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People

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, Pennsylvania 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, France 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.
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

Diggs, Charles (1922–1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center, Howard University

Charles Diggs was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1922. His father was Charles Coles Diggs and his mother was Mayme Jones Diggs.  Young Diggs had an upper middle class background; his father, a prominent mortician and real estate developer, served in the Michigan State Senate.  Diggs eventually took over the family business and followed his father into politics.

Sources: 
Maurine Christopher. America’s Black Congressmen. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1971); Carolyn DuBose, The Untold Story of Charles Diggs: The Public Figure, the Private Man (Arlington, Virginia: Barton Publishing House, Inc., 1988); “Charles Diggs” in The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000344
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hatcher, Richard G. (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Richard Gordon Hatcher, the first African American mayor of Gary, Indiana and one of the first African Americans to serve as mayor of a major city, was born on July 10, 1933 in Michigan City, Indiana. Hatcher was elected mayor of Gary Indiana in 1967 and served in that capacity for the next 20 years. In the late 1970's he also became the executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1984 Hatcher was campaign chairman for Rev. Jesse Jackson's bid for president and he served as an advisor in Jackson's 1988 campaign.

Hatcher’s administration in Gary was known for developing innovative approaches to urban issues and for promoting the civil rights of blacks and other people of color in one of the first predominately black cities in the North.  His term began during the period when “black power” was increasingly the rallying cry of African American political activists across the nation.  Hatcher clearly identified with this new movement.  

As a “first generation” black mayor identified with black power, Hatcher’s agenda was considered biased against non-blacks.  He was believed by his critics to be racially divisive and unqualified.  Hatcher often fought against the local Democratic political machine which supported his white Republican opponent over him in the 1967 election and which encouraged “secession” movements by some predominately white Gary neighborhood.  
Sources: 
Alex Poinsett, Black Power Gary Style (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1970); James B. Lane, African American Mayors (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001); "Richard Hatcher Biography" The HistoryMakers. http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=376
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hill, Peter (1767-1820)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Peter Hill, a clockmaker, was born on July 19, 1767 in the Burlington Township, New Jersey.  He is assumed to be the son of slaves owned by a clockmaker named Joseph Hollinshead, Jr.  Peter Hill grew up in the Hollinshead household and as he grew older was allowed to learn clock making from his master in order to assist Hollinshead in his store.  In 1794, Hollinshead manumitted Peter who was 27.  His freedom was certified the following year in an official court document. 

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

Ritchey, John Franklin (1923-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of Amy Essington"

John Ritchey integrated the Pacific Coast League, the AAA-level minor baseball league on the West Coast, when he played as a San Diego Padre in 1948. The second-generation baseball player was born in 1923, in San Diego, California and was the youngest of nine children. His father William played catcher and managed the San Diego Giants, a local African American team for which John served as batboy.

Ritchey played baseball at Memorial Junior High School and San Diego High School as an outfielder and then catcher. He also played on a local team for the American Legion, a youth baseball program. In 1938, the San Diego team went to the American Legion tournament finals in South Carolina. Tournament officials did not allow Ritchey and another black teammate, Nelson Manuel, to play. In 1941, the San Diego team returned to the finals, this time in North Carolina. Ritchey and Manual played in the semi-finals, integrating the league, but again officials prevented the pair from playing in the finals. After graduating from San Diego High School in 1941, Ritchey began his studies at San Diego State College.

Sources: 

Essington, Amy “Segregation, Race, and Baseball: The Integration of the Pacific Coast League, 1948-1952,” (PhD diss, Claremont Graduate University, 2009).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Sankara, Thomas (1949-1987)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Thomas Sankara, political leader of Burkina Faso in the 1980s, was born on December 21, 1949 in Yako, a northern town in the Upper Volta (today Burkina Faso) of French West Africa. He was the son of a Mossi mother and a Peul father, and personified the diversity of the Burkinabè people of the area. In his adolescence, Sankara witnessed the country’s independence from France in 1960 and the repressive and volatile nature of the regimes that ruled throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Sources: 

Pierre Englebert, Burkina Faso: Unsteady Statehood in West Africa (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996); Thomas Sankara, Thomas Sankara Speaks: The Burkina Faso Revolution, 1983-87 (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1988); Victoria Brittain, “Introduction to Sankara and Burkina Faso,” Review of African Political Economy, No. 32 (April 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jenkins, John (1952- )

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

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

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

Montgomery, John Leslie “Wes” (1925-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Washington DC
Jazz Network

Wes Montgomery was a jazz guitarist whose natural genius and distinctive sound earned him recognition as one of the most important jazz musicians of the 20th century. Montgomery was born on March 6, 1925 in Indianapolis, Indiana into a musically inclined family. Although he was given his first instrument as a child, Montgomery’s interest in guitar would not be ignited until he was 19 years old and married. After first hearing records from swing and jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, he bought an affordable guitar and amplifier and taught himself how to play.  Partly in order to lower the volume for neighbors and because he found it awkward to use a pick, he soon adopted his own style of using his right thumb to pluck the strings. Although somewhat unconventional, the softer and deeper tone it produced still serves as one of his trademarks.

Sources: 
Charles Alexander, Masters of Jazz Guitar (London: Balafon Books, 1999); Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestly, Jazz: The Essential Companion (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987); Leonard Feather, The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Horizon Press, 1955); Leslie Gourse, Fancy Fretwork: The Great Jazz Guitarists (1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Massie, Samuel Proctor (1919-2005)

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

Born in 1919 in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Samuel Proctor Massie was as one of the few African American scientists to work on the Manhattan Project during World War II.  He later became a distinguished professor of chemistry.

Massie graduated from Dunbar High School in Little Rock at the age of 13.  At age 18, he earned his bachelor’s in science and was summa cum laude from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1937.  With a scholarship from the National Youth Administration he earned a master’s degree in chemistry at Fisk University in 1940 when he was only 21 years old.  Massie said his desire to find a cure for his father's asthma spurred him to become a chemist.

As he neared the completion of his doctorate in chemistry at Iowa State University in 1942, Massie lost his draft deferment.  When he was about to be drafted in his home state of Arkansas, his major professor at Iowa State, Henry Gilman, who was already working on the Manhattan Project, assigned Massie to his research team.  Massie performed his research at Iowa State University from 1942 to 1946 where he helped in the development of uranium isotopes for the atomic bomb.   
Sources: 
Samuel Proctor Massie (with Robert C. Hayden), Catalyst: The Autobiography of an American Chemist (Laurel, Md.: S.P. Massie, 2001); Neal Thompson, "The Chemist: An Interview with Samuel P. Massie," American Legacy 7 (Spring 2001); "Samuel Proctor Massie, Jr.," The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4443; “Obituary,” Jet, May 9, 2005, 24.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Tharpe, Rosetta Atkins [Sister Rosetta] (1915-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist of gospel, jazz, blues, and rock-and-roll.  She was born on March 20, 1915 near Cotton Plant, Arkansas to Katie (née Harper) Bell Nubin and Willis B. Atkins.  Her mother, a mandolin-playing evangelist in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), toured with P.W. McGhee’s revivals in Southeastern states before moving with her daughter to Chicago in 1921.  There, mother and daughter performed together at the Fortieth Street Church of God in Christ (now Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ).   She also toured as a teenager with her mother as a COGIC evangelist across the country.

On November 17, 1934, at the age of 19, Rosetta Atkins married Pastor Thomas J. Thorpe, a COGIC minister.  She toured with him and her mother until 1938.  By October 1938, she had separated from her husband, moved to New York, and begun working at the Cotton Club.  She remained there until 1940.  

Tharpe made her first gospel recordings for the Decca label on October 31, 1938.  Two months later on December 23, 1938 she performed at Carnegie Hall in John Hammond’s first “From Spirituals to Swing” concert, and again at the second one of 1939.

Between 1938 and 1941 she performed at various venues around New York including the Paramount Theater, the Savoy Ballroom, and the Apollo Theater with bandleaders Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan.  
Sources: 
Gayle Wald, Shout, Sister, Shout!:  the Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Boston: Beacon Press, 2007); Gayle Wald, “Tharpe, Sister Rosetta,” Encyclopedia of the Blues (New York: Routledge, 2006); Hilary Moore, “Tharpe, Sister Rosetta,”  Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music (New York: Routledge, 2005); Paul Oliver and Howard Rye, "Tharpe, Sister Rosetta," The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz Volume 3 (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2002); Bill Carpenter, “Sister Rosetta Tharpe,” Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005); Gayle Wald, “Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  Timeline: The Years of Sister Rosetta Tharpe,” PBS American Masters, Film: The Godmother of Rock & Roll. URL: <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/sister-rosetta-tharpe/timeline-the-years-of-sister-rosetta-tharpe/2487/>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gordon, Walter Arthur (1894-1976)

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

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

Dickson, Moses (1824-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Moses Dickson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 5, 1824. At 16, he began a three year tour of the South which persuaded him to work for the abolition of slavery. On August 12, 1846, Dickson and twelve other men gathered in St. Louis to devise a plan to end slavery in the United States. They formed a secret organization known as the Knights of Liberty which planned to initiate a national insurrection against slavery.

Dickson married widow Mary Elisabeth Butcher Peters at Galena, Illinois on October 5, 1848. They had one daughter, Mamie Augusta, and a year later the family located permanently in St. Louis.

By 1856, according to Dickson and his followers, 47,240 members of the Knights of Liberty throughout the nation stood ready to fight for freedom. In August of that year Dickson created a smaller secret organization, the Order of Twelve, in Galena, Illinois. During the war, the Knights disbanded and many of their members joined the Union Army.

Sources: 
Reverend Moses Dickson, Manual of the International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor 3d. ed. (St. Louis: A. R. Fleming Printing, 1900); William A. Muraskin, Middle-Class Blacks in a White Society: Prince Hall Freemasonry in America (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Bridges, Leon (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Leon Bridges is recorded as the founder of the second African American-owned firm in Seattle. He was born on August 18, 1932 in Los Angeles, California. In high school he was told by a counselor that he couldn't become an architect because he was black, and then while a student in high school he met his mentor, famed African American architect, Paul Williams.

While a student at UCLA, Bridges was drafted into the military in 1952, and was stationed in Japan. While a soldier, he continued to study architecture. He earned his bachelor's of architecture degree from the University of Washington in 1960.

Bridges began working in Seattle architecture firms while still a student at the University of Washington and received his first job in 1956 as a draftsman. Bridges worked for the architecture firm Gotteland and Kocarski and designed Catholic churches and buildings in Seattle.

After becoming a registered architect in 1962, Bridges formed his own firm, Leon Bridges AIA in 1963. His first project was designing a building for the Seattle YMCA. In 1966, he formed a partnership with colleague Edward Burke and they worked together until 1972 when Bridges relocated his firm to Baltimore.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kochiyama, Yuri (1921-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Yuri Kochiyama was born Mary Yuriko Nakahara in 1921 and raised in San Pedro, California, in a small working-class neighborhood.  When Pearl Harbor was bombed, the life of Yuri’s family took a turn for the worse.  Her father, a first-generation Japanese immigrant, was arrested by the FBI. When President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066 ordering the removal of persons of Japanese descent from “strategic areas,” Yuri and her family were sent to an internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas.  Due to these events, Yuri started seeing the parallels between the treatment of African Americans in Jim Crow South and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in remote internment camps during World War II. Subsequently she decided to devote her life to struggles against racial injustice.  

Sources: 
Yuri Kochiyama, Passing It On – A Memoir, ed. Marjorie Lee, Akemi Kochiyama-Sardinha, and Audee Kochiyama-Holman (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 2004); “Yuri Kochiyama: With Justice in Her Heart” (an interview transcript) http://www.revcom.us/a/v20/980-89/986/yuri.htm; William Yardley, "Yori Kochiyama, Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 93," New York Times, June 4, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Kanagawa University, Japan

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

Williams, Robert F. (1925-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of California Newsreel
Robert F. Williams was a militant civil rights leader whose open advocacy of armed self-defense anticipated the movement for "black power" in the late 1960s and helped inspire groups like the Student National Coordinating Committee, the Revolutionary Action Movement, and the Black Panther Party.
Sources: 
Timothy B. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie:  Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1999); Robert F. Williams, Negroes With Guns (Detroit:  Wayne State University Press, 1962).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Crockett, George William, Jr. (1909-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of Congressman George William
Crockett Official Website
George William Crockett Jr. was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on August 10, 1909 to George William Crockett Sr., and Minnie Amelia Jenkins.  His father was a Baptist minister and railroad carpenter and his mother was a Sunday School teacher and poet.  Crockett grew up in Jacksonville, attending public schools there until his graduation from Stanton High Schoo1 in 1927.  He then graduated from Morehouse College in 1931 with a B.A. in history and the University of Michigan where he received his J.D. in 1934. Crockett was admitted to the Florida bar in 1934 and soon afterwards began his long career in politics.

In 1937 Crockett helped found the National Lawyers Guild, the first racially integrated bar association in the United States.  Two years later Crockett became the first African American lawyer hired by the United States Department of Labor, where he worked on employment cases under the National Labor Relations Act.  During World War II Crockett became a hearing officer for the Federal Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC).  Keenly aware of racial segregation and discrimination in labor unions, Crockett, after leaving the Labor Department, became the director of the Fair Employment Practices Department of the International United Auto Workers (UAW) Union, 1944, a post that brought his return to Michigan.  
Sources: 
Bruce Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990); http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C000919; Biographical Directory of the George Crockett, American Law Encyclopedia, http://law.jrank.org/pages/5896/Crockett-George-William-Jr.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, Edwin Garrison (1830-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edwin Garrison Walker, leatherworker, lawyer, and politician, was born free in Boston, Massachusetts to Eliza and David Walker in 1831.  His exact date of birth is unknown.  His mother Eliza, whose last name also is unknown, was, according to most sources, a fugitive slave.  His father, David Walker, was nationally known for authoring David Walker’s Appeal, a controversial abolitionist text which was published in Boston in 1839. 

Walker was educated in Boston’s public school system and while growing up trained as a leatherworker.  He eventually owned his own shop and employed fifteen people.  Walker, along with Lewis Hayden and Robert Morris, by now all well-known Boston abolitionists, were lauded by the New England public in 1851 for their assistance in obtaining the release of Shadrach, a fugitive slave.mj

While fighting for the release of Shadrach, Walker acquired a copy of Blackstone’s Commentaries, which piqued his interest in law.  Shortly thereafter, while still a leatherworker, Walker studied law in the offices of John Q. A. Griffin and Charles A. Tweed in Georgetown, Massachusetts.  After passing his law examination with ease in May, 1861, Walker became the third African American admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.
Sources: 
William Henry Ferris, The African Abroad, or, his evolution in western civilization, tracing his development under Caucasian milieu, vol. 2 (New Haven: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press, 1913); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bass, Karen (1953--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Karen Bass Entering the California Assembly Chamber to
Become the Next Speaker, March 13, 2008
Image Ownership: Public Domain

On May 13, 2008, Assemblywoman Karen Bass was elected the 67th Speaker of the California State Assembly. Bass is the first African American woman in U.S. History to earn this prestigious position in any government branch and is the first black woman elected speaker in California.

Born on October 3, 1953 in Los Angeles, California to Dewitt and Wilhelmina Bass, Karen grew up in the Venice-Fairfax district. After graduating from Hamilton High School, Bass attended California State University, Dominguez Hills where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences. Bass then earned a Physician’s Assistant Certificate from the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine, where she later worked as a Physician’s Assistant, nurse, and instructor at the university’s medical center.

Bass’s daily encounters with disadvantaged patients prompted her to found the Community Coalition after the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. This non-profit organization is dedicated to improving the lives of South Los Angeles residents by eliminating liquor stores and low-rent motels from the neighborhoods, removing cigarette and alcohol billboards near public schools, and increasing the number of Laundromats and grocery stores available to residents.

Sources: 

Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass-California State Assembly Democratic Caucus,
“Biography,” http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/A47/biography.htm (Accessed September 5, 2008); Karen Bass Speaker of the Assembly, http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/speaker/default.aspx (Accessed September 11, 2008); Nancy Vogel, “Assembly Speaker Sworn In; L.A. Democrat Karen Bass, The First Black Woman To Hold The Post, Says She'll Focus On The budget Crisis,” Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2008, pg. B3; Jim Sanders and Shane Goldmacher, “L.A.’s Bass to Become New Assembly Leader,” Sacramento Bee, February 28, 2008.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Swanson, Howard (1907-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Howard Swanson
Papers
Amistad Research Center
New Orleans, LA

Howard Swanson was an African American composer best known for his art songs based on the poetry of Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar.  Swanson was born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 18, 1907.  Born in a middle class home, Swanson's family sent his two older brothers to college which was for the time unusual.

Swanson’s music career started after the family relocated to Cleveland, Ohio in 1916.  As a young boy he often sang in his church, sometimes performing duets with his mother. In 1925 when he was 18, Swanson's father died which immediately and dramatically changed the family's circumstances.  Howard Swanson now had to earn money to support the family.  After high school graduation he worked in the Cleveland Post Office. 

In 1927, as his circumstances improved, Swanson decided to continue his education.  He attended the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied piano, eventually graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in music theory a decade later.  In 1939 he received a Rosenwald Fellowship which allowed him to study in Paris, France with famed music instructor Nadia Boulanger.  Swanson had planned to pursue graduate studies in Paris but in 1940 he was forced to evacuate Paris as the German Army overran France.

Sources: 

Samuel A. Floyd, International Dictionary of Black Composers (Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999}; http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com; http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2699.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Linton Kwesi (1952– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Linton Kwesi Johnson, political activist, poet and reggae artist, was born in Chapelton, Jamaica in 1952. After his parents’ divorce, Johnson was raised by his grandmother. Johnson left his small parish in 1963 and moved to London, UK to be with his mother, where he attended Tulse Hill secondary school.
Sources: 
Linton Kwesi Johnson’s profile on “Contemporary Writers”: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth58; “I did my own thing” interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson by Nicholas Wroe, published in “The Guardian,” March 2008: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/mar/08/featuresreviews.guardianreview11.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Fudge, Marcia (1952 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Democrat Marcia Fudge is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 11th Congressional District of Ohio since November 2008. She was the first female African American mayor of Warrensville Heights, a predominantly middle-class black suburban city outside of Cleveland.  She served as its mayor from January 2000 to November 2008.  

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1952, Fudge earned a BS in business administration from Ohio State University in 1975.  After working as a law clerk immediately after college, she earned a JD from Cleveland State University in 1983.  Fudge then served as an attorney in the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office where she also held the position of director of Budget and Finance.  She was also an auditor for the estate tax department and has occasionally served as a visiting judge and a chief referee for arbitration.  Prior to her election, Fudge was chief of staff to 11th District Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones during Jones’ first term.  

After Jones’ passing on August 20, 2008, a committee of local Democratic leaders selected Mayor Fudge as Jones’ replacement on the November ballot.  She easily won the general election in the heavily Democratic, black-majority district with 85 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Thomas Pekarek.  She was sworn in on November 19, 2008.  
Sources: 
Damon Sims, " Marcia Fudge, with Style of Her Own, Takes Congressional Seat," The Plain Dealer (November 19, 2008); Rep. Marcia Fudge official website: http://fudge.house.gov/index.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, James Lloyd (1920-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership:
Public Domain
James Lloyd Jackson was one of the little known heroes of the D-Day Landing at Normandy Beach in France in 1944.  Jackson was born in Lakeland, Florida on February 25, 1920 to Essie May Holly and Amos Jackson. He graduated from Lakeland High School in 1938. For the next five years he worked for the Lakeland Fertilizer Company.

Jackson joined the U.S. Army in 1943 as a private.  In 1944, just a year after joining the military, Sergeant James Jackson led a unit of the 531st Combat Engineers onto Normandy Beach at dawn in preparation for the much larger invasion that was to follow. Jackson's unit also captured German soldiers including Max Schmeling, the boxer who fought Joe Louis in 1937 and 1938. Jackson's unit continued to work in battlefield settings for the rest of World War II.  

James Jackson decided in 1945 to make the Army a career. In 1951 he was promoted to second lieutenant while serving in Korea.  On December 27, 1953 Jackson married Octavia Mills, a former elementary school teacher from Oklahoma. The couple had five children.  

At the end of the Korean War Jackson used his years in the military to further his education.  While in the Army and stationed at various posts, Jackson studied at the University of Maryland, the University of Puget Sound, the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and finally Western Washington University where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1975.  
Sources: 
National Archives and Records Administration, Jackson Family Records.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, Thomas Calhoun (1862-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Calhoun Walker, teacher, lawyer, and government official, was born into slavery on June 16, 1862 in a small cabin at Spring Hill in Gloucester County, Virginia. On January 1, 1863, when Walker was just a few months old, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves. Walker’s parents, despite their new liberty, chose to stay and work on plantations around Spring Hill.

Walker’s former owner and master died, and his son Lieutenant William J. Baytop took over the plantation.  Lieutenant Baytop and his wife had no children of their own and convinced Walker’s parents to let them keep him while he was young. The Baytops treated young Walker well. They named him Thomas after his biological father and Calhoun after South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun. When he was a few years older, Walker’s father sent for him, and the Baytops returned him to his family.

Walker and his family lived near Edge Hill where they rented a two-room shed and a kitchen. The boy’s childhood ended at the age of 10 when he began working odd jobs to help support his family. Walker desperately wanted an education, but his father said that at age 10 he was too old to learn.  At 13 he could neither read nor write. But young Walker persisted and finally learned to read when a Sunday School teacher gave him a spelling book called “John Common’s Book.”
Sources: 
J. Clay Smith, Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993); Thomas Calhoun Walker, The Honey-Pod Tree; the Life Story of Thomas Calhoun Walker (New York: J. Day, 1958).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Frazier, Kenneth C. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Kenneth C. Frazier is the first African American President of Merck & Co., a major pharmaceutical corporation. Frazier was elected by the Board of Directors to be the next CEO on May 1, 2010, and assumed the post on January 1, 2011.  

Kenneth Frazier was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Otis and Clara Frazier on December 17, 1954. Along with his three siblings, Frazier was raised by his father after his mother passed when he was 12 years old. His father, Otis, migrated to Pennsylvania at age 14. With the equivalent of a third grade education, Otis Frazier worked most of his life as a custodian for the U.S. Parcel Service.  

Kenneth Frazier graduated from high school at age 15.  He hoped to enter the United States Military Academy at West Point. Denied entry due to his young age, he instead entered the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated in 1975. Immediately afterward he enrolled in Harvard Law School where he graduated with his Juris Doctorate degree in 1978.

Sources: 
"Kenneth C. Frazier," Penn State Black History / African American Chronicles. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014; Kenneth C. Frazier," Businessweek.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014; "Master of the Game," Law.com. The Minority Law Journal, 13 Feb. 2002; "A Dose of Optimism," Harvard Law School Bulletin. N.p., 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Silva, Tatiana (1985- )

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

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

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

Belafonte, Harry (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Born March 1, 1927 as Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. in Harlem, New York, to parents Melvine Love Bellanfanti, a Jamaican housekeepter, and Harold George Bellanfanti, Sr., of Martinique, who worked as a chef for the National Guard. Belafonte grew from being a troubled youth to an award-winning entertainer and world-renowned political activist and humanitarian.  From 1932 to 1940, he lived with his grandmother in Jamaica.  He returned to New York City and attended George Washington High School. In 1944 Belafonte joined the Navy in order to fight in World War II, and although Belafonte was never sent overseas, after the war ended he was able to use the G.I. Bill to pay for a drama workshop at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan alongside fellow students Marlon Brando and Sidney Poitier

Sources: 
James Robert Parish and Michael R. Pitts, Hollywood Songsters:  Singers Who Act and Actors Who Sing (New York: Routledge, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Rogers, J. A. (1880-1966)

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

Self-trained historian, novelist, and journalist Joel Augustus Rogers spent most of his life debunking pseudo-scientific and racist depictions of people of African ancestry while popularizing the history of persons of black people around the world. Rogers was born September 6, 1883 in Negril, Jamaica. He and his siblings were raised, after their mother passed, by their schoolteacher father, Samuel John Rogers.  Rogers emigrated to the United States in 1906 and Joel Rogers became a naturalized citizen in 1917.  Rogers lived briefly in Chicago before eventually settling in New York City.  

Sources: 
W. Burghardt Turner, “J.A. Rogers: Portrait of An Afro-American Historian,” Black Scholar (January-February, 1978); Malik Simba, “Joel Augustus Rogers: Negro Historian in History, Time, and Space,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, vol. 30, no.2 , July 2006; Thabiti Asukile, "Joel Augustus Rogers: Black International Journalism, Archival Research, And Black Print Culture," Journal of African American History (Special Issue "To Be Heard in Black and White: Historical Perspective on Black Print Culture"), Vol. 95, Nos. 3-4 (Summer-Fall 2010); Thabiti Asukile, "J. A. Rogers on ‘Jazz at Home’ and Jazz in Paris during the Jazz Age,” The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research Black Issues, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Fall 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University-Fresno

Brown, James (1933-2006)

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

Born May 3, 1933, into poverty in racially segregated Barnwell, South Carolina, James Brown became the most assertively black rhythm and blues singer ever accorded mainstream acceptance before audiences throughout the world.  

Arrested for breaking and entering at age 15, Brown’s early run-ins with the authorities served as his initiation into the rough edges of the black experience that were eventually reflected in both his pleading ballads and aggressive in-your-face funk.  Brown’s rough musical style and sensual, suggestive lyrics are even credited with ushering in the age of Hip-Hop. His almost primal renditions of “Please, Please, Please,” his first hit in 1956, and later “Bewildered” and “Prisoner of Love” contrasted vividly with the serene and controlled deliveries of artists such as Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Dionne Warwick.

Sources: 
Peter Shapiro, Rough Guide to Soul and R&B (London, England: Penguin Books, 2006).  Also read Michael Haralambos, Soul Music: Birth of a Sound in Black America (DaCapo Press, 1985)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Foreman, George (1949 - )

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

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

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

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

Johnson, Ellsworth “Bumpy” (1906–1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson was an American gangster in Harlem, New York in the 20th century. He has been the subject or character of a number of Hollywood films including The Cotton Club, Hoodlum, and most recently, American Gangster

Johnson was originally from Charleston, South Carolina. During his formative years, his family moved north to Harlem. He was given the name “Bumpy” due to a large bump on his forehead. Known for his “flashy” style and dapper look, Johnson was at various times a pimp, a thief and a burglar.  He was always armed and did not hesitate to resort to violence to achieve his objectives. 
Sources: 
Ron Chepesiuk, Gangsters of Harlem (New York: Barrick Books, 2007); John H. Johnson, Fact Not Fiction in Harlem, (Northern Type Printing, 1980); Genevieve Fabre and Michel Feith, Temples For Tomorrow: Looking Back At The Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); Crime Library website, Black Gangs of Harlem 1920-1939 http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/gangs/harlem_gangs/5.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

McGuire, George Alexander (1866-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Alexander McGuire was a bishop and founder of the African Orthodox Church, as well as chaplain-general of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). McGuire was born on March 26, 1866 at Sweets, Antigua, in the Caribbean. He was educated in the local school system, then at the Antigua branch of Mico College for teachers and at the Moravian Miskey Seminary in the Danish West Indies.  From 1888 to 1894 McGuire was pastor of a Moravian Church in the Danish West Indies

In 1894, McGuire arrived in the United States and initially joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  On January 2, 1895, however McGuire joined the Episcopal Church and two years later became an ordained priest.  McGuire led small mostly black Episcopal churches in Cincinnati, Richmond, Virginia and Philadelphia.  
Sources: 
John Hope Franklin and August Meier, eds., Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1982); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Byron Rushing, “A Note on the Origin of the African Orthodox Church.” The Journal of Negro History 57:1 (Jan., 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Franklin, John Hope (1915--2009)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Faith Ringgold (1930-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Grace Matthews
Faith Ringgold ©
Visual artist, storyteller and feminist activist, Faith Ringgold was born on October 8, 1930 in Harlem Hospital, New York City to Andrew Louis Jones, Sr. and Willie Edell Jones (Willi Posey), a fashion designer and dressmaker.  An arts graduate from City College in New York City, Ringgold was Professor of Art at the University of San Diego until retirement in 2003. She divided her residence between New York and New Jersey home/studios and Southern California.  Her international reputation reflects a broad art world appreciation initiated primarily through extensive traveling shows and appearances on university campuses.  Faith Ringgold’s versatile expression includes paintings, Tibetan-style tankas, performance art, masks, freestanding sculptures and painted quilts.  All are represented in museums nationwide and international collections.  Her publications, primarily storybooks for children, complete this impressive catalogue.  Tar Beach, which won the Caldecott Award for 1992, is acknowledged by many as a children’s classic.
Sources: 
Dan Cameron, ed., Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold’s French Collection and Other Story Quilts (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999); Donnette Hatch, “Faith Ringgold.” Encyclopedia of African American Literature, Wilfred D. Samuels, ed., New York: Facts on File, 2007): 437-438.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bongo, Omar/ Albert-Bernard Bongo (1935-2009)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Omar Bongo (in Brown Suit)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Omar Bongo was President of Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009, over 42 years, and thus ruled longer than any other African leader.  Bongo was born in the Beteke region of Gabon on December 10, 1935.  He was the youngest of twelve children and was a member of the Bateke people.  Named Albert-Bernard Bongo at birth, he later converted to Islam in 1973, changing his name to El Hajj Omar Bongo.  In 2003 he added Ondimba, his father’s name.

Bongo’s first wife was Marie Josephine Kama and they had two children together, but they divorced in 1986.  In 1990, Bongo married Edith Lucie Sassou-Nguesso, daughter of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), and together they had nine children.  
Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005); http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article6458071.ece.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

West, Allen (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

McCree, Wade Hampton, Jr. (1920-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library,
Wayne State University
Wade Hampton McCree, Jr. was a noted American attorney, jurist, and law professor. Born to educated parents in Des Moines, Iowa, his father, Wade Hampton McCree, Sr., was an alumnus of Fisk University and had a respected career as a pharmacist and later as United States Narcotics Inspector. His mother, Lucretia Harper McCree, was a graduate of Simmons College and became a teacher.  
Sources: 
Leonard W. Levy, Kenneth Karst, and Adam Winkler, Encyclopedia of the American Constitution (Detroit:  MacMillan Reference USA, 2000), 1704-5;
Federal Judicial Center website, www.fjc.gov; www.oxfordaasc.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent historian

Lee, Andrea (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Expatriate novelist, journalist, and memoirist Andrea Lee was raised in a well-to-do African American family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The youngest of three children, her father was a Baptist minister and her mother an elementary school teacher.  The product of private school education, she recalls both writing fiction and desiring to live in Europe since childhood. Her privileged upbringing did not completely shelter her from discomfiting incidents in racially integrated schools which led her to revisit issues pertaining to racial and national identity in later writings.
Sources: 
Mar Gallego, “Lee, Andrea,” African American National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008); Milena Vercellino,“Andrea Lee,” retrieved at  http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?article=556&p=full
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Cook, Will Mercer (1903-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Will Mercer Cook served as the United States ambassador to the Republic of Niger from 1961 to 1964. Cook directed U.S. economic, social, and cultural programs in Niger, which included the Peace Corps. During the mid-1960s he also became the special envoy to Gambia and Senegal.

Will Mercer Cook was born on March 30, 1903, in Washington, D.C., to Will Marion Cook, a composer and Abbie Mitchell Cook, an actress and classical singer.  Cook had one sibling, Abigail, an older sister. During his childhood, he frequently traveled with his family as they performed at various venues throughout the United States and abroad.  Jazz superstar Duke Ellington lived on the same block in Cook’s middle class Washington, D.C. neighborhood.    

Sources: 
Mercer Cook and Dantes Bellegarde, eds., The Haitian American Anthology: Haitian Readings from American Authors (Port-au Prince, Haiti: Imperimerie de l’Etat, 1944); “Will Mercer Cook, 84, Ambassador, Educator, Dies,” Jet, 73 (October 26, 1987);
Office of the Historian -Department History - People – Cook, Mercer: http://www.history.state.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Ray, Emma (1859-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
For nearly thirty years, Emma Ray, who was born into slavery and raised in poverty in Missouri, ministered to the poor and homeless in Seattle slums along with her husband, L.P. They came to Seattle following the 1889 fire in order for L.P. to find work as a stonemason. Shortly after, they were converted in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Emma helped to found the Frances Harper Colored Unit of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union with fifteen women from the AME Church, and she served as its president. With her WCTU Unit, Emma visited the jail, holding religious services on Sunday afternoons. On Wednesday afternoons, she and “Mother” Ryther, who ran an orphanage in Seattle, visited prostitutes and held services in the brothels. Between 1900 and 1902, Emma and L.P. ran a mission in Kansas City, Missouri, for children living in poverty, providing clothes, meals, a warm place to gather in the winter, trips to the park in the summer, and weekly Sunday School.

The Rays eventually joined The Free Methodist Church and were licensed as Conference Evangelists. Under the auspices of the Free Methodists, they preached revival meetings in churches throughout the state of Washington. Emma’s autobiography, Twice Sold, Twice Ransomed, was published by the Free Methodist Publishing House in 1926.
Sources: 
Emma Ray, Twice Sold, Twice Ransomed (Seattle: Free Methodist Publishing House, 1926).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Saddler, Joseph/Grandmaster Flash (1958 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although he will more than likely be remembered best for releasing “The Message,” the first rap song to delve into social commentary about the plight of African Americans in the inner-city, Grandmaster Flash was also the original technological virtuoso of the early hip-hop movement to emerge from the Bronx borough of New York in the 1970s. A child of Barbadian immigrants, Flash was driven by the mechanical imperfections of his immediate predecessors’ equipment to create new, home-made mixing tools. Along with his technological savvy, an obsessive drive for rhythmic perfection led him to essentially create the art form of ‘turntablism,’ the use of the record player as a musical instrument.

Beginning in 1977, Grandmaster Flash began to make his name in the Bronx for the wide range of technological tricks he used to electrify the party. Though DJ Kool Herc was the first to loop the percussive break-beat of a record, his technique was, in Sadler’s mind, sloppy and lacked precision in terms of keeping time with the rhythm of the beat. Flash created a cross-fader to improve upon Herc’s innovations, dubbing his style the “Quick Mix Theory,” which also incorporated a virtuoso 13-year-old named Grand Wizard Theodore’s technique of scratching a record back and forth for musical effect. As well, Flash’s routine also utilized a new electronic percussion machine called the beatbox to great effect.
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., 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bennett, Lerone (1928- )

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

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

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

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

Bolden, Buddy (1877-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Buddy Bolden Band
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles “Buddy” Bolden is said to be the first musician to play jazz music. While this is debatable, it is clear that Bolden’s music helped form the jazz movement. Bolden was born on September 6, 1877 in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the age of six, Bolden’s father died of pneumonia, leaving behind wife, Alice, daughter Cara and young Bolden.  The father’s death led the family to remain close for the rest of their lives.

Bolden began playing the coronet as a teenager.  He joined a small New Orleans dance band led by Charlie Galloway. It was at Galloway’s barber salon that Buddy honed his technical skills as a musician.  By the age of 20 he left the band to begin his own group.
Sources: 
Donald M. Marquis, In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006); Danny Barker, Buddy Bolden and the Last Days of Storyville (New York: Continuum, 1998); David Perry, Jazz Greats (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sullivan, Leon Howard Jr. (1922-2001)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan Jr. was a successful minister, civil rights advocate, humanitarian and corporate leader known for his creation of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America and the Sullivan Principles to promote political reform in South Africa.  

Leon Sullivan was born in Charleston, West Virginia on October 16, 1922.  He attended racially segregated schools in Charleston and then received a basketball and football scholarship at predominately black West Virginia State College.  A foot injury ended his athletic career and forced Sullivan to work in a steel mill to pay for college tuition.

At the age of 18, Leon Sullivan became a Baptist minister. Three years later Sullivan met Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who convinced him to move to New York City to attend the Union Theological Seminary.  Sullivan was enrolled there between 1943 and 1945.  Two years later he received a Master’s degree in Religion from Columbia University.  Rev. Sullivan served briefly at Rev. Powell’s assistant at Abyssinian Baptist Church and then became pastor of First Baptist Church of South Orange, New Jersey.  In 1950 Sullivan became pastor of Philadelphia’s Zion Baptist Church, remaining there until 1988.  While at Zion the church’s membership increased from 600 to over 6,000.
Sources: 
The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, http://www.thesullivanfoundation.org/gsp/default.asp; OIC of America Inc, http://www.oicofamerica.org/; Rev. Leon Sullivan: A Principled Man, www.revleonsullivan.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McClendon, Rose (1884-1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

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

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

Redding, Otis (1941-1967)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Lucy, William "Bill" (1933- )

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

Labor union organizer and leader Bill Lucy was born on November 26, 1933 to Joseph and Susie Lucy in Memphis, Tennessee.  Raised in Richmond, California, Lucy studied civil engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1950s.  He then joined the U.S. Navy in 1951.

Sources: 
William Lucy, Interview by Everett J. Freeman, 1986, Michigan State University; Michael Honey, Going Down Jericho Road:  The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign (New York:  W.W. Norton and Company, 2007).

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

Johnson, Anthony (? – 1670)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Anthony Johnson's Virginia and Maryland:
Map of Colonial Settlement by 1700
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Anthony Johnson was the first prominent black landholder in the English colonies.  Johnson arrived in Virginia in 1621 aboard the James.  It is uncertain if Johnson arrived as an indentured servant or as a slave, early records list him as “Antonio, a Negro.”  Regardless of his status, Johnson was bound labor and was put to work on Edward Bennett’s tobacco plantation near Warresquioake, Virginia.  In March of 1622 local Tidewater Indians attacked Bennett’s plantation, killing fifty-two people.  Johnson was one of only five on the plantation who survived the attack.  

In 1622 “Mary, a Negro Woman” arrived aboard the Margrett and John and like Anthony, she ended up on Bennett’s plantation.  At some point Anthony and Mary were married; a 1653 Northampton County court document lists Mary as Anthony’s wife.  It was a prosperous and enduring union that lasted over forty years and produced at least four children including two sons and two daughters.  The couple was respected in their community for their “hard labor and known service,” according to court documents.  
Sources: 
T.H. Breen, Stephen Innes, “Myne Owne Ground”: Race and Freedom on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, 1640-1676 (New York: Oxford U Press, 2004); Peter Wood, Strange New Land, Africans in Colonial America (New York: Oxford U Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carter, George Sherman (1911-1998)

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

George Sherman Carter, research chemist, was born on May 10, 1911 in Gloucester County, Virginia. Carter, called Sherman, was one of four boys and one girl born to George Peter and Emily Maude Carter.  Not much is known of Carter’s childhood or of his move north but in 1936 Carter began his studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he majored in biology.  Carter was very active in the school community, joining Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the track team, the New York Club and Wissenschaft Verein (Science Club).  After graduation in 1940 Carter attended Columbia University’s Teachers College as well as the College of the City of New York.

Carter married Kathleen Francis and the two of them had a daughter, Beverly Kathleen. In 1943 Carter was hired at Columbia University in New York to work in tandem with the University of Chicago studying nuclear fission. This project was set up by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the famed Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bomb.  While at Columbia, Carter worked for Isidor Isaac Rabi, who led the Columbia group of scientists.  That group included William and Lawrence Knox.

Sources: 
“George Sherman Carter, noted chemist and Harlem resident, dies at 87,” New York Amsterdam News (Dec. 9, 1998); George S. Schuyler, “Negro Scientists Played Important Role in Development of Atomic Bomb,” The Pittsburg Courier (Aug. 18, 1945); Lincoln University Alumni Magazine (Lincoln University, 1946); www.dailypress.com, Obituaries (Dec. 11-20, 1998)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Woodard, Isaac (1919-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Isaac Woodard, Jr. Escorted by Joe Louis
and Unidentified Man, 1946
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1946, U.S. Army Sergeant Isaac Woodard challenged a Greyhound Bus driver while traveling from Georgia to North Carolina after being discharged from service in World War II.  Police officers who met him at the next stop brutally attacked him and left him permanently blinded. The attack on Woodard and similar stories of mistreatment of other black servicemen returning from the war let to new national pressures on racial segregation and discrimination and to the integration of the Armed Services in 1948.
Sources: 
“The Isaac Woodard Case,” The Crisis 53 (September 1946);  Lynda G. Dodd, “Presidential Leadership and Civil Rights Lawyering in the Era Before Brown,” Indiana Law Journal 85 (Fall 2010): John Egerton, Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994);  Andrew H. Myers, “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond:  The Blinding of Isaac Woodard,” available at:  http://faculty.uscupstate.edu/amyers/conference.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Staples, George McDade (1947-- )

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

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

Thompson, John Edward West (1855-1918)

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

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

Brown, Charlotte L. ( ? -- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Charlotte L. Brown was the daughter of James E. and Charlotte Brown and sister to Margaret Ann.  Her mother, for whom she was named, was a free, black seamstress who purchased her husband James’ freedom before they moved to San Francisco, California during the 1840s. Charlotte L. Brown was the plaintiff in one of the most important early California civil rights campaigns.  On April 17, 1863, Brown was forcibly removed from a horse-drawn streetcar in San Francisco.
Sources: 
Charlotte L. Brown et al case (San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1866). Delilah L. Beasley, The Negro Trail Blazers of California (Los Angeles: Times Mirror Publishing and Binding House, 1919), p. 65.  Marc Primus, ed. Monographs of Blacks in the West: Number 1, Manuscript Series (San Francisco: San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society, Inc., 1976), pp. 120-21
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barnett, Powell S. (1883-1971)

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

Powell S. Barnett was a child when his father arrived in Roslyn to work in the coal mines.  Seeing no future in mining, Powell left for Seattle in 1906, and quickly found work. Years later, after working in construction and for hotels, he served as a clerk for State Senator Frank Connor.  Barnett retired in 1971 as a maintenance man at the King County Courthouse.  He was a leader in the community and directed much of his energy toward improving race relations and civic unity.  In 1967, he organized the Leschi Improvement Council (a neighborhood organization), led in organizing the East Madison YMCA, and chaired a committee that revised the Seattle Urban League, thus saving its membership in the Community Chest. 

Barnett was instrumental in uniting blacks and whites in the YMCA and the USO.  As a tuba player, he was the first black person to become a member of the once all-white Musicians Union, Local 76.  He was a star baseball player who organized the semi-pro baseball Umpires Association of Seattle and secured its affiliation with the National Association of Umpires. He also assisted Japanese Americans who had been displaced during World War II. In 1949 a 4.4 acre park in Seattle was named in his honor.
Sources: 
Historylink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Powell S. Barnett (1883-1971)” (by Mary T. Henry) http://www.historylink.org/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Butler, Jerry (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jerry Butler was born to sharecropping farmers in Sunflower, Mississippi, but at the age of three his family joined the Great Migration and moved to Chicago, Illinois (to an area now known as the Cabrini-Green Housing Projects).  His initial introduction to music began as a choir boy in church in Chicago, where he met Curtis Mayfield, and the two joined a rhythm and blues (R&B) group called The Roosters in 1957.  Later in 1957 the group changed its name to Jerry Butler and the Impressions and released its only hit “For Your Precious Love,” which Jerry wrote, on the black-owned VeeJay label in 1958.
Sources: 
Jerry Butler and Earl Smith, Only the Strong Survive: Memoirs of a Soul Survivor (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000); http://www.vh1.com; http://www.onlinetalent.com; http://www.mtv.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walters, Bishop Alexander (1858-1917)

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

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

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

Gordone, Charles (1925- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Gordone was born Charles Edward Fleming on October 12, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio to parents William and Camille Fleming.  He took his stepfather’s surname of Gordon when his mother remarried when he was five years old.  The family moved to Elkhart, Indiana, his mother’s hometown, when Charles was very young.  After graduating from high school in Indiana, Gordon moved to Los Angeles.  In 1942 he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he spent one semester before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps. Gordon served two years in the Air Corps’ Special Services where he was an organizer of entertainment.

He returned to Los Angeles after his discharge in 1944 and studied music at Los Angeles City College before moving on to California State University, Los Angeles where he earned a B.A. in drama in 1952.  Upon graduation, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting.  It was in New York that Gordon added the “e” to his surname because he spotted another Charles Gordon on the Actors’ Equity membership list.  During the late 1950s, Gordone began directing as well as acting. He founded his own theatre, Vantage, in Queens, New York in the late 1950s.  In 1962, Gordone also founded the Committee for the Employment of Negroes, an organization designed to lobby for more employment opportunities for blacks in theatre.  
Sources: 
John MacNicholas, ed., Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 7: Twentieth Century American Dramatists, Part: A-J (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1981); http://www.answers.com/topic/charles-gordone
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Innis, Roy (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Roy Emile Alfredo Innis is the current National Director of the Congress for Racial Equality. He is a controversial civil rights activist whose conservative stance on many issues continues to draw national attention.

Innis was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands on June 6, 1934. He attended public schools in New York before joining the army and fighting in the Korean War. Upon returning to the U.S. Innis attended the City College of New York majoring in chemistry. In 1963 Innis joined CORE's Harlem chapter. Innis rose quickly through the ranks and in 1964 he was elected chairman of the chapter's educational committee. Innis strongly advocated the Black Power movement, pushing for African-American control of their communities, economy, and educational systems. In 1965 he was elected chairman of CORE's Harlem chapter. As Chairman, Innis campaigned for the establishment of an independent board of education in Harlem.

In 1967 Innis and 9 other African-American men formed an investment corporation known as the Harlem Commonwealth Council (HCC). The HCC's long-term goal is to create stability and an economic uplift in Harlem. The HCC under the leadership of Innis is widely known as a highly successful model of economic development within an African-American community. Innis also founded and served as co-editor of the Manhattan Tribune Newspaper.
Sources: 
"Roy Innis." Congress Of Racial Equality. 2008. http://www.core-online.org/Staff/roy.htm; Harlem Commonwealth Council Incorporated History. Isaiah Robinson, Founding Member. 2008. http://harlemcommonwealth.org/history.htm; "Innis Passes on NY governor's run; mulls New York mayor race in 2001. LP News Archive. May 1998. http://www.lp.org/lpn/9805-Innis.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cassell, Albert I. (1895-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Guinier, Lani (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the
University of Rochester

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chilembwe, John (c. 1871-1915)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
John Chilembwe and Family
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Thomas Price, Independent African: John Chilembwe and the Origins, Setting and Significance of the Nyasaland Native Uprising of 1915 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1969); http://harvardmagazine.com/2005/03/john-chilembwe.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Burney, William (1951- )

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

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

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

McQueen, Thelma “Butterfly” (1911-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of www.nndb.com
Actress Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen was born in Tampa, Florida on January 8, 1911. Her father, Wallace McQueen, worked as a stevedore and her mother, Mary Richardson, was a housekeeper and domestic worker. After McQueen’s parents separated, her mother moved from job to job and McQueen lived in several cities on the East Coast before settling in Augusta, Georgia. As a young teen, McQueen moved to Harlem, New York, where her mother worked as a cook.  

McQueen enrolled in the Lincoln Training School for Nursing in the Bronx before pursuing an acting career. She joined Venezula Jones’s Youth Theatre Group in Harlem and performed in the Group’s 1935 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As a result of her role in the production’s “Butterfly Ballet,” she adopted “Butterfly” as her stage name.  In 1937, McQueen debuted on Broadway in Brown Sugar.  She also appeared in What a Life (1938) and the Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong musical, Swingin the Dream (1939).

McQueen received her big break in Hollywood when David O. Selznick cast the 28-year-old actor as Prissy in Gone with the Wind (1939). McQueen’s role as Prissy brought her national fame and it remains her most remembered performance.
Sources: 
Stephen Bourne, Butterfly McQueen Remembered (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008); Axel Nissen, Actresses of a Certain Character (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2007); Dwandalyn R. Reece, “Butterfly McQueen,” in African American National Biography, vol. 5, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jeffries, Jasper Brown (1912-1994)

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

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

Ormes, Zelda “Jackie” (1911-1985)

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

Jackie Ormes is widely considered the first African American cartoonist in the United States. She created four comic strips, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem (1937), Candy (1945), Patty Jo ‘n’ Ginger (1946), and Torchy Brown, Heartbeats (1950).

Ormes was born August 1, 1911 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to parents William Winfield Jackson and Mary Brown Jackson. Jackson owned and operated a printing business and was the proprietor of a movie theater. Mary was a homemaker who became a single parent when her husband died from motor vehicle accident in 1917. Jackie and her sister, Delores Jackson, were briefly raised by their aunt and uncle as a result.

Jackie Jackson married Earl Ormes in 1936. They lost their only child, Jacqueline, to a brain aneurysm at age 3. They remained married for 45 years until Earl’s death in 1976.

Sources: 
Jasmin Williams, “Meet Jackie Ormes and Torchy Brown,” New Amsterdam News 103:29 (July 26, 2012); Nancy Goldstein, Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Taylor, Michelle (1992- )

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

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

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

Simpson, O. J. (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: 
Public Domain

Orenthal James Simpson was born July 9, 1947, in San Francisco, California. A troubled youth, poor grades and violent behavior kept Simpson from earning any college scholarship offers while attending high school. Simpson was highly recruited, however, after breaking several junior college records, and he would earn a scholarship to the University of Southern California.

In his second season at USC, Simpson set NCAA records for rushing yards in a season (1709) and carries (355) on his way to winning the national championship. Simpson won the 1968 Heisman Trophy by the largest voting margin ever.

The Buffalo Bills selected Simpson as the number one overall pick in the 1969 NFL draft. The first three NFL seasons were uneventful for the young Simpson, as coaches were hesitant to make Simpson a star. Beginning in 1972, however, Simpson’s abilities would not be ignored, as he led the league in rushing for four out of five seasons from 1972-1976. In 1973 Simpson won the NFL Most Valuable Player award while breaking the record for rushing yards in a season with 2003, and he remains the only player to rush for over 2000 yards in a fourteen game season.  After he retired from professional football Simpson pursued a moderately successful acting career. 

Sources: 
Pro Football Hall of Fame, http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.jsp?player_id=195
Larry Schwartz, Before Trial, Simpson Charmed America. ESPN.com Special, http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/simpson_oj.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bankhead, Lester Oliver (1912-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lester Oliver Bankhead was among a handful of pioneering black architects in Los Angeles in the 1950s.  Although he faced the racial prejudice of his time, he was able to obtain work from Hollywood celebrities, such as actor Lorne Greene of the television series Bonanza; Kelly Lang, a well-known Los Angeles news anchor; and H.B. Barnum, noted music producer and arranger for Frank Sinatra and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.

Lester Bankhead, the eldest of six children, was born on April 20, 1912, in Union, South Carolina.  His parents were John Hayes Bankhead and Pearl Eugenia Eskew.  Bankhead had hoped to attend Tuskegee Institute, but the lack of financial support forced him to seek training elsewhere.  He wrote to Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, and was later enrolled in 1937.  Bankhead stated that he graduated from Voorhees with a degree in agriculture and a certificate in carpentry in 1941.  

After graduating from college, Bankhead was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942.  Upon completion of basic training his unit was ordered to assist in the liberation of North Africa.  After being discharged from the Army, Bankhead moved Los Angeles and settled within the Central Avenue community.  He attended the Los Angeles City College, Otis Art Institute, and Los Angeles Trade Technical College.  Bankhead worked various jobs and eventually began his own practice in the 1950s.
Sources: 
http://www.nilekingdoms.org/bio.htm ;Interview with Lester Bankhead by Wesley Henderson, Los Angeles, California, 1992, University of California at Los Angeles Oral History Program; Wendel Eckford, “Lester O. Bankhead,” in African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945, Dreck Spurlock Wilson, Editor (New York, 2004).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Elaw, Zilpa (1790? - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in Pennsylvania to free parents, who raised her in the Christian faith, she was sent around the age of twelve, after her mother died, to live with a Quaker couple. At the age of fourteen, she began attending Methodist meetings, where she was converted. In 1810, she and Joseph Elaw were married; they settled in Burlington, New Jersey, because of his job as a fuller. They had a daughter, who was eleven years old when Joseph died of consumption in 1823.
Sources: 
Zilpha Elaw, Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels and Labours of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw, An American Female of Color: Together with Some Account of the Great Religious Revivals in America (1846); William L. Andrews, ed., Sisters of the Spirit: Three Black Women’s Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century (1986).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Woods, Eldrick “Tiger” (1975- )

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

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

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

Dolphy, Eric (1928-1964)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A definitive jazz multi-instrumentalist, Eric Dolphy established deeply original voices on his three primary instruments– the bass clarinet, alto saxophone, and flute.  Dolphy pioneered the use of the bass clarinet as a solo improvising instrument, and, with Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins, he is one of the earliest saxophonists to record solo improvisations.  Beloved by his peers for his compassion and enthusiasm, Dolphy's unique musical perspective helped shape the emerging avant-garde of the 1960s, though he remained firmly rooted in jazz tradition until his premature death.

Eric Allan Dolphy was born in Los Angeles in 1928, the only child of Sadie and Eric Dolphy Sr.–both of West-Indian descent.  After demonstrating promise on his elementary school-issued harmonica, Dolphy picked up the clarinet, and while still in junior high school he received a scholarship to study at the University of Southern California School of Music.  Encouraging his talents, Dolphy's parents built him a shed behind their home in which he could rehearse with his various ensembles.  After graduating from high school, Dolphy studied music at Los Angeles City College, and he made his first known recorded appearances with the Roy Porter band in 1949.  In 1950, Dolphy entered the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Sources: 
Vladimir Simosko and Barry Tepperman, Eric Dolphy: A Musical Biography and Discography (Washington, D.C.: De Capo Press, 1996); Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Eighth Edition) (London: Penguin Books, 2006); David A. Wild, liner notes to John Coltrane, The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings (Impulse! Records, IMPCD 054232-2); Raymond Horricks, The Importance of Being Eric Dolphy (Tunbridge Wells, Great Britain: Costello Publishers, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lovick, John (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Snohomish County Sheriff's Office

John Lovick was born on May 9, 1951 in Shreveport, Louisiana to Mrs. Dorothy Lovick. He graduated from Allen High School in Shreveport and then studied for one year at Northwestern State College in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  At the age of 19, Lovick joined the U.S. Coast Guard, traveling to Alameda, California in the San Francisco Bay Area for boot camp. The company commander immediately selected him as assistant recruit commander and in 1970 Lovick arrived in Seattle stationed aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind.

In 1971, John Lovick attended the Coast Guard quartermaster and signalman schools in Newport, Rhode Island. On his first day, a supervisor selected him to serve as class president.  Lovick returned to Seattle to serve aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Wachusetts, a weather vessel.  In 1972, while in the Coast Guard, John Lovick married Debbie Miller.  The coupled had three children and remained married for 17 years.

Lovick continued to serve in the Coast Guard in the Seattle area.  He was stationed on Seattle’s Pier 91 from 1972 to 1974 where he conducted oil pollution investigations.  Lovick retired from the Coast Guard in 1971 as a petty officer second class.  On April 1, 1974, Lovick joined the Washington State Patrol.  Four years later he joined the Coast Guard Reserves, serving until 1983.  In 1980 John Lovick graduated from Shoreline Community College with an Associate Arts degree in Criminal Justice.  

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University, Seattle

Maynard, Robert C. (1937-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Nancy & Robert Maynard
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert C. Maynard, the first African American editor and owner of a major daily newspaper in the United States, was known as a trailblazing journalist who led efforts to desegregate newsrooms and educate minority students to pursue careers in journalism.

Maynard was born in 1937 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. He dropped out of high school when he was 16 to work as a freelance writer for newspapers including the black weekly, The New York Age. He landed his first journalism job in 1961, when he joined The York Gazette and Daily in York, Pennsylvania. Five years later, he received a prestigious Nieman fellowship to Harvard University then served as a national correspondent, ombudsman, and editorial writer for The Washington Post.

In 1979, Maynard became editor of The Oakland (California) Tribune, which had been called “the second worst newspaper in the United States.” But he quickly turned it around and purchased the paper in 1983, making him the first African American to own a major metropolitan newspaper. The Tribune subsequently won hundreds of awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Maynard also received dozens of awards, including eight honorary doctorates and the Elijah Parish Lovejoy award, named for the abolitionist who was killed by a pro-slavery mob in Illinois in 1837.
Sources: 
Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education; Bruce Lambert, “Robert C. Maynard, 56, Publisher Who Helped Minority Journalists,” The New York Times, August 19, 1993; Alice Carol Bonner, Changing the Color of the News: Robert Maynard and the Desegregation of Daily Newspapers (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Mills, Florence (1896-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

The year 1921 marked a triumphant period for Mills. She married Ulysses “Slow Kid” Thompson (a member of a jazz band known as the Tennessee Ten) and made her debut in the hit musical Shuffle Along – a victorious, all-black cast, musical comedy created by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake.  

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bennett, Gwendolyn (1902-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Zadie (1975– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Zadie Smith, writer and essayist, was born in the London, UK borough of Brent on October 25, 1975. Smith was named Sadie by her mother, a Jamaican immigrant who arrived in London in the late 1970s, and her English father. Smith enjoyed tap dancing as a child and attended the Hampstead Comprehensive in Cricklewood, a section of London. It was here, during her adolescence, that she developed an appetite for literature and also changed her name to Zadie. Smith recalls that race was never the barrier she felt most keenly during this time. She was, however, consciously aware of not being middle class, and even more so of being a woman.
Sources: 
Zadie Smith’s profile on “Contemporary Writers”: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth257; “She’s young, black, British – and the first publishing sensation of the millennium,” by Stephanie Merritt, published in The Observer, January 2000: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2000/jan/16/fiction.zadiesmith; “Learning Curve,” by Aida Edemarian, published in The Observer, September 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Edwards, Donna (1958 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Donna Edwards is a Democratic member of U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 4th Congressional District of Maryland since 2008. Early in 2009 she was among a group of U.S. Congress members who were handcuffed and arrested while protesting the expulsion of aid groups from Darfur in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.  

Edwards earned her BA from Wake Forest University where she was one of six African American women in her class. She later earned a JD from Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire.  Prior to her political career, she worked as a systems engineer with the Spacelab program at Lockheed Corporation’s Goddard Space Flight Center. During the 1980s, Edwards worked as a clerk for then district judge Albert Wynn when he served in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Sources: 
Paul Courson, "U.S. lawmakers arrested in Darfur protest at Sudan embassy," CNN.com April 27, 2009; Rep. Donna Edwards’ official website: http://donnaedwards.house.gov
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mosley, Walter (1952- )

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

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

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

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

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

Richmond, Cedric Levon (1973- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
U.S. House of Representatives
Cedric Richmond is the U.S. Representative for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes much of New Orleans. Richmond, a Democrat, won the post after more than a decade of service in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Born September 13, 1973, his mother was a public school teacher and a small business owner, and his father died when he was seven years old.  Growing up in East New Orleans he played baseball at Goretti playground and was inspired by his coaches there, which later influenced him to coach Little League Baseball at Goretti starting in 1989, at the age of 16.

Richmond graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 1991, and earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He completed his Juris Doctorate at Tulane University School of Law, passed the Louisiana Bar Exam, and worked as an attorney at the New Orleans law firm of Gray & Gray. During this period he was elected president of the Louis A. Martinet Legal Foundation. Richmond also graduated from the Harvard University Executive Education Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1997.
Sources: 
Douglas Brinkley, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (New York: Morrow, 2006); Ebony magazine, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Chicago, Illinois: Johnson Publishing Co. January 2001); http://richmond.house.gov/about/full-biography ; http://www.cedricrichmond.com/about-cedric
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robinson, Eddie (1919-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
With 408 career victories at Grambling State University, Eddie Robinson is the most successful football coach in Division I history. In 1985 he surpassed Paul William “Bear” Bryant’s record set at Alabama with 324 wins.  Under Robinson, the Grambling Tigers posted three undefeated seasons, seven single-loss seasons, and set an all-time NCAA Division I-AA record 27 consecutive winning seasons from 1960 to 1986.  Robinson’s teams won 17 championships in Southwestern Atlantic Conference and 9 Black College National Championships. Under his tenure, more than 80 players joined the National Football League (NFL) including Charlie Joiner, Willie Brown, and Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to lead a National Football League (NFL) team to a Superbowl victory (the Washington (D.C.) Redskins over the Denver (Colorado) Broncos in 1988).
Sources: 
Michael Hurd, Black College Football, 1892-1992: One Hundred Years of History, Education, and Pride (Virginia Beach, Va.: The Donning Co. Pub., 1993); James Haskins, "Eddie Robinson" in James Haskins, ed., One More River to Cross: The Stories of Twelve Black Americans (New York: Scholastic, 1992); "National Football Foundation, “College Football Hall of Fame,” http://www.footballfoundation.org/Programs/CollegeFootballHallofFame/SearchDetail.aspx?id=70042; David L. Porter, "Eddie Robinson,” in James D. Whalen, ed., African American Sports Greats: A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dudley, Edward Richard (1911-2005)

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

Lowry, Henry Berry (c. 1846-1872)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

In 1853, the Lumbee Indians, a triracial people who are descendants of several southeastern Indian tribes, whites, and African Americans, named themselves after the Lumber River, which flows through their homeland in North Carolina.  According to the Lumbee historian Adolph Dial, they are also descended from the “lost” Roanoke colonists, who took up residence with American Indians farther inland.

Sources: 
Bruce E. Johansen and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography (New York: Da Capo Press, 1997)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York, Buffalo

Dancy, John Campbell, Jr. (1888-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

John Campbell Dancy, Jr.

Sources: 
John C. Dancy, Sands Against the Wind: The Memories of John C. Dancy (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1966); Richard W. Thomas, Life for Us is What We Make It: Building Black Community in Detroit, 1915-1945 (Indiana UP, 1992); Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability: African-American Women in Interwar Detroit (University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Rochester

Crogman, William H. (1841-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William H. Crogman was born on the West Indian island of St. Martin’s in 1841.  At age 12 he was orphaned; by age 14, he took to the sea with B.L. Bommer where he received an informal but international education as he traveled to such places as Europe, Asia, and South America. After the urging of Mr. Bommer, in 1868 he entered Pierce Academy in Massachusetts.  Throughout his schooling experience he was an exceptional and advanced student.  At Pierce he was considered the top student as he mastered in one quarter what usually took students two quarters to complete. Later as a student of Latin at Atlanta University, he completed the four-year curriculum in three years.

Sources: 
William H. Crogman Talks for the Times (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

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

Giovanni, Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" (1943- )

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

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

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, Louisiana 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 in Illinois 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

St. Clair, Stephanie (1886–1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Stephanie St.Clair Hamid in Custody
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Stephanie St. Clair was born in Martinique, an island in the East Caribbean in 1886 and came to the United States via Marseilles, France. In 1912 she arrived in Harlem. She was known for her deep involvement in the seedy gangster underworld. According to those who knew her, she was arrogant, sophisticated and astute to the ways of urban life. She reportedly told people that she was born in “European France” and was able to speak “flawless French” as opposed to the less refined French spoken by those in the Caribbean. Whenever people questioned her national origin, she would always respond in French. St. Clair also spoke Spanish.  Noted for her fierce temper, St. Clair spouted profanity in various languages when angered or outraged by some perceived slight or injustice. Her eloquent sense of fashion was well- known throughout Harlem where she was referred to as Madame St.Clair.  In in the rest of Manhattan and other city boroughs, she was referred to as “Queenie.”
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

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

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

Harding, Vincent Gordon (1931-2014)

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

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

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

Touré, Ahmed Sékou (1922-1984)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Affiliation: 
University of Nantes, France

Leighla Frances Whipper (1913-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis
Leighla Frances Whipper, author, songwriter, and restaurateur, was born on September 22, 1913 in Athens, Georgia into a prestigious family that encompassed the wide ranging areas of literature, theater, medicine, and social activism.  Leighla was the daughter of the noted Hollywood actor Leigh Whipper and Virginia Eva Wheeler, a talented dancer in the chorus lines of Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s. She was the niece of Dr. Ionia Rollin Whipper, founder of the Ionia Rollin Whipper Home in Washington, DC.

Her grandmother, author Frances Anne Rollin, was the author of the earliest published diary by a black southern woman, and the author of the first full-length biography –  The Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delaney which appeared (1868) – by an African American.   

Leighla was a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a member of the prestigious social and literary organization, the Stylus Club there. In 1942 she moved to New York City where she worked as a journalist and literary editor for The People's Voice and other periodicals. Subjects among her memorable interviews in Washington, D.C. and New York City were actors Mary Pickford and Lon Chaney, dancer Josephine Baker and spiritual leader Father Divine.
Sources: 
Lelia Frances Whipper, The Pretty Way Home (New York: iUniverse, 2003), Carole Ione, Pride of Family; Four Generations of American Women of Color (New York: Random House Books: 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Doe, Samuel Kanyon (1951-1990)

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

Samuel Kanyon Doe, army officer and Master Sergeant, was the unelected President of Liberia from 1980 to 1990.  Notorious for his human rights violations, Doe seized control of Liberia in April of 1980 through a bloody coup.  A polarizing figure throughout his tenure, Doe was both loved and hated within his own country.  Prolonging his power by brutally stifling all forms of opposition, by 1989 Doe’s actions created a resistance movement that eventually toppled his government.

An ethnic Krahn, Samuel Doe was born on May 6, 1951 in Tuzon, Grand Gedeh County, in southeastern Liberia.  Having come from humble origins, at age eighteen he enlisted in the Liberian army, completing his military training at the Communications School in the Ministry of Defense in Monrovia in 1971.  Exhibiting remarkable leadership capabilities, Doe in 1979 was selected to be trained by United States (US) Special Forces in Liberia, and within a year was promoted to Master Sergeant. 

Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004); A. O. Asibey, “Liberia: Political Economy of Underdevelopment and Military ‘Revolution Continuity of Change.’” Canadian Journal of Development Studies 2, no. 2 (1981): 386-407; L. Barret, “The Siege of Monrovia.” West Africa (23-29 November 1992): 816-818.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bonga, Stephen (1799–1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of William L. Katz

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

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

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

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

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

Ajala, Godwin O. (1968–2001)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Godwin Ajala is remembered as a U.S. national hero who fought to save the lives of countless people as they escaped from the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001. He is also the only Nigerian listed among the nearly 3,000 people who died because of the attack.

Ajala was born in Nigeria on June 9, 1968, the son of a retailer from Ihenta, a small town in the eastern Nigerian state of Ebonyi.  At the time his region was part ofthe break-away Biafra which was in rebellion against the central Nigerian government.  Ajala came of age long after the Nigerian Civil War ended and Nigeria was reunited.  As an adult, Ajala became a lawyer in Nigeria.  His family, including his wife, Victoria, and their three children, Onyinyechi, 7, Uchechukwu, 5, and Ugochi, 1, lived in Ihenta. In 1995, Ajala emigrated to the United States to make a better life for himself and his family.
Sources: 
“Ajala: 9/11 Nigerian Hero Who Gave his Life to Save Others,” African Spotlight, 11 September 2011, available at: http://africanspotlight.com/2011/09/ajala-911-nigerian-hero-who-gave-his-live-to-save-others/;  “Godwin Ajala: An American Family Dream,” New York Times, 27 September 2011, available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/27/national/portraits/POGF-1076-28AJALA.html;  Doug Tsuruoka, “Godwin Ajala, An American Success Story Cut Short; Remembering 9-11’s Heroes,” Investor’s Business Daily, 10 May 2005, available at:
http://news.investors.com/management-leaders-in-success/051005-407608-godwin-ajala-an-american-success-story-cut-short-remembering-9-11s-heroes-the-nigerian-lawyer-was-working-as-a-security-guard-until-he-could-pass-the-new-york-bar.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ferbos, Lionel Charles (1911- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
New Orleans, Louisiana trumpeter Lionel Charles Ferbos was born in in the city’s Creole 7th Ward on July 17, 1911.  His father was Louis Ferbos, a tinsmith, and his mother was Rosita Ferbos. Lionel had two siblings.  As a child, he had asthma and was advised not to play any wind instrument.  However, in 1926 he saw Russian orchestra leader Phil Spitalny’s all-girl orchestra and decided to become a musician.  Ferbos studied with Professor Paul Chaligny, who taught him to read music, and he subsequently continued to study with trumpeter Albert Snaer.  Ferbos was enumerated as a musician in the 1930 census and like most musicians of that time he always kept a manual job.  At Haspel’s Clothing Factory he met seamstress Marguerite Gilyot, who became his wife in 1934.  They had two children, actor Lionel Jr, (1939–2006) and Sylvia Schexnayder (b. 1941).  He later joined his father’s business and became a master tinsmith.
Sources: 
Al Rose & Edmond Souchon, A Family Album (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967); Lionel Ferbos: 100 Years Young, http://www.myneworleans.com/My-New-Orleans/April-2011/Lionel-Ferbos-100-Years-Young/; Ancestry.com, 1930 United States Federal Census about Lionel Ferbos.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Brown, Gayleatha Beatrice (1947-2013)

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

Smith, E. Russell "Noodles" (? - 1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
E. Russell "Noodles" Smith, so named because he always kept enough money for a bowl of noodles after a night of gambling, is considered to be "the father – or perhaps the midwife - of Seattle jazz." He arrived in Seattle during the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exhibition in 1909 with $17,000 that he claimed was won during a three night gambling spree. With a mind for business and a keen eye on the purse strings, he amassed a fortune from gambling, real estate, and bootlegging and he dominated the nightclub scene that formed the backdrop for Seattle jazz from the 1920s to the 1940s. The list of people who stayed and played in "Noodles"-owned establishments include some of the greatest names in jazz—Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Louis Jordan and Eubie Blake, to name a few.
Sources: 
Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours, The Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Debas, Haile T. (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Praised as one of the world’s most distinguished academic physicians, from 1993 to 2003 Dr. Haile Tesfaye Debas served as Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.  Prior to becoming dean, for six years he was chairman of the Department of Surgery at UCSF.  

Born in Asmara, Eritrea on February 24, 1937, he graduated from the University College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earned his medical doctorate at McGill University, and worked at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Washington before arriving at UCSF in 1987.  

Renowned as a researcher and credited with nearly 40 scientific papers, Debas was elected president of the International Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Association in 1991.  He was also a director of the American Board of Surgery, and a fellow of both the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  At UCSF he revamped the medical school’s curriculum to focus on training medical students and established the Academy of Medical Educators which was renamed in his honor.
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science, 21st Ed. Vol. 2. (New York: Bowker, 2003); http://www.cure.med.ucla.edu/PDF/Debas.pdf
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Bond, Horace Mann (1904–1972)

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

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

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

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

Chavis, John (1763-1838)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Chavis, early 19th Century minister and teacher, was born on October 18, 1763.  His place of birth is debated by historians.  Some scholars think that Chavis hailed from the West Indies.  Others believe that he was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, or that he was born in North Carolina.  Available records document that Chavis was a free African American who probably worked for Halifax, Virginia attorney James Milner beginning in 1773.   It is likely that Chavis utilized the books in Milner’s extensive law library to educate himself.  

In 1778, while still a teenager, Chavis entered the Virginia Fifth Regiment and fought in the Revolutionary War.  He served in the Fifth Regiment for three years.  In the 1780s Chavis earned his living as a tutor and while working in this capacity he married Sarah Frances Anderson.  Although an excellent teacher, Chavis’ own intellectual capacity was not satisfied.  He soon moved his family to New Jersey to enter a tutorial program with John Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  In 1792, at the age of 29, Chavis was accepted into the College of New Jerseys’ Theological School; later renamed Princeton University.   
Sources: 
Helen Chavis Othow, John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor 1783-1838, Mentor (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2001); William S. Powell, Ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 1, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), John Chavis Letters, #2014, 1889-1892; Wilson Library Manuscripts Department , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; John Chavis Biography, North Carolina State University Division of Archives and History, http://www.ncsu.edu/ligon/about/history/Chavis.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Johnson C. Smith University

Patterson, William L. (1891-1980)

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

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

Murray, George Washington (1853–1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

Allen, Macon Bolling (1816-1894)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walrond, Eric (1898-1966)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Eric Walrond was an Afro-Caribbean-American fiction writer and journalist of the Harlem Renaissance era.  Born December 18, 1898, in Georgetown, British Guyana, Walrond would write short stories with the interwoven themes of immigration, racial pride, and discrimination as he captured the early urban experience of Caribbean-born immigrants in America during the 1920s.  Although Walrond’s work has been largely overlooked, his book, Tropic Death (1926) is considered a major contribution to the cultural and literary style of the Harlem Renaissance.

Sources: 
Louis J. Parascandola, ed., “Winds Can Wake up the Dead” (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998); David L. Lewis, The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader (New York: Viking, 1994); David L. Lewis, Harlem was in Vogue (New York: Penguin Books, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Horton, James Africanus Beale (1835-1883)

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

Christopher Fyfe, Africanus Horton 1835-1883: West African Scientist and Patriot, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972); James Africanus Beale Horton, Davidson Nicol, ed., Black Nationalism in Africa 1867: Extracts From Political, Educational, Scientific and Medical Writings of Africanus Horton,(New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1969).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Catlett, Elizabeth (1915-2012)

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

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

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

Evans, Harold Bethuel (1907-1995)

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

Harold Bethuel Evans, research chemist, was born on October 31, 1907 in Brazil, Indiana.  Evans attended Michigan State University for his undergraduate degree beginning in 1927; he majored in applied science and graduated in 1931. In 1932 he received his master’s degree in science from Michigan State, with his thesis on the Benzylation of Thymol, a chemical process. That same year he married and later had one child. After graduating, Evans sought a teaching position at an all-black college, as many educated blacks did at this time. He taught chemistry at Georgia State Normal College (now Georgia College) for the 1935-1936 school year.

Evans held a series of odd jobs between 1936 and 1941 when he moved to Illinois and was hired by the federal government’s Kankakee Ordnance Works (otherwise known as Illinois Ordnance Works).  He stayed there until 1943 working as a chemist on projects designed to support Great Britain until the U.S. officially entered World War II on December 8, 1941. From 1941 to 1943 he worked on U.S. military projects.
In 1943 Evans was hired as an associate chemist at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Lab, which after World War II evolved into the Argonne National Laboratory. It later relocated west of Chicago.  While with the Met Lab, Evans worked on nuclear fission projects as part of a 400-man team of scientists for the Manhattan Project, which produced the world's first atomic bombs.

Sources: 
Vivian Ovelton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing corporation, 1990); American Men of Science (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1965); “Atom Scientists,” Ebony Magazine (Sept. 1949).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Doug (1955-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
When Doug Williams took the field for the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII, it marked the first time in National Football League (NFL) history that an African American quarterback played in a Super Bowl. Douglas Lee “Doug” Williams was born August 9, 1955 in Zachary, Louisiana to parents Robert and Laura Williams. After high school, he played for legendary coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State University. Williams led Grambling to three Southwestern Athletic Conference championships in four years between 1974 and 1977. He was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press in 1977 and finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. Along with his athletic achievements, Williams earned a Bachelor of Science degree in health and physical education from Grambling.
Sources: 
Jill Lieber, “Well-Armed Pioneer,” Sports Illustrated, February 1 1988; Michael Richman, The Redskins Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007); Dave Scheiber, “So Who’s Laughing Now?” St. Petersburg Times, January 26, 2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Magubane, Peter Sexford (1932- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Peter Magubane Being Prodded by
South African Policeman
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Ken Light, Witness In Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers, 2nd Edition (Washington: Smithsonian Books, 2010); Peter Magubane, Black Child (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1982); Reuel Golden, Photojournalism 1855 to the Present: Editor’s Choice (New York: Abbeville Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Scott, Jarvis Lavonne (1947-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jarvis Lavonne Scott, athlete, teacher, and mentor, was born on April 6, 1947 in Waco, Texas to Ivory Scott and Johnie Mae Hester.  Jarvis Scott, the eldest of six children, moved to Los Angeles, California when she was nine years old and later attended Pomona High School where she attained honors and developed her track ability.  Upon graduation, she attended night school at Los Angeles City College, majoring in Business Administration.  She also worked for the underwriting department of Continental Insurance Company of Los Angeles as a typist.  Scott qualified for the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City, Mexico in both the 400 and 800-meter runs and held the fastest time in the world for these tryouts.  There has not been another U.S. athlete to date, either male or female, who qualified for the Olympics for both the 400 and 800-meter run.
At the 1968 Olympics, Scott gave up her place in the 800-meter competition to teammate Francie Kraker, allowing Kraker to have a chance in the Olympics.  Scott finished in sixth place in the 400-meter run with a time of 52.7 seconds.
Sources: 
Newspaper clippings and resume in Jarvis Scott collection; personal communication with Amanda Banks.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Bullen, Roland Wentworth Boniface (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Roland Wentworth Bullen was born on Carriacou, one of the six islands that comprise the nation of Grenada. The product of a prominent family that owned several businesses, including the popular restaurant “Callaloo,” Bullen arrived in the United States in 1966. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in public administration at San Diego (California) State University in 1971, Bullen earned a master’s degree in city planning at Alliant International University (formerly United States International University) in 1973.
Sources: 
“West Indian Born Ambassadors in US Diplomatic Corp,” article at http://www.ecaroh.com/bmp/articles/wibornambassadors.htm; State Department release at  http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/b/22869.htm; Wikileaks article at https://saveguyana.wordpress.com/tag/dea/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Himes, Chester (1909-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
Courtesy of the Van Vechten Trust
Chester Himes was an important writer of fiction and autobiography. Although Himes’s most widely read novels were detective stories set in Harlem, his first two published novels reflected his experiences in Los Angeles, where he lived from 1940 until 1944.


A native of Missouri, Himes spent most of his childhood in southern towns and cities where his father taught in the mechanical departments of African American colleges. He graduated from high school in Cleveland, Ohio. After a 1928 robbery Himes spent seven and one-half years in prison. While in prison he published fiction in a number of newspapers and magazines, including Esquire. Frustrated by employment discrimination in Ohio as the United States mobilized for World War II, Himes decided to move to Los Angeles.

Sources: 
James Sallis, Chester Himes: A Life (New York: Walker & Company, 2001); Michael Marsh, “Chester Himes,” http://authors.aalbc.com/chesterhimes.htm .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

Hayes, Ralph (1922-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ralph Hayes grew up poor in rural, segregated Cairo, Illinois, the fourth of twelve children. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and then transferred to the University of Washington, where he earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in political science. In 1950 he married Elaine Ishikawa, who was his wife for 49 years. As a couple they embraced local activism and joined the Christian Friends for Racial Equality where, as Editor-in-Chief of the newsletter, Ralph wrote about national civil rights news and Japanese American issues stemming from WWII.

In 1956 Hayes became the second African American academic teacher hired by Seattle School District. He taught history and government classes in public high schools for thirty years at West Seattle, Garfield and Franklin (in Seattle) and Newport (in Bellevue).  He also taught evenings at Edison Technical College and Bellevue Community College.  For eight summers beginning in 1966, Hayes was a teacher and later director of the Upward Bound program at the University of Washington.
Sources: 
Obituary by Carole Beers, Seattle Times, 5/13/99; Obituary by Judd Slivka, Seattle Post Intelligencer, 5/21/99; “Historians Honored with 1990 Governor’s Ethnic Heritage Awards,” Mark Boyar, Northwest Ethnic News, June 1990; Elaine Ishikawa Hayes statement in Mary Willix, ed., Remembering Ralph Hayes (Creative Forces Publishing, 2007); Mary Willix, Ibid.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Waters, Ethel (1896-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1950, Ethel Waters was the first black American performer to star in her own regular television show, Beulah, but it was the 1961 role in the “Good Night, Sweet Blues” episode of the television series Route 66 that earned her an Emmy award.  She was the first black so honored.  Acting was a second career after singing in four different genres – jazz, blues, pop, and gospel.  She performed on Broadway stages, the first black to receive top billing with white stars.  And finally, she claimed leading roles in Hollywood films, earning an Academy Award nomination for the film Pinky.

Born on October 31, 1896, Waters won a talent contest as a teenager and began to sing around the Philadelphia area after growing up in Chester, Pennsylvania, where she sang in the church choir, and worked as a domestic.  Her first professional tour, with the Black Swan Troubadours, taught her to incorporate excitement and versatility in her vaudeville act.  Her divine discontent with just jazz and the blues propelled her into acting.  In 1938, she gave a recital at Carnegie Hall and then began to appear in dramatic roles.  She performed in Cabin in the Sky in 1943 and followed that film with more than ten others along with a treasure trove of classic songs including Am I Blue?, Memories of You, Stormy Weather, Porgy, Georgia on My Mind, and I Can’t Give You Anything but Love.
Sources: 
“Ethel Waters,” in W. Augustus, Low and Virgil A. Cliff, eds., The Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: De Capo, 1981); David Dicaire, ed., Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century (October 1999); http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/W/htmlW/watersethel/watersethel.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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

Gaines, Ernest James (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ernest J. Gaines was born on January 15, 1933 on River Lake Plantation near Oscar, Louisiana, in Point Coupee Parish.  His parents, Manuel and Adrienne worked as sharecroppers on the same plantation their ancestors had labored as slaves. Ernest was the oldest of seven children Adrienne had with Manuel Gaines, who abandoned the family in 1941 when Ernest was eight years old.  Adrienne would remarry and have five more children with her new husband, Raphael Norbert Colar, Sr.

In 1948, at the age of fifteen, Gaines moved from southern Louisiana’s bayou country to Vallejo, California to join his mother and stepfather, who had relocated to California after World War II in search of work.  In California, Gaines took advantage of educational opportunities he had been denied in Louisiana and graduated from high school in 1951.  After graduation from Vallejo Junior College in 1953 Gaines was drafted into the U.S. Army where he spent the next two years serving in both the U.S. and Guam.
Sources: 
Karen Carmean, Ernest J. Gaines: A Critical Companion (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998); Valerie Melissa Babb, Ernest Gaines (Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers, 1991); http://www.louisiana.edu/Academic/LiberalArts/ENGL/Creative/Gaines.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lucy, Autherine Juanita (1929- )

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

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

Myers, Isaac (1835-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Fluellen, Joel (1908-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Muhammed Toure / Askia Muhammad I (c. 1442-1538)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Tomb of Askia Muhammad Toure at Gao, Mali
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Thomas A. Hale, Scribe, Griot, and Novelist: Narrative Interpreters of the Songhay Empire (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1990); John O. Hunwick, Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kaunda, Kenneth (1924- )

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

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

Blakey, Art (1919-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Art Blakey, jazz drummer and band leader, was born Arthur William Blakey in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 11, 1919.  Blakey’s father, Burtrum, who worked as a barber, left his family when Blakey was a newborn.  Blakey lost his mother, Marie Roddericker, before his second birthday.  His cousin, Sarah Oliver Parran, and his extended family raised him until he moved out to work at the local steel mill around 1932.    

As a teenager, Blakey began playing piano in Pittsburgh nightclubs. Influenced by the work of Chick Webb, Sid Catlett, and Ray Bauduc, Blakey soon started drumming. Throughout his early career, Blakey played drums for a variety of bands, including Mary Lou Williams’s twelve-piece band, the Henderson band, and the Billy Eckstine orchestra.  He met and collaborated with Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis.  Blakey’s early work reflected swing style drumming, but he later popularized hard bop, which drew on bebop, blues, gospel, and African drumming styles.

In 1948, Blakey traveled to Africa.  The trip influenced him to convert to Islam and to change his name to Abdullah Ibn Buhaina.  Soon after his return he created the Jazz Messengers with Horace Silver. In 1956, Blakey became the sole leader of the band, which played and recorded until his death. The Jazz Messengers featured and mentored many upcoming jazz musicians, including Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Donald Byrd, Woody Shaw, and Lee Morgan among others.
Sources: 
Leslie Gourse, Art Blakey: Jazz Messenger (New York: Schirmer Trade Books, 2002); T. Dennis Brown, “Art Blakey,” African American National Biography, vol. 1, eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Timothy O’Brien, “Art Blakey,” Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present, vol. 1, ed. Paul Finkelman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Russell, Edwin Roberts (1913-1996)

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

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

Robison, William (1821-1899)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
California pioneer, expressman, and civil rights worker William Robison was born a slave in Gloucester County, Virginia on August 28, 1821.  He may have gained his freedom by fighting in the Seminole War in 1836.  He would have been 15 at the time.

It is also unclear as to how he got to California but it was probably on the USS Ohio which arrived in Monterey on October 9, 1848.  Most probably, Robison was aboard.   The USS Ohio then sailed to Boston but returned to California in 1850.  This time, Robison remained in the state.  On November 11, 1856, he married Flora Pitz, a South Carolinian, and the couple had two children, Fannie and William.  By 1880, however, the U.S. Census showed Robison as single.

Robison spent a short time mining for gold after his 1850 arrival then settled in Stockton.  There he worked for Adams & Company Express and, after its failure in 1855, for Wells Fargo & Company, driving an express wagon. This was a position of importance, as the express companies loaded gold dust from the mines on the San Francisco steamers, and sent up gold coins to myriad mining towns. He also picked up and delivered local packages to the river port supplying the Mother Lode’s Southern Mines.
Sources: 
Roley E. Wilhoit and John H. Field, Statement for the San Joaquin Society of California Pioneers (1865), 29 April1899, transcript from the Stockton Public Library and Haggin Museum; Correspondence from George Tighlman in Stockton, to William Daegener in Columbia, 7 May 1861, Wells Fargo Bank Archives.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Christie, Rachel (1988- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Rachel Sophia Adina Christie was crowned Miss England on July 20, 2009. She was the first women of African descent to hold the title.  Previously she was Miss London City 2009.  Christie’s reign as Miss England was brief; she was forced to relinquish her title in November 2009.   

Rachel Christie is biracial. Her mother Diana Christie is a white Irish Catholic. Her father, Afro-Briton Russel Christie, the brother of former British Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie, was stabbed to death when young Rachel was eight.  She has three siblings, James, Rhease, and Rebecca.
Sources: 
Frances Hardy, “I Won Miss England to Prove Being Black is Never an Excuse for Failure Says Linford Christie's Niece,” The (London) Daily Mail, July 25, 2009; Ruth Barnett, “Arrested Ms. England Hands Back The Crown,” Sky News, November 6, 2009; “Linford Christie's niece faces arrest after missing breathalyzer trial,” London Evening Standard, July 8, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Charleston, Oscar (1896-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Oscar Charleston was born October 14, 1896, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Growing up as a batboy for the local Indianapolis ABC’s, Charleston was a runaway who joined the Army at age 15. Stationed in the Philippines, Charleston was given the opportunity to play baseball and run track for the Army, where he ran the 220-yard dash in 23 seconds. While there, Charleston was allowed to play in the usually all-white Manila League.

Returning home in 1915, Charleston played for his hometown ABC’s. In one of many public outbursts resulting from his infamously bad temper, Charleston was suspended during his rookie season for arguing with an umpire, and was held on a $1000 bond. The next season, Charleston had a crucial role in the ABC’s Black World Series win over the Chicago American Giants, batting .360 in seven of the ten games.

After short stints with various teams from 1918-1920, Charleston would return to the ABC’s after the forming of the Negro National Leagues. In 1921, Charleston led the League in hitting (.426), triples (10), home runs (14), and stolen bases (28). Often compared to greats like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, Charleston dominated the League with his combination of hitting for both power and accuracy, his tremendous speed both in the outfield and while base running, and for his trademark intensity.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ragsdale, Lincoln J., Sr. (1926-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Lincoln J. Ragsdale, Sr. was a leading activist in the battle for civil rights in Arizona.  After graduating from Tuskegee flying school in Alabama in 1945, he relocated to Luke Air Field in Litchfield Park, Arizona, becoming one of the first black pilots to serve at that installation.  

Ragsdale believed that it was his “Tuskegee experience” that emboldened him and gave him direction.  “It gave me a whole new self-image,” he maintained.  He “remembered when we [Tuskegee Airmen] used to walk through black neighborhoods right after the war, and little kids would run up to us and touch our uniforms.  ‘Mister, can you really fly an airplane’ they’d ask.  The Tuskegee airmen gave blacks a reason to be proud.”  Their service also gave the 2.5 million black veterans of World War II incentive to believe that they could achieve much more in their communities and the nation.
Sources: 
Matthew C. Whitaker, Race Work: The Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West  (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005); Lincoln Ragsdale, Sr., interview by Mary Melcher, April 8, 1990, Phoenix.  Tape recording. Arizona Historical Foundation, Hayden Library, Arizona State University, Tempe; Lincoln Ragsdale, Sr. and Eleanor Ragsdale. Interview by Dean E. Smith, April 4 and November 3, 1990, Phoenix. Transcript. Arizona Collection, Hayden Library, Arizona State University, Tempe.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Hurston, Zora Neale (1891-1960)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Zora Neale Hurston, known for her audacious spirit and sharp wit, was a talented and prolific writer and a skilled anthropologist from the Harlem (New York) Renaissance to the Civil Rights Era. Born on January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama, she grew up in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida.  Her idyllic life in this provincial rural town was shattered with the death of her mother when Hurston was fourteen and her father’s unexpected remarriage.  In a few years Hurston was on her own working as a maid.  She settled in Baltimore, Maryland and completed her education at Morgan Academy and Howard University.
Sources: 
Tiffany Ruby Patterson, Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005).
Affiliation: 
Vanderbilt University

Herndon, Angelo (1913 - ?)

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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)

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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

Harris, Moses [aka Black Moses / "Black Squire"] (1800?-1849)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Moses (Black) Harris on Left in Alfred Jacob Miller Painting
Image Ownership:  Public Domain
Information on Moses Harris’ birth and lineage is limited.  It is believed that he was born in either Union County, South Carolina or somewhere in Kentucky.  Harris was also known as Black Moses or the “Black Squire.”  During the 1820’s Harris moved west and began work as a fur trapper.  His work brought him as far west as the Yellowstone River valley.  During his years as a trapper, Harris gained valuable information on wilderness, mountain and winter survival.  

Moses Harris’ reputation as both a mountain man and his knowledge of wilderness gave him employment as a wagon train guide.  While still fur trapping, he began working as a trail guide, leading trains of supplies to other fur traders.

As the fur trade declined in the 1840s, Harris began regularly working as a guide for missionaries and wagon trains heading west to Oregon.  In 1844 he led one of the largest immigrant wagon trains heading to Oregon.   Later that year, after successfully guiding the wagon train to the Willamette Valley, Harris helped rescue another wagon train lost in the desert of central Oregon.  This would not be the last time Harris would rescue lost and stranded immigrants; a few years later in 1846 he was called on again to help a wagon train stranded in the same desert.
Sources: 
Elizabeth McLagan, A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940. (Portland: Georgian Press Company, 1980); Jerome Peltier, Black Harris (Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1996)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Smith, Joshua Bowen (1813-1879)

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

Weah, George (1966- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clayton, Alonzo (1876–1917)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Coleman, Gary (1968-2010)

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

 Gary Coleman and Conraid Bain from
"Different Strokes" tv show
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis
Gary Coleman, best known for his child star status from the hit television sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, was born on February 8, 1968, and raised in Zion, Illinois. A talent scout for TV producer Norman Lear spotted Coleman in a Chicago bank commercial, and at the age of 10 he was cast in the role of Arnold Jackson, the younger of two African American brothers adopted by a wealthy white man in New York City. Diff’rent Strokes, which premiered in 1978, ran for seven seasons on NBC and one season on ABC.  The last episode aired in 1986. During the show’s tenure, Coleman became famous for his signature catch-phrase, “What’chu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?,” and his impeccable comedic timing. Between 1980-1984, Coleman won four consecutive People’s Choice Awards as Favorite Young TV Performer for his portrayal of the character Arnold Jackson.

Adopted by W.G. “Willie” and Edmonia Sue Coleman at four days old, Coleman was born with a congenital kidney disease for which he would later receive two transplants, one at age 5 and one at age 16, as well as recurrent dialysis throughout his life. These treatments permanently affected Coleman’s growth patterns, leaving his height as an adult at 4 feet 8 inches tall.
Sources: 
Jim Cheng, “Gary Coleman dies at age 42,” USA Today (5/28/2010); Anita Gates, “Gary Coleman, Diff’rent Strokes Star, Dies at 42,” New York Times (5/28/2010); Dennis McLellan, “Gary Coleman dies at 42; child star of hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes,” Los Angeles Times (5/29/2010)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ballance, Frank W., Jr. (1942 - )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frank W. Ballance, Jr., was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2003 to 2004, representing the 1st Congressional District in North Carolina.  Prior to his tenure as a member of Congress, Ballance served in the North Carolina State House of Representatives as well as its State Senate.

Ballance was born in 1942 in Windsor, North Carolina.  He received his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University in 1963.  He then earned a law degree from the same university in 1965.  Ballance was a faculty member at the South Carolina State University School of Law before entering private practice in 1966.  

Ballance was first elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1983 and served until 1986.  He was later elected to the State Senate in 1988 and served until 2002 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.  He was president of the 108th Congress’s Democratic freshman class and served on the House Agriculture Committee and the House Small Business Committee.  In 2004, he was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis and resigned from his seat.
Sources: 
“Frank W. Ballance, Jr.” in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008): Don Carrington, “Ballance Pleads Guilty, Keeps Giving,” Carolina Journal, May 5, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Seacole, Mary Jane (1805 –1881)

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

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

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

Pinn, Robert Alexander (1843-1911)

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

Robert A. Pinn, attorney, and Civil War hero, received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.  Pinn was born free to William and Zilphia Broxton-Pinn, in Stark County, Ohio on March 1, 1843.  His father William Pinn escaped from slavery and fled to Ohio at the age of eighteen.  He worked on farms for several years before marrying Zilphia Broxton, a white resident of Stark County.  Pinn and his nine siblings were born on the family farm in Stark County.  He married Emily J. Manzilla, in 1867, and the couple had one child, a daughter, Gracie Pinn-Brooks.

Pinn attempted to join the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War but was blocked from enlisting because of his race.  He joined the 19th Ohio Infantry in 1861 as a civilian worker, marched south with the regiment, and despite his non-military status, fought at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in 1862.  Afterwards he fought in several other engagements although not an enlisted soldier.  President Abraham Lincoln authorized the use of African American troops in combat after issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.  Pinn then joined the 5th United States Colored Troop (USCT), Infantry Regiment (also known as the 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry) in Massillon, Ohio, on September 5, 1863.

Sources: 
Selby Kelly, The Life of a USCT Veteran in Ohio: Robert A. Pinn’s Quest for Citizenship, Paper presented at the 94th Annual Convention of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Cincinnati, Ohio, Sep 30, 2009; (http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p377560_index.html, December 22, 2012); Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the Civil War (Boston: Little, Brown and Company,1953); James M. McPherson, The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union (New York: Vintage Press/Random House, 2003); Civil War African-American Medal Of Honor Recipients, (http://www.buffalosoldier.net/CIVILWARAFRICAN-AMERICANMEDALOFHONORRECIPIENTS.htm, December 22, 2012)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bryant, Ira B., Jr. (1904-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ira Babington (I.B.) Bryant, Jr., Ed.D., was an educator, author, researcher, and administrator from the Houston, Texas area.  Bryant was born October 18, 1904, in Crockett, Texas, to Ira B. Bryant, Sr., and Ellen Starks Bryant, both educators. In 1905, the family relocated to Caldwell, Texas, before settling in Houston in 1920. Ira, Jr., attended Colored High School in the city. While at Colored High School, Ellen Starks Bryant passed away and Ira, Sr., remarried and moved to Alabama, leaving Bryant and his two brothers, Cecil and Eugene, to finish their educations in Houston.

After graduating in 1924, Bryant worked on a ship based out of New Orleans, Louisiana in order to save money for college and to travel. The same year, he entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, completing a B.A. degree in 1928. In 1929, he moved back to Houston and gained a job teaching social science at Phillis Wheatley High School. During summers, he continued his education, earning an M.A. degree at the University of Kansas in 1932.  Bryant returned to Houston and married Thelma Scott, another teacher at Wheatley.  The couple moved into a newly-built house in Houston’s Third Ward.
Sources: 
Willie Lee Gay, "BRYANT, IRA BABINGTON, JR.," Handbook of Texas Online http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbrdt; Teresa Tompkins-Walsh, “Thelma Scott Bryant: Memories of a Century in Houston’s Third Ward,” The Houston Review (Fall 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Locker, Jessie Dwight (1891-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Jessie Locker was an attorney, politician, and community leader who was also the second black American to be appointed as United States Ambassador when he was sent to Liberia (1953).

Jessie Dwight Locker was born in College Hill (Cincinnati), Ohio on May 31, 1891 to Laban and Sarah Elizabeth Locker. His father, a pastor, was the first black minister in Ohio to be ordained in the Christian Church. Jessie Locker graduated as class Valedictorian from College Hill High School, and then travelled to Washington, D.C., to attend Howard University. He received his law degree from Howard University in 1915. Shortly thereafter, in 1919, Locker returned to Cincinnati and began his law practice.  He also worked as a night janitor while he built up his clientele.
Sources: 
The Cincinnati Enquirer, Friday, February 28, 1997, “Black Leaders Became Foreign Ambassadors”; The New York Age, Saturday, September 19, 1953, “New Ambassador Holds Meeting with Dulles”; U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954,” Document 254, Locker Correspondence.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Bibb, Henry (1815-1854)

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Henry Walton Bibb was the eldest of the seven male children of Mildred Jackson. Henry was told that his father, whom he never met, was a man named James Bibb. He grew up in bondage in the Deep South, and claims to have been owned by seven people including a Cherokee Indian. Bibb frequently attempted escape throughout his slavery years until he succeeded in emancipating himself in 1842 after the death of his owner. Once his freedom was assured, he assumed an active role in the abolitionist movement in Michigan and New England. In 1848 Henry Bibb married Mary Miles, a woman from Boston, Massachusetts whom he met at an anti-slavery convention in New York City, New York. Mr. Bibb is best known for his eloquent autobiography, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, which was published in New York in 1849.
Sources: 
Roger W. Hite, “Voice of a Fugitive: Henry Bibb and Ante-Bellum Black Separatism,” Journal of Black Studies, 4:3 (March 1974).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hope, John (1868-1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 John Hope, a native of Augusta, Georgia, began his illustrious career in 1894 as a faculty member at Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee where he taught natural science, Latin and Greek.  He also coached the school’s football team.  This future President of Morehouse College graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.  He was much loved and respected by his students as evidenced by at least one of them honoring him by nam
Sources: 
Ridgley Torrence, The Story of John Hope (New York: Macmillan Company, 1948); Dorothy Granberry, “John Hope” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1993); John Hope Archives, Morehouse University Library, Atlanta, Georgia.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Dawson, William Levi (1886-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Levi Dawson was a well-known Chicago, Illinois lawyer who became one of the city’s most influential politicians.  His career paralleled the rising significance of African Americans in the Democratic Party.  Dawson was born in Albany, Georgia on April 26, 1886.  Little is known of his formative years.  In 1912, Dawson graduated magna cum laude from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Shortly afterwards he migrated to Chicago where he studied law at Northwestern University.  Once the United States entered World War I in 1917, Dawson joined the US Army and was soon commissioned a second lieutenant with the 365th Infantry when it served in France.  Dawson returned to the United States in 1919, passed the Illinois Bar Exam, and the following year began the practice of law in Chicago.
Sources: 

Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Tresse, Black Americans in Congress 1870-1989 (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1990); James Q. Wilson, “Two Negro Politicians: An Interpretation.”  Midwest Journal of Political Science 4, November 1960: 346-69.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Hayden, Lewis (c.1811-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lewis Hayden was born a slave in Lexington, Kentucky in 1811 into the household of the Rev. Adam Runkin, a Presbyterian minister.  In 1840 he married fellow slave, Harriet Bell (c.1811-1893).  The Haydens successfully escaped slavery in 1844.  They traveled to Ohio, Canada, Michigan, and finally settled in Boston, where they became active participants in abolitionist activities.  While Harriett ran a boarding house from their home at 66 Phillips Street and raised their two children, Joseph and Elizabeth, Lewis ran a successful clothing store on Cambridge Street, where he also held abolitionist meetings and outfitted runaway slaves. Their home, which contained a secret tunnel, served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Hayden home is now listed as a national historic site.

Lewis Hayden was a member of the city’s abolitionist Vigilance Committee, whose goal was to protect fugitive slaves from being captured and returned to slavery under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.  In 1850, the Haydens assisted a fugitive slave couple, William and Ellen Craft, who had escaped from Georgia.  Lewis also led in the well-publicized rescues of Fredric Wilkins, alias Shadrach Minkins, in 1851 from a Boston courthouse, and Anthony Burns in 1854.
Sources: 
Stanley J. And Anita W. Robboy, “Lewis Hayden: From Fugitive Slave to Statesman,” New England Quarterly, 46 (1973): 591-613, and www.nps.gov.
Contributor: 
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

Dziko, Trish Millines (1957- )

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

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

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

Pele (Deon Arrantnes Do Nasciemento) (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morris, Robert, Sr. (1823–1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Vehemently opposed to slavery, he worked with William Lloyd Garrison, Ellis Loring and Wendell Philips and others to oppose the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  On February 15, 1851 with the help of Lewis Hayden, Robert Morris managed to remove from the court house, newly arrested fugitive slave Shadrack and helped him to get to Canada and freedom. Arrests were made but Morris and the others were acquitted of the charges. 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Turner, Charles Henry (1867-1923)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Zuma, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa (1942-- )

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

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, the fourth president of post-apartheid South Africa, was elected to that post by the nation's parliament after the African National Congress (ANC) swept to victory in the 2009 general election.  Zuma was born on April 12, 1942, in Inkandla, South Africa, and is an ethnic Zulu member.  Zuma did not attend school and taught himself to read and write while spending his childhood in Zululand and Durban, South Africa.

In 1959, at the age of 17, Zuma joined the ANC, South Africa's largest political party, which at the time was a non-violent party campaigning against apartheid.  When the party was banned in 1961, it went underground, and Zuma became a member of the ANC's militant armed resistance wing.  He also joined the South African Communist Party in 1963.

Sources: 
"South Africa's divided ANC elects Zuma as new party president," Facts on File: Weekly World News Digest with Cumulative Index 67 (2007); “Jacob Zuma Biography”; Barry Bearak, "Waiting to Helm South Africa: President or Convict? Or Both?,” The New York Times (March 10, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Taylor, Koko (Cora Walton), (1928-2009)

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

Koko Taylor, dubbed the ‘Queen of the Blues,’ was one of the most revered female blues singers in history. She was born Cora Walton on September 28, 1928 in Bartlett, Tennessee to sharecropper parents who nicknamed her Koko for her love of chocolate. It was on the plantations where she grew up that she developed her love of music, listening to the gospel of the churches and artists such as Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith.

By the age of 11, Walton was orphaned and she continued to pick cotton, receiving little formal education, until moving to Memphis to clean houses. In 1952, Walton and her future husband Robert ‘Paps’ Taylor moved to Chicago with only “35 cents and a box of Ritz crackers,” (in their own words). In Chicago, Koko, now Mrs. Robert Taylor, continued to clean houses, but increasingly became absorbed with Chicago’s blues scene and she began to sing with the local bands of the nightclubs.

Sources: 
Koko Taylor Official Website, www.kokotaylor.com, (Koko Taylor, 2004-2009); Guardian newspaper Official Website, guardian.co.uk, (Guardian News and Media Limited 2009).


Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

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

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

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

Taubira, Christiane (Taubira-Delannon, Christiane) (1952- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Christiane Taubira is an economist, politician, and writer who was born on February 2, 1952 in Cayenne, Guyana.  Founding president of the Guyanese Walwari Party, she is also an author of a number of writings on the topic of slavery and political equality.  In May 2012 Taubira was appointed Minister of Justice of France in the Ayrault government under President François Hollande.
Sources: 
John Gaffney, The French Legislative and Presidential Elections of 2002 (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2004); Christiane Taubira, Mes météores: Combats politiques au long cours [My Meteors: Politics in the Long Term] (Paris: Flammarion, 2012); Christiane Taubira-Delannon, Égalité pour les exclus: le politique face à l'histoire et à la mémoire colonials [Equality for the Excluded: Politics in View of Colonial History and Memory] (Paris: Temps Présent, 2009).
Affiliation: 
Cleveland State University and Hamilton College

Johnson, William Henry (ca. 1835-1864)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
William Henry Johnson served as the personal valet to Abraham Lincoln.  Johnson was born around 1835; however, his exact date of birth, parentage, and birthplace remain unknown.  He began working for the Lincoln family in Springfield, Illinois as a barber and valet in 1860 and accompanied Lincoln to Washington, D.C.
Sources: 
Roy P. Basler, "Did President Lincoln Give the Smallpox to William H. Johnson?"  Huntington Library Quarterly, 1972, 35:3 (1972); Tim Dennee, “African-American Civilians Interred in Section 27 of Arlington National Cemetery, 1864-1867,” www.freedmenscemetery.org
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ganaway, King Daniel (1882- 1944)

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

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

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

Esteban (? - 1539)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the David Weber Collection
Esteban, an enslaved North African, made the first contact with the native peoples of what is now the American Southwest.  Fraught with misunderstandings, that encounter led to Esteban’s untimely demise in 1539 and prefigured the violence that would characterize the Spanish conquest and subsequent colonization of the region.
Sources: 
George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, eds.  Narratives of the Coronado Expedition , 1540-1542 (1940). Dedra S. McDonald, “Intimacy and Empire:  Indian-African Interaction in Spanish Colonial New Mexico, 1500-1800” in James F. Brooks, ed., Confounding the Color Line:  The Indian-Black Experience in North America (2002).
Affiliation: 
Hillsdale College (Michigan)

Baird, Harry (1931-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The physical presence that black British actor Harry Baird brought to the movie screen was largely a consequence of the United Kingdom going through the birthing pain of racism during the 1950s and 1960s.  Born in Guyana, this premier black actor was no Paul Robeson, but Harry Baird carried with him a presence that spoke to Britain’s patronizing advancement out of the stone-age of colonial imperialism.
Sources: 
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks (New York: Continuum, 1992); Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) title search by key word, “Harry Baird”; Tom Milne, ed., The Timeout Film Guide, Penguin Books, 3rd Edition, 1992.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Spivey, Victoria (1906-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Victoria Spivey grew up in a musical family where her father, Grant, played in a string band while sisters, Addie and Elton, sang the blues. But it was Victoria who became the star with a beginning that took her moaning style of singing into honky tonks, bordellos, men’s clubs and gin mills all over Texas. In 1926, she left for St. Louis and acquired a recording contract with OKeh records but found her stride in New York where she continued to record but performed in all the elite nightclubs, appeared in the musical, Hellzapoppin’ Revue, took a lead role in Hallelujah, the first musical feature film with an all black cast, and sang with the big bands in the 1940s. The crossover into the big band jazz genre allowed her to join Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman on stages across the country. As the country’s musical tastes changed in the 1950s, she became an organist and choir master in her church and then in the 1960s she enjoyed a revival of her blues career.
Sources: 
David Dicaire, Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century (Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999); Anna Stong Bourgeois, Blueswomen: Profiles of 37 Early Performers, with an Anthology of Lyrics, 1920-1945 (Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1996); http:/www.geocities.com/theblueslady.geo/Victoria.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Sanchez, Sonia (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Brady, Saint Elmo (1884-1966)

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

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

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

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barry, Marion Jr. (1936-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lewis, Sir William Arthur Lewis (1915-1991)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Johnson, Samuel (1846-1901)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Cover, The History of the Yorubas
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Rev. Samuel Johnson was a nineteenth-century Anglican priest and historian of the Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria. Samuel Johnson is most noted for his manuscript The History of the Yorubas, which was posthumously published in 1921.  

Born to Henry and Sarah Johnson, in Hasting, Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1846, Samuel Johnson’s father was originally from the nation of Oyo in what is now southwestern Nigeria.  Henry Johnson claimed to be a descendent of Abiodun, the last great king of Oyo.  Captured by slavers, he was later liberated by the British Royal Navy and brought to Freetown, Sierra Leone. There he joined other "recaptives" who had grown large enough in number to dominate the politics and culture of the British Colony by the 1850s.

Sources: 
Paul Jenkins, ed., Recovery of the West African Past: African Pastors and African History in the Nineteenth Century (Basel: Basel Afrika Bibliographien, 2000); Elijah Olu Akinwumi, “Samuel Johnson,” Dictionary of African Christian Biography (2002); http://www.dacb.org/stories/nigeria/johnson_1samuel.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Crowther, Bishop Samuel Adjai (1809 – 1891)

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

Jesse Page, Samuel Crowther: The Slave Boy Who Became Bishop of the Niger, (S.W. Partridge & Co. London, 1889.); James. F. Schon and Samuel A. Crowther, Journals of the Rev .James Frederick Schon and Mr Samuel Crowther who, With the Sanction of Her Majesty’s Government, accompanied the Expedition Up The Niger in 1841 on behalf of the Church Missionary Society, 2nd Ed. ( Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1970)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Johnson, Beverly (1952- )

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

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

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

Fletcher, Benjamin Harrison (1890-1949)

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

Hedgeman, Anna Arnold (1899–1990)

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

Political activist and educator Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the first African American woman to serve on the cabinet of a New York mayor when she worked during the term of New York City Mayor Robert Wagner from 1957-1958. Her career spanned more than six decades as an advocate for civil rights. In 1963 she helped A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin plan the March on Washington and was the only woman among the key event organizers.

Anna Arnold was born on July 5, 1899 in Marshalltown, Iowa to William James Arnold II and Marie Ellen Arnold. When Anna was a child, the family moved to Anoka, Minnesota where the Arnolds were the only black family in the community. Her father created an environment that prioritized education and a strong work ethic. Arnold learned how to read at home and was not allowed to attend school until she was seven years old.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gatson, Dewey (AKA Rajo Jack DeSoto) (1905-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Rajo Jack De Soto at Silvergate Speedway, San Diego, Ca. in 1934
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Automobile racer Rajo Jack DeSoto was born Dewey Gatson on July 28, 1905 in Tyler, Texas. (Previously published biographies have incorrectly listed his racing name as Rojo Jack.) Rajo Jack was barred from racing in many organized venues because of his African American heritage, but he had several notable wins and a number of historic crashes. He was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2003.

Dewey Gatson’s parents were Noah, a railroad employee, and Frances (Gee). He had three sisters and two brothers. Sometime in his teens, Gatson and his family moved from Texas to California. In 1921 Gatson got a job with a travelling entertainment show, acquiring skills as a mechanic. He later worked as a mechanic for racing teams and began racing on his own in 1923 in a souped-up Model T Ford.  Later that year he was hired by Rajo Motor Manufacturing to sell its after-market racing kits. Gatson's sales skills earned him the nickname of “Rajo.” In 1936 he had a big victory at the Los Angeles Speedway in a stock Ford two-seater. He won by over two laps.
Sources: 

Larry L. Ball, Jr., “Rajo Jack,” 2007 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum, http://www.sprintcarhof.com./FileGet.aspx?ID=268; Todd Gould, For Gold and Glory: Charlie Wiggins and the African-American Racing Car Circuit (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002); Cecilia Rasmussen, “For Auto Racers and Fans, It Was the Roaring ‘30s,” Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2006; Shav Glick, “The Hall Welcomes a Black Pioneer,” Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Tone, Jr. (1944-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Tone Johnson (left) and Fellow Vietnam War Era Veterans,
Joe Pena and Vince Cantu
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Tone Johnson, medical doctor, Vietnam hero, and civic leader was born on November 9, 1944 to Lyzer (Elizabeth) Marks Johnson and sawmill worker and farmer Henry Johnson.  After graduating from Carrie Martin High School in Plain Dealing, Louisiana in 1963, he went to Vietnam as part of company D, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment of the First Cavalry Division.  His unit, assigned to West-Central South Vietnam, Ia Drang Valley near the Cambodian border, met the North Vietnamese on November 14, 1965 at the base of a limestone mountain, Chupong Massif.

The Ia Drang battle—named after the river which flowed through the valley—was immortalized by CBS news footage and later a movie, We Were Soldiers, based on Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway’s book, We Were Soldiers Once … And Young. This battle marked the first time the United States Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam clashed during the Vietnam War.  During this combat, American forces killed over 1,400 Vietnamese, and the United States casualties amounted to more than 120 over the next few days.  The 1st Battalion, 7th cavalry fought hard for three days, but with the arrival of B-52s, they rested. The 2nd Battalion with Tone Johnson was sent in to help.
Sources: 
William E. Swan, Jr., M.D., “Tone Johnson, Jr., M.D. Physician Hero,” Coastal Bend Medicine (February/March 1997); communications and newspaper clippings from Geraldine Johnson collection.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Lewis, Delano Eugene (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On November 16, 1999 President William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton nominated Delano Eugene Lewis to be the United States Ambassador to South Africa.  Lewis was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and served in that capacity from 1999 to 2001.  Having spent much of his adult life to that point as an attorney and businessman, Lewis was a non-career appointee.  Lewis had also held leadership roles with the U.S. Peace Corps and National Public Radio.

Delano Eugene Lewis was born on November 12, 1938 in Arkansas City, Kansas.  He was the only child of Raymond Ernest Lewis and Enna L. Lewis.  The family moved to Kansas City, Kansas where Lewis graduated from Sumner High School in 1956. He then earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History at the University of Kansas in 1960, and a law degree from Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1963. Lewis and his wife, the former Gayle Carolyn Jones, were married in 1960. They have four sons: Delano Jr., Geoffrey, Brian, and Phillip.
Sources: 
“Delano Eugene Lewis, “Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870900046.html; U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/lewis-delano-eugene; The University of Kansas Libraries, http://etext.ku.edu/view?docId=ksrlead/ksrl.kc.lewisdelanoe.xml;route=ksrlead;brand=ksrlead;query=; Kansapedia: The Encyclopedia of the Kansas Historical Society, http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/delano-lewis/12130.webloc.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Young, Andrew (1932 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Andrew Young, Jr., came into prominence as a civil rights activist and close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the modern civil rights movement in the United States.  Young worked with various organizations early in the movement, but his civil rights work was largely done with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) where he served as an executive director and later executive vice president.  Young served on the Board of Directors until 1972.

Young was born into a prosperous upper-middle-class family on March 12, 1932 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Daisy Fuller, a school teacher, and Andrew Jackson Young, Sr., a Howard University-educated dentist.  Young, Sr. moved the family from Franklin, Louisiana to New Orleans.  Young, Sr., believed the move was necessary to take advantage of educational opportunities for Andrew and his younger brother Walter Young (b. 1934).
Sources: 
Andrew Young, Andrew Young: An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movements and the Transformation of America, (New York: Harper-Collins, 1996); Adam Fairclough, To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987); Elizabeth Heath, “Young, Andrew,” Africana: The Encyclopedia of African and African American Experience, Eds., Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (New York: Preseus, 1999);
www.andrewyoungfoundation.org.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Blackwell, Robert “Bumps” (1918-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Bumps Blackwell with Quincy Jones
on Trumpet
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert "Bumps" Blackwell was a musician, producer and composer who worked with the top names in early jazz and rock and roll.  Blackwell was born in Seattle on May 23, 1918.  By the late 1940s his Seattle-based "Bumps Blackwell Junior Band" featured Ray Charles and Quincy Jones, and played with artists like Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway and Billy Eckstine. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s and hired on with Art Rupe's Specialty Records.

In 1955, Blackwell flew to New Orleans to record Little Richard (Richard Penniman), a singer who they hoped would become the next Nat King Cole. During a break in the tepid recording session everybody headed to a nearby bar where Mr. Penniman started banging out an obscene club song on the piano. "Daddy Bumps" knew he had a hit so he brought in a local songwriter to clean up the lyrics. "Tutti-Frutti, good booty" became "Tutti Frutti, all rootie," and Little Richard became a star. Bumps wrote or co-wrote other early rock hits including "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Long Tall Sally," and "Rip It Up."
Sources: 
Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:cr5j8qmtbt04~T1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Tandy, Charleton (1836-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charleton Tandy was born in Kentucky in 1836 to parents who were free only because his grandparents had purchased the family’s freedom three years before his birth.  Throughout his childhood, Tandy’s family worked to free slaves through the Underground Railroad, and as a young man, Tandy often led slaves on the route from Covington, Kentucky, to freedom in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Tandy moved to St. Louis in 1857 and worked a series of jobs until the Civil War began, when he became post messenger at Jefferson Barracks.  The war proved good for Tandy’s standing, as he rose from state militia volunteer to captain of “Tandy’s St. Louis Guard,” an African American state militia that he recruited; he carried the honorific “Captain” for the rest of his life.  
His service earned Tandy the notice of several political leaders, and Tandy was able to turn his connections into patronage jobs.  His positions ranged from U.S. land agent and deputy U.S. Marshal in New Mexico and Oklahoma to Custodian of Records at the St. Louis courthouse.  At heart, Tandy was a civil rights activist.  Throughout his life he worked on local issues of interest to Missouri African Americans, including fighting school and transportation segregation.    
Sources: 
Bryan M. Jack, “Bridging the Red Sea:  The Saint Louis African American Community and the Exodusters of 1879” (Ph.D. diss., Saint Louis University, 2004); The Charleton Tandy Papers at the Western Manuscript Historical Collection (University of Missouri at St. Louis); John A. Wright, No Crystal Stair: The Story of Thirteen Afro-Americans Who Once Called St. Louis Home (Florissant, MO:  Ferguson-Florissant School District, 1988).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Winston-Salem State University

Mortimer, Jack (1700's)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jack and his wife Sophy were enslaved in Middletown, Connecticut to Philip Mortimer (1710-1794), a wealthy Irish businessman.  Philip Mortimer freed them in his will, but his son-in-law, George Starr, contested and succeeded in overturning the will.  Mortimer’s will also intended to give Jack and Sophy the use of one and three-quarters acres of land that, upon their deaths, was to be divided between their three sons, Lester, Dick, and John. The three boys were ordered to be kept in school until the age of fourteen, then apprenticed as house joiners until the age of twenty-one, when they were to be freed.  In a codicil to his will, Mortimer also left Jack, Sophy, and their sons some kettles and a fishing place in Chatham.

Jack Mortimer’s rage against George Starr for overturning Philip Mortimer’s will in 1796 was immense. Although by 1810 he had gained his freedom, in December 1811 he was accused of “maliciously intending to poison & murder George Starr.”  The prosecutor alleged that Jack “did unlawfully & wickedly, solicit, instigate, advise, persuade, & procure Prince [Mortimer]. . . to give & administer a quantity of Arsenic or Ratsbane” to Starr. The case against Jack was inexplicably dropped, but eleven years later, in 1822, he was convicted of arson for burning to the ground a house belonging to Starr’s daughter. Jack was then sentenced to five years imprisonment in Newgate, the first state prison in the United States.
Sources: 
Denis R Caron, A Century in Captivity: The Life and Trials of Prince Mortimer, a Connecticut Slave (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Maples, William Lineas (1869-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Lineas Maples, a physician and musician, was born in Sevierville, Tennessee, on March 31, 1869. The son of Edward Maples and Martha Jane Runions, William graduated in the first class of the segregated high school in Knoxville in 1888.  Showing a talent for science, oratory, and music, he received the Dodson medal upon graduation.  

Maples taught high school for one year in Austin, Tennessee and then entered medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1889.  He received an M.D. degree in 1893 and returned to Knoxville to establish a medical practice.  The Spanish-American War in 1898 interrupted that practice as he joined the U.S. Army’s medical unit of the all-black Third Regiment of the North Carolina Volunteers. He ended his service a year later and returned to Knoxville to resume his practice.

In 1900 agents for the Hawaii Commercial and Sugar Company (HC&S Co.) on Maui traveled through Tennessee and Alabama looking for workers for Hawaii’s plantations. They also sought a physician to staff the hospital that would serve the contract workers. Maples was recruited as the anesthetist for the HC&S hospital. His older brother, Samuel, a lawyer, also accepted a position as a representative of the black contract laborers recruited for the HC&S plantations.

Prior to leaving Knoxville, Maples married Sadie (maiden name unknown), who accompanied him on the voyage to Hawaii. He was assigned to the hospital in Puunene,
Sources: 
Miles M. Jackson, And They Came: A Brief History of Blacks in Hawaii (Durham: Four Gs Publishers, 2001); Paul Wermager, They Followed the Trade Winds: African Americans in Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

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

Binga, Jesse (1865-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Terrell, Robert H. (1857-1925)

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

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

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

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

Harris, Edna Mae (1914-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Campbell, Grace P. (1883-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Grace Campbell Addressing a Harlem Rally
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Grace P. Campbell, the first of three African Americans to join the Communist Party, USA, was born in Georgia in 1882 to Emma Dyson Campbell, an African American woman from Washington, D.C., and William Campbell, an immigrant from Jamaica. After briefly relocating to Texas, the Campbell family settled down in Washington, D.C.  From there Grace Campbell moved to New York City around 1905.

In New York, Campbell dedicated herself to community work.  She donated her own salary to aid the founding of the Empire Friendly Shelter, a home for unwed mothers, where she worked as a supervisor.  Campbell additionally worked for the City of New York beginning in 1915. First employed as a probation officer, Campbell then worked as a parole officer, and in 1924, became a court attendant for the Courts of Sessions.

During this period Campbell gravitated towards left-wing radicalism. She was one of the founding members of the 21st Assembly branch of the Socialist Party (SP) and one of the first African American women to join the Socialist Party. Campbell ran on the Socialist ticket for the 19th District of the New York State Assembly in 1919 and 1920, receiving about 10% of the vote both years. Though unsuccessful, Campbell was the first woman of any race to run for public office in the state of New York.
Sources: 
Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth-Century America (New York: Verso, 1999); Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem During the Depression (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, William Henry (1901-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Henry Johnson was an African American expressionist painter.  He was born on March 18, 1901 in Florence, South Carolina to mother Alice Smoot Johnson (known as “Mom Alice” or “Aunt Alice”) and father Henry Johnson.  William H. Johnson was the oldest of five children: Lacy, Lucy, James, and Lillian.  Johnson spent his childhood helping out his family, finding a joy for painting, and attending rural grade schools in Florence.

At age 17 Johnson moved to New York where he worked as a cook, hotel porter, and stevedore.  In September 1921 he enrolled at the School of the National Academy of Design (NAD).  Between 1923 and 1926 during the academic year he studied with Charles W. Hawthorne at the NAD and during the summers at The Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Sources: 
Richard J. Powell, Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1991); Steve Turner and Victoria Dailey, William H. Johnson: Truth Be Told (Los Angeles, California: Seven Arts Publishing, 1998); William H. Johnson, Adelyn Dohme Breeskin, National Collection of Fine Arts, William H. Johnson, 1901-1970 (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ink Spots (1932-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the University of New Hampshire
The Ink Spots, a musical quartet, originally included members Orville “Hoppy” Jones, Ivory “Deek” Watson, Jerry Daniels, and Charlie Fuqua. Some accounts claim Slim Greene also was a founding member. Influenced by the Mills Brothers, all four members sang together under the name “King, Jack, and the Jesters” in 1932.  In late 1933, the group renamed itself the Ink Spots.

The Ink Spots toured Britain in 1934 and their overseas success earned them a recording contract with Victor Records. In 1935, they recorded their first four songs, including “Swinging on the Strings."
Sources: 
Deek Watson, The Story of the Ink Spots (New York: Vantage Press, 1967); Marv Goldberg, More Than Words Can Say: The Ink Spots and Their Music (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Coffey, Cornelius R. (1903-1994)

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

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

Monroe, George Frazier (c. 1844-1886)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Yosemite stagecoach driver George Frazier Monroe was born in Georgia possibly around 1844.  His father, Louis Augustus Monroe, arrived from Georgia in the Gold Rush and settled as a barber in Mariposa in 1854.  He was also locally known as a civil rights advocate because he promoted the integration of local schools.  George’s mother, Mary, was an Ohioan and thus a free woman of color but it is unclear if Louis had been enslaved.  Although the parents were in California by 1855, young George stayed behind to complete a school year in Washington, D.C., before being brought to Mariposa around the age of 11 by his uncle in 1856.

By 1866 young Monroe began working as a tourist guide at Henry Washburn’s lavish resort hotel, Big Tree Station, at Yosemite.  By 1872, when the hotel could be reached by stagecoach routes maintained by the Southern Pacific Railroad, Monroe became one of the stagecoach drivers.

Stage drivers, like airline pilots today, commanded great prestige: upon their skills rested the lives of passengers. Testimonials reveal the fame of George F. Monroe.  As a rule, stagecoach drivers drove only a portion of a route, going back and forth so that they knew all of its idiosyncrasies. The twisty road from Mariposa to Yosemite Valley was Monroe’s segment. Chicago journalist Benjamin Taylor wrote in August 1877 that Monroe was “a born reinsman.”
Sources: 
Mariposa Gazette, November 27, 1886; Benjamin Franklin Taylor, Between the Gates (Chicago: S.C. Griggs and Company, 1878); Benjamin C. Truman, “The Passing of a Sierra Knight,” Overland Monthly 42 (July 1903): 32-39, and in Gary F. Kurutz, ed. Knights of the Lash: The Stagecoach Stories of Major Benjamin C. Truman (San Francisco: Book Club of California, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Damas, Léon-Gontran (1912-1978)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Poet, editor, diplomat, and cultural theorist Léon Damas was born on March 28, 1912, in Cayenne, French Guiana. He was the youngest of five children born to parents Ernest and Marie Aline Damas. After his mother's death in 1913, young Léon and his siblings were placed in the care of his father's sister, Gabrielle Damas.
Sources: 
Keith Q. Warner, Critical Perspectives on Leon Gontran Damas (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1988);."Damas, Léon-Gontran" in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: Arts and Letters : an A-to-Z Reference of Writers, Musicians, and Artists of the African American Experience (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2005); Anthony E. Hurley, Through a Black Veil: Readings in French Caribbean Poetry (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2000); T. Denean Sharpley-Witing, Negritude Women (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002); Myra Sklarew, "Leon-Gontran Damas: Reclaiming Identity," Beltway Poetry Quarterly 9:3 (Summer 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Mills College

Cuffe, Paul, Sr. (1759-1817)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Paul Cuffe is best known for his work in assisting free blacks who wanted to emigrate to Sierra Leone.  Cuffe was born free on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts (near New Bedford) sometime around 1759. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He was the youngest of ten children. His father, Kofi (also known as Cuffe Slocum), was from the Ashanti Empire in West Africa. Kofi was captured, enslaved and brought to New England at the age of 10. Paul's mother, Ruth Moses, was Native American. Kofi, a skilled tradesman who was able to earn his freedom, died when Paul Cuffe was a teenager. The younger Cuffe refused to use the name Slocum, which his father had been given by his owner, and instead took his father's first name.
Sources: 
Sheldon H. Harris, Paul Cuffe, Black America and the African Return (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

White, Lulu B.(1900-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lulu Belle Madison White, civil rights activist in the 1940s and 1950s, devoted most of her adult life to the struggle against Jim Crow in Texas.  She campaigned for the right to vote, for equal pay for equal work, and for desegregation of public facilities.  

Born in 1900 in Elmo, Texas to Henry Madison, a farmer, and Easter Madison, a domestic worker, Lulu Belle Madison White received her early education in the public schools of Elmo and Terrell, Texas.  She graduated from Prairie View College where she received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1928. After marrying Julius White and teaching school for nine years, White resigned her post to devote full time service to the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its campaign to eliminate the state’s all-white Democratic primary.
Sources: 
Merline Pitre, In Struggle against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP 1900-1957 (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Maxey, Carl (1924-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Carl Maxey grew up in an orphanage and became a leading attorney, civil rights activist, and champion of the underdog.  He was adopted by a Spokane, Washington, couple immediately following his birth in Tacoma but ended up in the Spokane Children's Home after his adoptive father disappeared and his mother died.  When Maxey was twelve the Home's Board decided it would no longer care for African American children and he was placed in the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center. Years later, he said "So if you wonder where some of my fire comes from, it comes from a memory that includes this event."
Sources: 
Bill Morlin, “Spokane Loses a Champion: Carl Maxey ? 1924?1997: He Defended Civil Rights and Controversial Clients,” The Spokesman?Review, July 18, 1997, p. A1; Marsha King, “Maxey Was An Inspiration: Black Attorney’s Example of Activism Cherished,” The Seattle Times, July 18, 1997; "Carl Maxey (1924-1997)," Equal Justice Newsletter, April 1999 (http://www.courts.wa.gov/programs_orgs/pos_mjc/?fa=pos_mjc.display&fileID=new9904#A4);HistoryLink.orghttp://www.historylink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Maxey, Carl (1924-1997)" (by Jim Kershner) and "Senator Henry Jackson overwhelmingly defeats peace candidate Carl Maxey in the Democratic primary on September 15, 1970." .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
HistoryLink.org

Powell, Colin (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Colin Powell is a retired Four-Star United States Army General who was the first African American to serve as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff and Secretary of State.

Colin Powell was born in 1937 in the Bronx, New York to Jamaican immigrant parents.  He attended public schools in the Hunts Point area of South Bronx and was eventually accepted to New York University.  Lacking the funds to attend this private university, Powell instead enrolled at the City University of New York, where he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), graduating with a degree in geology and as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry. Taking his first post abroad in West Germany, Powell soon realized that the advanced racial integration of the armed forces would yield tremendous upward opportunities and he decided to make a career in the Army.
Sources: 
Karen DeYoung, Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell (Knopf, New York, NY 2006);  Jim Haskins, The Black Stars: African American Military Heroes (John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York, NY 1998);  Colin Powell, My American Journey (Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1995);  Kai Wright, Soldiers of Freedom (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fisher, Abby (1832- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Abby Fisher’s cookbook, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. published in 1881, is the oldest known cookbook written by a former slave. Abby (maiden name unknown), was born in 1832, and grew up in the plantation kitchens in South Carolina. There she honed her culinary skills and became a phenomenal cook, which catapulted her to success later in life.

Abby Fisher married Alexander C. Fisher and the couple had eleven children.  By the end of the Civil War she and her family gained their freedom.  In 1877 the Fishers relocated from Mobile to San Francisco where her talents as a cook and caterer soon were in high demand among the city’s upper class.  Her reputation and award winning delicacies enabled the Fishers to open their own business listed in the San Francisco directories as “Mrs. Abby Fisher & Company” and later as “Mrs. Abby Fisher, Pickle Manufacturer.”

Abby Fisher expertly blended African and American cultures by combining the foods and spices from two continents. Her unique dishes with their distinctive flavor represented some of the best Southern cooking of the day. At the insistence of her friends and patrons to record her “knowledge and experience of Southern cooking, pickle, and jelly making” Mrs. Fisher authored a cookbook. Since she could neither read nor write, her recipes were carefully described to writers who compiled them in the cookbook under her name.
Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Abby Fisher, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. (Facsimile edition, with historical notes by Karen Hess. (Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books, 1995); Janice B. Longone, “Early Black-Authored American Cookbooks.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture (February 2001) “Welcome to Applewood Books Publisher’s of America’s Living past”. http://www.applewoodbooks.com
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

de' Medici, Alessandro (1510–1537)

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

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

Poussaint, Alvin F. (1934 --)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Proctor, Henry Hugh (1868-1933)

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