 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.

After his brief five year playing career ended, he started coaching for Athletes in Action, a sports ministry for college athletes based in Xenia, Ohio. After coaching there, he was hired as an assistant coach for UCLA under head coach Jim Harrick from 1992 to 1996. While at that institution, he recruited many of the players on the 1995 UCLA team that won the national championship.

Sources: 
“Washington Huskies.” Washington Huskies. University of Washington Athletics, April 18, 2013, http://www.gohuskies.com/news/2013/4/18/208218484.aspx; “Lorenzo Romar Biography.” Pac-12. Pac-12 Conference, April 4, 2002, http://pac-12.com/article/2002/04/04/lorenzo-romar-biography. “Romar is Fired,” Seattle Times, March 16, 2017. p.1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bertonneau, E. Arnold (1834-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
“Image Courtesy of Thomas F. Bertonneau”
Sources: 
Eric Foner (ed.), Freedom's Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996); James G. Hollandsworth, Jr, The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998); and Charles Vincent, Black Legislators in Louisiana During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Nicholas Brothers

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Fayard Nicholas (1914-2006)
Harold Nicholas (1921-2000)

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, whose careers spanned over six decades, made up one of the most beloved dance teams in the history of dance, The Nicholas Brothers. They were best known for their unforgettable appearances in more than 30 Hollywood musicals in the 1930s and 1940s including Down Argentine Way (1940), Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Stormy Weather (1943). Their artistry, choreographic brilliance, and unique style -- a smooth mix of tap, jazz, ballet and acrobatic moves -- entertained and astonished vaudeville, theatre, film and television audiences all over the world.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

McNeil, Joseph Alfred (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
One of the four North Carolina Agricultural & Technical freshmen who initiated the Sit-In Movement at Greensboro, North Carolina. A native of North Carolina, Joseph McNeil saw Greensboro’s race relations as a mirror image of the social structure of most southern cities. McNeil recalls having discussed the issue of segregation with community members like local businessman, Ralph Johns, in the weeks before the initial protest.

McNeil -- along with Franklin McCain, Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair, Jr.), and David Richmond --  had grown frustrated with the idea that patience and long suffering alone would allow Blacks to prosper. In their Scott Hall Dormitory rooms the young men read books about Gandhi, studied the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, and debated the merits of direct action. On January 31st 1960, they agreed to stage a public act of non-compliance with segregation. The following afternoon the four met at the A & T campus library and walked together to Woolworth drug store where they broke the law by sitting at a segregated lunch counter. A national chain, Woolworth stores would feel the effects of the protest beyond Greensboro. McNeil later recalled feeling a deep sense of relief during the first day of the Sit-In campaign.
Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, NC: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Johnson C. Smith University, respectively

Cayton, Revels (1907-1995)

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

Revels Cayton, born in Seattle, Washington, was the son of Horace and Susie Cayton, and the grandson of U.S. Senator Hiram Revels. As a highly respected labor leader, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco District Council of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific and, later, the business agent for the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.

Sources: 
Chicago Defender, November, 23, 1940, December 22, 1945; June 8, 1946; Robert A. Hill, The FBI’s Racon: Racial Conditions in the United States during World War II (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1995); San Francisco Examiner, November 7, 1995
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for African American Historical Research and Preservation (AAAHRP)

Burroughs, Nannie Helen (1883-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Nannie Helen Burroughs was born in Orange, Virginia on May 2, 1879 to parents John and Jennie Burroughs.  Young Burroughs attended school in Washington, D.C. and then moved to Kentucky where she attended Eckstein-Norton University and eventually received an honorary M.A. degree in 1907.

Despite the absence of a college degree, Burroughs sought a teaching position in Washington, D.C.  When she did not receive it, she moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and became associate editor of The Christian Banner, a Baptist newspaper.  Burroughs returned to Washington, D.C. where, despite receiving a high rating on the civil service exam, she was refused a position in the public school system.  Burroughs took a series of temporary jobs including office building janitor and bookkeeper for a small manufacturing firm, hoping to eventually become a teacher in Washington, D.C.  She then accepted a position in Louisville as secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Black Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia (University of Michigan: Carlson Publishing Company, 1993); Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, Inc., 2005); http://www.toptags.com/aama/bio/women/nburroughs.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Nabrit, Samuel Milton (1905-2003)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

A marine biologist, academic, and administrator, Samuel Milton Nabrit was born in Macon, Georgia, to James Madison Nabrit and Gertrude West in 1905.  Upon completing his elementary and high school education, he entered Morehouse College in 1921.  There he earned the B.S. degree in Biology in May 1925 and spent the summer teaching at his alma mater.  His stay at Morehouse was short lived because in September, 1925, he entered the University of Chicago where he pursued a master’s degree.  Five years after completing his M.A. in 1927, Nabrit became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences when he graduated from Brown University in 1932.

Sources: 
Samuel M. Nabrit Files, Heartman Collection, Texas Southern University.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Chavis, John (1763-1838)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Chavis, early 19th Century minister and teacher, was the first African American to graduate from a college or university in the United States. Chavis was born on October 18, 1763.  His place of birth is debated by historians.  Some scholars think that Chavis hailed from the West Indies.  Others believe that he was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, or that he was born in North Carolina.  Available records document that Chavis was a free African American who probably worked for Halifax, Virginia attorney James Milner beginning in 1773.   It is likely that Chavis utilized the books in Milner’s extensive law library to educate himself.  
Sources: 
Helen Chavis Othow, John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor 1783-1838, Mentor (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2001); William S. Powell, Ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 1, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), John Chavis Letters, #2014, 1889-1892; Wilson Library Manuscripts Department , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; John Chavis Biography, North Carolina State University Division of Archives and History, http://www.ncsu.edu/ligon/about/history/chavis.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Johnson C. Smith University

Patterson, William L. (1891-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Steve Trussel
William L. Patterson, born in San Francisco on August 27th, 1891, was a Marxist lawyer, author, and civil rights activist. His mother had been born a slave on a Virginia plantation in 1850 and lived there until she was ten. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, Patterson’s mother was liberated and sent west to California, where she met James Edward Patterson, William’s father. Although his family was forced to move from home to home and often struggled with poverty, William L. Patterson managed to graduate from Tamalpais High School at the age of 20 in 1911. Patterson then attended the University of California on and off until he was forced to leave because of irregular attendance.

In 1915, Patterson enrolled at the Hastings College of Law of the University of California in San Francisco. While attending law school, Patterson began to read The Crisis, the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and became interested in various Marxist and Socialist publications such as The Masses, and The Messenger. After graduating from Hastings with a law degree in 1919, Patterson joined the NAACP.
Sources: 
William L. Patterson, The Man Who Cried Genocide (New York: International Publishers, 1991); Spartacus Educational, William L. Patterson Bio. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USApattersonW.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McClendon, Rose (1884-1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Photography by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust

Rose McClendon was an African American actress born in South Carolina in 1884.  McClendon’s original name was Rosalie Virginia Scott.  Her parents were Sandy and Tena Scott.  In 1890 McClendon’s parents worked for a well established family as a housekeeper and coachman in New York City.  McClendon received her education through the public schools in New York where acting became her main focus of interest.

In October 1904 Scott married Henry Pruden McClendon who was trained as a chiropractor but who could only find work as a Pullman porter.  Together they moved from lower Manhattan to Harlem where McClendon was actively involved in the St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church often using her theatrical talent. 

After studying by scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts between 1916 and 1918, McClendon gave her first stage performance in 1919 in the play, Justice.  She would eventually perform in other productions including In Abraham’s Bosom, Porgy and Bess, and Deep River.  Along with McClendon’s acting and directing in 1935 she and Dick Campbell created the Negro People’s Theatre. 

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

Redding, Otis (1941-1967)

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

Otis Redding was one of the great American soul singers, who, although only enjoying a short career due to his early death in a plane crash at the age of 26, has been described as the embodiment of soul and one of the most important cultural icons of the civil rights movement.

Otis Ray Redding, Jr., son of sharecropper Otis Redding, Sr., and Fannie Mae Redding, was born on September 9, 1941, the fourth child of six, near Dawson, Georgia.  The next year the family moved to Macon, Georgia. From an early age Otis’s passion lay in music, drawing inspiration from fellow Macon entertainer Little Richard Penniman.  By the time he was ten Redding was singing with a choir at Vineville Baptist Church and playing drums in a gospel group.  At age eleven Redding participated in a local talent show, eventually winning 15 monthly contests in a row.

In 1958 at the age of 17 Redding started his professional singing career.  He briefly toured with the “Pat Tea Cake” band before forming his own band, “The Pinetoppers” in 1959, with well known Macon guitarist Johnny Jenkins. The Pinetoppers performed Elvis Presley songs and country music songs in the Macon area.  They also toured on the “Chitlin’ circuit,” a network of black nightclubs throughout the Southeast and the white frat house circuit across the Deep South.

Sources: 

Scott Freeman, Otis!: The Otis Redding Story (New York:  St. Martin's
Griffin Press, 2001); Rhino Records, Los Angeles, Otis!: the definitive
Otis Redding
[sound recording], (1993).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Sun Ra (Le Sony’r Ra) (1914-1993)

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

Jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, and cosmic philosopher Le Sony'r Ra, or Sun Ra, remains an influential and controversial figure in jazz history. He is largely remembered for his Astro Black Mythology that incorporated aspects of ancient Egyptian philosophy and science fiction, as well as his contributions to avant-garde jazz and afrofuturism.

Sources: 
John F. Szwed, Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (NY: Pantheon Books, 1997); Graham Lock, Blutopia: Visions of the Future and Revisionist of the Past in the Work of Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, and Anthony Braxton (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999); John Corbett, Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun-Ra, El Saturn and Chicago's Afro-futurist Underground 1954-68 (Chicago: White Walls, 2006).
Contributor: 

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

Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell (1898-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born two decades before American women won the right to vote, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander overcame obstacles as a female and also as an African American in the elite profession of law. In 1927 she became the first black woman to gain admission to the Pennsylvania Bar, beginning a long career advocating for civil and human rights.

Sarah Tanner Mossell Alexander was born into a distinguished family on January 2, 1898 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her grandfather was Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner (1835-1923), editor of the Christian Recorder and the AME Church Review. Her uncle was surgeon Dr. Nathan F. Mossell (1856-1946), founder of the Frederick Douglass Hospital (now Mercy-Douglass Hospital), and her aunt, Dr. Hallie Tanner Johnson (1864-1901), founded Tuskegee Institute’s Nurses’ School & Hospital. Other uncles were the painter, Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) and Lewis Baxter Moore (1866-1928), Dean of Howard University.

Alexander’s father was Aaron Mossell (1863-1951), an attorney who deserted his wife Mary and two daughters a year after Sadie’s birth. Suffering from depression, Mary Mossell often traveled to Washington, D.C., where relatives cared for the girls.
Sources: 
Lia B. Epperson, Knocking Down Doors: The Trailblazing Life of Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, Pennsylvania’s First Black Woman Lawyer (Stanford, CA: Women’s Legal History Biography Project, Stanford University Law School: 1998) www.law.stanford.edu/library/.../papers/Alexander-epperson98.pdf; J. Clay Smith, Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press: 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ambar, Malik (1548--1626)

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

Rhimes, Shonda (1970- )

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

Shonda Rhimes is the first African American woman to write and produce a top-10-rated show on network television. She is most known for her work writing and producing the shows Grey’s Anatomy (2005-    ), Private Practice (2007-    ), and Scandal (2012-    ).

Rhimes was born January 13, 1970 in Chicago, Illinois as the youngest of six children. Her mother was a college professor and her father a university public information officer. She has two adopted daughters, Harper Rhimes, born in 2002, and Emerson Rhimes, born in 2012.

Rhimes graduated from Dartmouth College in 1991, earning a B.A. degree in English literature. She then attended the University of Southern California, where she earned an MFA in filmmaking in 1994. She acquired an agent based on the strength of her final film school project and was asked to write a spec script, which promptly got sold, although the movie was never filmed. One of her first jobs in film making came when she was hired to write the script for the 1998 movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

Sources: 
http://www.shemadeit.org/meet/summary.aspx?m=165; Christopher Lisotta, “Special Report: Hot List 2005,” Television Week 24:29 (7/18/2005); http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0722274/bio.
Contributor: 

St. Benedict the Moor (1526-1589)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Benedetto Manasseri, an Italian of African descent, was born near Messina, Italy to Cristoforo and Diana Manasseri in 1526. His parents, captured as slaves from Africa in the early 16th century, were brought to San Fratello, near Messina.  They converted to Catholicism and, due to their loyalty to the Church, obtained their son Benedict’s freedom at birth. Benedict did not attend school because his family was impoverished. When Benedict worked as a shepherd in his youth, he would give any extra money he could to the poor. At age twenty-one Benedict was befriended by a nobleman, Jerome Lanze, who encouraged the youth to join a society of hermits under the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. Upon becoming a member of this enclave Benedict gave the few possessions he had accumulated to the poor. Eventually he became one of Lanze’s principal advisors and, when he was about twenty-eight years old, Benedict succeeded Lanze as superior of the Franciscan-affiliated group of hermits.

During the third Council of Trent in 1564 Pope Pius IV decided to disband the hermit societies, whereupon he encouraged their communities to join the Franciscan orders. When Benedict became a member of the Order of Friars Minor he was sent to Palermo, to the Franciscan Friary of St. Mary of Jesus.

Sources: 
http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=871; http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/st-benedict-the-moor.html; Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States. (New York: Crossroad, 1990).
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Woodson, Robert L., Sr. (1937– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born into poverty on April 8, 1937, in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Robert L. Woodson Sr. is often described as the “godfather” of the movement to empower community-based organizations to help themselves. Widely known today as a leading black conservative, Woodson rose from liberal-oriented neighborhood civil rights activism in the 1960s to coordinating national community development programs in the 1970s.

From 1971 to 1973, Woodson headed the National Urban League’s Administration of Justice Division, followed by the Neighborhood Revitalization Project from 1973 to 1976, and a fellowship with the American Enterprise Institute (1976–1981). Along the way, he gradually embraced conservative approaches to combating crime and poverty.

Sources: 
Jason L. Riley, “A Black Conservative's War on Poverty,” The Wall Street Journal (April 2014); Robert Woodson, The Triumphs of Joseph: How Today’s Community Healers Are Reviving Our Streets and Neighborhoods (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998); https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/02/25/the-missed-opportunity-of-robert-woodson.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Joseph William "Billy" (1934–2012)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Joseph William “Billy” Johnson, an import officer for the state metal industries of Ghana, played a foundational role in establishing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in that African nation in the 1960s. Johnson was born on December 17, 1934, in Lagos, Nigeria. While Johnson’s prepared autobiography for American audiences identifies him as a devout Catholic, Ghanaian Mormonism’s local chronicler, Emmanuel Kissi, identifies Johnson as a reverend in the Church of the Lord (Aladura). Rooted in visions, prophecies, and the production of sacred scripts, Johnson’s religious background would have prepared Johnson to be receptive to the narrative histories undergirding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

Sources: 
Joseph William “Billy” Johnson, “We Felt the Spirit of The Pioneers,” in E. Dale LeBaron, ed., All Are Alike Unto God (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990): 13-23; Emmanual Kissi, Walking in the Sand: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 2004); Russell Stevenson, For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014); Russell Stevenson, ‘’We Have Prophetesses’: Mormonism in Ghana, 1964–1979,” Journal of Mormon History 41:3 3 (July 2015): 221-257.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Claude (1937- 2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Claude Brown and Anthony Machi, Manchild Revisited A Commentary by Claude Brown (Alexandria, Va., PBS Video, 1987); Rebecca Carroll, Swing Low: Black Men Writing (New York: Carol Southern Books, 1995); Renford Reese, American Paradox: Young Black Men (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2004).
Contributor: 

Cayton, Susie Revels (1870-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Susie Sumner Revels, a daughter of Hiram Revels, the first U.S. Senator of African descent, arrived in Seattle, Washington from Mississippi in 1896. Her reason, she stated, during a 1936 Washington Pioneers Project interview, was "the man she was going to marry was here." He was Horace Roscoe Cayton, publisher of The Seattle Republican. The two were married on July 12, 1896.

Susie Revels Cayton soon became a leader in Seattle’s black community. She was named associate editor of The Seattle Republican and, later, contributing editor of Cayton’s Weekly. She was an active member of cultural and social organizations designed to improve the conditions of African Americans, including the "Sunday Forum," a group of black Seattleites that met on a regular basis. Along with three other black women, Susie Cayton founded the Dorcus Charity Club in response to an urgent plea to help a set of abandoned twins. The club continued its charitable work for years.
Sources: 
Ed Diaz, ed., Horace Roscoe Cayton: Selected Writings- Volumes 1-2. (Seattle: Bridgewater-Collins, 2002); Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for African American Historical Research and Preservation (AAAHRP)

Taylor, Alrutheus Ambush (1893-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Fisk University Franklin Library's
Special Collections
A[lrutheus] A[mbush] Taylor, historian, was born in Washington D.C. where he also went through the public school system. He earned a B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1916 and taught at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama and at the West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now West Virginia State College) in Institute, West Virginia. In 1922, Carter G. Woodson brought this able young historian back to Washington D.C. to serve as a research associate with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Supported by a grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund, Taylor began researching the role of African Americans in the South during Reconstruction.
Sources: 
W.A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America and Journal of Negro History as well as prefaces and introductions to the three Taylor monographs cited above.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

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

Caliver, Ambrose (1894-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ambrose Caliver was born in 1894 in Saltsville, Virginia and graduated from Knoxville College in Tennessee, earning his B.A. in 1915. One year later he married Everly Rosalie Rucker. After serving as a high school teacher and a principal, he was hired in 1917 by the historically black college of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee to implement its vocational education program. Caliver rose through various positions at Fisk, finally being named dean in 1927. In the meantime, Caliver had earned his M.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1920 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College in 1930.
Sources: 
“Ambrose Caliver,” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, ed., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1983); http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/opinion_columnists/article/0,1406,KNS_364_4735988,00.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dunham, Katherine (1909-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Jerome Robbins Dance Division,
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts,
Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.
Katherine Dunham was born on June 22, 1909 in Chicago, Illinois to parents Albert and Fanny Dunham.  She was of mixed heritage with African, Madagascan, Canadian-French and American Indian ancestry.  Dunham was raised in Joliet, Illinois and didn’t begin formal dance training until her late teens.  

In 1931, at the age of 22, Katherine Dunham opened her first dance school, with the help of her teacher Madame Ludmila Speranzeva.  The school, located in Chicago, soon became famous for its dancers who performed the modern dance ballet, “Negro Rhapsody.”  Dunham graduated from the University of Chicago in 1936 with a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology.  She later earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.  While an undergraduate, Dunham opened another school, the Negro Dance Group where in four years she trained 150 black youth.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.pbs.org/wnet/freetodance/biographies/dunham.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ford, Harold Jr. (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Harold Eugene Ford, Jr. was born in Memphis, Tennessee on May 11, 1970. He currently serves as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and is a former member of the United States House of Representatives from Tennessee.  During his tenure in congress Ford represented the state’s 9th congressional district from 1997 until 2007. This district included most of Memphis.  Bucking tradition, Ford did not seek reelection to his House seat in 2006 and instead unsuccessfully sought the Senate seat that was being vacated by the retiring senator Bill Frist.  Ford was the only African American member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats.

After the 2002 mid term elections resulted in Democrats losing Congressional seats, Ford announced his desire to be House Minority Whip based on Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s charge that the democratic leadership was less than competent.  Ford was unsuccessful in his election bid, but surprised many politicians and pundits on both sides of the political aisle with the amount of support he garnered. A few observers suggested that he might become the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004.  However, given the fact that he was only thirty-four years old, he was ineligible for the office. Ford would be four months shy of thirty-five on Inauguration Day (January 20, 2005).
Sources: 
Harold Ford Jr.  (http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=F000262).  Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.  Retrieved on 2007-05-18; Theo Emery, “Family ties could bind a political advancement” http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/03/10/famliey_ties_could_bind_a_political_advancement/?page=1), Boston Globe, March 10, 2006.  Retrieved on 2007-04-25; Jonathan Darman, “The Path to Power” Newsweek, October 30, 2006; William Addams Reitwiesner,  Ancestry of Harold Ford (http://www.wargs.com/political/ fordh.html).  Retrieved on 2007-05-18; http://www.house.gov/ford/about/index.shtml
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Coleman, William T. Jr. (1920-2017)

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, Pennsylvania 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.

Sources: 
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, Seattle

Lucy, Autherine Juanita (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Roy Wilkins, Autherine Lucy and Thurgood Marshall
at a Press Conference, March 2, 1956
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Born on October 5, 1929 in Shiloh, Alabama, Autherine Lucy was one of ten children in a family of farmers. Despite this modest background, Lucy would impact history as the first African American to integrate the University of Alabama. Lucy will also be remembered as the first black student in the history of desegregation to experience the anger of an organized mob.

Autherine Lucy attended high school at Linden Academy in Shiloh, graduating in 1947. She then attended all-black Selma University in Selma, Alabama before transferring to another black institution, Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama. In 1952, Lucy graduated from Miles College with a B.A. in English. Lucy’s next educational goal was to obtain a master’s degree in education at the University of Alabama.
Sources: 
Howell Raines, My Soul Is Rested, New York: Viking Press, 1988; The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr., http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/kingweb/about_king/details/560206.htm; Diane McWhorter, “The Day Autherine Lucy Dared to Integrate the University of Alabama,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education Vol. 32 (Summer 2001); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993).

Cassell, Albert I. (1895-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Albert Irving Cassell, a prominent African American architect, planner, engineer, educator, and entrepreneur, was born on June 25, 1895 in Towson, Maryland.  His parents were Albert and Charlotte Cassell.  Albert’s father was a coal truck driver and trumpet player and his mother washed laundry to help with the family finances.  Albert himself had three wives and children by each of them for a total of six children and two step-children.  Cassell’s education began in a Baltimore public elementary and high school.  He later moved to Ithaca, New York and enrolled in a city high school there.  He was admitted into Cornell University for college, where he worked on campus to pay for his tuition.

Before Cassell could complete his college education, he served in the United States Army during World War I from 1917-1918.  Commissioned a second lieutenant in the heavy field artillery, he served as a training officer in France.  After his brief stint in the military, he returned to Cornell University and completed his bachelor architectural degree in 1919.  His first project included the design of five buildings at the Tuskegee Institute with fellow architect William A. Hazel. In 1920 he designed silk mills and other industrial plants in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Later that year Cassell joined the Architecture Department of Howard University as an assistant professor.

Sources: 
“Albert I. Cassell & The Founders Library: A Brief History,” Howard University Website, http://www.howard.edu/library/Development/Cassell/Founders.htm; Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Guinier, Lani (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the
University of Rochester

Lani Guinier was the first black woman professor to be tenured at Harvard Law School. Her father, Ewart Guinier, was the first director of Harvard’s African American Studies program. She was better known, however, as a controversial nominee for assistant attorney general during the Clinton Administration. Born in New York City, Guinier decided in high school to pursue a legal career after following the work of civil rights attorney Constance Baker Motley in the 1960s.  Guinier eventually attended Radcliffe College and Yale Law School (where she was a classmate of Bill and Hillary Clinton), before becoming an assistant legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1974. During the President Jimmy Carter Administration, she worked as a special assistant for Assistant Attorney General Drew S. Days in the Civil Rights Division. She also served as a tenured Professor at the University of Pennsylvania from 1988 to 1998.

Sources: 

Lani Guinier, Lift Every Voice: Turning a civil rights setback into a new vision of social justice (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998); Lani Guinier, "Confirmative Action," 25 Law and Social Inquiry 565 (2000); http://www.minerscanary.org/whoweare/lani_guinier.htm; William Jefferson Clinton, My Life (New York: Random House Inc., 2004).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Madhubuti, Haki R. (Don L. Lee) (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Regina Jennings, Malcolm X and the Poetics of Haki Madhubuti (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2006); Lita Hooper, Art of Work: The Art and Life of Haki R. Madhubuti (Chicago: Third World Press, 2007); Jeffrey Louis Decker, The Black Aesthetic Movement (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jenkins, John (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Jenkins is the former mayor of Lewiston, Maine and the recently elected mayor of Auburn Maine. Jenkins is the first African American to serve as mayor in both cities.  He served as mayor of Lewiston from 1993 to 1995.  He has held the mayor's post in Auburn since 2008.   

Jenkins was born in Newark, New Jersey on May 29, 1952. He was the youngest of three children, he grew up in an abusive home. Newark during Jenkins’ youth was a cauldron of violence, drugs and gang violence. Jenkins was rescued from these tragic influences by stellar educational opportunities and a firm religious faith. His mother was a devout Christian and a strict Baptist.

In 1967, Jenkins, while still in high school, became involved with the American Friends Service Committee, a Philadelphia Quaker organization. Under this program, he spent a summer in Princeton’s University’s Cooperative School Program (PCSP) a program designed to expose students from disadvantaged backgrounds to post-secondary education. The following year Jenkins participated in a similar academic program in Brandon, Vermont and during that summer he worked for the Lowell, Massachusetts Upward Bound Program with working class Blacks and Latinos. In these two programs, Jenkins was exposed to a variety of community and political activities and met people from various walks of life.
Sources: 
Susan Johns, “Jenkins Wins Mayors Seat,” Lewiston Star Journal, December 8, 1993; Elwood Watson, “A Tale of Maine’s African American Mayors” Maine History 40 (Summer 2001): 113-125.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

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

Reddick, Lawrence Dunbar (1910-1995)

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

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

Brice, Carol (1918-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
Courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust

Contralto singer Carol Brice was born in Sedalia, North Carolina on April 16, 1918 into a musical family.  Eventually she became one of the first African American classical singers with an extensive recording repertoire.  Brice trained at Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia and then enrolled in Talladega College in Alabama, where she received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1939. She later attended Julliard School of Music between 1939 and 1943 where she trained with Francis Rogers. In 1943 Brice became the first African American musician to win the prestigious Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Award.

Carol Brice first attracted public acclaim at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 when she performed in the opera, “The Hot Mikado.”  Her next major public performance came in 1941, when she sang at a Washington concert honoring the third inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her brother, the pianist Jonathan Brice, was frequently her accompanist at concerts and competitions.

Sources: 
Masterworks Broadway, http://www.masterworksbroadway.com/artist/carol-brice; Bach Cantatas Website,  http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Brice-Carol.htm; John Gray, Blacks in Classical Music: A Bibliographical Guide to Composers, Performers, and Ensembles (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gorden, General Fred (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
General Fred A. Gorden was the first black Commandant of Cadets, the officer in charge of the training, discipline, and physical condition of the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  The Commandant of Cadets position is second only to the position of Superintendent of the Academy.   

Born in Anniston, Alabama in 1940, Gorden’s family moved shortly afterward to Atlanta, Georgia.  Gorden was the fourth of five children and was raised by his childless aunt, who lived around the corner from his family.  When she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan to marry, he went with her.  There he attended the local high school and excelled in both academics and athletics.  He was in the National Honor Society and played on an all-city basketball team.

Gorden had been attending a local junior college in 1958 when he was notified about his appointment to West Point as a cadet.  He received the call from a lawyer from his hometown who in turn had been contacted by the area’s Congressman about the appointment.  Gorden was to be the only black cadet in his class.

Sources: 
Catherine Reef, African Americans in the Military (New York: Facts on File, 2010); Gail Lumet Buckley, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm (New York: Random House, 2002); James Feron, “At West Point, Symbol of Change for Army,” The New York Times, October 28, 1987, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/28/nyregion/at-west-point-symbol-of-change-for-army.html; Angie Thorne, “One Man, One Family Makes a Difference,” March 4, 2009, retrieved from http://www.army.mil/article/17752/One_man__one_family_makes_difference/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Calhoun, William Henry (1890–1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Courtesy of The Black Heritage
Society of Washington"
Dr. William Henry Calhoun, a prominent early 20th century Seattle, Washington physician, was born on December 29, 1890 in Jackson, Tennessee.  Little is known about his parents or his childhood.  

Calhoun attended Meharry Medical School located in Nashville, Tennessee.  The college was established in 1876 (just 14 years before he was born) as the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College.  It was one of the first medical schools in the South for African Americans, although Howard Medical School in Washington, D.C., was the first, chartered in 1868.

Following his graduation from Meharry Medical College in the early 1920s, Dr. Calhoun migrated to Seattle, Washington.  In the early Seattle years, he practiced medicine from the Chandler Annex located on East Madison Street.  He and his wife, Verna, lived in an apartment above his office.

Sources: 
Geraldine Rhodes Beckford, Biographical Dictionary of American Physicians of African Ancestry 1800-1920, (New York: Africana Homestead Legacy Publishers 2011); “William H. Calhoun,” American Medical Association Masterfile, 1906-1969; http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/physician-data-resources/physician-masterfile.page; James N. Simms, Simms Blue Book and National Negro Business and Professional Directory (Chicago: James N. Simms, Publisher, 1923); “Joyner, Robert Nathaniel M.D. (1913-1999),” HistoryLink, http://www.historylink.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mays, William G. (1945-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William “Bill” G. Mays, entrepreneur, philanthropist and civic leader, was born in Evansville, Indiana to Joy and Theodore C. Mays, Sr. on December 4, 1945.  The youngest of three sons, his older brothers, Theodore Jr. and Robert, were twins.  Both parents were educators who encouraged their children to excel in their studies. 

Mays graduated from Evansville’s Lincoln High School, an institution that was segregated until his senior year.  When he graduated in 1963, Mays’ academic accomplishments led to his recognition as the number one graduating male student from Evansville Lincoln High School. 

His father’s academic training inspired Mays to study chemistry at Indiana University in Bloomington where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1970.  In 1973, he earned a Master of Business Administration Degree from Indiana University.

Sources: 
Indiana University Kelley School of Business Alumni Awards (n.d.),  Michael Anthony Adams, “Indianapolis businessman Bill Mays dead at age 69,” Indianapolis Star, December 4, 2014, http://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2014/12/04/bill-mays-businessman-dead-at-69-indianapolis/19924109/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

Walker, Tristan (1984– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Tristan Walker at the Silicon Valley CODE2040 Office
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The Silicon Valley (California) entrepreneur Tristan Walker is best known as the founder and CEO of Walker & Company Brands Incorporated. Walker was born in the Queens area of New York City, New York, on July 5, 1984. When Walker was only three years old, his father was shot and killed, forcing his mother to work long hours at two administrative jobs and live off of welfare. Despite this difficult environment, in 2002 Walker graduated from The Hotchkiss School, a boarding school in Lakeville, Connecticut. He then began college at the State University of New York at Stony Brook where he studied economics. While at Stony Brook, Walker was a member of Phi Beta Kappa International Honor Society and a participant in the Sponsors for Education Opportunity career program. In 2005 he graduated summa cum laude as class valedictorian.

Following college, Walker enrolled in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. While there, Walker began an internship at the social media company Twitter. He later became director of Business Development at the company Foursquare, a tech company known primarily for its development of location based mobile applications.

Sources: 
Trent Gillies, “Tristan Walker aims to change the world – starting with razors,” CNBC, March 14, 2015); J. J. McCorvey, “Tristan Walker: The Visible Man,” Fast Company, November 11, 2014; J. J. McCorvey, “Tristan Walker’s Walker & Company Raises $24 Million, Scores Target Distribution Deal,” Fast Company, September 28, 2015; and Laurie Segall, “Tristan Walker’s path through Silicon Valley’s color barrier,” CNN, November 3, 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Alexander, Raymond Pace (1897-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
H. Viscount Nelson, Black Leadership Responds to Crisis: The Great Depression in Philadelphia (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Wilkins, Roy (1901-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Roy Wilkins, one of the leading US civil rights activists of the twentieth century, was born in St. Louis, Missouri.  Wilkins’ mother died of tuberculosis when he was four; he and his siblings were then raised by an aunt and uncle in a poor but racially integrated neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Sources: 
Sondra Kathryn Wilson, In Search of Democracy: The NAACP Writings of James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and Roy Wilkins (1920-1977), (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “NAACP History: Roy Wilkins,” http://www.naacp.org/pages/naacp-history-Roy-Wilkins, accessed January 1, 2014; Tim Brady, “Remembering Roy Wilkins,” University of Minnesota Alumni Association Newsletter (November-December, 2005), http://www.minnesotaalumni.org/s/1118/content.aspx?sid=1118&gid=1&pgid=1528, accessed January 1, 2014; Roy Wilkins, Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Smith, Nolle (1888-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Nolle Smith, cowboy, politician, diplomat, was born on his parents’ ranch in Horse Creek, Wyoming in 1888 but grew up in Cheyenne where he graduated as valedictorian of his high school class at Cheyenne High School in 1907.  The son of a white father and African American mother, Smith attended the University of Nebraska where he studied engineering and math while playing football, and basketball and competing in track.  After graduation, Smith held engineering jobs briefly in Rock River, Wyoming and Denver, Colorado. In 1915, however, he was offered a job in Hawaii as an engineer with the Honolulu Department of Public Works. The following year he became Superintendent of Docks for Matson Navigation Company, a major shipping firm. In 1917 Smith married Eva Beatrice Jones, a childhood friend from Cheyenne who had moved to San Francisco, California.     
Sources: 
Bobette Gugliotta, Nolle Smith, Cowboy, Engineer, Statesman (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1971); Daphne Barbee Wooten and Miles M. Jackson, “Law and Politics in Hawaii” in Miles M. Jackson, ed., They Followed the Trade Winds: African Americans in Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004) pp. 128-130.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Carmichael, Stokely (Kwame Ture) (1941-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
A civil rights leader, antiwar activist, and Pan-African revolutionary, Stokely Carmichael is best known for popularizing the slogan "Black Power," which in the mid 1960s galvanized a movement toward more militant and separatist assertions of black identity, nationalism, and empowerment and away from the liberal, interracial pacifism of Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference  (SCLC).
Sources: 
Stokely Carmichael with Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Ready for Revolution:  The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) (New York:  Scribner, 2003); James Haskins, Profiles in Black Power (New York:  Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972), 185-201; Clayborne Carson, In Struggle:  SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 1981).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jordan Hatcher Case (1852)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Jordan Hatcher was a seventeen-year-old enslaved tobacco worker in Richmond, Virginia, who in 1852 rose from obscurity to notoriety when charged with assaulting and killing white overseer William Jackson.  According to newspaper accounts and trial records, Hatcher was working at the Walker & Harris tobacco factory when Jackson began flogging him with a cowhide for performing poorly.  Hatcher initially warded off the blows, but Jackson continued to beat him.  In response Hatcher grabbed an iron poker, struck Jackson unconscious, and immediately fled the factory.  When Jackson later awok
Sources: 
Midori Takagi, “Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction” Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782-1865 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999); William A. Link, “The Jordan Hatcher Case: Politics and “A Spirit of Insubordination” in Antebellum Virginia,” Journal of Southern History 64:4 (Nov 1998); Harrison M. Ethridge, “The Jordan Hatcher Affair of 1852,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 84 (1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

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)

Murray, Daniel A. P. (1852-1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Daniel A. P. Murray was born on March 3, 1852 in Baltimore, Maryland.  At the age of nine he left Baltimore to live in Washington, D.C., where his brother managed the U.S. Senate restaurant.  In 1871 Murray acquired a job as a personal assistant to the librarian of Congress, Ainsworth R. Spofford.  Under Spofford's tutelage Murray gathered invaluable research skills and learned several languages. In 1879 he married Anna Evans, an Oberlin College graduate whose uncle and cousin had taken part in John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry.  Two years later, in 1881, he advanced to assistant librarian of the Library of Congress, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1923.

Sources: 
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection (1818-1907): Library of Congress
http://rs6.loc.gov/ammem/aap/aaphome.html; Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Joshua Bowen (1813-1879)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Joshua Bowen Smith, caterer, abolitionist, and state senator, was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania in 1813.  Details regarding his childhood remain obscure.  However, it is known that he was educated in the public school system of Pennsylvania with the assistance of a wealthy Quaker.  
Sources: 
Lucius Robinson Paige, History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1877, with a Genealogical Register (Boston: H. O. Houghton and Company, 1877); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Emiline Smith, Statement of the Claim of the Late Joshua B. Smith against the Commonwealth for Subsistence Furnished the 12th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers (May 14, 1879), petition.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mills, Florence (1896-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

The 1927 Times of London (UK) obituary noted of Florence Mills, “There is no doubt that she was a real artist full of individuality and intelligence, and her premature death is a sad loss to the profession.”  Florence Mills was an internationally-recognized and multifaceted performer who paved the way for other black female stars during the Harlem Renaissance.

Born Florence Winfrey in 1896, in Washington, D.C. to former slaves Nellie and John Winfrey, Mills moved with her parents to New York City, New York in 1905. To help her financially struggling family, Mills and her two older sisters created “The Mills Sisters,” a dance and singing troupe that performed in theatres in Harlem, New York.

Sources: 

Bill Egan, Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004); http://www.florencemills.com/biography.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, Alphonso R. (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Bennett, Gwendolyn (1902-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Gwendolyn Bennett a poet, author, educator, journalist and graphic artist, was born July 8, 1902 in Giddings, Texas, to Joshua and Maime Bennett.  Her parents worked as teachers in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Gwendolyn’s family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1906 when she was four years old. Soon after, Bennett’s mother divorced her father and took custody of six year old Gwendolyn. Joshua eventually kidnapped Gwendolyn and they settled in with her stepmother in Brooklyn, New York.

Bennett attended Brooklyn’s Girls High from 1918 to 1921 where she became the first African American to join the Drama and Literary societies and where she was rewarded first place in a school-wide art contest.  After graduating from high school, Bennett enrolled at Columbia University and Pratt Institute to pursue fine arts.  She graduated in 1924.

Bennett began to write poetry in college and in November 1923, her poem “Nocturne” was published in The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  The following month another poem, “Heritage” appeared in Opportunity, the magazine of the National Urban League.  In 1924, Bennett became an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at Howard University.  Continuing her education in fine arts, Bennett went to Academic Julian and Ecole de Pantheon in Paris in 1925.

Sources: 

Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Detroit-London: Gale
Research Inc. 1992).
http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/bennett_gwendolyn.html.http://...

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Khanga, Yelena (1962- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Yelena Khanga is a journalist and writer who was born in 1962 in Moscow, Russia. She is the daughter of Abdulla Khanga, who was the onetime vice president of Zanzibar, and Lily Golden, a Russian woman who was a historian and educator. She was also the granddaughter of a black Christian, Oliver Golden and a Polish Jew, Bertha Bialek. The pair met in jail after being arrested during a union demonstration and migrated to the Soviet Union in 1931 after being disowned by Bialek’s family for being in an interracial relationship.

Khanga grew up in Moscow, attending schools where she was often the only child of African ancestry. She said that she "was never made to feel less intelligent, less capable, less likely to achieve than my white schoolmates." However, Khanga said that she did realize that she was different and she felt like an outsider. As a teen Khanga started playing tennis and was able to travel the Soviet Union as a member of the Army Tennis Team. After finishing public school, she attended Moscow State University and graduated in 1984 with a degree in journalism.
Sources: 
Yelena Khanga, Soul to Soul: The Story of a Black Russian American Family, 1865-1992 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992); "Yelena Khanga," in Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: The Gale Group, 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chubby Checker (Ernest Evans) (1941-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Chubby Checker, the man credited with inventing “The Twist,” was born Ernest Evans in Spring Gully, South Carolina. He moved to Philadelphia with his parents and two brothers and attended South Philadelphia High School. Evans aspired to become a performer from a young age and eventually caught a small break after graduating from high school making novelty records that were impressions of singers like Elvis Presley and Fats Domino.

Evans' career took off when he met Barbara Clark, wife of American Bandstand host, Dick Clark. Barbara Clark is credited with giving young Evans his full stage name. He’d picked up the nickname ‘Chubby’ while working in a Philadelphia poultry market. When Barbara Clark met him he was working on his Fats Domino impression at the recording studio. She said “You’re Chubby Checker, like Fats Domino.” The name stuck.

With Barbara Clark's help, Evans got a job recording a Christmas greeting card for Dick Clark’s associates. This record spawned another called “The Class," which contained impressions of famous singers. It was a hit. Unfortunately, Chubby Checker fell into obscurity and his record label was ready to drop him.
Sources: 
John Jackson, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire (New York, Oxford University Press, 1997); http://www.chubbychecker.com/bio.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Browne, Hugh Mason (1851-1923)

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

Hugh M. Browne was a civil rights activist and educator.  Born June 12, 1851, in Washington D.C. to John and Elizabeth (Wormley) Browne, he is known for his work as the principal of the Institute for Colored Youth and his advocacy for vocational education.

After graduating from a segregated public school in Washington D.C., he studied at Howard University and graduated in 1875. That year he enrolled in the Theological Seminary of Princeton, graduating three years later and licensed as a Presbyterian minister.

After further education in Scotland, he became a professor at Liberia College in the Republic of Liberia, serving there from 1883 to 1886.  He introduced a course on Industrial Education there, and attempted to reform Liberian higher education. This culminated in an essay he was invited to write, “The Higher Education of the Colored People of the South,” in which he advocated elementary and industrial education over abstract higher education, espousing the opinion that Liberians and blacks in the south currently need practical education and are not ready for a more literary education. His cultural and educational criticisms of Liberia created tension with the principal of Liberia College, leading to his restriction from teaching.

Sources: 
The Crisis, Vol. 27, No. 4, (New York: The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc., Feb 1924); Princeton Theological Seminary, Necrological reports and annual proceedings of the Alumni Association ... : 1875-1932 (Princeton, New Jersey: C.S. Robinson, 1891); Faustine C. Jones-Wilson, Encyclopedia of African American Education (Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Company, 1996); http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4144/Browne-Hugh-M-1851-1923.html#ixzz0bzcyIaRl
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Scott, Harriet Robinson (ca. 1820-1876)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Harriet Robinson Scott was an enslaved person who is best remembered for being the second wife of Dred Scott.  Harriet was born a slave on a Virginia plantation around 1820.  From a young age she was a servant to Lawrence Taliaferro, a US Indian Agent.  In 1834 Taliaferro left his home in Pennsylvania for a post as agent to the Sioux Nation at St. Peter’s Agency in the Wisconsin Territory.  He took Harriet with him to his new post.
Sources: 
Lea VanderVelde, Mrs. Dred Scott (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2009); "Famous Dred Scott Case," The New York Times, December 22, 1895; http://shs.umsystem.edu/historicmissourians/name/s/scotth/index.html; Paul Finkelman, Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Gayleatha Beatrice (1947-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On July 2, 2009 President Barack Obama appointed Gayleatha Beatrice Brown to be the United States ambassador to Burkina Faso, a nation in West Africa.  This was her second ambassadorial appointment. Previously, Brown had been appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Benin, a post she held from 2006 to 2009.
Sources: 
“Ambassador Gayleatha B. Brown,” http://web.archive.org/web/20090922093219/http://cotonou.usembassy.gov/bio.html; “Ambassador Gayleatha Beatrice Brown,” U.S. Department of State Archive, http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/70159.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Perry, June Carter (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador June Carter Perry was born November 13, 1943 in Texarkana, Arkansas.  After completing grade school, Perry was accepted at the Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois where in 1965 she earned her degree in history.  Two years later she earned a master’s degree in European History at the University of Chicago.  Shortly afterwards she married Frederick M. Perry and the couple had two children, Chad and Andre.  

From May 1972 to October 1974, Perry served as the Public Affairs Director and broadcaster for WGMS/RKO Radio in Washington, D.C.  In October 1974, she became a Special Assistant in the Community Services Administration, a national anti-poverty agency. In September 1976, Perry became the Public Affairs Director for the Peace Corps, the ACTION agency, and VISTA.  Perry remained the Public Affairs Director of the three programs until 1982.

Sources: 
“June Carter Perry,” U.S. Department of State Archives, http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/91290.htm; “June Carter Perry,” US Department: Diplomacy in Action, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/pix/blackhistory/2009/116116.htm; LinkedIn: Ambassador June Carter Perry, https://www.linkedin.com/pub/ambassador-june-carter-perry-ret/6a/2a3/570.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Hobson, Mellody (1969– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Mellody Hobson and George Lucas
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Mellody Hobson is the president of Ariel Investments (AI), which was founded in 1983 by John W. Rogers, Jr. With the continued growth of the African American middle class, the number of black investors has risen. Ariel Investments is one of the nation’s few African American-owned investment companies that focuses primarily on the needs of those investors. Ariel’s current assets sit at $10.1 billion. Hobson views stocks as the best channel to growing significant wealth for African Americans. Combining her knowledge of investments with her drive for bettering the black community, Hobson has been able to use her platform at Ariel to convey and promote these ideas.   
Sources: 
“Our Team” Ariel Investments, LLC, website, https://www.arielinvestments.com/our-team/; Jeanne Lesinski, “Hobson, Mellody, l969–,” Contemporary Black Biography, 2004 in Encyclopedia.com. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2874200042.html; Beth Kowitt, “Why Mellody Hobson Stopped Apologizing for Being a Black Woman,” Fortune, December 3, 2014, http://fortune.com/2014/12/03/mellody-hobson-next-gen/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cole, Robert "Bob," Jr. (1868-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Robert “Bob” Cole and J. Rosamond Johnson
Image Ownership: Public domain

Entertainer Robert Allen “Bob” Cole, Jr. was born on July 1, 1868 in Athens, Georgia to his parents Robert Allen Cole, Sr. and Isabella Thomas Weldon. The Coles were well known in the Athens community, which boasted a robust African American community at the time.  Being from a large, musical family Bob Cole found himself learning to play the drums, banjo, guitar, piano and cello.

Cole left Athens when he was fifteen, moving in with his mother’s relatives from Florida.  Throughout his years as a teenager and young adult, Cole had many roles in entertainment.  Much of these included playing in clubs throughout the East Coast, often involving singing, playing instruments and performing comedy.

Sources: 
Thomas L. Riis “"Bob" Cole: His Life and His Legacy to Black Musical Theater." The Black Perspective in Music 13, no. 2 (1985): 135-50. doi:10.2307/1214581
https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200038836/; “Bob Cole, 1868-1911”.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Neil, John Jordan "Buck" (1911-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil was born November 13, 1911, in Carrabelle, Florida.  Working with his father on a Florida celery farm when he was 13, the young O’Neil said to himself “Damn. There’s got to be something better than this.” After traveling to West Palm Beach to see Rube Foster’s baseball team at the Royal Poinciana Hotel, O’Neil decided baseball was going to be his way out.

O’Neil’s professional career began in 1937 with a short stint with the Memphis Red Sox. Later that season O’Neil would sign with the Kansas City Monarchs, where he would spend the rest of his playing career. In 1942 O’Neil led the Monarchs in a four-game sweep of the Homestead Grays in the league championship, batting with a .353 average. In two different seasons, 1940 and 1946, O’Neil won the league batting title, hitting .345 and .350.

In 1948 O’Neil replaced Frank Duncan as manager of the Kansas City Monarchs. As a manager and scout, O’Neil sent more African Americans to the Major Leagues in his career than any other individual, including future Hall-of-Famers like Ernie Banks and Lou Brock. O’Neil was renowned for his knowledge of the game, but also for his leadership of younger players, and he never lost a contest when selected to manage a team in the All-Star games of 1950, 1953, 1954, and 1955.

Sources: 
Ken Burns, Baseball. PBS Interview, http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/baseball/shadowball/oneil.html
Kansas City Star, Special Collection—Buck O’Neil, http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/special_packages/oneil/ Negro League Baseball Museum, http://nlbm.com/ ; Negro League Baseball Players Association, http://www.nlbpa.com/o_neil__john_jordan_-_buck.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Larsen, Nella (1891-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Nella Larsen, nurse, librarian, and, writer, was born Nella Marie Larsen in Chicago in 1891 to a Danish mother and a black West Indian father.  Knowing little about her father after his death when she was two years old, she was reared in the home with her mother, remarried to a Danish man, and her half-sister.  Larsen attended school in all white environments in Chicago until 1906-1907, when she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to attend high school at Fisk University’s Normal School.  This was her introduction to a predominantly black environment.

After completing the year at Fisk, Larsen journeyed to Denmark where she spent three years (1909-1912) with relatives and audited courses from the University of Copenhagen.  Returning to the United States, she entered a three-year course of study at Lincoln Hospital Training School for Nurses in New York City.  Larsen later practiced nursing from 1915 to 1921 at John A. Andrew Hospital and Nurse Training School in Alabama and the City Department of Health in New York. On May 3, 1919, Larsen married Dr. Elmer Samuel Imes, a black physicist who became the chairman of the Physics Department at Fisk University.

Sources: 
Thadius M. Davis, “Nella Larsen,”  Afro-American Writers From the Harlem Renaissance to 1940, in Trudier Harris-Lopez and Thadius M. Davis, eds.,  Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol.  51, Literary Resource Center (Detroit: Gale Research, 1987); Shelia Smith McKay, “Nella Larsen: Overview,”  in Jim Kamp, ed.,  Reference Guide to American Literature, 3rd edition (Detroit: St. James Press, 1994); Jacquelyn Y. McLendon, “Nella Larsen,” in Valerie Smith, Lea Baechler, and A. Walton Litz, eds.,  African American Writers (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1991).
Affiliation: 
Jefferson State Community College, Alabama

Francis, Abner Hunt (1812?–1872)

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

Abner Hunt Francis was an abolitionist and activist whose life and work spanned both U.S. coasts and Canada. He was born on a farm near Flemington, New Jersey. His father, Jacob, was a Revolutionary War veteran. His mother, Mary, was enslaved when she married Jacob, who was able to purchase his wife’s freedom. While still in New Jersey, Abner opposed the American Colonization Society and attended national black conventions in 1833 and 1834. He was also a subscription agent for the Liberator.  

Sources: 
Ena L. Farley, “The African American presence in the History of Western New York,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 14:1 (1990); Arthur O. White, “The Black Movement against Jim Crow Education in Buffalo, New York, 1800-1900,”  Phylon 30:4 (1969): Lillian Serece Williams, Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, NY, 1900–1940 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999); Elizabeth McLagan, A Peculiar Paradise a History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940 (Portland: The Georgian Press, 1980).
Affiliation: 
Indepenent Historian and Portland State University

Coleridge-Taylor, Samuel (1875-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the National
Museum of American History
Born on August 15, 1875 to a physician from Sierra Leone and an Englishwoman, musical composer and conductor Samuel Coleridge-Taylor grew-up in Holborn, England.  He revealed his musical talents at the age of five, began studying the violin at the age of seven, and entered the Royal College of Music in London at the age of fifteen.  By the mid-1890s, due largely to his association with the African American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar and inspired by the London performance of the visiting Fisk Jubilee Singers from the United States, Coleridge-Taylor begin reflecting the African American experience in his music.

By 1898 when only 23 years of age, Coleridge-Taylor was commissioned to write his Ballade in A Minor for Britain’s Three Choirs Festival.  He is perhaps best remembered for Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, the first of three parts based on poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.  Coleridge-Taylor’s overture to this particular piece was drawn from the black American spiritual: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”  
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); see also African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Group, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Austin, Richard Henry (1913-2001)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Michigan Department
of Transportation

Richard Henry Austin was born on May 6, 1913 in Stouts Mountain, Alabama, the son of Richard H. and Leila (Hill) Austin.  Austin shined and sold shoes while studying at the Detroit Institute of Technology at night.  After graduating from the Institute in 1937, he became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in 1941 (the first African American to do so in Michigan), and founded his own accounting firm.  Austin then helped other blacks in the Detroit area form businesses, foundations, and civic groups.

Richard Austin also became very active in political and civil rights groups in Detroit.  In 1969, he was almost elected the city’s first black mayor.  He led in the primary but was defeated by a margin of 51 to 49 percent in the general election.  Two years later, however, Austin garnered a 300,000 vote majority over his opponent to become Michigan’s first African American Secretary of State.  He was subsequently reelected four times.

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

Church, Robert Reed, Sr. (1839-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
Tennessee State University
Robert Reed Church, Sr., was a millionaire business leader and philanthropist in Memphis, Tennessee.  Born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on June 18, 1839, he was the product of an interracial union. His father was a steamboat captain, Charles B. Church, and his mother, Emmeline, was an enslaved seamstress who died when Robert was twelve years old.
Sources: 
Annette E. Church and Roberta Church, The Robert R. Churches of Memphis: A Father and Son Who Achieved in Spite of Race (Memphis: A.E. Church, 1974); Mary C. Terrell, A Colored Woman in a White World (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2006; Lester Lamon, Black Tennesseans, 1900-1930 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977); Robert A. Sigafoos, Cotton Row to Beale Street: A Business History of Memphis (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1979); The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Pele (Deon Arrantnes Do Nasciemento) (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

 

Born on October 23, 1940 in Tres Coracoes, Minas Gerais in Brazil, Deon Arratnes Do Nasciemento, known to the world as “Pele,” is revered as one of the most influential football (soccer) players in history. From the time he began his legendary football career at the age of 15, until his finale match in 1977, Pele set numerous international records and is believed to have scored over 1,281 goals throughout his 22 years as a professional football player.

Pele’s love for football began when he was a young child growing up in Bauru, Sao Paulo State, Brazil. Although his family could not afford a leather football, he improvised by playing with grapefruits and sock rolls. Additionally, Pele and his friends helped finance their Bauru youth team by selling roasted peanuts.

Sources: 
Rod Smith, Pele (Boston: Pearson Education, 2000); Noel Machin, Pele: King of Soccer (New York: Longman, 1984); SoccerPulse.com, http://www.soccerpulse.com/view_legends.php?id=10; Latino Legends in Sports, “A Biography of Pele,” http://www.latinosportslegends.com/Pele_bio.htm; ESPN Classic, “Pele, King of Futbol,” http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Pele.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Evans, Annie/Evanti, Lillian (1891-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Source/Moorland-Spingarn Research
Center, Howard University
Lillian (Evans) Evanti, one of the first African American women to become an internationally prominent opera performer, was born in Washington D.C. in 1891.  Evanti was born into a prominent Washington, D.C. family.  Her father, Wilson Evans, was a medical doctor and teacher in the city.  He was the founder of Armstrong Technical High School and served many years as its principal.  Anne Brooks, Evanti’s mother, taught music in the public school system of Washington D.C.

Evanti received her education from Armstrong Technical High School and graduated from Howard University in 1917 with her bachelor’s degree in music.  A gifted student and performer, she was able to speak and sing in five different languages.  The following year she and Roy W. Tibbs, her Howard University music professor, married and had a son, Thurlow Tibbs. 
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Carl Van Vechten, "Lillian Evanti." Extravagant Crowd, http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/cvvpw/gallery/evanti.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harding, Vincent Gordon (1931-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Vincent Harding

Vincent G. Harding, civil rights leader, teacher, scholar, engaged citizen, and seeker was especially noted for his close association with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his decades of social justice work. Harding was born on July 25, 1931 in Harlem. His mother Mabel Harding was one of the most influential people in his life. In 1960, he married Rosemarie Freeney Harding (1930-2004) in Chicago, Illinois. The couple had two children, Rachel and Jonathan.

Sources: 
Rose Marie Berger, “I’ve Known Rivers: The Story of Freedom Movement Leaders Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Vincent Harding,” Sojourners, online archive (www.sojo.net). Vincent Harding, interview with Tisa M. Anders, Denver, Colorado, April 19, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Touré, Ahmed Sékou (1922-1984)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Ahmad Sekou Toure in Bamako
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ahmed Sékou Touré, first president of Guinea, trade unionist, Pan-Africanist and authoritarian leader, was born on January 9, 1922 at Faranah, Guinea, a town on the banks of the Niger River. His parents, Alpha Touré and Aminata Fadiga, were peasant farmers of the Malinké ethnic group. Sékou Touré was first educated at the local Koranic school and pursued further studies at the regional school of Kissidougou, south Guinea. In 1938, he was expelled from school in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, for leading a hunger strike. He continued educating himself through correspondence courses while taking on various jobs.

Sources: 

Hakim Adi and Marika Sherwood, Pan-African history: political figures from Africa and the Diaspora since 1787 (New York: Routledge, 2003); Ibrahima Baba Kaké, Sékou Touré: le héros et le tyran (Paris: Jeune Afrique livres, 1987).

Affiliation: 
University of Nantes, France

Scott-Heron, Gil (1949-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Poet, novelist, musician, and songwriter Gil Scott-Heron was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 1, 1948 to parents Bobbie Scott Heron, a librarian, and Giles (Gil) Heron, a Jamaican professional soccer player. He grew up in Lincoln, Tennessee and the Bronx, New York, where he attended DeWitt Clinton High School. Heron attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and received an M.S. in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University.

By age 13, Scott-Heron had written his first collection of poems. He published his first novel, The Vulture, a murder mystery whose central themes include the devastating effects of drugs on urban black life, in 1968 at age 19.  Four years later,  Scott-Heron published his second novel, The Nigger Factory (1972), which, set on the campus of a historically black college (HBCU), focused on the conflicting ideology between the more traditionally Eurocentric-trained administrators; the younger, more nationalistic students—founders of  Members of Justice for Meaningful Black Education (MJUMBE); and the more moderate students and their leader, Earl Thomas.

Sources: 
Hank Bordowitz, “Music Notes: Gil Scott Heron.” American Vision 13 no.3 (June 1998):40; Terry Rowden, “Gil Scott-Heron,” Encyclopedia of African American Literature Wilfred D. Samuels, ed., (New York: Facts on File, 2007): 452-454.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Rawlings, Jerry (1947- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Sources: 

"Jerry J. Rawlings," Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009; Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 07 Jun. 2009 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/492337/Jerry-J-Rawlings; Kevin Shillington, Ghana and the Rawlings Factor (New York: St Martin's Press, 1992).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McKenzie, Vashti Murphy (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On July 11, 2000, journalist and clergywoman Vashti Murphy McKenzie became the first female bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In 2005 she became the denomination’s first woman to serve as Titular Head. Her commitment to community development is evident in her work with urban American cities as well as in AIDS-stricken Africa.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie was born on May 28, 1947 into a prominent Baltimore, Maryland family. Her great-grandfather John Henry Murphy, Sr. founded the Afro-American Newspaper in 1892, and her grandmother Vashti Turly Murphy was a founding member of Delta Sigma Theta, an African American college sorority. Bishop McKenzie graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland in 1978. She later earned a master’s of divinity from Howard University and a doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary.
Sources: 
Martha Simmons and Frank A. Thomas, eds., Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010); Vashti M. McKenzie, Journey to the Well (New York: Penguin, 2003); C. Stone Brown, “The Rev. Vashti Murphy McKenzie: A Bishop for the New Millennium,” The New Crisis, November/December, 2000, pp. 29-31; “Bishop Vashti McKenzie,” The 13th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, http://www.13thame.com/index.php?page_id=about_leadership (accessed January 12, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ben-Jochannan, Yosef (1918-2015)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Boone, Ashley A., Jr. (1938-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The son of a postal worker and stay-at-home mother, Ashley Augustus Boone Jr.  was born and raised in what he described as a “lower middle class” environment in Springfield, Massachusetts.  His parents, nonetheless, recognized the primacy of education and, like his brother and two sisters who all finished college, Boone graduated with a degree in economics from Brandeis University in 1960.

Initially, he hoped to land a position at the World Bank improving the finances of underdeveloped nations, but upon graduation he sought employment in the entertainment industry and at television stations in New York City.  Failing to get hired even as a page, he eventually found work at American Airlines.  
Sources: 
Collette Wood, “Hollywood’s Top Black Executive,” Sepia (May 1978); Ken Smikle, “Inside Hollywood,” Black Enterprise (December 1986); http://www.thefreelibrary.com/ASHLEY+A.+BOONE+JR.-a015188143
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Staples, George McDade (1947-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownershp: Public Domain"
George McDade Staples was appointed by President Bill Clinton to be ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda, where he served from 1998 to 2001.  He was later appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as ambassador to Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea.  He served in that post between 2001 and 2004.

Staples was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1947.  He received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Southern California and an M.A. in Business from Central Michigan University. He and his wife, Jo Ann Fuson Staples, have one daughter, Catherine.  The couple have a permanent home in Pineville, Kentucky.
Sources: 
The American Academy of Diplomacy, http://www.academyofdiplomacy.org/members/bios/Staples.html; U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/staples-george-mcdade.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bean, Maurice Darrow (1928-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 1977, career diplomat Maurice D. Bean was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Burma (in 1989 the military government changed the name of the country to Myanmar). Bean was born on September 9, 1928, in Gary, Indiana. His father Everett worked as a laborer for the U.S. Steel Corporation; his mother Vera was a housewife.

Bean attended racially segregated schools in Gary and graduated from Howard University in 1950 with a B.A. in Government. A year later, Bean’s career in the U.S. Foreign Service began when he was assigned to work with the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) in Indonesia. From 1951 to 1956, he served in Djakarta, the nation’s capital, as clerk, assistant program officer, and program analyst for the ECA.

Sources: 
“Maurice Darrow Bean,” 1930 & 1940 United States Federal Census; and U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 http://www.ancestry.com/; Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, “Jimmy Carter: ‘United States Ambassador to Burma Nomination of Maurice D. Bean,’ August 15, 1977” http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=7959; United States Office of the Federal Register, “Jimmy Carter: 1977” (1981) http://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/ppotpus/4732130.1977.002?rgn=main;view=fulltext.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Fields, George Washington (1854–1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
George Washington Fields was born into slavery in Hanover County, Virginia on April 25, 1854. He was one of 11 children of Martha Ann Berkley and Washington Fields. Of the children, one died in infancy, three were sold off, and one was a runaway. Fields and the others grew up on Clover Plain Plantation in northeastern Virginia.

In July 1863, during a battle between Union and Confederate soldiers on the plantation, Fields’ mother escaped along with him and five other siblings. After a few months travel, they reached the safety of Fortress Monroe near Hampton, Virginia.  Fortress Monroe was one of the first Union-occupied fortifications which received escaping slaves.  Those who arrived in 1861 and 1862 were labeled "contraband" and their status as free people was disputed.  By the time Fields and her children reached the fort, they were granted freedom by the Emancipation Proclamation since Hanover County was still in Confederate hands.  
Sources: 
Kevin M. Clermont, “The Indomitable George Washington Fields: From Slavery to Attorney” (CreateSpace independent Publishing Platform, 1st edition, June 9, 2013); Hanover County Historical Society, “Nutshell: An Historical Background,” http://www.hanoverhistorical.org/nutshell.html;  Robert Francis Engs, “ Freedom's First Generation: Black Hampton, Virginia, 1861-1890” ( Fordham University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fisher, Ada M. (1947- )

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

Dr. Ada M. Fisher is a retired physician and a recurrent Republican candidate for office. Fisher was born on October 21, 1947 in Durham, North Carolina, the daughter of Rev. Miles Mark Fisher, a son of a former slave and his Seminole Indian wife. Rev. Fisher was also a Republican, as well as his grandfather who was freed by the 13th Amendment adopted in 1865. Little information is found about the wife of Rev. Miles Mark Fisher. Dr. Fisher is single, but adopted two children: Shevin Michael and Charles Malvern.

Sources: 
RNC Communications, “Women’s History Month Highlight: Fisher,” GOP, https://www.gop.com/womens-history-month-highlight-dr-ada-fisher/; “Ada Fisher – Biography,” Newsmax, http://www.newsmax.com/Insiders/AdaFisher/bio-337/; “Ada M. Fisher (NC), Project Vote Smart Biography, https://web.archive.org/web/20121011210104/http://votesmart.org/candidate/biography/41484.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Donowa, Arnold Bennett (1896-196?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Trinidad-born dental surgeon and Spanish Civil War veteran Arnold Donowa was born in December 1895 and earned his D.D.S. from Howard University in 1922.  Donowa worked at the Royal College of Dental Surgeons in Toronto as well as the child-oriented Fosythe Clinic in Boston before returning to Howard in 1929 as dean of its new College of Dentistry.  After two years, Howard resigned to start a private practice in Harlem.

Sources: 
Danny Duncan Collum (editor) and Victor A. Berch (chief researcher), African Americans in the Spanish Civil War: “This Ain’t Ethiopia, But It’ll Do” (New York, New York: G.K. Hall & Co, 1992); Clifton O. Dummett, “The Negro in Dental Education,” The Phylon Quarterly, 13.2 (4th Quarter, 1959); William L. Katz, Fraser M. Ottanelli, and Christopher Brooks, “African Americans in the Spanish Civil War,” Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at New York University (https://www.alba-valb.org >, November 2006); William R. Scott, “Black Nationalism and the Italo-Ethiopian Conflict 1934-1936,” The Journal of Negro HistoryMississippi to Madrid (Seattle, Washington: Open Hand Publishing, 1989). 63.2 (April, 1978); James Yates,
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ruffin, George Lewis (1834-1886)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

George Lewis Ruffin

By Melvin Robbins (1918-99)

Courtesy of Historical & Special Collections,
Harvard Law Library

George Lewis Ruffin was born December 16, 1834 in Richmond, Virginia, the son of free blacks.  He was educated in Boston, Massachusetts and soon became a force in the city’s civic leadership.  After marrying Josephine St. Pierre, Mr. Ruffin supported his family by working as a barber.  In his spare time, Ruffin read law books and wrote reviews for a weekly publication.  Eventually Ruffin was admitted to Harvard Law School where in 1869 he became the first African American to graduate.  Later that year Ruffin was admitted to the Suffolk County Bar Association.

Sources: 
http://www.masshist.org/; Amistad Research Center at Tulane University.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch McGregor University

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

Brown, George L. (1926-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although George L. Brown was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, he played a significant roll in Colorado politics for nearly twenty-five years.  Following his graduation from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 1950, Brown moved to Denver where he worked as a reporter and editor for The Denver Post.  He continued working for the Post after being appointed to the Colorado senate in 1955, and he covered the civil rights movement in the south during the 1960s. Voters returned him to office for another four terms.

In 1975 Colorado Democrats selected Brown run for lieutenant governor on the same ticket as gubernatorial candidate Richard Lamm. Both Brown and Lamm were elected.  Brown and Mervyn Dymally, who was elected lieutenant governor of California on the same day, became the first African Americans to hold the post of lieutenant governor in the 20th century.

Brown’s term as one of the nation’s first 20th century black lieutenant governors did not go smoothly, however.  He first pardoned a man convicted of murder while Governor Lamm was on vacation. The governor also withheld part of Brown’s salary for overspending his budget, prompting the lieutenant governor to initiate a lawsuit against Colorado’s chief executive.  The resulting bad press led to Brown’s loss in the 1979 Democratic primary election.
Sources: 
The History Makers at www.historymakers.com; The Political Graveyard at www.politicalgraveyard.com; obituary, “First Black to Hold Statewide Office in U.S.,” Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2005 at www.latimes.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Height, Dorothy Irene (1912-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, eds., Black Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia (Carlson Publishing Company, 1993); http://www.naswfoundation.org/pioneers/h/height.htm; www.ncnw.org/about/height.htm; Dorothy Height Obituary, Seattle Times, April 21, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, Ernestine (1928-2016)

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

The career of Seattle-based jazz vocalist Ernestine Anderson is noteworthy both for its prolific output of more than 30 albums, and the more than 60-year span of her career. Born in Houston, Texas on November 11, 1928, as a child she joined her father and grandmother in the gospel choir of her local church. At 12 she won a regional talent competition. In 1943, her first gig was with the band of trumpeter Russell Jacquet.

With her family she moved to Seattle, Washington in 1944. At 18, she toured with the Johnny Otis big band; at 20, she married and began her own family. Throughout her career, she alternated returning to Seattle to be with children and family, with periods of going out of town or country to focus on her career.

In 1952, famed big band leader Lionel Hampton had an opening for a new singer. With the encouragement of her husband, Anderson auditioned, backed up by the Ray Charles trio, then in Seattle. She was hired, and toured with the band for 15 months; fellow Seattle native Quincy Jones was in the trumpet section. When the band began a European tour, she returned to Seattle and spent time raising her children. Returning to her career, she performed at the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958. During a successful tour in Sweden, she recorded her first solo album, later released by Mercury Records under the title “Hot Cargo.” An August 4, 1958 cover of Time magazine followed, and she was named the “Best New Vocal Star” by Down Beat magazine in 1959.

Sources: 
Paul De Barros, Jackson Street after Hours: the Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle, Washington: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://www.ernestineanderson.com; http://www.npr.org/programs/jazz.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Roach, Maxwell Lemuel "Max" (1924–2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Drummer, composer, and percussionist Max Roach was noted for his innovative contrapuntal polyrhythms, and was one of the founders of the bebop movement in jazz. He is widely considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, able to keep separate simultaneous rhythms going with each hand, revolutionizing jazz drumming. He played on many of the most famous jazz recordings, including “Jazz at Massey Hall” with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Bud Powell, and “Birth of the Cool” with Miles Davis. He worked with other icons of jazz including Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown, Thelonious Monk, singer Dinah Washington, and free jazz saxophonist Anthony Braxton.  His work spanned a remarkable six decades.

Roach was born in Newland, North Carolina on January 10, 1924, and moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York when he was four. His mother was a gospel singer, and he played in orchestras and bands while in school, studying at the Manhattan School of Music. He was still a student when he played for three nights with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, filling in for an ill Sonny Greer. By 1944 Roach was performing at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Coleman Hawkins, and was the drummer on one of the first bebop recordings.

Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); David Rosenthal, Hard Bop and Black Music, 1955-1965 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Scott DeVeaux, The Birth of BeBop: A Social and Musical History (Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1997); http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/ .
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lester, William Alexander (Bill), III (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Veteran auto racer Bill Lester was born February 6, 1961, in Washington, D.C. Lester earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984 and worked at Hewlett-Packard for a year before becoming a race car driver.

Lester became a professional driver when in 1985 he entered and won the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Series Northern California Region Rookie of the Year title.  One year later he won the SCCA GT-3 Regional Road Racing Championship.  In 1989, Lester began racing in the International Motor Sports Association's (IMSA) GTO Series and several other sports car series in the United States.

Lester has raced in all three divisions of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR): the Craftsman Truck Series, Busch (now Nationwide) Series, and the premier series, the Sprint (formerly Nextel) Series. Between 1998 and 2001 he raced in the SCCA Trans-Am Series and in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

In 1999, Lester entered his first NASCAR competition, a race at Watkins Glen, New York, in the Busch Grand National Series. He started in the 24th position, and moved into the top ten before finishing 21st. Then in 2000, Lester competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.  He started at 31st and finished in the 24th position.
Sources: 
Sonia Alleyn and T.R. Witche, "The New Face of NASCAR," Black Enterprise Magazine (April 2004); http://www.billlester.com/index.php?page=bio
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Murray, George Washington (1853–1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

South Carolina Congressman George Washington Murray was born near Rembert, Sumter County, South Carolina, on September 22, 1853 to slave parents. He attended public schools, the University of South Carolina, and the State Normal Institute at Columbia, where he graduated in 1876. After graduating, Murray taught school and worked as a lecturer for the Colored Farmers’ Alliance for 15 years. In 1890 he became an inspector of customs at the port of Charleston.  Two years later in 1892, Murray, a Republican, was elected to represent South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District which included Charleston. 

Murray took his seat in the Fifty-third Congress on March 4, 1893.  He immediately focused his efforts on protecting black voting rights in the South at a time when growing numbers of black voters were being excluded from the polls.  Murray was also a member of the Committee on Education.   He also took a seat on the Committee on Expenditures in the Treasury Department.

George W. Murray fought Jim Crow laws which undermined the efforts of black people to improve their status.  As a member of Congress he urged funding for the Cotton States and International Exhibition in Atlanta in 1895 to make the white South and the wider nation aware of black achievements. Ironically Booker T. Washington would become famous at that Exposition by criticizing the efforts of African American politicians like Murray to concentrate on voting rights. 

Sources: 
Bruce Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990);  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M001106; Biographical Directory of the George Washington Murray.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Allen, Macon Bolling (1816-1894)

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

Macon Bolling Allen is believed to be the first black man in the United States who was licensed to practice law. Born Allen Macon Bolling in 1816 in Indiana, he grew up a free man.  Bolling learned to read and write on his on his own and eventually landed his first a job as a schoolteacher where he further refined his skills.

In the early 1840s Bolling moved from Indiana to Portland, Maine. There he changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen and became friends with local anti-slavery leader General Samuel Fessenden, who had recently begun a law practice.  Fessenden took on Allen as an apprentice/law clerk. By 1844 Allen had acquired enough proficiency that Fessenden introduced him to the Portland District court and stated that he thought Allen should be able to practice as a lawyer. He was refused on the grounds that he was not a citizen, though according to Maine law anyone “of good moral character” could be admitted to the bar. He then decided to apply for admission by examination. After passing the exam and earning his recommendation he was declared a citizen of Maine and given his license to practice law on July 3, 1844.

Sources: 

J. Clay Smith, Jr. Emancipation, (University of Pennsylvania Press: 1993); Allen, Macon Bolling(1816–1894) http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4102/Allen-Macon-Bolling-1816-1894.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Patton, Georgia E.L. (1864-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Georgia E. L. Patton, "Brief Autobiography of a Colored Woman Who Has Recently Emigrated to Liberia," Liberia 3 (Nov. 1893); Mary Krane Derr, "Georgia E.L. Patton," in African American National Biography: Volume Six, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, ed. Alfreda M. Duster (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Marchbanks, Lucretia (1832–1911)

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

Lucretia Marchbanks, well-documented in western lore for her upright character and superb culinary talents, was one of the first African American women to venture into the Black Hills of South Dakota. Marchbanks was born enslaved on March 25, 1832 near Turkey Creek in Putnam County, Tennessee, the eldest of 13 children born to Edmund and Mary Marchbanks.

Courtesy Adams Museum, Deadwood, South Dakota

When Lucretia was 17, she and her younger brother William accompanied her new owners, Robert and Anne Marchbanks Martin, to Siskiyou County in California where Lucretia cared for the Martins’ growing family and William assisted with a livestock venture. She stayed on with the family after gaining her freedom in 1865 but in 1870 moved to Colorado to join her brothers Finley and Burr and sister Martha Ann “Mattie” Marchbanks.                      

Sources: 
Todd Guenther, “Lucretia Marchbanks: A Black Woman in the Black Hills,” South Dakota History 31 (Spring 2001): 1–25; Lilah Morton Pengra, Corporals, Cooks and Cowboys: African Americans in the Black Hills and Surrounding Areas (Buffalo Gap, South Dakota: Self-published, 2000).
Contributor: 

Francis, Mayann Elizabeth

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the
Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia
Her Honour the Honourable Mayann Elizabeth Francis, O.N.S., DHumL, is the first African Nova Scotian and only the second woman to have held the position of Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia in its 400-year history.  Francis was born and raised in the Whitney Pier district of Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the daughter of Archpriest George A. Francis and Thelma D. Francis.  

By pushing her limits, she achieved her dreams through education.  Upon completing high school in Whitney Pier and attending junior college, she went to X-ray technical school and gained her certification as an X-ray technologist.  After graduating from St. Mary’s University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts, she accepted a position with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

In 1974 she moved to New York City, New York where she studied to be a paralegal at Long Island University. While working, she also studied for her Master's in Public Administration at New York University, graduating in 1984.  Additionally, she completed a Certificate in Equal Opportunities Studies from Cornell University. From 1986 to 1990 she was Administrative Manager in the Office of the District Attorney, Kings County, New York.
Sources: 
Official website for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, http://lt.gov.ns.ca
Newsletter: Maroon & White For Alumni and Friends of Saint Mary’s University Fall 2001.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Payton, Benjamin Franklin (1932- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the Tuskegee University Archives,
Tuskegee University

Former Tuskegee University president Benjamin Franklin Payton was born in 1932 in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  His father, Reverend Leroy Payton, was a Baptist minister, farmer, and teacher while his mother, Sarah Mack Payton, was a homemaker.  Benjamin Payton graduated with honors from South Carolina State in 1955, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology.  In 1958 he was awarded the Bachelor of Divinity degree in philosophical theology from Harvard.  He earned a master’s in philosophy from Colombia University in 1960, followed by the Ph.D. in Ethics from Yale University.

In 1963, Payton became assistant professor of sociology, religion, and social ethics at Howard University.  During this time he also served as the director of the school’s Community Service Project in Washington, D.C.  Two years later he became the director of Office of Church and Race for the Protestant Council of the City of New York.  In 1967 he became the president of Benedict College.  He left the post in 1972 to become program officer of Education and Public Policy for the Ford Foundation.

Sources: 
"Benjamin F. Payton (1932-    ) University President,” in Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 23 pp. 151-153 (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale Group Inc., 2000); “Benjamin F. Payton Tuskegee University President,” African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1997); “Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton,” tuskegee.edu http://www.tuskegee.edu/about_us/legacy_of_leadership/benjamin_f_payton.aspx 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Central University

Lofton, Ramona ["Sapphire"] (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ramona Lofton, better known as Sapphire, is a self-admitted bisexual, novelist, poet, and performance artist. She gained prominence for her 1996 debut novel, Push, and other works that focus on the alarming realities of inner city life.

Lofton was born on August 4, 1950 in Fort Ord, California, the second oldest of four children born to military parents. Her father was an army sergeant and her mother was a soldier in the Women's Army Corps. Throughout her childhood, her family maintained a middle-class façade while hiding incest and alcoholism.

When Lofton was thirteen, her father retired from the Army and moved the family to Los Angeles. Her mother, who was battling alcoholism, did not join them and instead abandoned the family. Years later they reconnected, but her mother succumbed to alcoholism in 1986.  That same year Lofton’s homeless brother was murdered in a Los Angeles park. Their deaths later played pivotal roles in Lofton's emerging writing career.

Lofton dropped out of high school and moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s, briefly studying chemistry and dance at the City College of San Francisco, before adopting what she described as a hippie lifestyle.  She moved to New York City in 1977, where she supported herself by working as a housekeeper and as a topless dancer.
Sources: 
Claude J. Summers and Sapphire, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2011), Retrieved from ww.glbtq.com/social-sciences/lofton_l.html; Marq Wilson, A Push out of Chaos: An Interview with Sapphire (Storrs, Connecticut: Melus, 2012); Elizabeth McNeil, Un-"Freak"ing Black Female Selfhood: Grotesque-Erotic Agency and Ecofeminist Unity in Sapphire's Push (Storrs, Connecticut: Melus, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gordon, Walter Arthur (1894-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Walter Arthur Gordon, attorney and civil rights activist, was born on October 10, 1894, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Henry B. and Georgia Bryant Gordon.  He was the son of a Pullman porter and the grandson of slaves. His family moved to Riverside, California, in 1904. He graduated from Riverside Polytechnic High School in 1913.

In 1914, Gordon entered the University of California at Berkeley. He was an intercollegiate boxer and wrestler, winning the state championship in both categories. He also played every position except center on the offensive and defensive lines of the varsity football team. Gordon was named to the annual football All-American team in 1918, the second African American to receive the award.
Sources: 
Alvin Shuster, “New Governor of Virgin Islands Is Sworn in by the Chief Justice,” New York Times, October 8, 1955; “Walter A. Gordon of Virgin Islands,” New York Times, April 6, 1976; Jonathan Wafer, “Walter Gordon,” Riversider.org; Rodolfo F. Acuna, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, 7th ed. (Boston: Longman, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Harrison, Charles A. “Chuck” (1931– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership:Public Domain"
Charles Harrison was one of the most prolific industrial designers of the twentieth century. One of only a handful of early African American industrial designers, he specialized in creating a variety of practical household goods emphasizing form and function. Harrison’s output of innovative consumer products was so prodigious that today it would be difficult to find a household in America without items exemplifying his utilitarian designs. In 1961 Harrison became the first black executive that Sears, Roebuck & Company ever hired at its headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.
Sources: 
Megan Gambino, “The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt honors the prolific industrial designer with its Lifetime Achievement Award,” smithsonian.com, December 17, 2008; Pamela Sherrod, “A Look At Chicagoans Who Helped Revolutionize Appliances And Fueled The Golden Era Of Design,” Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1993; http://artdept.nd.edu/news-and-events/events/2012/03/07/10032-industrial-design-guest-speaker-charles-harrison/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mensah, Raphael Abraham Frank (1924-1990s)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Johnson and Abraham Mensah
at the Microphone, 1965, Accra, Ghana, ca. 1965

"Image Courtesy of Russell Stevenson"
Sources: 
Emmanuel Kissi, Walking in the Sand: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 2004); Russell Stevenson, For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014); Russell Stevenson, “’We Have Prophetesses’: Mormonism in Ghana, 1964-1979,” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 3 (July 2015): 221-257.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McKay, Claude (1889-1948)

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

Harlem Renaissance writer Festus Claudius McKay was born on September 15, 1889, in Sunny Ville, in the Clarendon Hills of Jamaica, to peasant farmers Hannah Ann Elizabeth Edwards  and Thomas Frank McKay. Young Claude was tutored by his elder schoolmaster brother, Uriah Theodore McKay, who introduced him to a library dominated by the ideas of the great free thinkers, particularly Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer. While working in Kingston as a constable, McKay became the protégé of Walter Jekyll, a British aristocrat and anthropologist who also placed his personal library at Claude McKay’s disposal.    

McKay published his first two volumes of poetry, Songs of Jamaica (1912) and Constab Ballads (1912), written in the island’s rich dialect, before migrating to America to study agronomy at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and later at Kansas State University. By 1917, however, he was no longer in college and living in Harlem. 

Sources: 
Wayne Cooper, ed., The Passion of Claude McKay (New York: Schocken Books, 1973); Wilfred D. Samuels, Five Afro-Caribbean Voices in American Culture, 1917-1929 (Boulder: Belmont, 1977).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Brown, Cora Mae (1914-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Cora Mae Brown was part of a generation of African American women who translated their community work into political struggle during the first half of the twentieth century.  Born in 1914 in Bessemer, Alabama, Brown’s family migrated to Detroit, Michigan when she was eight years old.  There she was nurtured by a lively community of female activists who encouraged her to attend Fisk University after her graduation from Cass Technical High School.  At Fisk she studied with the renowned sociologist, E. Franklin Frazier, and graduated with a degree in sociology.

Sources: 
Cora M. Brown Papers, Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library; Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability: African-American Women in Interwar Detroit (University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Rochester

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

Cobb, W. Montague (1904–1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Montague Cobb was born in Washington, D.C. in 1904. He earned his B.A. from Amherst College in 1925 and continued his research in embryology at Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory. Cobb then went to Howard University, and earned his medical degree in 1929. Cobb was given an offer by Howard to “name a position” he wanted to teach. He chose the newly emerging discipline of physical anthropology (human evolutionary biology, physical variation). Before setting up his own lab, Cobb went to Western Reserve University in Cleveland to study under T. Wingate Todd, a progressive leader in the new field.

In 1932 Cobb returned to Howard as a professor of physical anatomy, where he continued to teach until his death in 1990. A prolific writer, he authored 1,100 articles on a variety of physical anatomy topics and issues relating to African American health. Cobb is considered to be one of the most influential scholars in physical anatomy. To Howard, he left a considerable collection of more than 700 skeletons and the complete anatomical data for nearly 1,000 individuals.
Sources: 
Lesley M. Rankin-Hill and Michael L. Blakey, “W. Montague Cobb (1904-1990): Physical Anthropologist, Anatomist, and Activist,” American Anthropologist (March 1994): 74-96; Kyle Melvilee, “W. Montague Cobb.” Anthropology Biography Web. 2001. University of Minnesota, Mankato. 15 June 2006. http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/abcde/cobb_w.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jemison, Mae C. (1956- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama to Charlie and Dorothy Jemison.  At the age of three, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois to further their educational opportunities.  Her parents stressed the importance of education and when she was four, her uncle sparked her interest in archaeology and anthropology.  She spent much of her time in libraries reading about all she could get her hands on.  Mae graduated high school with honors and entered Stanford University (California) with an interest in the biomedical engineering profession. She graduated in 1977 with a degree in chemical engineering and later a second bachelor’s degree in African American studies.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/ABSTRACTS/GPN-2004-00020.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gillespie, Dizzy (John Birks Gillespie) (1917-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jazz great Dizzy Gillespie had a long and distinguished musical career as a trumpeter, composer, and bandleader. Unlike many jazz musicians whose lives were cut tragically short, Gillespie’s career spanned the 1930s to the 1980s, from the big band swing era of the 1930s, through 1940s bebop, the Afro-Cuban jazz of the 1950s, to the recording in 1989 – when he was 72 – of his United Nations Band performance “Live at Royal Festival Hall.” He is one of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz, is considered one of the founders of modern jazz, and with Charlie Parker is credited with the invention of bebop.  
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage, pp. 100-01 (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1997); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music, p. 55 (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours, pp. 25, 108, 113, 175 (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://www.allaboutjazz.com; http://www.afrocubaweb.com; www.pbs.org/jazz.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Binga, Jesse (1865-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jesse Binga's rise from relative poverty to become the wealthiest African American entrepreneur and banker in Chicago in the late 19th century earned him a national reputation. Binga was born on April 10, 1865, in Detroit to William W. Binga, a barber and native of Ontario, Canada, and Adelphia Lewis Binga, the owner of extensive property in Rochester and Detroit.  He dropped out of high school and at first collected rents on his mother’s property in Detroit.  He later moved to Seattle and Tacoma, Washington and then Oakland, California, working as a barber in each city.  Binga also worked as a Pullman porter and during that time acquired property in Pocatello, Idaho which he profitably sold.

Binga finally settled in Chicago in 1893.  His first real estate ventures were relatively modest. He began by purchasing run down buildings, repairing, and renting them. By 1908 Binga had built up enough wealth that he was able to establish a private bank.  Binga also married Eudora Johnson who provided him with additional assets and considerable social prestige.  As the African American population of Chicago began to grow in the first two decades of the 20th Century Binga opened the Binga State Bank in 1921 with deposits of over $200,000.  Within three years the bank had deposits of over $1.3 million. Binga, now the owner of a number of South Side Chicago properties was also a leading philanthropist.

Sources: 
Carl Osthaus, "The Rise and Fall of Jesse Binga, Black Banker,” Journal of Negro History (January 1973); "Jesse Binga" Chicago Tribune: Markers of Distinction. http://chicagotribute.org/Markers/Binga.htm;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Myers, Isaac (1835-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Isaac Myers, a labor leader and mason, was born in Baltimore on January 13, 1835.  He was the son of free parents but grew up in a slave state.  Myers received his early education from a private day school of a local clergyman, Rev. John Fortie, since the state of Maryland provided no public education for African American children at the time.  At 16 years, he became an apprentice to James Jackson, a prominent black Baltimore ship caulker.  Four years later Myers was supervising the caulking of clipper ships operating out of Baltimore.

During the Civil War Myers worked as a porter and shipping clerk for a grocer and then returned to his original profession as a caulker.  Soon after the war ended, Myers found himself unexpectedly unemployed when a group of white caulkers protested the employment of black caulkers and longshoremen.  In response to the strike, Myers proposed the creation of a union for black caulkers. 

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Sara Opdycke, “Myers, Isaac,” American National Biography Online (Feb. 2000); http://www.anb.org.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/articles/15/15-01264.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fluellen, Joel (1908-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Joel Fluellen, an instrumental figure in the fight to end Hollywood bias during the 1940’s and 1950’s, was born in 1908 in Louisiana. Prior to beginning his acting career, Fluellen resided in Chicago where he worked as a milliner and store clerk.  After appearing on stage in New York, he relocated to Hollywood in the early 1940’s and gained his first role as a bit player in Cabin in the Sky (1943).

Sources: 

“Joel Fluellen; Actor fought Hollywood bias,” Los Angeles Times,
February 7, 1990, p. A18; "Joel Fluellen 81, A longtime actor in Films
and TV,” New York Times, "February 7, 1999; p. B7; Donald Bogle,
Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography, (New York: Amistad Press, 1997); Edward
Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts: First Edition, (New
Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Murray, Albert (1916-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Albert Murray, an African American novelist, jazz critic, professor, and essayist, was born in Nokomis, Alabama on May 12, 1916.   His birth parents were Sudie Graham and John Young but he was adopted by Hugh and Mattie Murray and grew up in Magazine Point, Alabama. 

Sources: 
Albert Murray and John F. Callahan, eds., Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray (New York: The Modern Library, 2000); Roberta S. Maguire, Conversations with Albert Murray (Mississippi: The University Press of Mississippi, 1997); http://www.tuskegee.edu/Global/story.asp?S=1260209; http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article?tocId=9002879; Mel Watkins, "Albert Murray, Essayist Who Challenged the Conventional, Dies at 97, Books Section, New York Times, August 20, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Burney, William (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of James Clarke Studio
William Burney, a business consultant who lives in southern Maine, was elected as the first black mayor of Augusta, Maine, the state capital, in November 1988.  He served two four-year terms in this position until 1996.

Burney was born in Augusta on April 23, 1951. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Litchfield, Maine where they resided until Burney was ten years old. Returning to Augusta, the Burney family became active in political and social affairs, gaining the respect of most of the town’s citizens. In 1965, Burney entered Coney High School. The only black student in the high school, and athletically inclined, he was able to develop a close relationship with other athletes. As an honor roll student, he also earned the respect of his teachers.

After graduating in 1969, Burney entered Boston University. He arrived on campus during a time of great social upheaval. While white and black students demonstrated for racial equality, they maintained largely segregated social lives.  As Black Nationalism became increasingly popular among African American students, Burney, who grew up in a predominately-white environment, was caught between warring racial factions. The conflict forced Burney to acclimate himself to the dynamics of interracial politics.  During his freshman year, his social circle was primarily white. In his sophomore year, he joined a black fraternity and developed stronger ties with African American students on campus.  
Sources: 
Elwood Watson, "A Tale of Maine’s Two African American Mayors," Maine History,
40 (Summer 2001): 113-125.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Marichal, Juan Antonio (1937- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 
Jonah Winter, Béisbol! : Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends (New York: Lee and Low Books, 2001); http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Juan_Marichal_1937.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Powell, C. B. (1894-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clilan (C.B.) Powell, longtime owner of the Amsterdam News, was born in 1894 to former Virginia slaves.  Very little is known about his childhood.  He received his medical degree in 1920 from Howard University School of Medicine and began his career specializing in x-ray technology.   Powell was the first African American x-ray specialist and owned a laboratory in Harlem.  It was at his lab where he met Dr. Philip H.M. Savory, his future business partner.  The two physicians collaborated to create the Powell-Savory Corporation in 1935.

With this new corporation, they switched their focus from medicine to business, and became two of the leading African American entrepreneurs in the 1930s.  They first purchased the failing Victory Life Insurance Company in 1933 in Chicago, Illinois and revived it to a thriving business.  In 1935 they purchased the Amsterdam News, the largest newspaper in Harlem, for $5,000.  Powell became publisher of the New York paper and retained that post until its sale in 1971.  Powell studied other successful newspapers including the New York Times and patterned the Amsterdam News after them.   He also made the Amsterdam News home for numerous African American journalists such as Earl Brown, Thomas Watkins, James L. Hicks, and Jesse H. Walker.  Powell expanded the paper's coverage to include national and international news.   
Sources: 
The Amsterdam News ,(Our Newspaper-About Us), http://www.amserdamnews.com/our_newspaper/about_us/; Jet Magazine, June 29, 1978; Ebony Magazine, September 1978; Kiera Hope Foster, "The Amsterdam News," in Molefei  K. Asante,  ed., The Encyclopedia of Black Studies (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, inc., 2005); www.unityfuneralchapels.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McFerrin, Robert Keith, Sr. (1921–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1953 baritone Robert McFerrin Sr. made history as the first African American to win the Metropolitan Opera House’s Auditions of the Air radio contest.  On January 27, 1955, in the role of Ethiopian King Amonasro in Verdi’s Aida, McFerrin made history again by becoming the first African American male to perform as a member of the Met (and the second black American to do so, less than three weeks after contralto Marian Anderson broke the Met’s color barrier).  

Born on March 19, 1921 in Marianna, Arkansas, Robert McFerrin was the fourth of eight children of Melvin McFerrin and Mary McKinney McFerrin.  The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, when McFerrin was two years old.  McFerrin first sang as a boy soprano in a church gospel choir.  During his early teens McFerrin and two of his siblings travelled with their itinerant preacher father, singing hymns, spirituals, and gospel songs at churches in the area.

Wishing for him to get a better education, in 1936 McFerrin’s parents sent him to live with his uncle and aunt in St. Louis, Missouri.  It was when he was a student at Sumner High School in St. Louis during an audition for the school choir that McFerrin so impressed the choir director he was given private classical vocal training.
Sources: 
Adam Bernstein, “Robert McFerrin Sr.; Was First Black Man to Sing With the Met,” The Washington Post, November 29, 2006; The Associated Press, "Robert McFerrin Sr., 85, Operatic Baritone at Met, Dies,'" New York Times, November 28, 2006; <http://stlouiswalkoffame.org/inductees/robert-mcferrin-sr.html >
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Herring, James V. (1887-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Oil Painting of James V. Herring
by James Porter, 1923
(Image Courtesy of Howard University)
James Vernon Herring was an influential American artist and teacher in the early twentieth century.  He played an integral role in devising new ways by which art would be viewed from both academic and commercial standpoints.  He was also an important figure in the promotion of works of little known African American artists.
Sources: 
Janet Gail Abbott, “The Barnett Aden Gallery: A home for diversity in a segregated city” (2013), retrieved from Udini: http://udini.proquest.com/view/the-barnett-aden-gallery-a-home-for-goid:304495536/; University of Maryland, “Artist Biographies” (2002), retrieved from Narratives of African American Art and Identity: http://www.driskellcenter.umd.edu/narratives/exhibition/artists/bio.htm#herr.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Silva, Tatiana (1985- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Tatiana Silva Braga Tavares is best known as the woman who was crowned Miss Belgium in 2005 and who represented Belgium in the Miss World competition in Sanya, China later that year.  Silva was born in the Brussels suburb of Uccle on February 5, 1985.   She was born into a middle class family.  Her mother is from Belgium and her father is Cape Verdean.  

Nineteen-year-old Silva was studying to be a personal assistant (secretary) and working as a shop attendant at the time of the contest.  Silva was crowned Miss Belgium because of her appearance, her talent in dance, and her knowledge of a number of languages including French (her native language), Dutch, English, Portuguese, and Cape Verdean.

Sources: 
Catherine Delvaux, “Stromae et Tatiana Silva ont rompu,” http://www.7sur7.be/7s7/fr/1527/People/aticle/detail/1622464/2013/04/26Stromae-et-Tatiana-Silva-ont-rompu.dhtml; Anaïs Lefebure, Miss France: l’histoire d’un mythe (Paris: JOL Press, 2014).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Emeritus Professor, University of Paris

Withers, Ernest (1922-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ernest Withers, a highly accomplished photographer, was born on August 7, 1922, in Memphis, Tennessee to parents Arthur Withers, a mailman and Pearl Withers, a school teacher, both from Marshall County, Mississippi.  Mr. Withers’ collection, which spans over 60 years of the 20th century, provides a vivid account of the segregated South.  It includes team shots of the Memphis Red Sox, a team from the historic Negro Baseball League, major moments from the Civil Rights movement, and the Beale Street music scene.  His work has appeared in major publications including Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. It has also been collected in four books: Let Us March On (1992), Pictures Tell the Story (2000), The Memphis Blues Again (2001), and Negro League Baseball (2005).
Sources: 
The Withers Collection, http://thewitherscollection.com/; Decaneas Archive, http://www.decaneasarchive.com/ewithers.html;  Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture and History, http://nmaahc.si.edu/collections/withers;   “Ernest Withers, Civil Rights Photographer, Dies at 85,” New York Times, October 17, 2007, Alison J. Peterson http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/17/arts/design/17withers.html; “Civil Rights Photographer Unmasked as Informer,” New York Times, September 14, 2010, Robbie Brown http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/us/14photographer.html; “Martin Luther King friend and photographer was an FBI informant,” The Guardian, September 14, 2014, Chris Mcgreal, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/14/photographer-ernest-withers-fbi-informer.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Urrutia Ocoró, María Isabel (1965– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
María Isabel Urrutia Ocoró, Olympic champion weightlifter and politician, was born in Calendaria, Department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia, on March 25, 1965. Her mother, Nelly, was a homemaker and her father, Pedro Juan, was an industrial mechanic. Sources differ, but Urrutia had at least thirteen siblings in her youth, with only four surviving siblings when she competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia

One year after her birth, Urrutia’s parents moved the family to Cali, Colombia, and settled in the barrio of Mariano Ramos. When Urrutia was thirteen, she competed in the Colombian youth nationals in Bogotá and set a new shot put record in her first competition. She followed this with victories in the shot put and discus throw at the 1979 South American games in Chile. Her father opined that her sport was detrimental to women. Nevertheless, Urrutia continued to compete and win.
Sources: 
Mauricio Silva, “Esa medalla era para mí. Me la habían guardado.” Revista Bocas: Circulación con El Tiempo, (Bogotá, Colombia), September 20, 2015, http://www.eltiempo.com/bocas/maria-isabel-urrutia-entrevista-bocas/16381316; Timothy Pratt, “The Athlete Who Took a Nation's Strain: Timothy Pratt in Colombia Reports on a Golden Triumph that Overcame Poverty and Civil War,” The Sunday Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), October 1, 2000. p8.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cain, Richard H. (1825-1887)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Tresse, Black Americans in Congress 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Poor, Salem (1747-1802)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Salem Poor was a Patriot of the American Revolutionary War, credited primarily for his participation at the Battle at Charleston, now popularly known as The Battle of Bunker Hill. Poor was born into slavery in Andover, Massachusetts on a farm owned by John and Rebecca Poor.  He spent his early years in servitude to the family, and in 1769, at the age of 22, he purchased his freedom for 27 pounds, the equivalent of the one year’s salary at that time, and about $5,600 today. Poor married Nancy Parker in 1771, a free mulatto woman with both Native American and African American ancestry.  Parker was a maid servant to Captain James Parker. Salem and Nancy had a son, Jonas, who was baptized in September of 1776.
Sources: 
Irene Sege, “Freed slave's story uncovered by owner's descendant,” The Boston Globe, February 21, 2007; Paul Finkelman, Encyclopedia of African American History 1619-1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Men, Book II (Detroit: Gale Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ottley, Vincent Lushington (“Roi”)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 Vincent Lushington “Roi” Ottley was born in Harlem in 1906 to parents Jerome P. and Beatrice (Brisbane) Ottley who were immigrants from Grenada.  Ottley attended New York City public schools where he became known as an exceptional athlete in basketball, baseball and track. Ottley won a track scholarship to St.
Sources: 
Donald Paneth, The Encyclopedia of American Journalism (New York: Facts on File publications, 1983), 358; http://web.sbu.edu/friedsam/archives/ottley/biography.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Green, Ernest G. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1941, Ernest Gideon Green was no stranger to the Civil Rights Movement as his mother was a NAACP member and took part in protests against unequal pay between whites and blacks. Partly inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Green’s family decided to become plaintiffs in the lawsuit that desegregated Little Rock’s Central High School.  Green and eight other African American high schoolers became known as the Little Rock Nine.  They would be the first test of the 1945 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education which officially desegregated the nation’s public schools.
Sources: 
Thomas D. Jakes, Who’s Who Among African Americans (New York: Thomson & Gale, 2003); http://www.answers.com; http://www.oldstatehouse.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Whipple, Prince (1750-1796)

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

Prince Whipple fought at the battles of Saratoga and in Delaware during the War for Independence.  He was also one of twenty enslaved men who petitioned the New Hampshire legislature for freedom in 1779.  His owner, General William Whipple, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an aide to General George Washington.  Although Whipple has been identified by some as the African American figure in the familiar painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River, it is doubtful he was present on Christmas Eve, 1776.

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/prince-whipple-and-american-painting/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dumas, Thomas-Alexandre (1762–1806)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was a mulatto born in the French colony of Saint Domingue (Haiti). He joined the French Army as a private and rose to the rank of a General during the French Revolution. Dumas is probably best known for fathering the famous French writer Alexandre Dumas (père).

The son of the lesser French nobleman Alexandre-Antoine Davy, Marquis de la Pailleterie, and a black slave woman, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was born on the island of Saint Domingue on March 25, 1762. In 1772, the Marquis returned to France, followed by his son in 1776. As Dumas grew into manhood he moved to Paris, enjoying life with the financial support of his father. But soon after the senior Davy married his second wife, he suspended the payments to his son.

Without any income, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas decided to join the French Army in 1786. At the request of his father, he enlisted under his mother's name Marie Dumas, in order to preserve the family's reputation. During the French Revolution Dumas became a devout republican serving in an all-black unit known as “La Légion Américaine.” This dedication helped him being catapulted from the rank of a corporal to that of a general of a division in less than two years.
Sources: 
Jon G. Gallaher, General Alexandre Dumas: Soldier of the French Revolution (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997); André Maurois, The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957); J.A. Rogers, World's Greatest Men of Color, Volume II (New York: Macmillan, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Poussaint, Alvin F. (1934 --)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alvin Poussaint was born in East Harlem in New York City on May 15, 1934.  After graduating from Stuyvesant High School he received a Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in 1956 and an M.D. from Cornell University in 1960.  Poussaint completed his postgraduate training at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Neuropsychiatric Institute, where he served as the chief resident in psychology from 1964 to 1965.   Between 1965 and 1967 Poussaint was the southern field director of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Jackson, Mississippi.  With this organization Poussaint provided health care to civil rights workers and also worked on the desegregation of health care facilities throughout the South.  After leaving Mississippi he became an assistant professor at Tufts University Medical School.  Here he was the director of a psychiatry program in a low-income housing development.  Dr. Poussaint began teaching and researching at Harvard Medical School in 1969.  

Dr. Poussaint’s research interests include studies on the nature of grief, self-esteem, parenting, violence and the social adaptation of children of interracial marriages.  His first book, Why Blacks Kill Blacks (1972) explores the effects of White racism on Black psychological development.  He has also co-authored two other books, Raising Black Children and Lay My Burden Down, as well as numerous articles in professional journals.  

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, and Cornell West, eds., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Macmillan Library Reference USA Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1996); W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: De Capo Press, 1981); Harvard Medical School: http://www.hms.harvard.edu/orma/poussaint/biography/html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Proctor, Henry Hugh (1868-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Daniel Murray
Collection, Library of Congress
Henry Hugh Proctor was an author, lecturer and a clergyman of the Congregational Church. Proctor was born on December 8, 1868 near Fayetteville, Tennessee to former slave parents Richard and Hannah (Murray) Proctor. Proctor attended local schools but was only able to take classes for three months out of the year, as he had to help his parents on their farm for the remaining months. After completing his schooling Proctor became a teacher at Pea Ridge, Tennessee and later at Fayetteville. Receiving his B.A. degree from Fisk University, Proctor dug ditches and preached sermons to pay for his degree.

In 1893 Proctor married Adeline L. Davis, a fellow student he had met at Fisk. The following year, he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale University and in 1904, Clark University honored him with the Doctor of Divinity degree.
Sources: 
Henry Hugh Proctor, Between Black and White. (Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1925);
Altona Trent Johns, “Henry Hugh Proctor.” The Black Perspective in Music 3:1 (1975); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Weah, George (1966- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

George Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah, born in the slums of Monrovia, Liberia on October 1, 1966, is considered one of the best soccer players on the African continent.  For much of his youth, he was raised by his grandmother, Emma Klonjlaleh Brown, who provided for Weah while allowing him to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.

Weah played for Monrovia teams including the Young Survivors, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barolle, and Invincible Eleven before leaving Africa for Europe.  In 1987, at the age of 21, Weah signed for the French Ligue 1 giants, AS Monaco.  Throughout his career at the club Weah scored 55 goals in 155 appearances from 1987 to 1992.  From Monaco he played on a series of other European teams including Paris St. Germain (1992-1995), AC Milan (1995-1999), Chelsea (1999-2000), Manchester City (2001) and Olympic Marseille (2001-2002).  Over his 15-year career in Europe, Weah amassed an astonishing 172 goals.

Sources: 

Henry Winter, “On The Spot: George Weah,” London (?) Daily Telegraph, January 22, 2000; Michael Lewis, “Guiding light: player, coach, and financier, George Weah means everything to Liberian soccer--and Liberia means everything to Weah,” Soccer Digest Magazine, January 2002.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Tademy, Lalita (1948- )

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

In 1995, author Lalita Tademy left her prestigious and well-paid position of vice-president and general manager at Sun Microsystems and began to search for a new direction for her life. Her long corporate climb, including stints at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Memorex, led her in her 40s to a life of 12-hour days, a long commute to Silicon Valley, and little time to herself. Although she loved the challenges of her corporate rise, she quit her job and with a three-year financial cushion began researching her family history.

After several years of extensive genealogical research that included gathering approximately 1,000 documents – photographs, census records, diaries, letters, birth certificates, newspaper articles, wills, land deeds, and also the bill of sale for her great-great-great-great-grandmother – she began to write. Tademy wove these historical materials into a novel that blends fact and fiction and tells the story of her maternal Louisiana ancestors over the turbulent years from 1834 to 1936, from slavery to freedom to Reconstruction to Jim Crow.
Sources: 
Lalita Tademy, Cane River (Warner Books: New York, 2001); Jean Hanff Korelitz, “She Ditched the Corner Office,” More magazine, May 2008, 73-76; http://www.lalitatademy.com/bio.html; http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/tademyLalita.php; http://www.Oprah.com/obc/pastbooks/lalita_tademy/;
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Clayton, Alonzo (1876–1917)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, who reached stardom at the age of 15 when he became the youngest rider to win the Kentucky Derby, was born on March 27, 1876 in Kansas City, Missouri to Robert and Evaline Clayton.  

Alonzo Clayton moved with his parents and eight siblings to North Little Rock, Arkansas at the age of 10.  His father, Robert Clayton was a carpenter while his mother, Evaline Clayton stayed at home with the children.  In North Little Rock, Alonzo attended school and worked as a hotel boy and a shoeshine boy to help support his family.

At the age of 12, Clayton started his riding career when he ran away from home to follow his brothers’ footsteps as a jockey.  He landed a job with Lucky Baldwin’s Stable in Chicago as an exercise boy.  One year later, at 13, he was riding and competing in races on the East coast.  At 14, he raced in New York City at Morris Park and in the Jerome Stakes where he recorded his first win as a rider in a major race.  

On May 11, 1892, Clayton rode in and won the Kentucky Derby where he recorded a time of 2:41.50.  Riding Azra, he also set a record as the youngest rider to win the prestigious race.  

Throughout Clayton’s remarkable career, he won other major races including the Champagne Stakes (1891), Jerome Handicap (1891), Clark Handicap (1892, 1897), Travers Stakes (1892), Monmouth Handicap (1893), Kentucky Oaks (1894, 1895) and the Arkansas Derby (1895).

Sources: 

Cary Bradburn, "Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton (1876-1917)" The Encyclopedia
of Arkansas History & Culture
,
http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?ent...
Edward Hotaling, The Great Black Jockeys (Rocklin, California: Forum
Publishing, 1999).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Knight, Etheridge (1931-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Etheridge Knight took a very unconventional path on his way to becoming one of the most popular poets during the Black Arts Movement.  America’s first introduction to Knight’s literary skills came with his first book publication, Poems from Prison in 1968.  Mr. Knight’s troubled past and time in prison led to an unorthodox style of “street” language, drug culture vocabulary, and black slang that immediately separated him from other poets of the era.

Sources: 
Linda Cullum, Contemporary American Ethnic Poets (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2004); Joyce Pettis, African American Poets (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hines, Earl “Fatha” (1903-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Earl “Fatha” Hines was an African-American jazz musician who composed and played piano. Hines was born on December 28, 1903 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents and a number of his siblings were musicians as well. Hines started playing music when he was a young boy, taking trumpet lessons from his father. However, he felt the trumpet was too loud of an instrument, so he switched to piano after a few years. Hines attended Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where among other classes, he studied classical music.

In lieu of finishing high school, Hines moved to Pittsburgh at the age of 17 to take a job playing with Lois Deppe in a nightclub. Deppe was a well know musician around the area who took Hines to his first studio recordings in 1923.
Sources: 
http://www.jazz.com/encyclopedia/hines-earl-fatha-kenneth
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=7642
Terry Teachout, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gabaldon, Nicolas Rolando ["Nick"] (1927-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Surfing aficionados credit Nick Gabaldon as California’s first documented surfer of African and Mexican American descent. A skilled recreational surfer, his legacy has inspired many, including especially surfers of color, to consider him as a role model. Born Nicolas Rolando “Nick” Gabaldon, Jr. in Los Angeles, California to parents Cecilia and Nicolas Gabaldon Sr., he grew up in Santa Monica.

Graduating from Santa Monica (SAMO) High in 1945, Gabaldon was one of the few African American students matriculating at the school during this era. Gabaldon served in the United States Navy from 1945–1946. Upon returning home, he enrolled in Santa Monica College where he became an honor student and aspiring writer while he worked as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier and resumed surfing.

As a teenager, Gabaldon began surfing in the Pacific Ocean at the Bay Street beach.  This beach was derogatorily called the “Inkwell” by Anglos referencing the skin color of the beachgoers who visited the area.  Gabaldon and other African Americans in Southern California, however, transformed the hateful moniker into a badge of pride.  
Sources: 
Rick Blocker, “Black Surfer Nick Gabaldon,” Legendary Surfers, February 2005, Surfing Heritage Foundation, http://files.legendarysurfers.com/blog/2005/02/black-surfer-nick-gabaldon.html; Jeff Ducols, “Black Surfers of the Golden State,” Surfer Magazine, August 1983, Vol. 24, No. 8: 96-101; Rick Grigg, Big Surf, Deep Dives and the Islands: My Life in the Ocean (Honolulu: Editions Limited, 1998).
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Bolden, Abraham (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Abraham Bolden, often erroneously referred to as the first black Secret Service Agent, was in fact the first black agent assigned to the prestigious White House Detail.  Bolden was born to Daniel and Ophelia Bolden in East St. Louis, Illinois on January 19, 1935.  He graduated from East St. Louis’s Lincoln High School in 1952 and attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri on a music scholarship, graduating cum laude in 1956.  After graduation, Bolden married his longtime friend and schoolmate Barbara L. Hardy.  The marriage lasted 49 years until her death on December 27, 2005.  The couple had three children.

In 1956 Bolden became the first African American to be employed as a detective by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.  He then served as an Illinois State Highway Patrolman.  In October 1960, Bolden joined the US Secret Service, becoming their second black agent (after Charles L.
Sources: 
Abraham Bolden, The Echo from Dealey Plaza (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008); Del Quentin, “The First Black Secret Service Agent,” The Washington Post, August 10, 2011; interview with Abraham Bolden by the author, January 4, 2014; UNITED STATES v. BOLDEN 355 F.2d 453 (1965); “Admits Bolden Trial Perjury: Spagnoli Tells of Trying to Aid Self,” Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1965; “Blunders and Wonders of Nov. 22, 1963,” Flagpole Magazine, November 19, 2008.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ganaway, King Daniel (1882- 1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
King Daniel Ganaway, a 39-year-old butler on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois rose to fame in 1921 by winning the first place prize in national photographic contest sponsored by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Department Store Owner John Wanamaker. Titled “The Spirit of Transportation,” the photograph was one of 900 entries. Ganaway’s camera lens captured the two engines of the 20th Century Limited as they came to the end of their run at the La Salle Street Station in Chicago. His entry was chosen over others submitted by professional photographers. He also won an Honorable Mention for another photograph, titled “Children in the Country.”

Born October 22, 1882 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, King Daniel’s parents were King and Hattie Ganaway. He was named after his father King and his grandfather Daniel. His devout Christian faith led King in 1903 at the age of 21 to leave Tennessee to join the Christian Catholic Church, a religious community in Zion, Illinois under the leadership of John Alexander Dowie. After nine months of waiting tables there he decided to move to Chicago.  

Sources: 
Edith M. Lloyd, “This Negro Butler Has Become Famous,” American Magazine, March 1925; America To-Day Combined with Fort Dearborn Magazine Digital Scans https://books.google.com/books?id=cEstAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA101&lpg=PA101&dq=american+today+combined+with+fort+dear+born+magazine&source=bl&ots=f9CgSPTIzv&sig=wZdqX0-O7A_h4exLnD61oMQ_zxU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=F8LoVN6XKoKlyATy9ID4BA&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage q=american%20today%20combined%20with%20fort%20dear%20born%20magazine&f=false; The National Geographic Magazine, April 1923, May 1924; and September 1928; John Gruber, “Ganaway Captures Train’s Spirit,” Railroad Heritage 3, 2001.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Huggins, Joseph (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Joseph Huggins is a retired Career Diplomat who on November 15, 2002 was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as Ambassador to Botswana. Following U.S. Senate confirmation, Huggins arrived in Gaborone, the capital, where he served from January 28, 2003 until July 26, 2005.

Little is known about Joseph Huggins’s early life beyond the fact that he was born to parents Joseph and Elizabeth C. Huggins in 1951 in South Carolina.  He has three brothers named Jerome, Lawrence, and Michael and one sister, Lisa.
Sources: 
Anadach Group LLC, "Anadach Group," Anadach Group LLC.
http://www.anadach.com/about.htm; Ariel Foundation, "Biography: H.E. Ambassador Joseph Huggins," Ariel Foundation, http://www.arielfoundation.org/documents/AFI_Website_Bio_Huggins.html; U.S. Congress, "Joseph Huggins," Congressional Record, V. 148, Pt. 14, October 2, 2002 to October 9, 2002 (Washington, D.C: United States Government Printing Office, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, A.L. (1891–1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Alexander Louis Jackson II was born on March 1, 1891, in Englewood, New Jersey. He attended Phillips Andover Academy and was elected to be the commencement speaker for his class of 1910.  Jackson graduated from Harvard University in 1914 with degrees in English, sociology, and education. After graduation, he served as the secretary and then director for the Wabash branch of the Chicago, Illinois YMCA.
Sources: 
W.E.B. DuBois, ed. “Horizon,” The Crisis, Vol. 18 No.5, 1919. https://books.google.com/books?id=Y4ETAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA3-PA254&lpg=RA3-PA254&dq=%22a.l.+jackson%22+ymca&source=bl&ots=zjvqYQH4df&sig=zB-RgWUZCkcaS-RtBPXOlc47rPw&hl=ensa=X&ved=0ahUKEwje3OfpwsXLAhUY8WMKHUTQAXEQ6AEIOjAI#v=onepage&q=%22a.l.%20jackson%22%20ymca; “Jackson, Alexander L.,” Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, 2010, http://amistadresearchcenter.tulane.edu/archon/?p=creators/creator&id=366; William M. Tuttle, Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Lamar (1892-1955)

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

Lamar Smith, voting rights activist and veteran, was a martyr in the fight for civil rights. Smith was born in March 1892 to Levi Smith and Harriet Humphrey in Lincoln County, Mississippi; however, there is little information concerning his early life.

Smith served in World War I, entering in 1917. After returning to Mississippi from the war, Smith became politically active in his community. He was one of the few registered African American voters in Lincoln County, and became passionate about African American participation in politics. He worked to educate his community on the political process, register voters, and ensure they were able to cast a ballot. In 1951, Smith, then fifty-nine, associated himself with the newly-formed Regional Council of Negro Leadership. RCNL was devoted to causes similar to Smith’s interests as it focused on the civic duty of African American citizens to participate in the political process and the process of empowering people to do so.

Sources: 
Michael Newton, Unsolved Civil Rights Murder Cases, 1934-1970: McFarland Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2016; Davis W. Houck and David E. Dixon, Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965, (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2006; Cristina Gamondi, “Lamar Smith - Notice to Close File,”  2010; https://www.justice.gov/crt/case-document/lamar-smith.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lloyd, John Henry "Pop" (1884-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Henry "Pop" Lloyd was born April 25, 1884, in Palatka, Florida. Reportedly discovered by baseball legend Rube Foster, Lloyd would begin his professional career with the Cuban X-Giants, where fans would give him the nickname “El Cuchara” (“The Shovel”) due to his steady hands and ability to grab any ground ball coming at him. His tremendous play at shortstop would be matched by only one other player, Hall-of-Famer Honus Wagner, who declared “it is a privilege to have been compared to him.”

Beginning play in America in 1910 for Fosters Chicago Leland Giants, Lloyd was an amazing all-around player. On offense in the “deadball” era of baseball, Lloyd hit with skilled accuracy, but could deliver power when needed. On defense, Lloyd was the most dominating shortstop in the Negro Leagues, whose quickness and intensity could not be matched.    

In 1918 Lloyd became player-manager of the Brooklyn Royal Giants, and spent the next few years jumping around teams until settling with the Hilldale Daisies in 1922. The next year Lloyd batted a sensational .418 and lead Hilldale to the inaugural pennant of the Eastern Colored League. He would move after that season, however, to the Bacharach Giants due to reported disputes with management.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cox, Oliver Cromwell (1901-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to a middle-class family, Oliver Cromwell Cox was one of nine children of Virginia Blake and William Raphael Cox.  Influenced by his father, who was determined that his children further their education, Oliver traveled to the United States at the age of 18 with the aim of becoming either a doctor or a lawyer.   In 1929 he completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Law from Northwestern University.  He had planned to return to Trinidad to live but was stricken with poliomyelitis and would walk with crutches for the rest of his life, which he spent in the United States.   Undeterred by his physical condition, he earned a M.A. in economics and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago before holding professorships at Wiley College, the Tuskegee Institute, Lincoln University, and Wayne State University  where he amassed a prolific record of scholarship and a reputation as a  demanding and challenging pedagogue.

Sources: 
Herbert M. Hunter and Sameer Y. Abraham, Race, Class, and the World System: The Sociology of Oliver C. Cox (New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1987).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Cooper, Anna Julia Haywood (1858-1964)

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

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was a writer, teacher, and activist who championed education for African Americans and women. Born into bondage in 1858 in Raleigh, North Carolina, she was the daughter of an enslaved woman, Hannah Stanley, and her owner, George Washington Haywood.

In 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War, Anna began her formal education at Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, a coeducational facility built for former slaves. There she received the equivalent of a high school education.

Sources: 
Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Paula J. Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: HarperCollins, 2001); Kimberly Springer, “Anna Julia Haywood Cooper,” in African American Lives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Garvey, Amy Ashwood (1897-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Amy Ashwood Garvey was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, but spent most of her childhood in Panama where her father supported the family as a businessman. She returned to Jamaica as a teen and attended Westwood High School in Trelawney, where she met her future husband, Marcus Garvey, in 1914.

Ashwood and Garvey both held strong beliefs in African American activism and were involved in political activities and soon they began to collaborate on ideas and strategies for the liberation of Jamaica, then a British colony.  In 1916 they became secretly engaged. Ashwood’s parents did not approve and arranged for her to return to Panama that year. Garvey headed for the United States in the spring of that year.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia Volumes 1 and 2 (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); http://www.theunia-acl.com/; http://marcusgarvey.com/; http://www.pbs.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Alexander, Clifford L., Jr. (1933-)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission
 
Clifford L. Alexander Jr. was born in New York City on September 21, 1933, the son of Clifford L. and Edith (McAllister) Alexander.  Alexander received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from Harvard University (1955) and a L.L.B. degree from the Yale University Law School in 1958.  In 1959, Alexander became Assistant District Attorney for New York County.  From 1961 to 1962, he became the Executive Director of the Manhattanville Hamilton Grange Neighborhood Conservation Project (1961-62).

Alexander left the private practice of law in New York City in 1963 to become a Foreign Affairs Officer in the National Security Council (NCS) in Washington D.C.  The next year, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him as a Special Assistant to the President; then, in succession, Associate Special Counsel and Deputy Special Counsel to the President.  From 1967 to 1969, Alexander served as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).  In 1968, he was also named a special representative of the President, with the rank of ambassador.  In this capacity, he led the U.S. delegation to ceremonies marking the independence of Swaziland.  After Alexander left the EEOC, he returned to the private practice of law.  
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr., Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), pp. 6-7.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Bullins, Ed (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ed Bullins was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1935. He was raised by his mother on Philadelphia’s North side, a community considered troubled and crime-ridden. Bullins has often recounted his near fatal death by stabbing while he was a youth. Many scholars note that this life-changing experience was the thematic basis for several of his early plays. Bullins joined the US Navy after dropping out of high school in 1952, and in 1958 (after returning to Philadelphia for a short time) he moved to southern California.

Bullins first exercised his love of writing and literature while a student at Los Angeles City College. In 1964 he moved to San Francisco. A year later while a creative writing student at San Francisco State College he wrote his first play, How Do You Do? In 1965 two other plays by Bullins appeared, Dialect Determinism (or The Rally), and Clara's Ole Man.
Sources: 
Nathan L. Grant, “Ed Bullins” The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, Ed. William Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Ed Bullins, “The Official Website of the Playwright and Producer,” http://www.edbullins.com/, accessed October 20, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Armstrong Atlantic State University

Rapier, James Thomas (1837-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center, Howard University

James Thomas Rapier was a Republican representative from the state of Alabama elected to the 43rd United States Congress. Rapier was born on November 13, 1837 in Florence, Alabama and attended high school in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1856 at the age of 19 he traveled to attend the King School in Buxton, Ontario, Canada, an experimental black community. There, along with his education he experienced a religious conversion and decided to devote his life to helping southern blacks. Rapier also attended the University of Glasgow and Franklin College in Nashville before receiving a teaching certificate in 1863.

Rapier moved to Maury County, Tennessee and in 1865 started campaigning for African American suffrage. He delivered the keynote address at the Tennessee Negro Suffrage Convention in Nashville that same year. When the movement saw no success he took up cotton farming in his home town of Florence, Alabama and became successful.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clarke, George Elliott (1960- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Elliott Clarke, a poet, playwright and literary critic is also the E.J Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto (Ontario). Clarke was born near the Black Loyalist community of Windsor Plains, Nova Scotia. He is a seventh generation Canadian descendant of black loyalists who were repatriated from the United States to British Canada immediately after the American Revolution.  
Sources: 
George Elliott Clarke, Africadian History (Kentville: Gaspereau Press, 2001); George Elliott Clarke, Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002); George Elliott Clarke, Black (Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2006); George Elliott Clarke, George & Rue (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2007). http://www.writers.ns.ca/Writers/gsclarke.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Morris, Robert, Sr. (1823–1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert Morris became one of the first black lawyers in United States after being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1847. Morris was born in Salem, Massachusetts on June 8, 1823.   At an early age, Morris had some formal education at Master Dodge’s School in Salem.  With the agreement of his family, he became the student of Ellis Gray Loring, a well known abolitionist and lawyer. 

Shortly after starting his practice in Boston, Morris became the first black lawyer to file a lawsuit on behalf of a client in the history of the nation.  A jury ruled in favor of Morris’s client, though the details of the trial are unknown.  Morris, however, recorded his feelings and observations about his first jury trial:

"There was something in the courtroom that made me feel like a giant.  The courtroom was filled with colored people, and I could see, expressed on the faces of every one of them, a wish that I might win the first case that had ever been tried before a jury by a colored attorney in this county…"

Sources: 

Clay J. Smith, Jr., Emancipation: Making of the Black Lawyer 1844 -1944 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995); Rayford W. Logan and Michael Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography; (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Turner, Charles Henry (1867-1923)

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

Charles Henry Turner was the first African American psychologist and the first African American comparative behavior psychologist.  Turner was born on February 3rd 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Turner was raised by his mother, Addie Campbell, a practical nurse and his father, Thomas Turner, a church custodian.  His father had a great love for books, and owned an extensive library where Turner became fascinated with reading about the habits and behavior of insects.  

Charles Turner attended Woodward High School in Cincinnati where he was the valedictorian of his class.  He then went on to earn his B.S at the University of Cincinnati in 1891.  The following year he earned his Masters degree in Biology at the same University.  After earning his first two degrees Turner married and fathered three children.  With a young family to support, Turner did not finish his doctorate degree in zoology at the University of Chicago, Illinois until 1907.  Although offered a position to work as a professor at the University of Chicago, Turner, who wanted to help young African Americans, took a position as a high school teacher in St. Louis, Missouri.

Sources: 

Charles I. Abramson, Latasha D. Jackson, and Camille L. Fuller, Selected Papers and Biography of Charles Henry Turner (1867-1923) Pioneer of Comparative Animal Behavior Studies (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, Ltd. 2003); Michael Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators  (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Killens, John Oliver (1916-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, John Oliver Killens was an editor, essayist, activist, critic and novelist who inspired a generation of African American writers through his Harlem Writers Guild. He inspired such literary artists as Rosa Guy, Maya Angelou, Ossie Davis and Audrey Lorde. The great grandson of former slaves, whose stories he heard first hand, Killens was born in Macon, Georgia in 1916. The segregated, racist world of his youth in the South and the military during young adulthood, in which he served during World War II, became the backdrop and central themes of his work.  He attended Morris Brown College, Howard University, Columbia University and New York University.  He later taught at Fisk and Howard Universities and was writer-in-residence at New York’s Medgar Evers College.
Sources: 
Keith Gilyard, Liberation Memories: The Rhetoric And Poetics Of John Oliver Killens (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2003); Ray Black, "John O. Killens," Encyclopedia of African American Literature Wilfred D. Samuels, ed., (New York: Facts on File, 2007): 300-302.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Gardner-Chavis, Ralph (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 

James Michael Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993); The HistoryMakers, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/ralph-gardner-chavis-38.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bivins, Horace W. (1862-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Waymon Bivins, buffalo soldier, was born on May 8, 1862 in Accomack County, Virginia. His father Severn S. Bivins and his mother Elizabeth Bivins were free black farmers on Virginia's Eastern Shore. His parents taught Bivins to farm and at the age of 15 he was in charge of an 8-horse farm near Keller Station, Virginia.

Bivins, however, yearned for a life away from farming and at 17 he entered Hampton Institute in Virginia where he was first introduced to military training.  In 1887 Bivins joined the U.S. Army as a private. He was ordered to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and assigned to Troop E, 10th U.S. Cavalry. Bivins was eventually stationed with the regiment at Fort Grant in Arizona Territory. There he took part in the campaign against Geronimo during the final days of the Apache wars in the Southwest.  An expert marksman, Bivins won eight medals and badges given by the War Department in shooting competitions between 1892 and 1894
Sources: 
Irene Schubert and Frank N. Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldiers II (Baltimore: Scarecrow Press, Inc, 2004); Ed Kemmick, “Horace W. Bivins, Much-decorated soldier served many …Years of adventure,” 2003, Accessed Dec 7, 2010, http://www.mtstandard.com/news/state-and-regional/article_e3c02099-4d74-50ec-95f3-518bdcf2c240.html; Encyclopedia, Bivins, Horace W.(1862–1937) “Soldier, Joins the Tenth Calvary, Writes about Military Life,” 2010, Accessed Dec 7, 2010, http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4119/Bivins-Horace-W-1862-1937.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Desdunes, Rodolphe Lucien (1849-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Hrabowski, Freeman A., III (1950- )

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

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

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

Thompson, John Edward West (1855-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Edward West Thompson was an African American non-career diplomat. He served as U.S. Minister Resident/Consul General to Haiti from June 30, 1885 to October 17, 1889. Thompson simultaneously served as U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) from 1885 to 1889.

John E. W. Thompson was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1855, but moved with his family to Providence, Rhode Island in 1865.  He received his early education in public schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  In 1883 Thompson graduated with “high honors” from Yale Medical School.  He married a woman from New Haven, Connecticut, known only as “Miss McLinn.” He and his new bride traveled to Paris, France where he pursued medical studies and became proficient in the French language. In 1884, Thompson returned to New York City and began his medical practice.
Sources: 
U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/thompson-john-e-w; Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ferguson, Clarence Clyde, Jr. (1924-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
M. Alphonse Boni, President of the Ivorian
Court and Clarence Clyde Ferguson, Dean,
Howard University 
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Clarence Clyde Ferguson was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Uganda on March 17, 1970 by President Richard Nixon. He presented his credentials June 30, 1970 and terminated his mission on July 19, 1972. Ferguson was born November 4, 1924 in Wilmington, North Carolina to Clarence Clyde and Georgena Owens Ferguson.
Sources: 
John Honnold, "Desegregation and the Law,” Review of Desegregation and the Law by Albert P. Blaunstein and Clarence Clyde Ferguson, Jr., Indiana Law Journal: 33: 4 (1958); Clarence Mitchell, “In Memoriam: C. Clyde Ferguson, Jr. A Brilliant Career,” Harvard Law Review 97:6 (April 1984).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hall, George Cleveland (1864-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dr. George Cleveland Hall, Chicago, Illinois African American physician and humanitarian was born on February 22, 1864, to John Ward Hall, a Baptist minister, and Romelia Buck Hall in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Dr. Hall eventually rose to head the Chicago Urban League and became vice-president of the National Urban League. In 1915 he became one of the five founding members and the first president of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), currently known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)
Sources: 
George W. Lawlah, M.D., “George Cleveland Hall, 1864–1930, A Profile,” Journal of the National Medical Association, Volume 46, No. 3,  p. 207–210 (May 1954); Beth Tompkins Bates, Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America, 1925–1945 (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture) (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 2001); “Dr. George Cleveland Hall, ’86,” Lincoln University Herald, Vol. 34, No. 2 (September 1930); http://www.chipublib.org/fa-george-cleveland-hall-branch-archives/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hotesse, Esteban (1919-1945)

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

Esteban Hotesse was the only Dominican-born member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, as well as one of the few people born in a Spanish-speaking nation to serve the United Stated during World War II. Hotesse was born on February 11, 1919, in the town of Moca, Dominican Republic. On November 1, 1923, at the young age of four, he, his mother, and his younger sister departed Moca for New York City, New York. After traveling through Ellis Island, they took up residence in Manhattan. Little is known of Hotesse from this point until he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on February, 21, 1942.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Bert (1874-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Egbert Austin "Bert" Williams was born in New Providence, Nassau on November 12, 1874.  When he was eleven or twelve his family settled in Riverside, California, and it was not long before Williams became attracted to show business.  In 1893 Williams got his start in show business and one of his first jobs was with a minstrel group called Martin and Selig's Minstrels.  While in this group Williams met George Walker, a song-and-dance man with whom Williams soon formed an illustrious partnership called Williams and Walker.

Throughout his career Williams achieved many firsts.  In 1901 he became the first African American to become a best selling recording artist, and in 1902 he became an international star with his performance in the show In Dahomey, the first black musical to be performed on Broadway.  Also, in 1910 Williams became the first black to be regularly featured in a Broadway revue when he joined the Ziegfeld Follies, and he even came to claim top billing for the show.

Sources: 
"Bert Williams," Broadway the American Musical: Stars Over Broadway
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/broadway/stars/williams_b.html ; Eric Ledell Smith, Bert Williams: A Biography of the Pioneer Black Comedian (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland &Company, Inc., Publishers, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Padmore, George (1901-1959)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
A journalist, radical activist, and theoretician, George Padmore did more than perhaps any other single individual to shape the theory and discourse of Pan-African anti-imperialism in the first half of the twentieth century.

Born Malcolm Nurse in Trinidad in 1901, Padmore moved to the United States in 1925 to study at Fisk and Howard Universities. In 1928 he dropped out of Howard's law school and joined the American Communist Party. Quickly rising in Party ranks as an expert on race and imperialism, Padmore moved to Moscow, USSR in 1929 to head the Comintern's International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers and to edit the Negro Worker. In 1931 he published the influential pamphlet, The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers.

Sources: 
Peggy Von Eschen, Race Against Empire:  Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson, Mahalia (1911-1972)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Laurraine Goreau, Just Mahalia, Baby: The Mahalia Jackson Story (Waco: World Books, 1975).
Affiliation: 
Tuskegee University

Wagoner, Henry O. (1816-1901)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in 1816 in Maryland to a freed slave mother and a German father, Henry O. Wagoner (often spelled Waggoner) had the benefit of a brief exposure to education in Pennsylvania. This limited education gave him a base for further self-education and independent thought. In the 1850s Frederick Douglass employed Wagoner as the Chicago correspondent to his Rochester, New York newspaper, known as Frederick Douglass' Paper after 1851.

Wagoner's obituary notes that he owned a "small mill " in Chicago that burned in 1860, prompting him to move to Denver City, Colorado Territory. His friend Barney Ford may have influenced that decision as the two of them had worked together in Chicago supporting Douglass's abolition movement and his Underground Railroad activities.

In Denver, Wagoner opened various barbering and restaurant businesses and was among the most affluent of Denver's African American residents. While Ford moved from place to place, Wagoner stayed in Denver where he remained a political activist in league with black pioneers Edward Sanderlin and William Jefferson Hardin.
Sources: 
Henry O. Wagoner Obituary, Rocky Mountain News, January 28, 1901; Eugene Berwanger, The Frontier Against Slavery: Western Anti-Negro Prejudice and the Slavery Extension Controversy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1967).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Russell, Herman J. (1930- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
What started as a $125.00 purchase of a small parcel of land at 15 grew and blossomed over the years into a multi million-dollar company, and with this, Herman Jerome Russell came to epitomize black entrepreneurship by becoming one of the first black millionaires.

By the time of his retirement in 1997, Russell had built a conglomerate that included construction, property management, real estate development, airport concessions, and communications companies stretching across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Herman Russell was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1930 and attended Tuskegee Institute where he majored in construction, graduating in 1953. In 1957, he took over the family business, Russell Plastering Company. Employed by his father since the age of 10, Russell was no stranger to hard work. The many years under his father’s tutelage encouraged his entrepreneur spirit and gave him the needed preparation to handle the family business.
Sources: 
Source: Alston Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.answers.com; www.findarticles.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, Garland (1886-1939)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A pioneer playwright and moralistic philosopher of constructive thinking, Garland Anderson was the first African American known to have a serious full-length drama produced on Broadway in New York. Active in the theatre for over 10 years during the 1920s and 1930s, he achieved national prominence as “the San Francisco Bellhop Playwright.”

Garland Anderson was born in Wichita, Kansas.  He completed only four years of formal schooling before the family moved to California. Working as a bellhop in a San Francisco hotel, he often shared his optimistic philosophy of life with guests who encouraged him to write about his ideas. Anderson believed an individual might achieve anything in life through faith.
Sources: 
Garland Anderson, Uncommon Sense: The Law of Life in Action (London: L.N Fowler & Company 1933); Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Norman, Jessye (1945- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Best known as an opera singer, Jessye Norman has also lent her rich, dramatic, and powerful voice to recordings and recitals of spirituals and hymns– including a particularly compelling version of “Amazing Grace” and Christmas carols, in addition to recording jazz. She has never limited herself to any one musical genre, and her voice can widely range from contralto to high soprano.

Norman was born on September 15, 1945 in Augusta, Georgia, the child of Silas Norman, an insurance broker, and Janie Norman, a schoolteacher. She began singing in church choirs as a young child, and was taking piano lessons by age eight. Her singing enabled her to attend Howard University on a full scholarship, where she studied with voice teacher Carolyn Grant, and she graduated in 1967. Winning first prize at an international music competition in Germany in 1968 propelled her into international recognition, and by 1972 she had performed her triumphal debut in the title role of Verdi’s Aida at the legendary La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy.

Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, “Jessye Norman,” Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale, 1992); http://www.notablebiographies.com/ .
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

O’Ree, Willie (1935- )

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) first black player, is an African-Canadian, born on October 15, 1935, in Fredricton, New Brunswick. He began skating at an early age and quickly developed into one of the best players in eastern Canada.  O’Ree joined the Quebec Frontenacs, a junior hockey league team in 1954.  While there a puck struck O’Ree in the right eye during a game in Ontario. Eight weeks after being injured he returned to hockey but had lost almost all of the vision in his right eye.

Despite his injury O’Ree in 1956 was acquired by the Quebec Aces, a professional team.  O’Ree led them to a championship during his first season of play.  During the following season in Quebec, O’Ree was noticed by NHL scouts and invited to join the Boston (Massachusetts) Bruins to replace an injured player. He made his NHL debut on January 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the first black player in the League’s history. At that time in hockey there was little medical testing and no eye exams.  As a result O’Ree played 21 professional seasons with vision in only one eye.
Sources: 
Willie O’Ree and Michael McKinley, Autobiography of Willie O’Ree: Hockey’s Black Pioneer (Toronto: Somerville House, 2000); Robin Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997); http://www.fredricton.ca/en/recleisure/2008Jan15OReePlaceNamed.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barry, Marion Jr. (1936-2014)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marion Barry Jr., a civil rights activist and later three term mayor of Washington D.C., was born on March 6, 1936, in Itta Bena, Mississippi. His parents, Marion Barry and Mattie Barry, were sharecroppers; the family lived in relative poverty. When Marion was eight years old, his mother took the family to live in Memphis, Tennessee.

Barry graduated from high school in Memphis and then in 1958 earned his bachelor’s degree at Le Moyne College, a small black college in the city. He received a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Le Moyne College in Nashville in 1960.  Barry then completed three years of a doctoral program in chemistry at the University of Tennessee.

Sources: 

Jonetta Rose Barras, The Last of the Black Emperor: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in the New Age of Black Leaders (Baltimore: Bancroft Press, 1998); Councilmember Ward 8, http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/BARRY/about/default.htm; The Washington Post, “Marion Barry: The Making of a Mayor,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dc/barry/barry.htm. "Marion Berry 4-Time Mayor of D.C., dies at 78," The Washington Post, Nov 23, 2014.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lewis, Sir William Arthur Lewis (1915-1991)

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

William Arthur Lewis was a public intellectual in the field of development economics, who in 1971 became the first African American to receive a Nobel Prize in category other than peace.  Lewis was honored for his work in economics.  Lewis was the author of 12 books and more than 80 technical works in developmental economics

William Arthur Lewis was born in St. Lucia in the British West Indies in 1915, the fourth of five children, to schoolteacher parents George and Ida Lewis. He finished high school at the age of fourteen, enabling him to win a government scholarship to study in Great Britain.  At 18 he entered the London School of Economics to work for a degree in commerce.

Sources: 

Colin A Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: the Black Experience in the Americas. 2nd Edition (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006) Michael W. Williams, The African American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp. 1993).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Lewis, Kossola Cudjo (c. 1841–1935)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy Erik Overbey Collection
University of South Alabama Archives
Sources: 
Sylviane A. Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (NY: Oxford University Press, 2007); http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1403
Contributor: 

Peters, Brock (1927-2005)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Brock Peters, who emerged as a prominent actor of the 1960s, was born George Fisher in 1927, to Sonny and Alma Fisher in New York City. Prior to concentrating on an acting career that spanned nearly six decades, he attended the University of Chicago, and later City College in New York.
Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Anonymous,Telegraph.co.uk. Brock Peters obituary; August 25, 2005;  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1496874/Brock-Peters.html; accessed May 19, 2009; Tom Vallance, "Brock Peters: Actor best known for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,'" The Independent [London], August 25, 2005; Mel Watkins, "Brock Peters of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird' Is Dead at 78,'" New York Times, August 24, 2005; http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B05EED7113EF937A1575BC0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. Accessed May 19, 2009.
Contributor: 

Coles, Solomon Melvin (1844-1924)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Edna Jordan, Black Tracks to Texas: Solomon Melvin Coles—From Slave to Educator (Corpus Christi: Golden Banner Press, 1977); Moses N. Moore, Jr. and Yolanda Y. Smith, “Solomon M. Coles: The First Black Student Officially Enrolled in Yale Divinity School,” Spectrum: Yale Divinity School History, 6-7; Moses N. Moore, Jr. and Yolanda Y. Smith, “Solomon M. Coles: Preacher, Teacher, and Former Slave—The First Black Student Officially Enrolled in Yale Divinity School,” http://www.yale.edu/divinity/storm/Coles.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historians

Knox, William Jacob, Jr. (1904-1995)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Harvard University Archives,
HUD 325.25
Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on January 5, 1904, William Knox is remembered for two achievements.  He was among a handful of black scientists to work on the top secret Manhattan Project, which produced the atom bomb during World War II, and following the war he held a key development position at the Kodak Corporation, a major manufacturer of camera equipment.

Knox was the oldest of three brothers born to William and Estelle Knox. The elder Knox was a clerk at the U.S. postal service in New Bedford.  All of the brothers attended Harvard University as undergraduates with William graduating from the institution in 1925.  All three Knox brothers would go on to earn Ph.D.s.  The middle son, Everett, studied history.  The youngest son, Lawrence, studied chemistry and, during World War II, joined his eldest brother on Manhattan Project research.    
Sources: 
Jessie Parkhurst Guzman, et al., Negro Year Book: A Review of Events Affecting Negro Life, 1941-1946 (Tuskegee Institute, Alabama: Dept. of Records and Research, 1947); Patricia Carter Sluby, The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2004); Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moster, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Boseman, Benjamin Anthony (1840-1881)

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

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

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

Taylor, Michelle (1992- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Michelle Taylor is a 22 year old African American woman who was crowned Miss Alaska in 2013. Taylor was the first black woman to hold that title. After winning the title of Miss Alaska, she went on to compete in the national contest in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Taylor attended the University of Alaska at Anchorage at the time of the pageant where she majored in hotel and restaurant management.  Her childhood ambition, however, was to be a gymnast.

Taylor’s exceptional academic ability was evident long before she began college. While in high school, she was awarded $11,000 for graduating in the top ten percentile of Alaskan high school students.  Because of her strong academic ability Taylor received financial aid and scholarship offers from a number of colleges and universities, but decided on the University of Alaska at Anchorage because of its generous scholarship offer as well as her proximity to family and friends.   
Sources: 
www.missamerica.org; Student Spotlight: Michelle Taylor, Green and Gold News, September 3, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Lucas, Florence V. (1916–1987)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Florence V. Lucas, lawyer, politician, NAACP leader, and songwriter, was born in 1916 in New York City, New York. She graduated from John Adams High School, Hunter College, and Brooklyn Law School. After graduating from law school in 1940, she became the first black woman from Queens to be admitted to the bar and the first black woman assigned murder cases in the Queens Borough Prosecutor’s Office. In 1941, however, she became the enforcement attorney for the Office of Price Administration (OPA) in the President Franklin Roosevelt Administration in Washington, D.C. 

In 1946 Lucas returned to New York, locating in the Jamaica section of Queens where she opened a private practice. In 1952 she became the secretary of the Queens Women’s Bar Association. By that point, she had decided as a courtesy to the community to represent young people accused of crimes on a pro bono basis. Lucas was elected president of the Jamaica, Queens NAACP in 1953. She later became director of the New York State Conference of the NAACP and state membership chair in 1957. During her tenure as membership chair, the Jamaica NAACP branch grew from 391 in 1953 to 3,600 members by 1959.

Sources: 
“Florence Lucas, Obituary,” New York Times, September 9, 1987, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/09/obituaries/florence-lucas-dead-at-71-worked-for-rights-division.html; The Crisis, February 1960.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Omar, Ilhan (1982– )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ilhan Omar is a Somali American politician from Minnesota.  She is the director of policy and initiative of the Women Organizing Women Network which encourages women from East Africa to take on civic and political leadership roles. In 2016 she was elected a Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives, becoming the first person of Somali ancestry in the United States to serve in a state legislature.

Omar was born in 1982 in Somalia. Her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, a Somali, worked as a teacher trainer. Her mother was from Yemen and died when IIhan was a child. She was raised by her father and grandfather, Abukar Omar, director of Somalia’s National Marine Transport.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dawson, Daisy Lee Tibbs (1924-2013)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Courtesy of the Dawson Family"
Daisy Tibbs Dawson, a Seattle, Washington peace activist and educator, is the only African American to be memorialized in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. Tibbs was born in Toney, Alabama on July 27, 1924 to Calvin and Martha Tibbs.  At a very early age, her parents died, leaving her and her two siblings in the care of their maternal uncle, Robert Tibbs and his wife, Mary Leslie. She attended segregated public schools during her primary years and then attended a private black high school, Trinity High School, established by white Presbyterian missionaries. Tibbs worked in order to pay for her tuition.  She took classes from a diverse cohort of faculty that included both black and white teachers and a Japanese music instructor who was interned by U.S. authorities after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Sources: 
Floyd W. Schmoe, Japan Journey (Seattle: Seattle Silver Quoin Press, 1950); Daisy Dawson interviewed by Jonathan Houston on April 27, 2009, transcript (Daisy Tibbs Dawson Family Private Collection); “Mission to Hiroshima,” Ebony Magazine, Jan.1950; “Daisy Lee Tibbs Dawson,” Obituary, The Seattle Times, May 28, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Briggs, Cyril (1888-1966)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Cyrill Briggs and Charlene Mitchell, 1960
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Cyril Briggs was a pioneering civil rights activist, journalist, black nationalist, and member of the American Communist Party. Born in 1888 on the Eastern Caribbean island of Nevis, Briggs immigrated to New York City in 1905 and joined a burgeoning community of radical West Indian intellectuals in Harlem. In 1912 be was hired at the New York Amsterdam News where he voiced support for World War I and Woodrow Wilson's anti colonial doctrine of self-determination, which he saw as validating his own radical vision of African American self-rule. Further radicalized in the wake of World War I and the Russian Revolution, Briggs started publishing his own periodical, the Crusader, in September 1918 and one month later founded the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB).  Incorporating Marxist class-consciousness under the banner of "Africa for Africans," the Crusader and the ABB became vehicles for Briggs' distinctive merger of interracial revolutionary socialism with black nationalism and anti colonialism. 

Sources: 
Mark Solomon, The Cry Was Unity: Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936 (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bradley, Tom (1917-1998)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Thomas J. “Tom” Bradley, five-term Mayor of Los Angeles and the first major black candidate for Governor of California, was born in Calvert, Texas, on December 29, 1917, the son of Lee Thomas Bradley, a railroad porter, and Crenner Bradley, a maid.  He was the grandson of former slaves.

Bradley graduated from Los Angeles Polytechnic High School in 1937, and then attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) until 1940 when he left the institution to join the Los Angeles Police Department.  While at UCLA, Bradley joined Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.  In 1941 Bradley married Ethel Arnold.  The couple had three children, Lorraine, Phyllis, and a baby who died on the day of her birth.

Bradley rose to become a Lieutenant by 1960, the highest ranking African American at that time.  While serving on the force, he earned his law degree at Southwestern University in Los Angeles.

Admitted to the bar in 1962, he served on the Los Angeles City Council from 1963 to 1972.  Bradley’s sprawling 10th District in West Central Los Angeles covered the Crenshaw area, a multiethnic community that included many white voters.  With this base Bradley forged a coalition between middle class blacks and whites which was a major factor in his political success.
Sources: 
Raphael J. Sonenshein, Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Jean Merl and Bill Boyarsky, “Mayor Who Reshaped L.A. Dies,” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1998; Jane Fritsch, “Tom Bradley, Mayor in Era of Los Angeles Growth, Dies,” New York Times, September 30, 1998.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

DuSable, Jean-Baptiste-Point (1745-1818)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Jean-Baptiste-Point DuSable, a frontier trader, trapper and farmer is generally regarded as the first resident of what is now Chicago, Illinois. There is very little definite information on DuSable’s past. It is believed by some historians that he was born free around 1745 in St. Marc, Saint-Dominique (Haiti). His mother was an African slave, his father a French mariner. DuSable traveled with his father to France, where he received some education. It was through this education and the work that he performed for his father on his ships, that he learned languages including French, Spanish, English, and many Indian dialects.

Sources: 
Shirley Graham, Jean Baptiste Point De Sable, Founder of Chicago (Chicago: Julian Messner, 1953); Thomas A Meehan, “Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the First Chicagoan,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 56:3 (1963); Christopher R. Reed, “In the Shadow of Fort Dearborn: Honoring De Saible at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933-1934,” Journal of Black Studies 21:4 (June 1991); and Dominic A. Pacyga, Chicago: A Biography, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Norton, Eleanor Holmes (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House
of Representatives Photography Office
Eleanor Holmes Norton was born on June 13, 1937 in Washington, D.C. to parents Coleman and Vela Holmes.  Both her parents were government employees.  Growing up in a well educated and politically conscious household caused Eleanor Holmes to be very aware of the surrounding struggles for African Americans.  At the age of 12, she recalled watching protests against a Washington, D.C. department store which allowed black shoppers but refused them entry into its bathrooms.

In 1955, Eleanor entered Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where she became heavily involved with civil rights work.  While in college she headed the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter and became a local activist working to desegregate public facilities in Ohio.  The emerging civil rights movement influenced her decision to enter Yale University in 1960 with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.  In 1963 Holmes worked in Mississippi for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  She graduated from Yale in 1963 with a Master’s in American Studies and a law degree in 1964.  
Sources: 
Joan Steinau Lester, Eleanor Holmes Norton: Fire in My Soul (New York: Atrai Books, 2003); Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.norton.house.gov/; http://www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/resources/legends_in_the_law/norton.cfm; http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1955.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Watts, Andre (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Andre Watts is the subject of one of the more memorable stories in American music. In 1963, the 16 year old high school student won a piano competition to play in the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concert at Lincoln Center, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.  Within weeks of the contest the renowned conductor tapped Watts to substitute for the eminent but ailing pianist Glenn Gould, for a regular performance with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The performance was televised nationally, with Watts playing Liszt’s E-flat Concerto, and his career was launched. From this storied beginning, Watts went on to become the first internationally famous black concert pianist.

Watts was born in Nuremburg, Germany on June 20, 1946 to an African American soldier, Herman Watts, who was stationed in Germany, and a piano-playing Hungarian refugee mother, Maria Alexandra Gusmits. His early childhood was spent on military bases, until at the age of eight his family moved to Philadelphia.
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, pp. 272-73; www.cmartists.com/artists/andre_watts.htm; http://info.music.indiana.edu. 
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

Watt, Melvin Luther (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Congressman Mel Wattt (far right) Speaking for the
Congressional Black Caucus, 2005
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Carolina in the 20th century, Mel Watts is a current member of the United States House of Representatives. Watts was born on August 26, 1945 in the small community of Steele Creek in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and attended high school in Charlotte. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967. Watt was a Phi Beta Kappa and was president of the business honors fraternity. He also has a J.D. degree from Yale University Law School as well as honorary degrees from North Carolina A&T State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Bennett College and Fisk University.

Watt had a varied career before serving in Congress. Between 1971 and 1992 he practiced law with the firm formerly known as Chambers, Stein, Ferguson, and Becton.  He was also a small business owner and managed the campaigns of Harvey Gantt for Charlotte City Council, for Mayor of Charlotte and for the United States Senate from North Carolina. Watt also served in the North Carolina Senate from 1985 to 1987.  He did not seek a second term, postponing his political activity until his children were high school graduates. Watt was known during his single term as “the conscience of the senate.”
Sources: 
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=w000207; Watt for Congress Website, http://www.wattforcongress.com/melwatt.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Terrell, Robert H. (1857-1925)

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

Robert Herberton Terrell, the first African American judge in Washington, D.C., was born in Charlottesville, Virginia on November 27, 1857 to Harris and Louisa Ann Terrell.  The Terrells, an upper-middle class American family, sent their son to public schools in the District of Columbia and then to Groton Academy in Groton, Massachusetts.  In 1884, Robert Terrell graduated cum laude from Harvard University.  Five years later he graduated from the Howard University Law School with an LL.B.  In 1893 he attained his LL.M from Howard University Law School.  Because of the difficulty in getting a job as a black attorney in Washington, D.C., Terrell taught in the District’s public schools between 1884 and 18. He then worked as chief clerk in the office of the auditor of the U.S. Treasury. 

Robert Terrell met Mary Church when she accepted a teaching post at the Preparatory School for Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., where he was principal.  They married in October 1891 and had two daughters.  Mary Church Terrell, the daughter of Robert R. Church, a prominent Republican politician and businessman in Memphis, would soon be noted in her own right as a civil rights leader and instrumental in the organization of the Colored Women’s League of Washington.  She was also an early president of the National Association for Colored Women. 

Sources: 
Leon Litwack and August Meier, eds.,  Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century  (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988); M. Sammy Miller and C.B. Purvis, “An Unpublished Letter from Dr. Charles B. Purvis to Judge Robert Herberton Terrell, The Journal of Negro History, 63:3 (July 1978); George C. Osborn “Woodrow Wilson Appoints a Negro Judge,” The Journal of Southern History, 4:4 (Nov. 1958); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Kathryn I. Bel Monte, African-American Heroes and Heroines: 150 True Stories of African American Heroism (Hollywood, Florida: Lifetime Books, Inc., 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harris, Edna Mae (1914-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Actress Edna Mae Harris made a name for herself as a lead in underground films of the 1930s and 1940s, which depicted the life of the black bourgeoisie. Harris was born in Harlem, New York, in 1914 to Sam and Mary Harris. Her father was a boxer and customs inspector and her mother worked as a maid for gay 90s pin-up Lillian Russell.

Sources: 

Martin Douglas, “Vivian Harris, Comedian, Chorus Girl and Longtime
‘Voice of the Apollo,’ Dies at 97,” New York Times, March 26, 2000;
Dance History Archives. http://www.streetswing/histmai2/d1h.htm.
Accessed 9/28/03; Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing
Arts,
(NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1978).  

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cliff, Jimmy Chambers (1948- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in St. Catherine, Jamaica on April 1, 1948 as James Chambers, the ska-reggae musician proved to be an accomplished performer at an early age. At age 14, Chambers moved to Kingston and took the surname Cliff as a proclamation of the heights he would reach. In Kingston, Cliff recorded two unsuccessful singles before he met Leslie Kong, a producer and founder of the record label, Beverly’s. On Kong’s label, Cliff released the 1962 hit, Hurricane Hattie and numerous other recordings throughout the rest of the 1960s. Cliff moved to the United Kingdom in the late 1960s, at the beckoning of Island Records but continued to work closely with Kong. The songs he released seeded the development of ska in Jamaica and England.

Cliff’s song, Waterfall, won the Brazilian International Song Festival in 1967 and in 1968, he moved to that nation because it seemed receptive to his music. He followed up Waterfall with the release of the protest song, Vietnam.  In 1970, he enjoyed new success with his cover of the Cat Stevens song, Wild World.
Sources: 
Dave Thompson, Reggae and Caribbean Music: Third Ear: The Essential Listening Companion (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2001); http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:hifuxqq5ldfe~T1.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kaunda, Kenneth (1924- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Kenneth Kaunda at UCLA, 2003
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Kenneth Kaunda, who served as Zambia's first president from October 24, 1966 to November 2, 1991, was born on April 28, 1924, in Lubwa, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia's name as a colony of Great Britain).  Born as the eighth child to David and Helen Kaunda, they gave him the name Buchizya, meaning “the unexpected one.”  As a child, Kaunda became very fond of football and passionate about music.  

In August 1940, Kaunda was chosen to attend Munali, a secondary school in Northern Rhodesia, with the goal of becoming a teacher.  He returned to Lubwa in 1943 as an instructor in the local schools.  In 1949, however, he became a farmer.  Kaunda soon became involved in an emerging nationalist movement, which was called Congress. He formed a branch of the Congress in the Chinsali district, his home region. 
Sources: 
John Hatch, Two African Statesmen: Kaunda of Zambia and Nyerere of Tanzania (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1976); Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia Shall be Free: An Autobiography (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962); Richard Hall, Kaunda: Founder of Zambia (London: Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., 1964).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Emecheta, Florence Onye Buchi (1944- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Through her personal struggles and exceptional writing abilities, Florence Onye Buchi Emecheta has constructed a collection of literary works that reflect the lives of African women.  Emecheta was born on July 21, 1944 in Yaba, Nigeria into a family with strong ties to their cultural traditions.  Although both of her parents died early on in her childhood, they had already demonstrated to their daughter the art of storytelling.  After their deaths, Emecheta's aunt began to shape her literary imagination and writing style.  

After earning a scholarship Emecheta graduated from the Methodist girls’ high school in Lagos.   When she was unable to attend the The University of Ibadan (UI), she married Sylvester Onwordi in 1960, at the age of 16.  After working for the American Embassy in Lagos for two years and bearing two children, she followed her husband to London, UK.  Within the next few years, she gave birth to three more children while supporting the family financially.  She began to write in her spare time.
Sources: 
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 67, Buchi Emecheta (Thomson Gale, 2006), reproduced in Biography Resource Center (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2010), http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC; Buchi Emecheta, Head Above Water (Ibuza, Nigeria: Ogwugwu Afor, 1984); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Paula C. Barnes in Magill’s Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition, Buchi Emecheta (Salem Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Wesley, Charles H. (1891-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Noted historian Charles Harris Wesley was born in Louisville, Kentucky on December 2, 1891, and attended local schools as a boy. He graduated from Fisk University in 1911 and, in 1913, earned a Master’s degree from Yale University. In 1925, Wesley became the third African American to receive a doctorate degree from Harvard University.  He served as the 14th General President and National Historian for seven decades of the African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and wrote The History of Alpha Phi Alpha which was first published in 1929.  Wesley was also a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the oldest African American Greek Letter Fraternity.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years (New York: New York University Press, 1968); Earle E. Thorpe, Black Historians: A Critique (New York: Morrow, 1971); August Meir and Elliott Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Charles H. Wesley biography, http://www.dpw-archives.org/chw.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hull, England

Davy, Gloria (1931-2012)

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

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

Wheeler, Emma Rochelle (1882-1957)

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

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

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

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

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

Dudley, Edward Richard (1911-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Edward Dudley was the first black American to lead a U.S. Mission abroad with the rank of Ambassador. Dudley was born on March 11, 1911 in South Boston, Virginia to Edward Richard and Nellie (Johnson) Dudley. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith College in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1932, Dudley briefly taught in a one-room Virginia school. He later moved to Washington, D.C., and enrolled in Howard University’s dentistry program. After deciding dentistry was not for him, Dudley moved to New York City, New York, eventually enrolling at St. John’s University where he earned a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree in 1941.  While at St. John’s he served on its prestigious Law Review.
Sources: 
The New York Times, February 11, 2005; “Black Chiefs of Mission Oral History Project, Judge Edward Richard Dudley,” Phelps Stokes Fund, April 3, 1981; Pioneering African Americans in the Courts and the Legal Community Past and Present  (New York: Unified Court System of New York, February 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Chester, William H. (1914-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Dr. Martin Luther King with Bill Chester,
January 25, 1963
"Image Courtesy of Anne Rand Library, International
Longshore and Warehouse Union"
William “Bill” Chester, Vice President and Assistant to Harry Bridges, President of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU), was the highest ranking African American in the ILWU and a leading trade union official and civil rights leader in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1950s through 1970s.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on January 6, 1914, Chester’s mother’s maiden name was Fuller. Chester, an only child, moved with his parents to Kansas City, Missouri when he was a year old and spent his entire childhood there.  His father, a railroad worker, died when he was 11.  Chester graduated from high school in 1932 and spent two years at Western College in Quindaro, Kansas.

Sources: 
William Chester, Interview by Robert E. Martin, Howard University, July 23, 1969, transcript at ILWU Library, San Francisco; “Bill Chester: ILWU Civil Rights and Community Leader, 1938-1969,” ILWU Oral History Project, Volume VI, Part I, Introduction and interview by Harvey Schwartz, ILWU Dispatcher, February 2003, pp. 8-9; “Bill Chester helped lead ILWU during tough times,” ILWU Dispatcher, November 12, 1985, p. 5.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Brown, Marie Van Brittan (1922–1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Marie Van Brittan Brown was the inventor of the first home security system. She is also credited with the invention of the first closed circuit TV.  Brown was born in Queens, New York, on October 22, 1922, and resided there until her death on February 2, 1999, at age seventy-six. Her father was born in Massachusetts and her mother was from Pennsylvania.

The patent for the invention was filed in 1966, and it later influenced modern home security systems that we still use today. Brown’s invention was inspired by the security risk that her home faced in the neighborhood where she lived. Marie Brown worked as a nurse and her husband, Albert Brown, worked as an electronics technician. Their work hours were not the standard 9-5, and the crime rate in their Queens, New York City neighborhood was very high. Even when the police were contacted in the event of an emergency, the response time tended to be slow. As a result, Brown looked for ways to increase her level of personal security. She needed to create a system that would allow her to know who was at her home and contact relevant authorities as quickly as possible.
Sources: 
Raymond B. Webster, African American firsts in science & technology,  (1999); The Inventor of the Home Security System: Marie Van Brittan Brown by Think Protection; Patent: US 3482037 A; “Brown Interview with the New York Times,” New York Times, December 6, 1969.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
York University, Toronto

Greener, Richard T. (1844-1922)

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

The son of a sailor, Richard Theodore Greener, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania became the first African American to graduate from Harvard College.  He later was assigned to serve the United States in diplomatic posts in India and Russia

Sources: 
Allison Blakely, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1986); “Figures in Black History: Richard Greener: Harvard’s First African American Graduate” http://dede.essortment.com/richardgreener_pws.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
U.S. Department of State

Martin, Sallie (1895-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
 

A gospel singer and arranger, Sallie Martin was born near Atlanta, Georgia.  In her early twenties she began singing in a church choir in Cleveland, and, by 1929, had moved to Chicago and joined a chorus directed by Thomas Dorsey, later known as the Father of Gospel Music.  With him, in 1933, Martin co-founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.  During the remainder of the 1930s, she served as Dorsey’s song demonstrator and bookkeeper, singing and selling his compositions at churches and conventions.  In some churches Martin encountered resistance, “because, you see, they didn’t like the idea of you having rhythm…but I got saved patting my feet…it would be impossible for me to just absolutely stand still and sing.” 

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, ed. Black Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia (Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); James Standifer,  Interview with Sallie Martin, 1981. African American Music Collection, University of Michigan School of Music, at http://www.umich.edu/~afroammu/standifer/martin.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Whitworth College

Chisholm, Shirley (1924-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, an advocate for the rights of people of color and for women's rights, became in November 1968 the first black woman elected to the United States Congress.  Four  years later she became the first black person to seek a major party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency when she ran for the Democratic Party nomination.

Chisholm represented New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and when initially elected, was assigned to the House Agriculture Committee, which she felt was irrelevant to her urban constituency. In an unheard-of move, she demanded reassignment and got switched to the Veterans Affairs Committee. By the time she left that chamber, she had held a place on the prized Rules and Education and Labor Committees.

Sources: 
Sources: W. A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds. Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981); Jessie Carney Smith, ed. Black Firsts: 4000 Groundbreaking and Pioneering Historical Events (Canton, Missouri: Visible Ink Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Clark, Marie Maynard Daly (1921-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marie Maynard Daly, born in Queens, New York to Helen and Ivan Daly, was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry.  Her father, an immigrant from the West Indies, had hoped to earn a degree in Chemistry at Cornell University but was unable to continue because of financial constraints.  Marie Daly’s parents were committed to her education and encouraged her interest in science.  She attended Hunter College High School where her teachers persuaded her that she could do well in chemistry.  

Daly enrolled in Queens College so that she could live at home. She earned her B.S. in 1942 with honors.  A fellowship and part-time job at Queens College allowed her to work on her master’s degree at New York University, which she completed in 1943.  Because of the shortage of male scientists during World War Two, Daly was awarded funding for her Ph.D. program at Columbia University where she studied under a white female chemist, Mary L. Caldwell.  She completed her dissertation in 1947.
Sources: 
Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser. “Roger Arliner Young,” in African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); James H. Kessler. “Marie Maynard Daly,” in Distinguished African American Scientists of the Twentieth Century (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1996); https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/daly.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Motley, Marion (1920-1999)

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

 

Sources: 
Pro Football Hall of Fame, http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.jsp?player_id=156; Legends by the Lake: The Cleveland Browns at Municipal Stadium, http://archive.profootballweekly.com/content/archives/features_1999/keim_062999.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Morrison, Chloe Anthony Wofford "Toni" (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Timothy
Greenfield-Sanders
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio to parents George and Ella Ramah Wofford, novelist Toni Morrison grew up in a working class family.  She received a B.A. degree from Howard University after majoring in English and minoring in the classics.  Wofford earned an M.A. degree in English from Cornell University and then taught at Howard University and Texas Southern University, before entering the publishing world as an editor at Random House. She married (and later divorced) Harold Morrison and gave birth to sons Ford and Slade Kevin. Morrison taught at Yale, Bard College, Rutgers University and the State University of New York at Albany.  She later held the Robert F. Goheen Professorship in the Humanities at Princeton University.
Sources: 

Nellie Y. McKay, ed. Critical Essays on Toni Morrison (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1988); Philip Page, Dangerous Freedom: Fusion and Fragmentation in Toni Morrison’s Novels (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995); Wilfred D. Samuels and Clenora Hudson Weems, Toni Morrison (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Lester, Julius (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Julius Lester was born January 27, 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a Methodist minister. Lester spent much of his childhood in Missouri, where in the 1940s and 1950s he dealt with southern attitudes about race and segregation before and during the Civil Rights movement. In 1960 Lester graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee with a degree in English.

He then became politically active in the Civil Rights movement, going to Mississippi in 1964 as part of the movement called the Mississippi Summer Project.  Lester then began working full time for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as head of its photography department in Atlanta, Georgia. SNCC was the most outspoken of civil rights groups at the time, and in the summer of 1966 coined the phrase black power, a cry millions of blacks across the United States responded to and adapted as their own.

Lester’s writing career began in 1967 when a publisher read his essay The Angry Children of Malcolm X, and offered him a contract to develop it into a book. The book, titled Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gonna’ Get Your Mama, was published in 1968, and would be the first book to explain the term black power and place it in the context of African American history.
Sources: 
Julius Lester, On Writing for Children and Other People ( New York: Dial Books, 2004); Julius Lester, Lovesong: Becoming A Jew (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brawley, Benjamin Griffith (1882-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin Griffith Brawley was a college professor, author and the first dean of Morehouse College. Born in 1882 in Columbia, South Carolina to a middle class family, Brawley was the second son of Edward McKnight Brawley and Margaret Dickerson Brawley. His father was a clergyman and taught at Benedict College. The Brawley family moved several times throughout Brawley’s childhood and he attended several different schools in Tennessee and Virginia, though he credited his parents as his first teachers.

Brawley enrolled at Atlanta Baptist College’s (renamed Morehouse College) preparatory department when he was 13 years of age. He excelled in his classes, especially English, and he often tutored other students. In addition to his studies, he was captain of the football team and helped another student found the journal, the Athenaeum (in 1925 it became the Maroon Tiger).  

In 1901 Brawley received his baccalaureate degree from Morehouse College and began teaching in a rural school in Georgetown, Florida. After a year in Florida, he was appointed instructor of English and Latin at Atlanta Baptist. In 1907 he received another baccalaureate degree from the University of Chicago and the following year received a master’s degree from Harvard. He was then given the position of professor at Morehouse College where he stayed until 1910, when he moved to Howard University.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); John W. Parker, “Phylon Profile XIX: Benjamin Brawley—Scholar and Teacher,” Phylon (1940-1956), Vol. 10, No. 1 (1st Qtr. 1949).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Selassie, Haile Gebre (1973-)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Washington, Janie Rogella (1908-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image courtesy of the James W. Washington,
Jr. & Mrs. Janie Rogella Washington Foundation
Janie Rogella Washington was the wife of James W. Washington, Jr. (1911-2000), an internationally known Northwest artist.  A  Seattle nurse, she shared and inspired the spirituality that shaped his art.  One of 12 children, Janie Rogella Miller was born near Henderson, Texas to Freeman Miller and Daisy Cameron Miller and educated in the state's segregated schools, graduating from Emmett Scott High School in Tyler, Texas in 1926.  She studied nursing for several years at Butler College in that city and then in 1943, after a move to Little Rock, Arkansas, she met and married James W. Washington, Jr., a civilian electrician with the Navy.  
Sources: 
HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Janie Rogella Washington (1908-2000),” by Mary T. Henry, http://www.historylink.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ferguson, Lloyd (1918- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wortham, Anne (1941 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Anne Wortham
Anne Wortham, a prolific academic who has opposed aspects of the traditional civil rights movement, was born on November 26th 1941 in Jackson, Tennessee. The first of five children, she was raised in the segregated South where her parents instilled in her religious beliefs and the importance of education, self-reliance and self-improvement. As a youngster Wortham took piano lessons and developed a life-long interest in classical music and opera as a result of listening to radio broadcasts of performances of the Metropolitan Opera.  Her mother died when she was ten years old, and Wortham adopted the homemaker role and cared for her family while attending school and graduating high school as an honor student.
Sources: 
Anne Wortham, The Other Side of Racism: A Philosophical Study of Black Race Consciousness (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1981); Karen Reedstrom, “Interview with Anne Wortham” Full Context Magazine, March 1994; Patrick Cox, “I’m not Supposed to Exist,” Reason Magazine August 1984; Clarence Thomas, “With Liberty…for all,” Lincoln Review, Winter-Spring, 1982.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Smith, Ferdinand Christopher (1893-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ferdinand Smith, Chicago Alderman Earl B. Dickerson and
Donald M. Nelson, Chair of the War Production Board, 1943
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jamaican-born Ferdinand Christopher Smith became a prominent twentieth century international labor activist and leader.  At an early age Smith left Jamaica’s poor economic conditions in search of work as a migrant laborer.  He spent five years in Panama, where he worked as a hotel steward and a salesman.  After WWI he moved to Cuba and by 1920 was working as a ship’s steward.

In the 1920s, impressed by their commitment to racial issues, Smith joined the Communist-led Marine Workers Industrial Union.  Although maritime workers faced oppressive working conditions including high rates of disease, low wages, poor rations, and unventilated quarters, they had virtually no union representation aboard ships.  This began to change as part of the New Deal’s support of labor unions. In 1936 Smith supported the strike against West Coast shippers.  When maritime strikes spread to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Smith became one of the nine members of the national strike Strategy Committee.

Sources: 

Gerald Horne, Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica (New York: New York University Press, 2005); “Ferdinand Smith, Labor Leader, 67,” New York Times, August 16, 1961, 31.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Metropolitan State University, Denver

Jackson, Hal (1915-2012 )

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

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

Rucker, Darius Carlos (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Jeter, Howard Franklin (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Howard Jeter, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana and later to Nigeria, was born in Maple Ridge, Union County, South Carolina on March 6, 1947 to James Walter Jeter, Jr. and Emma Mattocks Jeter. Howard Jeter first attended school in a one-room schoolhouse in Maple Ridge. The school had no electricity, heat, or indoor plumbing. In high school, Jeter played the clarinet and drums in the school band and was in the drama club. Howard Jeter graduated from Sims High School in 1964 as the class valedictorian.
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