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People

McClendon, Rose (1884-1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

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

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

Whipper, Ionia Rollin (1872-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis

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Dr. Ionia Rollin Whipper, physician and social reformer, was born September 8, 1872 in Beaufort, South Carolina. She was one of three surviving children born to author and diarist Frances Anne Rollin and Judge William James Whipper.  

By 1878, as the Reconstruction period was ending in South Carolina, the Ku Klux Klan, and white supremacist “Rifle Clubs” were gathering forces.   Amid an escalating climate of violence, Frances Rollin Whipper took Winifred, Ionia, and Leigh to Washington, D.C.  The family established a home on 6th Street NW, and Whipper saw the children through early education and graduation from Howard University.   Ionia, after teaching for ten years in the Washington, D.C. public school system, entered Howard Medical School, one of the few schools in the country to accept women.     

In 1903, Ionia graduated from Howard University Medical School with a major in Obstetrics, one of four women in her class.  That year, she became a resident physician at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, and on her return to Washington, D.C, set up private practice at 511 Florida Avenue NW, where she accepted only women patients.

Sources: 

Ionia Rollin Whipper; Perpetual Diary 1920-‘29; Ionia Rollin Whipper, Diary: What It Means To Be God Guided ,1939, Property of Carole Ione Lewis; R.J. Abram, ed., Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920 (New York: Norton, 1985); Carole Ione, Pride of Family; Four Generations of American Women of Color (New York: Harlem Moon Classics, 2004); Lelia Frances Whipper, The Pretty Way Home (New York: iUniverse, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fauset, Crystal Bird (1894–1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Crystal Bird Fauset with Eleanor Roosevelt
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Eric Ledell Smith, "Crystal Bird Fauset Raises Her Voice for Human Rights," Pennsylvania Heritage 13: 1 (Winter 1997)34-39; Nancy Joan Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln: Black Politics in the Age of FDR (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983); American Friends Service Committee website, afsc.org (Philip Clark); Explorepahistory.com (2009, WITF).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Baker, Augusta Braxston (1911-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of South Carolina Center
for Children's Books and Literacy
Librarian, author, and storyteller Augusta Braxston Baker was the first African American woman to hold an administrative position with the New York Public Library (NYPL). She was a pioneering advocate of the positive portrayal of blacks in children’s literature, and beginning in the 1930s removed books with negative stereotypes from the NYPL shelves.

Baker was born in Baltimore, Maryland on April 1, 1911 to educators Winfort and Mabel Braxston. She graduated at age 16 from the all-black high school where her father taught, and in 1927 she entered the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Three years later she married James Henry Baker, Jr., and transferred to New York College for Teachers (now State University of New York at Albany), where she earned her BA in 1933 and a BS in library science in 1934.
Sources: 
Nancy Tolson, “Making books available: The role of early libraries, librarians, and booksellers in the promotion of African American children’s literature,” African American Review (Spring 1998); Nancy Tolson, Black children’s literature got de blues: The creativity of Black writers and illustrators (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008); “The Augusta Baker Collection of African-American Children’s Literature & Folklore,” University of South Carolina Rare Books and Special Collections, http://www.sc.edu/library/spcoll/kidlit/baker.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ben-Jochannan, Yosef (1918-2015)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chinn, Julia Ann (ca.1790-1833)

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

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

Willis, Dorsie (1886-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photo Courtesy of Boyd Hagen
Of the 167 enlisted black soldiers of the 25th Infantry discharged from the U.S. Army “without honor” by order of President Theodore Roosevelt after the shooting in Brownsville, Texas in 1906, Pvt. Dorsie Willis was the only to live long enough to see justice.

According to census records, Willis was born in Mississippi in 1886. His parents, Corsey and Dochie Willis were free born.  Willis joined Company D, 25th Infantry of the U.S. Army on January 5, 1905.  In July 1906 Willis’s battalion was sent to Fort Brown in Brownsville on the American bank of the Rio Grande and near its mouth.  His battalion replaced the white 26th Infantry.  The local residents, mostly Mexican and about 20% white, were not happy with the prospect of African American soldiers being stationed there, and the soldiers of the 25th Infantry immediately encountered harassment.  

Less than three weeks later, between 12 and 20 men shot up Brownsville, killing one civilian and badly wounding another.  Witnesses identified the shooters either as black or as soldiers, which meant the same thing since all the enlisted soldiers at Fort Brown were black. Their motive was thought to be revenge for the harassment they had suffered.  
Sources: 
Harry Lembeck, Taking On Theodore Roosevelt: How One Senator Defied the President on Brownsville and Shook American Politics (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2015); Mary Church Terrell, “A Sketch of Mingo Saunders,” Voice of the Negro, March 1907; John D. Weaver, The Brownsville Raid (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992) John D. Weaver, The Senator and the Sharecropper’s Son: Exoneration of the Brownsville Soldiers  (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kelly, Robin L. (1956– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Democrat Congresswoman Robin Kelly represents Illinois’s 2nd District, which includes Kankakee County and parts of Cook and Will Counties. It includes Chicago’s south suburbs and Southeast Side. Kelly was first elected on April 9, 2013, when the state of Illinois held a special election to fill the vacancy left by Democratic Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s resignation. Kelly won re-election in 2014 and 2016.

Born in New York City, New York, on April 30, 1956, Robin Lynne Kelly is the daughter of a grocer and postal worker. She attended Rhodes Prep High School (NY) where she graduated in 1973. Kelly continued her education at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1977 and master’s in counseling in 1982. She was awarded her Ph.D. in political science in 2004 from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois.
Sources: 
“Congresswoman Robin Kelly,” https://ballotpedia.org/Robin_Kelly; Congresswoman Robin Kelly,” https://robinkelly.house.gov/about; Katherine Skiba, “Robin Kelly hopes to change legacy of 2nd District seat,” Chicago Tribune, April 14, 2013; http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-14/news/ct-met-robin-kelly-profile-0414-20130414_1_robin-kelly-jesse-jackson-jr-nathaniel-horn.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lewis, Sir William Arthur Lewis (1915-1991)

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

William Arthur Lewis was a public intellectual in the field of development economics, who in 1979 became the first African American to receive a Nobel Prize in category other than peace.  Lewis was honored for his work in economics.  Lewis was the author of 12 books and more than 80 technical works in developmental economics.

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Jordan, William Chester (1948- )

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

William Chester Jordan is an author and award-winning historian of medieval Europe. Jordan was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 4, 1948 to Johnnie Parker Jordan and Marguerite Jane Mays Jordan. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Ripon College in Wisconsin in 1969 and earned his doctorate from Princeton University in New Jersey in 1973.  He immediately began teaching at Princeton where he would spend his entire career.

Sources: 
“Jordan, William Chester 1948-“ in Contemporary Authors (Gale, 2009); “William Chester Jordan,” https://history.princeton.edu/people/william-chester-jordan; “Award Ceremonies” at https://www.amphilsoc.org/2012-henry-allen-moe-prize.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Nixon, Lawrence A. (1883-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Lawrence Aaron Nixon was born in Marshall, Texas and graduated from Wiley College (l902) and Meharry Medical College (l906). He began his medical practice in Cameron, Texas but moved to El Paso in l909. In l9l0, he was joined in El Paso by his first wife Esther (nee Calvin) and their infant son. While practicing as a physician in El Paso, Dr. Nixon became a founder, organizer and member of Myrtle Avenue Methodist Church as well as a charter member of the El Paso branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). A registered Democrat, Dr. Nixon challenged a 1923 state law that barred African Americans from participating in that party’s electoral primaries.

In Nixon v. Herndon in l927 and Nixon v. Condon in l932, the El Paso physician won two important United States Supreme Court rulings making unconstitutional the Democratic Party’s all white primaries. However, white state party leaders, through resistance and obfuscation, continued to prevent black Texans from participating in primary elections. Circumvention of the Court’s rulings continued until the decisive Smith v. Allwright case in l944 which effectively abolished the all-white primary. Dr. Nixon and his second wife, Drusilla Tandy (nee Porter) whom he married in l935, proudly voted that year.
Sources: 
Conrey Bryson, Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon and the White Primary (El Paso, Texas Western Press, l974); Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon Papers, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, University of Texas, Austin.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at El Paso

Gabaldon, Nicolas Rolando ["Nick"] (1927-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Surfing aficionados credit Nick Gabaldon as California’s first documented surfer of African and Mexican American descent. A skilled recreational surfer, his legacy has inspired many, including especially surfers of color, to consider him as a role model. Born Nicolas Rolando “Nick” Gabaldon, Jr. in Los Angeles, California to parents Cecilia and Nicolas Gabaldon Sr., he grew up in Santa Monica.

Graduating from Santa Monica (SAMO) High in 1945, Gabaldon was one of the few African American students matriculating at the school during this era. Gabaldon served in the United States Navy from 1945–1946. Upon returning home, he enrolled in Santa Monica College where he became an honor student and aspiring writer while he worked as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier and resumed surfing.

As a teenager, Gabaldon began surfing in the Pacific Ocean at the Bay Street beach.  This beach was derogatorily called the “Inkwell” by Anglos referencing the skin color of the beachgoers who visited the area.  Gabaldon and other African Americans in Southern California, however, transformed the hateful moniker into a badge of pride.  
Sources: 
Rick Blocker, “Black Surfer Nick Gabaldon,” Legendary Surfers, February 2005, Surfing Heritage Foundation, http://files.legendarysurfers.com/blog/2005/02/black-surfer-nick-gabaldon.html; Jeff Ducols, “Black Surfers of the Golden State,” Surfer Magazine, August 1983, Vol. 24, No. 8: 96-101; Rick Grigg, Big Surf, Deep Dives and the Islands: My Life in the Ocean (Honolulu: Editions Limited, 1998).
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Brazil, Joe (1927-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Joe Brazil (Speaking)
Image Ownership: Public domain

Joseph Brazil was an American jazz saxophonist and educator born August 25, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan. He taught jazz at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, and co-founded the music curriculum at the University of Washington in the late 1960s. He also founded the Black Academy of Music in Seattle.

Growing up in Detroit, Brazil purchased a home in 1951 where he lived with his mother and brother. He built a bar in the basement and installed a baby grand piano on which he would play during his legendary jam sessions. Trumpeter Donald Byrd, saxophonist Sonny Red, pianist Barry Harris, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Frank Gant all played there. Pianist Alice Coltrane met her first husband John Coltrane in Joe’s basement.

Sources: 
Paul De Barros, “Drink in Steve Griggs, His ‘Cup of Joe Brazil’ on Dec. 5.” The Seattle Times. December 1, 2016, http://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/music/drink-in-steve-griggs-his-cup-of-joe-brazil-on-dec-5/;  Marc Robinson, “The Early History of the UW Black Student Union” Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/BSU_beginnings.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Marincola, Giorgio (1923–1945)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Anti-fascist Afro-Italian partisan Giorgio Marincola lived a brief but heroic life. Born September 23, 1923, in the south central coastal town of Mahaday in what was then called Italian Somaliland, he was the son of Italian military officer Joseph Marincola and a Somali woman, Aschiro Hassan. His father, unlike most white colonizers who had children by native women, insured that his son and a younger daughter, Isabella, would be Italian citizens and packed them off the seaport town of Pizzo Calabro, Italy, to be raised by relatives.
Sources: 
“Storia Giorgio Marincola,” at http://www.razzapartigiana.it/?page_id=8; “Giorgio Marincola, First Somali Mulatto,” at  http://www.somalinet.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=327444; Michele Robecchi, “Giorgio Marincola:Razza Partigiana di Dacia Valent,” at  http://digilander.libero.it/anpimuggio/ANPI/Storia/Voci/1945/5/4_Giorgio_Marincola.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Cain, Richard H. (1825-1887)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Collins, Marva (1936-2015)

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

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

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

Forman, James (1928-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Civil rights leader and political activist James Forman was an instrumental leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), sending demonstrators to the South for the Freedom Ride protests. Forman, who was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 4th, 1928, lived with his grandmother in Mississippi until the age of six when he returned to live with his mother and stepfather in Chicago. Forman used his stepfather’s surname Rufus until, as a teen, he met his real father Jackson Forman, a cabdriver.
Sources: 
James Forman, Making of Black Revolutionaries (Open Hand Publishing, Inc., 1985); Joe Holley, “Civil Rights Leader James Forman Dies,” The Washington Post (January 11, 2005); http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1621-2005Jan11.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Leonard, “Sugar” Ray (1956 - )

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

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

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

Vaughan, Sarah (1924-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sarah Louise Vaughan was born in 1924 in Newark, New Jersey.  Both of her parents were amateur musicians and they provided their daughter piano lessons as a child as well as a solid background in vocals, as a member of her mother’s church choir.  By 1943, 19-year- old Sarah was ready to make music her career.  Despite her natural shyness and lack of stage polish, she won an amateur contest at Harlem’s renowned Apollo Theatre.  That performance led to Sarah’s “discovery” by Billy Eckstine who helped her become a vocalist and musician with the Earl Hines Band.  Vaughn left Hines’s band to join Eckstine’s new orchestra and make her recording debut.  

By 1946 Sarah Vaughn was a solo artist who was rapidly becoming well known as one of the first jazz artists to use “bop” phrasing in her singing.  During the 1950s, she adopted a new style which allowed her to record numerous “pop” tunes that were commercially successful.  While her embrace of pop music scandalized jazz purists, it greatly widened Sarah’s fan base and demonstrated her business acumen, which many of her colleagues eventually grew to admire.
Sources: 
Leslie Gourse, Sassy: The Life of Sarah Vaughan (New York: Da Capo Press, 1993); Joyce West Stevens, Smart and Sassy: The Strengths of Inner City Black Girls (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/vaughan_s.html; Rutgers Women’s History Project, http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/njwomenshistory/Period_5/vaughan.htm; Soulwalking, http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Sarah%20Vaughn.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wheat, Alan Dupree (1951 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Alan Dupree Wheat, the first black Congressman from Kansas City, Missouri, was born in San Antonio, Texas, on October 16, 1951. He attended schools in Wichita, Kansas, and in Seville, Spain, before graduating from Airline High School in Bossier City, Louisiana, in 1968. In 1972 Wheat received a B.A. in economics from Grinnell College and then joined the Department of Housing and Urban Development as an economist. From 1973 to 1975 he worked in the same capacity for the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City. In Jackson County, Missouri he served as an aide for county executive Mike White from 1975 to 1976.  At age 25 Wheat was elected to the Missouri General Assembly.  Wheat served three terms in the Assembly where he chaired the Urban Affairs Committee.  
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

Nail, John E. (1883-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

John E. Nail, ca. 1915
(Yale Collection of American
Literature Beinecke Rare Books
and Manuscripts Library)
John E. (Jack) Nail, a successful Harlem, New York realtor, was born in New London, Connecticut in 1883.  His parents, Elizabeth and John B. Nail, moved to New York City where the senior Nail bought a hotel, restaurant, and billiard parlor after working for a time in a gambling house.  His entrepreneurial endeavors made an early impression on John as he was growing up. 

John Nail graduated from a New York public high school and worked briefly in his father’s hotel.  In 1904 he began working as a salesman at the Afro-American Realty Company, a firm headed by Philip A. Payton and based in Harlem.  The Afro-American Realty Company, anticipating the migration of African Americans from central Manhattan to Harlem, encouraged black homeowners and business owners to relocate in the area.  Nail, through the Afro-American Realty Company, also helped unite black renters and white landlords and aided a number of the earliest black residents of Harlem in finding new homes in the area. 

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Cary D. Wintz and Paul Finkelman, eds., The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance v.2 (New York: Routledge, 2004); John N. Ingram, African-American Business Leaders; A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Simms, Hilda (1918-1994)

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

Hilda Simms was born Hilda Moses to Emile and Lydia Moses in 1918 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She briefly studied teaching at the University of Minnesota before relocating to New York where she met and married William Simms and gained professional acting experience at Harlem's American Negro Theater.

In 1943, two years after dissolving her marriage to William, Simms made her debut in the title role of the theatrical play Anna Lucasta, becoming the first leading African American actress to appear in the Broadway hit production. Originally written for an all-white cast, Simms portrayed a middle-class woman struggling to regain her respectability after falling into a life of prostitution. The theatrical version of Anna Lucasta is considered the first drama featuring African American actors to explore a theme un-related to racial tensions. When the play toured abroad, Simms maintained the title role while enjoying a dual singing career in Paris. During the British tour of the play, Simms met and married actor Richard Angarola.  

The couple returned to the states in the 1950s and Simms embarked on a brief film career.  Her first role was as co-star to heavy-weight boxing champion Joe Louis.  She played the boxer' wife in The Joe Louis Story (1953). Her only other movie role was that of the hatcheck girl in Black Widow (1954).

Sources: 

Hilda Simms Papers, New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research; William Grimes, “Hilda Simms, Actress, Dies at 75; Broadway Star of Anna Lucasta,” New York Times, February 8, 1994; “U.S. Refuses Actress Passport; ‘I’m No Benedict Arnold,’ Cries Hilda Simms on Ban,” Pittsburgh Courier, September 10, 1960.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Carey, Archibald J., Sr. (1868-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Rev.
Sources: 
Allan Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967); Christopher Robert Reed, Black Chicago's First Century (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005); http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4159/Carey-Archibald-J-Sr-1868-1931.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Aiken, Kimberly (1975- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of Miss America Organization

 

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); Millicent Reid, “Miss America Kimberly Aiken Talks About Coveted Crown,” People Magazine, May 9, 1994 , Vol.. 41, No. 17; Karima Haynes, “Miss America: From Vanessa Williams to Kimberly Aiken,” Ebony Magazine, January 1994; http://www.missamerica.org 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Davis, John Aubrey, Sr. (1912-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Educator and civil rights advocate John A. Davis Sr. began his career in activism in the 1930s as leader of the New Negro Alliance, which pressured businesses to hire black employees. Two decades later he assisted with the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. He also was chairman of the department of political science at City College of New York.

John Aubrey Davis was born in Washington D.C. on May 10, 1912 to John Abraham Davis and Gabrielle Dorothy Beale Davis. He is best known for serving between 1953 and 1954 as the principle researcher on the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. Working alongside lead consul and future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall as well as over 200 other academics, Davis gathered legal and historical facts for argument for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund team of attorneys.
Sources: 
Martin Kilson, "Political Scientists and the Activist-Technocrat Dichotomy: The Case of John Aubrey Davis," in W. C. Rich, ed., African American Perspectives on Political Science (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007); Wolfgang Saxon, "John A. Davis, 90, Advocate in Major Civil Rights Cases.” The New York Times, December 21, 2002.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Williams, Doug (1955-- )

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

Render, Arlene (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Arlene Render became a Foreign Service officer in 1970 and has since served in many influential positions in the U.S. Department of State, including as Director of the Office of Central African Affairs, and ambassador to Gambia, Zambia, and Ivory Coast.  In 1994-1995, Render played a significant role in seeking to limit the emerging violence of the Rwandan Genocide

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Render completed her Bachelor of Science degree from West Virginia State College in 1965 before earning a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Michigan in 1967.  When she joined the Foreign Service in 1970, she was one of only 37 African American career Foreign Service officers. 

Sources: 
“Appointments,” U.S. State Department, 1997, http://www.state.gov/1997-2001-NOPDFS/publications/statemag/statemag_nov-dec/statemag_aug/appoint2.htm; “Arlene Render,” https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/render-arlene; “At Risk Liberian Refugees Reach Safety,” U.S. Refugee Admissions Program News, Volume 1, Issue 2 (7 November 2003), http://2001-2009.state.gov/g/prm/rls/27435.htm; “Key Diplomat's Personal Notebook Sheds Light on Inner Workings of US Government Response to Genocide Unfolding in Rwanda in 1994,” The National Security Archive, George Washington University, 30 January 2015, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB500/; “The President Names Ambassador to Zambia,” 13 May 1996, http://clinton6.nara.gov/1996/05/1996-05-13-render-named-ambassador-to-zambia.html; “Zambia,” Human Rights Watch World Report 1998,  http://www.hrw.org/legacy/worldreport/Africa-13.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Jackson, Reverend Joseph H. (1900–1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Reverend Joseph Harrison Jackson was the pastor of Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois (1941–1990), the longest-serving president of the National Baptist Convention (1953-1982), and a leading conservative voice during the Civil Rights era. To this day, Rev. Jackson remains a deeply controversial figure, in part due to his opposition to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his strong critiques of civil disobedience and the “black power” movement. Rev. Jackson was a passionate advocate for what he called a “law and order” approach to civil rights. He championed participation in democratic processes, putting emphasis on the ballot, and discouraged protest marches, boycotts, sit-ins, and other “direct action” means of achieving African American civil rights. Rev.
Sources: 
“Reverend J.H. Jackson Papers,” The Black Metropolis Research Consortium, BMRC, Chicago History Museum, https://obrikati.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/reverend-j-h-jackson-papers_findingaid.pdf; “Joseph H. Jackson.” Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press, World Heritage Encyclopedia, http://www.gutenberg.us/articles/joseph_h._jackson; “Jackson, Joseph Harrison (1900-1990),” Martin Luther King Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle, Stanford University, http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_jackson_joseph_harrison_19001990.1.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gurley, Akai Kareem (1986-2014)

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

Akai Gurley was tragically and senselessly killed while walking down the stairwell of his apartment building with his girlfriend. His death, like the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown, helped inspire and propel the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Sources: 
Stephanie Clifford, “Brooklyn Grand Jury to Examine Akai Gurley Shooting Death,” New York Times, December 5, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/06/nyregion/brooklyn-grand-jury-to-examine-akai-gurley-shooting-death.html; Sarah Maslin Nir, “Officer Peter Liang Convicted in Fatal Shooting of Akai Gurley in Brooklyn,” New York Times, February 11, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/12/nyregion/officer-peter-liang-convicted-in-fatal-shooting-of-akai-gurley-in-brooklyn.html; Jason Slotkin, “Akai Gurley's family settles with New York City over police shooting death,” NPR.org, August 16, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/16/490155733/akai-gurleys-family-settles-with-new-york-city-over-police-shooting-death.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Collins, Seaborn J. (1852- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Seaborn J. Collins was born and raised in Georgia. He migrated to Seattle, Washington with his wife Alzada and son William in 1885, where he worked as a mechanic and a carpenter.  Collins also invested in local real estate. In 1888 Collins bought property in the Yesler neighborhood, and built a two-story house on the property valued at $1,000. Three years later, the Collins family became the first African Americans to move to the Madison District, a middle class suburban community on the northeastern edge of Seattle.  

Collins was a charter member of the First African American Republican Club, and in 1892 he was nominated to run as the Republican nominee for the office of wreckmaster. He defeated Democratic nominee John A. Coleman and became the first African American elected official in King County.
Sources: 
Esther Hall Mumford, Seattle’s Black Victorians, 1852-1901 (Seattle: Ananse Press, 1980); Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community : Seattle's Central District, from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rice, Claudius William (1892?-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Claudius W. Rice was a political activist and labor leader in Houston, Texas from the 1920s through the 1940s.  He was the owner of Negro Labor News, president of the Texas Negro Business Association, and advocate of Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee philosophy of self help.

Rice was born in 1897 to Mary and Ezekiel Rice in Haywood County, Tennessee. Formally educated in the rural schools of Haywood County, in 1909 he moved to the city of  Jackson, Tennessee and worked as a domestic servant while enrolled in the Lane College high school department.

Rice then moved to Houston, Texas, and by 1914 was giving lectures to local blacks about their patriotic duty to support the United States if it entered World War I.  Rice's patriotic fervor lessened however after touring the Deep South and witnessing firsthand the racial discrimination African Americans faced.  He then began his quest to eliminate discrimination and racism.

While in Houston, Rice became an entrepreneur, using his position to rally local blacks into challenging discrimination and focusing attention on the unfair treatment of the region’s black workforce. He stirred controversy within the black and white Houston communities in his encouragement for blacks to “organize in a solid bloc” and use racial solidarity as an effective weapon to challenge their plight.
Sources: 
Ernest Obadele-Starks, Black Unionism in the Industrial South (College Station, TX: TAMU Publishing, 2001); Ernest Obadele-Starks, “Black Workers, the Black Middle Class, and Organized Protest along the Upper Texas Gulf Coast, 1883-1945,” in The African American Experience in Texas: An Anthology, Bruce A. Glasrud and James Smallwood, eds. (Lubbock, TX: 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Franklin, Buck Colbert (1879–1960)

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

Buck Franklin was an attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is most notably known for defending the survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. He was also father to the venerable civil rights advocate and historian John Hope Franklin.

Franklin was born the seventh of ten on May 6, 1879, near the town of Homer in Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory (currently Oklahoma). He was named Buck in honor of his grandfather who had been a slave and purchased the freedom of his family and himself. There is speculation that the true origins of the Franklins’ freedom came when Buck Franklin’s father, David Franklin, escaped from his plantation and changed his name early in the Civil War.

Sources: 
Buck Colbert Franklin, John Hope Franklin, and John Whittington Franklin, My Life and an Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU Press, 2000); Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lloyd, John Henry "Pop" (1884-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Henry "Pop" Lloyd was born April 25, 1884, in Palatka, Florida. Reportedly discovered by baseball legend Rube Foster, Lloyd would begin his professional career with the Cuban X-Giants, where fans would give him the nickname “El Cuchara” (“The Shovel”) due to his steady hands and ability to grab any ground ball coming at him. His tremendous play at shortstop would be matched by only one other player, Hall-of-Famer Honus Wagner, who declared “it is a privilege to have been compared to him.”

Beginning play in America in 1910 for Fosters Chicago Leland Giants, Lloyd was an amazing all-around player. On offense in the “deadball” era of baseball, Lloyd hit with skilled accuracy, but could deliver power when needed. On defense, Lloyd was the most dominating shortstop in the Negro Leagues, whose quickness and intensity could not be matched.    

In 1918 Lloyd became player-manager of the Brooklyn Royal Giants, and spent the next few years jumping around teams until settling with the Hilldale Daisies in 1922. The next year Lloyd batted a sensational .418 and lead Hilldale to the inaugural pennant of the Eastern Colored League. He would move after that season, however, to the Bacharach Giants due to reported disputes with management.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Still, William Grant (1895-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Considered by many as the dean of African American composers, William Grant Still, the son of educators, was born in Woodville, Mississippi on May 11, 1895.  His father, a musician who once taught music at Alabama A&M College, died when he was an infant; his mother, a schoolteacher, moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.  Those nearest to him encouraged his early fascination with music and musical instruments, particularly the violin.  At age 17 his stepfather, a railway office worker, introduced him to opera via a record and phonograph, which for him was a transformative experience.  At M.W.
Sources: 
Catherine P. Smith, William Grant Still: A Study in Contradictions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Verna Avery, In One Lifetime (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1984); “William Grant Still (1895-1978),” on AfriClassical.com website at: http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Still.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Bennett, Lerone (1928- )

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

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

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

Espy, Mike (1953- )

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

Córdoba Ruiz, Piedad Esneda (1955- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Politician, social and peace activist Piedad Córdoba was born in Medellin, Colombia, on January 25, 1955. She was the second of ten children of Zabulón Córdoba, an Afro-Colombian who rose from humble origins to become a sociology professor and university dean.  Her mother, blue-eyed blonde Lía Esneda Ruiz, married Zabulón as a teenager.

Their first child died in infancy. All nine of the surviving children became professionals including Córdoba, who as a young woman opened a bar to help finance the education of her younger siblings. She earned her law degree at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in 1977.

Sources: 
Nicolas Villa Moya, “Piedad Cordoba: A Political Biography,” http://www.colombia-politics.com/piedad-cordoba-a-political-biography/ (April 24, 2014); “Profiles: Piedad Cordoba,” http://colombiareports.co/piedad-cordoba-1/ (December 31, 2011); Victoria Bruce, Karin Hayes, and Jorge Enrique Botero, Hostage Nation: Colombia’s Guerilla Army and the Failed War on Drugs (New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Coppin, Fannie Jackson (1837-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Fannie Jackson was born a slave in Washington D.C. on October 15, 1837.  She gained her freedom when her aunt was able to purchase her at the age of twelve.  Through her teen years Jackson worked as a servant for the author George Henry Calvert and in 1860 she enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio.  Oberlin College was the first college in the United States to accepted both black and female students.

While attending Oberlin College Jackson enrolled and excelled in the men’s course of studies.  She was elected to the highly respected Young Ladies Literary Society and was the first African American student to be appointed in the College’s preparatory department.  As the Civil War came to an end she established a night school in Oberlin in order to educate freed slaves.

Sources: 
Fanny Jackson Coppin, Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching (Philadelphia: A.M.E. Book Concern, 1913); Ellen N. Lawson and Marlene Merrill, “The Antebellum ‘Talented Thousandth’: Black College Students at Oberlin Before the Civil War,” The Journal of Negro Education 87 (1983):390-402; http://www.oberlin.edu/news-info/02jun/discover_fannieJCoppin.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clay, William Lacy, Jr. (1956- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Willam Lacy Clay Jr. Sworn in to the 110th Congress
(January 2007)
Image Courtesy of the Office of Representative William Clay
William Lacy Clay, Jr. is the son of former Missouri Congressman William L. Clay Sr., and now holds his father’s former seat in the House of Representatives.  Clay was born on July 27, 1956 in St. Louis, Missouri, and was educated in the Silver Springs public schools of Maryland and at the University of Maryland where he received a B.S. degree in government and politics. He also earned honorary Doctorate of Laws Degrees from Lincoln University and Harris Stowe State University, and attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Before his election in 2000 to Missouri’s First Congressional District, Clay served for 17 years in both chambers of the Missouri Legislature. His achievements during this time include the establishment of Missouri’s Hate Crimes Law and the enactment of the Youth Opportunities and Violence Prevention Act; which created Youthbuild, a job training program for young adults.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Hill, Thomas Arnold (1888-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Thomas Arnold Hill, early leader of the National Urban League, was born in 1888 in Richmond, Virginia to Reuben and Irene Robinson Hill.  He studied at Richmond Business School and received his Bachelor of Art degree at Virginia Union University in 1911.  Hill then studied sociology and economics at New York University.

In 1914, Hill was hired by the New York City branch of the National Urban League (1912) where he worked as personal secretary of Eugene Kinkle Jones. He soon joined forces with Jones and fellow League workers to create additional leagues in neighboring cities.

With the onset of the Great Migration during World War I, Hill recognized the need for a local affiliate in Chicago, a common destination for many of the migrants.  In 1917, he opened the Chicago Urban League and served as its first executive secretary.  During the bloody Chicago Race Riot (1919), Hill transformed the Chicago office into an emergency center to help mollify anger, improve race relations, provide assistance to those adversely affected, and disseminate information.

Sources: 

Nancy Weiss, The National Urban League, 1910-1940 (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1974), p. 176-201; “T. Arnold Hill,” The Journal of
Negro History, Vol. 32, No. 4
(Oct. 1947), pp. 528-529; Rayford Logan
and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Arvah E. Strickland, History of the
Chicago Urban League
(Urbana and London: The University of Illinois
Press, 1966), p. 26-28.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bond, Horace Mann (1904–1972)

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

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

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

Gibson, Kenneth A. (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Newark Museum
Kenneth Allen Gibson, the first African American mayor of Newark, New Jersey, was born in 1931 in the town of Enterprise, Alabama.  He graduated from high school in Enterprise in 1950 and joined the U.S. Army as a civil engineer.  He remained in the Army until 1958. After his discharge, he took a job as a New Jersey State Highway Patrol trooper while simultaneously attending Newark College. Gibson graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1963.

After college Gibson took an engineering position for the Newark Housing Authority where he oversaw urban renewal projects from 1960-1966. In 1966, he became Newark’s chief structural engineer. He was also the head of Newark’s Business and Industry Coordinating Council and served as vice president of the United Community Corporation, which fought poverty in Newark during that time.
Sources: 
Colin Palmer, Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History (Missouri: Thomson Gale, 2006); Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Murillo, Luis Gilberto (1967- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 
Lori Robinson, “Colombia’s Civil War, The Crisis, 108 (July-August-2001); “Mr. Luis Gilberto Murillo,” at http://www.zoominfo.com/s/#!search/profile/person?personId=51303074&targetid=profile; Carolina Garcia Arbelaez, “Luis Gilberto Arbelaez,” at http://lasillavacia.com/perfilquien/37412/luis-gilberto-murillo.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Coltrane, John William (1926-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John William Coltrane emerged as one of the most innovative and influential jazz musicians of the 20th century. Born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926, the son of John Robert and Alice Blair Coltrane, he grew up in High Point, North Carolina where his grandfather, Rev. William W. Blair, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was one of the community leaders.  John Coltrane's childhood attendance at his family's black church shaped the spiritual dimensions of his musical orientation.  Following his father's death and the family’s sudden impoverishment, he and his mother moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1943 to ensure he would have a proper education.  Coltrane’s mother Alice worked as a domestic servant while nurturing her son's musical interest and encouraged him to enroll at the Ornstein School of Music.  
Sources: 
Lewis Porter, John Coltrane: His Life and Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998); C.O. Simpkins, Coltrane: A Biography (Baltimore, Maryland: Black Classic Press, 1975).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Brown, Willie Lewis, Jr. (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The Nob Hill Association
This State Legislator and Mayor was born in Mineola, Texas, to Willie L. Brown, Sr., and Minnie (Boyd) Lewis on March 20, 1934. After migrating to San Francisco, California in 1951, Brown worked as a janitor in order to subsidize his education at San Francisco State University. Upon his arrival in San Francisco, Brown immediately joined the United Methodist Church, which was committed to social action, where he became the youth leader. In his attempts to make the world and himself more “comfortable,” he also participated in the San Francisco civil rights protests in the late 1950s. He earned his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in 1955. In 1958, he earned a Juris Doctorate degree from Hastings College Law School.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Mississippi

Christensen, Donna Marie (1945–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University Of Washington

King, Don (1931- )

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

Boxing promoter Don King was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1931. The son of a steelworker who died in a smelter explosion, King’s earliest success was the result of his ownership of a popular tavern, where many top black musicians performed, and an illegal bookmaking operation. In 1966, he fatally stomped a former employee named Sam Garrett over Garrett’s failure to pay off a $600 loss. Initially found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, King’s sentence was mysteriously reduced by the presiding Judge, Hugh Corrigan. He served only three years and eleven months. Ten years later, when Corrigan ran for the Court of Appeals, King arranged for heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali to campaign on his behalf.

King used his prison time constructively, absorbing everything he read in books concerning some of histories greatest thinkers. Once he was released, he used his friendship with rock ’n’ roll songwriter/performer and boxing enthusiast, Lloyd Price, to form relationships with Muhammad Ali and boxing promoter Don Elbaum to promote a boxing exhibition involving Ali in Cleveland for the benefit of a local hospital. King, his primary motives notwithstanding, was a natural born promoter. As a larger than life figure, King was a shrewd businessman. Watching in awe, Elbaum told him that with his personality, and boxing’s need for a black promoter, King could take over all of boxing.

Sources: 

Jack Newfield, Only in America. The Life and Crimes of Don King (New
York: William Morrow and Company, 1995); Arne K. Lang, Prize-Fighting.
An American History
(North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2008)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Burney, William (1951- )

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

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

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

Moorland, Jesse (1863–1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jesse Moorland was an educator, minister, and a philanthropist, but was most renowned for his extensive work with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).  Born on September 10, 1863, in Coldwater, Ohio, he was the only child of a local farmer, William Edward Moorland and his wife, Nancy Jane Moorland.  He was raised by his grandparents after his mother passed away and his father decided to leave him in their care.  His grandparents sent him to a local school in Coldwater and then later to the Northwestern Normal School in Ada, Ohio.  

In 1886, Moorland married Lucy Corbin and the couple began teaching together in Urbana, Ohio.  They later moved to Washington, D.C. to continue their studies at Howard University.  Moorland studied theology and graduated with his Master’s degree in 1891.  In the same year, Moorland also became an ordained minister in the Congregational Church and was appointed Secretary of the Colored Branch of the YMCA in Washington, D.C.  Two years later, he resigned from the YMCA and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to become pastor of Howard Chapel.  In 1896, he moved again to become pastor at Mount Zion Congregational Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sources: 
Eric Bennett, Africana (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Dwight Burlingame, Philanthropy in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia (California: ABC-CLIO, 2004); http://www.aaregistry.com/detail.php?id=1141 (Accessed December 16, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chubby Checker (Ernest Evans) (1941-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Chubby Checker, the man credited with inventing “The Twist,” was born Ernest Evans in Spring Gully, South Carolina. He moved to Philadelphia with his parents and two brothers and attended South Philadelphia High School. Evans aspired to become a performer from a young age and eventually caught a small break after graduating from high school making novelty records that were impressions of singers like Elvis Presley and Fats Domino.

Evans' career took off when he met Barbara Clark, wife of American Bandstand host, Dick Clark. Barbara Clark is credited with giving young Evans his full stage name. He’d picked up the nickname ‘Chubby’ while working in a Philadelphia poultry market. When Barbara Clark met him he was working on his Fats Domino impression at the recording studio. She said “You’re Chubby Checker, like Fats Domino.” The name stuck.

With Barbara Clark's help, Evans got a job recording a Christmas greeting card for Dick Clark’s associates. This record spawned another called “The Class," which contained impressions of famous singers. It was a hit. Unfortunately, Chubby Checker fell into obscurity and his record label was ready to drop him.
Sources: 
John Jackson, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire (New York, Oxford University Press, 1997); http://www.chubbychecker.com/bio.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harris, Charles H. (“Teenie”) (1908-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art,
Pittsburgh; Heinz Family Fund
Charles H. “Teenie” Harris, a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Hill District, was best known for his photographs taken during his four-decade long career at the Pittsburgh Courier.  Harris was born July 2, 1908 to Ella Mae and William Harris, the youngest of three brothers.  His family operated the Masio Hotel, a boarding house often filled with newcomers to the city during the first wave of black migration from the south to Pittsburgh that began in World War I.   

In 1927 Harris married his first wife, Ruth Butler, and together they had Charles A. Harris (“Little Teenie”) later that year.  The couple divorced in 1934, and he was issued custody of his son.  Harris remarried in 1944 to Elsa Lee Elliot, and together they had two boys and two girls.

Charles’s brother William “Woogie” Harris was a numbers runner in Pittsburgh. Woogie brought an income stream into the family and access to celebrity and nightlife culture prominently featured in many of Charles’s photographs.
Sources: 
Sheryl Finley, Laurence Glasco, and Joe W. Trotter, Teenie Harris, Photographer: Image, Memory, History (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011); Julia Dolan, “A Photo Archive: Lost and Found,” International Review of African American Art 18:2 (2001); Alice Winn, “Documenting Our Past: The Teenie Harris Archive Project,  Carnegie Museum of Art,” Art On Paper 8:1 (September/October 2003); Stanley Crouch, One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brazeal, Aurelia Erskine (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
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

Battle, Anthony Michael (1950– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Michael Battle is an educator, religious leader, and diplomat. Born on July 28, 1950, in St. Louis, Missouri, he was one of twelve children from Jessie Battle Sr., a Pentecostal pastor, and Mary Battle.  Michael received his bachelor’s degree from Trinity College (1973), his Master of Divinity degree from Duke University (1976), and his Doctor of Ministry degree from Howard University (1994).  

Between 1976 and 1996, Dr. Battle held multiple positions in academia and the clergy, including serving as dean and chaplain of the University Chapel at Hampton University, and pastor of the Hampton University Memorial Church. He was also executive secretary and treasurer of the Hampton University Ministers’ Conference, the nation’s largest interdenominational conference among African American clergy. He also served for twenty years as a chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring in 1997 with rank of lieutenant colonel.
Sources: 
“The Honorable Michael A. Battle. http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/honorable-michael-battle; Transcript: U.S. Ambassador to the AU Speaks at University of Virginia.” October 10, 201; 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

Ryan, Ella & John

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on Aug. 6, 1865 in Chillicothe, Ohio to George R. and Mary Elizabeth (Gatliffe) Ryan, John Henry Ryan was one of twelve children.  Ella (Alexander) Ryan’s origins are more unclear; however she was raised in Missouri as one of at least three children.  John H. and Ella Ryan moved to Spokane, Washington in 1889 along with several of John’s other siblings. Ella Ryan owned a successful beauty salon while John Ryan became a prominent local businessman.  The Ryans moved briefly to Seattle in 1900 where John Ryan worked in the newspaper industry.
Sources: 
Gary Reese Fuller, Who We Are: An Information History of Tacoma’s Black Community before W.W.I. (Tacoma: Tacoma Public Library, 1992)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Factor, Pompey (1849–1928)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Leo Lythel Robinson (1937–2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Courtesy of David Bacon"
A rank-and-file activist in the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), Leo Robinson was best known for fighting apartheid by helping lead a massive boycott of South African cargo that galvanized anti-apartheid movement in California's San Francisco Bay Area in 1984.  

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on May 26, 1937, to Arthur and Pearl Lee Young, Robinson and his family moved to Oakland during World War II. Both parents worked at Moore Shipyard, one of numerous large shipbuilders in the area’s booming wartime economy. Along with his parents and four siblings, he lived in the Cypress Village housing projects in West Oakland, a segregated ghetto that gave birth to the Black Panther Party two decades later.  

Sources: 
David Bacon, “Leo Robinson: Soul of the Longshore,” In These Times, January 19, 2013, http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/14448/leo_robinson_soul_of_the_longshore; Peter Cole, “Leo Robinson: leader of the ILWU anti-apartheid struggle,” ILWU Dispatcher 71:1 (January 2013), http://www.ilwu.org/leo-robinson-ilwu-activist-led-anti-apartheid-struggle/; Leo Robinson, Interview by Peter Cole, Raymond, California, July 20, 2011; Leo Robinson, Interview in The Oakland Army Base: An Oral History, ed. by Martin Meeker, The Bancroft Library, University of California, City of Oakland, and Port of Oakland, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Washington, Booker T. (1856-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Anderson, Marian (1897-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Raymond Arsenault, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert that Awakened America (New York: Bloomsbury Press_, 2009); Russell Freedman, The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights (New York: Clarion Books, 2004)
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Waters, Ethel (1896-1977)

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

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

Ajala, Godwin O. (1968–2001)

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Yale University

Pollard, Fritz (1894-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Fredrick Douglas “Fritz” Pollard, born in 1894, was raised in Chicago, Illinois. In high school he was an all-around athlete excelling as a running back, a three-time Cook County track champion, and a talented baseball player. Upon graduation, for a short time, he played football for Harvard, Northwestern, and Dartmouth before receiving a scholarship from the Rockefeller family to play for Brown University in 1915.  
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harlan, Robert James (1816-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert James Harlan was an entrepreneur, businessman, and army officer who devoted the second half of his life to political and civic service. Among his many accomplishments, in an 1879 speech before Congress titled "Migration is the Only Remedy for Our Wrongs," Harlan argued for the right of blacks to migrate wherever they chose within the United States.  Within the next year, 6,000 black "Exodusters" would leave Mississippi and Louisiana for Kansas.

Harlan was born in Harrodsburg, Kentucky on December 12, 1816 to a mulatto mother and a white father, Judge James Harlan. Although born enslaved, Harlan was raised in his father's home, and his keen intellect meant that he was a good fit in a household that included a future Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Harlan's half-brother, John Marshall Harlan, wrote the dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Since there were no schools for African American children in Kentucky during this era Harlan was tutored by his two older half-brothers.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); William J. Simmons, Mark of Men: Eminent, Progressive, and Rising (Cleveland, Ohio: Geo. M. Rewell & Co., 1887).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Freeman, Paul (1936- )

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

Paul Douglas Freeman has conducted outstanding classical orchestras in many countries during his long career. One of the few African American conductors in the field of classical music, he is best known for his founding of the Chicago Sinfonietta, a classical orchestra widely recognized during the past 25 years for both its ethnic and racial diversity and its attempt to broaden the appeal of classical music to “non-traditional” audiences.  

Born January 2, 1936, in Richmond, Virginia, to a music-loving family of modest means, Freeman and his 11 siblings enjoyed symphony and opera radio broadcasts. Even though his father ran a small produce store, he and most of his siblings were given instruments early in their childhoods to encourage the study of classical music. Paul began piano at five, then moved on to the clarinet and cello. When his high school band conductor became ill, he directed the performance at age 17, obtaining his first experience with conducting.  

Freeman entered the Eastman School of Music on a scholarship in 1952. There he met his wife Cornelia, a piano and organ major. His BA degree in 1956 was followed a year later by an MA degree.  He then received a Fulbright Fellowship to study operatic and orchestral conducting at the Höchschule für Music in Berlin, Germany. Freeman returned to Eastman for a doctorate in music in 1963.
Sources: 
D. Antoinette Handy, Black Conductors (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1995); ‘Paul Freeman,” http://www.africlassical.com; John von Rein, “Freeman bids farewell to the orchestra he made the most diverse in the nation,” Chicago Tribune, May 18, 2011; “Music Makers: Paul Freeman,” http://www.thehistorymakers.com (video interview April 24, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cooper, John W. (1873-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John W. Cooper and Sam Jackson
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John W. Cooper was an African American ventriloquist, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1873.  After losing both of his parents at a very young age, Cooper received his education at Professor Dorsey’s Institute in Brooklyn.  There he developed into a budding entertainer and took a special interest in ventriloquism, a craft he learned from an unidentified white man whom he met at a Sheepshead Bay racetrack.  

Cooper, who was also a singer, joined “The Southern Jubilee Singers.”  While touring with the group he also developed his ventriloquism act, writing and performing his own material before mostly white audiences.  “Fun in a Barber Shop” became one of his most famous acts.  Cooper portrayed six different puppet characters, each with his own voice performed by Cooper himself.

In 1902, when he was twenty-nine, Cooper had his first big break in ventriloquism while traveling with Richards and Pringles Minstrels.  In that year he was recognized by the Daily Nonpariel, a leading entertainment magazine, as the best ventriloquist of that era.    Cooper went on to create another act with a black ventriloquist puppet named Sam Jackson.  Cooper and Sam traveled all over the United States during the next two decades.  By the start of World War I he began performing at veteran hospitals, service clubs, and military camps.  
Sources: 
C. B. Davis, “Reading the Ventriloquists’ Lips: The Performance Genre behind the Metaphor” (TDR 1988-), 42: 4 (Winter 1998); Dan Willinger, “Ventriloquists Vaudeville Years,” Ventriloquist Central: A Tribute to Ventriloquism,” http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com/tribute/vaudeville/vaudeville.htm; Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Morris, Robert, Sr. (1823–1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Coachman, Alice Marie (1923-2014)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Hilliard, Earl (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jessie Carney Smith, ed.,  Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); Bruce Bastin, Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1986); http://facstaff.unca.edu/sinclair/piedmontblues/cotten.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Charles, Suzette (1963- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Suzette Charles (born Suzette De Gaetano), the second African American woman to hold the crown of Miss America, was born in Mays Landing, New Jersey on March 2, 1963. She is the daughter of Charles Gaetano, a businessman, and Suzette (Burroughs) Gaetano, a music teacher. Charles represented New Jersey in the September 1983 Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the time. Charles performed very well during the pageant competition. She won her preliminary competition in the talent division and finished first runner up to Vanessa Williams, Miss New York, who became the first black Woman to win the Miss America title on September 17, 1983.

When Williams was forced to relinquish the crown due to a scandal involving nude photographs, on July 24, 1984, Charles became the second black woman to wear the Miss America crown and fulfilled her duties for the remaining seven weeks of William's reign. This was the shortest time period served by any Miss America.
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); Susan Chira, “To First Black Miss America, Victory is a Means to an End,” New York Times, September 19, 1983, F10, A1.; http://missamerica.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Taylor, Moddie Daniel (1912-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center,
National Museum of American History,
Smithsonian Institution
Moddie Daniel Taylor, a chemist by training, was a member of the small, elite group of African American scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the code name for the top-secret effort to create an atomic bomb during World War II.  Taylor was born in Nymph, Alabama on March 3, 1912, the son of Herbert L. Taylor and Celeste (Oliver) Taylor.  The Taylors later moved to St. Louis where Herbert worked as a postal clerk.  Moddie Taylor attended Charles H. Sumner High, graduating in 1931.  He then attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri where he majored in chemistry.  Taylor graduated in 1935 as the valedictorian of his class.

Moddie Taylor began his teaching career at Lincoln University the same year, working as an instructor until 1939 and then as an assistant professor from 1939 to 1941 while enrolled in the University of Chicago graduate program in chemistry.  He received an M.S. from the University in 1939 and a Ph.D. in 1943.

Taylor married Vivian Ellis in 1937.  The couple had one son, Herbert Moddie Taylor.
Sources: 
Kenneth R. Manning, “Science and Opportunity,” Science, Volume 282 (November 6, 1998): 1037-1038; “Scientists in the News,” Science, Volume 131 (May 20, 1960): 1513-1514; “Records of Meetings,” Daedalus, Volume 86 (September, 1956): 137-16; Ebony, January 1961; "Moddie Taylor Biography," BookRags.com, http://www.bookrags.com/biography/moddie-taylor-woc/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Hrabowski, Freeman A., III (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the University of Maryland,
Baltimore

Influential educational leader Freeman A. Hrabowski III has occupied many roles in his life, as a child civil rights activist in the 1960s, as professor, as university president, as philanthropist, and as consultant.  He was born on August 13, 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama to parents Maggie G. and Freeman A. Hrabowski II, who were both teachers. 

Sources: 
Biography of Freeman Hrabowski III, The History Makers, 21 July 2003, available at http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/freeman-hrabowski-39; Byron Pitts, “Hrabowski: An Educator Focused on Math and Science,” 60 Minutes, 13 November 2011, available at http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57319098/hrabowski-an-educator-focused-on-math-and-science/; http://president.umbc.edu/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hicks, Irvin (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador Irvin Hicks Giving A Lecture in
Bujumbaru, Burundi
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Irvin Hicks was a career Foreign Service Officer who rose from a communications clerk position to serve three times as a U.S. ambassador.  Hicks served in the Department of State during the nascent years of African Independence from European colonial rule.  Hicks was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Seychelles by President Ronald Reagan.  He served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Victoria from 1985 to 1987.  In 1992 President George H.W. Bush nominated Hicks to be Deputy Representative of the United States of America to the Security Council in the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.  He was later appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary by President Bill Clinton to Ethiopia.  Hicks was Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa from 1994 to 1996.
Sources: 
Ronald Reagan, "Nomination of Irvin Hicks To Be United States Ambassador to Seychelles," July 11, 1985, Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=38865; Deputy Representative of the United States to the Security Council of the United Nations, 16 June 1992, Ronald Reagan, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan, 1985 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Library, 1988).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Olden, Georg (1920-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The graphic designer George Elliot Olden, known for his work in television and advertising, was born in Birmingham, Alabama on November 13, 1920. Olden’s father, James Clarence Olden, was a Baptist minister and his mother, Sylvia Ward Olden, was a music teacher. When he was only a few months old, Olden’s family moved to Washington, D.C. so his father could serve as a minister in the Plymouth Congregational Church. Then, in 1933, Olden’s father mysteriously left his family in the same year that Olden began attending all-black Dunbar High School where he was first exposed to cartooning and art.
Sources: 
Jason Chambers, “Meet One of the Pioneering Blacks in the Ad Industry,” Advertising Age, February 16, 2009; Julie Lasky, “The Search for George Olden,” in Graphic Design History (New York: Allworth Press, 2001); Julie Lasky, “Georg Olden Biography,” AIGA, The Professional Association for Design, 2007, http://www.aiga.org/medalist-georgolden/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chamberlain, Kenneth, Sr. (1943-2011)

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

Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. was fatally shot on November 19, 2011, in White Plains, New York. After his LifeAid medical alert was accidentally triggered, police came to his home and commanded that he open the front door to his residence. Despite his report that he did not need assistance, the police broke down Chamberlain's door, tasered him, and then shot and killed him. Chamberlain was a 68-year-old black male, a retired Marine, and had worked for the Westchester (New York) County Department of Corrections for 20 years. Due to a chronic heart condition, he was required to wear his LifeAid medical bracelet.

Rough videocam images show Chamberlain standing in his underwear as the officers moved into his home. The video does not provide a complete account of the incident and Chamberlain comes into focus only periodically. It ends before the fatal shot is fired but Randolph McLaughlin, one of the lawyers of Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., says the police failed to de-escalate the situation. After shocking him with the taser, McLaughlin says Chamberlain was quickly shot with bean bags, quickly followed by two rounds fired from Officer Anthony Carelli's gun, one that supposedly missed and one that killed him.

Sources: 
Michael Powell, “Officers, Why Do You Have Your Guns Out?,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/06/nyregion/fatal-shooting-of-ex-marine-by-white-plains-police-raises-questions.html; Richard Liebson, “Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.: White Plains cops harassed me,” Lohud.com, http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/white-plains/2017/03/07/kenneth-chamberlain-jr-white-plains-cops-harassed-me/98846240/; Graham Rayman, “Westchester jury rejects wrongful death lawsuit of former Marine veteran Kenneth Chamberlain” NY Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/jury-rejects-wrongful-death-suit-ex-marine-kenneth-chamberlain-article-1.2877906; “Police officer cleared in shooting death of ailing veteran in New York,” CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/03/justice/new-york-chamberlain-death/index.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

George, Sugar T. (1827-1900)

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

Sugar T. George a.k.a. George Sugar was born in approximately 1827, as a slave in the Muskogee Nation. This former slave emerged as a tribal leader. By the time of his death in 1900, Sugar T. George was also said to have been the "wealthiest Negro in the [Indian] Territory."

George escaped from bondage when in November 1861, Opothleyohola, an Upper Creek chief, led 5,000 Creeks, 2,500 Seminoles, Cherokees, and other Indians, and approximately 500 slaves and free blacks from Indian Territory into Kansas to avoid living under the domination of Pro-Confederate Indian leaders during the Civil War. George joined the Union Army in Kansas, serving in Company H of the 1st Indian Home Guards.  Because of his natural skills as a leader and his literacy he quickly became a First Sergeant in his unit.  George acted as the unofficial leader of Company H, taking charge after the white officer and Indian officer had been dismissed for improper behavior.

Sources: 
Documents found in Civil War Pension File of Sugar T. George; Claims of the Loyal Creeks, RG 75 National Archives; Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma LDS Microfiche #6016976 Volume 111---Cemeteries.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Stahl, Jesse (c. 1879–1935)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

African American cowboy and rodeo rider Jesse Stahl set the standard of performance in saddle bronc riding that continues to this day. Stahl was a topnotch horseman, a first-class gentleman, and a cowboy who was regarded by many who saw his performances as larger than life.

Conflicting sources establish Jesse Stahl’s birthplace as Tennessee, Texas or California sometime between 1879 and 1883.  Nothing is known about his childhood other than he had a brother named Ambrose. Both brothers joined the rodeo circuit but only Jesse went on to fame.

Jesse Stahl is most famous for his performance at the Salinas Rodeo in California in 1912.  Before over 4,000 fans, Stahl stole the show in the rodeo’s classic event of saddle bronc riding on the bronco named Glass Eye. The horse would buck, twist his body 180-degrees midair, and land in the exact opposite direction. Most observers felt that none other than Stahl stood a chance of staying on Glass Eye. He did, and that magnificent ride thrilled fans and cemented Stahl’s name into the annals of rodeo fame. Other stories of Stahl's exploits have been passed down through oral tradition.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, Black Cowboys of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2011); Paul W. Stewart and Wallace Yvonne Ponce, Black Cowboys (Broomfield, Colorado: Phillips Publishing, 1986); Burton Anderson, “The California Rodeo: A Central Coast Tradition,” Monterey County Historical Society (1997), http://www.mchsmuseum.com/rodeo.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gipson, Carl (1924– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Carl Gipson was the first African-American city council member in the city of Everett, Washington, serving from 1971 until 1995. Born in Lincoln County, Arkansas, on January 11, 1924, Gipson grew up as the grandson of former slave, Doc Gipson, who had accumulated a substantial amount of land to grow cotton, corn, and other crops. In his upbringing, Carl Gipson encountered the many disadvantages of the Jim Crow South on a daily basis. His family was also struck by natural disasters. In 1927, for example, Lincoln County became flooded, and only a few years later, it suffered a year-long drought from 1930 to 1931. In this troubling time, Gipson’s family became impoverished. Because local African American children had only a slight chance to receive an education, Gipson moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, to attend Dunbar High School. There he met Jodie Mae Waugh, whom he would eventually marry in 1942 after graduation. The two moved to Richmond, California, in 1943 where he worked as a welder in a shipyard.
Sources: 
Noah Hagland, “Award-winning artist paints mural to honor Carl Gipson,” The Everett Herald, June 11, 2014) http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140611/NEWS01/140619883; Eric Stevic, “Community helps Carl Gipson celebrate his 90th,” The Everett Herald, January 17, 2014, http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140117/COMM01/140119342; John Caldbick, “Gipson, Carl (b. 1924,” HistoryLink, http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?displaypage=output.cfm&file_id=10696.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Langston, John Mercer (1829-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Russwurm, John (1799-1851)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Obama, Barack, Jr. (1961- )

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

Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States and the first African American to occupy the White House.  Obama was born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was a Kenyan graduate student studying in the United States and his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, a white American from Wichita, Kansas.  The two were married on February 2, 1961 in Maui, Hawaii.  In 1971, when he was ten, Obama’s mother, who had remarried and was living in Indonesia, sent him to Honolulu, Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents Madelyn and Stanley Dunham for several years, where he attended Punahou, a prestigious preparatory school.  Obama was admitted on a scholarship with the assistance of his grandparents.

Sources: 
Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (New York: Times Books, 1995); Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown Publishers, 2006); Barack Obama, US Senator for Illinois, http://obama.senate.gov/ ; Mike Dorning and Jim Tankersley, Chicago Tribune, “Obama Redraws Map with the Resounding Win,” November 5, 2008, p.2-3; Chicago Sun-Times, “A Dream Fulfilled,” November 5, 2008, p. 2A; The Times, “Landslide,” November 5, 2008, 2A,3A; James A. Thurber, ed., Obama in Office (Boulder, Colorado: Paradigm Publishers, 2011) .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Spivey, Victoria (1906-1976)

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

Goode, Wilson (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Best known as the first African American Mayor of Philadelphia, Woodrow Wilson Goode was born in 1938 into a family of tenant farmers near the town of Seaboard, North Carolina.  Goode moved to Philadelphia with his family in 1954.

In 1961, he received a B.A. from Morgan State University in Maryland. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated with a Master’s in Public Administration in 1971.  After graduation, Goode worked as a probation officer, a supervisor of a building maintenance firm, and an insurance claim adjuster.

Goode’s first foray into politics came when he managed the unsuccessful mayoral campaign of State Representative Hardy Williams in 1971.  In 1979 Goode was appointed to head the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and later, between 1980 and 1983, he served in Mayor William J. Green’s administration as Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia.

As city manager Wilson Goode held neighborhood meetings to address city problems and brought fiscal efficiency by streamlining functions and operations in City Hall. He promoted his public image by riding garbage trucks to monitor the progress of sanitation workers and actively participated in neighborhood cleanups.
Sources: 
Colin Palmer, Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History (St. Louis: Thomson Gale, 2006); 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

Padilla Lopez, José Prudencio (1784-1828)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born March 19, 1784 in the northern coastal territory of La Guajira, Colombia, José Padilla is recognized as one of the first South American-born naval commanders, a founder of the Colombian navy, and a hero in the Latin American wars of independence and the Afro-Hispanic struggle for freedom.

Padilla was the son of Andres Padilla, a man of African descent whose ancestors had been enslaved.  He worked as a shipwright. Padilla’s mother was Lucia Josefa Lopez, an Amerindian (Wayuu) woman.  At the age of 14 Padilla took to the sea as a crewmember aboard Spanish merchant ships. In 1805, while in the Royal Spanish Navy, he was captured by the British during the Battle of Trafalgar off the coast of Spain and freed in a prisoner exchange three years later. He returned to South America and resumed his service in the Spanish navy.  He was later put in charge of the arsenal at Cartagena, Colombia. 

Sources: 
Enrique Uribe White, Padilla: homenaje de la Armada Colombiana al héroe de la Batalla del Lago de Maracaibo (Bogotá: Litografía de las Fuerzas Militares, 1973); Carlos Delgado Nieto, Maza y Padilla: dos héroes colombianos (Bogotá: Espiral, 1964); “José Prudencio Padilla,” http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.encaribe.org/Article/jose-prudencio-padilla&prev=search.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Hamilton, John Henry “Doc” (1891-1942)

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

Doc Hamilton, born John Henry Hamilton in 1891, was a famous Seattle, Washington prohibition-era club owner. Originally from West Point, Mississippi, he moved to Seattle at the age of 23. Hamilton served in World War I in the famous 92nd infantry division (also known as the “buffalo” division) in France. Upon returning from the war he opened his first speakeasy in his own home on 1017½ E. Union Street. Speakeasies were nightclubs that illegally sold and served alcohol which had been outlawed by the Prohibition Act of 1920. Seattle police discovered his club and shut it down in 1924. This was the first of his many illegal clubs and encounters with the Seattle Police Department and other local law enforcement officials.

Sources: 
Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993); Sharon Boswell and Lorraine McConaghy,Dried Out, but Still Thirsty,” Seattle Times, April 14, 1996, http://old.seattletimes.com/special/centennial/april/thirsty.html; http://www.historylink.org/File/3471.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Collins, Barbara-Rose (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
U.S. Congresswoman Barbara-Rose Collins was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 13, 1939 to Lunar N. and Vera (Jones) Richardson. Collins attended Wayne State University in Detroit. Her career began at Wayne State University where she served as business manager, worked in the Physics department, and worked in neighborhood relations. Prior to being elected to Congress, she also served as a board member in Detroit’s School Region I between 1971 and 1973.

In 1975 Collins was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives from the 21st District (Detroit) and served there until 1981. She was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1981 and served there until her election to the U.S. House. During this time (1974-1975), Collins also served as a commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Detroit. In 1985 she chaired the Detroit City Council Task Force on Teenage Violence. In 1991, Collins was elected as a U.S. Congresswoman from Michigan’s 15th District, after the death of her husband, Congressman George Collins, in a plane crash.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Affiliation: 
University of Mississippi

Clarke, Yvette Diane (1964– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Yvette Diane Clarke Website

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

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ingram, Rex (1895-1969)

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

Rex Ingram, one of the first African American male actors to serve on the Board of the Screen Actors Guild, was born in 1895 on a houseboat on the Mississippi River near Cairo Illinois. Ingram claimed to have sailed as a crewman on a windjammer after receiving a medical degree from Northwestern University in Illinois, though little is actually known about his personal life prior to his entry into acting.

Ingram’s film career began in 1918, when he made his acting debut by appearing in bit parts of Tarzan films.  He went on to appear in silent films such as The Ten Commandments (1923). Between filming, Ingram worked as a professional boxer to support himself and later appeared in a number of Broadway plays, including Porgy and Bess and Stevedore. During his Broadway interim in New York, Ingram traveled back and forth to Hollywood where he obtained small parts in a number of movies, including the 1933 film The Emperor Jones opposite Paul Robeson. His big break came when he appeared in the 1936 film Green Pastures, for which he received acclaim for his multifaceted ability to portray the characters De Lawd, Adam, and Hezdrel.

Sources: 

Rex Ingram, “I Came Back from the Dead: Actor tells of his
Determination to Return to Stardom after Period of Disaster.” Ebony,
Vol. 10, (March 1955); The New York Times, “Rex Ingram, the Actor, Dies
in Hollywood at 73,” September 20, 1969; Donald Bogle. Blacks in
American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia
, (New York: Garland
Publishing, Inc, 1988).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, William Henry (1901-1970)

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

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

Johnson, Nellie Stone (1905-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Social activist and black labor leader Nellie Stone Johnson was born Nellie Saunders Allen in Lakeville, Minnesota in 1905, the eldest daughter of an activist farmer, William R. Allen and a schoolteacher, Gladys Allen.  As a child, Nellie worked on her family’s farm near Hinckley, Minnesota.  On her way to and from school, she distributed flyers for the Non-Partisan League, a radical rural organization of which her father was a member.  

When she was 17, she left the farm for Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she finished high school through the GED program at the University of Minnesota in 1925.  She attended but did not graduate from the University of Wisconsin.  In 1931, Allen married Clyde Stone, an auto mechanic.  

During the Great Depression Stone worked for the Minneapolis Athletic Club.  Concerned about a pay cut food workers received in 1935, she helped found Local 665 of the Hotel and Restaurant International Union, of which she would become Vice-President.  While with the union Stone helped to start the first health and welfare program for food workers.  She was also the first woman to serve as vice-president of the Minnesota Culinary Council.  
Sources: 

Nellie Stone Johnson, Nellie Stone Johnson:  The Life of an Activist (St. Paul, MN:  Ruminator Books, 2000); Mary Christine Pruitt, “Women Unite! The Modern Women’s Movement in Minnesota” (Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1988); Monica Bauerlein, "Nellie Stone Johnson: 19005-2002: Minneapolis Loses a Legendary Figure," City Pages, April 10, 2002.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hines, Earl “Fatha” (1903-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Earl “Fatha” Hines was an African-American jazz musician who composed and played piano. Hines was born on December 28, 1903 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents and a number of his siblings were musicians as well. Hines started playing music when he was a young boy, taking trumpet lessons from his father. However, he felt the trumpet was too loud of an instrument, so he switched to piano after a few years. Hines attended Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where among other classes, he studied classical music.

In lieu of finishing high school, Hines moved to Pittsburgh at the age of 17 to take a job playing with Lois Deppe in a nightclub. Deppe was a well know musician around the area who took Hines to his first studio recordings in 1923.
Sources: 
http://www.jazz.com/encyclopedia/hines-earl-fatha-kenneth
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=7642
Terry Teachout, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

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

Pegg, John Grant (1869-1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Owneship: Public Domain
John Grant Pegg was born around 1869 in Virginia.  He began his career in about 1890 as a Pullman porter, working out of Chicago. It was there that he met Mary Charlotte Page of Kansas, a seamstress. After their marriage they moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1898.  Pegg became involved in Omaha politics as a Republican committeeman who became known informally as the “councilman for the Black community.”  In 1910 Pegg became the first African American appointed Inspector of Weights & Measures for the City of Omaha.  His work in the black community led him to be known as a “race man” dedicated to improving the African American section of Omaha’s population. Pegg, for example, was a Shriner and a member of the local Masonic Lodge.

The Kincaid Homestead Act of 1904 opened up thousands of acres of northern Nebraska for homesteaders.  In 1911, John Pegg sponsored a number of black settlers who went by wagon out to Cherry County, Nebraska to homestead.  Among them were his brother Charlie Pegg and his nephew James. They homesteaded land in John Pegg’s name in Cherry County although John Pegg never lived on the homestead. His brother and nephew operated a cattle ranch that supplied beef to the South Omaha packing plants.  John Grant Pegg died in 1916 in Omaha.
Sources: 
Personal letters and journal entries of William Gaitha Pegg, son of John Grant Pegg, 1982.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Steele, Shelby (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Shelby Steele, author and self-described African American conservative, was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 1, 1946.  His father Shelby Sr., a black man, worked as a truck driver while his mother Ruth, a white woman, worked as a social worker.  Both of his parents were committed members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).  Formed in Chicago in 1942, CORE played a vital role in the Civil Rights Movement of subsequent decades.  Although as a child he resented having to attend CORE meetings with his parents, Steele nonetheless was invariably influenced by them.
Contributor: 

Otis, Clarence (1956– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Corporate CEO Clarence Otis was born April 11, 1956, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His father, Clarence Otis Sr., worked as a janitor while his mother, Calanthus Hall Otis, stayed home to raise their three children. The family moved to the Watts section of Los Angeles, California, when Otis was four years old. Although Watts was at the time a sprawling ghetto that in 1965 would become the site of the Watts riot, Clarence Otis Sr. drove the family through Beverly Hills to show his children that a different life was possible. Otis credits these drives, as well as a stable family life, for keeping him away from the gang activity prevalent in Watts.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles Pierce College

Tucker, C. DeLores (1927-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Terrell, Mary Church (1863-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Mary Church Terrell, A Colored Woman in a White World (Humanity Books, 2005); Cynthia Neverdon-Morton, “Mary Church Terrell,” in African American Lives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Tandy, Charleton (1836-1919)

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Winston-Salem State University

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

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

Lewis, Reginald (1942-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Reginald Francis Lewis was born to a working class family in East Baltimore on December 7, 1942. His strong work ethic was evident early when in high school he earned four varsity letters in baseball, three in football, and two in basketball.  Lewis graduated from Virginia State College in 1965 and three years later attained a law degree from Harvard University Law School. Lewis worked as an attorney with the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison between 1968 and 1970. He then became a partner in Murphy, Thorpe & Lewis, which was the first black law firm on Wall Street. Between 1973 and 1989, Lewis was a successful corporate lawyer in private practice.

By the mid-1980s Lewis would soon enter an elite circle of Wall Street deal-makers. In 1983 he started TLC Group, an investment firm that made history when it acquired New York-based McCall Pattern Co., for $22.5 million in 1983.  Four years later Lewis sold McCall Pattern for $90 million, realizing a $50 million profit.
Sources: 
Lewis, Reginald F., “Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?'': How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire (New York, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1995); http://www.africanamericanculture.org/museum_reglewis.html; http://www.stfrancis.edu/ba/ghkickul/stuwebs/bbios/biograph/rglwsbio.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Sterling A. (1901-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The last of six children and the only boy born to the Rev. Sterling Nelson and Adelaide (Allen) Brown, Sterling Allen Brown graduated as the top student from Washington’s renowned Dunbar High School (1918).  His success enabled him to accept the token gesture of an academic scholarship Williams College annually extended to Dunbar’s valedictorian.  At this prestigious small, liberal arts school in Massachusetts, from 1918–1922, Brown set aside his own feelings of isolation and performed with distinction: election to Phi Beta Kappa his junior year, winning the Graves Prize for his essay “The Comic Spirit in Shakespeare and Moliere,” and receipt of highest honors from the English Department his senior year.  These accolades won for him a scholarship to study at Harvard University, where he graduated with an MA degree in English in 1923.
Sources: 
Sterling A. Brown, The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1980); Sterling A. Brown,  A Negro Looks at the South, eds. John Edgar Tidwell and Mark A. Sanders (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Joanne Gabbin, Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985); and Mark A. Sanders, Afro-Modernist Aesthetics and the Poetry of Sterling A. Brown (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Jordan, June (1936-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
June Meyer Jordan, writer, editor, poet, educator, environmental and social activist, was the only child of Granville Ivanhoe and Mildred Maude Fischer Jordan who were Jamaican immigrants. June was born in Harlem on July 9, 1936.  June’s father worked as a night shift postal clerk and her mother was a part-time private-duty nurse.  The family lived in Harlem until June was six years old, when they moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn.  June’s father subjected her to serious physical abuse that continued throughout her childhood.  It was in this terrifying environment of bullying and severe beatings, that seven year old June found solace in the written word and began writing poetry.  In her memoir, Soldier, a Poet’s Childhood, she credited her father’s treatment with influencing her to write and introducing her to literature.
Sources: 
June Jordan, Soldier–A Poet’s Childhood (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2000); June Jordan, Soulscript–A Collection of African American Poetry (New York: Harlem Moon Press, 1970); “Poet of the People,” http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2002/06/17_jordan.html ;
http://www.junejordan.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Carroll, Diahann (1935- )

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

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

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

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

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

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: 

Allen, William G. (1820- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Smith, Bessie (1894-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Along with Ma Rainey and Mamie Smith, singer Bessie Smith helped pioneer the genre of blues music and propel it into popular culture. Her early death at the age of 43 cut short a career that influenced the direction of American music and contributed to the success of African Americans in the performing arts.

Smith was born into poverty most likely on April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to William Smith, a preacher, and Laura Smith. Both parents died when Bessie was young. To help support her orphaned siblings, Bessie began her career as a Chattanooga street musician, singing in a duo with her brother Andrew to earn money to support their indigent family.
Sources: 
Chris Albertson, Bessie (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003); Angela Y. Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (New York: Random House, 1998); Nanette de Jong, “Smith, Bessie (15 Apr. 1894-26 Sept. 1937),” American National Biography Online (New York: Oxford University Press, February 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

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

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

Mobutu, Joseph-Désiré/ Mobutu, Sese Seko Kuku Waza Banga (1930-1997)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
President and Mrs. Sese Seko Mobutu
Meeting Emperor Hirohito in
Tokoyo, Japan, 1971
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Joseph Mobutu, named Joseph-Désiré Mobutu at birth, was the second president of Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1965 to 1997.  Mobutu was born in 1930 in the Belgian Congo and studied journalism.  

In 1958, Mobutu became the country’s state secretary and then was named chief of staff of the Congolese Army by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasavubu when the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.  A year later, Mobutu helped President Kasavubu oust Lumumba.  Mobutu became the new prime minister.  In 1965, Mobutu exiled Kasavubu in a military coup and announced himself president, forming a one-party state around his Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution (MPR).
Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004); Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo (New York: Harper Collin Publisher, 2001); “Sese Seko Mobutu Biography,” bio.com, http://www.biography.com/people/mobutu-s%C3%A9s%C3%A9-seko-9410874.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Singleton, Benjamin "Pap" (1809-1892)

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

 

Sources: 
Nell Irvine Painter, Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1976); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West 1528-1900 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998); "The "Exodusters" Movement" in The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide to the Study of Black History & Culture,  http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam009.html; Lin Frederickson, "He Was Once a Slave" on the Kansas Memory Blog of the Kansas Historical Society, http://www.kansasmemory.org/blog/post/73490075
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Nabrit, Samuel Milton (1905-2003)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

A marine biologist, academic, and administrator, Samuel Milton Nabrit was born in Macon, Georgia, to James Madison Nabrit and Gertrude West in 1905.  Upon completing his elementary and high school education, he entered Morehouse College in 1921.  There he earned the B.S. degree in Biology in May 1925 and spent the summer teaching at his alma mater.  His stay at Morehouse was short lived because in September, 1925, he entered the University of Chicago where he pursued a master’s degree.  Five years after completing his M.A. in 1927, Nabrit became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences when he graduated from Brown University in 1932.

Sources: 
Samuel M. Nabrit Files, Heartman Collection, Texas Southern University.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Williams, Sidney (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Ambassador Sidney Williams and His Wife,
Congresswoman Maxine Waters
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sources: 
Carla Hall, “Sidney Williams’ Unusual Route to Ambassador Post,” Los Angeles Times (February 6, 1994); State Department report in the Congressional Record at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-1994-02-08/html/CREC-1994-02-08-pt1-PgS39.htm; U.S Department of State, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/williams-sidney.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

White, Joseph L. (1932-2017)

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

Joseph L. White, known as the “Father of Black Psychology,” for exposing the implicit whiteness in the field of psychology, including education, research, and professional training, was a clinical psychologist, professor, and researcher who challenged the American Psychological Association (APA) by helping to found the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) in 1968 within its ranks. White worked closely with colleagues to build a bibliography of works on black psychology; but his 1970 article for Ebony magazine, “Toward a Black Psychology,” had the most impact. It confronted the 78-year-old APA on its history of defining blacks as deviant and lacking in intelligence.  His challenge took White to the forefront of the movement for a cross-cultural psychology which focuses on the interrelationship between culture and psychological processes.

Sources: 
Anna M. Phillips, Los Angeles Times, “Joseph White pioneering black psychologist who mentors students at UC Irvine, dies at 84,” December 21, 2017; http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-joseph-white-20171130-story.htmlhttp://abcnews.go.com/amp/US/wireStory/father-black-psychology-joseph-white-dies-84-51473714; “Obituary of Dr. Joseph L. White: Trailblazing Founder of `Black Psychology,’” the new black magazine, December 21, 2017.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Danquah, J.B. (1895-1965)

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

Joseph Kwame Kyeretwei Boakye Danquah (Dankwa) was a Ghanaian lawyer, politician, and leader in that nation’s independence movement. He was born on December 18, 1895, to Emmanuel Yao Boakye and Lydia Okom Korantemaa in the town of Bepong in the Eastern Region of the Gold Coast (Ghana), then a colony of Great Britain.

Upon completion of Senior Secondary School at Begoro, he began working as a clerk for Vidal J. Buckle, a barrister-at-law in Accra, the capital city. In 1914, after passing his Civil Service Examination, Danquah became a clerk at the Supreme Court. His brother, Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, later sent him to Britain in 1921 to continue his studies.

Danquah entered the University of London in 1922 as a philosophy student and graduated in 1925.  He continued graduate studies there and in 1927 became the first West African to obtain the doctor of philosophy degree from a British University. He also passed the British Bar in 1926. While pursuing his studies, Danquah also edited the West African Students’ Union (WASU) magazine and eventually becoming the Union’s president.

Sources: 
"Dr. J. B. Danquah Profile, Ghanaweb, http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/people/person.php?ID=167; "J.B. Danquah," Encyclopædia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/J-B-Danquah; David Birmingham, Kwame Nkrumah: The Father of African Nationalism (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Holland, Endesha Ida Mae (1944-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland was born into abject poverty in Greenwood, Mississippi. She experienced extreme racism, lack of options, and little support to change her life. As a teenager she quit school, turned to prostitution and theft as a way to make it in the world she knew – a world that included being raped by a neighbor, multiple “fathers” and broken dreams.

Her first time in jail was as a teenager having dropped out of school and turned towards a life of prostitution and theft. She was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail – but this wouldn’t be the last time. She went to prison on assault and battery charges after having married, given birth, and found her husband cheating. When she was released from prison, her options were narrow and she returned to “streetwalking” – the life she knew.

This time, the man she pursued was active in SNCC. Holland pursued him all the way back to SNCC offices where she was introduced to the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Holland would go to jail many times in her future, not for streetwalking but for protesting with the Movement. One these trips included the state penitentiary with other Civil Rights activists. After thirty-three days, she was released and shortly thereafter met Dr. Jackson and Dr. King.

Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University, Antioch McGregor University

Lam, Wilfredo (1902-1982)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
La Jungla by Wilfredo Lam
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Sagua la Grande, Cuba, Wilfredo Lam personally exemplified the complex multiethnic nature of Latin America:  his father was Chinese while his mother boasted a combined African, Indian, and European cultural background.  Utilizing some of this background, Lam, through art, would explore various African and Caribbean cultural themes and exhibit his art both in the United States and in Europe.

Already at an early age, Wilfredo’s talents as an artist were becoming recognized.  By the age of 14, he had enrolled at Havana’s fine arts institution, Escuela de Bellas Artes. Two years later his work began to come into the public eye through the various exhibitions initiated by Havana’s sculptor and painters association.  During this time, Lam primarily worked in still life and landscapes.
Sources: 
Karen Juanita Carrillo, “Cuba Celebrates Birth of Wilfredo Lam,” New York Amsterdam News 98:51 (Dec. 2007); Lowery Stokes Sims, Wilfredo Lam and the International Avant-garde, 1923-1982 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002); http://www.cubanet.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

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

Juanita Millender-McDonald (1938-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1938, Juanita Millender McDonald was an educator and member of the United States House of Representatives.  She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands and a master’s degree from California State University at Los Angeles.  

Millender-McDonald taught in the Los Angeles School District, and was the editor of Images, a textbook designed to improve the self-esteem of young women.  As director of gender-equity programs for the school district, Millender-McDonald received national recognition when she served on the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.  

In 1990, Millender-McDonald became the first African-American elected to the Carson City Council.  She was elected mayor pro tem for Carson in 1991, and won a set in the California State Assembly in 1992.
Sources: 
Joe Holley, California Congresswoman Juanita-Millender-McDonald, (Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/22/AR2007042201358.html ;
Juanita Millender-McDonald, Africana: Encyclopedia of The African and African American Experience, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; Rep. Millender-McDonald, 68, dies of cancer, MSNBC (April 22 2007) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18261426/
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

Barry, Marion Jr. (1936-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Washington, Walter Edward (1915-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Walter Washington Sworn in as Mayor of
Washington D.C., 1967
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Walter Edward Washington, attorney and politician, was born in Dawson, Georgia, on April 15, 1915 to Willie Mae and William L. Washington.  After his mother’s death in 1921, Washington moved with his father to Jamestown, New York.  Washington excelled academically and athletically in the public school. His trumpeting skills in school also earned him the nickname Duke II.   In 1934, he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Washington earned his B.A. degree in 1938 and his law degree from the same institution in 1948.  While attending law school, Washington met and married Benetta Bullock.

Following law school, Washington was employed as a supervisor for the District of Columbia’s Alley Dwelling Project.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named Washington the executive director the National Capitol Housing Authority, becoming the first African American to hold that position.

Sources: 
Michael W. Williams, ed., The African-American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 1993, 1st edition): 1667; R. Kent Rasmussen, ed., The African-American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 2001, 2nd edition): 1625; Donna M. Wells, Washington History, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2004), 4-15.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

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

Garrido, Juan (c. 1480-c.1550)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Juan Guarrdo with Hernan Cortes, 1520
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

Born around 1480 in West Africa, Juan Garrido is the most prominent among the small group of African freeman who traveled to the Americas to take part in the Spanish conquest of the West Indies and Mexico in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries.  He later became an agricultural innovator and is credited with introducing wheat harvesting to the Americas.

Sources: 

Peter Gerhard, “A Black Conquistador in Mexico,” Hispanic American Historical Review 58:3 (1978); Matthew Restall, “Black Conquistadors:  Armed Africans in Early Spanish America,” The Americas 57:2 (October 2000).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Cayton, Revels (1907-1995)

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

Revels Cayton, born in Seattle, Washington, was the son of Horace and Susie Cayton, and the grandson of U.S. Senator Hiram Revels. As a highly respected labor leader, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco District Council of the Maritime Federation of the Pacific and, later, the business agent for the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.

Sources: 
Chicago Defender, November, 23, 1940, December 22, 1945; June 8, 1946; Robert A. Hill, The FBI’s Racon: Racial Conditions in the United States during World War II (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1995); San Francisco Examiner, November 7, 1995
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for African American Historical Research and Preservation (AAAHRP)

Travis, Geraldine Washington (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Montana Governor Thomas L. Judge Signing into Law
the first Bill Sponsored by Rep.
Geraldine Travis who is on the Right
Image Courtesy of Geraldine Travis
Geraldine W. Travis is the first African American elected to the Montana State Legislature House of Representatives.   She worked actively to promote civil rights for African Americans, women, and children, and to break down racial barriers in Montana from 1967 to 1989.

Geraldine Washington Travis was born in Albany, Georgia on September 3, 1931, the daughter of Joseph and Dorothy Washington.  She married Airman William Alexander Travis in Americus, Georgia in 1949 when he was stationed at nearby Turner AFB, Georgia.  William and Geraldine became parents of five children, three sons and two daughters, as they moved to various Air Force bases around the world. Geraldine Travis attended Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Sources: 
Jet Magazine, July 10, 1975; Great Falls Tribune, July 5, 1968; Ibid., November 4, 1976; Ibid., November 1980; Ibid., February 19, 2012; Ibid., March 2, 2012; Great Falls Pennant, November 9, 1974; Cascade County, MT, Abstract of Vote 1974-76.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Freeman, Richard (?-1851)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Site of Richard Freeman Saloon in Old Town San Diego
Image Ownership: Public domain

Richard Freeman, deputy city marshal and entrepreneur in the early years of San Diego, California, was born somewhere in the Eastern United States. His date of birth is unknown and so are his parents’ names. In fact, there is little information known about his life before he came to San Diego. Some historians have speculated that he may have been a fugitive slave. We do know that Freeman came to San Diego with Allan B. Light, another early black settler, in 1845, and then were the only two African American settlers to reside in what is now Old Town San Diego. At the time, San Diego was part of Mexican California, but a number of people like Freeman and Light, both of whom were born in the United States, had settled there.

Sources: 
Steve Willard and William Lansdowne, San Diego Police Department, 2005; Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California, State of California, Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Office of Historic Preservation, 1988; David J. Weber, “A Black American in Mexican San Diego,” The Journal of San Diego History, Spring 1974.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Çelikten, Ahmet Ali (1883-1969)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Believed to be the first military aircraft pilot of African descent, Ahmet Ali Çelikten (birth name ?zmirli Alio?lu Ahmed, a/k/a Arap Ahmet Ali) was born in the coastal city of Izmir (formerly Smyrna), Turkey. Some sources claim he was the grandson of a concubine slave from Nigeria; that his mother, Zenciye Emine Hanim, was a Yoruba woman, and his father, Ali Bey, was of Arab and/or Turkish and African heritage (possibly Somalian). His mixed racial ancestry was testimony to the Ottoman Empire’s participation in the slave trade that for centuries brought in non-Muslims called “Zanj” primarily from East and Central Africa. Intent on becoming a sailor, in 1904 Çelikten entered the naval military school Haddehane Mektebi (School of the Rolling Mill) whereupon completion in 1908 he was commissioned first lieutenant (Üste?men).
Sources: 
Güntay ?im?ek,“?lk siyahi pilot bir Türk'tü,” at http://www.haberturk.com/yasam/haber/1005175-ilk-siyahi-pilot-bir-turktu; “Ahmet Ali Effendi: World’s First Black Pilot in the Ottoman Muslim Empire,” at https://rasoolurrahmah.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/ahmet-ali-effendi-worlds-first-black-pilot-in-ottoman-muslim-empire/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

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

Scott, Nathan A. (1925-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
It would be difficult to find a more formidable and respected African American scholar who has had so little visibility among African American intellectuals as Nathan Alexander Scott, Jr. Born in Cleveland, Ohio on April 24, 1925, Scott finished his B.A. at the University of Michigan in 1944 and his Ph.D. in religion from Columbia University in 1953. In 1946 he was hired as dean of the chapel at Virginia Union University. From 1948 to 1955 he taught humanities at Howard University. An ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, from 1955 to 1977 Scott taught at the University of Chicago where in 1972 he was elevated to Shailer Mathews Professor of Theology and Literature. In 1976 he and his wife, Charlotte H. Scott, a business professor, simultaneously were hired as the first black tenured professors at the University of Virginia. There Scott was William R. Kenan Professor of Religious Studies and became chairman of the religious studies department in 1980.  He retired in 1990.  
Sources: 
William D. Buhrman. “A Reexamination of Nathan Scott’s Literary Criticism in the Context of David Tracy’s Fundamental Theology” Unpublished dissertation, Marquette University, 2004; Who’s Who in America (Marquis Who’s Who, 1992); Contemporary Authors (Gale Research, 1987). Vol. 20 and Directory of American Scholars  (The Gale Group, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Healy, Bishop James Augustine (1830-1900)

Vignette Type: 
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

Joplin, Scott (1867-1917)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Scott Joplin, a musician and composer of ragtime music, was born in 1867 to ex-slave parents who worked as laborers on a Texas farm.  At an early age they moved to Texarkana, on the Texas-Arkansas border, and it was here, following his mother as she cleaned the houses of white families, that Scott was exposed to the piano and learned to play.  When his talent was recognized he was formally instructed by a German music teacher.

By the 1880s Joplin was living in Sedalia, Missouri, and playing in bands from St. Louis to Chicago as a cornet player.  While in Sedalia he played piano and in 1896 enrolled in George R. Smith College, a small black institution in Sedalia, to improve his musical abilities.  In 1898 Joplin published his first ragtime composition, Original Rags.  The following year he hired a lawyer before publishing his next and most famous song, The Maple Leaf Rag.  Joplin and his attorney negotiated with publisher John Stark, a one cent royalty for every sale which provided him an income far greater than most composers of the day.  By 1902 Joplin had moved to St. Louis and published several more compositions including The Entertainer and The Ragtime Dance.
Sources: 
Michael Erlewine, All Music Guide to Jazz (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 1998); http://www.scottjoplin.org/biography.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Muse, Clarence (1889-1979)

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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: 

Rillieux, Norbert (1806-1894)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Adams, Henry [Louisiana] (1843 - ?)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Henry Adams was a Louisiana leader who advocated the emigration of southern freed blacks to Liberia after emancipation. Born a slave in Newton County, Georgia on March 16, 1843, Henry Adams was originally born as Henry Houston but changed his name at the age of seven.  His enslaved family was relocated to Louisiana in 1850 and lived there until 1861. 

Adams married a woman named Malinda during his enslavement and the couple had four children. Unlike most enslaved people, Adams and his wife were able to acquire property during the Civil War

After the war Adams moved to DeSoto Parish in Louisiana where he started a successful peddling business.  Adams eventually became a merchant but in 1866 at the age of 23 he enlisted in the U.S. Army.  Adams was discharged in September 1869 after rising to the rank of quartermaster sergeant.  Adams learned to read and write in the Army, providing him a measure of self-confidence that encouraged his leadership of other ex-slaves once he returned to civilian life.

Sources: 
Henry Adams Testimony, Senate Report 693, 46th Cong., 2nd Sess., part 2, pp. 101-111; Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South, from Slavery to the Great Migration (Harvard University Press, 2003); Neil Irvin Painter, Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction (New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moses, Ethel (c. 1908- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Actress and dancer Ethel Moses, who became a leading lady in silent and sound black films, was the daughter of well-known New York Baptist Minister W.H. Moses.  She began her show business career as a dancer in 1924, when she was cast with internationally-renowned entertainer Florence Mills in Dixie to Broadway. From 1928 to 1933, she along with her sisters, Julia and Lucia Lynn, performed as part of the Cotton Club Girls chorus line. In between performing at the Cotton Club, Moses appeared in Blackbirds (1926) and the Broadway Revival of Show Boat (1927).

Wanting to diversify her career in show business and inspired by her sister Lucia Lynn (who received short-lived acclaim for her performance in the 1927 silent film, The Scar of Shame) Moses delved into world of race films, first appearing in Oscar Micheaux’s 1935 crime drama Temptation. In 1936, Moses married Cab Calloway’s pianist Bennie Payne and continued to perform in nightclubs throughout Harlem, New York where her alluring features and enterprising personality made her one of Harlem’s most notable entertainers of her time. Moses was a fixture and sex symbol in a variety of Micheaux’s films during the late 1930s, appearing in Underworld (1937), God’s Stepchildren (1939), and Birthright (1939).

Yet, as the making of all-black cast independent films faded, Moses’ film career ended. By the beginning of the 1950s, she had retired and remarried, this time to Frank Ryan, a factory worker.  The couple settled away from the limelight in Jamaica, Long Island.

Sources: 

Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts, (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1978); Anonymous, “Cotton Club Girls,” Ebony, April 1949, Vo. 4, No. 6; Anonymous, “Parsons Pretty Daughter Chooses Stage Career,” The Pittsburgh Courier, October 4, 1924.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lawson, James (1928- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Rev. James Lawson Arrested in Nashville, 1960
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Sources: 
Henry Hampton, Steve Fayer, and Sarah Flynn, Voices of Freedom (New York: Bantam Books, 1990); Sanford Wexler, The Civil Rights Movement: An Eyewitness History (New York: Facts on File, 1993); "James Lawson Named 2005 Distinguished University Alumnus," Tennessee Tribune, December 22, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Vincent, Marjorie (1964- )

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

Marjorie Judith Vincent, the fourth African American to be crowned Miss America, was born on November 12, 1964 in Oak Park, Illinois. She was Miss America 1991. Vincent is the daughter of Lucien and Florence Vincent of Cap Haitien, Haiti. Vincent’s parents migrated to the United States in the early 1960s and Marjorie was the first of their children to be born on American soil. During her youth, Vincent attended Chicago catholic schools and took piano and ballet lessons. In the mid 1980s she entered DePaul University as a music major, eventually switching to business in her third year and graduating in 1988. The money she earned from beauty pageants enabled her to fund her education.

After failing to win twice at the state level, once as Miss North Carolina and as Miss Illinois, the third time was the charm as she became Miss Illinois 1990.  Winning at the state level allowed her to move on to the national competition in Atlantic City. During the September 1990 pageant she performed the Fantaisie-Impromptu (Op.66) by Chopin. Vincent wowed the audience with her proficiency and went on to win the crown of Miss America 1991. She succeeded another black woman, Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990. Her victory marked the first time there were back-to-back black Miss Americas.

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); Valerie Helmbreck, “Miss America’s Changing Face,” Wilmington News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) September 18, 1990; Lynn Norment, “Back- to- Back Black Miss America’s,” Ebony, December 1990, 46-49, http://www.missamerica.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Delaney, Harold (1919-1994)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 24, 1919, Harold Delaney was one of several African American scientists to work on the Manhattan Project in World War II.  The eldest child of William and Henriette Delaney, Harold had four sisters, Mildred, Gertrude, Laura, and Ethel, and a brother, William.

Delaney studied chemistry at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and earned his B.S. and M.A. degrees in 1941 and 1943, respectively. In March 1943, Delaney co-authored an article with his graduate adviser, Dr. Robert Percy Barnes, and with Dr. Victor Julius Tulane and Dr. Stewart Rochester Cooper in the Journal of Organic Chemistry, a prestigious peer-reviewed journal. Tulane and Cooper were also faculty members in the Department of Chemistry at Howard University. In November 1943, Delaney published a second article with Barnes in the Journal of the American Chemistry Society, another prestigious peer-reviewed journal.  Publication of these two articles completed the requirements for Delaney’s M.A. degree. In addition, Barnes, Tulane, and Rochester were highly productive chemistry researchers publishing several peer-reviewed journal articles.  Barnes authored approximately 40 scientific articles during his career. This is significant because peer-reviewed scientific articles are considered the “currency of science.”
Sources: 
Harry W. Greene, Holders of Doctorates Among American Negroes (Boston: Meador Publishing, 1946); Beyond Small Numbers: Voices of African American Ph.D. Chemists (Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 2005); W. Saxon, “Harold Delaney, Educator, 74 and Wife, Geraldine, Are Slain,” The New York Times, Aug 9, 1994, p B10; “Harold and Geraldine Delaney; Slain Couple Were Educators,” The Washington Post, Aug 7, 1994, p B6; K. Heise,  “Harold Delaney And Wife, Geraldine,” Chicago Tribune. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-08-11/news/9408110021_1_mr-delaney-chicago-state-university-interim-president (accessed Jul 20, 2011); "Nephew convicted of murdering his uncle, Dr. Harold Delaney, gets death sentence," Jet, FindArticles.com. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n4_v89/ai_17801936/ (accessed Jul 21, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
College of Wooster

Herman, Alexis Margaret (1947-- )

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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- )

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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

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

Cayton, Susie Revels (1870-1943)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Susie Sumner Revels, a daughter of Hiram Revels, the first U.S. Senator of African descent, arrived in Seattle, Washington from Mississippi in 1896. Her reason, she stated, during a 1936 Washington Pioneers Project interview, was "the man she was going to marry was here." He was Horace Roscoe Cayton, publisher of The Seattle Republican. The two were married on July 12, 1896.

Susie Revels Cayton soon became a leader in Seattle’s black community. She was named associate editor of The Seattle Republican and, later, contributing editor of Cayton’s Weekly. She was an active member of cultural and social organizations designed to improve the conditions of African Americans, including the "Sunday Forum," a group of black Seattleites that met on a regular basis. Along with three other black women, Susie Cayton founded the Dorcus Charity Club in response to an urgent plea to help a set of abandoned twins. The club continued its charitable work for years.
Sources: 
Ed Diaz, ed., Horace Roscoe Cayton: Selected Writings- Volumes 1-2. (Seattle: Bridgewater-Collins, 2002); Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for African American Historical Research and Preservation (AAAHRP)

Jackson, George (1941-1971)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Author George Jackson is best known for his memoir Soledad Brother, containing the letters that he wrote from prison between 1964 and 1970. George Lester Jackson was born on September 23, 1941, on the west side of Chicago, Illinois. The second of five children, Jackson’s parents provided him with a relatively stable home. After he encountered violence in a public school, his parents moved him to the St. Malachy School, a black Catholic school that he attended for ten years.

During the summers, Jackson would visit his grandmother and aunt in the rural areas of southern Illinois every summer where he developed an independent streak, learning to use firearms and hunt animals. In 1956, the Jackson family moved to Los Angeles to escape bad influences in their Chicago neighborhood.
Sources: 
George Jackson, Blood in My Eye (New York: Random House, 1972); Paul Liberatore, The Road to Hell: The True Story of George Jackson, Stephen Bingham, and the San Quentin Massacre (New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, Tristan (1984– )

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Tristan Walker at the Silicon Valley CODE2040 Office
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The Silicon Valley (California) entrepreneur Tristan Walker is best known as the founder and CEO of Walker & Company Brands Incorporated. Walker was born in the Queens area of New York City, New York, on July 5, 1984. When Walker was only three years old, his father was shot and killed, forcing his mother to work long hours at two administrative jobs and live off of welfare. Despite this difficult environment, in 2002 Walker graduated from The Hotchkiss School, a boarding school in Lakeville, Connecticut. He then began college at the State University of New York at Stony Brook where he studied economics. While at Stony Brook, Walker was a member of Phi Beta Kappa International Honor Society and a participant in the Sponsors for Education Opportunity career program. In 2005 he graduated summa cum laude as class valedictorian.

Following college, Walker enrolled in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. While there, Walker began an internship at the social media company Twitter. He later became director of Business Development at the company Foursquare, a tech company known primarily for its development of location based mobile applications.

Sources: 
Trent Gillies, “Tristan Walker aims to change the world – starting with razors,” CNBC, March 14, 2015); J. J. McCorvey, “Tristan Walker: The Visible Man,” Fast Company, November 11, 2014; J. J. McCorvey, “Tristan Walker’s Walker & Company Raises $24 Million, Scores Target Distribution Deal,” Fast Company, September 28, 2015; and Laurie Segall, “Tristan Walker’s path through Silicon Valley’s color barrier,” CNN, November 3, 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

King, John Thomas (1846-1926)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Williams, Chancellor J. (1898-1992)

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People
History Type: 
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

Wallace, Sippie (1898–1986)

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People
History Type: 
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

Moreno Zapata, Paula Marcela (1978- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
From June 2007 until August 2010 Paula Marcela Moreno Zapata served as one of the highest government officials in Colombia, the first woman of African descent and at 29 the youngest person ever to occupy a cabinet-level post in that nation.

Moreno was born on November 11, 1978 in Bogotá, District of Colombia.  Her father Armando Moreno is retired from civil service, and her mother, Maria Zényde Zapata, is a lawyer.  

Born and raised in the coastal territory of Cauca in southwestern Colombia, Moreno graduated from the Universidad Autónoma de Colombia (FUAC) in 2001, with a degree in industrial engineering.

Proficient in Italian, French, and English, Moreno received a 2004 Master of Philosophy in Management Science at the University of Cambridge in England.  Her thesis was titled “Sustainable Use of Biodiversity by Local Communities in Colombia.”
Sources: 
Paula Moreno Zapata, “The Unifier,” Americas Quarterly, 4 (Winter 2010); Yale World Fellows profile at http://worldfellows.yale.edu/paula-moreno.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

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)

Vignette Type: 
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)

Vignette Type: 
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.