Bridget “Biddy” Mason, born a slave in Mississippi in 1818, achieved financial success that enabled her to support her extended family for generations despite the fact that she was illiterate. In a landmark case she sued her master for their freedom, saved her earnings, invested in real estate, and became a well-known philanthropist in Los Angeles, California.
Although born in Mississippi, Mason was owned by slaveholders in Georgia and South Carolina before she was returned to Mississippi. Her last owner, Robert Marion Smith, a Mississippi Mormon convert, followed the call of church leaders to settle in the West. Mason and her children joined other slaves on Smith’s religious pilgrimage to establish a new Mormon community in what would become Salt Lake City, Utah. At the time Utah was still part of Mexico.
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier African Americans in the American West 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998; Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1995); Jessie Carney Smith, (editor). Epic Lives One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993).
Ben Augustus Vereen, actor, singer, and dancer, was born on October 10, 1946 in Miami, Florida, but while still an infant his family moved north to Brooklyn, New York. From a young age Vereen showed a talent in dancing and drama, often performing in local variety shows. With his mother realizing his talent and potential, Vereen was enrolled at the New York High School of Performing Arts at the age of fourteen to pursue these skills. After high school Vereen struggled to find work, often taking odd jobs to get by.
Kenneth Estell, African American Portrait of a People (Detroit: Visible
Ink, 1994); A & E, December 2, 2008,
Myles Anderson Paige, the first African American to be appointed a New York City Criminal Court Judge, was born on July 18, 1898 in Montgomery, Alabama. Paige was a star football player at Howard University, graduating from the Washington D.C. institution with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1921. While at Howard he joined Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
Paige served in the United States Army during the World War I as captain of the 369th regiment. Paige’s ascension to captain was swift and impressive considering he began his military career as a corporal in September of 1917 and was promoted to second lieutenant a week later. The following week he became first lieutenant and before the end of September he was captain and company commander.
In 1921 Paige entered the Columbia University Law School and received his LLB degree in 1924. In 1926 he was a founding member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Alpha Gamma Lambda graduate chapter as well as its first chapter president from 1927 to 1930. Paige later served as 19th General (national) President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity from 1957 to 1960. Also in 1940 Paige received an honorary doctor of law degree from Howard University, rounding out his education.
In 1885 McClellan obtained a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. In October 1888 McClellan married Mariah Augusta Rabb, a teacher, who also graduated from Fisk University. Two years later McClellan received a master’s degree from Fisk.
McClellan and his wife had two sons, one of whom died in childhood of tuberculosis and about whom McClellan wrote tenderly in his poem “To Theodore.”
Hester Jeffrey, an organizer and activist who became involved in the women’s movement in the city of Rochester, New York, was born in Norfolk, Virginia around 1842. Jeffrey was the daughter of free parents Robert and Martha Whitehurst. In 1860 Jeffrey, along with her brother and sister, moved to Boston to live with their uncle Coffin Pitts. In 1865 she married Jerome Jeffrey, the son the Rev. Roswell D. Jeffrey, in Boston. Rev. Jeffrey was a political activist who stored the printing press of Frederick Douglass’s North Star in the basement of the Favor Street A.M.E. Church in Rochester, New York.
Hester Jeffrey founded a number of local African American women’s clubs among the growing African American community in Rochester in the early 1890s. In 1897, Jeffrey was appointed to serve on the (Frederick) Douglass Monument Committee, to raise funds for a statue that was going to be erected in Rochester, New York, in the honor of Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, journalist, and champion of woman’s suffrage. After the commemoration of the Douglass Monument, Hester Jeffrey emerged as a leader in Rochester’s African American community. Jeffrey founded two women’s organizations, the Climbers and the Hester C. Jeffrey Club. The Jeffrey Club was an organization to raise funds for colored women to take classes at the Mechanics’ Institute (now called the Rochester Institute of Technology).
Although little remembered today, Leidesdorff was a social, economic and political force in pre-gold rush San Francisco, with a number of “firsts” credited to his name. When he was named the U.S. Vice Consul to Mexico in 1845, he became the nation’s first African American diplomat. He was elected to San Francisco’s first city council and its first school board in 1847. He built the first hotel, the first shipping warehouse, he operated the first steamboat on San Francisco Bay, and he laid out the first horse race track in California.
Born on the island of St. Croix in the Danish West Indies in 1810, William was the son of Danish sugar planter Alexander Leidesdorff and Anna Marie Sparks, a light-skinned woman of mixed race ancestry. In 1841 Leidesdorff sailed his 106-ton schooner Julia Ann around Cape Horn to California and settled in the Mexican village of Yerba Buena on San Francisco Bay. Over the next three years he became a successful merchant by making frequent trips between California, Mexico and Hawaii. In 1844 governor Micheltorena confirmed his land grant of 35,000 acres on the American River. Ranch Rio de Los Americanos was located near the spot where James Marshall discovered gold in January 1848. When Leidesdorff died unexpectedly in May 1848 he was given the honor of being buried inside Mission Dolores Church, where his gravestone may still be seen today.
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.
Amha Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, was proclaimed ruler of the state three times, first in 1960 then in 1975 and finally while in exile in 1989. Selassie was born Asfaw Wossen Tafari in the walled city of Harrar in August 1916 to Dejazmach Tafari Makonnen, then the governor of Harrar and future emperor of Ethiopia, and his wife Menen Asfaw. Amha Selassie became Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen of Ethiopia when his father was crowned emperor on November 2, 1930.
In December 1960, the Imperial Guard launched a coup and seized power in Ethiopia while the emperor was on a visit to Brazil. The coup leaders compelled the 44 year old crown prince to read a radio statement in which he accepted the crown in his father’s place and announced a government of reform. However, the regular army and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church refused to accept the new government, and the leader of the church, Patriarch Abune Baslios, issued an anathema against all those who cooperated with the coup leaders. Emperor Haile Selassie returned to Ethiopia and the army stormed the palace, where members of the government were being held prisoner by the Imperial Guards.
Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007).
Jewel Stradford Rogers Lafontant Mankarious, civil rights leader, high-ranking U.S. Presidential appointee, and lawyer was born on April 28, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents, Aida Arabella Cartera and attorney C. Francis Stradford, helped to influence Mankarious's decision to become a lawyer.
In 1942 Jewel Stradford graduated from Oberlin College, receiving her bachelor’s degree in political science. That same year she became a founding member of the Congress of Racial Equality. Stradford attended the University of Chicago Law School and in 1946 became the first woman of any race to receive a J.D. from that institution.
In 1946 Stradford married John W. Rogers, a juvenile court judge. The couple had a son, John W. Rogers Jr., who later became the founder of Ariel Capital Management, the largest black-owned investment firm in the nation. Jewel and John Rogers divorced in 1961. Later that year she married H. Ernest Lafontant who died in 1976. She remarried in 1989, this time to Naguib S. Mankarious.
BNET. Jewel Lafontant Mankarious, prominent attorney and civil rights
crusader dies at age 75. <
Betty Gabrielli, Oberlin College online: Press Releases. Oberlin
College Archive Opens Jewel Lafontant Mankarious papers. <
_press_release.html.>; Eric Pace, Jewel Lafontant-Mankarious, Lawyer
and U.S. Official, Dies. The New York Times. <
9907EED9153DF930A35755C0A961958260.>; Jewel Stradford LaFontant
Biography. <a href="http://biography.jrank.org/
pages/2625/LaFontant-Jewel-Stradford.html">Jewel Stradford LaFontant
Professional basketball superstar Kobe Bryant has played for the Los Angeles Lakers since 1996 when he came to the team as an 18-year-old, the youngest player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. Bryant is a long-time philanthropist, using his well-known name to fundraise for a number of causes. His stellar career was tarnished in 2003 when he was arrested for alleged sexual assault, resulting in a suit that was settled out of court a year later.
Bryant is the youngest of three children born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to former National Basketball Association player and Women’s National Basketball Association head coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. His parents named him after the popular Japanese steak of the same name. In 1983, Bryant’s father left the NBA and moved his family to Italy to play professional basketball. Young Kobe quickly adapted to his environment, learning to speak fluent Italian and Spanish. Besides learning to play basketball at an early age, Bryant also became a skilled soccer player. Following his father’s retirement from basketball in 1991, the family returned to Philadelphia.
Talley is the son of William C. Talley, a taxi driver, and Alma Ruth Davis, and was born on October 16, 1949 in Durham, North Carolina. However, he was raised by his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, who worked as a domestic in the Durham area. Davis had a profound effect on him and he credits her with his uncommon flair for fashion. As a teen, he ventured to the library in the white section of town. It was there that he discovered Vogue and quickly became a devoted reader.
Talley’s postsecondary experience began at North Carolina Central University and, later he was granted a scholarship to Brown University where he earned an M.A. in French Studies in 1973. He initially planned to teach French, but the fashion world beckoned him. He first worked as an assistant for Andy Warhol. In 1983, he began working as the editor-at-large for Vogue magazine and soon became the most notable African American in the world of designer fashion.
Michael Jordan, National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar, was born February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of James R. and Deloris Jordan. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. Jordan became a standout athlete at Laney High School despite being rejected for the school’s varsity basketball team the first season he tried out. He grew four inches taller over the following year, made the team and became an All-American during his senior year at Laney.
Jordan played college basketball at the University of North Carolina where under coach Dean Smith’s tutelage he established a reputation as a clutch player when he made a game winning shot against Georgetown in the 1982 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game. This reputation would follow him into the NBA when he left school before his senior year to play professionally for the Chicago Bulls.
Michael Jordan, For the Love of the Game: My Story (New York: Crown Publishers, 1998); David Halberstam, Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made (New York: Broadway Books, 2000); David L. Port, Michael Jordan: A Biography (New York: Greenwood Publishing, 2007); Jerry A. Hausman and Gregory K. Leonard, “Superstars in the National Basketball Association” Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 15 (1997); “Jordan purchases of Bobcats Approved” ESPN.com (March 17, 2010).
Revels Cayton, born in Seattle, Washington, was the son of Horace and Susie Cayton, and the grandson of U.S. Senator Hiram Revels. As a highly respected labor leader, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco District Council of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific and, later, the business agent for the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.
Nina Mae McKinney, one of the first African American leading actresses in Hollywood, was born Nannie Mayme McKinney in 1913. The Lancaster, South Carolina native was reared by her great-aunt, Carrie Sanders on the Estate of Colonel LeRoy Sanders, where her family had worked for many generations. She attended Lancaster Industrial School until the age of 13 before relocating to New York to live with her mother, Georgia Crawford McKinney. As an early teen, McKinney performed in Harlem’s nightclubs and eventually on Broadway in the Lew Leslie musical review, Blackbirds of 1928.
Her celebrity began at the age of 16 when director King Vidor, impressed by her vitality in Blackbirds of 1928, hired her to parlay her multi-talented abilities as an actress, dancer, and vocalist in the musical film, Hallelujah (1929). McKinney’s effervescent performance as the seductress, “Chick,” brought her immediate success. Yet despite rave reviews for her vivacious performance and a resulting five-year contract with MGM, McKinney’s career faltered during an era when Hollywood declined to position black actresses in dignified roles.
Louise Pettus, Sandlapper: The Magazine of South Carolina. “Lancaster’s Celebrated Film Star. 1999; Darlene Clarke Hine, Elsa Barkely Brown, et. al. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 2 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1993).
Christopher Paul Gardner entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, and writer was born on February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Gardner, never knowing his father, lived periodically with his mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, as well as in foster homes.
After high school, he joined the Navy and then moved to San Francisco, California where he worked for a medical research associate and scientific medical supply distributor. In 1977, he married Sherry Dyson. In 1981 they separated, but did not divorce until 1990. In 1981, Gardner’s girlfriend, Jackie, gave birth to their son Christopher Gardner, Jr. Nineteen months later, Jackie left him and their son.
Christopher Gardner, Quincy Troupe and Min Eichler Rivas, The Pursuit of Happyness (New York: Amistad, 2006); Christopher Gardner and Min Eichler Rivas, Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in the Pursuit of Happyness (New York: HarperCollins, 2009); “Biography: Christopher Gardner.” http://www.chrisgardnermedia.com/chris-gardner-biography.html.
Ambassador William Beverly Carter is the first Ambassador-at-Large, and the second African American, to be appointed an ambassador by three Presidents. In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon appointed him ambassador to Tanzania. Four years later, President Gerald R. Ford named him ambassador to Liberia. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed him U.S. Ambassador-at-Large.
Carter, born in 1921 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, was raised in nearby Philadelphia after the age of four. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in biology from Lincoln University in 1944, and his Law degree from Temple University in 1947. One of his Lincoln classmates was future Ghanaian head of state Kwame Nkrumah.
One of the great light heavyweights of all time, Archie Moore, a.k.a., the “Old Mongoose,” was born under the name of Archibald Wright on December 13, 1913 in Benoit, Mississippi. Archie turned professional in 1936, originally operating in the middleweight ranks, but ultimately moving up into the light heavyweight class by 1945. He fought a total of 222 recorded bouts over more than 27 years in the ring. He campaigned against most of the toughest men in the business during his long career, posting 187 wins, including 132 knockouts, against only 23 losses and 11 draws.
Moore campaigned for 16 years before gaining an opportunity to fight for a world championship. On December 15, 1952 he became the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World at age 39, defeating Joe Maxim by a decision in fifteen rounds, thereby becoming the oldest light heavyweight champion in history. He defeated Maxim twice in rematches and was nearly unbeatable as a light heavyweight, successfully defending the title nine times, and holding it for almost a decade before finally being stripped of it in February of 1962 for failing to defend the title within the required period of time.
Historian and anthropologist, William Leo Hansberry began his college education at Atlanta University, but (at the urging of W.E.B. DuBois) he transferred to Harvard in 1917. Based on his reading of classical texts and his study of archeological evidence, Hansberry became convinced as an undergraduate that sophisticated civilizations had existed in Africa–especially in Ethiopia–for centuries prior to the rise of the Greeks and Romans in Europe. He pursued that premise for the rest of his life.
A circular letter announcing his desire to develop courses in African civilization landed him a temporary job at Howard University in Washington D.C., following his graduation from Harvard in 1921. There he quickly built his new program into one of the most popular undergraduate majors on the campus, and he hosted international conferences to stimulate the study of ancient and medieval African societies. By the mid-1920s, however, he ran afoul not only of the wider white academic community, which was extremely skeptical of Hansberry’s ambitious claims, but also of senior colleagues at Howard, who believed he was giving the university a bad name by teaching assertions for which there was little or no compelling evidence. The Howard board settled the dispute by retaining the popular African program, while relegating Hansberry himself to a secondary position without tenure.
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.
Harry Herbert Pace was the founder of the first black record company, Pace Phonograph Corporation which sold recordings under the Black Swan Records label. He was born on January 6, 1884 in Covington, Georgia the son of Charles Pace and Nancy Ferris Pace. His father, a blacksmith by trade, died while Harry was still an infant leaving him to be raised by his mother. Pace graduated from elementary school when he was twelve and finished at Atlanta University seven years later as valedictorian. W.E.B. Du Bois was one of his instructors. After graduation he worked in a printing company. He also worked for banking and insurance companies first in Atlanta and later in Memphis.
In 1912, after moving to Memphis, Pace met W.C. Handy. The two men became friends, writing songs together. During this period Pace met and later married Ethlynde Bibb. Pace and Handy formed the Pace and Handy Music Company together and work with composers such as William Grant Sill and Fletcher Henderson. Pace moved to New York to manage the sheet music business but later decided to form a record company.
Pace Phonograph Corporation Inc. was founded in March, 1921 with $30,000 in borrowed capital. The label Black Swan Records was named after Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield a famous 19th Century entertainer known as the “Black Swan” for her singing.
Jitu K. Weusi, The Rise and Fall of Black Swan Records, http://www.redhotjazz.com/blackswan.html; Joan Potter, African American Firsts, (New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Group, 2002).
Rodney E. Slater, former cabinet member, attorney, and state government official, was born in Marianna, Arkansas, on February 23, 1955. In 1977, Slater graduated from Eastern Michigan University. He earned his law degree in 1980 from the University of Arkansas.
In 1980, Slater became the Assistant Attorney General for the litigation division for Arkansas’s Attorney General’s Office. From 1983 to 1987, Slater served as Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s executive assistant for Economic and Community Programs and then as the Special Assistant for Community and Minority Affairs. In 1987, Clinton appointed Slater to the Arkansas Highway Commission. Slater also held other positions in the state of Arkansas such as Director of Governmental Relations at Arkansas State University and was a special liaison for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Slater as the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Slater’s effectiveness in that position catapulted him into the position of Secretary of Transportation in 1997. As Secretary, he oversaw transportation projects between federal and state governments.
African novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a Kenyan author, educator and playwright. With the publication of his first novel, he became a critically-acclaimed author at the age of 29. His work is also published under the pseudonym James T. Ngugi.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o was born on January 5th, 1938 in Kamiriithu village in Kenya to Tiong’o wa Nduucu and Wanjikow wa Ngugi. He attended the mission-run Kamandura School in Limuru and the Maanguuu Karing’a School, which was taught in Gikuyu, the native language of that Bantu people of Kenya. In 1954 the school was taken over by the British government and teaching began in English. While attending Maanguuu Karing’a, Thiong’o read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, igniting his desire to write.
Clinton E. Knox was born May 5, 1908, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was the youngest of five children born to Estella Briggs Knox and William J. Knox Sr. Knox’s older brother, William J. Knox, Jr., was one of the scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb during World War II. His other older brother, Dr. Lawrence Howland Knox, was a noted chemist.
Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III, was an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and social critic who revolutionized the comedy world in the 1960s and 1970s. He became famous for colorful, irreverent and often vulgar language as he comically described the major issues of the period. Pryor won an Emmy award in 1973 and five Grammy Awards between 1974 and 1982.
Richard Pryor was born on December 1, 1940 and raised in Peoria, Illinois. Abandoned by his parents when he was 10, Pryor and three other siblings were raised in his grandmother’s brothel. As a youth, he was raped by a teenaged neighbor and molested by a Catholic priest. He was expelled from school at the age of 14 and began working as a janitor, meat packer, and truck driver. Pryor served in the U.S army spending most of that time in an army prison for assaulting a fellow soldier while stationed in Germany. In 1960, Pryor married Patricia Price and they would had his first child, Richard Jr. The couple divorced in 1961.
Official Website: http://www.richardpryor.com; Richard Pryor: Stand-Up
Philosopher, City Journal, Spring 2009:
Ancestry: http://www.progenealogists.com/pryor/; American Masters:
Dickerson was born in Canton, Mississippi in 1891. He attended the University of Illinois and served during World War I as an infantry lieutenant with the American Expeditionary Forces. In 1920 he became the first African American to receive a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. The following year Dickerson helped found Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company and became its general counsel. By the early 1940s Supreme Life, as it was then known, was the largest African American owned business in the North. Part of its success stemmed from the still segregated American society. White insurance companies generally refused to insure African Americans or employ them. Supreme Life filled that void. The company was particularly helpful to African Americans in the Great Depression when it provided mortgage loans to struggling families. Dickerson became the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Supreme Life in 1955 and remained in that position until 1971 when he became chairman of the Board of Directors.
Barbara Hillary is the first African American woman on record to reach both the North and South Poles. Born in New York City, New York on June 12, 1931 to Viola Jones Hillary and raised in Harlem, Hillary attended the New School University in New York, N.Y. where she earned both her Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degrees. She used her studies in Gerontology to establish a career in nursing, focusing on staff training in the concepts of patient aging and their service delivery systems in nursing homes and similar facilities. She was also founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Peninsula Magazine, a non-profit and multi-racial magazine in Queens, New York. This magazine was the first of its kind in the region.
In high school both Kim and Debra Rodman developed into standout basketball players, earning college scholarships. Kim attended Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas and Debra played on two national championship teams at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. Both Rodman sisters were All-Americans in college.
Kirke Smith was born July 22, 1865 in Montgomery County, Virginia. He graduated from Berea College in1894 and earned an M.A. degree from the University of Michigan. In 1894, Smith became the Superintendent of the Lebanon Colored Schools and the following year, Superintendent of Principals in the Lebanon, Kentucky school system, a post he held for fifteen years. During this period he also became an ordained minister.
On January 12, 1904, Democratic representative Carl Day, of Breathitt, Kentucky, introduced House Bill 25, “An Act to prohibit white and colored persons from attending the same school.” The so-called Day Bill was aimed at Berea College since separate public schools for blacks and whites had been the law in the state for some time. After a lawsuit to defend its interracial educational policy was defeated in the courts, Berea raised funds to establish a new school for blacks. From 1910-1912, the trustees employed Rev. Kirke Smith and Rev. James Bond, the grandfather of Julian Bond, to raise money for the new school which would be named Lincoln Institute.
After graduating from law school Jackson-Lee moved to Houston, Texas after her husband, Dr. Elwyn C. Lee accepted a job offer from the University of Houston. Dr. Lee is currently Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Houston. Jackson-Lee was in private practice from 1975 to 1987 when she was elected a Houston municipal judge. Jackson-Lee then ran for a seat on the Houston City Council in 1990. In 1994 Shelia Jackson-Lee was elected as a Democrat to represent the 18th Congressional District of Texas. She currently holds that seat.
On August 10, 1898, Winkfield rode his first race. Aboard Jockey Joe at Chicago's Hawthorne Racetrack, he raced his horse out of the gate and rode across the path of the three inside horses, in an effort to get to the rail. This aggressive behavior did not go over well with racetrack officials and he earned a one year suspension. Winkfield learned from his mistake and on September 18, 1899, won his first race. Six months later he rode for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.
In 1901, at 19, Winkfield captured his first Kentucky Derby title astride a horse named Eminence. He went on to win 161 races that year, including key victories in the Latonia Derby on Hernando and Tennessee Derby where he rode Royal Victor. While these were spectacular accomplishments, he returned to the Kentucky Derby in 1902 and won again in the most important race of his career.
Thomas Arnold Hill, early leader of the National Urban League, was born in 1888 in Richmond, Virginia to Reuben and Irene Robinson Hill. He studied at Richmond Business School and received his Bachelor of Art degree at Virginia Union University in 1911. Hill then studied sociology and economics at New York University.
In 1914, Hill was hired by the New York City branch of the National Urban League (1912) where he worked as personal secretary of Eugene Kinkle Jones. He soon joined forces with Jones and fellow League workers to create additional leagues in neighboring cities.
With the onset of the Great Migration during World War I, Hill recognized the need for a local affiliate in Chicago, a common destination for many of the migrants. In 1917, he opened the Chicago Urban League and served as its first executive secretary. During the bloody Chicago Race Riot (1919), Hill transformed the Chicago office into an emergency center to help mollify anger, improve race relations, provide assistance to those adversely affected, and disseminate information.
Nancy Weiss, The National Urban League, 1910-1940 (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1974), p. 176-201; “T. Arnold Hill,” The Journal of
Negro History, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Oct. 1947), pp. 528-529; Rayford Logan
and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Arvah E. Strickland, History of the
Chicago Urban League (Urbana and London: The University of Illinois
Press, 1966), p. 26-28.
Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford was a West African barrister, author, and political leader who dedicated his life to helping improve conditions for the people of West Africa. Casely Hayford was born on September 3, 1866, the youngest of three sons to parents Reverend John de Graft Hayford and Mary (Awuraba) Brew, both of Anomabu, Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) which was then a colony in the British Empire.
Casely Hayford received his education at the Wesleyan Boys High School in the Cape Coast Region of Ghana and then at Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone. While at Fourah Bay College Casely Hayford became a follower on the West Indian-born African educator, Edward Wilmot Blyden. After graduation Casely Hayford worked as a high school teacher and principal of Accra Wesley High School.
G.I.C. Eluwa, "Background to the Emergence of the National Congress of
British West Africa, in African Studies Review 14:2 (1971); Kwadwo
Osei-Nyame, "Pan-Africanist Ideology and the African Historical Novel
of Self-Discovery: The Examples of Kobina Sekyi and J.E. Casely
Hayford," in Journal of African Cultural Studies 12:2 (1999); Adelaide
M. Cromwell, An African American Feminist: The Life and Times of
Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford, 1868-1960 (London: Frank Cass & Co.
LTD., 1986); Gauray Desai, “Gendered Self-Fashioning: Adelaide Casely
Hayford’s Black Atlantic,” Research in African Literatures 35:3 (Fall
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.
Lewis Leary was one of several Black men who were killed during John Brown’s raid on the Harpers Ferry arsenal in October 1859. It was a defining moment in African American history.
Born Sherrard Lewis Leary (sometimes referred to as Lewis Sheridan Leary), he was the second of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina to free Black parents. His father Matthew Leary, a saddle maker, was the mixed race son of Jeremiah O’Leary, a descendent of Irish immigrants. His mother Julia A. Menriel Leary was of mixed race, with conflicting accounts of her heritage.
Frustrated with southern racism, 21-year-old Leary moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1856 where he earned a living as a harness maker. It was no coincidence that Leary found a more hospitable environment at Oberlin. Members of his extended family lived in the area, including his nephew, John Anthony Copeland, Jr., who also participated in the Harpers Ferry raid. Located in Lorain County, southwest of Cleveland, Oberlin was at the time home to a concentrated network of Black and white abolitionists and served as an important site on the Underground Railroad. The town was also the site of Oberlin College, the first interracial and co-educational college in the country. Two years after moving to Oberlin he married Mary Sampson Patterson, and they had one daughter, Lois.
Clara Mae Luper was born in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, to Ezell and Isabell Shepard on May 3, 1923. She attended all-black schools and was bussed several miles to Grayson High School where she graduated in a class of five. After graduating from the segregated Langston University, Luper became the first African American student to enroll in the history department at the University of Oklahoma, earning a master’s degree in 1951.
Luper was one of the early leaders in the civil rights movement in Oklahoma during the 1950s. She taught history in various Oklahoma City public schools for forty-one years and became the sponsor of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council. In 1958, working with this group, she led the earliest “sit-ins” in Oklahoma and some of the first in United States. Through these protests she and other civil rights activists succeeded in integrating many public facilities in Oklahoma City and across the state by 1964.
John Henrik Clarke, historian, black nationalist and Pan-Africanist, was a pioneer in the formation of Africana studies in the United States. Principally a self-trained historian, Clarke dedicated his life to correcting what he argued was the prevailing view that people of Africa and of African decent had no history worthy of study. Over the span of his career Clarke became one of the most respected historians of African and African American history.
Clarke was born on New Year’s Day, 1915, in Union Springs, Alabama. He described his father as a “brooding, landless sharecropper,” who struggled to earn enough money to purchase his own farm, and his mother as a domestic. Clarke’s mother Willie Ella (Mays) Clarke died in 1922, when he was about seven years old.
In 1932 Clarke left the South at age eighteen and he traveled by boxcar to Chicago. He then migrated to New York City, New York where he came under the tutelage of noted scholar Arthur A. Schomburg. While in New York City’s Harlem, Clarke undertook the study of Africa, studying its history while working full time.
Maidie Norman, who appeared in more than 200 Hollywood films, was born in Georgia in 1912 to Louis and Lila Gamble. Her father was an engineer and her mother was a homemaker. Norman received a B.A. in Literature and Theatre Arts from Bennett College in North Carolina and later obtained an M.A. in Theater Arts from Columbia University in New York. While in New York, she met and married real estate broker McHenry Norman and the couple relocated to Los Angeles, where Norman began training at the Actors Laboratory in Hollywood.
Early in a career that spanned more than four decades, Norman appeared on several radio shows, including The Jack Benny Show and Amos n’ Andy, before gaining a bit role in the film The Burning Cross (1948). Shortly after her debut, Norman was regularly cast as a domestic in several film roles, but refused to deliver her lines using stereotypical speech patterns. Instead, she brought her background in theatricality to the studios where directors often empowered her to rewrite her film lines, infusing the character with more dignity and less broken English.
Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); “Maidie Norman,” Contemporary Black Biography. Volume 20 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1998); Maidie Norman Papers, Center for Archival Collections, Bowling Green State University.
David Nelson Crosthwait Jr. was a African American inventor who is known for creating the heating system for Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York. Crosthwait was born on May 27th 1898 in Nashville, Tennessee. He grew up in Kansas City, Kansas where he attended an all-black school.
From a young age Crosthwait trained to become an engineer. His parents and teachers were very encouraging and challenged him to do experiments and to make designs. Crosthwait upon graduating from high school in Kansas City in 1908 received a full academic scholarship to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He gradated in 1913 from Purdue at the top of his class and received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
Otha Richard Sullivan, Black Stars: African American Inventors (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998).
Filmmaker Julie Dash was born on October 22, 1952 in Queens, New York. She received her B.A. in film production from City College of New York in 1974 and went on to earn a two-year fellowship to the Center for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles. At AFI, Dash studied under filmmaker Jan Kadar and produced Four Women, an experimental dance film that received the 1978 Gold Medal for Women in Film award at the Miami International Film Festival. Dash continued her graduate studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, where in 1977 she directed Diary of an African Nun, an adaptation of a short story by Alice Walker. In 1985, she earned her M.F.A. in Film & Television production at UCLA.
In 1981, the Guggenheim Foundation awarded Dash a grant to research Gullah culture in the Sea Island communities of South Carolina and Georgia. Part of her research was included in her 1991 independent film, Daughters of the Dust. The groundbreaking Pan-African themed and female-centered film depicts a group of Gullah women celebrating their African ancestry. Daughters of the Dust was the first nationally released feature-length film by an African-American woman and it won the best cinematography category at the Sundance Film Festival. The Library of Congress placed the film on its National Film Registry, joining a distinguished group of films preserved as national treasures.
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.
Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, Angolan insurgent fighter and longtime leader of The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), was born in Munhango, Angola on August 3, 1934 to Helena Mbundu Savimbi and Loth Savimbi. Savimbi’s father was a railway stationmaster and part-time Protestant church worker. The local Catholic missions in then-Portuguese-occupied Angola were often in conflict with Loth Savimbi because of the effectiveness of his evangelizing.
Jonas Savimbi attended Protestant missionary schools where he thrived academically. In 1958, he was granted a scholarship from United Church of Christ to attend university in Lisbon, where he began his involvement in anti-colonial politics. The Portuguese secret police detained Savimbi thrice before he decided on finishing his schooling in Switzerland, first at Fribourg University, then Lausanne University, where in 1965 he completed his coursework with honors in political science and juridical sciences. Having begun his studies in medicine, Savimbi would refer to himself as “Doctor” thereafter.
Republican Charles Edmund Nash served in the 44th Congress as Louisiana’s only black representative. Nash was born in Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, on May 23, 1844. Before his time in Congress Nash attended common schools, was a bricklayer in New Orleans, and had enlisted as a private for the U.S. volunteers in July of 1863. He was later promoted to Sergeant Major, but his military service proved to be disastrous as he lost the lower third of his right leg just before the Civil War’s end.
As a result of his military service and strong support of the Republican Party, he was appointed to the position of night inspector in the New Orleans Customs House – a powerful post in the local political machine. In 1874 he was elected, uncontested, to the House of Representatives from the 6th Congressional District.
Despite his easy election, Nash made little political impact during his time in Congress. He was assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor. On June 7th, 1876 Nash made the only major address during his term as Congressman. His speech condemned the violent and anti- democratic actions of some Southern Democrats, called for greater education among the populace, and also for increased racial and political peace especially in the South.
Heman Marion Sweatt was a postal worker from Houston, Texas, who in 1950 integrated the University of Texas Law School. Sweatt was born on December 11, 1912 in Houston, Texas. He was the fourth child of James Leonard and Ella Rose Sweatt. In 1930, he graduated from Jack Yates High School and earned a degree from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas in 1934. Soon after, Sweatt returned to Houston and worked as a mailman.
Michael L. Gillette, Michael L., "Heman Marion Sweatt: Civil Rights Plaintiff," in Alwyn Barr and Robert Calvert ed. Black Leaders: Texans for Their Times. (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1981); http://txtell.lib.utexas.edu/stories/s0010-full.html.
Denise Majette, former member of Congress, attorney, judge, and politician, was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 18, 1955 to Voyd Lee and Olivia (Foster) Majette. In 1976, Majette graduated from Yale University. She earned her law degree from Duke University, Durham, North Carolina in 1979.
After graduating, Majette joined the Legal Aid Society in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. During this period, she also served on faculty at the Wake Forest Law School. Majette relocated to Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1983. During the early1980s, she held positions as a clerk and an assistant to judges. From 1989 to 1992, Majette returned to private practice as a partner in the Atlanta law firm of Jenkins, Nelson, and Welch. During this period, she also served on the boards of various community organizations. In 1992, she was named an administrative law judge at the Georgia state board of workers' compensation. The following year, Georgia Governor Zell Miller appointed her judge of the State Court of DeKalb County. Majette held the judgeship for nine years.
Renowned African novelist Nuruddin Farah was born in Baidoa, Somalia in 1945, a time when Somalia was still an Italian colony. His father Hassan Farah was a translator for the colonial government and his mother Aleeli Faduma was recognized throughout Somalia for her prose writing. Early in his life Farah moved to the Ogaden section of Ethiopia where his father worked as a translator for the British. It was here that Farah grew up and received his early education. When Farah was eighteen his family fled back to an independent Somalia. It was shortly soon after, in 1965, that Farah’s writing career began when his work “Why Dead So Soon?” was serialized in the Somali News newspaper in Mogadishu.
Legendary actor Ernest Anderson gained notoriety for his monumental performance in the 1942 film In This Our Life – a single, supporting role that facilitated the alteration of negative depictions presented of African Americans in Hollywood film. Born in 1916 in Lynn, Massachusetts, Anderson was educated at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. and Northwestern University’s School of Drama and Speech.
After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Anderson moved to Hollywood where he worked as a service man for Warner Brothers studio before receiving his debut role in In This Our Life. It was Bette Davis, the film’s protagonist, who arranged Anderson’s interview for the part of Perry Clay – an aspiring lawyer who is falsely placed at the center of a hit-and-run scandal committed by a spoiled Southern woman.
The script originally called for Anderson’s character to comply with the dialectical speech patterns Hollywood filmmakers forced African Americans to deliver during the pre-World War II era. But after Anderson argued the integrity of the part, director John Huston empowered him to present the character with dignity, intelligence, and emotion.
Carlton Jackson, Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel (Lanham: Madison Books, 1990); Thomas Cripps, Making Movies Black (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 1993); Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).
Nnamdi Azikiwe, My Odyssey: An Autobiography (London: C. Hurst & Company, 1970); Vincent C. Ikeotuonye, Zik of New Africa (London: P.R. MacMillan Limited, 1961); K.A.B. Jones-Quartey, The Life of Azikiwe (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1965); http://www.lincoln.edu/history/journal/azikwe.htm
Norris McDonald, a leading black environmentalist, is the founder and president of the African American Environmental Association (AAEA), an organization dedicated to protecting the environment, enhancing human, animal and plant ecologies, and increasing African American participation in the environmental movement.
Norris McDonald was born to parents Sandy Norris McDonald Sr. and Katie Louvina Best in 1958 in Thomasville, North Carolina. Norris McDonald Sr. was a high school principal and Katie Louvina Best worked for the local public school system. She died of breast cancer at the age of 26.
McDonald attended Wake Forest University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1977. After college, McDonald moved to Washington, D.C. hoping to find a job as a Congressional staffer. Instead, he was hired as a staffer at the Environmental Policy Institute in 1979 (now called Friends of the Earth) where he worked for the next seven years. McDonald’s primary duties included media relations, public education, researching, lobbying, and fund raising. During this time, McDonald was introduced to environmental issues across the nation. He also noticed that there were no black professionals working for environmental groups in the Washington, D.C. area. The absence of black professionals in those organizations inspired him to create the AAEA in 1985.
Lazaro Medina was an Afro-Paraguayan who was best known as the founder and director of the Ballet Camba Cua, the only dance troupe of Paraguay based on the dances of former African slaves. Medina was also a political activist who assisted other Afro-Paraguayans who faced racial discrimination and the consequences of the confiscation of their lands by Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner in the 1980s. The ballet was named after Camba Cua, one of the few remaining Afro-Paraguayan settlements in the nation.
Little is known about Medina’s background including his parents and date of birth. Nor is there much information about his formal training. Medina founded Ballet Camba Cua in 1991 basing it partly on the recalled stories of his father who described earlier festivals of people of African descent. The Ballet was named after the Afro-Paraguayan community of Camba Cua which was founded by a group of 250 black lancers who were given land, a team of oxen, and seeds to plant aftrer they helped defeat a ruler who was sent into exile. The goal of the Ballet was to make Afro-Paraguayan culture visible and connected to the larger world of African culture.
James Thomas Bell was born May 17, 1903, in Starkville, Mississippi. Playing baseball as a 19 year-old rookie Bell earned the nickname “Cool Papa” after proving to his older teammates that he was not intimidated by playing professionally in front of large crowds. Signing with the St. Louis Stars in 1922, Bell entered professional baseball as a pitcher, reportedly throwing a wicked curveball and fade-away knuckleball.
The speed of Bell would become apparent when he beat the Chicago American Giants Jimmy Lyons in a race for the title of “fastest man in the league.” He immediately switched to center field, where he would play shallow and always manage to run down long hits. Bell stayed with the Stars until 1930 when the league disbanded, and led them to league titles in 1928 and 1930.
Blackbaseball.com, http://www.blackbaseball.com/players/coolpapabell.htm ;
National Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/bell_cool_papa.htm ;
Negro League Baseball Players Association, http://www.nlbpa.com/bell__james_-_cool_papa.html
William J. Seymour was born in Centerville, Louisiana, to former slaves Simon and Phillis Seymour, who raised him in the Baptist church. While living in Cincinnati, Ohio, he was influenced by holiness teachings, and then he moved to Houston, where he heard Charles Fox Parham’s teaching on Apostolic Faith. The teaching, simply put, combined the baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues (glossalalia), such as was experienced in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. Seymour embraced the teaching, moved to Los Angeles, and began preaching in the spring of 1906 in an abandoned church on Azusa Street, which he named the Apostolic Faith Mission. From this place, the Pentecostal movement spread across the globe.
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.
Richard Henry Austin was born on May 6, 1913 in Stouts Mountain, Alabama, the son of Richard H. and Leila (Hill) Austin. Austin shined and sold shoes while studying at the Detroit Institute of Technology at night. After graduating from the Institute in 1937, he became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in 1941 (the first African American to do so in Michigan), and founded his own accounting firm. Austin then helped other blacks in the Detroit area form businesses, foundations, and civic groups.
Richard Austin also became very active in political and civil rights groups in Detroit. In 1969, he was almost elected the city’s first black mayor. He led in the primary but was defeated by a margin of 51 to 49 percent in the general election. Two years later, however, Austin garnered a 300,000 vote majority over his opponent to become Michigan’s first African American Secretary of State. He was subsequently reelected four times.
Boxing promoter Don King was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1931. The son of a steelworker who died in a smelter explosion, King’s earliest success was the result of his ownership of a popular tavern, where many top black musicians performed, and an illegal bookmaking operation. In 1966, he fatally stomped a former employee named Sam Garrett over Garrett’s failure to pay off a $600 loss. Initially found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, King’s sentence was mysteriously reduced by the presiding Judge, Hugh Corrigan. He served only three years and eleven months. Ten years later, when Corrigan ran for the Court of Appeals, King arranged for heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali to campaign on his behalf.
King used his prison time constructively, absorbing everything he read in books concerning some of histories greatest thinkers. Once he was released, he used his friendship with rock ’n’ roll songwriter/performer and boxing enthusiast, Lloyd Price, to form relationships with Muhammad Ali and boxing promoter Don Elbaum to promote a boxing exhibition involving Ali in Cleveland for the benefit of a local hospital. King, his primary motives notwithstanding, was a natural born promoter. As a larger than life figure, King was a shrewd businessman. Watching in awe, Elbaum told him that with his personality, and boxing’s need for a black promoter, King could take over all of boxing.
Jack Newfield, Only in America. The Life and Crimes of Don King (New
York: William Morrow and Company, 1995); Arne K. Lang, Prize-Fighting.
An American History (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2008)
John Anthony Copeland was a mulatto, born free in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 15, 1834 to John Anthony Copeland, a slave, and Delilah Evans, a free woman. Copeland spent much of his early life in Ohio and attended Oberlin College. While residing in Oberlin, Ohio, Copeland became an advocate for black rights and an abolitionist. In 1858 he participated in assisting John Price, a runaway slave seeking his freedom. This act became famous as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, where abolitionists boldly aided slaves in violation of the federal Fugitive Slave Law.
Once released from jail, Copeland joined John Brown’s group that planned to attack the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Copeland was recruited to join Brown's group by Lewis Sheridan Leary. He and Leary, along with three other African Americans, Osborn P. Anderson, Dangerfield Newby, and Shields Green took part in what they hoped would be Brown's slave manumitting army. Like Brown and the other followers, Copeland believed that if the group seized weapons at Harpers Ferry and then marched south, they would created a massive slave uprising that would free all of the nearly four million African Americans in bondage.
Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism (New York: The New Press, 2006; Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Doubleday, 2000); Peggy A. Russo, and Paul Finkelman, Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005); http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/main/index.php?q=node/5478
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.
Barry Bonds is one of the most controversial figures in modern sports. The former major league star holds the record for career home runs (762) but that record and his other accomplishments on the field have been marred by accusations that he took performance enhancing drugs.
Barry Lamar Bonds was born in Riverside, California on July 24, 1964 but grew up in San Mateo, California where he attended Junipero Serra High school. He was honored as a prep All-American there for baseball. His father, Bobby Bonds, also a major league All-Star, inspired Barry to become a professional baseball player.
In 1982 Barry Bonds was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the major league baseball (MLB) draft while he was still in high school. When contract negotiations failed Bonds attended Arizona State University on a baseball scholarship. He was quickly named a College All-American and set a NCAA record of seven consecutive hits in the College World Series as a sophomore. Bonds graduated in 1986 with a degree in criminology.
Tananarive Due is a contemporary novelist who interweaves powerful themes and dilemmas among African Americans into unconventional story-telling. Due was born in Tallahassee, Florida on January 5, 1966. Her parents, John and Patricia Stephens Due, met at Florida A&M and were civil rights activists. John was a prominent attorney who eventually headed Leon County's Office of Black Affairs while her mother participated in many protests and sit-ins that led to injuries and in one ins
Judith Anna Jamison is among the most influential African American dance figures of the late 20th Century. She began her dance career at the age of ten and served as the Artistic Director at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 1989 to 2011. Her efforts in the dance industry also opened the doors to many young aspiring women and African Americans.
Jamison was born May 10, 1943 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania where she attended Germantown High School. At the age of 21 she was discovered by noted choreographer Agnes de Mille in 1964 and recruited to the American Ballet Theatre in New York. Her American Ballet debut was “The Four Marys” later that year. Jamison then became a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey’s protégé where she held leading roles to many of his productions. Jameson danced for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater until 1979.
In 1988 Jameson started her own company, The Jamison Project, which appeared on PBS. Through this project, she produced Judith Jamison: The Dancemaker which aired nationally the same year.
Charles Lewis was a sailor and soldier during the American Revolutionary War. Lewis was born sometime around 1760 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia on Bel Aire, the Lewis Family Plantation owned by John Lewis. John and a free mulatto woman, Josephine Lewis, were the parents of Charles and his younger brother, Ambrose. Lewis and his brother were born free but their mother was indentured to John Lewis.
On April 15, 1776, Charles Lewis and his brother entered into the naval service of Virginia when they served on board the Galley Page, a warship commanded by Captain James Markham. On March 20, 1778, they entered the Naval Service of the United States when they joined the crew of the USS Dragon commanded by Captain Eleazor Callender.
Caesar Carpenter "C.C." Antoine is best known as a leading African American politician in Louisiana during Reconstruction (1863-1877). Antoine was born in New Orleans to a Black father who fought the British as an American soldier at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and to a West Indian mother. His father’s mother was from Africa and the daughter of a captured African chief. Her reputed self-purchase from slavery and accumulation of a minor fortune allowed C.C. Antoine and his father to live out their lives as free blacks. Prior to entering politics, Antoine ran a successful grocery business in New Orleans.
In 1862, one year after the Civil War began, New Orleans was captured and occupied by Union troops, Antoine joined the Union Army and quickly rose to the rank of Captain. From 1862 to 1865 Captain Antoine was attached to one of the nation’s first all-black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards. As Captain, Antoine recruited former bondsmen for service and developed Company I of the Seventh Native Guard primarily stationed at Brashear (now Morgan City) about 85 miles southwest of New Orleans.
In an era when both movies and audiences were segregated, Lorenzo Tucker became African America’s leading man. Tucker was born in Philadelphia in 1907 to parents John and Virginia Lee Tucker. Lorenzo Tucker studied photography in trade school and briefly attended Temple University, where he appeared in plays. He went on to work as a straight man in minstrel shows with blue’s singer Bessie Smith and actor/comedian Stepin’ Fetchit (Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry).
It was during a performance that pioneer filmmaker Oscar Micheaux spotted Tucker and persuaded him to consider acting in movies. In 1927, Tucker made his debut in Micheaux’s A Fool's Errand. Tucker appeared in subsequent films in which he portrayed distinguished characters, such as a motion picture producer in The Wages of Sin (1928); a captain in A Daughter of the Congo (1930); and a lawyer in The Black King (1932). In 1933, he received his first minor Hollywood role in The Emperor Jones (1933) starring Paul Robeson.
Richard Grupenoff, The Black Valentino (Metuchen, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1988); Anonymous, “Black Valentino.” Vinyard Gazette, June 8, 1976; Burt Folkart, “Lorenzo Tucker, 'Black Valentino,' Dies,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1986, p.28.
Broadway stage comedian Tim Moore, whose career as an entertainer spanned more than 50 years, is best remembered as George “Kingfish” Stevens on the classic Amos 'n' Andy series. Born in Rock Island, Illinois in December 1888, Moore began his career dancing on the sidewalks of his home town for money.
He later entered the vaudeville circuit when he teamed with Romeo Washburn, another black performer from Rock Island. Their traveling act became known as the “Gold Dust Twins.” Moore eventually went solo and toured British music halls for nearly two years. He then joined a medicine show that played vacant lots across the Midwest. He also worked as a fly-shooer in a stable, a boxer, fight manager, and a horseracing jockey.
By 1913, Moore had earned $110,000 as a prizefighter and manager. With his earnings he launched a new career as a theater producer. In 1921 Moore created his most successful production, Tim Moore’s Chicago Follies Tour, which ran for the next four years. Later in the decade he returned to acting, performing in Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds in 1928 and Harlem Scandals four years later. By the mid-1940s, Moore now nearly 60, retired and returned to his hometown to, as he stated, “spend more time with my people.”
Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994); Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press Inc., 1978).
Jefferson Franklin Long, a Republican who represented Georgia in the 41st Congress, was the first black member to speak on the floor of the House of Representatives, and was the only black representative from Georgia for just over a century. Long was born a slave in Knoxville, Georgia on March 3, 1836. Little is known of his early years, however by the end of the civil war he had been educated and was working as a tailor in the town of Macon. He was prosperous in business and involved in local politics.
By 1867 he had become active in the Georgia Educational Association and had traveled through the state on behalf of the Republican Party. He also served on the state Republican Central Committee. In 1869 Long chaired a special convention in Macon, Georgia which addressed the problems faced by the freedmen.
In December of 1870 Georgia held elections for two sets of congressional representatives – one for the final session of the 41st Congress (the first two of which Georgia had missed due to delayed readmission to the Union), and one for the 42nd Congress, set to begin in March of 1871. Georgia Republicans nominated Long, an African American, to run for the 41st congress, while Thomas Jefferson Speer, a white American, was chosen to run for the 42nd. Long was elected on January 16th, 1871.
Forrester Blanchard Washington was a African American pioneer in social work first with the Detroit Urban League and later with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration. Washington was born in1887 in Salem, Massachusetts. He graduated from Tufts College (University) in 1909 and received graduate degrees from Harvard University in 1914 and Columbia University in 1917. Washington also studied at the New York School of Social Work.
Washington began his career as the first Executive Secretary of the Detroit Urban League in 1916. He led the Detroit League when the city experienced the rapid growth of its black population during the World War I era migration. Washington called for equal employment opportunities in Detroit while urging the black migrants to adjust to urban life.
Washington also led the National Urban League affiliate in Philadelphia between 1923 and before moving to the Atlanta School for Social Work in 1926. While in Atlanta, Washington also became president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1936 and used the post to challenge and publicize examples of the inequalities faced by African Americans.
Frederica H. Barron, "Forrester Blanchard Washington and His Advocacy
for African Americans in the New Deal," Social Work 52: 3 (July 2007);
1900-1949 Timeline, Detroit African American History Project, Wayne
State University, www.daahp.wayne.edu/1900_1949.html
In 1921 Eva Beatrice Dykes became the first black woman in the United States to complete the required coursework for a Ph.D. and the third African American woman to receive a doctoral degree. Two other black women, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander and Georgiana Simpson, receive their Ph.D.s, in the same year as Dykes but because their respective commencement ceremonies took place earlier, Dykes is considered the third woman to receive the advanced degree.
Eva Dykes was born in Washington, D.C. in 1893, and attended M Street High School which was later renamed Paul Dunbar High School. In 1914, twenty-one year old Dykes graduated Summa Cum Laude from Howard University with a B.A. in English. After spending one year teaching at Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, she decided to seek a Master’s Degree at Radcliffe College, an all women’s college which is now a part of Harvard University. Radcliffe, however, would not accept her degree from Howard, forcing Dykes to earn a second B.A. in English from the Massachusetts institution in 1917. Nonetheless she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and the following year earned an M.A. from Radcliffe. While at Radcliffe Dykes was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She returned to Howard University in 1917 to complete her doctoral studies, earning the Ph.D. in 1921. Her dissertation focused on Alexander Pope’s views on slavery and his influence on American writers.
Albert Cleage, jr., or Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, Black Nationalist and civil rights activist, was one of the most prominent black religious leaders in America. Agyemen preached a form of nationalism within the black community that stressed economic self-sufficiency and separation that relied on a religious awakening among black people.
Albert Cleage, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 13, 1911. Cleage graduated from Wayne State University in 1937, earning a B.A. in sociology, and a M.A. in Divinity from Oberlin School of Theology in 1943. Cleage married Doris Graham and had two daughters. Cleage and Graham later divorced in 1955. Cleage ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 under the Freedom Now Party, and was a candidate in the Democratic primary for U.S. Representative from Michigan, 13th District, in 1966. Cleage later changed his name to Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.
Odessa Brown, for whom the Children’s Clinic in Seattle is named, was born April 30, 1920, in Des Arc, Arkansas. She moved to Seattle in 1963 after receiving training as a licensed beautician at the C. J. Walker Beauty School in Chicago. A mother of four, she supported her family by working as Community Organizer for the Central Area Motivation Program beginning in 1965, and as a beautician. Brown was a staunch supporter of a health care facility for children in the Central Area. She worked tirelessly in this mostly African American neighborhood to make residents aware of the health needs of the area and to express these needs to the planners at Seattle Model Cities, a federally-funded anti-poverty agency.
Odessa Brown was a quiet, private person but when she spoke people listened, particularly when it concerned health care for children. Her efforts persuaded Seattle Model Cities to develop a children’s clinic to serve the city’s Central District. During her campaign for the clinic, few friends or associates were aware of her battle with leukemia which she had fought during her years as a CAMP community organizer. Brown died on October 15, 1969. When the time came to name the children’s clinic after it opened its doors in 1970, there was never a question but that it be named the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic.
Mary T. Henry, Tribute: Seattle Public Places Named for Black People (Seattle: Statice Press, 1997).
Eartha Mae Kitt was born on January 26, 1928, in North, South Carolina. Her sharecropper parents abandoned Kitt and her half-sister as young children, forcing them to live with a foster family until they moved to New York City to live with their aunt in 1938.
Until the age of fourteen, Kitt attended Metropolitan High School in New York City where she was recognized for her talents in singing, dancing, baseball, and pole-vaulting. She met Katherine Dunham when she was sixteen, and toured Mexico, South America, and Europe as a dancer in Dunham’s troupe. Kitt remained in Paris after the tour, entertaining audiences across the world with her provocative dancing and singing.
Kitt was offered her first role in the theater in 1951 when Orson Wells cast her as Helen of Troy in his stage production Faust. Kitt won critical reviews for her performance, which led to her role in Leonard Stillman’s New Faces Broadway revue. She released a best-selling Broadway album after the show to kick off her record career.
Prince Whipple fought at the battles of Saratoga and in Delaware during the War for Independence. He was also one of twenty enslaved men who petitioned the New Hampshire legislature for freedom in 1779. His owner, General William Whipple, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an aide to General George Washington. Although Whipple has been identified by some as the African American figure in the familiar painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River, it is doubtful he was present on Christmas Eve, 1776.
Actor-turned casting agent Ben Carter often portrayed an obliging domestic in Hollywood films, but later became one of the few African American agents in the movie capital dedicated to promoting and enhancing the careers of some of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors and actresses of color – including Hattie McDaniel, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Lena Horne, and the Dandridge Sisters.
Born in 1907, the Fairfield, Iowa native began his career as a comedian and Broadway performer in New York. He relocated to Los Angeles in the early 1930s and first worked as an unbilled player in movies. By the mid-1930s, Carter had become one of the first African American performers to sign a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox studios. Known for his wiry hair and bugged eyes, Carter appeared in several movies over a two-decade period, including Gone With the Wind (1939), Maryland (1940), Tin Pan Alley (1940), and several of Monogram Studio’s Charlie Chan series. In addition to frequently appearing in films, Carter earned a less than reputable name for himself due to his demeaning film roles.
Susan McHenry, “The Black Side of the Early Silver Screen,” Essence, April 2001; Anonymous, “Notables Attend Final Rites of Ben Carter, Noted Actor,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 28, 1946; Donald Bogle, Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography (New York: Amistad Press Inc., 1997.