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McClellan, George Marion (1860–1934)

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

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

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

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

Leonard, “Sugar” Ray (1956 - )

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

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

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

Dixon, Eustace Augustus, II (1934-2000)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Euell Nielsen
Eustace A. Dixon II, 20th century author and environmental health advocate, was born at home in Brooklyn, New York on July 9, 1934. He was the youngest child of Eustace A. Dixon, a native of Jamaica and Beulah Talbot, a native of Bermuda. Dixon graduated from Boys High School, Brooklyn, New York, in 1952 and enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Korean War where he served as a radio communications specialist.  

After being discharged from the military, he enrolled in Brooklyn College and received his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1956.  In 1977 he received an M.A. degree from Glassboro State College in New Jersey and four years later he received a Ph.D. in public health from Union Institute and University.  In 1995 at the age of 61, Dixon received an M.A. in Music from Glassboro State University.
Sources: 
“Eustace Dixon Obituary,” The Daytona Beach Sunday News Journal, January 16, 2000; Eustace Dixon, New Jersey: Environment and Cancer (Mantua, New Jersey: Eureka Publications, 1982); Eustace Dixon, Syndromes for the Layperson (Mantua, New Jersey: Eureka Publications, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kimbrough, Jack J. (1908–1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Civil rights activist, dentist, book and African art collector Jack Johnson Kimbrough was born in Lexington, Mississippi, on July 26, 1908, to Samuel G. Kimbrough, a blacksmith, and Mary (Hoover) Kimbrough. Fearing violence from the Ku Klux Klan, in 1915 the family fled Mississippi with their seven-year-old son to live with relatives in Alameda, California.

Kimbrough graduated from Alameda High School in 1926, attended Sacramento Junior College for two years, and then transferred to the University of California at Berkeley where he majored in chemistry and graduated in 1930. Kimbrough then obtained his dental degree from the University of California Dental School in San Francisco in 1934. Following his graduation, he received the third highest score on the state’s required dental board examination.

Sources: 
Robert Fikes Jr., “Kimbrough, Jack,” in African American National Biography, vol. 5 (Oxford University Press, 2006); Robert Fikes Jr., “Showdown at the U.S. Grant Hotel,” San Diego NAACP History News, 5 (April 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Collins, Cardiss (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives 
Photography Office
Cardiss Robertson Collins was born September 24, 1931 in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Findley Robertson and Rosa Mae Robertson.  At the age of 10 her family relocated to Detroit and she spent the rest of her childhood there, eventually graduating from the Detroit High School of Commerce. After high school Collins attended Northwestern University in Chicago and later became a stenographer with the Illinois Department of Labor. She was promoted several times until she reached the position of revenue auditor for the Illinois State Department of Revenue.

Through her husband, George Collins, and his involvement in politics, Collins became a Democratic Party activist in Chicago. She served as a committee member of the city’s Twenty-fourth Ward Democratic Organization among other community organizations. She was highly visible during George Collins campaigns for Illinois’s Seventh Congressional seat and stayed involved after he won the election. After George Collins passed away in a plane crash near Chicago’s Midway Airport in 1972, a special election was held to fill his seat. Cardiss Collins was nominated by the Democratic Party and easily won the seat left vacant by her husband on June 5, 1973 which she held continuously until 1997.
Sources: 
“Cardiss Collins” in Women in Congress, 1917-2006 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006);”Cardiss Collins” in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office, 1991).
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C000634
http://www.stennis.gov/Congressional%20Bios/cardiss_collins.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Chole, Eshetu (1945-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Eshetu Chole was Ethiopia’s leading economist prior to his death in 1998. His research and publications encompassed an extraordinary breadth: agriculture, industrial and social development, fiscal policy, macro- and microeconomics, and human development at national and regional levels. He was also a budding poet.

Chole was born in Negele Borena in southern Ethiopia where he obtained his elementary education. He completed his education at the General Wingate Secondary School in Addis Ababa. He then attended University College Addis Ababa (later Haile Sellassie I University and now Addis Ababa University) where he earned his first degree in economics in 1966 and simultaneously won the Chancellor’s Gold Medal of the Arts Faculty.
Sources: 
Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Calloway, Cab (1907-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Energetic jazz singer, bandleader, performer, and composer, Cabell “Cab” Calloway III was born on Christmas Day, 1907 to Cabell Calloway Jr. and Martha Eulalia Reed in Rochester, New York. Calloway was raised in Baltimore, Maryland and in high school he sung with a group called the Baltimore Melody Boys.

Calloway attended Crane College in Chicago for pre-law but soon abandoned his studies for a career in the music industry, following the path of his sister, Blanche, an established singer. He started out performing for various Chicago night clubs, eventually securing a spot as a drummer and singer at the Sunset Club, a popular jazz venue in Chicago’s South Side. While working at the Sunset, Calloway earned the reputation of being a charismatic, lively performer and in 1928 served as the club’s master of ceremonies. One year later he led the house band, the Alabamians.

Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds., African American Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Jeffrey Lehman, ed., The African American Almanac (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003); Colin A. Palmer, ed., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jarvis, Yvette M. (1957-- )

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

Yvette M. Jarvis has the distinction of being the first African American woman elected to serve on the Athens, Greece City Council from 2002 to 2006.   Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1957, Jarvis traveled to Greece in 1982 after graduating from Boston University (Massachusetts).  An accomplished basketball player, Jarvis was recruited into the Panathinaikos, becoming the first salaried female athlete in the Greek Women’s Basketball League. Jarvis quickly became well-known in Greece and used her celebrity status to spearhead social and political causes within her adoptive homeland, becoming an advocate for minority rights. Jarvis chose to participate in Greek NGOs that emphasized the rights of immigrants, women, and people with special needs.

After playing basketball for the Greek Women’s Basketball League, Jarvis became a model, a TV personality, and a professional singer. Jarvis became a celebrity presence in Greece, widely known throughout the country simply as “Yvette.”  

Sources: 

P. Carlson, "American Aphrodite: From Modeling to TV to Politics,
Yvette Jarvis Is a Goddess in Her Adopted Homeland of Greece,
Washington Post, August 16, 2004, p. C01,  
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3846-2004Aug15.html;
"Yvette Jarvis," Euro-American Women’s Council (2008).

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gantt, Harvey Bernard (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Harvey B. Gantt, architect and politician, was born January 14, 1943 in Charleston, South Carolina to Christopher and Wilhelmenia Gantt.  In 1961, Gantt attended Iowa State University.  After one year of study, he returned to South Carolina and soon afterwards sued to enter racially segregated Clemson University.  On January 16, 1963, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Clemson to admit Gantt who became its first African American student.  He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Clemson with honors in 1965. In 1970, Gantt earned a M.A. in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During the 1970s Gantt worked at various architectural firms in Charlotte, North Carolina where he settled after receiving his degree from MIT. Between 1970 and 1971 he collaborated with civil rights activist Floyd B. McKissick to design Soul City, North Carolina, an experimental interracial community in eastern North Carolina.  In 1971 Gantt left the Soul City project, returning to Charlotte to launch an architectural firm with Jeffrey Huberman.  Some of the firm’s projects include the construction of the Charlotte Transportation Center, Transamerica Square, and First Ward Recreation Center.

Sources: 
M.L. Clemons, "The Mayoral Campaigns of Harvey Gantt: Prospect and Problems of Coalition Maintenance in the New South," Southeastern Political Review 26:1 (1998): B. Yeoman, "Helms Last Stand?  Harvey Gantt Tries Again to Beat the Senate's Last Reactionary," The Nation 263:11 (1996); H. Lewis Suggs, "Harvey Gantt and the Desegregation of Clemson University, 1960-1963," in Skip Eisiminger, ed., Integration with Dignity (Clemson: Clemson University Digital Press, 2003);  <http://www.clemson.edu/caah/cedp/gantt/pdfs/004.pdf>; Peter Applebome, “Carolina Race is Winning the Wallets of America,” New York Times, October 13, 1990; <http://www.scafricanamerican.com>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Reason, Charles Lewis (1818-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Yanga, Gaspar (c. 1545- ?)

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

Known as the Primer Libertador de America or “first liberator of the Americas,” Gaspar Yanga led one of colonial Mexico’s first successful slave uprisings and would go on to establish one of the Americas earliest free black settlements.  

Rumored to be of royal lineage from West Africa, Yanga was an enslaved worker in the sugarcane plantations of Veracruz, Mexico.  In 1570 he, along with a group of followers, escaped, fled to the mountainous regions near Córdoba, and established a settlement of former slaves or palenque.  They remained there virtually unmolested by Spanish authorities for nearly 40 years.  Taking the role of spiritual and military leader, he structured the agricultural community in an ordered capacity, allowing its growth and occupation of various locations.

Sources: 

Jane G. Landers, “Cimarrón and Citizen:  African Ethnicity, Corporate
Identity, and the Evolution of Free Black Towns in the Spanish
Circum-Caribbean,” in Jane Lander and Barry Robinson, eds., Slaves,
Subjects, and Subversives:  Blacks in Colonial Latin America

(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006); Charles Henry
Rowell, “El Primer Libertador de las Americas,” Callaloo 31:1 (Winter
2008).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cook, Samuel DuBois (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of 
Clemson University
Samuel DuBois Cook is a retired Dillard University president and, with his appointment to the Duke University faculty in 1966, was the first African American professor to hold a regular faculty appointment at any predominantly white college or university in the South. Cook also served as a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1993. In 1993, Dillard University honored Cook by naming the school's new fine arts and communication center after him. That same year, Cook was elected by Duke University's Board of Trustee as a Trustee Emeritus.

Born on November 21, 1928 in Griffin, Georgia, Cook's father was a Baptist minister who instilled a passion for education in all of his children. Samuel DuBois Cook entered all-male Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1943 with his friend Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) when they were both 15 years of age.  Both boys participated in the Morehouse early admission program during World War II that sought to fill the college's classrooms when many older students were in the U.S. military. At Morehouse, Cook became student body president and founded the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He earned a BA degree in history in 1948. He went on to earn an MA (1950) in political science and a Ph.D (1954) from Ohio State University.
Sources: 
F. Thomas Trotter and Charles E. Cole, Politics, Morality and Higher Education: Essays in Honor of Samuel DuBois Cook (Franklin, Tennessee: Providence House Publishers, 1997); Samuel DuBois Cook, Dilemmas of American Policy: Crucial Issues in Contemporary Society (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University, 1969); “Biographical Note”, Samuel DuBois Cook Society, http://www.duke.edu/web/cooksociety/cook_Brochure2007.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brooks, Gwendolyn (1917-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, born June 7, 1917 in Topeka, Kansas, moved to Chicago, Illinois where she was reared and launched her literary career.  Marrying Henry Blakely in 1939, the couple had two children. 

Brooks's formal education consists of an associate degree in literature and arts from Wilson Junior College but she has also received over seventy honorary degrees from several leading universities.  In her early years, Brooks served as the director of publicity for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Chicago.

Individual poems published in the Chicago Defender during her high school years preceded Brooks's first collection of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville (1945). This book focused on “community consciousness.”  Brooks's Annie Allen was published in 1949 with a focus on “self-realization” and “artistic sensibility” of a young black woman.  That volume made her the first African American to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.  The Bean Eater, her third book, was released in 1960. 

Sources: 
Carol F. Bender and Annie Allen, Masterplots 4th ed. Literary Reference Center (Pasadena: Salem Press, 2010); Charles M. Isreal and William T. Lawlor, Cyclopedia of World Authors 4th ed.  Literary Reference Center (Pasadena: Salem Press, 2004); Henry Taylor and Harold Bloom,  “Gwendolyn Brooks: An Essential Sanity,”  Bloom’s Modern Critical Views: Gwendolyn Brooks  (New York: InfoBase Publishing, 2000): 161-179.
Affiliation: 
Jefferson State Community College, Alabama

Dawson, Mary Lucinda (1894–1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Mary Lucinda Cardwell Dawson was a leader in the campaign to promote African American participation in and appreciation of opera.  Cardwell was born in 1896 in Madison, North Carolina, the second of six children.  In the early 1900s, her family became part of the African American migration from the rural South to the urban North when they settled in Homestead, Pennsylvania, an industrial suburb of Pittsburgh.

As with many young African American musicians, Mary Cardwell began singing in her family’s church.  She graduated with degrees in piano and voice from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1925 at the age of 31.  At the time she was the only African American in her class.  After further studies in Chicago and New York, she married Walter Dawson, a Master Electrician, in 1927, and returned to Pittsburgh.

For the next 14 years Dawson trained hundreds of young, often impoverished African Americans to sing the operas.  Her students included school children, laborers, and domestics who often bartered services for their lessons.  She directed a 500-voice ensemble which won national awards in 1935 and 1937.  In 1939, her students performed at the New York World’s Fair.    
Sources: 
“Founding of the National Negro Opera Foundation,” www.nationaloperahouse.org/past.html; “Radiating a Hope:  Mary Cardwell Dawson as Educator and Activist,” by Karen M. Bryan, JSTOR: Journal of Historic Research in Music Education, Vol.25, No.1 (Oct 2003); “An Irrepressible Voice,” http://www.post-gazette.com/magazine/19990801opera1.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Scott, Nathan A. (1925-2006)

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

Brawley, Otis Webb (1959- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Kaiser Health News
Otis Brawley is an American physician, oncologist, researcher, author, and health care reform advocate, who is currently the Chief Medical and Scientific Officer and Executive Vice President of the American Cancer Society (the largest non-profit health-oriented charity in the U.S.). He is the first African American to hold the position.

Born July 4, 1959, the only son of three children, his mother, a hospital cashier, and father, a hospital janitor, met and settled on Philadelphia Street in Detroit, in a part of town colloquially referred to as “Black Bottom.” Young Brawley lived in constant fear of violence; it was not uncommon for corpses to be found near his neighborhood.  He also saw firsthand the impact of the lack of health care on those in his community and their distrust of doctors.

Brawley attended Catholic schools in Detroit including the University of Detroit Jesuit High School where his tuition was paid by an unknown Catholic benefactor. While he attended high school he volunteered at the lab in the Detroit area Veterans Administration Hospital, and was inspired by his work with the scientists and physicians there.
Sources: 
Mary Jo DiLonardo, “Deadly Disparity”, Atlanta Vol. 43 No. 4 (Atlanta, Georgia: Emmis Communications, August 2003); Otis Webb Brawley and Paul Goldberg, How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks about Being Sick in America (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2012); https://www.i-pri.org/Faculty/Senior-Research-Fellows; http://pressroom.cancer.org/index.php?s=43&item=222
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Grafton Tyler (1841-1918)

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

Harding, Rosemarie Florence Freeney (1930-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Vincent and Rosemarie Harding
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Rosemarie Florence Freeney Harding was a tireless teacher, social worker, civil rights leader, and healer. She was especially known for her deep spirituality and commitment to nonviolence. The youngest of nine siblings, Harding was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 24, 1930 to Dock Freeney, Jr. and Ella Lee Harris Freeney. Both parents and her large, extended family haled from Southwest Georgia. She married Vincent G. Harding in 1960 in Chicago. The couple had two children, Rachel and Jonathan.
Sources: 
Rosemarie Freeney Harding as told to Rachel E. Harding, “There was a Tree in Starkville…,” Sojourners (February 2012), http://sojo.net/magazine/2012/02/there-was-tree-starksville; Rose Marie Berger, “I’ve Known Rivers: The Story of Freedom Movement Leaders Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Vincent Harding,” Sojourners, online archive (http://sojo.net/press/ive-known-rivers); “Rosemarie Florence Freeney Harding,” Biography/Obituary, Veterans of Hope, http://www.veteransofhope.org/connect-wisdom/mama-rose/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Espy, Mike (1953- )

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

Jones, William B. (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of Hampden-Sidney College"
On July 26, 1977, President Jimmy Carter nominated William B. Jones as the United States Ambassador to Haiti. The U.S. Senate confirmed Jones and soon after he took up his post in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Born on May 2, 1928, to Bill and LaVelle Jones in Los Angeles, California, Ambassador Jones grew up in a racially integrated neighborhood.

In 1945 Jones entered the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and graduated in 1949 with an A.B. degree in political science with a history minor. From June until September 1, 1949, he studied abroad on a scholarship at University College in Southampton, England. Jones returned to Los Angeles and enrolled in the University of Southern California (USC) School of Law, graduating in 1952 with a Juris Doctor degree.
Sources: 
“United States Ambassador to Haiti Nomination of William B. Jones. July 26, 1977,” The American History Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=7868; “Ambassador William B. Jones ,” Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, http://adst.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Jones-William-B.2010.toc_2.pdf.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Lampkin, Daisy (1884-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

White, Eartha M. M. (1876–1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Eartha Mary Magdalene White, a prominent African American resident of Jacksonville, Florida, was widely known for her humanitarian and philanthropic endeavors in the northeastern part of that state. White was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on November 8, 1876. Her Mother died shortly after childbirth, and, at a very young age, she was adopted by Lafayette and Clara English White.

White began her education at the Stanton School in Jacksonville, now Stanton College Preparatory School. Upon graduation in 1893, she moved to New York City, New York where she attended the Madam Hall Beauty School and Madame Thurber’s National Conservatory of Music. The latter affiliation led to a position with the Oriental American Opera Company, the first African American opera company in the United States. She sang soprano under the direction of J. Rosamond Johnson. After a highly successful opening on Broadway, the troupe toured for a year throughout the United States and Europe.
Sources: 
Making Waves, Female Activists in Twentieth Century Florida, Edited by Jack E. Davis and Kari Frederickson, (University Press of Florida 2003), Encyclopedia of Social Work, (Oxford University Press, April 2008), Florida Memory, State Library & Archives of Florida, “Images of Women’s History in Florida,” https://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/photo_exhibits/women/; University of North Florida, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, Personal Papers & Primary Resources Collections, Eartha M.M. White Biographical Highlights,
https://www.unf.edu/library/specialcollections/manuscripts/eartha-white/Eartha_White_Biography.aspx.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bridgeforth, Ruffin (1923–1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Darius Gray, Ruffin Bridgeforth (seated), Helvico Martins, and
Don Hartwell

Image Courtesy of LDS Magazine
Ruffin Bridgeforth, president of the Genesis Group and priest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), was born in Melville, Louisiana, on March 18, 1923. His father, Ruffin Sr., and mother, Mary Adams Fips, had four children together.

Bridgeforth moved from Louisiana to Utah in 1944. He worked for the US Army and later became a conductor with the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1946 he married his first wife, Helena Marie Romero. Nine years after his migration to Utah, Bridgeforth converted to the Mormon faith in 1953. At the time, the official LDS ban on black priesthood was in place, and Bridgeforth was one of a few hundred black Mormons in the church worldwide.
Sources: 
Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith, “Introduction,” in Black and Mormon, eds. Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Ronald G. Coleman and Darius Gray, “Two Perspectives: The Religious Hopes of ‘Worthy’ African American Latter-day Saints before the 1978 Revelation,” in ibid; Armand L. Mauss, “Casting Off the ‘Curse of Cain’: The Extent and Limits of Progress since 1978,” in ibid.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Crouch, Stanley (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Stanley Crouch is a tough-minded and controversial jazz critic, playwright, essayist, novelist, and percussionist.  After a personal intellectual transformation in the late 1970s, Crouch became the contemporary champion of traditionalist jazz – an identity which he has defined with both powerful cultural criticisms and outbursts of intellectual and physical combativeness.

Stanley Crouch was born in Los Angeles, California in 1945.  His mother, Emma Bea Crouch, supported his family financially and intellectually.  Asthma kept Crouch confined to his home for much of his childhood, a period which he spent reading and listening.  By the time of his high school graduation in 1963, Crouch had independently read the complete works of Hemingway, Twain, and Fitzgerald, while also founding a school jazz club which explored the works of artists Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Eric Dolphy, among others.  

Crouch attended two separate junior colleges for the next three years, receiving a degree from neither.  It was in this period, however, that Crouch became interested in poetry and drama, being particularly influenced by poet and playwright LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka).  After the eruption of the Watts riots of 1965, Crouch became informally involved in the Watts Writers Workshop, often performing at the Watts Happening Coffee House.  From 1965 until 1967 Crouch was a member of Studio Watts, a local repertory theater.
Sources: 
Robert Boynton, “The Professor of Connection: A Profile of Stanley Crouch,”  The New Yorker, November 6, 1995; Stanley Crouch, The All-American Skin Game, or, The Decoy of Race (New York City: Pantheon Books, 1995); Steven L. Isoardi, The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clay, William Lacy, Sr. (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Former Missouri Democratic Congressman William L. Clay Sr. was born in St. Louis, Missouri on April 30, 1931, one of seven children. Clay excelled in school and at the age of thirteen began working as a janitor in a clothing store.  He later became the tailor for the store.  Clay graduated from St. Louis University in 1953 with a B.S. degree in history and political science, and then served in the military. Upon his discharge he worked as a real estate broker and manager of a life insurance company.

In the 1950s Clay became active in St. Louis politics and in the civil rights movement emerging in the city.  In 1959 he was elected to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, representing the 26th ward.  He held the position until 1964.  Between 1961 and 1964 he was also a business representative for the city employees union and between 1966 and 1967 was the educational coordinator for a local steamfitters union.

In 1968 Clay won the Democratic Primary nomination for Missouri’s First Congressional District.  He won the seat outright in the general election in November, becoming the first African American elected to Congress from the state of Missouri.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C00048 ; http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=39&category=politicalmakers
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Watts Jr., J.C. (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Office of the Clerk,
U.S. House of Representatives
J.C. Watts, Jr., the first black Republican to be elected to a political office in Oklahoma. He was born in Eufaula, Oklahoma, on November 18, 1957.  A superior athlete, he starred as quarterback on a University of Oklahoma football team known for rarely passing the ball.  Consequently, after Watts graduated in 1981, the National Football League showed little interest in him.  Watts played professionally in the Canadian Football League for six years as a member of the Toronto (Ontario) Argonauts and the Ottawa Rough Riders.

After his athletic career ended, Watts entered politics.  Recruited by powerful Republican leaders in Oklahoma, Watts became a candidate for one of three seats on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), a body that regulates utilities and the oil and gas industry. As soon as Watts took office, however, critics began to charge him with accepting campaign contributions and favors from the owners of the businesses that the OCC was supposed to regulate.
Sources: 
J.C. Watts and Chriss Anne Winston, What Color is a Conservative?  My Life in Politics (New York: HarperCollins, 2002); Chris Casteel, “Lawmakers Say Goodbye, for Now—Watts Still Uncertain About Future Plan,” Daily Oklahoman, December 1, 2002; Alton Hornsby, Jr., and Angela M. Hornsby, “Watts, Julius Caesar, Jr. (J.C.),” in “From the Grassroots”:  Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama:  E-BookTime, LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Northwestern Oklahoma State University

Adu, Freddy (1989-- )

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

Fredua Koranteng Adu, known to much of the world as Freddy Adu was born June 2, 1989 in the port city of Tema, Ghana. Growing up in Ghana, Freddy often received attention for his tremendous soccer skills as a youngster. Even at a young age he was asked by older kids and even adults to participate in their pick-up soccer games. Playing soccer against others who were often two or three times his age displayed his potential for soccer stardom. Today Adu is often considered one of the greatest of the youngest generation of American soccer players.

Adu’s mother Emelia Adu, provided a strong base for his young soccer career. She worked multiple jobs to provide soccer equipment for Freddy and his younger brother. She also wanted to give the Adu family a chance at higher education and prosperity. They realized this chance in November 1997 when Freddy was just eight years old. His mother and father won a Green Card lottery which allowed them to permanently relocate from Ghana to the United States. He and his family first moved to Maryland and then later to Washington DC. In 2003, Adu and his family became naturalized United States citizens.

Sources: 

Grant Wahl, “Who’s Next? Freddy Adu,” Sports Illustrated, July 6, 2008; Jeff Savage, Freddy Adu (Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2006); “Freddy Adu” in Amazing Athletes, July 5, 2008, pp. 15-18; http://jockbio.com/Bios/Adu/Adu_bio.html; http://www.answers.com/topic/freddy-adu.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Steele, Michael S. (1958- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Michael Steele, "Uniting the Republican Party,” Townhall Magazine, April 8, 2008, http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelsteele/2008/04/08/uniting_the_republican_party; Michael Steele, “Now Is the Time to Act,” Townhall Magazine, February 7, 2008,
http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelsteele/2008/02/07/now_is_the_time_to_act;
Baltimore Sun, November 6, 2002; Baltimore Sun, February 1, 2009; Washington Post, November 3, 2006, p.A20, Letters to the Editor, “Black Democrats and Mr. Steele.” Transcript of interview on “Fox News Sunday,” February 1, 2009. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/02/01/transcript-rnc-chairman-michael-steele-on-fox-news-sunday.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Lane, William Henry/Master Juba (1825-c. 1852)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image courtesy of Manuscripts, Archives and
Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture,
The New York Public Library
William Henry Lane is credited as one of the most influential figures in the creation of American tap dance. Lane developed a unique style of using his body as a musical instrument, blending African-derived syncopated rhythms with movements of the Irish jig and reel. Lane’s melding of these vernacular dance forms is recognizable today as the foundations of the ever-evolving style of American tap dance.

Free-born in Providence, Rhode Island around 1825, Lane began learning the Irish jig and reel from “Uncle” Jim Lowe, a dance hall and saloon performer in New York City, New York. By the age of ten, Lane was performing in Paradise Square in the Five Points District of New York, where a high concentration of African American and Irish populations lived alongside each other. The vernacular dance forms of these two ethnic groups intermingled, providing Lane access to the different rhythmic and movement foundations that facilitated the development of his style of dance.
Sources: 
Mark Knowles, Tap Roots: The Early History of Tap Dancing (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc., 2002); Jacqui Malone, Steppin’ on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996); Marian Hannah Winter, “Juba and American Minstrelsy,” Chronicles of the American Dance, Paul Magriel, ed. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1948).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Frazier, E. Franklin (1894-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Edward Franklin Frazier, the most prominent African American sociologist of the 20th Century, was born on September 24, 1894 and died on May 17, 1962. Best known for his critical work on the black middle class, Black Bourgeoisie (1957), Frazier was also a harsh critic of Jim Crow as the great inhibitor of the American Dream for the “American Negro.”

Frazier was born to James H. and Mary Clark Frazier. His father worked as a bank messenger and his mother was a housewife. Both parents stressed the worth of education as a path to freedom and as an instrument to fight for social justice.  

Sources: 
Anthony M. Platt, E. Franklin Frazier (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991); August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black Historians and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana/Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Washington, Dinah (Ruth Lee Jones), (1924-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS
Dinah Washington, legendary singer and ‘Queen of the Blues,’ was born Ruth Lee Jones on August 29, 1924. Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama she moved with her family to Chicago as a young child.

Music was in Washington’s family, her mother was a pianist in St. Luke’s Baptist Church, and from a young age, Washington sang gospel and played piano with her church choir. Influenced by other female singers such as Billie Holiday, Washington began to take an interest in blues music and started playing in local clubs in Chicago. At the age of 18, Washington joined Lionel Hampton’s band and a year later she also signed with Keynote Records, releasing her first hit “Evil Gal Blues” under the name Dinah Washington. Washington was never to record any of her gospel music, despite her obvious talent for it, believing that the secular world of professional music should be kept apart from the spiritual.
Sources: 
Jim Haskins, Queen of the Blues: A Biography of Dinah Washington (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1987) Queen; The Life and Music of Dinah Washington Website, www.dinahthequeen.com, (Nadine Cohodas, Random House, 2004); The Verve Live Music Group, www.vervemusicgroup.com, (Verve Music Group, 1999-2009); Encyclopaedia Britannica, www.britannica.com (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Scott, Timothy (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Former Congressmen Tim Scott Being Sworn in as U.S. Senator
from South Carolina, January 2, 2013
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
"Guide to the New Congress," CQ Roll Call  (accessed February 8, 2011); "Representative Timothy E. "Tim" Scott," South Carolina Legislature, http://web.archive.org/web/20090331212301/http://www.scstatehouse.gov/members/bios/1646306621.html (accessed February 8, 2011);  Alex Isenstadt, "Palin backs Scott," Politico, June 19, 2010, National Public Radio's It's All Politics, Frank James, “Black GOP Lawmakers Face Tricky Relations With Democrats,” January 4, 2011; Robert Behre,  "Assignments please Scott," Charleston Post Courier, December 17, 2010; Katherine Seelye, "South Carolina Candidate Shrugs Off History’s Lure," New York Times, June 25, 2010; "Nikki Haley appoints Rep Tim Scott to the Senate," Washington Post, December 17, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of North Texas

Obama, Barack, Jr. (1961- )

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

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

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

Smith, Barbara (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the City of Albany, 
New York
Beginning in the 1970s, Barbara Smith broke new ground as a black feminist, lesbian, activist, author, and book publisher of women of color.  She and her twin sister, Beverly Smith, were born on December 16, 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Their mother, Hilda Smith, maternal grandmother, and a great aunt raised the girls there.  Smith’s activism started in high school when she participated in boycotts, marches and civil rights protests in the 1960s.

Education remained a high priority in the household.  As the first member of the Smith family to graduate from college, their mother, Hilda, expected the twins to do likewise.  She died when the twins were nine years old, and consequently Smith’s grandmother and aunt continued to stress the importance of learning and education.  Barbara Smith earned her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 1969 and her MA in 1971 from University of Pittsburgh.  She completed all but the dissertation (ABD) in her doctoral studies at the University of Connecticut (1981).
Sources: 
Paul Grondahl, “She’s Barbara Smith, Mover and ‘Maker’: Councilwoman to be Featured in New Video on Women’s Movement,” Times Union (April 5, 2012); Candace LaBalle, “Barbara Smith,” Gale Contemporary Black Biography, http://www.answers.com/topic/barbara-smith#ixzz1wWRbZ4kp; http://www.makers.com/barbara-smith.
Contributor: 

Prosser, Gabriel (1775-1800)

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

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

KRS-One [Lawrence Kris Parker] (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
KRS-One, MC (Master of Ceremonies) producer, philosopher, and activist was born on August 20, 1965 to Jacqueline Jones and Sheffield Brown in South Bronx, New York City, New York.  KRS’s mother was a secretary while his father, who worked as a handyman, was deported to his native Trinidad when KRS was an infant.  When his mother remarried in 1970 and had two more children, a son and a daughter, KRS took the new family name and became Lawrence Kris Parker.

Growing up in poverty, KRS left home in his early teens and lived on the streets of the Bronx as hip-hop culture began to emerge.  He ended up at the Franklin Avenue Armory Shelter in the Bronx where he met a social worker named Scott Sterling, a.k.a. Scott La Rock.  Scott, already an experienced DJ, connected immediately with KRS who had developed an identity as a graffiti writer that signed “KRS-ONE” (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Sellers, Cleveland (1944- )

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

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

Myrick, Bismarck (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Bismarck Myrick is a retired United States Ambassador to Lesotho from 1995 to 1998 and the Republic of Liberia from 1999 to 2002. Originally from Portsmouth, Virginia, Myrick has held multiple positions with the U.S. government over a number of decades.  

Myrick entered the U.S. Army in 1959 as a private and continued with the Army for the next 20 years. During the Vietnam War, Myrick saw intense combat (1968-1969) and as a result received a Meritorious Service Medal, the Purple Heart, several Bronze Stars, and the Silver Star.  In addition to Vietnam, the U.S. military deployed Myrick to Germany, South Korea, and Japan.
Sources: 
“Portsmouth native new ambassador to Lesotho,” Free Lance-Star, March 27, 1995, B2, http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19950327&id=kegyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wAcGAAAAIBAJ&pg=2900,4997063; Jayne Thurber-Smith, “Veteran Spotlight: Ambassador (Ret.) Bismarck Myrick,” Citizen of Chesapeake,  March 10, 2013, http://thecitizenofchesapeake.com/2013/03/10/veteran-spotlight-ambassador-ret-bismarck-myrick/; “Biography: Bismark Myrick,” U.S. Department of State, http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/m/8829.htm; “Bismarck Myrick (1940-),” Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/myrick-bismarck; “Faculty,” Old Dominion University, http://catalog.odu.edu/previous/2013-2014/undergraduate/faculty/.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Hill, Oliver White (1907-2007)

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

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

Bailey, D’Army (1941-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Robinson, John Charles (1903–1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Charles Robinson, nicknamed the Brown Condor, was an African American aviator who fought with the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force against Benito Mussolini and Fascist Italy during the Second Italian-Ethiopian War, 1935–1936. He is also known as the Father of the Tuskegee Airmen for his contributions to the aviation programs he began at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in the early 1940s.
Sources: 
Philip Thomas Tucker, Father of the Tuskegee Airmen, John C. Robinson (Lincoln, Nebraska: Potomac Books, Inc., 2012) https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=Tucker%2C+Phillip+Thomas.+Father+of+the+Tuskegee+Airmen%2C+John+C.%20+Robinson.+Potomac+Books%2C+Inc.%2C+2012.&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C48&as_sdtp; Thomas E. Simmons, The Man Called Brown Condor: The Forgotten History of an African American Fighter Pilot (New York, New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2013) https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=Simmons%2C+Thomas+E.+The+Man+Called+Brown+Condor%3A+The+Forgotten+%20History+of+an+African+American+Fighter+Pilot.+Skyhorse+Publishing%2C+Inc.%2C+2013.&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C48.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hart, Frank “Black Dan” (1858-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Frank Hart with O'Leary Championship Belt, 1881
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In the late 1870’s and early 1880’s, the sport of “six day, go as you please” endurance racing gripped the United States and Great Britain.  The participants in these events were called pedestrians, and they were free to run or walk around an indoor track for as long as they could stay on their feet.  The top pedestrians survived on less than four hours of sleep a day and slept on cots inside the track’s oval.  Fans followed these six day contests of endurance with all the fervor of today’s NFL fans.  They also placed bets on prospective winners.

On April 10, 1880, an African American pedestrian, Frank Hart stood atop this international craze for six day racing.  His given name was Fred Hichborn but he changed it to Frank Hart when he turned professional.  Hart had just won the prestigious O’Leary Belt competition and smashed the world record, after covering 565 miles in six days of racing.  He earned about $17,000 in prize money, which was a small fortune in 1880.  As the race ended, he waved an American flag to thousands of cheering fans who packed Madison Square Garden.   Another African American, William Pegram of Boston finished second with 540 miles. Hart also competed in one of the international Astley Belt competitions, and set an American record when he won the Rose Belt in Madison Square Garden in December 1879.
Sources: 
Kastner, Charles B., Bunion Derby:  The First Footrace Across America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007); Marshall, P. S., King of the Peds (Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2008); Sears, Edward S., Running Through The Ages (Jefferson, North Carolina:  McFarland and Company, Inc., 2001); “Sporting Comment:  Passing of Frank Hart, Greatest Colored Pedestrian,” The Auburn Citizen, 9 February 1909.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bland, Bobby “Blue” (1930-2013)

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

Blues singer Robert Calvin "Bobby" Bland also known as Bobby "Blue" Bland, was born on January 27, 1930 in Rosemark, Tennessee.  He then moved to Memphis, Tennessee with his mother where he started getting involved with local gospel groups.   In addition to joining the gospel groups Bland started befriending other local aspiring musicians known collectively as the Beale Streeters.   During this time Bland started recording songs but none were successful.   

In 1952 Bland joined the U.S. Army.   Upon completing his service in 1954, he returned to Memphis to continue to pursue his music career.  Back in the Beale Street music scene he began touring with Little Junior Parker, a regionally known blues singer.  Although he started as Parker’s chauffeur, eventually his performing abilities were recognized and he again was allowed to record songs.    

Bland’s first commercially successful release, “Farther up the Road” came in 1957 when the song reached the top 10 on the Rhythm and Blues charts.  The following year he released “Little Boy Blue” which also became a top ten recording and established Bland as a major artist in both the blues and rhythm and blues categories.  A string of hits in the 1960s including “Cry Cry Cry,” “Turn on Your Love Light,” and “I Pity the Fool” made Bland, along with B.B. King, the most commercially successful of the blues artists of that decade.

Sources: 
Peter Guralnick, Lost Highway: Journeys & Arrivals of American Musicians (Boston: D.R. Godine, 1979); Dan Aykroyd, and Ben Manilla, Elwood's Blues: Interviews with the Blues Legends & Stars (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2004); Gavin Petrie, Black Music (London: Hamlyn, 1974).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ulysses Grant Lee, Jr. (1913-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Ulysses Grant Lee, Jr. was a historian, author, professor, editor and army officer. Born on December 4th, 1913 in Washington D.C. to Ulysses Grant, a business owner, and Maggie Lee Grant, he was the oldest of seven children. Lee graduated from Dunbar High School in 1931. He then attended Howard University where he earned his B.A. and graduated summa cum laude in 1935.  He then received his M.A. from Howard in 1936 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago where he again graduated with honors.

Lee began his career as a graduate assistant at Howard. He became an instructor and eventually assistant professor at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he taught from 1936 to 1948. In 1940 he was a visiting professor at Virginia Union University. Lee eventually joined the English faculty at Lincoln University in Missouri where he stayed until 1956. That same year he began teaching at Morgan State College in Baltimore and the University of Pennsylvania. Known as an excellent, well respected teacher, Lee was voted the Distinguished Teacher Award in 1963 by his students at Morgan State.

In 1941 Ulysses Lee edited The Negro Caravan with Sterling A. Brown and Arthur P. Davis.  This widely used anthology was one of the first to bring together all of the major writing by African American authors of the era.

From 1936 to 1939 Lee worked as a research assistant, editor, and consultant for the Federal Writers Project which sponsored publications such as Washington: City and Capital (1937) and The Negro in Virginia (1940).

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

Walton, James L. (1939- )

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

James L. Walton is Tacoma, Washington's first black city manager.  Born in Dallas, the youngest of five children, he grew up in the small Texas town of Mineola.  After high school graduation in 1959, he followed his brother, Willie Brown, who would become a prominent California politician, in moving to California.  He lived in San Diego, where he attended community college, then served two tours of duty in the Army during the Vietnam War, concluding his military service at Fort Lewis, Washington.  The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., redirected his resolve.  In 1968 he enrolled at Tacoma Community College, where he became president of the Obi Society, the black student union, whose members fought an entrenched status quo for an education equal to that offered white students.  

Sources: 

Jason Hagey, “Walton’s Legacy of Quiet Activism,” The News Tribune (Tacoma), June 3, 2005; Ron Mills, “TCC alumnus speaks out about racism, The Challenge, Tacoma Community College, June 6, 2002, http://www.tacoma-challenge.com/news1.htm.
The Safe Streets Campaign: Tacoma and Pierce County Respond to Youth Violence, interviews by Janice M. Foster, University of Washington Tacoma Community History Project, UWT Library, 1994 #1.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bokassa, Jean-Bédel (1921-1996)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

Jean-Bédel Bokassa, longtime dictator and military leader of the Central African Republic, was born in Bobangui, Oubangui-Chari, French Equatorial Africa (present-day Central African Republic) on February 22, 1921. Bokassa’s father, a village chief of the Mbaka people, was murdered in November 1927 for refusing to provide labor from his village as required under French colonial rule. A week later, his mother committed suicide and Bokassa, aged 6, became an orphan. Missionnaries took in Bokassa and raised him until he joined the French colonial army in 1939, at the beginning of World War II. He then took part in the 1944 landings in Provence, France, and subsequently served with the French Army in Indochina and Algeria.  A skilled soldier, Bokassa rose to the rank of captain.  He also won the Legion d’Honneur, the highest French military decoration and the Croix de Guerre, which was presented to soldiers who distinguished themselves in combat.

Sources: 
“Bokassa, Jean-Bédel,” in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds.,  Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience  (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); “Central African Republic: Nationalism, Independance,” in Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005).
Affiliation: 
University of Nantes (France)

Remond, Sarah Parker (1824-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in 1824 Sarah Parker Remond entered the world as a part of an exceptional family. The ninth child of two free born and economically secure black parents, her life was unusual among African Americans. It was unimaginable in the minds of most white Americans. Before her death Sarah carried her family’s legacy well beyond the shores of her native land.  With financial security rooted primarily in food catering and hair salons, the men and women of the Remond clan actively supported antislavery and equal rights for all.  After honing her skills lecturing against slavery in the Northeast and Canada Sarah expanded her reach across the ocean.

Sources: 
Willi Coleman, "'...Like Hot Lead to Pour on the Americans’: Sarah Parker Remond and the International Fight Against Slavery." in Stewart James & Kish Sklar, Sisterhood and Slavery: International Antislavery and Women's Rights (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006)and Dorothy Burnett Porter, The Remonds of Salem Massachusetts: A Nineteenth Century Family Revisited.  (Boston: American Antiquarian Society, 1985) 261.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Vermont

Alfonso I [King] (?- 1543)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Kingdom of the Kongo, 1711
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Young, Jr., Perry (1919-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Perry Young, Jr, an airplane and helicopter pilot, was the first African American person to be hired by a commercial airline with regularly scheduled passenger flights. Young was born to his parents Henry Young, Sr. and Edith Lucille Young on March 12, 1919 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. His father ran a dry cleaning store and also owned several garages.

The Young family moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1929.  Right after graduating from Oberlin High School in 1937, Young took his first flight on an airplane and decided he would become a pilot. Later that summer, Young started his flight lessons and flew his first plane on Christmas Day 1937.  He paid for the lessons by washing cars over the summer. The next year, Young decided to attend Oberlin College instead of accepting a four-year scholarship to the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music. In 1939, he received his private pilot's license after dropping out of college to pursue this goal full time.
Sources: 
Betty Kaplan Gubert, Miriam Sawyer, Caroline M. Fannin, Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science (Westport, Connecticut: Oryx Press, 2002);
http://www.nytimes.com/1998/11/19/nyregion/perry-h-young-jr-79-pioneering-pilot-dies.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

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

Carroll, Jennifer (1959-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad on August 27, 1959, Jennifer Carroll is the 18th Lieutenant Governor of Florida. Carroll is the first African-American woman elected to the position, she took up office on January 4, 2011. Carroll served for over seven years as a state legislator before becoming Lieutenant Governor.
Sources: 
Aaron Deslatte. “Rick Scott Chooses Jennifer Carroll as Running Mate”. Orlando Sentinel. Internet. 12 Dec 2011. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-09-03/news/os-scott-names-jennifer-carroll-20100902_1_lieutenant-governor-democratic-nominee-alex-sink-jennifer-carroll; Matt Dixon, "Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll Resigns After Being Questioned About Allied Veterans," 13 March 2013. http://jacksonville.com/news/2013-03-13/story/lt-gov-jennifer-carroll-resigns-after-being-questioned-about-allied-veterans.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Waller, John Lewis (1850-1907)

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

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

Webb, Francis Johnson [Frank J.] (1828-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of the Bodleian Library, University of 
Oxford, Shelf mark 249 v. 258.
Francis Johnson Webb, newspaper editor, educator, equal rights activist, and the second published African American novelist, was born free on March 21, 1828, in Philadelphia to Louisa Burr and Francis Webb.  His mother, Louisa Charlotte Burr (c1785-1878), was the illegitimate daughter of former vice president Aaron Burr.  His father, Francis Webb, served as founding member of the Pennsylvania Augustine Education Society, secretary of the Haytien Emigration Society, and Philadelphia distribution agent for Freedom’s Journal, the first black newspaper in the nation.

Little is known of Frank J. Webb’s education other than what can be deduced from his later creative output.  In 1845, at the age of seventeen, he married Mary, rumored to be the daughter of Spanish General Baldomero Espartero, and an African-born fugitive slave.  From 1850 until 1854 Webb worked as a commercial artist and designer in Philadelphia.  In 1854, he gave a lecture “The Martial Capacity of Blacks” to members of the Banneker Institute.  That same year he published his emigrationist views in a colonization paper in Norristown, near Philadelphia.  By the 1850s Webb associated with other abolitionists including William Cooper Nell, Robert Morris, Charles Sumner, and Frederick Douglass.
Sources: 
Mary Maillard, “‘Faithfully Drawn From Real Life’: Autobiographical Elements in Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (July 2013); Phillip Lapsansky, “Afro-Americana: Frank J. Webb and His Friends,” Library Company of Philadelphia: 1990 Annual Report (1990); Eric Gardner, “Webb, Frank J.,” American National Biography: Supplement 2, eds. Paul R. Betz and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mortimer, Prince (ca. 1724-1834)

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

Although many Connecticut slaves were freed after their Revolutionary service, Prince was not.  His sufferings as a slave were compounded by yaws, a painful tropical disease similar to leprosy that caused cartilage to deteriorate and left terrible scars.  He would have been freed upon Philip Mortimer’s death in 1794 had not Mortimer’s son-in-law, George Starr, contested and succeeded in overturning Mortimer’s will. In December 1811, at the age of 87, Prince was accused of poisoning his new master, Captain George Starr, and was sentenced to life in prison.  His fellow slave, Jack Mortimer, also was accused.
Sources: 
Denis R Caron, A Century in Captivity: The Life and Trials of Prince Mortimer, a Connecticut Slave (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Watson, Barbara Mae (1918-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Barbara M. Watson, businesswoman, lawyer, government executive, and diplomat, was born in New York City, New York on November 5, 1918. She was the daughter of James S. Watson, the first black judge elected in New York State, and his wife, Violet Lopez Watson, one of the founders of the National Council of Negro Women. Barbara M. Watson was the sister of James Lopez Watson and the cousin of General Colin L. Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of State.

After graduating from Barnard College in 1943, she took a job as an interviewer for the United Seamen's Service. In 1946, she founded a modeling agency and charm school, Barbara Watson Models, serving as the agency's executive director until 1956.

Sources: 
Jimmy Carter, "United States Ambassador to Malaysia Nomination of Barbara M. Watson," July 10, 1980.Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=44742; Barbara Mae Watson papers 1929-1984. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from http://archives.nypl.org/scm/20813; “Former U.S. Diplomat was 64,” New York Times, February 17, 1983, http://www.nytimes.com/1983/02/18/obituaries/barbara-m-watson-is-dead-former-us-diplomat-was-64.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fauset, Jessie R. (1882-1961)

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

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

Bush, Dwight L. (1957 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Dwight Bush had a 35 year career in finance and corporate management before he became a U.S. diplomat. He has served as an executive within numerous financial institutions and sat on the board of directors for several corporate, educational, and non-profit organizations. As of this writing, Bush is the United States Ambassador to Morocco.
Sources: 
“Dwight L. Bush Sr. Ambassador,” http://morocco.usembassy.gov/about-us/ambassador.html; “Ambassador to Morocco: Who is Dwight Bush, Sr.?,” http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassador-to-morocco-who-is-dwight-bush-sr-131118?news=851682; “Dwight L. Bush Sr. appointed U.S. Ambassador to Morocco,” http://www.amcham.ma/dwight-l-bush-sr-appointed-us-ambassador-to-morocco/; “Statement of Dwight L. Bush, Sr. Ambassador-Designate to the Kingdom of Morocco Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,” http://photos.state.gov/libraries/morocco/150165/PR/Bush.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ruben Um Nyobè (1913–1958)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ruben Um Nyobè is a little known but major figure in the African independence campaign.  He was the first African political leader to claim independence for his country before the General Assembly of the United Nations. He is called the “black Hô Chi Minh” by some authors and “Mpodol” (spokesman) for his country, Cameroon.

Um Nyobè was born at Song Mpeck in the Cameroon on April 10, 1913, when it was still a colonial possession of Germany. His first education came in Presbyterian Church primary schools, and he was baptized in 1921 as a Presbyterian. While he was in school, colonial administration of Cameroon was transferred from recently-defeated Germany to France and Great Britain at the end of World War I. Eventually, Nyobè and other Cameroonian nationalists sought to reunite the now divided territory.
Sources: 
J.A. Mbembe, La naissance du maquis dans le sud du Cameroun (The birth of the Maquis in the Southern Cameroon) (Paris: Karthala, 1996); R. Um Nyobè, Le problem national Kamerunais (The Kamerunian national problem), Edited by J.A. Mbembe (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1984); http://www.bonaberi.com/article.php?aid=1544.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Rhodes University, South Africa

Groves, Junius George (1859-1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Junius Groves and Wife, Matilda, ca. 1895
Image Courtesy of  the Kansas Historical Society
Junius G. Groves, a successful, self-educated farmer, landowner, and entrepreneur, became one of the most prosperous African American men in the early twentieth century. He was born enslaved on April 12, 1859 in Green County, Kentucky.  His parents were Martin Groves and Mary Anderson Groves. Two decades later, as a freedman possessing ninety cents, Groves made his way to eastern Kansas during the time of the Exoduster Movement of ex-slaves from the South.  Groves began farming by sharecropping near Edwardsville, Kansas.  In 1880, he married Matilda E. Stewart of Kansas City, Missouri. Within a few years, they began purchasing their own land.

Much of Groves' success was due to his forty-six years of devotion to the science of agriculture. He earned the title “Potato King of the World” in 1902 for growing the most bushels of potatoes per acre than anyone else in the world up to that point in time. The couple's twelve surviving children (out of fourteen births) helped with the farm and family holdings.

Sources: 
Booker T. Washington, The Negro in Business (Boston: Hertel, Jenkins, & Co., 1907; reprinted, Chicago: Afro-American Press, 1969); Anne Hawkins, "Hoeing Their Own Row: Black Agriculture and the Agrarian Ideal in Kansas, 1880-1930," Kansas History 22 (autumn 1999); Angela Doyle Radicia, “Junius Groves and the Community of Groves Center,” unpublished paper, Mid-America Conference on History, Tulsa, Oklahoma, September 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mandela, Nelson Rolihlahla (1918-2013)

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

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first President of post-Apartheid South Africa, was born on the 18th of July 1918 in Qunu in the Transkei. His father was a counselor to the paramount chief of Thembuland, and young Nelson seemed destined to inherit the counsellorship. But he had his mind set on law and service outside of royalty.

After his secondary education, Mandela entered the University College of Fort Hare, where he was elected to the students’ representative council. Expelled in 1940 for organizing boycott, Mandela moved to Johannesburg where he completed the Bachelor’s degree. He also began studying law at the University of Witwatersrand.

Sources: 
Barry Denenberg, Nelson Mandela: No Easy Walk to Freedom (Scholastic, Inc., 1991); Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (Little Brown & Co, 1995); Tom Lodge, Mandela: A Critical Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Iowa State University

Cardozo, William Warrick (1905-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William Warrick Cardozo, physician and pediatrician, was a pioneer investigator of sickle cell anemia and a leader in medical research of problems affecting people of African descent.

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

Singleton, John Daniel (1968- )

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ousley, "King" Curtis (1934–1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

King Curtis was a famous tenor sax player during the 1950s and 1960s and was known for his signature honking sound.  Born in Fort Worth, Texas on February 7, 1934, with the birth name Curtis Ousley, King Curtis got his musical education in the public schools of his hometown.  Curtis started out on alto sax at the age of 12 and then switched to tenor at 13.  After graduating from high school, he began touring with Lionel Hampton’s jazz band.  In 1952, Curtis moved to New York and began to venture out from jazz to a rising musical genre called rock and roll. 

King Curtis by the late-1950s was a well-known session musician working with numerous rock and roll and rhythm and blues artists including Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Buddy Holly, and Wilson Pickett.  He’s also remembered for his solo on the Coasters’ hit with “Yakety Yak” in 1958.   Over his playing career as a session musician, it is estimated that King Curtis performed with over 125 jazz, pop, R&B, and rock and roll artists.

Sources: 
Murray Schumach, “King Curtis, the Bandleader, Is Stabbed to Death,” New York Times (August 15, 1971); Arnold Shaw, Honkers and Shouters : the Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues (New York: Macmillan Pub Co, 1986); Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African American Musicians (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983);  http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/king-curtis (Accessed November 7, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Bennett, Chris H. (1943- )

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Seattle newspaper publisher Chris H. Bennett was born in Waynesboro, Georgia in 1943. He spent four years in the Air Force before attending Everett Community College in Everett, Washington, where he played football. Bennett then worked for the African American newspaper The Facts before leaving to start Seattle Medium.

Twenty-seven-year-old Bennett founded Seattle Medium newspaper in 1970, locating it in an office above a dry-cleaning shop. He promoted the Medium as a weekly African American paper that focuses on community and local news in the Seattle area. Its masthead slogan reads, "A message for the people, by the people."

Sources: 

Himanee Gupta, "Chris Bennett: Publisher Uses Media as Mediums for his Message," Seattle Times (February 26, 1990); www.seattlemedium.com.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Blackwell, John Kenneth (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Huffington Post

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

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

Keppard, Freddie (1890–1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Pioneer jazz musician Freddie Keppard was one of the most famous cornet players of the early 20th Century.  Born February 27, 1890 in New Orleans, Keppard came from a musical family which included his brother Louis Keppard, who also became a professional musician playing the piano and tuba. Freddie Keppard began his musical career with the mandolin, followed by the violin, accordion, and finally finding his passion with the cornet.  At the age of 16 he organized the Olympia Orchestra to showcase his talents and perform throughout New Orleans. 

Keppard became part of the migration of Creole jazz musicians to the West Coast in the first two decades of the 20th Century.  After traveling to Los Angeles, he founded the Original Creole Orchestra in 1912.  The Orchestra introduced New Orleans jazz to a wider audience and quickly became one of the most popular acts on the West Coast.  By 1919 it had a following in large cities across the United States.  As his popularity rose, the Victor Talking Machine Company eventually offered Keppard the chance to be one of the first to record the new jazz sound. Keppard refused the recording offer saying he was fearful people would “steal his stuff.”   

Sources: 
David Dicaire, Jazz Musicians of the Early Years, to 1945 (North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc., 2003); Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African American Musicians (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983); http://www.redhotjazz.com/keppard.html (Accessed November 20, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Stout, Juanita Kidd (1919-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

“If I had nine lives, I’d want to be a lawyer every day of every one, I enjoy it so.”  With this sensibility and love for the legal system, Juanita Kidd Stout made the correct decision in choosing her life’s work.  Juanita Kidd Stout established a reputation long before she left Oklahoma to resettle in Philadelphia and become a prominent judge. 

Born an only child to educators Henry and Mary Kidd on March 7, 1919 in Wewoka, Oklahoma, Juanita learned to read at age 2 and remained a stellar student when she attended the segregated public schools in her hometown.  Juanita gained from the experience of having excellent black teachers, and won numerous prizes at school and agricultural exhibitions for her scholarship and creativity.  At age 16 she left for Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri.  While at Lincoln, she joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and personally observed black attorney Charles Hamilton Houston argue Gaines v. Missouri in the state supreme court.  Later, she transferred to the University of Iowa and earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1939.  At the time she was one of a mere 2% of black adults holding a four year college degree.  Three years later Juanita Kidd married Charles Otis Stout. By the end of the decade Juanita Kidd Stout held two law degrees from Indiana University and moved to Washington, D.C. where she became the administrative secretary to Charles Hamilton Houston.

Sources: 
Amy Kapp, “Biographical Sketch of Juanita Kidd Stout,”(Unpublished Document, January 8, 2002); V. P. Franklin, “Juanita Kidd Stout,” Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (eds.) Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

James, Etta (1938-2012)

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

Rhythm and blues (R&B), jazz, and blues singer Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938 in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles to Dorothy Hawkins, who at the time was sixteen years old and unmarried.    

Sources: 
Etta James and David Ritz, Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story (New York: Villard Books, 1995); Pete Welding and Toby Byron, Bluesland: Portraits of Twelve Major American Blues Masters (New York: Dutton, 1991); Buzzy Jackson, A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Haley, Alex (1921-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Alex Haley, Alex Haley: The Man Who Traced America’s Roots (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, 2007); Alan McConagha, “Alex Haley, Author of ‘Roots,’ is Dead,” The Washington Times (February 11, 1992, pg A1); “Alex Haley Biography,” Biography.com, accessed 17 September 2010, http://www.biography.com/articles/Alex-Haley-39420.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Murray, Pauli (1910-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Pauli Murray, Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage (New York: Harper and Row, 1987); Elaine Sue Caldbeck, “A Religious Life of Pauli Murray: Hope and Struggle,” Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 2000; http://spartacus-educational.com/USAmurrayA.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

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

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

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

Anderson, Eddie "Rochester" (1905-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born September 18, 1905 in Oakland, California, Eddie Anderson's career as an entertainer began at the age of 14 when he teamed up with his brother Cornelius in a song-and-dance act.  Anderson's career continued onto the silver screen where he had parts in movies such as What Price Hollywood? (1932) and Green Pastures (1936), although it was not until 1937 when he appeared as a railway porter on The Jack Benny Program that Anderson truly got his big break. Though he was initially slated as only having a one-shot role, Anderson was so well received that he was offered the part of "Rochester Van Jones," Jack's valet.

"Rochester" turned out to be Anderson's most popular role by far, and he continued with it until 1965 when The Jack Benny Program was taken off the air.  "Rochester" was not Anderson’s only role during this time; he also kept on in movies and can be found in such films as Gone with the Wind (1939), Cabin in the Sky (1943), and It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).
Sources: 
William Barlow, Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999); Radio Hall of Fame Inductee Biographies, "Eddie Anderson" http://www.museum.tv/rhofsection.php?page=162.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Miles, William (1931-2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Miles was a self-taught documentary filmmaker who has produced several documentaries on the history of black Americans.  Miles was born in Harlem, New York on August 19, 1931.  He grew up in Harlem on 126th Street near the Apollo Theater.  His mother ran a boarding house there that often provided accommodation for out-of-town entertainers performing at the Apollo.  Miles first learned about film from the Apollo’s projectionist.

In 1948 at the age of 17 Miles joined the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, ultimately reaching the status of Sergeant.  His film career began at Killiam Shows, a company that worked with archival films. There he began in the shipping department and moved up to editor.  

William Miles produced his first film, Men of Bronze, in 1977.  It chronicled the achievements of the 369th   Infantry Regiment during World War I.  The film was the culmination of 12 years of research beginning in the 1960s.  Miles interviewed several surviving members of the historic all-black regiment popularly known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” including one of its white officers, Hamilton Fish III, who later became a prominent Republican Congressman from New York. Although originally relegated to non-combat duties by the United States military, this regiment eventually fought with the French Army at the battles of Champagne-Marne and Meuse-Argonne alongside Moroccan, Senegalese, and French soldiers.
.  
Sources: 
Candace Ming, “Bill Miles: Independent Producers and the State of the Archive,”  (Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program, Spring 2011),  URL:<www.nyu.edu/tisch/preservation/program/.../11s_thesis_Ming.doc>;  
“William Miles Collection,”  Washington University in St. Louis,  Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, URL:<http://library.wustl.edu/units/spec/filmandmedia/collections/william-miles-collection/index.html>;  
“Tribute to documentary filmmaker Bill Miles,” New York Amsterdam News, 103.39 (September 27, 2012); “272 to Share $5.9 Million in Guggenheim Awards,” New York Times (April 13, 1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, A'Lelia (1885–1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
A’Lelia Bundles, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker (New York: Scribner, 2001); Nancy Kuhl, Intimate Circles:  American Women in the Arts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003; http://www.madamcjwalker.com/bios/alelia-walker/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Knox, Simmie Lee (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 2004 former President Clinton’s and former First Lady Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s official oil portraits were revealed in the East Room at the executive mansion.  The artist, Simmie Lee Knox, became in 2002 the first African American artist to get a presidential commission to paint official portraits.  On Monday, June 14, 2004, at the unveiling of the Clinton portraits, Knox became the first black American artist to have painted an official portrait of a president, as well as to have painted an official portrait of a first lady, for the White House art collection.

Knox was born on August 18, 1935 in Aliceville, Alabama, the son of Simmie Knox Sr., a mechanic and carpenter, and Amelia Knox.  When he was three years old Knox’s parents divorced, and he was sent to live with relatives, most of whom were poor sharecroppers, in Leroy, Alabama. At age nine Knox moved to nearby Mobile, Alabama, to live with his father and stepmother Lucille.
Sources: 
Lynette Clemetson, “From Doodles to Clintons,” New York Times, June 15, 2004; http://www.simmieknox.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fitzgerald, Ella (1917-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ella Fitzgerald was a female jazz singer considered without equal at the height of the jazz era.  Her voice had an amazing and vibrant range that allowed her to sing nearly every jazz style.  Ella was also an accomplished composer and bandleader who performed into the 1990s.

Born in Newport News, Virginia on April 25, 1917, Ella  grew up in Yonkers, New York in poverty.  She developed a love of music from a young age and at 17 won an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem with her rendition of “Judy” that earning her a week’s engagement at the prestigious entertainment venue.  Additionally she was noticed by jazz drummer Chick Webb.
Sources: 
Michael Erlewine, All Music Guide to Jazz (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 1998); Tonya Bolden, The Book of African American Women (Holbrook, Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation, 1996); http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/fitzgerald_e.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cruz Escalante, Ericka Yadira (1981- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ericka Yadira Cruz Escalante became the first Miss Mexico of African descent. With that victory she completed in the Miss Universe pageant in Roberto Clemente Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2002. Cruz was born in Mérida, Yucatán, México, on November 16, 1981 to parents Yadira Maria Escalante and Martin Cruz Alain Sena. She has two brothers, Martin and Glorevy. Currently, she is married with two children.

Cruz had an unusual background for a successful beauty contestant.  She was a widely recognized athlete before she was a beauty queen. She represented her home state of Yucatán in various sports competitions and has held the state long jump record since 1995.  In 1997 Cruz won a bronze medal in the Central American Games in San Salvador, El Salvador, also for the long jump, and for the 4x100 relay.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fournier de Pescay, François (1771–1833)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Francois Fournier de Pescay was the first known African-descended physician to practice medicine and surgery in Europe. Fournier de Pescay was the son of French planter François Pescay and Adélaïde Rappau, a free mulatto (mulâtresse libre). His parents left the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) in 1771 and settled in Bordeaux, France. Little is known of Fournier’s childhood and young adult years in Bordeaux, a city accustomed to the sight of blacks and biracial immigrants mainly from the French West Indies. These immigrants numbered 174 residents in a 1778 census. Unlike in the colonies, there were few laws impeding upward mobility of “persons of color” (les personnes des couleur), thus Fournier benefitted from an excellent education in Paris followed by medical training in Bordeaux.
Sources: 
Robert Fikes Jr., “François Fournier de Pescay,” Journal of the National Medical Association, 77 (September 1985); Biographie universelle, Vol. XIV, (Paris: Desplaces, 1856); http://www.une-autre-histoire.org/fournier-de-pescay-biographie/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Moseley-Braun, Carol (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Carol Moseley-Braun is a former United States Senator from Illinois. Her 1993 election marked the first time in history that a black woman or a black Democrat had ever been elected to the U.S. Senate. Moseley-Braun was born in 1947 in Chicago. She graduated from the University of Illinois and the University Of Chicago School Of Law and was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1973. She worked as a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney for three years and then served, in 1978, in the Illinois House of Representatives where she rose to the rank of Assistant Majority Leader by 1988. In 1989 she was appointed Recorder of Deeds, which was also the first time a woman or black person had held an executive position in the Cook County government.
Sources: 
William L. Clay, Just Permanent Interests; Black Americans in Congress 1870-1992 (New York: Amistad Press Inc., 1993); http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/2003-09-22-braun-announces_x.htm;
http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/democrats2004/braun.html;
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m001025
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wynn, Albert R. (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Albert Russel Wynn is Democratic representative of the State of Maryland’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. He is currently serving his eighth term. The district includes parts of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Wynn was defeated in the Democratic primary of February 13, 2008, by Donna Edwards.

Born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Albert Wynn received his bachelor degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 1973. He then completed a year of graduate study in Public Administration at Howard University, before earning a law degree from Georgetown University in 1977. From 1977 to 1981 Wynn was executive director of the Consumer Protection Commission in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In 1981 he became a practicing attorney and the following year he created the law office of Albert R. Wynn and Associates.

Wynn served five years in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1982 to 1987, and then served in the Maryland Senate for five years from 1987 to 1992 where he was deputy majority whip.
Sources: 
“The Online Office of Congressman Albert R. Wynn — Biography” http://www.wynn.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=26 ; "Wynn, Albert R," in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition. Eds. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0002/e4158 .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Saunders, Prince (1775–1839)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Prince Saunders was a prominent advocate for the education of African Americans and for the colonization of African Americans in Haiti during his lifetime.  He was born in Connecticut and died in Haiti.

Prince Saunders was born around 1775 in Lebanon, Connecticut.  He was baptized in 1784 at Thetford, Vermont and was raised by Vermont lawyer George Oramel Hinckley.  Hinckley became Saunders’ sponsor from 1807 to 1808.  With Hinckley’s sponsorship, Saunders was able to attend Dartmouth College.  Dartmouth President John Wheelock in turn recommended Saunders, in 1808, to Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing who set him up to work among black students in Boston.

In November 1808, Saunders began his four-year career as a teacher of Boston’s African School.  In 1811, he became a secretary for the African Masonic Lodge while founding the Belle Lettres Society, an integrated literary group.

In 1815, Saunders negotiated with Abiel Smith, a wealthy merchant, to provide funds for other schools for blacks in Boston.  Smith eventually granted Saunders about $4,000 for the education of African American children in the city.  Other funds came from Smith’s estate after his death but by 1820 Boston city taxes helped support the schools.  It was at one of these schools that Saunders met Thomas Paul, a leading Boston Baptist minister.  
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700–1860 (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997); White, Arthur O., “Prince Saunders: An Instance of Social Mobility Among Antebellum New England Blacks,” The Journal of Negro History 60:4 (Oct. 1975);
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Tyson, Mike (1966 - )

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

Michael Gerard Tyson was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1966. He was raised by a single mother in the slums of Brooklyn in what he described as awful living conditions, in poverty, and surrounded by peer pressure. By the time he was ten he had already developed a reputation as someone you didn’t want to tangle with, and he was cutting school, drinking, smoking, and robbing folks with his friends.

After numerous arrests Tyson was sent to a New York reform school for troubled juveniles. It was there that a former boxer, and then counselor and athletic coach, named Bobby Stewart took an interest in him and taught him how to box. Realizing Mike’s talent, Stewart arranged for him to meet with the trainer, Cus D’Amato. After watching the young boy spar D’Amato was convinced Tyson could one day become the heavyweight champion of the world. He became Tyson’s legal guardian, and an early parole was arranged. D’Amato was a big believer in the power of the mind, and he spent as much time passing along his personal philosophies to Tyson as he did the physical boxing skills.

D’Amato didn’t live to see the fulfillment of his vision, passing away on November 4, 1985, but the management team that he had put in place for Tyson, including co-managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton, and the trainer, Kevin Rooney, carried out his plan. On November 22, 1986 Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history, at the age of 20 years.

Sources: 

Jose Torres, Fire & Fear. The Inside Story of Mike Tyson (New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1989); www.boxrec.com.   

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Due, Tananarive (1966- )

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

Tananarive Due is a contemporary novelist who interweaves powerful themes and dilemmas among African Americans into unconventional story-telling.  Due was born in Tallahassee, Florida on January 5, 1966.  Her parents, John and Patricia Stephens Due, met at Florida A&M and were civil rights activists.  John was a prominent attorney who eventually headed Leon County's Office of Black Affairs while her mother participated in many protests and sit-ins that led to injuries and in one ins

Sources: 
Dianne Glave, "'My Characters are Teaching me to be Strong:' An Interview with Tananarive Due," African American Review 38:4 (Winter 2004); "A Conversation with Tananarive Due Part I and Part II," National Public Radio www.npr.org, January 17, 2006; Tananarive Due Website, http://www.tananarivedue.com/About.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Grimké, Charlotte Forten (1837-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charlotte Forten Grimké grew up in a rich intellectual and activist environment.  Born into a wealthy Black abolitionist family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charlotte Louise Forten became famous in her own right as a writer and poet.  Her grandparents, James, Sr. and Charlotte Forten, hosted leading black and white abolitionists into their home on a regular basis.  James Forten was one of the wealthiest blacks in Philadelphia, having amassed a fortune in the sail making business. Her parents, Robert Bridges Forten and Mary Woods Forten, continued the family’s activist tradition as had her uncles and aunts, including Sarah, Harriet, and Margaretta Forten, who helped establish the bi-racial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. 
Sources: 
Janice Sumler-Edmond, “Charlotte Forten Grimké,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993): 505-507; Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); and Brenda Stevenson, ed., The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Reed, Ishmael (1938 - )

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

Ishmael Reed is an African American novelist, essayist, playwright, satirist, editor, publisher, and poet. He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on February 22, 1938 to Henry Lenoir and Thelma Coleman. Lenoir and Coleman moved to Buffalo, New York where Reed grew up.  When his mother divorced Lenoir and married Bennie Reed, Ishmael took his stepfather's last name.  

Reed enrolled in Millard Fillmore College in New York in 1956, taking night courses.  Eventually he transferred to day classes at University of Buffalo with the encouragement of his English instructor.  He attended the University of Buffalo between 1956 and 1960. Unfortunately due to financial reasons Reed withdrew and did not receive a degree. Although later, in 1995, the University of Buffalo (now the State University of New York at Buffalo) awarded him an honorary Doctorate in Letters.  In 1962 Reed moved to New York's Lower East Side and started a career as a journalist. In 1967, after he published his first novel, The Freelance Pallbearers, Reed moved to San Francisco, California.

Sources: 

Caroline Bokinsky, “Ishmael Reed.” Dictionary of Literary Biography:
American Poets Since WWII. Vol. 5 Part 2
, Donald J. Greiner, Editor,
(Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1980); Joyce Pettis, “Ishmael Reed.”
African American Poets: Lives, Works, and Sources. Westport,
Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002); Robert Elliot Fox, Modern American
Poetry: About Ishmael Reed's Life and Career
. University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign.
<http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/reed/about.htm>
retrieved on 2009-03-04;

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Blackwell, David Harold (1919-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
David Harold Blackwell, mathematician and statistician, was the first African American to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1965) and is especially known for his contributions to the theory of duels. Blackwell was born on April 24, 1919, to a working-class family in Centralia, Illinois. Growing up in an integrated community, Blackwell attended “mixed” schools, where he distinguished himself in mathematics. During elementary school, his teachers promoted him beyond his grade level on two occasions. He discovered his passion for math in a high school geometry course.

At the age of sixteen, Blackwell began his college career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Although he planned on becoming an educator, Blackwell chose math classes instead. Having won a four-year scholarship from the state of Illinois, Blackwell completed his undergraduate degree in 1938 and earned his master’s degree the following year.
Sources: 
James H. Kessler,  J. S. Kidd, Renee A. Kidd, and Katherine A. Morin,  Distinguished African American Scientists of the Twentieth Century (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1996); Reuben Hersh, “David Harold Blackwell,” Biographical Encyclopedia of Mathematicians, Donald R. Franceschetti, editor (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1999); Nkechi Agwu,  Luella Smith, and  Aissatou Barry, “ Dr. David Harold Blackwell, African American Pioneer,” Mathematics Magazine, 76:1 (Feb., 2003), pp. 3-14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Haywood, Harry (1898-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

A radical theoretician, anti-colonialist, labor organizer, and civil rights activist, Harry Haywood was one of the most prominent and influential African American Communists of the twentieth century.  Haywood, the son of former slaves, was born in South Omaha, Nebraska in 1898. He migrated to Chicago after serving in World War I and organized community defense during the 1919 Chicago race riot. In 1922 he joined the African Blood Brotherhood and in 1925 became an official member of the CPUSA.

Sources: 
Harry Haywood, Black Bolshevik: Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist (Chicago: Liberator Press, 1978); Mary Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Geogakas, eds., Encyclopedia of the American Left (New York: Garland Publishing, 1990), 297-298.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson, James Lloyd (1920-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership:
Public Domain
James Lloyd Jackson was one of the little known heroes of the D-Day Landing at Normandy Beach in France in 1944.  Jackson was born in Lakeland, Florida on February 25, 1920 to Essie May Holly and Amos Jackson. He graduated from Lakeland High School in 1938. For the next five years he worked for the Lakeland Fertilizer Company.

Jackson joined the U.S. Army in 1943 as a private.  In 1944, just a year after joining the military, Sergeant James Jackson led a unit of the 531st Combat Engineers onto Normandy Beach at dawn in preparation for the much larger invasion that was to follow. Jackson's unit also captured German soldiers including Max Schmeling, the boxer who fought Joe Louis in 1937 and 1938. Jackson's unit continued to work in battlefield settings for the rest of World War II.  

James Jackson decided in 1945 to make the Army a career. In 1951 he was promoted to second lieutenant while serving in Korea.  On December 27, 1953 Jackson married Octavia Mills, a former elementary school teacher from Oklahoma. The couple had five children.  

At the end of the Korean War Jackson used his years in the military to further his education.  While in the Army and stationed at various posts, Jackson studied at the University of Maryland, the University of Puget Sound, the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and finally Western Washington University where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1975.  
Sources: 
National Archives and Records Administration, Jackson Family Records.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Nichols, Nichelle (1932- )

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

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

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

Jackson, Samuel L. (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Actor Samuel Leroy Jackson was born on December 21, 1948 in Washington, D.C. to factory worker Elizabeth Jackson. His father abandoned his mother shortly after Jackson’s birth and then died of alcoholism. Jackson and his mother moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they lived with her family. Jackson attended Riverside High School and played the trumpet and the French horn until graduating.

Jackson attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, majoring in dramatic arts. He founded the Just Us Theater while attending Morehouse, and in 1968 he was an usher at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.  In 1969 Jackson and several other students held the members of the Morehouse Board of Trustees hostage on campus until they agreed to administrative and curriculum changes. An agreement was made but Jackson was forced to leave Morehouse for two years. He returned and graduated in 1972.

While in Atlanta Jackson was involved with the Black Power movement and worked with Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and movement leaders.  He also joined the Black Image Theater Company which performed plays illustrating racial injustice and discrimination. Jackson met his future wife, Latanya Richardson, at the Company, and the two were married in 1980. The two had a daughter (Zoe) in 1982.
Sources: 
Daniel Donaghy, Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century, Paul Finkelman, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Henry Louis Gates and Samuel L. Jackson, "In Character," America behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans (New York: Warner, 2004); "Samuel Leroy Jackson," 2012, The Biography Channel website. http://www.biography.com/people/samuel-l-jackson-9542182.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Howard, Rebecca Groundage (1827-1881)

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

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

Boothe, Charles Octavius (1845-1924)

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

An African American Baptist preacher, educator, author, and tireless advocate for African American advancement and uplift, Charles Octavius Boothe was one of the founders of Dexter Avenue-King Memorial Baptist Church (1877), Selma University (1878), and the Colored Baptist Missionary Convention for the State of Alabama in the early 1870s.  The latter was the first statewide African American Baptist denominational organization. He also served as the first minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and a two year term as president of Selma University (1901-1902).

Sources: 
Charles Octavius Boothe, The Cyclopedia of the Colored Baptists of Alabama: Their Leaders and Their Work. (Birmingham: Alabama Publishing Company, 1895), available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/boothe/bio.html ; Edward R. Crowther, "Charles Octavius Boothe: An Alabama Apostle of 'Uplift.'" Journal of Negro History 78 (Spring 1993): 110-16; Edward R. Crowther, "Interracial Cooperative Missions Among Blacks by Alabama's Baptists, 1868-1882." Journal of Negro History 80 (Summer 1995): 131-39; Charles Octavius Boothe, the Encyclopedia of Alabama http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1560
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Alabama State University

Gibson, Kenneth A. (1931- )

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

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

Noah, Yannick (1960- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Yannick Noah is a former professional tennis player who is best known as the winner of the French Open in 1983 and later as the captain of the French Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams.  After his tennis career ended Noah became a well-known pop singer and co-founder of Fête le Mur in 1996, a charity organization for underprivileged children.

Noah was born in Sedan in northern France on May 18, 1960.  His father, Zacharie Noah, was a prominent soccer player from the Cameroons who won the French Cup while playing for Sedan.  His mother, Marie-Claire Perrier, was a former captain of France’s basketball team and a teacher in Sedan.   

In 1963, the Noah family, which now included Yannick and his two sisters, Isabelle and Nathalie, moved to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. Here Noah discovered his passion, tennis.  In 1971 when Noah was 11, his talent and energy impressed American tennis player Arthur Ashe who was on a visit to Cameroon.  Before leaving Yaoundé, he gave young Noah his tennis racket.
Sources: 
“Yannick Noah,” Association of Tennis Professionals, http://atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/N022.aspx; Yannick Noah Official Website, http://www.yannicknoah.com/; “Yannick Noah,” International Tennis Hall of Fame, https://www.tennisfame.com/hall-of-famers/yannick-noah; Yannick Noah Biography as a pop musician, Radio France Internationale, http://www.rfimusique.com/artiste/chanson/yannick-noah/biographie.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Emeritus Professor, University of Paris

Jones, Barbara Ann Posey (1943 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1958, Barbara Ann Posey, then a high school student, emerged as one of the most important youth leaders in the campaign which began that year to desegregate the major public accommodations in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Posey’s public stand against racial injustice began when she was fifteen and already a leader in the Oklahoma City branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council which initiated sit-ins at lunch counters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  These sit-ins predated the more famous Greensboro college student sit-ins by two years. 

Throughout her life, Posey has been a leader in education, women’s issues, and civil rights.  Posey was born to Mr. and Mrs. Weldon Posey in Oklahoma City in 1943. As a teen, she attended Douglas High School in Oklahoma City, graduating in June 1960. She later attended the University of Oklahoma.
Sources: 
Paulette Olson and Zahren Emami, eds., Engendering Economics: Conversations with Women Economists of the United States (New York: Routledge, 2002). www.tulsalibrary.org/research/ok/women.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Central University (Oklahoma)

Sabac el Cher, Gustav Albrecht (1868-1934)

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

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

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

Bankhead, Mary Lucille Perkins (1902–1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of George Janecek
Mary Lucille Perkins Bankhead, lifelong resident of Salt Lake City and member of the Genesis Group leadership, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 9, 1902. Her father, Sylvester Perkins, was a cowboy and farmer.  Her mother, Martha Anne Jane Stevens Perkins Howell, was a homemaker and a farmworker. Martha and Sylvester celebrated a double wedding in 1899 with Nettie Jane (granddaughter of the famous Jane Manning James) and Louis Leggroan. The Perkins family proudly claimed Green Flake (Martha’s grandfather and one of three “colored servants” among the vanguard Mormon pioneers) as their ancestor.

Lucille Perkins grew up on a homestead originally granted by President Ulysses S. Grant. She was a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). According to Bankhead, the relationship among neighbors was characterized more by camaraderie than by racial tensions, though she certainly found racial tension in her LDS congregation.
Sources: 
Ronald G. Coleman and Darius Gray, “Two Perspectives: The Religious Hopes of ‘Worthy’ African American Latter-day Saints before the 1978 Revelation,” in Black and Mormon, eds. Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Armand L. Mauss, “Casting Off the ‘Curse of Cain’: The Extent and Limits of Progress since 1978,” in ibid; “Mrs. Lucille Bankhead,” in Missing Stories: An Oral History of Ethnic and Minority Groups in Utah, eds. Leslie G. Kellen and Eileen Hallet Stone (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Yergan, Max (1892–1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center,
National Museum of American History, Behring Center,
Smithsonian Institution
In a remarkable and controversial life, Max Yergan spanned both the globe and the ideological spectrum of American politics. An early champion of racial uplift and the social gospel in South Africa, Yergan transformed into a leading figure on the radical Black Left during the 1930s and 1940s, only to reincarnate once again as a ultraconservative anticommunist after 1950.
Sources: 
Source:  David Henry Anthony III, Max Yergan:  Race Man, Internationalist, and Cold Warrior (New York:  NYU Press, 2006)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clay, William Lacy, Jr. (1956- )

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

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

Duncanson, Robert S. (1817-1872)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert S. Duncanson was a landscape and portrait painter born in northern New York in 1817. His father was Scottish and his mother was a mulatto. While Robert was technically born free due to manumission laws, he still faced the enormous prejudice against African Americans that was typical of the time. In order to ensure his education, Robert’s father took him to Canada for his schooling. In the early 1840s, Duncanson returned to the United States, and lived in Ohio with his mother, in a home about 15 miles from Cincinnati.

In 1842, within a year of his return, 25-year-old Duncanson’s work was being shown in Cincinnati. Although his early technique was self-taught, his work was greatly influenced by the Hudson River School of painters, and especially by William L. Sonntag.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.cincinnati.com/cam/cincinnatiwing/duncanson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hayes, Isaac (1942-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Stax Museum
of American Soul Music

Academy Award-winning composer and musician Isaac Hayes, Jr. was born to Isaac Sr. and Eula Hayes on August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee. Hayes began his career at the age of 20 when he joined Stax Records as a studio musician. By the late 1960s he was a songwriter/producer, crafting hit singles for Sam and Dave and other Stax acts.

A year after emerging as a solo artist, Hayes’s debut album Hot Buttered Soul (1969) took soul music in a new direction – incorporating spoken segments (he called raps), fewer, longer songs accompanied by orchestras, and eccentric album covers that featured what was to become Hayes’s signature shaved head and gold chains upon his bare chest.

Although his success in the music industry continued with his follow up album Black Moses, Hayes simultaneously pursued a film and television career. In 1971, Hayes created the score for the film Shaft. Recording the sound track in just four days, Shaft rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Chart and garnered a Grammy and an Academy Award for Best Song and Best Score in 1972, making Hayes the first African American composer to win an Oscar. He also appeared in films such as Shaft (1971); Truck Turner (1974), his only starring role.

Sources: 

Isaac Hayes Biography, http://www.filmreference.com/film/84/Isaac-Hayes.html; “Isaac Puts Chef Behind Him,” New York Post, January 24, 2007; The Vancouver Sun (12 August 2008); http://www.isaachayes.com/myframes.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, John Baxter, Jr. (1882-1908)

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

The first African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal, John Baxter Taylor was born November 3, 1882, in Washington, D.C. He attended Central High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he ran track and was the only African American on the team. After graduating from high school in 1902, Taylor attended Brown Preparatory School for one year, running track for an undefeated team.

Sources: 

Oceana Chalk, Black College Sport (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company,
1976).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Mitchell, Arthur (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Arthur Mitchell, 1955
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Arthur Mitchell, co-founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), America’s first African American ballet company, was born in New York City, New York on March 27, 1934. Under Mitchell’s direction, Dance Theatre of Harlem rose to become one of the premier ballet companies in the United States, performing full-length neoclassical ballets, nationally and internationally from 1971 until the company’s performing hiatus in 2004. Mitchell served as the Artistic Director of DTH from the company’s first performance at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 1971, until his retirement as artistic director in 2009.
Sources: 
Barbara Milberg Fisher, In Balanchine’s Company: A Dancer’s Memoir (Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2006); Lynn Garafola, Legacies of Twentieth-Century Dance (Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2005); http://www.dancetheatreofharlem.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Miles, Elijah Walter (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Even before finishing graduate school Elijah Walter Miles had a record of civil disobedience in support of civil rights objectives.  Born in Hearne, Texas on May 4, 1934, Miles received his bachelor’s degree from the Prairie View A&M University in 1955.  A two-year stint as an officer in the U.S. Army preceded graduate study at Indiana University where he was in the forefront of a campaign to desegregate public accommodations in the city of Bloomington. 

After receiving his doctorate in political science at Indiana University in 1962 Miles taught for three years as a professor at Prairie View and directed a successful boycott of white-owned businesses in nearby Hempstead, Texas.  Later, during his one-year stay at the University of North Carolina, Miles agitated for better off campus housing. 

Miles arrived at San Diego State University in 1967, and at the time was the institution’s only African American professor.  Gracious, loyal, and affable but fearless, Miles immersed himself in the affairs of the city and the university, oftentimes working effectively behind the scenes to bring about change.  Off campus he became chairman of the board of the San Diego Urban League.  He was also a member of the San Diego Blue Ribbon Commission for Charter Review and was appointed to a panel of the California Board of Education.  Miles was chairman of the board of the San Diego Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and served on the organization’s national board. 

Sources: 
Who’s Who Among Black Americans (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991);
Robert Fikes, Jr., The Black In Crimson and Black: A History and Profiles of African Americans at SDSU (San Diego: SDSU Library and Information Access, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Sutton, Percy (1920-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Percy Sutton, attorney, politician, civil rights activist, and businessman, was born on November 24, 1920 in San Antonio, Texas to school teachers Samuel and Lillian Sutton.  Percy Sutton attended Prairie View A&M University, Tuskegee Institute, and Hampton Institute.  In 1942 Sutton joined the military.  He became a skilled World War II pilot, serving as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.  He also earned combat medals as an intelligence officer.

In 1950 Sutton earned a law degree from Brooklyn College Law School.  He returned to the military during the Korean War, but after his honorable discharge at the end of the conflict in 1953 he opened a law firm in New York City's Harlem district.  During the peak of the civil rights movement, Sutton became a nationally recognized civil rights attorney representing political activists such as Malcolm X.

Sutton also entered the political scene in the 1960s.  He became a leader in the Harlem Clubhouse, a political group that controlled Democratic politics in Harlem.  Soon after joining he formed a powerful alliance with other black politicians including future New York City mayor David Dinkins, Congressman Charles Rangel, and Basil Paterson who eventually served as the first black Secretary of State for New York and whose son, David Paterson, became the state's first black governor in 2008.
Sources: 
Peter Goldman, The Life and Death of Malcolm X (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979); Notable Black American Men (Detroit: Gale, 1998); Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, June 18, 1996; March 15, 2003; New York Times, August 5, 1997; May 11, 1998; August 16, 2002, p. B3.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

West, Allen (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
"U.S. officer fined for harsh interrogation tactics," CNN, December 13, 2003; Catalina Camia, "GOP Rep. Allen West draws fire for Muslim comments," USA Today, (February 2, 2011), http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2011/02/rep-allen-west-islam-2012-elections-/1. (Accessed February 2, 2011). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of North Texas

Williams, Chancellor J. (1898-1992)

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

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

Watkins, Perry (1948-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Perry Watkins Signs GLAAD Poster
Image Courtesy of Karen Ocamb/
Perry James Henry Watkins was the only openly gay person discharged from the U.S. Army with full honors after serving almost two decades.  He had to fight for this distinction, suing the Army after being forced out because of his sexual orientation.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Ola Watkins gave birth to Perry on August 20, 1948, in Joplin, Missouri.  Perry’s parents divorced when he was only three.  When in junior high, his mother remarried a career military man, and they moved to Tacoma, Washington.  Throughout high school in Tacoma, Perry took dance classes, even studying at the Tacoma City Ballet.  He later earned a BA in business and theater.

Watkins’ mother influenced him strongly.  First, she accepted her son's sexual orientation.  Her emphasis on honesty played a key role in his embracing that orientation throughout his Army career.  Watkins knew growing up that he was gay.  If peers asked him, he answered truthfully. He considered the racism directed against him far more prominent than the homophobia.
Sources: 
Randy Shilts, Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993); Mary Ann Humphrey, My Country, aMy Right to Serve: Experiences of Gay Men and Women in the Military, World War II to the Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990); David W. Dunlap, “Perry Watkins, 48, Gay Sergeant Won Court Battle with Army,” The New York Times (21 March 1996).
Contributor: 

Turner, Nat (1800-1831)

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

Nathaniel “Nat” Turner was born in Southampton County, Virginia on October 2, 1800, the son of slaves owned by Benjamin Turner, a prosperous farmer. Taught to read by the son of his owner, Turner studied Christianity which he interpreted as condemning slavery. Turner also began to believe that God had chosen him to free his people from slavery. He soon became known among fellow slaves as “The Prophet.”

Turner was sold to slaveholder Joseph Travis in 1830. Less than a year after the sale, Turner received what he assumed was a sign from God when he witnessed the eclipse of the sun. After sharing this experience with a few close friends, they began to plan an insurrection. While still planning the uprising, Turner saw that the color of the sun had changed to a bluish-green, which he believed was the final sign to initiate the uprising. With this confidence, Turner and seven other slaves moved forward with their plans. They first murdered the entire Travis family and eventually fifty whites in the futile effort to incite a general slave uprising. Only 75 slaves and free blacks joined the rebellion.

Sources: 
Kenneth S. Greenburg, ed., Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nat_Turner; http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASturner.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

LL Cool J [James Todd Smith] (1968- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
LL Cool J, rapper and actor, was born James Todd Smith, the only child of James and Ondrea Smith on January 14, 1968 in St. Albans, Queens, New York City, New York.  Early in James’ life, the relationship between his mother and father turned violent and they divorced when he was four years old.  Later, after enduring physical and emotional abuse from his mother’s boyfriend, James became a bully himself.  It was around his tenth birthday that he found a constructive way to channel his aggression, the newly emerging musical genre of hip-hop.

After his grandfather gave him a mixer for his 11th birthday, James began writing and producing his own songs.  At age 15 he came up with his stage name:  Ladies Love Cool James (which he shortened to LL Cool J).  In 1984, LL met Rick Rubin, a student at New York University and co-founder of Def Jam Records, hip-hop’s first major label.  Impressed by what he heard, Rubin began producing LL immediately and in 1985 Def Jam released the 17 year-old’s debut album, Radio.
Sources: 
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/ll-cool-j/biography; http://www.mtv.com/artists/ll-cool-j/biography/
Daudi Abe, 6 ‘N the Morning: West coast hip-hop music 1987-1992 & the transformation of mainstream culture (Los Angeles: Over The Edge Books, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Tandy, Vertner Woodson (1885-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Vertner Woodson Tandy was born in Lexington, Kentucky where he was educated at the Candler School.  He gained an understanding of construction by watching his father build and develop homes in Lexington. These early experiences with his father led Tandy to an interest in architecture.

In 1904, Tandy attended Tuskegee Institute to study architecture and during his short stay was under the guidance of Booker T. Washington.  Tandy became the architecture program’s “prize” student and a year later, in September of 1905, he transferred to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Henry Arthur Callis recalled that Tandy showed up on the hallowed grounds of Cornell in a rather “tight cadet’s uniform with a saxophone under his arm.” Tandy, Callis and a small group of college men formed Alpha Phi Alpha Society in the spring of 1906, which would soon become the first African American Greek letter fraternity, on December 4th of the same year. During his time in the fraternity, he was treasurer, designer of the pin, and eventually was responsible for its incorporation.
Sources: 
Herman "Skip" Mason, “'The Outspoken Jewel'—Vertner Woodson Tandy” in 2nd ed., The Talented Tenth: The Founders and Presidents of Alpha (Atlanta: Four-G Publishers, Inc., 1999); Charles H. Wesley, The History of Alpha Phi Alpha, A Development in College Life (Chicago: Foundation Publishers, 1981).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sharpless, Mattie R. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On October 1, 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Mattie R. Sharpless to be the next United States Ambassador to the Central African Republic. After confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Sharpless was at her post in the nation’s capital at Bangui by mid-December 2001.  Sharpless served in Bangui until June 2003.  Unlike most ambassadors who are either political appointees or career foreign service diplomats, Sharpless was a long term employee of the United States Foreign Agriculture Service, a section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sharpless was born in Hampstead, North Carolina on July 1, 1943 to James and Lecola Sharpless.  When Sharpless was 11, her father died. Her mother Lecola became a single parent and the sole provider for Mattie and her eight siblings.
Sources: 
Si Cantwell, “Hampstead native ready to brave the heat of diplomacy,” Star-News, January 15, 2002, B , http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=20020115&id=7QJPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Ux8EAAAAIBAJ&pg=5975,3907489; “Honorable Mattie R. Sharpless (Former U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic),” Ariel Foundation, http://www.arielfoundation.org/documents/AFI_Website_Bio_Sharpless.html; “NCCU News: U.S. Ambassador to speak at NCCU commencement,” North Carolina Central University,  http://www.nccu.edu/news/index.cfm?id=739CC7D7-C295-3D7D-E14563832B35C7AB.
Affiliation: 
Morgan State University

Jackson, Jessie Louis, Sr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jessie Jackson speaking at the Democratic
National Convention, 1984 
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Long before he became a minister, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), and founder of the Rainbow Coalition, Jesse Louis Jackson impressed his family and close friends as a person destined for greatness.  Born Jesse Burns in Greenville, South Carolina on October 8, 1941 to Helen Burns, a 17 year old unwed high school student and Noah Robinson, her older married neighbor, young Jesse took the surname Jackson from his adopted father, Charles Jackson, who later married Burns.  Insecure owing to the circumstances of his birth, Jackson decided to make himself a father figure and leader of his people.  
Sources: 
Barbara A Reynolds, Jesse Jackson: America’s David (Washington, D.C.: JFJ Associates, 1985); Elizabeth O. Colton, The Jackson Phenomenon: The Man, the Power, the Message (New York: Doubleday, 1989); Marshall Frady, Jesse: The Life and Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson (New York: Random House, 1996); H. Viscount “Berky” Nelson, The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership: Chronicle of a Twentieth Century Tragedy (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

James, Sylvester (1947-1988)

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

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

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

Burrows, Stephen (1943– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Stephen Burrows With One of His Designs

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Fashion designer Stephen Burrows was born September 15, 1943, in Newark, New Jersey, to parents Gerald Burrows and Octavia Pennington. He attended elementary school in Newark and graduated from Arts High School in 1960. He then attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art in Pennsylvania in 1961 but later transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City from which he graduated in 1966.

Burrows had learned to sew and make clothes at an early age under the tutelage of his grandmother, Beatrice Simmons. And it was then that he learned to create the characteristic lettuce edging and visible stitch lines that would later make his work iconic in the fashion world. After he graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, he was hired as a fashion designer at Weber Originals. He left Weber Originals in 1967 and in 1968 co-founded O Boutique in New York City. The following year, he and fashion colleague Roz Rubenstein launched a ready-to-wear collection from the upscale department store Bonwit Teller.
Sources: 
Richard Martin, “Stephen Burrows – The Fashion Designer’s Encyclopedia,” Encyclopedia of Fashion, http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/Bo-Ch/Burrows-Stephen.html; Dennita Sewell, “Stephen Burrows,” Love to Know, http://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/fashion-clothing-industry/fashion-designers/stephen-burrows; “Stephen Burrows Biography,” The History Makers, July 14, 2014, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/stephen-burrows.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gordy, Berry, Jr. (1929- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Berry Gordy Jr. in Motown Studio
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Berry Gordy, Jr. was born November 28, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan, the seventh of eight children to Bertha Fuller Gordy and Berry “Pops” Gordy, Sr.  The Gordy parents were strict disciplinarians who encouraged their children to demonstrate a good work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit.  Gordy dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer.  He served in the U.S. Army in Korea between 1951 and 1953 and returned to Detroit to open a jazz music store.  When it failed, Gordy worked on the assembly line at the Ford Plant, but by 1959 he quit that job to become a professional songwriter.  In late 1957 Gordy had his first hit record, “Reet Petite,” for popular rhythm and blues artist Jackie Wilson.  Soon afterwards he wrote “Lonely Teardrops,” Wilson’s greatest hit. 

Sources: 
Berry Gordy, To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown (New York, NY: Warner Books, 1994); Elvis Mitchell, Ben Fong-Torres, and Dave Marsh, The Motown Album: The Sound of Young America (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1990); Bill Dahl, Motown: The Golden Years.  The Stars and Music That Shaped a Generation (Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (1892-1975)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Emperor Haile Selassie with Sir. Winston Churchill, 1954
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Emperor Haile Selassie was born on July 23, 1892 as Tafari Makonnen just outside the city of Harrar in Enjersa Goro Province, Ethiopia. His mother was Yeshimbet Ali Abajiffar and his father was Ras (Duke) Makonnen Wolde Michael, Governor of Harrar, relative of Emperor Menelik II (1889-1913), and a former general who had played a key role in the 1896 Battle of Adowa where Ethiopia defeated an invading Italian Army to become the only African state to retain its independence by military action.

Appointed governor of Harrar Province, Tafari Makonnen, despite his descent from previous Emperors, would likely have remained an unimportant political figure had he not married his second wife, Menen Asfaw, niece to the heir of the Ethiopian throne, Lij Iyasu.  When rumors spread that Iyasu was flirting with Islam, Ethiopian nobles made Tafari regent in 1916.  Elevated to the rank of Ras, Tafari began to rule in fact while Empress Zewditu, the daughter of Emperor Menelik II, was official head of state.   
Sources: 
Harold G. Marcus, Haile Sellassie I: The Formative Years, 1892-1936 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987); Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2007); Alberto Sbacchi, “Haile Selassie and the Italians, 1941-1943,” Journal of African History 22:1 (April 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Downing, Henry Francis (1846-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Henry Francis Downing was an author, playwright, consul and sailor. He was born in New York City in 1846, the son of Henry and Nancy Downing. His family maintained an oyster business that had been owned by his grandfather, Thomas Downing, a well known freeman.  His uncle was famed New York businessman and civil rights leader, George Thomas Downing.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Jeffrey Green, “Future Research,” Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Autumn, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jordan, Vernon E. (1935 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of DePauw University
Publications Office

Vernon Eulion Jordan, civil rights leader, lawyer, and presidential advisor, was born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 15, 1935.  Growing up in the segregated American South, Jordan attended David T. Howard High School, where he graduated with honors in 1953. 

Upon graduation Jordan entered DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he was the only African American in his class.  A gifted athlete, Jordan excelled at basketball until his graduation in 1957.

Jordan went on to law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he obtained his J. D. degree in 1960.  Jordan quickly began civil rights work, joining the firm of John Hollowell in Atlanta.  In 1961, the firm won a lawsuit on behalf of Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter who became the first black students admitted to the University of Georgia.  

In 1961, Jordan was appointed Field Secretary for the Georgia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Here Jordan organized boycotts of local businesses that refused to hire African Americans, engaged in fundraising campaigns, and led massive voter registration drives throughout the South.

Sources: 

Vernon E. Jordan, Vernon Can Read: A Memoir (New York: Public Affairs, 2001); NAACP, NAACP Administration 1956-65.  General office file.  Register and Vote –Taconic Foundation Voter Education Project, 1961-1964 (Bethesda: University Publications of America, 1995); Pat Rediger, Great African Americans in Civil Rights (New York: Crabtree Publication, Co., 1996); http://www.akingump.com/vjordan/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hunton, Addie Waites (1866-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Addie Hunton with Black Troops in
France in World War I
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Educator, race and gender activist, writer, suffragist, and political organizer, Addie Waites Hunton was born in Norfolk, Virginia on June 11, 1866, to Jesse and Adeline Waites.  After her mother died when she was very young, she moved to Boston, Massachusetts to live with her maternal aunt.  

Hunton earned her high school diploma at Boston Latin School and in 1889 became the first black woman to graduate from Spencerian College of Commerce in Philadelphia. In 1893, she married William Alphaeus Hunton, who had spearheaded the establishment of services for blacks in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in the city.  Soon after their marriage the couple moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Addie worked as a secretary at Clark College and helped her husband with his YMCA work.  In the wake of the Atlanta Race Riots (1906), the Huntons moved to Brooklyn, New York.  They had four children but only two survived infancy.
Sources: 
Christine Lutz, “Addie W. Hunton:  Crusader for Pan-Africanism and Peace,” in Portraits of African American Life Since 1865, ed. Nina Mjagkij (Wilmington, DE:  Scholarly Resources, Inc., 2003), 109-127; Darryl Lyman, Great African American Women (New York:  Random House, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Stephen (1795-1873)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Stephen Smith was born into slavery in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At 21 he purchased his freedom for $50 and soon afterwards began to ally with the abolitionist cause that he would support through most of his adult life.   In 1830 Smith became the chairman of the African American abolitionist organization in Columbia, Pennsylvania while developing a successful lumber business.  The Columbia Spy reported that in 1835 his success “…excited the envy or hatred of those not so prosperous and of the ruling race.”  In that year unknown persons vandalized his office and destroyed his papers, records and books.  Shortly after this incident, Smith moved to Philadelphia where he again entered the lumber business and after a few years regained his prosperity.

Sources: 
S. Webb, History of Pennsylvania Hall Which Was Destroyed by a Mob, on the 17th of May, 1838 (Philadelphia: Merrihew and Gunn, Printers, 1838).  Ira V. Brown, “Racism and Sexism: The Case of Pennsylvania Hall,” Phylon, 37:2 (2nd Qtr., 1976), 126-136; The Columbia Spy, Sept. 9, 1830, Dec. 12, 1868 and Jan. 29, 1870.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Flood, Curtis Charles (1938-1997)

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

Curt Flood, The Way It Is (New York: Trident, 1971); Brad Snyder, A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports (New York: Viking, 2006); Curt Flood and the Reserve Clause" in Cynthia Rose, ed., American Decades Primary Sources, Vol. 8, (Detroit: Gale, 2004).

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Jill E. (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jill Elaine Brown became the first African American woman to serve as a pilot for a major U.S airline when she was hired by Texas international Airlines at the age of 28. Her passion for flying began as a teenager, leading her into the U.S. Navy flight training program where she became its first African American female trainee in 1974.

Brown was born in 1950 in Baltimore, Maryland. Her father Gilbert Brown owned a construction company, and her mother Elaine was an art teacher in the Baltimore school district. The family owned a farm in West Virginia, and by the age of nine Brown had learned to operate a tractor and perform what her father termed “men’s work.” When she turned 17, the entire Brown family took flying lessons. Brown devoted all of her free time to learning how to fly and became the first in her family to receive a pilot's license. Her first solo flight was in a Piper J-3 Cub. When the family acquired its own plane, a single-engine Piper Cherokee 180D, she became particularly popular with friends whom she took up on short flights. Brown described these flights as trips on Brown's United Airlines.  

Sources: 
Caroline Fannin, Betty Gubert, and Miriam Sawyer, African Americans in Aviation and Space Science (Westport, CT: Oryx Press, 2002); Michele Burgen, "Winging It at 25,000 Feet," Ebony (August 1978); Justia.com, http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F3/132/36/469707/; The Bessie Coleman Foundation, http://bcal.clubexpress.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robinson, "Sugar" Ray (1921-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

“Sugar” Ray Robinson is generally acknowledged as the greatest pound for pound fighter in boxing history. Born Walker Smith, Jr. on May 3, 1921 in Detriot, Michigan to parents Walker Smith, Sr., and Lelia (Hurst) Robinson.  His father was a cotton, peanut, and corn farmer near Ailey, Georgia who moved north during the early years of World War I.  Robinson's parents separated and he moved to New York City with his mother at the age of 12. It was there the underage aspiring boxer became known as Ray Robinson when he borrowed an Amateur Athletic Union membership card from a friend by that name in order to qualify for a Golden Gloves tournament. When his future trainer, George Gainford, watched him box for the first time and commented that his style and fluid motions were “sweet as sugar” he became known as “Sugar” Ray Robinson.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Harris, Abram Lincoln, Jr. (1899-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Abram Lincoln Harris, Jr., the grandson of slaves, was the first nationally recognized black economist. Harris was highly respected for his work that focused primarily on class analysis, black economic life, and labor to illustrate the structural inadequacies of race and racial ideologies.  Harris’s major published works include The Negro Population in Minneapolis: A Study of Race Relations (1926), The Black Worker: the Negro and the Labor Movement (1931), and a book co-authored with Sterling D. Spero, The Negro as Capitalist (1936).  His final book, Economics and Social Reform, appeared in 1958.
Sources: 
Jonathon Scott Holloway, Confronting the Veil, Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919-1941 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002); William Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life (W.W. Norton: New York, 1996); Cook County, Illinois Death Index.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Winfrey, Oprah (1954 - )

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

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

Fleetwood, Christian Abraham (1840-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Christian Fleetwood, soldier, choir master, clerk, and abolitionist, was born free in Baltimore, Maryland to Charles Fleetwood and Anna Marie Fleetwood on July 21, 1840. At an early age Christian Fleetwood showed signs of intelligence and quickly endeared himself to the wealthy sugar merchant John Brune who thought of Fleetwood as a son and provided him with an education.

Fleetwood continued his education with the Maryland Colonization Society which was attempting to found a colony for free blacks in Liberia. During his early life, Fleetwood was greatly involved in promoting the African colonization movement. At the age of 16, he took a trip to Liberia and Sierra Leone in order to experience African colonial life for himself. For years Fleetwood considered leaving the United States forever and permanently moving to Liberia but eventually decided against it believing he would make a bigger difference as an abolitionist in the United States.
Sources: 
Melvin Claxton and Mark Puls, Uncommon Valor: A Story of Race, Patriotism, and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006); http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/christian-fleetwood.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

Page, Susan Denise (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Susan Page is the first U.S. Ambassador to the newly formed nation of South Sudan.  She was nominated by President Barack Obama on August 18 and confirmed October 18, 2011.  Page arrived in the capital city of Juba on December 6, 2011.  

Page graduated in 1982 from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.  She received an A.B. in English with high distinction from the University of Michigan in 1986 and a J. D. from Harvard Law School in 1990.  She also studied at St. Andrews University in Scotland and conducted research on children and women’s rights in Nepal through a Rotary International post-graduate fellowship.
Sources: 
Noel Brinkerhoff, “Susan Page Official Biography” (National Democratic Institute); “Susan Page Statement at U.S Senate Confirmation Hearing, 2011,” U.S. Senate Documents, Washington, D.C.; Katie Bacon, “Negotiating Her Own Path,” Harvard Law Bulletin (December 1, 2008); “Susan Denise Page,” U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian; “South Sudan Envoy Unveiled,” Politico, August 18, 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Armstrong, Louis Daniel (1901-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Austin, Roy L. (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Roy Leslie Austin spent most of his life as a university scholar before becoming a U.S. diplomat at the age of 61. When Austin was nominated by President George W. Bush to be Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago he was a sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University.  After confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Austin took up his post in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago on October 19, 2001.  He served as ambassador until December 18, 2009.
Sources: 
U.S. Department of State, http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/7061.htm; PSU Sociology Professor to be Named Ambassador, http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archives/article_9e3c3f28-5889-55b1-8ba6-89fa34a805d3.html; “Roy L. Austin Appointed as Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago,” http://asanet.org/footnotes/septoct01/fn15.html; “Roy L. Austin,” NNDB: Tracking the Entire World,  http://www.nndb.com/people/080/000120717/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Louisville

Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner Interviewing the Gullah People
in South Carolina, 1930
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Lorenzo Dow Turner was an African American linguist who headed the English department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. from 1920 to 1928, and later headed of the English department at Fisk University (1929 to 1946). His accomplishments within his career in academia include the creation of the African Studies curriculum at Fisk University in 1943 and participation in the early African Studies program at Roosevelt University, beginning in 1946. Turner is best known for his research on the Gullah language or dialect, a provincial language spoken by descendants of African slaves in coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Later in life, Turner played a role in founding the training program for Peace Corps volunteers going to Africa.
Sources: 
Jason Kelly, "Lorenzo Dow Turner, PhD’26," The University of Chicago Magazine: Features. November-December 2010; Holland Cotter, "A Language Explorer Who Heard Echoes of Africa," The New York Times Sept. 2, 2010; "Voices from the Days of Slavery: Ten Interviews by Lorenzo Dow Turner, June 27, 1932-August 5, 1933" Interviewer Biographies (American Memory from the Library of Congress), Library of Congress.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

King, Rodney (1965-2012)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Rodney King, a Los Angeles taxicab driver, became the catalyst for the second major urban uprising in the city in the 20th Century.  On March 3, 1991 King was the victim of a brutal police beating that occurred in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.  Caught on tape by local witness George Holliday, the video showed four L.A. police officers restraining and repeatedly striking King with their batons while six other officers stood by, soon gained international notoriety as the beating was broadcast around the world.

King was born in Sacramento, California in 1965, the year of the first Los Angeles Riot.  He moved with his parents to Altadena, a Pasadena suburb, when he was 2. King's parents cleaned offices and homes.  His father, Roland King, died in his early 40s from pneumonia.

The incident which catapulted King to international prominence began at 12:30 am on March 3, when a California Highway Patrol team attempted to pull King over for speeding.  Driving at speeds up to 115 mph, King led the police on a 7.8 mile high speed chase.  King finally pulled over at a dark park entrance, but did not cooperate with officers and displayed erratic behavior.  Officers present recall King displaying symptoms of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Sources: 
Lou Cannon, Official Negligence (New York: Random House 1997); Sergeant Stacey Koon, Presumed Guilty (Washington D.C.: Regnery Gateway 1992); Tom Owens, Lying Eyes (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press 1994), Seattle Times, June 18, 2012.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lumumba, Patrice Emery (1925-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent nation of the Congo, was born July 2, 1925 in Onalua in Kasai province of the Belgian Congo. With just a primary education, Lumumba emerged to become one of Africa’s most vocal critics of colonialism. Early in life, he developed interests in grassroots union activities and joined the Postal Union. As secretary-general of the union, Lumumba began publishing essays critical of Belgian colonial rule, and advocating independence and a unified centralized Congo. His writings appealed beyond ethnic and regional loyalties to a national constituency.
Sources: 
Patrice Lumumba, Congo, My Country (New York: Praeger, 1969); Robin McKown, Lumumba: A Biography (London: Doubleday, 1969); G. Heinz, Lumumba: The Last Fifty Days (New York: Grove Press, 1980.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Iowa State University

Jefferson, Isaac (1775-1853)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Isaac Jefferson, a slave of the third President of the United States, was born in December 1775 in Monticello, on the Thomas Jefferson plantation in Virginia. His family was an important part of the Monticello labor force. His father, Great George, was the only enslaved person on the Jefferson plantation to rise from foreman to overseer. His mother, Ursula, was requested by Thomas Jefferson’s wife Martha because of her trustworthiness. Young Isaac Jefferson helped his mother and father by carrying wood and making fires. As he got older he was trained as a blacksmith.

In 1779 four year old Isaac Jefferson and other Jefferson slaves were captured by British forces while Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia government fled to Richmond.  Issac Jefferson and his family remained under the control of the British until the surrender of General Charles (Lord) Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.  The Jefferson slaves were then brought back to Monticello and Isaac, now six, was returned to his life as a slave.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Isaac Jefferson,” http://www.monticello.org/gettingword/isaac.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Randolph, Lillian (1915-1980)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lee, Canada (1907-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Canada Lee (the adopted name of Lionel Cornelius Canegata) was a noted 20th Century jockey, boxer, and actor.  Born on May 3, 1907 in New York City’s San Juan Hill district, he attended Public School 5 in Harlem. Canegata began his musical education at the age of seven, studying violin with the composer J. Rosamond Johnson. At the age of fourteen he ran away to the Saratoga Race Track in upstate New York to become a jockey. After two years of jockeying he became a horse exerciser for prominent racehorse owners.

In 1923 Canegata moved to Harlem and became an amateur prize fighter, entering the ring with manager Jim Buckley. Over the next three years he emerged the victor in 90 of 100 fights and won the Metropolitan Inter-City and Junior National Championships.  Then he went on and won the national amateur lightweight title. In 1926 he turned professional, changed his name to Canada Lee, and by 1930 he was a leading contender for the welterweight championship. Lee fought in over 200 fights as a professional boxer, only losing 25.  In 1933 a detached retina ended his boxing career and he returned to music.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Murphy, Carl (1889–1967)

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

Carl Murphy, publisher, was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 17, 1889.  In 1892, his father, John Henry Murphy edited and published the first issue of the paper the Baltimore Afro-American.  Murphy went to high school in Baltimore and after graduating attended Howard University receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1911. He then moved  to Harvard were he received his Masters in German in 1913, he continued his studies in Germany before returning to the United States to become an assistant professor at Howard University’s German department.

Murphy became editor of the Baltimore Afro-American due to the poor health of his father in 1918.  Later, after his father passed away in 1922 Murphy became the leader of one of the most influential African American publications in the United States. At the peak of its circulation the Baltimore Afro-American reached over 200,000 people, and Murphy helped the paper grow in size so that by the end of his time at the paper in 1961, it had expanded to cover Newark, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Richmond, Virginia.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, Ed., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Publisher Simon &
Schuster Macmillan, 1996); Black Press USA, December 5, 2008,
http://www.blackpressusa.com/history/GOG_Article.asp?NewsID=2049

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Slater, Rodney (1955- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Rodney E. Slater, former cabinet member, attorney, and state government official, was born in Marianna, Arkansas, on February 23, 1955.  In 1977, Slater graduated from Eastern Michigan University. He earned his law degree in 1980 from the University of Arkansas.

In 1980, Slater became the Assistant Attorney General for the litigation division for Arkansas’s Attorney General’s Office.  From 1983 to 1987, Slater served as Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s executive assistant for Economic and Community Programs and then as the Special Assistant for Community and Minority Affairs.  In 1987, Clinton appointed Slater to the Arkansas Highway Commission.  Slater also held other positions in the state of Arkansas such as Director of Governmental Relations at Arkansas State University and was a special liaison for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Slater as the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.   Slater’s effectiveness in that position catapulted him into the position of Secretary of Transportation in 1997.  As Secretary, he oversaw transportation projects between federal and state governments.

Sources: 
David Stout, “Senate Easily Confirms Slater as Transportation Secretary,” New York Times (February 7, 1997), p.A22; Don Phillips, “Clinton ally affords pipeline to Oval office,” Washington Post (December 21, 1996), p.A14; and Federal Government Official website:www.fhwa.dot.gov/administrators/rslater.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Foote, Julia (1823-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in Schenectady, New York, to former slaves, Julia was converted at age fifteen. Several years later, she married George Foote, a sailor, moved to Boston, and joined an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church, where she began to testify about her experiences of conversion and sanctification. Her husband and pastor disapproved of her teaching on sanctification, but she persisted, even though she was expelled from her home congregation in 1844.
Sources: 
Julia Foote, A Brand Plucked from the Fire (1878); Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Brutus, Dennis (1924-2009)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the Armenian Weekly
Dennis Brutus was a South African poet, organizer and activist perhaps most notable for his use of sports as a weapon against apartheid. Dennis Vincent Brutus was born to South African parents of French, Italian and African descent in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1924. When he was four, his family returned to Port Elizabeth, South Africa where, under the country’s racial code, Brutus was classified as “colored.” After graduating from the University of Fort Hare, Brutus became a teacher of English and Afrikaans in nonwhite schools.
Sources: 
Aisha Karim and Lee Sustar, Poetry & Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader (Chicago,: Haymarket Books, 2006); Adrian Guelke, Rethinking the Rise and Fall of Apartheid (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Douglas Martin, “Dennis Brutus Dies at 85; Fought Apartheid with Sports,” New York Times, 2 January 2010, A22; “Dennis Brutus Biography,” Biography.com, http://www.biography.com/articles/Dennis-Brutus-40359.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Salem, Peter (ca.1750 -1816)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Peter Salem Standing Behind Thomas Gosvenor
in the Death of General Warren
at the Battle of Bunker Hill 

Peter Salem was a Patriot of the American Revolutionary War, who spent two months fighting alongside his former owners at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Salem is credited with killing British Major John Pitcairn during the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Peter Salem was born enslaved in Framingham, Massachusetts, on October 1, 1750. He was owned by Army Captain Jeremiah Belknap and spent most of his early life working on his owner’s farm. Early in 1775, Salem was sold to a Patriot soldier, Major Lawson Buckminster, who emancipated Salem so he could enlist in his regiment of Massachusetts Minutemen.
Sources: 
George Quintal Jr., “Patriots of Color, A Peculiar Beauty and Merit': African Americans and Native Americans at Battle Road and Bunker Hill,” Boston National Historic Park, Boston, Massachusetts; “Peter Salem,” in Leslie Alexander, Encyclopedia of African American History, (ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA, 2010); “Peter Salem,” in Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: An Encyclopedia, Volume One,(ABC-CLIO, Denver, Colorado, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Moddie Daniel (1912-1976)

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

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

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

Miles, Edward L. (1939-2016)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Edward L. Miles

Edward Lancelot Miles, the Bloedel Professor Emeritus of Marine and Public Affairs at the University of Washington, Seattle, was a pioneer scientist in examining and establishing international environmental policy, particularly in the area of global climate change. He was born on December, 12, 1939 in Trinidad, West Indies, into a “seafaring family,” and wanted to move to the United States to become a fighter pilot. Instead, in 1962 he graduated from Howard University magna cum laude with a B.A. in History. Miles received his Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Denver (Colorado) in 1965. He remained a member of their faculty from 1965 to 1974 when he accepted a position as Professor of Marine Studies for the Institute for Marine Studies (now the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs), University of Washington, Seattle.

Sources: 
Who’s Who Among African Americans (Gale Research; Detroit, 2006); http://www.nasonline.org/news-and-multimedia/podcasts/interviews/edward-miles.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Motley, Willard (1909-1965)

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

Novelist Willard Motley was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 14, 1909 to parents Florence “Flossie” Motley, his mother, and a man referred to by the family only as “Bryant,” who was his biological father. Bryant was a 36-year-old Pullman porter living in the Motley family home at the time. His mother was the daughter of Archibald, a Pullman porter and Mary “Mae” Frederica Huff Motley, a public school teacher, both of whom hastily married his 14 year old mother to Bryant during her pregnancy so that Willard Motley’s birth would not be illegitimate.  After the birth, the marriage was annulled.

Willard Motley was told growing up that his grandparents, Archibald Sr. and Mary, were his parents, and his mother, Florence, was his sister. Willard Motley and his uncle, Archibald Motley Jr., who would later become a prominent artist, were raised as brothers. Bryant impregnated Flossie again, resulting in the birth of his sister, Rita Motley who was also raised as a child of Mary and Archibald Motley, Sr.

Sources: 
Alan Wald, “Willard Motley,” Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011); http://libguides.niu.edu/motley;http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-06-26/features/9406260209_1_black-kids-chicago-post-chicago-defender.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Stockton, Betsey (1798- 1865)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Betsey Stockton was born into slavery in Princeton, New Jersey in 1798.  She belonged to Robert Stockton, a local attorney.  Presented to Stockton’s daughter and son-in-law, the Rev. Ashbel Green, then President of Princeton College, as a gift, Betsy Stockton was now in a household that encouraged her ambitious and intelligent attitude.  She was given books and was allowed to attend evening classes at Princeton Theological Seminary.  

When Stockton expressed her interest in becoming a Christian missionary she was granted her freedom and accepted into membership by the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missionaries.  On November 20, 1822, Stockton and 20 other missionaries set sail from New Haven, Connecticut for the Hawaiian Islands.  Upon her arrival Stockton became the first known African American woman in Hawaii.
Sources: 
Miles M. Jackson, They Followed the trade Winds: African Americans in Hawai’i (Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2004).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rodman, Dennis Keith (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman, 2013
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dennis Keith Rodman, hall of fame basketball player, actor, and self-appointed political emissary, was born in on May 13, 1961 in Trenton, New Jersey to Philander and Shirley Rodman. Shortly after Dennis was born, Philander left the family and eventually settled in the Philippines. After moving to the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas, Shirley Rodman worked numerous jobs while struggling to provide for Dennis and his two older sisters, Kim and Debra.

In high school both Kim and Debra Rodman developed into standout basketball players, earning college scholarships. Kim attended Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas and Debra played on two national championship teams at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. Both Rodman sisters were All-Americans in college.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central Community College

Joplin, Scott (1867-1917)

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

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

Gadsden, James I. (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 2002, Ambassador James Irvin Gadsden, career diplomat, and educator, was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as ambassador to Iceland. Gadsden was born on March 12, 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina, to James who worked as a janitor and Hazel Gaines Gadsden who was a housewife and part-time domestic servant.
Sources: 
American Academy of Diplomacy, “James I. Gadsden” 2011, http://www.academyofdiplomacy.org/members/bios/Gadsden.html; United States Department of State, “James Irvin Gadsden 1948-” 2015 http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/gadsden-james-irvin; “James Gadsden: How a young black student forged a career in the Foreign Service,” The Post and Courier, January 8, 2015, http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150108/PC12/150109541/1002/james-gadsden-how-a-young-black-student-forged-a-career-in-the-foreign-service.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Jiménez Berroa, José Manuel (1855–1917)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Concert pianist, composer, and music conservatory director José Manuel Jiménez Berroa was born on December 7, 1855, into a musical family in Trinidad, Cuba, a city on the central coast known for its mainly African-descended population, sugar mills, and tobacco production. His grandfather, Nicasio Jiménez Sr., was a part-time band conductor, and his father, José Julian Jiménez, had experienced moderate success as a violinist in Europe before returning home to form his own orchestra. As a boy, Manuel Jiménez took piano lesson from his aunt, Catalina Berroa Ojea, a distinguished organist. At age twelve, Manuel Jiménez and his older brother Nicasio Jiménez Jr., a cellist, were sent to Hamburg, Germany, where they were tutored by George Armbrust, a professor at the city’s music conservatory and friend of Johannes Brahms. They were soon reunited with their father who fled Cuba’s political turmoil.
Sources: 
Robert Fikes Jr. and Douglas A. Cargille, “The Bittersweet Career of José Manuel Jiménez, The ‘Ebony Liszt,’” Afro-Hispanic Review, 7 (January-September 1988); Josephine Wright, “Das Negertrio Jiménez in Europe,” The Black Perspective in Music, 9 (Fall 1981); http://africlassical.blogspot.com/2012/06/jimenez-family-of-black-classical.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Hall, Katie Beatrice (1938-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Democratic representative Katie Hall was elected to the United States Congress in 1983. Born in Mound Bayou, Bolivar County, Mississippi in 1938, she attended Mississippi Valley State University and Indiana University before teaching in the public schools of Gary Indiana. Hall was elected to the Indiana State Legislature in 1972, and then to the Indiana State Senate in 1974, a position she was continually reelected to until 1983 when she campaigned for Congress from Indiana’s First Congressional District which is mostly Gary and the northwestern corner of the state.

Hall was nominated to run as a representative by the Democratic Party when Congressman Adam Benjamin died in office in 1982 shortly after winning reelection. Through a well organized six week campaign, Hall achieved an impressive 60% of the votes in the 1983 special election to become First District Representative, winning 97% of the black vote and a surprising 51% of the white vote.

Sources: 
William L. Clay, Just Permanent Interests; Black Americans in Congress 1870-1992 (New York: Amistad Press Inc., 1993); Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Tresse, Black Americans in Congress 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C. United States Congress, House, 1990); http://www.jstor.org/view/00318906/ap010103/01a00010/0?frame=noframe&userID=80d05fb1@washington.edu/01c0a80a6a00501cdb8f6&dpi=3&config=jstor; http://www.avoiceonline.org/mlk/
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Washington, Craig Anthony (1941 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of
Representative Craig Anthony Washington's Office
Craig Anthony Washington, former Congressman from Houston, Texas, was born in Longview, Gregg County, Texas on October 12, 1941 to Roy and Azalia Washington. He attended Prairie View A & M University in Texas and received his B.A. in 1966. In 1969 he graduated from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. Washington commenced practice as a criminal defense lawyer and is a partner in a Houston law firm.

Soon after embarking on his private career, Washington entered politics and was elected a member of the Texas House of Representatives. He and George Thomas “Mickey” Leland served together as freshmen members of the Texas legislature in 1973-1975.  Leland in 1978 would be elected to represent Texas’s 18th Congressional District, succeeding retiring Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.  Washington continued to serve in the Texas House of Representatives until election to the state Senate in 1983, where he served for the next 6 years. As a member of the state legislature, he served as chairman of the House committees on criminal jurisprudence, social services and human services and as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Adams, Henry [Kentucky] (1802–1872)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Henry Adams was a prominent black Baptist minister and advocate for African American education who worked in Georgia and later in Louisville, Kentucky. Adams was born in Franklin County, Georgia in 1802.  He obtained a license to preach at the age of 18 and was ordained on October 29, 1825.  Adams preached for four years in Georgia and South Carolina.

Sources: 
Marion B. Lucas, A History of Blacks in Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation, 1760 – 1891 (Kentucky Historical Society: University Press of Kentucky, 2003); George C. Wright, Life Behind a Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky 1865–1930 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Garnet, Sarah J. Smith Tompkins (1831-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet was the first African American female principal in the New York public schools.  The eldest of eleven children, she was born Minsarah Smith in Brooklyn in 1831.  Her parents, Sylvanus and Ann Smith, were prosperous farmers of African, European, and Native American ancestry.  Sarah S.T. Smith was the older sister of Susan Smith McKinney Steward (1847-1918), the first African American female in New York state to graduate with a medical doctorate (M.D.).

Sources: 

Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1992); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York:  W.W. Norton, 1982).

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kincaid, Jamaica [aka Elaine Potter Richardson] (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Writer Jamaica Kincaid was born Elaine Potter Richardson on the Caribbean island of Antigua on May 25, 1949, when it was still under British colonial rule. At age three, Kincaid was taught to read by her mother but was later neglected when three boys were born to the family.  Kincaid attended schools on the island, however with few opportunities available to females, she began apprenticing as a seamstress after school as a very young girl. Childhood experiences of exploitation and oppression would be integral themes in her later writing.

In 1965, soon after she turned 16, Kincaid left Antigua to work as an au pair in Scarsdale, New York.  She earned a high school equivalency diploma and enrolled in photography classes.  After finding her writing voice through poetry to accompany her photographs, Kincaid wrote a series of articles for Ingenue magazine, interviewing celebrities about their teen years.  In1974, she began writing for the New Yorker column, “Talk of the Town.”  Her first book, At the Bottom of the River (1983), gathers the stories she had published in the New Yorker between 1978 and 1979.
Sources: 
Justin D. Edwards, Understanding Jamaica Kincaid  (Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press, 2007); Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Jamaica Kincaid:  A Literary Companion (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walker, David (1785-1830)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The fiery-militant David Walker was born on September 28, 1785, in Wilmington, North Carolina.  His father was an enslaved African who died a few months before his son’s birth, and his mother was a free woman of African ancestry. Walker grew up to despise the system of slavery that the U.S. government allowed in America.  He knew the cruelties of slavery were not for him and said, “As true as God reigns, I will be avenged for the sorrow which my people have suffered.”  He eventually moved to Boston during the 1820s and became very active within the free black community.  Walker’s intense hatred for slavery culminated in him publishing his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World in September 1829. The Appeal was smuggled into the southern states, and was considered subversive, seditious, and incendiary by most white men in both northern and southern states.  It was, without a doubt, one of the most controversial documents published in the antebellum period.

Walker was concerned about many social issues affecting free and enslaved Africans in America during the time.  He also expressed many beliefs that would become commonly promoted by later black nationalists such as: unified struggle for resistance of oppression (slavery), land reparations, self-government for people of African descent in America, racial pride, and a critique of American capitalism.  His radical views prompted southern planters to offer a $3000 bounty for anyone who killed Walker and $10,000 reward for anyone who returned him alive back to the South.  Walker was found dead in the doorway of his Boston home in 1830.  Some people believed he was poisoned and others believed that he died of tuberculosis.

Sources: 
Thabiti Asukile, "The All-Embracing Black Nationalist Theories of David Walker's Appeal," Black Scholar, 29 (Winter 1999), 16–24.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinnati

Taylor, Charles M. (1948- )

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

Charles McArthur Taylor, born on January 28, 1948, in Arthington, Liberia, served as the president of Liberia from August 2, 1997, to August 11, 2003.  Born to Nelson and Bernice Taylor, his mother was part of the Gola tribe, and his father was claimed to be an Americo-Liberian.  Taylor went to school at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, from 1972 to 1977, and earned a degree in economics.  

Sources: 

David Harris, "From 'warlord' to 'democratic' president: how Charles
Taylor won the 1997 Liberian elections," The Journal of Modern African
Studies
37:3 (1999) 431-455; Mark Kukis, "Africa's New Pariah-
Liberia's Charles Taylor," National Journal 35:22 (2003); Terence
Burlij, "A Profile of Charles Taylor,"
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/liberia/taylor-bio.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ortuno, Edgardo (1970- )

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

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

Scott, Hazel (1920-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Hazel Scott was born on June 11, 1920, in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  In 1924, Scott and her parents migrated to Harlem, New York, where Hazel, a musical prodigy, studied classical piano with Paul Wagner, a Juilliard professor.  In the late 1930s and early 1940s her career blossomed, as she became a regular performer earning a weekly salary of $4,000 at New York’s elegant dinner club Café Society.  Her husband Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. once fondly referred to her as the “darling of Café Society.”

In 1938 her talent brought her to Broadway, where she performed in the musicals Singing Out the News and, four years later, Priorities of 1942.  The 1940s were thrilling years for Scott, with appearances in major Hollywood productions like Something to Shout About, I Dood It, and The Heat’s On in 1943, Broadway Rhythm in 1944, and Rhapsody in Blue in 1945. Scott distinguished herself from other black actors by refusing to play the traditional roles, such as maids and prostitutes, offered by movie executives to black actresses.  Instead, Scott made cameo appearances in movies playing the piano.

Sources: 
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 2001); Adam Clayton Powell, Adam by Adam: The Autobiography of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Dial Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Mosley, Walter (1952- )

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

Walter Mosley, a prominent African American novelist who specializes in criminal mystery fiction, was born on January 15, 1952 in Los Angeles to Ella and Leroy Mosley. Mosley was born in Watts but grew up from age 12 in relatively affluent West Los Angeles.  Mosley's mother was a Polish Jewish American personnel clerk and his father was an African American custodian at a public school. Mosley's father was among the first to encourage him to pursue a writing career.

In his late teens and early twenties, Mosley went through a long-haired "hippie" stage where he traveled from Santa Cruz, California to Europe and back. Soon after this phase, he attended two colleges in Vermont, graduating from the second one, Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, with a Political Science degree in 1979. He entered a doctoral program in political theory but instead turned to computer programming as a career.

In 1981 Mosley moved to New York City where he began to work for Mobile Oil. He also began taking courses at City College in Harlem where his instructor, Edna O'Brien, further influenced him to pursue a career in literature.   The same year he met Joy Kellman, a dancer and choreographer.  They married in 1987 but divorced in 2001.

Sources: 
Walter Mosley's official website bio http://www.waltermosley.com/bio/; Hatchette Book Group website - Walter Mosley http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/waltermosley/; "Covering Mosley," The New Yorker, January19, 2004; <http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/01/19/040119on_onlineonly01?currentPage=1>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

Green, Henry Davis (1827-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Artist Rendering of the Christiana Incident, 1851
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Henry Davis Green was an anti-slavery activist (abolitionist) who was a participant in the Christiana Resistance (also known as the Christiana Riot) of 1851, the largest and most violent antebellum response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Green, a teamster by occupation, was born in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1827.  He was the son of Benjamin, a mulatto man, and Sarah Green, a white woman.  

Green took part in the Christiana Resistance which occurred nearly a year after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act on September 18, 1850.  With that act, federal marshals were given the authority to track down fugitive slaves and to arrest those who harbored or defended them.  Green in turn joined other free blacks in southeastern Pennsylvania in creating the quasi-secret Organization for Mutual Protection, whose members vowed to prevent the capture and reenslavement of runaways as well as to protect those who operated the Underground Railroad in their area.  They pledged that protection even at the risk of their own lives, after listening to speeches by Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison who lectured in nearby Lancaster.  
Sources: 
Ella Forbes, But We Have No Country: The 1851 Christiana, Pennsylvania Resistance (Cherry Hill, New Jersey: Africana Homestead Legacy, 1998); Thomas P. Slaughter, Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Shorey, William Thomas (1859-1919)

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

Collins, Janet Faye (1917-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1951 Janet Collins became the first black prima ballerina to perform with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York City, New York.  As such she broke one of the last major color barriers in classical ballet.   Janet Collins was born on March 2, 1917 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Her mother was a seamstress and her father was a tailor.  In 1921 when she was four Janet moved with her parents to Los Angeles, California.

At the age of ten, Collins began to study dance.  Her first dance training was at the Los Angeles Catholic Community Center.   Ironically, Collin’s parents urged her to study painting rather than dance because at the time, art seemed to offer more opportunities to gifted African Americans than classical dance.  Collins studied art on a scholarship at Los Angeles  City College and later at the Los Angeles Art Center School.  
Sources: 
Janet Collins and Yael Tamar Lewin, Night's Dancer, The Life of Janet Collins (New Haven, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2011); Brian Lanker, I Dream A World (New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1989); Yael Tamar Lewin, “Janet Collins: A Spirit That Knows No Bounds” Dance Magazine, 71:2 (February 1997); Brenna Sanchez, “Janet Collins,” Gale Contemporary Black Biography , www.brennasanchez.blogspot.com/janet-collins.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Goode, Wilson (1938- )

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

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

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

As city manager Wilson Goode held neighborhood meetings to address city problems and brought fiscal efficiency by streamlining functions and operations in City Hall. He promoted his public image by riding garbage trucks to monitor the progress of sanitation workers and actively participated in neighborhood cleanups.
Sources: 
Colin Palmer, Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History (St. Louis: Thomson Gale, 2006); Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gideon, Russell S. (1904-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Russell S. Gideon was a Seattle, Washington businessman, pharmacist, and pioneer in the development of senior housing.  From 1977 until his death in 1985, he was recognized yearly by Ebony magazine as one the nation’s 100 most influential black citizens.  He was a respected community leader, and a man of great energy and charm.  Gideon used these personal attributes to advantage in pursuing many humanitarian and business interests.
Sources: 
Mary T. Henry, Tribute: Seattle Public Places Named for Black People (Seattle: Statice Press, 1997); Mary Henry, “Russell Gideon,” http://www.historylink.org/_content/printer_friendly/pf_output.cfm?file_id=238; Elizabeth James House, http://capitolhousing.org/our/properties/buildings/ejsh.php.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Condé, Maryse (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 
Leah Hewitt, Autobiographical Tightropes (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990); Françoise Pfaff, Conversations with Maryse Condé (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Armstrong Atlantic State University

Turner, Mary (1899-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Mary Turner was a young African American woman whose 1918 lynching in Lowndes County, Georgia, prompted National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) officials to ask Missouri Congressman Leonidas Dyer to craft the 1922 Dyer Anti Lynching Bill.  The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives but never became the law of the land because it failed repeatedly in the U.S. Senate because of oppositio n from Southern Democratic Senators. .   

Turner was born Mary Hattie Graham in December 1899. Her parents, Perry Graham and wife Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson were a sharecropping family with four children.  On February 11, 1917, 17 year old Graham married Hazel “Hayes” Turner in Colquitt County, Georgia.  The couple had two children, Ocie Lee and Leaster, before they were married.

Together they moved to Brooks County, Georgia, where they took jobs with plantation owner Hampton Smith.  Smith was known for abusing and beating his workers, and for bailing people out of jail and having them work off their debt in his fields. Mary Turner was once severely beaten by Smith and when her husband threatened him, local authorities sentenced Hazel Turner to time on a chain gang.

On the evening of May 16, 1918, Smith was shot and killed by one of his workers.  The following week Brooks County saw a mob driven manhunt which resulted in the lynching of 13 people including some who were in the local jail.  
Sources: 
Julie Bruckner Armstrong, Mary Turner and the Memory of a Lynching (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011); Kara Ramos, “Remembering a dark page of history,” Valdosta Daily Times, May 15, 2010; Frank Walts, “The work of a Mob,” The Crisis (September 1918).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bailey, Thurl Lee (1961– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Thurl Bailey With Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert
Upon Bailey Being Named the Governor’s Ambassador
to Utah’s Refugee Community
"Image Courtesy of FamousMormons.org"
Thurl Lee Bailey is a retired American professional basketball player who played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1983 to 1999 with the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves. Bailey has also been a broadcast analyst for the Utah Jazz and the University of Utah and an inspirational speaker, singer, songwriter, and film actor.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, John Harold (1918-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Arkansas City, Arkansas on January 19, 1918, publisher, philanthropist, businessman, entrepreneur, John H. Johnson became the leading 20th Century publisher of African American news magazines. Johnson moved to Chicago in 1932 where he attended school and graduated with honors in 1936.  He attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern University but did not complete his degree. Over his lifetime, Johnson received numerous honorary degrees, including five doctorates.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Glasrud and Laurie Champion, "Ebony," in Encyclopedia USA, edited by Donald W. Whisenhunt, vol. 25, 139-143 (Gulf Breeze, Florida.: Academic International Press, 1998); A. James Reichley, “How John Johnson Made It,” Fortune 77 (January, 1968), 152-153; 178-180; John H. Johnson, Succeeding Against the Odds ( Chicago: Amistad Publishing, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Willie Lewis, Jr. (1934- )

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

Burleigh, Harry Thacker (1866-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Harry Thacker Burleigh was the first and one of the most influential of the African American composers who emerged in the U.S. after the Civil War. Born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1866, Burleigh showed an early passion for music and sang in local church choirs, but was unable to afford formal lessons until 1892 when he attended New York’s National Conservatory of Music on a scholarship. While there he developed a friendship with Antonín Dvorák, the school’s director, and the two shared an interest in using Negro spirituals and folksongs as inspiration for classical compositions.

After graduating, Burleigh began his musical career as a vocalist. He was selected as the baritone soloist in 1894 at St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City and was the choir’s first and only black chorister. In 1900 he broke precedent again by becoming the first black soloist at Temple Emanu-El, a Jewish synagogue. The success of his singing career established Burleigh as a professional musician.  As an acclaimed soloist he was highly sought after, even singing at a command performance for King Edward VII of England.

Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997); Carl Van Vechten, Generations in Black and White: Photographs (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Owens, Robert Curry (1860--?)

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

Robert Curry Owens was born in Los Angeles, California in January of 1860 to Charles Owens, a livery stable owner, and Ellen Mason-Owens. As the first born grandson to the Owens-Mason union, Robert rose to prominence in Los Angeles after inheriting both his father’s and grandmother, Bridget “Biddy” Mason’s, estate. Throughout the Progressive Era, Owens’ social, political, and economic influence in Los Angeles made him one of the most powerful African American men on the west coast.

When Charles Owens and Ellen Mason were married in 1856, they united two of Los Angeles’ most powerful pioneering families. As the first born heir to the Owens-Mason family, Robert was reared to continue his family’s legacy. During his childhood, Owens attended J.B. Sanderson’s School for Blacks in Oakland, California and completed his education in 1879 after studying business. Both the Owens and the Mason families took pride in hard work, which they instilled in Robert. Throughout his youth, Owens worked as a ranch laborer, a charcoal peddler, and even drove the street sprinkler for Los Angeles city contractors.

Sources: 

Delilah Beasley, The Negro Trail-Blazers of California (Los Angeles: Times Mirror Print and Binding House, 1919); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998); Lonnie G. Bunch, Black Angelenos: The Afro-American in Los Angeles, 1850-1950 (Los Angeles: California Afro-American Museum, 1988); F.H. Crumbly, “A Los Angeles Citizen,” The Colored American Magazine, September, 1905, p. 485; “Robert C. Owens: A Pacific Coast Negro,” The Colored American Magazine, July, 1905, p.391-392; “1900 United States Federal Census,” http://ancestrylibrary.com/ (Accessed August 7, 2008).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Morris, Effie Lee (1921-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library

In choosing librarianship over teaching or social work, Effie Lee Morris combined her desire to help people with a personal passion for education.  In doing so she became one of America’s leading advocates for services to children, minorities, and the visually-impaired.  Born in Richmond, Virginia on April 20, 1921, Morris spent her youth in Cleveland, Ohio.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1945, Bachelor of Library Science in 1946, and Master's in Library Science in 1956 all from Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University).  

Morris began work in 1946 at the Cleveland Public Library and established the first Negro History Week celebration for children there.  In 1955, she moved to New York as a children’s branch librarian in the Bronx.  Three years later, in 1958, she pioneered the development of library services for blind children.  She later served as president of the National Braille Club from 1961 to 1963.  

Sources: 

“ALA Names Three Honorary Members,” American Library Association, http://www.ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pressreleases2008/february20... Effie Lee Morris Collection, San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.lib.ca.us/librarylocations/main/elm/elm.htm; Jennifer M. York, editor, Who’s Who Among African Americans, 16th edition (Detroit: Thomson-Gale, 2003); Violet Harris, “An Interview with Effie Lee Morris,” The New Advocate, 14:3, 277-284 (Summer 2001).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Boateng, Paul Yaw (1951- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born to a Ghanaian father and a Scottish mother in Hackney, London, Paul Yaw Boateng became one of the first black British Members of Parliament in the general election of 1987. In 2002 he became the first Afro-Briton to serve in the Prime Minister's Cabinet.  The family moved to Ghana when Boateng was still a young boy, where his father, Kwaku Boateng, worked as a barrister and parliamentary cabinet minister. In 1966, the military coup in Ghana forced Eleanor Boateng, a Quaker, the 14 year old Boateng, and his sister, Rosemary, to return to England where they settled in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

Boateng continued his education at Apsley grammar school before pursuing a degree in Law at Bristol University. After graduating, Boateng trained to be a solicitor, devoting much energy to housing, police and women’s issues, and later became a lawyer specialising in civil rights. These beliefs he exercised at a variety of political protests in the late 1970s, and early 1980s.
Sources: 
The Times Newspaper, Profile: Paul Boateng (The Sunday Times, 16th November, 2008); Encyclopaedia Britannica, Paul Boateng (Available online at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/972767/Paul-Boateng); http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/paul_boateng/brent_south.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Brooke, Edward, III (1919-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain


Edward William Brooke III was the first African American to be elected by popular vote to the United States Senate.  Brooke, an African American, Protestant Republican, won elective office in the overwhelmingly white, Catholic, Democratic state of Massachusetts and emerged as a leader in the US Senate.  Edward Brooke III, the son of Helen (Seldon) Brooke and Edward W. Brooke, was born October 26, 1919 in Washington, D.C.  Brook's father, Edward, earned a law degree at the Howard University School of Law and later served as an attorney with the US Veterans Administration. 

Sources: 
Edward Brooke, Bridging the Divide: My Life (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press; 2006); "Edward Brooke" in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=B000871); “The Senate: An Individual Who Happens to be a Negro,” Time Magazine, Feb. 17, 1967.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kasavubu, Joseph (ca. 1910- 1969)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Joseph Kasavubu was the first president of the Republic of Congo, serving from 1960 to 1965.  He assumed the office when the Congo became independent from Belgium on June 30, 1960.  The date and year of his birth is not certain but it is believed to be around 1910.  He was born in the village of Kuma-Dizi in the Mayombe district of the Lower Congo region.  Kasavubu was a member of the Bakongo ethnic group. Kasavubu did not know his father and lost his mother at the age of 4.  He was raised by his older brother who sent him to a nearby Catholic mission where he was baptized in 1925.

Kasavubu attended mission schools and then between 1936 and 1939 attended a seminary where he received the equivalent of an undergraduate degree.  He took a teacher's certificate and worked in mission schools.  In 1942, Kasavubu received a bookkeeping job with the Belgian colonial administration, which was at the time one of the highest positions available to a black Congolese.
Sources: 
Crawford Young, Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and Independence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965); Crawford Young and Thomas Turner, The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985); Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004); http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-9044787.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bonga, Stephen (1799–1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of William L. Katz

Stephen Bonga was part of a prosperous Minnesota fur trading family, the first African American residents of that state. Fluent in Native American languages, Stephen and his brothers traveled as translators and voyageurs throughout the upper Great Lakes region of the Midwest.

Bonga was born in June 1799 on the shores of Lake Superior in the area joining present-day Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin.  He was the son of Pierre Bonga and his Native American Ojibwe wife, Ogibwayquay, and he was grandson of Jean and Marie Jeanne Bonga, who had lived as slaves at the fur trading depot of Michigan’s Mackinac Island.  

As a young man, Bonga was sent to Albany, New York to become a Presbyterian missionary.  Although he later left the seminary to join the family fur trading business, Stephen was known throughout his life for his piety and in 1881 helped organize the Methodist Episcopal Church in Superior, Wisconsin.

Stephen Bonga, along with his brothers George and Jack, are listed as American Fur Company representatives visiting the Grand Portage fort along Lake Superior during the winter of 1823 and 1824.  Stephen was a clerk for the company until 1833 and traveled frequently along the upper Midwest’s trade water routes.

Sources: 
“Letters on the Fur Trade,” Minnesota Historical Collections 37: (1910):132–206; Teresa A. Carbone, Eastman Johnson, and Patricia Hills, Eastman Johnson: Painting America (Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1999); Henry Schoolcraft, Henry R. Schoolcraft's "Narrative Journal of Travels", edited by Mentor L. Williams and Philip P. Mason, (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1992); William Warren, History of the Ojibway People (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1885); Martin Hintz, Wisconsin Portraits: 55 People Who Made a Difference (Black Earth, WI: Trails Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

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

Allen, Will (1948 -)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Will Allen
Will Allen, son of a sharecropper, former professional basketball player, ex-corporate sales leader and now farmer, is recognized as one of the preeminent thinkers of our time on agriculture and food policy. Allen is the founder and CEO of Growing Power, Inc., a farm and community food center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is widely considered the leading authority in the expanding field of urban agriculture.

Will Allen was born on February 8 in 1949 in Rockville, Maryland.  He grew up on a small farm where his parents had moved after sharecropping in South Carolina. He attended the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida where he played basketball, graduating in 1971 with a B.A. That same year he turned professional and joined the Baltimore Bullets but never did play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He briefly played in the American Basketball Association (ABA) with The Floridians. The remainder of his professional basketball career was spent in Belgium.

Sources: 
Will Allen, The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities (New York: Gotham Books, 2012); “Will Allen: Urban Farmer,” MacArthur Foundation, 2008, http://www.macfound.org/fellows/70/; Elizabeth Royte, "Street Farmer," The New York Times Magazine, July 1, 2009; Growing Power, Inc., http://www.growingpower.org/; Roger Bybee, "Growing Power in an Urban Food Desert," Yes! Magazine, February 13,2009; Van Jones, "Will Allen," TIME Magazine, May 10, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent historian

Whipper, William (1804-1885)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Whipper was born in Little Britain, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on February 22, 1804. Whipper was best known for his activities promoting the abolition of slavery, temperance and “moral suasion” which he defined as the power of non-violence as the most effective way to eradicate racism in America. Whipper’s philosophy of non-violence rested on two principles. “First, to be non-violent reflected humanity’s divine essence. Secondly, he argued that man’s superiority over the beast consisted in his reasoning powers and rationality of mind.” These two principles could allow African Americans to assert their humanity through non-violence. He exhorted them to ignore offenses and trust in a superior being for their protection, positing that non-violence would eventually overcome racism.
Sources: 
The Columbia Spy, August 4, 1866, Jan. 29, 1870, courtesy of Lancaster Historical Society; Donald Yacovone, “The Transformation of the Black Temperance Movement, 1807-1854: An Interpretation,” Journal of Early Republic, 8:3 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 281-297; and Tunde Adeleke, “Violence as an option for Free blacks in Nineteenth-Century America,” Canadian Review of American Studies, 35:1 (2005), pp.87-107.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Rollins, Ida Gray Nelson (1867-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ida Gray Nelson Rollins, the first African American Woman dentist, was born in Clarksville, Tennessee, on March 4, 1867.  She became an orphan when her mother, Jennie Gray, died in her early teens.  Rollins’ white father, whose name is not known, played no role in her childhood or education.  After her mother’s death, Ida was raised by her aunt, Caroline Gray, who had three other children, one boy and two daughters.  

Caroline Gray was 35, uneducated, and unable to read or write when she moved from Clarksville, Tennessee to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1867, with her four children.  In Ohio, Gray supported the family by working as a seamstress and housing foster children. All the Gray children contributed to the family’s income. While in high school, Rollins worked as a seamstress and dressmaker and in the dental office of Jonathan and William Taft.  Ida Gray graduated from Gaines Public High School in 1887 when she was 20 years old.

Sources: 
Joan-Yevette Campbell, In Search of Respect and Equality (Lexington, Kentucky: Independent Publisher, 2013); Jesse Carney Smith, Black First: 4000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events (Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003); Gale Contemporary Black Biography: Ida Gray Nelson Rollins: http://www.answers.com/topic/ida-gray-nelson-rollins; Contemporary Black Biography, 2004 | Janet Stamatel, “Gray (Nelson Rollins), Ida 1867-1953," http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2874300038.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pollard, Fritz (1894-1986)

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

Pollard led Brown University to the 1916 Rose Bowl. The 5-9, 165-pound back was the first African American to play in this prestigious game, and the second to receive All-American honors in college football.  Once Pollard left Brown, he momentarily pursued a degree in dentistry, worked as a director for an army YMCA, and coached football at Lincoln University. He later signed to play for the Akron Pros in the American Professional Football League (APFA) in 1919, following army service during World War I. In 1920 the Pros joined the newly founded American Professional Football Association, which later became the National Football League (NFL).
Sources: 
www.hickoksports.com, Pro Football Hall of Fame: http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.jsp?player_id=242
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Carter, W. Beverly (1921-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
William Beverly Carter at Lincoln University,
1943

Ambassador William Beverly Carter is the first Ambassador-at-Large, and the second African American, to be appointed an ambassador by three Presidents. In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon appointed him ambassador to Tanzania. Four years later, President Gerald R. Ford named him ambassador to Liberia. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed him U.S. Ambassador-at-Large.

Carter, born in 1921 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, was raised in nearby Philadelphia after the age of four. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in biology from Lincoln University in 1944, and his Law degree from Temple University in 1947.  One of his Lincoln classmates was future Ghanaian head of state Kwame Nkrumah.

Sources: 
Celestine Tutt, “Ambassador William Beverly Carter, Jr,” (http://adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Carter,%20William%20Beverly%20Jr.toc.pdf); “Beverly Carter, 61; Held High Positions as a U.S. Diplomat,” (Obituary) New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1982/05/11/obituaries/beverly-carter-61-held-high-positions-as-a-us-diplomat.html; U.S. State Department, “African American Chiefs of Mission,” http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/perfrpt/2008/html/112198.htm; Brian C. Aronstam, “Out of Africa,” Stanford Magazine, http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=42098.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Rice, Norm (1943- )

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

 

Sources: 

Richard Sobol, Mayor: In the Company of Norm Rice, Mayor of Seattle (New York: Dutton Juvenile, 1996); Mylon Winn,The Election of Norman Rice as Mayor of Seattle,” PS: Political Science and Politics, 23: 2 (June 1990): 158-159; http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=2234; http://www.com.washington.edu/program/news/ricegraduation.html; http://www.artsci.washington.edu/news/Picks/Life.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Kenia Martinez (1988– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Twenty-two-year-old Kenia Martinez was crowned Miss Universe Honduras on July 8, 2010. She went on to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, in August of the same year. Kenia was the second black woman to win the title in Honduras. Ms. Martinez is originally from Tela, a town on the Honduran Caribbean coast, and she proudly claims to be Garifuna. The Garifuna are descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people. (The latter two are indigenous peoples of various Caribbean islands). In 1797 the English deported some Garifuna from St. Vincent to the island of Roatan off the Honduran coast. From there, they were moved to Trujillo, and then they migrated to Tela in 1808 where they founded their own community.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dangote, Aliko (1957– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Aliko Dangote is the first billionaire from Nigeria and is considered the richest black man in the world and the fifty-first richest person overall according to Forbes in 2016. He amassed his fortune by founding the Dangote Group, the multinational company that operates throughout West Africa and is Africa’s largest cement manufacturer. The Dangote Group is also involved in other enterprises such as flour milling, salt processing, textiles, real estate, transport, and oil and gas. Finally, the company has control of the Nigerian sugar market that supplies sugar to various companies. Dangote is married and has three children.

Dangote was born on April 10, 1957, in Kano, Nigeria, to a family of prosperous merchants. He became interested in business from a young age. While he was in primary school, he bought cartons of sugar boxes and sold them for profit. Dangote graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, with a business degree in 1977.
Sources: 
“Dangote Group,” History, website of the Dangote Group, http://www.dangote-group.com/aboutus/history.aspx; Alexis Okeowo, “Africa's Richest Man, Aliko Dangote, Is Just Getting Started,” Bloomberg.com, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-03-07/africas-richest-man-aliko-dangote-is-just-getting-started; “Nigeria: Aliko Dangote–a Lesson for African Entrepreneurs, “Vanguard, AllAfrica, http://allafrica.com/stories/201403240379.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sancho, Ignatius (1729-1780)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Thomas Gainsborough's 1768 Portrait
of Ignatius Sancho
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ignatius Sancho was an African composer and author who grew up as a house slave in England. We do not know how Sancho left domestic servitude but according to historians by the time he was an adult he was an emancipated employee of the Duke and Duchess of Montagu. There, working as a butler, he flourished, reading voraciously, writing prose, poetry, and music

Sources: 
Josephine R.B. Wright, ed., Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780), An Early African Composer in England: The Collected Editions of His Music in Facsimile (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1981); Brycchan Carey, "’The Extraordinary Negro’": Ignatius Sancho, Joseph Jekyll, and the Problem of Biography', British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies”, 26:2 (Spring 2003); http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Sancho.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barbadoes, James G. (1796-1841)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
James G. Barbadoes, abolitionist and colonizationist, was born in 1796. Barbadoes is thought to have come from the Island of Barbados, West Indies. He resided in Boston, Massachusetts for most of his life.  Around 1806, Barbadoes married Rebecca (maiden name unknown) and the couple had a son, who died in infancy, named after William Lloyd Garrison. However their second son, Fredrick G. Barbadoes, survived and became an abolitionist later in his life.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Roy E. Finkenbine, "Barbadoes, James G."; http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00036.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Mon May 12, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ray, Charles B. (1807-1886)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Bennett Ray journalist, clergyman, and abolitionist was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts on December 25, 1807. He attended school in his hometown, and then in the 1830s he was given the opportunity by abolitionists to attend Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts to study theology. He also studied in Middletown Connecticut at Wesleyan University, but left because of racial tension. Ray worked for five years on his grandfather’s farm, then later went on to learn the boot making trade. When he moved to New York City in 1832 he opened a boot and shoe store. Ray also became a Methodist minister.

In 1834 Charles Ray married Henrietta Green Regulus on October 27, 1836 she along with her newborn died while giving birth. Then in 1840 he married Charlotte Augusta Burroughs; they had seven children together.  Two daughters, Charlotte T. Ray and Florence Ray, became the first black female attorneys in the nation in the 1870s.

In 1833 Charles Ray joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and was a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. He dedicated most of his life to the abolitionist movement. In 1837 Ray changed denominations and became a Congregational minister. Then in 1843 he joined the New York Vigilance Committee, which involved thirteen black and white men who assisted runaway slaves. In 1848 Ray became the corresponding secretary for the Committee and remained an active member for fifteen years.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Oct., 1919), pp. 361-371 Publisher: Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc.  Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2713446
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hale, Clara McBride (1905-1992)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Brautigam, Loria Raquel Dixon ( ? - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Sources: 
Audra D.S. Burch, "Afro-Latin Americans: A Rising Voice," The Miami Herald, June 10, 2007; Tim Rogers, "Disco's Door Policy Sparks Race Debate," Nica Times, February 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Stewart, T. McCants (1853-1923)

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

Teacher, author, clergyman, and civil rights leader, Thomas McCants Stewart was born in Charleston, South Carolina on December 28, 1853,  to George Gilchrist and Anna Morris Stewart.  Young Stewart attended the Avery Normal Institute before enrolling in Howard University in 1869. Although only fifteen when he arrived on Howard’s campus, Stewart, nonetheless, distinguished himself as a student and contributed occasional articles to the Washington, D.C. New National Era, an African American newspaper.

Yet Stewart grew increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of instruction at Howard and became one of the first black students to enroll in the University of South Carolina at Columbia in 1874. In December 1875, Stewart graduated with Bachelor of Arts and L.L.B. degrees.

Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, African American Odyssey: The Stewarts, 1853-1963 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998); Charles E. Wynes, "T. McCants Stewart: Peripatetic Black South Carolinian," South Carolina Historical Magazine 80 (October, 1979): 311-317.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Makeba, Miriam (1932--2008)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Miriam Makeba, Makeba: My Story (New York: New American Library, 1988); http://africanmusic.org/artists/makeba.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hedgeman, Anna Arnold (1899–1990)

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

Political activist and educator Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the first African American woman to serve on the cabinet of a New York mayor when she worked during the term of New York City Mayor Robert Wagner from 1957-1958. Her career spanned more than six decades as an advocate for civil rights. In 1963 she helped A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin plan the March on Washington and was the only woman among the key event organizers.

Anna Arnold was born on July 5, 1899 in Marshalltown, Iowa to William James Arnold II and Marie Ellen Arnold. When Anna was a child, the family moved to Anoka, Minnesota where the Arnolds were the only black family in the community. Her father created an environment that prioritized education and a strong work ethic. Arnold learned how to read at home and was not allowed to attend school until she was seven years old.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dorsey, Thomas A. (1899-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born into a preacher’s family in rural Georgia, Thomas Dorsey began playing the family organ at age six.  At eight he started writing his own music, and by 13, was playing piano in Atlanta, accompanying some of the famous jazz artists of the day.  In 1916, Dorsey moved to Chicago to study at the Chicago School of Composition and Arranging.  Although his beginnings were in the jazz and blues tradition, he was also influenced by music he heard through his religious affiliations.  His first attempts to combine the two styles, which he called the “gospel song,” were met with resistance, however, because of their heavy blues influence.  “Several times I have been thrown out of some of the best churches,” Dorsey remembered in a 1980 interview.  “But they just didn’t understand.”

Sources: 
Michael W. Harris, The Rise of Gospel Blues (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); James Standifer, Interview with Thomas Dorsey, 1980. African American Music Collection, University of Michigan School of Music, at http://www.umich.edu/~afroammu/standifer/dorsey.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Whitworth College

Sembene, Ousmane (1923-2007)

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

Ousmane Sembène, prolific writer and film producer, was born in January 1923 in Ziguinchor, Senegal.  Official documents were rare in 1920s French colonies, so even though Sembène was officially listed as born on the eighth of January, he says that it is likely that he was actually born eight days earlier.

Sembène was born a French citizen, thanks to his father Moussa Sembène, a fisherman who was from the region Senegal where such citizenship had been extended in the 19th Century. His mother was Ramatoulaye Ndiaye. His parents were together only briefly, and Sembène was raised by his maternal grandmother after his mother moved to Dakar.

Sources: 
Brian Cox, African Writers (New York : Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997); Samba Gadjigo, Ousmane Sembène: the Making of a Militant Artist (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010); Annet Busch and Max Annas, Ousmane Sembène: Interviews (Jackson: University of Mississippi, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Garvey, Marcus (1887-1940)

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

Tony Martin, Race First: The Ideological and Organization Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1976); Edward David Cronon, Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1955); Ula Taylor, The Veiled Garvey: The Life and Times of Amy Jacques Garvey (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); and Marcus Garvey, Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey (London: Cass, 1967).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Kelley, William Melvin (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Melvin Kelley is a renowned African American author known for his experimental style and exploration of African American cultural identity.  Born on November 1, 1937 in the Bronx, New York, to Narcissa Agatha Kelley and William Kelley, an editor, he attended the elite Fieldston School and was accepted to Harvard University in 1957.  It was at Harvard, studying under novelist John Hawkes and poet Archibald MacLeish, that Kelley published his first short story.  

Kelley’s professional career blossomed in the 1960s and his writing appeared in a host of periodicals such as the Saturday Evening Post, Mademoiselle, Negro Digest, and Esquire. The author’s principal works were also published during this prolific decade, including a collection of short stories, Dancers on the Shore (1964), and the novels A Different Drummer (1962), A Drop of Patience (1965), d?m (1967), and Dunfords Travels Everywheres (1970).  

Critics have noted the influence of James Joyce and William Faulkner on Kelley’s style.  Distinctive elements of Faulkner, for example, can be seen in the interrelated cast of characters which appear in Kelley’s novels, as well as his use of a fictional Southern state for the setting of his texts.  The author’s application of language on the other hand has drawn comparisons to Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.  
Sources: 
Michel Fabre, “William Melvin Kelley and Melvin Dixon: Change of Territory,” From Harlem to Paris: Black American Writers in France, 1840-1980 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1991); Robert E. Fleming, “Kelley, William Melvin,” The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, (New York: Oxford Press, 1997); Jill Weyant, “The Kelley Saga: Violence in America.” CLA Journal 19 (1975): 210-220.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, James McCune (1813-1865)

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

Knox, Clinton E. (1908–1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownershp: Public Domain"
Clinton Everett Knox was the first African American secretary to the United States Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and former United States Ambassador to the countries of Dahomey (Benin) and Haiti.

Clinton E. Knox was born May 5, 1908, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was the youngest of five children born to Estella Briggs Knox and William J. Knox Sr.  Knox’s older brother, William J. Knox, Jr., was one of the scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb during World War II.  His other older brother, Dr. Lawrence Howland Knox, was a noted chemist.

Sources: 
The Clinton Knox Family Papers, 1909-1989, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana); Wade Baskin and Richard N. Runes, Dictionary of Black Culture (New York: Philosophical Library, 1973); Who’s Who Among Black Americans (Northbrook, Illinois: Gale Research, Inc., 1977); U.S. State Department, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/knox-clinton-everett.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mingus, Charles (1922-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mercurial and gifted bassist and band leader Charles Mingus is considered by many to be one of the jazz greats of all time, and one of the 20th Century’s most important black composers. He worked and recorded with jazz legends such as Miles Davis, Art Tatum, Eric Dolphy, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Max Roach. With the latter four, he played bass in the famous recorded live jazz concert “Jazz at Massey Hall” in May 1953.

Mingus was born in 1922 in Nogales, Arizona, where his father was stationed as a U.S. Army sergeant. His mother died shortly after he was born. He was raised in Watts in California. In his loosely autobiographical Beneath the Underdog (1971) he wrote of not fitting in with whites because he was black, and not fitting in with blacks because he was so light skinned. He confronted Southern racist attitudes of the time as reflected in his composition about segregationist Governor Faubus of Arkansas in “Fables of Faubus.”  

By the 1950s Mingus had settled in New York, after touring in the 1940s with the bands of Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton.  While in New York he further developed his association with some of the leading jazz musicians of the era. He also founded his own recording and publishing companies to protect the growing body of his original work.
Sources: 
Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); www.mingusmingusmingus.com; www.pbs.org/jazz.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McGee, James D. (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador James David McGee, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service in the class of Minister Counselor, spent the majority of his 30-year Foreign Service career overseas working in support of U.S. Government policy. Most of his work included political-military affairs, crisis management, and international negotiation and management. He has been U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Madagascar, and the Comoros Islands.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Louisville

Dungey, Channing (1969– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Channing Dungey is the first black person in history to run a major network, appointed head of the entertainment division of ABC on February 17, 2016. Dungey joined the ABC family in 2004, and since 2013 held the title of executive vice president, drama development, movies & miniseries, ABC Entertainment Group. There she developed and launched many series including Scandal, Quantico, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and How to Get Away with Murder.

Previously, she was senior vice president of drama at ABC Primetime Entertainment and served as senior vice president of drama development at Touchstone Television Productions, LLC (formerly ABC Television Studio). She also was vice president of drama series, developing programming as well as overseeing creative executives.

Born March 14, 1969, Ms. Dungey grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood of Sacramento, California, beginning her career as a development assistant for Davis Entertainment at 20th Century Fox. She then became a story editor at Steamroller Productions and later senior vice president at Material Film, which she left in January, 2004, to start her own production company.

Sources: 
Brooks Barnes & John Koblin, “Channing Dungey to Succeed Paul Lee as Chief of ABC Entertainment,” The New York Times, February 17, 2016; Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/business/media/paul-lee-resign-abc-entertainment.html; Michael O’Connell, & Lacey Rose, “ABC Chief Paul Lee Forced Out, Channing Dungey Named entertainment President,” The Hollywood Reporter, February 17, 2016, Retrieved from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/abc-chief-paul-lee-forced-866736; Mollie Reilly,  “ABC’s New President Channing Dungey Is The First Black Person To Lead A Major Network, The Huffington Post, February 17, 2016, Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/channing-dungey-abc_us_56c4cd81e4b0c3c55053760d.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Evers, James Charles (1922- )

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

Holmes, Benjamin M. (1846-1875)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University Special Collections
Teacher, news correspondent, and Fisk Jubilee Singer, Benjamin M. Holmes was born a slave around 1846 in Charleston, South Carolina and bound as an apprentice to a black tailor. Holmes was eventually bought by a man named Kaylor, who employed him as a hotel clerk in Chattanooga, Tennessee. While toting bundles around town for his master, Holmes used to study the letters on signs and doors and his boss’s measuring books, and by 1860 had taught himself to read and write.

After his owner and the rest of the staff joined the Confederate Army, Holmes was left minding the store. As Union troops approached Chattanooga in 1862, his white owners sold him to a trader who fed him a diet of cow’s head, boiled grits, and rice. While imprisoned in a slave pen, Holmes somehow managed to get hold of a copy of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and read it aloud. After Union troops occupied Chattanooga in the fall of 1863, Holmes volunteered his services as a valet to General Jefferson Columbus Davis, the Union commander of the Army of the Cumberland’s First Division, with whom he remained until the end of the war.

After the war, Holmes returned to Chattanooga and worked for a barber. When the barber died, his estate went to Holmes, making him the first black estate administrator in Tennessee. But the estate proved insolvent, and for his pains Holmes ended up with a three hundred dollar debt.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Loudin, Frederick J. (1840-1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University Franklin
Library's Special Collections
Frederick J. Loudin, teacher, impresario, manufacturer and Fisk Jubilee Singer, had a bass voice the likes of which no one would hear again until the emergence of Roland Hayes and Paul Robeson. At thirty-four, he would become the oldest member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ third troupe: a towering, self-assured printer and music teacher from Portage County, Ohio.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Diddley, Bo (1928-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Boxer and singer Bo Diddley (birth name Ellas Bates McDaniel), was born on December 30, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi. He was adopted by his mother’s cousin when the mother’s husband died in the mid 1930s.  McDaniel moved her family to Chicago where young Ellas took violin lessons from Professor O.W. Frederick at the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. He studied the violin for twelve years and composed two concertos. In 1940 his sister bought McDaniel an acoustic guitar for Christmas. He soon started to play the guitar, largely duplicating his actions on the violin.  Soon afterward he formed his first group of three named The Hipsters and later known as The Langley Avenue Jive Cats. It was during this time that band leaders gave him the nickname, Bo Diddley.

Diddley recorded his first single “Bo Diddley”/”I’m A Man on March 2, 1955 on Checkers Records. It topped the R&B chart for two weeks.  Soon afterwards Diddley began to tour, performing in schools, colleges, and churches across the United States.  Regardless of the venue he taught people the importance “of respect and education and of the dangers of drugs and gang culture.”

Bo Diddley was known for many new musical styles and innovations. He was one of the first musicians of the 1950s to incorporate woman musicians including Lady Bo. He hired her full-time to play all of his stage performances whereupon she became the first female lead guitarist in history to be employed by a major act.
Sources: 
“Bo Diddley- The Originator.” David Blakey. 1998-2008, http://members.tripod.com/~Originator_2/history.html; “Bo Diddley” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum, http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/bo-diddley; Ben Ratliff. “Bo Diddley, Who Gave Rock His Beat, Dies at 79,” New York Times,
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/03/arts/music/03diddley.html?scp=1&sq=Bo+Diddley+dies&st=nyt
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington