BlackPast.org Facebook BlackPast.org Twitter

Donate to BlackPast.org Donate to BlackPast.org

NOTE: BlackPast.org will not disclose, use, give or sell any of the requested information to third parties.

7 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Shop Amazon and help BlackPast.org

Blackpast.org in the Classroom/ border=

People

Elder, Lee (1934- )

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

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

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

Anderson, Caroline Still Wiley (1848-1919)

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

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

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

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

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

Hunton, Addie Waites (1866-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Addie Hunton with Black Troops in
France in World War I
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Educator, race and gender activist, writer, suffragist, and political organizer, Addie Waites Hunton was born in Norfolk, Virginia on June 11, 1866, to Jesse and Adeline Waites.  After her mother died when she was very young, she moved to Boston, Massachusetts to live with her maternal aunt.  

Hunton earned her high school diploma at Boston Latin School and in 1889 became the first black woman to graduate from Spencerian College of Commerce in Philadelphia. In 1893, she married William Alphaeus Hunton, who had spearheaded the establishment of services for blacks in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in the city.  Soon after their marriage the couple moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Addie worked as a secretary at Clark College and helped her husband with his YMCA work.  In the wake of the Atlanta Race Riots (1906), the Huntons moved to Brooklyn, New York.  They had four children but only two survived infancy.
Sources: 
Christine Lutz, “Addie W. Hunton:  Crusader for Pan-Africanism and Peace,” in Portraits of African American Life Since 1865, ed. Nina Mjagkij (Wilmington, DE:  Scholarly Resources, Inc., 2003), 109-127; Darryl Lyman, Great African American Women (New York:  Random House, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Vivian, Cordy Tindell “C.T.” (1924- )

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

Image Ownership: Public Domain 

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

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

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

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

Mboya, Thomas (Joseph Odhiambo) (1930-1969)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Tom Mboya, born on August 15, 1930 in Kilimambogo, Kenya on a sisal plantation estate, was a Kenyan nationalist, trade union leader, and government minister. His parents were Luo agricultural workers who as recently converted Catholics, sent him to mission schools from an early age. By 1947, Mboya was en route to graduation, but because of his father's modest income he couldn’t afford to complete the final pre-examination course. He decided instead to attend the Royal Sanitary Institute’s medical school which paid for his training and allowed him to support his younger brother’s studies. Mboya began his involvement in labor organizing at the school, where he also became president of the student council and participated in the debating club.

Upon graduating in 1951, Mboya was given sanitary inspection duties in Nairobi. Around the same time, the anticolonial Mau Mau rebellion was erupting and much of Kenya’s trade union and political leadership were detained by British authorities. Mboya resigned from his inspector position in 1953 and began a series of full-time commitments to the growing union movement.

Sources: 
“Mboya, Tom (Thomas Joseph Odhiambo),” in Norbert C. Brockman, ed., An African Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1994); “Tom Mboya,” in Anne Commire, ed., Historic World Leaders, volume 1 (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994).; “Tom Mboya,” in Harvey Glickman, ed., Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara : A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Poitier, Sidney (1927 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Cain, Richard H. (1825-1887)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Didier Drogba (1978-- )

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

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

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

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

Jackson, Hal (1915-2012 )

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

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

Duncan, Todd (1903-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records,
Archives Center,
National Museum of American History,
Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution
Born Robert Todd Duncan in Danville, Kentucky in 1903, Todd Duncan was the first African American to perform in an otherwise all-white cast in the New York City Opera’s production of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

He began his professional stage career in 1933 in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana at the Mecca Temple in New York City with the Aeolian Opera, a black opera company.  Duncan’s resounding baritone and commanding stage presence won him the role of “Porgy” in Gershwin’s 1935 Porgy and Bess. He was the personal choice of Gershwin for the role.  Following this premiere, Duncan performed his role of “Porgy” in two subsequent revivals in 1937 and 1942. Throughout his tenure as “Porgy” Duncan played the role in over 1,600 performances. His portrayal of “Porgy” is recognized as a classic, serving as the model for subsequent singers cast in the role. During one performance of Porgy and Bess at the National Theater in 1936, however, Duncan led the cast in a protest of the theater's policy of segregated seating.   Duncan vowed to never again perform before a segregated audience.   The National Theater eventually gave in to the cast's demands and ended its segregation policy.
Sources: 
M. Evans, “Todd Duncan: Trailblazer of the Concert Stage,” American Visions, 5.5 (1990); Allan Kozinn, "Todd Duncan, 95, Sang Porgy and Helped Desegregate Opera," New York Times, March 2, 1998; Elizabeth Nash, Autobiographical Reminiscences of African American Classical Singers, 1853-Present (Lewiston, New York: Edward Mellen Press, 2007); James A. Standifer, “Reminiscences of Black Musicians,” Annals of American Music, 4.2: 194-205 (1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Connerly, Ward (1939 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Greener, Richard T. (1844-1922)

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

Richard Theodore Greener, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania became the first African American to graduate from Harvard College.  He later served the United States in diplomatic posts in India and Russia.  Greener lived in Boston, Massachusetts and Cambridge as a child and entered Harvard in 1865 and received an A.B. degree from the institution in 1870.  After graduation he was appointed principal of the Male Department at Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth which later became Cheyney University.  Three years later Greener became professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy at the University of South Carolina where he also served as librarian and taught Greek, Mathematics and Constitutional Law.  While there Greener entered the Law School and received an LL.B degree in 1876.

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

Fontaine, William Thomas (1909-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Pennsylvania

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

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

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

Thomas, Vivien (1910-1985)

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

Merrick, John Henry (1859-1919)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chinn, Julia Ann (ca.1790-1833)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Julia Chinn, the putative common-law wife of 9th US vice president Richard Mentor Johnson (1780-1850), was born an octoroon slave in Scott County, Kentucky.  Her parents and exact date of birth are unknown, but she was raised and educated in Johnson’s household by his mother Jemima Suggett Johnson.  By 1812, Julia had become Richard Johnson’s close companion and mother of their two daughters: Adeline J. Johnson (Scott) (ca.1812-1836) and Imogene Malvina Johnson (Pence) (1812-1885).

When Richard’s father Colonel Robert Johnson, one of the wealthiest landowners in Kentucky, died in 1815, Richard inherited Julia.  Because interracial marriage was illegal in Kentucky and emancipation would have forced Julia to leave the state, Richard M. Johnson retained the title “bachelor” and Julia remained a slave.  Rumors circulated, however, that the two had been secretly married by their Baptist minister and some contemporary newspapers referred to Julia as Johnson’s wife.
Sources: 
Ann Bevins, “Richard M. Johnson narrative: Personal and Family Life," Georgetown and Scott County Museum, 2007; “Richard Mentor Johnson, 9th Vice President (1837-1841),” United States Senate Historical Office, http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/Senate_Historical_Office.htm; Carolyn Jean Powell, "What's love got to do with it? The dynamics of desire, race and murder in the slave South," PhD Diss., UMass Amherst (January 1, 2002); “The Workings of Slavery,” New York Daily Tribune, July 1, 1845.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McElwee, Samuel Allen (1857– 1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
During the first twenty-five years following the American Civil War and the emancipation, many African American men in the South were elected to state legislatures and local government posts. Among those in Tennessee was Samuel Allen McElwee from Haywood County, one of the two western counties with a majority black population. McElwee, a lawyer, became the most powerful Republican Party leader in Haywood County in the late 19th Century. He served in the Tennessee legislature from 1882 to the rigged election of 1888. As a legislator he earned a reputation as a skilled orator and was a presenter at the National Convention of the Republican Party in 1884 in Chicago.

McElwee was born in Madison County, Tennessee and grew up in neighboring Haywood County. He was educated at local freedmen’s schools and Oberlin College in Ohio before starting a teaching career in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. McElwee also attended Fisk University, graduating in 1883 and the following year at the age of 26 he was elected to the Tennessee Legislature, representing Haywood County. While serving in the Legislature McElwee obtained a law degree from Central Tennessee Law School in Nashville in 1886. McElwee was the first and only African American to practice law in Brownsville, Tennessee until the 1960s.
Sources: 
Richard A. Couto, Lifting the Veil: A Political History of Struggles for Emancipation (Knoxville: 1993); Dorothy Granberry, “When the Rabbit Foot Was Worked and Republican Votes Became Democratic Votes: Black Disfranchisement in Haywood County, Tennessee,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Spring 2004: 35 – 47.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Carson, Andre (1974 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Bridgetower, George (1780-1860)

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

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

Gibbs, Jr., George W. (1916-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George Gibbs, Jr. in the Antarctic, 1941
Image Courtesy of Leilani Henry (Gibbs)

George W. Gibbs, Jr. was the first person of African descent to set foot on Antarctica (the South Pole).  He was also a civil rights leader and World War II Navy gunner.

Gibbs was born in Jacksonville, Florida on November 7, 1916. He moved to Brooklyn, New York where he enrolled in Brooklyn Technical School and later received his GED. He also served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Straker, David Augustus (1842-1908)

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

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

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

Langston, John Mercer (1829-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
William Cheek and Aimee Lee Cheek, John Mercer Langston and the Fight for Black Freedom, 1829-65 (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1989), and www.oberlin.edu.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Morgan, Clement Garnett (1859-1929)

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

Wallace, Michele Faith (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Michele Wallace;
Barbara Wallace, Photographer
Michele Wallace, a feminist scholar, writer and educator, was born on January 4, 1952 in New York City to Robert Earl Wallace, a musician, and Faith Ringgold, a well-known artist and author. In 1978, at age 26, she published her first book, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, setting off a maelstrom of controversy in the black community and beyond.  In 1990 Wallace published Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory.  That same year Black Macho was re-released with a 20-page introduction by the author titled ”How I Saw It Then, How I See It Now,” detailing her views regarding the controversy.

In Black Macho Wallace asserted that the Black Power movement of the 1960s was the black man’s pursuit of his own power and that it was motivated by revenge, not equality. She also noted black male attraction to white women and questioned whether the black male could truly love a black woman. The book is an exploration of the black female in creating a voice and defining life, rather than leaving it to someone else’s interpretation. Significant is Wallace’s later understanding that history, in order “to be 'true' in any sense,...has to be dialogic,” meaning it has to include other contexts, experiences and views.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women In America, 2nd edition Vol. 3 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Michele Wallace, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (New York: The Dial Press, 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Murray, Pauli (1910-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Pauli Murray, Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage (New York: Harper and Row, 1987); Elaine Sue Caldbeck, “A Religious Life of Pauli Murray: Hope and Struggle,” Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 2000; http://www.wvu.edu/~lawfac/jelkins/lp-2001/murray.html; http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmurrayA.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Hale, Clara McBride (1905-1992)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

McHenry, Jr., Gordon (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Seattle University
Gordon McHenry is a contemporary community leader in Seattle’s non-profit social services institutions. McHenry’s father, Gordon McHenry, was the first in his family to graduate from college and the first African American engineer promoted into management at the Boeing Company.  His mother, Mildred McHenry, grew up and was educated in a segregated community in Texas.  McHenry credits his parents for inspiring his deep respect for education and strong belief in community solidarity and action.

McHenry graduated with a B.S. in Political Science from Seattle University and earned his Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law School.

After graduating with his law degree, McHenry began his career as an attorney at Perkins Coie, a prestigious law firm in Seattle, Washington.  In 1988, McHenry joined Boeing, where he served for 21 years as a lawyer and then in a variety of executive leadership roles, eventually becoming director of Global Corporate Citizenship for Boeing’s Northwest region.  While at Boeing, he completed the Executive Education Program for Management Development at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business.
Sources: 
Mac Buchman, “Solid Ground Names New Leadership Team,” Solid Ground Blog, 15 August 2012, available at: http://solidgroundblog.wordpress.com/tag/gordon-mchenry-jr/;  “Gordon McHenry Jr. Named CEO, President at Solid Ground,” Seattle Times,  2 Oct. 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Crews, Phillip O. (1943- )

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

Butts, Cassandra Quin (1965-- )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coleman, William T. Jr. (1920- )

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

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

Adderley, Julian Edwin “Cannonball” (1928-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jazz Saxophonist
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Combining styles of earlier influences with his own unique twists secured Julian "Cannonball" Adderley’s place in history as an experienced alto saxophonist who was fearless in exploring fresh musical styles.  Born in Tampa, Florida on September 15, 1928, Adderley was welcomed into a musical family that would play a key part in his success as a performer.  His father, already a jazz cornetist, introduced him to music, contributing to Adderley’s familiarity with band performance by the age of 14.  In high school he continued to study reed and brass instruments and formed his first jazz group with his band director as his advisor.  Upon graduation from high school, Adderley became band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale where he taught music for several years while also playing with his own jazz group on the side from 1948 to 1950.  After enlisting in the Army in 1950, he led the 36th Army Dance Band and later a second Army band from 1952 to 1953.  During this time he also studied at the U.S. Naval School of Music.
Sources: 
Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestly, Jazz: The Essential Companion (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Leonard Feather, The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Horizon Press, 1955).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

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

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

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

Washington, Booker T. (1856-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Booker T. Washington is one of the most controversial and dominant figures in African American history.  According to his autobiography Up From Slavery (1901), he did not know the exact year, date, and place of his birth or his father’s name. Yet, it is widely understood that he was born enslaved on April 5, 1856 in Hale's Ford, Virginia. His mother’s name was Jane and his father was a white man from a nearby plantation. At the age of 9, Washington was freed from slavery and moved to West Virginia.  He had always been known as simply “Booker” until he decided to add the name “Washington” after feeling the pressure to have two names when he started grammar school.

Sources: 
William L. Andrews, ed. Booker T. Washington: Up From Slavery (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996); Louis R. Harlan, The Booker T. Washington Papers: The Making of a Black Leader New, 1856-1901 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

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

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

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

Edwards, James (1871-1951)

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

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

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

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

Haywood, Harry (1898-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

A radical theoretician, anti-colonialist, labor organizer, and civil rights activist, Harry Haywood was one of the most prominent and influential African American Communists of the twentieth century.  Haywood, the son of former slaves, was born in South Omaha, Nebraska in 1898. He migrated to Chicago after serving in World War I and organized community defense during the 1919 Chicago race riot. In 1922 he joined the African Blood Brotherhood and in 1925 became an official member of the CPUSA.

Sources: 
Harry Haywood, Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist (Chicago: Liberator Press, 1978); Mary Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Geogakas, eds., Encyclopedia of the American Left (New York: Garland Publishing, 1990), 297-298.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Murphy, Carl (1889–1967)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sykes, Wanda (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Gay Parenting Magazine

Wanda Sykes is an American actress, comedian, writer, and voice artist. She is best known for her recurring role as Barbara Baran on the CBS primetime show The New Adventures of Old Christine, and for her comedic roles in such films as Monster-in-Law and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

Sykes is the daughter of Marion Louise, a retired banker, and Harry Ellsworth Sykes, a retired U.S. Army colonel.  She was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on March 7, 1964, but raised in the Washington, D.C. area.

Sykes attended Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland, and later Hampton University, where she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Upon graduation, she worked as a procurement officer for the National Security Agency (NSA) but soon realized she wanted to become an entertainer.

In 1987, at the age of 23, Sykes took to the stage for the first time in a talent show in Washington. While she did not win the contest, she honed her stand-up skills at various comedy clubs while retaining her position at NSA.

In 1992, Sykes relocated to New York to work the comedy circuit and soon got her first big break by being selected as the opening act for comedian Chris Rock at Caroline’s Comedy Club. In 1997, she joined The Chris Rock Show as a writer, made guest appearances, and won an Emmy Award for her writing in 1999.

Sources: 
Linda Rapp and Wanda Sykes, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2011), retrieved from ww.glbtq.com/social-sciences/sykes_l.html; Lawrence Ferber, Wanda Sykes: Being Herself (Chicago: Windy City Media Group, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Adams, Victoria Jackson Gray (1926-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Hattiesburg, Virginia on November 5, 1926, Victoria Jackson Gray Adams became one of the most important Mississipians in the Civil Rights Movement.  Her activities included teaching voter registration courses to domestics and sharecroppers, opening of the Freedom Schools during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964, and serving as a National Board Member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Ms. Gray began service as the field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1962.  

After graduation from high school, Ms. Gray began her education at Wilberforce University but was unable to finish due to lack of tuition funds. She later completed her education and became qualified as a teacher through her studies at the Tuskegee Institute and Jackson State College.  In addition to being a teacher, she traveled the country as a lecturer and served as campus minister to Virginia State University.  Gray called herself a “spiritual and social activist.”
Sources: 
The Victoria Jackson Gray Adams Papers in the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archives; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic.html
http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8001
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch McGregor University

Greene, Beverly Loraine (1915-1957)

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

de' Medici, Alessandro (1510–1537)

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

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

Turner, Joseph Vernon ["Big Joe"] (1911-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Big Joe Turner, known by many as the “Boss of the Blues,” was born Joseph Vernon in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 18, 1911. Turner is considered a major contributor to the development of the sound of Kansas City Jazz, and the early development of Rock n’ Roll. Drawing from Blues music vocal traditions, Turner’s style earned him the nickname of a “Blues Shouter,” with his resonant voice enabling him to cross over into Jazz, Rock n’ Roll and Rhythm & Blues.

Turner and his musical partner, pianist Pete Johnson, were discovered by record producer John Hammond at the Sunset Café in Kansas City in 1936. Later that same year, Hammond brought Turner and Johnson to New York, where they played for several months at the nightclub, The Famous Door. In 1938 Turner and Johnson returned to New York and were part of Hammond’s first “Spirituals to Swing” concert. The duo was well-received by the public, and in late 1938 Turner and Johnson made their first recordings, "Roll 'Em Pete" and "Goin' Away Blues" for Vocalion Studios.
Sources: 
Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix, Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop–A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Terry Currier, “Big Joe Turner,” BluesNotes (October 2002), in http://www.cascadeblues.org/History/BigJoeTurner.htm ; Arthur and Murray Kempton, “Big Joe Turner, The Holler of a Mountain Jack” in Pete Welding & Toby Byron, eds., Bluesland: Portrait of Twelve Major American Blues Masters (New York: Penguin Books, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Paterson, David A. (1954- )

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

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

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

Staupers, Mabel Keaton (1890-1989)

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

Mabel Keaton Staupers, R.N., was instrumental in ending the United States Army’s policy of excluding African American nurses from its ranks in World War II. In 1948 Staupers also successfully lobbied for full integration of the American Nurses Association.

Mabel Keaton Staupers (née Doyle) was born in Barbados, West Indies on February 27, 1890 to Thomas Clarence Doyle and his wife, Pauline. In 1903 Doyle and her mother immigrated to New York City, New York, and Thomas Doyle joined them there a few years later. After gaining U.S. Citizenship in 1917, Doyle received her R.N. diploma from the Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. In 1917 Doyle married James Max Keaton, a marriage that ended in divorce.

Sources: 
Andrew Salinas, "Mabel Keaton Staupers Papers, 1930-1977, Amistad Research Center, http://www.amistadresearchcenter.org/archon/?p=collections/findingaid&id=273&q=&rootcontentid=99685; Mabel Keaton Staupers (1890-1989) 1996 Inductee, American Nurses Association,  http://www.nursingworld.org/MabelKeatonStaupers.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Senghor, Léopold Sédar (1906-2001)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Briggs, Cyril (1888-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Tyson, Mike (1966 - )

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Clarke, Hansen Hashem (1957- )

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delany, Henry Beard (1858-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bonetta, Sarah Forbes (1843-1880)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
James Davies and Sarah Forbes Bonetta
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a princess of the Egbado clan of the Yoruba people, is best known as the goddaughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. Bonetta was born in 1843 in what is now southwest Nigeria. Her parents' names are unknown as are the names of her siblings who were all killed in the 1847 slave raid that made Bonetta a captive.  
Sources: 
“Sarah Forbes Bonetta: The African Princess in Brighton,” Afro-Europe International Blog, http://afroeurope.blogspot.com/2011/09/sarah-forbes-bonetta-african-princess.html; “Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davis, An African Princess in the British Monarchy Who Captured the Heart of Queen Victoria,” Trip Down Memory Lane, Kwekudee, 3 Sept. 2009;  http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2012/09/sarah-forbes-bonetta-davies-african.html; Walter Dean Myers, At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England (New York: Scholastic, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Van Der Zee, James (1886-1983)

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

VanDerZee was born in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1886.  He demonstrated a gift for music and initially aspired to a career as a professional violinist.  

VanDerZee’s other interest was photography. At the age of fourteen he received his first camera as a result of a magazine promotion. His interest in photography led him to take hundreds of photographs of his family and the town of Lenox.  As one of the first people in the town to own a camera he was able to provide a rich early documentation of community life in small town New England. As always VanDerZee’s photography incorporated his own distinctive flair.

James VanDerZee moved to New York City in 1906 to work with his father and brother as waiters and elevator operators. By now a skilled pianist and aspiring professional violinist, he was also the primary creator and one of the five performers in a group known as the Harlem Orchestra.
Sources: 
James VanDerZee, Drop Me Off in Harlem (Washington D.C., The Kennedy Center, 1922: Photographs). (http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/exploring/harlem/faces/vanderzee_text.html).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Taylor, Robert Robinson (1868-1942)

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

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

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

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

Brautigam, Loria Raquel Dixon ( ? - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Sources: 
Audra D.S. Burch, "Afro-Latin Americans: A Rising Voice," The Miami Herald, June 10, 2007; Tim Rogers, "Disco's Door Policy Sparks Race Debate," Nica Times, February 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

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

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

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

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

Mallory, Mark (1962-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Pubic Domain

On December 1, 2005, Mark Mallory was sworn in as the first black mayor elected by popular vote in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Three other black mayors preceded him but were chosen by the City Council.  Born on April 2, 1962, and raised on the West End of Cincinnati, Mallory attended high school at the city’s Academy of Math and Science and earned a BS in administrative management from the University of Cincinnati in 1984. Before becoming Mayor of Cincinnati, Mallory replaced his father, William L. Mallory Sr., in 1994 in the Ohio General Assembly.  In 1998 Mark Mallory was elected to the Ohio Senate eventually becoming the assistant minority leader. 

Sources: 
Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 62, “Mark L. Mallory” (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale 2008); City of Cincinnati, “Mayor’s Biography” http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/mayor/pages/-3052-/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinatti

Coleman, Ornette (1930- )

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

Born in 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas, Coleman began playing tenor saxophone in rhythm and blues (R&B) bands, his own style rooted in the bebop idiom.  Though undocumented, his early development suggests something unique – Coleman was assaulted and his tenor saxophone destroyed after a particularly off-putting dance solo in Baton Rouge.  In 1949 Coleman settled in Los Angeles where he worked as an elevator operator and independently studied music theory.  On the alto saxophone, which remains his primary voice, Coleman developed a plaintively raw and vocalized tone, exploring micro-tonalities and speech-like cries.  In Los Angeles Coleman befriended drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, as well as trumpeter Don Cherry, all of whom would later become mainstays in Coleman’s ground-breaking Atlantic quartets.  In 1958 Coleman found a willing partner in pianist Paul Bley, and with Higgins, Cherry, and bassist Charlie Haden the quintet recorded a live performance at the Hillcrest Club, The Fabulous Paul Bley Quintet.  
Sources: 
Valerie Wilmer, As Serious as Your Life (London: Serpent's Tail, 1992); Peter Niklas Wilson, Ornette Coleman: His Life and Music (Berkeley: Berkeley Hills Books, 1999); Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Eighth Edition) (London: Penguin Books, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

McGee, Henry Wadsworth, Sr. (1910-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Henry W. McGee, Sr.
Image Courtesy of Henry W. McGee, Jr.
The first African American Postmaster of a major postal facility, Henry W. McGee, Sr. was born in Hillsboro, Texas, in 1910, and moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1927.  McGee was the first person to rise from the ranks of letter carriers to achieve the status of Postmaster, a post to which he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 5, 1966.  McGee had begun postal work in 1929 as a temporary substitute letter carrier, and became a regular postal clerk in 1937, advancing rapidly through a succession of Post Office jobs.
Sources: 
Henry W. McGee, Autobiography and Dissertation: The Negro in the Chicago Post Office (Chicago: VolumeOne Press, 1999); Christopher Robert Reed, The Chicago NAACP and the Rise of Black Professional Leadership, 1910-1966 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Waldon, Alton Ronald, Jr. (1936–)

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

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

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

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

Freeman, Robert Tanner (1846-1873)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Robert Tanner Freeman is the first professionally trained black dentist in the United States.  A child of slaves, he eventually entered Harvard University and graduated only four years after the end of the Civil War on May 18, 1869.

Robert Tanner Freeman was born in Washington, D.C. in 1846.   His formerly enslaved parents took the surname “Freeman” as did countless other people after gaining their freedom from bondage.  As a child, Robert befriended Henry Bliss Noble, a local white dentist in the District of Columbia.   Freeman began working as an apprentice to Dr. Noble and continued until he was a young adult. Dr. Noble encouraged young Robert to apply to dental colleges. 

Two medical schools rejected Freeman’s application but with the encouragement of Dr. Nobel who had contacts at Harvard Medical School, Freeman applied there.  Initially rejected, he was accepted into Harvard Medical School in 1867 at the age of 21, after a petition by Dean Nathan Cooley Keep to end the school’s historical exclusion of African Americans and other racial minorities.

Sources: 
C.O. Dummett, “Courage and Grace in Dentistry: the Noble, Freeman Connection,” Journal of the Massachusetts Dental Society, 44:3 (January 1995) , 23-26; Donald Altschiller, "National Dental Association," in Nina Mjagkij, ed., Organizing Black America: an encyclopedia of African American Organizations (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Adu, Freddy (1989-- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1818-1907)

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

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

Thurman, Wallace (1902-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Coachman, Alice Marie (1923-2014)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Toussaint, Pierre (ca.1781-1853) and Gaston, Marie-Rose Juliette (1786-1851)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Pierre Toussaint
Image Courtesy of New York State Historical Society
Juliette Toussaint
Image Courtesy of New York State Historical Society
Pierre Toussaint, New York society hairdresser, devout Catholic, and wealthy philanthropist, was born a third-generation elite house slave at the Bérard family plantation in Haiti.  His father’s name is not known but he took his surname in honor of revolutionary hero Toussaint L’Ouverture.  His mother Ursule was groomed as the personal maid of the Bérard matriarch; his grandmother, Zenobie Julien, nursed the Bérard children, made five voyages to France to help them adjust to their Parisian boarding schools, and continued to work for the family long after being rewarded with her freedom.
Sources: 
Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee, Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, Born a Slave in St. Domingo (Boston: Crosbie, Nichols and Company, 1854); James Sullivan, “Pierre Toussaint: Slave, Saint and Gentilhomme of Old New York, Parts I, II, III,” November 2011 http://teaattrianon.blogspot.ca/2011/11/pierre-toussaint-slave-saint-and.html; Arthur Jones, Pierre Toussaint: A Biography (New York: Doubleday, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tubman, Harriet Ross (c. 1821-1913)

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

Dubbed “The Moses of Her People,” escaped slave Harriet Tubman assisted hundreds of slaves on the Underground Railroad, leading them from Maryland to safety in Pennsylvania.  Born enslaved and raised in Dorchester County, Maryland to Benjamin and Harriett Greene Ross, Harriett was both a field hand and a domestic servant.  As a young girl, she suffered a lifelong injury after her master threw a piece of iron at her, which struck her in the head.  Throughout her life, Harriett suffered bouts of narcoleptic seizures.  In 1844, she married a free black man, John Tubman.  She escaped in 1849 in order to avoid being sold into the Deep South. Her husband refused to go with her.  Several months later, when she returned to get him, she learned he had taken another wife.  He died shortly after the end of the Civil War. Harriett later married Nelson Davis.

Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992) and Darlene Clark Hine, “Harriet Tubman” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. II (New York: Carlson, 1993): 1176-1180.
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)

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

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

Oden, Ron (1950- )

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

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

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

Robinson, Jack (Jackie) Roosevelt (1919–1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
When Jackie Robinson took the field on April 15, 1947 wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, he became the first African American in over fifty years to play on a major league baseball team. In the process, he broke through baseball’s color line that had relegated African American players to the segregated Negro Leagues.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson, the youngest of five children, was born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919 to sharecroppers Jerry and Mallie Robinson. When Jack was a year old his father deserted the family, and Mallie Robinson relocated her family to Pasadena, California where Jack grew up. Robinson’s athletic ability was apparent from an early age. In high school he participated in five sports: basketball, football, baseball, tennis and track. He continued to play multiple sports at Pasadena Junior College, where he graduated in 1939, and then at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Sources: 
Jackie  Robinson and Alfred Duckett, I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson (New York: Harper, 2003); Arnold Rampersand, Jackie Robinson: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1997); Jackie Robinson: Baseball’s Barrier Breaker, http://www.jackierobinson.com/; John Vernon, “Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson: A 1944 Court-Martial,” Prologue Magazine, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring 2008); http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2008/spring/robinson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harrison, Hubert Henry (1883-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Russwurm, John (1799-1851)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Russwurm was a man ahead of his time. Centuries before scholars began debating such issues as “hegemony” and “the social construction of race,” Russwurm understood how the powerful used media to create and perpetuate destructive stereotypes of the powerless. He set out to challenge this practice, via a brand new form of media: African American journalism.

Although he helped to change the terms of debate on race in America, Russwurm was not a native of America. Born in Jamaica on October 1, 1799, he moved to Quebec as a child and then to Maine, where he attended Bowdoin College and wrote term papers on Toussaint L‘Ouverture, fiery leader of the Haitian Revolution. In 1826 Russwurm became only the second African American in the U.S. to earn a college degree. His graduation speech focused on the Haitian revolution.

The next year he moved to New York, where he met Samuel Cornish, an African American Presbyterian minister and editor. On March 16, 1827, Cornish and Russwurm published the first issue of Freedom’s Journal. White publishers -- specifically Mordecai Noah of the New York Enquirer – had long denigrated and attacked free blacks. Freedom’s Journal took direct aim at them.

Sources: 
Michael Emery, Edwin Emery and Nancy Roberts, The Press and America, An Interpretive History of the Mass Media (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988; The World Book Encyclopedia (1996); “Africans in America, Part 3” (PBS), Julius Scott on John Brown Russworm and the Haitian Revolution.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Ulysses Grant Lee, Jr. (1913-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

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

King, Angie Lena Turner (1905–2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in Elkhorn, West Virginia in 1905, Angie Lena Turner King was a chemist and mathematician who dedicated her life and career to teaching and mentoring students in the sciences. The eldest daughter of William and Laura Turner, Angie had two siblings, Sylvia and Irving.

Turner graduated in 1923 from Bluefield Colored Institute (a training high school that became Bluefield State College) in Bluefield, West Virginia. She then studied chemistry and mathematics and earned her BS degree (cum laude) in 1927 from West Virginia State College (WVSC), a Historically Black College and University (HCBU) located in Institute, West Virginia. She taught mathematics at the Teacher-Training High School of WVSC for eight years and eventually was offered a teaching position on the WVSC college faculty. She taught and mentored many African American students at WVSC including Jasper Brown Jeffries, a physicist and mathematician who would later work on the Manhattan Project in World War II. Jeffries earned his BS in 1933 from WVSU.

Turner continued her education and in 1931 earned an MS degree in chemistry from Cornell University under the direction of Professor Thomas R. Briggs. The title of her thesis was “Interactions Between Solutions of Tannic Acid and Hydrous Ferric Oxide.” She then returned to the faculty at WCSC.
Sources: 
Harry Washington Greene, Holders of Doctorates Among American Negroes (Boston: Meador Publishing, 1946); Angie Turner, “Interactions Between Solutions of Tannic Acid and Hydrous Ferric Oxide,”  M.S. thesis, Cornell University, 1931; Angie Turner King, “An Analysis of Early Algebra Textbooks Used in the American Secondary Schools Before 1900,” Ph.D. thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1955; Wini Warren Black, Women Scientists in the United States (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1999);  Zeena Nackerdien, Black Women Scientists of Underrepresented Role Models. http://selections.rockefeller.edu/cms/science-and-society/black-women-scientists-studies-of-underrepresented-role-models.html; West Virginia History. http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh53-7.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
College of Wooster

Salem, Peter (ca.1750 -1816)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, 
Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture,
The New York Public Library

Peter Salem was born a slave to Jeremiah Belknap at Framingham, Massachusetts about 1750.  Belknap sold Salem to Lawson Buckminister some time before the Revolutionary War.  Buckminister allowed Salem to enlist in the Massachusetts Minutemen.  According to one story, his master freed him upon his enlistment.  Another account states that Peter changed his name to Salem when he was freed.  Some have attempted to link Peter’s last name with the Arabic “Saleem” (one who is peaceful); however there is no concrete evidence that this is the case.

Salem served at Concord, Saratoga and Stony Point.  He is traditionally given credit for the slaying of British Major Pitcairn at Bunker Hill.  Pitcairn had ordered the colonists to surrender.  Salem shot him in answer.  In the ensuing confusion, the Americans were able to take the field.  Pitcairn died of his wounds.  The gun attributed to Salem’s deed is part of the museum collection at Bunker Hill.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Robinson, Frank (1935- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Thomas, Harry K., Jr. (1956- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Though born in New York City, New York’s Harlem community, Harry Keels Thomas, Jr. was raised in a middle-class neighborhood in Queens where most parents were civil servants.   His mother was a social worker and his father, a World War II veteran, operated small businesses.  Thomas finished Brooklyn Technical High School and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Massachusetts in 1978 with a degree in political science.  Upon earning a master’s degree in urban planning at Columbia University, he was employed for three years as an urban planner in the South Bronx.
Sources: 
Joyce Xi, “An Interview with Harry K. Thomas, US Ambassador to the Philippines,” http://thepolitic.org/an-interview-with-harry-k-thomas-u-s-ambassador-to-the-philippines/; Michelle M. Murphy, “Alumnus Carries Spirit of Holy Cross to Bangladesh,” http://www.holycross.edu/departments/publicaffairs/hcm/03fa/features/feature4.html ; Ray Butch Gamboa, “Getting to Know H.E. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr.,” http://www.philstar.com/business/2012-06-23/820335/getting-know-he-ambassador-harry-k-thomas-jr
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Wheatley, Phillis (1754-1784)

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

Jackson, Lisa Perez (1962-- )

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

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

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

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

Vignette Type: 
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

Grier, Eliza Ann ( ? - 1902)

Vignette Type: 
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

Thomas, Piri (1928-2011)

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

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

Masekela, Hugh Ramopolo (1939- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
As one of the most popular and influential jazz musicians from Africa, Hugh Masekela’s life reflects the creative ways of using music to confront injustices and generate change in his homeland.  Born in the coal-mining town of Witbank (near Johannesburg), South Africa on April 4, 1939, Masekela attended mission schools.  During a visit to Masekela's high school anti-apartheid activist and British Anglican priest Father Trevor Huddleston gave him a trumpet.  Shortly thereafter, Masekela began to take his first trumpet lessons from the band leader of the Johannesburg Native Municipal Band and later from saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi.  While receiving lessons from Moeketsi, he met trombonist Jonas Gwanga and Dollar Brand, whose musical combination of church music, African popular music, and American jazz captivated Masekela.  After listening to Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, and others, Masekela chose to blend these styles with the traditional African rhythms and melodies he knew.  Together with Gwanga and Brand, they formed the Jazz Epistles and in 1959 became the first black band in South Africa to record a jazz LP.  Their success was compromised by the South African political situation; gatherings of black Africans larger than 10 people were banned, effectively prohibiting African musical performances, creating a prohibition of musical performances.
Sources: 
Hugh Masekela & D. Michael Cheers, Still Grazing (New York: Crown Publishers, 2004); Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestly, Jazz: The Essential Companion (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Mfume, Kweisi (Frizzel Gray) (1948 - )

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

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

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

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

Tucker, C. DeLores (1927-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1927 to Reverend Whitfield and Captilda Nottage, C. DeLores Tucker attended the highly competitive Philadelphia High School for Girls and then matriculated to Temple University where she studied finance and real estate. In 1951 she married businessman William Tucker and became an activist who at the time was counted among the 100 most influential black Americans. 

A successful realtor during the 1950s, Tucker became involved in civil rights activities.  In the 1960s she served as an officer in the Philadelphia NAACP and worked closely with the local branch president and activist Cecil Moore to end racist practices in the city’s post offices and construction trades.  Tucker gained national prominence when she led a Philadelphia delegation on the celebrated Selma to Montgomery march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  By the decade’s end, Tucker’s expertise as a fund raiser for the NAACP, coupled with her Democratic Party affiliation, enabled her to be appointed chair of the Pennsylvania Black Democratic Committee.  

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (eds.) Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1993); Notable Black American Women, Thompson/Gale, 1993; New York Times, November 7, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Nascimento, Abdias do (1914 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Desmond, Viola Davis (1914-1965)

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

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

Scott, Hazel (1920-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Hazel Scott was born on June 11, 1920, in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  In 1924, Scott and her parents migrated to Harlem, New York, where Hazel, a musical prodigy, studied classical piano with Paul Wagner, a Juilliard professor.  In the late 1930s and early 1940s her career blossomed, as she became a regular performer earning a weekly salary of $4,000 at New York’s elegant dinner club Café Society.  Her husband Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. once fondly referred to her as the “darling of Café Society.”

In 1938 her talent brought her to Broadway, where she performed in the musicals Singing Out the News and, four years later, Priorities of 1942.  The 1940s were thrilling years for Scott, with appearances in major Hollywood productions like Something to Shout About, I Dood It, and The Heat’s On in 1943, Broadway Rhythm in 1944, and Rhapsody in Blue in 1945. Scott distinguished herself from other black actors by refusing to play the traditional roles, such as maids and prostitutes, offered by movie executives to black actresses.  Instead, Scott made cameo appearances in movies playing the piano.

Sources: 
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 2001); Adam Clayton Powell, Adam by Adam: The Autobiography of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Dial Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

de Souza, Matthias ( ? -- ? )

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: For His Times and Ours

 

Image Courtesy of the Royal College of Music

In the article below Hilary Burrage, Executive Chair of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation, a United Kingdom (UK)-based non-profit organisation, describes the composer and how she came to regard and preserve his work and legacy.

It has taken three times the duration of his own lifetime for the reputation of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Britain’s greatest black classical composer, to begin to make an impact on our contemporary world.  At the time of his tragically early death in 1912, aged 37 from a chest infection, Coleridge-Taylor was a nationally feted musical figure.  His Hiawatha Trilogy of staged opera-cantatas based on the poem by Longfellow were massive commercial successes even though he gained almost nothing from them financially.  

Summary: 
<i>In the article below Hilary Burrage, Executive Chair of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation, a United Kingdom (UK)-based non-profit organisation, describes the composer and how she came to regard and preserve his work and legacy.</i>
Sources: 
Jeffrey Green, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a Musical Life (London, UK: Pickering & Chatto Publishers, 2011); Geoffrey Self, The Hiawatha Man: The Life And Work Of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (Aldershot, UK: Scolar Press, 1995); The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation: http://www.sctf.org.uk.
Contributor: 
Affiliation2: 
The Samuel Coleridge Taylor Foundation

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

Cosby, Bill (1937-- )

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

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

Brown, Hallie Quinn (1850-1949)

Vignette Type: 
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

Barthé, Richmond (1901-1988)

Vignette Type: 
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

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

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

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

Abbott, Diane (1953- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Diane Abbott, the first black woman to be elected to the British Parliament, was born to Jamaican immigrant parents in 1953. Growing up in Paddington, London, she attended Harrow County grammar school before pursuing studies in History to Master’s level at Newnham College, Cambridge.

Upon graduation, Abbott worked as a civil servant with the Home Office as well as being employed by the National Council for Civil Liberties. In 1982, she was elected to Westminster city council before winning the Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency for the Labour Party in 1987. She was elected along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant who became the first black men to be elected to the British Parliament.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Factor, Pompey (1849–1928)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Kadalie, Clements (1896-1951)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clements Kadalie, an early South African trade unionist and political activist, was born in April 1896 in Nkhata Bay District in Nyasaland (now Malawi). His parents Musa Kadalie Muwamba had two sons with Clements the youngest. Kadalie graduated in 1913 at age seventeen from Livingstonia, a mission school administered by Church of Scotland missionaries. He was certified to teach elementary school and assigned to district schools in the region. Kadalie taught school for five years but like many of his contemporaries he was attracted by the much higher wages paid in South Africa and decided to move there.

In 1918 he settled in Cape Town, South Africa where he befriended Arthur F. Batty, a white trade unionist and political activist. Batty viewed the poorly paid African working class as a prime target for continued exploitation unless they unionized. He urged Kadalie to create such a union. Kadalie responded by founding the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU) in 1919, the first major black union in South Africa.

In December 1919 Kadalie led his first work stoppage, a dockworker’s strike. The strike involved over 2,000 workers and lasted fourteen days, stopping the export of all goods through Cape Town Harbor facilities. The strike catapulted Kadalie to national prominence in South Africa.  
Sources: 
Clements Kadalie, My Life and the I.C.U.: The Autobiography of a Black Trade Unionist in South Africa (London: Cass, 1970); D. D. Phiri, I See You: Life of Clements Kadalie, the Man South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Namibia Should Not Forget (Blantyre, Malawi: College Publishing Company, 2000);  Encyclopedia of World Biography (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2009); http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/people/bios/kadalie-c.htm; http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/people.php?id=122;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moore, Frederick Randolph (1857-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Miller, Doris [“Dorie”] (1919-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership, Public Domain
World War II war hero Doris “Dorie” Miller was born in Waco, Texas on October 12, 1919 to Conery and Henrietta Miller who were farmers just outside the city.  Miller grew to 6 feet 3 inches, weighed over 200 pounds, and played football at Waco’s A.J. Moore Academy.  He dropped out of school at the age of 17 and enlisted in the US Navy in 1939 at the age of 20.  He was made a mess attendant, one the few positions available to African Americans at the time.  Miller was eventually elevated to Cook, Third Class and assigned to the USS West Virginia stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Miller was doing laundry as a mess attendant aboard the West Virginia on December 7, 1941, when it was subjected to a surprise attack by Japanese forces.  After hearing a loud and urgent summons to battle, Miller, who made his way from below deck to the ship’s bridge, saw Japanese fighter planes attacking US Naval forces, and the harbor already engulfed in flames.  He ran to an antiaircraft station, only to find it shattered by a Japanese torpedo.  Miller then pulled a captain and several of his crewmates to safety under heavy enemy fire.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Clark and Stanley Harrold, The African American Odyssey, Combined Volume  (New York: Prentice Hall, 2003); Matthew C. Whitaker, Peace Be Still: Modern Black America from World War II to Barack Obama (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Sources: 

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

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Williams, Camilla (1919-2012)

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

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

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

Davis, Ernie (1940-1963)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Noble, Ronald (1956 -)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ronald Kenneth Noble is the first African American to serve as Secretary General of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) headquartered in Lyon, France.  Born in 1956 at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Noble is the son of an African American soldier and a German mother.  He is a 1979 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, earning a baccalaureate degree in economics and business administration and a 1982 graduate of Stanford Law School in California where he was the president of his graduating class and served as articles editor of the Stanford Law Review.
Sources: 
Maggie Paine, “The World’s Top Cop,” UNH Magazine Online, Winter 2002 http://unhmagazine.unh.edu/w02/noble1w02.html; "Ronald K. Noble" http://www.interpol.int/About-INTERPOL/Structure-and-governance/Ronald-K.-Noble; New York University, “Ronald K. Noble - Biography,” https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/profile.cfm?section=bio&personID=20172; “PUBLIC LIVES; The Long Days of Interpol's New Top Sleuth,” New York Times, July 13, 1999, http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/13/nyregion/public-lives-the-long-days-of-interpol-s-new-top-sleuth.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

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

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

dan Fodio, Usman (1754-1817)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Map of the Sultanate of Sokoto
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Islamic preacher, reformer, scholar, and statesman, Usman dan Fodio was born on December 15, 1754 in the village of Maratta, in the Hausa city-state of Gobir, in what is today northern Nigeria.  He was a descendant of the early Fulani settlers in Hausaland in the 15th century.  He spent his youth in the devout pursuit of Islamic religious education, and his early manhood preaching, teaching, and writing.

Dan Fodio became an itinerant Muslim preacher in 1774, moving among rural communities.  He was a leader in the expansion of Islam across the Hausa countryside, increasing the popular basis for religious teaching and bringing literacy to numerous small communities.   He wrote poems and stories of mysticism that increased his popularity as a teacher and preacher.    

Throughout his proselytizing dan Fodio told of being given the “Sword of Truth” to advance Islamic law and defeat the enemies of Allah.  His "sword" was the written and oral word through prose and verse.  Usman found, however, that Hausa rulers, following common Hausa practice, had mixed “pagan” practices with Islamic ones and did not adhere closely to Islam.  He began to criticize these rulers.
Sources: 
Nehemia Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels, eds., The History of Islam in Africa (Athens:  Ohio University Press, 2000); Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Clyburn, James Enos (1940– )

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

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

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

James, LeBron (1984-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain

National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar LeBron James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio to Gloria James who was sixteen and unwed .  Gloria, the sole provider for her only son, worked various jobs and lived in numerous apartments with young LeBron throughout Akron.

LeBron James’s athleticism was revealed early when at age 14 he stood six feet tall and dominated his age group in football and basketball.  During this period he became close friends with Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee, and Romeo Travis.  The five adolescents dominated basketball leagues in various community centers and became known locally as the “Shooting Stars.”  All five chose to attend Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary (SVSM) Catholic High School.

The Shooting Stars saga at the SVSM became storied.  Under LeBron James’s leadership the team won three Division III state titles.  The team's popularity required SVSM to move their games from their high school area to the fifteen thousand seat Rhodes Arena at the University of Akron.  James's fame also attracted the attention of ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated in the late 1990s and he was given the nickname "King James" by the sports press.  The team was chronicled in the 2009 documentary More Than a Game.

Sources: 
LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger, “LeBron’s Band of Brothers,” Vanity Fair (October 2009), 164-179; LeBron James, Buzz Bissinger, H.G. Bissinger, Shooting Stars (New York: Penguin Books, 2009); Sarah Tieck,  LeBron James, Basketball Superstar (Edina, Minnesota: ABDO Publishers,  2009); “LeBron James ‘Decision’ Ratings: ESPN Gets 9.5 Million Viewers for Special,” Huffington Post, January 30, 2011, Seattle Times, June 22, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Haralson, Jeremiah (1846–1916)

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

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

O'Reilly, Salaria Kee (1913-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born 13 July 1913 in Akron, Ohio, Salaria Kee was orphaned in her infancy and raised by family and friends.  After high school, she resolved to become a nurse but was denied by three nursing schools on account of her race.  Leveraging connections to Eleanor Roosevelt, the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing accepted her application and Kee moved to New York City.  Graduating in 1934, she worked as head nurse in the terminal ward of the Sea View Hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis.

When Italy invaded Ethiopia in late 1935, Kee joined a group of Harlem nurses collecting medical supplies for the Ethiopians.  Like many other African American anti-fascists, Kee shifted her support to the Spanish Republic with the rise of Franco.  Her efforts to join the Red Cross in Spain were rejected, again due to her race, but she soon found a place in the American Medical Bureau contingent in support of the International Brigades and departed the United States in March 1937.

A devoted Catholic, she felt it was her duty to go. While assigned to the American hospital at Villa Paz, she met and later married John Patrick O’Reilly, an Irish volunteer in the International Brigades.  As one of a very small number of African American women in Spain on behalf of the Republic, she inspired a highly-promoted pamphlet entitled “A Negro Nurse in Republican Spain” in which several details of her life were altered to support a political agenda.

Sources: 
Bob August, “Salaria Kea and John O’Reilly: Volunteers Who Met and Wed in Spain, 1938,” Cleveland Magazine (1975); 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); John Gerassi, The Premature Anti-Fascists: North American Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939: an Oral History (New York, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1986). 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).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hayes, Isaac (1942-2008)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lambert, Charles Lucièn, Sr. (1828-1896)

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

Charles Lucièn Lambert, Sr., also known as Lucièn Lambert, Sr., was an internationally prominent classical musician and composer, and part of the middle generation of acclaimed Lambert musical artists.  Both his father, Charles-Richard Lambert, and his son, Lucièn-Léon Guillaume Lambert, had distinguished careers in classical music.

Charles Lucièn Lambert was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1828 to Charles-Richard, a native of New York, and an unidentified free Creole woman of color. After Charles Lucièn’s mother’s death, Charles-Richard married Coralie Suzanne Orzy, another free woman of color. They had a son, Sidney, who was born in 1838. Charles Lucièn and Sidney received their first piano lessons from their father who was by then a prominent early 19th Century New Orleans musician and composer.

Charles Lucièn Lambert was a contemporary of the soon to be famous white Creole composer and musician, Louis Moreau Gottschalk.  In fact the two enjoyed a friendly artistic rivalry as aspiring virtuoso pianists and composers in New Orleans in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Sources: 
Lester Sullivan, Charles Lucièn Lambert Sr. (c. 1828-1896) (Hong Kong: Naxos 8.559037, 2000);
http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Lambertsr.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

White, Walter F. (1893-1955)

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

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

Allen, William G. (1820- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pearman, Raven-Symoné Christina (1985- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Raven-Symoné Christina Pearman, better known as “Raven-Symoné,” is an American actress and recording artist.  Her entertainment career began when she starred in advertisements for well-known brands such as Jell-O and Cool Whip and as a young model for the Ford Modeling Company.

Pearman was born to Christopher B. and Lydia (Gaulden) Pearman on December 10, 1985 in Atlanta, Georgia.  In the late 1990s, the family moved to New York City, New York in order to improve her chances at becoming an entertainer.  At the age of four she auditioned for a role in the 1990 film Ghost Dad, but was turned down because of her young age.  She so impressed comedian and actor Bill Cosby, however, that he later cast her in his television series The Cosby Show as Olivia Kendall, the adopted daughter of the Cosby’s oldest daughter.  She was an instant hit with audiences.
Sources: 

The Biography Channel, Raven-Symoné Synopsis (New York, NY: Arts & Entertainment Networks, 2014), retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/raven-symon%C3%A9-21303025; Damien Croghan, Raven-Symone’s Coming Out should be Celebrated, retrieved from http://www.dailynebraskan.com/opinion/croghan-raven-symone-s-coming-out-should-be-celebrated/article_4933ebc2-1017-11e3-9f71-0019bb30f31a.html; Kimberley McLeod, ed., “Actress Raven Symone Radiates Beside Out Model AzMarie,” Elixher Magazine (September 3, 2013), retrieved from http://elixher.com/actress-raven-symone-radiates-beside-out-model-azmarie/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

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

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

Baker, Josephine (1906-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Parsons, Richard D. (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Huffington Post,
www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/
20090121/citygroup-chairman/image
Richard Dean Parsons, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Time Warner Inc., is the current Chairman of Citigroup. Despite his working class origins, Parsons’ achievements have been recognized by the African American community and he has become an influential role model for racial uplift. Born in Brooklyn in 1948, he was one of five children. He was raised in South Ozone Park, Queens and attended New York City public schools. After graduating high school at the age of sixteen, he attended the University of Hawaii where he excelled academically and athletically. At the university, he was a varsity basketball player and the social chairman of Omega Psi Phi and he met his future wife Laura Ann Bush who he married in 1968.  
Sources: 
Thomas Hayden, "The Man Who Keeps the Peace: AOL Time-Warner's Richard Parsons," Newsweek (January 24, 2000): p. 36; http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1873165,00.html;
http://www.notablebiographies.com/news/Ow-Sh/Parsons-Richard.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barnett, Claude Albert (1889-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

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

King, John Thomas (1846-1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John T. King was born in Girard (now Phenix City), Alabama in 1846. He was the son of covered bridge designer and builder Horace King.  John King carried on the family business by designing and building bridges, houses, and commercial buildings in Georgia and Alabama.  The King family did much to develop West Georgia and East Alabama and open up the area for commerce.  John King also served long tenures as a church leader, and trustee of Clark College in Atlanta.

King started his career at age fourteen as bridge keeper for the Dillingham Bridge in Columbus, Georgia.  He moved to LaGrange in 1872 with other family members.  As his father’s health began to fail, John became head of King Brothers Bridge Company, a thriving business in western Georgia and eastern Alabama in the late nineteenth century.  The company not only built bridges, but also designed and built in the town of LaGrange the Lloyd Building on East Court Square, a sash and blind factory operated by the Kings, the Hotel Andrews, numerous houses, and the LaGrange Cotton Oil Factory which was the town’s first “modern” textile mill to be built following the Civil War.  Covered bridges that John King designed and constructed included one in LaGrange, West Point, Columbus, and eastern Alabama.

Sources: 
Dreck Spurlock Wilson, ed., African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Downing, Henry Francis (1846-1928)

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

Still, James (1812-1882)

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

James Still, medical doctor and herbalist, was born on April 9, 1812 in Burlington County, New Jersey.  Still was born to Levin and Charity Still, two former slaves living in the Pine Barrens to avoid being captured and sold back into slavery. Although the Still family was poor, the children attended school periodically and had some of their own textbooks, such as the New Testament and a spelling book.  When Still was three years old, a Dr. Fort, a Philadelphia physician, came to the Pines to vaccinate the children. His visit was the spark of inspiration that led to Still’s desire to be a doctor.

Just before Still turned 18 he was voluntarily hired out as an indentured servant by his father. During the three years of his servitude, Still read everything available about medicine and botany, and learned all he could from the Native Americans of the area. On his twenty-first birthday, he was released from his service, given $10.00 and a new suit. He left immediately for Philadelphia. Still’s racial and financial status prevented him from attending medical school. Nonetheless, he continued to gain medical knowledge, reading everything he could find while working menial jobs to support himself.  

Sources: 
James Still, Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Company, 1877); Carole Ann Lang, “James Still: New Jersey’s Black Physician of the Pines,” Negro History Bulletin 43:1 (March 1980).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ellison, Ralph (1913-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on March 1, 1913 in Oklahoma City, Ralph Waldo Ellison entered the world with a name that almost presumed for him a literary career. But his road to and in literature would be torturous. Many of the initial comforts enjoyed by Ellison vanished when his father died in 1916. His mother worked long and hard to insure that Ralph Ellison had an education, but the family existed in precarious economic circumstances. When an opportunity arose for Ralph to escape from home, he jumped at it, enrolling in 1933 as a music student at Tuskegee Institute. While Ellison learned much about music at the school, he also spent an immense amount of time and energy devouring modern literature at the school library.

Like many young black men with literary aspirations, Ellison headed to Harlem in 1936, to make it as a writer. Possessed with tremendous confidence, Ellison quickly made friends with some of the leading lights in the African American literary constellation. During the period of the 1930s, Ellison was associated with the Communist Party, when that organization appeared for many African Americans as a natural ally in the fight for civil rights and as supportive of black writers. Like his friend and initial mentor Richard Wright, Ellison came to chafe at the political discipline imposed by the party, and he had by the 1940s separated himself from it.
Sources: 
Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007); George Cotkin, Existential America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); Kenneth W. Warren, So Black and So Blue: Ralph Ellison and the Occasion of Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); Jerry Gafio Watts, Heroism and the Black Intellectual: Ralph Ellison, Politics, and Afro-American Intellectual Life (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Cal Poly

Perry, Christopher J. (1854-1920)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Yvonne Jeffries (1942- )

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

Yvonne Jeffries Johnson, the first African American mayor of Greensboro, North Carolina, was born on October 26, 1942 in Greensboro to Ruby Jeffries.  She graduated from Dudley High School in 1960 and Bennett College in 1964, with a BA in Psychology.  She then enrolled in Howard University and received a Graduate Fellowship in 1965.  In 1978 Johnson received a Master of Science degree in Guidance Counseling from North Carolina A&T University.

Sources: 
Personal interview with the author, June 2011, http://www.greensboro-nc.gov/index.aspx?page=104; Personal resume.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

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

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

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

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

Fuller, Charles Henry, Jr. (1939- )

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

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

Banks, Ernest “Ernie” (1931 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Dave's Dougout, Inc.
Ernest “Ernie” Banks was the first African American baseball player for the Chicago Cubs and the first African American manager in Major League Baseball (MLB). Banks earned the nickname “Mr. Cub” while playing shortstop and first base from 1953-1971 for the team.

Ernest Banks was born on January 31, 1931 in Dallas, Texas. Ernie’s father bribed him to play baseball at a young age, but in high school he was a standout in basketball, football and track. When Banks was 17, he signed a contract with the Amarillo Colts, an all-black barnstorming (exhibition) team for $15 per game, and then in 1950 he signed with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League.  He spent two years serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and then returned back to the Negro leagues in 1953. After a season with the Kansas City Monarchs, he signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs, becoming the first African American player for the Cubs. Banks debuted in the major leagues with the Cubs on September 17, 1953, wearing the number 14.
Sources: 
Lew Freedman, African American Pioneers of Baseball (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007); Alan Ross, Cubs Pride: For the Love of Ernie, Fergie & Wrigley (Nashville, TV: Cumberland House, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gray, William Herbert, III (1941–2013)

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

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

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

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

Tobias, Channing H. (1882-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Channing H. Tobias acquired fame through his work with the YMCA.  Born in Augusta, Georgia on February 1, 1882 to Fair and Bell Robinson Tobias, young Channing received his bachelor’s degree from Paine College in 1902.  Tobias left Georgia to study religion at Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey.  After spending time at the University of Pennsylvania, Tobias returned to Paine and served as a professor of Biblical Literature.  Meanwhile, Tobias received a doctorate in Divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary. 

As early as 1905 Tobias joined the YMCA and eventually became Secretary of the National Council.  He also served the organization as the student secretary for the International Committee.  In 1923 Tobias was appointed Senior Secretary in the Department of Interracial Services within the Colored Work Department, a position he held for twenty-three years.  As head of the Interracial Services Division, Tobias strenuously endeavored to enhance race relations in the United States and abroad.  As a member of the Executive Committee of the National Interracial Conference and as the associate director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, Tobias campaigned to promote interracial cooperation and redress racial grievances.  His crowning public achievement in interracial affairs occurred when he became a delegate and speaker at the 1926 World Conference in Finland.

Sources: 
“Channing H. Tobias: An Inventory of His Papers;” “YMCA Colored Work Department;” and “Phelps-Stokes Fund Names Southerner President and Negro Director,” Journal of Negro Education, November 21, 1945, 255-256.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Cardozo, William Warrick (1905-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Whitaker, Forest (1961 -- )

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

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

Armstrong, Henry (1912-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Henry Jackson Jr., better known as Henry Armstrong, was born on December 12, 1912, in Columbus, Mississippi to a sharecropper of black, Indian and Irish descent, and a mother who was a full-blooded Iroquois Indian. At age four his family moved to St. Louis, where he was raised by his grandmother and father after his mother died. It was on the streets of St. Louis that young Henry learned to defend himself from gangs and first displayed a natural affinity for fighting.

While Henry dreamed of going to college to become a doctor he was forced to become the head of the household at the young age of 18 when his father’s health deteriorated and he was no longer able to work. Turning to boxing, Henry failed to qualify for the upcoming Olympics, and began his professional boxing career in 1931 under the name of Melody Jackson. He later adopted the last name of a friend, and changed his last name to Armstrong.

Sources: 
www.henryarmstrong.net; www.hbhof.com/armstrong.htm; http://coxscorner.tripod.com/armstrong.html; Bert Sugar, 1982 ‘100 Years of Boxing’, 2002 Ring Magazine Annual (Vol. 2).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Drew, Charles R. (1904-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Havens, Richard Pierce ["Richie"] (1941-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Music’s Over Website
Richie Havens, born Richard Pierce Havens, was an esteemed musician, writer, educator, and actor. Havens was born in Brooklyn on January 21, 1941 to a music-infused family. His father, Richard Havens, was a Blackfoot Native-American ear piano player, and his mother, Milfred, was a singer from the British West Indies. Havens was the eldest of nine children.

Havens is best remembered for his three-hour opening performance on August 15, 1969 at the Woodstock Concert on Max Yasgur’s farm. Havens was selected to open the concert when the original act was delayed in traffic. His performance ended with an improvised rendition of an old African American spiritual, “Motherless Child,” which became known as “Freedom” and was immediately identified with the pivotal movements of the period: civil rights, anti-war, free love, and feminism.

Haven’s illustrious career began much earlier in 1954, when he started singing doo-wop music at age 13. By the age of 16, Havens had formed a gospel group known as McCrea Gospel singers. In 1967, Havens signed with Verve Records in a deal arranged by Bob Dylan's manager Albert Grossman.

After Woodstock, Haven’s popularity skyrocketed and later in 1969, he formed his own record label, Stormy Forest, a label which eventually released six albums. In total, Havens recorded twenty-five albums over his five decade career.
Sources: 
Rachel Marco-Havens, “Richie Havens Daughter Says Good-Bye,” The Progressive (April 23, 2013); Richie Havens and Steve Davidowitz, They Can't Hide Us Anymore (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1999); Derek Schofield, “Richie Havens,” The Guardian (April 23, 2013); http://richiehavens.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Shuttlesworth, Fred (1922-2011)

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

Todman, Terence A. (1926-2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

hooks, bell / Gloria Jean Watkins (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Writer, teacher, and cultural critic bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to a poor working class family.  Her father, Veodis Watkins, was a janitor for the local post office, and her mother, Rosa Bell Watkins, was a homemaker, raising Gloria and her six siblings.

Gloria Watkins attended racially segregated public schools in Hopkinsville as a child.  She performed poetry readings for her church community and was heavily influenced by her great-grandmother, Bell Hooks, who was known for her sharp opinions.  As a writer, she chose the pseudonym, bell hooks, in tribute to her mother and great-grandmother.  She decided not to capitalize her new name to place focus on her work rather than her name, on her ideas rather than her personality.

Watkins attended Stanford University on scholarship.  She graduated in 1973 and went to The University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she earned a Master’s degree in English literature in 1976.  In 1983, she obtained her Ph.D. at the University of California-Santa Cruz, having completed her dissertation on the work of novelist Toni Morrison.
Sources: 
Lara E. Dieckmann, “bell hooks,” in Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook, ed. Jennifer Scanlon (Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 1999); bell hooks, Bone Black:  Memories of A Girlhood (New York:  Henry Holt and Company, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lewis, John R. (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Lewis, 23, Speaks at the March on Washington (1963)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama on February 21, 1940.  In 1961 he received a B.A. from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1967 he received an additional B.A. from Fisk University located in Nashville, Tennessee.

While attending American Baptist Seminary, Lewis emerged as a civil rights leader after his participation in the Nashville sit-in movement in 1960 and the Freedom Rides the following year.  In 1963 at the age of 23, Lewis helped plan the March on Washington and was one of the keynote speakers.  Lewis also served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966.  By the time he assumed the leadership of SNCC he had been arrested 24 times as a consequence of his protest activities.  Lewis became nationally known after Alabama State Troopers and other police attacked him and 500 other protesters as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March.  To this day some of the wounds from his beating are still visible.

In 1966 Lewis left SNCC as it embraced a “black power” ideology, and started working with community organizations in Atlanta.  Later that year he was named director of community affairs for the National Consumer Co-op Bank in Atlanta.
Sources: 
Lewis, John, with Michael D’Orso, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998); John Lewis' opinions about political issues and his voting record at website On the Issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/GA/John_Lewis.htm
Congressional biography: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=l000287
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Davis, Angela (1944--)

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

Angela Davis, activist, educator, scholar, and politician, was born on January 26, 1944, in the “Dynamite Hill” area of Birmingham, Alabama.  The area received that name because so many African American homes in this middle class neighborhood had been bombed over the years by the Ku Klux Klan.  Her father, Frank Davis, was a service station owner and her mother, Sallye Davis, was an elementary school teacher.  Davis’s mother was also active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), when it was dangerous to be openly associated with the organization because of its civil rights activities.  As a teenager Davis moved to New York City with her mother, who was pursuing a Master’s degree at New York University.  While there she attended Elizabeth Irwin High School, a school considered leftist because a number of its teachers were blacklisted during the McCarthy era for their earlier alleged Communist activities.

Sources: 
Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006); Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Elliott, Robert Brown (1842–1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Robert Brown Elliott, Reconstruction-era Congressman, was born in 1842 in Liverpool, England. He attended High Holborn Academy in London, England and then studied law, graduating from Eton College in 1859. From there he joined the British Royal Navy.  Elliott decided to settle in South Carolina in 1867.  He was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1868 and began practicing law in Columbia, the state capital.  Elliott worked under the future Congressman Richard H. Cain as associate editor of the South Carolina Leader and was an elected delegate to the 1868 state constitution convention.  Later that year he won a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives. In 1869, partly because of his military background, Elliott was appointed assistant adjutant-general for South Carolina.  He became the first African American commanding general of the South Carolina National Guard which as the state militia was charged with fighting the Ku Klux Klan.  
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress http://bioguide.congress.gov/ ; Biographical Directory of Robert Elliott Brown.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Stanley, Sara G. (1837-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Born in 1837 in North Carolina, Sara G. Stanley was a member of a free, educated and economically secure family.  She attended Oberlin College and later moved to Delaware after her family immigrated there.  Following the tradition of other free black women Sara joined the local ladies antislavery society.  As a representative of her organization she delivered a strong and forceful address at the 1856 meeting of the all male Convention of Disfranchised citizens of Ohio.

Sources: 
Ellen NicKenzie Lawson and Marlene D. Merrill, “The Three Sarahs: Documents of Antebellum Black College Women” in Edwin Mellen Press Studies in Women and Religion, Vol. 13. (New York, 1984); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women In America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. 11 (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Carlson Publishing, 1993), p. 1104.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Vermont

Owens, Robert Curry (1860--?)

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

Robert Curry Owens was born in Los Angeles, California in January of 1860 to Charles Owens, a livery stable owner, and Ellen Mason-Owens. As the first born grandson to the Owens-Mason union, Robert rose to prominence in Los Angeles after inheriting both his father’s and grandmother, Bridget “Biddy” Mason’s, estate. Throughout the Progressive Era, Owens’ social, political, and economic influence in Los Angeles made him one of the most powerful African American men on the west coast.

When Charles Owens and Ellen Mason were married in 1856, they united two of Los Angeles’ most powerful pioneering families. As the first born heir to the Owens-Mason family, Robert was reared to continue his family’s legacy. During his childhood, Owens attended J.B. Sanderson’s School for Blacks in Oakland, California and completed his education in 1879 after studying business. Both the Owens and the Mason families took pride in hard work, which they instilled in Robert. Throughout his youth, Owens worked as a ranch laborer, a charcoal peddler, and even drove the street sprinkler for Los Angeles city contractors.

Sources: 

Delilah Beasley, The Negro Trail-Blazers of California (Los Angeles: Times Mirror Print and Binding House, 1919); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998); Lonnie G. Bunch, Black Angelenos: The Afro-American in Los Angeles, 1850-1950 (Los Angeles: California Afro-American Museum, 1988); F.H. Crumbly, “A Los Angeles Citizen,” The Colored American Magazine, September, 1905, p. 485; “Robert C. Owens: A Pacific Coast Negro,” The Colored American Magazine, July, 1905, p.391-392; “1900 United States Federal Census,” http://ancestrylibrary.com/ (Accessed August 7, 2008).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Allen, Debbie (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Deborah “Debbie” Allen, dancer, choreographer, actress, director, and producer was born January 16, 1950 in Houston, Texas to Arthur Allen, a dentist and Vivian Ayers, a poet. Allen comes from a creative family: Allen’s brother “Tex” Allen is a jazz musician, and older sister Phylicia Rashad is an actress best known for her role as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show.  Allen began dancing at a very early age and at age 12 she auditioned for the Houston Ballet School, but was denied admittance because she was African American. Luckily, a Russian dancer who saw Allen perform was so impressed with her that he secretly enrolled her in the school where she eventually became one of the top students.

At age 16 Allen auditioned at the North Carolina School of the Arts but was told that she did not have the right body type for ballet, a common criticism given to many aspiring black ballerinas to exclude them from classical ballet. Allen was so devastated by her rejection that she put her dancing career on hold for several years.
Sources: 
Ashyia Henderson, “Debbie Allen," Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 42 (Farmington Hill, Michigan: Thomson/Gale, 2004); Kenneth Estell, “Debbie Allen,” The African American Almanac, 8th ed. (Farmington Hill, Michigan: Thomson/Gale, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Bishop, Maurice (1944-1983)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Spraggs, Venice Tipton (1905-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Chicago Defender Front Page, November 16, 1940
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Venice Tipton Spraggs served as the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Defender and was the first African American inducted into Theta Sigma Phi, a professional journalism fraternity.  Spraggs was born in 1905 in Birmingham, Alabama to Barbara Tipton.  She attended Spelman College and married William Spraggs, a presser from Birmingham, in 1924.  The couple had no children.
Sources: 
Helen W. Berthelot, Win Some, Lose Some: G. Mennen Williams and the New Democrats (Detroit: Wayne University Press, 1995); Cheryl Mullenbach, Double Victory: How African-American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013); United States of America, Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930, Census Place: Birmingham, Jefferson, Alabama (roll 30, page 17A, Enumeration District 0098, Image 35.0, FHL microfilm 2339765).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

Burns, Anthony (1834-1862)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The youngest of 13 children, Anthony Burns was born May 31, 1834 into slavery; his family was owned by the Suttle family of Virginia. His mother married three times; Burns’s father was her third husband. Burns’s father died when his last child was very young.

A few years later their owner, John Suttle, died leaving his wife with financial problems which prompted her to sell five of Burns’s siblings. To gain more income, she hired out the remaining siblings including Anthony. Burns performed a variety of jobs including personal servant, sawmill worker and tavern employee. He also was given the responsibility of managing four other slaves owned by Mrs. Suttle; he was allowed this freedom as long as he paid his master a fee from his earnings.

In March of 1854, Burns escaped from his master in Virginia and boarded a ship to Boston. When he arrived in Boston he found employment with a clothing store operated by Lewis Hayden, an abolitionist.

His freedom was short-lived, however.  On May 24, 1854, Burns was arrested under the Fugitive Slave Act, a component of the Compromise of 1850. This controversial federal law allowed owners to reclaim escaped slaves by presenting proof of ownership.
Sources: 
Joseph Meredith Toner, Boston Slave Riot, and Trial of Anthony Burns: Containing the Report of the Faneuil Hall (Detroit: Fetridge and Company, 1854); http://pbs.org; http://www.masshist.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Attucks, Crispus (1723-1770)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Crispus Attucks, the first martyr of the Boston Massacre in 1770, was probably born near Framingham, Massachusetts, a Christianized and multitribal town of Indians, whites, and blacks, in 1723.  Unusually tall for the era at six feet, two inches, Attucks was of mixed ancestry, the son of an African American man and an American Indian woman.  It is believed that he was the slave of William Brown since he was reported in the Boston Gazette on October 2, 1750 as having escaped from Brown; Attucks was listed as age 27 at the time. By the time of the Massacre he was 47 and working as a sailor in Boston and around the Atlantic Basin.
Sources: 
The Liberator, March 28, 1862; Sidney Kaplan and Emma Nogrady Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989); The Trial of William Wemms, James Hartegan, William M'Cauley, Hugh White, Matthew Killroy, William Warren, John Carrol, and Hugh Montgomery, soldiers in His Majesty's 29th Regiment of Foot, for the murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr, on Monday-evening, the 5th of March, 1770, at the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and general goal delivery, held at Boston. The 27th day of November, 1770, by adjournment. Before the Hon. Benjamin Lynde, John Cushing, Peter Oliver, and Edmund Trowbridge, Esquires, justices of said court: Published by permission of the court (Boston, MA: printed by J. Fleeming, and sold at his printing-office, nearly opposite the White-Horse Tavern in Newbury-Street, 1770); Mitch Kachun, “From Forgotten Founder to Indispensable Icon: Crispus Attucks, Black Citizenship, and Collective Memory, 1770-1865,” Journal of the Early Republic, June 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell (1898-1989)

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

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

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

Moore, Richard Benjamin (1893-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

Ruffin, Josephine St. Pierre (1842 - 1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was born into one of Boston’s leading families on August 31, 1842.  St. Pierre’s mother was an English-born white woman and her father was from the island of Martinique, and founder of the Boston Zion Church.  The St. Pierre’s sent their young daughter to Salem where the schools were integrated due mainly to the work of John Lenox Remond. 

St. Pierre married George Lewis Ruffin at the age of 15.  Ruffin was the first African American to graduate from Harvard Law School and later served on the Boston City Council, the state legislature, and became the first black municipal judge in Boston. After marriage, Mrs. Ruffin graduated from a Boston finishing school and completed two years of private tutoring in New York.  During the civil war, the Ruffins were involved in various charity works, civil rights causes, and Mrs. Ruffin, especially, was involved in the women’s suffrage movement where she worked with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Sources: 
Susan L. Albertine, ed., A Living of Words: American Women in Print Culture (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995); Roger Streitmatter, Raising Her Voice: African American Women Journalists Who Changed History (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1994); www.in.gov/icw/archives/ruffin.html
www.mfh.org/specialprojects/shwlp/site/honorees/ruffin.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch McGregor University

Ray, Charles B. (1807-1886)

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

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

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

Banning, James Herman (1899-1933)

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

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

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

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

Lawrence, Jacob & Gwendolyn Knight

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jacob Lawrence, born in 1917 in Atlantic City, N.J., moved to New York City at age thirteen.  Gwendolyn Knight, born in 1913, in Barbados, West Indies, arrived in the U.S. at age seven, and spent her first years in St. Louis.  She arrived in New York City on the threshold of her teens.  Knight and Lawrence met in the mid 1930s in Charles Alston’s Harlem Community Art Center, a place where young artists found mentors and a compatible working space.  During the late 1930s Jacob and Gwen worked with artist/sculptor Augusta Savage. The sculptor played a key role in bringing Jacob Lawrence and Gwen into the WPA program which established their lives as professional artists.  In 1940 Jacob Lawrence was awarded a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship to complete his Migration of the Negro Series.  Gwen continued to work with Augusta Savage but she also devoted time to help Jacob prepare the boards (for the Migration Series) in his studio at 33 West 125th street, an unheated space he shared with a number of artists including painter Romare Beardon and writer Claude McKay.
Sources: 
Michelle DuBois and Peter T. Nesbett, Jacob Lawrence Catalogue Raisonne (University of Washington Press, 2000);  Conkelton/Thomas, Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight Lawrence, 2003, www.Jacobandgwenlawrence.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Artist and Art Historian

Walker, Moses Fleetwood (1857-1924)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Aynaw, Yityish “Titi” (1992- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Yityish “Titi” Aynaw was crowned Miss Israel on February 27, 2013.  She made history when she became the first Miss Israel of African ancestry.  Born in Gondar Province, Ethiopia, Aynaw arrived in Israel in March 2003 along with her older brother and grandparents at the age of 12 after the death of her mother in 2002.  Her father died when she was two years old.

Aynaw lived in the hardscrabble immigrant town of Netanya.  Despite having no knowledge of spoken or written Hebrew, she was transported to a Hebrew boarding school in Haifa that catered to newly arrived immigrants.  Over time her competency in Hebrew steadily increased and she eventually became fluent in Yiddish as well.  Aynaw was a standout student in high school who distinguished herself from the outset.  She was student council president, excelled in track and field, and won first place in a national film competition that was loosely based on her own life experiences.

Sources: 
Daniel Estrin, “Israel’s Bold New Queen,” Tablet Magazine, March 3, 2013; Aaron Kalman, “Miss Israel is Ethiopian Immigrant,” The Times of Israel, February 28, 2013; Robert Tait, “Barack Obama To Dine with First Black Miss Israel,” Telegraph, March 22, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennesse State University

Brown, Ronald H. (1941-1996)

Vignette Type: 
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

Benjamin, Regina Marcia (1956– )

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

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

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

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

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

Herndon, Angelo (1913 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Angelo Herndon was the defendant in one of the most publicized and notorious legal cases of the 1930s. In 1932, nineteen-year-old Herndon was arrested under an obscure 19th century servile insurrection law for attempting to organize a peaceful demonstration of unemployed workers in Atlanta. Largely due to the efforts of the Communist Party-affiliated International Labor Defense, the arrest and subsequent trial ignited a firestorm of protest that, alongside the Scottsboro case, helped expose the gross injustice of the southern legal system and introduced African Americans on a broad scale to the militant anti-racism of the Communist Party.  

Herndon was born on May 6, 1913 in Wyoming, Ohio, outside of Cincinnati. As a teenager he migrated to Kentucky and then Alabama in search of employment. It was in Birmingham in 1930 that he was first introduced to the Communist Party. Impressed by the Party's uncompromising avowal of interracial unity, Herndon joined and began working with the local Unemployed Council. In 1931, Herndon briefly worked for the International Labor Defense on its campaign to free the Scottsboro defendants.
Sources: 
Charles H. Martin, The Angelo Herndon Case and Southern Justice (Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State University Press, 1976); Angelo Herndon, Let Me Live (New York:  Random House, 1937).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Clara (1803–1885)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clara Brown was a kind-hearted, generous woman whose determination led her on a life-long quest to be reunited with her daughter. Born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia in 1803, her earliest memory was of being sold on the auction block. She grew up in Logan County, Kentucky, married at age 18, and had four children. At age 36 her master, Ambrose Smith, died and her family was sold off to settle his estate. Despite her continued enslavement, Clara Brown vowed to search for her ten-year-old daughter, Eliza Jane.
Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Roger Baker, Clara an Ex-Slave in Gold Rush Colorado (Central City, Colorado: Black Hawk Publishing, 2003). 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smith, Moranda (1915–1950)

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

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

Broonzy, William Lee Conley “Big Bill” (1893-1958)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although he struggled throughout his life to produce a sufficient income, Big Bill Broonzy played an integral role in launching the global popularity of Southern blues.  Born to sharecropper parents on June 26, 1893 in Scott, Mississippi, Broonzy grew up in Mississippi and Arkansas.  As a child he experimented with homemade guitars and fiddles and by the age of 15 proved he was skilled enough to play at special occasions.  During the next five years he mastered his unique vocal techniques and guitar skills that would assist him in his career which began after a stint in the U.S. Army in World War I.  

In 1920 Broonzy moved to Chicago to work as a professional musician. He had some luck landing live performances for mostly black crowds at Chicago nightclubs.  In 1926 he made his first recording with Paramount Records, playing backup guitar for local blues artists Cripple Clarence Lofton and Bumble Bee Slim.  By the early 1930s Broonzy was finally given the opportunity to record under his own name for the Melotone, Oriole, and Champion labels.  By the end of the decade he was the top selling male blues vocalist on the Perfect and Vocalion labels and established the widely known Bluebird Beat Chicago Blues sound while recording with the Bluebird label.  By this time Broonzy was no longer a solo performer.  He began to play with small groups that incorporated the piano, trumpet, saxophone, and sometimes a rhythm section.
Sources: 
Charles Alexander, Masters of Jazz Guitar (London: Balafon Books, 1999); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Leonard Feather, The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Horizon Press, 1955); Yannick Bruynoghe, Big Bill Blues (New York: Grove Press, 1957).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Canty, Hattie (1934- )

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

Langston, Charles Henry (1817-1892)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Charles Henry Langston
(Ohio Historical Society)

Charles Henry Langston, the grandfather of poet Langston Hughes, was born a free man on a Virginia plantation in 1817 to Captain Ralph Quarles and Lucy Jane Langston, Quarles’ mulatto slave. He had two brothers, John Mercer (who would become a Virginia Congressman in 1888) and Gideon. After the death of his father in 1834, Charles inherited a large part of his father’s estate, and he went to be educated at Oberlin College in 1842 and 1843.

Sources: 
Richard B. Sheridan, “Charles Henry Langston and the African American Struggle in Kansas,” Kansas History 22 (Winter 1999/2000); Eugene H. Berwanger, “Hardin and Langston: Western Black Spokesmen of the Reconstruction Era,” Journal of Negro History 64 (Spring 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jefferson, Isaac (1775-1853)

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

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

Jones, Gilbert Haven (1881-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Edwin Robinson

In 1909 Gilbert Haven Jones became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from a German university. After completing his doctoral studies in philosophy, Jones returned to the United States to take up teaching and administrative positions, primarily at Wilberforce University.  Jones was also the first African American with a Ph.D. to teach psychology in the United States.

Gilbert Haven Jones was born in Fort Mott, South Carolina on August 21, 1881, to Bishop Joshua H. Jones and Elizabeth “Lizzy” (Martin) Jones. Bishop Jones held multiple positions in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and was also a prominent figure at AME-supported Wilberforce University. When Gilbert Haven graduated from Wilberforce with his Bachelor of Arts (1902) and Bachelor of Science (1903) degrees, his father was president of the institution.

Sources: 
Robert Munro, "The Dynamic Character of the Early African American Philosopher: An Intellectual Biography of Gilbert Haven Jones" (Ph.D. dissertation, Michigan State University, 2012); George Yancy, “Gilbert Haven Jones as an Early Black Philosopher and Educator,” APA Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience 2:2 (Spring 2003); Gilbert Haven Jones, Education in Theory and Practice (Boston: The Gorham Press, 1919).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

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

Colonel Tye (1753-1780)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

McKinney, Louise Jones (1930–2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Lora-Ellen McKinney
Louise McKinney (née Jones) was an African-American educator, human rights advocate, philanthropist, business woman, community activist, and patron of the arts.  She was a long-established galvanizing force of civic life in Seattle and in the State of Washington.

Born Louise Jones on July 12, 1920 in Cleveland, Ohio, McKinney graduated from Western Reserve (now Case Western Reserve) University in 1952.

In 1953 she met and subsequently married Rev. Samuel B. McKinney, a 1952 graduate of New York's Colgate Rochester Divinity School. They remained married for 59 years and had two children, Rhoda and Lora-Ellen.

Between 1955 and 1958 McKinney lived in Providence, Rhode Island, where her husband served as pastor of the Olney Street Baptist Church.  In 1958 the McKinneys moved to Seattle and for four decades she was the First Lady of Mount Zion Baptist Church.  
Sources: 
Lornet Turnbull, “Louise McKinney, longtime educator and patron of the arts, dies,” The Seattle Times Website (August 15, 2012); Tom Fucoloro, “Mount Zion mourns the passing of former First Lady at 82,” Central District News Website (August 17, 2012); “The loves of their lives,” The Seattle Times Website (February 13, 2000), “Welcome to The Hansberry Project at ACT Theatre” http://hansberryproject.org/programs.html; “Boards and Volunteers – Louise Jones McKinney,” at http://www.modelfamilies.org/htmldocs/ljmckinney.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Vignette Type: 
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

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

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

Turner, Benjamin Sterling (1825-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin Sterling Turner, a member of the United States House of Representatives from Alabama during the Reconstruction period, was born on March 17, 1825 in Weldon, North Carolina. He was raised as a slave and as a child received no formal education. In 1830 Turner moved to Selma, Alabama with his mother and slave owner. While living on the plantation he surreptitiously obtained an education and by age 20 Turner was able to read and write fluently. 

While still a slave Turner managed a hotel and stable in Selma.  Although his owner received most of the money for Turner’s work, he managed to save some of his earnings and shortly after the Civil War he used the savings he had accumulated to purchase the property.   The U.S. Census of 1870 reported Turner as owning $2,500 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property, making him one of the wealthiest freedmen in Alabama.

Turner also became a teacher in 1865 and helped establish the first school for African American children.  Two years later he became involved in politics.  After participating in the Republican State Convention in 1867, Turner was named tax collector of Dallas County  The following year he won his first elective office when he became a Selma City Councilman.  In 1870 Turner was elected to the United States Congress as the first African American Representative in Alabama history. 
Sources: 
Stephen Middleton, ed., Black Congressmen During Reconstruction (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002); http://bioguide.congress.gov
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooks, Benjamin L. (1925-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Benjamin L. Hooks is most notably known for serving as leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1977 to 1992.  Born on January 31, 1925 in Memphis, Tennessee to Robert and Bessie White Hooks, he was the fifth of seven children.

Hooks grew up in racially segregated Tennessee. He attended LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis from 1941 to 1943 but graduated from Howard University in 1944.  He then joined the U.S. Army and recalled watching Italian prisoners he guarded eat at restaurants that excluded him and other black soldiers.  He left the army in 1945 as a staff sergeant and soon afterwards enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago to study law because no Tennessee university would accept him because of his race.  Graduating in 1948 with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) , Hooks returned to Memphis.  Four years later he married schoolteacher Frances Dancy in Memphis.  

In 1956 Hooks became a Baptist minister and one year later joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) then headed by Dr. Martin Luther King.   By the early 1960s Hooks, now a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), helped organize sit-ins in Memphis.  By the late 1960s Hooks was pastor at Great Middle Baptist Church in Memphis and at Greater Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Detroit.

Sources: 
Steven A. Holmes, “Benjamin L. Hooks, Leader of N.A.A.C.P. for 15 Eventful Years, Is Dead at 85,” New York Times (April 16, 2010);  http://benhooks.memphis.edu/biography.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Towns, Edolphus (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Office of
Representative Edolphus Towns
Currently in his 13th term in Congress, Edolphus Towns is a Democratic Representative from the State of New York.  Towns was born in Chadbourn, North Carolina on July 21, 1934, and attended the public schools of Chadbourn before graduating with a B.S. degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in 1956. After graduating he served for two years in the U.S. Army and then taught in several New York City public schools, Fordham University, and Medgar Evars College. He received his master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University in 1973.

Between 1965 and 1975 Towns worked as program director of the Metropolitan Hospital and as assistant administrator at Beth Israel Hospital. He was also employed by several Brooklyn area healthcare and youth and senior citizen organizations.

In 1972 Towns was elected Democratic state committeeman in Brooklyn.  Four year later, in 1976, he became the first African American Deputy Borough president of Brooklyn, a position he held until 1982. That same year Representative Frederick W. Richmond resigned from the House.  Towns won the vacated seat in the November election.   
Sources: 
http://www.house.gov/towns/bio.shtml; Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Garrison, Zina (1963- )

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

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

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

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

Meeks, Gregory W. (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

U.S. Congressman Gregory W. Meeks was born on September 25, 1953 in East Harlem, New York City. He was raised in a public housing project in East Harlem and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a minor in Political Science from New York’s Adelphi University. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 1978 from Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C.

After graduating, Meeks joined the Queens County District office, worked for the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, then for the State Investigation Commission, and eventually was appointed Supervising Judge of the New York State Worker’s Compensation System. He won his first public office when he was elected to the New York State Assembly where he served from 1992 to 1997.

Sources: 
Gregory Meeks on the Issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/NY/Gregory_Meeks.htm ; Gregory Meeks Official Webpage: http://www.house.gov/meeks/en.us.about.shtml ; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m001137.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Frazier, E. Franklin (1894-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Edward Franklin Frazier, the most prominent African American sociologist of the 20th Century, was born on September 24, 1894 and died on May 17, 1962. Best known for his critical work on the black middle class, Black Bourgeoisie (1957), Frazier was also a harsh critic of Jim Crow as the great inhibitor of the American Dream for the “American Negro.”

Frazier was born to James H. and Mary Clark Frazier. His father worked as a bank messenger and his mother was a housewife. Both parents stressed the worth of education as a path to freedom and as an instrument to fight for social justice.  

Sources: 
Anthony M. Platt, E. Franklin Frazier (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991); August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black Historians and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana/Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Wiggins, Charlie (1897-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Charlie Wiggins, Indianapolis, Aug. 7, 1926
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Charlie Wiggins, known as “the Negro Speed King,” was an African American motor racing pioneer who competed in the segregated Midwest in the early decades of the 20th Century.  In addition, he was a highly skilled mechanic, often sought after by white racing drivers competing in the annual Indianapolis 500 Motor Race. Throughout his career Wiggins fought for the rights of black mechanics and drivers.

Born in 1897 in Evansville, Indiana, Charlie Wiggins grew up in a poor home; his father was a coalminer. After the death of his mother, Wiggins worked at a shoe shine stand outside a car repair shop where he was eventually hired as an apprentice in 1917.  His opportunity came when many of the white garage mechanics left to join the Army.  Wiggins was the first black mechanic in Evansville and quickly rose to become chief mechanic.

Wiggins and his wife, Roberta Sullenger, whom he married in 1917, left the area in 1922 for Indianapolis.  Two years later the couple opened their own garage and Wiggins quickly became that city's top mechanic.  In his spare time Wiggins assembled parts from auto junkyards to develop his own car, known as “the Wiggins Special.”

Sources: 

La Risa Lynch, "First Blacks in Sports; Charlie Wiggins: The Negro Speed King," Chicago Weekend, 34: 4 (Feb. 9, 2005); John Baburnich, "Charlie Wiggins-The 'Negro Speed King,' The American Boneyard, May 2004; http://www.evansville.net/user/boneyard/babs07.htm. 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Verrett, Shirley (1931-2010)

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

Shirley Verrett was a distinguished mezzo-soprano and soprano opera singer. Born in New Orleans on May 31, 1931, one of five children to strict Seventh Day Adventists, her father was a successful building contractor. She came from a musical family, her mother often sang in the house and her father occasionally worked as a choir director. Her parents encouraged her talent, but they disapproved of opera and hoped that she would pursue other interests.  The family moved to Los Angeles where Verrett grew up.

Verrett was passionate about music but after high school, with her father’s support, she became a real estate agent. After selling houses for few years, Verrett realized that her life could only be fulfilled by pursuing singing. With help from her vocal instructor, she appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s program Talent Scouts in 1955. From this appearance she was awarded a scholarship at The Julliard School, where she studied for five years with Anna Fitziu and Marion Szekely Freschl.  Verrett made her operatic debut in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in 1957.  The following year she made her New York City Opera debut as Irina in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars.  Her European debut came in 1959 when she performed in Nabokov’s Rasputin’s Tod in Cologne, Germany.

Sources: 
Elizabeth Nash, Autobiographical Reminiscences of African-American Classical Singers (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2007); Anthony Tommasini, “Shirley Verrett, Opera Singer of Power and Grace, Is Dead at 79,” New York Times (November 6, 2010); Barry Millington, “Shirley Verrett Obituary,” The Guardian (November 8, 2010); Shirley Verrett dies at 79; acclaimed mezzo-soprano," Los Angeles Times, Associated Press (November 7, 2010), retrieved November 7, 2010; http://www.shirleyverrett.com/
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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