Orenthal James Simpson was born July 9, 1947, in San Francisco, California. A troubled youth, poor grades and violent behavior kept Simpson from earning any college scholarship offers while attending high school. Simpson was highly recruited, however, after breaking several junior college records, and he would earn a scholarship to the University of Southern California.
In his second season at USC, Simpson set NCAA records for rushing yards in a season (1709) and carries (355) on his way to winning the national championship. Simpson won the 1968 Heisman Trophy by the largest voting margin ever.
The Buffalo Bills selected Simpson as the number one overall pick in the 1969 NFL draft. The first three NFL seasons were uneventful for the young Simpson, as coaches were hesitant to make Simpson a star. Beginning in 1972, however, Simpson’s abilities would not be ignored, as he led the league in rushing for four out of five seasons from 1972-1976. In 1973 Simpson won the NFL Most Valuable Player award while breaking the record for rushing yards in a season with 2003, and he remains the only player to rush for over 2000 yards in a fourteen game season. After he retired from professional football Simpson pursued a moderately successful acting career.
Dorothy Ehrhart-Morrison, No Mountain High Enough: Secrets of Successful African American Women (Berkeley: Conari, 1997).
Joycelyn Elders, the former U.S. Surgeon General, was born Minnie Lee Jones in Schaal, Arkansas on August 13, 1933 to Curtis and Hailer Jones; she added the name Joycelyn when she was in college. As the eldest of eight children of sharecroppers, Joycelyn Elders experienced extreme poverty in segregated rural Arkansas. At age fifteen, Elders earned a scholarship to Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1952, she received a Bachelor of Science degree and a medical degree in 1960 from Philander Smith and the University of Arkansas Medical School, respectively.
Claude Albert Barnett, entrepreneur and founder of the Associated Negro Press (1919-1967), was born in Sanford, Florida to William Barnett and Celena Anderson. At nine months he was brought to Mattoon, Illinois to live with his maternal grandmother. Barnett grew up in Illinois, attending schools in Oak Park and Chicago. In 1904 he entered Tuskegee Institute. Two years later in 1906 he received a diploma and was granted the Institute’s highest award.
Following graduation Barnett returned to Chicago and became a postal worker. Through his new employment he read numerous magazines and newspapers. Fascinated by the advertisements, in 1913 Barnett began reproducing photographs of notable black luminaries, which he sold through advertising in African American newspapers. By 1917 Barnett had transformed this endeavor into a thriving mail-order enterprise.
Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, born in Atlanta, Georgia on April 25, 1942, was a civil rights leader. Robinson, the second oldest of seven children born to Alice and John T. Smith, was raised in Atlanta’s black middleclass neighborhood of Summerhill. She graduated from Price High School in 1958 and earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Spelman College in 1965. Robinson’s exposure to racial discrimination in her city, the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins in February 1960, all influenced her to become involved in the civil rights movement.
Cynthia Griggs Fleming, Soon We Will Not Cry: The Liberation of Ruby Doris Smith Robinson (Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998). Bettye Collier Thomas, and V.P. Franklin, Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement (New York: New York University Press, 2001). Howard Zinn, SNCC, the New Abolitionists (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964); James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Washington, DC: Open Hand Publishing, 1985).
New York Times bestselling author Everette “E” Lynn Harris was born June 20, 1955, in Flint, Michigan. Openly homosexual, Harris was best known for his depictions of gay African American men who were concealing or “closeting” their sexuality. Although he did not participate in gay rights activism, Harris introduced millions of readers to the “invisible life” of gay black men.
Harris grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, with his father, Ben Odis Harris, a sanitation truck driver; his mother, Etta Mae Williams, and three sisters. Harris endured a difficult childhood as his father taunted him for wanting to become a teacher while his mother suffered physical abuse. After his parents divorced in 1970, Harris discovered and was reunited with his biological father, James Jeter. The reunion, however, was short-lived, as Jeter died in an automobile accident a year later.
Harris found refuge and success in his educational pursuits. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and was the school’s first black yearbook editor, the first black male cheerleader and president of his fraternity. He graduated with honors in 1977 with a BA in journalism.
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico to parents William and Ella Johnson, he grew up in San Bernardino, California. Johnson graduated from UC Berkeley with an A.B. in 1923 and obtained his law degree and LLD from UC Berkeley in 1929. After graduation, Johnson began his legal career in 1929 as a tax attorney and was the first African Americans hired as California State Assistant Tax Counsel. He returned to UC Berkeley in 1938 to obtain a J.S.D., a doctorate in law degree and became one of the first African Americans in the nation to hold this advanced degree. He later was recruited as a law professor at Howard University where he taught Contracts, Equity and Personal Property course.
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Tresse, Black Americans in Congress 1870-1989 (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1990); James Q. Wilson, “Two Negro Politicians: An Interpretation.” Midwest Journal of Political Science 4, November 1960: 346-69.
Captain H. Ford Douglas was born in Virginia in 1831 to a white man named William Douglas, and an enslaved mother named Mary. He escaped from slavery sometime after his fifteenth birthday, and moved to Cleveland, Ohio.
Working as a barber, the self-educated Douglas was active in the free black community of Cleveland, especially its state convention movement. His first state meeting was at Columbus in 1850, at which time Douglas was already gaining attention for his outstanding oratorical talents. He appeared at the Ohio State Convention again 1851 and 1852, arguing that African Americans would never gain equality in the United States, and advocating African American emigration. Douglas supported William Lloyd Garrison’s view that the United States Constitution was a proslavery document because it did not exclusively prohibit slavery. He claimed it was written with the intention of continuing slavery. Douglas also felt African-Americans allowed slavery to continue by remaining in the United States and making themselves subject to the U.S. Constitution.
At the 1854 National Emigration Convention, Douglas emerged as a prominent speaker with his defense of emigration. He moved to British-controlled West Canada after the convention and in 1856 became a proprietor of the Provincial Freedom, a Canadian newspaper promoting antislavery and emigrationist principles. Through the newspaper Douglas promoted Canada as a place where blacks could live under a government which protected them. He married Statira Steele in October 1857, with whom he had one child.
One of the first African American actors to receive critical acclaim, James Edwards was born in Muncie, Indiana in 1918. He majored in psychology at Knoxville College in Tennessee and continued his education at Northwestern University where he received a master’s degree in drama.
Bruce A. Douglas, “Tribute to Jimmy: Decade after death, honors coming to Muncie black actor,” The Muncie Star, March 23, 1980; Bruce A. Douglas, “Black film series to honor Muncie actor Jimmy Edwards,” The Muncie Star, April 10, 1982; Phyllis Klotman, Interview with Fred and J. C. Edwards, March 6, 1982.
King Curtis was a famous tenor sax player during the 1950s and 1960s and was known for his signature honking sound. Born in Fort Worth, Texas on February 7, 1934, with the birth name Curtis Ousley, King Curtis got his musical education in the public schools of his hometown. Curtis started out on alto sax at the age of 12 and then switched to tenor at 13. After graduating from high school, he began touring with Lionel Hampton’s jazz band. In 1952, Curtis moved to New York and began to venture out from jazz to a rising musical genre called rock and roll.
King Curtis by the late-1950s was a well-known session musician working with numerous rock and roll and rhythm and blues artists including Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Buddy Holly, and Wilson Pickett. He’s also remembered for his solo on the Coasters’ hit with “Yakety Yak” in 1958. Over his playing career as a session musician, it is estimated that King Curtis performed with over 125 jazz, pop, R&B, and rock and roll artists.
Henry E. Dabbs, Black Brass: Black Generals and Admirals in the Armed Forces of the United States (Charlottesville, Virginia: Howell Press, 1997); Duane E. Hardesty, General Roscoe Robinson, Jr.: He Overcame the Hurdle of Segregation to Become the Army's First Black General (Ft. Belvoir: Defense Technical Information Center, 1988); http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/rrobinjr.htm
Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884, Saint Elmo Brady became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in the field of chemistry when he completed his graduate studies at the University of Illinois in 1916. The eldest child of Thomas and Celesta Brady, Saint Elmo had two younger sisters, Fedora and Buszeder.
Félix Houphouet-Boigny was born near Yamoussoukro, the southern part of the Ivory Coast, on October 18, 1905. His father was a Boulé tribal chief and a wealthy cocoa farmer. At five years old Houphouet-Boigny inherited his father’s chief status and his cocoa plantation. He studied at primary and secondary school in his village and graduated as a medical assistant in Dakar, Senegal. From 1925 to 1940, Houphouet-Boigny worked in medicine throughout the Ivory Coast. By 1944, his family’s plantation was prosperous and he rose into political prominence by organizing the Syndicat Agricole Africain (SAA), a union that defended farm workers and planters’ interests. In 1945, he was elected as the Ivory Coast’s deputy to the French Constituent Assembly.
Alfred Schmitz Shadd, a black educator, physician, farmer, politician, editor and civic leader was born in Raleigh, Ontario in 1870. He was the fourth son of Garrison and Harriet Poindexter Shadd, a distinguished abolitionist family.
Shadd planned to become a doctor but trained as a teacher in Toronto and taught in Ontario for a year before pursuing medical studies at the University of Toronto. Due to limited finances, he interrupted his medical studies and resumed teaching in 1896 in the town of Kinistino, which is now in Saskatchewan but at the time was in the Northwest Territories. After a year in Kinistino, he completed his medical studies at the University of Toronto and then returned to the Northwest Territories to practice medicine.
Colin A. Thomson, Blacks in Deep Snow: Black Pioneers in Canada (Don Mills: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1979); Joseph Mensah, Black Canadians: History, Experiences, Social Conditions (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2002); “Saskatchewan’s great pioneer black doctor”, Canadian Medical Assoc., Journal (Toronto), 116 (January-June 1977).
Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes (New York: Scholastic, 1999): Jessie
Carney Smith, Black Firsts (Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003);
Tananarive Due is a contemporary novelist who interweaves powerful themes and dilemmas among African Americans into unconventional story-telling. Due was born in Tallahassee, Florida on January 5, 1966. Her parents, John and Patricia Stephens Due, met at Florida A&M and were civil rights activists. John was a prominent attorney who eventually headed Leon County's Office of Black Affairs while her mother participated in many protests and sit-ins that led to injuries and in one ins
During his rookie season, a Knicks official nicknamed Frazier, “Clyde” after the infamous 1930s bank robber Clyde Barrow. The name stuck as Frazier personified African American pride and culture in the early 1970s. His stylish dress and his cool demeanor on and off the court resembled some of the popular characters in Blaxploitation movies of the era such as John Shaft in Shaft and Priest in Superfly.
As a Knick, Frazier played in seven NBA All-Star Games and named to four All-NBA First Teams and seven NBA All-Defensive First Teams. While with the Knicks, Frazier also set team highs for points scored, games played, and assists. He led the team to its only NBA titles in 1970 and 1973.
Campbell began his career by becoming the first black newscaster to do “straight broadcasting” in Philadelphia. He was the first black member of the Radio Television News Directors Association and became Vice President of Radio News Reel Television Working Press Association.
A native of Missouri, Himes spent most of his childhood in southern towns and cities where his father taught in the mechanical departments of African American colleges. He graduated from high school in Cleveland, Ohio. After a 1928 robbery Himes spent seven and one-half years in prison. While in prison he published fiction in a number of newspapers and magazines, including Esquire. Frustrated by employment discrimination in Ohio as the United States mobilized for World War II, Himes decided to move to Los Angeles.
On January 20, 2009, with the Presidential swearing in of her husband Barack Obama, Michelle Robinson Obama became the first person of African American descent to become First Lady of the United States.
Obama is an accomplished professional with an impressive resume of her own. Outspoken, intelligent, and articulate, she can give passionate speeches, displaying warmth, charisma, and her ability to build an empathetic relationship with her audience. Early in her husband’s campaign for the Presidency, her forthright style sometimes resulted in “sound bites” which when taken out of context became controversial.
Born January 17, 1964 to Frasier Robinson, a pump operator for the city of Chicago’s water plant, and Marian Robinson, who spent much of Michelle’s childhood a homemaker, Michelle grew up on Chicago, Illinois' South Side, one of the nation’s poorest urban communities. Her parents strictly limited their children’s television viewing, and Michelle and her brother Craig were expected to take part in discussions around the family dinner table.Sources: Liza Mundy, Michelle, a Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008); Michelle Obama in Her Own Words, the Speeches 2008, compiled by Susan A. Jones; David Colbert, Michelle Obama, an American Story (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009); David Bergen Brophy, Michelle Obama: Meet the First Lady (New York: Harper Collins, 2009); Elizabeth Lightfoot, Michelle Obama, First Lady of Hope (Guilford, Connecticut: the Lyons Press, 2009) and Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope (New York: Crown Publishers, 2006); www.barackobama.com/about/michelle_obama.
Contributor: Affiliation: Independent Historian
Visual artist Lois Mailou Jones was born in 1905 in Boston, Massachusetts to Thomas Vreeland and Carolyn Dorinda Jones. Her father was a superintendent of a building and later became a lawyer, her mother was a cosmetologist. Early in life Jones displayed a passion for drawing, and her parents encouraged this interest by enrolling her in the High School of Practical Arts in Boston where she majored in art. In 1927, Jones graduated with honors from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and continued her education at the Boston Normal School of Arts and the Designers Art School in Boston.
Charles H. Rowell, “An Interview with Lois Mailou Jones.” Callaloo. 12:2 (Spring, 1989): 357 -378); Fern Gillespie, “The Legacy of Lois Mailou Jones,” Howard Magazine (Winter 1999): 8-13; Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998), http://www.phillipscollection.org/research/american_art/bios/jones-bio.htm.
Abraham Doras Shadd, the first Afro-Canadian to hold public office, was born in Wilmington, Delaware on March 2, 1801. He was the grandson of a white German soldier from Hesse Kassel, Germany and a free black woman. Shadd was free born and earned a respectable living as a shoemaker, supporting his wife and thirteen children. His passion, however, was obtaining civil rights for African Americans and later Afro-Canadians and he devoted his life to the abolitionist movement which sought the immediate end of slavery.
Colin A. Thompson, Blacks in Deep Snow (Don Mills, Ontario: J.M. Dent
& Sons, 1979); Joseph Mensah, Black Canadians (Halifax: Fernwood
The Biography Channel, Raven-Symoné Synopsis (New York, NY: Arts & Entertainment Networks, 2014), retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/raven-symon%C3%A9-21303025; Damien Croghan, Raven-Symone’s Coming Out should be Celebrated, retrieved from http://www.dailynebraskan.com/opinion/croghan-raven-symone-s-coming-out-should-be-celebrated/article_4933ebc2-1017-11e3-9f71-0019bb30f31a.html; Kimberley McLeod, ed., “Actress Raven Symone Radiates Beside Out Model AzMarie,” Elixher Magazine (September 3, 2013), retrieved from http://elixher.com/actress-raven-symone-radiates-beside-out-model-azmarie/.
Oscar Charleston was born October 14, 1896, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Growing up as a batboy for the local Indianapolis ABC’s, Charleston was a runaway who joined the Army at age 15. Stationed in the Philippines, Charleston was given the opportunity to play baseball and run track for the Army, where he ran the 220-yard dash in 23 seconds. While there, Charleston was allowed to play in the usually all-white Manila League.
Returning home in 1915, Charleston played for his hometown ABC’s. In one of many public outbursts resulting from his infamously bad temper, Charleston was suspended during his rookie season for arguing with an umpire, and was held on a $1000 bond. The next season, Charleston had a crucial role in the ABC’s Black World Series win over the Chicago American Giants, batting .360 in seven of the ten games.
After short stints with various teams from 1918-1920, Charleston would return to the ABC’s after the forming of the Negro National Leagues. In 1921, Charleston led the League in hitting (.426), triples (10), home runs (14), and stolen bases (28). Often compared to greats like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, Charleston dominated the League with his combination of hitting for both power and accuracy, his tremendous speed both in the outfield and while base running, and for his trademark intensity.
John Roy Lynch, congressman, soldier and author was born in Concordia Parish, Louisiana on September 10, 1847 to Patrick Lynch, an Irish immigrant and Catherine White, a slave. Lynch’s father died soon after his birth. Lynch and his mother were then traded to a plantation in Natchez, Mississippi. During the Civil War, Lynch became free when he fled the plantation and to serve as a cook for the 49th Illinois Volunteer Regiment.
During Reconstruction, Lynch joined the Republican Party in Mississippi. After working as assistant secretary for the Republican State Convention, Lynch became the Justice of the Peace in Natchez County, Mississippi. In November 1869 at the age of 22, Lynch was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. Three years later, in 1872 he was named Speaker of the House.
Richard Benjamin Moore, lecturer, author, political activist, and book dealer, was born in Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados, on August 9, 1893. He was born into a prosperous middle-class family, and attended James J. Lynch’s Middle Class School, a self-defined institution. His childhood experiences included very few instances of racial discrimination possibly, because of his light complexion.
Following the death of his father Richard Henry Moore, Moore and his immediate family relocated to the United States on July 4, 1909. Unknown to the Moore family, Richard Henry Moore had a number of outstanding debts, which upon his death forced their Christ Church home into foreclosure as they faced insolvency. They became some of the earliest blacks to settle in Harlem, New York, an emerging milieu of social, political, and Black Nationalist activism.
Harlem introduced Moore to the realities of European colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the injustices of Jim Crow and lynching in the American South. By his 22nd birthday Moore became a follower of Socialist and fellow West Indian émigré Hubert Henry Harrison. He became active in the 21st Assembly District Socialist Club in Harlem in 1915.
Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, was born on November 14, 1956. She is a Chicago, Illinois attorney, businesswoman, and community leader most prominently known for her role as one of the three campaign co-chairs of Barack Obama’s historic 2008 presidential campaign. Jarrett also served as co-chairperson of the Obama–Biden transition project.
Jarrett was born in Iran. Her father, Dr. James Bowman, was the director of a hospital for children in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz. He later became staff physician at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago. Her great grandfather, Robert Robinson Taylor, was the first black person to earn a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her grandfather, Robert Taylor, was the first African American to head the Chicago Housing Authority.
M.J. Stephey and Claire Suddath, “Valerie Jarrett,” Time Magazine. com, November 11, 2008; John King, “Obama Wants Valerie Jarrett to replace him in Senate,” CNN Politics.com, November 9, 2008; Douglas Belkin, “For Obama, Advice Straight Up: Valerie Jarrett is Essential Member of Inner Set,” Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2008; “Valerie Jarrett Profile,” Forbes.com, August 23, 2008; “Jodi Kanton, The New Team,” The New York Times, November 5, 2008; Liza Mundy, Michelle: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008).
Jean-Bédel Bokassa, longtime dictator and military leader of the Central African Republic, was born in Bobangui, Oubangui-Chari, French Equatorial Africa (present-day Central African Republic) on February 22, 1921. Bokassa’s father, a village chief of the Mbaka people, was murdered in November 1927 for refusing to provide labor from his village as required under French colonial rule. A week later, his mother committed suicide and Bokassa, aged 6, became an orphan. Missionnaries took in Bokassa and raised him until he joined the French colonial army in 1939, at the beginning of World War II. He then took part in the 1944 landings in Provence, France, and subsequently served with the French Army in Indochina and Algeria. A skilled soldier, Bokassa rose to the rank of captain. He also won the Legion d’Honneur, the highest French military decoration and the Croix de Guerre, which was presented to soldiers who distinguished themselves in combat.
On January 15, 2009 Roland Wallace Burris was sworn in as the U.S. Senator from Illinois. Burris's appointment made him the third African American U.S. Senator from the state and the sixth black U.S. Senator in the history of the United States. The appointment, however, was marred by controversy as he was appointed to fill the Senatorial seat of President Barack Obama by Illinois governor Rod R. Blagojevich who had been arrested for allegedly attempting to sell that seat to the highest bidder.
New York Times.com – Man in the News – Roland W. Burris,
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/31/us/31burris.html?; Politico.com – Who
is Roland Burris? http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid; Time in
Partnership with CNN, Roland Burris, http://www.time.com/time
Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr., the father of poet-playwright Joseph Seamon, Jr., distinguished himself as a playwright, poet, author, and educator. Cotter was born in Bardstown, Kentucky in 1861, but was reared in Louisville. He was one of the earliest African American playwrights to be published. His father, Michael J. Cotter, was of Scots-Irish ancestry, and his mother, Martha Vaughn, was an African American. Cotter, Sr. married Maria F.
The date of birth for Julia Ringwood Coston, one of the first black women to edit a magazine, is unknown. We do know that she was named after Ringwood farm in Warrenton, Virginia, where she was born. While she was still an infant, Ringwood moved to Washington D.C. with her family and attended public schools there. She had almost completed school when her mother died and she was forced to withdraw.
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.
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.
Pioneer jazz musician Freddie Keppard was one of the most famous cornet players of the early 20th Century. Born February 27, 1890 in New Orleans, Keppard came from a musical family which included his brother Louis Keppard, who also became a professional musician playing the piano and tuba. Freddie Keppard began his musical career with the mandolin, followed by the violin, accordion, and finally finding his passion with the cornet. At the age of 16 he organized the Olympia Orchestra to showcase his talents and perform throughout New Orleans.
Keppard became part of the migration of Creole jazz musicians to the West Coast in the first two decades of the 20th Century. After traveling to Los Angeles, he founded the Original Creole Orchestra in 1912. The Orchestra introduced New Orleans jazz to a wider audience and quickly became one of the most popular acts on the West Coast. By 1919 it had a following in large cities across the United States. As his popularity rose, the Victor Talking Machine Company eventually offered Keppard the chance to be one of the first to record the new jazz sound. Keppard refused the recording offer saying he was fearful people would “steal his stuff.”
The first person of African descent, male or female, to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics was Vonetta Flowers when she won gold in the women's bobsled event in 2002 at Salt Lake City.
http://www.vonettaflowers.com; Vonetta Flowers with W. Terry Whalin, Running on Ice: The Overcoming Faith of Vonetta Flowers (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2005).
Winnie Mandela is the former wife of South African President Nelson Mandela and former leader of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League. Born in the village of eMbongweni in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province in 1936, Mandela travelled throughout South Africa during her youth and managed to attend school despite strict apartheid measures. She earned a degree in social work from the Jan Hofmeyer School in Johannesburg, and despite the opportunity to continue her studies in America, accepted a position as a social worker at the Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, where she was the first qualified black medical social worker. She eventually studied at the University of Witwatersrand, and earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations.
Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. is often described as one of America’s most important contemporary mathematicians. At 13, he became the University of Chicago’s youngest student. Wilkins continued his studies there, earning bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees in mathematics. When he finished his Ph.D. at 19, he was hailed by the national press as a “negro genius.”
Wilkins was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 27, 1923 to Lucile Beatrice Robinson Wilkins who held a master's degree and taught in the Chicago Public School system. His father, J. Ernest Wilkins, a prominent attorney, was assistant Secretary of Labor during the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration.
After completing his Ph.D., Wilkins taught mathematics for one year at Tuskegee Institute (1943-1944) before being recruited to work at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago where he contributed to the Manhattan Project. Wilkins worked there between 1944 and 1946.
Henry “Hank” Johnson Jr. represents Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. The district includes DeKalb County, where Johnson has lived and worked for the past several decades, as well as parts of Gwinnett and Rockdale Counties. Johnson is a Democrat, and one of the first two Buddhists elected to the United States Congress.
Johnson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1954. His father worked for the Bureau of Prisons, where his position as director of classifications and paroles was the highest ever held in the Bureau by an African American up to that time. Johnson received his undergraduate degree from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1976 and his law degree from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 1979.
Frederick Randolph Moore, a political activist and journalist, was born in 1857 to his slave mother and white father in Virginia. While Moore was still very young, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Moore attended public schools and to make money, sold newspapers on street corners.
Kenyatta was born under the name Kamau to Kikuyu parents in the town of Gatundu, Kiambu district around 1894 (the exact date of his birth is unknown). His parents died while he was young, and he then moved to Muthiga to live with his grandfather where he enrolled in the Church of Scotland’s Thogoto mission school, converted to Christianity, and was baptized as Johnstone.
Kenyatta left Thogoto in 1922 and became a clerk and water-meter reader with the Municipal Court of Nairobi. He became involved with the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA) in 1925 and resigned from his government post that same year. In 1928 Kenyatta became secretary general of the KCA and editor of its vernacular Kikuyu newspaper, Muiguithania (The Reconciler).
Keith Kyle, The Politics of the Independence of Kenya (Houndmills: MacMillan Press Ltd., 1999); Godrey Muriuki, “Kenya: Kenyatta, Jomo: Life and Government of,” in Encyclopedia of African History, ed. Kevin Shillington (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005).
Lieutenant General Frank E. Peterson Jr., the first black general in the U.S. Marine Corps, was born in 1932 in Topeka, Kansas. He earned his Bachelor of Science in 1967. He received a Master’s in International Affairs in 1973. Both degrees came from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He also attended the Amphibious Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia and the National War College in Washington, D.C.
Frank Peterson joined the Navy as an electronics technician in 1952. Motivated by the story of Jesse Brown, the Army aviator who was shot down and killed over North Korea, Peterson applied for and was accepted into the Naval Aviation Cadet Corps. In 1952 Peterson completed his training with the Corps and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He became the first black pilot in the Marine Corps.
Henry E. Dabbs, Black Brass: Black Generals and Admirals in the Armed
Forces of the United States (Charlottesville, Virginia: Howell Press,
1997); Jessie Carney Smith, Black Firsts (Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink
Press, 2003); Jonathan Sutherland, African-Americans at War (Santa
Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004).
Sammy Davis Jr. was born on December 8, 1925 in Harlem, New York. His parents, Sammy Davis Sr., an African American, and Elvera Sanchez, a Cuban American, were both vaudeville dancers. They separated when young Davis was three years old and his father took him on tour with a dance troupe led by Will Mastin. Davis joined the act at a young age and they became known as the Will Mastin Trio. It was with this trio that Davis began a lucrative career as a dancer, singer, comedian, actor, and a multi-instrumentalist.
During World War II Davis joined the army, where he for the first time confronted racial prejudice. In the service he joined an integrated entertainment Special Services unit, and found that while performing the crowd often forgot the color of the man on stage.
Elaine Jones, the first woman to administer the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Education Fund (NAACP-LDF), was born in Norfolk, Virginia on March 2, 1944, the daughter of a railroad porter and a school teacher. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1965 and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1970, becoming the first African American to graduate from that school.
After graduation Jones turned down a job offer with a Wall Street (New York) law firm to join the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, earning thirty percent less than she had been offered by the other firm. The LDF was founded in 1940 by Jones’s mentor and former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to provide legal assistance to the nation’s Civil Rights Movement. It became independent of the NAACP in 1957.
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Born December 9, 1579 in Lima, Peru, St. Martin de Porres is best known for his charitable work. His piety allowed him access to the Dominican order of his country, and his acts of compassion for the sick became part of the justification for his canonization as the first black saint of the Americas.
Fathered by a Spaniard of noble birth, Don Juan de Porres, and born of an emancipated American black slave living in Panama, Anna Velasquez, Martin de Porres’ fair-mindedness and empathy became discernible traits at an early age.
Educated for a time in Santiago de Guayaquil, de Porres returned to Lima and by 1591 had become an apprentice to a surgeon/barber. Upon gaining knowledge of medicine, de Porres began applying his skills in healing the sick and infirmed. His work with the underclasses of Lima culminated with his decision to apply as a helper to the Convent of the Most Holy Rosary, a Dominican community. Because of his racial background, he wasn’t immediately offered the holy habit but was promoted to distributing alms, attracting large sums of donations to support his work in a Dominican infirmary. It was here where de Porres’ reputation as a “miracle healer” began.
J. W. Seabrook, “Review of Meet Brother Martin!” The Journal of Negro History, 26:4 (October, 1941); Gayle Murchison, “Mary Lou Williams’s Hymn Black Christ of the Andes (St Martin de Porres): Vatican II, Civil Rights, and Jazz as Sacred Music,” The Musical Quarterly, 86:4 (2002).
Jamaican-born Ferdinand Christopher Smith became a prominent twentieth century international labor activist and leader. At an early age Smith left Jamaica’s poor economic conditions in search of work as a migrant laborer. He spent five years in Panama, where he worked as a hotel steward and a salesman. After WWI he moved to Cuba and by 1920 was working as a ship’s steward.
In the 1920s, impressed by their commitment to racial issues, Smith joined the Communist-led Marine Workers Industrial Union. Although maritime workers faced oppressive working conditions including high rates of disease, low wages, poor rations, and unventilated quarters, they had virtually no union representation aboard ships. This began to change as part of the New Deal’s support of labor unions. In 1936 Smith supported the strike against West Coast shippers. When maritime strikes spread to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Smith became one of the nine members of the national strike Strategy Committee.
James D. Lynch, a Reconstruction era politician, is best known for his position as Secretary of the State of Mississippi from 1869 to 1872. Lynch was the first African American to hold a major political office in that state. Born in 1838 in Baltimore, Maryland, his father was white merchant and minister and his mother was a slave.
Lynch received an early education at an elementary school taught by the Reverend Daniel Payne of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, and was then send to Meriden, New Hampshire to attend the Kimball Union Academy. After studying for only two years he moved to Indianapolis and began preaching at a small church in the town of Galena, Indiana.
After the Civil War, Lynch joined other religious missionaries in South Carolina. As an official of the Methodist Episcopal Church, North, he helped establish churches and schools for African American adults and children between 1865 and 1866.
Lynch eventually turned to politics believing that the freedmen’s political rights equally important as the development of their religious faith. In 1867 he was elected the Vice President of the first Republican State Party Convention in Mississippi. By 1869 he had become the most prominent African American politician in Mississippi and, after his nomination by the Republican Party and an exhaustive campaign; Lynch was elected Secretary of State.
James Madison Bell, poet, orator and activist was born in Gallipolis, Ohio on April 3, 1826. Bell lived in Ohio most of his life although he briefly resided in Canada and California before eventually returning to Ohio. When Bell was 16 he moved to Cincinnati to live with his brother-in-law George Knight who taught him the plastering trade. Knight and Bell were talented plasterers who in 1851 were awarded the contract to plaster the Hamilton County public buildings.
On November 9, 1847, Bell married Louisiana Sanderlin. The couple eventually had seven children and lived in Cincinnati until 1854 when they moved to Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Chatham was a major destination for the Underground Railroad, and while there Bell became involved in abolitionist activities and later returned to Cincinnati to continue his antislavery work.
Although he supported himself primarily as a plasterer, Bell soon became known for his speeches and poems which he used in the campaign against slavery. His most famous poem, “The Day and the War,” was read at Platt’s Hall in Cincinnati in January 1864 for the Celebration of the first Anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Bell dedicated “The Day and the War” to friend and fellow abolitionist John Brown who was executed in 1859 for his role in the raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
Eric H. Holder, Jr., U.S. Attorney General since 2009, was born on January 21, 1951 in the Bronx, New York to parents of Barbadian descent, Eric, a real estate agent and Miriam Holder, a telephone operator. Holder was raised in East Elmhurst, Queens, a community which included a number of famous African Americans such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier. Civil rights activist Malcolm X lived two blocks from young Holder and on one occasion in 1964, then recently crowned heavy weight champion Muhammad Ali entertained him and other community children on the steps of the Malcolm’s house.
Holder graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War protests and Black Power movement, he entered Columbia University where he participated in sit-ins by African American students. Holder also played collegiate basketball and became co-captain of his team. In 1973, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in U.S. history from Columbia and then entered Columbia University Law School, earning a J.D. in 1976. While in law school Holder served as a law clerk for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP-LDF).
Glenn Thrush, “The Survivor: How Eric Holder Outlasted his Many Critics”
(July/August 2014). Found in
and http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/us/politics/11holder.html?_r=1; Michael D. Schear, "Holder Resigns, Setting Up Fight over Successor," New York Times, September 26, 2014, p. 1.
Curt Flood, The Way It Is (New York: Trident, 1971); Brad Snyder, A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports (New York: Viking, 2006); Curt Flood and the Reserve Clause" in Cynthia Rose, ed., American Decades Primary Sources, Vol. 8, (Detroit: Gale, 2004).
Wesley Brown earned distinction in 1949 as the first African American to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. Wesley Brown grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Dunbar High School. A “voracious reader,” Brown joined the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to study his history and heritage. At Dunbar, Brown was a member of the Cadet Corps and worked evenings as a youth mailman at the Navy Department. Brown was nominated by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a New York Congressman, for appointment into the Naval Academy and was accepted.
Wesley Brown began classes in 1945 and voluntarily decided to room alone. “I wasn’t sure I wanted them to share my burden,” he said. He faced racism in the first year, picking up 140 out of a possible 150 demerits, but as his education continued found that many were “supportive and protective” of him.
Veteran actress Juanita Moore is fondly remembered for her tear-jerking role of Annie Johnson in Douglas Sirk’s 1959 remake of Imitation of Life. Moore was a groundbreaking actress best known for her role as Lana Turner's character's black friend in the film. In 1960 she became only the fifth African American nominated for an Oscar. The nomination was based on her role in Imitation of Life.
Born in Los Angeles, California in 1922, Moore graduated with a degree in drama from Los Angeles City College and moved to New York where she began her show business career as a nightclub singer and dancer and eventually worked as a chorus girl in New York's famed Cotton Club.
Moore eventually traveled abroad, performing in top European clubs, including the London Palladium and the Moulin Rouge in Paris, France before embarking on her film career in late 1949, making her debut as an un-credited nurse in the race-conscious film Pinky. In the early 1950s she worked in Los Angeles's Ebony Showcase, a leading black-run theater. Later in the decade she was a member of the celebrated Cambridge Players which included other up-and-coming black performers such as Esther Rolle.
Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia, (New York: Harper Collins, 1994); James R. Parish, Hollywood Character Actors, (New Rochelle, NY, Arlington House Publishers, 1978); Roy Pickard, The Oscar Stars From A-Z, (London, England: Headline Book Publishing, 1996); Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts, (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1978).
Rodney E. Slater, former cabinet member, attorney, and state government official, was born in Marianna, Arkansas, on February 23, 1955. In 1977, Slater graduated from Eastern Michigan University. He earned his law degree in 1980 from the University of Arkansas.
In 1980, Slater became the Assistant Attorney General for the litigation division for Arkansas’s Attorney General’s Office. From 1983 to 1987, Slater served as Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s executive assistant for Economic and Community Programs and then as the Special Assistant for Community and Minority Affairs. In 1987, Clinton appointed Slater to the Arkansas Highway Commission. Slater also held other positions in the state of Arkansas such as Director of Governmental Relations at Arkansas State University and was a special liaison for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Slater as the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Slater’s effectiveness in that position catapulted him into the position of Secretary of Transportation in 1997. As Secretary, he oversaw transportation projects between federal and state governments.
BNET, The activists: John W. Rogers Jr. <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m 1365/is_7_38/ai_n24360086>; John W. Rogers Jr. Biography. 1958- Investor, business executive. <a href="http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2767/Rogers-John-W-Jr.html">John W. Rogers Jr. Biography; Who Runs GOV. John W. Rogers Jr. <http://www.whorunsgov.com /Profiles/John_W._Rogers_Jr.
Ewart Guinier, labor activist and political candidate, was the first chairman of Harvard University’s Afro-American Studies Department. Born in Panama in 1910, Guinier migrated to the United States in 1925 and attended high school in Boston, Massachusetts. After his acceptance into the Harvard University Class of 1933, Guinier was denied a scholarship because he allegedly did not submit a photograph with his application and because of his race he was not permitted to reside in the all-white dormitories. Guinier nonetheless started classes at Harvard but dropped out in 1931 due to the high tuition costs. He transferred to the City University of New York where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1935. He later received his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1939 and his law degree from New York University in 1959.
Ralph Metcalfe, was an outstanding U.S. sprinter, track coach, and politican born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in Chicago, Illinois. During Metcalfe’s years as a student at Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 1932 through 1934, he was arguably the world’s fastest human. His strong finishes earned him four Olympic medals (gold, 2 silver, and bronze), eight Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles, and six National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles from 1932 through 1936. Perhaps Metcalfe’s most interesting moments in track were not his wins but his virtual dead heat second place finishes in the 100 meter dash at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles, California and Berlin, Germany to rivals Eddie Tolan and Jesse Owens, respectively.
Roscoe Dunjee was a prolific journalist and civil rights activist. He was the son of Rev. John William Dunjee, a Baptist minister, and Lydia Ann Dunjee. Although his father was born in Jefferson County, West Virginia, Roscoe worked for various African American newspapers in Oklahoma while attending Langston University.
In 1915, Dunjee founded his own newspaper in Oklahoma City entitled the Black Dispatch which became one of the most prominent black newspapers in America. Throughout his life, in the Black Dispatch Dunjee wrote confrontational editorials attacking the institution of Jim Crow, encouraged African Americans to vote and fight for their Civil Rights, and named his paper the Black Dispatch because whites had degraded the term to refer to African Americans as gossipers and liars. Dunjee chose to invert the term “black dispatch” as something honorable concerning the image of African Americans.
Plaintiff for a landmark Supreme Court case, Homer A. Plessy was born on March 17, 1863 in New Orleans. He was a light-skinned Creole of Color during the post-reconstruction years. With the aid of the Comité des Citoyens, a black organization in New Orleans, Homer Plessy became the plaintiff in the famous Plessy v. Ferguson case decided by the US Supreme Court in May 1896. The decision established the “separate but equal” policy that made racial segregation constitutional for the next six decades.
In order to challenge the 1890 Louisiana statute requiring separate accommodations for whites and blacks, Homer Plessy and the Comité des Citoyens used Plessy’s light skin to their advantage. On June 7, 1892 Plessy bought a first class ticket on the East Louisiana Railway. He took a vacant seat in a coach reserved for white passengers. When Plessy was ordered to leave, he disobeyed. Policemen arrived and threw Plessy off the train and arrested him and threw him into jail. He was charged with violating the Louisiana segregation statute of 1890.
Colonel Stephen Blucke led an all-black Regiment that fought for the British during the American Revolution. He settled in Birchtown, Nova Scotia in 1783 and became a leader in the Black Loyalist community.
During the Revolutionary War, the most famous of the Black Loyalist Military units were called the Black Pioneers, which contained a small elite band of guerrillas known as the Black Brigade. The Black Brigade fought independently and later with the all-white unit Queen’s Rangers. The supplies they seized were vital to the survival of the Loyalists in New York. In a raid on a patriot militia leader, the Brigade and leader Colonel Tye were caught in a long battle. Their target was burned after Tye’s death and Blucke – a literate, free black from Barbados and officer in the Black Pioneers – succeeded Tye as Colonel of the Brigade.
Joseph Mensah, Black Canadians: History, Experiences, Social Conditions (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2002); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution (Toronto: Penguin Group, 2006); http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/023001-2125-e.html.
Lieutenant General Julius Wesley Becton Jr. was born on June 29, 1926 to Julius and Rose Becton in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. His father worked as a janitor in their apartment building. His mother was a housekeeper and laundress. In December 1943, Julius Becton joined the Army Air Corps Enlisted Reserves. After graduating high school in 1944, Becton joined the active army. It was Becton’s hope that he would become a pilot but was ruled ineligible because of astigmatism.
Though the Army was segregated in 1944, Officer Candidate School was not. Julius Becton and sixteen other African American candidates completed OCS in 1945 and were commissioned as second lieutenants. Shortly after his commissioning, Lt. Becton was assigned to serve in the Philippines.
Upon his return from the Philippines, Becton left the army and attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In 1948, after President Harry S. Truman had desegregated the military, Becton was accepted for active duty once again and remained in the Army until 1983. During that period he saw combat duty in Korean and Vietnam. He was also stationed in Germany, the Philippines, France, the Southwest Pacific, and `Japan during his service. Steadily moving up the ranks, in 1972, Becton was promoted to Brigadier General.
Lt. General Julius W. Becton Jr., Becton: Autobiography of a Soldier and Public Servant (Annapolis, MD: Naval
Institute Press, 2008); Clyde McQueen, The Black Army Officer
(Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2008); Henry E. Dabbs, Black Brass:
Black Generals and Admirals in the Armed Forces of the United States
(Charlottesville, Virginia: Howell Press, 1997); Jessie Carney Smith,
Black Firsts (Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003).
Edward Rose, also known by the names Five Scalps, Nez Coupe and “Cut Nose,” was the son of a white trader father and a Cherokee and African American mother. Little else is known about his early life including where he was born. He may have spent some years working on the Mississippi River between southern Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana.
A successful business owner and real estate investor, Charles Owens became one of the most prominent African Americans in Los Angeles by the end of the nineteenth century. Born into slavery in Texas, Charles’s father, Robert Owens, purchased his family’s freedom and migrated to Los Angeles, California in 1850.
The widow of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King became a forceful public figure and important leader in the civil rights movement. She made numerous contributions to the struggle for social justice and human rights throughout her life.
Coretta Scott was born the second of three children to Obadiah Scott and Bernice McMurray Scott in Heiberger, Alabama on April 27, 1927. She spent her childhood nearby on a farm owned by her family since the Civil War. During the Depression, Coretta and her siblings picked cotton in order to help support the family. This appeared to be the beginning of her determination to further her education.
“Coretta Scott King, 78, Widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dies” The New York Times (31 January 2006); Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King Jr. (New York: Holt, 1969; rev.ed., Henry Holt, 1993); http://www.civilrightsleader.com/coretta_scott_king.htm.
Didier Yves Drogba Tebily, international soccer star, was born March 11, 1978 in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). His early childhood was spent in poverty. In an attempt to improve their son’s life, Didier’s parents sent him to France when he was just 5 years old to live with his uncle Michel Goba, an international soccer player also from the Ivory Coast. After a short three year stint in France, Didier returned to the Ivory Coast to live with his parents. But his stay would be short lived due to struggles at home. Both his parents had lost their jobs, so once again to escape poverty Didier moved to France to live with his uncle in the suburbs of Paris in 1991. In 1993 his parents followed Didier to France allowing the 15 year old to reunite with his family.The traveling over much of the course of his youth was difficult on Didier, but his hard times would become easier with the assistance of soccer.
Guy Bluford, a member of the SDS-8 space shuttle Challenger crew in 1983, was the first African American in space. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bluford was interested in math and science and knew he wanted to work in aerospace engineering before graduating high school. His high school counselor suggested that college was not for him. Refusing the advice, Bluford became the only black engineering student at Pennsylvania State University in 1960. Undaunted, he graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering in 1964 and went through pilot training at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona where he received his pilot wings one year later. Before being sent to Vietnam in 1967, Bluford felt the sting of racial discrimination when his family was denied housing on base. He flew 144 combat missions with the 557th Squadron in Vietnam.
After serving his tour of duty in Vietnam, Bluford worked as a flight instructor at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas and started graduate studies at the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1972. He received a M.S. in aerospace engineering in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 1978. The same year, he was one of the thirty-five selected for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut training program out of 10,000 applicants.
Alfred Phelps Jr., They Had a Dream: The Story of African American
Astronauts (Novato: Presidio, 1994); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry
Louis Gates Jr., eds. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African
American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Juanita Long Hall, a 20th Century actor and singer, was born in Keyport, New Jersey on Nov. 6, 1901 to an African-American father, Abram Long, and an Irish American mother, Mary Richardson. Raised by maternal grandparents, Long attended New York City, New York’s Juilliard School of Music. While a teenager, she married Clement Hall, who died in 1920s. The couple had no children.
Hall’s early career was in singing and choir directing. From 1935 to 1944 she directed the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Chorus. From 1941 to 1942 she also directed the Westchester (New York) Chorale and Dramatics Association. In the early 1940s she led the Juanita Hall Choir, which performed on radio with Rudy Vallee and Kate Smith and in 1949 the Juanita Hall Choir performed in the film Miracle in Harlem.
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Fred Lockley, “The Case of Robin Holmes vs. Nathaniel Ford,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 23:2 (June 1922):111-137; Elizabeth McLagan, A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940 (Portland: Georgian Press, 1980).
Keith Ellison was born on August 4, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan. He was raised Catholic in a middle class family which included five sons. His father was a psychiatrist and his mother was a social worker. Since childhood Ellison was involved with the civil rights movement and even worked with his grandfather in Louisiana for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
In 1981 Ellison graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy. Six years later he graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit with a B.A. in economics. While attending Wayne State University, Ellison converted from Catholicism to Islam. After graduation Ellison attended the University of Minnesota Law School. In 1990 he graduated with a degree of Juris Doctor.
Ellison began his professional career at the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist and Vennum. He worked there for three years as a litigator specializing in criminal defense, civil rights, and employment. After leaving Lindquist and Vennum Ellison became executive director of the nonprofit Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis. He then returned to private practice by joining Hassan & Reed where he specialized in trial practice.
Martiga Lohn, “Islamic Convert Wins House Nomination,” The Associated Press, September 14, 2006; Frederic J. Frommer, “Rep. Ellison Wants Forces Out of Iraq,” The Associated Press, January 10, 2007; Congressional Biography:
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.
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).
On December 1, 2005, Mark Mallory was sworn in as the first black mayor elected by popular vote in Cincinnati, Ohio. Three other black mayors preceded him but were chosen by the City Council. Born on April 2, 1962, and raised on the West End of Cincinnati, Mallory attended high school at the city’s Academy of Math and Science and earned a BS in administrative management from the University of Cincinnati in 1984. Before becoming Mayor of Cincinnati, Mallory replaced his father, William L. Mallory Sr., in 1994 in the Ohio General Assembly. In 1998 Mark Mallory was elected to the Ohio Senate eventually becoming the assistant minority leader.
Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr is the founder of Doley Securities, LLC, the oldest African American owned investment banking firm in the nation. Doley is the only African American to have owned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
Born on March 8, 1947 Harold Doley was one of two boys born to Harold, Sr., a grocer and Kathryn Doley in New Orleans, LA. The Doley family has lived in Louisiana since 1720. The Doley’s had been free people before the Civil War and enjoyed the relatively liberal racial atmosphere of New Orleans as compared to other parts of the Southern United States. Nonetheless they were always well aware of the disadvantages they faced. Amb. Doley attended segregated schools in the Louisiana area before matriculating at Xavier University in New Orleans where he majored in Accounting and Business Administration and started an investment club. He graduated from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business’s Owner/President Management Program an Executive Education Program.
Bernard Anthony Harris Jr. is a scientist, surgeon, astronaut, entrepreneur, and leader. He is best known for having been the first African American to walk in space, and developing the non-profit known as the Harris Foundation.