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People

Jackson, Lisa Perez (1962-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency
Lisa Perez Jackson, the first African American Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), brings a wealth of experience to that agency.  A scientist by profession, she has spent more than 20 years working as an advocate for the better use and awareness of the environment.

Jackson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 8, 1962, and was adopted two weeks after her birth.  She grew up in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, which became infamous during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Her adoptive mother continued to live in New Orleans until the hurricane flooded the city.  Jackson, who had planned to become a doctor, instead switched her studies to engineering and graduated summa cum laude with a BS in chemical engineering from Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering in 1983.  She received a masters degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1986. Jackson was one of only two women in her engineering class at Princeton.

Sources: 
Biography, Administrator Lisa Jackson (2009), United States Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/administrator/biography.htm; "Lisa P. Jackson," Encyclopedia Britannica Online (2009) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1502192/Lisa-P-Jackson; “Another woman scientist on the Obama team: Lisa Perez Jackson of the EPA,” Women in Science: Past, Present, and Future, (February 23, 2009) http://sciencewomen.blogspot.com/2009/02/another-woman-scientist-on-obama-team.html;
“Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet,” The Library of Congress Webcasts (March 5, 2009), http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4536; Twenty-five Most Influential African Americans in Politics, BET.com (2009) http://www.bet.com/NR/exeres/E23833F3-7E28-43AE-9F06-3838EC3B5813.htm
Affiliation: 
University of Wyoming

Weaver, Robert Clifton (1907-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

Sources: 
The Columbia Encyclopedia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005); http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-weaver-r1.html ; http://search.eb.com/blackhistory/article-9076375
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Paige, Myles Anderson (1898-1983)

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

Myles Anderson Paige, the first African American to be appointed a New York City Criminal Court Judge, was born on July 18, 1898 in Montgomery, Alabama. Paige was a star football player at Howard University, graduating from the Washington D.C. institution with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1921. While at Howard he joined Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Paige served in the United States Army during the World War I as captain of the 369th regiment. Paige’s ascension to captain was swift and impressive considering he began his military career as a corporal in September of 1917 and was promoted to second lieutenant a week later. The following week he became first lieutenant and before the end of September he was captain and company commander.  

In 1921 Paige entered the Columbia University Law School and received his LLB degree in 1924. In 1926 he was a founding member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Alpha Gamma Lambda graduate chapter as well as its first chapter president from 1927 to 1930.  Paige later served as 19th General (national) President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity from 1957 to 1960. Also in 1940 Paige received an honorary doctor of law degree from Howard University, rounding out his education.

Sources: 
“M. A. Paige, First Black to Be a City Magistrate,” The New York Times, April 1, 1983; Charles H. Wesley, The History of Alpha Phi Alpha : A Development in College Life (Chicago: The Foundation Publishers, 1979), Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Douglass, Grace Bustill (1782-1842)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Grace Bustill Douglass, a Quaker abolitionist, was born into a distinguished black activist family in Burlington, New Jersey.  She was the fifth of eight children born to Cyrus Bustill, a baker, and Elizabeth Morey Bustill, the daughter of an Englishman and a Delaware Indian woman.  Grace’s father was the son of a slave and had baked bread for George Washington’s army during the War for American Independence.  As a child, Grace attended a school for black children in Philadelphia.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), and Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Monroe, George Frazier (c. 1844-1886)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Yosemite stagecoach driver George Frazier Monroe was born in Georgia possibly around 1844.  His father, Louis Augustus Monroe, arrived from Georgia in the Gold Rush and settled as a barber in Mariposa in 1854.  He was also locally known as a civil rights advocate because he promoted the integration of local schools.  George’s mother, Mary, was an Ohioan and thus a free woman of color but it is unclear if Louis had been enslaved.  Although the parents were in California by 1855, young George stayed behind to complete a school year in Washington, D.C., before being brought to Mariposa around the age of 11 by his uncle in 1856.

By 1866 young Monroe began working as a tourist guide at Henry Washburn’s lavish resort hotel, Big Tree Station, at Yosemite.  By 1872, when the hotel could be reached by stagecoach routes maintained by the Southern Pacific Railroad, Monroe became one of the stagecoach drivers.

Stage drivers, like airline pilots today, commanded great prestige: upon their skills rested the lives of passengers. Testimonials reveal the fame of George F. Monroe.  As a rule, stagecoach drivers drove only a portion of a route, going back and forth so that they knew all of its idiosyncrasies. The twisty road from Mariposa to Yosemite Valley was Monroe’s segment. Chicago journalist Benjamin Taylor wrote in August 1877 that Monroe was “a born reinsman.”
Sources: 
Mariposa Gazette, November 27, 1886; Benjamin Franklin Taylor, Between the Gates (Chicago: S.C. Griggs and Company, 1878); Benjamin C. Truman, “The Passing of a Sierra Knight,” Overland Monthly 42 (July 1903): 32-39, and in Gary F. Kurutz, ed. Knights of the Lash: The Stagecoach Stories of Major Benjamin C. Truman (San Francisco: Book Club of California, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Nabrit, James M. Jr. (1900-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
NAACP Attorneys George E. C. Hayes,
Thurgood Marshall and James Nabrit, Jr.
Sources: 

Eric Pace, "James M. Nabrit Jr. Dies at 97; Led Howard University" New York Times (Published Tuesday December 30, 1997); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003).

http://www.brownat50.org/brownBios/BioJamesNabritJr.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fuller, Charles Henry, Jr. (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Center for Program in
Contemporary Writing, University of Pennsylvania
  
Charles Fuller was born on March 5, 1939 to parents Charles H. Sr. and Lillian Anderson Fuller of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Fuller was the oldest of three children, but would see his parents welcome some twenty foster children into their home over the years.  Fuller attended Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School and graduated in 1956.  During his high school years, Fuller spent countless hours in the school library, and competed with a friend, Larry Neal, to become the first to read every book in the school’s collection.  This experience helped spawn Fuller’s dream of becoming a writer.   

After graduation from high school, Fuller attended Villanova University in Pennsylvania between 1956 and 1958.  He then enlisted in the U. S. Army and spent the next four years stationed in Japan and Korea.  Fuller returned to civilian life in 1962 and in August of that year he married Miriam A. Nesbitt.  
Sources: 
Thadius M. Davis and Trudier Harris, eds., Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 38: Afro-American Writers After 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1985); www.whyy.org/about/pressroom/documents/CharlesFullerbio.doc 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gray, William Herbert, III (1941–2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Office of
Representative Gray

William Herbert Gray III was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 20, 1941. His mother, Hazel Yates Gray, was a high school teacher. His father, William Herbert Gray Jr. was a Baptist Minister and over his career, the president of two Florida colleges. Upon taking a job as pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, William H. Gray Jr. moved his family to the Philadelphia area. Following in his father’s footsteps, Gray became an assistant pastor of a church in Montclair, New Jersey, after graduating from Franklin and Marshal College in 1963. Gray received a master of divinity degree in 1966 from Drew Theological School. He became senior minister at his church that same year.  In 1970, Gray earned a degree in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. As a Baptist minister Gray became involved in the fair housing campaign in New Jersey.  In one instance Gray successfully sued a landlord who had refused to rent to him because of his race.

After his father died in 1972, William Gray returned to Philadelphia and became the minister of Bright Hope Baptist Church. Four years later, Gray made his first run for Congress in 1976, campaigning on his experience of promoting fair housing. He lost to incumbent Pennsylvania Congressman Robert Nix in the Democratic Primary but won his second bid in 1978 ending Nix’s 20 year tenure in Congress.   

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; "Gray, William Herbert, III," in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr, eds.,  Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition. Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0002/e1710;
“William H. Gray, III Bio and Photo,” The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., http://www.ncccusa.org/news/2000GA/gray.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Drew, Charles R. (1904-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Charles R. Drew, a renowned physician and medical researcher and the first black surgeon examiner of the American Board of Surgery, revolutionized medicine by creating a system that allowed the immediate and safe transfusion of blood plasma.

Born on June 3, 1904 in Washington, D.C. to Richard T. Drew and Nora Burrell, Drew grew up in the city. He attended Dunbar High School, where his excellence in academics and athletics earned him an athletic scholarship to Amherst College in Massachusetts.

After graduating from Amherst in 1926, he worked as Director of Athletics at Morgan College. In 1929, he attended medical school at McGill University in Canada, where he studied with Dr. Beattie and developed his interest in blood storage just before he graduated in 1933. In 1935, Drew returned to Washington D.C. to become a professor at Howard University’s medical school.

Sources: 

Spencie Love, One Blood: The Death and Resurrection of Charles R. Drew (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Chrisanne Becker, 100 African Americans who Shaped American History: Charles R. Drew (San Francisco: Blue Wood Books, 1995).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Houston, Charles Hamilton (1895-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Hamilton Houston, a renowned civil rights attorney, was widely recognized as the architect of the civil rights strategy that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education.  He was also a mentor to Thurgood Marshall who successfully litigated the pivotal Brown case.

Houston was born on September 3, 1895 in Washington, DC to parents William Houston, an attorney, and Mary Houston, a hairdresser and seamstress. He attended M Street High School (later Dunbar High School) in Washington, DC. Following graduation, he enrolled at Amherst College in Massachusetts where he was the only black student in his class. Houston was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society there. Upon graduating in 1915, he was selected to deliver that year’s valedictory address.

After graduating from Amherst, Houston returned to Washington.  He joined the U.S. Army in 1917 and was trained in the all-black officers training camp in Fort Des Moines, Iowa in 1917. Houston was later deployed to France. While there, Houston and his fellow black soldiers experienced racial discrimination which deepened his resolve to study law.
Sources: 
William M. Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life (New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996); Rawn James, Jr., Root and Branch: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation (New York, Berlin, London: Bloomsbury Press, 2010); Carole Boston Weatherford, Great African-American Lawyers: Raising the Bar of Freedom (Berkeley Heights: Enslow Publishers, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent historian

Prioleau, George (1856-1927)

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

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

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

Shuttlesworth, Fred (1922-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n14_v86/ai_15710236, http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/about_king/encyclopedia/carey_archibald.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Abbott, Anderson Ruffin (1837-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 
M. Dalyce Newby, Anderson Ruffin Abbott: First Afro-Canadian Doctor (Markam, Ontario: Fitzhenny and Whiteside, 1998); Daniel Hill, The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1981); Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/abbott_anderson_ruffin_14E.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Greene, Lorenzo Johnston (1899-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Lorenzo J. Greene and Arvarh E. Strickland, Working with Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History: A Diary, 1928-1930 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989); Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, The Early Black History Movement, Carter G. Woodson, and Lorenzo Johnston Greene (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); John H. McClendon, Perspectives: The Contributions of Black Missourians to African American History (Columbia, Mo: Black Culture Center, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hansberry, Lorraine (1930-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lorraine Hansberry was one of the most significant and influential playwrights of the 20th Century. Her landmark play A Raisin in the Sun, which opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City in 1959, was the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. Hansberry’s account of the struggles of an urban black family was an overnight success, running some 530 performances, and winning a New York Drama Critics Circle Award and four Tonys for Best Play, Director, Actress and Actor. It is generally credited with breaking down the racial barriers to Broadway, and ushering in a new era of opportunity for black women playwrights. The play was made into a movie in 1961 with Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil reprising their roles, and Ms. Hansberry writing the screenplay.
Sources: 
Anthony D. Hill, An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pitre, Clayton (1924- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Clayton Pitre (right) with Fellow Montford Point Marine
at White House Ceremony, June 2012
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Clayton Pitre is a long time Seattle, Washington-based community activist, former Chief Housing Developer for the Central Area Motivation Project (CAMP), and a retired Montford Point Marine.

Born on June 30, 1924 to Gilbert Pitre and Eugenie Lemelle, Clayton Pitre was the fourth child of seven siblings. He was born and raised in Opelousas in Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana. His father was a cotton and yam farmer, and his mother was a homemaker.  Pitre attended Catholic schools until the 9th grade when he gave up his education to work in various defense plants in early World War II Texas.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chesnutt, Charles Waddell (1858-1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Waddell Chesnutt was born the son of free black parents on June 20, 1858 in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents had recently moved to Cleveland from Fayetteville, North Carolina in response to the growing restrictions placed on free blacks in that slave state.
By 1866, Chesnutt worked part time in the family store while regularly attending Cleveland’s Howard School for Blacks.  

In 1872 Chesnutt was forced to end his formal education at the age of fourteen because he had to help support his parents.  However, the school’s principal invited him to stay at the school as a distinguished pupil-teacher and turn his modest salary over to his father.  

By sixteen, Chesnutt was employed in Charlotte, North Carolina as a full-time teacher and in 1877, returned to Fayetteville, North Carolina as the assistant principal of Howard School.  In 1880 Chesnutt became the school’s principal.

In search of more lucrative employment, Chesnutt resigned his school-administrator post in 1883 and moved to New York City where he worked as a stenographer and journalist on Wall Street.  By 1887, Chesnutt returned to Cleveland and was admitted to the Ohio Bar.   As a teacher, lawyer, businessman and writer, Chesnutt was a prominent member of Cleveland’s African American elite.  By 1900, however, Chesnutt gave up his business and professional life to write and lecture full-time.
Sources: 
Helen Chesnutt, Charles Waddell Chesnutt, Pioneer of the Color Line (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1952); Linda Metzger, Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rucker, Darius Carlos (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership, Public Domain
Singer and songwriter Darius Rucker was born on May 13, 1966 to Carolyn Rucker in Charleston, South Carolina.  His mother, who worked as a nurse, supported him and his five brothers and sisters because his father, a traveling musician, was rarely able to spent time with the family.  Darius attended Charleston Middleton High School and the University of South Carolina.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

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

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

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

Clyburn, James Enos (1940– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
James Enos Clyburn was born in Sumter, South Carolina on July 21, 1940 to parents Enos and Almeta Clyburn.  James Clyburn’s father was a minister and his mother was a cosmetologist.  In 1957 James Clyburn graduated from Mather Academy located in Camden, South Carolina.  Four years later he graduated with a B.A. in history from South Carolina State University.

After graduation Clyburn worked as a teacher for C.A. Brown High School in Charleston.  In 1971 he became a member of Governor John C. West’s staff, becoming the first African American to be an advisor to a Governor of South Carolina.  In 1974 Clyburn was appointed Commissioner of South Carolina’s Human Affairs Office by Governor West.  Clyburn held this position until he stepped down in order to pursue a seat in Congress in 1992.

In 1992 Clyburn decided to run for office after South Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District was redrawn to include an African American majority.  Clyburn campaigned for the seat as a Democratic candidate and won the seat.  He is currently in the House of Representatives and has received important positions during his tenure as a Congressman.  In 2003 he was named vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.  Three years later, in 2006, he became chairman.  Clyburn is also the majority whip making him the third most powerful Democrat in Congress and the most important African American in Congress. 
Sources: 
Kevin Merida, “A Place In the Sun, Jim Clyburn Rides High on A New Wave of Black Power,”  Washington Post. January 22, 2008 p. CO1: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/21/AR2008012102405.html
Silla Brush, “Hidden Power on the Hill,” U.S. News & World Report.  Feb. 25, 2007. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/070225/5clyburn.htm
U.S Congressman James E. Clyburn’s official House site: http://clyburn.house.gov/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Haralson, Jeremiah (1846–1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library Of Congress
Jeremiah Haralson was born near Columbus, Georgia on April 1, 1846. The slave of Georgia planter John Haralson, he was taken to Alabama where he remained in bondage until 1865. It is unclear as to what he did in the earlier years of his freedom, but there are records that suggest he may have been a farmer and clergyman. Haralson taught himself to read and write and later became a skilled orator and debater.

In 1868, Haralson made his first unsuccessful attempt for a seat in the Forty-first Congress, representing Alabama’s First District of Alabama.  Two years later he won a seat in Alabama’s House of Representatives and in 1872 was elected to the State Senate.  In 1874 Haralson again ran for the U.S. House of Representatives.  Haralson narrowly won the Republican primary over Liberal Republican Frederick G. Bromberg.  Soon after the primary Bromberg accused Haralson of voter fraud and sought to deny him his seat.  The Democrats who controlled the U.S. House of Representatives supported Haralson and on March 4, 1875 he took his seat in Congress.   
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress
http://bioguide.congress.gov/ ; Biographical Directory of Jeremiah Haralson
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

Brown, James Nathaniel ["Jim"] (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Nathaniel Brown was born February 17, 1936, in St. Simon Island, Georgia. A talented athlete from an early age, Brown earned 13 letters playing a variety of sports at Manhasset High School in New York.

Brown attended Syracuse University in New York where he played football, basketball, ran track, and played lacrosse. As a senior in 1956-7, Brown was a unanimous All-American in football and a second-team All-American in lacrosse, and remains the only athlete to be inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame for both sports, as well as the NFL Hall of Fame.

The Cleveland Browns selected Jim Brown as their number one pick in the 1957 NFL draft, and the rookie would capture the league rushing title, Rookie of the Year honors, as well as earn the league Most Valuable Player award. Over the next eight years, Brown would lead the league in rushing seven more times, be elected to every Pro Bowl, and win another Most Valuable Player award in 1965.  Some of his most notable records include career rushing yards (12,312) and average gain per attempt (5.2 yards). In nine seasons as a premier fullback, he never missed a game.

Sources: 
Pro Football Hall of Fame, http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.jsp?player_id=33; Schwartz, Larry. Jim Brown Was Hard to Bring Down. ESPN.com Special, http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Brown_Jim.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Allen, William G. (1820- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Law, Oliver (1900-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
William Loren Katz and Marc Crawford, The Lincoln Brigade: A Picture History (New York: Apex Press, 2001); William Loren Katz, “Fighting Another Civil War,” American Legacy (Winter 2002); http://www.alba-valb.org/curriculum/index.php?module=2
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Boston King (c. 1760-1802)

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

Menard, John Willis (1838-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Willis Menard, abolitionist, author, journalist and politician, was born in 1838 in Kaskaskia, Illinois, to French Creole parents. He was the first African American elected to Congress, but was not seated after a dispute over the election results. Menard attended Iberia College, an abolitionist school in Iberia, Ohio.  

Twenty-two year old Menard expressed his abolitionist views in his widely read 1860 publication, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois. During the Civil War, he became the first African American to serve as a clerk in the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.  While there, President Abraham Lincoln dispatched him to research British Honduras (now Belize) as a possible colony for the African American population. 

Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008); "John Willis Menard," Notable Black American Men Book II (Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2006); John Willis Menard, Lays in Summer Lands, edited by Larry Eugene Rivers, Richard Matthews, & Canter Brown, Jr. (Tampa, FL: University of Tampa Press, 2002); John Willis Menard, Black and White. No Party—No Creed: A Lecture. (Philadelphia, no date); John Willis Menard, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois (no city, ca. 1860).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Abele, Julian F. (1881-1950)

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

The legacy of architect Julian Francis Abele was brought into focus in the mid-1980s when in the midst of a student protest at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, his great grandniece reminded the campus community that her long unsung ancestor was responsible for the eleven original architectural drawings for the campus.  Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 21, 1881, Abele was the youngest of eight children born to Charles and Mary Adelaide Jones Abele. Throgh his mother he was a descendant of Rov. Absalom Jones, the founder of the Free African Society and St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. 

Sources: 

Dreck Spurlock Wilson, ed., African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004);
http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/21458
http://www.lib.duke.edu/archives/history/julian_abele.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

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.

Jennifer Carroll emigrated to the United States in 1967 settling in Uniondale, New York.  She began working at the age of 15, in a nursing home as a hospital volunteer in Uniondale and worked as a cashier in a local grocery store and also as an ordering clerk at AFM Bowling corporate headquarters in Long Island, New York. After attending modelling school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Carroll was contracted for photo shoots, commercials, and movie extra parts. In 1985, Carroll received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of New Mexico.  She moved to Florida the following year and received a Master of Business Administration online degree from Kensington University in 1995. She graduated from St. Leo University with an online MBA degree in 2008 which she put to use when she and her husband, Nolan, began a public relations consulting and franchising business.

In 1979, Carroll enlisted in the United States Navy, starting as a jet mechanic and retired in 1999 as a Lieutenant Commander Aviation Maintenance Officer after 20 years in the service.
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>;“Meet Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll”. Florida Government. Internet. 12 Dec 2011. <http://www.flgov.com/meet-the-lt-governor; 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

McCoy, Elijah (1843-1929)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Elijah McCoy was born on May 2, 1843 in Colchester, Ontario to runaway slave parents who used the Underground Railroad to escape.  Once the McCoy family settled in Canada, they were extremely poor.  Nonetheless they saved money for their son to get an education.  When Elijah was 15 years old, he was sent to a boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland to study mechanical engineering.

Once he returned to the United States, McCoy had a difficult time in finding a job because of his race despite his numerous credentials.  He eventually settled for a menial job as a fireman for the Michigan Central Railroad oiling the various working parts of the trains.  These tasks were slow and boring for the certified mechanical engineer who began to wonder why the moving parts of the train couldn’t oil themselves.  From this, he became interested in the challenges of self-lubrication for machines and began to test various ideas for automatic lubrication.
Sources: 
Gossie Harold Hudson, W. Sherman Jackson, Edward S. Jenkins and Exyie C. Ryder, American Black Scientists and Inventors (Washington D.C.: National Science Teachers Association, 1975); http://www.blackhistorysociety.ca/EMcCoy.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Peace, Hazel Harvey (1903-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership:Public Domain
Fort Worth educator Hazel Bernice Harvey Peace was born on August 4, 1903, in Waco, Texas, to Allen H. and Georgia Mason Harvey.  Peace graduated from the Fort Worth Colored High School (later I. M. Terrell High School) in Fort Worth in 1919.  She obtained her B.A. degree in Education at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1923, and began her teaching career at I. M. Terrell High School in 1924. She also received an M.A. from Columbia University and did postgraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Vassar College, Hampton University, and Atlanta University. Hazel Harvey married Joe Peace of Fort Worth in September 1938.  They were married 21 years and were childless.

During Peace's early tenure as an educator, the Fort Worth public libraries often excluded African American patrons.  When she started a debate team at I.M. Terrell High, Peace checked out books from local universities to encourage her students to read and help the debate team members prepare for debate competitions.
Sources: 
CBS11TV.com, "Texas Educator Hazel Harvey Peace Dead at 100," available at: http://cbs11tv.com/local/Hazel.Harvey.Peace.2.744015.html; Dallas Morning News, June 10, 2008; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 11, 12, 2008; Katie Sherrod, "Honoring Hazel Harvey Peace," Desert's Child: A Blog, available at: http://wildernessgarden.blogspot.com/2007/08/honoring-hazel-harvey-peace.html; "Peace, Hazel Bernice Harvey,” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Commission, available at: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpeac; Bob Ray Sanders, “Our Mother of Mercy Playground a Fitting Tribute to Hazel Harvey Peace," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 31, 2012; http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/01/31/3702034/our-mother-of-mercy-playground.html#storylink=cpy; http://schools.fwisd.org/peace/Pages/Default.aspx
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mays, Willie (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Willie Howard Mays Jr. was born May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama to Ann and William Howard Mays.  Both of his parents had been athletes.  Ann Mays was a high school track star while William Howard Mays had played semi-professional baseball in Birmingham’s Industrial League before becoming a steel mill worker and Pullman Porter.  Willie Mays Jr., loved baseball and by the time he was 14 he was playing on his father’s semi-pro club, the Fairfield Gray Sox.  At 16 Mays began his professional career with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Southern League.  Although he had become a professional, his father insisted he only play on weekends while school was in session.

The New York Giants noted Mays’s athletic ability and offered him a contract while he was still in high school.  He began playing with the Giants in 1951 at the age of 20.  During his first year in Major League Baseball Mays won Rookie of the Year honors. Mays excelled at every aspect of baseball; he hit for both power and accuracy, had great speed, a strong throwing arm, and perfect defense in the outfield. He is the only outfielder ever with more than 7,000 putouts. When asked if he ever misjudged a fly ball, Mays replied that he “missed two fly balls. Ten years apart.”
Sources: 

Willie Mays with Lou Sahadi, Say Hey: The Autobiography of Willie Mays (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988); Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/mays_willie.htm; Academy of Achievement, http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/may0bio-1; Larry Schwartz, “Mays brought joy to baseball” http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016223.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Baker, Josephine (1906-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

In 1925 Josephine Baker took Paris, France by storm, appearing on stage in “La Revue Negre” wearing nothing but a skirt of artificial bananas in Danse Sauvage.  Born Josephine Freda MacDonald in St. Louis, Missouri on June 3, 1906, she was nicknamed “Tumpy” because she was a chubby baby.  Her mother, Carrie MacDonald was part black and part Apalachee Indian, while her father Eddie Carson was part black and part Spanish. Both were popular dance hall entertainers in the St. Louis area in the early 1900s. After her brother, Richard, was born, Baker’s father abandoned the family and left them nearly destitute. Carrie MacDonald soon married Arthur Martin with whom she had two daughters, Margaret and Willie May.

Sources: 
Josephine Baker & Jo Bouillon, Josephine (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1976); David Levering Lewis, ed., The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader (New York: Viking, 1994); http://womenshistory.about.com/ .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barnett, Claude Albert (1889-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Photography by Vincent Saunders, Jr.,
courtesy of the Chicago History Museum,
ICHi-16314.

Claude Albert Barnett, entrepreneur and founder of the Associated Negro Press (1919-1967), was born in Sanford, Florida to William Barnett and Celena Anderson. At nine months he was brought to Mattoon, Illinois to live with his maternal grandmother.  Barnett grew up in Illinois, attending schools in Oak Park and Chicago.  In 1904 he entered Tuskegee Institute.  Two years later in 1906 he received a diploma and was granted the Institute’s highest award. 

Following graduation Barnett returned to Chicago and became a postal worker.    Through his new employment he read numerous magazines and newspapers.  Fascinated by the advertisements, in 1913 Barnett began reproducing photographs of notable black luminaries, which he sold through advertising in African American newspapers.  By 1917 Barnett had transformed this endeavor into a thriving mail-order enterprise. 

Sources: 
Lawrence D. Hogan, A Black National News Service, The Associated Negro Press and Claude Barnett, 1919-1945 (Cranbury: Associated University Presses, 1984); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); The Chicago Defender (August 3, 1967, p. 2), obituary.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Foster, Andrew "Rube" (1879-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Andrew Rube Foster was born in Calvert, Texas, on September 17, 1879.  The son of Andrew and Sarah Foster, Rube started a baseball tradition that would be followed by his brother Willie Bill Foster.  Rube quit school after the eighth grade, barnstorming with the Waco Yellow Jackets, an independent black team in 1897.  By 1902, Rube’s baseball abilities gave him an opportunity to play with the Chicago (Illinois) Union Giants.  After a short stint with Union Giants, Rube played for the Cuban X-Giants.  In 1903, Rube Foster was the top pitcher in black baseball, and was the pitcher of record as the Cuban X-Giants won the Black World Series.  Rube sometimes played with white semi-pro teams and exhibition games against white players. Rube established himself as the premier pitcher challenging major league pitchers such as Rube Waddell, Chief Bender, Mordecai Brown, and Cy Young.  Honus Wagner stated that Rube Foster was one of the greatest pitchers of all times and one of the smartest pitchers he had ever seen.

Sources: 
Robert Charles Cottrell, The Best Pitcher in Baseball: The Life of Rube Foster, Negro League Giant (New York: New York University Press, 1970).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Perry, Christopher J. (1854-1920)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Philadelphia Tribune Historic Marker, Philadelphia
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Christopher J. Perry, a pioneering black businessman who championed racial equality, established the Philadelphia Tribune in 1884.  The Tribune is the oldest continuously published African American newspaper in the nation.

Perry was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 11, 1854 to parents who were free. He attended school there despite sub-standard conditions in the local segregated schools. Eventually, when he was still very young, he moved to Philadelphia. With a desire to continue his education Perry took night classes in the city, and perhaps motivated by memories of the deplorable conditions his early education, he studied diligently.

In 1867 when he was fourteen, Perry began writing irregularly for local newspapers. His articles were praised highly by educated men of the city and he met with success even at this early stage of his journalism. In 1881 he began writing for the Northern Daily, a Philadelphia newspaper.  Eventually he became editor of the Colored Department in another Philadelphia newspaper called The Sunday Mercury.

Sources: 

Irvine Garland Penn, The Afro-American Press and Its Editors, (New York: Wiley & Co. 1891); Charles Pete Banner-Haley, "The Philadelphia Tribune and the Persistence of Black Republicanism During the Great Depression," Pennsylvania History 65:2 (Spring 1998): pp 190-202.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jeffrey, George S. (1830-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Although he never held public office, George S. Jeffrey barber, orator, and post-reconstruction civil rights leader, emerged as one of the most important African American political figures in late 19th Century Connecticut.  Jeffrey was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1830, to free parents George W. and Mary Ann (Campbell) Jeffrey. By 1851, Jeffrey settled in Meriden, Connecticut and became a successful barber. Nine years later he married Martha Agnes Williams who by the late 1870s established a successful hairdressing emporium.

Sources: 
Colleen Cyr, George Jeffrey and the Insurance Bill of 1887 (October 2003); Meriden Public Library, vertical file collection; Eric A. Smith, Blacks in Early Connecticut, Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society Inc., National Conference, Washington, D.C. (October 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, Inc.

Gordon, Dexter (1923-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dexter Gordon was a pioneering jazz saxophonist who made a career of expertly blending rhythm and romance on the bandstand and the silver screen. Nicknamed "Long Tall Dex" for his 6-foot 5-inch frame, the Los Angeles native was born on Feb. 27, 1923. Gordon's father, Dr. Frank Gordon, M.D., was one of the first prominent African American physicians in Los Angeles and counted Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton among his patients.

Young Gordon took up the clarinet at the age of 13 before switching to saxophone (initially alto, then tenor) at 15. His big break came in 1940 at the age of 17 when he joined Lionel Hampton’s band. From 1943 to 1944 he was featured in the bands of Louis Armstrong, Billie Eckstine and Fletcher Henderson. Gordon made his first recordings under his own name in 1945 when he signed with the Savoy label.  
By 1945, Gordon had moved to New York City where he began performing and recording with Charlie Parker. Gordon also was famous for his saxophone duels with fellow tenor sax player Wardell Gray. They recorded several albums between 1947 and 1952. In 1955 Gordon wrote the musical score for the Broadway play The Connection.

Sources: 
Stan Britt, Long Tall Dexter: A Critical Musical Biography of Dexter Gordon (London: Quartet Books, 1989); Roland Baggenaes, Jazz Greats Speak: Interviews with Master Musicians (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Kirk, Ronald (1954-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ronald "Ron" Kirk is the U.S. Trade Representative for U.S. President Barack Obama.  Kirk was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 18, 2009, and officially sworn in two days later.  Kirk is the 16th trade representative and the first African American to hold the Cabinet-level post.  As trade representative, he serves as the president's principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson.  He is also responsible for the development of U.S. trade policy and the oversight of existing trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Kirk was born in 1954 in Austin, Texas.  He received a BA degree in political science and sociology from Austin College in 1976 and then went on to the University of Texas Law School where he received a J.D. three years later. While attending law school, he accepted an internship with the Texas Legislature.  After graduating, Kirk worked for Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas as an aide and later was appointed Texas Secretary of State by Texas Governor Ann Richards, also a Democrat.

In 1995, Kirk, in his first bid for public office and with major support from the local business community, ran for mayor of Dallas, Texas.  He won a landslide victory, securing 62% of the vote to become mayor.  During his mayoral campaign, Kirk promoted racial harmony in a city that had experienced considerable racial tension.
Sources: 
“United States Representative Ron Kirk,” Office of the United States Trade Representative, http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/biographies-key-officials/united-states-trade-representative-ron-kirk; Alston Hornsby Jr., and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots (Montgomery, AL: E-Book Time LLC, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bragg, Robert H. (1919- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The career of Robert Henry Bragg was highlighted by his success in employing x-ray techniques to reveal the structural makeup and electrical properties of carbon and composite materials.  The son of a union organizer and a seamstress, he was born in Jacksonville, Florida on August 11, 1919.  With the separation of his parents Bragg went to Chicago to live with his uncle who encouraged him to become an engineer.  Following military service in World War II he earned a bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. in physics at the Illinois Institute of Technology, upon completion of which he began work at Lockheed Missiles & Space Company analyzing carbon based materials with potential for use in space flight.  
Sources: 
T. A. Heppenheimer, “Robert Henry Bragg.” In Notable Black American Scientists (Detroit: Gale, 1999); Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003).
http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/physics/bragg_roberth.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Adams, John H. (1927-- )

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

 

Sources: 
Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870 to the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994);  http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/adams.htm;
http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=1236
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Grimké, Francis (1850–1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Francis Grimké was a Presbyterian minister and a leading advocate of civil rights. He was born to a wealthy landowner, Henry Grimké and his slave mistress Nancy Weston. After his father’s death in 1852, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he lived as a free person until 1860 when his white half-brother, Montague, brought him into his household as a servant. After a severe beating he ran away, and for two years became a valet in the Confederate Army. He was discovered and returned to Montague who, after sending him to the workhouse as punishment, sold him to a Confederate officer.

After the fall of Charleston Grimke attended Morris Street School, a school for free blacks in the city. At age sixteen he moved north to attend Lincoln College, in Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1870 as class valedictorian whereupon he taught mathematics, served as the school's financial agent and studied law. Francis entered Howard Law School in 1874, but the following year enrolled in the Princeton Theological Seminary. Upon graduation in 1878 he became a Presbyterian minister at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and remained at that church as pastor for the next half century.  
Sources: 
Dickson D. Bruce, Jr., Archibald Grimké, Portrait of a Black Independent (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); “Francis Grimke,” American National Biography, Volume 9 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 627;
http://www.westminster-stl.org/Sermons/050220.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rhimes, Shonda (1970- )

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

Shonda Rhimes is the first African American woman to write and produce a top-10-rated show on network television. She is most known for her work writing and producing the shows Grey’s Anatomy (2005-    ), Private Practice (2007-    ), and Scandal (2012-    ).

Rhimes was born January 13, 1970 in Chicago, Illinois as the youngest of six children. Her mother was a college professor and her father a university public information officer. She has two adopted daughters, Harper Rhimes, born in 2002, and Emerson Rhimes, born in 2012.

Rhimes graduated from Dartmouth College in 1991, earning a B.A. degree in English literature. She then attended the University of Southern California, where she earned an MFA in filmmaking in 1994. She acquired an agent based on the strength of her final film school project and was asked to write a spec script, which promptly got sold, although the movie was never filmed. One of her first jobs in film making came when she was hired to write the script for the 1998 movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

Sources: 
http://www.shemadeit.org/meet/summary.aspx?m=165; Christopher Lisotta, “Special Report: Hot List 2005,” Television Week 24:29 (7/18/2005); http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0722274/bio.
Contributor: 

Nash, Diane Judith (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Diane Nash
Diane Judith Nash was born on May 15, 1938 in Chicago, Illinois to Leon Nash and Dorothy Bolton Nash.  Nash grew up a Roman Catholic and attended parochial and public schools in Chicago.  In 1956, she graduated from Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois and began her college career at Howard University in Washington, D.C. before transferring to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sources: 
Rosetta E. Ross, Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003); http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=N003.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cole, Rebecca J. (1846-1922)

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

Dr. Rebecca J. Cole was the first black woman doctor in the United States.  Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 16, 1846, Cole was one of five children.

Cole began her schooling at the Institute for Colored Youth and graduated in 1863.  She then attended the New England Female Medical College and graduated in 1864 after completing her thesis titled “The Eye and Its Appendages.”  With her graduation she became the first formally trained black woman doctor in the United States.  She received a second medical degree in 1867 when she graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.   

After graduation, Cole went to work at Elizabeth Blackwell’s Infirmary for Women and Children in New York.  After gaining experience there, she moved to Columbia, South Carolina to practice but then later returned to Philadelphia.  Cole also set up practices in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. during her medical career.

Sources: 
Darlene Hine, Black Women in America:an Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Pub., 1993);  Harry A. Ploski and James Williams, The Negro Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Incorporated, 1989); http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_66.html (Accessed November 20, 2009); Sandra Harding, The "Racial" Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future (Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1993); Dorthy Sterling, “We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century” (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Moranda (1915–1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Moranda Smith was a union organizer and rank-and-file leader of tobacco workers in North Carolina, who throughout the 1940s initiated a challenge to the racial discrimination, disfranchisement, and economic exploitation of workers in the South. The first African-American woman to sit on an international union’s executive board, Smith’s life marks the development of an integrated, civil rights–focused tradition of unionism in America.

Born in Dunbar, South Carolina to a sharecropping family, Smith moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, when she was five years old.  After graduating from high school in 1933, Smith began working at R.J. Reynolds, the manufacturer of Camel cigarettes and one of the largest tobacco corporations in the world. The Winston-Salem factory, with a workforce that was 40% black and majority female, represented the largest concentration of industrial workers in the region.  Paid little more than minimum wage, subject to arbitrary discipline, and, like every factory in the South, segregation with the plant, workers formed the Tobacco Workers Organizing Committee (TWOC) in 1942 to challenge these conditions.  They were assisted by Communist Party (CP) which had long sought to build multiracial unions in the South.
Sources: 
Robert Rodgers Korstad, Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Canty, Hattie (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
In 1990, more than thirty years after moving west with her family from rural Alabama, Hattie Canty was elected president of the Las Vegas Hotel and Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a position that enabled her to significantly improve the standard of living for tens of thousands of workers in Las Vegas’s booming hotel and casino industry.
Sources: 
Sara Mosle, “Letter from Las Vegas: How the Maids Fought Back,” The New Yorker (February 26/March 4, 1996); Courtney Alexander, “Rise to Power: The Recent History of the Culinary Union,” in The Grit Beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas edited by Hal Rothman and Mike Davis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Claytee D. White, An Interview with Hattie Canty (Las Vegas: Las Vegas Women Oral History Project, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Colonel Tye (1753-1780)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Tye Leading Troops, PBS Dramatization
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Colonel Tye was an escaped slave who fought with the British in the American Revolution.  Challenging Patriot forces primarily in New York and New Jersey, Tye became one of the most respected leaders of the Loyalist troops during the Revolution, a respected and feared guerrilla commander.

Born in 1753 as Titus, ‘Tye’ was one of four slaves owned by Quaker John Corlies from Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey. In November 1775, when Titus was 22 years old, Lord John Murray Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation that not only declared martial law, but also offered freedom to those slaves who would join the royal forces. Titus along with 300 other escaped slaves fled to join the British, assuming the adopted name of Tye and joining the Royal Ethiopian Regiment. Here he quickly found respect and saw his first action at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, during which he captured a rebel militia captain.

Sources: 

Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: an Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2004); History 571: Colonial and Revolutionary America, Lord Dunmore and the Ethiopian Regiment, http://www.studythepast.com/history571/pam/ColonelTye.html; PBS.org Africans in America, Part 2: Revolutions, Colonel Tye http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p52.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex, England

Brown, Claude (1937- 2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Claude Brown and Anthony Machi, Manchild Revisited A Commentary by Claude Brown (Alexandria, Va., PBS Video, 1987); Rebecca Carroll, Swing Low: Black Men Writing (New York: Carol Southern Books, 1995); Renford Reese, American Paradox: Young Black Men (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2004).
Contributor: 

Perkins, John [aka "Jack Punch"] ( -1812)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
HMS Tartar, ca. 1804
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Captain John Perkins, nicknamed Jack Punch, was the first black commissioned officer in the Royal Navy.  His date of birth and origins are unknown but Perkins first appeared in Navy records in 1775 when he joined as a ship’s pilot aboard HMS Antelope, the flagship of the Jamaica station. In 1778 he was put in command of the Punch schooner and in 1778 and 1779 it captured 315 enemy vessels under his leadership. He then commanded the schooner Endeavour and was promoted to commander by Admiral Sir George Rodney, the commander in chief at Jamaica. The promotion was disallowed and in 1783 at the end of the American War of Independence Perkins left the Navy and remained in reserve as a half-pay lieutenant, a practice that was common at the time. What he did between 1783 and 1790 is unknown.
Sources: 
William James, The naval history of Great Britain: from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV, volume 2 & 3 (London: R. Bentley 1837); J.S. Clarke, Naval Chronicle, Volumes 17 & 27 (London: Bunney & Gold 1807 & 1812); Basil Mundy, The Life and Correspondence of the Late Admiral Lord Rodney, volume 2 (London: Kessinger Publishing Co. 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bonga, George (1802–1880)

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

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

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

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

Till, Emmett (1941-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Fourteen year old Emmett Till was born in Chicago, Illinois, and lived there with his mother until his atrocious murder in Money, Mississippi, during the summer of 1955, just one year after the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education.  Emmett was a fun-loving and free-spirited teenager who left his home in the north to visit his great-uncle’s family in Mississippi. Although his mother warned him to be careful, Emmett was clearly unaware of the etiquette of race relations in the south and the legacy of lynching, for after buying goodies at a local grocery store with his cousins, Emmett left the store flippantly saying, “Bye baby,” to the white female clerk.

Soon after the incident, Roy Bryant, the clerk’s husband and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, appeared at Mose Wright’s home. Wright, Emmett’s 64-year-old great-uncle, and his wife pleaded with the armed men.  Still, they kidnapped Emmett and later lynched him. They slashed out one of Emmett’s eyes and tied a 75-pound cotton gin fan around his neck. Emmett was beaten, shot in the head, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. The men were acquitted. Emmett’s remains were returned to Chicago and displayed in an open casket funeral. The lynching became international news with approximately 50,000 people attending the funeral services. Three months later, the Montgomery Bus Boycotts began.  Four months later, the culprits admitted to the lynching in a Look magazine article and received $4,000 for their story.
Sources: 

Christopher Metress, The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative
(Virginia: The University of Virginia Press, 2002); www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/earlycivilrights/emmett.html

Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Bonds, Barry (1964- )

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

Barry Bonds is one of the most controversial figures in modern sports.  The former major league star holds the record for career home runs (762) but that record and his other accomplishments on the field have been marred by accusations that he took performance enhancing drugs.

Barry Lamar Bonds was born in Riverside, California on July 24, 1964 but grew up in San Mateo, California where he attended Junipero Serra High school. He was honored as a prep All-American there for baseball. His father, Bobby Bonds, also a major league All-Star, inspired Barry to become a professional baseball player.

In 1982 Barry Bonds was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the major league baseball (MLB) draft while he was still in high school.  When contract negotiations failed Bonds attended Arizona State University on a baseball scholarship. He was quickly named a College All-American and set a NCAA record of seven consecutive hits in the College World Series as a sophomore. Bonds graduated in 1986 with a degree in criminology.

Sources: 
Official website: http://www.barrybonds.com/; Joey Johnston, Baseball Digest (September 2004), http://www.mercurynews.com/barrybonds/ci_17667705?nclick_check=1; http://mlb.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=111188#sectionType=career&statType=1&season=&gameType='R'; http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0907112.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Stokes, Carl B. (1927-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Carl B. Stokes, lawyer, anchorman, U.S. diplomat and the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city, was born on June 21, 1927 to Charles and Louise Stokes in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1944, Stokes dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and worked briefly for Cleveland-based aerospace and automotive company Thompson Products/TRW before enlisting in the US Army in 1945. Returning to Cleveland in 1946 after his discharge, he reentered high school and earned his diploma in 1947 before enrolling in West Virginia College. Stokes transferred to Western Reserve University and then the University of Minnesota, from which he received his BA in 1955. Stokes returned to Cleveland where he completed law school at Cleveland-Marshall Law School in 1958. He was hired as an assistant prosecutor for Cuyahoga County for four years before establishing his own firm, Stokes, Stokes, Character, and Terry in 1962 with his brother, Louis Stokes.

Sources: 
Susan Schmidt Horning, “Stokes, Carl B. (21 June 1927 – 3 April 1996).” http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=SCB2; Leonard Moore, Carl B. Stokes and the Rise of Black Political Power (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Price, Florence Beatrice Smith (1887-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of AfriClassical.com

Florence Beatrice Smith, the first black woman composer to garner an international reputation, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1887, to James H. Smith, a dentist, and Florence Gulliver Smith, a former school teacher and private lesson piano teacher who also managed several local businesses. Under her mother’s musical tutelage, Smith was quickly recognized as a prodigy. While attending Capitol Hill School in Little Rock, she published her first composition when she was eleven.  At fourteen, she studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, graduating in 1907 with a Bachelor of Music degree. Smith taught at the Cotton Plant-Arkadelphia Academy and at Shorter College until 1910 when she accepted a position as Chair of the Music Department at Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time she was 23.

In 1912 Smith returned to Arkansas where she wed Thomas Jewell Price, a well-known Little Rock, Arkansas attorney. The couple had three children, a son, who died in infancy, and two daughters.  Price started a music school and continued to compose piano pieces, but she was denied membership in the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association because of her race.  When serious racial unrest erupted in Little Rock, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1927. It was here that Price was able to reach her full musical potential, but unfortunately, it came with the end of her marriage in 1935.

Sources: 
Florence Beatrice Smith Price Papers, Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas;  http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1742;  http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/price.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Sampson, Edith Spurlock (1901-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Edith Anne Lewis and Lorraine M. Gutierrez, Empowering Women of Color (New York, Columbia University Press, 1999); Jessie Carney Smith, Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events (Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003); http://www.stanford.edu/group/WLHP/papers/edith.html; http://www.nathanielturner.com/edithsampson.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wheeler, Emma Rochelle (1882-1957)

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

Born in Gainesville, Florida on February 7, 1882, Emma Rochelle Wheeler had gained an interest in medicine at the young age of six after her father had taken her to a white female doctor for an eye problem. Seeing the rare female doctor persuaded young Emma that she could pursue that profession as well. Emma remained friends with the physician who followed her progress through high school and later Cookman Institute in Jacksonville.

Rochelle graduated from Cookman in 1899 at the age of 17 and married Joseph R. Howard, a teacher, in 1900. Within a year of their marriage Howard fell ill with typhoid fever and died before seeing his son, Joseph Jr.  Soon after her husband’s death, Wheeler moved with her son to Nashville, Tennessee where she would continue to pursue her goal of becoming a physician.

Emma Howard attended Walden University in Nashville, graduating from Meharry Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical College in 1905. The week of her commencement she married John N. Wheeler, who was also a physician. Together they would have two daughters, Thelma and Bette, and an adopted son George, who was Emma’s nephew.

Sources: 
Rita Lorraine, "Dr. Wheeler’s Pre-Paid Health Plan," African Americans of Chattanooga;  Jessie Carney Smith, "Emma Rochelle Wheeler," in Notable Black American Women: Book II (Detroit: Gale Research, 1996); "Walden Hospital Marker," http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=13932.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Looby, Z. Alexander (1899-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Z. Alexander Looby was among the small cadre of African American lawyers who began practicing in the southern United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Often considered the “second generation of black attorneys,” these lawyers followed the first cadre of African Americans who began practicing in the 1880s.  They also provided much of the legal work that led to the dismantling of segregation in the late 20th Century.

Zephaniah Alexander Looby was born in Antigua, British West Indies in 1899 and immigrated to the United States in 1914 after the death of his father.  He earned a B.A. degree from Howard University and a law degree from Columbia University.  Looby came to Nashville, Tennessee in 1926 to work as an assistant professor of economics at Fisk University. Three years later he was admitted to the Tennessee bar and practiced in Memphis for three years.  In 1934 he married Grafta Mosby, a Memphis schoolteacher.  Around 1935 Looby returned to Nashville and helped found the Kent College for Law for African Americans.  

Looby entered politics in 1940 when he was narrowly defeated for a position on the Nashville City Council.  Eleven years later in 1951, Looby was elected to the council along with fellow lawyer, Robert E. Lillard.  They were the first African Americans to serve on the council since 1911.
Sources: 
Linda T. Wynn, “Zephaniah Alexander Looby” in The Encyclopedia of Tennessee History and Culture edited by Carroll Van West (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998); John Egerton, Oral history interview with Adolpho A. Birch, June 22, 2005, housed at the Nashville Public Library, Nashville, Tennessee.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Morrison, Chloe Anthony Wofford "Toni" (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Timothy
Greenfield-Sanders
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio to parents George and Ella Ramah Wofford, novelist Toni Morrison grew up in a working class family.  She received a B.A. degree from Howard University after majoring in English and minoring in the classics.  Wofford earned an M.A. degree in English from Cornell University and then taught at Howard University and Texas Southern University, before entering the publishing world as an editor at Random House. She married (and later divorced) Harold Morrison and gave birth to sons Ford and Slade Kevin. Morrison taught at Yale, Bard College, Rutgers University and the State University of New York at Albany.  She later held the Robert F. Goheen Professorship in the Humanities at Princeton University.
Sources: 

Nellie Y. McKay, ed. Critical Essays on Toni Morrison (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1988); Philip Page, Dangerous Freedom: Fusion and Fragmentation in Toni Morrison’s Novels (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995); Wilfred D. Samuels and Clenora Hudson Weems, Toni Morrison (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Towns, Edolphus (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Office of
Representative Edolphus Towns
Currently in his 13th term in Congress, Edolphus Towns is a Democratic Representative from the State of New York.  Towns was born in Chadbourn, North Carolina on July 21, 1934, and attended the public schools of Chadbourn before graduating with a B.S. degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in 1956. After graduating he served for two years in the U.S. Army and then taught in several New York City public schools, Fordham University, and Medgar Evars College. He received his master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University in 1973.

Between 1965 and 1975 Towns worked as program director of the Metropolitan Hospital and as assistant administrator at Beth Israel Hospital. He was also employed by several Brooklyn area healthcare and youth and senior citizen organizations.

In 1972 Towns was elected Democratic state committeeman in Brooklyn.  Four year later, in 1976, he became the first African American Deputy Borough president of Brooklyn, a position he held until 1982. That same year Representative Frederick W. Richmond resigned from the House.  Towns won the vacated seat in the November election.   
Sources: 
http://www.house.gov/towns/bio.shtml; Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Meeks, Gregory W. (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

U.S. Congressman Gregory W. Meeks was born on September 25, 1953 in East Harlem, New York City. He was raised in a public housing project in East Harlem and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a minor in Political Science from New York’s Adelphi University. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 1978 from Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C.

After graduating, Meeks joined the Queens County District office, worked for the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, then for the State Investigation Commission, and eventually was appointed Supervising Judge of the New York State Worker’s Compensation System. He won his first public office when he was elected to the New York State Assembly where he served from 1992 to 1997.

Sources: 
Gregory Meeks on the Issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/NY/Gregory_Meeks.htm ; Gregory Meeks Official Webpage: http://www.house.gov/meeks/en.us.about.shtml ; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m001137.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wiggins, Charlie (1897-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Charlie Wiggins, Indianapolis, Aug. 7, 1926
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Charlie Wiggins, known as “the Negro Speed King,” was an African American motor racing pioneer who competed in the segregated Midwest in the early decades of the 20th Century.  In addition, he was a highly skilled mechanic, often sought after by white racing drivers competing in the annual Indianapolis 500 Motor Race. Throughout his career Wiggins fought for the rights of black mechanics and drivers.

Born in 1897 in Evansville, Indiana, Charlie Wiggins grew up in a poor home; his father was a coalminer. After the death of his mother, Wiggins worked at a shoe shine stand outside a car repair shop where he was eventually hired as an apprentice in 1917.  His opportunity came when many of the white garage mechanics left to join the Army.  Wiggins was the first black mechanic in Evansville and quickly rose to become chief mechanic.

Wiggins and his wife, Roberta Sullenger, whom he married in 1917, left the area in 1922 for Indianapolis.  Two years later the couple opened their own garage and Wiggins quickly became that city's top mechanic.  In his spare time Wiggins assembled parts from auto junkyards to develop his own car, known as “the Wiggins Special.”

Sources: 

La Risa Lynch, "First Blacks in Sports; Charlie Wiggins: The Negro Speed King," Chicago Weekend, 34: 4 (Feb. 9, 2005); John Baburnich, "Charlie Wiggins-The 'Negro Speed King,' The American Boneyard, May 2004; http://www.evansville.net/user/boneyard/babs07.htm. 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Durem, Ramón (1915-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Spanish Civil War veteran and militant poet Ramón Durem was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1915 of mixed heritage.  Leaving home at fourteen, he briefly served in the U.S. Navy before suffering a leg injury that forced his discharge.  He then worked as a laborer until enrolling at the University of California in Berkeley where he joined the Communist Party in 1931.  A radical from an early age, it is hardly surprising that Durem volunteered to join the Loyalist cause in Spain.

Durem departed the United States in March 1937 and was wounded in the Brunete Offensive of that year.  During his long recuperation at the American hospital in Villa Paz, Durem met and married a Brooklyn nurse named Rebecca Schulman.  Durem returned to the front in 1938 and participated in the Ebro Offensive.  In October, around the same time Rebecca was having his first child (named Dolores for La Pasionaria) in New York, Ramón marched in Barcelona’s farewell parade.  He was expatriated in December.

Sources: 
Danny Duncan Collum and Victor A. Berch, African Americans in the Spanish Civil War: “This Ain’t Ethiopia, But It’ll Do” (New York, New York: G.K. Hall & Co, 1992); Ray Durem, Take No Prisoners (London, UK: Paul Breman, 1971); Peter Wyden, The Passionate War (New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Current, Gloster B. (1913-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

Santamaria, Mongo (1917–2003)

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

Born in Cuba on April 7, 1917, Mongo Santamaria is an Afro-Cuban percussionist who became an influential musician in the United States in the 1950s.  His given name is Ramón Santamaría Rodríguez.  Nicknamed Mongo by his father, Santamaria believes his nickname comes from the Mali people in West Africa.  Mongo means the chief of the tribe.  

Santamaria grew up in Havana, Cuba. His father, a construction worker, died when he was a child.  His mother raised him while she sold coffee and cigarettes in public markets. Growing up black and impoverished in Cuba, Santamaria often turned to playing music and dancing on the streets like other poor Afro-Cubans in Havana.  

In 1937 Santamaria got his first big job as a musician when he joined the group Septeto Boloña. By the early 1940s Mongo Santamaria played congas with Orquesta Cubaney on regular radio broadcasts in Havana.  Through its broadcasts, Orquesta Cubaney introduced a number of musicians who would later achieve fame to a national Cuban audience.  

Sources: 
Charley Gerard, Music from Cuba: Mongo Santamaria, Chocolate Armenteros and Cuban Musicians in the United States (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2001); Colin Larkin, ed., “Mongo Santamaria,” Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed., Vol. 7 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
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

Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro (1934-2002)

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

Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, Angolan insurgent fighter and longtime leader of The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), was born in Munhango, Angola on August 3, 1934 to Helena Mbundu Savimbi and Loth Savimbi. Savimbi’s father was a railway stationmaster and part-time Protestant church worker. The local Catholic missions in then-Portuguese-occupied Angola were often in conflict with Loth Savimbi because of the effectiveness of his evangelizing.

Jonas Savimbi attended Protestant missionary schools where he thrived academically. In 1958, he was granted a scholarship from United Church of Christ to attend university in Lisbon, where he began his involvement in anti-colonial politics. The Portuguese secret police detained Savimbi thrice before he decided on finishing his schooling in Switzerland, first at Fribourg University, then Lausanne University, where in 1965 he completed his coursework with honors in political science and juridical sciences. Having begun his studies in medicine, Savimbi would refer to himself as “Doctor” thereafter.

Sources: 
“Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro,” in Norbert C. Brockman, ed., An African Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1994); “Jonas Malheiro Savimbi,” in Harvey Glickman, ed., Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara : a Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992); “Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro,” in W. Martin James, ed., Historical Dictionary of Angola (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Hamer, Fannie Lou (1917-1977)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Fannie Lou Hamer was a grass-roots civil rights activist whose life exemplified resistance in rural Mississippi to oppressive conditions. Born on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi, to a family of sharecroppers, she was the youngest of Lou Ella and Jim Townsend’s twenty children.  Her family moved to Sunflower County, Mississippi in 1919 to work on the E. W. Brandon plantation.

Hamer’s activism began in the 1950s when she attended several annual conferences of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership organized by Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a wealthy businessman and civil rights leader in the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi.  There, Hamer encountered prominent civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Michigan Congressman Charles Diggs.
Sources: 
Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999); Kay Mills, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (New York, New York: Dutton, 1993); http://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/fannie-lou-hamer/.
Affiliation: 
Tuskeegee University

Berry, Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” (1926- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public domain
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry is considered a pioneer of rock and roll and a major influence on 20th century popular music. His songs such as “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven” are rock and roll standards.

Chuck Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on October 18, 1926 to a middle class family which included six siblings.  His father Henry worked in a flour mill and his mother Martha was a college graduate.  Chuck’s mother played piano and both she and his father were church singers instilling in their son an early interest in music.  

Despite his middle class family background, Berry as a teenager joined two high school friends in committing a short string of armed robberies in Kansas City, Missouri.  They were arrested and Berry was convicted and served three years in prison between 1944 and 1947.

Shortly after he was released Berry married Themetta Suggs. The couple had two children and Berry settled into family life while working at an automobile assembly plant in St. Louis and taking jobs as a carpenter with his father. In his free time Berry finally pursued an early fascination with guitar, taking lessons from Ira Harris, a local jazz guitarist.
Sources: 
Chuck Berry, Chuck Berry: The Autobiography (New York: Harmony Books, 1987); Robert Santelli, The Big Book of the Blues (New York: Penguin Group, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Still, William (1821-1902)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Still was born in Burlington County, New Jersey in 1821, as the last of eighteen children of former slaves Levin and Charity Still. By 1844, Still moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he spent the majority of his life and where he was appointed secretary of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Still was the first black man to join the society and the first to hold this position.

Still was also active in the Underground Railroad in the two decades between his arrival in Philadelphia and the end of the Civil War.  Still became well known in various circles as a major “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, helping fugitives make their way to Canada and freedom.  Still also campaigned for an end to racial discrimination in Philadelphia.  In 1859 he organized the effort to end black exclusion from Philadelphia streetcars.  This campaign was described in Still’s first publication, Struggle for the Civil Rights of the Coloured People of Philadelphia in the City Railway Cars in 1867.
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASstill.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brownlee, Lawrence E., Jr. (1972- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Ken Howard
Larry Everston Brownlee, Jr., one of six children, was born on November 24, 1972 in Youngstown, Ohio.  His father, a General Motors plant worker who was also choir director at Phillips Chapel Church of God in Christ, commanded his son to perform so often that he later recalled, “I used to absolutely hate singing.”  Intending to become a lawyer when he enrolled at Youngstown State University, he soon changed his major to music and transferred to Anderson University, a private Christian school near Indianapolis, Indiana, where he developed a passion for opera.  A full scholarship allowed him to graduate with a master’s degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2001, the same year that he won the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and, in the summer, he participated in the Young Artist Program at the Wolf Trap Opera Company in Vienna, Virginia.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Frazier, Joe (1944-2011)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Joe Frazier (Right) and Muhammad Ali Fight
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Joe Frazier was born on January 12, 1944 in Beaufort County, South Carolina. One of eleven children, he moved to New York when he was 15 years old to live with an older brother. Unable to find work, he relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he took up boxing to lose weight in late 1961. Exhibiting a knack for the game, Frazier began boxing as an amateur, and reigned as the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves heavyweight champion for three straight years. Hoping to make the 1964 U.S. Olympic team, he lost to Buster Mathis in the finals of the Olympic Trials, but was subsequently named the heavyweight representative when Mathis injured his hand.  Frazier won a gold medal by defeating the German heavyweight.

Sources: 
Joe Frazier and Phil Berger, Smokin’ Joe: The Autobiography of a Heavyweight Champion of the World, Smokin’ Joe Frazier (New York, N.Y.: MacMillan Publishing Co. 1996); www.boxrec.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lewis, John R. (1940- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
John Lewis, 23, Speaks at the March on Washington (1963)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama on February 21, 1940.  In 1961 he received a B.A. from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1967 he received an additional B.A. from Fisk University located in Nashville, Tennessee.

While attending American Baptist Seminary, Lewis emerged as a civil rights leader after his participation in the Nashville sit-in movement in 1960 and the Freedom Rides the following year.  In 1963 at the age of 23, Lewis helped plan the March on Washington and was one of the keynote speakers.  Lewis also served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966.  By the time he assumed the leadership of SNCC he had been arrested 24 times as a consequence of his protest activities.  Lewis became nationally known after Alabama State Troopers and other police attacked him and 500 other protesters as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March.  To this day some of the wounds from his beating are still visible.

In 1966 Lewis left SNCC as it embraced a “black power” ideology, and started working with community organizations in Atlanta.  Later that year he was named director of community affairs for the National Consumer Co-op Bank in Atlanta.
Sources: 
Lewis, John, with Michael D’Orso, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998); John Lewis' opinions about political issues and his voting record at website On the Issues: http://www.ontheissues.org/GA/John_Lewis.htm
Congressional biography: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=l000287
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Elliott, Robert Brown (1842–1884)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Robert Brown Elliott, Reconstruction-era Congressman, was born in 1842 in Liverpool, England. He attended High Holborn Academy in London, England and then studied law, graduating from Eton College in 1859. From there he joined the British Royal Navy.  Elliott decided to settle in South Carolina in 1867.  He was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1868 and began practicing law in Columbia, the state capital.  Elliott worked under the future Congressman Richard H. Cain as associate editor of the South Carolina Leader and was an elected delegate to the 1868 state constitution convention.  Later that year he won a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives. In 1869, partly because of his military background, Elliott was appointed assistant adjutant-general for South Carolina.  He became the first African American commanding general of the South Carolina National Guard which as the state militia was charged with fighting the Ku Klux Klan.  
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress http://bioguide.congress.gov/ ; Biographical Directory of Robert Elliott Brown.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Owens, Robert Curry (1860--?)

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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

Hendrix, Jimi (1942-1970)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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Legendary self-taught, left-handed guitarist Jimi Hendrix was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, the son of Lucille Jeter Hendrix and Al Hendrix.  Jimi grew up in poverty but he loved science fiction, art, nearby Lake Washington and music, especially the R&B masters, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles. By high school he was an accomplished guitarist.  Hendrix left high school to join the 101st Airborne so he could jump out of airplanes.

After his stint with the U.S. Army Jimi resumed his musical career and eventually played with some of the best rhythm and blues bands in the U.S. at the time.   In early 1964 he moved to New York, was hired by the Isley Brothers, and then he toured with Little Richard and Ike and Tina Turner.  By 1965 he set off on his own as Jimi James and the Blue Flames.  Hendrix applied blues harmony to rock progressions and played psychedelic rock solos in the middle of blues classics. By 1966 he had mastered techniques of sound distortion by using a fuzz box that made a “light string sound heavy and a heavy string sound like a sledgehammer” and by overdriving his amplifier. He played the guitar with his teeth, behind his back and under his legs.

Sources: 
Charles R. Cross, Room Full of Mirrors, A Biography of Jimi Hendrix (New York: Hyperian, 2005); Mary Willix, Jimi Hendrix Voices from Home  (Seattle: Creative Forces Publishing, 1996); Bill Milkowski, “Jimi the Composer,” Guitar World, March 1988; James A. Hendrix, My Son Jimi (Seattle: AIJ Enterprises, 1999); Harry Shapiro & Caesar Glebbeek, Electric Gypsy, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990);  Nelson George, The Death of Rhythm and Blues (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bishop, Maurice (1944-1983)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Maurice Bishop and Fidel Castro
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Maurice Bishop, revolutionary and Grenadian Prime Minister, was born in Dutch Aruba May 29, 1944 to Grenadian parents Rupert and Alimenta Bishop. The family moved to Grenada in 1950 to benefit from the economic prosperity of the time, and there Bishop grew up, excelling in his schooling. He moved to London (UK) in 1963 and attended the University of London for his law degree. He went on to practice law for two years in London, showing much interest in politics. He married Angela Redhead in 1966 and had two children, John and Nadia.

Sources: 

Erick Langer and Jay Kinsbruner, Encyclopedia of Latin American History
and Culture, Vol. 1
(Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008); Colin
Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Vol. 1
(Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006);
http://www.thegrenadarevolutiononline.com.

Egypt, Ophelia Settle (1903-1984)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

In the late 1920s, Ophelia Settle Egypt conducted some of the first and finest interviews with former slaves, setting the stage for the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) massive project ten years later. Born Ophelia Settle in 1903, she was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher for the black sociologist Charles Johnson at Fisk University in Nashville.

Over the course of her career Settle helped expose the infamous Tuskegee study of syphilis among black sharecroppers, and played a leading role in Charles Johnson’s "Shadow of the Plantation" study of the sharecropper system. As the Depression wore on, she left Fisk to assist with relief efforts in St. Louis. She accepted a scholarship from the National Association for the Prevention of Blindness to study medicine and sociology at Washington University, where, as a black woman, she was required to receive all her lessons from a tutor. She also became head of social services at a hospital in New Orleans, and five years later conducted research for James Weldon Johnson, about whom she wrote a children's book. Egypt was a social worker in southeast Washington, D.C., and for eleven years was the director of the community’s first Planned Parenthood clinic, which was named for her in 1981.

Ophelia Settle Egypt died in Washington, D.C. in 1984.She was 81.

 

Sources: 
Ann Allen Shockley Interview with Mrs. Ophelia Settle Egypt conducted December 12, 1972 at Mrs. Egypt’s home in Washington, D.C., Fisk University Oral History Program, 1972; www.naswfoundation.org/pioneers/e/egypt.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wilcox, Preston (1923-2006)

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

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

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

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

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

Walker, Margaret (1915-1998)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander's contributions to American letters--four volumes of poetry, a novel, a biography, and numerous critical essays--mark her as one of this country's most gifted black intellectuals. These accomplishments are even more remarkable given that she achieved most of them after 1943 when she was a college professor, wife, and mother of four children. Despite the cumulative demands of these pursuits, Walker prevailed, and left a nurturing literary legacy.

Walker was born on July 7, 1915, in Birmingham, Alabama. Her father, a well educated minister, and her mother, a music teacher, provided an environment in which their daughter thrived. In 1931 she met Langston Hughes, who encouraged her to seek an education outside the South. Walker completed her B.A. at Northwestern University (Illinois) when she was only nineteen, and while living in Chicago she was affiliated with several important writing groups. During the Depression, she worked for the Federal Writers' Project and contributed a dialect piece, "Yalluh Hammuh," whose folk hero would later appear in For My People (1942). As a member of the South Side Writers Group, Walker was a close colleague of Richard Wright. Walker completed her M.A. at the University of Iowa by writing For My People, a work for which she later became the first African American to win the Yale Younger Poets award.  Her Ph.D. dissertation, also at Iowa, became her highly acclaimed Jubilee.
Sources: 
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/walker/bio.htm ; William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, Trudier Harris, eds., The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature (Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Scott, Benjamin Franklin (1922-2000)

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

Born in Florence, South Carolina, October 19, 1922, Benjamin Franklin Scott was an African-American chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project in World War II.  The son of Benny and Viola Scott, Benjamin had two older sisters, Mary and Rosa.

Scott earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1942 from Morehouse College, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Atlanta, Georgia. Scott continued his education at the University of Chicago where he earned a Master of Science degree in 1950.

Between the years of 1943-1946, Scott worked as a chemist on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory. The Manhattan Project, one of the most important scientific projects of the 20th century, led to the development of the atomic bomb, which ended World War II. Other notable African-American scientists who worked with Scott at the Chicago laboratory include Harold Delaney, Moddie Taylor, and Jasper Brown Jeffries. Scott – like both Jeffries and Taylor – earned a graduate degree from the University of Chicago, but his came after World War II and his involvement on the Manhattan Project. 

Sources: 
Vivian Ovelton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing, 1980); Nuclear Instrument and Chemical Company. http://national-radiation-instrument-catalog.com/new_page_40.htm; Scott, B.F. “Automatic Calculation of Specific Activities from Liquid Scintillation Counter Data Using a Desk-top Computer,” Journal of Radioanalytical Chemistry, 1968, 1(1), 61-71; Scott, B.F. and Kennally, J.R. “Oxygen-tube combustion method for liquid scintillation assay of carbon-14 and tritium,” Analytical Chemistry, 1966, 38(10), 1404-5; Driscoll, W.J.; Scott, B.F.; Huff, E.A. “Radiometric Methods for Industrial Process Control,” From the United States Atomic Energy Commission[Unclassified and Declassified Reports Published by the Atomic Energy Commission and Its Contractors](1961), 62pp; Bessie Joyce Sampson Scott, The State, May 6, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
College of Wooster

Clemente, Roberto (Walker) (1934-1972)

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of Don Sparks
Roberto (Walker) Clemente is widely considered one of the leading right fielders in baseball; he is as well known for his selfless humanitarian dedication to providing aid to Latin American people in need.

Clemente was born in barrio San Anton in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the youngest of four children, and at a very early age developed an affinity and talent for playing baseball.  At 17 he began to play for the Santurce Cangrejeros in the Puerto Rican Winter Baseball League.  In the winter of 1953 he was discovered by the Brooklyn (New York) Dodgers and signed to a $10,000 a year contract. After a year in the minors, he was purchased from the Dodgers by the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Pirates and would play for them for the next 18 seasons.  
Sources: 
Michael Silverstone, Latino Legends: Hispanics in Major League Baseball (Bloomington, Minnesota: Red Brick Learning, 2004); Bruce Markusen, Roberto Clemente : The Great One (Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing Inc., 1998); Roberto Clemente, 1934-1972: First Latino in Baseball Hall of Fame, http://learningenglish.voanews.com/content/a-23-2006-08-27-voa1-83129827/126140.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Boone, Ashley A., Jr. (1938-1994)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The son of a postal worker and stay-at-home mother, Ashley Augustus Boone Jr.  was born and raised in what he described as a “lower middle class” environment in Springfield, Massachusetts.  His parents, nonetheless, recognized the primacy of education and, like his brother and two sisters who all finished college, Boone graduated with a degree in economics from Brandeis University in 1960.

Initially, he hoped to land a position at the World Bank improving the finances of underdeveloped nations, but upon graduation he sought employment in the entertainment industry and at television stations in New York City.  Failing to get hired even as a lowly page, he eventually found work at American Airlines.  
Sources: 
Collette Wood, “Hollywood’s Top Black Executive,” Sepia (May 1978); Ken Smikle, “Inside Hollywood,” Black Enterprise (December 1986); http://www.thefreelibrary.com/ASHLEY+A.+BOONE+JR.-a015188143
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Abernathy, Ralph (1926-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ralph David Abernathy was born on March 11, 1926 in Linden, Alabama.  His boyhood was spent on his father’s Alabama farm but he joined the U.S. Army and served in World War II from 1941 to 1945.  After his service Abernathy returned to his home state where he attended Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama, receiving a degree in Mathematics in 1950.  

During his years at Alabama State College, he became involved in protest activities.  He led demonstrations protesting the lack of heat and hot water in his dormitory and the inferior food served by the college cafeteria.  Abernathy also became a Baptist minister in 1948 while still in college.  Abernathy attended Atlanta University, where he earned his M.A. degree in 1951.  That same year he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, the largest African American church in the city.  It was this pastoral post that eventually propelled him into the civil rights movement.  
Sources: 
Ralph David Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography (New York: Harper and Row, 1989);   http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2736 

 

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Powell, Adam Clayton, Sr. (1865-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. was born on May 5 in Franklin County, Virginia to former slaves of African American, Native American, and German ancestry.  He was raised in a family of 17 children.

During his youth, Powell lived a reckless life filled with gambling.  At the age of 19, Powell experienced a religious conversion to Christianity at a revival meeting.  After failing to gain entrance into Howard University School of Law, he decided to study religion.  In 1888, he enrolled in a theology program at Wayland Seminary and College in Washington, D.C. earning his degree in 1892.

Sources: 
Charles V. Hamilton, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an American Dilemma (New York: Athenaeum, 1991); Will Haygood, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993); “Dr. A. C. Powell Sr., Minister, 88, Dead.” New York Times (June 13, 1953), 15.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Moore, Richard Benjamin (1893-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Richard Benjamin Moore, lecturer, author, political activist, and book dealer, was born in Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados, on August 9, 1893.  He was born into a prosperous middle-class family, and attended James J. Lynch’s Middle Class School, a self-defined institution.  His childhood experiences included very few instances of racial discrimination possibly, because of his light complexion. 

Following the death of his father Richard Henry Moore, Moore and his immediate family relocated to the United States on July 4, 1909.  Unknown to the Moore family, Richard Henry Moore had a number of outstanding debts, which upon his death forced their Christ Church home into foreclosure as they faced insolvency.  They became some of the earliest blacks to settle in Harlem, New York, an emerging milieu of social, political, and Black Nationalist activism.

Harlem introduced Moore to the realities of European colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the injustices of Jim Crow and lynching in the American South.   By his 22nd birthday Moore became a follower of Socialist and fellow West Indian émigré Hubert Henry Harrison. He became active in the 21st Assembly District Socialist Club in Harlem in 1915. 

Sources: 
Louis J. Parascandola, “Look for Me All Around You,” Anglophone Caribbean Immigrants in the Harlem Renaissance (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005), pp. 227-29; Linden Lewis, “Richard B. Moore: The Making of A Caribbean Organic Intellectual,” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 25, No. 5 (May, 1995), pp. 589-609 (Sage Publications, Inc.).
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

Bertonneau, E. Arnold (1834-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
“Image Courtesy of Thomas F. Bertonneau”
Sources: 
Eric Foner (ed.), Freedom's Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996); James G. Hollandsworth, Jr, The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998); and Charles Vincent, Black Legislators in Louisiana During Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Walker, Moses Fleetwood (1857-1924)

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

Moses Fleetwood Walker, often called Fleet, was the first African American to play major league baseball in the nineteenth century. Born October 7, 1857, in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, Walker was the fifth of six children born to parents, Dr. Moses W. Walker, a physician, and Caroline Walker, a midwife.

Oberlin College admitted Walker for the fall 1878 semester. In 1881, he played in all five games of the new varsity baseball team at Oberlin. Before the end of the year, however, Walker left Oberlin to play baseball for the University of Michigan. In July 1882, Walker married Bella Taylor and the couple had three children.

Fleetwood Walker was able to earn money as a catcher. He played individual games for the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland (August 1881), the New Castle (Pennsylvania) Neshannocks (1882), and with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the Northwestern League (1883). In August 1883, Adrian “Cap” Anson, manager of the Chicago White Stockings, stated his team would not play Toledo with Walker in the lineup. Although both teams played, the incident marked the beginning of baseball’s acceptance of a color line.

Sources: 

David W. Zang, Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Schuyler, George (1895-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust


George Samuel Schuyler, conservative columnist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on February 25, 1895 to George Francis and Eliza Jane Schuyler. Upon his father’s death in 1898, George and his mother moved to Syracuse, New York. In 1912, at age 17, George enlisted in the Army, serving in the all-black 25th US Infantry.  Eventually he achieved the rank of Lieutenant. Despite his status as an officer, Schuyler went AWOL in 1918 in response to the systemic racism he experienced in the Army.  He  was captured in Chicago and imprisoned for nine months for desertion.

Following his release, Schuyler worked odd jobs in New York, joining the Socialist Party of America and the anti-Marcus Garvey organization, Friends of Negro Freedom.  During this time he submitted articles and editorials to the newly created, socialist-oriented Messenger magazine. He eventually wrote a regular column for The Messenger, entitled “Shafts and Darts: A Page of Calumny and Satire.”  By 1924 he was also writing a weekly column for The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the two largest black newspapers in the United States at the time.

Sources: 
Oscar R. Williams, George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007); Troy Kickler, “George S. Schuyler: Black Conservative, Intellectual, and Iconoclast.” http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig7/kickler2.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Grigsby,Jefferson Eugene, Jr. (1918 – )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of J. Eugene Grigsby
Artist and academic Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr., was born on October 15, 1918 in Greensboro, North Carolina. His interest and enjoyment in art and creativity began in childhood and was later pursued through formal education. He earned a BA from Morehouse College in 1938 and an MA from Ohio State University in 1940. Grigsby continued his studies at Arizona State University, Columbia University, the American Artists School in New York, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Marseilles, France. In 1963 Grisby was awarded a Ph.D from New York University.

In 1942, after the United States entered the World War II, Grigsby volunteered for the U. S. Army. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. After the war he returned to teach in Phoenix, Arizona at Carver High School, which was an all black institution until the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954. At this point Grigsby moved to Phoenix Union High School where he stayed for eleven years before joining Arizona State University’s School of Art in 1966 where he remained for two decades.
Sources: 
Eugene Grigsby’s official website: http://eugenegrigsbyjr.wordpress.com/; Heddenart Gallery website: http://www.heddenartgallery.com/Eugene_Grigsby_Bio.html; Thomas Riggs, ed., “Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr.”, St. James Guide to Black Artists (Detroit: St. James Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Benjamin, Regina Marcia (1956– )

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

Dr. Regina Marcia Benjamin, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General of the United States, is an accomplished physician whose professional and personal  roots are planted deeply in rural  America.  Dr. Benjamin was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1956 and grew up in nearby Daphne, Alabama.  

Regina Benjamin’s parents divorced when she was a child and her mother worked as a domestic and waitress to support Regina and her older brother.  Although the family owned land, financial necessity forced them to sell it.   She recalled that her family often fished in the Gulf of Mexico to catch their evening meal.    

Despite her family's poverty Regina Benjamin set her sights on college.  She enrolled in Xavier University in New Orleans where she met an African American physician for the first time.  This encounter persuaded her to pursue a career in medicine.  Earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Xavier in 1978, she then attended  Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta  between 1980 and 1982 but completed her medical degree at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.  

Sources: 
Gardiner Harris, “A Doctor From the Bayou, New York Times, July 14,
2009; Rick Bragg, “Poor Town Finds an Angel in a White Coat,” New York Times, April 3, 1995; Ebony Magazine, March 1997, January 1998; Catholic News Service, “Nation Called ‘Fortunate’ to Have Alabama Physician as Obama Nominee,” News Briefs, July 13, 2009; The Catholic Transcript Online, July 14, 2009; Answers.com, “Black Biography: Regina Benjamin Physician Personal Information.”
Affiliation: 
California State University, Sacramento

Trench, Robert K. (1940-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
 
While a professor of biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Robert Kent Trench earned the reputation as the world’s leading expert on corals and their symbiotic algae, more specifically strains of zooxanthellae adaptation to certain coral species.  Born on August 3, 1940 in Belize City, British Honduras, he studied at the University of the West Indies, Oxford University, and the University of California at Los Angeles where he earned his doctorate with a dissertation on invertebrate zoology in 1969.  

Trench’s areas of expertise encompassed coral reef ecology, physiology, biochemistry, phylogenetics of symbiosis, and intercellular recognition phenomena.  He taught for four years at Yale University before arriving at UC Santa Barbara in 1976.  The author of several dozen scientific papers, in 1994 his groundbreaking description of metabolite flux from kleptochloroplasts to host won him the coveted Miescher-Ishida Prize for outstanding contribution to the field of endocytobiology.  A member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Trench retired from university teaching in the year 2000.
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 14th Ed. Vol. 7 (1979).
http://www.globalcoral.org/corals_and_coral_reefs.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Rogers, Timmie (1914-2006)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Timmie Rogers was a popular black comedian and entertainer from the 1940s through the 1990s. He was one of the first African American entertainers who refused to wear blackface or to dress in dirty tattered clothing while performing. Rogers also was one of the first entertainers to speak directly to the audience in his own voice.  Previous black performers beginning in the Jim Crow era had always affected some variation of the Sambo and Coon type characters up to the mid-20th Century routine of Amos and Andy.

Rogers was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1914. His grandfather was a slave and his father  ran away from home at the age of 12, finding a job as dishwasher in a kitchen on an Ohio River steamboat.  Rogers’ mother ran a boarding house in Detroit where she sold liquor during Prohibition.

As a child, Rogers began dancing and performing on the street corners in Detroit  for change and later took a job cleaning ashtrays at a ballroom where he was allowed to perform his acts before the main entertainment. By the 1940s Rogers was performing one of his first, which incorporated an anti- segregation theme titled, I’ve Got a Passport from Georgia. He also wrote a song for Nat King Cole called If You Can’t Smile and Say Yes.
Sources: 
Denise Watson Batts, “Timmie Rogers: a side-splitting revolutionary,” The Virginian Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA. (February 3, 2008); Louie Robinson, “Why Negro Comics Don’t Make It Big,” Ebony Magazine 110 (October 1960); Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory of Prime Time Network TV Shows (New York: Ballantine Books, 1992); Alex McNeil, Total Television (New York: Penguin Books, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
UC Santa Barbara

Liston, Charles “Sonny” (1932-1970)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Clay Moyle
Charles “Sonny” Liston was born on May 8, 1932 in Sand Slough, Arkansas. He was the 24th of 25 children by a sharecropper named Tobe Liston, and one of ten by Tobe’s wife Helen. Sonny received little in the way of schooling and was essentially illiterate all his life.

When his mother left his father and moved to St. Louis in 1946, Sonny ran away from home and joined her. As a teenager he participated in an armed robbery of a gas station and was sentenced to prison where his talent for boxing was discovered by a Catholic priest and it ultimately resulted in an early parole.

Sonny turned professional on September 2, 1953 and promptly won a first round knockout in his first fight. Standing 6’ 1 ½”, weighing 215 pounds, and possessing a long reach, powerful jab, knockout power in either hand and a nasty scowl, Sonny was an extraordinarily intimidating fighter. He quickly compiled an impressive record.
Sources: 
A.S. “Doc” Young, The Champ Nobody Wanted (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1963); Nick Tosches, The Devil And Sonny Liston (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2000); http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Liston_Sonny.html, http://www.ibhof.com/liston/htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lofton, Ramona ["Sapphire"] (1950- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ramona Lofton, better known as Sapphire, is a self-admitted bisexual, novelist, poet, and performance artist. She gained prominence for her 1996 debut novel, Push, and other works that focus on the alarming realities of inner city life.

Lofton was born on August 4, 1950 in Fort Ord, California, the second oldest of four children born to military parents. Her father was an army sergeant and her mother was a soldier in the Women's Army Corps. Throughout her childhood, her family maintained a middle-class façade while hiding incest and alcoholism.

When Lofton was thirteen, her father retired from the Army and moved the family to Los Angeles. Her mother, who was battling alcoholism, did not join them and instead abandoned the family. Years later they reconnected, but her mother succumbed to alcoholism in 1986.  That same year Lofton’s homeless brother was murdered in a Los Angeles park. Their deaths later played pivotal roles in Lofton's emerging writing career.

Lofton dropped out of high school and moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s, briefly studying chemistry and dance at the City College of San Francisco, before adopting what she described as a hippie lifestyle.  She moved to New York City in 1977, where she supported herself by working as a housekeeper and as a topless dancer.
Sources: 
Claude J. Summers and Sapphire, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2011), Retrieved from ww.glbtq.com/social-sciences/lofton_l.html; Marq Wilson, A Push out of Chaos: An Interview with Sapphire (Storrs, Connecticut: Melus, 2012); Elizabeth McNeil, Un-"Freak"ing Black Female Selfhood: Grotesque-Erotic Agency and Ecofeminist Unity in Sapphire's Push (Storrs, Connecticut: Melus, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Baker, Ella (1903-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Through her decades of work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and later with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Ella Baker emerged as one of the most important women in the civil rights movement.  Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia.  After grammar school, her mother enrolled her in Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.  She graduated as the valedictorian of both her high school and college graduating classes.  The college valedictorian honor was all the more remarkable because she worked her way through school as a waitress and chemistry lab assistant.  Baker graduated from Shaw University with a B.A. in June 1927.
Sources: 
Joanne Grant, Ella Baker Freedom Bound (New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1998); Rosetta E Ross, Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Steward, Susan Smith McKinney (1847-1918)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward was the first African American woman to earn a medical doctorate (M.D.) in New York State and the third in the United States.  Susan Smith was born to elite Brooklyn parents, Ann Springstead and Sylvanus Smith.  She was of mixed European, African, and Shinnecock Indian heritage. Though her early education was musical, Susan Smith entered the New York Medical College for Women in 1867.  She earned her M.D. in 1870, graduating as valedictorian.  The next year, 1871, she married Reverend William G. McKinney with whom she had two children.

Dr. Smith McKinney’s professional accomplishments were numerous.  She established her own private practice in Brooklyn which she ran from 1870 to 1895.  During this time she co-founded the Brooklyn Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary which served the African American community, completed post-graduate education at the Long Island Medical College Hospital in Brooklyn (1887-1888), practiced at the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People where she also served as a board member (1892-1895), and practiced at New York Medical College and Hospital for Women in Manhattan (1892-1896).  Dr. Smith McKinney specialized in prenatal care and childhood diseases and gave papers on both these topics.
Sources: 
Robert C. Hayden, “Steward, Susan Maria Smith McKinney,” American National Biography Online, February 2000; Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clemons, Michael “Pinball” (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on January 15, 1965 in Dunedin, Florida, Michael Clemons is the current head coach of the Toronto (Ontario) Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Clemons began his career in the CFL in 1989 as a player for the Toronto Argonauts and remained with them until his retirement in September of 2000, when he moved directly into the position of head coach.

Clemons attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he played running back and return specialist on the football team as well as soccer for a year. At only 5’6” and 170 pounds Clemons overcame obstacles and persevered through an impressive four-year college football career in which he compiled 4,778 all purpose yards and was named a Division 1-AA All American.
Sources: 

CFL.ca Network: Official site of the Canadian Football League; Michael Pinball Clemons, All Heart: My Story (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999) Perry Lefko, The Making of a Canadian Hero ( New York: Wiley Publishers, 2006) Canadian Football League facts, figures and records (Toronto: Canadian Football League, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jones, Absalom (1746-1818)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Sussex, Delaware in 1746.  He taught himself to read in his early teens from books he purchased by saving pennies given to him by visitors to his master’s home.  At the age of sixteen, Jones’ family was separated when his immediate family members were sold and he was taken to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by his new owner.  Jones worked as a clerk in his owner’s store by day and was allowed to work for himself and attend an all-black school at night.  
Sources: 
Benjamin Brawley, Negro Builders and Heroes (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1937); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1982); W. Augustus Low, ed., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1981).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Revels, Hiram Rhoades (1827?–1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hiram Rhoades Revels was the first African American United States Senator, filling the seat left vacant by Jefferson Davis in 1861 when Mississippi seceded from the Union.

Born in the 1820s in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Hiram Revels was the son of free parents of mixed African American and Native American ancestry. Revels moved with his family to Lincolnton, North Carolina in 1842, where he became a barber. Two years later he left the South and enrolled at Beech Grove Seminary, a Quaker institution near Liberty, Indiana. In 1845 he entered Darke County (Ohio) Seminary for Negroes.  The same year Revels was ordained a minister in a Baltimore African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In the early 1850s he married Phoebe A. Bass of Zanesville, Ohio, and together they had six children.
Sources: 
“Hiram Rhoades Revels,” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982);
“Hiram Rhoades Revels,” in Encyclopedia: The State Library of North Carolina, http://statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us/nc/bio/afro/revels.htm; Kenneth H. Williams, "Revels, Hiram Rhoades" in Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds.,  African American National Biography Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0001/e0482.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Wood, Robert (1844 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Natchez, Mississippi in the 1870s
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert Wood is believed to be one of the first African American mayors in the United States.  He served as mayor of Natchez, Mississippi in the early 1870s.  Wood was born in 1844 to Susie Harris, an African American housekeeper, and Dr. Robert Wood, a white doctor from Virginia.  His parents never married, but lived side by side.  According to oral histories, Wood was never a slave and lived mostly with his father, a former mayor of Natchez himself.  

Mississippi Governor James L. Alcorn appointed Robert Wood as mayor of Natchez, Mississippi in 1869.  He later was elected mayor in 1870.  His election was part of the “Black and Tan Revolution,” a short-lived political shift in Mississippi in which citizens of Mississippi elected many African Americans to state offices between 1868 and 1875.  At its peak in 1873, half of Mississippi's state elected officials were black.  

Sources: 

David Duncan Collum, Black and Catholic in the Jim Crow South: The
Stuff that Makes Community.
(Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2006);
Mike Brunker, “Race, Politics and the Evolving South: A Black Mayor,
130 Years Later” MSNBC.com. Aug. 17, 2004.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McKay, Claude (1889-1948)

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

Harlem Renaissance writer Festus Claudius McKay was born on September 15, 1889, in Sunny Ville, in the Clarendon Hills of Jamaica, to peasant farmers Hannah Ann Elizabeth Edwards  and Thomas Frank McKay. Young Claude was tutored by his elder schoolmaster brother, Uriah Theodore McKay, who introduced him to a library dominated by the ideas of the great free thinkers, particularly Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer. While working in Kingston as a constable, McKay became the protégé of Walter Jekyll, a British aristocrat and anthropologist who also placed his personal library at Claude McKay’s disposal.    

McKay published his first two volumes of poetry, Songs of Jamaica (1912) and Constab Ballads (1912), written in the island’s rich dialect, before migrating to America to study agronomy at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and later at Kansas State University. By 1917, however, he was no longer in college and living in Harlem. 

Sources: 
Wayne Cooper, ed., The Passion of Claude McKay (New York: Schocken Books, 1973); Wilfred D. Samuels, Five Afro-Caribbean Voices in American Culture, 1917-1929 (Boulder: Belmont, 1977).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Freeman, Morgan (1937- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Peters, Brock (1927-2005)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Brock Peters, who emerged as a prominent actor of the 1960s, was born George Fisher in 1927, to Sonny and Alma Fisher in New York City. Prior to concentrating on an acting career that spanned nearly six decades, he attended the University of Chicago, and later City College in New York.
Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Anonymous,Telegraph.co.uk. Brock Peters obituary; August 25, 2005;  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1496874/Brock-Peters.html; accessed May 19, 2009; Tom Vallance, "Brock Peters: Actor best known for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,'" The Independent [London], August 25, 2005; Mel Watkins, "Brock Peters of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird' Is Dead at 78,'" New York Times, August 24, 2005; http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B05EED7113EF937A1575BC0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. Accessed May 19, 2009.
Contributor: 

Morial, Ernest Nathan (1929-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in New Orleans, Ernest Morial grew up in the city’s Seventh Ward.  His father was a cigar maker and his mother was a seamstress.  Graduating from Xavier University, a historically black Catholic institution, he became the first African American to receive a law degree from Louisiana State University.  Battling segregation in the courtroom, he was elected president of the local NAACP chapter, and later elected to the Louisiana State legislature, becoming the first black member since Reconstruction.  Later, he became the first Juvenile Court judge, and the first Circuit Court of Appeals judge of his race in Louisiana.   
Sources: 
Edward M. Meyers, Rebuilding America’s Cities (New York, 1986); Arnold Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon, Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Jamison, Judith Anna (1943- )

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

Judith Anna Jamison is among the most influential African American dance figures of the late 20th Century.  She began her dance career at the age of ten and served as the Artistic Director at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 1989 to 2011. Her efforts in the dance industry also opened the doors to many young aspiring women and African Americans.

Jamison was born May 10, 1943 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania where she attended Germantown High School. At the age of 21 she was discovered by noted choreographer Agnes de Mille in 1964 and recruited to the American Ballet Theatre in New York.  Her American Ballet debut was “The Four Marys” later that year.  Jamison then became a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey’s protégé where she held leading roles to many of his productions. Jameson danced for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater until 1979.

In 1988 Jameson started her own company, The Jamison Project, which appeared on PBS. Through this project, she produced Judith Jamison: The Dancemaker which aired nationally the same year.

Sources: 
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater website: http://www.alvinailey.org/about/people/judith-jamison; Black Enterprise November 2009; New York Amsterdam News December 2009.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Taylor, Marshall W. (1878-1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
He was a black pioneer in sports long before Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, and even the legendary Jack Johnson. He did not play baseball as Robinson did, nor was he a pugilist as were Johnson and Louis, and although he participated in a sport where the main objective was speed, he was not a track and field person as was Jesse Owens.

His name was Marshall "Major" Taylor, and he rode a bicycle. He was born in 1878 near Indianapolis and was soon recognized as a young black man with a natural talent for riding a bicycle. He had won a number of races in Indianapolis and Chicago by the time he was only fifteen years old. Because of the unadulterated racism directed toward him in the Midwest, he moved to Worchester, Mass., when he was seventeen, and he soon became one of the fastest American amateur cyclists. He turned professional in 1896 and became an overwhelming sensation. It is said that the spectators loved his bold courage. Because of his ability to ride and to win so often, as a black man he had to endure intense racist opposition. Yet he persevered and refused to allow racism to break his spirit.
Sources: 

Michael W. Williams ed., The African American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1993); http://www.majortaylorassociation.org/who.htm.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jarboro, Caterina (1903-1986)

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

Caterina Jarboro was born one of three children in Wilmington, North Carolina, to an American Indian mother and a black father who was a local barber. She was christened Katherine Lee Yarborough at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Wilmington.  She received elementary school education at St. Thomas, and later attended Gregory Normal School.  Her parents died when she was thirteen years old, and in 1916, she traveled to Brooklyn, New York, to live with an aunt.

Jarboro studied music in New York where her exceptional ability soon became apparent. By 1921 she appeared in popular theater musicals, such as Sissle and Blake’s “Shuffle Along,” and later in James P. Johnson’s, “Running Wild.” Like many black musicians and performers, she sought more opportunity for study and experience in Europe. Under contract to the San Carlo Opera Company, Jarboro debuted in Verdi’s Aida in 1930 at the Puccini Theater in Milan, Italy.  She continued to study in France and to perform in small productions in Europe until 1932 when she returned to the United States.

Sources: 
Interview with Caterina Jarboro in the Hatch-Billops Collection at the New York City Public Library; http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20070226 /NEWS/702260342; http://www.nytimes.com/1986/08/16/obituaries/caterina-jarboro.html?pagewanted=print
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Young, Whitney M., Jr. (1921-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
National Urban League
Whitney Moore Young, Jr. was born July 31, 1921 in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky on the campus of Lincoln Institute where his father was President. Young received a Bachelor of Science degree from Kentucky State College for Negroes in 1941.

Upon graduation, Young joined the Army Specialist training program and was assigned to a road construction crew composed entirely of black soldiers led by Southern white officers. He was promoted from private to first sergeant three weeks after joining his unit. The promotion created resentment among both the black soldiers and white officers.  Young credited the controversy surrounding his rapid promotion as sparking his lifelong interest in racism and in fighting for civil rights.  

After World War II ended Young attended the University of Minnesota where he earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work.  He was hired to lecture at the university after his graduation.  Young then served as director of the National Urban League (NUL) branch in Omaha, Nebraska in the early 1950s.  In 1954 at the age of 33 Young was named Dean of the School of Social Work at Atlanta University.  Young became active in the Atlanta National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and in 1960 was elected president of the Georgia NAACP.
Sources: 
Dennis Dickerson, Militant Mediator: Whitney M. Young Jr. (Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1998); Nancy J. Weiss, Whitney M. Young, Jr., and the Struggle for Civil Rights (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989); http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/unitarians/young.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Durham, Richard (1917-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Richard Durham’s Destination Freedom radio program, which aired on WMAQ in Chicago, Illinois from June 27, 1948 until its cancellation in August of 1950, was unlike anything else being broadcast over the airwaves. For over two years audiences tuned in every Sunday night and were treated to dramatized stories featuring prominent African Americans. The creator of Destination Freedom, Richard Durham, attempted to infuse each program with as much history as possible, while maintaining enough drama to keep the stories interesting enough to inspire his audience.

Born September 6, 1917 in Raymond, Mississippi, Richard Durham and his family moved north as part of the Great Migration. In 1920 the Durham family settled in Chicago. Durham learned how to become a radio operator while working with the Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Before this he also held a job with The Chicago Defender as an editor and attended Northwestern University. Before the creation of Destination Freedom he worked on several other radio programs in Chicago, namely Democracy U.S.A. and Here Comes Tomorrow. He is, however, most well-known for Destination Freedom.
Sources: 
Richard Durham and J. Fred Macdonald, Richard Durham's Destination Freedom: Scripts from Radio's Black Legacy, 1948-50 (New York: Praeger, 1989); “Richard Durham Papers, 1939-1999,” Chicago Public Library,  http://www.chipublib.org/cplbooksmovies/cplarchibve/archivalcoll/durham.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harlan, Robert James (1816-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Waters, Maxine (1938- )

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

 

Image Courtesy of CHOSENphotography.com

U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters has dedicated over thirty years of her life to local and national politics. Born Maxine Moore Carr in St. Louis, Missouri on August 15, 1938, Waters moved to Los Angeles in 1961. While working in a garment factory and for a local telephone company, she enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles. After earning a B.A. in Sociology in 1966, Waters worked as a teacher and as Coordinator of Head Start Programs in Watts.

Maxine Waters developed a keen interest in Los Angeles politics when she began working for city councilman David Cunningham in the 1970s. Waters ran for California State Assembly in 1976, winning the election and serving seven two-year terms in Sacramento.  In 1990 Waters won a seat as Democratic representative of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. As Representative of the 35th district, which encompasses South Central Los Angeles, Playa Del Ray, Inglewood, and several other Los Angeles communities, Waters has spearheaded health care, child care, education, and welfare reform.

Sources: 
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000373 (Accessed December 5); Official Website for Representative Maxine Waters, http://www.house.gov/waters/ (Accessed December 4, 2007); Maxine Waters Skill Center Provides “Expanding Opportunities,” http://www.laschools.org/news/item?item_id=1489182 (Accessed December 6, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Alexander, Lincoln MacCauley (1922-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lincoln Alexander, prominent attorney and politician, was born on January 21, 1922 in Toronto, Ontario, the son of West Indian immigrants. His mother was a maid, and his father a carpenter by training.  In Canada, however, he had to work as a railway porter, which in those days was one of the few jobs available to a man of colour.

In 1942 Alexander joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and served in Europe during World War II. Following the war, he attended McMaster University in Hamilton, receiving a degree in History and Political Economics in 1949. Continuing his education, he graduated in 1953 with a law degree from Osgood Hall Law School in Toronto. Initially, employment proved difficult when many established law firms turned him away.  In 1954 Alexander joined the first interracial law firm in Canada, Miller, Tokiwa and Isaacs in Hamilton.  In 1962 he became a partner in the firm and three years later was appointed Queen’s Counsel.
Sources: 
Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, Go to School, You’re a Little Black Boy (Toronto: Dundurn, 2006); Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997); http://www.ParliamentofCanada.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Moten, Etta (1901-2004)

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

Etta Moten, a multifaceted pioneer in the world of entertainment, was born in Weimar, Texas in 1901. She was raised as the only child of her parents, Freeman Moten, a Methodist minister, and his wife Ida Mae Norman. In 1915, Rev. Moten moved to Kansas City where Etta Moten began singing in church choirs.  

Moten married one of her school teachers at the age of 17 and had three children. She divorced her husband in 1924 and asked her parents to care for her children while she went on to attend the University of Kansas to study voice and drama. While at the University of Kansas, Moten briefly joined the Eva Jessy Choir in New York before her ambitions lead her to Hollywood where she immediately embarked upon a film career that enabled her to parlay her vocal and dramatic skills in a dignified manner.

Moten made her film debut as a widow (who sang the song My Forgotten Man) in the 1933 movie The Gold Diggers. The same year, she appeared in her sophomore and final film entitled Flying Down to Rio in which her moving vocal performance of The Carioca received positive reviews. Although she did not receive billing for subsequent film roles, Moten was one of the first singers to be employed as a dub for the voices of several other leading actresses, including Barbara Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers.

Sources: 

Joy B. Kinnon, “Etta at 100: Etta Moten Barnett, Pioneer Actress,
Singer and Activist Celebrates Centennial,” Ebony (December 2001); Joy
B. Kinnon, “A Diva for All Times,” Ebony (March 2004); Anonymous, "KU
Fine Arts Dean Connects with Alumna Etta Moten Barnett," Collage 2:1
(Spring 2000);  Stephen Bourne, “Etta Moten: Actress Who Broke the
Stereotype for Black Women in Hollywood,” The Independent (London),
January 7, 2004.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Alexander, Raymond Pace (1897-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
H. Viscount Nelson, Black Leadership Responds to Crisis: The Great Depression in Philadelphia (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Massey, Walter E. (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Rice, Susan Elizabeth (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

Born in Washington, D.C. on November 17, 1964 to Emmett J. Rice, a Cornell University economics professor and former governor of the Federal Reserve System, and Lois Dickson Fitt, an education policy scholar, Rice was raised in the Shepherd Park community, where she attended Washington’s National Cathedral School, an elite preparatory academy.  An active participant in student government, Rice was elected president of her school’s student council.  In addition to excelling at basketball, Rice was a dedicated student and upon  her graduation was named class valedictorian.  

Rice attended Stanford University on a Truman Scholarship, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in History in 1986.  Rice was elected to Phi Beta Kappa while at Stanford.  She then attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving a Master’s of Philosophy Degree in 1988, and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in International Relations in 1990.  In 1988 while working on her doctorate, Rice took a position as a foreign policy aide with the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign.  

Sources: 
Morton H. Halperin, Power and Superpower: Global Leadership and Exceptionalism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Century Foundation Press, 2007); http://www.brookings.edu/experts/rices.aspx; http://www.stanfordalumni.org/erc/reunions/black_alumni_hall.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Miller, Thomas E. (1849-1938)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Politician and educator, Thomas E. Miller was born in Ferrebeeville, Beaufort County, South Carolina on June 17, 1849.  Miller was the son of free black parents, and moved with them to Charleston, South Carolina in 1851 where he attended the all-black schools in the city.  After the Civil War, Miller moved to Hudson, New York where he worked and continued his education.  He then received a scholarship that allowed him to attend Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Miller graduated from Lincoln in 1872.

Miller returned to South Carolina and was appointed school commissioner of Beaufort County.  He then moved to Columbia, the state capital where he studied law at the recently integrated University of South Carolina.  Miller was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1875.

While preparing for a career in the law Miller had already entered politics.  He served as a member of the South Carolina Assembly between 1874 and 1880.  Then in 1880 he was elected to the State Senate and nominated for lieutenant governor.  Miller did not enter the race because the South Carolina Republican Party chose not to put forward a ticket in the wake of anti-black violence.  Miller nonetheless remained politically active.  He was the Republican Party state chairman in 1884.
Sources: 
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Tresse, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, Cornel West, eds.,  Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History Vol 4 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ashley, Maurice (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Maurice Ashley, the first African American chess grandmaster, was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica on March 6, 1966. At age 12, his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Ashley began to develop an interest in chess. Although he spent several hours a day playing and studying the game, he did not play well enough to qualify for his high school chess team, and instead had to develop his skills by playing in tournaments and informal games.

Ashley became a chess coach for New York City youth, a role which he filled from 1991 to 1997. Two of his youth teams, the “Raging Rooks” and the “Dark Knights,” won championships at a national level in the early 1990s. Ashley’s experience coaching young people in the city, where academic distractions were many, made advocating chess to youth an integral part of his life.

In 1993, Ashley graduated from the City College of New York. The same year, he married Michele Johnson. Their daughter, Nia, was born in 1994. Ashley released a CD-ROM called Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess in 1995. He also became a commentator for chess matches around this time, and commentated several of grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s famous chess matches, including those against Viswanathan Anand in 1995 and the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in 1996 and 1997.
Sources: 
http://main.uschess.org/content/view/142/195; http://www.chessville.com/Editorials/Interviews/20Questions/Ashley.htm; Melissa Ewey, “First Black Chess Grandmaster,” Ebony 54:9 (1999).
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

Parks, Gordon (1912-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, Sarah and Andrew Parks welcomed their fifteenth child, Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks, into their home. Though struggling against poverty and racism in Fort Scott, young Gordon was nurtured there. His mother was especially influential, and her early lessons sustained him throughout his remarkable life. Because of Parks’s vast intellectual and artistic accomplishments, he was described as a “Renaissance man.” He accomplished many firsts, including the distinction of being the first black photographer at Vogue, Glamour, and Life magazines. He worked at Life for nearly 25 years and completed over 300 assignments. He was a documentary and fashion photographer; a film director, writer, producer; a poet, novelist, essayist; and a composer. Among his notable films are Shaft and The Learning Tree.

Though largely self-taught, he received over fifty honorary doctorates. Parks’s life was a paradox: he was as comfortable modeling a Brooks Brothers suit in New York as he was wearing his western hat and cowboy boots on the Kansas prairie. He moved with the same ease in the modest Washington, D.C. home of Ella Watson, African American charwoman whose image became the famous American Gothic, as he did on the Italian island of Stromboli with actor Ingrid Bergman. Parks’s humanity was evident in his life’s work, as is epitomized in the amazing Flavio de Silva story.
Sources: 
John Edgar Tidwell “Gordon Parks and the Unending Quest for Self-fulfillment,” in Virgil W. Dean, ed., John Brown to Bob Dole: Movers and Shakers in Kansas History; http://www.pdngallery.com/legends/parks
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Tate, Mary Magdalena Lewis (1871-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Church of the Living God
Mary Magdalena Lewis Tate founded a Pentecostal denomination and became one of the first American women to hold the title, Bishop. Born in Vanleer, Tennessee on January 5, 1871, to Belfield Street and Nancy (Hall) Street, she married her first husband, David Lewis, at age nineteen; they had two sons. As that marriage broke up, she began preaching close to home. Soon she traveled several hundred miles as she crossed state lines into Kentucky and Illinois. Along the way, she gathered converts into “Do Rights” bands, so named because people responded to her message by wanting to “do right.” These associations in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee purchased property to house a meeting place for their worship services of song, testimony, Bible study, and preaching. In 1903, she gathered these groups into the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth.
Sources: 
Estrelda Y. Alexander, Limited Liberty: The Legacy of Four Pentecostal Women Pioneers (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim, 2008); Meharry H. Lewis, ed., Mary Lena Lewis Tate: Collected Letters and Manuscripts (Nashville: The New and Living Way, 2003).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Purvis, Robert (1810-1898)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Purvis was born on August 4, 1810 in Charleston, South Carolina, the second of three sons to a wealthy cotton broker and a free woman of color.  With the benefits of a financially successful family, Purvis began his opposition to slavery at a very young age.  When Purvis was nine, his father moved the family to Philadelphia where Purvis attended the Pennsylvania Abolition Society’s Clarkson School.  Shortly thereafter, Purvis continued his education at Amherst College in Massachusetts.  

In 1831, Robert Purvis married Harriet Forten, the daughter of Philadelphia African American businessman and abolitionist James Forten. The death of Purvis’s father left his family financially stable and enabled Purvis to commit his efforts entirely to his antislavery activity.  He began to work very closely with the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee which sheltered runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.  His residence soon became know as the Purvis “safe house.”  
Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); Margaret Bacon, But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis (New York: Albany State University press, 2007); Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Kitzmiller, John (1913-1965)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Far better known as a popular and versatile actor in Italy and parts of Europe than in his native country, the United States, John Kitzmiller was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, on December 4, 1913, one of two children of John B. and Mary E. Kitzmiller.  In his youth he seemed destined for a career in science and technology.  In high school Kitzmiller joined the Chemistry Club and at the University of Michigan he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1937.

When World War II intervened, Kitzmiller, as an Army captain, was stationed in Italy in 1943 serving with the all-African American 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division which rebuilt bombed roads and bridges.  He was one of the few black soldiers who chose to remain in Italy after the war rather than face the racial situation in the United States.  The fact that both his parents died while he was in military service further loosened his ties to home.
Sources: 
Saverio Giovacchini, “Living in Peace After the Massacre,” Global Neorealism: The Transnational History of a Film Style (University Press of Mississippi, 2011); http://www.thewildeye.co.uk/blog/performers-directors/black-actors-in-italy/john-kitzmiller/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Rolle, Esther (1920-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Esther Rolle as Stagecoach Mary Fields,
in South by
Northwest TV Series, 1974
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Esther Rolle was an actress primarily recognized for her role as principled, spirited Florida Evans who was first the maid on the Norman Lear sitcom Maude (starring Beatrice Arthur) and later was spun off into the starring role as the mother in the Lear sitcom Good Times (1974-79).

Despite the success of the series, Rolle clashed with the Hollywood producers because of their depiction of the oldest son, J.J. (played by Jimmie Walker) as a buffoon.  She and her co-star, John Amos, who played the father and shared her concerns, briefly quit the series.  Rolle returned during the final series to show the television family had reconciled.

Esther Rolle was born in 1920 to Bahamian immigrant parents in Pompano Beach, Florida, the tenth of 18 siblings.  After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, she attended Spelman College in Atlanta before moving to New York.

In the late 1950s Rolle worked in a pocketbook factory and took drama classes at George Washington Carver School in Harlem until she was awarded a scholarship to study acting at the New School for Social Research.  While there she became a member and, in 1960, the director of Shogola Aloba, a dance troupe headed by dance master Asadata Dafora.
Sources: 
Alvin Klein, ‘The River Niger’ in Scorching Style,” The New York Times, September 25, 1983; Eric Pace, “Chronicle,” The New York Times, August 14, 1990, retrieved May 7, 2007, from  http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html; James Sterngold, “Esther Rolle, 78, Who Played Feisty Maid and Matriarch,” New York Times, November 19, 1998.  B14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Antoine, Caesar Carpenter (1836-1921)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Caesar Carpenter "C.C." Antoine is best known as a leading African American politician in Louisiana during Reconstruction (1863-1877). Antoine was born in New Orleans to a Black father who fought the British as an American soldier at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and to a West Indian mother. His father’s mother was from Africa and the daughter of a captured African chief. Her reputed self-purchase from slavery and accumulation of a minor fortune allowed C.C. Antoine and his father to live out their lives as free blacks.  Prior to entering politics, Antoine ran a successful grocery business in New Orleans.

In 1862, one year after the Civil War began, New Orleans was captured and occupied by Union troops, Antoine joined the Union Army and quickly rose to the rank of Captain.  From 1862 to 1865 Captain Antoine was attached to one of the nation’s first all-black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards. As Captain, Antoine recruited former bondsmen for service and developed Company I of the Seventh Native Guard primarily stationed at Brashear (now Morgan City) about 85 miles southwest of New Orleans.

Sources: 
John Andrew Prime, “Lt. Gov. C.C. Antoine: Louisiana's 3rd Black Lieutenant Governor”http://home.earthlink.net/~japrime/cwrt/antoine.htm; Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Harpers Perennial, 2002); W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (New York: Touchstone, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Bond, Horace Julian (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Julian Bond at the Georgia State Legislature,
January 10, 1966
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Julian Bond is a scholar, poet, former legislator and activist in the American Civil Rights Movement.  Julian Bond as he came to be known, was born on January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee to Julia Washington Bond and Horace Mann Bond an educator who served as the first African American president of Lincoln University and as dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University.  Bond has been married twice, first to Alice Copland (1961) and to Pamela Horowitz (1990).  He has five children.
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); John Neary, Julian Bond: Black Rebel (New York: Morrow, 1971), Roger M. Williams, The Bonds: An American Family (New York: Atheneum, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Buck, Warren (1946 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the University of Washington

Warren Buck was Chancellor (now Emeritus and professor) of the University of Washington, Bothell (UWB), from June 1999 through June 2005.  Dr. Buck was born on February 16, 1946 to Mr. & Mrs. Warren W. Buck, Jr., in Washington, D.C.   Buck earned his high school diploma in1963, at Spingarn High School, Washington, D.C., and then enrolled for two years of study (1963-65) at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.  He earned his B.S. in Mathematics at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland in 1968 and two years later received an M.S. in Physics (1970: Experimental and Theoretical Plasma) from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  He received a Ph.D. in Physics (Theoretical Relativistic Nuclear), from William and Mary in 1976.  

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University, Seattle

Neil, John Jordan "Buck" (1911-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil was born November 13, 1911, in Carrabelle, Florida.  Working with his father on a Florida celery farm when he was 13, the young O’Neil said to himself “Damn. There’s got to be something better than this.” After traveling to West Palm Beach to see Rube Foster’s baseball team at the Royal Poinciana Hotel, O’Neil decided baseball was going to be his way out.

O’Neil’s professional career began in 1937 with a short stint with the Memphis Red Sox. Later that season O’Neil would sign with the Kansas City Monarchs, where he would spend the rest of his playing career. In 1942 O’Neil led the Monarchs in a four-game sweep of the Homestead Grays in the league championship, batting with a .353 average. In two different seasons, 1940 and 1946, O’Neil won the league batting title, hitting .345 and .350.

In 1948 O’Neil replaced Frank Duncan as manager of the Kansas City Monarchs. As a manager and scout, O’Neil sent more African Americans to the Major Leagues in his career than any other individual, including future Hall-of-Famers like Ernie Banks and Lou Brock. O’Neil was renowned for his knowledge of the game, but also for his leadership of younger players, and he never lost a contest when selected to manage a team in the All-Star games of 1950, 1953, 1954, and 1955.

The only break in O’Neil’s baseball career came with a two year tour with the United States Navy from 1944 to 1945. In 1956, O’Neil was hired as a scout by the Chicago Cubs, and in 1962 the Cubs made him the first African American manager of a major league team.

Sources: 
Ken Burns, Baseball. PBS Interview, http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/baseball/shadowball/oneil.html
Kansas City Star, Special Collection—Buck O’Neil, http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/special_packages/oneil/ Negro League Baseball Museum, http://nlbm.com/ ; Negro League Baseball Players Association, http://www.nlbpa.com/o_neil__john_jordan_-_buck.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hayford, Adelaide Smith Casely (1868-1960)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford in 1903
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford was a Victorian feminist who dedicated her life to the education of girls in Sierra Leone.  Born on June 2, 1868 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Casely Hayford was the second youngest of seven children of parents William Smith Jr. and Anne Spilsbury.  Her prosperous, educated family was part of the Freetown Creole elite.  When Adelaide was four years old her family moved to England where she was raised and educated.  Her mother died soon afterwards.  Raised by her father, Hayford excelled in her studies.  When she turned 17 she was sent to Germany to study music.  In 1888 Casely Hayford moved back to England where she joined her father and new English stepmother.  In 1892, 24-year-old Hayford moved to Freetown to try teaching as a career.  This experience gave her an opportunity to study the education systems in West Africa

Sources: 

Cromwell, Adelaide M., An African American Feminist: The Life and Times of Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford, 1868-1960 (London: Frank Cass & Co. LTD., 1986); Desai, Gaurav, “Gendered Self-Fashioning: Adelaide Casely Hayford’s Black Atlantic,” Research in African Literatures 35:3 (Fall 2004).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

DePriest, Oscar (1871-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
S. Davis Day, “Herbert Hoover and Racial Politics: The De Priest Incident.” Journal of Negro History 65 (Winter 1980); Charles Branham, “Oscar DePriest,” The Encyclopedia of Chicago (Chicago: The Newberry Library, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

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

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

Johnson, Mordecai Wyatt (1890-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Mordecai Wyatt Johnson was born in Paris, Tennessee in 1890, the son of a former slave. He graduated from what is now Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1911 where he became an accomplished orator and debater.  Johnson was also a student athlete who played football and tennis. Johnson was hired by Morehouse soon after his graduation to teach history, English and economics. Later Johnson served as dean of the college for two years.

Mordecai Johnson later enrolled in the Rochester Divinity School in upstate New York while serving as pastor at a nearby church. In 1922, when he graduated from Harvard Divinity School, Johnson was chosen to give the commencement address which he titled: "The Faith of the American Negro.” Four years later Mordecai Johnson was appointed the thirteenth and first permanent African American president of Howard University, a position he held for the next thirty-four years.

Under Johnson, Howard became one of the nation’s leading universities and, certainly, the leading African American university. He was responsible for raising substantial sums from both Congress and private donors. The number of faculty tripled, the salaries doubled, academic and admission requirements were toughened, and Johnson insisted on devoting resources to accreditation of Howard’s graduate and professional schools.

Sources: 
Richard I. McKinney, Mordecai, The Man and His Message: The Story of Mordecai Wyatt Johnson (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1997);
http://howard.edu/library/Reference/Cybercamps/camp2001/studentwebs/Shayna/default.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Knox, Lawrence Howland (1906-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of 

Dr. Lawrence Howland Knox, noted chemist, was born on September 30, 1906 in New Bedford, Massachusetts to William Jacob and Estella Knox.   Knox was one of five children, two girls and three boys, and remarkably for that time, all of the boys earned PhDs; the oldest brother, William Jr. also earned a PhD in chemistry, and the younger brother, Clinton, earned a PhD in history.

Knox attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine for his undergraduate schooling.  He majored in chemistry and played on the school football team.  He graduated in 1928 and began teaching chemistry at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.  After teaching at Morehouse for two years Knox attended Stanford and in 1931 attained his Master’s degree.  That same year he married his wife, Hazel and the two had one son.  After receiving his Master’s degree, Knox began teaching at the Agriculture and Technical College of North Carolina in Greensboro, and in 1933 he transferred to North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham.  In 1936 he took another break from teaching and began working for his doctorate at Harvard.  In 1940 he achieved a PhD in organic Chemistry and went back to teaching at North Carolina College.

Sources: 
Leon Gortler and Stephen J. Weininger, “Chemical Relations:  William and Lawrence Knox, African American Chemists” Chemical Heritage Foundation www.chemicalheritage.org; American Men of Science (New York: Jacques Cattel Press, 1955).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Micheaux, Oscar (1884–1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of John A. Ravage
Oscar Micheaux was the quintessential self-made man.  Novelist, film-maker and relentless self-promoter, Micheaux was born on a farm near Murphysboro, Illinois.  He worked briefly as a Pullman porter and then in 1904 homesteaded nearly 500 acres of land near the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  Micheaux published novels in Nebraska and New York and made movies in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Micheaux left “autobiographical” records in his first three novels, The Conquest (1913), The Forged Note (1915) and The Homesteader (1917), in which his protagonists play out a young black man’s life in rural, white South Dakota. Micheaux began his career with door-to-door sales of his early writings to neighboring farmers.  Encouraged by the modest success from his first novel, Micheaux gave up farming to write six other novels about this period and region.
Sources: 
Pearl Bowser and Louise Spence, Writing Himself Into History: Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films and His Audiences (Piscataway, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000); Betty Carol Van Epps-Taylor, Oscar Micheaux: Dakota Homesteader, Author, Pioneer Film Maker (Rapid City: Dakota West Books, 1999); http://www.producersguild.org/pg/awards_a?oscarbio.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hrabowski, Freeman A., III (1950- )

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

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

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

Washington, Henry (ca. 1740-post 1801)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Henry Washington, slave, loyalist, and colonizer, was born in Africa, perhaps in the Senegambia (present day Senegal and Gambia). Transported as a slave to America, he was bought by George Washington in 1763 to work on a project for draining the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia.  By 1766, he was living at Mount Vernon, Washington's Virginia plantation and caring for Washington’s horses.  Briefly a runaway in 1771, he fled again in 1776 to join royal Virginia governor Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment of freed slaves. Moving to New York in late 1776, Washington served as corporal in a corps of Black Pioneers attached to a British artillery unit.  The unit was briefly stationed at Charleston, South Carolina in 1780 but returned to New York by 1782.  He was among the several thousand “loyal blacks” evacuated from the city in July 1783 to British Nova Scotia where he married a woman named Sarah and acquired a town lot and forty acres of land in Birchtown.

In 1791, with his wife and three children, Washington elected to join the expedition financed by the British government that would allow black loyalist refugees unhappy with their treatment in Nova Scotia to join the free black community established in Sierra Leone in West Africa. There, he settled outside Freetown and became a successful farmer.  In 1799, however, he joined in a protest movement against the autocratic rule of the white-run Sierra Leone Company and was banished to the colony’s desolate northern shore. His last years, after 1801, are unknown.  In ironic parallel to that other Washington, his onetime master in Virginia, Henry Washington lived through years of strife to become a founding father of a new society in his native land.
Sources: 
Cassandra Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and their Global Quest for Liberty(Boston: Beacon Press, 2006); Ellen Gibson Wilson, The Loyal Blacks (New York: Capricorn Books, 1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Nash, Charles Edmund (1844-1913)

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

Republican Charles Edmund Nash served in the 44th Congress as Louisiana’s only black representative. Nash was born in Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, on May 23, 1844. Before his time in Congress Nash attended common schools, was a bricklayer in New Orleans, and had enlisted as a private for the U.S. volunteers in July of 1863. He was later promoted to Sergeant Major, but his military service proved to be disastrous as he lost the lower third of his right leg just before the Civil War’s end.

As a result of his military service and strong support of the Republican Party, he was appointed to the position of night inspector in the New Orleans Customs House – a powerful post in the local political machine. In 1874 he was elected, uncontested, to the House of Representatives from the 6th Congressional District.

Despite his easy election, Nash made little political impact during his time in Congress.  He was assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor.  On June 7th, 1876 Nash made the only major address during his term as Congressman.  His speech condemned the violent and anti- democratic actions of some Southern Democrats, called for greater education among the populace, and also for increased racial and political peace especially in the South.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, DC; U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bell, James Madison (1826-1902)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Madison Bell, poet, orator and activist was born in Gallipolis, Ohio on April 3, 1826. Bell lived in Ohio most of his life although he briefly resided in Canada and California before eventually returning to Ohio. When Bell was 16 he moved to Cincinnati to live with his brother-in-law George Knight who taught him the plastering trade. Knight and Bell were talented plasterers who in 1851 were awarded the contract to plaster the Hamilton County public buildings.

On November 9, 1847, Bell married Louisiana Sanderlin. The couple eventually had seven children and lived in Cincinnati until 1854 when they moved to Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Chatham was a major destination for the Underground Railroad, and while there Bell became involved in abolitionist activities and later returned to Cincinnati to continue his antislavery work. 

Although he supported himself primarily as a plasterer, Bell soon became known for his speeches and poems which he used in the campaign against slavery.  His most famous poem, “The Day and the War,” was read at Platt’s Hall in Cincinnati in January 1864 for the Celebration of the first Anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Bell dedicated “The Day and the War” to friend and fellow abolitionist John Brown who was executed in 1859 for his role in the raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); "James Madison Bell" in Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 40, edited by Ashyia Henderson (Detroit: The Gale Group, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bassett, Ebenezer D. (1833-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ebenezer D. Bassett was appointed U.S. Minister Resident to Haiti in 1869, making him the first African American diplomat.  For eight years, the educator, abolitionist, and black rights activist oversaw bilateral relations through bloody civil warfare and coups d'état on the island of Hispaniola.  Bassett served with distinction, courage, and integrity in one of the most crucial, but difficult postings of his time.

Born in Connecticut on October 16, 1833, Ebenezer D. Bassett was the second child of Eben Tobias and Susan Gregory.  In a rarity during the mid-1800s, Ebenezer attended college, becoming the first black student to integrate the Connecticut Normal School in 1853.  He then taught in New Haven, befriending the legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Later, he became the principal of Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth (ICY).

During the Civil War, Bassett became one of the city’s leading voices into the cause behind that conflict--the liberation of four millions of black slaves -- and helped recruit African American soldiers for the Union.  In nominating Bassett to become Minister Resident to Haiti, President Ulysses S. Grant made him one of the highest ranking black members of the United States government.
Sources: 
Christopher Teal, Hero of Hispaniola: America's First Black Diplomat, Ebenezer D. Bassett (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State

Donowa, Arnold Bennett (1896-196?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Trinidad-born dental surgeon and Spanish Civil War veteran Arnold Donowa was born in December 1895 and earned his D.D.S. from Howard University in 1922.  Donowa worked at the Royal College of Dental Surgeons in Toronto as well as the child-oriented Fosythe Clinic in Boston before returning to Howard in 1929 as dean of its new College of Dentistry.  After two years, Howard resigned to start a private practice in Harlem.

Sources: 
Danny Duncan Collum (editor) and Victor A. Berch (chief researcher), African Americans in the Spanish Civil War: “This Ain’t Ethiopia, But It’ll Do” (New York, New York: G.K. Hall & Co, 1992); Clifton O. Dummett, “The Negro in Dental Education,” The Phylon Quarterly, 13.2 (4th Quarter, 1959); William L. Katz, Fraser M. Ottanelli, and Christopher Brooks, “African Americans in the Spanish Civil War,” Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at New York University (https://www.alba-valb.org >, November 2006); William R. Scott, “Black Nationalism and the Italo-Ethiopian Conflict 1934-1936,” The Journal of Negro HistoryMississippi to Madrid (Seattle, Washington: Open Hand Publishing, 1989). 63.2 (April, 1978); James Yates,
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cone, James Hal (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Rufus Burrow, Jr., James H. Cone and Black Liberation Theology
(Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co, 1994); Dwight N. Hopkins, Black
Faith and Public Talk: Critical Essays on James H. Cone's Black
Theology and Black Power
(Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1999); Harry H.
Singleton, Black Theology and Ideology: Deideological Dimensions in the
Theology of James H. Cone
(Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Carver, George Washington (1864?-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Washington Carver began life inauspiciously on the frontier of southwestern Missouri. Born a slave, the precise date, indeed, even the year, is unknown. He never knew either of his biological parents, but was raised by his former owners as if he were their own. A sickly child, his workload on the Carvers’ farm was reasonably light. Consequently, he spent much of his childhood wandering through fields and woods where he developed an affinity for the natural world. Faced with limited educational opportunities, he left Missouri for Kansas, where he graduated from high school. After a try at homesteading on the western plains of Kansas, he found his way to Iowa where he enrolled at the Iowa Agricultural College in Ames. Recruited by Booker T. Washington to head up Tuskegee’s Agricultural Department, Carver left the Midwest for Alabama’s cotton belt shortly after he became the first African American to secure an advanced degree in agricultural science.
Sources: 
Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), and Mark Hersey, “Hints and Suggestions to Farmers: George Washington Carver and Rural Conservation in the South,” Environmental History 11 (April 2006), 239-268 available online at http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/eh/11.2/hersey.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

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

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

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

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

Turner, Rufus P. (1907-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The unusual academic career of Rufus Paul Turner, born on Christmas Day 1907, was foreshadowed when the then 15-year-old Houston, Texas native began experimenting with crystal devises.  At age 17 he wrote the first of his nearly 3,000 articles, mostly having to do with radio electronics, which were published in magazines, encyclopedias and edited books, and as trade papers and house organs.  Some of his publications were translated into foreign languages.  

Turner’s fascination with the emerging technology of radio communication initially led him to publish articles and pamphlets on crystal diodes and, later, with the announcement of the transistor in 1948, Turner began making his own experimental devises using germanium diodes.  His May 1949 article “Build a Transistor” in Radio-Electronics, and his May 1956 article in Popular Electronics titled “Transistors Probable With a Punch” were widely read benchmark publications encouraging amateur radio construction.  
Sources: 
James A. Page and Jae Min Roh, Selected Black American, African, and Caribbean Authors (Littleton, Co.: Libraries Unlimited, 1985);
Directory of American Scholars. 6th Ed. (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1974).
http://users.arczip.com/rmcgarra2/pe051956.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Constantine, Learie (1901-1971)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Learie Nicholas Constantine, Baron Constantine, was an international cricketer, journalist, politician, and lawyer. Constantine was the first person of African/Caribbean ancestry to be invested as a life peer in the United Kingdom. Born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1901 he was the son of a plantation foreman.
Sources: 
Learie Constantine, Colour Bar (Stanley Paul, 1954); Giuseppi Undine, A Look at Learie Constantine (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd, 1974); G.M.D. Howat, Learie Constantine (London: Allen & Unwin, 1975); Peter Mason, Learie Constantine (Caribbean Lives) (New York: Signal Books Ltd, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Perry, Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew [“Stepin Fetchit”] (1902-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Reviled by Langston Hughes, and many others, for his film and stage portrayals of black characters as “lazy, shuffling, no-account Negroes,” Perry transformed himself from a minor-league minstrel clown into one of the most highly-paid black actors in Hollywood history at the expense of a legacy which many find revolting and others see as pioneering in times far different from our own.

Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry was born in Key West Florida in 1902 to West Indian parents. He arrived in Hollywood in the early 1920s after a period on the Vaudeville comedy circuit. When a Twentieth Century Fox Studios talent scout spotted him, Perry was given a successful screen test and his career began as “Stepin Fetchit” (Perry named his persona after a race-horse). Perry parlayed his lanky frame, unfocused gaze and dancer’s skilled movements into a character that movie audiences found hilarious and captivating. Mass audiences readily accepted stereotypical portrayals of illiterate and servile blacks and Perry became the most successful of a number of actors who pursued such roles.
Sources: 
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes & Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in American Films (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1988); Mel Watkins, Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry (New York: Pantheon Books, 2005)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Boseman, Benjamin Anthony (1840-1881)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin A. Boseman, physician, politician, and postmaster, was free born in New York in 1840 to Benjamin A. and Annaretta Boseman.  He was the oldest of five children, two girls and three boys.  Boseman grew up in Troy, New York where his father served as a steward on the steamboat Empire in the mid-1800s and then as a sutler (a civilian merchant selling provisions to the army).

Boseman was educated in the segregated schools of Troy and showed an interest in becoming a physician.  At the age of 16, he began an eight year apprenticeship in the office of prominent Troy physician Dr. Thomas C. Brinsmade, before completing his education at the Medical School of Maine at Bowdoin College, where he received his medical degree in 1864.  

With his degree in hand, Boseman turned his efforts towards obtaining a position as a surgeon with the Union Army during the American Civil War.  After writing to Acting Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes requesting a position as a surgeon with the “colored regiments,” Boseman received an appointment as a contract acting assistant surgeon.  He was assigned to a recruiting position for the United States Colored Troops (USCT) at Camp Foster in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and served for a year examining recruits and tending to sick and wounded soldiers of the 21st regiment of the USCT.  
Sources: 
Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, B.A. Boseman, Records Relating to Medical Officers and Physicians, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Record Group 94, Entry 561; William C. Hine, “Dr. Benjamin A. Boseman, Jr.: Charleston’s Black Physician-Politician,” Southern Black Leaders of the Reconstruction (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kelly, Sharon Pratt Dixon (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sharon Pratt Dixon was born on January 30, 1944 in Washington, D.C. to parents Carlisle Pratt and Mildred (Petticord) Pratt.  Carlisle was a Washington, D.C. Superior Court Judge.  Mildred Pratt died of breast cancer when Sharon was four years old.  Pratt’s father played a major role in her life by instilling certain values and encouraging her commitment to public service.  Sharon Pratt attended public schools in Washington, D.C. and graduated with honors from Roosevelt High School in 1961. 

Although she initially wanting to pursue an acting career, her father persuaded Pratt to attend Howard University where in 1965 she received a B.A. degree in Political Science.  She then enrolled in Howard University’s School of Law.  While in law school, she married Arrington Dixon in 1966 who later became a Washington, D.C. city councilmember.  In 1968 Dixon earned her law degree and gave birth to their first daughter, Aimee Arrington Dixon.  A second daughter, Drew Arrington Dixon, was born in 1970. 
Sources: 
Jessie Carnie Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.exploredc.org/index.php?id=288; http://www.worldbook.com/features/whm/html/skelly.html; http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/kelly8.html
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hayden, Harriet (c.1820-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hayden House
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
National Park Service
Harriet Bell Hayden and her husband, Lewis Hayden (c.1811-1889), escaped slavery in Kentucky in 1844, traveling first to Ohio, then Michigan and finally settling in Massachusetts, where they became active abolitionists in Boston.  In addition to caring for their two children, Joseph and Elizabeth, Harriet ran a boarding house out of their home at 66 Phillips Street, while Lewis ran a successful clothing store.  

The Hayden home also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad and is now listed as a national historic site. In 1850, they assisted a fugitive slave couple, William and Ellen Craft, who had escaped from Georgia, protecting them from slave catchers on the prowl in Boston as a result of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  Lewis also led in the well-publicized rescue of Shadrach Minkins in 1851 from a Boston courthouse.  After Harriet died, part of the Hayden estate was donated to Harvard University to start a scholarship fund for African American students.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Stanley J. And Anita W. Robboy, “Lewis Hayden: From Fugitive Slave to Statesman,” New England Quarterly, 46 (1973): 591-613; and www.nps.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Estes, Simon (1938- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Simon Lamont Estes is a prominent and critically acclaimed African American opera singer.  He has made singing appearances before six US presidents, including Barack Obama, numerous other presidents and world leaders, and dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  He has appeared in opera houses worldwide, sung under the baton of the greatest conductors of our time, has extensive recording contracts, and has received six honorary degrees and awards.

He was born to Simon Estes, Sr., a coal miner and the son of a slave, and Ruth Jeter Estes, a homemaker.  He grew up in the small south central Iowa town of Centerville.  His mother stimulated his interest in music and he began singing in church at an early age.

When he entered the University of Iowa in 1957, he was intent on becoming a doctor.  But he came to the attention of faculty member Charles Kellis, who became his first and life-long voice teacher, and who encouraged his focus on classical music.  After graduating from the University of Iowa, Mr. Estes spent a year studying at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

In April 1965, Estes made his operatic debut in Berlin, Germany with the Deutsche Oper in Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida.  He later won the bronze medal in the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, Russia in 1966.  From 1965 to 2011, he has performed to great acclaim in opera houses around the world.
Sources: 
Simon Estes and Mary L. Swanson, Simon Estes: In His Own Voice, An Autobiography (Cumming, Iowa:  LMP, L.C., A. Landauer, Co., 1999);
http://wartburg.edu/estes/ (accessed 4/1/13).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Yates, Josephine Silone (1852-1912)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Teacher, writer and civil rights activist Josephine Silone, the youngest daughter of Alexander and Parthenia Reeve-Silone, was born in Mattiluck on Long Island, New York in 1852.  At age eleven, Yates moved to Philadelphia to live with her uncle, Rev. J.B. Reeve, in hopes of finding greater educational opportunity. There she attended the Institute of Colored Youth run by Fannie Jackson Coppin. By the time Silone was old enough to attend high school, an aunt invited her to live and go to school in Newport, Rhode Island. Silone, the only black student in her class and the first to graduate from Rogers High School in Newport in 1877, was selected class valedictorian.  Silone’s high school teachers encouraged her to attend a university but instead she chose Rhode Island State Normal School, a teacher’s college and again graduated as the only African American student in 1879.

After passing the Rhode Island State Teacher Certification, Silone moved to Jefferson City, Missouri to begin teaching at Lincoln Institute (later Lincoln University) and to head the Department of Natural Sciences. She resigned in 1889 to marry Professor W.W. Yates, then the principal of the Wendell Phillips School in Kansas City.  Josephine Silone Yates, who also taught at the Phillips School, soon became known and admired as one of the best teachers in the state of Missouri.  
Sources: 
Daniel Wallace Culp, Twentieth Century Negro Literature: Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to The American Negro (Palo Alto, California:  J. L. Nichols & Company, 1902).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Carney, William H. (1840-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton. Slavery and the Making of America. (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005); Jessie Carney Smith, editor. Black Firsts: 2,000 Years of Extraordinary Achievement.  (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Oliver, Joseph “King” (1885-1938)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mentor to Louis Armstrong and pioneer of what would become known as the Harmon trumpet mute, Joe “King” Oliver was a key figure in the first period of jazz history.  His most significant ensemble, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, was a live sensation and also the first black New Orleans ensemble to gain recognition in the record industry.  

Born in Louisiana in 1885, Joseph Oliver began his musical studies on trombone, but switched to cornet as a teenager, touring with a brass band at the turn of the century.  Oliver worked in various marching and cabaret bands in and around New Orleans, including bands led by Kid Ory and Richard M. Jones, but moved north in 1918, settling in Chicago.  After a stay in California, Oliver returned to Chicago and formed his own ensemble which included bassist Bill Johnson, trombonist Honore Dutrey, clarinetist Johnny Dodds, his brother, drummer Warren “Baby” Dodds, and pianist Lillian Hardin.  King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, as it was called, debuted on June 17, 1922 at the Lincoln Gardens Café in Chicago.  Shortly thereafter, Oliver wired New Orleans requesting a second cornetist, his former apprentice Louis Armstrong.  The new ensemble was a hit, captivating audiences with its deep rhythmic vitality, improvised polyphony, and unbelievable double-cornet breaks – Oliver and Armstrong seemed to improvise on the spot, in perfect unison.
Sources: 
Gary Giddins, Visions of Jazz: The First Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); Richard Cook, Jazz Encyclopedia (London: Penguin Books, 2005); Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Eighth Edition) (London: Penguin Books, 2006); Scotty Barnhart, The World of Jazz Trumpet: A Comprehensive History & Practical Philosophy (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fauntroy, Walter E. (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Reverend Walter E. Fauntroy, pastor, Congressional representative, and civil rights activist, was born in Washington, D.C., on February, 6, 1933. The son of Ethel Vines Fauntroy and William Thomas Fauntroy, who worked in the U.S. Patent Office, Walter Fauntroy graduated from Dunbar High School in 1952. He earned a B.A. degree in History from Virginia Union University in 1955 and then a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School in 1958. While at Yale, Fauntroy married Dorothy Simms on August 3, 1957. They have two children, Marvin Keith and Melissa Alice. Also during this time, Fauntroy met fellow theological students Martin Luther King Jr. and Wyatt Tee Walker. 

In 1959, Fauntroy became pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., succeeding his mentor, Reverend Charles David Foster, who had just passed away. The following year Martin Luther King and Wyatt Tee Walker asked him to become the District of Columbia (DC) branch director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  Fauntroy accepted and became the civil rights organization’s lobbyist in Congress until 1970.
Sources: 

Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese, Black Americans In Congress 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Walter Fauntroy Home Page, http://www.walterfauntroy.com/curriculumvitae.html; Raymond Pierre Hylton,  "Fauntroy, Walter Edward" in African American National Biography edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0001/e1070
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Diddley, Bo (1928-2008)

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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

Domino, Antoine "Fats" (1928- )

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

Antoine "Fats" Domino, early rock and roll musician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 26, 1928 to Antoine Domino, a former plantation worker, and Donatile Gros, a Creole of light complexion.  Fats, as he was soon called because of his weight, was raised in a large family of seven children including his four brothers and two sisters.  From a young age Fats was influenced by his father, a musician who played the banjo and fiddle.

At the age of ten, Domino began to play an old piano the family purchased, learning the instrument from his older brother-in-law Harrison Werrett, who had played in a New Orleans band.  Fats' passion for and expertise with the piano continued to grow.  When he was fourteen he quit school and went to work as a musician.  Learning songs from jukeboxes, Domino began playing at local bars and nightclubs.

Sources: 

Rick Coleman, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’
Roll
(Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2006); Rolling Stone, December 1, 2008,
http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/fatsdomino/biography

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Cora Mae (1914-1972)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Cora Mae Brown was part of a generation of African American women who translated   their community work into political struggle during the first half of the twentieth century.  Born in 1914 in Bessemer, Alabama, Brown’s family migrated to Detroit, Michigan when she was eight years old.  There she was nurtured by a lively community of female activists who encouraged her to attend Fisk University after her graduation from Cass Technical High School.  At Fisk she studied with the renowned sociologist, E. Franklin Frazier, and graduated with a degree in sociology.

Upon her return to Detroit Brown obtained one of the few white-collar jobs available to black women in Detroit’s public sector, as a social worker in the Women’s Division of the Police Department.  Working closely with the community during the Great Depression and into the war years, Brown aided and encouraged young African American women during a tumultuous time.  In the early 1940s Brown began attending Wayne State University Law School.  Upon her graduation in 1948 Brown began to explore the possibility of running for public office.  The 1940s had seen an increasingly powerful political coalition between organized labor and civil rights advocates in Detroit.  Brown hoped to take advantage of this alliance.

Sources: 
Cora M. Brown Papers, Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library; Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability: African-American Women in Interwar Detroit (University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Rochester

Robinson, Matthew MacKenzie "Mack" (1912-2000)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

An exceptional athlete and one of America’s leading sprinters of the 1930s, Matthew Mackenzie “Mack” Robinson, was born in Cairo, Georgia in 1912.  Matthew grew up with three other siblings, including the famed Jackie Robinson. After their father left following the birth of the last child, mother Mallie Robinson decided to take her five children to California.  The Robinson family, along with other migrants, moved to Pasadena by train in 1920 where the athletic careers of the Robinson brothers would blossom.

Sources: 
Arnold Rampersad, Jackie Robinson: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997); Duff Hart-Davis, Hitler's Games (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986); Mack Robinson, 85, Second to Owens in Berlin,"  Obituary; Biography - NYTimes.com. 2000. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/03/14/sports/mack-robinson-85-second-to-owens-in-berlin.html?sec=&spon=; David K. Wiggins, Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1997); "Early Era Stars," Leadership and Legacy - Athletics and the University of Oregon. 2010 http://sportshistory.uoregon.edu/details/show/8; "Biography," Mack Robinson - GoDucks.com, The University of Oregon Official Athletics Web Site. 2006, “Matthew ‘Mack’ Robinson Post Office – Pasadena, CA – People-Named Places on Waymarking.com,” Matthew “Mack” Robinson Post Office – Pasadena, CA. 2010 http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM5REQ
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fletcher, Benjamin Harrison (1890-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Peter Cole, Ben Fletcher: The Life and Writings of a Black Wobbly (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 2007); Peter Cole, Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); William Seraile, "Ben Fletcher, I.W.W. Organizer." Pennsylvania History 46:3 (July 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Charles, Ezzard Mack (1921-1975)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ezzard Charles, also known as “The Cincinnati Cobra,” was a quiet, modest individual who went on to become a relatively unheralded world heavyweight champion. Born in Lawrenceville, Georgia on July 7, 1921, Ezzard moved to Cincinnati at the age of nine to live with his grandmother. He began boxing as an amateur in his teens and won the AAU National middleweight title in 1939. He turned professional in March of 1940. His early bouts were against the top middleweights and light heavyweights in the world. A clever boxer, over the course of his professional career he defeated many of boxing’s greatest fighters including Charley Burley, Joey Maxim, Archie Moore (three times), “Jersey” Joe Walcott, Gus Lesnevich, and Joe Louis.

His professional career was interrupted for two years in 1944 and 1945 when he served a stint in the army during World War II.  Upon the completion of his service he returned to boxing in 1946 and defeated Archie Moore, Lloyd Marshall, and Jimmy Bivins to earn a number two ranking in the light heavyweight class. He fought a total of five light heavyweight champions, defeating four of them, but never received an opportunity to fight for the division’s title. Despite this, many consider him one of the greatest light heavyweight fighters of all time on the basis of his record in that weight class.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bevel, James (1936-2008)

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

James Bevel was one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most trusted advisors during the American Civil Rights campaigns of the mid-20th century.  Bevel was born on October 19, 1936 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. During his childhood years, he resided in both Itta Bena and in Cleveland, Ohio working as a plantation laborer in the Mississippi town and as a steel mill worker in the Ohio metropolis.

In 1957 Bevel attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee. Bevel dropped out of the seminary in 1961 to work in the civil rights movement. He also attended Highlander Folk School during this time where he met several other prominent civil rights leaders including his future wife, Diane Nash.
Bevel’s civil rights activism began in 1960 when he joined the student sit ins in Nashville. One year later he participated in the Freedom Rides across the Deep South.  In 1962 Bevel met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and joined King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as Director of Direct Action Campaigns and Director of Nonviolent Education.

Sources: 
Randy Kryn, "James L. Bevel, The Strategist of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement," in David Garrow, We Shall Overcome, Vol. 2 (Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing Company, 1989); Frederic O. Sargent,  The Civil Rights Revolution: Events and Leaders, 1955-1968 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Publishing, 2004); The New York Amsterdam News December 2008, pg 33 & 39; New York Times December 23, 2008, pg 10; USA Today April 30, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Elder, Lee (1934- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lee Elder, a member of the United Golfers Association (UGA), Professional Golfers Association (PGA), and the PGA Senior Tour, was the first African American to break the color barrier and play in the Masters Golf Tournament.

Lee Elder was born in 1934 in Dallas, Texas.  His father died in WWII, and his mother very shortly after.  With Elder’s sister running the household, Lee was lured to golf as a way to earn additional income for the family.  He began caddying at the all-white Tennison Park Golf Club in Dallas and soon became favored by the head pro of the course, who allowed Elder slip in after hours to play on the mostly obscured back six holes.  Elder became an accomplished golfer who eventually attracted the attention of hustler and con artist “Titanic” Thompson.  Using Thompson’s financial backing, Elder began playing in tournaments while honing his skills in the game and developing the ability to succeed under pressure.  

Elder joined the all-black United Golfers Association (UGA) in 1959 and began the domination of the Association that would last for nearly eight years.  He won four Negro National Open Championships and during one period in 1966 Elder won an astonishing 18 of the 22 tournaments he played in. This success enabled Elder to earn the required $6,500 he needed to enter the 1967 qualifying school for the PGA Tour.  He qualified easily.
Sources: 
Pete McDaniel, Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African-Americans in Golf (Greenwich, Connecticut: The American Golfer, Inc., 2000); Pete McDaniel, “The Trailblazer”, Golf Digest (October 2000); Eric L. Smith, “Star Profile: Lee Elder,” Black Enterprise (September 1995); www.hickoksports.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brice, Carol (1918-1985)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Contralto singer Carol Brice was born in Sedalia, North Carolina on April 16, 1918 into a musical family.  Eventually she became one of the first African American classical singers with an extensive recording repertoire.  Brice trained at Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia and then enrolled in Talladega College in Alabama, where she received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1939. She later attended Julliard School of Music between 1939 and 1943 where she trained with Francis Rogers. In 1943 Brice became the first African American musician to win the prestigious Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Award.

Carol Brice first attracted public acclaim at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 when she performed in the opera, “The Hot Mikado.”  Her next major public performance came in 1941, when she sang at a Washington concert honoring the third inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her brother, the pianist Jonathan Brice, was frequently her accompanist at concerts and competitions.

Sources: 
Masterworks Broadway, http://www.masterworksbroadway.com/artist/carol-brice; Bach Cantatas Website,  http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Brice-Carol.htm; John Gray, Blacks in Classical Music: A Bibliographical Guide to Composers, Performers, and Ensembles (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

DuBois, William Edward Burghardt (1868–1963)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Derrick P. Aldridge, The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History (New York: Teachers College Press, 2008); David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, 1919-1963: The Fight for Equality and the American Century (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Fleming, Thomas Courtney (1907-2006)

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

Thomas Fleming was a founding editor and columnist of one of the leading African American newspapers in California, the San Francisco-based Sun-Reporter. Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1907, Fleming migrated to Chico, California in 1918 to live with his mother upon her divorce from Thomas’s father. After working as a cook for the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1920s, Fleming attended Chico State College in the 1930s where he studied journalism. Persistent racial discrimination limited his employment options.  Aside from contributing several articles to a local San Francisco newspaper on the 1934 General Strike, he was unable to find steady work as a journalist.

World War II brought dramatic changes to the San Francisco Bay Area, including a sizable influx of African Americans who came to work in the region’s war industries. At the height of the war, in the summer of 1944, Fleming was hired as the first editor of the Reporter, a newspaper serving the burgeoning San Francisco African American community. Fleming used his new position to crusade against racism while covering local and state politics.

Sources: 
Carl Nolte, “A Titan of Bay Area Newspapers,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11 April 2004; Virtual Museum of San Francisco, http://www.sfmuseum.org/sunreporter/fleming.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blake, Eubie (1883-1983)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Eubie Blake was born James Hubert Blake in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 7, 1883.   He died one hundred years later on February 12, 1983 having become one of the most important figures in early 20th-century African American music and a major contributor to ragtime and early jazz music and culture.  
Sources: 
J. Wynn Rousuck, A Singing, Winging Tribute to Eubie Blake (Baltimore: Baltimore Sun, 2007); Bobbi King, A Legend in His Own Lifetime: Conversation With Eubie Blake (New York: The Black Perspective in Music, 1973).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Henry C. “Hank” Jr. (1954- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Henry “Hank” Johnson Jr. represents Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. The district includes DeKalb County, where Johnson has lived and worked for the past several decades, as well as parts of Gwinnett and Rockdale Counties. Johnson is a Democrat, and one of the first two Buddhists elected to the United States Congress.

Johnson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1954. His father worked for the Bureau of Prisons, where his position as director of classifications and paroles was the highest ever held in the Bureau by an African American up to that time.  Johnson received his undergraduate degree from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1976 and his law degree from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 1979.

Sources: 
“Congressman Hank Johnson–About Hank,” http://hankjohnson.house.gov/about_hank.shtml; “Hank Johnson for Congress--About Hank” http://www.hankforcongress.com/about.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Saunders, Prince (1775–1839)

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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

McNeil, Claudia (1917-1993)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

Claudia McNeil is best remembered for her laudatory performance as the matriarch in the stage and screen versions of Lorraine Hansberry’s widely-acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun (1961).  McNeil was born in 1917 in Baltimore, Maryland to Marvin Spencer McNeil and Annie Mae Anderson McNeil. She was adopted by a Jewish family, named the Toppers, in her teenage years and briefly married by the age of 18. McNeil then worked as a registered librarian before the inception of her entertainment career.

McNeil first performed as a dancer with the Katherine Dunham troupe during the tour of South America in 1951. She later performed as a nightclub and vaudeville singer before making her acting debut in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953); and later performed in Langston Hughes’s Simply Heavenly (1957), for which she received a Tony nomination.  In 1965, she appeared in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, for which she garnered the London Critics Poll Award for best actress.

Sources: 

Hazel Garland, “Claudia McNeil Claim’s Star’s Life Isn’t Easy,”
Pittsburgh Courier, March 17, 1962; Edward Mapp, ed., Directory of
Blacks in the Performing Arts
(Meluchan, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press,
1978); Eric Pace, The New York Times Biographical Service, November 29,
1993.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cain, Richard H. (1825-1887)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Harris, Everette “E” Lynn (1955-2009)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

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

Manley, Michael Norman (1924-1997)

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

Marshall, Thurgood (1908-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Thurgood Marshall was an American civil rights activist with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.  He is remembered as a lawyer who had one of the highest rates of success before the Supreme Court and the principal counsel in a number of landmark court cases.  Marshall won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the high court. 

Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland, the great-grandson of a slave.  His father, William Marshall, a railroad porter, instilled in him an appreciation of the Constitution at an early age. When young Marshall got in trouble at school he was required to memorize sections of the US Constitution.   His mother, Norma Arica Williams, an elementary school teacher for 25 years, placed great emphasis on his overall scholarship. 

Sources: 
Mary L. Dudziak, Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey ( New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Carl T. Rowan, Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Thurgood Marshall ( New York:  Welcome Rain Publishers, 2002);  Mark Tushnet, Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1956-1961 ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1994);  Mark Tushnet, Making Constitutional Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1961-1991 ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Juan Williams, American Revolutionary (Broadway, VA: Broadway Publishers: 2000).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Da Costa, Mathieu (17th Century?)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Collage Including Mathieu Da Costa
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mathieu Da Costa, a free black seaman, is believed to be the first person of African ancestry to reach Canada and he is the first recorded black man to visit the region of Port Royal in Nova Scotia.  Although little is known of his background before he reached Canada, Da Costa is said to have had some education and was also baptized.  Even his actual name is in dispute.  He was identified as Mathieu Da Costa in English documents, Mathieu De Coste in French documents, and in Dutch documents he was known as Matheus de Cost.  

There are conflicting stories as to where and when Da Costa was at different time periods.  Records show him guiding French explorers through the Lake Champlain region.  Between 1604 and 1607 he was a trader with the Acadians -- French settlers in early Nova Scotia -- when they began commerce with the Micmac Indians along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast.  He was described in those accounts as an interpreter of the Micmac and French languages.  Other reports have Mathieu, along with three other men, dying of scurvy during the winter of 1607 in Port Royal, Nova Scotia.  Yet he was also reported to be living in Holland in February 1607.
Sources: 
A.B.J. Johnston, Mathieu Da Costa and Early Canada, Possibilities and Probabilities (Halifax, Parks Canada: The National Parks and National Historic Sites of Canada, n.d.);
Bridglal Pachai and Henry Bishop, Historic Black Nova Scotia (Halifax, N.S.: Nimbus Publishing Limited, 2006); Bridglal Pachai, People of the Maritimes: Blacks (Tantallon, N.S.: Four East Publications, 1987); Donald Clairmont, Bridglal Pachai, Stephen Kimber, and Charles Saunders, The Spirit of Africville (Halifax, N.S.: Formac Publishing Company Limited, 1992).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Browne, Roscoe Lee (1925-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Steven Otfinoski, African Americans in the Performing Arts (2003); Walter Rigdon, ed., The Biographical Encyclopedia & Who’s Who of the American Theatre (1966); Quincy Troupe, “Roscoe Lee Browne,” Essence (December 1976). See also http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/1800037298/bio
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Browne, Hugh Mason (1851-1923)

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

Hugh M. Browne was a civil rights activist and educator.  Born June 12, 1851, in Washington D.C. to John and Elizabeth (Wormley) Browne, he is known for his work as the principal of the Institute for Colored Youth and his advocacy for vocational education.

After graduating from a segregated public school in Washington D.C., he studied at Howard University and graduated in 1875. That year he enrolled in the Theological Seminary of Princeton, graduating three years later and licensed as a Presbyterian minister.

After further education in Scotland, he became a professor at Liberia College in the Republic of Liberia, serving there from 1883 to 1886.  He introduced a course on Industrial Education there, and attempted to reform Liberian higher education. This culminated in an essay he was invited to write, “The Higher Education of the Colored People of the South,” in which he advocated elementary and industrial education over abstract higher education, espousing the opinion that Liberians and blacks in the south currently need practical education and are not ready for a more literary education. His cultural and educational criticisms of Liberia created tension with the principal of Liberia College, leading to his restriction from teaching.

Sources: 
The Crisis, Vol. 27, No. 4, (New York: The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc., Feb 1924); Princeton Theological Seminary, Necrological reports and annual proceedings of the Alumni Association ... : 1875-1932 (Princeton, New Jersey: C.S. Robinson, 1891); Faustine C. Jones-Wilson, Encyclopedia of African American Education (Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Company, 1996); http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4144/Browne-Hugh-M-1851-1923.html#ixzz0bzcyIaRl
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moses, Robert P. (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Harlem, New York in 1935, Robert Parris Moses first appeared on the civil rights scene during the 1960s. After being inspired by a meeting with Ella Baker and being moved by the student sit-ins, as well as the Civil Rights fervor in the South, he joined the movement. His first involvement came with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) where he organized a youth march in Atlanta to promote integrated education.  In 1960 Moses joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and two years later became strategic coordinator and project director with the newly formed Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) which worked in Mississippi.  In 1963 Moses led the voter registration campaign in the Freedom Summer movement. The following year he helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which tried to replace the segregationist-dominated Mississippi Democratic Party delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Moses left SNCC after the organization embraced “black power” under its new chairman, Stokely Carmichael.
Sources: 
http://www.algebra.org/; Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Colin A Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Vol. M-P (Missouri: Thomson Gale, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Roberts, Robin René (1960- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
American television broadcaster Robin René Roberts is the anchor of Good Morning America, an ABC morning news show broadcast from its studios in New York, New York.  In December 2013, she quietly came out as a lesbian in a Facebook post that acknowledged her long-time girlfriend, Amber Laign.

One of four siblings, Roberts was born on November 23, 1960 in Tuskegee, Alabama to Colonel Lawrence Roberts, a Tuskegee Airman, and Lucimarian (Tolliver) Roberts.  The family later moved to Pass Christian, Mississippi where she graduated as the 1979 salutatorian from Pass Christian High School.  In 1983, Roberts graduated cum laude from Southeastern Louisiana University with a communications degree.  She was also a basketball standout, having ended her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Sources: 
Claude J. Summers and Jason Collins, eds., An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Chicago: GLBTQ, Inc., 2013), retrieved from http://www.glbtq.com/blogs/robin_roberts_casual_coming_out.html, ABC News and Robin Roberts, eds., Robin Roberts biography (New York, NY: ABC News, 2014), retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/author/robin_roberts; Kimberly McLeod, ed., Thank you, Robin Roberts (Washington, DC: Elixher Magazine, 2014) retrieved from
http://elixher.com/thank-you-robin-roberts/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wilson, Flip (1933-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Kathleen
Fearn-Banks 
Flip Wilson was the first African American to host a hit variety series on television.   The Flip Wilson Show aired from 1970 to 1974 and in addition to high ratings, Wilson won two Emmy Awards, one was for Outstanding Variety Series and the other for Outstanding Writing Achievement.  He also won the Golden Globe Award.  The Flip Wilson Show was the second highest rated show of the 1970-71 season topped only by the controversial but popular All in the Family sitcom.  Unusual for the time, Wilson was also part owner of his show.

Wilson played numerous characters but he is remembered primarily for his controversial portrayal of the sassy Geraldine.  Wilson, following the lead of comedians Milton Berle and Jonathan Winters who had also done characters in falsetto voice, developed Geraldine.  Wilson’s production team suggested he dress up as a woman.  He consented but insisted that Geraldine would be well-coiffed, well-dressed, and would demand respect.  Other characters include Rev. Leroy of the Church of What’s Happening Now and Freddy, the Playboy.  

The biggest names in show business guest starred on the show including Lucille Ball, Lena Horne, Muhammad Ali, Ray Charles, The Temptations, The Jackson Five, B.B. King, Bing Crosby, and Bill Cosby were among them.  Said Producer Henry, “The show was so hot, celebrities asked to be on as guests.”
Sources: 
Kathleen Fearn-Banks, The Historical Dictionary of African-American Television, Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dunn, Oscar J. (ca. 1825-1871)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper’s Perennial, 2002); W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (New York: Touchstone, 1995); “Lieut.-Gov. Oscar J. Dunn—Cause of His Death—Some Reminiscences of His Career” The New York Times, November 28, 1871.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Muddy Waters [aka McKinley Morganfield] (1913-1983)

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

Blues singer, songwriter and musician Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4, 1913 in Issaquena County, Mississippi. Waters acquired his nickname (and later stage name) because as a young child he liked to play in the mud.  When he began his musical career he adopted Muddy Waters as his legal name.

Waters, influenced by Mississippi Delta musicians Robert Johnson and Son House, first started his career as a blues singer and musician on the harmonica and then switched to the guitar.  In his late teens he played at parties in small towns in the Delta region of Mississippi.  By the early 1940s Waters had earned enough as a performer to open a small club, where he expressed his musical talent in daily performances.  Word of his music got out and in 1941 the famous folk musicologist Alan Lomax came to Mississippi to record Waters for the Library of Congress.  The attention garnered Waters his first recording contract with Testament Records.  The encounter also persuaded Waters that he could become a full-time musician.  Waters moved to Chicago to promote his career.
Sources: 
Robert Gordon, Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters. (Boston: Little, Brown, 2002); Sandra B. Tooze, Muddy Waters: The Mojo Man (Toronto: ECW Press, 1997).  The Official Muddy Waters Website, http://www.muddywaters.com/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harris, Barbara C. (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Church
of Alban the Martyr,
Diocese of Long Island

Religious leader Barbara Clementine Harris was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Walter and Beatrice (Price) Harris on June 12, 1930. After graduating from the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising and Journalism, she joined Joseph V. Baker Associates, Inc., a black-owned public relations firm in Philadelphia. She became president of the company in 1958 but left ten years later to become director of the Community Relations Department of the Sun Oil Company.

Meanwhile, Harris, an Episcopalian, was a volunteer at her church and in local jails and prisons. In 1960 she joined the activist Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia. That church had become a center for the civil rights movement then evolving in Philadelphia, supported both local protests and the national movement. Harris led a church delegation that marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma in 1965. Three years later the church hosted a national convention of the Black Panther Party (BPP), which attracted ten thousand people.

Sources: 

Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006); “Biography of Bishop Harris,” Episcopal Diocese of Washington, http://www.edow.org/diocese/bishops/harris_bio.html.

Contributor: 

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, George B. (? --?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robeson, Paul (1898-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Paul Robeson is best known as a world famous athlete, singer, actor, and advocate for the human rights of people throughout the world. Over the course of his career Robeson combined all of these activities into a lifelong quest for racial justice. He used his deep baritone voice to communicate the problems and progress associated with black culture and community, and to assist the labor and social movements of his time. He sang for multiracial and multiethnic peace and justice in twenty-five languages throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa.
Sources: 
Paul Robeson, Here I Stand (New York: Beacon Press, 1958); Martin Duberman, Paul Robeson (New York: New Press, 2005); Paul Robeson Jr., The Undiscovered Paul Robeson, An Artist’s Journey, 1898-1939 (New York: Wiley, 2001); Paul Robeson Jr., The Undiscovered Paul Robeson, Quest for Freedom, 1939-1976 (New York: Wiley, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Howell, Lembhard Goldstone (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Lembhard Howell
Lembhard G. Howell is a prominent Seattle attorney practicing in Seattle since 1966. Howell’s career has been dedicated to seeking justice for individuals who have been injured and unfairly treated. Howell was the first African American to serve on the board of governors of the Association of Trial Lawyers.  In 1984 he was elected chairman of the Washington State Delegation to the Democratic National Convention.  He has also argued cases in the Washington Supreme Court and is admitted to the United States Supreme Court.

Howell was born in Glengoffe, St. Catherine, Jamaica on May 2, 1936, to Daisy Iona Howell and Cleveland Alexander Howell. His mother brought him to New York in October 1946 along with his brother, Grover, and sister Elaine. Howell earned a bachelor’s degree in History, with Honors, from Lafayette College in 1958. After serving on active duty in the Navy, he earned a law degree from New York University in 1964.

Howell’s career began as a law clerk for the Washington State Supreme Court followed by working as an assistant Washington State Attorney General. His first law firm, Miller & Howell, was formed in 1969 with former Congressman John Miller, becoming Miller, Howell & Watson, before Howell began his own firm in 1973.
Sources: 
Geov Parrish, “Rebel With An Assortment of Clauses,” Washington Super Lawyers (June 2010); Michael Conant, “Defense Lawyer Loves to Get on Your Case: Lem Howell Asks the Questions that Others Refuse To," Seattle P-I (March 5, 1989); http://howelllembhardg1.qwestoffice.net.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Barbosa, Pedro, III (1966- )

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

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

Carter, George Sherman (1911-1998)

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

George Sherman Carter, research chemist, was born on May 10, 1911 in Gloucester County, Virginia. Carter, called Sherman, was one of four boys and one girl born to George Peter and Emily Maude Carter.  Not much is known of Carter’s childhood or of his move north but in 1936 Carter began his studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he majored in biology.  Carter was very active in the school community, joining Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the track team, the New York Club and Wissenschaft Verein (Science Club).  After graduation in 1940 Carter attended Columbia University’s Teachers College as well as the College of the City of New York.

Carter married Kathleen Francis and the two of them had a daughter, Beverly Kathleen. In 1943 Carter was hired at Columbia University in New York to work in tandem with the University of Chicago studying nuclear fission. This project was set up by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the famed Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bomb.  While at Columbia, Carter worked for Isidor Isaac Rabi, who led the Columbia group of scientists.  That group included William and Lawrence Knox.

Sources: 
“George Sherman Carter, noted chemist and Harlem resident, dies at 87,” New York Amsterdam News (Dec. 9, 1998); George S. Schuyler, “Negro Scientists Played Important Role in Development of Atomic Bomb,” The Pittsburg Courier (Aug. 18, 1945); Lincoln University Alumni Magazine (Lincoln University, 1946); www.dailypress.com, Obituaries (Dec. 11-20, 1998)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Carson, Benjamin S. (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin S. Carson was born on September 18, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan.  His father left the family when he was only eight years old, leaving his mother Sonya and his older brother Curtis.  As time passed, Benjamin and his brother fell further and further behind in school and he was labeled “dummy” by his classmates in fifth grade.  Once his mother saw their failing grades, she stepped in to turn their lives around.  They were only allowed to watch two or three television programs a week and were required to read two books per week and write a book report for her despite her own limited reading skills. Carson developed a love for books and scholarship and eventually graduated third in his high school class.  He enrolled in and graduated from Yale University and from there completed medical school at the University of Michigan after training to become a neurosurgeon.
Sources: 
Laura Chang, Scientists at Work (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000); http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/car1bio-1.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Herman, Alexis Margaret (1947-- )

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

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

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

Neal, William “Curly” (1849 –1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
William Curly Neal with Granddaughter
(Photo Courtesy of the Oracle Historical Society)
William “Curly” Neal helped turn a frontier western mining camp in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Arizona into a booming town that attracted businessmen and financiers, elite vacationers, and royals from around the world. His various business ventures as a teamster, passenger and freight hauler, rancher, hotelier, and entrepreneur point toward the pioneering spirit that helped him settle Oracle, Arizona Territory and become one of the areas wealthiest citizens.

Neal was born in 1849 in Tahlequah in the Cherokee Nation. His father was of African American descent and his mother, a Native American, had walked the Trail of Tears. Not much is known about his childhood other than he ran away from home at age seven following the death of his parents. For a time Curly, so called because of his long black curls, lived in and around railway stations doing odd jobs to support himself. At age nineteen he had the good fortune of meeting Colonel W. F. Cody and found steady employment as a military scout during the Indian Wars in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona. He survived numerous skirmishes so proven by multiple arrow and bullet wounds. Wild Buffalo Bill Cody, three years his senior, remained a lifelong friend.
Sources: 

Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Barbara Marriott, Annie’s Guests – Tales from a Frontier Hotel. (Tucson, Arizona: Catymatt Productions, 2002). Donald N. Bentz, “The Oracle Historian.” (Oracle, Arizona: Oracle Historical Society, Summer, 1982 V5, Winter, 1984-85 V7, Summer 1983 V6, Spring, 1988 V7).

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Long, Jefferson Franklin (1836-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Jefferson Franklin Long, a Republican who represented Georgia in the 41st Congress, was the first black member to speak on the floor of the House of Representatives, and was the only black representative from Georgia for just over a century. Long was born a slave in Knoxville, Georgia on March 3, 1836. Little is known of his early years, however by the end of the civil war he had been educated and was working as a tailor in the town of Macon. He was prosperous in business and involved in local politics.

By 1867 he had become active in the Georgia Educational Association and had traveled through the state on behalf of the Republican Party.  He also served on the state Republican Central Committee.  In 1869 Long chaired a special convention in Macon, Georgia which addressed the problems faced by the freedmen.

In December of 1870 Georgia held elections for two sets of congressional representatives – one for the final session of the 41st Congress (the first two of which Georgia had missed due to delayed readmission to the Union), and one for the 42nd Congress, set to begin in March of 1871. Georgia Republicans nominated Long, an African American, to run for the 41st congress, while Thomas Jefferson Speer, a white American, was chosen to run for the 42nd. Long was elected on January 16th, 1871.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, DC; U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Whitfield, James Monroe (1822-1871)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

James Monroe Whitfield, a black abolitionist and colonizationist, was born on April 10, 1822 in New Hampshire. Little is known about his early life except that he was a descendant of Ann Paul, the sister of prominent black clergyman Thomas Paul.  Whitfield had little formal education. Nonetheless by the age of 16, he was publishing papers for Negro rights conventions.

Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Classroom Electric, http://www.classroomelectric.org/volume1/levine/bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Braithwaite, William Stanley Beaumont (1878-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
William Stanley Braithwaite, the acclaimed poet and anthologist, was born in Boston on December 6, 1878. He was the second of five children born to William Smith Braithwaite and Emma Dewolfe Braithwaite. William Stanley Braithwaite’s father, originally from British Guiana, was a man of mixed racial heritage who had spent considerable time in England studying medicine, using the legacy left to him by a French grandmother. His mother, who almost passed for white, was the daughter of a mulatto ex-slave who had come North in the years following Civil War.

While William Stanley’s father was alive, the children were tutored at home in the usual subjects, as well as less common subjects such as French. Along with a superior education, William Stanley was also raised to consider only white children as his peers and to associate himself with the best and brightest among them whenever possible. These attitudes about race were inherited from his father, but would have less influence over him as the years went by.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Britannica Student Encyclopedia, http://student.britannica.com/comptons/article-9317968/William-Stanley-Braithwaite
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Bert (1874-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Egbert Austin "Bert" Williams was born in New Providence, Nassau on November 12, 1874.  When he was eleven or twelve his family settled in Riverside, California, and it was not long before Williams became attracted to show business.  In 1893 Williams got his start in show business and one of his first jobs was with a minstrel group called Martin and Selig's Minstrels.  While in this group Williams met George Walker, a song-and-dance man with whom Williams soon formed an illustrious partnership called Williams and Walker.

Throughout his career Williams achieved many firsts.  In 1901 he became the first African American to become a best selling recording artist, and in 1902 he became an international star with his performance in the show In Dahomey, the first black musical to be performed on Broadway.  Also, in 1910 Williams became the first black to be regularly featured in a Broadway revue when he joined the Ziegfeld Follies, and he even came to claim top billing for the show.

Sources: 
"Bert Williams," Broadway the American Musical: Stars Over Broadway
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/broadway/stars/williams_b.html ; Eric Ledell Smith, Bert Williams: A Biography of the Pioneer Black Comedian (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland &Company, Inc., Publishers, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hall, Adelaide (1901-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Iain Cameron Williams, Underneath A Harlem Moon: the Harlem to Paris
Years of Adelaide Hall
(London: Continuum, 2002);
http://www.myspace.com/adelaidehall.

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

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

Bailey, DeFord (1899-1982)

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