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Prioleau, George (1856-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Prioleau was chaplain of the 9th Cavalry of Buffalo Soldiers in the late 19th century. After witnessing inequality and mistreatment of his men, he publicly challenged the hypocrisy and racial line being drawn against black soldiers.

Born in 1856 to slave parents in Charleston, South Carolina, Prioleau earned his theology degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio. He was a teacher and served as an A. M. E. pastor and denominational leader for Ohio congregations, and in 1889 he became professor of theology and homiletics at Wilberforce. Six years later, President Grover Cleveland appointed him to replace Henry Plummer as chaplain of the 9th Cavalry, U. S. Army, with a rank of captain.

In 1898 upon the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, the 9th Cavalry left the western United States for the first time in its history and was deployed to bases in Georgia and Florida for military activities in Cuba and the Caribbean.  Chaplain Prioleau was eager for an opportunity for African American soldiers to prove themselves on the field of battle, but he became ill with malaria and was unable to travel to Cuba with the rest of the 9th. Upon recovering from his illness, he served as a recruitment officer in the segregated South. While there, Prioleau was shocked by the racism the 9th faced on a daily basis.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Glasrud and Michael N. Searles, Buffalo Soldiers in the West: A Black Soldiers Anthology (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2007); Frank N. Schubert, Voices of the Buffalo Soldier: Records, Reports, and Recollections of Military Life in the West (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2003); Irene K. Schubert and Frank N. Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004); Richard R. Wright, Jr., Centennial Encyclopedia of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Philadelphia, PA: A. M. E. Church, 1916); Anthony L. Powell, “An Overview: Black Participation in the Spanish-American War,” The Spanish American War Centennial Website http://www.spanamwar.com/AfroAmericans.htm; “History of Bethel A.M.E. Church,” http://www.bethelamela.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46:history-of-bethel&catid=34:history&Itemid=59.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Reed, Judy W. (c. 1826- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Listing for J.W. Reed's Patent in the U.S. Patent Office Records
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Little is known about Judy W. Reed, considered to be the first African American woman to receive a United States patent.

In January of 1884, Reed applied for a patent on her “Dough Kneader and Roller.” The application was for an improved design on existing dough kneaders. Reed’s device allowed the dough to mix more evenly as it progressed through two intermeshed rollers carved with corrugated slats that would act as kneaders. The dough then passed into a covered receptacle to protect the dough from dust and other particles in the air.

On September 23, 1884, Reed received Patent No. 305,474 for her invention. There is no record of her life beyond this document.

Since women sometimes used their first and/or middle initials when signing documents, often to disguise their gender, and patent applications didn’t require the applicant to indicate his or her race, it is unknown if there are earlier African American women inventors before Reed.


Sources: 
B. Zorina Khan, The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920 (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Patricia Carter Sluby, The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Adams, John Quincy ["J. Q."] (1848-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Educator, newspaper publisher and politician John Quincy Adams is best known as the editor of the Western Appeal/The Appeal of St. Paul, Minnesota. He held the position from 1886 to 1922.

John Quincy Adams was born free in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 4, 1848, to the Reverend Henry and Margaret Priscilla Adams (née Corbin). He was one of four children. Adams attended private academies in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and Yellow Springs, Ohio, and graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio. He then moved to Arkansas where he taught in schools in Little Rock before taking a position assisting his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, who was Arkansas’ Superintendent of Public Instruction. Between 1870 and 1876 he also was involved in Republican Party politics and served as Engrossing Clerk in the state senate and as Deputy Commissioner of Public Works.

Between 1876 and 1886 Adams lived in Louisville, Kentucky, where he taught school and was engaged in Republican Party politics at the state and national levels, serving as Ganger and Storekeeper in the United States Revenue Service. He lost that appointment with the election of Grover Cleveland in 1884. During that period, he and his brother Cyrus Field Adams published the weekly Louisville Bulletin between1879 and 1886. In 1880 Adams was responsible for convening the first Colored National Press Convention and was elected its first president, a position that he held for two years.
Sources: 
The Appeal (St. Paul), September 16, 1922, 1-2; David V. Taylor, “John Quincy Adams: St. Paul Editor and Black Leader,” Minnesota History 43:8 (Winter 1973); David V. Taylor, “The Blacks,” in June D. Holmquist, ed., They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State's Ethnic Groups (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1981); I. Garland Penn, The Afro-American Press and Its Editors (Springfield, Massachusetts: Willey and Company, 1891).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ashe, Arthur (1943-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Arthur Robert Ashe Jr., legendary tennis player, human rights activist, and educator, was born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Arthur Sr. and Mattie Cunningham Ashe.  At the age of four, he began playing tennis at Brook Field, a black-only park where his father worked as caretaker.
Sources: 
ArthurAshe.org, http://www.arthurashe.org/; Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersand, Days of Grace: A Memoir (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993); Herbert G. Ruffin, “Arthur Ashe” in Matthew Whitaker, Icons of Black America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2011); Richard Steins, Arthur Ashe: A Biography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Northup, Solomon (1808- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Solomon Northup in his Plantation Suit,
Illustration from the Book, Twelve Years a Slave
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Solomon Northup was a free black man who was illegally held in bondage for twelve years before he regained his freedom.  Northup was born to free parents in Minerva, New York in 1808. Little is known of his mother other than she was born a free mulatto.  His father Mintus Northup, an emancipated slave, was a farm owner, voted in local elections, and valued education for his sons, Solomon and elder brother Joseph.

On December 25, 1829 Solomon Northup married Anne Hampton and the couple had three children:  Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. The Northup family sold the family farm and moved to Glens Falls, New York where he worked numerous seasonal jobs around their county of residence.  His wife also contributed to the family’s income as a part-time cook at various taverns in rural New York State.  Northup eventually gained a reputation as a brilliant violinist who entertained large audiences throughout rural New York.

Sources: 
Solomon Northup. Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841 and Rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana (Buffalo: Derby, Orton, and Mulligan, 1853); David Fiske, Solomon Northup: His Life Before and After Slavery. (Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2012); Michael Cipley. “Escape From Slavery Now a Movie, Has Long Intrigued Historians,” New York Times. (September 23, 2013). B4.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Eastern Kentucky University

Flowers, Ruth Cave (1902-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Colorado Springs in 1902, Ruth Cave began her notable career in unpromising circumstances.  Her parents were divorced before she was born, and her mother died when she was 11, leaving Ruth and her sister Dorothy in the care of her 60 year old grandmother, Minnesota Waters in Cripple Creek, Colorado.  Ruth, her sister and her grandmother lived and worked in Boulder Colorado from 1917 to 1924.  

In 1924, Ruth Cave became one of the first African American women to graduate from the University of Colorado.  However, discrimination prevented her from finding a position in the West, and she was forced to leave Boulder for the segregated South to find a teaching job.  She taught French and Latin at Claflin College in South Carolina from 1924-28, returning to Boulder in 1929-30 to care for her grandmother and get an M.A. from the University of Colorado in French and Education.  She then moved to Washington, D.C. and taught at Dunbar High School from 1931 to 1945.  While there she attended Robert F. Terrell Law School at night and received her law degree in 1945.  
Sources: 
Susan Armitage, “The Mountains Were Free and We Loved Them,” in Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, eds., African American Women Confront the West (Norman:  University of Oklahoma Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Washington University

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

Withers, John Lovelle, II (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 2007, Ambassador John L. Withers II, a second generation diplomat, was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to serve as ambassador to Albania. Withers was born in 1948 in Guilford, North Carolina, to John L. Withers, Sr. and Daisy P. Withers.
Sources: 

U.S. Department of State, “John Withers II,” http://m.state.gov/md116125.htm; Los Angeles Times, “U.S. ambassador to Albania cleared in ammo cover-up,”  http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/19/nation/na-diplomat-cleared19; Besar Likmeta, “WikiLeaks, Corruption Lost Albania Millions in Aid,” in BalkanInsight, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-lost-millions-of-us-aid-due-to-corruption.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Douglass, Anna Murray (c. 1813-1882)

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

Hamilton, Lewis (1985– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Formula 1 race car driver Lewis Hamilton was born January 7, 1985, in Stevenage, Herefordshire, England, to parents Carmen Larbalestier and Anthony Hamilton. His parents divorced when he was two, and as a result he lived with his mother and half-sisters. He studied at the John Henry Newman School and then at Cambridge Arts and Sciences. He was often bullied on account of his mixed race (his mother was white, and his father, black), and because of this he learned karate at age five to defend himself.

Hamilton began racing go-karts at the age of eight, and by age ten, he was the youngest ever to win the British Cadet Kart Championship. It was there that Hamilton met his future boss, Ron Dennis (CEO of McLaren Technology), and informed him that he was going to drive one of his F1 cars some day. Hamilton continued to race and won numerous karting races, and his father often had to work several jobs at once to support Lewis’s racing career. This changed when Ron Dennis signed him on to the McLaren’s Young Driver Program at age thirteen, effectively sponsoring his career until he began racing professionally.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Burns, Anthony (1834-1862)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The youngest of 13 children, Anthony Burns was born May 31, 1834 into slavery; his family was owned by the Suttle family of Virginia. His mother married three times; Burns’s father was her third husband. Burns’s father died when his last child was very young.

A few years later their owner, John Suttle, died leaving his wife with financial problems which prompted her to sell five of Burns’s siblings. To gain more income, she hired out the remaining siblings including Anthony. Burns performed a variety of jobs including personal servant, sawmill worker and tavern employee. He also was given the responsibility of managing four other slaves owned by Mrs. Suttle; he was allowed this freedom as long as he paid his master a fee from his earnings.

In March of 1854, Burns escaped from his master in Virginia and boarded a ship to Boston. When he arrived in Boston he found employment with a clothing store operated by Lewis Hayden, an abolitionist.

His freedom was short-lived, however.  On May 24, 1854, Burns was arrested under the Fugitive Slave Act, a component of the Compromise of 1850. This controversial federal law allowed owners to reclaim escaped slaves by presenting proof of ownership.
Sources: 
Joseph Meredith Toner, Boston Slave Riot, and Trial of Anthony Burns: Containing the Report of the Faneuil Hall (Detroit: Fetridge and Company, 1854); http://pbs.org; http://www.masshist.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hawkins, Augustus (1907–2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the US House of
Sources: 
Pamela Lee Gray, “Hawkins, Augustus Freeman,” in African American National Biography (New York: Oxford, 2008); Dona L. Irvin, “Augustus F. Hawkins,” in Notable Black American Men (Detroit: Gale, 1999); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress:  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=H000367.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Attucks, Crispus (1723-1770)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Crispus Attucks, the first martyr of the Boston Massacre in 1770, was probably born near Framingham, Massachusetts, a Christianized and multitribal town of Indians, whites, and blacks, in 1723.  Unusually tall for the era at six feet, two inches, Attucks was of mixed ancestry, the son of an African American man and an American Indian woman.  It is believed that he was the slave of William Brown since he was reported in the Boston Gazette on October 2, 1750 as having escaped from Brown; Attucks was listed as age 27 at the time. By the time of the Massacre he was 47 and working as a sailor in Boston and around the Atlantic Basin.
Sources: 
The Liberator, March 28, 1862; Sidney Kaplan and Emma Nogrady Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1989); The Trial of William Wemms, James Hartegan, William M'Cauley, Hugh White, Matthew Killroy, William Warren, John Carrol, and Hugh Montgomery, soldiers in His Majesty's 29th Regiment of Foot, for the murder of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr, on Monday-evening, the 5th of March, 1770, at the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and general goal delivery, held at Boston. The 27th day of November, 1770, by adjournment. Before the Hon. Benjamin Lynde, John Cushing, Peter Oliver, and Edmund Trowbridge, Esquires, justices of said court: Published by permission of the court (Boston, MA: printed by J. Fleeming, and sold at his printing-office, nearly opposite the White-Horse Tavern in Newbury-Street, 1770); Mitch Kachun, “From Forgotten Founder to Indispensable Icon: Crispus Attucks, Black Citizenship, and Collective Memory, 1770-1865,” Journal of the Early Republic, June 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carter, Robert L. (1917-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert L. Carter, the youngest child in a family of eight children, was born in Careyville, Florida in 1917.  His family moved north to Newark, New Jersey shortly after his birth.  Carter’s father died soon after arriving in Newark and his mother supported eight children while working as a domestic servant.  


Robert Carter enrolled at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania at the age of 16 and completed his degree four years later.  In 1937 he entered Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C.  After completing his law degree at Howard Carter earned his LLM (Master of Laws) degree at Columbia University after writing a thesis that would later define the legal strategy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on the right to freedom of association under the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  

Carter was drafted into the Army in 1941 and first encountered racism.  After serving in the Army Air Corps, he was discharged from the service in 1944.  Carter was then offered a job with the NAACP’s legal staff headed by chief counsel Thurgood Marshall.  Carter accepted and became Marshall’s chief legal assistant in the fight against Jim Crow laws across the South.   Carter served for example as the lead attorney of the Sweatt v. Painter Texas desegregation case in 1950.

Sources: 
http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2004feb/sullivan.html; Justin Driver and Robert L. Carter, “Books & the Arts-the Lawyer’s Revolution-A Matter of Law: A Memoir of Struggle in the Cause of Equal Rights,” The New Republic (New York: The Republic Publishing Co., 2006); Robert L. Carter, “The Long Road to Equality,” The Nation (New York: J.H. Richards, 2004).
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

Rowan, Carl T. (1925–2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Carl Rowan with President
Lyndon B. Johnson
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Carl Thomas Rowan was a diplomat, author, reporter, and broadcaster. He was the first black deputy Secretary of State, and the first black director of the United States Information Agency (USIA).

Rowan was born August 11, 1925, in the mining town of Ravenscroft, Tennessee.  When he was a baby his family moved to McMinnville, Tennessee, because his parents thought its lumberyards offered more opportunity. His father, Thomas, stacked lumber for construction, and his mother, Johnnie, cleaned houses, cooked, and did laundry for wealthier families. They had five children. The Rowan family home had no electricity, running water, telephone, nor even a clock. One of young Carl's teachers encouraged him to read and write as much as possible, even going to the library for him because, as a black person, Rowan wasn't allowed to check out books for himself. He graduated at the top of his high school class.

Sources: 

Carl Rowan, Breaking Barriers: a Memoir (Boston: Little, Brown 1991); Cynthia Kirk, “Carl Rowan: The Life Story of an Influential Newsman,” People in America, Voice of America (May 14, 2005); J.Y. Smith, “Columnist Carl Rowan Dies at 75,” The Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2000; p. A1.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rice, Susan Elizabeth (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Susan Rice is the current National Security Advisor for the Barack Obama Administration.  She is the first African American, the third woman, and the second youngest person to hold the position.  Prior to being selected by President Obama for the post, Rice served as a key foreign policy advisor for the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential race.

Sources: 
Morton H. Halperin, Power and Superpower: Global Leadership and Exceptionalism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Century Foundation Press, 2007); http://www.brookings.edu/experts/rices.aspx.
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

Johnston, Joshua (c.a. 1763 - 1832)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Westwood Children, ca. 1807 by Joshua Johnston
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Joshua Johnston, also known as Joshua Johnson, was a portraitist active in Baltimore, Maryland between 1790 and 1825, and the first African American to gain recognition as an artist. Primarily a painter of members of the slave-holding aristocracy, he was rediscovered by Baltimore genealogist and art historian J. Hall Pleasants in 1939.

According to Baltimore County court chattel records, Johnston was the son of a white man, George Johnston, and an unknown enslaved black woman owned by William Wheeler Sr., a small farmer. Wheeler sold Joshua Johnston to George Johnston in 1764 for 25 pounds, half the price of an adult male field slave. George Johnston arranged that Joshua would be freed after completing a blacksmith apprenticeship, or on turning 21, whichever came first; Joshua would go on to complete his apprenticeship with William Forepaugh, and was freed on July 15, 1782. Between 1796 and 1824, he was listed in most Baltimore City directories as a painter or limner.  In the 1817-1818 directory he was also recorded as a “Free Householder of Color.”

Sources: 
J. Bryan and R. Torchia, “The Mysterious Portraitist Joshua Johnson,” Archives of American Art Journal, Vol. 36 No. 2 (1996); Samella S. Lewis, African American Art and Artists (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), “Joshua Johnson - Biography,” The National Gallery of Art: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/artist-info.1425.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sydney, Australia

King-Aribisala, Karen (n.d.)

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

Karen Ann King-Aribisala is a Guyanese-born novelist who was raised and currently resides in Nigeria. She left Guyana as a young child, moving with her parents to Nigeria around the time of the Nigerian Civil war (1967-1970).  Her father introduced her to books at an early age, and the two would discuss literature, poetry and the Bible. He encouraged her to write as well, and she began composing her own stories around the age of eight.

Karen King-Aribisala began her education at the Ibadan International School in Nigeria. She received an international education in Guyana, Barbados, Italy and at the London Academy for the Dramatic Arts in England. She met her Nigerian husband during her time studying abroad in Italy as a teenager.

Sources: 
“Karen King-Aribisala,” Peepal Trees Press, http://www.peepaltreepress.com/author_display.asp?au_id=156; “Conversation with Karen Ann King-Aribisalla,” Nigerians in America, http://www.nigeriansinamerica.com/articles/275/1/Conversation-with-Karen-Ann-King-Aribisala/Page1.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Locke, Alain (1886-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Alain Locke, The New Negro: An Interpretation (New York: New York, Albert and Charles Boni Press, 1925); Leonard Harris, ed., The Philosophy of Alain Locke: Harlem Renaissance and Beyond (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989); Jeffrey Stewart C., “Alain Leroy Locke at Oxford: The First African-American Rhodes Scholar,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 31:1 (2001):12-117.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Lucas, Ruth Alice (1920-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ruth Alice Lucas, who overcame race and sex barriers back in 1968 by becoming the first African American woman to be promoted to the rank of full colonel in the United States Air Force, was born in Stamford, Connecticut on November 28, 1920. By the time she retired from the Service in 1970, Lucas remained the highest-ranking black woman in the Air Force. The Defense Meritorious Service Medal was among her military decorations.

Lucas was educated at what is now Tuskegee University in Alabama, studying on a scholarship and majoring in education with a minor in sociology. At the same time, she taught English at the school.

Shortly after graduation in 1942, Lucas joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) where she found herself among the few black women to attend what is now the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. When the United States Air Force was formed in 1947, Lucas transferred from the Army to the new armed services branch.

The young Air Force officer transferred to Headquarters Far East Air Force Base in Tokyo, Japan from 1951 to 1954, where she became chief of the Awards Division; Lucas could be found teaching English to Japanese children and college students during her off-duty hours.
Sources: 
Megan McDonough, “Ruth A. Lucas, first black female Air Force colonel,” The Washington Post, April 27, 2013; Patricia Sullivan, “Air Force’s first African American female colonel buried,” The Washington Post, May 29, 2013; Air Force’s Education Expert, Ebony, November 1969.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Stewarts, McCants (1877-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Orangeburg, South Carolina on July 11, 1877, McCants Stewart, the eldest son of the southern black leader, T. McCants Stewart, was molded from childhood by his father for leadership in both his family and in the African American community. McCants spent his formative years in Orangeburg, where his parents taught at Claflin University, an historically black college. From there, he, along with his younger brother Gilchrist, attended Tuskegee Institute. After graduating from Tuskegee, McCants enrolled in the University of Minnesota Law School, where he earned a law degree in 1899. He relocated to Portland, Oregon in 1902, against the advice of his father, where he prepared to practice law.
Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, African American Odyssey: The Stewarts, 1853-1963 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Holloway, Anne Forrester (1941- 2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Anne Forrester Holloway was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mali on November 6, 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. She was the first African American woman to hold that post.  

Forrester was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 2, 1941.  She attended public schools in Philadelphia but then transferred to a predominantly white school, Northfield Mount Hermon School, in Gill, Massachusetts, graduating June 1959.  She graduated from Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont in 1963 and later received her master’s degree in African Studies at Howard University in 1968. Ms. Forrester’s doctoral work culminated with a 1975 degree from the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Sources: 
"Anne Forrester, Ambassador to Mali" (2006, July 3), retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/02/AR2006070200695.html; U.S. State Department, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/holloway-anne-forrester.
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

Williams, Cathay (1850- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the National Archives
Cathay Williams is the only documented African American woman who served as a soldier in the Regular U.S. Army in the nineteenth century.  Cathay was born a slave around 1850 in Jackson County, Missouri.  In September 1861 Union troops impressed Cathay into the Army to work as a cook and washerwoman for Union Army officers.  She remained with the Army throughout the Civil War serving at various locales including Little Rock, Arkansas; New Orleans and Shreveport in Louisiana; and Savannah and Macon, both in Georgia. In 1864 she briefly served as cook and washerwoman for General Phil Sheridan and his staff in the Shenandoah Valley campaign.

On November 15, 1866 Williams disguised her gender and enlisted as William Cathey, serving in Company A of the 38th Infantry, a newly-formed all-black U.S. Army Regiment, one of its earliest recruits.  Cathay said she joined the Army because “I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends.”
Sources: 
St. Louis Daily Times, St. Louis, MO, January 2, 1876.  “She Fought Nobly: The Story of a Colored Heroine who Served as a Regularly Enlisted Soldier During the Late War”; NARA, Washington, D.C. , U.S. Regular Army: Enlistment papers, William Cathey, November 15, 1866, St. Louis, MO; Certificate of Disability for Discharge, William Cathey, October 14, 1868, Fort Bayard, N.M.; U.S. Army Pension Bureau, Declaration for an Original Invalid Pension, filed June 1891 by Cathay Williams.
Affiliation: 
University of New Mexico

Horatio Viscount “Berky” Nelson, Jr. (1939-2015)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Horatio Viscount “Berky” Nelson was a widely recognized scholar of 20th Century African American political history and particularly class dynamics in the modern black community. His first major work, The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership, was a searing critique of the inability of twentieth century black leaders to fully explicate the true horrific conditions facing the black underclass. Nelson’s work argues that the social conditions of poverty, high rates of incarceration, and deteriorating family structure needed leaders who devised strategies that would ameliorate these conditions. He listed the many leaders who developed those strategies and those who in his opinion did not.

Dr. Nelson furthered examined the class dilemma of African Americans in his second major work, Black Leadership’s Response to the Great Depression in Philadelphia. Here he analyzed the symbiotic relationship between the black educated class and the black proletariat. This work revealed that if the economic fortunes of the working class declined, it often had a more detrimental impact on black professionals such as physicians, lawyers, and small entrepreneurs, than among other racial or ethnic groups.
Sources: 
H. Viscount “Berky” Nelson, The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership (2003); H. Viscount Nelson, Black Leadership’s Response to the Great Depression (2006); H. Viscount Nelson, Sharecropping, Ghetto, Slum: A History of Impoverished Blacks in Twentieth-Century America (2015); H, Viscount Nelson Obituary, The Philadelphia News, October 14, 2015; Press Release, University of California Los Angeles, Office of the Vice Chancellor-Student Affairs, October 6, 2015.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Herndon, Angelo (1913 - ?)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Angelo Herndon was the defendant in one of the most publicized and notorious legal cases of the 1930s. In 1932, nineteen-year-old Herndon was arrested under an obscure 19th century servile insurrection law for attempting to organize a peaceful demonstration of unemployed workers in Atlanta. Largely due to the efforts of the Communist Party-affiliated International Labor Defense, the arrest and subsequent trial ignited a firestorm of protest that, alongside the Scottsboro case, helped expose the gross injustice of the southern legal system and introduced African Americans on a broad scale to the militant anti-racism of the Communist Party.  

Herndon was born on May 6, 1913 in Wyoming, Ohio, outside of Cincinnati. As a teenager he migrated to Kentucky and then Alabama in search of employment. It was in Birmingham in 1930 that he was first introduced to the Communist Party. Impressed by the Party's uncompromising avowal of interracial unity, Herndon joined and began working with the local Unemployed Council. In 1931, Herndon briefly worked for the International Labor Defense on its campaign to free the Scottsboro defendants.
Sources: 
Charles H. Martin, The Angelo Herndon Case and Southern Justice (Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State University Press, 1976); Angelo Herndon, Let Me Live (New York:  Random House, 1937).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dolphy, Eric (1928-1964)

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

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

Brown, Clara (1803–1885)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clara Brown was a kind-hearted, generous woman whose determination led her on a life-long quest to be reunited with her daughter. Born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia in 1803, her earliest memory was of being sold on the auction block. She grew up in Logan County, Kentucky, married at age 18, and had four children. At age 36 her master, Ambrose Smith, died and her family was sold off to settle his estate. Despite her continued enslavement, Clara Brown vowed to search for her ten-year-old daughter, Eliza Jane.
Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Roger Baker, Clara an Ex-Slave in Gold Rush Colorado (Central City, Colorado: Black Hawk Publishing, 2003). 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Boghossian, Alexander Skunder (1937-2003)

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Ethiopia in 1937, Alexander Skunder Boghossian first rose to prominence at the age of 17 when he won second prize for his painting at the Jubilee Anniversary Celebration of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie I.  The following year he was awarded a scholarship to study in London, England at St. Martin’s School and the Slade School of Fine Art.  He later moved to Paris, France, where he remained for nine years as both student and teacher at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere.  While in Paris he interacted with African artists and intellectuals who were part of the Negritude movement.  He also encountered the work of the French surrealists. Some of the artists who influenced Boghossian include Paul Klee, Roberto Matta, and the Afro-Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam.
Sources: 
Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Wilson, Lionel (1915-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Robert McG. Thomas Jr., “Lionel Wilson, 82, a Mayor of Oakland for Three Terms,” New York Times (Jan. 31, 1998), pg. A13, obituary; Lionel Wilson, “Attorney, Judge, and Oakland Mayor,” an oral history conducted in 1985 and 1990 by Gabrielle Morris, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkley, 1992, http://content.cdlib.org/xtf/view?docId=hb400006hx&query=&brand=oac.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Page, Alan (1945- )

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

Alan Page is a former professional football player and current Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Born on August 7, 1945 in Canton, Ohio, Page holds the distinction of being the only player to work on the construction of the National Football League (NFL) Hall of Fame as well as be enshrined in it. Page played his high school football at Canton Central Catholic High School where he excelled in all sports; his athleticism and quickness off the ball would later enable him to record 148.5 career sacks in the NFL. Following high school Page attended Notre Dame where he helped lead them to a 1966 National Championship and was awarded All-American honors the same year.

After graduating from Notre Dame in 1967, Page was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and was part of the famed “Purple People Eaters” defensive line from that year until 1978. Known for his durability, Page played an astounding 218 consecutive games without injury in which he recovered 22 fumbles, scored three touchdowns, and three safeties, the second most in NFL history. Page was a six-time all-pro and was voted to nine consecutive pro bowls. In 1971 page was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year and well as NFL most valuable player, an honor he was only the second defensive player to receive.

Sources: 

Larry Batson and Harold Henriksen, Alan Page (Mankato, Minnesota: Amecus Street, 1974); www.nfl.com; www.page-ed.org/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Danner, Margaret E. (1915-1984)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Margaret Esse Danner is an African American poet, born in Pryorsburg, Kentucky on January 12, 1915 to Caleb and Naomi Esse.  Danner began writing poetry when she was in junior high school. In the eighth grade she won first place for a poem she wrote titled, “The Violin.”  Her family moved to Chicago when Margaret began High School.  

Danner later attended Loyola and Northwestern Universities, where she was taught by Karl Shapiro and Paul Engle. She continued her writing while in Chicago and first became recognized in 1945 when she won second place in the Poetry Workshop of the Midwestern Writers Conference at Northwestern University.  In 1951, while in Chicago, Danner become an editorial assistant for Poetry: the Magazine of Verse. It was this publication that introduced her poem series “Far From Africa” for which she is best known.  These poems won Danner the John Hay Whitney Fellowship on 1951, which was intended to fund a trip to Africa scheduled for that same year.  Danner postponed the trip for personal reasons and in fact did not go to Africa until 1966.  In 1955 Margaret Danner became the first African American to hold the position of Assistant Editor of Poetry: The Magazine of Verse...

During her lifetime, Margaret Danner was married twice and had one daughter with her first husband. A number of her later poems were inspired by her grandson, Sterling, which she referenced as “Muffin Poems.” In 1961, Danner became poet-in-residence at Wayne State University in Detroit.  It was during this time that Danner became involved in the Baha'i faith, which would influence her poetry.  From that point many of her poems would refer to that faith.

Sources: 

June M. Aldridge, “Margaret Esse Danner.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Poets since 1955. Vol. 41, T. Harris, Editor, (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985); Haki Madhubuti, Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s. (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1971).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sullivan, Louis Wade (1933- )

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

After witnessing poverty and discrimination in Depression-era Georgia, Louis Wade Sullivan committed his career to education and public service, rising to become Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush.  He also was the founder and long-time president of Morehouse College School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Louis Wade Sullivan was born in Atlanta in 1933, but when his family moved to a small Georgia farming community that did not offer educational opportunities for African Americans, he was sent to live with relatives in Savannah where he could attend school.  After graduating at the top of his high school class, he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, earning a B.S. in the premedical program in 1954.  He then received a scholarship to Boston University School of Medicine, where he was the only African American in his class.  He graduated third in his class, earning an M.D. (cum laude) in 1958.  During his internship and residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Sullivan conducted research into the correlation between blood and diseases.  He made several discoveries concerning alcohol and blood health, and subsequently conducted further medical research at Harvard Medical School and a number of other institutions during the following decades.  In 1976, he helped found the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools to promote a national minority health agenda.

Sources: 
Louis Wade Sullivan, America's Ailing Families: Diagnosing the Problem, Finding a Cure (Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation, 1992); Marilee Creelan, “Louis Sullivan,” The New Georgia Encyclopedia (Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Anderson, Caroline Still Wiley (1848-1919)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Caroline Still Wiley Anderson, physician and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to William and Letitia Still.  Supporting his family through coal mining investments and a stove store, William Still, a prominent antebellum abolitionist, helped escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad.  He wrote about these fugitive slaves in his book The Underground Railroad.  

Caroline Still attended Mrs. Henry Gordon’s Private School, The Friends Raspberry Alley School, and the Institute for Colored Youth.  At sixteen, she went to Oberlin College where she was the only black woman in her class.  After graduating from Oberlin College’s Literary Course in 1868, Still moved back to Philadelphia to teach.  In 1869, she married Edward A. Wiley, a former Alabama slave, who she met at Oberlin.  Before Wiley’s death in 1873, they had two children, William and Letitia. Caroline Wiley left Philadelphia for Washington, D.C. and Howard University where she was hired to teach music, drawing, and elocution.

Once there she decided to become a medical doctor.  After attending Howard University Medical School for one term, Wiley transferred to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1876.  She graduated in the spring of 1878 and then interned at Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children.  When she returned to Philadelphia in 1879, she became one of the state’s first black female doctors.
Sources: 
Margaret Jerrido, “Caroline Still Anderson,” in Notable Black American Women, ed. Jessie Carney Smith (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1996); Darlene Clark Hine, “Co-Laborers in the Work of the Lord: Nineteenth-Century Black Women Physicians,” in ‘Send Us a Lady Physician’: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920, ed. Ruth J. Abram (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1985);  Susan Wells, Out of the Dead House: Nineteenth Century Women Physicians and the Writing of Medicine (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Galamison, Milton A. (1923-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Milton Galamison (left) with Picketers in New York, Feb. 3, 1964
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis

Milton Arthur Galamison, minister and civil rights activist, was the leader of New York City’s school integration movement in the 1960s.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, where he experienced poverty and hostile racial relations that influenced his later activism, Galamison received a B.A. with honors at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1945. He began his activism in Brooklyn, where he was appointed minister to the Siloam Presbyterian Church in 1948. As a prestigious institution long associated with activist ministers, the church offered Galamison a platform for his future involvement in improving education for minority children in public schools.

In 1955, Galamison was elected chair of the education committee of the Brooklyn branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Under his  leadership, the branch became a noted advocate for working class black and Puerto Rican parents who fought for quality education for their children.

Sources: 
Clarence Taylor, “Robert Wagner, Milton Galamison, and the Challenge to New York City Liberalism,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 31:2 (July 2007); Alexander Urbiel, “City Schools as Mirrors of Modern Urban Life,” Journal of Urban History 27:511 (May 2001); Clarence Taylor, Knocking At Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Morris, Morris W. / Lewis Morrison (1845-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Lewis Morrison as “Mephistopheles”
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lewis Morrison was one of the most prominent stage actors of his time. He was best known worldwide for his portrayal of “Mephistopheles” in Faust. He was also the first black Jewish officer to serve during the Civil War.

Lewis Morrison was born in Kingston, Jamaica on September 4, 1845. He was named Morris W. Morris at birth, although some sources claim that Moritz W. Morris is the correct spelling. Very little is known about his family history. After the Civil War, he changed his name to Lewis Morrison for unknown reasons. His great great grandson, Phil Downey, later claimed that Morris changed his name to escape his African and Jewish heritage.

Morris left Jamaica for the United States as a youth. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, the first official black military regiment in the Confederacy, with other free blacks. He soon rose to the rank of lieutenant, becoming the first black Jewish officer to serve in the Confederate Army. When the Louisiana State Legislature banned people of color from serving in the Confederate Army in February 1862, the regiment was disbanded.  Morris and about 10% of the other former 1st Louisiana Native Guard joined the Union Army in September 1862 and were organized into a new unit that was assigned the same name.  There Morris became the first black Jewish officer in the Union Army.
Sources: 
Errol Hill, The Jamaican Stage, 1655-1900: Profile of a Colonial Theatre (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992); Brian Kellow, The Bennetts: An Acting Family (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004); James G. Hollandsworth, The Louisiana Native Guards: the Black Military Experience during the Civil War (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bell, James ["Cool Papa"] (1903-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Thomas Bell was born May 17, 1903, in Starkville, Mississippi. Playing baseball as a 19 year-old rookie Bell earned the nickname “Cool Papa” after proving to his older teammates that he was not intimidated by playing professionally in front of large crowds. Signing with the St. Louis Stars in 1922, Bell entered professional baseball as a pitcher, reportedly throwing a wicked curveball and fade-away knuckleball.

The speed of Bell would become apparent when he beat the Chicago American Giants Jimmy Lyons in a race for the title of “fastest man in the league.” He immediately switched to center field, where he would play shallow and always manage to run down long hits. Bell stayed with the Stars until 1930 when the league disbanded, and led them to league titles in 1928 and 1930.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Southern, Eileen Jackson (1920-2002)

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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

Smith, Kirke (1865-1935)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Kirke Smith was born July 22, 1865 in Montgomery County, Virginia. He graduated from Berea College in1894 and earned an M.A. degree from the University of Michigan.  In 1894, Smith became the Superintendent of the Lebanon Colored Schools and the following year, Superintendent of Principals in the Lebanon, Kentucky school system, a post he held for fifteen years.  During this period he also became an ordained minister.

On January 12, 1904, Democratic representative Carl Day, of Breathitt, Kentucky, introduced House Bill 25, “An Act to prohibit white and colored persons from attending the same school.”  The so-called Day Bill was aimed at Berea College since separate public schools for blacks and whites had been the law in the state for some time. After a  lawsuit to defend its interracial educational policy was defeated in the courts, Berea raised funds to establish a new school for blacks. From 1910-1912, the trustees employed Rev. Kirke Smith and Rev. James Bond, the grandfather of Julian Bond, to raise money for the new school which would be named Lincoln Institute.

Sources: 
John A. Harding, Fifty Years of Segregation: Black Higher Education in Kentucky, 1904-1934 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1997); Eric A. Smith, "Discovering History Through Genealogy: Kirke Smith and the Founding of Lincoln Institute,” Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago Newsletter  23:4 (June 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago

Canson, Virna Mae (1921-2003)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Civil rights activist Virna Mae Canson was born in Bridgeport, Oklahoma, to William A. and Eula Gross Dobson on June 10, 1921. Both of her parents were schoolteachers. She grew up in Lima, Oklahoma, a mostly African American town where her father served as mayor. Virna Dobson graduated from high school in 1938 and then studied home economics at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  There she met Clarence Canson who majored in tailoring at the Institute. They married in 1940 and returned to the bridegroom’s home in Sacramento, California.

During World War II, Virna Canson helped some African Americans in Sacramento gain employment at Safeway, Pacific Telephone, and other companies. She also served as a youth advisor to the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Sources: 
Virna M. Canson, “Waging the War on Poverty and Discrimination in California through the NAACP, 1953-1974,” an oral history conducted in 1984 by Sarah Sharp, in Citizen Advocacy Organizations, 1960-1975, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1987; Wyatt Buchanan, “Virna Canson - NAACP leader for Western U.S.,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 18, 2003; Mary Rourke, “Virna Canson, 81; Activist, Director of NAACP’s 9-State Western Region,” Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Désir, Harlem (1959- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Harlem Désir is currently a socialist politician and Foreign Affairs Under-Secretary for Europe in the government of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.  His career began in the 1980s when he was a leftist student who protested racism and the leader of “Touche pas à mon pote.”  Désir was born in Paris in a left oriented family: his Martinique-born father was a communist school master and his mother from Alsace was a specialist in infant welfare and a union member.

After attending school in Bagneux, Désir graduated in 1983 from the University of Paris (Pantheon Sorbonne) in philosophy.  While a student at the Sorbonne he was leader of the Student Socialist Union (UNEF-ID).  
Sources: 
Harlem Désir, De l'immigration à l'intégration: Repérages (Paris : Acte Sud, 1997); Harlem Désir, Pour la république sociale: La gauche socialiste dans ses textes (Paris : L’Harmattan, 1997); Harlem Désir, D'où je viens, où l'on va (Paris: Jean-Claude Gawsewitch, 2010); Thomas Ferenczi, Chronique du septennat: 1981-1988 (Paris : La Manufacture, 1988); Éric Raoult, SOS Banlieues (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2000); Guillaume Sainteny, L'introuvable écologisme français (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Emeritus Professor, University of Paris

Burton, Walter Moses (1829?-1913)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West

 

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Razaf, Andy (1895–1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Andy Razaf was a philosopher-poet, composer, and prolific musical lyricist of over five hundred songs, comprising some of the greatest hits from the Tin Pan Alley (New York) era. During his professional lifetime, Razaf worked with composers such as Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, Don Redman, James P. Johnson, Willie “the Lion” Smith, and Harry Brooks. In collaboration with Fats Waller, Razaf wrote the lyrics to some landmark American songs:  “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” “Honeysuckle Rose,” (What Did I Do to Be So) “Black and Blue,” and “The Joint is Jumpin.’”
Sources: 
Stephen Holden, “A Lot of Hit Songs From an Unsung Lyricist,” New York Times, February 8, 1989; Barry Singer, Black and Blue: The Life and Lyrics of Andy Razaf (New York: Schirmer Books, 1992); http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/andy-razaf-prolific-black-lyricist.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hayden, Lewis (c.1811-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lewis Hayden was born a slave in Lexington, Kentucky in 1811 into the household of the Rev. Adam Runkin, a Presbyterian minister.  In 1840 he married fellow slave, Harriet Bell (c.1811-1893).  The Haydens successfully escaped slavery in 1844.  They traveled to Ohio, Canada, Michigan, and finally settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where they became active participants in abolitionist activities.  While Harriett ran a boarding house from their home at 66 Phillips Street and raised their two children, Joseph and Elizabeth, Lewis ran a successful clothing store on Cambridge Street, where he also held abolitionist meetings and outfitted runaway slaves. Their home, which contained a secret tunnel, served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Hayden home is now listed as a national historic site.
Sources: 
Stanley J. And Anita W. Robboy, “Lewis Hayden: From Fugitive Slave to Statesman,” New England Quarterly, 46 (1973): 591-613, and https://www.nps.gov/index.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barthé, Richmond (1901-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi in 1901, Richmond Barthé moved to New Orleans, Louisiana at an early age. Little is known about his early youth, except that he grew up in a devoutly Roman Catholic household, he enjoyed drawing and painting, and his formal schooling did not go beyond grade school. From the age of sixteen until his early twenties, Barthé supported himself with a number of service and unskilled jobs, including house servant, porter, and cannery worker. His artistic talent was noticed by his parish priest when Barthé contributed two of his paintings to a fundraising event for his church. The priest was so impressed with his art that he encouraged Barthé to apply to the Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois and raised enough money to pay for his travel and tuition. From 1924 to 1928, Barthé studied painting at the Art Institute, while continuing to engage in unskilled and service employment to support himself.
Sources: 
Mary Ann Calo, Distinction and Denial: Race, Nation, and the Critical Construction of the African American Artist, 1920-1940 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007); A. D. Macklin, A Biographical History of African-American Artists, A-Z (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001); Margaret Rose Vendryes, “The Lives of Richmond Barthé,” in The Greatest Taboo: Homosexuality in Black Communities, ed. Delroy Constantine-Simms (Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at Austin

Turner, Benjamin Sterling (1825-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin Sterling Turner, a member of the United States House of Representatives from Alabama during the Reconstruction period, was born on March 17, 1825 in Weldon, North Carolina. He was raised as a slave and as a child received no formal education. In 1830 Turner moved to Selma, Alabama with his mother and slave owner. While living on the plantation he surreptitiously obtained an education and by age 20 Turner was able to read and write fluently. 

While still a slave Turner managed a hotel and stable in Selma.  Although his owner received most of the money for Turner’s work, he managed to save some of his earnings and shortly after the Civil War he used the savings he had accumulated to purchase the property.   The U.S. Census of 1870 reported Turner as owning $2,500 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property, making him one of the wealthiest freedmen in Alabama.

Turner also became a teacher in 1865 and helped establish the first school for African American children.  Two years later he became involved in politics.  After participating in the Republican State Convention in 1867, Turner was named tax collector of Dallas County  The following year he won his first elective office when he became a Selma City Councilman.  In 1870 Turner was elected to the United States Congress as the first African American Representative in Alabama history. 
Sources: 
Stephen Middleton, ed., Black Congressmen During Reconstruction (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002); http://bioguide.congress.gov
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Browne, Theodore R. (c. 1910-1979).

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
A pioneer playwright, actor, author, and teacher, Theodore Browne was best known for his association with the Negro Unit of the Federal Theatre in Seattle Washington in the 1930s. He was also an original member of the American Negro Theatre (ANT) and one of the founders of the Negro Playwrights Company, both in New York. Brown was born in Suffolk, Virginia, and educated in the public schools of New York City. Browne received advanced degrees at the City College of New York (1941) and at Northeastern University (1944) in Boston.
Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Love, Nat (1854-1921)

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

 

Sources: 
Nat Love, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love: Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick” (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1995); Robert M. Utley, editor. Encyclopedia of the American West  (New York: Random House, 1997); American National Biography,  http://www.anb.org.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/articles/home.html (login required).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Michaux, Solomon Lightfoot "Elder" (c.1885-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Elder Michaux Baptisting Followers at Griffith Stadium,
Washington,D.C. n.d.
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio,
photographers, Scurlock Studio Records,
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Solomon Michaux was a radio evangelist, entrepreneur, and founder of the Church of God Movement; he was also known as the “Happy Am I Preacher.” Michaux was born around 1885 in Buckroe Beach, Virginia into a devout family of Baptists. He grew up in Newport News, Virginia where he spent his childhood in local public schools and helping his family’s seafood business by peddling fish to local military men in nearby Camp Lee. Michaux married Eliza Pauline in 1906. They had no children.
Sources: 
Marcus H. Boulware, The Oratory of Negro Leaders: 1900-1968 (Westport: Negro Universities Press, 1969); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Stephen D. Glazier ed., Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions (New York: Routledge, 2001)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Day, Thomas (1801—ca.1861)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Thomas Day Secretary
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Day, master cabinetmaker and entrepreneur, was born in 1801 in Dinwiddie County in southern Virginia to free African American parents.  He had an outstanding career and achieved remarkable social standing during the state’s antebellum period.  By 1850, he operated the largest furniture business in the state. His furniture is still cherished today in private homes and museums primarily in North Carolina and Virginia.

Day’s early years were spent following in his father's footsteps in the cabinetry craft and from an early age he displayed proficiency in woodwork.  In 1823, Day moved to Milton, North Carolina.  Within a decade he had established himself as one of the South's most famous and celebrated furniture craftsmen. His work was widely recognized and he became sought after by plantation owners whose homes he embellished with stylish mantle pieces and stair railings, in addition to providing them with furniture.  He would craft pieces for two of North Carolina's governors and was awarded a commission to furnish the interior woodwork of one of the original buildings of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

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

Peck, David Jones (c. 1826-1855)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

David Jones Peck was the first black man to graduate from an American medical school. He was born to John C. and Sarah Peck in Carlisle, Pennsylvania around 1826. John Peck was a prominent abolitionist and minister who founded the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Carlisle. Peck was also a barber and wigmaker.

John and Sarah Peck moved to Pittsburgh in the early 1830s where they established the first school for black children in the area.  David was one of their first students.  Between 1844 and 1846 David Peck studied medicine under Dr. Joseph P. Gaszzam, an anti-slavery white doctor in Pittsburgh.  He then entered Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois in 1846, three years after the institution opened.  After he graduated in 1847, Peck toured the state of Ohio with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass promoting abolitionist ideals.  His status as the first black graduate of a medical college was used by abolitionists to promote the idea of full black citizenship and was implicitly an attack on slavery.

Sources: 

Michael J. Harris, "David Jones Peck, MD: A Dream Denied," Journal of the National Medical Association 88:9 (1996): pp. 600-604; "David Jones Peck, M.D., Rush Medical College, Class of 1847," Archives of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Vivian Ovleton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corp., 1990).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha (1928 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

Image ownership: Public Domain

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Zulu Chief and one of the founders of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), was born August 27, 1928 in Mahlabathinni, Natal. He was a descendent of the Zulu royal family, his mother being the granddaughter of King Cetshwayo. Buthelezi attended Impumalanga Primary School and then went on to study at Adams College in Amanzimtioti. In 1948 he attended Fort Hare University, where he would begin his lifelong involvement in politics by joining the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League and participating in sit-in demonstrations which would lead to his expulsion from the University.

Sources: 

Ben Temkin, Buthelezi: A Biography (London: Frank Cass, 2003); LA Times Website: http://articles.latimes.com/1992-02-14/local/me-2176_1_los-angeles-times.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

West, Togo D., Jr. (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Togo D. West Jr., attorney and government official, was born on June 21, 1942 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Togo D. West, Sr. and Evelyn Carter West. In 1959 he graduated as valedictorian from Atkins High School in that same city.   In 1965, West enrolled at Howard University, earning his B.S. degree in electrical engineering.  He switched to law and earned a J.D. degree from Howard University Law School in 1968, graduating first in his class.  After he completed law school, West clerked for a federal judge in the Southern district of New York.  

During the early 1970s, West served in the United States Army as a judge in the Judge Advocate General Corps.  For his outstanding military service, West earned both the Legion of Merit award and the Meritorious Service Medal.  Government officials recognized West’s distinguished military service and in 1973, he was appointed by President Gerald Ford as Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice.  In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed West as general counsel to the Navy and in 1979, West served as Deputy Secretary to the Secretary of Defense and general counsel to the Department of Defense from 1980 to 1981.

In 1981, West retired from government to become managing partner of the Washington, D.C. law firm, Patterson, Belknap, Webb, and Tyler.  In 1990, West became the senior vice president for the Arlington, Virginia-based Northrop Corporation, a military aircraft manufacturer.

Sources: 
Mary Kalfatovic, “West, Togo D. Jr.” Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); Washington Post, November 22, 1996, p. l; November 23, 1996, p.9; http://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/11/us/va-secretary-resigning.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Reed, Leonard (1907-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Leonard Reed, noted dancer and entertainment businessman, co-created the famous Shim Sham Shimmy tap routine that has been replicated for centuries by tappers the world over. He was also associated with Joe Louis (1914-1981) during the heavyweight boxer’s efforts to break down golf’s color barrier.

Reed was born in Lightning Creek near Nowata, Indian Territory, on January 7, 1907, to a woman who was half African American and half Native American (Choctaw and Cherokee). Reed was orphaned at the age of two when his mother died of pneumonia and was raised by a series of relatives, foster parents and guardians in Kansas City, Missouri.

As a teenager, Reed began performing the Charleston dance at carnivals in the Kansas City area.  His high school principal helped him gain entrance into Cornell University, but Reed dropped out to become a professional dancer. The blue-eyed Reed and another light-skinned African American named Willie Bryant (1908-1964) developed a successful vaudeville act, “Brains as Well as Feet,” passing as Caucasians so they could perform for all-white audiences. Together, they closed their acts with the Shim Sham Shimmy, a 32-bar tap routine. In the early 1930s, Reed and Bryant were barred from white clubs when their African American ancestry became common knowledge. Soon thereafter the duo broke up, and Reed began producing shows for black performers at famous venues like the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.

Sources: 
Rusty Frank, TAP! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories 1900-1955 (New York: W. Morrow, 1990); Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman and Donald McNeilly, Vaudeville, Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America (New York: Routledge, 2007); "Tap Dance Pioneer, Producer,” Los Angeles Times (April 9, 2004); Danny Walker, “World Renowned Nowata Dancer’s Life Left Huge Legacy,” Nowata Star (April 21, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Northwestern Oklahoma State University

Williams, Mary Lou (1910-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mary Lou Williams was an African American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger who wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements and recorded over one hundred records.  Williams was born as Mary Elfireda Scruggs on May 8, 1910 in Atlanta, Georgia, but grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was one of eleven children, and taught herself to play piano at a very young age, performing her first recital at age ten. She became a professional musician at the age of fifteen, when she played with Duke Ellington and the Washingtonians. In 1925, she joined a band led by saxophonist John Williams, and married him in 1927.

Williams and her husband moved to Oklahoma City, where in 1929 John joined Andy Kirk's band, Twelve Clouds of Joy. Mary Lou Williams worked for a year as a solo pianist and a music arranger until she joined the band in 1930.  By that point she took the name "Mary Lou" and was recording jazz albums.  By the late 1930s Mary Lou Williams was now well known as a producer, composer, and arranger working for bandleaders Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey.
Sources: 
Tammy L. Kernodle, Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams (Boston: Northeastern University, 2004); Linda Dahl, Morning Glory: a biography of Mary Lou Williams (New York: Pantheon Books, 1999); http://www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_williams_mary_lou.htm;
http://newarkwww.rutgers.edu/ijs/mlw/intro1.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Luper, Clara (1923-2011)

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

Clara Mae Luper was born in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, to Ezell and Isabell Shepard on May 3, 1923.  She attended all-black schools and was bussed several miles to Grayson High School where she graduated in a class of five.  After graduating from the segregated Langston University, Luper became the first African American student to enroll in the history department at the University of Oklahoma, earning a master’s degree in 1951.

Luper was one of the early leaders in the civil rights movement in Oklahoma during the 1950s.  She taught history in various Oklahoma City public schools for forty-one years and became the sponsor of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council.  In 1958, working with this group, she led the earliest “sit-ins” in Oklahoma and some of the first in United States.  Through these protests she and other civil rights activists succeeded in integrating many public facilities in Oklahoma City and across the state by 1964.

Sources: 
Linda W. Reese, “Clara Luper and the Oklahoma City Civil Rights Movement,” in Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Moore, eds., African American Women Confront the West: 1600-2000 (Norman, OK:  University of Oklahoma Press, 2003); “Oklahoma Civil Rights Icon Clara Luper Dies at 88,” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110609/ap_on_re_us/us_obit_luper.
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

Washington, George (1817-1905)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Washington was a prominent pioneer in the state named, like he was, for America's first president.  He founded Centralia in southwest Washington and was a leading citizen and benefactor of the town.  Washington's father was a slave, his mother of English descent.  When his father was sold soon after his birth in Virginia, his mother left him with a white couple named Anna and James Cochrane (or Cochran), who raised him in Ohio and Missouri.  At the age of 33, Washington joined a wagon train and headed west with the Cochranes, seeking to escape discriminatory laws.

In 1852 he staked a claim on the Chehalis River in what was then Oregon Territory. Because Oregon law prohibited settlement by African Americans, Washington had the Cochranes file the claim. After Washington Territory was created, they deeded the property to him.

When he was in his fifties, Washington married widow Mary Jane Cooness (or Cornie).  In January 1875, the Washingtons platted a town, which they called Centerville, on their property.  The name was changed to Centralia in 1883.  The Washingtons provided land for a Baptist church, cemetery, and public square (now George Washington Park).
Sources: 
HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "George and Mary Jane Washington found the town of Centerville (now Centralia) on January 8, 1875" (by Kit Oldham), http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=5276   "History of Centralia," Centralia, Washington website, http://www.centralia.com/PageDetails.asp?ID=25&Title=Historic%20Centralia#founder
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Staff Historian, HistoryLink.org

Fleming, Louise Celia “Lulu” (1862-1899)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Louise Cecelia Fleming, the first African American to graduate from the Women’s Medical College at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was born January 28, 1862 to slave parents on a plantation near Hibernia in Clay County, Florida.  Her father is unknown; she was raised by her mother who served as a maid in the plantation house.  As a child she travelled along with her owners and her mother to Jacksonville, Florida to attend Bethel Baptist Church, which in 1859 had a membership of 40 whites and 250 black slaves.  In 1865, immediately after the Civil War, the white and black members of the church separated and formed their own congregations.
Sources: 
Lulu C. Fleming, “A Letter from the Congo Valley,” Missionary Review of the World, n.s. 1 (1888): 207-209 in Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Sharon Harley and Andrea Benton Rushing, eds., Women in Africa and the African Diaspora (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1996); Joseph R. Moss, “The Missionary Journey of Louise 'Lulu' Fleming, M.D,” address given to the Florida Baptist Historical Society, May 4, 1996, found at http://www.floridabaptisthistory.org/docs/monographs/lulu_fleming.pdf; Donald Hepburn & Earl Joiner, “Lulu Fleming: The Daughter of a Florida Slave Who Served as a Medical Missionary,” Florida Baptist Witness, February 15, 2011, http://www.gofbw.com/print.asp?ID=12611; Gerald H. Anderson, ed., Dictionary of African Christian Biography, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Baldwin, James (1924-1987)

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

James Arthur Baldwin, fiction writer, essayist, dramatist, and poet, was born on August 2, 1924 in Harlem, New York during the Harlem Renaissance. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in 1942, he began his formal career as a writer.  Baldwin was inspired by Richard Wright, despite his being called to the ministry at age fourteen in the Pentecostal faith and church dominated by his father, David Baldwin. 

Although James Baldwin emerged as a major American literary voice by 1953 when he published his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, his candid and militant essays found in Nobody Knows my Name (1961) and The Fire Next Time (1963) identified his writing with the emerging Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Baldwin stood with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, when the civil rights leader delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Sources: 
Warren Carson, “James Baldwin.” Encyclopedia of African American Literature. Edited by Wilfred D. Samuels (New York: Facts on File, 2007); David Leeming, James Baldwin (New York: Knopf, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Walker, Howard Kent (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Howard Kent Walker is a military veteran, diplomat, and educator who was born on December 3, 1935 in Newport News, Virginia. His father was a high school chemistry and mathematics teacher and his mother a homemaker. Upon graduation from high school Walker enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he studied until 1958.

During his time in Ann Arbor Walker eventually majored in political science and was also part of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), which meant he would have a three-year obligation to the U.S. Air Force after graduation, which he fulfilled (1962-1965). After his military service and a brief stint as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Walker passed the Foreign Service exam, becoming a Foreign Service Officer in 1969.  His first assignment was in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Inter-Africa Affairs, working on Africa-United Nations issues.
Sources: 
Interview with Ambassador Howard K. Walker: Charles Stuart Kennedy, November 11, 2001,The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) Foreign Affairs Oral History Project: http://www.adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Walker,%20Howard%20K.toc.pdf; ADST Country Reader on Togo: http://www.adst.org/Readers/Togo.pdf; American Foreign Service: http://www.afa.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Courville, Cindy L. (1954– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Cindy Lou Courville is an American diplomat and expert on Africa. Born in Opelousas, Louisiana, to Earnest and Mar Courville in 1954, she grew up attending segregated schools until the eighth grade when she was among the first groups of African American children who began to integrate the local schools.  

Courville received a bachelor of arts and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and then enrolled at the University of Denver in Colorado where she received a master’s (1980) and doctorate (1988) from its Josef Korbel School of International Studies. While studying in Denver, Courville took an interest in the liberation struggles in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), drawing comparisons to the segregated South where she had grown up. This interest started her down the path of African scholarship and policy engagement.
Sources: 
“Ambassador Cindy Courville,” Huffington Post, August 18, 2015; “Alumna Cindy Courville was First Ambassador to the African Union,” University of Denver magazine, Summer 2010; U.S. Department of State, International Information Programs: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2006/11/200611091711221ejrehsif0.4626123.html#axzz3jGwH5qqC.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Wallace, Sippie (1898–1986)

Vignette Type: 
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

Sanchez, Sonia (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Dixon, Aaron (1949– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Aaron Dixon was born in Chicago on January 2, 1949.  He moved with his family to Seattle at a young age and grew up in the city’s historically black Central District. Influenced by his parents’ commitment to social justice, Dixon became one of the leading activists in the Seattle area and a founding member of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party.

While a student at the University of Washington, Dixon played a key role in the formation of the first Black Students’ Union (BSU), as well as the Seattle chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Through the BSU, Dixon worked to organize BSU chapters and protests at Garfield, Franklin and Rainier Beach High Schools.

In the spring of 1968, while attending the funeral of teenager Bobby Hutton in Oakland, California, Dixon met Bobby Seale who along with Huey P. Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP).  The Panther leadership was impressed by 19 year-old Dixon and he was given instructions to form the Seattle Chapter.   With his appointment as Captain of the Seattle Chapter, he formed the first branch of the BPP outside of California. 

Dixon and his fellow Panthers were able to turn their Panther chapter into a thriving center of militant Black activism and community service in Seattle’s Central District.
Sources: 
Interview with Dixon, focusing on his work in the Black Panther Party in Seattle:
University of Washington’s Seattle Civil Rights Project
http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/aaron_dixon.htm
Neil Modie, “Former Black Panther Aaron Dixon to Run for Senate,” Seattle Post Intelligencer http://seattlepi.nwsources.com/local/262119_senate08.html; James W. John son, “Oral Interview with Aaron Dixon,” July 11, 1970, University of Washington Special Collections.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brady, Saint Elmo (1884-1966)

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

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

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

Keyes, Alan L. (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A controversial and conservative Republican, Alan Lee Keyes has perhaps one of the most extensive resumes to date in public and political life.
Sources: 
Sources: Alton 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/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bolden, Buddy (1877-1931)

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

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

Robinson, Samuel L. (1896-1964?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Sullivan, Leon Howard Jr. (1922-2001)

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

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

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

Williams, Peter Jr. (1780-1840)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Peter Williams Jr., clergyman, abolitionist, and opponent of colonization was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey around 1780. His family moved to New York City, where he first attended the New York African Free School operated by the Manumission Society. He was also taught privately by Episcopal Church leader, the Reverend Thomas Lyell. Williams joined a group of black Episcopalians who worshiped at New York’s Trinity Church on Sunday afternoons.  There lay leader John Henry Hobart confirmed and tutored Williams as well as other future Episcopal clergymen.  Hobart also officiated at Williams wedding. When Hobart died Williams was elected by the congregation as lay reader and licensed by the bishop.

In 1818 Williams led the other African American Episcopalians in creating their own church, St. Philip’s African Church.  The new church was recognized by the Episcopal Church on July 3, 1819 as one of the earliest predominately black Episcopal Churches in the United States.  On July 10, 1826, Peter Williams Jr. was advanced to the priesthood, becoming the second African American so ordained.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Peter Williams Jr.” in New York Divided, People, http://www.nydivided.org/popup/People/PeterWilliamsJr.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Randolph, Amanda (1896-1967)

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

Amanda Randolph, one of the first black performers to appear consistently on television, was born in 1896 in Louisville, Kentucky. She began performing as a young teenager in Cleveland’s musical comedies and nightclubs. In the 1930s, she toured Europe and performed in several hit musical revues such as Chilli Peppers, Dusty Lane, and Radio Waves.

Randolph began her film career as an actress appearing in Swing (1938), Lying Lips (1939) and The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940) – three of Oscar Micheaux race films, which he routinely created for nearly three decades to appeal to black audiences and offer a truer reputation of black life than most Hollywood productions.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle. Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia,
New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Darlene C. Hine and Fenella
MacFarlane, Black Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia. Vol. II,
(Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing Inc. 1993); Edward Mapp, Directory of
Blacks in the Performing Arts
, (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press
Inc., 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Shuttlesworth, Fred (1922-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Jackson, Curtis James III ["50 Cent"] (1975- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership:  Public Domain
50 Cent, rapper, actor, and entrepreneur was born Curtis James Jackson III in Queens, New York to Sabrina Jackson on July 6, 1975.  His mother, who had given birth when she was 15 years old, raised him by herself while dealing cocaine.  She died when Jackson was eight.  After his mother’s death, Jackson lived with his grandparents in Queens.

Jackson’s adolescence coincided with the rise and spread of crack cocaine in urban America, and his teenage years were defined by hustling and run-ins with the law.  After briefly taking up boxing, the lure of fast cash drew Jackson to the street life.  He was arrested and jailed multiple times for selling crack, and by the mid-1990s began to drift into music.  As a rapper, he borrowed the name “50 Cent” from a well-known 1980s stick-up kid from Brooklyn named Kelvin Martin.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Temple, Ruth Janetta (1892-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Ruth Janetta Temple was born in Natchez, Mississippi in 1892. After her father’s death, the Temple family moved to Los Angeles, California in 1904 where her mother worked as a practical nurse and Ruth cared for her five siblings.  Temple’s interest in medicine surfaced when her brother was seriously injured in a gunpowder explosion.  She recalled that “at that time I thought that women were nurses.  I didn’t know they were doctors.  When I learned that women were doctors, I said `Ah, that’s what I want to be’.”  In 1913 Ruth Temple was invited to speak to the Los Angeles Forum, an African American cultural and political organization established in 1903.  She so impressed Forum members, especially  prominent black activist, T.W. Troy,  that  they “became deeply interested in my potential,” and “did the unprecedented thing” of sponsoring  her with a five-year scholarship to the College of Medical Evangelists (which is now Loma Linda University).  
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, vol. 2, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 1156-1157.
Affiliation: 
California State University, Sacramento

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

Pinckney, Clementa C. (1973-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Clementa Carlos "Clem" Pinckney, was an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) pastor, South Carolina State Senator, and rising star in the national Democratic Party. On June 17, 2015, he and eight local black leaders were assassinated in Charleston, South Carolina, during Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that Pinckney pastored.

Raised in the liberation theology tradition, Pinckney seamlessly intersected his faith with civil rights activism and public policy. Born on July 30, 1973, in Beaufort, South Carolina to John and Theopia (Stevenson) Pinckney, young Pinckney in 1987 followed in the path of his great-grandfather, Rev. Lorenzo Stevenson, and uncle, Rev. Levern Stevenson, and began apprentice preaching in St. John AME Church in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Four years later during his freshman year at the AME-run Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina, Pinckney became a preacher and freshman class president. He also gained valuable exposure to the South Carolina legislature as a page at the Statehouse. By Pinckney’s junior year, these experiences set the foundation for his becoming the palmetto state’s emerging star in electoral politics. While at Allen University Pinckney joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Sources: 
Rebecca Lurye, “Sen. Clementa Pinckney mourned in Jasper County hometown,” in Beaufortgazzete.com http://www.islandpacket.com/2015/06/18/3801166/sen-clementa-pinckney-mourned.html; Eugene Scott, “The shooting victim Obama mentioned by name,” in CCN Politics http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/politics/south-carolina-church-shooting-clementa-pinckney/; CBSNews, “Charleston shooting suspect charged with 9 counts of murder,” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/charleston-shooting-suspect-dylann-roof-charged-with-nine-counts-of-murder/; Todd C. Frankel, “Clementa Pinckney, preacher and legislator, spoke out for justice,” The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/pastor-and-state-senator-remembered-for-preaching-calls-for-justice/2015/06/18/793c0162-15cc-11e5-89f3-61410da94eb1_story.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Hill, Charles Leander (1906-1956)

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

Dial, Thornton (1928-2016)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Thornton Dial in His Studio in Bessemer, Alabama, 2011
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Thornton Dial, a native Alabamian, was an artist and sculptor famous for yard show-influenced, mixed media pieces that used discarded everyday objects to symbolize the history and experience of African Americans in the South. While he did not belong to any formal school of art, Dial is widely considered to be one of the most important voices in the outsider art movement.

Thornton Dial was born on September 10, 1928 on a cotton plantation near Emelle, Alabama. His mother, Mattie Bell, was an unwed teenager at the time and asked her grandmother to raise her child. Dial lived with his great-grandmother on the sharecropper farm of his cousin, Buddy Jake Dial, and took his last name. Dial recalls that he spent more time working on the farm than attending school: “They told me, ‘Learn to figure out your money and write your name. That’s as far as a Negro can go.’” At age 12, Thornton Dial dropped out of school. Even though he had made it through third grade, he could not read or write.
Sources: 
Richard Lacayo, “Outside the Lines,” TIME Magazine, March 14, 2011, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2056700-1,00.html; William Grimes, “Thornton Dial, Outsider Artist Whose Work Told of Black Life, Dies at 87,” New York Times, January 26, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/27/arts/thornton-dial-outsider-artist-whose-work-told-of-black-life-dies-at-87.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mortimer, Jack (1700's)

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

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

Gordone, Charles (1925- )

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

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

Maples, William Lineas (1869-1943)

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

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

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

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

Hatcher, Richard G. (1933- )

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

Hatcher’s administration in Gary was known for developing innovative approaches to urban issues and for promoting the civil rights of blacks and other people of color in one of the first predominantly black cities in the North.  His term began during the period when “black power” was increasingly the rallying cry of African American political activists across the nation.  Hatcher clearly identified with this new movement.  
Sources: 
Alex Poinsett, Black Power Gary Style (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1970); James B. Lane, African American Mayors (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001); "Richard Hatcher Biography" The HistoryMakers, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/honorable-richard-hatcher.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Adams, Henry [Louisiana] (1843 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
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

King, Horace (1807-1885)

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

Horace King, born a slave on September 8, 1807 in Chesterfield District, South Carolina, was a successful bridge architect and builder in West Georgia, Northern Alabama and northeast Georgia in the period between the 1830s and 1870s.   King worked for his master, John Godwin who owned a successful construction business.  Although King was a slave, Godwin treated him as a valued employee and eventually gave him considerable influence over his business.  Horace King supervised many of Godwin's business activities including the management of construction sites. In 1832, for example, King led a construction crew in building Moore’s Bridge, the first bridge crossing the lower Chattahoochee River in northwest Georgia.  Later in the decade, Godwin and King constructed some of the largest bridges in Georgia, Alabama, and Northeastern Mississippi.  By the 1840s King designed and supervised construction of major bridges at Wetumpka, Alabama and Columbus, Mississippi without Godwin's supervision.  Godwin issued five year warranties on his bridges because of his confidence in King’s high quality work.

Sources: 

John S. Lupold, John S., and Thomas L. French Jr. Bridging Deep South
Rivers: The Life and Legend of Horace King
  (Athens: The University of
Georgia Press, 2004); John N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman, African
American Business Leaders
  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press,
1993); Thomas L. French and Edward L. French, "Horace King, Bridge
Builder," Alabama Heritage 11 (Winter 1989): 34-47.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Manley, Michael Norman (1924-1997)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Michael Norman Manley, longtime prime minister of Jamaica, was born December 10, 1924 in the suburbs of Kingston, Jamaica to a well-off family. His father, Norman Manley, was a lawyer and political activist in Jamaica and considered by many to be a national hero. Michael Manley became interested in politics as his father was helping to found the People’s National Party (PNP) in 1938. His education at Jamaica College was followed by enrollment in McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1943 where he also joined the Royal Air Force. At the end of World War II, Manley left the RAF as a pilot officer and obtained a bachelor’s degree at London (UK) School of Economics, studying politics and economics with a special focus on Caribbean politics.
Sources: 
Colin Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Vol. 1 (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006); Erick Langer and Jay Kinsbruner, Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, Vol. 1 (Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008); C. Tate, Governments of the World: A Global Guide to Citizens' Rights and Responsibilities (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Current, Gloster B. (1913-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

Johnson, Anthony (? – 1670)

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

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

Rive, Richard Moore (1931-1989)

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

The novelist Richard Moore Rive was born March 1, 1931 in Cape Town, South Africa.  His mother was Nancy Rive, a black South African woman and his father was Richardson Moore, an African-American ship hand.  Moore abandoned his newly born son, Richard, a few months after he was born, never to be seen again.

Richard Moore Rive grew up in a tenement building called Eaton Place in Cape Town's impoverished black neighborhood, District Six.  He was raised by his mother and several half siblings, particularly his half sister Georgina Rive.  Rive was also raised Catholic and baptized at the St. Mark’s church in District Six, though he later became an atheist as an adult.

Rive attended primary school at St. Mark’s.  At age 12, his high marks earned him a municipal scholarship to the prestigious Trafalgar High School.  Along with his studies Rive found time to enjoy hiking and sport, and won several prizes for athletics in amateur competitions.

Sources: 
Simon Gikandi, The Routledge Encyclopedia of African Literature (London: Routledge, 2009); Bernth Lindfors and Reinhard Sander, Twentieth-Century Caribbean and Black African Writers (Detroit: Gale Research, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cleage, Albert, Jr. (Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) (1911-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Albert Cleage, jr., or Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, Black Nationalist and civil rights activist, was one of the most prominent black religious leaders in America. Agyemen preached a form of nationalism within the black community that stressed economic self-sufficiency and separation that relied on a religious awakening among black people. 

Albert Cleage, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 13, 1911.  Cleage graduated from Wayne State University in Michigan in 1937, earning a B.A. in sociology, and a M.A. in Divinity from Oberlin School of Theology in 1943.  Cleage married Doris Graham and had two daughters. Cleage and Graham later divorced in 1955.  Cleage ran for governor of Michigan in 1962 under the Freedom Now Party, and was a candidate in the Democratic primary for U.S. Representative from Michigan, 13th District, in 1966. Cleage later changed his name to Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.  

Sources: 
“Albert Cleage,” in African American Encyclopedia, Michael Williams, ed., (New York: 1989); “Albert Cleage,” in Encyclopedia of American Culture and History, Colin Palmer, ed., (New York: 2006); http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/people/albert_cleage.html.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Hale, Helene H. (1918-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Helene (Hilyer) Hale, the first African American woman elected to the Hawaii Legislature, was born March 23, 1918 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Her father was an attorney in Minneapolis and her grandfather was one of the first African American attorneys to graduate from the University of Minnesota. Her uncle, Ralph Bunche, was the first African American to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. Over the course of her life, Hale was a teacher, realtor, and politician. Helene Hilyer married William Hale, a teacher from Nashville, Tennessee.  The Hales were teaching in California in 1947 when she heard a presentation by poet Don Blanding about the pleasures of living in a small Hawaiian town called Kona.  The Hales decided they would move to Kona and raise a family in a multicultural society.

When the Hales moved to Kona, Hawaii, the Japanese, Hawaiian, and Caucasian communities had little social interaction.  Since Helene and William Hale were African American, they easily associated with all of Kona’s diverse communities which facilitated her later entry into local politics. Helene Hale taught in the public schools and opened the Menehune Book Store in Kona.  Shortly afterwards she became active in politics as a Democrat.
Sources: 
Ebony, April 1963; Interviews with Helene Hale, 2000 and 2008 by Daphne Barbee-Wooten for Mahogany Magazine; Helene Hale Political Brochure in the author’s possession.
Contributor: 

Streeter, Mel (1931-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mel Streeter was born in Riverside, California in 1931. He attended the University of Oregon on a basketball scholarship and was the second African-American basketball player at Oregon after declining an offer by legendary basketball coach John Wooden to attend UCLA, because UCLA did not have an architecture program. Streeter graduated with a bachelor's degree in architecture in 1955.

At the University of Oregon, Streeter was enrolled in the United States Army ROTC program. After serving as a second lieutenant in the transport unit at Ft. Lawton from 1955 to 1957,  he stayed in Seattle to raise a family and tried finding work at local architectural firms. He struck out 22 times before he finally found work with Paul Hayden Kirk and Fred Bassetti.

In 1967, Streeter opened the third black-owned architecture firm in Seattle. In the 1970s, he teamed with Paul Dermanis to form Streeter/Dermanis. By the early 1990s, the two partners had split and Streeter created Streeter & Associates Architects. The firm is known for projects such as Auburn City Hall, the Federal Aviation Administration Regional Headquarters and several buildings at Naval Station Everett.
Sources: 
“Architect, 'life mentor' Mel Streeter dead at 75” by Sam Bennett, Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, June 15, 2006 and “Streeter, pioneering architect, dead at 75” by Athima Chansanchai, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kelly, Samuel Eugene (1926-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Samuel Eugene Kelly, soldier and educator, was born in Greenwich, Connecticut on January 26, 1926 to James Handy Kelly, a minister, and Essie Matilda Allen-Kelly, a homemaker.  Educated at Greenwich public schools, Kelly dropped out of high school in 1943 and joined the United States Army the following year.  Although he entered the Army as an eighteen-year-old private, fifteen months later he had completed Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and in August 1945 was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. With World War II over in the same month, Kelly became part of the U.S. occupying forces in Japan, serving there until 1950.  
Sources: 
Samuel E. Kelly (with Quintard Taylor), Dr. Sam: Soldier, Educator, Advocate, Friend, An Autobiography (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Akuetteh, Cynthia Helen (1948- )

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

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

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

Chase, James E. (1914-1987)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Everett Chase, businessman and politician, was born the youngest of seven children in Wharton, Texas in 1914.  He attended high school in Ballinger, Texas.  During the Great Depression, Chase became an enrollee at a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp in El Paso.  Upon completion of his CCC service, he migrated to Spokane, Washington with fellow Texans, Elmo Dalbert and Harry Blackwell.  In 1934, when Chase first arrived in Spokane after hoboing across the west, he found a job shining shoes at a white barbershop.  

In 1942 Chase married Eleanor Barrow, the granddaughter of 19th century Spokane black pioneer and entrepreneur Peter Barrow.  The Chases had a child Roland.  During World War II, James Chase’s employment situation improved.  He repaired military vehicles at Spokane’s Geiger Air Field and in 1945 partnered with Elmo Dalbert to open Chase and Dalbert Body and Fender, an automotive body repair shop.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Chase served at different times as president and vice president of the Spokane Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  While at the helm of the branch, Chase brought Rosa Parks in as a guest speaker in 1956 and through the media he addressed local civil rights abuses in employment and housing.  

Sources: 
Chris Peck, “Jim Chase: He's Ready; Is Spokane?” Spokesman Review, October 29, 1981; Dorothy Powers, “Jim and Eleanor Chase Gave Spokane a Great 2-for-1 Bargain," Spokesman Review, November 17, 1985; Aldore Collier, “The Mayor Few People Know,” Ebony, August 1984: 122-126; “Statement of Votes Cast, 1981,” Spokane County Auditor, Elections Division.  Held by Washington State Archives, Eastern Region Archives; Quintard Taylor, Interview with James and Eleanor (Barrow) Chase, 2 November 1972.  Black Oral History Interviews, 1972-1974.  Held in the Washington State University Libraries – Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.  See also:  http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/holland/masc/xblackoralhistory.html; http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?displaypage=output.cfm&file_id=8788.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Carolyn L. Robertson Payton (1925–2001)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dr. Carolyn L. Robertson Payton was the first African American and the first woman to become the director of the U.S. Peace Corps. She was appointed in 1977 by U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Carolyn L. Robertson Payton was born on May 13, 1925, in Norfolk, Virginia, to Bertha M. Flanagan, a seamstress, and Leroy S. Robertson, a ship steward. She graduated from Booker T. Washington High school in Norfolk in 1941 and received her B.S. degree in Home Economics from Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1945. Payton remained close to Bennett College, establishing a scholarship fund there in the late 1990s.

Payton then attended the University of Wisconsin where her tuition and other expenses were paid by the state of Virginia as part of the state’s policy of sending black graduate students to out-of-state institutions rather than allowing them to received advanced degrees at the state’s universities. Payton received her Master’s in Psychology from Wisconsin in 1948.
Sources: 
Gwendolyn P. Keita, “Heritage Column: Carolyn Robertson Payton (1925-2001),” in PsycEXTRA Dataset: Gwendolyn Keita and Tressie Muldrow, “Carolyn Robertson Payton,” in A.N. O'Connell & N. Felipe Russo (eds.), Women in psychology: A Bio-bibliographic sourcebook (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990); Carolyn L. Robertson Payton Obituary, Washington Post, April 22, 2001.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Powell, Colin (1937- )

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fisher, Abby (1832- ?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walker, Edwin Garrison (1830-1901)

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

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

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

Bing, David (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Born on November 24, 1943 in Washington, D.C, David Bing was a skilled point guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA).  His mother was a homemaker and his father was a bricklayer who founded a construction company.

Sources: 

Elizabeth Schleichert, Dave Bing: Basketball Great With a Heart  (Springfield, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, 1995); Lou Sahadi, Basketball’s Fastest Hands (New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1977); John Hareas, NBA’s Greatest (New York: DK Publishers, 2003); www.nba.com; www.binggroup.com; www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/The-Bing-Company-History.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Damu (1952–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Damu Smith at the United For Peace and
Justice Conference, Chicago, 2003
Image Courtesy of Diane Greene Lent, Photographer

Leroy Wesley Smith was born in St. Louis Missouri on December 6, 1951, and became a late 20th Century social activist for justice. Son of a fireman and a licensed practical nurse, Smith spent his childhood growing up in a St. Louis housing project.  He participated in an after school program for disadvantaged male youth which gave him the opportunity to travel to Cairo, Illinois where he heard other activists and community organizers for the first time.  Impressed by their passion and their organizing skills, Smith was influenced to follow a similar path.

After graduating high school in 1970, Smith entered St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota where he became the leader of The Organization of Afro-American Students.  Through this organization, Smith fought for a Black Studies program that would hire more black professors.

Sources: 

Sharon Melson Fletcher, “Damu Smith Biography” African American Biographies. (Net Industries, 2009) http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2880/Smith-Damu.html Retrieved 2009-03-06; Sara Powell, “In Memoriam: Damu Smith 1951-2006” Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. (Jul 2006). http://www.wrmea.com/archives/July_2006/0607080.html Retrieved 2009-03-04.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Taylor, Robert Robinson (1868-1942)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Architect and educator Robert Robinson Taylor was the first African American to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  He is the father of architect and Chicago business leader Robert Rochon Taylor (1899-1957) and the great-grandfather of Valerie Jarrett (1956-  ), senior advisor to President Barack Obama (1961-  ). With a professional career as an architect and instructor that spanned four decades from 1893 to 1933, Taylor influenced generations of future African American architects in the United States.  

Robert Robinson Taylor was born on June 8th, 1868, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His father, a carpenter, and his mother were former slaves. Taylor’s earliest formal education occurred at Wilmington’s Williston School and the all-black Gregory Normal Institute (1868-1921), sponsored by the American Missionary Association (1846-?).  He entered MIT’s School of Architecture in 1888 and in 1892 was MIT’s first black graduate.
Sources: 
Dreck Spurlock Wilson, ed., African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004); Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee; Its Story and Its Work (Boston: Small, Maynard & Co., 1900); Clarence G. Williams, “From 'Tech' to Tuskegee: The Life of Robert Robinson Taylor,1868-1942,” http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/mithistory/blacks-at-mit/taylor.html; “MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections: An MIT Chronology” http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/timeline/index.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dumas, Alexandre (Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie), (1802 – 1870)

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

Alexandre Dumas père, prolific playwright, novelist, travel writer and historian, was born on the 24th July 1802 to Marie Louise Labouret and her husband Thomas Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, who was a military general under Napoleon I. Dumas’ paternal grandfather was the Marquis Antoine-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie who fell in love with and married Dumas’ grandmother, Marie Louise Cessette Dumas, an African-Caribbean slave from San Domingo (now Haiti).
Sources: 
F.W.J. Hemmings, The King of Romance: A Portrait of Alexandre Dumas (Hamish Hamilton, London: 1979); G.R. Pearce, Dumas Pere: Great Lives (The Camelot Press Ltd., London & Southampton, 1934); The Alexandre Dumas pere website, www.cadytech.com/dumas/biographie.php; The Literary Network, www.online-literature.com/dumas (Jalic Inc. 2000-2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Edwards, James (1871-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
James Edwards, ca. 1930
Image Courtesy of James Guenther

James Edwards was one of the most successful African American homesteaders in the state of Wyoming.  Born in Ohio on February 14, 1871, local tradition in Wyoming suggests that prior to venturing west, Edwards had served in an African American cavalry unit in Cuba, though no documentation has been found to substantiate the claim.

In 1900, Edwards accompanied his father and a group of Italian miners westward in response to eastern newspaper advertisements of work at the Cambria coal mine in Newcastle, Wyoming.  After being driven away from the mine, Edwards walked south to the area near Lusk, finding work on March 31, 1903 on Eugene Bigelow Wilson and George Luther Wilson's Running Water Ranch on the Niobrara River in present day Niobrara County, Wyoming.   He was regarded by the owners of the ranch as a good and trustworthy worker, sheepman, and horse trainer.  Edwards worked on the Wilson Brothers’ ranch until December of 1914.  By the end of his employment on the ranch he had been promoted to foreman, putting him in a supervisory role over white employees.

Sources: 
Todd Guenther, "'Y'all Call Me Nigger Jim Now, But Someday You'll Call Me Mr. James Edwards': Black Success on the Plains of the Equality State," Annals of Wyoming 61:2 (Fall 1989); Anne Wilson Whitehead, “Letters to the Editor,” Annals of Wyoming 62:2 (Summer 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Wyoming

Baskett, James (1904-1948)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Baskett, the first male African American to win an Academy Award, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 16, 1904.  After high school Baskett planned to study pharmacy, but after he was offered a small part in a show in Chicago, Illinois his career path was forever changed.  Baskett continued to take small roles in Chicago plays for a time, but later he went to New York City, New York and joined the Lafayette Players Stock Company, where he stayed for many years.

Baskett first appeared on film in a feature role in Harlem is Heaven, and continued on in such films as Policy Man and Straight to Heaven.  Baskett was not confined to film and theater; he also played Gabby Gibson, a slick-talking lawyer on the popular radio program Amos 'n' Andy.

Sources: 
Edward Mapp, Americans and the Oscar (Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc, 2003); Henry T. Sampson, Blacks in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films.  (Metuchen, N.J: The Scarecrow Press, Inc, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jakes, Thomas Dexter (1957- )

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

Hughes, Langston (1902-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Sources: 
Faith Berry, Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem (Westport, Ct.: L. Hill, 1983); Nathan Huggins, Harlem Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971); Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986-88).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Boston College

Todman, Terence A. (1926-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Named Career Ambassador, a title equivalent to a four-star general, U.S. ambassador to six different countries, Terence A. Todman was an outstanding diplomat in the service of the United States. He challenged the racial prejudice he encountered at the State Department, paving the way for hiring of more people of color there and he was a pioneer in integrating human rights issues into foreign policy.

Clarence Alphonso Todman was born on March 13, 1926, in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands to parents Alphonso and Rachael Todman, grocery clerk/stevedore, and laundress/maid. He attended the local university for one year and then was drafted into the US Army.  He served four years in the Army and when stationed in post-World War II Japan, he helped organize that defeated nation’s first post-war elections.
Sources: 
Emily Langer, “Terence A. Todman, U.S. ambassador to six nations, dies at 88,” The Washington Post (August 16, 2014); “Being Black in a ‘Lily White’ State Department,” Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training http://adst.org/oral-history/fascinating-figures/being-black-in-a-lily-white-state-department/; Arnold Highfield, “Virgin Islander Terence Todman, ambassador extraordinaire,” Virgin Island Daily News, March 11, 2011; Douglas Martin, “Terence Todman, Envoy to 6 Nations, Is Dead at 88,” The New York Times, August 20, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Raymond L., Sr. (1922-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Raymond Johnson and Family in Los Angeles, 1961
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sources: 
Elaine Woo, “Raymond L. Johnson Sr. dies at 89; lawyer, civil rights activist,” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2012; “Tuskegee Airman and Civil Rights Icon Atty. Raymond L. Johnson, Sr. Succumbs,” Los Angeles Sentinel, January 12, 2012; Andie Parrish, “Raymond L.  Johnson, Sr.,” January 20, 2012, www.findagrave.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Webb, Wellington E. (1941- )

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Martin, Ora Mae Lewis (1918–2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ora Mae Lewis on Her Wedding Day, 1946
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Newspaper columnist and poet Ora Mae Lewis was born March 29, 1918, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her father, Nathan Leopold Lewis, was a native of Jamaica and a decorated soldier in the British Colonial Army, and her mother Cecelia Della Atkinson, a New Orleans Creole, was a pianist. Cecelia Atkinson died when Ora was seven years old, and her father later re-married. Ora Mae and her siblings lived with her grandmother and great-grandmother. Her parents and grandparents spoke English, French, German, and Creole; however, her father forbade her from speaking anything but the King’s English. Lewis attended New Orleans public schools. Her short story, “The First Christmas,” was published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the city’s largest newspaper, when Lewis was nine.
Sources: 
Ora M. Lewis.com; Jari Honora, “The Twinkling Smiles of Ora Mae Lewis’ Twinkle Magazine,” http://www.creolegen.org/2015/11/20/the-twinkling-smiles-of-ora-mae-lewis-twinkle-magazine/; Sister Mary Anthony Scally, R.S.M., Negro Catholic Writers (1900-1943) A Bio-Bibliography, http://www.nathanielturner.com/negrocatholicwriters2.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Prince, Nancy Gardner (1799-c.1856)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Little is known about the early life of Nancy Gardner Prince, except from what she reveals in her 1853 autobiography, A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince.  Prince was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  Her father, Thomas Gardner, was a seaman from Nantucket who died when Nancy was just three months old.  Her mother, the daughter of slaves, married several times.  Always on the brink of poverty, the death of Mony Vose, Nancy’s stepfather, was an economic disaster and led to her mother’s emotional breakdown.  Nancy and her six younger siblings picked and sold berries in order to support the family. She then left home to work as a servant for white families.

Nancy Gardner’s life changed dramatically when she married Nero Prince in 1824.  Prince was a founder of the Prince Hall Freemasons in Boston.  They traveled to Russia, where Nero worked as a footman at the court of the czar in St. Petersburg, and Nancy opened a boarding house and made and sold infant clothing.  When the Princes returned to the United States, they settled in Boston, where Nancy started a seamstress business and participated in the activities of the bi-racial Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.  In 1840 and 1842 she went to Jamaica as a Christian missionary.  Prince often gave public lectures about her travels.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Bert James Loewenberg and Ruth Bogin, eds., Black Women in Nineteenth Century American Life (Univ. Park: Penn State Univ. Press, 1978); and Australia Tarver Henderson, “Nancy Gardner Prince” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, vol. II (New York: Carlson, 1993): 946-47.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dziko, Trish Millines (1957- )

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

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

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

Rice, Condoleezza (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Condoleezza Rice has earned distinction as a scholar, expert on international politics, and with her appointments as the first African American woman National Security Advisor and Secretary of State of the United States.

Rice was born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama to John Wesley Rice, Jr., a Presbyterian minister and school counselor and Angelena (Ray) Rice, a public school teacher.  Influenced heavily by her parents, Rice, their only child, showed an exceptional intelligence and scholastic focus at a very early age.  Despite growing up in the black middle-class neighborhood of Titusville in Birmingham, Condoleezza and her family could not escape the “Jim Crow” policies of that city.  Denise McNair, one of four young girls who died in the 16th St. Baptist Church Bombing in September 1963, was Rice’s childhood friend and playmate.  
Sources: 
Antonio Felix, Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story (New Market Press, New York, NY 2002); http://www.whitehouse.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Ellsworth “Bumpy” (1906–1968)

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

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

McGuire, George Alexander (1866-1934)

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

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

Vann, Robert Lee (1879-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Robert Lee Vann, newspaper publisher, politician, government official and civil rights leader, was born on August 27, 1879 in Ahoskie, North Carolina.  He graduated as valedictorian of Waters Training School in Winton, N.C., in 1901, and attended Wayland Academy, Richmond, Virginia between 1901 and 1903.  Vann was influenced by John T. Mitchell, editor of the Richmond Planet, who was adamantly opposed to Jim Crow laws and disfranchisement. Vann was a regular contributor to the school newspaper and by his senior year he became editor-in-chief.
Sources: 
Andrew Bunie, Robert L. Vann of the Pittsburgh Courier: Politics and Black Journalism (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Edgar Toppin, A Biographical History of Blacks in America Since 1528 (New York: David McKay Company, Inc, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moryck, Brenda Ray (1894-1949)

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

Brenda Ray Moryck was a Washington, D.C.-based black writer and social activist often associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.  While Moryck and her female peers did not receive as much mainstream public attention as did many black male artists, she published short stories, essays, and book reviews in important journals such as the Urban League’s Opportunity and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Crisis.  

Brenda Moryck was born in 1894 in Newark, New Jersey.  The great-granddaughter of Reverend Charles Ray, editor of the important antebellum black newspaper, the Colored American, Moryck noted that “writing is a tradition in our family.”  In 1916, she graduated from Wellesley College and returned to New Jersey to do volunteer work with the Newark Bureau of Charities.  Married to Lucius Lee Jordan in 1917, Moryck was widowed within a year and later remarried Robert B. Francke in 1930.  During this interim, she taught English at Armstrong Technical School, one of two segregated high schools for African American youth in Washington, D.C.  

Sources: 

“A Point of View (An Opportunity Dinner Reaction),” Opportunity 3 (August 1925); “Our Prize Winners and What They Say of Themselves,” Opportunity 4 (June 1926), 188-189;  Brenda Ray Moryck, “Days,” The Crisis 35 (June 1928): 187-188; and Lorraine Elena Roses and Ruth Elizabeth Randolph, “Moryck (Francke), Brenda Ray,” in Harlem Renaissance and Beyond:  Literary Biographies of 100 Black Women Writers, 1900-1945 (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1990), 243-246.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University.

Sands, Diana (1934-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Diana Sands, 1963 (Photo permissions granted by 
Bruce Kellner, Trustee of the Estate of Carl Van Vechten)
Diana Sands, the first black actress to be cast in a major Broadway play without regard to color, was born in New York City in 1934 to Rudolph Thomas, a carpenter, and Shirley Sands, a milliner. Sands made her first stage debut in George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara at New York City's High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. After graduating from high school, Sands performed as a dancer while seeking work on Broadway. 

In 1959, she debuted on Broadway as the character Beneatha Younger, a dignified, aspiring doctor in A Raisin in the Sun. Her stage performance earned her the 1959 Outer Circle Critics' Award and her first film appearance as the same character in the 1961 film version opposite Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, Ivan Dixon, and Sidney Poitier.

Sources: 
Anonymous, "Diana Sands In Death Struggle With Cancer," Jet, October 4, 1973; Anonymous, "Final Rites Held for Diana Sands," Jet, October 11, 1973; Maurice Peterson, "Diana, Diana," Essence, June 1972.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Carson, Andre (1974 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Andre Carson Congressional Website, http://carson.house.gov; Reuters,http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN1164415020080312
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Peters, Thomas (1738-1792)

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

Garrison, Zina (1963- )

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

Born November 16, 1963 in Houston, Texas, tennis star Zina Garrison was the youngest of seven children and was raised by her widowed mother, Mary Garrison. She began playing tennis at the age of 10 through the MacGregar Park Tennis Program. The program was run by John Wilkerson who later became Garrison’s coach throughout her tennis career. She graduated from Ross Sterling High School in 1981.

Garrison had an illustrious amateur career. She burst onto the scene in 1978 when she reached the finals in the U.S. Girls National Championship. Then from 1978 to 1982 she won three more major tournaments. As an amateur she became the 1981 International Tennis Federation Junior of the Year and the 1982 Women’s Tennis Association Most Impressive Newcomer.

Sources: 
Marilyn Marshall, "Zina Garrison: Aiming for the Top in Tennis," Ebony Magazine, June 1986; Jane Dur, "Zina Garrison," Texas Monthly, September 2001;  "Zina Garrison named 1st African-American U.S. Fed Cup captain," New York Amsterdam News, January 2004.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Daniel Hale (1856-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Daniel Hale Williams III was a pioneering surgeon best known for performing in 1893 one of the world’s first successful open heart surgeries.  Williams was born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania to Sarah Price Williams and Daniel Hale Williams II.  Following the death of his father, Williams lived with family friends in Baltimore, Maryland, and with family in Illinois, from 1866 to 1878 where he was a shoemaker’s apprentice and barber until he decided to pursue his education.  In 1878, Williams’s interest in medicine began when he worked in the office of Henry Palmer, a Wisconsin surgeon.
Sources: 
http://www.biography.com/people/daniel-hale-williams-9532269?page=2; http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/danielwilliams.html; http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-chicagodays-heartoperation-story,0,4001788.story; http://www.providentfoundation.org/history/index.html; http://www.providentfoundation.org/history/williams.html; Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (eds.), Africana: Encyclopedia of The African and African American Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Darlene Clark Hine (ed.), The African-American Odyssey (New York: Prentice Hall, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Foxx, Jamie (1967- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Actor, singer, comedian, and musician, Jamie Foxx was born Eric Morlon Bishop in Terrell, Texas on December 13, 1967. He was adopted by his maternal grandparents Mark and Estelle Tolley after his parents’ divorce when he was still an infant. His grandmother introduced him to the piano at age three, and by age 15 Bishop was the musical director and choir leader at Terrell’s New Hope Baptist Church. He attended United States International University in San Diego on a piano scholarship, studied classical piano at Juilliard, and left school in 1988 without graduating.

On a dare, Bishop decided to perform at a stand-up comedy open mic night in Los Angeles in 1989, which jump started his comedy and acting career.  As he got more comedy engagements, he created a stage name (Foxx in ode to comedian Red Foxx, and the gender-neutral name Jamie because women tended to get priority spots for open mic nights). This led to Foxx being cast on the Fox television series In Living Color (1990-1994). Foxx then starred in WB Network’s The Jamie Foxx Show, which ran from 1996 to 2002.
Sources: 
Torriano Berry and Venise T. Berry, Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow, 2007); "Jamie Foxx | The Official Website," Jamie Foxx The Official Website; Steven Otfinoski, African Americans in the Performing Arts (New York: Facts On File, 2010).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Atkins, Hannah Diggs (1923-2010)

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

 

Sources: 
Paul English, “One Shot Transforms Woman’s Life,” The Sunday Oklahoman, November 28, 1999; Hannah Diggs Atkins Obituary, http://www.newsok.com/first-black-woman-elected-to-oklahoma-house-dies/article/3469633.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Northwestern Oklahoma State University

Steward, Austin (1793-1869)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Austin Steward, author, businessman, abolitionist, and temperance leader, was born a slave in Prince William County, Virginia to Robert and Susan Steward sometime around 1793. By the age of seven he was working as a house slave on the plantation of Capt. William Helm. The Helm family left Virginia, after being involved in several embarrassing scandals, settled in upstate New York. Austin Steward went with them along with many other slaves.

While living in upstate New York, Steward taught himself to read in secrecy, for which he was severely beaten and his books burned. This beating, along with many others he received, gave him severe reoccurring head pains from which he suffered for the rest of his life. In 1814 Steward sought the help of the New York Manumission Society to secure his freedom. An agent of the society informed Steward that he was legally free on the grounds that he had been rented out by Capt. Helm to other farmers, which violated New York State’s slave laws. The agent told Steward to continue his services to Capt. Helm until the agent could fully provide Steward with everything he would need to make his freedom official.
Sources: 
Austin Steward, Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002); http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/steward/bio.html; http://www.math.buffalo.edu/~sww/0history/hwny-steward.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lu Valle, James E.(1912-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Olympic athlete and scientist James Ellis Lu Valle was born in San Antonio, Texas on November 10, 1912 but grew up in Los Angeles where he made use of a library card even before entering elementary school.  Academics was always uppermost in his mind despite the fact that as a track star at the University of California at Los Angeles – and not on athletic scholarship - he won the bronze medal in the 400-meter dash at the historic 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Upon graduating Phi Beta Kappa, Lu Valle was elected the first president of UCLA’s Graduate Student Association and earned his master’s degree in chemistry.  Studying under the renowned Linus Pauling, Lu Valle obtained his doctorate at the California Institute of Technology in 1940 then briefly taught chemistry at Fisk University.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 16th Ed. Vol. 4. (New York: Bowker, 1986); http://www.aafla.org/6oic/OralHistory/OHLuValle.pdf
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Burroughs, Jr., John Andrew (1936–2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Andrew Burroughs, Jr. was an equal opportunity advocate and diplomat who was born in Washington, D.C. on July 31, 1936. He spent his youth in Washington, D.C. before moving to the Midwest to attend the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.  While there he played on the varsity football team, helping it win two conference championships and two Rose Bowl games. He graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree in 1959. After graduation, Burroughs returned to Washington, D.C., where he became a social sciences teacher in the city’s public school system.

In 1960 Burroughs left teaching to become an employee in the U.S. Department of State. His first job was as an employee in the passport examiner’s office from 1960 to 1963. In 1963 he was promoted to Assistant Chief of Special Services Branch of the Passport Office, a post he held until 1964.  
Sources: 
Jet magazine, May 20, 1985 and October 20, 1986; “Ambassador Nomination,” http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=36008; Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) Country Reader on Malawi: http://adst.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Malawi.pdf; Obituary Notice, Washington Post, September 26, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Scott, Benny (1945–2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William Benjamin Scott, known in the racing world as “The Professor” because of his other career as a college instructor and administrator, was a second-generation African American race car driver.  He was born on February 4, 1945 in Los Angeles, California. Scott’s father, Willie (Bill) “Bullet” Scott, raced midget cars in Southern California in the 1930s and later became a mechanic.  Benny Scott, while in high school, worked on cars with his father and raced go-carts.  
Sources: 
“Racer, Benny Scott plans to become first black driver at Indy 500,” Ebony Magazine, December 1972;  “Benny Scott,” Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, Jessie Carney Smith, editor, (California, Greenwood, December 2011);  “Black American Racers Inc.” https://industrydocuments.library.ucsf.edu/documentstore/n/y/j/v//nyjv0084/nyjv0084.pdf: Leonard T. Miller, Racing while black, how an African-American Stock Car Team Made its mark on NASCAR (New York: Seven Stories Press, February 2011); Lacy J. Banks, “The Black American Racers: Breaking in on a fast track,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 9, 1975.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dunjee, Roscoe (1883-1965)

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

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.

Sources: 
J. Reuben Sheeler, “Roscoe Dunjee” in Rayford Logan & Michael Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton & Company, 1982), 203-204.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinnati

Thompson, John Robert, Jr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born in Washington, D.C. on September 2, 1941, legendary basketball coach-emeritus John Thompson, Jr., arose from segregated public-housing and asphalt playground-courts to the polished hardwoods of collegiate and professional basketball, becoming the first African American head coach -- in any major college sport-- to win a national title. Best known for leading the 1984 Georgetown University “Hoyas” to the coveted National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, as well as the iconic white towel draped over one shoulder, Thompson guided the Hoyas for 27 seasons to a distinctive record of 596-239 (.714), just four games shy of college basketball’s elite list of coaches with 600 or more career wins. Between 1972 and 1999, the Hoyas won seven “Big East” conference championships and reached postseason play 24 times, earning 20 NCAA and four National Invitational Tournament (NIT) bracket-berths. Named "Coach of the Year" seven times, between 1980 and 1987, Thompson retired in January 1999. Barely ten months later, at the age of 58, he was inducted into the “Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.” His student-athletes’ 97%-graduation rate (76 of 78 received degrees) was highlighted among his most impressive achievements.
Sources: 
Leonard Shapiro, Big Man on Campus: John Thompson and the Georgetown Hoyas (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1991); Bruce Lowitt and Ira Rosenfeld, "A Firm Hand at the Helm," Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Vol. 101, No. 64 (March 1985); Carolyn Maguire, “IAC (Intercollegiate Athletics Center) Named for Thompson Jr.,” The Georgetown University Hoya (March 2014).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ringold, Millie (1845-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Millie Ringold was a gold prospector, boarding house proprietor, and long-time resident of the Yogo mining district in the Little Belt Mountains of central Montana. According to the 1900 census, Millie Ringold—whose names are variously spelled Molly, Ringo, and Ringgold—was born a slave in 1845 in Virginia. By the 1870s she had settled in Fort Benton, Montana Territory, and worked as a nurse for the U.S. Army.

In 1879 miners discovered gold along Yogo Creek near Helena, Montana, kicking off a short-lived gold rush. Ringold was among the prospectors who flooded the region, reportedly with a wagon, a pair of mules, and an $1,800 grub stake. Although most miners left the area by 1883, Ringold remained, never relinquishing her faith that additional gold deposits would be found.

The 1900 census listed her as prospector-owner of her claim. By that point she had hired an African American man to work for her, who may have been Abraham Carter, the other African American resident listed in the 1900 census for the Yogo District, and one of those who remained after the initial boom played out. When Ringold ran out of funds to pay him, she reportedly did the manual work herself, often wearing men’s overalls.
Sources: 
Montana Historical Society library vertical file, Ringold file, Fergus County Democrat, October 1906; and Kenneth W. Hay, “I Remember Old Yogo and the Weatherwax,” Montana the Magazine of Western History 25:2 (Spring 1975), 62-9.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jackson, Michael (1958-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Eleanora E. Tate, African American Musicians (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000); Adam Woog, From Ragtime to Hip-Hop: A Century of Black American Music (Detroit: Lucent Books, 2007); Steve Huey, "Michael Jackson,"  Allmusic.com 14 Mar. 2007. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:aex1z83ajyv5~T1.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chavis, John (1763-1838)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Chavis, early 19th Century minister and teacher, was the first African American to graduate from a college or university in the United States. Chavis was born on October 18, 1763.  His place of birth is debated by historians.  Some scholars think that Chavis hailed from the West Indies.  Others believe that he was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, or that he was born in North Carolina.  Available records document that Chavis was a free African American who probably worked for Halifax, Virginia attorney James Milner beginning in 1773.   It is likely that Chavis utilized the books in Milner’s extensive law library to educate himself.  
Sources: 
Helen Chavis Othow, John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor 1783-1838, Mentor (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2001); William S. Powell, Ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 1, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), John Chavis Letters, #2014, 1889-1892; Wilson Library Manuscripts Department , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; John Chavis Biography, North Carolina State University Division of Archives and History, http://www.ncsu.edu/ligon/about/history/chavis.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Johnson C. Smith University

Banneker, Benjamin (1731-1806)

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People
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African American History
Cover of Benjamin Banneker's 1792 Almanac
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Benjamin Banneker, free black, farmer, mathematician, and astronomer, was born on November 9, 1731, the son of freed slaves Robert and Mary Bannaky, probably near the Patapsco River southeast of Baltimore, Maryland, where his father owned a small farm. For some years, Benjamin seems to have served as an indentured laborer on the Prince George’s County plantation of Mary Welsh, who had dealings with the Bannaky family and in 1773 executed her dead husband’s instructions to release several of her labor force including “Negro Ben, born free age 43.” Walsh was surely not Banneker’s grandmother, as argued by many biographers, but she did leave him a substantial legacy. He then lived alone as a tobacco farmer near the Patapsco River.

By tradition, Banneker received only a brief education from a Quaker schoolmaster.  But he showed an early talent for mathematics and construction when, aged 21, he built a model of a striking clock, largely out of wood, that became renowned in his neighborhood. He read widely and recorded his researches.  His skills drew him into contact with a wealthy white family, the Ellicotts, who had established flourmills and an iron foundry on the outskirts of Baltimore in the mid-1770s.
Sources: 
Silvio Bedini, The Life of Benjamin Banneker (New York: Scribner’s, 1972); Charles A. Cerami, Benjamin Banneker: Surveyor, Astronomer, Publisher, Patriot (New York: Wiley, 2002); George Ely Russell, “Molly Welsh: Alleged Grandmother of Benjamin Banneker,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 94 (December 2006): 305-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Patterson, William L. (1891-1980)

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

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

McClendon, Rose (1884-1936)

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People
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African American History

 

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

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

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

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

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

Redding, Otis (1941-1967)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Bonga, George (1802–1880)

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People
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African American History
"Image Courtesy of William L. Katz"
George Bonga was a 19th century fur trader of black and Native American heritage.  He lived along the shores of Lake Superior, one of the Midwestern Great Lakes. Fluent in French, English, and Native American languages, Bonga served as an interpreter during Indian-U.S. negotiations and worked for the American Fur Company before establishing his own trading post.

Bonga was born on August 20, 1802 near the present-day city of Duluth, Minnesota. His grandparents were Marie Jeanne and Jean Bonga, who as slaves lived at the prominent fur trading depot of Fort Michilimackinac in the northern Michigan territory. George’s father Pierre Bonga travelled to Minnesota as a fur trader and married Ogibwayquay of the Native American Ojibwe nation.  Bonga was educated in Montreal, Canada and returned to Minnesota to carry on the family business along with his two brothers.

In 1820, Bonga used his language fluency to serve as interpreter for Lewis Cass, Governor of Michigan Territory, at a treaty council held in Fond du Lac territory with the Ojibwe. In 1868, he again served as interpreter for Indian agent Joel Bean Bassett in negotiations with the Mississippi Band of Ojibwe at White Earth in Minnesota.  And in 1837, he tracked suspected murderer Che-ga-wa-skung for six days and brought him to Fort Snelling for trial.

Sources: 
“Letters of George Bonga,” Journal of Negro History 12 (1927): 41–54; June Drenning, “Black Pioneers of the Northwest,” Negro Digest 8:(1950): 65–67; Charles Flandreau, “Reminiscences of Minnesota During the Territorial Period,” in Hiram Stevens, ed., History of the Bench and Bar of Minnesota, (Los Angeles: Commercial Printing House, 1901); Kenneth Wiggins Porter, The Negro on the American Frontier (New York: Arno Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Freeman, Morgan (1937- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Porterfield Freeman, Jr. was born June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Morgan Porterfield, Sr. a barber, and Mayme Edna Morgan.  Throughout his childhood the Freeman family moved often, living in Mississippi, Indiana and Chicago.  Freeman showed early promise as an actor but turned down a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University to enter the United States Air Force in 1955.

Throughout the early 1960s, after leaving the Air Force, Freeman studied acting and dance in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.  It was in New York that Freeman made his professional theater debut with The Nigger Lovers, a 1967 off-Broadway play about the Civil Rights Era Freedom Riders.  In 1971 Freeman broke into television, becoming widely known on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s show The Electric Company, where he worked from 1971 to 1976.

Sources: 
Sabrina Fuchs, “Morgan Freeman,” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Volume II., Colin A. Palmer, ed. (New York: Thompson Gale, 2006); "Morgan Freeman," Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 62 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2008); Eleanor Clift, "Freeman, Obama and Hollywood Immortality,” Newsweek, April 2, 2008; "Freeman Replaces Cronkite on CBS," Boston Globe, January 5, 2010; Revelations Entertainment official website: http://www.revelationsent.com/index.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hutton, Ina Ray, née Odessa Cowan (1916–1984)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Susan Stordahl Porter
Ina Ray Hutton led the Melodears, one of the first all-female swing bands to be recorded and filmed.  She passed as white throughout her musical career, as the leader of several bands from the 1930s through the 1960s.  But when Hutton was a child, United States Census records called her and her family “negro,” and “mulatto,” when the Bureau used that term.  Her family occasionally appeared in the society pages of a black newspaper.  As of this writing, other biographies of Hutton do not acknowledge her black heritage.

Hutton was born Odessa Cowan at her parents' home in Chicago, Illinois on March 13, 1916.  Her mother, Marvel (Williams) Cowan, was a newlywed housewife, married to Odie Cowan, a salesman.  By the time Odessa was three years old, she and her mother were living with her maternal grandmother, and her step-grandfather, a dining car waiter for a railroad.  That year, Odessa’s sister, June, was born at home.  When the census taker arrived a few months later, their father was not recorded as a resident of the family home.
Sources: 
Author interview of Susan Stordahl Porter, January 26, 2011.  US Census 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 3, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_312; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 135; Image: 882. US Census 1930; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 419; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 85; Image: 53.0; Nora Douglas Holt, “Dancing Dolls a Success,” The Chicago Defender (July 14, 1923, p. 5);  Kristin A. McGee, Some Liked It Hot: Jazz Women in Film and Television, 1928-1955 (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Homer, LeRoy W., Jr. (1965-2001)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
LeRoy Homer, Jr. as an Air Force Cadet
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LeRoy Homer, co-pilot of United Airlines Flight #93, was born on August 27, 1965 in Long Island, New York.  Homer and his three sisters were raised on Long Island by their German mother, Ilse, and their African-American father who died from a stroke when Homer was twelve.  Homer’s interest in airplanes started at an early age and he began taking flying lessons when he was fifteen.  He joined the Air Force and after graduating from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he served as a pilot in both the Desert Shield and Desert Storm military operations in the Middle East and later flew aircraft in humanitarian operations in Somalia.  Homer served seven years on active duty in the Air Force, eventually becoming a Captain before switching into the reserves, where he rose to the rank of Major.

Sources: 
The LeRoy Homer Foundation, http://www.leroywhomerjr.org/; Melodie Homer, From Where I Stand: Flight #93 Pilot's Widow Sets the Record Straight (Minneapolis: Langdon Street Press, 2012); Salute to the Memory of LeRoy W. Homer Jr., United 93 Co-Pilot and Hero, available at: http://blackcollegian.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Schomburg, Arturo Alfonso (1874-1938)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Jesse, Hoffnung-Garskof, “The Migrations of Arturo Schomburg: On Being Antillano, Negro, and Puerto Rican in New York, 1891-1938,” Journal of American Ethnic History, vol. 21, no 1 (November 2001): 3-49; Elinor Des Verney Sinnette, Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, Black Bibliophile and Collector: A Biography (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

West, Kanye Omari (1977- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Kanye West, rapper, singer, producer, and entrepreneur was born in Atlanta, Georgia on June 8, 1977 to Donda and Ray West.  Donda was an English professor, and Ray, a former Black Panther, was an award winning photojournalist.  West’s parents divorced when he was three, and he moved to Chicago’s south side with his mother when she took a job at Chicago State University.  He spent summers in Atlanta with his father.  As a teen, West immersed himself in the Chicago, Illinois hip-hop scene, writing lyrics and learning production techniques.

Following his graduation from Polaris High School in 1995, West briefly enrolled at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before transferring to Chicago State University where his mother was the Chair of the English Department.  In 1997 West dropped out of college to pursue a full-time music career.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Smith, Samuel J. (1922-1995)

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People
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African American History in the West
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Samuel J. Smith, a Washington State Legislator and Seattle City Councilmember was born on July 21, 1922, in Gibsland, Louisiana.  Listening to speeches by Franklin Roosevelt broadcast on radio in the early 1930s persuaded young Smith that he wanted a future in politics.

Sam Smith first came to Seattle via the U.S. Army in 1942.  After World War II service in the Pacific as a Warrant Officer, he returned to the city, married his childhood sweetheart and attended college, first at Seattle University and then at the University of Washington where he got a B.A. in economics.  Smith, a member of Mt. Zion Church, took a job at Boeing Aircraft where he worked for 17 years while raising a family of six.

Smith first ran for the legislature in 1956, losing to incumbent Republican Charles Stokes.  Two years later he again challenged Stokes and won, remaining in the legislature for nearly a decade.  In Olympia, the state capital, Sam Smith gave the emerging civil rights movement in Washington a respected voice as well as a vote in the House of Representatives.  Smith left the legislature in 1967 to run for a seat on the Seattle City Council.  He won, becoming the first African American elected to that body.  In 1968, he introduced Ordinance 96619, the law that prohibited discrimination in housing.
Sources: 
“Sam Smith,” Interview, Oral History Project, Washington State Library, Tumwater, Washington.  Interviews of Sam Smith by Shelby Scates for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Argus, 1965-1977.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Baltimore, Richard Lewis, III (1947- )

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People
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African American History
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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

Bowers, Thomas J. (1823-1885)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Thomas J. Bowers, businessman, pianist, and activist, was best known as an African American opera singer, who was compared favorably with the leading world tenors of the mid-nineteenth century.  

Bowers was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1823, one of John C. Bowers Sr. and Henrietta Bowers’s thirteen children. John was a secondhand clothing dealer, organist, vestryman (warden), and school trustee at St. Thomas African Episcopal Church.

Thomas showed a strong desire to learn music at a young age. His older brother John became his first music teacher, and, by the age of eighteen, Thomas succeeded his brother as the organist at St. Thomas. Despite his natural abilities, his parents did not approve of any public performances outside of the church, and, for quite some time, Thomas respected their wishes. Instead he and John were trained as tailors by their father who had opened a fashionable merchant tailor shop at 71 South Second Street that catered to upper class gentlemen and businessmen in Philadelphia.
Sources: 
James Monroe Trotter, Music and some highly musical people (1878, reproduced New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1968); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and the African American Experience New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McKinney, Richard I. (1906-2005)

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People
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African American History
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African American philosopher Richard I. McKinney was born on August 8, 1906 in Live Oak, Florida on the college campus of Farmer Institute (later named Florida Memorial College). The son of educators, he graduated from Morehouse College in 1931 with a major in philosophy and religion. Following his graduation from Morehouse, McKinney enrolled at Newton Theological Seminary and he completed his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1934 with a thesis entitled, "The Problem of Evil and its Relation to the Ministry to an Under-privileged Minority." In 1937, he also earned the Masters of Sacred Theology degree at Newton.

McKinney obtained his Ph.D. from Yale in 1942 with a doctoral dissertation on "Religion in Higher Education among Negroes." After Yale, McKinney conducted post-doctoral work at the University of Chicago, Columbia University and the Sorbonne in Paris. McKinney’s first academic appointment was at Virginia Union; he was an assistant professor and Director of religious activities. He later assumed the post of Dean of the School of Religion.

Sources: 
John H. McClendon III, “Dr. Richard Ishmael McKinney: Historical Summation on the Life of a Pioneering African American Philosopher,” American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience (Spring 2006); Richard I. McKinney, “Existentialist Ethics and Protest Movement,” Journal of Religious Thought 22:2(1965-1966); Joan Morgan, “Teaching the Young keeps Him Young: 90 Year Old Dr. Richard McKinney of Morgan State Still Going Strong,” Black Issues in Higher Education (August 22, 1996); and “Richard McKinney” on Historymakers.com
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Boykin, Otis Frank (1920-1982)

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People
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African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The inventor Otis Frank Boykin, known for inventing the wire precision resistor, was born on August 29, 1920 in Dallas, Texas. Boykin’s mother, Sarah Boykin, worked as a maid before dying in 1921 before Boykin’s first birthday. Boykin’s father, Walter Boykin, worked as a carpenter and later became a minister.

In 1934, Boykin entered Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas, later graduating in 1938 as valedictorian of his class.  Following high school, Boykin began college at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, simultaneously working at an aerospace laboratory in Nashville as a laboratory assistant testing automatic controls for aircraft.

Sources: 
“Otis Boykin, Improved Electrical Resistor,” Lemelson-MIT (September 2005), http://lemelson.mit.edu/resources/otis-boykin; “Otis Boykin, Biography: Inventor, 1920-1982,” Bio, http://www.biography.com/people/otis-boykin-538792; Frances T. Matlock, "Boykin's Electric Device Aid in Eisenhower Crisis," Pittsburgh Courier, September 14, 1968; “Otis Boykin,” Famous Black Inventors: A Rich Heritage Gives Way to Modern Ingenuity, http://www.black-inventor.com/Otis-Boykin.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, Maggie Lena (1864-1934)

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People
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African American History
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Maggie Lena Mitchell was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 15, 1864. Walker’s mother, Elizabeth Draper, was an assistant cook and her father, Eccles Cuthbert, was an Irish-born newspaperman on the Van Lew estate. Her step-father, William Mitchell, was a butler on the estate. As a young girl she was forced to take on a number of responsibilities after the tragic death of her father. Mitchell worked as a delivery woman and babysitter while attending segregated public schools in Richmond. Nonetheless Mitchell graduated at the very top of her class in 1883. She then taught grade school for three years at the Lancaster School, at the same time she took classes in accounting and business.

In 1886, Maggie Lena Mitchell married Armistead Walker, Jr., a wealthy black contractor and member of her church. They had two sons, Russell and Melvin, whom she took care while her husband worked.
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); National Park Service, "Maggie Lena Walker," http://www.nps.gov/mawa/learn/historyculture/index.htm.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gaines, Ernest James (1933- )

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

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

Blackwell, Otis (1932-2002)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Otis Blackwell was an American songwriter, singer, and pianist whose work significantly influenced rock ‘n’ roll. His compositions include Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel," "All Shook Up" and "Return to Sender,” Little Willie John's "Fever,” Jerry Lee Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire" and "Breathless" (with Winfield Scott), and Jimmy Jones's "Handy Man."

Otis Blackwell was born in Brooklyn, New York.  He won a local talent contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York in 1952, at 21.  He could not, however, transform his initial accomplishment into a successful career as a performer. His own recordings never cracked the Top 40 on the hit parade charts. “When you hit them with your best stuff and they just look at you, well, it’s time to go home,” he said.  
Sources: 
Holly George-Warren and Anthony Decurtis, eds., The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, 3rd Edition (New York: Random House, 1976); Biography of Otis Blackwell, Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved on November 20, 2006.; Brian Dalton, “Songwriter Otis Blackwell Left Music All Shook Up,” Investors Business Daily,  March 16, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Innis, Roy (1934- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Roy Emile Alfredo Innis is the current National Director of the Congress for Racial Equality. He is a controversial civil rights activist whose conservative stance on many issues continues to draw national attention.
Sources: 
"Roy Innis." Congress Of Racial Equality. 2008. http://www.core-online.org/Staff/roy.htm; Harlem Commonwealth Council Incorporated History. Isaiah Robinson, Founding Member. 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hill, Peter (1767-1820)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Ritchey, John Franklin (1923-2003)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Palmer, Ben (c. 1817- 1908)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ben Palmer, pioneer 19th Century Nevada Territory rancher, was born in South Carolina sometime around 1817.  Little is known about Palmer's childhood background.  Palmer and his sister, Charlotte, who was married to white settler D.H. Barber, were among the first settlers in the Carson Valley near the present city of Reno.  Barber and Palmer were emigrants bound for California in the early 1850s.  Upon reaching the well-watered Carson Valley, they decided instead to settle and raise cattle that would be sold to other emigrants on the California Trail.

Palmer and his brother-in-law Barber made land claims of 320 acres and 400 acres respectively in 1853.  Their claims were side by side on the west side of the Carson Valley.  Palmer and Barber made their claims when the region was officially still part of Utah Territory.  Its capital, Salt Lake City, was 500 miles east which meant there was virtually no civil authority before they arrived.  
Sources: 
Untitled and Unpublished Manuscript by Elmer Rusco, historian at the University of Nevada, Reno; Elmer Rusco, Good Time Coming? Black Nevadans in the Nineteenth Century (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Massey, Walter E. (1938 - )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Catlett, Elizabeth (1915-2012)

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

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

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

Okri, Ben (1959-- )

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

The author Ben Okri was born March 15, 1959 in the small town of Minna in northern Nigeria.  His mother, Grace Okri, was of the Igbo ethnic group while his father, Silver Oghekeneshineke Loloje Okri was an Urhobo.  Ben’s father was a clerk with Nigerian Railways until after the Nigerian independence of 1960, when he left for London, UK to study law.

Ben Okri joined his father in 1962, and attended the John Donne Primary School at Peckham in London.  He had to return to Nigeria with his mother in 1966, however, where he attended the schools Ibadan and Ikenne before beginning his secondary education at Urhobo College at Warri.  He was the youngest in his class when he began his studies at Urhobo in 1968 and was only 14 at the end of his secondary education in 1972.  He then moved home to Lagos, Nigeria to study on his own.

Sources: 
Simon Gikandi, The Routledge Encyclopedia of African Literature (London: Routledge, 2009); Pushpa Naidu Parekh and Siga Fatima Jagne, Postcolonial African Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998); Jane Wilkinson, Talking with African Writers: Interviews with African Poets, Playwrights, & Novelists (London: J. Curry, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Canady, Alexa (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alexa Canady was the first woman and the first African American to become a neurosurgeon. She was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1950 to parents who were graduates of black colleges – her father from the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry and her mother from Fisk University. She and her brother were the only black students at the local schools where she graduated as a National Achievement Scholar in 1967. Canady entered the University of Michigan as a math major, but when the opportunity arose, she transferred into the school’s pre-med program. She graduated in 1971 and was accepted into Michigan’s College of Medicine where she graduated magna cum laude in 1975. Canady interned at New Haven Hospital, Yale’s primary teaching hospital, before she became America’s first female and first black neurosurgeon as a resident at the University of Minnesota.

Sources: 
http://www.gale.com/free_resources/whm/bio/canady_a.htm., Jessie Carney Smith, ed., Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lowther, George W. (1822-1898)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George W. Lowther, barber, abolitionist, equal school rights activist, and Massachusetts legislator, was born a slave in Edenton, North Carolina, to Polly Lowther.  His father’s identity is unknown.  His mother, Polly Lowther (c.1780-1864) was an Edenton baker, the slave of wealthy planter Joseph Blount Skinner until she was emancipated around 1824.  Lowther’s siblings were Anthony Lowther, Fanny Skinner, Annie Skinner, Jenny, Eliza Poppleston, and Thomas Barnswell.

Remembered in Skinner’s 1850 Will as “my favourite and faithful Body Servant whom I have freed,” George Lowther received a private education from Skinner.  Early in 1845, encouraged by his hometown friend, John S. Jacobs, Lowther left Skinner and went to New York.  But in the late summer of 1847, he reunited with Skinner, serving as his former owner’s valet on a trip from New York to Boston.  By 1850, George Lowther had established his hairdressing business in Boston and was living in the household of abolitionist William H. Logan, his future father-in-law.
Sources: 
Mary Maillard, “Introduction to the Skinner Family Papers,” unpublished manuscript; Jean Fagan Yellin, ed., The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008); The Skinner Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mathews, Meredith (1919-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Prominent social and civic leader in African American Seattle, Washington, Meredith Mathews was born in Thomaston, Georgia on September 14, 1919.  He attended public schools in Georgia and then moved to Ohio for college.  He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio in 1931.  He then pursued graduate studies at Ohio University.  

In 1937 Mathews began a lifelong association with Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) as Director of the racially segregated Spring Street YMCA in Columbus, Ohio.  He continued his professional career directing similar YMCAs in Oklahoma City and McAlester, Oklahoma.
Sources: 
Mary T. Henry, Tribute; Seattle Public Places Named for Black People (Seattle: Statice Press, 1997); East Madison YMCA Dedication Program, 1965; Dave Birkland, “Meredith Mathews, Longtime YMCA Executive Devoted to Helping Others,” Seattle Times, March 19, 1992.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Baquet, Charles R., III (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Charles R. Baquet III was born December 24, 1941 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  He attended public schools in the city and in 1963 he earned his B.A. in history from Xavier University in New Orleans. In 1975, he earned his M.A. in public administration from the Maxwell School of Government at Syracuse University in New York.

After graduating from Xavier, Baquet became a volunteer for the Peace Corps. From 1965 to 1967, he taught English and Social Science in the Somali Republic.  In 1967, Baquet returned to the United States and joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which functioned as a domestic version of the Peace Corps.  

Sources: 
Peace Corps Online: The Independent News Forum Serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/2629/1010237.html; Xavier University of Louisiana, Unique History and Results: Alumni, http://www.xula.edu/history/alumni.php; The American Presidency Project: Nomination of Charles R. Baquet III to Be United States Ambassador to Djibouti,  http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=19266.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Turner, James Milton (1840-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Kingdom of Callaway
Historical Society in Fulton, MO
James Milton Turner was an African American Missourian who was a prominent politician, education advocate, and diplomat in the years after the Civil War. Turner was born a slave in St. Louis, Missouri in 1840. His father, John Turner (also known as John Colburn), was a well-known “horse doctor” in St. Louis who had earlier purchased his freedom. In 1843 John Turner was able to buy freedom for his wife, Hannah, and his son James. When he was fourteen James attended Oberlin College in Ohio for one term until his father’s death in 1855 forced him to return to St. Louis to help support his mother and family.
Sources: 
Irving Dillard, “James Milton Turner, A Little Known Benefactor of His People.” The Journal of Negro History Vol. 19, No. 4 (October 1934), 372-411; Gary R. Kremer, James Milton Turner and the Promise of America: The Public Life of a Post-Civil War Black Leader (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Saskatchewan

Réjon, Pierre (1895–1920)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Pierre Réjon was the first black French military pilot to fly during the World War I and one of the first people of African ancestry to become a military pilot anywhere in the world. Réjon was one of the three pilots with the Allied Air Forces along with Eugene Bullard and Andre Parsemain. He was the first French pilot whose victories were recognized by the French armed forces.  

Pierre Réjon was born on 29 June 1895 at Trinity on the West Indian island of Martinique.  After excelling in schools in Martinique, he went to the Metropolitan France in order to study engineering at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers in Paris in 1914. A few months after his arrival, World War I began.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Rhodes University, South Africa

Dean, Mark (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Three of the nine patents on the original personal computer (PC) by International Business Machines (IBM) are registered to Dr. Mark Dean, making him a key contributor in the development of the PC.  

Dean was born in 1957 to Barbara and James Dean in Jefferson City, Tennessee.  He attended an integrated school, Jefferson City High School, where white teachers and classmates were amazed by his intellect and straight-A grades.  Dean earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and an M.S. from Florida Atlantic University in 1982.  
Sources: 
Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser, “Mark Dean” in African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bldean_moeller.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

de' Medici, Alessandro (1510–1537)

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

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

Drake, Mary Jane Holmes Shipley (1841–1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mary Jane Holmes Shipley Drake, born in Missouri in 1841, was one of six children of Robin and Polly Holmes. From 1852 to 1853 Mary Jane was the subject of a fifteen-month legal battle known as Holmes v. Ford to obtain her freedom.  That battle also helped determine the status of slavery in Oregon Territory.  

The Holmes family was owned by Missouri farmer Nathaniel Ford.  In 1844 Ford brought the family west on the Oregon Trail, promising Robin and Polly their freedom if they would help him establish a farm in the Oregon Territory.   Ford refused to honor his promise for five years after their arrival, finally relenting in 1849.  He freed the parents and their newborn son but refused to release nine-year-old Mary Jane and her other siblings including two who had been born in Oregon Territory.  Ford intended to sell each of the four children when they reached adulthood.

Ford’s refusal to release Mary Jane Holmes and her siblings prompted Robin and Polly Holmes to file suit to regain custody over their children.  The case worked its way through lower courts and finally reached the bench of Chief Justice George A. Williams of the Oregon Territory Supreme Court.  Chief Justice Williams ruled that slavery could not exist in the territory without specific legislation to protect.  He then declared the Holmes children free.  The Holmes case was the last attempt to establish slavery in Oregon through the judicial process.    
Sources: 

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).  

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lovick, John (1951- )

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University, Seattle

Maynard, Robert C. (1937-1993)

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

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

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

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

Bass, Karen (1953- )

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

Congressmember Karen Bass was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2011 following a successful six-year post as a California Assemblymember. As Representative of California’s 37th district, Bass spearheads initiatives specifically designed to reform the foster care system and U.S.-African relations. Prior to her congressional election, Bass made history when she was selected California Assembly’s 67th Speaker and became the first African American woman in U.S. History to earn this prestigious position in any government branch. In addition, she stands as the first black woman elected speaker in California.

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Dickinson College

Swanson, Howard (1907-1978)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, Alphonso R. (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Williams, Serena (1981 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Five-time world No. 1 ranked professional tennis player Serena Williams was born September 26, 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan. Formerly coached by parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price, Williams is the younger sister of former world No. 1 professional tennis player Venus Williams.

Williams, the youngest of five siblings, grew up in Compton, California where she began to play tennis at the age of four. At the age of nine, Williams and her family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida where she dominated the field of junior tennis competitors. She joined the professional ranks in 1995. Four years after her debut, Williams established herself as a top-ranked player when she won the U.S. Open, the Grand Slam Cup, and three other Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) singles titles. By 2003, Williams was known as “Serena Slam,” winning singles at the Australian Open, again at the U.S. Open, and twice at Wimbledon, in addition to fourteen other WTA singles titles. During this stretch from 1999 to 2003, Williams won five Grand Slam titles, and in 2002, was ranked world No. 1 for the first time.
Sources: 
Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Hilary Beard, Serving from the Hip: Ten Rules for Living, Loving and Winning (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006); Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Official Website, http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Boston King (c. 1760-1802)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Boston King Book Cover
Image Courtesy of History Collection, Nova Scotia Museum
Boston King, one of the pioneer settlers of Sierra Leone, was born enslaved on the Richard Waring plantation near Charleston, South Carolina around 1760. Through the age of 16, King was trained as a house servant before being sent to apprentice as a carpenter in Charleston. In 1780, when British troops occupied Charleston during the American Revolution, King fled to the British garrison and gained his freedom.  King was first a servant to British officers but like many black male Loyalists he joined the British Army. He worked mostly as a carpenter but on one occasion he carried an important dispatch through enemy lines, which saved 250 British soldiers at Nelson’s Ferry, South Carolina. Later, as a crewmember on a British warship, King participated in the capture of a rebel ship in Chesapeake Bay.
Sources: 
Boston King, Memoirs of the life of Boston King (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2003); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution (New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2006); Joe Lockard and Elizabeth McNeil, eds. “Annotated Memoirs of the Life of Boston King, a Black Preacher originally published in The Methodist Magazine” (Arizona State University Antislavery Literature Project, n.d.), http://antislavery.eserver.org/narratives/boston_king/bostonkingproof.pdf/; James W. St G. Walker, “King, Boston,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2489.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Desmond, Viola Davis (1914-1965)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Canadian entrepreneur Viola Desmond was arrested in 1946 for refusing to leave a segregated section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre. She was physically injured by police in the incident but was convicted and fined by local courts. She was posthumously pardoned in 2010.

Born Viola Irene Davis on July 6, 1914 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she was the daughter of James Davis, a self-employed barber and businessman, and Gwendolyn Irene Johnson, a homemaker. Growing up she wanted to be a hairdresser. When she was refused admittance to Nova Scotia’s hairdressing school because of her race, Desmond was forced to move to  Montreal (Quebec), then New York City, New York, and eventually Atlantic City, New Jersey, to complete her training. She returned to Halifax where she married Jack Desmond and opened her first salon. She later opened a school to train other beauticians.  
Sources: 
Dean Jobb, "Ticket to Freedom: Today, they call her Canada's Rosa Parks. But back in 1946, Viola Desmond seemed an unlikely civil rights activist," The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine (April/May, 2009);  Constance Backhouse, The Historical Construction of Racial Identity and Implications for Reconciliation (Halifax: The Department of Canadian Heritage for the Ethno Cultural, Racial, Religious, and Linguistic Diversity and Identity, 2001);  His Majesty the King v. Viola Irene Desmond, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, RG39, “C” Halifax, v. 937, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, No. 13347, The King v. Desmond (1947); Canada’s Debates of the Senate, 3rd Session, 40th Parliament, Volume 147, Number 58, report date October 21, 2010.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Forten, James (1766-1842)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image courtesy of The Historical Society of
Pennsylvania (HSP), Leon Gardiner collection
of American Negro Historical Society records
James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was born a free black man. Over the course of his lifetime, he would make a significant impact upon the fortunes of the American capitalist system and the livelihood of his contemporaries.

His parents were Thomas and Sarah Forten. He was also the grandson of slaves.  His formative years were spent in Philadelphia and he attended Anthony Benezet’s Quaker school for colored children.  By the time he turned eight years old, he began working for Robert Bridges’s sail loft. This is where his father worked as well. The following year his father was the victim of an unfortunate boating accident and died. This horrible tragedy resulted in nine-year-old James having to take on additional work to support his family.
Sources: 

Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); http://blackinventor.com/james-forten/; http://www.biography.com/people/james-forten-9299324.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Hillary, Barbara (1931- )

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

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

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

Hampton, Lionel L. (1908-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Billie Holiday and Lionel Hampton
at Metropolitan Opera House
Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

Lionel Leo Hampton, bandleader, jazz percussionist and vibraphonist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1908.  Hampton and his mother Gertrude moved to Chicago after the death of his father, Charles Hampton, a promising pianist and singer, in World War I.   At the age of 15 Hampton began his career as a drummer in the Les Hite Band.  The band relocated to Los Angeles in the late 1920s and became a regular attraction at the city’s Cotton Club. 

During a 193o recording session at NBC studios in Los Angeles Louis Armstrong and Hampton teamed to record jazz albums featuring Hampton on the vibraphone which would become his signature instrument.  By the mid-1930s the “King of Vibes” joined the Benny Goodman Orchestra which was one of the first racially integrated jazz acts.  By the 1940s Hampton left Goodman to form the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. 

Sources: 
Lionel Hampton with James Haskins, Hamp: An Autobiography (1989); Frank Tirro, Jazz: A History (1993); http://www.uidaho.edu/hampton/bio.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Lee-Chin, Michael (1951- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Michael Lee-Chin is best known as a business magnate, investor, and philanthropist.  He is the founder and Chairman of Portland Holdings Inc., a privately held investment company which owns a collection of diversified operating companies in media, tourism, health care, telecommunications, and financial services.  He is also currently Executive Chairman of AIC Limited (a Canadian mutual fund), and the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica.  Canadian Business has named him as one of the richest people in Canada and estimates his wealth to be over CAD$2.0 billion.

Lee-Chin was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Both of his parents were black and Chinese Jamaican.  Lee-Chin is the descendant on both sides of his family of indentured Chinese workers brought to Jamaica in the mid-19th Century.  When Lee-Chin was aged seven, his mother married Vincent Chen, and they had seven children. Lee-Chin’s mother sold Avon products, and worked as a bookkeeper for various local firms, while his stepfather ran a local grocery store.  He attended the local high school, Titchfield High, between 1962 and 1969.

Sources: 
“Rich 100 2014 full List: the complete List of Canada’s 100 Richest People,” Canadian Business, January 9, 2014 (http://www.canadianbusiness.com/lists-and-rankings/rich-100-the-full-2014-ranking/); Christopher Helman, “Get Rich Slow,” Forbes, April 15, 2002, http://www.forbes.com;  Denise Williams, “Michael Lee-Chin- Every mickle makes a muckle- The acquisition,” Jamaica Gleaner,  February 6, 2004, http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Teddy B. (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1953, Teddy Bernard Taylor graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Florida A&M University in 1975. During his time in Tallahassee, Taylor became a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Leidesdorff, William Alexander (1810-1848)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Although little remembered today, Leidesdorff was a social, economic and political force in pre-gold rush San Francisco, California with a number of “firsts” credited to his name. When he was named the U.S. Vice Consul to Mexico in 1845, he became the nation’s first African American diplomat.  He was elected to San Francisco’s first city council and its first school board in 1847.  He built the first hotel, the first shipping warehouse, he operated the first steamboat on San Francisco Bay, and he laid out the first horse race track in California.

Sources: 
Gary Mitchell Palgon, William Alexander Leidesdorff: First Black Millionaire, American Consul and California Pioneer (Atlanta: Lulu Press, 2005); Sue Bailey Thurman, “William Alexander Leidesdorff” in Pioneers of Negro Origin in California ( San Francisco: Acme Publishing Company, 1952) http://www.sfmuseum.net/bio/leidesdorff.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Moreira, Juliano (1873–1932)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Psychiatrist and professor, Juliano Moreira was born on January 6, 1873, in the coastal city of Salvador in the state of Bahia, Brazil, an area long known for its predominantly African-descended population. Moreira was the son of a Portuguese public lighting inspector and a black housemaid whose employer, a physician, encouraged his early interest in medicine. By 1888, the year Brazil abolished slavery, Moreira, despite the handicap of mixed-racial heritage, was studying at the Bahia School of Medicine (Faculdade de Medicina da Bahia). At age eighteen, he completed his highly-commended doctoral thesis on malignant syphilis praecox, then traveled to Europe for further study under Rudolf Virchow in Germany, and Joseph Jules Déjérine and Valentin Magnan in France.
Sources: 
Robert Fikes Jr. and Douglas A. Cargille, “The Extraordinary Career of Juliano Moriera: Afro-Brazilian Psychiatrist,” Journal of the National Medical Association, 78 (1986; http://www.bahiana.edu.br/herois/heroi.aspx?id=NA==; http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1516-44462000000400007&script=sci_arttext.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Brown, Wesley (1927-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Navel
Historical Center

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.  

Sources: 
Gerald Astor, The Right to Fight: A History of African Americans in the Military (Novato, Ca.: Presidio Press, 1998);  Kai Wright, Soldiers of Freedom (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2002); “This week in Black History,” Jet Magazine (June 9, 2003); http://www.navysports.com; The Seattle Times, May 27, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Church, Robert Reed, Jr. (1885-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of 
Tennessee State University
Robert Reed Church, Jr. was born on October 26, 1885 in Memphis, Tennessee.  He was the youngest son of Robert Church Sr., a prominent African American businessman in the city and his second wife, Anna Wright Church. Like his father, he became an important businessman, political activist, and politician during the 1920s.

Robert Church, Jr. was educated at Morgan Park Military Academy in Illinois. After high school he earned a B.A. from Oberlin College in Ohio and an M.B.A. from the Packard School of Business in New York. He also spent two years working on Wall Street. When he returned to Memphis he managed one of the family businesses, Church Park and Auditorium on Beale Street. Afterwards, he became cashier of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company, a bank founded by his father.  Church became its President upon his father's death in 1912.  Church also presided over the family’s extensive real estate holdings in Memphis.  On July 26, 1911, Robert Church, Jr., married Sara P. Johnson of Washington, D. C. They had one child, Sara Roberta.  
Sources: 
Annette E. Church and Roberta Church, The Robert R. Churches of Memphis: A Father and Son Who Achieved in Spite of Race (Memphis: A. E. Church, 1974); Gloria B. Melton, “Blacks in Memphis, Tennessee, 1920-1955: A Historical Study” (Ph.D. diss., Washington State University, 1982); Lester Lamon, Black Tennesseans, 1900-1930 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977); The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/; Shirelle Phelps, ed., Contemporary Black Biography, various volumes. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Ellington, Edward “Duke” (1899-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington is one of the greatest jazz composers, performers, and bandleaders in American history.  His compositions, and the travels of his band, exposed the world to jazz and earned him the nickname, “The Ambassador of Jazz.”

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington, D.C. in 1899 to Daisy and James Ellington.  Ellington’s parents appreciated good manners, dress, food, and a love of music (both played piano, though neither could read music) and diligently passed these characteristics on to their son.  This “duked up” appearance earned him the nickname “Duke” growing up, and it stuck for the rest of his life.  Starting with piano lessons at age six, and continuing with private lessons from local bar players, Duke developed a love and talent for ragtime music.  
Sources: 
Richard Terrill, Duke Ellington (Chicago: Raintree, 2003);  http://www.dukeellington.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

St. Clair, Stephanie (1886–1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Stephanie St.Clair Hamid in Custody
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Stephanie St. Clair was born in Martinique, an island in the East Caribbean in 1886 and came to the United States via Marseilles, France. In 1912 she arrived in Harlem. She was known for her deep involvement in the seedy gangster underworld. According to those who knew her, she was arrogant, sophisticated and astute to the ways of urban life. She reportedly told people that she was born in “European France” and was able to speak “flawless French” as opposed to the less refined French spoken by those in the Caribbean. Whenever people questioned her national origin, she would always respond in French. St. Clair also spoke Spanish.  Noted for her fierce temper, St. Clair spouted profanity in various languages when angered or outraged by some perceived slight or injustice. Her eloquent sense of fashion was well- known throughout Harlem where she was referred to as Madame St. Clair.  In in the rest of Manhattan and other city boroughs, she was referred to as “Queenie.”
Sources: 
Mayme Johnson, Harlem Godfather: The Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson (New York: 2007); John H. Johnson, Fact Not Fiction in Harlem (New York: Norther Type Printing, 1980).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

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

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

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Franklin, John Hope (1915--2009)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Walker, Wyatt Tee (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Taylor Branch, At Canaan's edge America in the King years, 1965-68 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006); Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); http://canaanbaptistchurchny.org/; http://www.wyattteewalker.com/about_chrono.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College