BlackPast.org Facebook BlackPast.org Twitter

Donate to BlackPast.org BlackPast Blog
  • African American History
  • African American History in the West
  • Global African History
  • Perspectives

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

6 + 4 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Shop Amazon and help BlackPast.org

Blackpast.org in the Classroom

People

Jackson, A.L. (1891–1973)

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

Bechet, Sidney (1897-1959)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Soprano saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet was one of the most important soloists of early jazz.  Together with Louis Armstrong, he was the first to develop the loose, fluid rhythmic style that set jazz apart from ragtime and that came to be known as “swinging.”  

Sidney Joseph Bechet was born on May 14, 1897 to a middle-class Creole family in New Orleans.  He began playing clarinet at age six, and although he studied briefly with such legendary early New Orleans clarinetists as George Baquet and Lorenzo Tio, Jr., he was mostly self taught.  By the age of twenty, when he left New Orleans for Chicago, Bechet had played with nearly every major figure in early jazz, including Joseph “King” Oliver, Bunk Johnson, and Freddie Keppard.

In 1919, composer and conductor Will Marion Cook asked Bechet to join his Southern Syncopated Orchestra on a tour of Europe.  Upon hearing Bechet for the first time, Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet called him “an artist of genius.”  While in London with Cook’s group, Bechet purchased a soprano saxophone, which soon became his primary instrument, although he continued to play clarinet as well.
Sources: 
Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968); James Lincoln Collier, “Bechet, Sidney”, Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed 7 January 2008), http://www.grovemusic.com ; http://www.sidneybechet.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Carnegie Hall

Evans, Greene (1848-1914)

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

Langston, John Mercer (1829-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Zulu, Shaka (1787-1828)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Shaka Zulu established the Zulu Empire and revolutionized warfare in Southern Africa in the early 19th Century.  Shaka was born in 1787. His father, Senzangakhona, was a minor chief of one of the Zulu-speaking clans and his mother, Nandi, was daughter of Chief Mbhengi of the rival clan.  Shaka’s birth was considered a sin because his parents were from different clans. Due to pressure from tribal leaders Shaka’s parents separated resulting in the exile of him and his mother from his father’s clan. Shaka’s mother returned to her Elangeni where she was shunned.  Consequently, her son Shaka was harassed, tormented, and neglected.

As Shaka grew older, he recalled with anger his tormenting by Elangeni members.  Upon reaching manhood he deserted the Elangeni and became affiliated with the Mthethwa clan. He served as a warrior for six years under the reign of Dingiswayo, the Mthethwa’s chief. Dingiswayo was impressed by Shaka’s courage and endurance and remained with the Mthethwa until he learned of the death of his father, Senzangakhona, in 1816.

Shaka claimed his father’s chieftaincy with military assistance from Dingiswayo.  With his experience learned from the Mthethwa, he transformed his clan’s military from a largely ceremonial force into a powerful army capable of both defense and aggression.
Sources: 
Carolyn Hampton, “Shaka Zulu,” in New Encyclopedia of Africa, John Middleton and Joseph C. Miller, eds., (New York: Scribner’s, 2008); Alonford James Robinson, “Shaka,” in Africana, the Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience. Ed. Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Law, Oliver (1900-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
William Loren Katz and Marc Crawford, The Lincoln Brigade: A Picture History (New York: Apex Press, 2001); William Loren Katz, “Fighting Another Civil War,” American Legacy (Winter 2002); http://www.alba-valb.org/curriculum/index.php?module=2
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wood, Robert (1844 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Natchez, Mississippi in the 1870s
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert Wood is believed to be one of the first African American mayors in the United States.  He served as mayor of Natchez, Mississippi in the early 1870s.  Wood was born in 1844 to Susie Harris, an African American housekeeper, and Dr. Robert Wood, a white doctor from Virginia.  His parents never married, but lived side by side.  According to oral histories, Wood was never a slave and lived mostly with his father, a former mayor of Natchez himself.  

Mississippi Governor James L. Alcorn appointed Robert Wood as mayor of Natchez, Mississippi in 1869.  He later was elected mayor in 1870.  His election was part of the “Black and Tan Revolution,” a short-lived political shift in Mississippi in which citizens of Mississippi elected many African Americans to state offices between 1868 and 1875.  At its peak in 1873, half of Mississippi's state elected officials were black.  

Sources: 

David Duncan Collum, Black and Catholic in the Jim Crow South: The
Stuff that Makes Community.
(Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2006);
Mike Brunker, “Race, Politics and the Evolving South: A Black Mayor,
130 Years Later” MSNBC.com. Aug. 17, 2004.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Quarles, Benjamin A. (1904-1996)

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

Noted historian, scholar, and educator Benjamin Author Quarles was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 23, 1904.  His father, Arthur Benedict Quarles was a subway porter and his mother, Margaret O'Brien Quarles, was a homemaker. In his twenties, Quarles enrolled at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, the oldest historically black college in the South, where he earned a B.A. in 1931.  From Shaw, Quarles went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, where he earned an M.A. in 1933 and a Ph.D. in American History in 1940. 

Sources: 
John Hope Franklin, “We mourn the death of Benjamin A. Quarles 1904-1996,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (Winter 1996-97); Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, “Benjamin A. Quarles,” Negro History Bulletin (Jan-March, 1997); W.A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Farmer, James, Sr. (1886-1961)

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

Jere L. Jackson, "James Leonard Farmer" http://www.cets.sfasu.edu/Harrison/Farmer/farmhome.htm; "Texas State Historical Marker" http://www.cets.sfasu.edu/harrison/farmer/marker.htm; James Farmer (Jr.), Lay Bare The Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Arbor House, 1985).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mugabe, Robert Gabriel (1924- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Sources: 
Alan Rake, African Leaders (London:  The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2001); Steven Chan, Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence (Ann Arbor:  The University of Michigan Press, 2003); Andrew Norman, Robert Mugabe and the Betrayal of Zimbabwe (London:  McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wormley, James (1819-1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Washington D.C. on January 16, 1819, James Wormley was the son of free-born citizens Lynch and Mary Wormley. As a young boy, Wormley’s first job was working with his family’s hackney carriage business. This job would help Wormley gain skills and an appreciation for hard work involved in business ownership which he put to good use in post-Civil War Washington.

After owning a successful restaurant, Wormley decided to purchase a hotel in 1871 which he called the Wormley House. Located near the White House, at the southwest corner of 15th and H Streets Northwest, Wormley House soon became popular among the wealthy and politically prominent in the nation’s capital.  Wormley’s experience as caterer, club steward, and traveler in Europe helped him to perfect his culinary skills while his keen eye for detail ensured that his hotel guests were satisfied during their stay. The hotel was most famous for its well-managed rooms, early telephone, and the dining room where Wormley served European-style dishes.

Wormley also became active in Washington, D.C. community politics. On July 21, 1871, Wormley led a successful campaign to persuade Congress to fund the first public school for the city’s African Americans. The school, named after Wormley, was built in Georgetown at 34th and Prospect Streets.  Despite Congress’s allocation local politics delayed the opening of the school until 1885.
Sources: 
Sandra Fitzpatrick and Maria Goodwin, The Guide to Black Washington. (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1999); Nicholas E. Hollis, “A Hotel for the History Books” Washington Post, (March 18, 2001); http://www.culturaltourismdc.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dykes, Eva Beatrice (1893-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center Howard University

In 1921 Eva Beatrice Dykes became the first black woman in the United States to complete the required coursework for a Ph.D. and the third African American woman to receive a doctoral degree. Two other black women, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander and Georgiana Simpson, receive their Ph.D.s, in the same year as Dykes but because their respective commencement ceremonies took place earlier, Dykes is considered the third woman to receive the advanced degree. 

Eva Dykes was born in Washington, D.C. in 1893, and attended M Street High School which was later renamed Paul Dunbar High School. In 1914, twenty-one year old Dykes graduated Summa Cum Laude from Howard University with a B.A. in English. After spending one year teaching at Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, she decided to seek a Master’s Degree at Radcliffe College, an all women’s college which is now a part of Harvard University. Radcliffe, however, would not accept her degree from Howard, forcing Dykes to earn a second B.A. in English from the Massachusetts institution in 1917.  Nonetheless she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and the following year earned an M.A. from Radcliffe.  While at Radcliffe Dykes was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  She returned to Howard University in 1917 to complete her doctoral studies, earning the Ph.D. in 1921.  Her dissertation focused on Alexander Pope’s views on slavery and his influence on American writers.

Sources: 
Werner Sollors, Caldwell Titcomb, Thomas Underwood, and Randall Kennedy, Blacks at Harvard: A Documentary History of African-American Experience At Harvard and Radcliffe (New York: New York University Press, 1993); http://www.oakwood.edu/academics/library/about-the-library/698-who-was-eva-b-dykes; http://www.sistermentors.org/dcmarch05.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hyman, John Adams (1840-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Adams Hyman was born into slavery on July 23, 1840 in Warren County, North Carolina. Hyman's thirst for knowledge resulted in him being sold away from his family for attempting to read a spelling book that was given to him by a sympathetic white jeweler. He continued to seek knowledge at his new residence in Alabama and was sold again for fear that he would influence other slaves. Hyman was sold eight more times for his attempts to educate himself.  

At the age of 25 Hyman was freed by the Thirteenth Amendment and returned to his family in North Carolina. He quickly enrolled in school where he received an elementary education. Hyman also became a landowner and merchant.  Hyman, a Mason, soon emerged as a leader of the post-Civil War North Carolina black community.  

By 1868 John Hyman was an active member of the Republican Party.  Despite intimidation attempts by the Ku Klux Klan, Hyman and 132 other Republicans were elected to a constitutional convention which crafted a new constitution for the state of North Carolina.  The Constitution called for public education available to all students and voting rights for African American men.   
Sources: 
Stephen Middleton, ed. Black Congressmen During Reconstruction (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002); George W. Reid, “Four in Black: North Carolina’s Black Congressmen, 1874-1901” Journal of Negro History 64 (Summer 1979): 229-43; http://bioguide.congress.gov.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reed, George Warren, Jr. (1920-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George W. Reed Examining Lunar Rocks in 1970 at the
Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne National Laboratory)
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Although he was one of many scientists recruited for the Manhattan Project, which produced the atom bomb during World War II, there is a clear paucity of literature on George W. Reed Jr.  Like his fellow scientists, Reed was not at liberty to discuss, with any detail, his involvement in the project.  

Born in Washington D.C. on September 25, 1920, Reed spent his entire career as a chemist specializing in a variety of fields within the discipline. In 1942 he received a BS degree from Howard University and two years later an M.S. Both degrees were in chemistry.   He then completed his PhD at the University of Chicago in Illinois in 1952, after his work with the Manhattan Project.

Sources: 
William C. Matney, (ed.), Who’s Who Among Black Americans 1980-81 (Northbrook, Illinois: Who’s Who Among Black Americans Inc. Publishing Company, 1981); Charles W. Carey, Jr., African Americans In Science: An Encyclopedia of People and Progress (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Inc., 2008); Vivian Ovelton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

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

Valiente, Juan (1505 ca.–1553)

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

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

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

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

Hall, George Cleveland (1864-1930)

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

Smiley, Tavis (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The third of ten children, Smiley was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on September 13, 1964, to Joyce Marie and Emory G. Smiley. At the age of two, he and his family moved to Indiana when his father, an Air Force non-commissioned officer, was transferred to Grissom Air Force Base in Bunker Hill, Indiana.  His mother is a Pentecostal minister. Upon graduation from Maconaquah High School, Smiley attended Indiana University, where he was involved in student government and became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. After reconsidering a decision to drop out of college at the end of his junior year, he interned as an aide to Tom Bradley, the first African-American mayor of Los Angeles. Smiley returned to Indiana University after the internship, receiving his bachelor’s degree in law and public policy in 1986. Upon graduation, he served as an aide to Mayor Bradley until 1990.
Sources: 
Tavis Smiley and David Ritz, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America (New York: Doubleday, 2006); Tavis Smiley, The Covenant with Black America (Third World Press, 2006); http://www.pri.org/smiley.html ; http://gale.cengage.com/free_resources/bhm/bio/smiley_t.htm ; http://www.answers.com/topic/tavis-smiley#top
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University Seattle

Rillieux, Norbert (1806-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Washington, Booker T. (1856-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Fowler, John W. “Bud” (1858-1913)

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

Organized baseball was just being structured during the turn of the century and Fowler was one of sixty black players who played in white leagues across the country. In the early days of baseball there was no official color line, and he played in organized baseball with white ball clubs until the color line became entrenched around 1900. Until 1895 Fowler he was usually the only black player on an all-white team.
Sources: 
Ralph J. Christian, “Bud Fowler: The First African American Professional Baseball Payer and the 1885 Keokuks,” Iowa Heritage Illustrated 87:1 (2006); Robert Peterson, Only the Ball Was White (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jeffrey, George S. (1830-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Although he never held public office, George S. Jeffrey barber, orator, and post-reconstruction civil rights leader, emerged as one of the most important African American political figures in late 19th Century Connecticut.  Jeffrey was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1830, to free parents George W. and Mary Ann (Campbell) Jeffrey. By 1851, Jeffrey settled in Meriden, Connecticut and became a successful barber. Nine years later he married Martha Agnes Williams who by the late 1870s established a successful hairdressing emporium.

Sources: 
Colleen Cyr, George Jeffrey and the Insurance Bill of 1887 (October 2003); Meriden Public Library, vertical file collection; Eric A. Smith, Blacks in Early Connecticut, Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society Inc., National Conference, Washington, D.C. (October 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, Inc.

McNeil, Claudia (1917-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

Claudia McNeil is best remembered for her laudatory performance as the matriarch in the stage and screen versions of Lorraine Hansberry’s widely-acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun (1961).  McNeil was born in 1917 in Baltimore, Maryland to Marvin Spencer McNeil and Annie Mae Anderson McNeil. She was adopted by a Jewish family, named the Toppers, in her teenage years and briefly married by the age of 18. McNeil then worked as a registered librarian before the inception of her entertainment career.

McNeil first performed as a dancer with the Katherine Dunham troupe during the tour of South America in 1951. She later performed as a nightclub and vaudeville singer before making her acting debut in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953); and later performed in Langston Hughes’s Simply Heavenly (1957), for which she received a Tony nomination.  In 1965, she appeared in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, for which she garnered the London Critics Poll Award for best actress.

Sources: 

Hazel Garland, “Claudia McNeil Claim’s Star’s Life Isn’t Easy,”
Pittsburgh Courier, March 17, 1962; Edward Mapp, ed., Directory of
Blacks in the Performing Arts
(Meluchan, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press,
1978); Eric Pace, The New York Times Biographical Service, November 29,
1993.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Malcolm X (1925-1965)

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

Malcolm X, one of the most influential African American leaders of the 20th Century, was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925 to Earl Little, a Georgia native and itinerant Baptist preacher, and Louise Norton Little who was born in the West Indian island of Grenada.  Shortly after Malcolm was born the family moved to Lansing, Michigan.  Earl Little joined Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) where he publicly advocated black nationalist beliefs, prompting the local white supremacist Black Legion to set fire to their home.  Little was killed by a streetcar in 1931. Authorities ruled it a suicide but the family believed he was killed by white supremacists.

Sources: 
Robert L. Jenkins and Mafanya Donald Tryman, The Malcolm X Encyclopedia (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002); Eugene V. Wolfenstein, The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Karl Evanzz, The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992); Malcolm X with Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Grove Press, 1965).   
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Hall, Stuart (1932- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marxist intellectual Stuart Hall was born on February 3, 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica to a middle class family.  He attended primary school in Jamaica and was exposed to a variety of thinkers in the Western canon as well as Caribbean writers.  Hall moved to England in 1951 with his mother as part of the large-scale postwar migration to England of people from the former colonies in the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent.  As a person of color in postwar England, Hall experienced racial discrimination, but he also won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where he was introduced to British left-wing thought, European philosophy, and Socialism.  Hall wrote his PhD dissertation on Henry James before becoming the editor of the New Left Review

Sources: 
Chris Rojek, Stuart Hall (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2003); James Procter, Stuart Hall (London: Routledge, 2004); Brian Meeks and Stuart Hall, Culture, Politics, Race and Diaspora: The Thought of Stuart Hall (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Said, Omar Ibn (1770-1864)

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

Omar Ibn Said, also known as "Uncle Moreau" was unusual among enslaved people in the antebellum United States in that before he was captured he was highly educated and could read and write fluently at a time when most African slaves were illiterate.  Said’s autobiography is unique because it is the only personal account of a slave written in his native language while he was in bondage in the United States.

Omar Ibn Said was born in 1770 along the Senegal River in Futa Tooro, West Africa to a wealthy Muslim family.  When his father died, Said at age five was sent to a nearby town to study Islam and become a teacher.  Religion was paramount in Said’s life and he was devout to the Muslim faith.  With extensive religious training Said became well educated and fluent in Arabic.  

Sources: 

“Autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, Slave in North Carolina, 1831,” The
American Historical Review
30:  4 (July, 1925); http://sites.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/omar-ibn-sayyid; Sylvaine A.
Diouf,   Servants of Allah:  African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas
(New York: New York University Press, 1998).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Pico, Pio de Jesus (1801-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Pio Pico was the last governor of Mexican California. He was of African, Indian and Spanish ancestry. He was born in San Gabriel in 1801 and resided there until his father’s death in 1819; he then moved to San Diego. It is not clear how he became California’s governor in 1845. Some accounts state that he took over Governor Manuel Micheltorena’s position in 1845 “following a revolt that ended with a bloodless artillery duel near Cahuenga Pass that forced out Governor Manuel Micheltorena.” As governor, Pico participated in the final process of the secularization of the California missions. There are different interpretations of this measure by the Mexican government: one asserts that it was part of the liberal discourse of the post-independence movement in Mexico; another asserts that it was a desperate measure intended to obtain revenue by selling the missions for the impending conflict with the United States over California. In any event, Pio Pico finalized the sale of the missions on October 28, 1845. Pico was said to have taken the final steps of the sale to obtain revenues to pay for maintaining order in Baja California, forestalling the United States imperialistic advance. Upon the loss of Mexico’s Southwestern territories to the United States, Pico escaped to Mexico, only to return to California two years later.
Sources: 
Jessie Elizabeth Bromilow, “Don Pio de Jesus Pico: His Biography and Place in History,” Master of Arts Thesis, University of Southern California, August, 1931. Pio de Jesus Pico (1808-1894), San Diego Historical Society; http://www.sandiegohistory.org/bio/pico/picopio.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

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

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

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

Blige, Mary J. (1971- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
When Mary J. Blige was born on January 11, 1971 in Bronx, New York, few observers would have imagined her becoming one of the most successful rhythm and blues (R&B) artists within a musical world increasingly dominated by hip-hop. Blige's father abandoned the family when she was four.  She and her mother and sister moved to the Schlobam Housing Project in the Bronx and became one of thousands of impoverished single-parent families in New York’s public housing system. Blige was sexually assaulted as a child and later dropped out of high school.

In 1988 Blige recorded a demo in a shopping mall self-recording booth. The demo made its way to Uptown Records in Harlem and she signed a recording contract a year later. For her first album, Blige was guided by then little-known producer Sean Combs. Her debut album What's the 411? changed the sound of both hip-hop and soul for artists in both of the genres. The album integrated soul and rap music. Blige's raw singing and rugged image reflected her project-raised youth.  Her song would also be sampled by other rap artists including The Notorious B.I.G., which added to her streetwise credibility.

Mary J. Blige would record another six albums, all of which achieved spectacular success, reaching platinum (over one million albums sold) status. Along with commercial success Blige has also earned a number of awards including two NAACP image awards, and six Grammys.
Sources: 
Terrell Brown, Mary J. Blige (New York: Mason Crest, 2006); Joan Morgan, "What You Never Knew About Mary," Essence Magazine Online, November, 2001. 15 Mar. 2007, http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1264/is_7_32/ai_79547861; Stacia Proefrock, "Mary J. Blige" Allmusic.com 15 Mar. 2007, http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:8u66mpp39f7o~T1
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, Michael P. (1959-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of NASA

Michael P. Anderson, a former Spokane, Washington resident, was one of seven astronauts who died when Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry on February 1, 2003. Born on December 25, 1959, in Plattsburgh, New York to Robert and Barbara Anderson, Michael Anderson had three sisters, Brenda, Diane, and Joann. Michael Anderson grew up following his father's Air Force career around the nation until the family arrived at Fairchild Air Force Base. Anderson was 11 at the time. He graduated from Cheney High School in Spokane in 1977 and took degrees in physics and astronomy at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1981. Anderson met his wife, Sandra Hawkins, in Spokane and they raised two daughters.

Sources: 
HistoryLink.org.  A longer version of the Anderson profile can be found at HistoryLink.org, http://historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=5160.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Schmoke, Kurt L. (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Kurt L. Schmoke, born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1949, came from a middle class background.  His father, Murray, a civilian chemist for the U.S. Army, was a graduate of Morehouse College, and his mother, Irene was a social worker. Schmoke attended the city's prestigious public high school, Baltimore City College, winning both academic and athletic distinctions, and leading his school to a state championship in football.  Schmoke entered Yale University in 1967 and three years later, he acted as a student leader to help defuse a crisis in 1970 over the New Haven murder trial of Black Panther Bobby Seale.  After graduating from Yale, Schmoke studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.  In 1976 he graduated from Harvard Law School.  Following a brief career in Washington, D.C., serving on the White House Domestic Policy Staff and at the Department of Transportation during the Administration of President Jimmy Carter, he returned to Baltimore and was elected to the position of State's Attorney in 1982, and five years later he won the election for mayor of Baltimore.    
Sources: 
http://www.law.howard.edu, "Kurt L. Schmoke biography"; http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2429/Schmoke-Kurt.html; Joe Burris, "Back on his own terms, former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke has enjoyed being out of the public spotlight, but he's not above returning to make a political point," Baltimore Sun, (Baltimore, Maryland), December 27, 2005, p. 1C
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Waller, Lt. General Calvin (1937–1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Calvin Augustine Hoffman Waller was a United States Army officer who rose to prominence as the Deputy Commander-in-Chief for military operations with United States Central Command (Forward), during the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991).  He became at that time one of the highest-ranking African American officers in the U.S. military.

Lt. General Waller was born on December 17, 1937 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He attended both Shippensburg State College then Prairie View A&M University in Texas.  After graduating in 1959, Waller enlisted in the United States Army and served for 32 years.  He served in the Vietnam War for one year as a junior officer and later commanded the Eighth Infantry Division in Germany during the 1980s.  His career also included a variety of staff assignments and commanding posts during his career.  He also earned numerous awards and decorations including: the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal (two awards), the Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Meritorious Service Medal (with three Oak Leaf Clusters), the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and the Master Parachutist Badge.
Sources: 
Godfrey Hodgson, “Obituary: General Calvin Waller,” The Independent, May 13, 1996;
Calvin A.H. Waller, Lieutenant General, United States Army at the Arlington National Cemetery Website, http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/cawaller.htm
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

Vanzant, Iyanla (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Rev. Dr. Iyanla Vanzant was born as Rhonda Eva Harris in Brooklyn, New York on September 13, 1953. In 1983, after being ordained as a Yoruba priestess, she renamed herself Iyanla, meaning “great mother.”  Vanzant is now a famous relationship coach, author, TV host, ordained minister, and motivational speaker.  

Rhonda Eva Harris was born in the back of a taxi to Sarah Jefferson, a railroad car maid. Her father, Horace Harris, a petty criminal, was largely absent from Rhonda’s life.  When Sarah Jefferson died from breast cancer in 1957, Rhonda went to live with various paternal relatives, one of whom raped her at the age of nine.  She gave birth to her first child, Gemmia in 1969, her second Daman in 1974, and third, Nisa in 1979.  Frequently assaulted by her first husband she finally fled the violence in 1980 at the age of 27 with three young children to rear.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Harrison, Charles A. “Chuck” (1931– )

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

Craft, William and Ellen (1824-1900; 1826-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownershp: Public Domain
William and Ellen Craft were born into slavery.  William was born in Macon, Georgia to a master who sold off his family to pay his gambling debts.  William’s new owner apprenticed him as a carpenter in order to earn money from his labor.  Ellen was born in Clinton, Georgia and was the daughter of an African American slave and her white owner.  Ellen had a very light complexion and was frequently mistaken for a member of her white family.  At the age of 11, she was given away as a wedding gift to the Collins Family in Macon, Georgia.  It was in Macon, Georgia where William and Ellen met.

In 1846 Ellen and William were allowed to marry, but they could not live together since they had different owners.  The separation took its toll and they started to save money and plan an escape.  In December of 1848, the Crafts escaped enslavement.  Ellen’s light complexion allowed her to dress as a white man.  She then claimed William was her slave.  This plan worked and they settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where they became famous because of their remarkable and romantic escape.  Their story briefly generated a sizeable income. 
Sources: 
William and Ellen Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery [originally published in 1860] Miami, Florida: Mnemosyne Pub. Company, 1969); Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson, William and Ellen Craft (Alexandria, Va.: Alexander Street Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, Alice M. (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Steve Exum

The first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Alice Walker was born the eighth child of sharecroppers Willie Lee and Minnie Lou Grant Walker, on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. Walker became the valedictorian of her segregated high school class, despite an accident at age eight that impaired the vision in her left eye. Before transferring to Sarah Lawrence College, where she received a B.A. degree, she attended Atlanta’s Spelman College for two years, where she became a political activist, met Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., and participated in the 1963 March on Washington.

Also, during her undergraduate studies, Walker visited Africa as an exchange student. She later registered voters in Georgia and worked with the Head Start program in Mississippi, where she met and married civil rights attorney Melvyn Rosenthal (the marriage lasted ten years), became the mother of daughter Rebecca, and taught at historically black colleges Jackson State College and Tougaloo College. Walker has also taught at Wellesley College, University of Massachusetts at Boston, the University of California at Berkeley, and Brandeis University.  At Brandeis she is credited with teaching the first American course on African American women writers.

Sources: 
Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983); Henry L. Gates and Anthony Appiah, eds., Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives Past and Present (New York: Amistad, 1993); Lovalerie King, “Alice Walker” in Encyclopedia of African American Literature, Ed. Wilfred D. Samuels (New York: Facts on File, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Brown, Cora Mae (1914-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Wertz, Irma Jackson Cayton (1911-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Irma Cayton Wertz on right, 1942
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Irma Jackson Cayton Wertz was a member of the first Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAACS) Officer training class commissioned at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, during World War II.  Born in Brunswick, Georgia, on May 8, 1911, Jackson was the product of a military household.  Her family was stationed in Des Moines while her father, who served as a captain in the segregated army during World War I, attended officer’s training camp.  

After graduating from Fisk University and Atlanta University, Jackson moved to Chicago, Illinois where she gained employment as a social worker in the South Parkway Community Center. There she married her first husband, Horace Cayton, a noted University of Chicago sociologist. The couple divorced in 1942.

The same year, Jackson applied for entrance into the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.  After successfully passing a battery of examinations, completing a six-week training course, and taking the oath to become an officer in August of that year, Jackson was briefly assigned to the WAAC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. as a recruiter. Shortly thereafter, she relocated to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where she met and married William Wertz and joined the Thirty-second WAAC Post Headquarters Company.

Sources: 

Robert F. Jefferson, Fighting for Hope:  African American Troops of the 93rd Infantry Division in World War II and Postwar America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008); Brenda L. Moore, To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race:  The Story of the Only African American WACs Stationed Overseas during World War II (New York: New York University Press, 1996).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Xavier University

Bradley, Tom (1917-1998)

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

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

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

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

Coachman, Alice Marie (1923-2014)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Evers, Medgar (1925-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 Medgar Evers, at the time of his assassination in 1963, was the Field Secretary for the Mississippi NAACP and thus one of the leaders of the civil rights movement in that state. Evers was born on July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. Evers was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in Normandy in the following year. After his discharge from the service, Evers enrolled at Alcorn College.
Sources: 
Medgar Wiley Evers, The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: a Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005); http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms-writers/dir/evers_medgar/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Jordan, Louis (1908-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Louis Jordan, alto saxophonist, vocalist, and recording artist is considered by many to be an under-recognized trailblazer in the early foundations of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jordan was one of the first African American musicians in the 1940s to crossover from the race records industry to the popular music industry.

Jordan was born on July 8, 1908 in Brinkley Arkansas. He began playing the clarinet around the age of 7 with the Brinkley Brass Band, a band coached and co-organized by his father, musician James Jordan. In 1920, Jordan left Arkansas, joining Ma and Pa Rainey’s Rabbit Foot Minstrels. This was the first in a series of engagements with different traveling minstrel shows, until in 1930, Jordan’s family relocated to Philadelphia. In 1936, Jordan moved to New York City and began playing alto saxophone in Chick Webb’s band.

Jordan played with Webb until May of 1938, leaving to form his own band, Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five in August of 1938. Soon after, Jordan began recording with Decca Records and the band’s first album was released in December 1938. Jordan remained with Decca until 1954, leaving the company to sign with the West Coast label, Aladdin Records.
Sources: 
John Chilton, Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan and his Music (London: Quartet Books Ltd., 1992); Nick Tosches, Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Birth of Rock in the Wild Years Before Elvis (New York: Da Capo Press, 1999); http://rockhall.com/inductees/louis-jordan/bio
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hernandez, Juano (1896-1970)

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

Donald Bogle, Blacks in Film & Television: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland, 1988); Donald Bogle, Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography (New York: Amistad Press, 1997); Alan Pomerance, Repeal of the Blues (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1988); "Juan Hernandez, Actor, Dies at 74," New York Times, July 19, 1970.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cochran, Johnnie, Jr. (1937-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Johnnie Cochran Jr. was born on October 2, 1937 in Shreveport, Louisiana into a family descended from slaves.  His father was an insurance salesman and his mother sold Avon products. When he was a young boy, his family moved to Los Angeles, California where he grew up in an affluent and stable household with parents who stressed education and a color-blind attitude towards the world.  Cochran attended public schools where he excelled.  While his family was well-off, he always managed to find friends who had more than he did and seeing this pushed him even harder.

Cochran attended the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree.  From there he went to the Loyola Marymount University School of Law where he graduated in 1962 with a law degree.  After passing the California Bar exam in 1963 Cochran began working as a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles.  In 1965 he formed his own law firm, Cochran, Atkins & Evans where he dealt with criminal and civil cases.  In 1966, he fought a case on behalf of a young black man who was shot by Los Angeles police officers while trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital.  Cochran argued unsuccessfully that the police had used unnecessary violence.
Sources: 
Johnnie Cochran, A Lawyer’s Life (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002); http://authors.aalbc.com/johnnie_cochran.htm; http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542444.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, George Ellis, Sr. (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George and Joan Johnson
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Ellis Johnson, Sr. was an African American entrepreneur and founder of Johnson Products Company, a hair care firm, and Independence Bank in Chicago, Illinois.  Johnson was born on June 16, 1927 in Richton, Mississippi to Priscilla Johnson.  He is perhaps best known for being the first African American to have his company listed on the American Stock Exchange.

In 1929 when Johnson was two years old, he moved to Chicago, Illinois with his mother after she separated from his father.  He grew up in Chicago, and attended Wendell Phillips High School.  At eight Johnson began working as a shoe shine boy and later held jobs as a bus boy, a pin setter at a bowling alley, and paper boy for the Chicago Herald Tribune.  In 1944 he dropped out of school and accepted a job as a production chemist for the Samuel B. Fuller cosmetics firm.

Johnson remained at Fuller Cosmetics until 1954 when he left to found his own firm, Johnson Products Company.  He and his wife, Joan (Henderson) Johnson, started the company with only $500. Unlike earlier African American cosmetics firms which targeted women, Johnson developed his first products exclusively for male customers.  Johnson Products first success was Ultra Wave Hair Culture, which was a hair relaxer for men.    
Sources: 
"George Johnson Biography. Interview December 18, 2003" (The History Makers);
“Passing the Baton” (Johnson Products Media, 2010); http://www.johnsonproducts.com/about_us_heritage.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Norton, Ken (1943-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Ken Norton, Going the Distance (Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing, 2000); www.ibhof.com; www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Berry, Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” (1926- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public domain
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry is considered a pioneer of rock and roll and a major influence on 20th century popular music. His songs such as “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven” are rock and roll standards.

Chuck Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on October 18, 1926 to a middle class family which included six siblings.  His father Henry worked in a flour mill and his mother Martha was a college graduate.  Chuck’s mother played piano and both she and his father were church singers instilling in their son an early interest in music.  

Despite his middle class family background, Berry as a teenager joined two high school friends in committing a short string of armed robberies in Kansas City, Missouri.  They were arrested and Berry was convicted and served three years in prison between 1944 and 1947.

Shortly after he was released Berry married Themetta Suggs. The couple had two children and Berry settled into family life while working at an automobile assembly plant in St. Louis and taking jobs as a carpenter with his father. In his free time Berry finally pursued an early fascination with guitar, taking lessons from Ira Harris, a local jazz guitarist.
Sources: 
Chuck Berry, Chuck Berry: The Autobiography (New York: Harmony Books, 1987); Robert Santelli, The Big Book of the Blues (New York: Penguin Group, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ferbos, Lionel Charles (1911-2014)

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

Adams, Alma Shealey (1946-)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Congresswoman Alma Shealey Adams currently represents North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.  She is the 100th woman elected to that legislative body and the second African American woman, after Eva Clayton, to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Congress.  
Sources: 
"Alma Adams for Congress: About Alma," http://almaadamsforcongress.com/about; "Full Biography: Congresswoman Alma Adams, December 11, 2014, http://adams.house.gov/about/full-biography; Alice Ollstein, "Meet Alma Adams, Who Becomes The 100th Woman In Congress Today," ThinkProgress, November 12, 2014, http://thinkprogress.org/election/2014/11/12/3591247/alma-adams-100th-woman-congress/.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mays, William G. (1945-2014)

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

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

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

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

Urrutia Ocoró, María Isabel (1965– )

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

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

Grace, Charles Manuel “Sweet Daddy” (1881-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center,
National Museum of American History,
Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution

Marcelino Manoel da Graca anglicized Charles Grace and best known as Sweet Daddy Grace was founder of the United House of Prayer for All People.  Born off the coast of West Africa on Brava, Cape Verde Islands, he was one of nine children born to Emmanuel and Delomba da Gracia.  In the early 1900s the family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts where Grace worked numerous jobs before founding the House of Prayer in 1921 in West Wareham, Massachusetts.  In 1923, the second House of Prayer was established in Egypt and three years later the United House of Prayer for All People, was founded in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Sources: 
John O. Hodges, “Charles Manuel ‘Sweet Daddy’ Grace,” in Charles Lippy, ed. Twentieth Century Shapers of American Popular Religion (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989) John W. Robinson, “A Song, a Shout, a Prayer,” in C. Eric Lincoln, ed., The Black Religious Experience (Garden City, NY:  Doubleday, 1974).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Carroll, Diahann (1935- )

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

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

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

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

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

Blanke, John (16th Century)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
John Blanke, Musician at the
Court of Henry VIII
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Historians have documented the arrival of black people in Britain as members of the Roman Army. The first reference to a black African in Britain in the historical record is at a Roman military settlement at Carlisle, in ca. 210 AD. Shortly after, in the years 253-58 AD, Hadrian's Wall on the Empire's northern frontier was guarded by a division raised in North Africa. Other Africans were brought to Britain at various times although the continuous presence of black people in Britain is traced to 1555, when Africans arrived in the company of a London merchant.

John Blanke, a black trumpeter, was a regular musician at the courts of both Henry VII and Henry VIII.  Musicians' payments were noted in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber, who was responsible for paying the wages. There are several payments recorded to a “John Blanke, the blacke trumpeter.” This trumpeter was paid 8d [8 pence] a day, first by Henry VII and then from 1509 by Henry VIII.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Molyneux, Thomas (1784–1818)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Fred Henning, Fights For The Championship, Volume II (London: Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette, 1899); Henry Miles, Pugilistica, Volume I (London: Weldon & Co., 1880); http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/tom-mol.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Freeman, Robert Tanner (1846-1873)

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

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

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

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

Trévigne, Paul (1825-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Creole New Orleans newspaper editor Paul Trévigne, the biracial son of a Battle of New Orleans veteran, was born in New Orleans in 1825. Trévigne was part of the free people of color community in Louisiana that protested racial injustice before the Civil War and helped establish Republican politics in the state after 1865. 

Trévigne taught at the Catholic Indigent Orphan School in New Orleans, a school dedicated to providing free education to African American orphans.

Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/exhibits/creole/Institution/institution.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
The Evergreen State College

Langford, Sam (1886-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle

Sam Langford was one of the greatest fighters in boxing history. Born in Weymouth Falls, Nova Scotia on March 4, 1886, the 5’ 7” dynamo migrated to Boston, Massachusetts, and engaged in close to 300 officially recorded professional contests from 1902 to 1926. He was an exceptionally courageous and intelligent fighter with long arms and an impressive upper torso. He also packed a tremendous wallop in both hands and knocked out many of the much larger and talented boxers of his day. In 2003, Ring Magazine’s writers listed him second on their list of the 100 greatest pound for pound punchers of all-time.

Sources: 
Jack Dempsey (as told to Bob Considine and Bill Slocum), Dempsey, By the Man Himself (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960); Clay Moyle, Sam Langford: Boxing's Greatest Uncrowned Champion (Seattle: Bennett & Hastings, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hall, Adelaide (1901-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Iain Cameron Williams, Underneath A Harlem Moon: the Harlem to Paris
Years of Adelaide Hall
(London: Continuum, 2002);
http://www.myspace.com/adelaidehall.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Edwards, Thyra J. (1897-1953)

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

Thyra J. Edwards, born in 1897, the granddaugher of runaway slaves, grew up in Houston, Texas and started her career there as a school teacher.  Eventually she moved to Gary, Indiana and later Chicago where she  was employed as a social worker.  Edwards would eventually become a world lecturer, journlalist, labor organizer, women's rights advocate, and civil rights activist all before her 40th birthday.   

Sources: 
Gregg Andrews, Thyra J. Edwards: Black Activist in the Global Freedom Struggle (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011); E. Carlton-LaNey, ed., African American Leadership: An Empowerment Tradition in Social Welfare History (Washington, D.C.: National Association of Social Workers, 2001). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Howard University

Johnson, Kevin Maurice (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Kevin Johnson Campaigning for Mayor of Sacramento, 2008
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, California, was born in California's capital city in 1966. He graduated from Sacramento High School, where he led the state in basketball scoring during his senior year, with a point average of 32.5 points. Johnson then played college basketball at the University of California at Berkeley.  While there he became the all-time leader in scoring for that varsity team.  After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1987, Johnson was drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA).

As the seventh round draft pick, Johnson was chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was quickly traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1988, where he remained for the duration of his career in the NBA. Johnson played point guard, and with his high point-scoring, was considered by many teams as a threat. The Phoenix Suns' overall record improved with his selection and so did Johnson's performance.

During his first year with Phoenix (1988-1989), Johnson was named the NBA's most improved player.  He also competed in all-star games in 1990, 1991, and 1994 and played on the U.S. Olympic Basketball team (Dream Team II) which won a gold medal in Toronto, Canada in the 1994 World Championship of Basketball.  Kevin Johnson officially retired from the NBA on August 8, 2000 after 13 years in the league.

Sources: 
Leanor Boulin Johnson and Robert Staples, Black Families at the Crossroads (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005); David L. Porter, Basketball: a Biographical Dictionary (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005); http://www.kevinjohnsonformayor.com/about/bio
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hurt, “Mississippi” John Smith (c. 1892-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Mary Hurt-Wright,
Mississippi Hurt Museum/Foundation
Born in Teoc, Mississippi in 1892 but raised in Avalon, Mississippi, "Mississippi" John Hurt spent the majority of his life employed as a farm hand. Though he briefly recorded in the 1920s, it was not until the 1960s that his music was widely distributed and recognized. Hurt was known for his humble nature and his unique, soft style of blues.
Sources: 
Stefan Grossman, ed., Mississippi John Hurt (Los Angeles: Alfred Publishing, 2007); http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:wifuxq95ldke~T1; http://www.nps.gov/history/DELTA/BLUes/people/msjohn_hurt.htm

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Savage, W. Sherman (1890-1981)

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

Born on the Eastern Shore of Virginia on March 7, 1890, William Sherman Savage was forced to withdraw from primary school at age 11 to help his family in the fields, but he never gave up his dream of attaining a full education.  Finally finishing elementary school in Richmond and high school in Baltimore, he earned an A.B. from Howard University in 1917.  After teaching at high schools in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, Savage obtained a permanent teaching post at Lincoln University in Missouri in 1921, where he would remain for thirty-nine years.  Along the way, he took time off to earn an M.A. in History at the University of Oregon in 1925, and a Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1934.  His was the first doctorate in History awarded by OSU to an African American and among the earliest awarded to any African American in History by a predominately white university.
Sources: 
Lorenzo Greene, “W. Sherman Savage,” Journal of Negro History (1981);  “Savage, William Sherman,” in W. A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981); “African-American History,” Department of History, Ohio State University; Archives and Special Collections, University of Oregon.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Stanford, Maxwell Curtis, Jr. (aka Muhammad Ahmad, 1941 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
Dr.Muhammad Ahmad (Maxwell C. Stanford Jr.)
Maxwell Curtis Stanford, Jr., known since 1970 as Muhammad Ahmad, is a civil rights activist and was a founder of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), a black power organization active during the 1960s. Born on July 31, 1941 in Philadelphia, he graduated from West Philadelphia High School and attended Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio from 1960 to 1962. Stanford left college after founding RAM in the summer of 1962.

RAM was a black nationalist student group with a philosophy inspired by the self-defense doctrines of former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leader Robert F. Williams. Williams, a former head of the Monroe, North Carolina NAACP, espoused fighting the Ku Klux Klan directly, "meeting violence with violence.” Inspired by Williams’s actions, a group of college students in Wilberforce created an organization they dubbed “Challenge.” The group’s leader, Donald Freeman, hoped to create a force with the nationalist sentiment of the Nation of Islam and the direct tactics of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In the spring of 1962, members elected to dissolve Challenge, and Freeman, Stanford, and Wanda Marshall established RAM.
Sources: 
Matthew Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); John H. Bracey and Sharon Harley, The Black Power Movement: Part 3: Papers of the Revolutionary Action Movement (LexisNexis: Bethesda, Maryland); Robin D.G. Kelley, “Stormy Weather: Reconstructing Black (Inter)Nationalism in the Cold War Era,” in Eddie S. Glaude (ed), Is It Nation Time?: Contemporary Essays On Black Power and Black Nationalism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sydney, Australia

Kennedy, Adrienne (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Adrienne Kennedy has earned a place as one of contemporary America’s most renowned and admired African American authors, lecturers and playwrights. Kennedy was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 13, 1931 to Cornell Wallace and Etta (Haugabook) Hawkins. Kennedy spent her childhood in Cleveland, Ohio, where she attended public schools.  She graduated from Ohio State University with a B.A in Education in 1953. In May of that same year she wed Joseph C. Kennedy with whom she had two children. After the birth of her oldest son, Kennedy continued to pursue her education by attending Columbia University (1954-56), the American Theatre Wing, the New School of Social Research, and Circle in the Square Theatre School. Kennedy also participated in Edward Albee's Theatre Workshop, in New York City.

Kennedy is most known for her role in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and early 1970s.  She was a founding member of the Women’s Theatre Council in 1971.  Her publications include An Evening with Dead Essex, The Owl Answers, Deadly Triplets, and A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White. Other writings include the autobiographical works, Funnyhouse of a Negro and Pale Blue Flowers.  
Kennedy also served as editor of Black Orpheus: A Journal of African and Afro-American Literature.
Sources: 
"Adrienne Kennedy" in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press);
“Adrienne Kennedy” <http://www.upress.umn.edu/misc/kennedy/kennedy.html>
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Still, James (1812-1882)

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

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

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

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

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

Jackson, James Albert “Billboard” (1878–1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
James Albert “Billboard” Jackson was a critic, reporter, editor, spokesman, actor, and booster of black entertainment. Jackson, the eldest of 14 children of Abraham V. Jackson and Nancy Lee Jackson, was born on June 20, 1878 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He attended public schools in Bellefonte, but left home at a young age to pursue a career in entertainment. He married Gabrielle Hill in 1916 and they raised a son, Albert Jackson, Jr.

By the end of the second decade of the 20th century Jackson had become one of the first African Americans to recognize the importance of entertainment in the African American consumer market.  In 1920 he was named the first African American editor of the Negro Department of Billboard magazine, hence, his nickname. Billboard magazine, located in New York City, New York, was then the largest theatrical paper in the world. Nonetheless they wanted to increase their circulation by reaching the new consumer market of African Americans who were part of the Great Migration to Northern cities.
Sources: 

"Billboard Jackson Historical Marker," Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Eastern Region, http://www.pbseast.org/billboard-jackson-historical-marker/; Anthony D. Hill, Pages from The Harlem Renaissance, A Chronicle Of Performance (New York: Peter Lang International Academic Publisher, 2006); Jason Chambers, Madison Avenue and the Color Line, African Americans in the Advertising Industry (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lenhardt, Alfonso E. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Alfonso E. Lenhardt is currently Acting Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania from 2009 to 2013.

A native of New York City, New York, Ambassador Lenhardt began his career in the United States Army in 1966. During his time in the service he was chief of staff to the Director for the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, Director of Personnel and Installation Management for the largest unit in the U.S. Army, head of military police, and finally commanding general of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.  Lenhardt retired in August 1997 after 31 years of service.

From 1997 to 2001 Lenhardt served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Council on Foundations, a nonprofit membership association of grant making foundations and corporations whose mission is to promote responsible and effective philanthropy.
Sources: 
“Alfonso E. Lenhardt: Acting Administrator,” USAID: From the American People, http://www.usaid.gov/who-we-are/organization/alfonso-e-lenhardt; “President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts,” The White House Office of the Press Secretary, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/27/president-obama-announces-more-key-administration-posts-0, March, 27, 2014;  “President Obama Nominates Alfonso Lenhardt to Serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania,” U.S. Embassy of Tanzania, http://www.usaid.gov/who-we-are/organization/alfonso-e-lenhardt, June 12, 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Joaquin Delta College

Grier, William H. (1926-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
William H. Grier (left) and Price Cobbs
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William H. Grier was a psychiatrist who published the groundbreaking book, Black Rage, along with fellow psychiatrist Price M. Cobbs in 1968. Published in the aftermath of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and subsequent outburst of race riots, the book sought to explain the cause of black anger as the psychological consequence of racism and white oppression. Because of its timely publication and its then-novel idea of analyzing the “Negro Problem” not by treating African Americans as an undifferentiated mass but through psychoanalysis, the book received critical acclaim. It became a public phenomenon and lead to an ABC TV special in 1969 titled “To Be Black.”
Sources: 
Steve Chawkins, "William H. Grier Dies at 89; Psychiatrist and Co-author of 'Black Rage,'" Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-william-grier-20150911-story.html; William Grimes, "William H. Grier, Psychiatrist Who Delved Into ‘Black Rage’ in 1960s, Dies at 89," The New York Times, Sept. 11, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/books/william-h-grier-psychiatrist-who-delved-into-black-rage-in-1960s-dies-at-89.html; Justin William Moyer, "How Psychiatrist William Grier, Dead at 89, Predicted Black Lives Matter with ‘Black Rage,’" The Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/09/10/how-pioneering-psychiatrist-william-grier-dead-at-89-predicted-black-lives-matter-with-black-rage/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Peterson, Oscar Emmanuel (1925-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Oscar Peterson was born on August 15, 1925 in Montreal, Quebec. He grew up in Place St-Henri, a bustling Montreal district with a small but close knit black community. Considered by many to be one of the greatest jazz piano players of all time, Peterson performed at thousands of live concerts to audiences worldwide in a career that lasted more than sixty-five years.

Peterson’s dazzling technique combined with a unique style made him one of the most influential jazz pianists in the world. The Montreal native developed a following for his brilliant playing early in his life, and he credited many teachers including his sister, brother, and pianist and composer Paul de Marky, with giving him the inspiration and instruction needed to pursue a career that made him one of Canada’s national treasures.

The pianist’s international breakthrough came after he accepted an invitation from the American jazz impresario Norman Granz to be in the audience at Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) presentation at Carnegie Hall in September of 1949. Granz brought Peterson on stage as a surprise guest.  Peterson received critical acclaim for his performance, which launched his career.

Some of Peterson’s most legendary works include “Canadiana Suite” which features jazz themes inspired by various Canadian cities and regions, and his Hymn to Freedom.
Sources: 
The Regina Leader Post (24 December 2007); Oscar Peterson, A Jazz Odyssey: A Biography of Oscar Peterson (New York: Continuum-Bayou Press Ltd, 2002); Gene Lees, The Will to Swing (Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing & Communications, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Laney, Lucy Craft (1854-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Georgia
Women of Achievement
Lucy Craft Laney, educator, school founder, and civil rights activist, was born in Georgia on April 13, 1854 in Macon, Georgia to free parents Louisa and David Laney.   David Laney, a Presbyterian minister and skilled carpenter, had purchased his freedom approximately twenty years before Lucy Laney’s birth.  He purchased Louisa’s freedom shortly after they were married. Lucy Laney learned to read and write by the age of four and by the time she was twelve, she was able to translate difficult passages in Latin including Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War.
Sources: 
Asa C. Griggs, “Notes: Lucy Craft Laney,” Journal of Negro History 19 (January 1934); Mary M. Marshall, “’Tell Them We Are Rising!’ Black Intellectuals and Lucy Craft Laney in Post Civil War Augusta, Georgia” (Ph.D., dissertation, Drew University, 1998); Gloria Taylor Williams-Way, “Lucy Craft Laney, ‘The Mother of the Children of the People’: Educator, Reformer, Social Activist” (Ph.D., dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1998): Barbra McCaskill, Post-Bellum, Pre-Harlem: African American Literature and Culture, 1877 (New York: New York University Press, 2006); http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9372857
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Russwurm, John (1799-1851)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

Nascimento, Milton (1942- )

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

Egypt, Ophelia Settle (1903-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

In the late 1920s, Ophelia Settle Egypt conducted some of the first and finest interviews with former slaves, setting the stage for the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) massive project ten years later. Born Ophelia Settle in 1903, she was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher for the black sociologist Charles Johnson at Fisk University in Nashville.

Over the course of her career Settle helped expose the infamous Tuskegee study of syphilis among black sharecroppers, and played a leading role in Charles Johnson’s "Shadow of the Plantation" study of the sharecropper system. As the Depression wore on, she left Fisk to assist with relief efforts in St. Louis. She accepted a scholarship from the National Association for the Prevention of Blindness to study medicine and sociology at Washington University, where, as a black woman, she was required to receive all her lessons from a tutor. She also became head of social services at a hospital in New Orleans, and five years later conducted research for James Weldon Johnson, about whom she wrote a children's book. Egypt was a social worker in southeast Washington, D.C., and for eleven years was the director of the community’s first Planned Parenthood clinic, which was named for her in 1981.

Ophelia Settle Egypt died in Washington, D.C. in 1984.She was 81.

 

Sources: 
Ann Allen Shockley Interview with Mrs. Ophelia Settle Egypt conducted December 12, 1972 at Mrs. Egypt’s home in Washington, D.C., Fisk University Oral History Program, 1972; www.naswfoundation.org/pioneers/e/egypt.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Domino, Antoine "Fats" (1928- )

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

Antoine "Fats" Domino, early rock and roll musician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 26, 1928 to Antoine Domino, a former plantation worker, and Donatile Gros, a Creole of light complexion.  Fats, as he was soon called because of his weight, was raised in a large family of seven children including his four brothers and two sisters.  From a young age Fats was influenced by his father, a musician who played the banjo and fiddle.

At the age of ten, Domino began to play an old piano the family purchased, learning the instrument from his older brother-in-law Harrison Werrett, who had played in a New Orleans band.  Fats' passion for and expertise with the piano continued to grow.  When he was fourteen he quit school and went to work as a musician.  Learning songs from jukeboxes, Domino began playing at local bars and nightclubs.

Sources: 

Rick Coleman, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’
Roll
(Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2006); Rolling Stone, December 1, 2008,
http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/fatsdomino/biography

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hayes, Charles Arthur (1918-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
African American Congressman, Charles Arthur Hayes, will forever be remembered for his commitment to legislate equal rights for black labor workers.  After noticing racism aimed toward black workers in his hometown of Cairo, Illinois, Hayes moved to Chicago and started unionizing activities in 1942.  As a unionist, he helped end discriminatory hiring practices and improved job benefits for black laborers.  Hayes also was one of the first African American leaders to address the issues facing black women in Chicago’s African American community.  

During the 1950s he helped persuade the United Packinghouse Workers (UPWA-CIO), a major, predominately white union in Chicago, to establish its headquarters in the African American community, fought against segregated housing patterns, and raised money to prosecute the murderers of Emmett Till.  Hayes later worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) in the Chicago civil rights movement.  In the 1970s and 1980s he helped found the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), assisted Operation PUSH and supported the campaigns of two black Congressmen who were elected in the state of Illinois.  In August 1983, he himself was elected to Congress in a special election to fill the vacant seat created when Harold Washington was elected Mayor of Chicago.  Hayes served in Congress for ten years.  
Sources: 
Obituary of Charles Arthur Hayes, 1997: “Congressman Charles Hayes”; http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=Hooo388.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Washington, Denzel Hayes, Jr. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Robert Parish, Denzel Washington: Actor (New York: Ferguson Publishing Company, 2005); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); The Guardian Official Website, http://www.guardian.co.uk);

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fisher, Rudolph (1897–1934)

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

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie McKay, Norton Anthology of African America Literature (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002);  

www.theblackrenaissanceinwashingtondc/rudolphfisher.com

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Susan (Susie) Baker King (1848-1912)

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

Born on the Grest Farm in Liberty County, Georgia, on August 6, 1848, Susie Baker King Taylor was raised as an enslaved person.  Her mother was a domestic servant for the Grest family.  At the age of 7, Baker and her brother were sent to live with their grandmother in Savannah. Even with the strict laws against formal education of African Americans, they both attended two secret schools taught by black women. Baker soon became a skilled reader and writer.

By 1860, having been taught everything these two black educators could offer, Baker befriended two white individuals, a girl and boy, who also offered to teach her lessons even though they knew it violated Georgia law and custom.

Sources: 
Susie King Taylor, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp: An African American Woman’s Civil War Memoir (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bosley, Freeman Roberson, Jr. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Freeman Roberson Bosley, Jr., is the first African American Mayor of St. Louis, Missouri.  Bosley was born in St. Louis on July 20, 1954, the son of Freeman Roberson and Marjorie Bosley.  His father, a long-time alderman in St. Louis, unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1985.  Bosley received a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Affairs in 1976 and a Juris Doctor (law) degree in 1979 from St. Louis University.  Active in politics as both an undergraduate and a law student, Bosley served as the clerk of the Circuit Courts for eleven years, beginning in 1982, and was the city of St. Louis’s Democratic Party chairman from 1991 to 1993.

In 1993, at the age of 38, Bosley, a Democrat, was elected mayor defeating a relatively unknown Republican, John Gorman, and two independent candidates by winning 67 percent of the vote.  He won the Democratic primary over frontrunner Thomas Villa and his 1 million dollar campaign war chest by going door-to-door in African American, white, and racially-mixed neighborhoods accompanied by his wife and their two-year-old daughter.  His platform promoted racial harmony, reduced crime, and improved public schools.  He also proposed to allocate more funds for neighborhood redevelopment.  
Sources: 
Source: Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), pp. 30-31.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Anderson, Charles A. "Chief" (1907-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles Anderson, April 1941
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Alfred Anderson, often called the "Father of Black Aviation," because of his training and mentoring of hundreds of African American pilots, was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb, on February 9, 1907.  His parents were Janie and Iverson Anderson. Charles Anderson earned the name “Chief” because he was the most ranked and experienced African American pilot before coming to Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) in 1940.  By that point he had amassed 3,500 hours of flight prompting most of his contemporaries, and students to call him by that name as a sign of their respect for his accomplishments.  Anderson was also the Chief flight Instructor for all cadets and flight instructors at Tuskegee, Alabama during World War II.   
Sources: 
Milton Pitts Crenchaw Interview, Little Rock, Arkansas July 28, 2011; George L. Washington, The History of the Military and Civilian Pilot Training of the Negroes at Tuskegee, Alabama, 1939-1945 (Washington D.C: George L. Washington, 1972); http://www.bjmjr.net/tuskegee/chief.htm; Tuskegee Institute, National Historic Site, 1212 West Montgomery Rd. Tuskegee Institute, Alabama 36088 http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/tuskegee/airanderson.htm.
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

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

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

Nelson, Charles Joseph (1921-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Ambassador Charles J. Nelson, Interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy, November 18, 1991, The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, http://www.adst.org/OH TOCs/Nelson, Charles J.1991.toc.pdf; Community Development and the Progress of Latin American Countries: Community Development Division, Office of Public Services, International Cooperation Administration (June 26, 1961), http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnabh894.pdf; Adam Bernstein, Obituaries: “Charles J. Nelson, Ambassador,” The Washington Post (January 19, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wilson Jr., Harrison B. (1925– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Esteemed educator, legendary basketball coach, and successful university president, Harrison Wilson Jr. was born on April 21, 1925, in Amsterdam, a small city in upstate New York. His mother Marguerite Ayers was a school teacher, and his father Harrison Wilson Sr. worked in construction. Dr. Wilson’s grandson is the 2014 Super Bowl champion football player and quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson.   
Sources: 
The History Makers, 5/11-13/2015, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/harrison-b-wilson-41;  “2013 JSU Hall of Fame Inductee: Harrison B. Wilson,” Jackson State Athletics Media, 8/22/2013, http://www.jsutigers.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=29000&ATCLID=209224821; Office of the President, Norfolk State University, https://www.nsu.edu/president/past-presidents.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

DeLarge, Robert Carlos (1842-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Carlos DeLarge was born a slave in Aiken, South Carolina on March 15, 1842.  Rare for that period, DeLarge graduated from Wood High school in Charleston and worked as a tailor and farmer before becoming involved in politics.  He served as an agent for the Freedman’s Bureau and helped organize the Republican Party in South Carolina.  In 1867, at the age of 25, DeLarge chaired the platform committee at the Republican state convention which published a report calling for the following reforms: the abolition of capital punishment; tax reform; popular election for all offices; welfare assistance; the breakup of land monopolies; court reorganization; and liberal immigration laws.  

In 1868, DeLarge was a member of the South Carolina Constitutional Convention which revised the state’s existing constitution.  At this convention, DeLarge lobbied for a petition which asked the U.S. Congress for a one a million dollar grant to purchase lands to be sold to the state’s land-hungry poor.  After the constitutional convention, DeLarge moved quickly from one important position to another.  During the 1868 and 1869 sessions of the state legislature, DeLarge chaired the Ways and Means Committee.  In 1871, the state legislature chose DeLarge as land commissioner for the state.  As land commissioner, he was implicated, but then cleared of charges of land fraud.  
Sources: 
Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress (New York: Thomas Y Crowell Company, 1976); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Stokes, Louis (1925-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office

Ohio’s first African American Congressman, Louis Stokes was born to Charles and Louis Stokes on February 23, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended its public schools before joining the United States Army in 1943. Stokes served in the army for three years and then attended Western Reserve University from 1946 to 1948 where he earned a B.A.  In 1953 he received a Doctor of Law degree from Cleveland Marshall Law School of the Cleveland State University. Stokes was admitted to the Ohio bar the same year and began practicing law in Cleveland.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov; Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots”: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Tucker, C. DeLores (1927-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Meek, Kendrick (1966- )

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

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

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

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

Schuyler, George (1895-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust


George Samuel Schuyler, conservative columnist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on February 25, 1895 to George Francis and Eliza Jane Schuyler. Upon his father’s death in 1898, George and his mother moved to Syracuse, New York. In 1912, at age 17, George enlisted in the Army, serving in the all-black 25th US Infantry.  Eventually he achieved the rank of Lieutenant. Despite his status as an officer, Schuyler went AWOL in 1918 in response to the systemic racism he experienced in the Army.  He  was captured in Chicago, Illinois and imprisoned for nine months for desertion.

Sources: 
Oscar R. Williams, George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007); Troy Kickler, “George S. Schuyler: Black Conservative, Intellectual, and Iconoclast.” http://archive.lewrockwell.com/orig7/kickler2.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Walker, William (1917-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Screen Actors Guild Archives
William "Bill" Walker Collection

Best remembered for the role of Reverend Sykes in the film classic To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), William Walker was born in Pendleton, Indiana in 1917. The son of a freed slave, Walker was the first African American graduate of Pendleton High School. After graduating, Walker pursued an acting career and made his first film appearance as a bit player in The Killers. He went on to appear in more than 100 films and television shows although the industry limited him mainly to roles as a domestic servant.

As the racial climate in Hollywood began to improve in the 1940s, Walker graduated to portraying a wider variety of characters, including doctors and diplomats.  Eventually he moved on to directing and producing films. Determined to ensure other African American actors obtained roles that portrayed the race in a true light, Walker in the late 1940s became a civil rights activist.  

Sources: 

http://www/whenmoviesweremovies.com/hoosieractors4.html. Accessed
September 28, 2003; Affirmative Action: Through the Decades with SAG,
http://www.sag.org/diversity/diversehistory.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Collins, Marva (1936-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Marva Collins was born in Monroeville, Alabama to Bessie and Henry Knight where her father, who had an indelible impact on her, was one of the richest black men in town.  She attended segregated schools, and contrary to many views, these institutions were often places where students received a superior education that was rooted in high expectations and community support.  To this end, Collins developed her well-noted teaching philosophy and approach directly from her teachers in segregated settings.  Building on the communal expectation for educational excellence she graduated from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia then taught two years in Alabama before teaching 14 years in Chicago.

Displeased with both the public and private schools in Chicago, Collins took $5,000 out of her pension to start the Westside Preparatory School in 1975 on the second floor of her home; two of her children and four students from the neighborhood were her first students. During her first year she enrolled children who had been labeled as being learning disabled and mildly retarded by the pubic school system. Marva, who was resolute in her educational approach, at the end of the first year had improved the educational level of her students by at least five grades. Her practice as an educator gained national attention as many of her graduates attended such universities as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.

Sources: 
Marva Collins and Civia Tamarkin, Marva Collins’ Way (Los Angeles: J.P. Teacher, Inc. 1982); http://www.marvacollinspreparatory.com/history.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Ali, Ayaan Hirsi (1969- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel (New York: Free Press, 2007); Ida Lichter, Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2009); R. D. Grillo, The Family in Question: Immigrant and Ethnic Minorities in Multicultural Europe (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008).
Contributor: 

Augusta, Alexander T. (1825-1890)

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

Alexander Thomas Augusta was the highest-ranking black officer in the Union Army during the Civil War .  He was also the first African American head of a hospital (Freedmen’s Hospital) and the first black professor of medicine (Howard University).

Augusta was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1825 to free African American parents.  He moved to Baltimore as a youth to work as a barber while pursuing a medical education.  The University of Pennsylvania would not accept him but a faculty member took interest in him and taught him privately.  In 1847 he married Mary O. Burgoin, a Native American.  By 1850, Augusta and his wife moved to Toronto where he was accepted by the Medical College at the University of Toronto where he received an M.B. in 1856.  He was appointed head of the Toronto City Hospital and was also in charge of an industrial school.  

On April 14, 1863, Augusta was commissioned (the first out of eight other black officers in the Civil War) as a major in the Union army and appointed head surgeon in the 7th U.S. Colored Infantry.  His pay of $7 a month, however, was lower than that of white privates.  He wrote Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson who raised his pay to the appropriate level for commissioned officers.  

Sources: 

Joseph T. Glatthaar, Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black
Soldiers and White Officers
(New York: Free Press, 1990); Herbert M.
Morais, The History of the Negro in Medicine (New York: Publishers Co.,
1968);
http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2200/sc2221/000011/000018/p...

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

King, Marjorie Edwina Pitter (1921-1996)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marjorie Edwina Pitter King, the youngest of the Pitter sisters, was born March 8, 1921, to Edward A. Pitter and Marjorie Allen Pitter, in Seattle, Washington. When she graduated from Garfield High School, she joined her sisters at the University of Washington to study for an accounting degree in the College of Economics and Business. Like her father, she had a passion for numbers, business and the value of a dollar. So, to help the family with college expenses for her and her sisters, she came up with an entrepreneurial venture called “Tres Hermanas,” or “Three Sisters.” Together they earned money by typing, printing and writing speeches to help pay for their books, tuition and the like. Aside from having fun with her sisters, she enjoyed herself at the University. She worked for a sociology professor who counseled students in and outside of his discipline, including Pitter (later King). According to her, he always seemed to have a receptive ear for her concerns and tried to advise her as best he could, knowing little about her major. Commercial Law, Anthropology and Statistics were her three most enjoyable courses, because of the creative manner in which they were taught—interactive, with a team approach.

Sources: 
Juana R. Royster Horn, “The Academic and Extracurricular Undergraduate Experiences of Three Black Women At The University of Washington 1935 to 1941,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington, 1980).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Perry, Jim (1858–1918)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jim Perry was an African American cowboy and top hand, the highest-ranked cowboy, on the three million-acre XIT Ranch near Dalhart, Texas. Perry established himself as an expert roper, rider, bronc buster, cook and musician.

Perry was born on February 2, 1858, in Texas. Very little is known about his early life. Since his teens in the 1870s he worked for the Horse Shoe T Cross Ranch before joining the XIT, which was up and running by 1885. Perry helped string over seven hundred miles of barbed wire fencing along the entire XIT Ranch property by 1887 making it the largest fenced ranch in the world.  

Jim Perry was regarded as such an accomplished steer roper. In his later years Perry was revered for his culinary skills as a ranch house and chuck wagon cook for the XIT. He was also quite renowned as a top fiddler, which added to his likeability for he was loved and revered by his peers.

Perry remained a loyal employee of the XIT Ranch for two decades despite the fact that his race precluded him from becoming of one of the ranch’s foremen, a position for which he was well qualified. On September 29, 1908 he married Emma Beaseley. The couple had no children.  In 1918 Jim Perry died in Oldham County, Texas from a brain tumor.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, Black Cowboys of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2011); Sara R. Massey, ed., Black Cowboys of Texas (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2000); Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Travis, Dempsey Jerome (1920- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dempsey Jerome Travis is a civil rights activist, business leader, military veteran, and author. From the inception of his first realty company to his time serving three presidential administrations, Travis has served in both local and national theaters of private and civic life.

Born 1920 in Chicago, Illinois, Dempsey Travis attended Roosevelt University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. He then applied and was accepted into the School of Mortgage Banking at Northwestern University where he pursued an M.B.A. and graduated two decades later in 1969. Between 1949 and 1953, Travis founded Travis Realty Company, Travis Insurance Company, and Sivart Mortgage Company all in Chicago. He also created Urban Research Press in 1969 which published books on African American history and politics including Chicago Sun Times: An Autobiography of Black Chicago, An Autobiography of Black Jazz, and An Autobiography of Black Politics.
Sources: 
Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.dempseytravis.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Berry, Edwin C. “Bill” (1910- 1987)

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

 

Image From the Urban League of
Portland Records

Civil rights activist Edwin C. “Bill” Berry was affiliated with the Urban League for over 30 years and served as executive director of the Chicago Urban League from 1956 to 1970. When he arrived in Chicago he denounced the city’s segregationist practices and drove anti-discrimination legislation in the city and state. He was a leader of the Chicago Freedom Movement.

Edwin Berry was born on November 11, 1910 in Oberlin, Ohio to John A. Berry, an attorney, and Kitty Berry, a homemaker. He was one of five children. At the age of six Berry’s father died. Kitty struggled to make ends meet, working as a boarder, seamstress and cook.

Edwin Berry grew up in Oberlin and attended Oberlin College on an academic scholarship. In 1935 he moved to Pittsburg and graduated from Duquesne University in 1938 with a degree in education. Berry began his career with the Pittsburgh Urban League as group work secretary. 

Sources: 
Lerone Bennett, Jr., “North’s Hottest Fight for Integration.” Ebony Magazine 31:8 (March 1962); Jerry Crimmins, "Bill Berry, Ex-Urban League Director, Civil Rights Activist,” Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1987; Darrell Millner, On the Road to Equality: A Fifty Year Retrospective (Portland: The Urban League of Portland, 1995); Arvarh E. Strickland and Christopher Robert Reed, History of the Chicago Urban League (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1966).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Blassingame, John W. (1940-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Wesley Blassingame was one of the preeminent scholars in the study of enslaved African Americans.  His early monographs The Slave Community (1972) and Black New Orleans, 1860-1880 (1973) shattered racist and stereotypical portrayals of African American life by using testimony and evidence left by blacks themselves, evidence which had been largely ignored or dismissed by earlier historians.  With his edited volume, New Perspectives on Black Studies (1972), Blassingame helped to define the developing field of African American Studies.  A prolific scholar, Blassingame also co-wrote and edited, and co-edited many other works.  Among his important contributions are The Frederick Douglass Papers, Antislavery Newspapers and Periodicals, and Slave Testimony.
Sources: 
Robert L. Paris, “John W. Blassingame: March 23, 1940-February 13, 2000,” The Journal of African American History, Vol. 86, No. 3, (summer, 2001), pp.422-423. “In memoriam: John Wesley Blassingame,” Department of African American Studies, www.yale.edu/afamstudies/jwb.html; “Historian John Blassingame, Pioneer in Study of Slavery, Dies,” Yale Bulletin & Calendar, February 25, 2000 Volume 28, Number 22.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Price, Florence Beatrice Smith (1887-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of AfriClassical.com

Florence Beatrice Smith, the first black woman composer to garner an international reputation, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1887, to James H. Smith, a dentist, and Florence Gulliver Smith, a former school teacher and private lesson piano teacher who also managed several local businesses. Under her mother’s musical tutelage, Smith was quickly recognized as a prodigy. While attending Capitol Hill School in Little Rock, she published her first composition when she was eleven.  At fourteen, she studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, graduating in 1907 with a Bachelor of Music degree. Smith taught at the Cotton Plant-Arkadelphia Academy and at Shorter College until 1910 when she accepted a position as Chair of the Music Department at Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time she was 23.

In 1912 Smith returned to Arkansas where she wed Thomas Jewell Price, a well-known Little Rock, Arkansas attorney. The couple had three children, a son, who died in infancy, and two daughters.  Price started a music school and continued to compose piano pieces, but she was denied membership in the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association because of her race.  When serious racial unrest erupted in Little Rock, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1927. It was here that Price was able to reach her full musical potential, but unfortunately, it came with the end of her marriage in 1935.

Sources: 
Florence Beatrice Smith Price Papers, Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas;  http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1742;  http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/price.html
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

Holmes, Emory Hestus (1924-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
“Won’t Bow to Bigots,” Jet Article on Emory Holmes, Jan. 7, 1960 
Dr. Emory Hestus Holmes, World War II veteran, social scientist, professor, and California civil rights leader, was born on November 17, 1924 in Birmingham, Alabama to David H. and Dora Catherine Holmes. He attended segregated schools in Alabama and, at the age of 17, joined the U.S. Army. During World War II he helped construct the Burma Road from India across northern Burma into China and was wounded in combat.  Decorated for his wartime valor, Holmes returned to the United States where he pursued his undergraduate and graduate education at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sources: 
Frank Barnes, “Statement of Frank Barnes, President, NAACP, Southern California Area Conference,” Hearings Before the United States Commission on Civil Rights (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1960); David E.  Brady, “Emory Hestus Holmes; Civil Rights Activist,” Los Angeles Times, April 14, 1995; US Bureau of the Census, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940): T627, 4,643 rolls, accessed online through http://ancestrylibrary.com on March 25, 2015.
Affiliation: 
University of California Center for Racial Studies

Lucas, Florence V. (1916–1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

Chenault, Kenneth Irvine (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Kellogg School of
Management, Northwestern University
Hand-picked by his American Express predecessor, CEO Harvey Golub, to lead the company upon Golub’s retirement, Kenneth Chenault is an attorney and the CEO and chairman of American Express.  Named one of the fifty most powerful African American executives by Fortune magazine in 2001, Chenault is one of only a handful of African-American CEO’s of a Fortune 500 company.

Chenault’s solid middle-class upbringing in the mostly white neighborhood of Hempstead, Long Island may have predicted his future.  Born in Mineola, New York on June 2, 1951 to Hortenius Chenault, a dentist, and Anne N. Quick, a dental hygienist, Chenault was the second born of four children.  Both of Chenault’s parents attended Howard University and Chenault likewise enjoyed the advantages of a good education, attending the private, innovative Waldorf School in Garden City through the twelfth grade.  Chenault was captain of the track and basketball teams.  His athletic ability earned him an athletic scholarship to Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Leaving Springfield before completing his degree, Chenault transferred to Bowdoin College in Maine, earning a B.A. in history, magna cum laude, in 1973.  Chenault next attended Harvard Law School, receiving his J.D. in 1976.  Chenault’s 1977 marriage to Kathryn Cassell, an attorney with the United Negro College Fund, produced two sons, Kenneth Jr. and Kevin.  
Sources: 
Richard Sobel, “Chenault, Kenneth Irvine” African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham; Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com; “Kenneth Chenault: Corporate CEO” Cnn.com In-depth, Black History Month (February 2002), http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2002/black.history/stories/08.chenault/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Father Divine (1879-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Father Divine in Parade
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Father Divine, religious founder of the International Peace Missions Movement, businessman, and civil rights activist was born George Baker in Rockville, Maryland to George and Nancy Baker.  Viewed by many to be a cult leader, his doctrine was a compilation of optimistic thinking based on many widely accepted mainstream religions.  Father Divine and his followers believed that he was the second coming of Christ.  He required his followers to adhere to his International Modest Code which required strict commitment to a celibate lifestyle and abstinence from immoral actions.

Father Divine began receiving widespread public attention when in 1919, he and his first wife and several of his interracial religious followers moved to Sayville, New York and established a Peace Mission “heaven.”  Peace Missions heavens were interracial communal living facilities that fostered Father Divine’s belief in a desegregated society and represented heaven on earth to his followers.  In the 1930s Divine’s network of Peace Missions spread across the nation.  His mostly white followers in Los Angeles, California and other west coast cities contrasted with the overwhelmingly black missions east of the Mississippi River.  Around 1930 Father Divine moved his Peace Mission headquarters to Harlem, New York.  Since the late 1940s the organization has been based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sources: 
Jill Watts, God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Robert Wiesbrot, Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brea College

Christensen, Donna Marie (1945–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Donna Marie Christian-Christensen, the non-voting delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the United States House of Representatives, was born in Teaneck, Monmouth Country, New Jersey on September 19, 1945 to the late Judge Almeric Christian and Virginia Sterling Christian. Christensen attended St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she received her Bachelor of Science in 1966. She then earned her M.D. degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. in 1970. Christensen began her medical career in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1975 as an emergency room physician at St. Croix Hospital. Between 1987 and 1988 she was medical director of the St. Croix Hospital and from 1988 to 1994 she was Commissioner of Health for the Virgin Island.  During the entire period from 1977 to l996 Christensen maintained a private practice in family medicine.  From 1992 to 1996 she was also a television journalist.

Christensen also entered Virgin Island politics.  As a member of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, she has served as Democratic National Committeewoman, member of the Democratic Territorial Committee and Delegate to all the Democratic Conventions in 1984, 1988 and 1992.  Christensen was also elected to the Virgin Islands Board of Education in 1984 and served for two years.  She served as a member of the Virgin Islands Status Commission from 1988 to 1992. 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University Of Washington

Briggs, Cyril (1888-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Wilson, James Finley (1881--1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

James Finley Wilson was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1881 to Reverend James L. Wilson and Nancy Wiley Wilson. From 1922 to 1948, Wilson served consecutive terms as Grand Exalted Ruler of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World (I.B.P.O.E. of W.), one of the largest African American fraternal organizations in the nation. Wilson’s accomplishments as “Grand” established him as a revered leader among his fraternal brothers and sisters and a national figure in the African American culture.   

Sources: 

“James Finley Wilson,” Journal of Negro History 37 (1952): 356-358; “ Wilson Re-Elected Grand Exalted Ruler,” California Eagle, September 13, 1929; Rayford Logan, “James Finley Wilson,” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Guerrero, Vicente (1783-1831)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Vicente Guerrero was born in the small village of Tixla in the state of Guerrero.  His parents were Pedro Guerrero, an African Mexican and Guadalupe Saldana, an Indian. Vicente was of humble origins. In his youth he worked as a mule driver on his father’s mule run.  His travels took him to different parts of Mexico where he heard of the ideas of independence. Through one of these trips he met rebel General Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. In November 1810, Guerrero decided to join Morelos. Upon the assassination of Morelos by the Spaniards, Guerrero became Commander in Chief. In that position he made a deal with Spanish General Agustin de Iturbide.
Sources: 
Theodore G. Vincent, The Legacy of Vincente Guerrero: Mexico’s First Black Indian President (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001); Lane Clark, “Guerrero Vicente,” Historical Text Archive.  http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&amp;artid=563.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Allen, William G. (1820- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Meredith, James (1933 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
James Meredith withU.S. Marshals,
University of Mississippi, 1962
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 

James Meredith, Three Years in Mississippi (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966); http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/meredith_james/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Barton, Katie D. Morgan (1918-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
When thirty-year-old Katie Barton followed her husband to the small town of Pasco in Washington State in 1948, she did not foresee that she would embark on a life of fighting for black equality and serving her community, nor did she envision becoming the first black woman to serve on the Pasco City Council.

Barton was born Katie D. Morgan to parents Isam and Carrie Morgan in Gonzalez, Texas in 1918.  In 1948, Katie Barton joined her husband Marion Barton in Pasco, Washington.  He had left Texas several months earlier to work on the Hanford Engineering Works, part of the federal government’s top secret Manhattan Project. Marion Barton was one of 15,000 black workers who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.  Instead of acceptance, these black workers encountered hostile, racist attitudes from the white residents of the Tri-Cities, named for the three cities of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco. In fact Pasco was the only city that allowed black residents, and only under the condition that they live east of the railroad tracks. Living conditions were appalling.  The city did not provide water or regular garbage service for most of the black residents in east Pasco. Segregation was not only limited to housing, but also extended to transportation, and many businesses refused to serve blacks.
Sources: 
Interview of Mrs. Katie Barton by Shu-chen Lucas and Robert Bauman, Pasco, Washington, March 20, 2010; Robert Bauman, "Jim Crow in the Tri-Cities, 1943-1950," Pacific Northwest Quarterly 96: 3 (Summer 2005), 124-131.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Washington State University, Tri-Cities

Laroche, Joseph Phillipe Lemercier (1889-1912)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of W. Mae Kent
Joseph Phillipe Lemercier Laroche, the only passenger of known African ancestry who died on the Titanic, was born on May 26, 1889 in Cap Haiten, Haiti.  He was the son of a white French army captain and a Haitian woman who was a descendant of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first ruler of independent Haiti.  Laroche's uncle, Dessalines M. Cincinnatus, was president of Haiti from 1911 to 1912.

Joseph Laroche grew up among the privileged upper class in Haiti and received his early education from private tutors.

Sources: 
Judith B. Geller, Women and Children First (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1998); James B. Clary, The Last True Story of Titanic (New York: Domham Books, 1998); Sabrina L. Miller, "Untold Story Of The Titanic," Chicago Tribune, February 20, 2000; Zondra Hughes, "What Happened To the Only Black Family On The Titanic," Ebony, June, 2000; http://www.titanic1.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Richardson, Gloria (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Gloria Richardson and Protestors facing
National Guard Troops
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gloria Hayes Richardson was born on May 6, 1922 in Baltimore, Maryland to parents John and Mabel Hayes.  During the Great Depression her parents moved the family to Cambridge, Maryland, the home of Mabel Hayes.  Young Gloria grew up in a privileged environment.  Her grandfather, Herbert M. St. Clair, was one of the town’s wealthiest citizens.  He owned numerous properties in the city’s Second Ward which included a funeral parlor, grocery store and butcher shop.  He was also the sole African American member of the Cambridge City Council through most of the early 20th Century.  

Gloria attended Howard University in Washington at the age of 16 and graduated in 1942 with a degree in sociology.  After Howard, she worked as a civil servant for the federal government in World War II-era Washington, D.C. but returned to Cambridge after the war.  Despite her grandfather’s political and economic influence, the Maryland Department of Social Services, for example, refused to hire Gloria or any other black social workers.  Gloria Hayes married local school teacher Harry Richardson in 1948 and raised a family for the next thirteen years.  
Sources: 
Peter Levy, Civil War on Race Street: The Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2003); Jeff Kisseloff, Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s: An Oral History (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2007); http://www.abbeville.com/civilrights/washington.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Taylor, John (1952- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John David Beckett Taylor, the Baron of Warwick, was born on September 21, 1952 in Birmingham, England. His parents, Derief, a professional cricket player, and Enid, a nurse, were originally from Jamaica. Taylor was educated at Moseley Grammar School and later studied English Literature and Law at Keele University before moving to London to pursue a career in Law. He was called to the Bar in 1978 and began a successful career as a Barrister. In 1981 he married his first wife, Jean Katherine Binysh, a pediatrician, with whom he had three children.
Sources: 
BBC Profile of Lord Taylor: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/talking_politics/1304393.stm; Onyekachi Wambu: John Taylor Lord Taylor of Warwick - Barrister (Tamarind 1 Jan 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Savage, Augusta (1892-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Imae Ownership: Public Domain
African American sculptor, teacher, and advocate for black artists Augusta Savage was born Augusta Christine Fell in Green Cove Springs, Florida on February 29, 1892, the child of Edward Fells, a laborer and Methodist minister, and Cornelia Murphy. Her daughter, Irene Connie Moore, was born when Savage was 16, in the first of her three marriages. She retained the last name of her second husband, a carpenter named James Savage; they were divorced in the early 1920s.  

After moving to Harlem in New York in 1921, Savage studied art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art where she finished the four-year program in three years. She was recommended by Harlem librarian Sadie Peterson (later Delaney), for a commission of a bust of W.E.B. DuBois.  The sculpture was well received and she began sculpting busts of other African American leaders, including Marcus Garvey.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); David C. Driskell, The Other Side of Color (Rohnert Park, California: Pomegranate Communications, Inc., 2001); http://www.biography.com/search.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ali, Duse Mohamad (1866-1945)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Scholar, playwright, journalist, and African nationalist, Duse Mohamad Ali was born in Alexandria, Egypt on November 24, 1866 to an Egyptian father, Ali Abdul Salam and a Sudanese mother, whose name is unknown. At a very young age Ali was sent to study in England under the tutelage of Captain Duse of the French Army, a classmate who his father had studied alongside at the French Military Academy. In April of 1882, at the age of fifteen, Ali discontinued his studies and returned to Egypt. Soon after his return both his brother and father were killed during the Urabi Uprising and the British Bombardment of Alexandria that took place later that year.   Soon after the death of his father and brother, his family was evacuated to Sudan.

Sources: 
Ali, Duse Mohamed, “Leaves from an Active Life,” The Comet, 1937-1938; The African Times and Orient Review (1912-1918); Ian Duffield, “Duse Mohamed Ali, Afro-Asian Solidarity and Pan-Africanism in Early Twentieth-Century London,” in S. Jagdish and Ian Gundara Duffield, eds., Essays on the History of Blacks in Britain: From Roman Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century (Aldershot: Avebury, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Vanderbilt University Divinity School

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

Reddick, Eunice S. (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Eunice S. Reddick, an American diplomat and United States Ambassador to the Republic of Niger, was born in 1951 in New York City, New York. Reddick received her Master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International Affairs in 1975 and then worked for several years at the Africa-America Institute in New York City, New York and Washington, D.C.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Withers, Ernest (1922-2007)

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

Brown, Marie Van Brittan (1922–1999)

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

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

Gaye, Marvin Pentz, Jr. (1939-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C. Marvin Pentz Gaye, Jr. was named after his father, a minister of the apostolic church.  From a young age, the church played a large role in Gaye’s music career.  He began his musical profession in his father’s church choir and began playing the organ and drums.  After several years in the church, in 1957 Gaye left his father’s church and joined a group known as the Marquees.  After a year, the group was guided by the producer and singer Harvey Fuqua who inspired Marvin’s musical career.  When Fuqua moved to Detroit to further pursue his music, Gaye went with him.  In Detroit, Harvey was able to join forces with another music talent, Berry Gordy, where Gaye became a session drummer and soloist for the Motown Records label.

Shortly after in 1961, Gaye married Berry Gordy’s sister Anna Gordy.  During this same year, Gaye was also offered a solo recording record with Motown Records.  In the first year of his solo contract, Marvin was a jazz singer, but was soon persuaded to sing Rhythm and Blues (R&B).  His first hit single was “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” which became a top 10 selling hit on the R&B charts.  By 1965, Gaye became known as Motown’s best selling male vocalist and had added to the charts the famous song “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” followed by two more number one selling R&B hits, “I'll Be Doggone” and “Ain't That Peculiar.” 
Sources: 
Michael Eric Dyson, Mercy Mercy Me (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005);  
http://www.marvingayepage.net/biography/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bailey, Pearl Mae (1918–1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Pearl Bailey, Between You and Me: A Heartfelt Memoir on Learning, Loving and Living (New York: Doubleday, 1989); Morgan Monceaux, Jazz: My Music, My People (New York: Knopf, 1994); Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women (New York: Gramercy Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

O'Reilly, Salaria Kee (1913-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Sources: 
Bob August, “Salaria Kea and John O’Reilly: Volunteers Who Met and Wed in Spain, 1938,” Cleveland Magazine (1975); Danny Duncan Collum (editor) and Victor A. Berch (chief researcher), African Americans in the Spanish Civil War: “This Ain’t Ethiopia, But It’ll Do” (New York, New York: G.K. Hall & Co, 1992); John Gerassi, The Premature Anti-Fascists: North American Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939: an Oral History (New York, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1986). William L. Katz, Fraser M. Ottanelli, and Christopher Brooks, “African Americans in the Spanish Civil War,” Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at New York University (<https://www.alba-valb.org >, November 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Shepard, James Edward (1875-1947)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Truth, Sojourner, Isabella Baumfree (ca. 1791-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Olive Gilbert and Frances Titus, Narrative of Sojourner Truth; A Bondswoman of Olden Time, Emancipated by the New York Legislature in the Early Part of the Present Century; with a History of her Labors and Correspondence Drawn from her “Book of Life” (1875); Carleton Mabee, Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend (1993); Nell Irvin Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol (1996), Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Jennings, Thomas L. (1791- 1856)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Thomas L. Jennings was the first black man to receive a patent. The patent was awarded on March 3, 1821 (US Patent 3306x) for his discovery of a process called dry-scouring which was the forerunner of today’s modern dry-cleaning.  Jennings was born free in New York City, New York in 1791.  In his early 20s he became a tailor but then opened a dry cleaning business in the city.  While running his business Jennings developed dry-scouring.   

The patent to Jennings generated considerable controversy during this period.  Slaves at this time could not patent their own inventions; their effort was the property of their master. This regulation dated back to the US patent laws of 1793.  The regulation was based on the legal presumption that "the master is the owner of the fruits of the labor of the slave both manual and intellectual.” Patent courts also held that slaves were not citizens and therefore could not own rights to their inventions. In 1861 patent rights were finally extended to slaves.  

Sources: 

Mary Bellis, Thomas Jennings: Thomas Jennings was the first African
American to receive a patent
,
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bljennings.htm; Joan Potter, African American Firsts (New York: Kensington Publishing Group, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Waller, John Lewis (1850-1907)

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

Sources: 
Randall Bennett Wood, A Black Odyssey: John Lewis Waller and the Promise of American Life, 1878-1900 (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1981); Clay Smith Jr., Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer 1844-1944 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999); "John Waller" in  Kansapedia, the Kansas Historical Society. May 2009, http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/john-waller/12232.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Barrow, Dean Oliver (1951- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On February 7, 2008, Belize elected Dean Barrow as its first black Prime Minister. Born March 2, 1951, in Belize City, Barrow earned his LL.M. from the University of Miami in the United States and became partner at a Belizean law firm in 1977.  Two years later he established his own practice. Barrow married his long-term girlfriend, Kim Simpliss, in 2009, and they have one child together; he also has three children from a previous marriage with Lois Young.

The nation of Belize attained independence from the British in 1981, and Barrow entered politics two years later when he was elected to the Belize City council in 1983. Barrow broke into the national political scene in 1994 when he ran as a candidate under the United Democratic Party (UDP) banner during parliamentary elections.   Barrow won the election and the attention of Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel (1984-1989), who appointed the 33 year old attorney to his executive cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs on December 17, 1984. In June of 1986, Barrow, while still serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, received a second appointment to serve as Attorney General.
Sources: 
Centro de Estudios Internacionales de Barcelona, “Dean Barrow,” http://www.cidob.org/es/documentacio/biografias_lideres_politicos/america_central_y_caribe/belice/dean_barrow; Marti Parham, “Belize Elects First Black Prime Minister,” Jet, March 10, 2008; Catherine Bremer, “Belize Elects First Black Prime Minister, Ousts Incumbent,” Reuters, February 8, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Manly, Alex (1866-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Daniel R. Miller, "Manly, Alex" in Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 4 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991); North Carolina Wilmington Race Riot Commission "Final Report, May 31, 2006" (North Carolina Office of Archives & History, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mortimer, Prince (ca. 1724-1834)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in West Africa, Prince Mortimer was captured by slave traders as a young boy. After enduring a brutal passage to the Americas, he arrived in Connecticut around 1730.  In the late 1750s he was sold in Middletown, Connecticut to Philip Mortimer, who trained him to work as a spinner of ropes.  Alternately dubbed “Guinea” and “Prince Negro,” Prince in time became a valuable senior spinner in Mortimer’s prosperous ropework.  During the American Revolution Prince served various officers and was sent on errands by George Washington.  

Although many Connecticut slaves were freed after their Revolutionary service, Prince was not.  His sufferings as a slave were compounded by yaws, a painful tropical disease similar to leprosy that caused cartilage to deteriorate and left terrible scars.  He would have been freed upon Philip Mortimer’s death in 1794 had not Mortimer’s son-in-law, George Starr, contested and succeeded in overturning Mortimer’s will. In December 1811, at the age of 87, Prince was accused of poisoning his new master, Captain George Starr, and was sentenced to life in prison.  His fellow slave, Jack Mortimer, also was accused.
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

Churchville, John (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Elliott Churchville is a civil rights activist and black nationalist who founded Philadelphia's Freedom Library Community Project, which would become the Freedom Library Day School.

Born in Philadelphia in 1941, Churchville attended Simon Gratz High School, and, on graduation, began studying music education at Temple University. He dropped out in 1961 to become a jazz musician, and moved to New York, where he met Malcolm X at the Nation of Islam headquarters in Harlem.

Inspired by Malcolm’s black nationalism, Churchville attended the Inter-Collegiate Conference on Northern Civil Rights at Sarah Lawrence College in April 1962, where he was recruited to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Despite disagreeing with the Committee’s integrationist philosophy, Churchville joined its field staff and traveled south to Georgia and Mississippi to register voters. His experience in Freedom Schools, helping blacks in Greenwood, Mississippi pass the state’s literacy test, inspired him to see education as crucial to the civil rights movement.
Sources: 
Matthew Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); John Elliott Churchville, LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnelliottchurchvillephd; Paul M. Washington and David Gracie, Other Sheep I Have: The Autobiography of Father Paul M. Washington (Philadelphia: Temple University Press,1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sydney, Australia

Fauset, Jessie R. (1882-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jessie Redmon Fauset, known as the “Midwife of the Harlem Renaissance,” was born in Fredericksville, Camden County, New Jersey on April 27, 1882 to Redmon and Annie Seamon Fauset.  She was the seventh addition to an already large family. At a very early age Fauset lost her mother, and was raised by her father, a prosperous Presbyterian minister. Fauset’s father made sure his daughter had a well-rounded childhood and education.

In 1900, Jessie Fauset graduated with honors from the renowned Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) High School for Girls and was the only African American in her graduating class. Following her graduation, Fauset received a scholarship to attend Cornell University in New York, and in 1905 made history again by becoming the first black woman accepted into the university chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, a prestigious academic honor society. Fauset graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in classical languages from Cornell University in 1909.  Twenty years later she received a Master of Arts Degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania.
Sources: 
Abby Arthur Johnson, “Literary Midwife: Jessie Fauset and the Harlem Renaissance,” in The Harlem Renaissance: A Gale Critical Companion (Detroit: Gale, 2003); Carole Marks and Diana Edkins, The Power of Pride: Style Makers and Rule Breakers of the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Crown, 1999); “Jessie Redmon Fauset" in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2002).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Banning, James Herman (1899-1933)

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

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

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

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

Peace, Hazel Harvey (1903-2008)

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

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

McHenry, Donald Franchot (1936 - )

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

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

Sanders, Robin Renee (1955- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Educator, scholar, human rights activist, and career diplomat, Robin Renee Sanders was the first African American woman to serve as United States Ambassador to the Republic of Congo and to Nigeria.  

Robin Sanders was born July 5, 1955, to Robert and Geneva Sanders on the Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia.  She graduated from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. Two years later she received a Master of Arts in International Relations and Africa Studies and a Master of Science in Communications work at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
Sources: 
“Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders Biography,” Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders Website, http://ambassadorrobinreneesanders.com/ambassador-sanders-bio.html; “Biography: Robin Renee Sanders,” U.S. Department of State, http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/s/23682.htm; “Robin Renee Sanders,” U.S. Department of State: Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/sanders-robin-renee.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Tyson, Bernard J. (1959- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Bernard J. Tyson is a leading figure within the field of healthcare, a notable African American businessman, and more recently a commentator on U.S. race relations with the release of a highly regarded essay on his experiences being black in America. Tyson is the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Kaiser Permanente which with 175,000 employees including 18,000 physicians and over ten million members in eight states and the District of Columbia, is one of the nation’s largest health care providers.  Promoted on July 1, 2013 to CEO, he is the first African American to hold the position. Tyson, who has has worked for Kaiser for over three decades, also serves on the board of the American Heart Association.  In 2014 he was ranked the second most influential person in healthcare by Modern Healthcare. He ranked third in 2015. Tyson lives in San Francisco, California with his wife Denise Bradley-Tyson and his three sons.
Sources: 
Chad Turhune, "Kaiser Promotes Tyson to Be CEO, Chairman," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 6, 2012, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov/06/business/la-fi-kaiser-ceo-20121106; Victoria Colliver, "To Down-to-earth Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson, Helping Is Healing," SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 8, 2015, http://www.sfgate.com/visionsf/article/To-down-to-earth-Kaiser-CEO-Bernard-Tyson-6122429.php; "How Did I Get Here? Bernard Tyson," Bloomberg.com, http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-how-did-i-get-here/bernard-tyson.html: "About Us: Bernard J. Tyson," Kaiser Permanente Share, Mar. 2, 2016, http://share.kaiserpermanente.org/bio/bernard-j-tyson/;  Bernard J. Tyson, "It's Time to Revolutionize Race Relations," LinkedIn, Dec. 4, 2014, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141204174020-261404895-it-s-time-to-revolutionize-race-relations.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sowell, Thomas (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Thomas Sowell,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
An influential African American economist who is known for his controversial views on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, Thomas Sowell was born in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1930.  When he was eight, his family moved to Harlem, New York.  His father, a construction worker, did not encourage Sowell to pursue higher education even though he showed early signs of academic promise. Sowell dropped out of high school in the tenth grade, worked at various jobs, and obtained a high school degree in an evening program. After two years of service with the U.S. Marines receiving training as a photographer, Sowell entered Howard University in Washington, D.C. where he matriculated for three semesters before transferring to Harvard University. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and later earned Master's and Ph.D.
Sources: 
Thomas Sowell, A Personal Odyssey (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002);
Thomas Sowell website, http://www.tsowell.com/; Advocates for Self Government, "Thomas Sowell – Libertarian,"    https://www.theadvocates.org/libertarianism-101/libertarian-celebrities/thomas-sowell/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Lewis, Edmonia (1845-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edmonia Lewis, the first woman of African American and Native American ancestry to gain notoriety as a sculptor, was born near Albany New York on July 4, 1845 to a Chippewa Indian woman and an African American man.  Her parents died when she was very young, so she was raised by her mother’s sister and the Chippewa people in Niagara Falls.  Edmonia also had an older brother, Samuel Lewis, who migrated west during the California Gold Rush.  Lewis made a small fortune in the gold fields, part of which he used to send Edmonia to Oberlin College in Ohio.  Although the college was one of the first to admit African American women and men as well as white women, Lewis encountered racial problems.  In 1862 she was accused of attempting to poison two white coeds.  She was cleared of the charges but continued to be subject to verbal attacks and a beating that left her bedridden for days. Oberlin's administration refused to allow her to enroll the next year to complete her graduation requirements.
Sources: 
Rinna Wolfe, Edmonia Lewis: Wildfire in Marble (Parsippany, New Jersey: Dillon Press, 1998); http://womenshistory.about.com/od/edmonialewis/p/edmonia_lewis.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

King, John Thomas (1846-1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Ruggles, David (1810-1849)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

DePriest, Oscar (1871-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
S. Davis Day, “Herbert Hoover and Racial Politics: The De Priest Incident.” Journal of Negro History 65 (Winter 1980); Charles Branham, “Oscar DePriest,” The Encyclopedia of Chicago (Chicago: The Newberry Library, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Cornish, Samuel Eli (1795-1858)

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

Samuel Cornish, an abolitionist and editor, was born in Sussex County, Delaware and raised in Philadelphia and New York City.  Since both of his parents were free African Americans Cornish was born free.  After graduating from the Free African School in Philadelphia Cornish began training to become a Presbyterian minister and was ordained in 1822.  Shortly afterward he moved to New York City where he organized the first black Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.  

In addition to his duties as pastor, Cornish also became a journalist.  Working with fellow African American John B. Russwurm, he founded the first African American newspaper in the United States, Freedom’s Journal. Cornish was the senior editor of the paper while Russwurm served as junior editor. The first issue appeared in New York City on Friday, March 16, 1827.  After living in a world dominated by white media, Cornish and Russwurm stated in their first editorial, “We wish to plead our own cause.  Too long have others spoken for us.  Too long have the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things that concern us dearly…,” clearly showing their intentions of publishing the news without white bias against the African American news.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, eds., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Simon & Schuster
Macmillan, 1996); Lerone Bennett Jr., Pioneers in Protest (Chicago:
Johnson Publishing Company Inc., 1968).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cullen, Countee (1903-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Gerald Early, ed., My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen, Voice of the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Anchor Books, 1991); David Levering Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981); Alden Reimonenq, “Countee Cullen’s Uranian ‘Soul Windows,’” in Critical Essays: Gay and Lesbian Writers of Color, ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson (New York: The Haworth Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at Austin

Taylor, Robert Rochon (1899–1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
D. Bradford Hunt, Blueprints for Disaster (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009); Michelle Cottle, "The Woman to See," thenewrepublic.com, August 27, 2008; Clarence G. Williams, "From 'Tech' to Tuskegee: The Life of Robert Robinson Taylor, 1868-1942," libraries.mit.edu/archives/mithistory/blacks-at-mit/taylor.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Foxx, Redd (1922-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Redd Foxx and Norma Miller, The Redd Foxx Encyclopedia of Black Humor (Pasadena: W. Ritchie Press, 1977); "Foxx, Red," American National Biography , Volume 8 (1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Forman, James (1928-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Civil rights leader and political activist James Forman was an instrumental leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), sending demonstrators to the South for the Freedom Ride protests. Forman, who was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 4th, 1928, lived with his grandmother in Mississippi until the age of six when he returned to live with his mother and stepfather in Chicago. Forman used his stepfather’s surname Rufus until, as a teen, he met his real father Jackson Forman, a cabdriver.

He graduated with honors from high school and entered the Air Force, stationed in Okinawa during the Korean War. In 1952, he enrolled in the University of Southern California. During his second semester, Forman was a victim of brutality: accused of a robbery he did not commit, he was taken to a police station and beaten by two Los Angeles police officers. The incident caused Forman to have a mental breakdown, and he returned to Chicago. After his recovery he enrolled in Roosevelt University received a bachelor’s of arts degree 1957.
Sources: 
James Forman, Making of Black Revolutionaries (Open Hand Publishing, Inc., 1985); Joe Holley, “Civil Rights Leader James Forman Dies,” The Washington Post (January 11, 2005);http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1621-2005Jan11.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Irving, Barrington (1983- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of National Aeronautics
and Space Administration
Barrington Irving is the first African American to fly solo around the world and, as of 2010, the youngest person to complete the feat. He made his flight at the age of 23. Irving was born in Kingston, Jamaica on November 11th, 1983. He was the oldest of three brothers. When Irving was six years old, his family relocated to inner-city Miami, Florida. Here his parents operated a Christian bookstore where Irving worked when he was not in school.

Around the age of 15, Irving began to develop a pronounced interest in aviation. A customer at his parents’ bookstore was a United Airlines pilot and invited Irving to visit the airport and tour the cockpit of a Boeing 777 airliner. The tour was a turning point in Irving’s life, which quickly became focused on learning to fly. Soon, Irving was working odd jobs at airports in order to earn flying time in light aircraft while practicing at home with a computer flight simulator.
Sources: 
Vincent M. Mallozzi, “At 23, the Youngest Pilot to Solo the Planet”, The New York Times, July 18, 2007; “Barrington Irving: Young Pilot Promotes Aviation Careers,” Avjobs Weekly (Vol. 43, October 18, 2010), http://www.avjobs.com/avjobsweekly/newsletters/Pilot-Promotes-Aviation-Careers.asp; Experience Aviation, http://www.experienceaviation.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Leonard, “Sugar” Ray (1956 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle
Ray Leonard was born on May 17, 1956 in Wilmington, North Carolina. At age 20 he captured a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Exceptionally fast with his fists and quick on his feet, the charismatic youngster turned professional and immediately became one of the sports biggest draws with his crowd pleasing style.

Adopting the name “Sugar” in tribute to Sugar Ray Robinson, Leonard captured his first title when he defeated WBC welterweight champion Wilfred Benitez in 1979. He won 22 fights before suffering his first professional defeat to Roberto Duran in June 1980 when he attempted to stand toe to toe and slug it out with his more experienced opponent. Five months later he regained the title from Duran by changing his tactics and relying upon his superior boxing skills, frustrating his opponent so badly that the latter quit in the middle of the eighth round.

In 1981 Leonard moved up in weight and added the Junior Middleweight title by defeating Ayube Kalule, and later that year unified the welterweight title with a 14-round TKO of the highly regarded Tommy Hearns. He then retired for the first time in 1982 after suffering a detached retina.
Sources: 
www.boxrec.com; Sam Toperoff, Sugar Ray Leonard and Other Noble Warriors (New York: McGraw-Hill Company,1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smith, Will (1968-- )

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

Willard Christopher Smith, Jr., better known as Will Smith, actor, rap and recording artist, was born in Wynnefield, Pennsylvania on September 25, 1968.  His father, Willard Christopher Smith, is an entrepreneur and engineer, and his mother, Caroline Bright Smith, is a public school administrator.  Raised in a middle-class “Baptist” home, his parents sent Will to Overbrook High School, a Catholic school, where they felt he would get the best education.  In high school, his precociousness sometimes got him in trouble, but his charm, good-natured personality, quick-wittedness, good looks, and award-winning smile easily got him off the hook, and he soon won the nickname, “Prince.”  As a senior with high SAT scores, Smith had an offer to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after high school, but he opted out of college to pursue what had already become a successful career in entertainment.

Sources: 
http://www.biography.com/articles/Will-Smith-9542165; Patrick Healy, “Celebrity Schedules Could Delay ‘Fela!’ Opening,” Arts Beat, New York Times,  October 30, 2009; http://www.aceshowbiz.com/celebrity/will_smith; Lisa Iannucci, Will Smith: A Biography, (New York: Greenwood Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Paine College

Rhimes, Shonda (1970- )

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

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

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

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

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

St. Benedict the Moor (1526-1589)

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

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

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

Pierce, Roger Dwayne (1951--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership:Public Domain"
Roger D. Pierce, U.S. Ambassador to Cape Verde, was born in Omaha, Nebraska.  Pierce earned his B.A. degree in Spanish Language and Latin American Studies at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia.  He received his M.A. in Latin American Literature at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland.  He also attended the National War College in Washington, D.C. in 1995.  Pierce speaks fluent Spanish, Turkish and Portuguese.  

Sources: 
“Ambassador Pierce Joins Office of Career Service (login required),” http://search.proquest.com/pqcentral/docview/749107547/55DF4D111C844326PQ; “U.S. Ambassador Pierce Inaugurates United States African Development Foundation Enterprise Development Project in Maio (login required),” http://search.proquest.com/pqcentral/docview/473117799/55DF4D111C844326PQ.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Collins, Daniel A. (1916-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dentist and civil rights leader Daniel A. Collins was born in Darlington, South Carolina, on June 11, 1916. His father ran a heavy equipment company and his mother was a school principal and an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Following high school graduation in 1932, Collins received a bachelor’s degree in science from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, in 1936 and four years later (1940) he earned a D.D.S. degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sources: 
Sabin Russell, “Daniel Collins dies – dentist and Bay Area Urban League founder,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 25, 2007; Richard Halstead, “Dr. Daniel Collins, Marin black civil rights leader pioneer, dies at 91,” News, September 27, 2007, marinij.com; Paul T. Miller, The Postwar Struggle for Civil Rights: African Americans in San Francisco, 1945-1975 (New York: Routledge, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Matthews, Victoria Earle (1861-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Victoria Earle Smith was an accomplished journalist, author, lecturer, clubwoman, social worker, and missionary.  She was born on May 27, 1861 in Fort Valley, Georgia, to Caroline Smith, a slave, and a man who was believed to be the family’s master.  Caroline fled the plantation at the start of the Civil War, but returned after emancipation and regained custody of Victoria and her sister.  The family eventually moved to New York City, where Victoria excelled in public school until financial and family conditions made it necessary for her to quit and go into domestic service.  Victoria continued her education by using the library of her employer, special studies and other opportunities to improve herself. When she was 18 years old she married William Matthews and they had one son, Lamartine.  
Sources: 
Hallie Q. Brown, Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction (Xenia, Ohio:  Aldine Publishing Company, 1926); Floris Barnett Cash, “Victoria Earle Matthews,” Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research, 1992); http://www.africanamericans.com/VictoriaMatthews.htm .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Payne, Donald Milford (1934-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Representative
Donald Milford Payne's Office
Donald Payne, a Democrat, was the first African American elected to Congress from the State of New Jersey.  Payne was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 16, 1934. He earned a B.A. degree in social studies from Seton Hall University in 1957 and also has honorary doctorates from Chicago State University, Drew University, Essex County College, and William Patterson University.

After graduating in 1957 Payne began working for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), traveling around the world as its representative.  In 1970 Payne became its first African American president. From 1973 to 1981 he chaired the YMCA Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee that was based in Geneva.  In 1972 he was elected to the Essex County (New Jersey) Board of Chosen Freeholders, and became its director in 1977.

Donald Payne challenged longtime Congressional incumbent Peter W. Rodino Jr. in the Democratic primary in both 1980 and 1986 but failed both times. In 1988 however, when Rodino said he would not seek a 21st term, Payne won nomination and was elected to Congress.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); http://www.house.gov/payne/biography/index.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Tobias, Channing H. (1882-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

Berry, Halle (1968- )

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

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

Carver, George Washington (1864?-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Washington Carver began life inauspiciously on the frontier of southwestern Missouri. Born a slave, the precise date, indeed, even the year, is unknown. He never knew either of his biological parents, but was raised by his former owners as if he were their own. A sickly child, his workload on the Carvers’ farm was reasonably light. Consequently, he spent much of his childhood wandering through fields and woods where he developed an affinity for the natural world. Faced with limited educational opportunities, he left Missouri for Kansas, where he graduated from high school. After a try at homesteading on the western plains of Kansas, he found his way to Iowa where he enrolled at the Iowa Agricultural College in Ames. Recruited by Booker T. Washington to head up Tuskegee’s Agricultural Department, Carver left the Midwest for Alabama’s cotton belt shortly after he became the first African American to secure an advanced degree in agricultural science.
Sources: 
Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), and Mark Hersey, “Hints and Suggestions to Farmers: George Washington Carver and Rural Conservation in the South,” Environmental History 11 (April 2006), 239-268 available online at http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/eh/11.2/hersey.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Williams, Spencer (1893-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Radio Characters from Amos 'N' Andy,
Spencer Williams (left)
and Alvin Tim Moore (right)
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

Spencer Williams is widely known for his portrayal of the character Andy in the controversial 1950s television comedy series Amos ‘n Andy.  His contributions to the world of film and television, however, far surpassed the limitations of the popular but widely criticized Amos ‘n Andy sitcom. Born July 14, 1893 in Vidalia, Louisiana, Williams moved to New York City during his teens and studied comedy under vaudeville comedian Bert Williams.

He attended the University of Minnesota, but interrupted his studies to serve several years in the United States Army during and after World War I. After being honorably discharged from the service in 1923, Williams returned to New York City and concentrated on a career in show business. He eventually landed a job with Christie Studios in Hollywood, where he co-wrote and appeared in Paramount Pictures’ first all-black talking film, Melancholy Dame (1928). He was subsequently retained as a consultant, continuity writer, and performer for the Christie Comedies – a comedy series that focused on black life in urban Alabama.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia
(New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Thomas Cripps, Black Film as
Genre
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Wheeler Dixon, The
“B” Directors: A Biographical Directory
(Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1985); Phyllis Klotman, Frame By Frame: A Black Filmography
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Henry T. Sampson, Blacks
in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films
(Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1977); Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1994).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jackson, Maynard, Jr. (1938-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The great-grandson of slaves, Maynard Jackson, Jr. was born in Dallas, Texas, on March 23, 1938.  His father, Maynard Jackson, Sr., was a leading figure in the 1930s campaign for black voting rights in Dallas and a founder of Democratic Progressive Voter’s League in 1936.  His mother, Irene Dobbs Jackson, was a professor of French at Spelman College who desegregated the Atlanta city library system.  His aunt Mattiwilda Dobbs was the first African American to sing at the La Scala Opera in Milan, Italy.  When Maynard was seven years old his father, a clergyman, moved the family to Atlanta, Georgia, where he assumed pastorship of the Friendship Baptist Church.
Sources: 
Gary Pomerantz, Where Peachtree Street Meets Sweet Auburn (New York: Scribner’s, 1996); “Former Atlanta Mayor Dies,” Michigan Daily, June 23, 2003; New Georgia Encyclopedia, “Maynard Jackson, 1938-2003”: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/government-politics/maynard-jackson-1938-2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

James, C.L.R. (1901-1989)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frank Rosengarten, Urbane Revolutionary: C. L. R. James and the Struggle for a New Society (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008); Selwyn Reginald Cudjoe and William E. Cain, C.L.R. James: His Intellectual Legacies (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994); Farrukh Dhondy, C.L.R. James: A Life (New York: Pantheon Books, 2001); Anna Grimshaw, The C.L.R. James Reader (Oxford, UK; Cambridge, USA: Blackwell, 1992).
Contributor: 

Delany, Henry Beard (1858-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Grafton Tyler (1841-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Grafton Tyler Brown was a cartographer, lithographer, and painter, widely considered the first professional African American artist in California. Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1841, Brown learned lithography in Philadelphia and then became part of a cohort of African Americans who sought better economic and social opportunities in the West during the 1850s.
Sources: 
Thomas Riggs, ed., The St. James Guide to Black Artists (Detroit: St James Press, 1997); www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/exhibits/gtb.html; www.washingtonhistory.org/wshm/newsroom/grafton_brown.htm.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Willis, Charley (1847–1930)

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

 

Charley and Laura Willis
Image Ownership: Public Domain

African American cowboy Charley Willis was recognized as a singing cowboy who authored the popular trail song, “Goodbye Old Paint.” Willis was a skilled cowhand who not only sang songs from the trail but who contributed to preserving authentic cowboy music from the era.

Charley Willis was born in 1847 in Milam County, outside of Austin, Texas. Freed after the Civil War he headed to West Texas at age eighteen and found work breaking wild horses at the Morris Ranch in Bartlett, Texas. In 1871, at age twenty-four, he rode the Chisholm Trail one thousand miles north into Wyoming Territory as a drover. Charley was musically knowledgeable and talented. He became known for the songs he brought back from the trail.

In 1885 Willis taught his favorite song, “Good-bye Old Paint,” to Morris’s seven-year-old son, Jess.  As an adult Jess Morris became known as a talented fiddler, and though credited with authoring “Good-bye Old Paint,” he was quick to clarify that had he learned the song from Charley Willis as a child. In 1947 John Lomax, a pioneering musicologist and folklorist, recorded Morris singing and playing Willis’ song, “Good-bye Old Paint,” and later sent it to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress where it is preserved.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, Black Cowboys of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2011); Sara R. Massey, ed., Black Cowboys of Texas (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2000); Jim Bob Tinsley, He Was Singin’ This Song: A Collection of Forty-Eight Traditional Songs of the American Cowboy, with Words, Music, Pictures, and Stories (Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida, 1982).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Espy, Mike (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Alphonso Michael Espy in 1986 became the first black Congressman elected from Mississippi since John R. Lynch, who served during Reconstruction.  He was also the first African American to hold the post of Secretary of Agriculture.  Mike Espy was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. He received a B.A. from Howard University in 1975 and then attended law school at the University of Santa Clara where he received his J.D. degree in 1978. Espy returned to Mississippi after law school and worked as an attorney for Central Mississippi Legal Services from 1978 to 1980.  Between 1980 and 1984 Espy served as assistant secretary of the Public Lands Division for the State of Mississippi and then took the post of assistant State Attorney General for Consumer Protection, a position he held until 1985.
Sources: 
Charles Christian, Black Saga: The African American Experience (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995); bioguide.congress.gov; www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Guillén, Nicolás (1902-1989)

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

Afro-Cuban writer Nicolás Guillén used his poetry as a form of social protest in pre-Castro Cuba. Guillén was born in Camagüey, Cuba on July 10, 1902 and by the mid 1920s had emerged as a leader of the Afro-Cuban movement. He was committed to social justice and through his loyalty to the Communist party he became a prominent voice of revolutionary Cuba.

Guillén was a student of law at the University of Havana until 1921 when he decided to drop out and focus on writing poetry. He utilized his Spanish and African background of speech, legends, songs, and dances to influence his message and style of writing. His first volume of poetry Motivos de son (“Motifs of son”) published in 1930 quickly gained popularity and recognition.

Sources: 
"Nicolás Guillén," in Verity Smith, ed., Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997); "Nicolás Guillén," in Encyclopedia Britannica (2011), retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/248753/Nicolas-Guillen.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lampkin, Daisy (1884-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born August 9, 1884 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Daisy Lampkin became one of the most highly acclaimed African American women of her time. While Lampkin is best known for becoming the first woman to be elected to the national board of the NAACP, she spent much of her life rallying for racial and gender equality.

Lampkin’s social and political activism began shortly after graduating from high school. After migrating to Pittsburgh, Lampkin worked as a motivational speaker for housewives and organized women into consumer protest groups. In addition, as an active member of the Lucy Stone Women’s Suffrage League and the National Suffrage League, Lampkin rallied for women’s right to vote. Understanding the challenges specific to African American women, she also became involved with the National Association for Colored Women (NACW), and was later named national organizer and chair of the executive board.

Sources: 
Edna Chappell McKenzie, “Daisy Lampkin.” In Black Women in America: Social Activism, edited by Darlene Clark Hine. (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1997); Lisa Hill, “Daisy Lampkin” in African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stanford University

Jarboro, Caterina (1903-1986)

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

Caterina Jarboro was born one of three children in Wilmington, North Carolina, to an American Indian mother and a black father who was a local barber. She was christened Katherine Lee Yarborough at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Wilmington.  She received elementary school education at St. Thomas, and later attended Gregory Normal School.  Her parents died when she was thirteen years old, and in 1916, she traveled to Brooklyn, New York, to live with an aunt.

Jarboro studied music in New York where her exceptional ability soon became apparent. By 1921 she appeared in popular theater musicals, such as Sissle and Blake’s “Shuffle Along,” and later in James P. Johnson’s, “Running Wild.” Like many black musicians and performers, she sought more opportunity for study and experience in Europe. Under contract to the San Carlo Opera Company, Jarboro debuted in Verdi’s Aida in 1930 at the Puccini Theater in Milan, Italy.  She continued to study in France and to perform in small productions in Europe until 1932 when she returned to the United States.

Sources: 
Interview with Caterina Jarboro in the Hatch-Billops Collection at the New York City Public Library; http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20070226 /NEWS/702260342; http://www.nytimes.com/1986/08/16/obituaries/caterina-jarboro.html?pagewanted=print
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lambert, William (1817-1890)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Abolitionist and civil rights activist William Lambert was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1817, the son of a manumitted father and a freeborn mother. As a young man Lambert was educated by abolitionist Quakers.

Twenty-three year old Lambert arrived in Detroit, Michigan in 1840 as a cabin boy on a steamboat, and eventually started a profitable tailoring and dry cleaning business.  Upon his death Lambert left behind an estate estimated at $100,000.  Lambert was also a founder of the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and served as one of its wardens.

In Detroit Lambert soon became active in the movement to secure suffrage for the black men of Michigan. He founded the Colored Vigilant Committee, Detroit’s first civil rights organization. In 1843 Lambert helped to organize the first State Convention of Colored Citizens in Michigan. He was subsequently elected chair of the convention and gave an address regarding the right to vote that was directed not only towards black people, but also to the white male citizens of the state. Lambert also worked to bring public education to the black children of Detroit.
Sources: 
Katherine DuPre Lumpkin, “The General Plan Was Freedom”: A Negro Secret Order on the Underground Railroad," Phylon, 28:1 (1st Qtr., 1967); “William Lambert," Detroit African-American History Project, Wayne.edu website; Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation, http://www.elmwoodhistoriccemetery.org/biographies/william-lambert/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lavizzo, Dr. Philip V. (1917-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Photo Courtesy of Lavizzo Family"
Dr. Philip V. Lavizzo, one of the first African American doctors to practice surgery in the Pacific Northwest, was born in 1917.  Very little is known about his early life.  He graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and initially practiced medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana

While in New Orleans, Dr. Lavizzo developed a national reputation as a medical innovator. He coauthored “Observations on the General Adaptation of Syndrome: Surgery as Measured by the Eosinophil Response.” This prized paper was delivered at the first annual Charles Drew Memorial Forum in August 1951.

Sources: 
Philip Lavizzo and Matthew Walker, “Observations on the General Adaptation Syndrome: Surgery as Measured by the Eosinophil Response,” Journal of the National Medical Association 1952, Mar. Vol. 44, No. 2 (March 1952), pp, 87-96, found in http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2617112/; Thomas J. Ward, Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central College

Burbridge, Thomas Nathaniel (1921–1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of San Francisco History Center,
San Francisco Public Library
Medical professor and civil rights leader Thomas Nathaniel Burbridge was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on July 12, 1921. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama, in 1941. From 1942 through 1945, he served in the United States Navy.

In 1948 Burbridge earned a medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He served in the United States Public Health Service as visiting lecturer in Indonesia from 1952 to 1955. The following year, he received a doctoral degree from UCSF and joined the faculty of the school of medicine as assistant professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics. His main research interests were alcohol metabolism, drug metabolism, and comparative pharmacology.
Sources: 
“In Memoriam,” The Crisis 74 (November 1972): 322; Donna Chaban, “UCSF Public Service Awards Given,” May 17, 1974, News from the University of California, San Francisco (1974), p. 2; “Burbridge, Thomas Nathaniel, 1921-1972,” http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/; Paul T. Miller, The Postwar Struggle for Civil Rights: African Americans in San Francisco, 1945-1975 (New York: Routledge, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Jefferson, Blind Lemon (c. 1890-1929)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Blind Lemon Jefferson was born in Couchman, Texas, sometime around the 1890s although the exact date is not known and several are claimed. He was the youngest of seven children and the only one of them born blind. The details of his birth and young life are not well known, nor are the reason that he first began to play guitar and sing, but his influence on the development of blues is well known. He gained the respect of his peers with what were termed inimitable skills, and left traces of his musical characteristics in most of the blues that came after him.

Even though he started out playing on street corners near his hometown, by 1917 Lemon was living in Dallas and was already well known and admired by his peers. He began traveling by train to surrounding areas and journeyed extensively, where he met other blues greats such as: Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), Robert Wilkins and Son House. It was widely thought that he played in every Southern state at one time or another and several artists recount stories of playing with him multiple times. Lemon was a firm businessman, playing only for money, with a reputation for stopping as soon as it did.
Sources: 
Keith Shadwick, The Encyclopedia of Jazz and Blues (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Quintet Publishing, 2001); http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9043478/Blind-Lemon-Jefferson
http://www.sfu.ca/~hayward/van/glossary/lemon.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harrison, Samuel (1818-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Samuel Harrison, a minister, political activist, and former slave, became one of Berkshire County, Massachusetts’s most ardent abolitionists. Harrison was born enslaved in Philadelphia in 1818 but he and his mother were freed in 1821.  Shortly afterwards the widowed mother and her son moved to New York City. When Harrison was nine years old, he returned to Philadelphia to live with an uncle. 

Throughout his childhood, Harrison worked as an apprentice to his uncle in a shoemaking shop, learning a trade that would support him for years. He also attended church services with his mother regularly, and it was during his adolescence that Harrison decided to become a Presbyterian minister. 

Samuel Harrison tried hard to educate himself. In 1836, he enrolled in a manual school run by the abolitionist Gerrit Smith in Peterboro, New York. After only a few months, he transferred to the Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio (now Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio), an institution known for its abolitionist sympathies.   Financial difficulties, however, forced him to return to Philadelphia in 1839.

Soon after returning to Philadelphia, Harrison married Ellen Rhodes who he had known since the two were children. Over the next twenty years, Ellen gave birth to thirteen children, seven of whom died in early childhood.

Sources: 
Samuel Harrison, An Appeal of a Colored Man to his Fellow Citizens of a Fairer Hue in the United States (Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Chickering & Axtell, 1877); Samuel Harrison, Rev. Samuel Harrison, His Life Story, As Told By Himself (Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Privately printed, 1899); Dennis Dickerson, "Reverend Samuel Harrison: A Nineteenth Century Black Clergyman,” in Black Apostles at Home and Abroad: Afro-Americans and the Christian Mission from the Revolution to Reconstruction, edited by David W. Wills and Richard Newman (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Clarke, Yvette Diane (1964– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Yvette Diane Clarke Website

Yvette Diane Clarke won her first political office when she was elected a member of the New York City Council representing part of Brooklyn in 2001. Clarke succeeded her mother, former City Councilmember, Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, making them the first mother-daughter succession in the history of the New York City Council.  

Clarke was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 21, 1964. She attended New York’s public schools and then entered Oberlin College in Ohio, graduating in 1986.

Clarke served as the first Director of Business Development for the Bronx Empowerment Zone where she administered the $51 million budget that resulted in the revitalization and economic development of the South Bronx.  Clarke also chaired the powerful Contracts Committee and co-chaired the New York City Council Women's Caucus.

In 2006 Clarke was elected to the United States Congress to represent New York’s 11th Congressional District.  She holds the seat first won by Shirley Chisholm in 1970.  Chisholm was the first African American woman and the first Caribbean American elected to Congress.

Clarke is currently a member of three House committees and two subcommittees within each committee. Her House committee assignments are as follows: Education and Labor Committee, Homeland Security Committee, and the Small Business Committee.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Miller, Doris [“Dorie”] (1919-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership, Public Domain
World War II war hero Doris “Dorie” Miller was born in Waco, Texas on October 12, 1919 to Conery and Henrietta Miller who were farmers just outside the city.  Miller grew to 6 feet 3 inches, weighed over 200 pounds, and played football at Waco’s A.J. Moore Academy.  He dropped out of school at the age of 17 and enlisted in the US Navy in 1939 at the age of 20.  He was made a mess attendant, one the few positions available to African Americans at the time.  Miller was eventually elevated to Cook, Third Class and assigned to the USS West Virginia stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Clark and Stanley Harrold, The African American Odyssey, Combined Volume  (New York: Prentice Hall, 2003); Matthew C. Whitaker, Peace Be Still: Modern Black America from World War II to Barack Obama (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Ferris, William Henry (1874-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Marsh, Vivian Osborne (1897-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Vivian Osborne Marsh was a community activist and government official, becoming one of the most influential African Americans in the San Francisco area.  She was born in Houston, Texas, on September 5, 1897.  When she applied to the University of California Berkeley, because of her southern schooling she was required to take several entrance exams despite high grades.  Her excellent results on the entrance exams helped to discontinue this policy of discriminating against southern applicants.  She received both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Anthropology, becoming among the first African Americans to receive a master’s degree from UC-Berkeley.
Sources: 
“Vivian Osborne Marsh,” Notable Black American Women, Book 2, Gale Research, 1996, reproduced in Biography Resource Center, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bishop, Maurice (1944-1983)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Prosser, Gabriel (1775-1800)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gabriel Prosser was the leader of an unsuccessful slave revolt in Richmond, Virginia in 1800. Born into slavery around 1775, Gabriel Prosser was owned by Thomas H. Prosser of Henrico County, Virginia. Little is known of Prosser’s life before the revolt that catapulted him into notoriety. Prosser’s two brothers, Solomon and Martin and his wife, Nanny, were all owned by Thomas Prosser and all participated in the insurrection.

Gabriel Prosser at the time of the insurrection was twenty-four years old, six feet two inches, literate, and a blacksmith by trade. He was described by a contemporary as “a fellow of courage and intellect above his rank in life.” With the help of other slaves including Jack Bowler and George Smith, Prosser devised a plan to seize control of Richmond by killing all of the whites (except the Methodists, Quakers and Frenchmen) and then establishing a Kingdom of Virginia with himself as monarch.
Sources: 
Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts (New York: International Publishers, 1974); http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3p1576.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Turner, Debbye (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Debbye Turner (Bell), the third African American woman to win the Miss America crown, was born on September 19, 1965 in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is an American veterinarian, talk show host, and former beauty queen. She was Miss America 1990. Bell is the daughter of Frederick and the late Gussie Turner. Her father is a retired military lieutenant colonel and her late mother was a college counselor. Turner, who was raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas, was first runner up in the Miss Black Teenage World pageant in 1981. She participated in the Miss Arkansas state pageant three times placing first runner up twice.  Finally, she decided to try her luck at the Miss Missouri pageant. In 1989 she won the Miss Missouri title and competed in the September 1989 pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey where she won the Miss America crown.  
Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Karima Harris, “Miss America: From Vanessa Williams to Kimberly Aiken,” Ebony Magazine, January 1994; www.debbyeturner.com; Lynn Norment, “Back- to- Back Black Miss America’s,” Ebony, December 1990, 46-49; http://www.missamerica.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Richmond, Bill (1763 – 1829)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Henry Downes Miles, Pugilistica: The History of British Boxing (London: Weldon & Co., 1880); http://www.100greatblackbritons.com/bios/bill_richmond.htm; "The Rise of the Black," Boxing (December 4, 1909).

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Sellers, Cleveland (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr.
Cleveland Sellers was born on November 8, 1944 in Denmark, South Carolina.  Cleveland became interested in the Civil Rights Movement with the murder of Emmett Till in 1955.  In 1960 at 15, he organized his first sit-in protest at a Denmark, South Carolina lunch counter, just two weeks after the infamous Woolworth’s sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Sellers’s enthusiasm for the movement was tempered by his father’s adamant opposition to his participation.  Sellers entered Howard University in 1963 and concentrated on his studies in compliance with his father’s wishes until his sophomore year.  In 1964 he returned to protest activity and joined Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)  In 1965, Sellers became the program director of SNCC after his successful work with the voter registration in Mississippi.
Sources: 
Cleveland Sellers, The River of No Return (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1973); http://www.depauw.edu/news/index.asp?id=13829.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Qaddafi, Muammar, Al- (1942-2011)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Muammar al-Qaddifi With Italian Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Muammar al-Qaddafi has been Libyan head of state since 1969 and one of the most controversial and divisive leaders in the Middle East and Africa in the twentieth century.  Qaddafi was born in the spring of 1942 to an Arabized Berber family near the Sirt desert on Libya’s northern coast.  He was sent to a local primary school in central Sirt, where he was taunted for being of impoverished Bedouin background. At nights, he slept in the neighborhood mosque and returned home to the city’s outskirts on weekends and holidays.

Sources: 
“Qadafi, Muammar (c.1941),” in Robin Leonard Bidwell, Dictionary of Modern Arab History (London; New York: Kegan Paul International, 1998); “Muammar Qaddafi (1942-   ),” in Bernard Reich, ed., Political Leaders of the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990);  “Libya: Gaddafi (Qadhdhafi) and Jamahiriyya (Libyan Revolution),” in Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hill, Oliver White (1907-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, attorney Oliver W. Hill spent more than 60 years in a practice devoted to civil rights causes. He was in the forefront of the legal effort to desegregate public schools, participating in the series of lawsuits that were consolidated to become the landmark 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down segregated schools.

Oliver White Hill was born Oliver White on May 1, 1907 in Richmond, Virginia. When he was a baby, his father left; later his mother Olivia remarried and he took the last name of his stepfather, Joseph C. Hill. The family moved to Roanoke, Virginia, and then to Washington, D.C. where he graduated from Dunbar High School. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree at Howard University, he graduated in 1933 from Howard University Law School, second in his class only to his friend Thurgood Marshall. In Richmond, Hill founded his first law firm, Hill, Martin and Robinson, and joined with Charles Hamilton Houston on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) legal team.
Sources: 
Oliver W. Hill, The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education and Beyond, the Autobiography of Oliver W. Hill, Sr. (Winter Park, Florida: Four-G Publishers, 2000); Alan Govenar, Untold Glory, African Americans in the Pursuit of Freedom, Opportunity, and Achievement (New York: Harlem Moon, 2007); http://www.pbs.org/beyondbrown/history/oliverhill; http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/06/washington/06hill; http://www.brownat50.org/Brown/Bios/BioOliverhill.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tate, Mary Magdalena Lewis (1871-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Church of the Living God
Mary Magdalena Lewis Tate founded a Pentecostal denomination and became one of the first American women to hold the title, Bishop. Born in Vanleer, Tennessee on January 5, 1871, to Belfield Street and Nancy (Hall) Street, she married her first husband, David Lewis, at age nineteen; they had two sons. As that marriage broke up, she began preaching close to home. Soon she traveled several hundred miles as she crossed state lines into Kentucky and Illinois. Along the way, she gathered converts into “Do Rights” bands, so named because people responded to her message by wanting to “do right.” These associations in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee purchased property to house a meeting place for their worship services of song, testimony, Bible study, and preaching. In 1903, she gathered these groups into the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth.
Sources: 
Estrelda Y. Alexander, Limited Liberty: The Legacy of Four Pentecostal Women Pioneers (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim, 2008); Meharry H. Lewis, ed., Mary Lena Lewis Tate: Collected Letters and Manuscripts (Nashville: The New and Living Way, 2003).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Anderson, Violette Neatley (1882-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
In 1926 Violette Neatley Anderson became the first African American female attorney admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.  Anderson was born on July 16, 1882 in London, England to Richard and Marie Neatley.  The family immigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago, Illinois when Anderson was a young child.  She graduated from a Chicago high school in 1899, furthering her education at the Chicago Athenaeum and the Chicago Seminar of Sciences.  Violette Neatley married Albert Johnson in 1903; however, the marriage quickly ended in divorce.  In December 1906, she married Dr. Daniel H. Anderson, an African American general practitioner, and she took his last name.
Sources: 
Virginia G. Drachman, Sisters in Law: Women Lawyers in Modern American History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); Women’s Law History, Stanford University, http://wlh.law.stanford.edu/biography_search/biopage/?woman_lawyer_id=11329; “Violette Neatley: Trailblazer for Women”, Los Angeles Sentinel, 14 May 2009, http://www.lasentinel.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6110:violette-neatley-trailblazer-for-women.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Chester, William H. (1914-1985)

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

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

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

Shober, James Francis (1853–1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dr. James Francis Shober was an African American doctor and the first known black physician to practice in North Carolina. Shober was born on August 23, 1853, in or near the Moravian town of Salem (now Winston-Salem), North Carolina. Shober’s father, believed to be Francis Edwin Shober, was successful white businessman and politician in the Salem Moravian community who served in the North Carolina state legislature and the United States Congress.

Francis Shober earned his law degree at the University of North Carolina in 1851 and was a co-founder of the first Sunday school in the state. Meanwhile James Shober’s mother, Betsy Ann Waugh, was a mulatto slave who was only eighteen years old when Shober was born. Betsy Ann, who lived in Salem, passed away in 1859 when Shober was between the age of six and seven. He was sent back to the Waugh Plantation near Waughtown, North Carolina, where his grandmother lived with other family relatives.

Sources: 
Ben Steelman, “James Shober, North Carolina Doctor,” http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/james-shober-north-carolina-doctor; William S. Powell, “Shober, James Francis,” http://ncpedia.org/biography/shober-james-francis; Elizabeth Reed, “James Shober” in, Find A Grave- Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=23080615.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Horne, Lena (1917-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
James Haskins, A Personal and Professional Biography of Lena Horne, (Detroit: Scarborough House, 1991); AlJean Harmetz, "Lena Horne Obituary," New York Times, May 10, 2010; http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/lena-horne-about-the-performer/487/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cromwell, John Wesley (1846-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Wesley Cromwell was a historian, editor, educator and lawyer who was born into slavery on September 5th, 1846 in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was the youngest child of Willis Hodges Cromwell and Elizabeth Carney Cromwell, who had twelve children. In 1851 Willis Cromwell obtained his family’s freedom and they moved to West Philadelphia. John attended Bird’s Grammar School at the age of ten and the Institute for Colored Youth in 1856. He graduated in 1864 and taught briefly in Colombia, Pennsylvania.

Cromwell returned to Virginia in 1865 at the age of eighteen and opened a private school for freedmen in Portsmouth, which was eventually taken over by the American Missionary Association. He returned to Philadelphia and worked with the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People. In December of 1865, the principal of the Association recommended Cromwell to teach in the American Missionary Association’s freedman’s schools being formed across the South. Cromwell taught briefly in Maryland and Virginia through 1867.

John Wesley Cromwell soon got involved with local politics in Virginia. In 1867 he was named a delegate to the first Republican convention in Richmond. He was also named clerk in the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1868.

Sources: 
Adelaide M. Cromwell, Unveiled Voices, Unvarnished Memories: The Cromwell Family in Slavery and Segregation, 1692-1972 (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2007); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Stanley, Sara G. (1837-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

McCall, Carl H. (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

Drake, John Gibbs St. Clair (1911-1990)

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

John Gibbs St. Clair Drake was an American anthropologist and sociologist and the founding Director of Stanford University’s African and African American Studies Department in 1968.  Drake was born in Suffolk, Virginia on January 2, 1911.  Drake’s father immigrated to the United States from the Barbados in 1904, and studied at the Virginia Theological Seminary and College in Lynchburg, and upon graduation became a Baptist Preacher. Drake’s mother, Bessie, was a devout churchwoman born in Virginia. When his parents divorced Drake moved to live with his father in Staunton, Virginia.  A few years later Drake accompanied his father to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1916 when the Rev. Drake continued ministering to his African American congregants who migrated north.  Drake later returned to Staunton, Virginia to live with his mother, who had separated and later divorced his father in 1924.

Sources: 
George Clement Bond, "A Social Portrait of John Gibbs St. Clair Drake: An American Anthropologist," American Ethnologist (November 1988); Fourteenth Census of the United States, Schedule No. 1.; Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Blayton, Jesse B., Sr. (1879-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph of Jesse Blayton,
Atlanta University Photographs,
Atlanta University Center
Robert W. Woodruff Library

Jesse B. Blayton, Sr., was a pioneer African American radio station entrepreneur.  Blayton founded WERD-AM in Atlanta, Georgia on October 3, 1949 making him the first African American to own and operate a radio station in the United States.

Jesse Blayton was born in Fallis, Oklahoma, on December 6, 1879. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1922 and then moved to Atlanta, Georgia to establish a private practice as an accountant. Blayton passed the Georgia accounting examination in 1928, becoming the state's first black Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and only the fourth African American nationwide to hold the certification.

Blayton also taught accounting at Atlanta University where he encouraged younger blacks to enter the profession.  He had little success. Blayton later recalled that much of his recruiting difficulty came from the students' knowledge that no white-owned accounting firms would hire them and his, the only black-owned firm in the South, was small and had few openings. A decade after Blayton became a CPA there were still only seven other blacks in the U.S. who had achieved that status.  

Sources: 

William Barlow, Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio (Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 1999); Theresa A. Hammond, A White-Collar
Profession: African American Public Accountants since 1921
(Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); "WERD" in the New
Georgia Encyclopedia (online), http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Winfrey, Oprah (1954 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Repeatedly on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, Oprah Winfrey is a television host, media mogul – in television, radio, film, and print – and philanthropist.  Forbes magazine included her in its 2003 list of America’s billionaires, the first African American woman to become one.

The “Oprah Winfrey Show” is in its 22nd season, and is syndicated to 214 United States stations, and 139 countries. Launched in April 2000, O, The Oprah Magazine, has a current circulation of 2.3 million monthly readers, and is considered one of the most successful magazine launches in publishing history. In 2004, a companion publication, O at Home, made its debut.  
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, Facts on File, Inc., p. 277 (New York, 1997); William Andrews, et al., The Concise Oxford Guide to African American Literature, Oxford University Press, pp. 31, 209-12, 389, 444 (New York, 2001); www.oprah.com; www.biography.com; www.achievement.org; www.freshthinkingbusiness.com/oprah-winfrey 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brewer, Carl (1957-- )

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Carl Brewer, mayor of Wichita, Kansas, is a native of that city. Brewer, who was born in 1957, is the first African American to be elected as the mayor of the largest city in Kansas.  He previously served on the Wichita City Council from 2001 to 2007. Brewer is the second African American to hold the post of Mayor.  A. Price Woodard served as mayor from April 14, 1970 to April 13, 1971.

Brewer was raised in Wichita, and attended North High, where he graduated in 1975. After high school, he attended Friends University, also located in Wichita. Prior to serving on the city council, Brewer was employed as a Spirit Operations Manager for Boeing aerospace manufacturing, a Manufacture Engineer for Cessna aviation, and as a Captain for the Kansas Army National Guard. Brewer is also a member of multiple organizations, including the Arkansas Valley Masonic Lodge, the African American Catholic Council, the National Guard Association, and the Boeing Management Association.

Carl Brewer began serving on the Wichita City Council in 2001, representing District 1. He is a member of many governmental associations: the National League of Cities Board of Directors, the National Black Caucus, the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to name a few. 

Sources: 
http://www.wichita.gov/Government/CityCouncil/Mayor/; Chris Moon, "Brewer Easily Defeats Mayans for Mayor," Wichita Business Journal, April 4, 2007, p. 1.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Saro-Wiwa, Kenule “Ken” Beeson (1941-1995)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr., In the Shadow of a Saint: A Son's Journey to Understanding His Father's Legacy (South Royalton: Steerforth, 2001); Craig W. McLuckie (ed.), Ken Saro-Wiwa: Writer and Political Activist  (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2000); http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/sarowiwa-daniels-2733; http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/09/business/global/09shell.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Pennington, James W. C. (1807-1870)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born into slavery on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1807, James William Charles Pennington escaped from slavery in 1828 and settled for a time in Long Island, where he studied in night school.  Devoted to black education, he became an antislavery preacher, teacher, activist, and writer.  Pennington attended classes at Yale College in New Haven, although Yale forbade him to officially enroll or to use its library.  In 1838 he officiated at the wedding of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray.  During the 1840s and 1850s he pastored African Congregational churches in Newtown, Long Island; Hartford, Connecticut; and New York City, gaining international recognition as an antislavery orator and civil rights activist.  Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin praised him as an exemplary African American leader.  In addition to many sermons and speeches, Pennington authored one of the first history textbooks for African American teachers, A Text Book of the Origin and History . . . of Colored People (1841) and a memoir of slavery, The Fugitive Blacksmith, or Events in the History of James W.C. Pennington (1849).
Sources: 
Pennington, James W.C., The Fugitive Blacksmith; Charles E. Wilson, Jr., “Pennington, James W. C.” in William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris, eds., The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

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

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

Garrett Augustus Morgan was born in 1875 or 1877 in Paris, Kentucky to farmers Sydney and Elizabeth Morgan. Garrett received an elementary school education and left home at the age of 14, finding work in Cincinnati, Ohio as a mechanic. In 1895 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked for 12 years repairing sewing machines and in 1901 invented a sewing machine belt fastener.

In 1907 Morgan established his first business, a sewing machine sales and repair shop. He soon expanded with a tailoring business and later the Morgan Skirt Factory that employed more than 30 people. His second major discovery came while exploring a way to reduce friction between sewing needles and woolen fabric. He found that a chemical solution he developed to straighten the woolen fibers of textiles also straightened hair. In 1913 he formed the G. A. Morgan Hair Refining Cream Company that sold a line of hair care products.
Sources: 
Charles W. Carey, Jr., American Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Visionaries (New York: Facts On File, 2002); Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Armstrong, Louis Daniel (1901-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Louis Armstrong is perhaps the most important and influential person in the history of jazz music, swing music, and jazz vocal styling.  His virtuosic ability with the trumpet, his distinctive gravelly low vocal style, his bright personality, and his band leadership abilities helped to build jazz into a popular musical genre and influenced nearly every jazz musician after him.

Louis Armstrong was born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana into an impoverished family.  In 1912 he fired a pistol in the air during a New Year’s celebration, was arrested, and sent to a waif’s home.  It was here that he learned how to play the cornet.  He immediately began playing in various jazz bands in and around New Orleans.  From 1922 to 1924 Armstrong was a member of King Oliver’s band in Chicago, Illinois which was the most popular jazz band of the time.  By 1924 as his playing abilities surpassed Oliver’s, Armstrong’s wife Lillian persuaded him to join Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York to move beyond Oliver’s shadow.

Sources: 
Michael Erlewin, All Music Guide to Jazz (San Francisco: Backbeat Books,  1998); Sam Tanenhaus, Louis Armstrong (Danbury, Connecticut: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989);  Thomas Brothers, Louis Armstrong In His Own Words (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Penny M. von Eschen, Satchmo Blows Up the Word: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ben-Jochannan, Yosef (1918-2015)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

Staples, George McDade (1947-- )

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

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

LeMelle, Wilbert J., Sr. (1931-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Wilbert J. LeMelle, Sr., was a scholar, development specialist, and ambassador to Kenya and the Republic of Seychelles between 1977 and 1980.  In both his academic and diplomatic work, LeMelle urged the United States to become more engaged in Africa, focusing on economic development and human rights issues.
Sources: 
Transcript, Ambassador Wilbert LeMelle Interview, 3 December 1998, by Richard Jackson for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project.  Online: http://www.adst.org/OH TOCs/LeMelle, Wilbert.toc.pdf; Wilbert J. LeMelle, The First Development Decade in Africa: An Assessment. The African Economic Revolution and the Afro-American (Princeton: Princeton University, 1972); Wilbert J. LeMelle, “The Changing Role of the Planning Advisor in East Africa,” The African Review: A Journal of African Politics, Development and International Affairs 3 (1973); Wilbert J. LeMelle, “The OAU and Superpower Intervention in Africa,” Africa Today 35 (1988):
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Welsing, Frances Cress (1935–2016)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Frances Cress Welsing, a psychiatrist best known for writing The Isis Papers, was born Frances Luella Cress in Chicago, Illinois, on March 18, 1935. Welsing, who was the child of physician Henry Cress and teacher Ida Mae Griffen, grew up the middle of three daughters. She would receive her Bachelor of Science degree from Antioch College in Ohio in 1957 and her medical degree (M.D.) from Washington D.C.’s Howard University in 1962.

After earning her M.D., Welsing stayed in Washington D.C., pursuing a career in child and general psychiatry. Welsing would spend nearly twenty-five years working as a staff physician for D.C.’s Department of Human Services, and also as the clinical director of two schools catering to children with emotional troubles. Welsing opened her own private practice in D.C. in 1967. Through her published works and her research, Welsing sought to help bring about a solution to the mental health problems of the black community by understanding racism.
Sources: 
Frances Cress Welsing, “The Cress Theory of Color-Confrontation,” The Black Scholar 5:8 (May 1974); “Dr. Frances Cress Welsing Dead at 80,” The Root, January 2016; http://www.theroot.com/articles/news/2016/01/dr_frances_cres