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People

Curry, Stephen (1988- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
LeBron James Guarding Stephen Curry in NBA Championship Series, 2017
Image Ownership: Public domain

Wardell Stephen Curry II, also known as Stephen Curry, is a professional basketball player with the Golden State (California) Warriors. Curry is considered one of the greatest shooters in NBA history and an “elite” all-time scorer.  As the 7th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, Curry rose to become a four-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA champion and most valuable player, and a leader in three-point shooting.

Curry was born on March 18, 1988, in Akron, Ohio to Sonya Curry and former NBA player, Dell Curry. The family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina when his father signed to play for the Charlotte Hornets. Curry was able to develop his basketball skills at a young age because his father took him and his younger brother, Seth, to Hornets games where they were allowed to shoot with the team during game warm ups. Young Curry attended Charlotte Christian School where he played basketball, leading his team to three conference titles and three state playoff appearances.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bruce, Samuel (Sam) Martin (1915–1944)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 1942 Sam Martin Bruce was a second lieutenant assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron, a unit piloted by men who were part of the Tuskegee Airmen. They were the African American pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and other personnel responsible for keeping the planes in the air. From 1941 to 1946, nearly one thousand airmen were trained at Tuskegee.   

The 99th Pursuit Squadron was the first all-African American pursuit squadron. They were the direct result of the constant pressure on the Franklin Roosevelt Administration from African Americans demanding a larger role in the military and an end to the ban on black pilots. In 1940 the federal government created the Tuskegee Airmen program and located it at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. Members of the 99th Pursuit Squadron were some of the first Tuskegee airmen to complete their training and be sent to Europe after the United States entered World War II.
Sources: 
Jerry Large, “Saluting a Seattle WWII Tuskegee Airman,” The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/saluting-a-seattle-wwii-tuskegee-airman/; “Bruce, Samuel M., 2nd Lt.,” Together We Served, http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/usaf/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApp?cmd=ShadowBoxProfile&type=Person&ID=172042; “Northwest Connection: The Tuskegee Airmen,” 4 Culture, http://www.naamnw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/NAAM.TuskgeeHiRes2bestcopy1.pdf; “Airmen History,” Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Same Bruce Chapter, http://sambrucetai.org/about-tuskegee-airmen/; “A Brief History,” Tuskegee Airmen Inc., http://tuskegeeairmen.org/explore-tai/a-brief-history/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Owensby, Roger, Jr. (1971-2000)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Roger Owensby and His Daughter, Mylesha
Image Ownership: Public domain

Roger Owensby, Jr. was a twenty-nine-year-old African-American who died at the hands of Cincinnati Police officers during a scuffle in the Roselawn neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio in November 2000. Owens’ death at the hands of police—as well as the death the following year of Timothy Thomas under similar circumstances—helped spark the Cincinnati Riot in April 2001 and eventually helped inspire the Black Lives Matter Movement thirteen years later.

Roger Owensby, Jr. was born on March 27, 1971 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Roger Owensby, Sr. and Brenda Owensby. Owensby joined the U.S. Army in 1990 and served for eight years, rising to the rank of sergeant.  He saw combat in the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) and afterwards served in Bosnia in 1996 where he was an Army cook.  At the time of his death, Owensby had a nine-year-old daughter, Mylesha Owensby, and he had no previous police record.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

White, Ronnie L. (1953- )

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

Ronnie Lee White became the first black justice to serve on the Missouri Supreme Court in 1995 and served until 2007. He was the court’s Chief Justice from 2003 to 2005. In addition to serving as a judge, White has been a public defender, an attorney, a city council member in St. Louis, a representative in the Missouri House of Representatives, an adjunct professor at Washington University School of Law, and a partner at a law firm.

Ronnie White was born on May 31, 1953 in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1977 he earned his Associate of Arts from St. Louis Community College and his Bachelor of Arts in political science from Saint Louis University in 1979. In 1983 White earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.  In 1969, six years prior to enrolling in community college, White joined the U.S. Army Reserve, which he served as a member of until 1980.

Sources: 
“Judge Ronnie White.” Missouri Courts: Judicial Branch of Government. N.d. https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=204; “Ronnie L. White.” Ballotpedia. N.d. https://ballotpedia.org/Ronnie_L._White; “White, Ronnie Lee.” Federal Judicial Center. N.d. https://www.fjc.gov/history/judges/white-ronnie-lee; Chuck Raasch. “Senate confirms St. Louis’ Ronnie White as federal judge.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 16. 2014. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/senate-confirms-st-louis-ronnie-white-as-federal-judge/article_c758368a-534d-59e1-8ad6-5367e272c5e6.html; Zach Perry. “Black History Month: Ronnie White, first African-American to serve on Missouri’s Supreme Court.” KSHB Kansas City 41. Scripps TV Station Group, Feb. 21, 2017. https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/black-history-month-ronnie-white-first-african-american-to-serve-on-missouris-supreme-court; “At Long Last, Justice for Ronnie White.” The New York Times. July 18, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/19/opinion/At-Long-Last-Justice-for-Ronnie-White.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Grafton Tyler (1841-1918)

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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

Rhimes, Shonda (1970- )

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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: 

Dollarhide, Douglas (1923-2008)

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

Douglas Dollarhide was the first African American mayor of the city of Compton, California, and a pioneer and role model for future black politicians across the state of California.

Dollarhide was born in March 1923 in Earlsboro, Oklahoma. He was the son of two former slaves, Thomas Dollarhide and Daisy Williams Dollarhide. In the early 1940s, the family moved from Earlsboro to San Jose, California, where Dollarhide enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served during World War II and after the conflict ended, settled in Los Angeles County with his new wife, Eliza, and daughter, Barbara.

Sources: 
Richard Elman, Ill-At-Ease in Compton (New York: Pantheon, 1967); Yussuf J. Simmonds, “African American Mayors of Compton,” Los Angeles Sentinel, June 2009, 1, https://search.proquest.com/docview/369302220?accountid=14784 (login required); and Yussuf Simmonds, “Douglas Dollarhide Dies.” Los Angeles Sentinel. n.p., July 10, 2008, https://lasentinel.net/douglas-dollarhide-dies.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Miyamoto, Ariana (1994- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On March 12, 2015, Ariana Miyamoto became the first Miss Universe Japan of mixed-race descent. The beauty queen was born on May 12, 1994, the product of a brief marriage between an African American serviceman and a Japanese woman. Shortly after her birth, her father returned to America and she was raised by her mother’s side of the family in the southern port city of Sasebo, Japan.

Miyamoto and others of half-Japanese descent are commonly referred to as “hafus.” Because Japan is one of the most homogenous countries in the world, mixed-race people often encounter stigmatism. Miyamoto, for example, endured racism all throughout her childhood.  Some children refused to touch her, fearing that her black skin would “rub off” on them. Others mocked her, calling her “kurombo”-a derogatory term for people of color.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles Pierce College

King, John Thomas (1846-1926)

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People
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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

Williams, Chancellor J. (1898-1992)

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People
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African American History
Prominent in the pantheon of Afrocentric scholars is Chancellor James Williams, the son of a former slave, born on December 22, 1898 in Bennettsville, South Carolina.  Williams earned both his bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in history at Howard University where he began teaching in 1946.  He completed his Ph.D. in sociology at American University in 1949 and did research at Oxford University, the University of London, the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa and, in 1956, University College in Ghana.  

Williams is best known for his book The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race From 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1971) in which he attempted to repair the reputation of sub-Saharan Africans prior to the conquests of Europeans by pointing out the achievements of African people and the bias of white academics who would distort knowledge of their great past. What is less known about Williams is that long before he penned his history texts he asserted himself as an American writer unfettered by the burden of race.  His “flirtation with universality” resulted in what he called a “562-page white life novel,” The Raven which was published in 1943.  The novel, based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe, was praised in the New York Times as a work of “extraordinary quality.”  
Sources: 
Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Writers, 1940-1955 (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1988); Contemporary Authors. Vol. 142, (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994); Robert Fikes, Jr. “The Persistent Allure of Universality African American Authors of White Life Novels,” Western Journal of Black Studies, 20 (Winter 1996), 221-226; http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/williams.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Mondlane, Eduardo Chivambo (1920-1969)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, Mozambique: from Colonialism to Revolution, 1900-1982 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983); Eduardo Mondlane, ed. Ronald Segal, The Struggle for Mozambique (Penguin African Library, 1969, 1970).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Wallace, Sippie (1898–1986)

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People
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African American History
 Beulah “Sippie” Thomas Wallace sang and recorded her best work for Okeh Records between 1923 and 1927 when she was the most frequently recorded female blues singer in the country. Not only did she have a unique style and sound, Wallace wrote many of her songs, sometimes collaborating with her musical partners and brothers George and Hersal. Additionally, she played the piano.
Sources: 
David Dicaire, Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century (Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999); http:/www.redhotjazz.com/wallace.html; http:/www.southernmusic.net/sippiewallace.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Cleaver, Emanuel (1944- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Democratic Caucus,
U.S. House of Representatives
Reverend Emanuel Cleaver II, born in Waxahachie, Texas in 1944, is best known as the first African American mayor of Kansas City, Missouri.  Cleaver, who grew up in a public housing project in Wichita Falls, Texas, graduated from Prairie View A & M University in Texas with a B.S. in Sociology in 1968.  After graduating from Prairie View he moved to Kansas City where he founded a local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  He also received an M.A. in Divinity from St. Paul’s School of Theology in Kansas City and became pastor of the St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City where he built the congregation from 47 members to more than 2,000.

Cleaver was first elected to public office in 1979 as a City Councilman in Kansas City. He remained on the Council for twelve years before running for mayor in 1991.  Cleaver won and served as mayor until 1999.  After leaving office he served briefly in the Clinton Administration as Special Urban Advisor to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo.

During his time as a mayor for Kansas City, Cleaver was recognized for stimulating economic growth, improving the city’s infrastructure, and creating youth outreach programs to combat crime. Shortly after his tenure as mayor ended, the city honored him by designating one of its major thoroughfares as “Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard.”
Sources: 
Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); http://www.answers.com; ; http://www.house.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Winkfield, Jimmy (1882-1974)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jimmy Winkfield, born on April 12, 1882, became famous as an early 20th Century horse jockey.  Winkfield, the youngest of 17 children, was born in Chilesburg, Kentucky, a town just outside of Lexington.  As a child, he had a routine that included performing chores on the farm where his father was a sharecropper and overseeing the thoroughbred parades down the country roads. He and his family moved to Cincinnati in 1894.


On August 10, 1898, Winkfield rode his first race. Aboard Jockey Joe at Chicago's Hawthorne Racetrack, he raced his horse out of the gate and rode across the path of the three inside horses, in an effort to get to the rail. This aggressive behavior did not go over well with racetrack officials and he earned a one year suspension.  Winkfield learned from his mistake and on September 18, 1899, won his first race.  Six months later he rode for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.

In 1901, at 19, Winkfield captured his first Kentucky Derby title astride a horse named Eminence. He went on to win 161 races that year, including key victories in the Latonia Derby on Hernando and Tennessee Derby where he rode Royal Victor. While these were spectacular accomplishments, he returned to the Kentucky Derby in 1902 and won again in the most important race of his career.  

Sources: 
Ed Hotaling, Wink: the Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004); Neil Schmidt, “Black Jockey’s journey spanned different worlds.” The Cincinnati Enquirer. April 29, 2002.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Cummings, Elijah E. (1951- )

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

Dill, Augustus Granville (1881-1956)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Augustus Granville Dill, sociologist, business manager, musician, and colleague of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois, is best known for his work overseeing the publication of Du Bois’s journal, The Crisis, between 1913 and 1928.  He also helped publish The Brownies’ Book, a pioneering magazine for black children published from 1920 to 1921.  In many ways, A.G. Dill represented the possibilities but also the difficulties of the college-educated “talented tenth” generation that Du Bois lauded as civil rights pioneers in his seminal Souls of Black Folk (1903).

Born in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1881, Dill came of age in the era of Jim Crow. After graduating from Atlanta University with a B.A. in 1906, he earned a second B.A. at Harvard University in 1908.  Dill was one of a handful of black students who matriculated at universities such as Harvard at the turn of the century but like his mentor Du Bois, he found few opportunities for advancement outside of the black institutions that had developed in response to segregation’s proscriptions. Atlanta University awarded Dill a Master’s degree in Sociology in 1909 and hired him as both a professor and organist for the school in 1910.  
Sources: 
W.E.B. DuBois, "Brownies' Book Opening Statement," The Brownies' Book 1 (February 1920); W.E.B. DuBois and Augustus Granville Dill, eds., The College-Bred Negro (Atlanta: Atlanta University Press, 1910); Theodore Kornweibel, “Augustus Granville Dill” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography  (New York:  W.W. Norton, 1982); David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963  (New York:  H. Holt, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University.

Polk, Oscar (1900-1949)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Photo Courtesy of
the Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs
Division, Carl Van
Vechten Collection

Actor Oscar Polk began his career in the early 1930s as a stage performer in the musical production of Swingin’ the Dream, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream. The Arizona native studied dancing at Jack Blue’s Dance Studio and later became a tap dance instructor. He made his film debut in 1936 as Gabriel the Angel in The Green Pastures, an adaptation of the play by Marc Connelly. The Green Pastures was perhaps Polk’s most pivotal film role.

Subsequently, he appeared in the film It’s a Great Life (1936), Oscar Micheaux’s 1937 film Underworld, and primarily race (all-black cast) films until actor turned casting agent Ben Carter arranged for Polk the substantial role of the house servant, Pork, in the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind.  Polk co-starred with Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography, (New York: Amistad Press,
1997; Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life
Together
, (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.,1998; Edward
Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts, 1st edition, (Lanham,
Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Marsh, Henry L., III (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Virginia
Senate Democratic Caucus
Henry Marsh is a prominent political figure, black activist, and lawyer in Richmond, Virginia.  He was born on December 10, 1933 in Richmond but when his mother died at age five, he was sent to live with relatives in rural Virginia.  Marsh, who attended Moonfield School, a racially segregated one room school with seven grades, one teacher and 78 students, knew first hand the consequences of school segregation.

Marsh eventually returned to Richmond and graduated with honors from Maggie L. Walker High School in 1952.   He then enrolled in Virginia Union University, a predominately black college in Richmond, where he received his bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences (BA.) in 1956. Marsh majored in sociology at Virginia Union. During his senior year Marsh testified before the Virginia General Assembly against the "massive resistance" campaign designed to circumvent the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.  While at the Assembly he met veteran civil rights attorney Oliver Hill who encouraged Marsh to go to law school.  Marsh followed his advice and in 1959 Marsh obtained a bachelor of law degree (L.L.B.) from Howard University.  Marsh served in the U.S. Army for the next two years.
Sources: 
Lewis A. Randolph, Rights for a Season: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender in Richmond, Virginia (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2003); http://wayneorrell.com/id54.html; http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=656; http://www.virginia.edu/publichistory/biographies/hm.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Current, Gloster B. (1913-1997)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

Smith, Ferdinand Christopher (1893-1961)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Ferdinand Smith, Chicago Alderman Earl B. Dickerson and
Donald M. Nelson, Chair of the War Production Board, 1943
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jamaican-born Ferdinand Christopher Smith became a prominent twentieth century international labor activist and leader.  At an early age Smith left Jamaica’s poor economic conditions in search of work as a migrant laborer.  He spent five years in Panama, where he worked as a hotel steward and a salesman.  After WWI he moved to Cuba and by 1920 was working as a ship’s steward.

In the 1920s, impressed by their commitment to racial issues, Smith joined the Communist-led Marine Workers Industrial Union.  Although maritime workers faced oppressive working conditions including high rates of disease, low wages, poor rations, and unventilated quarters, they had virtually no union representation aboard ships.  This began to change as part of the New Deal’s support of labor unions. In 1936 Smith supported the strike against West Coast shippers.  When maritime strikes spread to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Smith became one of the nine members of the national strike Strategy Committee.

Sources: 

Gerald Horne, Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica (New York: New York University Press, 2005); “Ferdinand Smith, Labor Leader, 67,” New York Times, August 16, 1961, 31.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Metropolitan State University, Denver

Southern, Eileen Jackson (1920-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eileen Southern was among the first generation of musicologists focused on studying, preserving, and teaching the history and traditions of African American music. She was also the first female African American faculty member at Harvard University.

Born Eileen Jackson in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1920, her parents divorced when she was a child.  From that point on she was the caregiver for her younger sisters as they were shuttled between their mother’s home in Chicago and their father’s home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Her father purchased a grand piano for the three girls and they quickly learned to sing and play.  At age seven, Southern gave her first public piano concert.  Later in life, she would explain that as a girl she thought that everyone had a grand piano.
Sources: 
Eileen Southern Papers, Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois; “Eileen Southern Dies at 82,” Harvard Gazette, October 17, 2002;
“Eileen Southern,” African American Music Collection: The Interviews, University of Michigan; and “Eileen Southern, Chronicler of Black Music, Is Dead at 82,” The New York Times, October 19, 2002.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Brazeal, Aurelia Erskine (1943- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Aurelia Erskine Brazeal was a career diplomat and the first black woman to be named ambassador by three Presidents. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed her ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia.  Three years later President Bill Clinton named her ambassador to Kenya.  In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Brazeal U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia.
Sources: 
U.S. State Department, “Biographies: Aurelia E. Brazeal” (2002-2005) http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/b/15243.htm; Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State, Aurelia E. Brazeal (2014) https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/brazeal-aurelia-erskine; NNDB Mapper, Aurelia E. Brazeal (2014) http://www.nndb.com/people/137/000131741/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Cook, Suzan Denise Johnson (1957– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Suzan Johnson Cook is a religious leader, pastor, motivational speaker, and diplomat who was born on January 28, 1957, in Harlem, New York. Her father, Wilbert Johnson, was a trolley driver and later founder of a successful security company, and her mother Dorothy Johnson, was a public school teacher. The parents moved their family to the Bronx, New York, where young Suzan was raised.

Johnson Cook earned several degrees including a bachelor’s from Emerson College (1976), a master’s from the Teachers College at Columbia University (1978), a Master of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry from Union Theological Seminary (1983 and 1990 respectively).

From 1983 to 1996, Johnson Cook was senior pastor at New York’s Marine Temple Baptist Church and a professor at New York Theological Seminary from 1988 to1996. In 1990 she became the first female and African American to be named New York City Policy Department’s (NYPD’s) chaplain, a position she held for twenty-one years.
Sources: 
“Who’s Here: Suzan Johnson Cook Ambassador-At-Large” by Dan Rattiner, 2013; The History Makers, “Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook”; U.S. Department of State, Official Biography.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rye, Angela (1979- )

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

Angela Rye is a lawyer, political commentator, and CEO of IMPACT Strategies. Rye was born on October 26, 1979 in Seattle, Washington to Eddie Rye Jr., a community organizer, and Andera Rye, a retired college administrator.  She attended the University of Washington where she received her a bachelor’s degree Law, Societies, and Justice in 2002.  Three years later, she received a law degree from Seattle University School of Law.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Schwartz, Errol R. (1952- )

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

Major General Errol R. Schwartz, the first black adjutant general for the District of Columbia, was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1952. In 1972 Schwartz arrived in the United States, following his brother and sister who emigrated from Guyana to enroll at Howard University.  Their own quest for higher education motivated Schwartz to begin to investigate enrolling in a college and focusing in engineering.

Later in 1972 Schwartz entered TESST, a private non-profit technical college in Baltimore, Maryland but which had a campus in Hyattsville, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. Schwartz became both a full-time student and a full-time employee handing all external and internal calls for the Crestwood, an apartment complex in Washington, D.C. After completing the two-year program at TESST and graduating as an electrical technologist, he applied to Federal City College (FCC) in Washington, D.C. on the encouragement of engineering professor Dr. Gene Emmanuel, a Crestwood resident who taught at FCC. While studying at FCC, Schwartz also worked as a television repairman.

Sources: 
“Major General Errol Schwartz: Biography,” National Guard Bureau, http://www.nationalguard.mil/portals/31/Features/ngbgomo/bio/1/1513.html “UDC: "We Are Black History: Major General Errol R. Schwartz.” Major General Errol R. Schwartz, University of the District of Columbia, https://www.udc.edu/2017/02/13/errol-schwartz/; Peter Hermann and Aaron C. Davis, “Head of D.C. National Guard Removed from Post in middle of inauguration” Washington Post, January 13, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/commanding-general-of-dc-national-guard-to-be-removed-from-post/2017/01/13/725a0438-d99e-11e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b_story.html.
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

Light, Allen B. (1805- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Allen Light's Sailor's Papers, 1827
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The African American experience in California in the years just prior to the Gold Rush included more than just overland immigrants. Allen B. Light, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arrived in Santa Barbara, California in 1835 as a crew-member of the American ship Pilgrim. After his arrival in California, Light would bear the titles of mercenary, hunter, Mexican citizen, and even “comisario general” during his time in the West.

Upon arriving in Santa Barbara, Light signed on with a sea-going hunting party led by George Nidever to hunt sea otter off the Californian and Mexican coast. The shortage of otters from over-hunting caused intense competition in the pelt market; otter pelts could be had for as much as $37 each that decade. This competition would escalate to the level of naval skirmishing between Mexico-based parties and with “contrabandistas” - Native Americans (often from present-day Alaska) supported by American brigs. Allen Light became a skirmisher himself when attacked by contrabandistas from the Convoy off Santa Rosa Island. He, Nidever, and two other hunters killed three men with gunfire in order to escape.
Sources: 
Marivi S. Blanco, "Allen Light," San Diego History Center, http://www.sandiegohistory.org/education/light8/biolight.htm; “African Americans in the Far West,” The New Encyclopedia of the American West (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gray, Darius Aidan (1945– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
African American Latter Day Saints (LDS) Church activist Darius Gray was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Elsie Johnson and Darius McKinley Gray on December 12, 1945. His mother was a domestic worker (maid), and his father a handyman. His grandfather, Louis Gray, was born a slave in Marshall, Missouri.  

Gray, a journalist and a businessman, grew up in Colorado Springs where he attended Parker High School. Later he enrolled in Columbia University.  In 1964 Gray, while living in Colorado Springs, decided to be baptized in the LDS church after listening to Mormon missionaries. In his pre-baptismal interview, however, he learned that black men were not permitted to be ordained to the priesthood, and no person of black African descent was permitted to receive the “endowment” in LDS temples. After a revelatory experience, Gray decided to be baptized regardless of the restrictions.  
Sources: 
“Monument erected to honor Elijah Abel family,” Deseret News, 25 Oct. 2002: Ronald G. Coleman, “Jane Elizabeth Manning James (1813-1908),” BlackPast.org, http://www.blackpast.org/aaw/james-jane-elizabeth-manning-1813-1908; Jason Swenson, “Freedman’s Bank: Boosting Research for African-Americans.” Church News, 3 Mar. 2001; Margaret Blair Young, “The Genesis Group: Support for Black Latter-day Saints,” Meridian Magazine, 8 Aug. 2012, http://ldsmag.com/article-1-11298/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brigham Young University

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

De Porres, Martin (1579-1639)

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

Born December 9, 1579 in Lima, Peru, St. Martin de Porres is best known for his charitable work.  His piety allowed him access to the Dominican order of his country, and his acts of compassion for the sick became part of the justification for his canonization as the first black saint of the Americas.

Fathered by a Spaniard of noble birth, Don Juan de Porres, and born of an emancipated American black slave living in Panama, Anna Velasquez, Martin de Porres’ fair-mindedness and empathy became discernible traits at an early age.

Educated for a time in Santiago de Guayaquil, de Porres returned to Lima and by 1591 had become an apprentice to a surgeon/barber.  Upon gaining knowledge of medicine, de Porres began applying his skills in healing the sick and infirmed.  His work with the underclasses of Lima culminated with his decision to apply as a helper to the Convent of the Most Holy Rosary, a Dominican community.  Because of his racial background, he wasn’t immediately offered the holy habit but was promoted to distributing alms, attracting large sums of donations to support his work in a Dominican infirmary. It was here where de Porres’ reputation as a “miracle healer” began.  

Sources: 

J. W. Seabrook, “Review of Meet Brother Martin!” The Journal of Negro History, 26:4 (October, 1941); Gayle Murchison, “Mary Lou Williams’s Hymn Black Christ of the Andes (St Martin de Porres):  Vatican II, Civil Rights, and Jazz as Sacred Music,” The Musical Quarterly, 86:4 (2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bethune, Mary Jane McLeod (1875-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership:  Public Domain
Mary McLeod Bethune was a prominent educator, political leader, and social visionary whose early twentieth century activism for black women and civil rights laid the foundation for the modern civil rights era.  Inspired by leaders such as Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Josephine St. Pierre-Ruffin, Bethune mobilized African American women’s organizations to challenge racial injustice and demand first class citizenship.
Sources: 
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eleanor/peopleevents/pande05.html; http://www.nps.gov/mamc/historyculture/people_marymcleodbethune.htm; Mary McLeod Bethune, Mary McLeod Bethune: Building a Better World, Essays and Selected Documents (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); John Hope Franklin (ed.), Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982), 191-220; Darlene Clark Hine (ed.), The African-American Odyssey (New York: Prentice Hall, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Douglass, Anna Murray (c. 1813-1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Anna Murray Douglass is best known as the first wife of black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Her life illustrates the challenges facing women who were married to famous men.  Born as a free black in rural Maryland, her parents, Mary and Bambarra Murray, were manumitted shortly before her birth. She grew up in Baltimore, where she met a ship caulker six years her junior, Frederick Washington Bailey.  Although it is unclear how they met, Murray facilitated his second escape attempt by providing money for a train ticket and a sailor’s disguise.  She followed him to New York City, where they were married by the prominent black minister, Rev. J.W.C. Pennington.  They adopted the surname Douglass when they moved to a Quaker community in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), and William S. McFeeley, “Anna Murray Douglass,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993): 347-48.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

DuBois, Shirley Graham (1896-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Shirley Graham DuBois and
her Husband, W.E.B. DuBois
Image Courtesy of David Graham DuBois
Musicologist, playwright, novelist and political activist Lola Shirley Graham, born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1896, became the second wife to W.E.B. DuBois in 1951.  Lola Shirley Graham was taught at a young age to stand up to injustice.  She wrote her first editorial to an Indianapolis paper protesting racial discrimination when she was 13, after she was denied access to a YWCA swimming pool.
Sources: 
Gerald Horne, Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley G. DuBois (New York: New York University Press, 2002); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., Africana, Arts and Letters: An A-Z Reference of Writers, Musicians, and Artists of the African and African-American Experience (New York: Running Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brady, Saint Elmo (1884-1966)

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

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

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

Meriwether, Louise Jenkins (1923- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
Louise Jenkins Meriwether, a novelist, essayist, journalist and social activist, was the only daughter of Marion Lloyd Jenkins and his wife, Julia.  Meriwether was born May 8, 1923 in Haverstraw, New York to parents who were from South Carolina where her father worked as a painter and a bricklayer and her mother worked as a domestic. 

After the stock market crash of October 24, 1929, Louise’s family migrated from Haverstraw to New York City.  They moved to Brooklyn first, and later to Harlem.  The third of five children, Louise grew up in the decade of the Great Depression, a time that would deeply affect her young life and ultimately influence her as a writer.

Despite her family’s financial plight, Louise Jenkins attended Public School 81 in Harlem and graduated from Central Commercial High School in downtown Manhattan. In the 1950’s, she received a B.A. degree in English from New York University before meeting and marrying Angelo Meriwether, a Los Angeles teacher.  Although this marriage and a later marriage to Earle Howe ended in divorce, Louise continues to use the Meriwether name.  In 1965, Louise earned an M.A. degree in journalism from the University of California at Los Angeles. 
Sources: 
Louise Meriwether, Daddy Was a Number Runner (New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2002); Cheryl Lynn Greenberg, Or Does It Explode?:  Black Harlem in the Great Depression (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

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

Jones, Ruth Braswell (1914-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Educator Ruth Braswell Jones was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on November 21, 1914, the seventh daughter, of William and Arkaanna (Sanders) Braswell. Her education includes a diploma with distinction from Brick Junior College, Brick, North Carolina, in 1933 and a B.S. degree in Education with distinction from Elizabeth City State Teachers College, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, in 1948. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, awarded her the M.S. degree in Education in 1960.

Sources: 

Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).

Contributor: 

Anderson, George B. (? --?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

George B. “Spider” Anderson is considered one of the greatest African American jockeys in horse racing history.  There are no details available on George Anderson's early life, not even the place or date of his birth.

Anderson achieved his greatest accomplishment by being the first African American jockey to win the Preakness Stakes held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Preakness Stakes is the 2nd stage of the Triple Crown series, between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in New York.

On May 10, 1889, the day of the race, Anderson struck one of his coaches, James Cook, across the head with a whip.  The reason for this altercation between the two remains unknown.  There is however speculation that because the 1889 Preakness Stakes only consisted of two horses; Buddhist, rode by Anderson, and Japhet, owned by former Maryland Governor Oden Bowie, there was tension between Cook, who was a friend of Governor Bowie, and Anderson.  There may have been words exchanged before the race which led to Anderson's attack.  Despite the altercation, Anderson was allowed to participate in the Preakness Stakes before receiving any punishment for his assault on Cook by authorities.

Anderson won the race riding Buddhist and easily beating Japhet.  Anderson finished the race with an astonishing time of 2:17.50 and became the 17th winner of the Preakness Stakes.

In 1891, Anderson had two other significant victories to his career, the Alabama Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course in Upstate New York and the Philip H. Iselin Handicap at the Monmouth Race Course in New Jersey.

Sources: 

Edward Hotaling, The Great Black Jockeys: The Lives and Times of the Men Who Dominated America's First National Sport (Rocklin, California: Forum, 1999); http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/scripts/jimcrow/sports.cgi?sport=Horseraci... Glenn C., Smith, "George "Spider" Anderson: First Black Jockey to Win the Preakness." Los Angeles Sentinel. 2000. HighBeam Research., http://www.highbeam.com.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wilson, Margaret Bush (1919-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Robert Joiner, “Margaret Bush Wilson, hailed as civil rights ‘giant’ dies at 90,” St Louis Beacon,  August 14, 2009; Patricia Sullivan, “Margaret Bush Wilson dies at 90. First Black woman to head the National NAACP Board,” The LA Times, August 15, 2009; www.thehistorymakers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Turner, Viola Mitchell (1900-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Pauli Murray Project

Viola Mitchell Turner, an early black executive with North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1900. The only child of poor, impoverished, teenage African American parents she would succeed in becoming the first female African American member of the North Carolina Mutual Board of Directors.  

Turner was educated in a private black school in Macon sponsored by the American Missionary Association and then continued her education at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, studying business, which for women in the late 1910s meant primarily clerical work. After graduation from Morris Brown in 1918 Turner became a secretary at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where she met leading professors such as George Washington Carver.

Her time at the Tuskegee Institute was short however as she worked briefly for the Superintendent of Negro Education for the State of Mississippi who made her his personal secretary. Turner moved to Mississippi but held her new position for six months.  She was hired by North Carolina Mutual Insurance (NCMI) in 1920, setting up branch offices in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi. In 1924 Turner applied for and received a position at North Carolina Mutual headquarters in Durham, North Carolina.

Sources: 
Interview with Viola Turner, http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/C-0016/menu.html; Leslie Brown, Upbuilding Black Durham: Gender, Class, and Black Community Development in the Jim Crow South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wilson, Frederica (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
House of Representatives
Democratic Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was born on November 5, 1942 in Miami, Florida to Beulah Finley and Thirlee Smith. Wilson learned the importance of community activism at a young age. Her father was a small business owner and civil rights activist who worked to promote voter registration in Miami’s black neighborhoods.
Sources: 
"Frederica Wilson," Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 92 (Detroit: Gale, 2011); https://wilson.house.gov/about/full-biography.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Younge, Samuel (“Sammy”) Leamon, Jr. (1944-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Samuel (“Sammy”) Leamon Younge Jr. was a young civil rights activist who was shot to death on January 3, 1966 when he attempted to use a whites-only restroom at a gas station in Macon County, Alabama. He was 21 years old.  Younge was killed 11 years after and 40 miles from where the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott began. At the time of his death he was a military veteran and Tuskegee Institute political science student.  

Younge was born on November 17, 1944 in Tuskegee, Alabama. His parents were educated professionals; Samuel Sr. was an occupational therapist, and Younge’s mother, Renee, was a schoolteacher. Unlike most black men in Macon County, Sammy Younge and his younger brother, Stephen (“Stevie”), grew up with middle class privileges and comforts.

Sources: 
http://newsone.com/2824521/samuel-sammy-younge-jr/; James Forman, Sammy Younge, Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement (Washington, D.C.: Open Hand Publishing, 1986) [first published 1968]; “Samuel Younge, Jr.,” Encyclopedia of Alabama, http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1669; Michael F. Wright Ph.D., J.D., Sammy Younge Jr. Memorial Address http://www.crmvet.org/mem/younges.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bailey, D’Army (1941-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
D’Army Bailey, The Education of a Black Radical, A Southern Civil Rights Activist’s Journey, 1959–1964 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 2009); Linda Block, “Lifelong fight for civil rights,” Worcester: Telegram & Gazette, February  2, 2009); Jim Keogh, “A Radical Life,” Clark Voices-Clark University Magazine (January 2011); Bill Dries, “Circuit Court Judge D’Army Bailey Dies at Age 73,” (Memphis Daily News, July 13, 2015). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Banks, Tyra Lynne (1973- )

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

Tyra Lynne Banks is one of the most famous African American models of the late twentieth century. Banks is also a television personality, actress, author, businesswoman, and singer. She was born on December 4, 1973, in Inglewood, California, to Carolyn London, a medical photographer, and Donald Banks, a computer consultant. She also has a brother, Devin, who is five years older. When Banks was six years old, her parents divorced. Banks attended John Burroughs Middle School and then attended Immaculate High School in Los Angeles where she graduated in 1991.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, La David Terrence (1992-2017)

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

La David Terrence Johnson was an African American Army Sergeant, vehicle mechanic, and father who was killed in the Tongo Tongo Ambush on October 4th, 2017, alongside three other American soldiers, Sergeants Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson, and Dustin Wright. La David Johnson was born on January 2, 1992 in Miami, Florida. He was raised by his parents, Samara Johnson and Terrance McGriff, until 1999 when his mother passed away. Johnson was then sent to live with Richard and Cowanda Johnson when he was only five.

Johnson enjoyed a comfortable childhood and early adulthood, where he was active in many extracurriculars, including football. In 2010 he graduated from Miami Carol City Senior High School, and later found a job at a local Walmart. Here he was known by friends as the “Wheelie King” due to his frequent antics involving a one-wheeled bicycle. It was after this when Johnson decided to further his career by enlisting in the U.S. military, and after basic training, he joined an “Advanced Individual Training” school, where he trained to become a mechanical engineer.

Sources: 
Alex Horton, “More remains belonging to Sgt. La David Johnson found in Niger, military says,” The Washington Post, November 21, 2017; Siobhán O'Grady, “What the Hell Happened in Niger?,” The Atlantic (October 2017); Sgt. LaDavid Terrence Johnson, http://www.fredhunters.com/obituary/213255/Sgt-La-David-Johnson/#obituary.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bankhead, Lester Oliver (1912-1997)

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

Lester Bankhead, the eldest of six children, was born on April 20, 1912, in Union, South Carolina.  His parents were John Hayes Bankhead and Pearl Eugenia Eskew.  Bankhead had hoped to attend Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but the lack of financial support forced him to seek training elsewhere.  He wrote to Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, and was later enrolled in 1937.  Bankhead stated that he graduated from Voorhees with a degree in agriculture and a certificate in carpentry in 1941.  
Sources: 
Interview with Lester Bankhead by Wesley Henderson, Los Angeles, California, 1992, University of California at Los Angeles Oral History Program; Wendel Eckford, “Lester O. Bankhead,” in African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945, Dreck Spurlock Wilson, Editor (New York, 2004).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Singleton, John Daniel (1968- )

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

John Daniel Singleton, an Academy Award-nominated film director, producer and screenwriter, was born on January 6, 1968 in Los Angles, California.  Singleton was raised in South Central Los Angeles, a personal experience that can be seen in his films which often depict the impact of violence on inner-city residents.  

After graduating from high school in 1986, Singleton attended Pasadena City College and then the University of Southern California (USC) where he enrolled in its School of Cinematic Arts. While at USC he formed the African American Film Association and completed a six-month director’s internship on the Arsenio Hall Show.  Singleton also twice won the Jack Nicholson Award for Best Feature-Length Screenplays while at USC.  Before his graduation in 1990, he signed with Creative Artists Agency.

A year later, Columbia Pictures offered to purchase the screen rights to his college thesis Boyz N the Hood.  Singleton agreed but only if he were hired as the director of the film.  Boyz N the Hood received mixed critical reviews.  Nonetheless it received Academy Award nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Director.  In the latter category, Singleton at age 23, became the youngest person and first African American to receive that honor.  

Sources: 

A & E, December 2, 2008, http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542361; Harry A. Ploski, and James D. Williams. The Negro Almanac: A Reference Work on the African American. (Detroit: Gale Research Inc, 1989).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Candace, Gratien (1873-1953)

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

French teacher and politician Gratien Candace was born on December 18, 1873 in Guadeloupe, a French overseas territory. His father Edouard was born in Guadeloupe as well, only two years before slavery was formally abolished in France, in 1848. Candace is the first French black politician to hold office as a deputy in the French National Assembly. However, he remains relatively unknown to the public. He was married to Jeanne Marie Binet.

At aged 18, Candace became a teacher in Guadeloupe. He traveled to France for the first time in 1895 at the age of 22 after he received a scholarship from the Département de Guadeloupe and settled in Toulouse where he served as a student-teacher at the École Normale Supérieure. Upon completion of his degree, Candace returned to Guadeloupe and was nominated deputy teacher in Basse-Terre. In July 1900, Candace came back to Toulouse where he took up classes in agriculture and philosophy classes at the University of Toulouse and earned a bachelor degree in sciences. While in Toulouse, he attended speeches given by Jean Jaurès, a famous Socialist leader, defender of workers’ rights and antimilitarist, who would greatly influence him.

Sources: 
Dominique Chathuant, ‘Notes biographiques sur Candace’, Gratien Candace (1873-1953), 2001-2004, http://candace.online.fr/spip.php?rubrique1; “Gratien Candace”, Académie des Sciences d’Outre-Mer, 2010, http://www.academieoutremer.fr/academiciens/fiche.php?aId=316; “Gratien Candace”, Assemblée Nationale, http://www2.assemblee-nationale.fr/sycomore/fiche/(num_dept)/1415.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Sciences Po, Paris

Jones, Eugene Kinkle (1885-1954)

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

Eugene Kinkle Jones was one of the seven founders or Jewels of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Executive Director of the National Urban League during its early formative period.  Jones was born in 1885 in Richmond, Virginia.  His father Joseph was a former slave, but his mother Rosa was born free.  Jones attended Wayland Academy, a high school arm of Virginia Union University where his father Joseph Jones was a professor and his mother Rosa was a teacher.  Upon graduation from high school, Jones entered Virginia Union, earning an undergraduate degree in 1905.

Jones then enrolled in graduate school at Cornell University in 1906 at the age of 21, at first majoring in engineering but later transferring to sociology.  While at Cornell he was one of seven founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first black Greek letter organization founded in 1906.  Jones was instrumental in pushing the other founders toward creating a fraternity.  He graduated from Cornell in 1908 with an M.A. in sociology. 

Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); National Urban League History, National Urban League, http://nul.iamempowered.com/who-we-are/mission-and-history; Twelfth Census of the United States, Schedule No. 1.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Johnson, Mordecai Wyatt (1890-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, African American educator, clergyman, administrator, and public speaker, was born on January 4, 1891, in Paris, Tennessee, the son of Reverend Wyatt J. Johnson, a former slave. Johnson learned through his parents’ example the muscle of self-determination, discipline, scholarship, and integrity. His father, a minister and laborer, was a stern man who worked at a mill six days a week, twelve hours a day, for forty years. His mother, Carolyn, offset his father’s firmness with patience and nurturing for her only child.

After completing the elementary grades, Johnson left Paris, Tennessee to attend Roger Williams University in Nashville. Upon graduating from Atlanta Baptist College (later Morehouse College) in 1911, his oratorical ability won him critical acclaim. In 1922 Johnson delivered a commencement speech during his graduation from Harvard University Divinity School, titled “The Faith of the American Negro.” He also received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary Atlanta, Georgia.

Sources: 
Richard I. McKinney, Mordecai, The Man and His Message: The Story of Mordecai Wyatt Johnson (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1997); Michael Winston, Education for Freedom: The Leadership of Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, Howard University, 1926–1960. A Documentary Tribute to Celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Election of Mordecai Wyatt Johnson as President of Howard University, Howard University Archives, Moorland–Spingarn Research Center, 1976; “Mordecai Johnson” in The Martin Luther King Encyclopedia, http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_johnson_mordecai_wyatt_18901976.1.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Farah, Nuruddin (1945- )

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

Renowned African novelist Nuruddin Farah was born in Baidoa, Somalia in 1945, a time when Somalia was still an Italian colony. His father Hassan Farah was a translator for the colonial government and his mother Aleeli Faduma was recognized throughout Somalia for her prose writing. Early in his life Farah moved to the Ogaden section of Ethiopia where his father worked as a translator for the British. It was here that Farah grew up and received his early education. When Farah was eighteen his family fled back to an independent Somalia. It was shortly soon after, in 1965, that Farah’s writing career began when his work “Why Dead So Soon?” was serialized in the Somali News newspaper in Mogadishu.

Sources: 
Simon Gikandi, Encyclopedia of African Literature (London: Routledge,2003); Kirsten Holst Peterson, “The Personal and the Political: The Case of Nuruddin Farah,” Ariel 12:3 (1981); D.R. Ewen, The Writing of East and Central Africa (Nairobi: Heinemann Educational, 1984); Feroza Jussawalla and Reed Way Dasenbruck, eds., Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, James McCune (1813-1865)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although many twenty-first century readers are aware of his work only through his introduction to Frederick Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom, Dr. James McCune Smith was one of the most broadly accomplished black intellectuals and activists in antebellum America.  Born in New York on April 18, 1813, to a mother who purchased her own freedom and a father who may have been a freed slave or a white merchant, Smith attended the African Free School in New York City, where at the age of eleven he was chosen to give an address to the Marquis de Lafayette (1824).  
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); John Stauffer, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); John Stauffer, ed., The Works of James McCune Smith: Black Intellectual and Abolitionist (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

L'Ouverture, Toussaint (1742-1803)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Known to his contemporaries as “The Black Napoleon,” Toussaint L’Ouverture was a former slave who rose to become the leader of the only successful slave revolt in modern history that created an independent state, the Haitian Revolution.
Sources: 
Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004); Martin Ros, Night of Fire: The Black Napoleon and the Battle for Haiti (New York: Sarpedon, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Evers, James Charles (1922- )

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

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

Whittaker, Johnson C. (1858-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the New York Historical Society

Johnson Chesnutt Whittaker, the second black cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York, was born a slave in 1858 in South Carolina to an enslaved mother, Maria J. Whitaker and her free husband, James Whitaker. (Later in life he added a second “t” to his name).  By October 1869, Whitaker attended a freedmen’s school in Camden, where he received lessons for five years. In the fall of 1874 he became one of the first African American students to enter the University of South Carolina.  Whittaker was an exceptional student, academically ahead of most of his classmates; he averaged 94 percent in all his courses at the University.  After befriending Richard T. Greener, his professor, Whitaker was nominated to attend West Point.  He arrived there on his birthday, August 23, 1876.

Sources: 
Robert Ewell Greene, Black Defenders of America, 1775-1973 (Johnson Publishing Company Inc. Chicago: 1974); John F. Marszalek, Jr., Court Martial: A Black Man in America (New York: Scribner, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hale, Clara McBride (1905-1992)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Jackson, Alphonso R. (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alphonso R. Jackson cultivated a three-decade career in public service that included an appointment as head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the administration of his long-time friend, President George W. Bush.  Born in Marshall, Texas, in 1946, Jackson grew up in South Dallas, the youngest of twelve children in a working-class family.  He earned a B.A. in political science (1968) and a M.Ed. (1969) from Northeast Missouri State University.  He then studied at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri, where he received a J.D. in 1972.  

Sources: 
Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 48, “Alphonso R. Jackson” (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Thomson Gale, 2005); “The Honorable Alphonso Jackson Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development,” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2008) http://archives.hud.gov/secretaries/jacksonbio.cfm; Rachel L. Swarns, “Top U.S. Housing Official Resigns,” The New York Times (March 31, 2008), http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/31/washington/31cnd-jackson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wilcox, Preston (1923-2006)

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

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

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

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

Myers, Stephen (1800-1870)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Stephen Myers held a variety of jobs over his lifetime but he is best known as a leader of the local Albany, New York Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Myers was also a prominent publisher who became an effective abolitionist lobbyist.

Myers was born into slavery in Hooksick, New York, a town just north of Albany. He was freed when he was 18 years old. In 1827 he married Harriet Johnson and together they had four children. Myers worked as a grocer and a steamboat steward on vessels sailing between New York City and Albany. Into the late 1830s, he began helping escaped slaves, and eventually began publishing.

In 1842 Myers began publishing the Elevator, a short-lived abolitionist sheet. Soon, he began working with the Northern Star Association, an abolitionist group, and founded its newspaper, the Northern Star and Freeman’s Advocate. This anti-slavery and reform newspaper was directed toward local free blacks and was published with the assistance of his wife, Harriet. The Northern Star office and the Myers home were used on occasion to provide comfort and support to fugitive slaves. As such Stephen and Harriet Myers helped hundreds of escaping slaves face the last leg of their northward journey to Canada. Because of their work, the Albany station developed the reputation for being the best organized section of the Underground Railroad in New York State.
Sources: 
Peter Williams, et al., “Letters from Negro Leaders to Gerrit Smith,” The Journal of Negro History 27:4 (October 1942); C. Peter Ripley, ed., The Black Abolitionist Papers, Vol. I, III, IV (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986); http://ugrworkshop.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

Segars, Joseph Monroe (1938–2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Joseph Monroe Segars was born in Hartsville, South Carolina on November 6, 1938. He remained with his aunt and uncle in South Carolina while his parents moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the Great Migration to the North in search for better job opportunities. Upon graduating from Butler High School in Hartsville in 1956, he joined his parents in Philadelphia and began working in a lamp factory before entering college in 1957.
Sources: 
“Joseph Segars,” The History Makers, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/joseph-segars-38; “Joseph Monroe Segars,” U.S. Department of State: Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/segars-joseph-monroe; “George Bush Nomination of Joseph Monroe Segars to be United States Ambassador to Cape Verde,” The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=21025.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Diallo, Amadou (1976–1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Amadou Diallo was a Guinean immigrant who lived in Manhattan, New York, and is unfortunately best known for being killed by New York City police after he was fired upon forty-one times outside his place of residence. Diallo was born on September 2, 1976, in Liberia to his Guinean parents, Saikou Diallo and Kadiatou Diallo, and was the eldest of their four children. His parents’ business of exporting gemstones between Africa and Asia gave Amadou the opportunity to study in various countries, one of which was Thailand. Diallo studied both computer engineering and English. The latter led him to take an interest in American culture.

After the divorce of Diallo’s parents in 1989, he lived in Bangkok, Thailand, with his mother. He later left Bangkok for Guinea because he wanted to seek a blessing from his elders in order to pursue his dream of living in America and earning a college education. Diallo eventually received the blessing and traveled to the United States. In 1997 he arrived in New York City and went to work as bicycle messenger. He later worked as a street peddler selling gloves, socks, and videos.
Sources: 
Michael Cooper, “Officers in Bronx Fire 41 Shots, And an Unarmed Man Is Killed,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/05/nyregion/officers-in-bronx-fire-41-shots-and-an-unarmed-man-is-killed.html; Alexandra Starr, “How the Legacy of Amadou Diallo Lives on in New York’s Immigrant Community,” Public Radio International, https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-02-05/how-legacy-amadou-diallo-lives-new-yorks-immigrant-community; Gale Thompson, “Diallo, Amadou 1976–1999,” Encyclopedia.com. http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/diallo-amadou-1976-1999.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Lewis, Julian H. (1891-1989)

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

ENTRY SPONSOR: Meta Maxwell

An accomplished scientist, physician, and educator, Dr. Julian Herman Lewis challenged racism in the American medical and scientific communities in his prominent 1942 text Biology of the Negro. Drawing on his background as both a doctor and as a recipient of a Ph.D. in physiology and pathology, Lewis demonstrated that claims of black racial inferiority had no basis in biology. In addition to his seminal 1942 publication, Lewis also enjoyed a long and successful career as a researcher and community activist.

Born in Shawneetown, Illinois on May 26, 1891, Lewis came from a family of educators. His father, John C. Lewis, who had been enslaved in rural Kentucky as a child, met his mother, Cordelia Scott, while both were attending Berea College. The couple became public school teachers and administrators in Cairo, Illinois with their children, Lewis and his two younger sisters.

Sources: 
Christopher Crenner, "Race and Laboratory Norms: The Critical Insights of Julian Herman Lewis (1891–1989)," Isis 105, no. 3 (September 2014); Kerrie Kennedy, “University of Chicago to honor its first African American professor, Julian H. Lewis, on Feb. 21, 2015,” https://news.uchicago.edu/http%3A//news.uchicago.edu/article/2015/02/16/uchicago-honors-first-african-american-professor-julian-h-lewis; Ray Spangenburg, Diane Moser, and Douglas Long, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (Detroit: Gale Research, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Himes, Chester (1909-1984)

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


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

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

July, Johanna (1857?-1946?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Johanna July, a black Seminole, was born around 1857 in Nacimiento de Los Negros, the settlement established in northern Mexico following the emigration of Indian and black Seminoles from the Indian Territory in 1849.  

By 1870, the U.S. Army, desperate for translators and scouts familiar with the border country, employed the black Seminoles leading to their return to the United States. Most of them, including the July family, settled in or near Eagle Pass, Texas in 1871.  There Johanna July learned to tame horses and herd the family’s goats and cattle. With the death of her father, she worked the stock and continued to tame wild horses for the U.S. Army and area ranchers.

Johanna developed her own method of taming horses. She would lead a horse into the Rio Grande, swim up, grab the mane, and gently ease astride. As the horse tired from swimming, he lost the strength to buck.
Sources: 
Jim Coffey, “Johanna July: A Horse-Breaking Women,” Black Cowboys of Texas, Sara R. Massey, ed. (College Station, Texas A&M University Press, 2000), 73-84.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Sue K. Brown (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Sue Katherine Brown is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor.  In 2011 President Barack Obama nominated her to become the U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro, the first African American to hold this post and only the second U.S. ambassador since Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia on June 3, 2006.  Brown’s nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and she presented her credentials to the President of Montenegro, Filip Vujanovi?, on Thursday, May 12, 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Harris, Betty Wright (1940- )

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

ENTRY SPONSORS: Janis & Mary Avery

An accomplished organic analytical chemist, Dr. Betty Wright Harris is widely recognized as a leading expert on explosives, environmental remediation, and hazardous waste treatment. In 1986, she patented a simple and extremely sensitive spot test for the presence of 1,3,5-triamino-2,4,6-trinitrobenzene (TATB). Her innovation allowed the military and private industry to quickly ascertain the presence of potentially explosive material. The federal Department of Homeland Security also uses the test to screen for nitroaromatic explosives.

Born on July 29, 1940, in rural northeastern Louisiana, Wright was the seventh of twelve children. Her parents, Legertha Thompson Wright and Henry Hudson “Jake” Wright, farmed land near the Ouachita River, first as tenants, then as owners, purchasing their own property when Harris was in middle school. Legertha Thompson also taught school, encouraging her children to work hard and pursue an education.

Sources: 
“High Tech Jobs in the Southwest,” U.S. Black Engineer Magazine 10, no. 4 (Fall 1986) 44 – 45; Jeanette Brown, “Betty Wright Harris,” in African American Women Chemists (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 100 – 107; James Henry Williams, “Betty Wright Harris,” in African American Inventors and Pioneers (Bloomington, IN.: Exlibris, 2011), 33.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Subban, Pernell-Karl Sylvester “P.K.” (1989- )

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

Pernell-Karl Sylvester “P.K.” Subban is a Canadian-born professional ice hockey defenceman for the Nashville (Tennessee) Predators of the National Hockey League (NHL). Subban was born on May 13, 1989, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Karl and Maria Subban. Subban also has four other siblings: two sisters Nastassia and Natasha, and two brothers Malcolm and Jordan.

Subban started playing hockey as a pre-teen and continued into his teens when he attended Runnymede Collegiate Institute located in Toronto. After graduation Subban began playing professionally, joining the Belleville Bulls (now Hamilton Bulldogs), the junior ice hockey team based in Belleville, Ontario, Canada which was part of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Subban was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (at age 18) but wouldn’t start his career with the team until 2009. Subban continued to play with the Belleville Bulls where he would help them to the J. Ross Robertson Cup Finals against the Kitchener Rangers. The Belleville team lost the OHL title in seven games. Subban finished his four-year junior career with 76 points in 56 games in the 2008-09 regular season.

Sources: 
“P.K Subban,” P.K Subban, http://www.pksubban.com/life/; “P.K Subban,” Hockey reference, http://www.hockey-reference.com/players/s/subbapk01.html; “P.K/ Subban,” National Hockey League, https://www.nhl.com/player/p-k-subban-8474056.
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

Smith, Zadie (1975– )

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

Nichols, Nichelle (1932- )

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

Nichelle Nichols was born as Grace Nichols on December 28, 1932 in Robbins, Illinois.  Discovered by Duke Ellington at the age of 15, she began her career as a singer touring the country with his band.  After the tour was over, Nichols worked in Los Angeles as a model, stage actress, and in small roles on television.  In 1966, she landed her most famous role as Lieutenant Uhura in the Star Trek series.  As Lt. Uhura, she portrayed the communications officer in the popular series and shared the first interracial kiss on television with William Shatner.  Nichelle Nichols planned to leave the show after the first season to return to the stage, but a meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led her to change her mind.  King explained that her role was the first on television to show a black person as intelligent, proud, and beautiful, someone everyone needed to see and know.  Nichols stayed in her role through the end of the series and in the successive movies.  

Sources: 
Katherine Martin, Those Who Dare (New World Library, 2004); www.nss.org/about/bios/Nichols.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Healy, Bishop James Augustine (1830-1900)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Augustine Healy was the first born of ten children to Michael and Mary Eliza Healy on April 6, 1830 on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Michael Healy was a former Irish soldier who immigrated to America. He became a planter after the war of 1812. In 1829 he fell in love with Mary Eliza, a mixed-race domestic slave, whom he purchased from her former owner. At that time Georgia law prohibited interracial marriage, but both decided that they would base their marriage on love and not the law, to create a family of their own.

However, James and his siblings were still considered illegitimate and slaves at birth under Georgia law. These laws banned them from attending school within the state, so to receive an education James’s parents sent their children to Quaker schools in the north in the 1840s.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Black First: 2,000 Years of Extraordinary Achievement (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1994); Albert Sidney Foley, Bishop Healy: Beloved Outcast; The Story of a Great Priest Whose Life Has Become a Legend (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1954).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

O’Hara, James Edward (1844-1905)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public domain
North Carolina congressman James O'Hara was born a free person in New York City to an Irish merchant and West Indian mother. While growing up he worked as a deckhand on ships that sailed between New York and the West Indies.  When he was eighteen O’Hara settled Halifax County, North Carolina with a group of missionaries.  

After the Civil War, James O’Hara taught at freedman’s schools in New Bern and Goldsboro, North Carolina. O'Hara also studied law at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Shortly after North Carolina’s 1868 Constitutional Convention which reorganized state government and authorized black male voting, O'Hara was elected to the North Carolina state legislature.  In 1871, while still in the legislature, he completed his law apprenticeship and passed the North Carolina bar exam.  In 1878 O’Hara won the Republican nomination for North Carolina’s heavily black Second Congressional District.  He lost the general election to white Democrat William Hodges Kitchin. Four years later, in 1882, O'Hara again faced Kitchin and won the election by 18,000 votes.  He was reelected in 1884.
Sources: 
Stephen Middleton, ed., Black Congressmen During Reconstruction (Westport, Connecticut : Praeger, 2002); George W. Reid, “Four in Black: North Carolina’s Black Congressmen, 1874-1901.” Journal of Negro History 64 (Summer 1979); http://bioguide.congress.gov; http://ead.lib.uchicago.edu.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Muse, Clarence (1889-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of
SHADES  OF L.A. COLLECTION/
Los Angeles Public Library 
On October 14th, 1889 Clarence Edouard Muse was born to Alexander and Mary Muse in Baltimore, Maryland.  Muse had intended to become an attorney and earned a degree in International Law from The Dickerson School of Law in Pennsylvania in 1911.  Because of poor opportunities for African Americans in the legal profession, Muse became a performer.    

Clarence Muse toured the vaudeville circuit, composed songs, directed both theater and film, entertained as a minstrel performer, sang opera, wrote screenplays, and appeared in over 150 films.  In 1914, Muse helped pioneer the black theater movement by co-founding the all black theatre troupe, the Lafayette Theater Stock Company.  He frequently appeared with the Lincoln Players, another famous troupe from the “Harlem Renaissance.”  
Sources: 

James P. Murray, Black Movies/Black Theatre. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1972); Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). “Clarence Muse” in “The Black Perspective in Music,” (Foundation for Research in the Afro-American Creative Arts, 1980)

Contributor: 

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

Hill, Peter (1767-1820)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Moore, Juanita (1922-2014)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Veteran actress Juanita Moore is fondly remembered for her tear-jerking role of Annie Johnson in Douglas Sirk’s 1959 remake of Imitation of Life. Moore was a groundbreaking actress best known for her role as Lana Turner's character's black friend in the film.  In 1960 she became only the fifth African American nominated for an Oscar.  The nomination was based on her role in Imitation of Life.

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1922, Moore graduated with a degree in drama from Los Angeles City College and moved to New York where she began her show business career as a nightclub singer and dancer and eventually worked as a chorus girl in New York's famed Cotton Club.

Moore eventually traveled abroad, performing in top European clubs, including the London Palladium and the Moulin Rouge in Paris, France before embarking on her film career in late 1949, making her debut as an un-credited nurse in the race-conscious film Pinky. In the early 1950s she worked in Los Angeles's Ebony Showcase, a leading black-run theater.  Later in the decade she was a member of the celebrated Cambridge Players which included other up-and-coming black performers such as Esther Rolle.

Sources: 

Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia, (New York: Harper Collins, 1994); James R. Parish, Hollywood Character Actors, (New Rochelle, NY, Arlington House Publishers, 1978);  Roy Pickard, The Oscar Stars From A-Z, (London, England: Headline Book Publishing, 1996); Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts, (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mayfield, Curtis (1942-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Kembrew McLeod, "Mayfield, Curtis," St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, Eds. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast, Vol. 3 (Detroit: St. James Press, 2000); http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/curtismayfield/biography; http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542244&part=0
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harold, Erika (1980- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Erika Harold Being Crowned
Miss America, 2003, in Atlantic
City, New Jersey, September 2002.
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ericka Harold, Miss America 2003, was the sixth black woman to win the Miss America title.  Harold was born on February 20, 1980 in Urbana, Illinois, the daughter of James Harold, a businessman and athletic director, and Fannie Harold, a college counselor and foster parent trainer. The product of a white father and African American and Native American mother, the multiracial Harold identifies as African American. She also describes herself as a politically conservative Christian.

Harold was 22 years old when she won the title of Miss America. She did not enter the pageant circuit until she was 18 years old. Soon after she was crowned, Harold adopted a dual platform “Preventing Youth Violence and Bullying" and “Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself.”  The latter topic encouraged sexual abstinence and refraining from engaging in drug and alcohol abuse.
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); Nikitta Foston, “Miss America Takes a Stand on Abstinence and Bullying,” Ebony, March 2003, p.165;  Lara Riscol, "Miss America’s Stealth Virility Campaign,” Salon.com, October 28, 2002; http://missamerica.org/; Emily Cahn, "Ann Callis, Rodney Davis to Face Off in Targeted Illinois District," Roll Call, March 18, 2014, http://www.rollcall.com/news/ann-callis-rodney-davis-illinois-primary.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Massie, Samuel Proctor (1919-2005)

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

Born July 3, 1919 in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Samuel Proctor Massie was as one of the few African American scientists to work on the Manhattan Project during World War II.  He later became a distinguished professor of chemistry.

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

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

Herman, Alexis Margaret (1947-- )

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

Alexis Herman, US Secretary of Labor, political activist, civic leader, social worker, and entrepreneur, was born on July 16, 1947 in Mobile, Alabama to politician Alex Herman and educator Gloria Caponis.  Herman graduated from Heart of Mary High School in Mobile in 1965 and enrolled in Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and then Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama before transferring to St. Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 1969.  She joined the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta during her college years and supported this sorority throughout her career.

Sources: 
http://www.washingtonspeakers.com/speakers/speaker.cfm?SpeakerId=3178; http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/herman.htm; http://www.toyota.com/about/diversity/diversity_advisory_board/alexis_herman.html; http://encore.utep.edu/iii/encore/search/C__Salexis%20herman__Orightresult__U1?lang=eng&suite=cobalt
Affiliation: 
University of Texas El Paso

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

Henry, Aaron (1922-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Aaron Henry and Constance Curry, Aaron Henry: The Fire Ever Burning (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000); Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1995).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Bonner, Marita Odette (1899-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marita Odette Bonner (Occomy) was an African American writer, essayist, and playwright associated with the Harlem Renaissance Era.  Born on June 16, 1899 to Joseph Andrew and Anne Noel Bonner in Boston, Massachusetts, she and her three siblings grew up in Brookline, a suburb of Boston.  Bonner attended Brookline High School where she first began to write when she became involved in a magazine organized by the student body called the Sagamor.
Sources: 
Joyce Flynn and Joyce O. Stricklin, eds., Frye Street and Environs: The Collected Works of Marita Bonner (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987); Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women, Book II (Detroit-London: Gale Research Inc, 1996) http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/bonner_marita_odette.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Khanga, Yelena (1962- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Yelena Khanga is a journalist and writer who was born in 1962 in Moscow, Russia. She is the daughter of Abdulla Khanga, who was the onetime vice president of Zanzibar, and Lily Golden, a Russian woman who was a historian and educator. She was also the granddaughter of a black Christian, Oliver Golden and a Polish Jew, Bertha Bialek. The pair met in jail after being arrested during a union demonstration and migrated to the Soviet Union in 1931 after being disowned by Bialek’s family for being in an interracial relationship.

Khanga grew up in Moscow, attending schools where she was often the only child of African ancestry. She said that she "was never made to feel less intelligent, less capable, less likely to achieve than my white schoolmates." However, Khanga said that she did realize that she was different and she felt like an outsider. As a teen Khanga started playing tennis and was able to travel the Soviet Union as a member of the Army Tennis Team. After finishing public school, she attended Moscow State University and graduated in 1984 with a degree in journalism.
Sources: 
Yelena Khanga, Soul to Soul: The Story of a Black Russian American Family, 1865-1992 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992); "Yelena Khanga," in Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: The Gale Group, 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jeffries, Jasper Brown (1912-1994)

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

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

Brown, Henry "Box" (1816-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
To escape enslavement on a plantation near Richmond, Virginia, Henry “Box” Brown in 1849 exploited maritime elements of the Underground Railroad.  Brown’s moniker “Box” was a result of his squeezing himself into a box and having himself shipped 250 miles from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Henry Brown, born enslaved in 1816 to John Barret, a former mayor of Richmond, eventually married another slave named Nancy and the couple had three children.  Brown became an active member of Richmond’s First African Baptist Church where he was known for singing in the choir.  In 1848 Brown’s wife and children were abruptly sold to away to North Carolina.  Using “overwork” (overtime) money, Brown decided to arrange for his freedom.

He constructed a wooden crate three feet long and two feet six inches deep with two air holes. With help from Philadelphia abolitionists, he obtained a legal freight contract from Adams Express.  This freight company with both rail and steamboat capabilities arranged to ship his package labeled “Dry Goods” to Philadelphia.  The package was a heavy wooden box holding Brown’s 200 pounds.

Sources: 
Henry Brown, Narrative of the Life of Henry “Box” Brown (Manchester, England: Lee and Glynn Publisher, 1851); Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color, the Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); David Cecelski, The Waterman’s Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent, Spectacular Stories of Race and Freedom 1850-1910 (Duke University Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2008); Suzette Spencer, Online Encyclopedia of Virginia, August  23, 2013, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Brown_Henry_Box_ca_1815#start_entry.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dudley, Edward Richard (1911-2005)

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

Ellison, Marvin (1966– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Marvin Ellison is the current CEO of J.C. Penney. He is the first African American CEO of the company in its one-hundred-fourteen-year history, and as of 2016 is one of only six African American CEOs to run a Fortune 500 company. J.C. Penney ranks two hundred fiftieth of the Fortune 500 corporations.

Ellison was born in 1966 in Haywood County, Tennessee, and grew up in Brownsville, a small town about sixty miles northeast of Memphis, Tennessee. He was born to working-class parents and was the middle child of seven siblings. Neither his mother nor father graduated from high school, although his father had stable employment as a door-to-door insurance salesman.

Ellison’s early life was marked by poverty and the limitations of living in rural and impoverished Haywood County, Tennessee. Despite this, Ellison was accepted into the University of Memphis as a business major in 1984. During his five and a half years at the University of Memphis, he worked various odd jobs in order to pay his tuition and support himself. These jobs included graveyard shifts at a convenience store, janitorial work at a women’s department store, and driving a plumbing supplies truck in the summer. Ellison graduated with a Business Administration degree in Marketing. He later earned his MBA at Emory University.
Sources: 
Maria Halkias, “Marvin Ellison’s Story is Classic J.C. Penney,” The Dallas Morning News, June 22, 2015, http://www.dallasnews.com/business/retail/20150622-marvin-ellisons-story-is-classic-j.c.-penney.ece; Angela Wilson, “J.C. Penney Appoints its First Black CEO, Marvin Ellison,” Uptown, October 14, 2014, http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/10/jcpenney-first-black-ceo-marvin-ellison/ “JCPENNY Names Marvin Ellison President and CEO-Designee,” Company News, October 13, 2014, http://ir.jcpenney.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=70528&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1976923; David Thomas, “Former Brownsville Resident is JCPenney CEO, The Jackson Sun, November 19, 2015, http://www.jacksonsun.com/story/news/2015/11/19/former-brownsville-resident-jcpenney-ceo/76074334/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Benjamin, Miriam E. (1861-1947)

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

ENTRY SPONSOR: Juli Farris

On July 17, 1888, Miriam Elizabeth Benjamin became the second African American woman to receive a patent from the United States government for her invention of a gong and signal chair (U.S. Patent number 386,289). At the time of her application, Benjamin was living in Washington, D.C., working as an educator in the city’s public schools. One of only a few black women to receive a patent before 1900, Benjamin also studied medicine and law at Howard University.

Benjamin aimed to transform several industries with her innovation, including hotels, theaters, healthcare, and government. The key feature of the chair was a notification system, which allowed the seated individual to press a button and alert an attendant when assistance was needed. By depressing the button, a gong or ring would sound at the same moment that a red signal or flag on the chair itself would be made visible.

Sources: 
Mary Bellis, "The Life and Inventions of Miriam Benjamin: Black Woman Inventor Patents Gong and Signal Chair," https://www.thoughtco.com/biography-miriam-benjamin-4077063; Patricia Carter Ives, "Patent and Trademark Innovation of Black Americans and Women," Journal of the Patent Office Society 62:2 (1980); Josephine L. Wright, “Black Women in Classical Music in Boston during the Late Nineteenth Century: Profiles of Leadership,” in New Perspectives on Music: Essays in Honor Of Eileen Southern, edited by Samuel A. Floyd, Jr. and Josephine L. Wright (Detroit: Harmony Park Press, 1992); History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “What's Buzzing in the Chamber?,” http://history.house.gov/Blog/2013/December/12-17-Buzzer/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Coles, Eva R. (1880-1902)

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

Eva R. Boone, born Eva R. Coles, was a Virginia-born missionary in Congo Free State (present-day Democratic Republic of Congo). Coles was born on January 8, 1880 in Charlottesville, Virginia. She graduated from Hartshorn Memorial College in Richmond, Virginia—which preceded Spelman and Bennett Colleges as the first college for African American women—in May 1899.

After graduating, she taught in Charlottesville’s public schools for a few years before getting married to Clinton Caldwell Boone on January 16, 1901. Shortly after their marriage, the couple decided to dedicate their lives to mission work in Africa and found sponsors with the American Baptist Missionary Union and the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention. On April 13, 1901, they left from New York City, New York for Palabala, in Congo Free State, arriving just over one month later.

Sources: 
Clinton C. Boone, Congo as I saw it (New York: J.J Little and Ives Company, 1927); Vaughn J.  Walston and Robert J. Stevens. African-American Experience in World Mission: A Call Beyond Community (New York: William Carey Library, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Université Paul Valéry (France)

Howard, Rebecca Groundage (1827-1881)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Rebecca Howard, an outstanding hotelier and cook, was one of Olympia, Washington's earliest businesswomen. Born in 1827 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Rebecca Groundage married Alexander Howard, a local cooper, in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1843. By 1859 Rebecca and her husband had moved to Olympia and opened a hotel and restaurant in what would come to be known as the Pacific House Building on Main Street (now Capitol Way). In 1860 Rebecca Howard advertised the building as the “Pacific Restaurant.”

Memoirs of visitors to Olympia record the fine inn keeping provided by Mrs. Howard. The Howard’s hotel and restaurant was frequented by legislators and visitors to the city including President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife Lucy in 1880. When the building was razed in 1902, the Olympia, Washington Standard said that the Pacific Hotel was the leading hotel on Puget Sound under “the ministration of Rebecca Howard, …whose wit and humor…made the Pacific an oasis in the then desert of travel.”
Sources: 
Records of "Mrs. Rebecca H. Howard, 1862-1883.” Compiled 1999. Unpublished manuscript, available at Southwest Regional Archives, Olympia and Olympia Timberland Library.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Olympia Heritage Commission

McKinney, Louise Jones (1930–2012)

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

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

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

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

Acox, Jr., Clarence (1947- )

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

Clarence Acox, Jr. is an award-winning American jazz drummer and band director. Born in October 1947, he is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana.  Since his arrival in Seattle in 1971 he has become one of the most influential musical directors in the Pacific Northwest and one of the most successful in the nation. He is currently the director of the various jazz bands at Garfield High School in the central district of Seattle.

Sources: 
"Origin Records Artist Clarence Acox – Drums," Origin Records Artist Clarence Acox – Drums. The Origin Music Group, http://originarts.com/artists/artist.php?Artist_ID=146; Paul De Barros, "Clarence Acox | Jazz Journalists Association Awards." Clarence Acox | Jazz Journalists Association Awards. Jazz Journalists Association, http://www.jazzjournalists.org/clarence-acox.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Toyloy, Whitney (1990- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Whitney Toyloy won the title of Miss Switzerland in 2009 at the age of 17, the youngest of 16 candidates. The young beauty queen won a car worth over 38,000 Swiss Francs (about $38,649 in US dollars) and the right to represent Switzerland in the Miss Universe 2009 pageant. She made it to the top ten in Miss Universe, and placed 9th out of 83 contestants in the international pageant held in Nassau, Bahamas.

Born on July 21, 1990 in the city Yverdon, in the Vaud canton of Switzerland, the former beauty queen is 5’10”. Toyloy was the first woman with African ancestry to win the Miss Swiss title. Unlike pageant winners of African ancestry from other nations, such as Ariana Miyamoto of Japan and Denny Mendez of Italy, there was not much controversy about Toyloy’s victory.
Sources: 
Blaise Calame, "Whitney Toyloy 'Je passe pour une arrogante mais ce n'est pas moi,” http://www.illustre.ch/illustre/article/whitney-toyloy-%C2%ABje-passe-pour-une-arrogante-mais-ce-n%E2%80%99est-pas-moi%C2%BB, “Whitney Toyloy ist die neue Miss Scweiz,” http://www.nzz.ch/whitney-toyloy-miss-schweiz-1.938456; Thomas Schurch, "Whitney Toyloy: sa vie après Miss suisse," http://www.bluewin.ch/fr/divertissement/tv/interviews-tv/2015/03/whitney-toyloy--une-vie-apres-miss-suisse-.html; “Ex-Miss Whitney Toyloy rechnet ab 'Die männer sehen mich als Trophäe,' http://www.blick.ch/people-tv/schweiz/missschweiz/ex-miss-whitney-toyloy-rechnet-ab-die-maenner-sehen-mich-als-trophaee-id2689587.html; Blaise Calame, “Whitney Toyloy et ses soeurs Mathilda et Ava recurtées ensemble par l'agence Time," http://www.illustre.ch/people/National/fil-de-linfo/whitney-toyloy-et-ses-s%C5%93urs-mathilda-et-ava-recrut%C3%A9es-ensemble-par.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles Pierce College

Ruffin, Josephine St. Pierre (1842 - 1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Bell, Charles B., Jr. (1928-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mathematician Charles Bernard Bell, Jr., one of the leading African American mathematicians of the twentieth century, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in August 20, 1928.  At age 19 he graduated from Xavier University in 1947 and earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Notre Dame University in 1953.  From 1951 to 1955 he worked as a research engineer at Douglas Aircraft Company.  An assistant professor at Xavier University for two years, he then spent a year at Stanford University as a research associate.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science, 22nd Ed. Vol. 1 (New York: Bowker, 2005);
Robert Fikes, Jr., The Black in Crimson and Black: A History and Profiles of African Americans at SDSU (San Diego: SDSU Library & Information Access, 2004); http://www.maa.org/programs/underrepresented-groups/summa/summa-archival-record/charles-bernard-bell; http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/PEEPS/bell_charlesb.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Machel, Samora Moises (1933-1986)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Sources: 
BBC News Official Website: http://news.bbc.co.uk; Barry Munslow, ed., Samora Machel: An African Revolutionary: Selected Speeches and Writings (London: Zed Books Ltd, 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Young, Willis Lester ("Pres") (1909-1959)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lester (Willis) Young, known as "Pres," was born in Woodville, Mississippi and died in New York City. Named Willis Lester at birth, he dropped "Willis" at an early age. Young developed a light tone and swinging style as a member of "territory bands," such as the Oklahoma City Blue Devils, whose members gave him the nickname "Pres" short for President of the Tenor Saxophone -- around 1932. By 1936 he played in Count Basie's Kansas City band and became one of the leading tenor saxophonists of the swing era. Basie's orchestra moved to New York City and Young performed and recorded not only with Basie, but also with most of the leading jazz musicians for three decades. Known mainly for his velocity and swinging style with Basie, in 1937 he recorded several ballads with singer Billie Holiday and pianist Teddy Wilson.
Sources: 
Douglas Henry Daniels, Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester "Pres" Young (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002); Lewis Porter, Lester Young (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985)
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Brown, Lee P. (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lee Patrick Brown, known as “The Father of Community Policing,” became the first African American Mayor of Houston, Texas in 1997.

Brown was born to sharecropper parents Andrew and Zelma Brown in the town of Wewoka, Oklahoma in 1937.  He received a B.A. in criminology from Fresno State University in California in 1960 and four years later earned an M.A. from San Jose State University in the same field.  In 1970 he received a Ph.D. in criminology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Sources: 
Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); Charles M. Christian, Black Saga: The African American Experience (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995); http://www.thehistorymakers.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Holstein, Casper (1876-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Genevieve Fabre and Michel Feith, Temples for Tomorrow: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); Crime Library, Black Gangs of Harlem: 1920-1939, http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/gang/harlem_gangs/4.html
“Holstein Set Free By Abductors,” The New York Times, September 24, 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Rush, Bobby L. (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Congress
Bobby Lee Rush was born in Albany, Georgia on November 23, 1946. He graduated from Marshall High School in that city at the age of seventeen and soon afterwards enlisted in the United States Army.  Rush served in the Army from 1963 to 1968 when he was honorably discharged.

Rush relocated in Chicago where he attended Roosevelt University.  He received a B.A. degree with honors in 1973. Twenty-one years later (1994) he received a master’s degree in political science from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 1998 Rush received a second master’s degree in theological studies from McCormick Seminary and soon afterwards became an ordained Baptist minister.

While in college Rush became a political activist and soon devoted himself to Chicago’s civil rights movement.  He first joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1968 but soon afterwards became a co-founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party.  Rush ran the Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for Children program and also organized a free medical clinic.  The clinic developed the nation’s first mass testing program for sickle cell anemia while simultaneously raising awareness of the disease’s impact on African Americans in Chicago.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Solomon G. (1829-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Solomon G. Brown, poet, lecturer, and scientific technician, became the first African American employee at the Smithsonian Institution.  He also played a significant role in the implementation of the first electric telegraph and was well versed in the study of natural history.  

Born on February 14, 1829 in Washington D.C., Brown was the fourth of six children born to Isaac and Rachel Brown, both ex-slaves.  When his father died in 1832, the Brown family was left homeless and heavily in debt. Due to this enormous setback, Solomon was unable to attain a formal education.  

At the age of fifteen he began working at the Washington, D.C. post office where he was assigned to assist Joseph Henry and Samuel F.B. Morse in the installation of the first Morse telegraph line in the nation.  Despite his young age, Brown was one of the technicians who helped set up the telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.  Brown continued to work for Samuel F.B. Morse for the next seven years.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982); The Smithsonian Institute Archives: http://siarchives.si.edu.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Phillips, Homer G. (1880-1931)

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

Prominent St. Louis attorney Homer Gilliam Phillips was born in Sedalia, Missouri in 1880. He was the son of a Methodist minister, but he was orphaned in infancy and raised by an aunt. Phillips’s interest in law led him to Washington, D.C. where he lived with renowned African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar while attending Howard University Law School. He also briefly worked at the Justice Department.

Upon his return to Missouri, Phillips became an active attorney and political figure in St. Louis. In 1922, he was given the prominent role of securing approximately $1 million to construct a new hospital for African Americans on the city’s North Side.

While the bond issue to fund construction of a new facility to replace St. Louis’s Barnes Hospital was approved by the voters, city officials instead attempted to force black St. Louis residents to use outdated Deaconess Hospital. Phillips led the fight against the city's efforts and eventually persuaded leaders to create the new fully funded hospital as originally proposed in the 1922 bond measure, though construction was delayed for another decade.

Sources: 

Oral Introduction presented by Alderman Samuel L. Moore, 4th Ward, City
of St. Louis Board of Alderman, Resolution No. 19, April 27, 2007;
Ernest Calloway, “Why Was Homer G. Phillips Killed? St. Louis Argus
(June 5, 1975, p.16); Mary Stiritz and Carolyn Toft, "Landmarks
Association of St. Louis, Inc. for Missouri State Historical Survey,"
Park J. White, M.D. Papers, Washington University School of Medicine,
St. Louis, Missouri; Rob Powers, “Recalled to Life: Homer G. Phillips
Hospital.” http://www.builtstlouis.net/homerphillips.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wright, Jane Cooke (1919- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Smith College
Dr. Jane Cooke Wright was a physician and cancer researcher who dedicated her professional career to the advancement of chemotherapy techniques.  Jane Cooke Wright was born in New York City, New York on November 20, 1919.  She was the older of two daughters to parents Louis Tompkins Wright and Corinne (Cooke) Wright.  Wright attended private schools in New York City and in 1942 graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  Wright’s father, one of the first African American graduates at Harvard Medical School, established the Cancer Research Center at Harlem Hospital, New York in 1947.  After her undergraduate studies Wright attended New York Medical College on a four-year scholarship.  She graduated with an M.D. in 1945.  
Sources: 
Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, eds., Notable Women in the Life Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996); http://www.nlm.nih.gov/
changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_336.html
; Lisa Yount, A to Z of Women in Science and Math (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Massey, Walter E. (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Hall, Juanita (1901-1968)

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

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

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

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

Jakes, Thomas Dexter (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Dexter Jakes, megachurch pastor, best-selling author, playwright and movie producer, came from humble beginnings. He was born on June 9, 1957 in Charleston, West Virginia. Jakes was born into an entrepreneurial family. His father Earnest, Sr., owned a janitorial service that had three offices and 52 employees. His mother Odith, although a schoolteacher, also sold Avon products in her spare time. At the age of eight Jakes began selling vegetables from his mother’s garden. While in high school he cut grass, delivered newspapers, and sold Avon and Amway products. Eventually overwhelmed by the death of his father in 1972 and ridicule from his peers about his faith, Jakes dropped out of high school and pursued a call to preach. He eventually took a high school education equivalency test and attended West Virginia State College. Unable to meet the demands of school, church, and a full-time job at a chemical plant, Jakes quit college after a year.
Sources: 
Shayne Lee, T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher (New York: New York University Press, 2005); Hubert Morken, “Bishop T.D. Jakes: A Ministry for Empowerment,” in Jo Renee Formicola and Hubert Morken, eds., Religious Leaders and Faith-Based Politics: Ten Profiles (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Vanderbilt University Divinity School

Baltimore, Richard Lewis, III (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Richard Lewis Baltimore III was born on December 31, 1947 in New York City, New York to Judge Richard Lewis Baltimore, Jr. and Lois Madison-Baltimore. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 1969 and earned a juris doctor from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1972. Upon graduating from law school, Baltimore entered the Foreign Service. He accepted a position with the U.S. State Department and was posted to the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, where he served as Economic/Political Officer until 1975. After his post in Lisbon ended, Baltimore accepted a special assignment to Zambia during the civil war in Rhodesia.
Sources: 
"Baltimore, Richard Lewis, III," Contemporary Black Biography, 2009, Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-1841900009.html;
Biography: Richard Lewis Baltimore, III, Ambassador, Oman, http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/b/14304.htm; Laura Ewald, “Shaping Modern Oman,”www.gwu.edu/~magazine/archive/2005_fall/docs/alumni_newsmakers/dept_alumni_oman.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Mabley, Jackie “Moms” (1894–1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Jackie “Moms” Mabley found fame and fortune as a stand-up comedian during the twentieth century. Beginning as a staple on the chitlin’ circuit and late night talk show favorite, she went on to become an internationally known entertainer whose career spanned five decades.

One of twelve children, Mabley was born Loretta Mary Aiken on March 19, 1894 to businessman and volunteer firefighter James Aiken and Mary Smith, a stay-at-home mother in Brevard, North Carolina. When Loretta was eleven, her father was killed in an explosion, and later her mother was killed on Christmas day by a truck. During her adolescence, Loretta was raped; both episodes resulted in pregnancy and the children being given up through adoption.

Mabley relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, at age fourteen and joined the black vaudeville scene as an all-around entertainer. While on this circuit, she met and fell in love with fellow performer Jack Mabley. After the short-lived love affair, she adopted his name. The sobriquet “Moms” came a short time later as other performers noticed her protection and kindness for budding entertainers.
Sources: 
Jason Ankeny and Moms Mabley, Moms Mabley biography,(San Francisco: All Media Network, LLC, 2015); Allison Keyes, "The Apollo Theater to Induct 3 Black Comedy Legends Into Its Walk of Fame: Moms Mabley, Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor will be honored the same night the legendary theater kicks off its new comedy club" http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2015/10/apollo_theater_walk_of_fame_moms_mabley_redd_foxx_and_richard_pryor_1st.html; Mekado Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg, "The Comedy Pioneer in the Floppy Hat: Whoopi Goldberg’s Documentary on Moms Mabley," http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/arts/television/whoopi-goldbergs-documentary-on-moms-mabley.html?_r=1 Biography.com Editors, Moms Mabley Biography: Comedian (1894–1975), http://www.biography.com/people/moms-mabley-38691;  Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley, (Philadelphia: Equality Forum, 2015), http://lgbthistorymonth.com/jackie-%E2%80%9Cmoms%E2%80%9D-mabley?tab=biography.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lawrence, Margaret Cornelia Morgan (1914- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Margaret Morgan Lawrence in 2015 at Age 101
Image Ownership: Public domain

Margaret Lawrence, the first African American psychoanalyst and the first pediatric psychiatrist in the United States, is author of Young Inner City Families: Development of Ego Strength under Stress (New York, Behavioral Publications, 1975) and The Mental Health Team in the Schools (New York: Behavioral Publications, 1971).

Lawrence was born in New York City, New York, on August 10, 1914, the second child of Mary Elizabeth Smith Morgan, a schoolteacher, and Sandy Alonzo Morgan, an Episcopal minister. Two years earlier, the Morgans had had a baby boy whom they called “Candy Man.” Born with a congenital illness, their son lived only eleven months, but his “presence” in the Morgan family was palpable and had an indelible influence on Lawrence’s early psychological life and the trajectory of her career.

Sources: 
Sara Lightfoot-Lawrence, Balm in Gilead: Journey of a Healer (New York: Penguin, 1959); National Library of Medicine—Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America’s Women Physicians, https://cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_195.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hall, James Reginald, Jr. (1937- )

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

Lieutenant General James Reginald Hall, Jr. was born in Anniston, Alabama in 1937. He pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, studying political science. James also pursued a second degree in public administration, from Shippensburg College in Pennsylvania. Following graduation in 1957, Hall joined the United States Army.

Hall had basic training in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas and then continued to Individual Training in Colorado. Having already earned a degree, James Hall entered Officer Candidate School and earned his commission of Second Lieutenant in 1958.

Sources: 
“James Reginald Hall, Jr.” in Walter L. Hawkins, Black American Military Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009); “James Reginald Hall, Jr., “Veterans Administration Advisory Board,” https://vetjobs.com/advisory-board/; “Black General In Charge at Fort Sheridan, Ill,” Jet Magazine, June 19, 1989; “President Franklin Delivers Final Opening Convocation,” Inside Morehouse, (October 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Burton, Walter Moses (1829?-1913)

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

 

Map of Fort Bend County, Texas, 1882
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Walter Moses Burton holds the distinction of being the first black elected sheriff in the United States.  Burton was also a State Senator in Texas.

Burton was brought to Fort Bend County, Texas as a slave from North Carolina in 1850 at the age of twenty-one.  While enslaved, he was taught how to read and write by his master, Thomas Burton. After the Civil War his former owner sold Burton several large plots of land for $1,900 making him one of the wealthiest and most influential blacks in Fort Bend County.  In 1869, Walter Burton was elected sheriff and tax collector of Fort Bend County.  Along with these duties, he also served as the president of the Fort Bend County Union League.

Sources: 

Merline Pitre, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: The Black Leadership of Texas, 1868-1900 (Austin: Eakin, 1985); "Walter Moses Burton" in The Handbook of Texas History Online, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbu67.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Bryant, Kobe (1978- )

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

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

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

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

Biles, Simone Arianne (1997- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Simone Arianne Biles is an American artistic gymnast. She is a three-time world all-around champion (2013-2015), three-time world floor champion (2013-2015), four-time United States National all-around champion (2013-2016), and a member of the gold medal-winning American teams at the 2014 and 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Biles is also a 2016 Olympic individual all-around, vault, and floor gold medalist. She was part of the gold medal-winning team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and also won a bronze medal in the balance beam during those games.  
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Langston, Charles Henry (1817-1892)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Charles Henry Langston
(Ohio Historical Society)

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

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

Diagne, Blaise (1872-1934)

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

Galaye M’baye Diagne, the first African elected at the French National Assembly and to obtain a post in the French government, was born on October 13, 1872, on Gorée Island, Senegal. His father, Niokhor Diagne, was a cook, and his mother, Gnagna Anthony Preira, a servant. While still very young, Diagne was placed in various Métis (mixed race) families, and finally adopted by a wealthy Christian Métis, Adolphe Crespin, who renamed him Blaise. Crespin sent him to the Brother of Ploemel School for his primary education. A brilliant pupil, Diagne pursued his secondary education in Aix-en-Provence, France. He passed the French Customs Service entrance examination in Senegal in 1891.

Sources: 

“Diagne, Blaise (1872?-1934),” in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis
Gates, Jr., eds.,  Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African &
African American Experience
  (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005);
Amady Aldy Dieng, Blaise Diagne: député noir de l’Afrique (Paris:
Editions Chaka, 1990); “Diagne, Gueye, and Politics of Senegal, 1920s
and 1930s,” in Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History
(New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005).

Affiliation: 
University of Nantes, France

Reynolds, Melvin Jay “Mel” (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Politician, scholar and professor, Mel Reynolds was born on January 8, 1952, in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, to parents J.J. and Essie May Reynolds.  Reynolds attended John Marshall High School on the Westside of Chicago where he developed impressive academic credentials.  He then enrolled in Chicago City College and later completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Philosophy from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1974. In 1979, Reynolds won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England. Reynolds also graduated from Roosevelt University in Chicago, were he became a political science professor. While on the faculty he created the Community Economic Development Education Foundation.

Reynolds, a rising star in Illinois’ Second Congressional District, defeated incumbent Congressman Gus Savage in 1992 and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995.

In August of 1994, Reynolds was indicted for having sex with Beverly Heard, a 16 year old campaign volunteer.  In November of 1994, Reynolds, who claimed that the charges were racially motivated, was re-elected.  However, he was later convicted on 12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. Groups such as the National Organization for Women called for the voluntary resignation of Reynolds. On October 1, 1995, he resigned his seat.

Sources: 
Clinton Commutation Grants, January 2001, University of Pittsburgh Law School; Interview with Mel Reynolds, Chicago Reporter, January 2001.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago

Hill, Charles Leander (1906-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
African American philosopher Charles Leander Hill was born on July 28 1906 in Urbana Ohio. Hill was one of seven children born to David Leander and Karen (Andrews) Hill. Well respected in the Urbana community, the family lived on a street which was named after them. Hill’s father was the first African American police officer in Urbana. His mother was a homemaker, active in various civic and church organizations, and also a devout member of the St. Paul A.M.E. Church. St. Paul was founded in 1824 and served as a pivotal institution in the African American community. For the young Hill, St. Paul A.M.E. was a second home, the edifice of his spiritual family, and as a child he yearned to be a minister.
Sources: 
John H. McClendon III, “Dr. Charles Leander Hill: Philosopher and Theologian,” The AME Church Review V. CXIX, n. 390 (April-June 2003); John H. McClendon III, “Introduction to Drs. Anton Wilhelm Amo and Charles Leander Hill with Select Bibliography,” American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience (Spring 2003); Charles L. Hill, A Short History of Modern Philosophy: From the Renaissance to Hegel (Boston: Meador Publishing Company, 1951); Arthur P. Stokes, “Charles Leander Hill: Profile of a Scholar” A.M.E. Church Review V. CXVII, n.379/380 (Fall 2000).
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

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

Bolin, Jane (1908-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture,
The New York Public Library
Jane Bolin was the first black women graduate of Yale Law School and the first black female judge in the United States. Bolin was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on April 11, 1908. From her earliest days in her father’s law office, Bolin knew she wanted to be an attorney. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1928 and earned her J.D. degree at the Yale Law School in 1931.

Bolin clerked in her father's law office until she passed the New York bar exam in 1932. She married fellow attorney Ralph E. Mizelle a year later, and together they opened up a practice in New York City. In 1937, Bolin was named Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of New York, serving on the Domestic Relation Court. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed Jane Bolin Judge of the Domestic Relations Court in 1939, where she served for 40 years. During her tenure with two other judges she achieved two major changes: the assignment of probation officers to cases without regard for race or religion, and a requirement that publicly funded private child-care agencies accept children without regard to ethnic background.
Sources: 
Jacqueline A. McLeod, “Persona non-grata: Judge Jane Matilda Bolin and the NAACP, 1930-1950,” Afro-Americans in New York and History, January 2005;  www.wellesley.edu/Anniversary/bolin.html
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Robinson, Samuel L. (1896-1964?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

(Image Courtesy of Chartles Kastner)
Samuel L. Robinson was born in Kansas in 1896. He arrived in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in his teens, where he attended the city's integrated high school.  He joined the school's football team and became a close friend of the team captain and the future sports editor of the Press-Union newspaper, Lou Greenberg.  After serving in World War I, Robinson came home to Atlantic City and fought as a professional boxer.  He earned his nickname "Smiling Sammy" because of his seemingly perpetual good mood.  He was deeply religious, preaching an ethos of hard work and faith in God to anyone who would listen.

In 1928, Robinson entered the first footrace across America, run from Los Angeles to New York City in eighty-four days.  The press nicknamed the race a "bunion derby." Sammy had no experience as a distance runner, but he was a superbly trained and gifted athlete.  His old friend Lou Greenberg gave him a check for three hundred dollars for training expenses and the promise of fifty dollars for each state he crossed.  Robinson joined four African Americans who entered the race out of a field of 199 "bunioneers."
Sources: 
Charles B. Kastner, Bunion Derby:  The First Footrace Across America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007); "10,000 Roar Welcome to Smiling Sammy," Afro-American, 2 June 1928; "Bunion Runners Disrupt Lincoln County Track Meet," Black Dispatch, 19 Apr. 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

Whipper, Leigh (1876-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Leigh Whipper while making the film,
"The Oxbow Incident." 
Photo courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis

Leigh Whipper, the first black member of the Actors’ Equity Association (1913), was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1876. His father, William James Whipper, was a Civil War Veteran from Connecticut who settled in South Carolina during the Reconstruction period and became an attorney in Charleston. His mother, Frances Rollin Whipper, was a writer. Whipper attended public school in Washington, D.C. After leaving Howard University Law School in 1895, he immediately joined the theater.

Never a drama student, Whipper honed his acting abilities by observing the techniques of some of the most established actors of his day and interpreting the voices of some of his favorite writers, including Paul Laurence Dunbar. By the turn of the century, he had made his first Broadway appearance in Georgia Minstrels and went on to appear in classical Broadway productions of Stevedore, Of Mice and Men, and Porgy. Whipper achieved national fame for his characterization of the Crabman of the Catfish Row in Porgy, interposing into his part the Crabman’s Song. It was later incorporated into the film version.

Sources: 

Leigh Whipper Papers, 1861–1963, Schomburg Collection, New York Public Library; “Leigh Whipper, 98, Character Actor,” The New York Times, Sunday, July 27, 1975, p. 35.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Randall, Dudley (1914-2000)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fuller, Hoyt W. (1923-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Atlanta University
Photographs,  Atlanta University Center,
Robert W. Woodruff
Library

Hoyt W. Fuller, editor and writer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1923. After an illness caused his mother, Lillie Beatrice Ellafair Thomas, to become an invalid and after the death of his father, Thomas Fuller, in 1927, Fuller went to live with his aunt in Detroit, Michigan.  As a child, Fuller often returned to Atlanta to visit his grandmother, who encouraged him to explore black culture.

Fuller attended Wayne State University, graduating in 1950 with a BA in literature and journalism.  Fred Williams, a local amateur historian of Detroit’s black community, became Fuller’s mentor while he attended Wayne State.  Aside from giving Fuller readings about Africa and African Americans, Williams also brought Fuller along on his research trips to interview older members of the black community.  After graduation, Fuller pursued a career in journalism.  He worked at the Detroit Tribune (1949-1951), the Michigan Chronicle (1951-1954), and Ebony magazine (1954-1957).
Sources: 
Hoyt W. Fuller, Journey to Africa (Chicago: Third World Press, 1971); Dudley Randall, ed., Homage to Hoyt Fuller (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1984); “Hoyt Fuller,” in The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Whitehead, James T., Jr. (1934- )

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

James Whitehead, Jr., the first African American Lockheed U2 pilot, was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1934.  From a young age Whitehead was surrounded by a strong military presence in his family including relatives who served in World War II.  Coming of age during that war he also remembered the Tuskegee Airmen who inspired his desire to learn to fly.   

Whitehead enlisted in the New Jersey Army National Guard in May 1952 and served until 1955. He later became the first African American graduate of the University of Illinois Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).  He graduated in June 1957 with a degree in Physical Education and was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Before leaving his home in New Jersey for officer training, Whitehead purchased a guide for blacks on travel across segregated America.  As an African American officer in The United States Air Force at a time when segregation was still prevalent in parts of the United States, Whitehead wanted to know how to travel across the nation without incident. 

Sources: 
Whitehead, James. Personal Interview by Elliot Partin. 16 DEC 2010; "Black Generals of the National Guard," On Guard (Feb. 1990) Vol. 29(5).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Berry, Mary Frances (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Mary Frances Berry
Mary Frances Berry is a scholar, professor, author, and civil rights activist who served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Berry was born in Nashville, Tennessee on February 17, 1938 to parents Frances Southall Berry and George Ford Berry.  Due to her mother’s poverty and the desertion of her father, she and her brothers spent time in an orphanage. She attended the segregated public schools in Nashville but in the 10th grade she found a mentor in her teacher, Minerva Hawkins, who challenged Berry to excel in academics.

Berry graduated with honors from Pearl High School in Nashville in 1956 and began college at Fisk University. After transferring to Howard University she earned her B.A. in history in 1961.  She earned a history Ph.D. in 1966 from the University of Michigan. In 1968 Berry became a faculty member at the University of Maryland and supervised the establishment of an African American Studies Program at that institution.

Berry earned her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1970 and became the acting director of the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Maryland.  From 1974 to 1976 she served as University Provost, becoming the first African American woman to hold that position.
Sources: 
David De Leon, Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994); Catherine Ellis and Stephen Drury Smith, Say it Loud!: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African American Identity (New York: New Press, 2010); Mary Frances Berry, And Justice for All: The United States Commission on Civil Rights and the Continuing Struggle for Freedom in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McClellan, George Marion (1860–1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
African American poet, writer, minister, and educator George Marion McClellan was born in Belfast, Tennessee on September 29, 1860 to George Fielding and Eliza (Leonard) McClellan. Little is known about McClellan’s early life.

In 1885 McClellan obtained a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.  In October 1888 McClellan married Mariah Augusta Rabb, a teacher, who also graduated from Fisk University.  Two years later McClellan received a master’s degree from Fisk.

McClellan and his wife had two sons, one of whom died in childhood of tuberculosis and about whom McClellan wrote tenderly in his poem “To Theodore.”

Sources: 
Peter Schmidt, Sitting in Darkness: New South Fiction, Education, and the Rise of Jim Crow Colonialism, 1865-1920 , pp. 83- ; Chapter 5, Lynching and the Liberal Arts: Rediscovering George Marion McClellan’s Old Greenbottom Inn and Other Stories (1906); Who’s Who Of The Colored Race: A General Biographical Dictionary of Men and Women of African Descent (Volume 1 – 1915), edited by Frank Lincoln Mather, Memento Edition, Half Century Anniversary of Negro Freedom in U.S. (Chicago: Copyright 1915 by Frank Lincoln Mather) http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4371/McClellan-George-Marion-1860-1934.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

James, Sylvester (1947-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sylvester James, American singer and songwriter, was born in the Watts section of Los Angeles, California to Sylvester James and Letha Weaver on September 6, 1947.  He grew up with his mother and stepfather Robert Hurd, as well as five siblings: John James, Larry James, Bernadette Jackson, Bernadine Stevens, and Alonzo Hurd.  Raised attending the Palm Lane Church of God and Christ in Los Angeles, James became a young gospel star performing at churches and conventions across California.

James graduated from Jordan High School in Los Angeles in 1969.  He studied interior design for two years at Leimert Beauty College, Los Angeles and also studied archeology, working at the Museum of Ancient History at the La Brea Tar Pits.  During this time, he co-founded the recording group, the Disquotays.

After moving to San Francisco in 1967, he joined the Cockettes, a theater troupe, singing jazz and blues standards of the 1920s and 1930s; in November 1971, the Cockettes performed at the Anderson Theater in New York City’s East Village.  Sylvester made his debut album on the Blue Thumb label with Lights Out (1971), followed in 1973 by Sylvester and Bazaar.  In 1976, Sylvester hired the singers Martha Wash and Izora Armstead-Rhodes. Record producer Harvey Fuqua discovered the group and signed them with Fantasy Records which produced the album Sylvester in 1977.  
Sources: 
Jake Austen, “Sylvester,” Roctober 19 (1997), http://www.roctober.com/roctober/greatness/sylvester.html; David Masciotra, “Queen of Disco: The Legend of Sylvester,” popmatters (12 February 2013), http://www.popmatters.com/column/167895-queen-of-disco-the-legend-of-sylvester/; Joshua Gamson, The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the 70s in San Francisco (New York City: Henry Holt and Co., 2005); Luca Prono, “Sylvester (1946-1988),” Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Popular Culture (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008), pp. 252-254. “Sylvester James Discography,” http://www.discogs.com/artist/16794-Sylvester
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lane, Layle (1893-1976)

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

Labor leader Layle Lane was born on November 27, 1893, in Marietta, Georgia. She was the fourth of five children of Calvin Lane and Alice Virginia Clark Lane. Lane was vice president of the American Federation of Teachers union and a committee member of the March on Washington Movement, participating in the first proposed March in 1941.

Her father, Calvin, was a freedman of the clergy who built his own house in Marietta, and also established a church and school nearby. Layle’s mother Alice was an educator. Lane graduated from Vineland High School (New Jersey) as its first Black student, and entered Howard University in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1913. At Howard, she was a member of Delta Sigma Theta, one of the largest sororities in the nation at the time for professional Black women. She graduated with degrees in English and History.

Sources: 
Leonard Bethel, La Citadelle. (University Press of America. Lanham, Massachusetts, 2015); Andrew E. Kerstern and David Lucander. For Jobs and Freedom: Selected Speeches and Writings of A. Philip Randolph. (University of Massachusetts Press. Boston, 2014).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Andrew Jackson (1843-1932)

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

Andrew Jackson Smith was the last black Civil War soldier to receive a Medal of Honor. Smith was born on September 3, 1843, into slavery to Susan, an enslaved African American woman, and her white owner, Elijah Smith, in Lyon County, Kentucky. When his father enlisted in the Confederate army, intending to bring Smith along as a servant, Andrew and another slave ran away. After walking 25 miles through the rain, they arrived at a Union army encampment in Smithland, Kentucky. They were admitted to the camp, and Smith, in order to remain under the military’s protection, became a servant to Major John Warner of the 41st Illinois Volunteer Regiment.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

Shepperson, James E. (1858 - ?)

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

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harris, Kamala Devi (1964– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On November 8, 2016, Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate from California, becoming the second African American woman to sit in that body after Carol Mosely Braun of Illinois was elected to represent Illinois 24 years earlier in 1992. Before her election to the U.S. Senate, Harris served two-terms as the Attorney General of California.  She was also the first black woman and first person of color to hold elective office as attorney general of any state.
 
Kamala Devi Harris was born in Oakland, California, on October 20, 1964 to Donald J. Harris, a Stanford University economics professor from Jamaica and Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer specialist who immigrated from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Harris attended high school in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where her mother worked at McGill University Hospital.  
Sources: 
Jason B. Johnson, “San Francisco/D.A. creates environmental unit/3 staff team takes on crime mostly affecting the poor,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 1, 2005; Kerry-Ann Hamilton, “Howard Alumna Becomes First Woman Elected as California Attorney General,” University News, December 14, 2010, Howard University, News Room, www.howard.edu; Barbara Parker and Rebecca Kaplan, “Kamala Harris’ foreclosure deal a win for the state,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 5, 2012; Michael Finnegan, “How Race Shaped Kamala Harris’ Politics,” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2015, "Kamala Harris is Elected California's New U.S. Senator," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University

Rudd, Wayland (1900-1952)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Wayland Rudd and His Wife,
Lolita Marksiti in Moscow, 1930
Image Ownership: Public domain

Wayland Rudd was an American-born actor who moved to the Soviet Union in 1932 as part of a group of 22 African Americans called the “Black and White Film Club.”  Before moving to the Soviet Union, Rudd gained recognition for his roles in The Emperor Jones and Othello and appeared in a number of Broadway productions.

Rudd, born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1900, moved to the Soviet Union to escape the restrictive Jim Crow laws and racism of the United States that were holding him back from advancing his career.  Rudd originally traveled to the Soviet Union to participate in a film by German director Carl Junghans, but when that project was canceled, Rudd remained in Russia where he married a white woman, Lolita Marksiti, whom he knew from the United States.  They had one child, Lolita.

Sources: 
Joy Gleason Carew, Blacks, Reds, and Russians: Sojourners in Search of the Soviet Promise, (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2008); "The disillusioned 'reds.' (Soviet Union)," Newsweek, 1982., 89. Science In Context, EBSCO host (accessed January 17, 2018); Homer Smith, Black Man in Red Russia: A Memoir (Chicago: Johnson Publication, 1964).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Southern New Hampshire University

Nicholas Brothers

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Fayard Nicholas (1914-2006)
Harold Nicholas (1921-2000)

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, whose careers spanned over six decades, made up one of the most beloved dance teams in the history of dance, The Nicholas Brothers. They were best known for their unforgettable appearances in more than 30 Hollywood musicals in the 1930s and 1940s including Down Argentine Way (1940), Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Stormy Weather (1943). Their artistry, choreographic brilliance, and unique style -- a smooth mix of tap, jazz, ballet and acrobatic moves -- entertained and astonished vaudeville, theatre, film and television audiences all over the world.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Barbosa, Pedro, III (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A native of Guayama, Puerto Rico, Pedro Barbosa III is a distinguished entomologist (a scientist who studies insects) who has taught at the University of Maryland since 1979.  Born on September 6, 1944, he acquired his bachelor’s degree at the City College of New York in 1966 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Massachusetts.  Upon earning his terminal degree Barbosa taught entomology at Rutgers University from 1971 to 1973, then at the University of Massachusetts from 1973 to 1979.   

He has utilized research grants from the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Stations and the National Biological Control Institute, has been a fellow of both the Ford Foundation and the Entomological Society of America, and honored by the Ciba-Geigy Recognition Award, the Science Award from the Institute of Puerto Rico of New York, and the Bussart Memorial Award, among others.
Sources: 
Who’s Who Among Hispanic Americans (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994).
http://www.barbosalab.umd.edu/top3.jpg
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Gbowee, Leymah (1972 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist, author, and 2011 Nobel Prize winner was born on February 1, 1972. She grew up in Bong County in central Liberia. In 1990, when Leymah was 17, she left for the capital, Monrovia, just before the nearly decade old civil war reached the city.

Gbowee regretted losing her opportunity to attend college; and out of bitterness and disappointment, she initially avoided any political or social involvement. As the war continued, however, she realized that the citizens of the nation and particularly Liberia's women must become more vocal advocates of peaceful change.  To contribute to that cause, Gbowee trained as a trauma counsellor and began working with the ex-child soldiers led by Liberian President Charles Taylor.  She also counselled women and girls who had been raped by the armies on both sides of the conflict.   
Sources: 
“African women look within for change.” http://edition.cnn.com. CNN, October 10 2009; http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/africa/10/30/africa.women/; “Leymah Gbowee, Women in Peace and Security Network Africa.” http://niew-womenincrisis.org, July 24, 2010, http://niew-womenincrisis.org/?p=39.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dellums, Ronald Vernie (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Ronald Vernie Dellums was born on November 24, 1935 in Oakland, California to Willa Terry Dellums and Vernie Dellums. His father Vernie Dellums was a longshoreman, and his mother was a labor organizer.  As a child, Ron attended St. Patrick Catholic School in Oakland.  

After high school Ron Dellums served in the United States Marine Corps from 1954 to 1956 after he was denied the college scholarship he had sought.  After service in the Marines Dellums, with the help of the G.I Bill and an outside job, attended San Francisco State College where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1960.  This was followed by an M.A. in Social Welfare from the University of California at Berkeley in 1962.

In the same year Dellums began his career as a psychiatric social worker in the California Department of Mental Hygiene in Berkeley.  Dellums also taught at San Francisco State University and the University of California, Berkeley.  His work soon led him to become involved in community politics.  In 1967 at 32, Dellums was elected to the Berkeley City Council.  He quickly became known as the spokesperson for African American community affairs and for his radical political beliefs.  
Sources: 
Ronald Dellums, Lying Down with the Lions: A Public Life from the Streets of Oakland to the Halls of Power (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000); Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870- 1989 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,1990); Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1976); http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000222
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dixon, George "Little Chocolate" (1870-1909)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Dixon, also known as “Little Chocolate,” was born on July 29, 1870 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Standing only 5’ 3 ½” and weighing no more than 118 pounds over the bulk of his career, “Little Chocolate” was described as long armed and skinny legged, swift of hand and foot, and possessing an ideal fighting temperament and great stamina. Ring magazine founder and editor, Nat Fleischer, described him as a marvel of cleverness, yet indicated that he could slug with the best of them. Fleischer rated him as the # 1 bantamweight of all time.

Dixon became the first black man to win a world championship when he captured the bantamweight title just shy of his 20th birthday by defeating Nunc Wallace of England in 18 rounds on June 27, 1890. Only 13 months later he knocked out Abe Willis of Australia to garner the featherweight crown. He held that title for the next six years, finally losing it by decision to Solly Smith on October 4, 1897. He regained it on November 11, 1898 by defeating Dave Sullivan, but then lost it for good when Terry McGovern knocked him out on January 9, 1900.
Sources: 
John D. McCallum, The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions (Radner, Pennsylvania; Chilton Book Co. 1975); www.cyberboxingzone.com and www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cheatham, Henry Plummer (1857-1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

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); https://www.biography.com/people/lucy-craft-laney-9372857.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Work, Monroe Nathan (1866-1945)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Monroe Nathan Work, a leading early 20th Century sociologist, was born on August 15, 1866 to his ex-slave parents in Iredell County, North Carolina. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Cairo, Illinois where Monroe’s father worked as a tenant farmer. They aspired to own their own land and in the early 1870s moved to Kansas and purchased a 160-acre farm in Summer County. Work received his elementary education in a local church building and stayed in Summer County to help on the farm until 1889, when his mother died and his father went to live with one of the married children.

At the age of 23 Monroe Work enrolled in high school in Arkansas City, Kansas. After graduating (third in his class), he tried teaching, preaching, and homesteading before continuing his education at the Chicago Theological Seminary. Work became disenchanted with seminary and transferred to the Sociology Department of the University of Chicago in 1898.

Work’s passion for sociology was driven by his belief that education eradicated racial prejudice.  He once noted, “In the end, facts will help eradicate prejudice and misunderstanding, for facts are the truth and the truth shall set us free.” Thus began a life long career dedicated to finding and documenting the facts of black life in the United States.
Sources: 
“Monroe Work” in Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); “Monroe Work” in 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

Robinson, Frank (1935- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Tademy, Lalita (1948- )

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

In 1995, author Lalita Tademy left her prestigious and well-paid position of vice-president and general manager at Sun Microsystems and began to search for a new direction for her life. Her long corporate climb, including stints at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Memorex, led her in her 40s to a life of 12-hour days, a long commute to Silicon Valley, and little time to herself. Although she loved the challenges of her corporate rise, she quit her job and with a three-year financial cushion began researching her family history.

After several years of extensive genealogical research that included gathering approximately 1,000 documents – photographs, census records, diaries, letters, birth certificates, newspaper articles, wills, land deeds, and also the bill of sale for her great-great-great-great-grandmother – she began to write. Tademy wove these historical materials into a novel that blends fact and fiction and tells the story of her maternal Louisiana ancestors over the turbulent years from 1834 to 1936, from slavery to freedom to Reconstruction to Jim Crow.
Sources: 
Lalita Tademy, Cane River (Warner Books: New York, 2001); Jean Hanff Korelitz, “She Ditched the Corner Office,” More magazine, May 2008, 73-76; http://www.lalitatademy.com/bio.html; http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/tademyLalita.php; http://www.Oprah.com/obc/pastbooks/lalita_tademy/;
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Blackwell, John Kenneth (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Huffington Post

J. Kenneth Blackwell, better known as Ken Blackwell, served as Ohio’s Secretary of State from 1999 to 2007. As a member of the Republican Party, he consistently advocated a conservative platform. Born on February 28, 1948, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Blackwell graduated from Xavier University in that city with a B.S. in psychology in 1970 and in 1971 earned his M.S. in Education, also from Xavier, where he went on to teach for fifteen years before being elected mayor of Cincinnati in 1979.

Sources: 
John Kenneth Blackwell, Rebuilding America: A Prescription for Creating Strong Families, Building the Wealth of Working People, and Ending Welfare (New York: WND Books, 2006); http://ashbrook.org/event/lecture-2003-blackwell/; http://www.politico.com/arena/bio/ken_blackwell.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Lonnie E. (1901-1971)

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

Lonnie Smith was a well-known dentist in Houston, Texas, an officer in the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and a civil rights activist.  He is best known for his role in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case bearing his name, Smith v. Allwright.

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (Millwood, New York: KTO Press, 1979); Charles L. Zelden, The Battle for the Black Ballot: Smith v. Allwright and the Defeat of the Texas All-White Primary (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004); http://www.laits.utexas.edu; http://www.tshaonline.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Pearman, Raven-Symoné Christina (1985- )

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Akuetteh, Cynthia Helen (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 2014, Cynthia Akuetteh, career Senior Foreign Service officer, was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as ambassador to Gabon and the island nation of Sao Tomé & Principe. After U.S. Senate confirmation she arrived in Libreville, capital of Gabon, to take up her post.

Akuetteh (née Cynthia Archie) was born in Washington, D.C. in 1948 to Richard Louis Archie II and Sallie Dolores Hines. In 1970 she graduated from Long Island University in New York with a B.A. degree in History.  In 1973 she earned a Master’s Degree in National Security Resource Policy from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

Sources: 
“Ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé & Príncipe: Who Is Cynthia Akuetteh?” AllGov, (http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassador-to-gabon-and-sao-tome-and-pr%C3%ADncipe-who-is-cynthia-akuetteh-131214?news=851910); American Foreign Service Association, “Report for the Committee on Foreign Relations: United States Senate,” http://www.afsa.org/sites/default/files/Portals/0/certcomp_gabon_saotome_principe.pdf; “US opposes ‘coup’ in Gabon; opposition mounts against Bongo,” The News, http://thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2015/01/us-opposes-coup-in-gabon-opposition-mounts-against-bongo/; “Cynthia Akuetteh,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/236745.htm; U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Statement of Cynthia Akuetteh United States Ambassador-Designate to the Gabonese Republic and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Principe: Senate Foreign Relations Committee, http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Akuetteh%20final.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Lyons, Maritcha (1848–1929)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Maritcha Remond Lyons, an African-American teacher and civil rights activist, was born in New York City, New York to Albro Lyons Sr. and Mary Joseph Lyon on May 23, 1848. She was the third of five children in the free black family. To avoid the danger from draft riots in New York City, Maritcha’s parents sent their children to Providence, Rhode Island, during the Civil War.

In 1865 at age sixteen, Maritcha was denied entry to Providence High School due to her race. Her family joined the campaign for desegregation in the state, led by prominent black abolitionist George T. Downing. Maritcha testified before the state legislature, and the school was ultimately desegregated. In 1869 she became the first black graduate of Providence High School.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Farmington Hills: Thomson Gale, 1996); Tanya Bolden, Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl (New York: Abrams, 2015).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Greenberg, Jack (1924-2016)

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

Jack Greenberg was a prominent civil rights lawyer, directing the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) for 23 years and arguing crucial cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. He was born in New York City, New York on December 22, 1924 to Jewish immigrant parents Max and Bertha Greenberg. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy and participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. While serving, he was distressed by the racial inequality that he saw in Navy ranks. In 1945, he graduated from Columbia University.

Sources: 
Richard Severo and William McDonald, “Jack Greenberg, a Courthouse Pillar of the Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 91,” New York Times Oct. 12, 2016; Gary Gately, “Jack Greenberg, civil rights lawyer who helped argue Brown v. Board, dies at 91,” Washington Post, Oct. 12, 2016.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Rose, Edward (c. 1780- c. 1833)

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

Edward Rose, also known by the names Five Scalps, Nez Coupe and “Cut Nose,” was the son of a white trader father and a Cherokee and African American mother.  Little else is known about his early life including where he was born. He may have spent some years working on the Mississippi River between southern Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana

Sources: 
Bruce E. Johansen and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997); Daniel F. Littlefield,   Cherokee Freedmen  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1978); Carl Waldman and Alan Wexler, "Rose, Edward," Encyclopedia of Exploration, Vol 1 (New York: Facts on File, Inc, 2004; LeRoy R. Hafen, ed., The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, Vol. IX (Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1966).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Scott, Tyree (1940-2003)

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

Tyree Scott was a Seattle civil rights and labor leader who opened the door to women and minority workers in the construction industry.  Scott was born in Hearne (Wharton County), Texas and before moving to Seattle in 1966, he served in the U. S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.  His father was an electrician in Seattle who found that jobs in the construction industry were off limits to blacks, limiting his ability to compete for large contracts.  In 1969, when Seattle’s Model Cities Program was attracting large federal contracts, the anti-poverty agency encouraged black contractors to organize in order to gain access to them.

Sources: 
Mary T. Henry, “Tyree Scott (1940-2003),” HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, http://www.historylink.org/ ; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District form 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Love, Mia (1975 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain'
Congresswoman Mia Love represents Utah's 4th Congressional District and is the first black Republican woman and the first Haitian-American elected to the United States Congress.  She is also the first black person elected to Congress in Utah.  

Love was born Ludmya Bourdeau on December 6, 1975 in Brooklyn, New York to Jean-Maxine and Mary Bourdeau.  The Bourdeau family emigrated from Haiti to the United States in 1973. Due to visa restrictions two children, Jean and Cynthia, were left behind. Love was born before the expiration of an immigration law that offered green cards to immigrants with children born in the United States; Love’s parents later became naturalized citizens.   
Sources: 
Lee Benson, "About Utah: King's Dream Certainly Thrives along the Shores of Utah Lake," Deseret News, January 17, 2011, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700101394/Kings-dream-certainly-thrives-along-the-shores-of-Utah-Lake.html?pg=all; Elise Foley,  "Mia Love: 'We Need To Move On' From Steve Scalise Controversy." The Huffington Post, January 4, 2015,  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/04/mia-love-steve-scalise_n_6412882.html. "Mia Love for Congress" Mia Love Website,   http://love4utah.com; Winston Ross, "Mia Love Tries to Be the First Black Republican Woman in Congress," Newsweek, October 29, 2014,  http://www.newsweek.com/2014/11/07/utah-love-280643.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hannah, Marc Regis (1956- )

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

ENTRY SPONSOR: W.H. (Joe) Knight

Even if you have never heard his name, it is likely you have enjoyed the work of Dr. Marc Regis Hannah. An electrical engineer with expertise in computer graphics, Hannah developed the 3-D special effects systems used widely in movies, such as Terminator 2 (1991) and Beauty and the Beast (1991), as well as in scientific research settings, like aerospace and biotech engineering labs. Later in his career, Regis co-founded Rondeau Bay, a construction company, based in Oakland, California, and served as a technical adviser and board member to many start-up companies.

Sources: 
Mary Northrup, Pioneering American Computer Geniuses (Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2014), 83 – 90; Frederick D. Smith, “Marc R. Hannah,” in the Encyclopedia of African American Business, edited by Jessie Carney Smith, Jessie Carney, Millicent Lownes Jackson, and Linda T. Wynn (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006), 372 – 373; “Marc Hannah: Special Effects Wiz: Ebony, February 1993, 55-58.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Kabila, Laurent-Désiré / Kabila, Laurent (1939–2001)

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

Laurent-Désiré Kabila, or Laurent Kabila, was born in 1939 and was murdered on January 16, 2001. Beginning in May 1997, he was the leader of a rebellion against the President of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko. Following this insurrection, he became President of Zaire and returned the country to its former name, The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Laurent-Désiré Kabila was born in Jadotville in the province of Katanga, a part of Belgian Congo in 1939. He came from the Luba tribe. He completed his studies in high school in Elisabethville and then studied political philosophy at a French university. He also attended the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Sources: 
B. Sissa Le, Laurent Désiré Kabila : la longue marche pour un bref destin (L’Harmattan, Paris, 2013); Laurent Kabila in Online Encyclopædia Britannica, 2001, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Laurent-Kabila; C. Kabuya-Lumuna Sando, Laurent Désiré Kabila, (African Political Economy, 2002)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Sciences Po Paris

O'Reilly, Salaria Kee (1913-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 


Salaria Kea in Spain
(ALBA Collection, Tamiment Library,
New York University) 

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.

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, Seattle

Peters, Thomas (1738-1792)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Monument in Honor of Black Loyalists, Nova Scotia
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Africa and enslaved in America, Thomas Peters is best known for his influence in settling Canadian blacks in the African colony of Sierra Leone. The earliest documentation of Peters’ life is as a 38-year-old slave in North Carolina.  When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Peters escaped to British-occupied territory.
Sources: 
Simon Schama, Rough Crossings (Toronto: Penguin Group, 2005); James W. St G. Walker, “Peters (Petters), Thomas”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (2000) http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2115&interval=25&&PHPSESSID=njv4l5j5dglrp8buu4elf70is1.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Collins, O'Neill R. (1931-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The eighth child of a cotton farmer, O’Neil Ray Collins, born March 9, 1931 in Opelousas, Louisiana, rose to become one of the most distinguished African American botanists, a world renowned expert on slime-mold genetics.  Upon completing his bachelor’s degree in botany at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1957, Collins acquired his master’s in 1959 and doctorate in 1961 at the University of Iowa where he was grounded in mycology under the tutelage of Constantine Alexopoulos.  His Ph.D. thesis confirmed his exciting discovery of myxomycete mating types.  
Sources: 
Obituary. San Francisco Chronicle, 11 April 1989; American Men & Women of Science. 14th Ed. Vol. 2 (New York: Bowker, 1979). http://content.cdlib.org/xtf/view?docId=hb7c6007sj&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=div00007&toc.depth=1&toc.id=
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Julian, Percy Lavon (1899-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A native of Montgomery, Alabama and grandson of slaves, Percy Lavon Julian was a trailblazer in the chemical sciences.  His parents Elizabeth Lena Adams, a school teacher, and James Sumner Julian, a railroad mail clerk who loved mathematics, raised six children, all of whom pursued a college education.  Two sons became physicians and three daughters received M.A. degrees.

After attending public school in Montgomery, Julian moved to Greencastle, Indiana in 1916 to enroll at DePauw University. While at DePauw he was named a member of the Sigma Xi honorary society and Phi Beta Kappa.  In order to finance his college education, he worked as a waiter and a ditch digger.  Julian was selected as the class valedictorian upon his graduation in 1920.  After completing his undergraduate degree, Julian was determined to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry despite the racism at the time which often kept African Americans from pursuing graduate degrees in all but a handful of universities.  
Sources: 
Bernhard Witkop, Percy Lavon Julian, A Biographical Memoir (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 1999); Sibrina Collins and Robert Lichter, “The Legacy of Dr. Percy Julian Celebrated at the 232nd ACS Meeting,” NOBCChE News OnLine, 2006, 36(4), 13-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Muhammad, Benjamin Chavis (1948- )

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

Born on January 22, 1948 as Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. in the city of Oxford, North Carolina, Benjamin Chavis Muhammad was a member of one of the most prominent African American families in North Carolina. His parents were well known educators and his ancestors included John Chavis, a Revolutionary War soldier with George Washington’s Army who became one of the first African Americans to attend Princeton University.  John Chavis later operated a private school in antebellum North Carolina that accepted both black and white students.

By age 13, Ben Chavis had established his civil rights activist credentials when he successfully integrated the all-white libraries in Oxford. Chavis became the first African American to receive a library card.

Sources: 
Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: An A-Z Reference of the Movement that Changed America (New York: Running Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Simone, Nina (1933-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tyron, North Carolina in 1933, Nina Simone began playing the family piano at the age of three.  Her mother Mary Kate Waymon, a minister and choir director at a Methodist church in Tyron, interpreted her daughter’s gift as a God-given talent.  Waymon began to study piano at age six with Muriel Massinovitch, an English pianist and Bach devotee married to a Russian painter husband. Waymon credited “Miss Mazzy” for teaching her to understand Bach; she credited Bach for dedicating her life to music. The lessons were paid for by family friends including a white couple in the town.  Eunice’s father, John Divine Waymon, had been an entertainer before he chose to move his family to Tyron, a North Carolina resort town, and set up a barbershop and dry cleaners to support his family. In her autobiography – I Put a Spell on You, the Autobiography of Nina Simone – Waymon describes her relationship with her father as loving and supportive and Tyron as “uncommon” for a southern town because blacks and whites lived together in a series of circles around the center of town, which allowed them to mingle and form friendships.

Sources: 
Nina Simone, I Put a Spell on You, the Autobiography of Nina Simone (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press,1993); Sylvia Hampton, David Nathan, and Lisa Simone Kelly, Nina Simone: Breakdown and Let it All Out (London: Sanctuary Publishing Limited, 2004); Jody Kolodzey, “Remembering Nina Simone,” Culture, May 5, 2003; Adam Shatz, “Nina Simone Obituary,” The Nation, May 19, 2003; Roger Nupie, Dr. Nina Simone Biography: http://www.ninasimone.com.
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

Cassell, Albert I. (1895-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Ortuno, Edgardo (1970- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edgardo Ortuno, Afro-Uruguayan professor, politician, and activist for human rights and equal opportunities, was born on June 10, 1970 in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Ortuno’s childhood experiences had a profound impact on his adult life. Growing up as an Afro-Uruguayan in a country where only four percent of the population were of African descent, Ortuno developed a keen sense of racial pride and a fierce opposition to discrimination of any kind. Moreover, his experience growing up under the military dictatorship of Juan M. Bordaberry, which crushed democracy and open political debate in Uruguay, instilled in Ortuno a belief in freedom of expression and equality.

As a young man Ortuno was initially drawn to academia and in the years 1990-1991 he held the position of research assistant at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Uruguay. Between the years 1990 and 1993 Ortuno also worked in the Center of Students of the Institute of Professors in Artigas, Uruguay (CEIP). Throughout this period he involved himself in studies of history, literature, education, and social sciences.
Sources: 
Edgardo Ortuno website: http://www.eortuno.depolitica.com.uy; UNHRC Refworld website: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country (UNHRC: UN Refugee Agency, 2010); Koichiro Matsuura, Address by Koichiro Matsuura: Afro-Uruguayan cultural traditions and history within the context of the Coalition of Latin American and Caribbean Cities against Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, April 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Weaver, Robert Clifton (1907-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Robert C. Weaver Standing Next to
President Lyndon B. Johnson as he is Introduced as the
First African American Nominee for a Cabinet Post
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

Robert C. Weaver was a noted economist and administrator. From 1966 through 1968, he was the first African American cabinet official, serving as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Weaver was born and raised in Washington D.C. From 1929 through 1934, he attended Harvard University, earning economic degrees at the Bachelor of Science, Masters’, and Ph.D. levels. As an administrator, Weaver worked as an adviser to the Secretary of the Interior (1933-37), special assistant for the Housing Authority (1937-40), and an administrative assistant with the National Defense Advisory Commission (1940). During the Second World War, he worked in several capacities concerned with mobilizing black labor into industrial employment contracted by the federal government.

Sources: 
The Columbia Encyclopedia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005); http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Robert_Clifton_Weaver.aspx.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Granville, Evelyn Boyd (1924- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Evelyn Boyd was born in Washington, D.C. on May 1st, 1929, the second daughter of William and Julia Boyd.  Though she was raised by a single working class mother and attended segregated schools, Boyd became the second black woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics.  She credits the quality and dedication of the teachers at Dunbar High School who nurtured her interest in mathematics and science and prepared her for advanced study.  Boyd graduated as valedictorian and, with the help of her aunt and a scholarship, she enrolled in Smith College in Massachusetts in 1941.  
Sources: 
Diann Jordan, Sisters in Science: Conversations with Black Women Scientists on Race, Gender and Their Passion for Science (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2006);  Evelyn Boyd Granville, "My Life as a Mathematician," Sage: A Scholarly Journal of Black Women 6:2 (1989). Retrieved from http://www.agnesscott.edu/LRIDDLE/WOMEN/granvill.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Queen Latifah (1970- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
  Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
Born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970 in Newark, New Jersey, Queen Latifah is the most influential woman in the history of rap music. The Muslim name "Latifah," which translates roughly to “delicate, sensitive and kind,” was adopted by Owens at the age of eight with help from a cousin.  

As a high school student Latifah began rapping with two friends under the moniker Ladies First. She also worked with the rap group Flavor Unit, and recorded a two song demo featuring Wrath of My Madness and Princess of the Posse. The demo reached Tommy Boy Records which promptly signed eighteen-year-old Latifah in 1988.

In 1989 Latifah added the "Queen" at the beginning of her name and released her first full-length album All Hail the Queen. The album was one of the first feminist hip-hop albums released.  Queen Latifah worked with an established rap pioneer KRS-One and future stars De La Soul.  The album featured a song called Ladies First, which referenced her first group and illustrated her soon to be trademark of unrelenting black feminist-centric rap.

Following her second album Nature of a Sista in 1991, Latifah founded the management company Flavor Unit Management which developed a number of upcoming groups including Naughty by Nature.
Sources: 

Simone Payment, Queen Latifah (New York: Rosen Publishing, 2006); Eleanora E. Tate, African American Musicians (New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2000).  

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Robert (1911-1938)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Johnson was the eleventh child of Julia Major Dodds.  Born out of wedlock, Johnson did not take the Dodds name. He grew up with his mother in Hazlehurst, Mississippi but soon moved up to live with his father, Charles Dodds, in Memphis. Charles Dodds changed his last name to Spencer and so Robert was known in his younger years as Robert Spencer. Around 1918, Johnson moved to an area around Robinsonville and Tunica, Mississippi to rejoin his mother who had remarried. Not much is known about Johnson’s childhood other than he was always interested in music. People in the Delta who knew Johnson claimed played the diddley bow when he was younger. A diddley bow is wire attached to nails sticking out of houses. A person could then hit the wire with a stick and use an empty bottle that slides along the wire to change the pitch.
Sources: 
Peter Guralnick, Searching for Robert Johnson (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1989); Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch, Robert Johnson: Lost and Found (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Patricia R. Schroeder, Robert Johnson: Mythmaking and Contemporary American Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Europe, James Reese (1881-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
James Reese Europe and Band Members, 1918
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Reese Europe, one of the first African Americans to record music in the United States, was born on February 22, 1881 in Mobile, Alabama to Henry and Lorraine Europe.  When he was ten, his family moved to Washington D.C. where he began to study violin with Enrico Hurlei, the assistant director of the Marine Corps Band.  In 1904, Reese moved to New York to continue his musical studies.  
Sources: 
F. Reid Badger, A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, “Europe, James Reese,” Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983); http://jass.com/europe.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Myers, Isaac (1835-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Randolph, Lillian (1915-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Lillian Randolph and Daughter,
Barbara Sanders, 1952
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Lillian Randolph was a 20th Century actress who routinely, yet proudly, presented the role of the black domestic in film and radio and defended her right to maintain such characters in an intelligent fashion for much of her career.  Randolph was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1915. She first entered the world of entertainment as a singer at WJR Radio in Detroit in the early 1930s.

In 1936, Randolph migrated to Los Angeles and made her debut as a singer at the Club Alabam. Five years later, she landed the role of the maid, Birdie, on the radio and TV series The Great Gildersleeve, and soon became one of the most sought after black actresses of the period.  Randolph portrayed Birdie until 1957. She simultaneously played the role of Daisy, the housekeeper on The Billie Burke (radio) situation comedy from 1943 to 1946, and title role of the radio show, Beulah, in the early 1950s when Hattie McDaniel became ill. Also in the early 1950s she performed on the Amos n’ Andy show, recreating the role of Madame Queen, which she first played on the radio version of the series.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia, (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Christopher P. Lehman, The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008); Anonymous, Lillian Randolph, Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Press Release, nd; Lillian Randolph, Letters and Pictures to the Editor, Ebony, April 1946, vol.1, p. 51.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mitchell, Juanita Jackson (1913- 1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Detroit-London: Gale Research Inc., 1992); "Obituary for Juanita Jackson Mitchell," New York Times, July 9, 1992.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Knight, Etheridge (1931-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Etheridge Knight took a very unconventional path on his way to becoming one of the most popular poets during the Black Arts Movement.  America’s first introduction to Knight’s literary skills came with his first book publication, Poems from Prison in 1968.  Mr. Knight’s troubled past and time in prison led to an unorthodox style of “street” language, drug culture vocabulary, and black slang that immediately separated him from other poets of the era.

Sources: 
Linda Cullum, Contemporary American Ethnic Poets (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2004); Joyce Pettis, African American Poets (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Russell, Edwin Roberts (1913-1996)

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

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

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

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

Locker, Jessie Dwight (1891-1955)

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

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

Carruthers, George (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The physicist and inventor George Carruthers, known for inventing the ultraviolet camera and spectrograph, was born on October 1, 1939 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Carruthers is the oldest of four siblings. Carruthers’s father, George Carruthers, Sr., died when Carruthers was only 12 years old. However, before his death the senior Carruthers, a civil engineer in the United States Army, played a significant role in Carruthers’s budding interest in science. For example, Carruthers had built his own telescope from cardboard tubing and mail-order lenses from the money he had made as a delivery boy at the age of 10 years old.

Following the loss of his father, Carruthers’s mother, Sophia Carruthers, moved the family to Chicago, Illinois in search of employment.  She eventually worked for the U.S. Postal Service. Carruthers’s love for science remained strong, eventually becoming one of only a handful African American students to attend Chicago’s Englewood High School. During his time at Englewood, Carruthers won three science fair awards.

Sources: 
Kamau Rashid, Jacob H. Carruthers and the African-Centered Discourse on Knowledge, Worldview, and Power (London: Pluto Press, 2004); George Carruthers, Rocket Observation of Interstellar Molecular Hydrogen (Washington, D.C.: E.O. Hulburt Center for Space Research, 1970); Donna McKinney, NRL’S Dr. George Carruthers Honored with National Medal of Technology and Innovation (Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Research Laboratory, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gordon-Reed, Annette (1958- )

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

Award-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed was born in Livingston, Texas, on November 19, 1958, the daughter of military veteran Alfred Gordon Sr. and Bettye Jean Gordon, an English teacher. As a girl who loved to read and write and was fascinated by the family of Thomas Jefferson, something that would loom large in her future. An outstanding high school student, Gordon-Reed earned her bachelor’s degree in history with high distinction at Dartmouth College in 1981. In 1984 she obtained her law degree (Juris Doctor) at Harvard University, where she was a member of the Harvard Law Review. She began her professional career as an attorney in the New York-based international law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel, then as general counsel for the New York City Board of Corrections which entailed hearing inmates appeal disciplinary actions.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Coleman, Lt. Gen. Ronald S. (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Lieutenant General Ronald S. Coleman Speaking at His Street
Naming Ceremony, Darby, Pennsylvania, October 22, 2016
Image Ownership: Public domain

Lieutenant General Ronald S. Coleman is the second black person in the United States Marine Corps to reach a three-star rank, which he earned in 2006. Coleman also earned the French Legion of Honor, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Defense Superior Service Medal.

Sources: 
Walter Hawkins, Black American Military Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary (Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2007); “Ronald S. Coleman,” Academic: Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, n.d., http://enacademic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/3980036; Anne Neborak, “Darby street named after hometown hero Ronald Coleman,” The Delaware County Daily Times, Oct. 22, 2016, http://www.delcotimes.com/article/DC/20161022/NEWS/161029884; “Kathryn Jane Coleman,” Potomac Local Network, May 25, 2014, https://potomaclocal.com/2014/05/25/kathryn-jane-coleman/; Rich Pagano. “Sports Flashback: The Coleman Family produces several standout athletes, part 2.” Delaware County News Network. 8 May 2015. http://www.delconewsnetwork.com/sports/sports-flashback-the-coleman-family-produces-several-standout-athletes-part/article_09eaa18e-dcc7-5e98-acc0-fae997f36826.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Shorey, William Thomas (1859-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Known affectionately as the Black Ahab, William Thomas Shorey was born on January 25, 1859 on the island of Barbados in the British West Indies. He was the son of a Scottish sugar planter and a West Indian woman of mixed African and European ancestry. In 1875 he shipped to Boston, Massachusetts as a cabin boy and in the next year made his maiden voyage on a whaler. Learning navigation and moving up rapidly through the ranks, Shorey came to San Francisco, California on the whaler Emma F. Herriman in 1878. After only ten years at sea he became the only African American ship captain on the west coast. In 1886 Shorey married Julia Ann Shelton, daughter of one of the leading black families in San Francisco. Together they had five children and Captain Shorey occasionally took his family to sea with him.
Sources: 
Tompkins, E. Berkeley, “Black Ahab: William T. Shorey Whaling Master,” California Historical Quarterly 51 (Spring): 75-84.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Howell, Abner Leonard (1877-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Abner Leonard Howell was a star athlete in Utah whose accomplishments went largely ignored during the peak of his football career because of his race.

Howell, born on August 9, 1877, moved with his family from Louisiana to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1890.  His father, Paul Cephas Howell, was appointed a police officer and detective. Both Paul Howell and Abner’s mother, Eliza Sharp, had been slaves.

Howell’s athletic talent was obvious during high school. After one of the most important high school games, attended by 5,000 fans, the Deseret News announced that “a colored fullback named Ab Howell was everything from the bandwagon to the steam calliope.” Howell led his team to a 32-0 victory against East Denver (Colorado) High. When the team went to a restaurant to celebrate, Abner was told that he would need to eat in the kitchen while the rest of the team enjoyed the dining area.  Teammate Nicholas Groesbeck Smith replied that they would all eat in the kitchen.  The restaurant relented and the full team was served in the dining room.
Sources: 
Wendell J. Ashton, Voice in the West: Biography of a Pioneer Newspaper (New York: Duel, Sloan and Pearce, 1950); Tape recording by Abner Howell, in possession of author;
Byrdie Howell Landon, Utah and the Early Black Settlers, Typewritten manuscript, undated.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brigham Young University (Utah)

Abney, Veronica D. (1951- )

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

Veronica D. Abney is a training and supervising psychoanalyst with the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis (1991). She specializes in trauma associated with childhood sexual abuse and practices psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in Santa Monica, California and Los Angeles, California. She works with preteens, adolescents, and adults. Her client focus is African American and other ethnicities and includes bisexual, gay, heterosexual, transgender, and veteran. Her religious orientation is Jewish. Academically, Abney specializes in the history of African American psychoanalysts in the United States; diversity; and the psychodynamics of racism.

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Sabac el Cher, Gustav Albrecht (1868-1934)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Afro-German band conductor and restaurateur Gustav Albrecht Sabac el Cher, born March 10, 1868 in a palace in Berlin, was the son of August Sabac el Cher (1836?-1885), a Sudanese man who as an orphaned boy in Egypt was presented as a gift to Prussian Prince Friedrich Heinrich Albrecht and accompanied him back to Germany to serve the prince as valet, butler, and decorated soldier. Gustav’s mother, Anna Maria Jung, was the daughter of a prosperous textile merchant.  

Proficient with the violin since childhood, at age 17 Gustav entered military service as a musician and eventually received training at the Royal Academy of Music in Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. During his tenure as Band Meister of the First Prussian Regiment of Grenadiers in Konigsberg he became somewhat of a celebrity known for his arrangement of military marches and Mozart overtures. Leaving the German Army in 1909, Gustav found freelance work directing orchestras in several cities and in the early 1920s was a pioneering radio orchestra conductor. He later owned a garden restaurant popular with tourists in Königs Wusterhausen in the state of Brandenburg.  

Sources: 
Gorch Pieken and Cornelia Kruse, Preussisches Liebesglu?ck: Eine Deutsche Familie aus Afrika (Berlin: List Taschenbuch Verlag, 2007; http://www.articlesbase.com/literature--articles/prussian-blind-love-445517.html; “Saba-el-Cher,” http://www.realhistoryww.com/world_history/ancient/Misc/Art/Saba_el_Cher.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Gibson, Joshua ["Josh"] (1911-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Josh Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia, on December 21, 1911. He moved to Pittsburgh in 1924 when his father found work in a steel mill.  He played baseball for company teams in the area but began his career with the Negro League when he signed with the Pittsburgh Crawfords. He played for the Crawfords from 1927 to 1929 and from 1932 to 1936.  In an era of segregation, Josh Gibson was known as the “Black Babe Ruth.”  Josh gained legendary status during his lifetime by regularly hitting baseballs 500 feet or more.  He is credited with hitting almost 800 homeruns in his 17 year baseball career with a lifetime batting average of at least .350.  No one else in the Negro Baseball League had a higher batting average and slugging percentage.

Sources: 
Mark Ribowsky, Josh Gibson: The Power and Darkness (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Bates, Daisy Lee Gatson (1914-1999)

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

Newspaper publisher Daisy Lee Gatson Bates as a civil rights activist was influential in the integration of the Little Rock Nine into Little Rock, Arkansas’ Central High School in 1957.  She was born Daisy Lee Gatson on November 11, 1914 in Huttig, Arkansas. Her mother Millie Riley was killed by three white men when Daisy was an infant. Out of fear, her father John Gatson fled town and left his daughter in the care of friends, Orlee and Susie Smith. Gaston attended the local segregated schools in her youth.

Sources: 
Daisy Bates, The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A memoir (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2014); Steven Kasher, The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954-68 (New York: Abbeville Press, 1996); David Bradley, The Encyclopedia of Civil Rights In America (Armonk, NY: Routledge, 1998)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Shakur, Tupac (1971-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Tupac Shakur, the son of two Black Panther members, William Garland and Afeni Shakur, was born in East Harlem, New York on June 16, 1971, and named after Jose Gabriel Tupac Amaru II, an 18th century political leader in Peru who was executed after leading a rebellion against Spanish rule. Tupac's parents separated before he was born.  At the age of 12 Shakur performed in A Raisin in the Sun with the 127th Street Ensemble. Afeni and Tupac later moved to Baltimore, Maryland where he entered the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts as a teenager.  While at the school, he began writing raps and poetry.  He also performed in Shakespearian plays and took a role in The Nutcracker. 
Sources: 
Jonathan Jones, Tupac Shakur Legay (New York: Atria Books, 2006; Jacob Hoye, Tupac: Resurrection (New York: Atria Books, 2003; Jonathan Jones, "Tupac Comes to Life for Bay Area Teens". Northgate News Online, U.C.-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Nov. 18, 2003. Retrieved from http://journalism.berkeley.edu/ngno/stories/001588.html on Apr. 9, 2006; "Rapper Is Sentenced To 120 Days in Jail". New York Times. April 5, 1996;.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Dinkins, David N. (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1989, David N. Dinkins defeated his challenger, former federal prosecutor Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani, to become the first African American mayor of New York City.

David Norman Dinkins was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1927. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 and served briefly in World War II.  After the war, he attended Howard University, graduating with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1950.  Dinkins moved to New York City and received a law degree from the Brooklyn Law School in 1956.  Dinkins is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

David Dinkins’s political career began when he joined the Carver Club headed by a charismatic politician, J. Raymond Jones who was known as the Harlem Fox.  Dinkins befriended three up and coming black New York politicians; Charles Rangel, Basil Paterson, Sr., and Percy Sutton.  In 1965, Dinkins won his first electoral office, a seat in the New York State Assembly. Shortly afterwards Dinkins was offered the position of deputy mayor of New York by then Mayor Abraham Beam.  Dinkins could not accept the post when it was revealed he had not paid income taxes for the past four years.
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders  (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

James, General Daniel “Chappie”, Jr. (1920-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. was born February 11, 1920 to parents Daniel and Lilly Anna James of Pensacola, Florida.  As a young man growing up in the Deep South during the era of Jim Crow, he experienced racism first hand and resolved to overcome discrimination and to excel.  James graduated from Pensacola’s Washington High School in 1937.  In September 1937 he enrolled in Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  James graduated from Tuskegee with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education in 1942. He learned to fly at Tuskegee as well and completed Civilian Pilot Training during his senior year.  It was also in Tuskegee that James met his wife Dorothy Watkins. They were married on the Tuskegee campus on November 3, 1942.  
Sources: 
J. Alfred Phelps, CHAPPIE: America’s First Black Four-Star General: The Life and Times of Daniel James, Jr. (Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1991); James R. McGovern, Black Eagle: General Daniel ‘Chappie’ James, Jr. (Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1985);
Air Force Link http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/Biographies/Display/tabid/225/Article/106647/general-daniel-james-jr.aspx.
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

Fard, Wallace (ca. 1891-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Wallace Fard, also known as W. Farad Muhammad, the Prophet, was founder the first Temple of Islam which evolved into the Nation of Islam or the Black Muslims. Authentic, documented information about Fard is very scarce and there is only a four year period (1930-1934) in which dependable information exists.

According to Fard (although there is no documentation to prove or disprove his account) he was born in Mecca to wealthy parents in the tribe of Koreish, the tribe of the Prophet Mohammad. According to FBI records Fard was born in 1891 in New Zealand. He arrived in the United States in 1913 and briefly settled in Portland, Oregon. Fard was arrested in California in 1918 for possession of alcohol (against the state law of prohibition) and again in 1926 for the possession of narcotics. After spending time in San Quentin Prison in California, Fard was released and moved to Detroit, Michigan.
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

Patrick, Deval L. (1956 - )

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

Deval L. Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts was elected in 2006.  He became at that time only the second African American elected as a state Governor in the history of the United States.  Patrick was born on July 31, 1956 in Chicago to Laurdine "Pat" Patrick and Emily Mae Wintersmith, and raised in the Robert Taylor housing project on that city’s “South Side.”  His father’s career as a jazz musician (with the Sun Ra band) often took him away from home. Occasionally, Patrick travelled with his father, especially to New York City, where he often stayed with the family of the African drummer, Babatunde Olatunji and his wife Amy. After his  parents were estranged, Patrick and his older sister were raised by his working mother.

Benefiting from "A Better Chance," a national non-profit organization which identified and recruited academically gifted African American students, Patrick was selected to attend Milton High School Academy.  Upon his graduation in 1974 he entered Harvard University.  After completing his undergraduate education at Harvard in 1978, Patrick worked for one year for the United Nations in the (pre-genocide) Darfur region of Sudan.  He then returned to Harvard to earn a law degree in 1982.  Two years later he married Diane Bemus, a labor and employment attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.  

Sources: 

Author interviews with Deval Patrick, March 11, 2005 and December 8,
2006, "Governor-elect Deval Patrick is Named 2006 Bostonian of the
Year," Boston Globe Magazine, Special Issue, December 31, 2006: Mary
Carmichael, "Health Section," Newsweek Magazine, May 14, 2007; Office
of Governor Deval L. Patrick.  

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman) (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Little Richard with the Beatles, 1963
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock  (New York: Da Capo, 1994); Bob Gulla, Icons of R&B and Soul: An Encyclopedia of the Artists Who Revolutionized Rhythm (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2008); Kandia Crazy Horse, Rip It Up: The Black Experience in Rock'n'roll (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harris, Everette “E” Lynn (1955-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hillary, Barbara (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ModernAge Photo Services

Barbara Hillary is the first African American woman on record to reach both the North and South Poles. Born in New York City, New York on June 12, 1931 to Viola Jones Hillary and raised in Harlem, Hillary attended the New School University in New York, N.Y. where she earned both her Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degrees. She used her studies in Gerontology to establish a career in nursing, focusing on staff training in the concepts of patient aging and their service delivery systems in nursing homes and similar facilities. She was also founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Peninsula Magazine, a non-profit and multi-racial magazine in Queens, New York. This magazine was the first of its kind in the region.

Sources: 
http://barbarahillary.com/bio.html; Melody Hoffman, “Barbara Hillary Skis Into History As First Black Woman to Reach the North Pole,” Jet 111:21 (May 28, 2007); http://video.foxnews.com/v/1470704535001/barbara-hillarys-arctic-travels-make-history/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McKune, Elizabeth Davenport (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Elizabeth Davenport McKune was born on November 15, 1947 in Detroit, Michigan. She became a Foreign Service officer in 1973 and specialized in the Middle East. McKune is the daughter of West Point graduate Colonel Clarence M. Davenport, Jr. and distinguished National Institute of Mental Health psychiatric social worker Yolande Davenport (née Bradfield). Ambassador McKune earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton College (Minnesota) in 1970 and received her Master of Arts degree in Advanced International Studies from Johns Hopkins University (Maryland) in 1972. She also received a Distinguished Graduate Certificate in 1992 from the National War College in Washington, D.C.
Sources: 
Ambassador-Designate to Qatar McKune’s Senate Statement (July 16, 1998), http://www.usembassy-israel.org.il/publish/press/state/archive/1998/july/sd4717.htm; Elizabeth Davenport McKune: Ambassador to State of Qatar: Biography, http://www.state.gov/1997-2001-NOPDFS/about_state/biography/mckune_qatar.html; Adam Bernstein, “Obituaries:  Yolande Davenport, Psychiatric Social Worker,” The Washington Post (March 7, 2014); Patricia Sullivan, “Obituary: West Point Graduate Clarence M. Davenport, Jr.,” The Washington Post (August 9, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Amelia Boynton Robinson (1911–2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Amelia Boynton Robinson (in Blue) at the 50th Anniversary of
the Selma to Montgomery March, 2015

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Although most known for widely-publicized photographs that depicted her assault during the 1965 Bloody Sunday civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, Amelia Boynton Robinson lived a long life of civil rights activism in both Georgia and Alabama. Her critical role promoting African American voting rights in the South remains undervalued in published histories of the Civil Rights Movement, but Ava DuVernay’s 2014 Academy Award-nominated film Selma provided some renewed recognition on the eve of Boynton Robinson’s death.
Sources: 
Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bridge Across the Jordan (Washington, D.C.: Schiller Institute 1991);  Denise L. Berkhalter, “Bridge over Troubled Water,” Crisis 112 (March/April 2005); Margalit Fox, “Amelia Boynton Robinson, a Pivotal Figure at the Selma March, Dies at 104,” New York Times, August 26, 2015; and “Amelia Boynton Robinson and the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL),” at: https://www.teachingforchange.org/boynton-robinson-and-dcvl.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Brooks, Vincent K. (1958- )

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

Vincent K. Brooks is a distinguished general in the US Army and is currently the commander of the UN Command, Combined Forces Command, and US Forces Korea. He was born on October 24, 1958, in Anchorage, Alaska, to Leo Brooks Sr., an army general, and Naomi Brooks, a schoolteacher. Brooks’s family history in the United States is very rich. In 1908, an ancestor from his mother’s side named Nellie Quander helped found the first African American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. His father’s ancestors can be dated back to a slave who was traded in Alexandria, Virginia, sometime in the 1830s.

Sources: 
“Brig. Gen. Leo Brooks, Jr.,” The History Makers, http://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/brig-gen-leo-brooks-jr; “Brooks, Vincent K. (1958–)—Army Officer, Spokesperson, Joins the Military, Serves during Second Iraqi War, Chronology,” Online Encyclopedia, Net Industries, http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4135/Brooks-Vincent-K-1958.html; US Department of Defense, “Brooks Takes Command of UNC, CFC, USFK,” US Department of Defense, https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/746802/brooks-takes-command-of-unc-cfc-usfk/; US Forces Korea, “Commander UNC/CFC/USFK,” United States Forces Korea. http://www.usfk.mil/Leadership/Article-View/Article/587687/commander-unccfcusfk/; Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Franklin and Armfield,” African American Historic Sites Database, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, http://www.aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/157.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Chambers, Andrew P., Jr. (1931-2017)

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

Andrew Phillip Chambers, Jr. was a retired Lieutenant General in the United States Army. His brother Lawrence Chambers was a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy and together the Chambers brothers are the first black siblings to hold flag ranks together in the United States military.

Andrew P. Chambers, Jr. was born on June 30, 1931 in Bedford, Virginia, a small town near Lynchburg. His parents were Charlotte Hadessa Chambers and Lawrence Everett Chambers. Andrew, who sometimes went by Andy, had four other siblings and the entire family moved from Virginia to Washington, D.C. after the death of Andrew’s father so his mother could work for the War Department in order to support her young family.

Sources: 
AUSA Staff, “Lt. Gen. Andrew Chambers, Former AUSA Director, Dies,” Association of the United States Army, July 28, 2017, https://www.ausa.org/articles/ltg-chambers-dies; “Obituary of Lieutenant General (Retired) Andrew Chambers,” Adams Green Funeral Home, http://adamsgreen.com/tribute/details/4333/Lieutenant-General-Retired-Andrew-Chambers/obituary.html; USARCENT PAO, “Lt. Gen. (retired) Andrew P. Chambers,” Army Central, 12 June, 2017, http://www.usarcent.army.mil/News/Features/Article/1211086/lt-gen-retired-andrew-p-chambers/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Webb, Wellington E. (1941- )

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Wellington Webb was born in Chicago in 1941.  He came to Denver at a very early age and before entering politics he was a forklift operator. Webb’s public service career began in 1972 when he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. In 1977, he was selected by President James Carter to serve as regional director of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Then in 1981, Colorado Governor Richard Lamm appointed Webb to his cabinet as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. In 1987, he was elected as the Denver City Auditor.

In 1991, Webb became the first African American mayor of Denver.  He won reelection twice, serving a total of twelve years. During his tenure he named the first Hispanic police chief, the first African American fire chief and the first Hispanic Clerk and Recorder.  He also oversaw the construction of Denver International Airport and ensured that many of its concessions would be operated b women and minority entrepreneurs.  Mayor Webb hosted nearly 200,000 people from around the world to celebrate World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II on August 11-15, 1993, and in 1997 welcomed President Clinton and eight world leaders at the Denver Summit of the Eight, the annual economic summit.

Sources: 
Wallace Yvonne Tollette, Colorado Black Leadership Profiles (Denver: Western Images Publications, 2001); Wellington E. Webb: A Tribute to 12 Years. (A Commemorative Booklet), Urban Spectrum Newspaper, 2003.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Leary, Sherrard Lewis (1835-1859)

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

Lewis Leary was one of several Black men who were killed during John Brown’s raid on the Harpers Ferry arsenal in October 1859. It was a defining moment in African American history.

Born Sherrard Lewis Leary (sometimes referred to as Lewis Sheridan Leary), he was the second of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina to free Black parents. His father Matthew Leary, a saddle maker, was the mixed race son of Jeremiah O’Leary, a descendent of Irish immigrants. His mother Julia A. Menriel Leary was of mixed race, with conflicting accounts of her heritage.

Frustrated with southern racism, 21-year-old Leary moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1856 where he earned a living as a harness maker. It was no coincidence that Leary found a more hospitable environment at Oberlin. Members of his extended family lived in the area, including his nephew, John Anthony Copeland, Jr., who also participated in the Harpers Ferry raid. Located in Lorain County, southwest of Cleveland, Oberlin was at the time home to a concentrated network of Black and white abolitionists and served as an important site on the Underground Railroad. The town was also the site of Oberlin College, the first interracial and co-educational college in the country. Two years after moving to Oberlin he married Mary Sampson Patterson, and they had one daughter, Lois.

Sources: 
Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman, eds., Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Athens, OH: Ohio Univ. Press, 2005), Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer, eds. Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of Abolitionism (NY: The New Press,2006), and “Lewis S. Leary,” www.ohiohistorycentral.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Howell, Martha Ann Jane Stevens Perkins (1875–1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Pulic Domain"
Martha Ann Jane Stevens Perkins Howell, born on January 20, 1875, was named for her maternal grandmother, Martha Vilate Crosby Flake, who had been a slave during the Mormon migration to the West. Martha Howell’s maternal grandfather was Green Flake, also born a slave, who was in the Vanguard Company for the Mormon pioneers. Martha’s mother was Lucinda Flake, and her father, of Mexican origin, was George Washington Stevens.

Black Mormons comprised a small group in the intermountain west, and the few families with many children constituted the largest marriage pool for blacks at a time where anti-miscegenation laws were solidly in place.  

On October 11, 1899, Martha and her bridegroom, Sylvester Perkins, celebrated a double wedding with Louis Leggroan and Nettie James, granddaughter of Jane Manning and Isaac James. The Perkins family was also prominent. Sylvester Perkins was the brother of Jane James’s daughter-in-law and the son of Franklin Perkins, who had been briefly married to Jane James herself.  
Sources: 
Thomas G. Alexander, Utah: The Right Place (Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1995). Alan Cherry, “Lucile Bankhead: Oral History Interview,” April 11, 1985, LDS Afro-American Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Brigham Young University, “Abner Howell Oral Interview,” Undated Audiotape, provided by Boyd Burbidge.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brigham Young University

Reason, Charles Lewis (1818-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Charles L. Reason was born on July 21, 1818 in New York City. His parents, Michiel and Elizabeth Reason, were immigrants from Haiti who arrived in the United States shortly after the Haitian Revolution of 1793. His parents emphasized the importance of education, and very early on the young Reason displayed an aptitude for mathematics when he was a student at the New York African Free School.  Reason began his teaching career when he was 14 years old. He saved what he could of his teacher’s $25 per year salary to continue his own education with tutors. A political activist and abolitionist, Reason played a prominent role in the Negro Convention Movement in New York. In 1837 Reason joined Henry Highland Garnet, among others, in an effort to gain voting rights for African American men and he was later one of the co-authors of the Call for the New York Negro Convention of 1840.

Sources: 
John E. Fleming (with the assistance of Julius Hobson Jr., John McClendon and Herschelle Reed), The Lengthening Shadow of Slavery (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974); Anthony R. Mayo, "Charles Lewis Reason," Negro History Bulletin 5 (June 1942):212-15;Scott W. Williams, “Charles L. Reason African American Mathematician,1818–1893,” http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/special/reason_charles_l.html;
John E. Fleming, “Home of McGraw Eagles: History” http://www.mcgrawschools.org/history.htm
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

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.

Larsen, Nella (1891-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Nella Larsen, nurse, librarian, and, writer, was born Nella Marie Larsen in Chicago in 1891 to a Danish mother and a black West Indian father.  Knowing little about her father after his death when she was two years old, she was reared in the home with her mother, remarried to a Danish man, and her half-sister.  Larsen attended school in all white environments in Chicago until 1906-1907, when she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to attend high school at Fisk University’s Normal School.  This was her introduction to a predominantly black environment.

After completing the year at Fisk, Larsen journeyed to Denmark where she spent three years (1909-1912) with relatives and audited courses from the University of Copenhagen.  Returning to the United States, she entered a three-year course of study at Lincoln Hospital Training School for Nurses in New York City.  Larsen later practiced nursing from 1915 to 1921 at John A. Andrew Hospital and Nurse Training School in