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People

Prioleau, George (1856-1927)

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

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

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

Kirk, Ronald (1954-- )

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

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

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

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

Green, Henry Davis (1827-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Artist Rendering of the Christiana Incident, 1851
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Henry Davis Green was an anti-slavery activist (abolitionist) who was a participant in the Christiana Resistance (also known as the Christiana Riot) of 1851, the largest and most violent antebellum response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Green, a teamster by occupation, was born in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1827.  He was the son of Benjamin, a mulatto man, and Sarah Green, a white woman.  

Green took part in the Christiana Resistance which occurred nearly a year after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act on September 18, 1850.  With that act, federal marshals were given the authority to track down fugitive slaves and to arrest those who harbored or defended them.  Green in turn joined other free blacks in southeastern Pennsylvania in creating the quasi-secret Organization for Mutual Protection, whose members vowed to prevent the capture and reenslavement of runaways as well as to protect those who operated the Underground Railroad in their area.  They pledged that protection even at the risk of their own lives, after listening to speeches by Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison who lectured in nearby Lancaster.  
Sources: 
Ella Forbes, But We Have No Country: The 1851 Christiana, Pennsylvania Resistance (Cherry Hill, New Jersey: Africana Homestead Legacy, 1998); Thomas P. Slaughter, Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Vanoye Aikens (1917-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Vanoye Aikens was a star dancer and choreographer for the famous Katherine Dunham Dance Company. The Dunham Company popularized African American dance and pioneered the Dunham Technique, which combined Caribbean and African dance with European ballet.
Sources: 
"Katherine Dunham dancer Vanoye Aikens dies at 96," Wall Street Journal, 28 August 2013; Mr. Vanoye Aikens: In His Own Words, DVD, directed by Terry Carter (2006, Los Angeles, CA: Kaye Lawrence Dunham, 2007); Vèvè  A. Clark, “On Stage with the Dunham Company: An Interview with Vanoye Aikens,” in Kaiso!: Writings by and about Katherine Dunham, edited by Vèvè A. Clark and Sara E. Johnson (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Grimké, Charlotte Forten (1837-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charlotte Forten Grimké grew up in a rich intellectual and activist environment.  Born into a wealthy Black abolitionist family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charlotte Louise Forten became famous in her own right as a writer and poet.  Her grandparents, James, Sr. and Charlotte Forten, hosted leading black and white abolitionists into their home on a regular basis.  James Forten was one of the wealthiest blacks in Philadelphia, having amassed a fortune in the sail making business. Her parents, Robert Bridges Forten and Mary Woods Forten, continued the family’s activist tradition as had her uncles and aunts, including Sarah, Harriet, and Margaretta Forten, who helped establish the bi-racial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. 
Sources: 
Janice Sumler-Edmond, “Charlotte Forten Grimké,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993): 505-507; Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); and Brenda Stevenson, ed., The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Julian, Hubert Fauntleroy (1897-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Hubert Fauntleroy Julian, nicknamed the Black Eagle, was born in Trinidad on January 5th, 1897. In 1922, when he was 25 years old, he flew over parades in support of Marcus Garvey. He subsequently took flying lessons from Air Service, Inc., and purchased a plane to fly to Africa. After flying to Roosevelt airfield, when he attempted to depart in July 1924, the plane crashed and burned. He survived and spent the next month in a Long Island hospital. In 1929, he did succeed in a Trans-Atlantic flight two years later than Charles Lindberg.

Sources: 
Elliot Bastien and Sandra Bernard-Bastien, World Class Trinidad & Tobago: An Area of Abundance—Profiles of Performance (Sekani Publications: Port of Spain, 2006); www.worldclasstnt.com [under construction].
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historians

Wallace, Walter L. (1927- )

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

Walcott, “Jersey” Joe (1914–1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Charles Hoff, Photographer
Born on January 31, 1914 in Merchantville, New Jersey, Arnold Raymond Cream was the son of immigrants from Barbados.  He took up boxing at age fourteen after his father died and debuted professionally at age 16 as a lightweight where on September 9, 1930 he defeated Cowboy Wallace in a first round knockout.  Walcott ultimately grew into a heavyweight. He was often compared to the great welterweight champion Joe Walcott who was also from Barbados, and he later decided to adopted the name “Jersey” Joe Walcott as a tribute to the older fighter.

Walcott fought Joe Louis for the heavyweight title for the first time on December 5, 1947, dropping the champion twice during a bout which resulted in a controversial split decision loss.  He lost again in a rematch with Louis on June 25, 1948 in an eleventh round knockout.  Walcott fought for the title three more times, before finally capturing the crown on his fifth try by knocking out Ezzard Charles in seven rounds on July 18, 1951. Walcott was 37 at the time, the oldest man ever to win the heavyweight crown up until that time. He retained that distinction until George Foreman won the title in 1994 at age 45.  
Sources: 
Peter Brooke-Ball, The Boxing Album, An Illustrated History (New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1995); www.ibhof.com/walcott.htm, www.boxrec.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Watkins, Ted (1912-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Ted Watkins, Foreground, with Youth Applicants,
Watts Labor Community Action Center, 1967
Image Courtesy of HERALD EXAMINER COLLECTION/Los Angeles Public Library

Born into poverty and racial segregation in Meridian, Mississippi in 1912, Ted Watkins became a civil rights and union activist and led an anti-poverty agency in Los Angeles, the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC).  Watkins left Mississippi as a young man to avoid a lynching and headed west to the thriving metropolis of Los Angeles.  After arriving in Los Angeles, Watkins began working for Ford Motor Company and joined the local United Auto Workers (UAW) chapter.  He rose through the union ranks and by the early 1950s had become an international representative for UAW.  Watkins and his wife, Bernice, also became active in the United Civil Rights Committee, a Los Angeles civil rights organization, and the Watts chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). 

Sources: 

Robert Bauman, Race and the War on Poverty: From Watts to East L.A. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008); Robert Bauman, “The Black Power and Chicano Movements in the Poverty Wars in Los Angeles,” Journal of Urban History, 33:2 (January 2007), 277-295.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Washington State University, Tri-Cities

Yates, Josephine Silone (1852-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Teacher, writer and civil rights activist Josephine Silone, the youngest daughter of Alexander and Parthenia Reeve-Silone, was born in Mattiluck on Long Island, New York in 1852.  At age eleven, Yates moved to Philadelphia to live with her uncle, Rev. J.B. Reeve, in hopes of finding greater educational opportunity. There she attended the Institute of Colored Youth run by Fannie Jackson Coppin. By the time Silone was old enough to attend high school, an aunt invited her to live and go to school in Newport, Rhode Island. Silone, the only black student in her class and the first to graduate from Rogers High School in Newport in 1877, was selected class valedictorian.  Silone’s high school teachers encouraged her to attend a university but instead she chose Rhode Island State Normal School, a teacher’s college and again graduated as the only African American student in 1879.

After passing the Rhode Island State Teacher Certification, Silone moved to Jefferson City, Missouri to begin teaching at Lincoln Institute (later Lincoln University) and to head the Department of Natural Sciences. She resigned in 1889 to marry Professor W.W. Yates, then the principal of the Wendell Phillips School in Kansas City.  Josephine Silone Yates, who also taught at the Phillips School, soon became known and admired as one of the best teachers in the state of Missouri.  
Sources: 
Daniel Wallace Culp, Twentieth Century Negro Literature: Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to The American Negro (Palo Alto, California:  J. L. Nichols & Company, 1902).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Loudin, Frederick J. (1840-1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University Franklin
Library's Special Collections
Frederick J. Loudin, teacher, impresario, manufacturer and Fisk Jubilee Singer, had a bass voice the likes of which no one would hear again until the emergence of Roland Hayes and Paul Robeson. At thirty-four, he would become the oldest member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ third troupe: a towering, self-assured printer and music teacher from Portage County, Ohio.

Though born a free man in Ohio in 1840, Loudin’s encounters with racism had been searing. His father’s farm was taxed for public education, but his children had to fight to enter school. Loudin proved to be a gifted scholar, but when his teacher rewarded him for his achievements, whites pulled their children out of school. Though his father had donated money to nearby Hiram College, when Frederick applied the college refused to admit him on account of his race. The same held true for the local Methodist Church; though he tithed a ninth of his sparse wages as a printer’s apprentice, the white congregation refused to permit him to sing in their choir.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Carney, William H. (1840-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton. Slavery and the Making of America. (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005); Jessie Carney Smith, editor. Black Firsts: 2,000 Years of Extraordinary Achievement.  (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Nascimento, Milton (1942- )

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

Shepperson, James E. (1858 - ?)

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

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Nellie Stone (1905-2002)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1995, Homer joined United Airlines as a pilot  That same year, he met his future wife, Melodie Thorpe.  The two were married on May 24, 1998.  Homer and his wife spent the first two years of their marriage travelling the world as he worked for United Airlines, until they were ready to start a family.  In October of 2000 Homer and his wife had a daughter, Laurel.

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

Williams, Marion (1927-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Marion Williams, an American gospel singer, was born in Miami, Florida on August 29, 1927.  Her father, originally from Nassau, Bahamas, worked as a butcher, a barber, and a music teacher while her mother, born in South Carolina, worked as a laundress.  One of 11 siblings, she was one of only three who survived past the first year.  She grew up attending two adjacent Pentecostal churches, the Church of God and the Church of God in Christ.  Her father died when she was nine.  By the age of 14, she had left school to help support the family by working as a maid, a child nurse, and a laundress, becoming the family’s chief supporter after her mother lost both legs to diabetes.  She sang at church, tent revivals, and on street corners.  In 1943, she joined the Melrose Gospel Singers, a 10-member group that accompanied Rev. Jerry Pratt in churches throughout Florida.
Sources: 
D. Antoinette Handy, “Marion Williams,” Notable Black American Women, Book II, edited by Jessie Carney Smith (New York: Gale Research, 1996); Bill Carpenter, “Marion Williams,” Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005); Robert Darden, “Marion Williams,” Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, vol.2, edited by W.K. McNeil (New York: Routledge, 2005); Sharon Fitzgerald, “The glorious walk of Marion Williams,” American Visions 8:6 (Dec. 1993 – Jan. 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Miles, Elijah Walter (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Even before finishing graduate school Elijah Walter Miles had a record of civil disobedience in support of civil rights objectives.  Born in Hearne, Texas on May 4, 1934, Miles received his bachelor’s degree from the Prairie View A&M University in 1955.  A two-year stint as an officer in the U.S. Army preceded graduate study at Indiana University where he was in the forefront of a campaign to desegregate public accommodations in the city of Bloomington. 

After receiving his doctorate in political science at Indiana University in 1962 Miles taught for three years as a professor at Prairie View and directed a successful boycott of white-owned businesses in nearby Hempstead, Texas.  Later, during his one-year stay at the University of North Carolina, Miles agitated for better off campus housing. 

Miles arrived at San Diego State University in 1967, and at the time was the institution’s only African American professor.  Gracious, loyal, and affable but fearless, Miles immersed himself in the affairs of the city and the university, oftentimes working effectively behind the scenes to bring about change.  Off campus he became chairman of the board of the San Diego Urban League.  He was also a member of the San Diego Blue Ribbon Commission for Charter Review and was appointed to a panel of the California Board of Education.  Miles was chairman of the board of the San Diego Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and served on the organization’s national board. 

Sources: 
Who’s Who Among Black Americans (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991);
Robert Fikes, Jr., The Black In Crimson and Black: A History and Profiles of African Americans at SDSU (San Diego: SDSU Library and Information Access, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Freeman, Fillmore (1936-- )

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

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

Yerby, Frank G. (1916-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frank Garvin Yerby was born in Augusta, Georgia on September 5, 1916. His parents were Wilhelmina and Rufus Yerby.  Frank Yerby was the product of an interracial marriage. His father was African American and his mother was of European origin.  Yerby grew up in Augusta and attended two local institutions.  He graduated from Haines Institute in 1933. Four years later he earned a second degree from Paine College.  The following year Yerby entered Fisk University in Nashville where he earned a masters degree.  Yerby began studies toward a doctorate in education from the University of Chicago but dropped out before obtaining a degree.

Frank Yerby taught briefly at Florida A&M College and later at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He later migrated north, to Dearborn, Michigan where he worked as a technician at the Ford Motor Company and then to Jamaica, New York, where he worked in the aviation industry.

Eventually Yerby gained success as an author. His story “Health Card” won the 1944 O. Henry Memorial Award for best first published short story of the year.  Two years later his first novel, The Foxes of Harrow, received critical acclaim. Yerby would write more than thirty novels over his career.  His best known novel, The Dahomean, appeared in 1971. His publications sold more than fifty-five million hardback and paperback books worldwide, making him one of the most commercially successful writers of the 20th Century.  
Sources: 
Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gale, 1989), s.v. “Frank Yerby.”; James L. Hill, “The Anti-Heroic Hero in Frank Yerby’s Historical Novels,” Perspectives of Black Popular Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio: Popular Press, 1990);., The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), s.v. “Frank Yerby.”
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Wideman, John Edgar (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Edgar Wideman was born in 1941 in Washington, D.C. but grew up in the predominantly black middle class community of Homewood near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By the time Wideman was in high school, his family had moved to Shadyside, an upper middle class mostly white neighborhood where Wideman excelled as an athlete and scholar; he was a basketball player, class president, and valedictorian. In 1959 he entered the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in English and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. When Wideman graduated in 1963 he became the second African American, after Alain Locke, to receive a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University.  He graduated with an MA in eighteenth-century literature in 1966.   Between 1966 and 1967 Wideman attended the University of Iowa where he completed his first novel, A Glance Away, in 1967.

Between 1967 and 1975 Wideman was both an assistant professor and an assistant basketball coach at the University of Pennsylvania.  Wideman also served as the first director of the University of Pennsylvania’s African American Studies Department. Throughout this period he continued to write.  In 1973 he published his third novel, The Lynchers, which garnered significant attention.  
Sources: 
Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Bonnie TuSmith, ed., Conversations with John Edgar Wideman (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998); The Africana Research Center, Pennsylvania Black Writers: John Edgar Wideman, Pennsylvania State University http://php.scripts.psu.edu/dept/arc//index.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Wyoming

DuBois, William Edward Burghardt (1868–1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Derrick P. Aldridge, The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History (New York: Teachers College Press, 2008); David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, 1919-1963: The Fight for Equality and the American Century (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Washington, Craig Anthony (1941 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of
Representative Craig Anthony Washington's Office
Craig Anthony Washington, former Congressman from Houston, Texas, was born in Longview, Gregg County, Texas on October 12, 1941 to Roy and Azalia Washington. He attended Prairie View A & M University in Texas and received his B.A. in 1966. In 1969 he graduated from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. Washington commenced practice as a criminal defense lawyer and is a partner in a Houston law firm.

Soon after embarking on his private career, Washington entered politics and was elected a member of the Texas House of Representatives. He and George Thomas “Mickey” Leland served together as freshmen members of the Texas legislature in 1973-1975.  Leland in 1978 would be elected to represent Texas’s 18th Congressional District, succeeding retiring Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.  Washington continued to serve in the Texas House of Representatives until election to the state Senate in 1983, where he served for the next 6 years. As a member of the state legislature, he served as chairman of the House committees on criminal jurisprudence, social services and human services and as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fleming, Thomas Courtney (1907-2006)

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

Thomas Fleming was a founding editor and columnist of one of the leading African American newspapers in California, the San Francisco-based Sun-Reporter. Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1907, Fleming migrated to Chico, California in 1918 to live with his mother upon her divorce from Thomas’s father. After working as a cook for the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1920s, Fleming attended Chico State College in the 1930s where he studied journalism. Persistent racial discrimination limited his employment options.  Aside from contributing several articles to a local San Francisco newspaper on the 1934 General Strike, he was unable to find steady work as a journalist.

World War II brought dramatic changes to the San Francisco Bay Area, including a sizable influx of African Americans who came to work in the region’s war industries. At the height of the war, in the summer of 1944, Fleming was hired as the first editor of the Reporter, a newspaper serving the burgeoning San Francisco African American community. Fleming used his new position to crusade against racism while covering local and state politics.

Sources: 
Carl Nolte, “A Titan of Bay Area Newspapers,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11 April 2004; Virtual Museum of San Francisco, http://www.sfmuseum.org/sunreporter/fleming.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barber, J. Max (1878-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jesse Max Barber, journalist, dentist, and civil rights leader, was born on July 5, 1878 in Blackstock, South Carolina to former slave parents.  As a young man he worked as a barber while completing the teacher’s training course at Benedict College, Columbia, S.C.  His literary career began in 1903 while attending Virginia Union University in Richmond.  While there, he became student editor of the University Journal and was president of the Literary Society.

Immediately following his graduation in 1903, Barber began working as a managing editor for a new black periodical, the Voice of the Negro, founded in Atlanta in 1904.  Barber eventually became the editor-in-chief.  As it developed into a widely-read journal, the Voice became a progressive, radical forum for Barber.  By 1906 it was the leading black magazine in the United States with a circulation of 15,000.   

Barber’s association with W.E.B. Du Bois, the Niagara Movement, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) left no doubt that he was an outspoken critic of racial injustice.  He argued fervently for black civil rights and stressed the importance of chronicling historical events for future generations.  Sadly, in 1906, the Voice became a casualty of the Atlanta race riot and moved its publication to Chicago before finally going under in 1907.  For a brief period Barber was editor of a weekly newspaper, the Chicago Conservator.
Sources: 
Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Africana: Civil Rights: An A-to-Z Reference of the Movement that Changed America (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2005); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Santamaria, Mongo (1917–2003)

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

Born in Cuba on April 7, 1917, Mongo Santamaria is an Afro-Cuban percussionist who became an influential musician in the United States in the 1950s.  His given name is Ramón Santamaría Rodríguez.  Nicknamed Mongo by his father, Santamaria believes his nickname comes from the Mali people in West Africa.  Mongo means the chief of the tribe.  

Santamaria grew up in Havana, Cuba. His father, a construction worker, died when he was a child.  His mother raised him while she sold coffee and cigarettes in public markets. Growing up black and impoverished in Cuba, Santamaria often turned to playing music and dancing on the streets like other poor Afro-Cubans in Havana.  

In 1937 Santamaria got his first big job as a musician when he joined the group Septeto Boloña. By the early 1940s Mongo Santamaria played congas with Orquesta Cubaney on regular radio broadcasts in Havana.  Through its broadcasts, Orquesta Cubaney introduced a number of musicians who would later achieve fame to a national Cuban audience.  

Sources: 
Charley Gerard, Music from Cuba: Mongo Santamaria, Chocolate Armenteros and Cuban Musicians in the United States (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2001); Colin Larkin, ed., “Mongo Santamaria,” Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., Vol. 7 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Blues, jazz, and folk musician Taj Mahal was born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem, New York on May 17, 1942.   He was raised in Springfield, Massachusetts by musically gifted parents. Mahal's father was a jazz musician and his mother a gospel singer.  As a child, Mahal learned how to play various instruments, such as the piano, harmonica, clarinet, and guitar.

Mahal attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst during the early 1960s. He played in the institution's band, the Electras. Mahal became a blues performer who specializes in a variety of musical genres, including country blues, reggae, jazz, rhythm and blues, ragtime and folk music. As a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer, he plays the guitar, harmonica, and banjo. Mahal has traveled the globe, and has learned to fuse different nontraditional forms of music into blues.

Sources: 

Robert Santelli, The Big Book of Blues (New York: Penguin Books, 1993); Taj Mahal and Stephen Foehr, Taj Mahal: Autobiography of a Bluesman (London: Sanctuary Publishing, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Rice, Susan Elizabeth (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Susan Rice is the current National Security Advisor for the Barack Obama Administration.  She is the first African American, the third woman, and the second youngest person to hold the position.  Prior to being selected by President Obama for the post, Rice served as a key foreign policy advisor for the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential race.

Born in Washington, D.C. on November 17, 1964 to Emmett J. Rice, a Cornell University economics professor and former governor of the Federal Reserve System, and Lois Dickson Fitt, an education policy scholar, Rice was raised in the Shepherd Park community, where she attended Washington’s National Cathedral School, an elite preparatory academy.  An active participant in student government, Rice was elected president of her school’s student council.  In addition to excelling at basketball, Rice was a dedicated student and upon  her graduation was named class valedictorian.  

Rice attended Stanford University on a Truman Scholarship, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in History in 1986.  Rice was elected to Phi Beta Kappa while at Stanford.  She then attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving a Master’s of Philosophy Degree in 1988, and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in International Relations in 1990.  In 1988 while working on her doctorate, Rice took a position as a foreign policy aide with the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign.  

Sources: 
Morton H. Halperin, Power and Superpower: Global Leadership and Exceptionalism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Century Foundation Press, 2007); http://www.brookings.edu/experts/rices.aspx; http://www.stanfordalumni.org/erc/reunions/black_alumni_hall.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Boston King (c. 1760-1802)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Boston King Book Cover
Image Courtesy of History Collection, Nova Scotia Museum
Boston King, one of the pioneer settlers of Sierra Leone, was born enslaved on the Richard Waring plantation near Charleston, South Carolina around 1760. Through the age of 16, King was trained as a house servant before being sent to apprentice as a carpenter in Charleston. In 1780, when British troops occupied Charleston during the American Revolution, King fled to the British garrison and gained his freedom.  King was first a servant to British officers but like many black male Loyalists he joined the British Army. He worked mostly as a carpenter but on one occasion he carried an important dispatch through enemy lines, which saved 250 British soldiers at Nelson’s Ferry, South Carolina. Later, as a crewmember on a British warship, King participated in the capture of a rebel ship in Chesapeake Bay.
Sources: 
Boston King, Memoirs of the life of Boston King (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2003); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution (New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2006); Joe Lockard and Elizabeth McNeil, eds. “Annotated Memoirs of the Life of Boston King, a Black Preacher originally published in The Methodist Magazine” (Arizona State University Antislavery Literature Project, n.d.), http://antislavery.eserver.org/narratives/boston_king/bostonkingproof.pdf/; James W. St G. Walker, “King, Boston,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2489.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Serena (1981 - )

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

Williams, the youngest of five siblings, grew up in Compton, California where she began to play tennis at the age of four. At the age of nine, Williams and her family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida where she dominated the field of junior tennis competitors. She joined the professional ranks in 1995. Four years after her debut, Williams established herself as a top-ranked player when she won the U.S. Open, the Grand Slam Cup, and three other Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) singles titles. By 2003, Williams was known as “Serena Slam,” winning singles at the Australian Open, again at the U.S. Open, and twice at Wimbledon, in addition to fourteen other WTA singles titles. During this stretch from 1999 to 2003, Williams won five Grand Slam titles, and in 2002, was ranked world No. 1 for the first time.
Sources: 
Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Hilary Beard, Serving from the Hip: Ten Rules for Living, Loving and Winning (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006); Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Official Website, http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Guinier, Ewart (1910-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture

Ewart Guinier, labor activist and political candidate, was the first chairman of Harvard University’s Afro-American Studies Department. Born in Panama in 1910, Guinier migrated to the United States in 1925 and attended high school in Boston, Massachusetts. After his acceptance into the Harvard University Class of 1933, Guinier was denied a scholarship because he allegedly did not submit a photograph with his application and because of his race he was not permitted to reside in the all-white dormitories. Guinier nonetheless started classes at Harvard but dropped out in 1931 due to the high tuition costs.  He transferred to the City University of New York where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1935.  He later received his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1939 and his law degree from New York University in 1959.

Sources: 
Ewart Guinier, “Impact of Unionization on Blacks,” Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 30:2 (Dec. 1970): 173-181; http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/07/obituaries/ewart-guinier-79-who-headed-afro-american-studies-at-harvard.html; http://www.nypl.org/archives/3674; http://mvgazette.com/article.php?22763.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pandit, Korla (1921-1998) (aka Redd, John Roland, aka Rolando, Juan)

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

Korla Pandit, the first African American to have his own television show, was a composer, organist and pianist who starred in TV’s first all-music series.  He was known as the godfather of “Exotica,” a musical genre that became popular in the 1950s.  In order to garner the kind of success which would have been inaccessible had he simply played himself, in 1939 he became Juan Rolando, a man of Mexican heritage, and in 1948 he became Korla Pandit, a Brahmin Indian.

Pandit, one of seven children, was born John Roland Redd on September 16, 1921 in St. Louis, Missouri, to Doshia O’Nina Johnson Redd and Rev. Ernest S. Redd, Sr., a Baptist minister.  The Redd family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, before John Roland was a year old, and by the time he was two his musical skills were evident.  From 1931 the Redd family lived in Columbia, Missouri.  Shortly after high school in 1938 John Roland got his first job in radio with Central Broadcasting Company in Des Moines, Iowa.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Stewart, T. McCants (1853-1923)

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

Teacher, author, clergyman, and civil rights leader, Thomas McCants Stewart was born in Charleston, South Carolina on December 28, 1853,  to George Gilchrist and Anna Morris Stewart.  Young Stewart attended the Avery Normal Institute before enrolling in Howard University in 1869. Although only fifteen when he arrived on Howard’s campus, Stewart, nonetheless, distinguished himself as a student and contributed occasional articles to the Washington, D.C. New National Era, an African American newspaper.

Yet Stewart grew increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of instruction at Howard and became one of the first black students to enroll in the University of South Carolina at Columbia in 1874. In December 1875, Stewart graduated with Bachelor of Arts and L.L.B. degrees.

Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, African American Odyssey: The Stewarts, 1853-1963 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998); Charles E. Wynes, "T. McCants Stewart: Peripatetic Black South Carolinian," South Carolina Historical Magazine 80 (October, 1979): 311-317.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Domingo, Wilfred A. (1889-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The Jamaican born Wilfred A. Domingo was part of an influential community of West Indian radicals active in Harlem's New Negro movement in the early 20th century. A member of the Socialist Party and a journalist by trade, Domingo contributed to Cyril Briggs' Crusader and A. Philip Randolph's Messenger, along with a host of other community publications. He became the first editor of Marcus Garvey's New World and played a key role in shaping Garvey's race-conscious, nationalist ideology. However, as a class-conscious member of the Socialist Party, Domingo clashed with Garvey's capitalist orientation and ultimately broke with the UNIA. At the same time, Domingo was frustrated with the Socialist Party's failure to make African American rights a priority and drifted toward Briggs' more militant African Blood Brotherhood, which was closely aligned with the Communist Party in the early 1920s.

In the 1930s Domingo became increasingly focused on his homeland and the issue of Jamaican independence. In 1936 he cofounded the Jamaica Progressive League in Harlem, which agitated for Jamaican self-rule, universal suffrage, unionization, and the organization of consumer cooperatives. Domingo returned to Jamaica in 1938 to join Norman Manley's People's National Party and served as vice-chair of the Trades Union Advisory Council. After returning to New York in 1947, Domingo broke with the PNP. Wilfred A. Domingo died in Harlem in 1968.

Sources: 
Mary Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, Dan Georgakas, eds., Encyclopedia of the American Left (New York:  Garland Publishing, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins (1825-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A poet and essayist, Frances Ellen Watkins was born in Baltimore in 1825.  Orphaned at the age of three, Watkins went to live with her aunt and uncle, Harriet and William Watkins.  Unlike most free blacks, Frances grew up in comfortable surroundings; her uncle juggled several occupations in order to support the family, including preaching, shoemaking, and medicine. He was also a teacher and administrator at Watkins Academy, a school he had established in 1820.  Like other young women, Frances learned the female “trades” of sewing and domestic work in addition to learning academic subjects at her uncle’s school.  

While working for a white family as a nursemaid, she read extensively and began writing poetry.  She compiled her first collection of poems, Forest Leaves, in 1845.  Her early associations with influential abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and William Still helped in the publication and circulation of her work.  In addition to writing poetry, she traveled on the antislavery lecture circuit and sent the money she earned on these tours to her uncle in order to sustain the work of the Underground Railroad.  
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Frances Smith Foster, “Frances Ellen Watkins Harper,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brimmer, Andrew F. (1926-2012)

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

A writer, an economist and an advocate for affirmative action, Andrew Felton Brimmer is best known as the first African American to hold a governorship on the United States Federal Reserve Bank.

Born in Newellton, Louisiana, Brimmer moved to Bremerton, Washington in 1944 and enlisted in the U.S. Army.  He served in the Army two years, rising to the rank of staff sergeant.  Upon his return, he enrolled at the University of Washington where he received his B.A. in Economics in 1950 and M.A. shortly thereafter in 1951. Brimmer then studied at the University of Bombay for a year and completed a Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard University in 1957.

First and foremost an economist, Brimmer promoted a monetary policy that sought to alleviate unemployment and reduce the national deficit.  He also argued that racial discrimination hurt the U.S economy by marginalizing potentially productive workers.   

Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Charles Christian, Black Saga: The African American Experience (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995); Colin Palmer, Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History (Missouri: Thomson Gale, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Willie Lewis, Jr. (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The Nob Hill Association
This State Legislator and Mayor was born in Mineola, Texas, to Willie L. Brown, Sr., and Minnie (Boyd) Lewis on March 20, 1934. After migrating to San Francisco, California, in 1951, Brown worked as a janitor in order to subsidize his education at San Francisco State University. Upon his arrival in San Francisco, Brown immediately joined the United Methodist Church, which was committed to social action, where he became the youth leader. In his attempts to make the world and himself more “comfortable,” he also participated in the San Francisco civil rights protests in the late 1950s. He earned his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in 1955. In 1958, he earned a Juris Doctorate degree from Hastings College Law School.

In the 1950s Brown’s prospects seemed bleak. Most San Francisco law firms barred black attorneys from employment. In addition, Hastings Law School alumni were not heavily recruited because of Bay Area law firms’ preference for Stanford and University of California-Berkeley graduates. In 1959 Brown began his own practice, Brown, Dearman & Smith, after working for a time with prominent San Francisco black attorney Terry Francois. Brown’s new firm specialized in criminal defense, real estate development, and personal injury cases.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Mississippi

Dessalines, Jean-Jacques (1758-1806)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of Manuscripts, Archives and Rare
Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor,
Lenox and Tilden Foundations
Reviled for his brutality yet honored as one of the founding fathers of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines was second in command under Toussaint L’Overture during the Haitian Revolution and was the general who emerged after L’Overture’s capture to lead the insurgents in declaring Haitian independence on January 1, 1804.

Like L’Overture, Dessalines was born into slavery in the French colony of Saint Dominque.  Born to Congolese parents, Dessalines was originally given the name Duclos, after the plantation’s owner.  He later adopted the surname Dessalines after the free black landowner who purchased him and from whom he escaped. Unlike L’Overture, Dessalines was treated harshly as a slave and violence became a way of life that marked him throughout his military and brief political career contributing both to his success on the battlefield and to his eventual downfall.
Sources: 
Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004); Martin Ros, Night of Fire: The Black Napoleon and the Battle for Haiti (New York: Sarpedon, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson, Luther Porter (1892-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Luther Porter Jackson was a leading teacher, historian, and active voice of the history of African Americans in the South. Jackson was born in Lexington, Kentucky of former slave parents, Edward and Delilah Jackson, the ninth of twelve children. He attended Fisk University where he obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees in history in 1914 and 1916 respectively. In 1937 he completed the Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago.

Jackson began his teaching career in 1913 at the Topeka Industrial Institute in Kansas.  By 1915 he had moved to Voorhees Industrial School in South Carolina where he remained until 1918.  While teaching in South Carolina Jackson researched his first two articles that eventually appeared in the Journal of Negro History.  In 1922, Jackson joined the faculty of the Virginia Normal and Technical Institute (now Virginia State University).  Also in 1922 he married music teacher and fellow Fisk graduate Johnella Fraser. The couple had four children.
Sources: 
J.H. Johnston, "Luther P. Jackson," Journal of Negro History 35:3 (July 1950); Michael Dennis, Luther P. Jackson and a Life for Civil Rights (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Ferris, William Henry (1874-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Randall, Dudley (1914-2000)

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

20th Century poet Dudley Felker Randall was born January 14, 1914 in Washington D.C.  He later moved to Detroit, Michigan. Born to Clyde and Ada Viola Randall, Dudley showed an interest in poetry at age four, writing lyrics to the song “Maryland, my Maryland” which was performed at a band concert in a Baltimore suburb.  At age thirteen, Randall won a sonnet writing contest, taking home the one dollar first place prize.

Dudley Randall earned his Bachelor's degree in English from Wayne State University in 1949 and his Masters degree in Library Science from the University of Michigan in 1951.  While writing poetry he also served in the U.S. Army and worked for Ford Motors.  Later in life Randall became a publisher, editor, and librarian.  In 1965 he founded Broadside Press which over the next two decades produced the work of a number of African American writers. Their books helped reshape the American literary scene in the post-1960s era.   

Randall's own writings often explored racial and historical themes. He utilized ideas and forms from traditional western traditional poetry but his work was also influenced by the Harlem Renaissance writers.  Dudley Randall’s influences particularly include Harlem Renaissance writers Countee Cullen and Jean Toomer.  Randall wrote seven books, the one with his most widely known poems is Point, Counterpoem. His poetry also appears in a number of other anthologies and other publications.

Sources: 

Baxter R. Miller, “Dudley Randall,” Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Poets Since 1955, Vol. 41, T. Harris, Editor, (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985); Melba Joyce Boyd, Wrestling with the Muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003); Joyce Pettis, “Dudley Randall.” African American Poets: Lives, Works, and Sources. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002); Naomi Long Madgett, Dudley Randall's Life and Career. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. <http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/randall/life.htm.> Retrieved on 2009-02-26.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gordon, Dexter (1923-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dexter Gordon was a pioneering jazz saxophonist who made a career of expertly blending rhythm and romance on the bandstand and the silver screen. Nicknamed "Long Tall Dex" for his 6-foot 5-inch frame, the Los Angeles native was born on Feb. 27, 1923. Gordon's father, Dr. Frank Gordon, M.D., was one of the first prominent African American physicians in Los Angeles and counted Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton among his patients.

Young Gordon took up the clarinet at the age of 13 before switching to saxophone (initially alto, then tenor) at 15. His big break came in 1940 at the age of 17 when he joined Lionel Hampton’s band. From 1943 to 1944 he was featured in the bands of Louis Armstrong, Billie Eckstine and Fletcher Henderson. Gordon made his first recordings under his own name in 1945 when he signed with the Savoy label.  
By 1945, Gordon had moved to New York City where he began performing and recording with Charlie Parker. Gordon also was famous for his saxophone duels with fellow tenor sax player Wardell Gray. They recorded several albums between 1947 and 1952. In 1955 Gordon wrote the musical score for the Broadway play The Connection.

Sources: 
Stan Britt, Long Tall Dexter: A Critical Musical Biography of Dexter Gordon (London: Quartet Books, 1989); Roland Baggenaes, Jazz Greats Speak: Interviews with Master Musicians (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carson, Julia May Porter (1938–2007)

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

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

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

Gumbel, Bryant (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Bryant Gumbel and Soviet Leaders on the Today Show, 1984
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bryant Gumbel was the first African-American co-host of the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) The Today Show and is well known as a broadcast journalist and sportscaster.  Gumbel was born in1948 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Rhea Alice and Richard Dunbar Gumbel, a city clerk and a judge, respectively.  He grew up with two younger sisters and a younger brother, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Gumbel graduated from Maine’s Bates College in 1970 with a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts.  He first worked as a salesman for Westvaco Corporation, an industrial paper company in New York City.  He left the job after six months and, in 1971, became a sports writer for Black Sports magazine.  The following year, Gumbel became a sportscaster for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, California. In the fall of 1975, he became a co-host for NBC Sports National Football League’s pre-game show, Grandstand.  
Sources: 
"Contemporary Black Biography”: Volume 14, Profiles from the International Black Community (Book, 1997) [WorldCat.org]." WorldCat.org: The World's Largest Library Catalog. http://www.worldcat.org/title/contemporary-black-biography-volume-14-profiles-from-the-international-black-community/oclc/527366242 (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1997; Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Men (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1998), Bryan Gumbel Biography, http://www.filmreference.com/film/11/Bryant-Gumbel.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McMillian, Marco (1979-2013)

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

Marco McMillian was known primarily as the first openly-gay African American male to seek mayoral office as a Democrat in his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi. On February 26, 2013, McMillian was found dead the age of 34, having been beaten, dragged, and burned.

Little is known about his family history.  McMillian was born to Patricia Unger in Clarksdale in 1979.  He graduated from Clarksdale High School in 1997 and went on to graduate magna cum laude from the W.E.B. DuBois Honors College at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. McMillian also earned a graduate degree from Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota in the area of philanthropy and development.

While living in Washington, D.C., McMillian served as an international executive director of the historically black Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. where he was responsible for securing the first federal contract to raise the awareness of the adverse impact of HIV/AIDS on communities of color. He also served as executive assistant to the President of Alabama A&M University and as assistant to the vice president at Jackson State University.

Sources: 
http://newsone.com/2254245/marco-mcmillian-dead-clarksdale-mississippi/ http://marcomcmillian.com/about.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/marco-mcmillian-dead_n_2780698.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Valiente, Juan (1505 ca.–1553)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Diego de Almagro Leads First Spanish
Expedition into Chile, 1535-1537. 
Juan Valiente is in the Expedition.
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Juan Valiente, a Spanish-speaking black conquistador, was born in Northwest Africa around 1505 and was enslaved and acquired by the Portuguese.  He was eventually purchased by Alonso Valiente, who had become a wealthy resident of Mexico City and Puebla after his participation in the conquest of Mexico in 1521.  Alonso Valiente acquired Juan, baptized him as a Christian under the name Juan Valiente, and took him to Spain as a servant.

Eventually, Juan Valiente returned to Puebla, Mexico with his owner and in 1533 signed a contract with Alonso Valiente that allowed him to participate as a conquistador in other areas of the New World in exchange for profits from the expeditions that would be shared with his owner and used to purchase his freedom.  
Sources: 
Rob Garrison, “Chile,” Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience 2nd Edition, editors Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Oxford University Press, 2005); Matthew Restall, “Black Conquistadors: Armed Africans in Early Spanish America,” The Americas, Volume 57, Number 2 (The Academy of American Franciscan History, October 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Foote, Julia (1823-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in Schenectady, New York, to former slaves, Julia was converted at age fifteen. Several years later, she married George Foote, a sailor, moved to Boston, and joined an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church, where she began to testify about her experiences of conversion and sanctification. Her husband and pastor disapproved of her teaching on sanctification, but she persisted, even though she was expelled from her home congregation in 1844.
Sources: 
Julia Foote, A Brand Plucked from the Fire (1878); Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Washington, Jr., James (1909-2000)

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

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

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

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

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

Charles, Ray (1930-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ray Charles Robinson, a talented musician, singer and composer, was one of the first African American artists to merge the blues with gospel to pave the way for rhythm and blues (R&B) music.  Robinson was born September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia.  At five he began to go blind and by the age of seven his sight was completely gone.  In order to help teach him to be self-sufficient his mother sent Robinson to the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, a racially segregated school in Florida.  There he learned to read music in Braille as well as to play both classical and jazz music on the piano.

Robinson’s mother passed away when he was 15 years old. Now on his own, he decided to move to Seattle, Washington where he continued his musical development.  By 1948 he had become a professional musician, shortening his name to Ray Charles, and forming his own trio. Before his 20th birthday Robinson had become a local sensation in the bars and clubs along Seattle’s Jackson Street.  
Sources: 
Eleanora E. Tate, Black Stars: African American Musicians (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000); "Ray Charles" American Masters.  PBS.org.
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/charles_r.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Marsalis, Wynton (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
University of Louisville
Wynton Marsalis was born on October 18, 1961 in New Orleans, Louisiana to parents Ellis and Dolores Marsalis.  At an early age Marsalis exhibited a passion for music.  By age eight, he was already performing traditional New Orleans music in his local church band.  Four years later he began studying the trumpet and soon performed in local jazz and funk bands.  By the age of 14, he performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic.  

In 1979, Marsalis entered The Julliard School in New York City to study trumpet.  However, he met jazz great Art Blakely shortly afterwards and by 1980 was the bandleader of Blakely’s band.  Marsalis became prominent when in 1981 at the age of 20, he became the first person to win Grammys for both a jazz recording and a classical recording.  Marsalis also wrote numerous pieces for various musicians including his “All Rise,” which is a composition he intended for jazz bands, symphony orchestras and gospel choirs.
Sources: 
Stuart Nicholson, Is Jazz Dead? (Or has it moved to a new address) (New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, 2005); http://www.wyntonmarsalis.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gordy, Berry, Jr. (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Berry Gordy Jr. in Motown Studio
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Berry Gordy, Jr. was born November 28, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan, the seventh of eight children to Bertha Fuller Gordy and Berry “Pops” Gordy, Sr.  The Gordy parents were strict disciplinarians who encouraged their children to demonstrate a good work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit.  Gordy dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer.  He served in the U.S. Army in Korea between 1951 and 1953 and returned to Detroit to open a jazz music store.  When it failed, Gordy worked on the assembly line at the Ford Plant, but by 1959 he quit that job to become a professional songwriter.  In late 1957 Gordy had his first hit record, “Reet Petite,” for popular rhythm and blues artist Jackie Wilson.  Soon afterwards he wrote “Lonely Teardrops,” Wilson’s greatest hit. 

Sources: 
Berry Gordy, To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown (New York, NY: Warner Books, 1994); Elvis Mitchell, Ben Fong-Torres, and Dave Marsh, The Motown Album: The Sound of Young America (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1990); Bill Dahl, Motown: The Golden Years.  The Stars and Music That Shaped a Generation (Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Halle Tanner Dillon (1864–1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson was the first female physician to pass the Alabama state medical examination and was the first woman physician at Tuskegee Institute.  She was the eldest of nine children born to African Methodist Episcopal bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner and Sarah Elizabeth Miller in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1864.  Her brother, Henry Ossawa Tanner, became a noted artist.  Shortly after Halle was born the Tanners moved to Philadelphia where the children were educated.    

In the middle 1880s Halle Tanner worked with her father on the AME Church Review.  In 1886 she married Charles E. Dillon and the two moved to Trenton, New Jersey where they had a daughter, Sadie.  Charles Dillon died of an unknown cause and Halle Tanner Dillon moved back to Philadelphia to live with her parents.  Tanner decided to become a physician and enrolled at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.  The only African American woman in her class, Tanner graduated with an M.D. and high honors after three years of study in 1891.  While at the college, she learned of a job opportunity as resident physician at Tuskegee Institute.  She contacted Booker T. Washington, the Principal of Tuskegee.  Washington appointed her and helped her prepare for the Alabama state medical examination.
Sources: 
Darlene Hine, Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), Dorothy Sterling, We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984), http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_172.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Turner, Jack (circa 1840-1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jack Turner, political activist and martyr, was born a slave in Choctaw County, Alabama around 1840. Choctaw County was situated in Alabama’s “Black Belt,” a large swath of cotton growing land in the central part of the state historically known for its dark, mineral-rich soil, and large population of black slaves to cultivate it. Turner worked part of this land as a slave until the end of the Civil War. Although he received no formal education, he independently learned to read and to write.
Sources: 
William Warren Rogers and Robert David Ward, August Reckoning, Jack Turner and Racism in Post-Civil War Alabama (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); William Warren Rogers and Robert David Ward, “ ‘Jack Turnerism:’ A Political Phenomenon of the Deep South,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Oct., 1972), pp. 313-332.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Shepard, James Edward (1875-1947)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cleaver, Eldridge (1935-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Eldridge Cleaver, author and civil rights activist, was born on August 31, 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas.  Cleaver, a child of six, lived in a household where his father abused his mother.  The Cleavers moved to Phoenix and finally settled in Los Angeles where Cleaver spent much of his childhood in and out of reform schools for petty crimes.  In 1957, at the age of 22, he was convicted of assault with intent to commit murder and sent first to California’s San Quentin Prison and then transferred to Folsom Prison.  As an inmate, Cleaver spent most of his time reading works by Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Karl Marx, and Richard Wright.  He was also inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X who was assassinated during his incarceration. Their writings influenced him to write, in prison, a collection of essays on race and the black revolution.  Those essays were published as the book Soul on Ice in 1968, two years after his release from prison.  

Sources: 

Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1968); Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Fire (New York: Word Books, 1978); Joseph Peniel E., Waiting ‘Til The Midnight Hour (New York: Henry Holt And Company, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Perkins, John [aka "Jack Punch"] ( -1812)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
HMS Tartar, ca. 1804
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Captain John Perkins, nicknamed Jack Punch, was the first black commissioned officer in the Royal Navy.  His date of birth and origins are unknown but Perkins first appeared in Navy records in 1775 when he joined as a ship’s pilot aboard HMS Antelope, the flagship of the Jamaica station. In 1778 he was put in command of the Punch schooner and in 1778 and 1779 it captured 315 enemy vessels under his leadership. He then commanded the schooner Endeavour and was promoted to commander by Admiral Sir George Rodney, the commander in chief at Jamaica. The promotion was disallowed and in 1783 at the end of the American War of Independence Perkins left the Navy and remained in reserve as a half-pay lieutenant, a practice that was common at the time. What he did between 1783 and 1790 is unknown.
Sources: 
William James, The naval history of Great Britain: from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV, volume 2 & 3 (London: R. Bentley 1837); J.S. Clarke, Naval Chronicle, Volumes 17 & 27 (London: Bunney & Gold 1807 & 1812); Basil Mundy, The Life and Correspondence of the Late Admiral Lord Rodney, volume 2 (London: Kessinger Publishing Co. 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kuti, Fela (1938-1997)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Fela Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria in the year 1938 as Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-KutFela Anikuplap Kuti. He later shortened his name to Fela Kuti, as he saw his birth name as a symbol of slavery and oppression.  He also was popularly known as Fela Ransome-Kuti, the stage name he used for a number of years.  Kuti was considered both a political firebrand and one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century.

Fela was born into a middle class family of Nigerian political activists.  His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a leader in the anti-colonial campaign against the British.  His father, Rev. Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, was the Protestant minister and school principal who became President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers.  
Sources: 
http://africanmusic.org/artists/felakuti.html; Karl Maier, This House Has Fallen: Midnight in Nigeria (New York: Publicaffairs, 2000); Richard Nidel, World Music: The Basics (New York: Routledge, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hall, Juanita (1901-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Juanita Hall on the Set of South Pacific, 1958
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Juanita Long Hall, a 20th Century actor and singer, was born in Keyport, New Jersey on Nov. 6, 1901 to an African-American father, Abram Long, and an Irish American mother, Mary Richardson.  Raised by maternal grandparents, Long attended New York City, New York’s Juilliard School of Music.  While a teenager, she married Clement Hall, who died in 1920s.  The couple had no children.

Hall’s early career was in singing and choir directing.  From 1935 to 1944 she directed the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Chorus.  From 1941 to 1942 she also directed the Westchester (New York) Chorale and Dramatics Association.  In the early 1940s she led the Juanita Hall Choir, which performed on radio with Rudy Vallee and Kate Smith and in 1949 the Juanita Hall Choir performed in the film Miracle in Harlem.

Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harlem Renaissance Lives from the African American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Elsa Barkley Brown, Darlene Clark Hine, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (Eds.), Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1994).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ruth, William Chester (1882-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Chester Ruth, 1950
Image Courtesy of Anita Wills

William Chester Ruth was an African American inventor, business owner, and community leader in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Ruth was the son of Samuel and Maria Louisa Pinn-Ruth.  The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment liberated Samuel, a former slave, when it occupied Savannah, Georgia in 1865 while Maria Louisa was born free in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The couple was married in 1872 in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Ruth was one of twelve children, born on the family farm on July 19, 1882.

As a child, Ruth had an inquisitive nature, which led him to invent numerous pieces of farm equipment and machinery.  Although he was not well educated, he learned farming and blacksmithing from his father.  Ruth married Gertrude Miller on June 6, 1906, and they had one son, Joseph.  In 1917, the couple moved to Gap, Pennsylvania where six years later he opened Ruth’s Ironworks Shop, instantly becoming the only African American in the region to have his own manufacturing business.  Ruth designed and patented numerous agricultural devices from 1924 to 1950.   

Ruth’s first patented invention was the Combination Baler Feeder in 1924.  He sold over 5,000 Baler-Feeder machines across the U.S. Around the same time Ruth also invented the farm elevator used to transport hay to silos and in the American commercially harvested mushroom industry.  

Sources: 
“Ruth Claims Invention of Secret Weapon,” Ebony Magazine, October 1950; Joan M. Lorenz, A History of Salisbury Township (Morgantown, West Virginia: Masthof Press, 2002); Anita L. Wills, Pieces of the Quilt: The Mosaic of an African American Family (Charleston, South Carolina: BookSurge, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Colvin, Claudette (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Claudette Colvin, a nurse’s aide and Civil Rights Movement activist, was born on September 5, 1939 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her parents were Mary Jane Gadson and C.P. Austin, but she was raised by her great-aunt and great-uncle, Mary Ann Colvin and Q.P. Colvin. Claudette Colvin and her guardians relocated to Montgomery when she was eight. She later attended Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery.  

On March 2, 1955, 19-year-old Colvin, while riding on a segregated city bus, made the fateful decision that would make her a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement. She had been sitting far behind the seats already reserved for whites, and although a city ordinance empowered bus drivers to enforce segregation, blacks could not be asked to give up a seat in the “Negro” section of the bus for a white person when it was crowded. However, this provision of the local law was usually ignored. Colvin was asked by the driver to give up her seat on the crowded bus for a white passenger who had just boarded. She refused.
Sources: 
Ruth E. Martin, "Colvin, Claudette," African American National Biography, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Darlene Clark Hine, et al., The African American Odyssey (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, David (1785-1830)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The fiery-militant David Walker was born on September 28, 1785, in Wilmington, North Carolina.  His father was an enslaved African who died a few months before his son’s birth, and his mother was a free woman of African ancestry. Walker grew up to despise the system of slavery that the U.S. government allowed in America.  He knew the cruelties of slavery were not for him and said, “As true as God reigns, I will be avenged for the sorrow which my people have suffered.”  He eventually moved to Boston during the 1820s and became very active within the free black community.  Walker’s intense hatred for slavery culminated in him publishing his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World in September 1829. The Appeal was smuggled into the southern states, and was considered subversive, seditious, and incendiary by most white men in both northern and southern states.  It was, without a doubt, one of the most controversial documents published in the antebellum period.

Walker was concerned about many social issues affecting free and enslaved Africans in America during the time.  He also expressed many beliefs that would become commonly promoted by later black nationalists such as: unified struggle for resistance of oppression (slavery), land reparations, self-government for people of African descent in America, racial pride, and a critique of American capitalism.  His radical views prompted southern planters to offer a $3000 bounty for anyone who killed Walker and $10,000 reward for anyone who returned him alive back to the South.  Walker was found dead in the doorway of his Boston home in 1830.  Some people believed he was poisoned and others believed that he died of tuberculosis.

Sources: 
Thabiti Asukile, "The All-Embracing Black Nationalist Theories of David Walker's Appeal," Black Scholar, 29 (Winter 1999), 16–24.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinnati

Gloster, Hugh (1911-2002)

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

Bambaataa, Afrika (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Walker, Madam C. J. (Sarah Breedlove, 1867–1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of A'Lelia Bundles/
Walker Family Collection
Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove to former slaves, Owen and Minerva Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana on December 23, 1867.  Breedlove became an orphan at age seven when her parents died.  Three years later, ten-year-old Sarah and her sister moved across to river to Vicksburg, Mississippi to work as maids.  By her fourteenth birthday, Sarah married Moses McWilliams of Vicksburg and three years later gave birth to her only daughter Lelia (who later changed her name to A’Lelia).  Breedlove became a widow in 1887.  She and her daughter moved to St. Louis to join her older brothers who were barbers.  While in St. Louis she found work as a washer woman earning $1.50 per day.  She also married her second husband, John Davis, in 1894.  The marriage lasted nine years.
Sources: 
A’Lelia Bundles, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker (New York: Scribner, 2001); Kathryn Lasky, Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker (Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2000); www.walkertheatre.com; www.madamcjwalker.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

King, Rodney (1965-2012)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Rodney King, a Los Angeles taxicab driver, became the catalyst for the second major urban uprising in the city in the 20th Century.  On March 3, 1991 King was the victim of a brutal police beating that occurred in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.  Caught on tape by local witness George Holliday, the video showed four L.A. police officers restraining and repeatedly striking King with their batons while six other officers stood by, soon gained international notoriety as the beating was broadcast around the world.

King was born in Sacramento, California in 1965, the year of the first Los Angeles Riot.  He moved with his parents to Altadena, a Pasadena suburb, when he was 2. King's parents cleaned offices and homes.  His father, Roland King, died in his early 40s from pneumonia.

The incident which catapulted King to international prominence began at 12:30 am on March 3, when a California Highway Patrol team attempted to pull King over for speeding.  Driving at speeds up to 115 mph, King led the police on a 7.8 mile high speed chase.  King finally pulled over at a dark park entrance, but did not cooperate with officers and displayed erratic behavior.  Officers present recall King displaying symptoms of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Sources: 
Lou Cannon, Official Negligence (New York: Random House 1997); Sergeant Stacey Koon, Presumed Guilty (Washington D.C.: Regnery Gateway 1992); Tom Owens, Lying Eyes (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press 1994), Seattle Times, June 18, 2012.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Patterson, Floyd (1935–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle
Floyd Patterson was born on January 4, 1935 in Waco, North Carolina. A year later the family moved to Brooklyn, New York. Soft spoken and extremely shy, Patterson fell behind in school and at age ten was still unable to read or write. He became a frequent truant and after being caught stealing a number of times, his mother had him committed to Wiltwyck, a school for emotionally disturbed boys.  Patterson described his experience at Wiltwyck as a turning point in his life. Wiltwyck gave him a sense of belonging. He learned how to make friends, to read and write, and was also encouraged to take up boxing.

At age 14 Patterson began working out in a Manhattan, New York gym operated by the noted trainer Cus D’Amato. In 1950 he began boxing as an amateur and one year later captured the New York Golden Gloves middleweight championship.  He repeated the feat in 1952 before winning a gold medal in the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland. Capitalizing on his Olympic success Patterson turned professional and worked his way up the ranks, while growing into the heavyweight fight category at a relatively light 180 pounds.  By the time the reigning heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano retired Patterson was a leading heavyweight contender.  He was matched to fight Archie Moore for the vacant title. Patterson knocked Moore out in the fifth round of their November 30, 1956 contest to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history at that time at 21 years of age.
Sources: 
Floyd Patterson, Victory Over Myself (New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1962); New York Times, May 11, 2006; www.cyberboxingzone.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jackson, Jennie (1852 –1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Andrew Ward
Jennie Jackson, Fisk Jubilee Singer, folklorist & impresario, was the granddaughter of President Andrew Jackson’s almost lifelong body servant. Jackson’s mother had been born a slave, and her father, George, also enslaved, had died before Jennie was born. But because her mother was the beneficiary of a slave holder’s deathbed manumission, Jennie was born free. The status of Nashville’s freedmen was always precarious, however. When the trustee appointed by her mother’s late mistress tried to destroy the family’s “free papers” so he could re-enslave them, Jennie’s destitute mother fled into the city with her three year-old daughter.

During the Civil War, mother and daughter returned to Union-occupied Nashville, where Jennie was among the first students admitted to the Fisk Free Colored School. Working at her mother’s washboard, Jackson learned many of the spirituals the Jubilees would popularize.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gibbs, Jonathan (1827-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born a freeman in Pennsylvania in 1827, Jonathan Gibbs was the son of Maria Jackson and the Methodist minister, Jonathan Gibbs.

Gibbs was originally trained as a carpenter until in 1848.  Then he became one of only two African Americans accepted at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  After graduating four years later he enrolled in the seminary at Princeton University.  In 1852 Gibbs became an ordained minister to black Presbyterian congregations in New York and Pennsylvania.  

During the 1850s Gibbs was a political activist who fought of the rights of African Americans.  He aided with the Underground Railroad, campaigned for the expansion of black male suffrage in New York, joined the freedmen’s relief efforts and fought segregation on New York City streetcars.  Gibbs also served as vice president of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League.  When the Civil War broke out Gibbs supported black enlistment into the union army.  On January 1st 1863 he gave a rousing speech “A Day to Celebrate Emancipation” to the audience of  First African Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia praising the efforts of African Americans through past heroes like Crispus Attucks up to the African American’s role during the Civil War.  He also praised the recently announced Emancipation Proclamation which took affect that day.  
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America.  (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001); Josh Gottheimer, ed. Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches.  (New York: Civitas Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ruggles, David (1810-1849)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Childress, Alvin (1907-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Spencer Williams and Alvin Childress (right)
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alvin Childress is best remembered for his role as the philosophical easy-going character Amos on the Amos n’ Andy show, a popular all-black cast sitcom of the early 1950s that depicted the antics of three friends in Harlem. Childress was born on September 15, 1907 in Meridian, Mississippi.

Childress began his career on stage, appearing in such productions as Sweet Land (1931) and Savage Rhythm (1931). A year later, he embarked on a successful film career, appearing in such films as Out of the Crimson Fog and Harlem is Heaven and went on to appear in several minor film roles throughout the 1930s. In the 1940s, he concentrated on a career in theater and worked as an instructor for the American Negro Theater in Harlem.

In 1951, Childress returned to the screen when he landed the role of the leading character Amos on the short-lived Amos n’ Andy sitcom. The TV show was canceled after two years because the NAACP protested the series as fostering racial stereotypes, even though many of episodes showed blacks with professional and entrepreneurial backgrounds.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Illustrated
Encyclopedia
, (New York: Fireside, 1988);  Anonymous. Diabetes: Let's
make it history—Alvin Childress
.
http://www.bet.com/articles/1,,c13gb1602-2265,,00.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Current, Gloster B. (1913-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Musician, clergyman and civil rights supporter Gloster B. Current was instrumental in the growth of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP, founded 1909).  Born in 1913 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to John T. Current and Earsy Bryant, Gloster grew up Chicago and Detroit. He earned a BA degree from West Virginia State College in 1941 and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Wayne State University in 1950.  

Current’s role with the NAACP spanned 37 years between 1936 and 1978.  He began his career with a position with the organization’s youth council in Detroit.  Two years later, he married Leontine Turpeau Current (later Kelly), who would become the first African American woman elected bishop in a mainstream denomination. They had three children and before divorcing.

Three years into his NAACP service, Current became vice chairman of national college chapters and chair of the central youth council committee.  He later held positions in the national office as a deputy to the executive director and served most of his time as director of branch and field services, supervising all NAACP membership, field service, and organizational activities.  

Sources: 
Angella P. Current, Breaking Barriers: An American Family and Methodist Story (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001); “Gloster B. Current, Civil Rights Leader and Former NAACP executive dies” Jet Magazine (July 21 1997); Lawrence Van Gelder, “Gloster B. Current, 84, Leader Who Helped Steer N.A.A.C.P,” New York Times, July 9, 1997; “Gloster B. Current, ‘Marching Soldier’,” The Crisis 87:10 (December 1980).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Peters, Brock (1927-2005)

Vignette Type: 
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: 

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

Baker, Thomas Nelson, Jr. (1906–1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Oberlin College Archives,
Oberlin, Ohio
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1906, Thomas Nelson Baker was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from The Ohio State University. The third child of Rev. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker, Sr. and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Baytop Baker, Thomas had one brother, Harry and two sisters, Edith and Ruth. Rev. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker, Sr., was born a slave and earned a Ph.D. from Yale in 1903.

Baker studied chemistry at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio and earned his B.A. degree in 1929. He began postgraduate studies at Oberlin and earned his M.A. degree in 1930. He then taught at many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to support himself and his family. Baker was as an instructor of chemistry at Tougaloo College from 1930 to 1931, and at Talladega College from 1931 to 1932. Baker spent the majority of his academic career serving as professor of chemistry and department chair at Virginia State College (now Virginia State University). He taught there from 1932 to 1972 when he retired. Baker was listed in the American Men of Science (1957), and was a member of several organizations including Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and the American Chemical Society.
Sources: 
The Ohio State University Archives; T.N. Baker, “The Molecular Size of Glycogen and of Mannan A by the Mercaptalation Method,” Ph.D. diss., The Ohio State University, 1941; Collins, S.N. “Celebrating Our Diversity: The Education of Some Pioneering African American Chemists in Ohio,” Bull. Hist. Chem., 2011, 36, pg 82-84; H.W. Greene, Holders of Doctorates Among American Negroes (Meador, Boston, 1946); G. Yancy, “Thomas Nelson Baker: The First African American to Receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy,” Western Journal of  Black Studies, 1997, 21, 253-260; “Deaths: Thomas N. Baker,” Advance, April 1, 1941. [Oberlin College Archives]
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
College of Wooster

Coates, Dorothy Love (1928-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Dorothy Love Coates was an American gospel singer, songwriter, and composer.  She was born Dorothy McGriff on January 30, 1928 in Birmingham, Alabama.  Her minister father, Lillar McGriff, moved to the North when Coates was six, and her parents soon divorced.  Thereafter, Lillar McGriff raised their six children in Birmingham.  By the age of 10, Coates had begun playing piano at Evergreen Baptist Church in Birmingham.  As a teenager, she performed with the Royal Travelers and with her siblings in the McGriff Singers, who had a weekly live radio broadcast on WJLD.  She left school after the tenth grade to help support her family as a maid and a clerk.  In 1946, she married her first husband Willie Love (1925-1991) of the Fairfield Four, and the couple divorced a few years later.
Sources: 
Bill Carpenter, “Dorothy Love Coates,” Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005); Robert Darden, “Dorothy Love Coates,” Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, edited by W.K. McNeil (New York: Routledge, 2005); Anthony Heilbut, “‘I Won’t Let Go of My Faith’: Dorothy Love Coates,” The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times (New York: Proscenium Publishers, [1971] 2002), and Dave Marsh, “Dorothy Love Coates,” All Music Guide to the Blues, edited by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Vladimir Bogdanov, and Chris Woodstra (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brooke, Edward (1919- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain


Edward William Brooke III is the first African American to be elected by popular vote to the United States Senate.  Brooke, an African American, Protestant Republican, won elective office in the overwhelmingly white, Catholic, Democratic state of Massachusetts and emerged as a leader in the US Senate.  Edward Brooke III, the son of Helen (Seldon) Brooke and Edward W. Brooke, was born October 26, 1919 in Washington, D.C.  Brook's father, Edward, earned a law degree at the Howard University School of Law and later served as an attorney with the US Veterans Administration. 
After his graduation from Howard University in 1941, Edward Brooke III served as an officer in the Army with the all-African American 366th Combat Infantry Regiment.  He fought in Italy during World War II and won a Bronze Star for leading an attack on a German artillery battery.  While in Italy, he met his first wife, Remigia Ferrari-Scacco. After serving as a combat officer, Brooke entered Boston University Law School and graduated in 1948.

Sources: 

Edward Brooke, Bridging the Divide: My Life (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press; 2006); "Edward Brooke" in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (http: //bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index = B000871); “The Senate: An Individual Who Happens to be a Negro,” Time Magazine, Feb. 17, 1967.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wiggins, Forrest Oran (1907-1982)

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

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

Young, Charles (1864-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Colonel Charles Young enjoyed a decorated military career after his graduation from West Point Military Academy in 1889.  A Buffalo Soldier serving with the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 25th Infantry, Young eventually became the first African American to achieve the rank of Colonel in United States Army.

Charles Young was born to ex-slaves in Mays Lick, Kentucky in 1864.  His father, Gabriel, served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  At the age of 20 Charles Young was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point.  In 1889 he became the third African American to graduate from the Academy.

As a second lieutenant Young’s assignment options were limited to the four Buffalo Soldier regiments then stationed in Nebraska, Utah, and Montana.  After serving five years on the “Western Front” with the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, Young left to become a professor of Military Science and Tactics for four years, between 1894 and 1898, at all-black Wilberforce University in Ohio where he became close lifetime friends with fellow faculty member W.E.B. DuBois. Young, an accomplished linguist, taught Latin, Greek, French, Spanish and German at the school as well as military science.
Sources: 
Abraham Chew, A Biography of Colonel Charles Young (Washington, D.C.: R. L. Pendelton, 1923); TaRessa Stovall, The Buffalo Soldier (Chelsea House Publishers, Philadelphia, 1997); T. G. Stewart, Buffalo Soldiers: The Colored Regulars in the United States Army (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2003); http://www.buffalosoldier.net; http://www.nps.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Taylor, Cecil (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Cecil P. Taylor in San Francisco, 1982
Image Ownership: Public Domain
One of the great innovators of jazz music, pianist Cecil Taylor has redefined modernist jazz improvisation and composition.  With uncompromising vision and sheer force of expression, his demanding music has both alienated and thrilled audiences, and has largely found a more receptive audience across the Atlantic.  Taylor is also an accomplished poet, often incorporating his works into musical performances.

Born in Long Island in 1929, Taylor began playing piano at the age of six at the behest of his mother, and he later formally studied music at the New York College of Music and the New England Conservatory.  In the early 1950s Taylor worked in R&B and swing ensembles, including a brief stint in Johnny Hodge's quintet.  In the mid-1950s Taylor formed his first ensemble featuring Steve Lacy, Dennis Charles, and Buell Neidlinger, all of whom participated in the recording of Taylor's 1956 debut, Jazz Advance.  Half a century after its release Jazz Advance remains one of the most extraordinary debuts in jazz, and it is an early indication of the directions Taylor's music, and indeed the whole of what would be understood as the jazz avant-garde movement, would pursue.
Sources: 
Graham Lock, Chasing the Vibration (Devon, Great Britain: Stride Publications, 1994); Valerie Wilmer, As Serious as Your Life (London: Serpent's Tail, 1992); Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Eighth Edition) (London: Penguin Books, 2006); Richard Cook, Jazz Encyclopedia (London: Penguin Books, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rock, John S. (1825-1866)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John S. Rock was born to free black parents in Salem, New Jersey in 1825. He attended public schools in New Jersey until he was 19 and then worked as a teacher between 1844 and 1848.  During this period Rock began his medical studies with two white doctors. Although he was initially denied entry, Rock was finally accepted into the American Medical College in Philadelphia.  He graduated in 1852 with a medical degree. While in medical school Rock practiced dentistry and taught classes at a night school for African Americans.  In 1851 he received a silver medal for the creation of an improved variety of artificial teeth and another for a prize essay on temperance.   

At the age of 27, Rock, a teacher, doctor and dentist, moved to Boston in 1852 to open a medical and dental office. He was commissioned by the Vigilance Committee, an organization of abolitionists, to treat fugitive slaves’ medical needs. During this period Dr. Rock increasingly identified with the abolitionist movement and soon became a prominent speaker for that cause.  While he called on the United States government to end slavery, he also urged educated African Americans to use their talents and resources to assist their community.  
Sources: 
John A Garraty and Jerome Sternstein, eds., Encyclopedia of American Biography, 2nd edition (New York: Harper Collins, 1996); Carter, Purvis, “The Negro in Periodical Literature, Part III,” Journal of Negro History (July 1967) 92-102; http://www.nj.gov/state/history/rock.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hickman, Robert T. (1831-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
Robert Thomas Hickman, born enslaved in Missouri in 1831, is most noted for the group of slaves including his wife and young son, whom he led to freedom in Minnesota in 1863, and helping to establish the first African American church in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Hickman was born and reared near Boone, Missouri.  At a young adult Hickman worked near Boone as a rail splitter.  He was, however, allowed by his owner to learn to read and write.  Hickman also became a slave preacher for the people held in bondage in the area.  

In 1863 Hickman led a group of Boone County slaves to their freedom.  Hickman and other fugitive slaves constructed a crude raft which they hoped would take them to freedom.  When Hickman and 75 black men, women and children were discovered adrift near Jefferson, Missouri, they were rescued and towed up river to St. Paul, Minnesota by the steamboat “Northerner.”  The “contrabands” arrived in St. Paul on May 5, 1863.  

A second group of Missouri fugitive slaves reached St. Paul ten days later under the protective custody of Chaplain J.D. White and escorted by Company C of the 27th Iowa Regiment.  Although both groups were initially harassed by Irish dock workers in St. Paul, the men quickly found work as teamsters and laborers.
Sources: 
Pilgrim Baptist Church Website, http://www.pilgrimbaptistchurch.or/history.htm; David Vassar Taylor, “The Blacks” in June D. Holmquest, They Chose Minnesota: a Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups (St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical Society Press 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Ball, Alice Augusta (1892-1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alice Augusta Ball, a pharmaceutical chemist, was born in Seattle, Washington in 1892 to Laura and James P. Ball, Jr. Her grandfather was J.P. Ball, the well known daguerreotype photographer and her father was a promising lawyer. James P. Ball, Sr. moved to Hawaii for health reasons in 1903 with his family and opened a studio.  He died less than a year later and the family returned to Seattle in 1905.  

Alice Ball entered the University of Washington and graduated with two degrees in pharmaceutical chemistry in 1912 and pharmacy in 1914. In the fall of 1914, she entered the College of Hawaii (later the University of Hawaii) as a graduate student in chemistry.  On June 1, 1915, she was the first African American and the first woman to graduate with a master of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Hawaii. In the 1914-1915 academic year she also became the first woman to teach chemistry at the institution.

Ball’s major adviser assigned her a research project involving the effect of chaulmooga oil on patients with Hansen disease.  Her research developed a successful treatment for   those suffering from the disease. At the time of her research Ball became ill.  She worked under extreme pressure to produce injectable chaulmooga oil and, according to some observers, became exhausted in the process.  Ball returned to Seattle and died at the age of 24 on December 31, 1916. The cause of her death was unknown.
Sources: 
Paul Wermager, “Healing the Sick” in They Followed the Trade Winds (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005) pp. 171-174.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Vashon, George B. (1824-1878)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Boyer Vashon, attorney, scholar, essayist and poet, made noteworthy contributions to the fight for emancipation and education of blacks. He was born on July 25, 1824, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the third child and only son of an abolitionist, John Bethune Vashon. At the age of 16, Vashon enrolled in Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio.  On August 28, 1844, Vashon earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with valedictory honors, becoming the college’s first black graduate. Five years later, Vashon was awarded a Master of Arts degree in recognition of his scholarly pursuits and accomplishments.  

After returning to Pittsburgh, he studied law under Judge Walter Forward, a prominent figure in Pennsylvania politics. After two years of reading law, Vashon applied for admission to the Allegheny County bar. His application was denied on the grounds that colored people were not citizens.  This inequitable act led to Vashon’s decision to emigrate to Haiti. Before leaving the United States, Vashon went to New York to take the bar examination, which he successfully completed on January 10, 1848, thus becoming the first black lawyer in New York.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982); Benjamin Griffith Brawley, Early Negro American Writers (Salem: Ayer Publishing, 1968); Paul N. D. Thornell, “The Absent Ones and the Providers: A Biography of the Vashons,” Journal of Negro History, 83:4 (1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Sterling A. (1901-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The last of six children and the only boy born to the Rev. Sterling Nelson and Adelaide (Allen) Brown, Sterling Allen Brown graduated as the top student from Washington’s renowned Dunbar High School (1918).  His success enabled him to accept the token gesture of an academic scholarship Williams College annually extended to Dunbar’s valedictorian.  At this prestigious small, liberal arts school in Massachusetts, from 1918–1922, Brown set aside his own feelings of isolation and performed with distinction: election to Phi Beta Kappa his junior year, winning the Graves Prize for his essay “The Comic Spirit in Shakespeare and Moliere,” and receipt of highest honors from the English Department his senior year.  These accolades won for him a scholarship to study at Harvard University, where he graduated with an MA degree in English in 1923.
Sources: 
Sterling A. Brown, The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1980); Sterling A. Brown,  A Negro Looks at the South, eds. John Edgar Tidwell and Mark A. Sanders (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Joanne Gabbin, Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985); and Mark A. Sanders, Afro-Modernist Aesthetics and the Poetry of Sterling A. Brown (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Fowler, John W. “Bud” (1858-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born John W. Jackson, in Fort Plain, New York, on March 16, 1858, Fowler spent much of his boyhood in Cooperstown, N.Y. where organized baseball maintains its Hall of Fame and museum. Coincidentally Fowler is argued to be one of the first professional black baseball players, when in 1872 he joined a white team in New Castle, Pennsylvania for a salary.  For the next two and a half decades, Fowler played across the country where black players were allowed to play, from Massachusetts to Colorado and briefly in Canada. He played in crossroad farm towns and in mining camps, in pioneer Western settlements and in larger Eastern cities.  Like many ball players of his day, Fowler could play most any position, but it was as a second baseman and pitcher where he excelled at best.  His habit of calling teammates and other players “Bud” led to his nickname.

Organized baseball was just being structured during the turn of the century and Fowler was one of sixty black players who played in white leagues across the country. In the early days of baseball there was no official color line, and he played in organized baseball with white ball clubs until the color line became entrenched around 1900. Until 1895 Fowler he was usually the only black player on an all-white team.
Sources: 
Ralph J. Christian, “Bud Fowler: The First African American Professional Baseball Payer and the 1885 Keokuks,” Iowa Heritage Illustrated 87:1 (2006); Robert Peterson, Only the Ball Was White (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970); 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

Wilson, Arthur Dooley (1886-1953)

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

Arthur Dooley Wilson, best remembered for his popularization of the hit song “As Time Goes By” in the 1942 film classic Casablanca, was born in Tyler, Texas in 1886. Around 1913, he moved to Manhattan, New York, where he performed with the honorable James Reese Europe’s 369th U.S. Infantry “Hell Fighters” Band. After Lieutenant Europe was fatally stabbed by one of his own band members, Wilson formed his own band and toured abroad in London, UK and Paris, France, playing ragtime on the alto sax before returning to the United States in 1930 to embark on an acting career.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland, 1988), Katz Ephraim, The Film Encyclopedia (New York: Cromwell, 1979); Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film (New York, Oxford University Press, 1977); Arthur  Wilson, The Texas Handbook Online, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwibk.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Manley, Michael Norman (1924-1997)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Michael Norman Manley, longtime prime minister of Jamaica, was born December 10, 1924 in the suburbs of Kingston, Jamaica to a well-off family. His father, Norman Manley, was a lawyer and political activist in Jamaica and considered by many to be a national hero. Michael Manley became interested in politics as his father was helping to found the People’s National Party (PNP) in 1938. His education at Jamaica College was followed by enrollment in McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1943 where he also joined the Royal Air Force. At the end of World War II, Manley left the RAF as a pilot officer and obtained a bachelor’s degree at London (UK) School of Economics, studying politics and economics with a special focus on Caribbean politics.
Sources: 
Colin Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Vol. 1 (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006); Erick Langer and Jay Kinsbruner, Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, Vol. 1 (Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008); C. Tate, Governments of the World: A Global Guide to Citizens' Rights and Responsibilities (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wilcox, Preston (1923-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Preston Wilcox (left) with Unidentified Man
Image Courtesy of Harlem Heritage

Preston Wilcox, human rights activist and professor, was a proponent of black studies and advocated community control over education. He was born in 1923 and raised in Youngstown, Ohio along with his four siblings. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia,  but left to serve in the United States Army.  He later returned to school and completed his Bachelor of Science in Biology at City College in 1949. He later earned a Masters of Social Work from Columbia University where he taught for several years.

During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Wilcox became a prominent leader and activist for the decentralization of public schools in Central Harlem. He was a leader in the movement for community control, which placed power over education into the hands of community members. Wilcox spoke frequently at conferences sponsored by the African American Teachers Association where he helped disseminate ideas of community control to the larger public. His efforts assisted in the creation of new jobs for African American teachers, administrators, and supervisors in education.

Sources: 
Jitu Weusi, “Professor Preston Wilcox, We’ve Learned Some Lessons,” The New York Amsterdam News (Aug 24-30, 2006); “Preston Wilcox, Harlem Elder, Passes Away,” The New York Amsterdam News (Aug 17-23, 2006); Preston Wilcox, “School Community Control as a Social Movement” in Sheldon Marcus and Philip D. Varo, eds., Urban Education: Crisis or Opportunity? (New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press Inc., 1972); http://www.assatashakur.org/forum/afrikan-world-news/20889-harlem-legend-preston-wilcox-passes.html; http://www.nypl.org/archives/4078.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Greene, Lorenzo Johnston (1899-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Webb, Mayfield Kelvin (1927-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Mayfield Webb and His Children, 1965
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mayfield Webb, a lawyer, civil rights leader, and social activist was born on November 10, 1927 in Baltimore, Maryland. As a member of the U.S. Army, he served during the Korean War. Upon his return, he eventually attended Morgan State University in Maryland and Howard University in Washington, D.C.  

In 1955 Webb moved to Portland, Oregon where he received his law degree in 1959 from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College. He married Juretta Lillian Oliver, who in 1950 became the first African American graduate of Providence School of Nursing in Portland.  She worked as a nurse and civil rights activist in Portland, Oregon.  The Webbs had six children.

From 1963 to 1964 Webb served as President of the Portland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Chapter. As President he worked to make sure desegregation laws were enforced, often testing them with his own family.  In one example in the summer of 1963, Webb and his family entered a hotel-restaurant in the Southern Oregon community of Medford to have lunch.  After the family waited for what seemed like an unusually long period for the waitress to come to them to take their order, Mayfield and Juretta decided to sit quietly and wait.  They were finally served.  
Sources: 
Southern Oregon History, Revised. Medford Mail Tribune, September 12, 1963. Pp.1. http://id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/minorities.html; The Oregonian, Obituaries (November 6, 1996); The Oregonian, Obituaries (July 3, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Powell, William James “Bill” (1916-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bill Powell was the first African American to design, construct, and own a professional golf course in the United States. In 1946, Bill and his wife Marcella did most of the landscaping by hand when they transformed a 78-acre dairy farm to a nine-hole golf course located near East Canton, Ohio.

William James “Bill” Powell was born on November 16, 1922, in Greenville, Alabama, but grew up in Minerva, Ohio. Powell worked as a caddy as a youth. Then, after high school, he played golf on the Wilberforce University team before serving in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Forces.

In 1946, after Powell returned home from the war, the segregationist policies of the time prevented him from golfing on a public golf course in Ohio, so he decided to build his own course. He was denied a G.I. loan but was able to get financial support from his brother and two African American physicians and bought a dairy farm outside East Canton so he could open a golf course that would welcome players of all races.
Sources: 
Larry Dorman, “After Battling Racism, Veteran Found Peace on His Golf Course,” The New York Times, August 8, 2009; Richard Goldstein, “African-American Golf Pioneer Bill Powell Dies at 93,” The New York Times, January 1, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fortune, T. Thomas (1856-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
T. Thomas Fortune—African American journalist, editor, and writer—was born into slavery on October 3, 1856 to Sarah Jane and Emanuel Fortune.  Raised in Marianna, Florida, he as a child witnessed the politically-motivated violence of the Florida Ku Klux Klan.  Despite minimal formal education, Fortune worked in print shops during his childhood.  Moving north in 1874, he worked as a customs inspector in Delaware’s eastern district before briefly enrolling in Howard University in 1876.  Deciding he would become a journalist, Fortune left Howard less than a year after he arrived.
Sources: 
Emma Lou Thornbrough, T. Thomas Fortune: Militant Journalist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972); John Hope Franklin and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders in the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982); Walter David Greason, Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Monmouth University

Still, William Grant (1895-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Considered by many as the dean of African American composers, William Grant Still, the son of educators, was born in Woodville, Mississippi on May 11, 1895.  His father, a musician who once taught music at Alabama A&M College, died when he was an infant; his mother, a schoolteacher, moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.  Those nearest to him encouraged his early fascination with music and musical instruments, particularly the violin.  At age 17 his stepfather, a railway office worker, introduced him to opera via a record and phonograph, which for him was a transformative experience.  At M.W.
Sources: 
Catherine P. Smith, William Grant Still: A Study in Contradictions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Verna Avery, In One Lifetime (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1984); “William Grant Still (1895-1978),” on AfriClassical.com website at: http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Still.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Paul, Susan (1809–1841)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The youngest daughter of Baptist minister Rev. Thomas Paul and Catherine Waterhouse Paul, Susan Paul was a primary school teacher and an active member of the bi-racial Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.  The Pauls were a highly regarded family in the free black abolitionist community in Boston.  Thomas Paul’s brother, Rev. Nathaniel Paul, was also an outspoken opponent of slavery.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992) and Lois Brown, “Out of the Mouths of Babes: the Abolitionist Campaign of Susan Paul and the Boston Juvenile Choir,” New England Quarterly, 75 (March 2002): 52-79.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fuller, Meta Warrick (1877-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Meta Warrick Fuller was a black female artist who specialized in sculpture. Born in Philadelphia in 1877, her career peaked during America’s Gilded Age, a time when more women were trained as artists than ever before. She attended the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Arts in 1897 (now Pennsylvania College of Art) before traveling abroad to study in Paris in 1899. Warrick studied at the Académie Colarossi for sculpture and La Ecole des Beaux Arts for drawing. It was during this time that she met Auguste Rodin, who encouraged her to continue the sculptural realism that she loved. This advice invigorated her art. With her new confidence, she exhibited at Samuel Bing’s L’Art Nouveau Gallery in Paris in 1900.

Meta Warrick returned to Philadelphia in 1902. Eleven years after her return she married Dr. Solomon Fuller of Massachusetts. In 1910 she created signature piece, Ethiopia Awakening which in many ways anticipated the Harlem Renaissance two decades later. As the depiction of an ancient black Egyptian coming back to life, this piece exemplifies a determination to shatter Africa’s association with slavery and ignorance. In the time that Fuller created this piece, only Ethiopia of all the African nations had successfully maintained its independence against European imperialists.  Fuller created the piece as a historical validation and celebration of Africans and their connection to African Americans.  
Sources: 
Renée Ater, “Making History,” American Art (Vol 17 Issue 3, Fall 2003); Sharon E. Patton, African American Art (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1998).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Collins, Barbara-Rose (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
U.S. Congresswoman Barbara-Rose Collins was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 13, 1939 to Lunar N. and Vera (Jones) Richardson. Collins attended Wayne State University in Detroit. Her career began at Wayne State University where she served as business manager, worked in the Physics department, and worked in neighborhood relations. Prior to being elected to Congress, she also served as a board member in Detroit’s School Region I between 1971 and 1973.

In 1975 Collins was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives from the 21st District (Detroit) and served there until 1981. She was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1981 and served there until her election to the U.S. House. During this time (1974-1975), Collins also served as a commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Detroit. In 1985 she chaired the Detroit City Council Task Force on Teenage Violence. In 1991, Collins was elected as a U.S. Congresswoman from Michigan’s 15th District, after the death of her husband, Congressman George Collins, in a plane crash.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Mississippi

Long, Nate (1930-2002)

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

Nate Long was a filmmaker, television producer, director, stuntman, actor and teacher who worked both in Hollywood and the Pacific Northwest. Long was born in Philadelphia in 1930.  He joined the Air Force, became a military policeman and completed his service at Paine Field near Everett, Washington in 1965. While in the Air Force he earned a black belt in judo. Long then taught judo and karate to inner-city children through Seattle’s Central Area Motivation Project, his first post-military job.

Long’s interest soon turned to mass media and in 1970 he created Oscar Productions, a Seattle-based photography, cinematography and television production training program for inner-city high school and college students.  For ten years, he and his students produced a weekly public affairs program, Action Inner City, and a monthly show titled Aggin News.  Both aired on KOMO-TV.  Former Seattle Mayor Norman Rice and former Fannie Mae Corporation CEO Franklin Raines were among his first students. 

Sources: 
"'He Was a Mover and a Shaker' in Seattle Film and TV Business," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Saturday, November 23, 2002; "Nate Long," Internet Movie Database (IMDb), retrieved April 17, 2007 from <http://imdb.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Butterfield, George Kenneth, Jr. (1947– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

North Carolina Congressman George Kenneth Butterfield Jr. was born in Wilson, North Carolina on April 27, 1947 to a father who was a dentist and civic leader as well as the first black elected official in eastern North Carolina in the 20th century; and a mother who was a classroom teacher for 48 years.

Butterfield attended Charles H. Darden High School and graduated in 1967 before going to North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. He graduated with a sociology and political science degree in 1971. In 1974, he received his J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law. After serving in the United States Army for two years, Butterfield became a successful lawyer known for helping the poor people who had extraordinary legal problems. In 1988, Butterfield was appointed Superior Court Judge in Wilson County.  In 2001 he was appointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Burroughs, Margaret (1917-2010 )

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Danner, Margaret E. (1915-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Margaret Esse Danner is an African American poet, born in Pryorsburg, Kentucky on January 12, 1915 to Caleb and Naomi Esse.  Danner began writing poetry when she was in junior high school. In the eighth grade she won first place for a poem she wrote titled, “The Violin.”  Her family moved to Chicago when Margaret began High School.  

Danner later attended Loyola and Northwestern Universities, where she was taught by Karl Shapiro and Paul Engle. She continued her writing while in Chicago and first became recognized in 1945 when she won second place in the Poetry Workshop of the Midwestern Writers Conference at Northwestern University.  In 1951, while in Chicago, Danner become an editorial assistant for Poetry: the Magazine of Verse. It was this publication that introduced her poem series “Far From Africa” for which she is best known.  These poems won Danner the John Hay Whitney Fellowship on 1951, which was intended to fund a trip to Africa scheduled for that same year.  Danner postponed the trip for personal reasons and in fact did not go to Africa until 1966.  In 1955 Margaret Danner became the first African American to hold the position of Assistant Editor of Poetry: The Magazine of Verse...

During her lifetime, Margaret Danner was married twice and had one daughter with her first husband. A number of her later poems were inspired by her grandson, Sterling, which she referenced as “Muffin Poems.” In 1961, Danner became poet-in-residence at Wayne State University in Detroit.  It was during this time that Danner became involved in the Baha'i faith, which would influence her poetry.  From that point many of her poems would refer to that faith.

Sources: 

June M. Aldridge, “Margaret Esse Danner.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Poets since 1955. Vol. 41, T. Harris, Editor, (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985); Haki Madhubuti, Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s. (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1971).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Grigsby,Jefferson Eugene, Jr. (1918 – )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of J. Eugene Grigsby
Artist and academic Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr., was born on October 15, 1918 in Greensboro, North Carolina. His interest and enjoyment in art and creativity began in childhood and was later pursued through formal education. He earned a BA from Morehouse College in 1938 and an MA from Ohio State University in 1940. Grigsby continued his studies at Arizona State University, Columbia University, the American Artists School in New York, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Marseilles, France. In 1963 Grisby was awarded a Ph.D from New York University.

In 1942, after the United States entered the World War II, Grigsby volunteered for the U. S. Army. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. After the war he returned to teach in Phoenix, Arizona at Carver High School, which was an all black institution until the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954. At this point Grigsby moved to Phoenix Union High School where he stayed for eleven years before joining Arizona State University’s School of Art in 1966 where he remained for two decades.
Sources: 
Eugene Grigsby’s official website: http://eugenegrigsbyjr.wordpress.com/; Heddenart Gallery website: http://www.heddenartgallery.com/Eugene_Grigsby_Bio.html; Thomas Riggs, ed., “Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr.”, St. James Guide to Black Artists (Detroit: St. James Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Menard, John Willis (1838-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Comer, James P. (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy
Michael Marsland/Yale University
James Pierpont Comer, a leading black child psychiatrist and educational reformer, was born into a working class family in East Chicago, Indiana on September 25, 1934.  Although his parents, Maggie and Hugh Comer, had little education themselves, they strongly supported their children's education.  All five children graduated from college, earning 13 degrees collectively.  

Comer graduated from Indiana University in 1956 with an A.B.  Three years later in 1959, he married Shirley Arnold, with whom he had two children.  He received his M.D. from Howard University in 1960 and his M.P.H. from the University of Michigan in 1964.  Throughout the 1960s, Comer worked in different medical fields.  He was a staff member of the U.S. Public Health Service, worked with the National Institute of Mental Health and interned at Saint’s Catherine’s Hospital in East Chicago.   Comer also volunteered at the Hospitality House in Washington D.C.  During this time, Comer found his interest and passion in child development and education, particularly among disadvantaged students.        
Sources: 
George White, Jr., "Comer, James," Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century, edited by Paul Finkelman, Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0005/e0287; James P. Comer, Maggie’s American Dream (New York: NAL Books: 1988); Mark F. Goldberg, “Portrait of James P. Comer,” Education Leadership (September, 1990); Pamela Cross Young, “Comer, James P.," Encyclopedia of Educational Reform and Dissent, edited by Thomas C. Hunt, James C. Copper, Thomas J. Lasley II and C. Daniel Raisch, (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.: 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Raymond, Guadalupe Victoria Yolí (1936-1992)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Guadalupe Victoria Yolí Raymond, known popularly as “La Lupe,” was a Cuban and Cuban American singer and dancer.  She was born in San Pedrito, a locality within Santiago de Cuba, Oriente Province, Cuba on December 23, 1936.

Yolí grew up in an impoverished family.  Her parents divorced when she was nine, and thereafter she lived with her father and stepmother.  In 1955, her family moved to Havana, where she won a radio contest as a teenager.

She began singing in Havana during the 1950s, achieving popularity by 1957.  In 1958, she finished a teaching degree and began teaching in Havana.  In the same year she married Eulogio Reyes and they formed a musical trio, Los Tropicuba.  In 1960, she divorced Reyes and began her solo career.  She was successful enough to eventually buy her own club in Havana.

Yolí, however, ran afoul of the Cuban Revolution.  In 1961, she was summoned to a radio station and ordered to leave the nation.  Her style of performing, deemed “Lupismo,” was now considered unacceptable.  Her performance style has been described in terms of both a liberated sexuality and of religious possession, specifically pertaining to Santería.
Sources: 
Frances R. Aparicio and Wilson A. Valentín-Escobar, “Memorializing La Lupe and Lavoe: Singing Vulgarity, Transnationalism, and Gender,” Centro Journal 16.2 (Fall 2004); Jon Pareles, “La Lupe, a Singer, Is Dead at 53; Known as 'Queen of Latin Soul',” New York Times (March 7, 1992); Vernon W. Boggs, Salsiology: Afro-Cuban Music and the Evolution of Salsa in New York City, (New York: Excelsior Music Publishing Company, 1991); Frances R. Aparicio, Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press and University Press of New England, 1998); Jeanne Schmartz, “La Lupe,” Women in Salsa, Master Thesis in Musicology, by Jeanne Schmartz (University of Amsterdam, 2009). URL: http://www.academia.edu/1790527/women_in_salsa_final_version_small; Vanessa Knights, “Tears and Screams: Performances of Pleasure and Pain in the Bolero,”  Queering the Popular Pitch, edited by Sheila Whiteley and Jennifer Rycenga (New York, NY: Routledge, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Short, Robert “Bobby” Waltrip (1924-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Recording artist and three-time Grammy award nominee Bobby Short, a self-taught piano prodigy during his childhood, was regarded as the quintessential sophisticated cabaret and supper-club vocalist and piano player of his time.  Short, who learned to play piano by ear at the age of four, performed intimate renditions of American song standards over seven decades, and for 36 of those years, from 1968 through 2004, Short and his jazz combo had a long-term contract at the exclusive Café Carlyle in New York. Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, and Duke Ellington were Short’s favorite composers, and he was especially known for his interpretations of the sophisticated and witty compositions by Cole Porter. Short’s repertoire of African American songwriters included Eubie Blake, Billy Strayhorn, Fats Waller, Bessie Smith, and Andy Razaf.
Sources: 
Enid Nemy, “Bobby Short, Icon of Manhattan Song and Style, Dies at 80,” New York Times, March 21, 2005; Dennis McLellan, “Black Bobby Short, 80; Cabaret Performer Symbolized a Sophisticated Musical Era,” Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Haynes, Lemuel (1753-1833)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Lemuel Haynes was born on July 18, 1753  in the home of his mother’s employer, John Haynes of Hartford, Connecticut.  His father, an enslaved African, and his mother, a Scottish immigrant servant, abandoned him at birth.  Fired after giving birth to him, his mother refused to speak to him when their paths later crossed.  John Haynes indentured the unwanted infant at the age of five months to the family of Deacon David Rose in the farming community of Granville, Massachusetts, where Lemuel remained until the age of twenty-one.  As a child he absorbed strong Calvinist theology and occasionally was permitted to attend local schools. 

In 1783, after fighting for several years in the American Revolution, Haynes married a white schoolteacher who proposed to him and over the next decades raised a family of ten children with her.  He accepted a pulpit in a predominantly white Congregational Church in the west parish of Rutland, Vermont in 1788.  Although Haynes felt that the color of his skin prevented his full acceptance in the white community, he served the Rutland congregation for thirty years.  His power to inspire revivals helped the church to grow enormously.  In 1818, however, he was dismissed from his Rutland parish due to his Federalist politics and criticism of Republicans’ policies in the War of 1812.  Haynes went on to serve for three years at a congregation in Manchester, Vermont.  Throughout his life he combined evangelical Calvinist fervor with staunch opposition to slavery and oppression.  One of the first African Americans to be ordained and to publish, Haynes authored many eloquent sermons advocating interracial benevolence, liberty, natural rights, and justice.

Sources: 
Richard D. Brown, “ ‘Not Only Extreme Poverty, but the Worst Kind of Orphanage’: Lemuel Haynes and the Boundaries of Racial Tolerance on the Yankee Frontier, 1770-1820.”  New England Quarterly 61.4 (Dec. 1988): 502-18;  Timothy Mather Cooley, Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A.M. (New York, 1837; Rptd. New York, 1969);  John Saillant, Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-1833 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Somerville, John Alexander (1882-1973)

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

Brown, Ronald H. (1941-1996)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Alma Brown Interview:  http://www.idvl.org/thehistorymakers/Bio484.html; Stephen A. Holmes, Ron Brown:  An Uncommon Life (New York:  Wiley & Sons, 2001); Tracey L. Brown, The Life and Times of Ron Brown (Pittsburgh:  William Morrow, 1998); Godfrey Hodgson, “Obituary:  Ron Brown,”  The Independent (April 5, 1996); Cheryl McCullers, “A Natural Born Leader,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin (Nov. 2000) http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0011/rbrown.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hunton, William Alphaeus, Jr. (1903-1970)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Alphaeus Hunton at a South Africa Famine
Relief Rally, Abyssinian Baptist Church, 1946
Image Ownership: Public Domain
 
A leading intellectual and activist of the post-WWII period, Alphaeus Hunton, Jr. was the executive director of the Council on African Affairs (CAA) and editor of the CAA's publication, New Africa, from 1943 through the organization's dissolution in 1955. In this capacity, Hunton did more than perhaps any other individual to articulate an anticolonial critique of post-war liberalism and racial capitalism and to advance a vision of Pan-African black identity that stressed the inextricable linkage between African Americans, Africans, and colonized peoples around the world.

Hunton was born in Atlanta in 1903. His family migrated to Brooklyn in the wake of the Atlanta race riot of 1906. He graduated from Howard University in 1924, earned a master's degree in Victorian literature from Harvard in 1925, and studied for a doctorate at New York University from 1934-1938. Hunton's political voice began to emerge during his years at New York University. Attracted to Marxism-Leninism, he was involved in union organizing, joined the Communist Party, and served on the executive board of the National Negro Congress in 1936.
Sources: 
Penny M. Von Eschen, Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997); Hollis R. Lynch, Black American Radicals and the Liberation of Africa: The Council of African Affairs, 1937-1955 (Ithaca: Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sancho, Ignatius (1729-1780)

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
Thomas Gainsborough's 1768 Portrait
of Ignatius Sancho
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ignatius Sancho was an African composer and author who grew up as a house slave in England. We do not know how Sancho left domestic servitude but according to historians by the time he was an adult he was an emancipated employee of the Duke and Duchess of Montagu. There, working as a butler, he flourished, reading voraciously, writing prose, poetry, and music

Sources: 
Josephine R.B. Wright, ed., Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780), An Early African Composer in England: The Collected Editions of His Music in Facsimile (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1981); Brycchan Carey, "’The Extraordinary Negro’": Ignatius Sancho, Joseph Jekyll, and the Problem of Biography', British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies”, 26:2 (Spring 2003); http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Sancho.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Grier, Eliza Ann ( ? - 1902)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eliza Ann Grier was born a slave, but became emancipated and eventually earned her M.D., becoming in 1898 the first African American woman to practice medicine in Georgia.  Little is known of Grier’s early life beyond her growing up in Atlanta.  In 1883, nearly 20 years after her emancipation, Grier entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee with the goal of becoming a teacher.  She earned a degree in education from Fisk eight years later in 1891 because she took every other year off to pick cotton and perform other work to earn her tuition to continue her studies.
Sources: 

Dorothy Sterling, We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984), http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_132.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cooper, John W. (1873-1966)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
John W. Cooper and Sam Jackson
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John W. Cooper was an African American ventriloquist, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1873.  After losing both of his parents at a very young age, Cooper received his education at Professor Dorsey’s Institute in Brooklyn.  There he developed into a budding entertainer and took a special interest in ventriloquism, a craft he learned from an unidentified white man whom he met at a Sheepshead Bay racetrack.  

Cooper, who was also a singer, joined “The Southern Jubilee Singers.”  While touring with the group he also developed his ventriloquism act, writing and performing his own material before mostly white audiences.  “Fun in a Barber Shop” became one of his most famous acts.  Cooper portrayed six different puppet characters, each with his own voice performed by Cooper himself.

In 1902, when he was twenty-nine, Cooper had his first big break in ventriloquism while traveling with Richards and Pringles Minstrels.  In that year he was recognized by the Daily Nonpariel, a leading entertainment magazine, as the best ventriloquist of that era.    Cooper went on to create another act with a black ventriloquist puppet named Sam Jackson.  Cooper and Sam traveled all over the United States during the next two decades.  By the start of World War I he began performing at veteran hospitals, service clubs, and military camps.  
Sources: 
C. B. Davis, “Reading the Ventriloquists’ Lips: The Performance Genre behind the Metaphor” (TDR 1988-), 42: 4 (Winter 1998); Dan Willinger, “Ventriloquists Vaudeville Years,” Ventriloquist Central: A Tribute to Ventriloquism,” http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com/tribute/vaudeville/vaudeville.htm; Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McCall, Carl H. (1935- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

Peck, David Jones (c. 1826-1855)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

David Jones Peck was the first black man to graduate from an American medical school. He was born to John C. and Sarah Peck in Carlisle, Pennsylvania around 1826. John Peck was a prominent abolitionist and minister who founded the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Carlisle. Peck was also a barber and wigmaker.

John and Sarah Peck moved to Pittsburgh in the early 1830s where they established the first school for black children in the area.  David was one of their first students.  Between 1844 and 1846 David Peck studied medicine under Dr. Joseph P. Gaszzam, an anti-slavery white doctor in Pittsburgh.  He then entered Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1846, three years after the institution opened.  After he graduated in 1847, Peck toured the state of Ohio with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass promoting abolitionist ideals.  His status as the first black graduate of a medical college was used by abolitionists to promote the idea of full black citizenship and was implicitly an attack on slavery.

In 1849 Peck established his practice in Philadelphia. He lived in and worked from a red brick row house with his wife, Mary E. Peck, whom he married on July 24, 1849.  Peck's medical practice, however, was not successful.  Few doctors recognized his status, referred patients to him, or consulted with him.  

Peck closed his medical practice in Philadelphia in 1851 and was preparing to travel to California when Martin Delany, an old friend and fellow Pittsburgh abolitionist, persuaded him instead to participate in an emigration project that would resettle U.S. free blacks in Central America.  

Sources: 

Michael J. Harris, "David Jones Peck, MD: A Dream Denied," Journal of the National Medical Association 88:9 (1996): pp. 600-604; "David Jones Peck, M.D., Rush Medical College, Class of 1847," Archives of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Vivian Ovleton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corp., 1990).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Freeman, Morgan (1937- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Porterfield Freeman, Jr. was born June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Morgan Porterfield, Sr. a barber, and Mayme Edna Morgan.  Throughout his childhood the Freeman family moved often, living in Mississippi, Indiana and Chicago.  Freeman showed early promise as an actor but turned down a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University to enter the United States Air Force in 1955.

Throughout the early 1960s, after leaving the Air Force, Freeman studied acting and dance in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.  It was in New York that Freeman made his professional theater debut with The Nigger Lovers, a 1967 off-Broadway play about the Civil Rights Era Freedom Riders.  In 1971 Freeman broke into television, becoming widely known on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s show The Electric Company, where he worked from 1971 to 1976.

Sources: 
Sabrina Fuchs, “Morgan Freeman,” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Volume II., Colin A. Palmer, ed. (New York: Thompson Gale, 2006); "Morgan Freeman," Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 62 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2008); Eleanor Clift, "Freeman, Obama and Hollywood Immortality,” Newsweek, April 2, 2008; "Freeman Replaces Cronkite on CBS," Boston Globe, January 5, 2010; Revelations Entertainment official website: http://www.revelationsent.com/index.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Benjamin, Regina Marcia (1956– )

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

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

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

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

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

Thornton, Willie Mae “Big Mama” (1926-1984)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was a blues singer and songwriter whose recordings of “Hound Dog” and “Ball ‘n’ Chain” later were transformed into huge hits by Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin.  

Willie Mae Thornton was born on December 11, 1926 outside of Montgomery in rural Ariton, Alabama. Her father was a Baptist minister and her mother was a church singer in his congregation. Thornton’s mother died when the singer was 14, and she left home to pursue a career as an entertainer. She joined the Georgia-based Hot Harlem Revue as an accomplished singer, drummer, and harmonica player and spent seven years as a regular performer throughout the South. Following her years as a traveling blues singer, Thornton moved to Houston in 1948 to begin her recording career.

In Houston, Thornton joined Don Robey’s Peacock Records in 1951, often working closely with fellow label artist Johnny Otis. Her professional relationship with Otis and Robey proved fruitful for Thornton, who, along with “Little” Esther Phillips and Mel Walker, toured with Otis. Their tour traveled throughout the eastern and southern United States, including benchmark shows at Houston’s Bronze Peacock and Harlem’s Cotton Club.
Sources: 
Tony Russell, The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray (Dubai: Carlton Books Limited, 1997); Tina Spencer Dreisbach, “Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton,” The Encyclopedia of Alabama, http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1573; Alan Lee Haworth, “Thornton, Willie Mae [Big Mama]” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fthpg.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Fishburne, Laurence (1961- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Actor Laurence Fishburne III was born on July 30, 1961 in Augusta, Georgia to parents Laurence Jr. and Hattie, a corrections officer and a schoolteacher. After the couple separated Hattie moved young Fishburne to Brooklyn, New York where the two lived with her mother.

Fishburne’s first acting role was at age twelve in the soap opera One Life to Live. His first role in a feature film was in the movie Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975).  At age fifteen Fishburne auditioned for Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam-war epic Apocalypse Now. He lied about his age, got the role, and spent two years in the Philippines with the cast and crew filming the movie, which was released in 1979. He had roles in two more Coppola films, Rumble Fish (1983) and Cotton Club (1984).

His breakout role was in John Singleton’s 1991 film Boyz in the Hood, where he played a young father in South Central Los Angeles. The following year, Fishburne made his Broadway debut in Two Trains Running, for which he won the Tony Award and several other awards for best actor.  In 1993 Fishburne won an Emmy for his role in the television series Tribeca directed by Robert De Niro. In the same year he played Ike Turner alongside Angela Bassett as Tina Tuner in What’s Love Got to Do with It, and both actors received Academy Award nominations for their roles.
Sources: 
"Laurence Fishburne," Bio.com, A&E Networks Television, 2012; Steven Otfinoski, African Americans in the Performing Arts (New York: Facts on File, 2003); Patrick L. Stearns, "Laurence Fishburne," Encyclopedia of African American History 1896 to the Present (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Roxborough, John W. (1892-1975)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
John Roxborough and Joe Louis
Sources: 
John W. Roxborough, “How I discovered Joe Louis: Ex-manager’s revealing story gives new insight into character of former world’s heavyweight champion,” Ebony, 64-76; Louis’ Ex-Manager’s Wife Asks Divorce: Mrs. John Roxborough brands husband ‘cruel.’ The Baltimore Afro-American, May 31, 1955, 21; Mrs. John Roxborough Wins Divorce, Big Settlement, Jet, May 3, 1956; American Experience, the Fight, available at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/fight/peopleevents/p_managers.html; Joe Louis - Turning Pro - Garden, Boxing, Heavyweight, and Roxborough, available at: http://sports.jrank.org/pages/2929/Louis-Joe-Turning-Pro.html; and http://www.answers.com/topic/joe-louis.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio University

Bouchet, Edward Alexander (1852-1918)

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

Edward Alexander Bouchet was born on September 15, 1852 in New Haven, Connecticut to William Francis and Susan Cooley Bouchet. Edward attended the segregated primary school in New Haven and later finished his secondary education at Hopkins Grammar School in 1870. An outstanding student, Edward’s academic accomplishments included serving as the valedictorian of his high school class.

The Bouchet family was quite prominent in New Haven’s small African American community. In addition to holding the position of deacon in the church, William Francis Bouchet was also employed at Yale College as a janitor and Susan did the laundry of Yale students. Well aware of Edward’s talent and scholarly ability, William and Susan had hoped their son would one day join the ranks of the Yale College student body. The fulfillment of this aspiration would be no small feat given the fact that no African American had ever attended Yale.

Sources: 
Ronald E. Mickens, “Bouchet and Imes: First Black Physicists” in Ronald E. Mickens, ed., The African American Presence in Physics (Atlanta, 1999), pp. 20-24;Garry L. Reeder, “The History of Blacks at Yale University” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 26. (Winter, 1999-2000) pp. 125-126; “Yale Pays Tribute to Its First Black Graduate,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 22. (Winter, 1998-1999), pp. 63-64.
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Robinson, Ida Bell (1891-1946)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Bharucha-Reid, Albert T. (1927-1985)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Born Albert Turner Reid in Hampton, Virginia, November 13, 1927, this world-renowned mathematician earned his bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University in 1949 but never completed a graduate degree in his chosen field.  Despite this, he immediately found work as a research assistant and statistician at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of California at Berkeley. Early in his career Reid published papers on mathematical biology. 

Sources: 
R. Garcia-Johnson, “Albert Turner Bharucha-Reid” in Notable Black American Scientists (Detroit: Gale, 1999); Ray Sprangenburg and Kit Moser, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003). http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/PEEPS/bharucha-reid_a_t.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Foreman, George (1949 - )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Edward Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas on January 10, 1949 and raised in Houston’s Fifth Ward.  He took up boxing in his teens while working in the Job Corps. A successful amateur career was capped with a gold medal in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, Mexico.

Foreman turned professional in 1969 and quickly worked his way up the heavyweight ranks to earn a shot at the title against Joe Frazier. He captured the heavyweight crown with an impressive two-round knockout of Frazier on January 22, 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica. Most knowledgeable boxing fans thought the intimidating fighter would hold the title for the next decade, but he lost the crown to Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire on October 30, 1974.
Sources: 
George Foreman, By George: The Autobiography of George Foreman (Baltimore: Villard Books, 1995); George Foreman, George Foreman’s Knock-Out-The-Fat Barbeque and Grilling Cookbook (Baltimore: Villard Books, 1996); http://www.ibhof.com/pages/about/inductees/modern/foreman.html; www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Evers, James Charles (1922- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Charles Evers was born on September 11, 1922 in Decatur, Mississippi to parents Jesse Wright and James Evers.  Growing up in Mississippi during the era of Jim Crow, Evers witnessed the effects of racial discrimination and prejudice firsthand.   At the age of ten, he witnessed a horrific lynching of a black man who had been accused of insulting a white woman.  This lynching left a lasting impression on Evers, who vowed, along with his younger brother, Medgar, to exact change for the blacks of Mississippi.  
Sources: 
Charles Evers, Evers (New York: World Publishing Company, 1971); Charles Evers and Andrew Szanton, Have No Fear: The Charles Evers Story (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997); http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_people_evers.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Hallie Quinn (1850-1949)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Teacher, writer and women’s activist Hallie Quinn Brown was born on March 10, 1850 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of former slaves who in 1864 migrated to Ontario, Canada.  The Brown family returned to the United States in 1870, settling in Wilberforce, Ohio.  Brown attended Wilberforce College and received a degree in 1873.  She then taught in freedman’s schools in Mississippi before moving to Columbia, South Carolina in 1875 where she served briefly as an instructor in the city’s public schools.  By September 1875 she joined the faculty at Allen University.  Brown taught at Allen between 1875 and 1885 and then for the next two years (1885-1887) served as Dean of the University.  Brown also served as Dean of Women at Tuskegee Institute during the 1892-1893 school year before returning to Ohio where she taught in the Dayton public schools.     

Brown had since childhood held an interest in public speaking.  In 1866 she graduated from the Chautauqua Lecture School.  By the time she began working at Allen University Brown was already developing a reputation as a powerful orator for the causes of temperance, women’s suffrage and civil rights.  In 1895 Hallie Q. Brown addressed an audience at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Conference in London.  In 1899, while serving as one of the United States representatives, she spoke before the International Congress of Women meeting in London.  Brown also spoke before Queen Victoria.
Sources: 
Hazel V. Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rutling, Thomas (1854—1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Andrew Ward
Born a slave, Thomas Rutling was one of only four Fisk Jubilee Singers who remained with the company through all three of their pioneering tours between 1872 and 1877. After completing a tour of Europe he refused to return to racist America, he lived the rest of his life in Great Britain as a performer and teacher.

Rutling’s mother spent so much time hiding from her master in the wilds of Wilson County, Tennessee that he often wondered if he had been born in the woods. She was always dragged back and savagely whipped, until her owners decided to sell her. “The very earliest thing I remember was this selling of my mother,” he recalled when he was a Jubilee Singer. In middle age, Rutling could still recall the feel of the lash licking his infant arm as they struck her for clinging to him.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barthé, Richmond (1901-1988)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi in 1901, Richmond Barthé moved to New Orleans at an early age. Little is known about his early youth, except that he grew up in a devoutly Roman Catholic household, he enjoyed drawing and painting, and his formal schooling did not go beyond grade school. From the age of sixteen until his early twenties, Barthé supported himself with a number of service and unskilled jobs, including house servant, porter, and cannery worker. His artistic talent was noticed by his parish priest when Barthé contributed two of his paintings to a fundraising event for his church. The priest was so impressed with his art that he encouraged Barthé to apply to the Art Institute of Chicago and raised enough money to pay for his travel and tuition. From 1924 to 1928, Barthé studied painting at the Art Institute, while continuing to engage in unskilled and service employment to support himself.
Sources: 
Mary Ann Calo, Distinction and Denial: Race, Nation, and the Critical Construction of the African American Artist, 1920-1940 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007); A. D. Macklin, A Biographical History of African-American Artists, A-Z (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001); Margaret Rose Vendryes, “The Lives of Richmond Barthé,” in The Greatest Taboo: Homosexuality in Black Communities, ed. Delroy Constantine-Simms (Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at Austin

Fuller, Solomon Carter (1872-1953)

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

Danenberg, Sophia (1972- )

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

In 2006 Sophia Danenberg became the first African American and first black woman from anywhere in the world to climb the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest in the Himalayas.  

Sophia Marie Scott was born in 1972 in Homewood, Illinois (a southern suburb of Chicago) to a Japanese mother and black father. She attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School, graduating in 1990.  Danenberg then studied environmental sciences and public policy at Harvard University, graduating in 1994, before going on to Keio University in Tokyo as a Fulbright Fellow. Danenberg then began her professional career with United Technologies in Japan and China, managing energy and indoor air quality projects, before moving to Hartford, Connecticut where she worked in green technology research programs at United Technologies.  

Danenberg became involved in mountaineering in 1999 after a childhood friend encouraged her to try rock climbing.  During this two year period, while doing technical climbs through her local Appalachian Mountain Club Chapter, she met her future husband David Danenberg.

Sources: 

Carly A. Mullady, "Never Underestimate Yourself, and Never Let Others
Underestimate You," Southtown Star Newspaper, Chicago (Sunday, February
3, 2008), p. 3; Teresa Pelham, "Glastonbury Woman Makes History With
Everest Climb," The Hartford Courant  (Monday, November 13, 2006);
http://www.danenberg.org/; Jeffrey Felshman, "Up Everest, Quietly" Our
Town
(2006), www.ChicagoReader.com http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/ourtown/060714/everest/

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Massey, Walter E. (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Prominent educator Walter Eugene Massey was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 5, 1938.  His father, Almar, was a steelworker and his mother, Essie, a teacher.  Massey had an exceptional mind, even at an early age.  By the time he finished 10th grade, his skills in mathematics were strong enough to earn him a college scholarship.  Massey enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated with a BS in math and physics in 1958.

While working on his master’s and doctorate degrees at Washington University in St. Louis, Massey conducted research on the quantum of liquids and solids.  He received a PhD in 1966.  Massey began his teaching career as an associate professor at the University of Illinois then moved to Brown University in 1970, becoming a full professor five years later.  

Sources: 
Douglas Lyons, “Pathfinders” Ebony (August 1989); Stephen Richards Graubard, The American Academic Profession (New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997);  http://www.morehouse.edu/about/bio-wmassey.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Banda, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu (c. 1896-1997)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005); Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Peoples of Africa (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2001); http://www.answers.com/topic/hastings-kamuzu-banda.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Thompson, Theophilus (1855-?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Theophilus Augustus Thompson was one of the first notable African American chess players. Thompson was born into slavery in Frederick, Maryland on April 21, 1855. Freed after the Civil War, he worked as a house servant in Carroll County, Maryland from 1868 to 1870.

Returning to Frederick, Thompson soon became involved in the chess scene. He watched his first chess game in April 1872. One of the players in the game was John K. Hanshew, publisher of The Maryland Chess Review. Hanshew loaned the interested Thompson a chess board and gave him selected chess problems to solve.

Before long, Thompson was publishing his own chess problems in The Dubuque Chess Review. His new-found skills in the game also allowed him to compete against other talented players. Most records of his playing career are unclear, but it is known that he was invited to a tournament in Chicago at some point.

Thompson’s most famous legacy was his book, Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate, or Compel Self-mate in Four Moves. Published in 1873, the book was a compilation of chess endgame positions, puzzles which covered the final moves of chess games. Thompson’s book was reviewed favorably in The City of London Chess Magazine in July 1874.

Details about Thompson’s later life and his date of death are unknown.

Sources: 
http://www.thechessdrum.net/drummajors/T_Thompson.html; Theophilus Thompson, Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate, or Compel Self-Mate in Four Moves (Dubuque: John J. Brownson, 1873).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Barbara (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the City of Albany, 
New York
Beginning in the 1970s, Barbara Smith broke new ground as a black feminist, lesbian, activist, author, and book publisher of women of color.  She and her twin sister, Beverly Smith, were born on December 16, 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Their mother, Hilda Smith, maternal grandmother, and a great aunt raised the girls there.  Smith’s activism started in high school when she participated in boycotts, marches and civil rights protests in the 1960s.

Education remained a high priority in the household.  As the first member of the Smith family to graduate from college, their mother, Hilda, expected the twins to do likewise.  She died when the twins were nine years old, and consequently Smith’s grandmother and aunt continued to stress the importance of learning and education.  Barbara Smith earned her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 1969 and her MA in 1971 from University of Pittsburgh.  She completed all but the dissertation (ABD) in her doctoral studies at the University of Connecticut (1981).
Sources: 
Paul Grondahl, “She’s Barbara Smith, Mover and ‘Maker’: Councilwoman to be Featured in New Video on Women’s Movement,” Times Union (April 5, 2012); Candace LaBalle, “Barbara Smith,” Gale Contemporary Black Biography, http://www.answers.com/topic/barbara-smith#ixzz1wWRbZ4kp; http://www.makers.com/barbara-smith.
Contributor: 

Reid, Philip (1820-1892)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Statue of Freedom on the U.S. Capitol Dome
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Craftsman Philip Reid is best known as the enslaved African who worked on the casting of the Statue of Freedom which sits atop the Capitol building housing the United States Congress.  Reid is the most famous of the enslaved workers who comprised 50% of the workforce which built the structure that currently houses the United States Senate and House of Representatives.  
Sources: 
Ernest B. Furgurson, Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War (New York: Vintage, 2005); Jesse J. Holland, Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C. (Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot, 2007); Wevonneda Minis, “Magazine Highlights Charleston Connection to Bronze Cast,” The Charleston Post and Courier, March 24, 2009, http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20090324/PC1205/303249915 ; Peter Zavodnyik, The Rise of the Federal Colossus: The Growth of Federal Power from Lincoln to F.D.R. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Haynes, Elizabeth Ross (1883-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: 
Public Domain

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

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

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

McCain, Franklin Eugene (1941-2014)

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

Franklin McCain grew up in Washington, D.C. but returned to his native North Carolina to attend college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. McCain and his roommate, David Richmond, had followed the progress of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama and felt that they should do something to contribute to the movement for social change. On Monday February 1, 1960 McCain joined the rest of the “A & T Four” (Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr. and Richmond) in sitting-in at a segregated F.W. Woolworth lunch counter. The following day, two dozen students from North Carolina A & T and Bennett College joined the protest. By the end of the week 3,000 students were picketing in downtown Greensboro. The movement rapidly spread to fifty-four cities in nine other southern states.

Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, N.C.: 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

Henson, Matthew (1866-1955)

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

Matthew Henson was an American explorer who accompanied Robert Peary, most famously on an expedition intended to reach the Geographic North Pole in 1909. Subsequent research and exploration has revealed that Peary and Henson did not reach the North Pole but their failed attempt is still recognized as an important contribution to scientific knowledge. 

Sources: 
Matthew Henson, A Negro Explorer at the North Pole (New York: Copper Square Press, 2001); Robinson Bradley, Dark Companion (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Books, 1947); Floyd Miller, Ahdoolo! Ahdoolo! The Bigoraphy of Matthew A. Henson (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1963).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Holden, Oscar (1887-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Grace Holden
Oscar Holden, often called the patriarch of Seattle jazz, was one of the earliest of Seattle’s influential jazz musicians.  Holden was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1887. Before moving to Chicago to escape from the South, Holden had played on Fate Marable’s famous Mississippi River riverboats, where legends such as Louis Armstrong would eventually perform.  Holden’s children recall that he rarely talked about his southern life, except to say he purposely did not marry until he fled Dixie, so his children would not be born there.  

Holden played clarinet in Jelly Roll Morton’s band, and arrived with the group in Seattle in 1919.  Although the band moved on, Holden remained in the city.  He did form his own band which toured cities in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.  

Holden was a powerhouse player with a deep classical background.  Another Seattle musician, Palmer Johnson said of Holden: “Anything you set before him, he’s gone!  He had a wonderful musical education.  He was a great, great performer.”  
Sources: 

Paul De Barros, Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993); Historylink interview of Oscale Grace Holden, Seattle, Washington, May 17, 2000, http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=2505.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Combs, Sean “Diddy” (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born November 4, 1970 in Harlem, New York, Sean “Diddy” Combs is a multi-platinum selling producer, rapper, and successful record company executive. Combs was raised in Harlem, where his father was killed when Combs was three.  His mother moved the family to suburban Mount Vernon, New York.  Combs attended Howard University for two years before dropping out to become an intern at Uptown Records in New York. Combs rose to Vice-President of Uptown Records after just a year.  Nonetheless he was fired in 1993.

Combs’s dismissal from Uptown prompted him to start his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment. The next year Bad Boy found success with two rap acts: Craig Mack, and The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher George Wallace) whose album Ready to Die, released in 1994 went double-platinum and solidified Bad Boy’s place in the rap community.

In March 1997 as Sean Combs -- who performed at the time as Puff Daddy -- was working on his first solo album, The Notorious B.I.G. was killed.  Combs first solo album No Way Out, which was released in the summer of 1997, included a track that was a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. and which relied heavily on a sample from the British rock group, The Police, called I’ll Be Missing You.  Combs performed the song live along with B.I.G.’s widow, Faith Evans, R&B group 112, and The Police lead singer Sting at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.
Sources: 
Nelson George, Hip-Hop America (New York: Penguin Books, 2005); James Haskins, One Nation Under a Groove: Rap Music and its Roots (New York: Hyperion Books, 2000); John Bush & Bradley Torreano, "Diddy."  Allmusic.com 14 Mar. 2007. < http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:9lc8b5p4nsqh~T1>.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wheat, Alan Dupree (1951 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Alan Dupree Wheat, the first black Congressman from Kansas City, Missouri, was born in San Antonio, Texas, on October 16, 1951. He attended schools in Wichita, Kansas, and in Seville, Spain, before graduating from Airline High School in Bossier City, Louisiana, in 1968. In 1972 Wheat received a B.A. in economics from Grinnell College and then joined the Department of Housing and Urban Development as an economist. From 1973 to 1975 he worked in the same capacity for the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City. In Jackson County, Missouri he served as an aide for county executive Mike White from 1975 to 1976.  At age 25 Wheat was elected to the Missouri General Assembly.  Wheat served three terms in the Assembly where he chaired the Urban Affairs Committee.  
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov; Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots:" Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bennett, Lerone (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Washington Interdependence Council
[Administrators of the Banneker Memorial]
Lerone Bennett Jr., historian of African America, has authored articles, poems, short stories, and over nine books on African American history.  Bennett was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi the son of Lerone Bennett Sr. and Alma Reed. He and his family moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he attended public schools. Bennett graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. The same year Bennett enrolled in Atlanta University for graduate studies. He also became a newspaper journalist for the Atlanta Daily World.  Bennett moved to Chicago in 1952 to become city editor for JET magazine, founded by John H. Johnson.

In 1954 Lerone Bennett became an associate editor at Ebony, also owned by Johnson.  By 1958 when Bennett had become the senior editor at Ebony, Johnson encouraged Bennett to write books on African American history for a popular audience. 

A series of history articles that Bennett had written over time for Ebony emerged in 1963 as his first book, Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 1619-1962. Bennett described the long history of black slavery and racial segregation while reminding his readers that African American roots in the American soil are deeper than those of the Puritans who arrived in 1620.
Sources: 
Lerone Bennett, Jr., Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America 1619-1966 (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1966); Lerone Bennett, Jr., The Negro Mood (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1964); http://www.nathanielturner.com/leronebennettbio.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mitchell, Parren James (1922-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Parren James Mitchell was a civil rights activist, the first African American elected to Congress from the South since 1898, and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.  Born in 1922, Mitchell grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and attended public schools there.  His father was a waiter and his mother a homemaker.  Mitchell was one of ten children in a family dedicated to civil rights.  His brother Clarence Mitchell would go on to become the chief lobbyist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  Several nephews would enter state politics and Maryland voters knew the family as the “black Kennedys.”

After high school Mitchell served as an officer in World War II, and was wounded in Italy.  He came home and graduated from Morgan State College in 1950.  After college, the University of Maryland denied him admission to do graduate work, setting up a program for him to study off campus.  Mitchell sued the university, gained admission, and earned a masters degree in sociology in 1952.  During the 1950s Mitchell also fought to integrate public facilities in Maryland.  After graduate school, Mitchell worked as a probation officer and an official in Baltimore city administration.  He taught briefly at Morgan State College before launching an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1968.
Sources: 

“Crusader for Justice Dies at 85,” Baltimore Sun, 29 May 2007; Jacqueline Trescott, “‘One of God’s Angry Men’: He’s Parren Mitchell, Black Caucus Chief,” The Washington Post, 23 September 1977, C1; Douglas Martin, “Parren Mitchell, 85, Congressman and Rights Leader, Dies,” The New York Times, 30 May 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wonder, Stevie (Steveland Morris) (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
©Bettmann-Corbis
Grammy Award winning artist Stevie Wonder, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, was born May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan. An excess of oxygen and a disorder affecting his retina called retinopathy resulted in him being born blind.  In 1954 his mother Lula moved all six of her children to Detroit, Michigan.

Stevie began singing and dancing at a young age in his church. He developed an ear for music rapidly. By the age of nine he was playing the piano, harmonica, and conga drum. When Stevie Wonder was 12 years old he was discovered by Ronnie White, a member of the Motown group the Miracles. White brought young Stevie to a Motown Record Company audition. Barry Gordy, the founder of Motown, was soon amazed by his talents and renamed him "Little Stevie Wonder."

Influenced by Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, Stevie began working immediately in the studio under record producer Clarence Paul. Wonder's first number one hit Fingertips, Part 2 (1963) displayed his skill on the harmonica. Other hits including Uptight (Everything's Alright) and Hey Harmonica Man made this instrument a trademark for Stevie.
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); http://www.steviewonder.net/; http://www.steviewonder.org.uk/
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Owens, Major Robert (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. HOuse of
Representatives Photography Office
Former New York Congressman Major Robert Owens was born on June 28, 1936 in Collierville, Tennessee.  He graduated from Hamilton High School in Memphis in 1952 at the age of 16.  Owens received a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College in 1956, and an M.S. in Library Science from Atlanta University in 1957. He then moved to Brooklyn, New York where he worked as a librarian.

During this time Owens became active in the Brooklyn community. In 1964 he served as the chair of the Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality and vice president of the Metropolitan Council of Housing for New York City.  He was also the community coordinator of the Brooklyn Public Library from 1964 to 1966, served as the executive director of the Brownsville Community Council from 1966 to 1968.  From 1968 to 1973 Owens was commissioner of the Community Development Agency in New York City.  Between 1973 and 1975 he served as director of the community media library program at Columbia University, NY.

Major Owens was elected to the New York State Senate as a Democrat in 1974.  He remained in the State Senate until 1982 when he was elected to New York’s Eleventh Congressional District, replacing the retiring Shirley Chisholm.  With his election Owens became the only professional librarian ever elected to Congress.
Sources: 
“Major Owens – Congresspedia” http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Major_Owens; “Members of Congress: Major Owens (Biographical Information),” http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/o000159/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Paul R. (1894-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Architect Paul Williams in Front of His Most Famous
Project, the Theme Building, Los Angeles Airport
Paul R. Williams was one of the most well known 20th Century African American architects. Early in his career, Williams designed mostly houses, but in the 1950s and 1960s he designed some of the most distinctive public buildings in Los Angeles. Williams’s best-known building is probably the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport, which he designed with William Pereira.

Paul Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1894, a few years after his parents had moved to Southern California from Tennessee. Williams’s father died in 1896, and his mother died two years later. Williams grew up in the home of C.D. and Emily Clarkson. He graduated from Polytechnic High School and studied at the Los Angeles School of Art, the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, and the engineering school at the University of Southern California. While he pursued his studies in the 1910s, Williams also worked in the offices of several different Los Angeles architects. In 1917 he married Della Mae Givens. They had two daughters, Marilyn and Norma.
Sources: 

Karen E. Hudson, Paul R. Williams, Architect: A Legacy of Style (New York: Rizzoli, 1993); “Architect Paul R. Williams,”    http://www.paulrwilliamsproject.org/about/paul-revere-williams-architect/


Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

Meek, Kendrick (1966- )

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

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

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

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

Rowan, Carl T. (1925–2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Carl Rowan with President
Lyndon B. Johnson
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Carl Thomas Rowan was a diplomat, author, reporter, and broadcaster. He was the first black deputy Secretary of State, and the first black director of the United States Information Agency (USIA).

Rowan was born August 11, 1925, in the mining town of Ravenscroft, Tennessee.  When he was a baby his family moved to McMinnville, Tennessee, because his parents thought its lumberyards offered more opportunity. His father, Thomas, stacked lumber for construction, and his mother, Johnnie, cleaned houses, cooked, and did laundry for wealthier families. They had five children. The Rowan family home had no electricity, running water, telephone, nor even a clock. One of young Carl's teachers encouraged him to read and write as much as possible, even going to the library for him because, as a black person, Rowan wasn't allowed to check out books for himself. He graduated at the top of his high school class.

Sources: 

Carl Rowan, Breaking Barriers: a Memoir (Boston: Little, Brown 1991); Cynthia Kirk, “Carl Rowan: The Life Story of an Influential Newsman,” People in America, Voice of America (May 14, 2005); J.Y. Smith, “Columnist Carl Rowan Dies at 75,” The Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2000; p. A1.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Haley, Alex (1921-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Alex Haley, Alex Haley: The Man Who Traced America’s Roots (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, 2007); Alan McConagha, “Alex Haley, Author of ‘Roots,’ is Dead,” The Washington Times (February 11, 1992, pg A1); “Alex Haley Biography,” Biography.com, accessed 17 September 2010, http://www.biography.com/articles/Alex-Haley-39420.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Ousley, "King" Curtis (1934–1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

King Curtis was a famous tenor sax player during the 1950s and 1960s and was known for his signature honking sound.  Born in Fort Worth, Texas on February 7, 1934, with the birth name Curtis Ousley, King Curtis got his musical education in the public schools of his hometown.  Curtis started out on alto sax at the age of 12 and then switched to tenor at 13.  After graduating from high school, he began touring with Lionel Hampton’s jazz band.  In 1952, Curtis moved to New York and began to venture out from jazz to a rising musical genre called rock and roll. 

King Curtis by the late-1950s was a well-known session musician working with numerous rock and roll and rhythm and blues artists including Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Buddy Holly, and Wilson Pickett.  He’s also remembered for his solo on the Coasters’ hit with “Yakety Yak” in 1958.   Over his playing career as a session musician, it is estimated that King Curtis performed with over 125 jazz, pop, R&B, and rock and roll artists.

Sources: 
Murray Schumach, “King Curtis, the Bandleader, Is Stabbed to Death,” New York Times (August 15, 1971); Arnold Shaw, Honkers and Shouters : the Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues (New York: Macmillan Pub Co, 1986); Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African American Musicians (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983);  http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/king-curtis (Accessed November 7, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Omohundro, Robert Johnson (1921-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Sargeant Memorial
Chronicles (Winter 2008),
Sargeant Memorial Room,
Pretlow Library, Norfolk, VA
Born in Norfolk, VA in 1921, physicist Robert Johnson Omohundro was one of a select few black scientists and technicians to work on the Manhattan Project and thus contribute to the development of the atom bomb during World War II.  The eldest child of Henry Omohundro and Brownie Pierce Omohundro, Robert had one sister, Gladys and four half-siblings, Joseph, Mildred, Annie Mae, and Dorothy from his father’s first marriage.

Omohundro graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia and then earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master’s in physics from Howard University in Washington, DC.  After graduation he worked as a radio tester with the Western Electric Company.
Sources: 
Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moster, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); Julius H. Taylor, et al., The Negro In Science (Baltimore: Morgan State University, 1955), Robert B. Hitchings, "Robert J. Omohundro: Local Man Works on the Manhattan Project," Sargeant's Chronicles: Vignettes About Norfolk and Virginia's History and Genealogy 2:3 (Winter 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

West, Cornel Ronald (1953-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Cornel West is one of the most recognizable and preeminent intellectuals of his generation.  West has authored 19 books and edited another 13.  He is best known for his book Race Matters (1994) and in his role as a public intellectual.  West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard with an A.B., Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, (1973) and obtained his M.A. (1975) and Ph.D. in Philosophy (1980) at Princeton.  West has received more than 20 honorary degrees and an American Book Award. Professor West is currently the Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary of New York City.

Cornel Ronald West was born on July 2, 1953 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The West family moved to Sacramento, California in 1958.  West’s father, Clifton L. West, Jr., graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas and worked as a civil servant.   His mother, Irene West, an elementary school teacher and principal, was so admired that the City of Sacramento named the Irene B. West Elementary School in her honor.
Sources: 
Cornel West, and David Ritz, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud: A Memoir (Carlsbad: Smiley Books, 2009); Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African American Experience (Basic Civitas Books: New York, 1999); http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Cornel_West;
http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cornel-west-obama-a-republican-in-blackface-black-msnbc-hosts-are-selling-their-souls/
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Garland, Walter Benjamin Stephen (1913-197?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Steele, Jr., Percy H. (1920--2002)

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

 

Born in 1920 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Percy Steele was one of eight children. Steele graduated from North Carolina Central College in Durham, North Carolina, after which he attended Atlanta University, where he completed a Master’s degree. From 1945 to 1946, he was a staff member and organization secretary for the Washington, D.C. Urban League.

Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, Percy Steele,  Jr., and the Urban League: Race Relations and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Post-World War II San Diego,  California History (Fall, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Stewart, Maria Miller (1803-1879)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Maria Miller was born a free-black in Hartford, Connecticut in 1803.  Little is known about her early life.  She married James Stewart in 1826 and took up public speaking in order to support herself after her husband’s death three years later.  Cheated out of her inheritance by corrupt white Boston businessmen, Stewart relied upon income from teaching and her public speaking engagements.  As one of the first women to speak in public, Stewart was not always well-received.  In a speech to a mixed audience of men and women, she asked, “What if I am a Woman,” reminding her audience that women since ancient times had been revered for their wisdom and accomplishments.  According to Stewart, free blacks had not accorded women the same respect.  

Stewart frequently encountered hostile audiences when she openly chastised black men for intemperance.  As a result, her speaking career was short.  In 1833 she delivered a farewell address in Boston, announcing her decision to leave public speaking.  Her last speech revealed her bitterness and disappointment, stating that it was “no use for me as an individual, to try to make myself useful among my color in this city.” Stewart eventually left New England to pursue a successful career in teaching in New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.  Before she left, she recorded the themes of her speeches in a pamphlet, Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart in 1832, which was reprinted shortly before she died.  Stewart died in December 1879 and was buried at Graceland Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992) and Harry A. Reed, “Maria W. Stewart,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. II (New York: Carlson, 1993): 1113-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

O'Neal, Stanley (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Stanley O'NealBorn into poverty, the grandson of a former slave, business executive Stanley O’Neal rose through the ranks of corporate America to become the first African American to head a major firm on Wall Street when Merrill Lynch named him chief executive officer in 2002.  In 2002 Fortune magazine also named O’Neal the “Most Powerful Black Executive in America.”  Just five years later, however, on October 30, 2007, O’Neal announced that he was
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds., African American Lives (New York: Oxford U Press, 2004); Susan Young, “A Long Road of Learning, Merrill Lynch’s Stan O’Neal,” Harvard Business School Bulletin Online (June 2001), http://www.alumni.hbs.edu/bulletin/2001/june/profile.html; Margaret Alic, Answers.com http://www.answers.com/topic/stanley-o-neal. 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walters, Bishop Alexander (1858-1917)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alexander Walters was born in 1858 into a slave family in Bardstown, Kentucky, the sixth of eight children.  By the age of ten, Walters had shown such academic progress that he was awarded by the African Episcopal Zion Church a full scholarship to attend private schooling. In 1877 at the age of nineteen, Walters received his license to preach and began his pastoral duties in Indianapolis, Indiana. In his career as a pastor, Walter served in cities across the country including Louisville, San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Chattanooga, Knoxville and New York. In 1892, as a minister at the Seventh District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Walters was selected as bishop.  

In 1898, Bishop Alexander Walters began to devote his attention to the ongoing African American civil rights struggle.  In partnership with T. Thomas Fortune, the editor of the New York Age, Walters founded the National Afro-American Council and served as its president.  This organization focused primarily on challenging racially discriminatory legislation and in particular the “separate but equal” Plessy vs. Ferguson U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1896.  Walters also challenged Booker T. Washington’s ideas of accommodation to segregation and discrimination.  
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Randall Burkett and Richard Newman, eds., Black Apostles: Afro-American Clergy Confront the Twentieth Century (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cummings, Elijah E. (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 18, 1951. He received a B.A. degree from Howard University (Washington, D.C.) in 1973 and a J.D. degree from the University of Maryland (College Park) in 1976. Cummings, one of seven children of working-class parents who had migrated from a farm in South Carolina, grew up in a rental house, but often recalled the family “scrimping and saving” to buy their own home in a desegregated neighborhood. When the family moved into that home in 1963, when Cummings was twelve years of age, he recalled that he had “never played on grass before.”
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
University of Mississippi

King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Martin Luther King, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Clayborne Carson, ed. (New York: Intellectual Properties Management in association with Warner Books, 1998); Lerone Bennett, What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1989); Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years (New York: Touchstone, 1989); Christine King Farris, My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003). For additional information on Dr. Martin Luther King please see The Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute. http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stanford University

Bishop, Sanford Dixon, Jr. (1947--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Georgia Congressman Sanford Dixon Bishop Jr. was born on February 4, 1947, in Mobile, Alabama to Minnie B. Slade, who was a librarian and Sanford Dixon Bishop, who was the first president of the Bishop State Community College. Bishop attended public schools until his entrance into Morehouse College in Alabama. He received a B.A. in 1968 in political science and then attended Emory University Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1971. Bishop also served the United States Army in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. After receiving his J.D., Bishop started a private practice in Columbus, Georgia and in 1977 was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives where he served until 1990.  That year he entered the Georgia Senate. In 1992 Bishop won election to the U.S. House of Representatives.  He still serves in that body.

Bishop, a Democrat, represents the 2nd District of Georgia.  He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and is also a part of the Blue Dog Democrats, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats in Congress whose goal is to move the Democratic Party further to the right. Since 2003 he has served on the House Committee on Appropriations, sitting on the Subcommittee for Defense, the Subcommittee on Military Construction / Veterans Affairs and the Subcommittee on Agriculture.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Last Poets, The (1968 - )

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Damu (1952–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Damu Smith at the United For Peace and
Justice Conference, Chicago, 2003
Image Courtesy of Diane Greene Lent, Photographer

Leroy Wesley Smith was born in St. Louis Missouri on December 6, 1951, and became a late 20th Century social activist for justice. Son of a fireman and a licensed practical nurse, Smith spent his childhood growing up in a St. Louis housing project.  He participated in an after school program for disadvantaged male youth which gave him the opportunity to travel to Cairo, Illinois where he heard other activists and community organizers for the first time.  Impressed by their passion and their organizing skills, Smith was influenced to follow a similar path.

After graduating high school in 1970, Smith entered St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota where he became the leader of The Organization of Afro-American Students.  Through this organization, Smith fought for a Black Studies program that would hire more black professors.

Sources: 

Sharon Melson Fletcher, “Damu Smith Biography” African American Biographies. (Net Industries, 2009) http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2880/Smith-Damu.html Retrieved 2009-03-06; Sara Powell, “In Memoriam: Damu Smith 1951-2006” Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. (Jul 2006). http://www.wrmea.com/archives/July_2006/0607080.html Retrieved 2009-03-04.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cook, Samuel DuBois (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of 
Clemson University
Samuel DuBois Cook is a retired Dillard University president and, with his appointment to the Duke University faculty in 1966, was the first African American professor to hold a regular faculty appointment at any predominantly white college or university in the South. Cook also served as a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1993. In 1993, Dillard University honored Cook by naming the school's new fine arts and communication center after him. That same year, Cook was elected by Duke University's Board of Trustee as a Trustee Emeritus.

Born on November 21, 1928 in Griffin, Georgia, Cook's father was a Baptist minister who instilled a passion for education in all of his children. Samuel DuBois Cook entered all-male Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1943 with his friend Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) when they were both 15 years of age.  Both boys participated in the Morehouse early admission program during World War II that sought to fill the college's classrooms when many older students were in the U.S. military. At Morehouse, Cook became student body president and founded the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He earned a BA degree in history in 1948. He went on to earn an MA (1950) in political science and a Ph.D (1954) from Ohio State University.
Sources: 
F. Thomas Trotter and Charles E. Cole, Politics, Morality and Higher Education: Essays in Honor of Samuel DuBois Cook (Franklin, Tennessee: Providence House Publishers, 1997); Samuel DuBois Cook, Dilemmas of American Policy: Crucial Issues in Contemporary Society (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University, 1969); “Biographical Note”, Samuel DuBois Cook Society, http://www.duke.edu/web/cooksociety/cook_Brochure2007.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gantt, Harvey Bernard (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Paige, Myles Anderson (1898-1983)

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

Myles Anderson Paige, the first African American to be appointed a New York City Criminal Court Judge, was born on July 18, 1898 in Montgomery, Alabama. Paige was a star football player at Howard University, graduating from the Washington D.C. institution with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1921. While at Howard he joined Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Paige served in the United States Army during the World War I as captain of the 369th regiment. Paige’s ascension to captain was swift and impressive considering he began his military career as a corporal in September of 1917 and was promoted to second lieutenant a week later. The following week he became first lieutenant and before the end of September he was captain and company commander.  

In 1921 Paige entered the Columbia University Law School and received his LLB degree in 1924. In 1926 he was a founding member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Alpha Gamma Lambda graduate chapter as well as its first chapter president from 1927 to 1930.  Paige later served as 19th General (national) President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity from 1957 to 1960. Also in 1940 Paige received an honorary doctor of law degree from Howard University, rounding out his education.

Sources: 
“M. A. Paige, First Black to Be a City Magistrate,” The New York Times, April 1, 1983; Charles H. Wesley, The History of Alpha Phi Alpha : A Development in College Life (Chicago: The Foundation Publishers, 1979), Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Amazons (Ahosi) of Dahomey

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Amazons of Dahomey were a military corps of women appointed to serve in battles under the direction of the Fon king, who ruled over a nation that included much of present-day southern Togo and southern Benin.  They emerged during the Eighteenth Century and were finally suppressed during the 1890s. The Amazons were chosen from among the nominal wives of the king, called “Ahosi.”  Estimates of the number of women soldiers vary by accounts, yet some scholars believe the numbers to have ranged over time from several hundred to a few thousand women soldiers.

The Fon women’s army had three main wings: the right and left wings, and the elite center wing or Fanti.  Each of these wings had five subgroups: the artillery women, the elephant huntresses, the musket-bearing frontline group, the razor women, and the archers.  They served in battles in conjunction with male troops.

These women soldiers had extensive training and drilling. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Amazons used flintlock muskets.  They also used cannon, and later modern artillery and machine guns.  Subject to celibacy under pain of death, they could not marry once they became Amazons nor could they have children.  In addition to their military duties, the Amazons also had daily occupations within the royal household.  These occupations included indigo dyeing, weaving and selling mats, palm oil production and distribution, as well as sewing and embroidering cotton cloth.
Sources: 
Stanley B. Alpern, Amazons of Black Sparta: the Women Warriors of Dahomey (New York: New York University Press, 1998); David E. Jones, Women Warriors: a History  (Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1997); Robert B. Edgerton, Warrior Women: The Amazons of Dahomey and the Nature of War (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Paige, Leroy Robert "Satchel (1906-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Pegg, John Grant (1869-1916)

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

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

Warren M. Washington (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Meteorologist Warren Morton Washington was born in Portland, Oregon on August 28, 1936.  He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees at Oregon State University, and his Ph.D. in meteorology at Pennsylvania State University in 1964.  He began his professional career as a research assistant at Penn State.  From 1968 to 1971 he was an adjunct professor of meteorology and oceanography at the University of Michigan.  In 1972 he began long-term employment at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado where in 1987 he became Director of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of NCAR.  When Washington was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering in 2002 he was praised as a scientist of international renown who pioneered “the development of coupled climate models, their use on parallel supercomputing architectures, and their interpretation.”  Most significant has been his work in climate modeling that helps measure increasing greenhouse gas emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 19th Ed. Vol. 7 (New York: Bowker, 1995);
www.ucar.edu/.../staffnotes/0203/washington.html ; www.ucar.edu/.../staffnotes/0206/washington.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Woods, Eldrick “Tiger” (1975- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was born on December 30, 1975 in Cypress, California to parents Earl and Kultida Woods.  Woods was given the nickname Tiger after a Vietnamese soldier and friend of his father’s.  He grew up watching his father play golf and at the age of two, he was putting with Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show.  Woods was featured in Golf Digest at the age of five and between the ages of eight and fifteen, he won the Optimist International Junior tournament six times.  Tiger Woods entered his first professional tournament in 1992 at the age of 16.  He attended Stanford University in 1994 and within two years, had won 10 collegiate titles including the NCAA title.

By the age of 32, Tiger Woods has had an unprecedented career.  Woods has won 75 tournaments including 55 on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour.  His victories include the 1997, 2001 and 2005 Masters Tournaments, the 1999, 2000, and 2006 PGA Championships, 2000 and 2002 U.S. Open Championships and the 2005 and 2006 British Open Championships.  In 1997, Woods, at 22, became the youngest player ever to win the Masters Championship and the first ever winner of African or Asian heritage.  In 2001, Tiger became the first ever golfer to hold all four major championship titles.  
Sources: 
Patrick B. Miller and David K. Wiggins, Sport and the Color Line, Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Routledge, 2004); http://www.tigerwoods.com/defaultflash.sps.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Freeman, Paul (1936- )

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

Paul Douglas Freeman has conducted outstanding classical orchestras in many countries during his long career. One of the few African American conductors in the field of classical music, he is best known for his founding of the Chicago Sinfonietta, a classical orchestra widely recognized during the past 25 years for both its ethnic and racial diversity and its attempt to broaden the appeal of classical music to “non-traditional” audiences.  

Born January 2, 1936, in Richmond, Virginia, to a music-loving family of modest means, Freeman and his 11 siblings enjoyed symphony and opera radio broadcasts. Even though his father ran a small produce store, he and most of his siblings were given instruments early in their childhoods to encourage the study of classical music. Paul began piano at five, then moved on to the clarinet and cello. When his high school band conductor became ill, he directed the performance at age 17, obtaining his first experience with conducting.  

Freeman entered the Eastman School of Music on a scholarship in 1952. There he met his wife Cornelia, a piano and organ major. His BA degree in 1956 was followed a year later by an MA degree.  He then received a Fulbright Fellowship to study operatic and orchestral conducting at the Höchschule für Music in Berlin, Germany. Freeman returned to Eastman for a doctorate in music in 1963.
Sources: 
D. Antoinette Handy, Black Conductors (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1995); ‘Paul Freeman,” http://www.africlassical.com; John von Rein, “Freeman bids farewell to the orchestra he made the most diverse in the nation,” Chicago Tribune, May 18, 2011; “Music Makers: Paul Freeman,” http://www.thehistorymakers.com (video interview April 24, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Watson, Diane Edith (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Diane Edith Watson was born November 12, 1933 in Los Angeles, California and has spent the majority of her life in the Los Angeles area. Her father was a Los Angeles policeman and her mother worked nights at a post office after her parents divorced when Watson was seven.

In 1950 Watson graduated from Dorsey High School and obtained a bachelor’s degree in education from UCLA in 1956. Here she became friends and sorority sisters with fellow congresswoman Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.  Eleven years later, at California State University at Los Angeles, Watson received her master’s degree. Watson received a doctorate in education from Claremont Graduate University in 1986.

In 1956 Watson became a public school teacher in Los Angeles and worked up the ranks to assistant principal in 1969.  During that time she held visiting teacher positions in France and Japan.  By 1971 Watson worked as a Los Angeles Unified School District health education specialist where she focused on mental health issues among the district’s 500,000 students.  
Sources: 

Dorothy Ehrhart-Morrison, No Mountain High Enough: Secrets of Successful African American Women (Berkeley: Conari, 1997).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carroll, Diahann (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Diahann Carroll in Julia
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Actress Diahann Carroll was born July 17, 1935 in the Bronx, New York but grew up in Harlem.  She received her education and her theatre training at Manhattan’s School of Performing Arts.

At the age of 19, Carroll received her first film role when she was cast as a supporting actress in the 1954 film Carmen Jones which starred Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte.  After her film debut Carroll starred in the Broadway musical House of Flowers.  In 1959 she returned to film in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess where she performed with an all-star cast that included Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., and Pearl Mae Bailey. 

In 1962 Carroll made history when she became the first African American woman to receive a Tony Award for best actress.  She was recognized for her role as Barbara Woodruff in the musical No Strings.  Another historical moment occurred when Carroll won the lead role for Julia in 1968, becoming the first African American actress to star in her own television series as someone other than a domestic worker.  The show also broke ground by portraying Carroll as a single parent.  She played a recently widowed nurse who raised her son alone.  In 1968 Carroll won a Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress in a Television Series” for her work in Julia.  One year later she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role in the series. 

Sources: 
Carroll, Diahann, "Ebony's 60th Anniversary - From Julia To Cosby To Oprah Tuning In To The Best Of TV," Ebony 61:1(2005); "Keeping Up The Good Fight—Winning the Crusade Against Cancer, Diahann Carroll, Vocalist and Actress, "Vital Speeches of the Day” 67: 11 (2001); Diahann Carroll’s official website:  http://www.diahanncarroll.net/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mitchell, Abbie (1884-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Moryck, Brenda Ray (1894-1949)

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

Brenda Ray Moryck was a Washington, D.C.-based black writer and social activist often associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.  While Moryck and her female peers did not receive as much mainstream public attention as did many black male artists, she published short stories, essays, and book reviews in important journals such as the Urban League’s Opportunity and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Crisis.  

Brenda Moryck was born in 1894 in Newark, New Jersey.  The great-granddaughter of Reverend Charles Ray, editor of the important antebellum black newspaper, the Colored American, Moryck noted that “writing is a tradition in our family.”  In 1916, she graduated from Wellesley College and returned to New Jersey to do volunteer work with the Newark Bureau of Charities.  Married to Lucius Lee Jordan in 1917, Moryck was widowed within a year and later remarried Robert B. Francke in 1930.  During this interim, she taught English at Armstrong Technical School, one of two segregated high schools for African American youth in Washington, D.C.  

Sources: 

“A Point of View (An Opportunity Dinner Reaction),” Opportunity 3 (August 1925); “Our Prize Winners and What They Say of Themselves,” Opportunity 4 (June 1926), 188-189;  Brenda Ray Moryck, “Days,” The Crisis 35 (June 1928): 187-188; and Lorraine Elena Roses and Ruth Elizabeth Randolph, “Moryck (Francke), Brenda Ray,” in Harlem Renaissance and Beyond:  Literary Biographies of 100 Black Women Writers, 1900-1945 (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1990), 243-246.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University.

Robinson, Matthew MacKenzie "Mack" (1912-2000)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

An exceptional athlete and one of America’s leading sprinters of the 1930s, Matthew Mackenzie “Mack” Robinson, was born in Cairo, Georgia in 1912.  Matthew grew up with three other siblings, including the famed Jackie Robinson. After their father left following the birth of the last child, mother Mallie Robinson decided to take her five children to California.  The Robinson family, along with other migrants, moved to Pasadena by train in 1920 where the athletic careers of the Robinson brothers would blossom.

Sources: 
Arnold Rampersad, Jackie Robinson: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997); Duff Hart-Davis, Hitler's Games (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986); Mack Robinson, 85, Second to Owens in Berlin,"  Obituary; Biography - NYTimes.com. 2000. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/03/14/sports/mack-robinson-85-second-to-owens-in-berlin.html?sec=&spon=; David K. Wiggins, Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1997); "Early Era Stars," Leadership and Legacy - Athletics and the University of Oregon. 2010 http://sportshistory.uoregon.edu/details/show/8; "Biography," Mack Robinson - GoDucks.com, The University of Oregon Official Athletics Web Site. 2006, “Matthew ‘Mack’ Robinson Post Office – Pasadena, CA – People-Named Places on Waymarking.com,” Matthew “Mack” Robinson Post Office – Pasadena, CA. 2010 http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM5REQ
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mobutu, Joseph-Désiré/ Mobutu, Sese Seko Kuku Waza Banga (1930-1997)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
President and Mrs. Sese Seko Mobutu
Meeting Emperor Hirohito in
Tokoyo, Japan, 1971
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Joseph Mobutu, named Joseph-Désiré Mobutu at birth, was the second president of Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1965 to 1997.  Mobutu was born in 1930 in the Belgian Congo and studied journalism.  

In 1958, Mobutu became the country’s state secretary and then was named chief of staff of the Congolese Army by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasavubu when the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.  A year later, Mobutu helped President Kasavubu oust Lumumba.  Mobutu became the new prime minister.  In 1965, Mobutu exiled Kasavubu in a military coup and announced himself president, forming a one-party state around his Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution (MPR).
Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004); Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo (New York: Harper Collin Publisher, 2001); “Sese Seko Mobutu Biography,” bio.com, http://www.biography.com/articles/Sese-Seko-Mobutu-9410874.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bryant, Kobe (1978- )

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

Professional basketball superstar Kobe Bryant has played for the Los Angeles Lakers since 1996 when he came to the team as an 18-year-old, the youngest player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. Bryant is a long-time philanthropist, using his well-known name to fundraise for a number of causes. His stellar career was tarnished in 2003 when he was arrested for alleged sexual assault, resulting in a suit that was settled out of court a year later.

Bryant is the youngest of three children born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to former National Basketball Association player and Women’s National Basketball Association head coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. His parents named him after the popular Japanese steak of the same name. In 1983, Bryant’s father left the NBA and moved his family to Italy to play professional basketball. Young Kobe quickly adapted to his environment, learning to speak fluent Italian and Spanish. Besides learning to play basketball at an early age, Bryant also became a skilled soccer player. Following his father’s retirement from basketball in 1991, the family returned to Philadelphia.

Sources: 
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro and Jennifer Stevens, Kobe Bryant: The Game of His Life (Portland, Oregon: Revolution Publishing, 2004): http://www.nba.com/playerfile/kobe_bryant/; http://www.afterschoolallstars.org; http://www.forbes.com/2010/11/04/nba-best-paid-players-business-sportsmoney-nba-top-paid-players.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Smith, Ada “Bricktop” (1894-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ada “Bricktop” Smith Performing
in a Paris Nightclub, 1925
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith (“Bricktop”), vaudevillian actress, singer, nightclub owner, and international celebrity host, was born August 14, 1894 in Alderson, West Virginia, to Thomas and Hattie Thompson Smith. Her father passed away in 1898 and Mrs. Smith moved Ada and her three older siblings to Chicago, where her mother managed rooming houses and worked as a maid. Smith began performing at the age of five, playing Harry in Uncle Tom’s Cabin at Haymarket Theater in Chicago. By age 14 Smith earned a permanent chorus role at the Pekin Theatre. A truancy officer tracked her down, however, and she was forced to quit performing and return to school.
Sources: 
Bricktop and James Haskins, Bricktop (New York: Atheneum, 1983); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., "Bricktop (Ada Smith)," Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1 (Brooklyn: Carlson, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fraser, Sarah Loguen (1850-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sarah Fraser, born Sarah Marinda Loguen, was the first female African American to graduate from the Syracuse University College of Medicine. She was also one of the first African American female physicians specializing in obstetrics and pediatrics.

Sarah Loguen was born on January 29, 1850, in Syracuse, New York, the fifth of eight children to the Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen, a former slave and prominent abolitionist, and his wife, Caroline Loguen, the daughter of prominent local abolitionists. Her father started the first school for black children in the Syracuse area and used his home as a safe house for hundreds of slaves traveling the Underground Railroad.  In 1868 Rev. Loguen became a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church the same year Sarah graduated from high school.

Sources: 
American National Biography, http://www.anb.org/articles/13/13-02676.html; Journal of the National Medical Association, 92:3 (March 2000); Celebrating Sarah Loguen Fraser, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, http://www.hws.edu/academics/english/fraser.aspx; Dr. Sarah Loguen’s Dominican Republic, Upstate Medical College, http://issuu.com/upstate/docs/loguen-puerto_1-6.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Barnett, Ida Wells (1862-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Gibson, Althea (1927-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Owneship: Public Domain

Althea Gibson, a sharecropper’s daughter from Silver, South Carolina, entered the world of sports when segregation severely limited opportunities for African Americans.  In 1930, Althea and her parents moved to Harlem. There she became part of a vibrant community which helped to nurture her talents.  She played community sports and eventually met mentors who would change her life.

Dr. Walter Johnson, a physician from Virginia and a dynamic member of the black tennis community became both a mentor and patron.  He supported Althea as she distinguished herself as an incredible player, winning the American Tennis Association (ATA) tournaments, the all-black association, ten consecutive years.  In 1950, she became the first African American permitted to compete in the Forest Hill (N.Y.) National Grass Court Championship.

Sources: 
http://womenshistory.about.comlibrary/bio/blbio_gibson_althea.htm ; Frances Clayton Gray and Yanick Rice Lamb, Born to Win: The Authorized Biography of Althea Gibson (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004).
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Farmer, James (1920-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Farmer was born in Marshall, Texas in 1920, the grandson of a slave, and son of a minister and college professor, who was believed to be the first black man from Texas to obtain a doctorate. Farmer obtained advanced degrees from Wiley College and Howard University. A staunch pacifist and opponent of the military, Farmer refused to serve during World War II.  

Farmer’s pacifism and belief in a racially integrated society steered him toward a life of activism. With colleagues George Houser and Bernice Fisher, James Farmer co-founded the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in 1942 in Chicago.  The civil rights organization would eventually grow to 82,000 members in 114 chapters around the nation by the mid-1960s with Farmer as its executive director.  
Sources: 
James Farmer. Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of Civil Rights Movement (Arbor House: New York, 1985); Richard Severo, “James Farmer, Civil Rights Giant,” New York Times, July 10, 1999.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cheatham, Henry Plummer (1857-1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn Research
Center, Howard University
Born into slavery in Henderson, North Carolina, Henry Cheatham was the child of an enslaved domestic worker about who little is known.  An adolescent after the American Civil War, Cheatham benefited from country’s short lived commitment to provide educational opportunities to all children.  He attended public school where he excelled in his studies.  After high school Cheatham was admitted to Shaw University, founded for the children of freedmen, graduating with honors in 1882.  He earned a masters degree from the same institution in 1887.

During his senior year of college, Cheatham helped to found a home for African American orphans.  In 1883, Cheatham was hired as the Principal of the State Normal School for African Americans, at Plymouth, North Carolina.  He held the position for a year when his career as an educator gave way to his desire to enter state politics.  
Cheatham ran a successful campaign for the office of Registrar of Deeds at Vance County, North Carolina in 1884, and he served the county for four years.   He also studied law during his first term in office, with an eye toward national politics.  In 1888 Henry Cheatham ran for Congress as a Republican in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District.  He defeated his white Democratic opponent, Furnifold M. Simmons.

Sources: 
George W. Reid, “Four in Black: North Carolina’s Black Congressmen, 1874-1901.” Journal of Negro History 64 (Summer 1979): 229-43; “Henry Plummer Cheatham,” Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989, (Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representations, Washington D.C.: Gov. Printing Office, 1991); Leonard Schlup, “Cheatham, Henry Plummer,” American National Biography Online (Oxford University Press, 2000); http://www.anb.org/articles/05/05-00138.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Johnson C. Smith University

Giovanni, Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 
"There's no life in safety," said three-time National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award winner Nikki Giovanni who began her own life on June 7, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee. She moved with her mother and sister to a small black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, although she traveled back to Knoxville during the summers to live with her grandparents.

In 1960 seventeen-year-old Giovanni entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee at the beginning of the student protest movement. She was promptly dismissed from Fisk in her first semester for expressing "attitudes [which] did not fit those of a Fisk woman." Giovanni returned to Fisk in 1964 and helped restart their chapter of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1967 she graduated from the honors program with a Bachelor’s degree in history. She then attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia College.
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004);  http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/giovanniNikki.php.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Evans, Greene (1848-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University Special Collections
Greene Evans, Fisk Jubilee Singer, Memphis City Councilman and Tennessee State Assemblyman, was born somewhere in Tennessee and emancipated after the Civil War.  Evans attended night school at a Memphis freedmen’s school until it was burned down in the Memphis Riot in 1866. After working briefly as a hotel porter, Evans proceeded to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he paid his way through school working as a groundskeeper. Dignified, fastidious and enterprising, Evans taught at a small school in the summer near the Tennessee-Mississippi border. Scrounging timber from the surrounding woods, he built his own desks, benches and a schoolhouse which at least “did not lack for ventilation, for a bird could fly through anywhere.” Evans joined the first Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1872 and he proudly participated in the first tour that took them to eight states and Great Britain.  
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000); United States Freedman Records, 1865-1874: Record 4836; Tennessee State Library and Archives,  http://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/exhibits/blackhistory/bios/evans.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dziko, Trish Millines (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Trish Millines Dziko is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Technology Access Foundation. A native of New Jersey, Dziko focused on college and ultimately became a first-generation college student. Ms. Dziko also made history by becoming the first woman to be awarded a full basketball scholarship for Monmouth College in West Long Branch, New Jersey.  She received her B.S. in Computer Science in 1979.

Dziko spent 15 years working in the high tech industry as a software developer, manager and consultant as well as a database designer in such industries as military weapons, business systems, communications, and medical equipment.
Sources: 

Monica J. Foster, “Federal Way to Build TAF Academy,” The (Seattle) Skanner http://www.theskanner.com/index.php?edid=Mg==,
http://www.informationtechnologyleaders.com/dziko.html ; http://www.techaccess.org/
http://www.techaccess.org/tafpdfs/profiles/staff_profiles/Trishmi.pdf
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University Seattle

Poindexter, James (1819-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Randolph, Amanda (1896-1967)

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

Amanda Randolph, one of the first black performers to appear consistently on television, was born in 1896 in Louisville, Kentucky. She began performing as a young teenager in Cleveland’s musical comedies and nightclubs. In the 1930s, she toured Europe and performed in several hit musical revues such as Chilli Peppers, Dusty Lane, and Radio Waves.

Randolph began her film career as an actress appearing in Swing (1938), Lying Lips (1939) and The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940) – three of Oscar Micheaux race films, which he routinely created for nearly three decades to appeal to black audiences and offer a truer reputation of black life than most Hollywood productions.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle. Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia,
New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Darlene C. Hine and Fenella
MacFarlane, Black Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia. Vol. II,
(Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing Inc. 1993); Edward Mapp, Directory of
Blacks in the Performing Arts
, (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press
Inc., 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Harris, Everette “E” Lynn (1955-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Special
Collections, University of Arkansas
Libraries, Fayetteville

New York Times bestselling author Everette “E” Lynn Harris was born June 20, 1955, in Flint, Michigan. Openly homosexual, Harris was best known for his depictions of gay African American men who were concealing or “closeting” their sexuality. Although he did not participate in gay rights activism, Harris introduced millions of readers to the “invisible life” of gay black men.

Harris grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, with his father, Ben Odis Harris, a sanitation truck driver; his mother, Etta Mae Williams, and three sisters. Harris endured a difficult childhood as his father taunted him for wanting to become a teacher while his mother suffered physical abuse. After his parents divorced in 1970, Harris discovered and was reunited with his biological father, James Jeter. The reunion, however, was short-lived, as Jeter died in an automobile accident a year later.
Harris found refuge and success in his educational pursuits. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and was the school’s first black yearbook editor, the first black male cheerleader and president of his fraternity. He graduated with honors in 1977 with a BA in journalism.

Sources: 
E. Lynn Harris, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir (New York: Anchor Books, 2004); E. Lynn Harris Official Website, http://www.elynnharris.com/index.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fletcher, Benjamin Harrison (1890-1949)

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

Doley, Harold, Jr (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Harold and Helena Doley and Son in Front of
Madam C.J. Walker Mansion.
Image Courtesy of
Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr.


Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr is the founder of Doley Securities, LLC, the oldest African American owned investment banking firm in the nation. Doley is the only African American to have owned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

Born on March 8, 1947 Harold Doley was one of two boys born to Harold, Sr., a grocer and Kathryn Doley in New Orleans, LA. The Doley family has lived in Louisiana since 1720. The Doley’s had been free people before the Civil War and enjoyed the relatively liberal racial atmosphere of New Orleans as compared to other parts of the Southern United States.  Nonetheless they were always well aware of the disadvantages they faced. Amb. Doley attended segregated schools in the Louisiana area before matriculating at Xavier University in New Orleans where he majored in Accounting and Business Administration and started an investment club. He graduated from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business’s Owner/President Management Program an Executive Education Program.

Sources: 
New York Times, December 26, 1976, p. 13, September 18, 1994, p. F3, April 11, 1996, p. C1; David Oblender, Contemporary Black Biography, Vol.26 (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Cengage Gale, 2001); Lawrence Otis Graham, Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class (New York: HarperCollins, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Watkins, Perry (1948-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Perry Watkins Signs GLAAD Poster
Image Courtesy of Karen Ocamb/
Perry James Henry Watkins was the only openly gay person discharged from the U.S. Army with full honors after serving almost two decades.  He had to fight for this distinction, suing the Army after being forced out because of his sexual orientation.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Ola Watkins gave birth to Perry on August 20, 1948, in Joplin, Missouri.  Perry’s parents divorced when he was only three.  When in junior high, his mother remarried a career military man, and they moved to Tacoma, Washington.  Throughout high school in Tacoma, Perry took dance classes, even studying at the Tacoma City Ballet.  He later earned a BA in business and theater.

Watkins’ mother influenced him strongly.  First, she accepted her son's sexual orientation.  Her emphasis on honesty played a key role in his embracing that orientation throughout his Army career.  Watkins knew growing up that he was gay.  If peers asked him, he answered truthfully. He considered the racism directed against him far more prominent than the homophobia.
Sources: 
Randy Shilts, Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993); Mary Ann Humphrey, My Country, aMy Right to Serve: Experiences of Gay Men and Women in the Military, World War II to the Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990); David W. Dunlap, “Perry Watkins, 48, Gay Sergeant Won Court Battle with Army,” The New York Times (21 March 1996).
Contributor: 

Dee, Ruby Ann Wallace (1924-2014)

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

Broadway performer and film actress, Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio on October 27, 1924 to Gladys Hightower and Marshall Edward Wallace. Her mother was a domestic and her father worked as a cook, waiter, and porter. After her mother left the family, Dee's father married Emma Amelia Benson, a schoolteacher.

Desperate for better job opportunities, the family moved to New York City, New York, and settled in Harlem. Determined not to allow their children fall victim to drugs, crime, and other vices of urban life, the parents introduced Dee and her siblings to the arts, including music and literature. Young Ruby became a passionate student of poetry and as a teenager began submitting poetry to The Amsterdam News.  

Ruby Wallace attended the academically rigorous Hunter High School and while there decided to pursue an acting career.  After graduating from Hunter High in 1940, she enrolled in Hunter College, graduating with a degree in French and Spanish in 1944. While at Hunter College, she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and married blues singer Frankie Dee.  The couple soon divorced but Dee kept the last name and made it her career name.

Sources: 
Ruby Dee, My One Good Nerve: Rhythms, Rhymes, Reasons (Chicago: Third World Press, 1986); Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together (London: It Press, 1998); http://www.biography.com/people/ruby-dee
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Scott, Emmett J. (1873-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Vaughan, George L. (1885-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George L. Vaughn was a black lawyer and civic leader in St. Louis, Missouri best known for representing J.D. Shelley and Herman Willer in the landmark civil rights case Shelley v. Kraemer (1948). Born to former slaves and raised in Kentucky, Vaughn graduated from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, and earned a law degree from Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee. After serving in the Army as first lieutenant in World War I, he practiced law in St. Louis. Vaughn was a prominent member of the Democratic Party in the 1930s and 1940s and a Justice of the Peace in St.
Sources: 
“George L. Vaughn,” Legal Encyclopedia: Legal Biographies, http://www.answers.com/topic/george-l-vaughn-2 ; Shelley v. Kramer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948), http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=334&invol=1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Claremont Graduate University

Wiley, George Alvin (1931-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Wiley was born in New Jersey in 1931 and raised in Warwick, Rhode Island.  Wiley earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Rhode Island in 1953 and his Ph.D. in chemistry at Cornell in 1957. Afterwards he accepted a post-doctoral position at the University of California, Los Angeles. Wiley taught at the University of California, Berkeley and at Syracuse University. At Syracuse, he founded the local Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter, fighting for the integration of public schools and equal opportunities in housing and employment.  

In 1964 Wiley left academia to work full time with CORE as the associate national director, second in command to national director James Farmer. After an unsuccessful attempt to become the national director after Farmer, he left CORE and created his own group called the Poverty/Rights Action Center (P/RAC) in Washington, D.C. Under the influence of two Columbia University School of Social Work professors, Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, Wiley sought to promote racial justice by providing economic opportunities for the poor. In June 1966, he organized several demonstrations that led to the formation of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO).
Sources: 
Nick Kotz and Mary Lynn Kotz, A Passion for Equality: George Wiley and the Movement (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977); Guida West, The National Welfare Rights Movement: The Social Protest of Poor Women (New York: Praeger, 1981); Premilla Nadasen, Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2005); “George Alvin Wiley,” Discoverthenetworks.org, http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1769
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Kanagawa University, Japan

Bond, Horace Mann (1904–1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Mann Bond served as the first president of Fort Valley State College from 1939 to 1945 and president of Lincoln University from 1945 to 1957. He was a notable educator and scholar holding degrees from Lincoln University (B.A. in 1923 and a LL.D. in 1941), University of Chicago (M.A. in 1926 and a Ph.D. in 1936), and Temple University (LL.D. in 1952). Over his long career in education, his passion for teaching took him to Lincoln University, Langston University, Alabama State Teachers College, Fisk University, and Dillard University.

Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and knew the South well. In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, anti-integrationists embarked on a program of massive resistance to orders to desegregate the South. In response to the efforts to claim an I.Q. gap between racial groups, Bond issued a number of stinging critiques of the racial claims about the intelligence of blacks. His most well known essay on the subject is "Racially Stuffed Shirts and Other Enemies of Mankind": Horace Mann Bond’s parody of Segregationist Psychology in the 1950s.

It is noteworthy that the papers of Horace Mann Bond have been archived at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Much of his research emphasized the social, economic, and geographic factors influencing academic achievement as well as demonstrating that Bond was at the forefront of not only black education but also the movement for civil rights.
Sources: 
W.A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981). http://www.lexisnexis.com/academic/2upa/Aaas/HoraceMannBondPapers.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Muhammad, Elijah (1897–1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS
Elijah Muhammad, the most prominent leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI), was born Elijah Poole in Sandersville, Georgia, on October 7, 1897. He was the son of sharecropper and Baptist minister Wallace Poole and his wife, Mariah. During his childhood in the racially segregated South, Poole received his basic education at a public school, but soon dropped out to help his family earn a living in the fields.

After his marriage to Clara Evans in 1919, he joined the “Great Migration” of African Americans to the North in 1923 which led him to Detroit, Michigan. Like many of his fellow migrants, Poole found a job in the automobile industry until the Depression forced his family to go on relief for two years.

During his unemployment, Poole met Wallace Fard, the founder of the Nation of Islam who preached a gospel of black Islam and racial supremacy. Poole joined the organization in 1931, changed his name to Elijah Muhammad and soon became such a devoted disciple that Fard made him Chief Minister of Islam. When Fard left the United States, Elijah Muhammad rose to power.
Sources: 
Edward E. Curtis IV, Islam in Black America: Identity, Liberation, and Difference in African-American Islamic Thought (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002); Karl Evanzz, the Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad (New York: Pantheon Books, 1999); Martha F. Lee, the Nation of Islam: An American Millenarian Movement (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Sanchez, Sonia (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004);
http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/sanchez_sonia.html;
http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/276
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rillieux, Norbert (1806-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Brady, Saint Elmo (1884-1966)

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

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884, Saint Elmo Brady became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in the field of chemistry when he completed his graduate studies at the University of Illinois in 1916. The eldest child of Thomas and Celesta Brady, Saint Elmo had two younger sisters, Fedora and Buszeder.

Sources: 
Saint Elmo Brady, University of Illinois, Department of Chemistry, http://www.scs.uiuc.edu/chem/bios/brady.html ; Mitchell Brown, The Faces of Sciences: African Americans in Science, https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/faces.html ; D.F. Martin and B.B. Martin, “St. Elmo Brady (1884-1966): Pioneering Black Academic Chemist,” Florida Scientist, 2006, 69(2), 116-123; Collins, S.N. “African Americans and Science,” Chemical and Engineering News, 2009, 87(43), p3.; S.E. Brady and S.P. Massie, “1,1,-Dichloroheptane,” Academy of Science, 1952, 261-262.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Berry, Halle (1968- )

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

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

King, Horace (1807-1885)

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

Horace King, born a slave on September 8, 1807 in Chesterfield District, South Carolina, was a successful bridge architect and builder in West Georgia, Northern Alabama and northeast Georgia in the period between the 1830s and 1870s.   King worked for his master, John Godwin who owned a successful construction business.  Although King was a slave, Godwin treated him as a valued employee and eventually gave him considerable influence over his business.  Horace King supervised many of Godwin's business activities including the management of construction sites. In 1832, for example, King led a construction crew in building Moore’s Bridge, the first bridge crossing the lower Chattahoochee River in northwest Georgia.  Later in the decade, Godwin and King constructed some of the largest bridges in Georgia, Alabama, and Northeastern Mississippi.  By the 1840s King designed and supervised construction of major bridges at Wetumpka, Alabama and Columbus, Mississippi without Godwin's supervision.  Godwin issued five year warranties on his bridges because of his confidence in King’s high quality work.

Sources: 

John S. Lupold, John S., and Thomas L. French Jr. Bridging Deep South
Rivers: The Life and Legend of Horace King
  (Athens: The University of
Georgia Press, 2004); John N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman, African
American Business Leaders
  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press,
1993); Thomas L. French and Edward L. French, "Horace King, Bridge
Builder," Alabama Heritage 11 (Winter 1989): 34-47.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

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

Brutus, Dennis (1924-2009)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the Armenian Weekly
Dennis Brutus was a South African poet, organizer and activist perhaps most notable for his use of sports as a weapon against apartheid. Dennis Vincent Brutus was born to South African parents of French, Italian and African descent in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1924. When he was four, his family returned to Port Elizabeth, South Africa where, under the country’s racial code, Brutus was classified as “colored.” After graduating from the University of Fort Hare, Brutus became a teacher of English and Afrikaans in nonwhite schools.
Sources: 
Aisha Karim and Lee Sustar, Poetry & Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader (Chicago,: Haymarket Books, 2006); Adrian Guelke, Rethinking the Rise and Fall of Apartheid (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Douglas Martin, “Dennis Brutus Dies at 85; Fought Apartheid with Sports,” New York Times, 2 January 2010, A22; “Dennis Brutus Biography,” Biography.com, http://www.biography.com/articles/Dennis-Brutus-40359.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Keppard, Freddie (1890–1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Pioneer jazz musician Freddie Keppard was one of the most famous cornet players of the early 20th Century.  Born February 27, 1890 in New Orleans, Keppard came from a musical family which included his brother Louis Keppard, who also became a professional musician playing the piano and tuba. Freddie Keppard began his musical career with the mandolin, followed by the violin, accordion, and finally finding his passion with the cornet.  At the age of 16 he organized the Olympia Orchestra to showcase his talents and perform throughout New Orleans. 

Keppard became part of the migration of Creole jazz musicians to the West Coast in the first two decades of the 20th Century.  After traveling to Los Angeles, he founded the Original Creole Orchestra in 1912.  The Orchestra introduced New Orleans jazz to a wider audience and quickly became one of the most popular acts on the West Coast.  By 1919 it had a following in large cities across the United States.  As his popularity rose, the Victor Talking Machine Company eventually offered Keppard the chance to be one of the first to record the new jazz sound. Keppard refused the recording offer saying he was fearful people would “steal his stuff.”   

Sources: 
David Dicaire, Jazz Musicians of the Early Years, to 1945 (North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc., 2003); Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African American Musicians (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983); http://www.redhotjazz.com/keppard.html (Accessed November 20, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Okri, Ben (1959-- )

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

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

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

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