Dorothy Sterling, We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984), http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_132.html
David A. Paterson, sworn in as Governor on March 17, 2008, is the first legally blind American Governor, the first black Governor of New York State, and only the fourth black Governor of any state.
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.
Best remembered for the role of Reverend Sykes in the film classic To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), William Walker was born in Pendleton, Indiana in 1917. The son of a freed slave, Walker was the first African American graduate of Pendleton High School. After graduating, Walker pursued an acting career and made his first film appearance as a bit player in The Killers. He went on to appear in more than 100 films and television shows although the industry limited him mainly to roles as a domestic servant.
As the racial climate in Hollywood began to improve in the 1940s, Walker graduated to portraying a wider variety of characters, including doctors and diplomats. Eventually he moved on to directing and producing films. Determined to ensure other African American actors obtained roles that portrayed the race in a true light, Walker in the late 1940s became a civil rights activist.
September 28, 2003; Affirmative Action: Through the Decades with SAG,
Elma Lewis is an influential educator and advocate for the arts. Born in 1921 in Boston, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of immigrant parents from the West Indies. Lewis, a product of the Boston public school system, earned a Bachelors of Arts from Emerson College in 1943 while working as an actress. She continued her schooling, earning a Master’s in Education in 1944 from Boston University.
After teaching dance and drama for a few years, Lewis opened the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts in 1950 in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. Originally housed out of an apartment, the school quickly grew and expanded. Lewis formed a friendship with Eli Goldston and was able to have the old Hebrew Academy and Synagogue building in Roxbury appraised at 1.4 million and then donated to become the site of the Elma Lewis School.
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.
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.
Margaret Esse Danner is an African American poet, born in Pryorsburg, Kentucky on January 12, 1915 to Caleb and Naomi Esse. Danner began writing poetry when she was in junior high school. In the eighth grade she won first place for a poem she wrote titled, “The Violin.” Her family moved to Chicago when Margaret began High School.
Danner later attended Loyola and Northwestern Universities, where she was taught by Karl Shapiro and Paul Engle. She continued her writing while in Chicago and first became recognized in 1945 when she won second place in the Poetry Workshop of the Midwestern Writers Conference at Northwestern University. In 1951, while in Chicago, Danner become an editorial assistant for Poetry: the Magazine of Verse. It was this publication that introduced her poem series “Far From Africa” for which she is best known. These poems won Danner the John Hay Whitney Fellowship on 1951, which was intended to fund a trip to Africa scheduled for that same year. Danner postponed the trip for personal reasons and in fact did not go to Africa until 1966. In 1955 Margaret Danner became the first African American to hold the position of Assistant Editor of Poetry: The Magazine of Verse...
During her lifetime, Margaret Danner was married twice and had one daughter with her first husband. A number of her later poems were inspired by her grandson, Sterling, which she referenced as “Muffin Poems.” In 1961, Danner became poet-in-residence at Wayne State University in Detroit. It was during this time that Danner became involved in the Baha'i faith, which would influence her poetry. From that point many of her poems would refer to that faith.
June M. Aldridge, “Margaret Esse Danner.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Poets since 1955. Vol. 41, T. Harris, Editor, (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985); Haki Madhubuti, Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s. (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1971).
Yvonne Jeffries Johnson, the first African American mayor of Greensboro, North Carolina, was born on October 26, 1942 in Greensboro to Ruby Jeffries. She graduated from Dudley High School in 1960 and Bennett College in 1964, with a BA in Psychology. She then enrolled in Howard University and received a Graduate Fellowship in 1965. In 1978 Johnson received a Master of Science degree in Guidance Counseling from North Carolina A&T University.
George Washington Williams was a 19th century American historian most famous for his volumes, History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880; as Negroes, as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens (1882), and A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion (1887).Williams was born in 1849 in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania and lived there until 1864, when at the age of 14 and lacking virtually any education he left home to join the Union Army. Engaged by the soldier’s lifestyle, he followed this by fighting in Mexico in the overthrow of Maximilian.
Hubert Henry Harrison, author, lecturer, editor, and labor leader, was born in Concordia, St. Croix, Danish West Indies (now United States Virgin Islands) on April 27, 1883. Upon the completion of his elementary schooling in 1900, he moved to New York City, New York. There he took on various service-oriented positions, including that of telephone operator and hotel bellman. Beginning in 1901 he attended an evening high school program, finishing at the top of his class in 1907. After graduation Harrison became a postal clerk.
Thomas L. Jennings was the first black man to receive a patent. The patent was awarded on March 3, 1821 (US Patent 3306x) for his discovery of a process called dry-scouring which was the forerunner of today’s modern dry-cleaning.
Jennings was born free in New York City in 1791. In his early 20s he became a tailor but then opened a dry cleaning business in the city. While running his business Jennings developed dry-scouring.
The patent to Jennings generated considerable controversy during this period. Slaves at this time could not patent their own inventions; their effort was the property of their master. This regulation dated back to the US patent laws of 1793. The regulation was based on the legal presumption that "the master is the owner of the fruits of the labor of the slave both manual and intellectual.” Patent courts also held that slaves were not citizens and therefore could not own rights to their inventions. In 1861 patent rights were finally extended to slaves.
Mary Bellis, Thomas Jennings: Thomas Jennings was the first African
American to receive a patent,
Joan Potter, African American Firsts (New York: Kensington Publishing Group, 2002).
Alvin Ailey was born in Rodgers, Texas during the Great Depression. He overcame racism, poverty, and homophobia to become one of the most celebrated choreographers in American history. His single teenage mother Lula Ailey washed clothes, picked cotton, and worked in domestic service in various Texas towns. In Milano, Texas, Ailey attended Mount Olive Baptist Church, spending joy-filled hours that would shape his signature masterpiece, Revelations, 24 years later.
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.
Clarence Eugene Page is a newspaper columnist, essayist, and political analyst. His syndicated column which specializes in urban issues appears in numerous newspapers across the United States.
Page was born on June 2, 1947 in Dayton, Ohio to Clarence H. and Maggie (Williams) Page. Page's mother owned a catering service and his father was a factory worker. Page has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) which was undiagnosed during his childhood. He started reporting for his high school newspaper as a junior and found it to be a perfect match—perhaps, he says, because of ADD; news writing was short, and deadlines helped him stay on track. After his senior year, Page took a summer job in a steel mill and made time to freelance. He sold stories and photographs to two Ohio newspapers in the summer of 1965 as a 17-year-old high school graduate.
Page earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University in 1969 and started reporting for the Chicago Tribune right after graduation. Six months later, he was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. Page was assigned to public relations duty at Fort Lewis, Washington and in Germany.
Clarence Page, Showing My Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity,
New York: HarperCollins Publishers (1996); Clarence Page, “Bio,”
Chicago Tribune, accessed online at chicagotribune.com (November 19,
2008); University of Maryland, “Clarence Page," Front and Center
Magazine, Chicago Tribune (May 8, 2003).
Mabel Keaton Staupers, R.N., was instrumental in ending the United States Army’s policy of excluding African American nurses from its ranks in World War II. In 1948 Staupers also successfully lobbied for full integration of the American Nurses Association.
Mabel Keaton Staupers (née Doyle) was born in Barbados, West Indies on February 27, 1890 to Thomas Clarence Doyle and his wife, Pauline. In 1903 Doyle and her mother immigrated to New York City, New York, and Thomas Doyle joined them there a few years later. After gaining U.S. Citizenship in 1917, Doyle received her R.N. diploma from the Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. In 1917 Doyle married James Max Keaton, a marriage that ended in divorce.
Victor O. Frazer, attorney and politician, was born May 24, 1943 in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands to Albert Frazer and Amanda Blyden. He graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1960. In 1964, he earned a B.A. degree from Fisk University. In 1971, he received his J.D. from Howard University Law School and subsequently was admitted to legal bars of New York, Maryland, District of Columbia, and Virgin Islands.
In 1974 Frazer began his law career in Washington, D.C. at the Office of the Corporation Counsel (later known as the Office of the Attorney General of D.C.). He later served as a lawyer for the Interstate Commerce Commission and the U.S. Patent Office.
In 1987 he served as general counsel for the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority. Frazer’s congressional interest developed while working as an administrative assistant for California Representative Mervyn Dymally and as a special assistant for Michigan Representative John Conyers.
Through hard work and persistence Jeffrey and his wife Susan achieved a modicum of stability but also suffered profound injustice. Susan had two children from a previous marriage who were forced by powerful white people to work in their households as indentured servants. Around 1802, when neighbors attempted to force the children that Jeffrey and Susan had together into indentured servitude, the family decided to sell their farm and move to northern Vermont.
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.
Dorothy Ehrhart-Morrison, No Mountain High Enough: Secrets of Successful African American Women (Berkeley: Conari, 1997).
Pompey Factor, former slave, scout for the United States Army and Congressional Medal of Honor winner, was born in Arkansas in 1849 to Hardy Factor, a black Seminole chief and an unknown Biloxi Indian woman.
By the end of that 2nd Seminole War (1835-1842), most of the Seminole Indians and runaway slaves were captured and removed to the Indian Territory. The fear of enslavement drove many black Seminole to Mexico in the 1850s. Factor’s family was among those who emigrated.
On August 16, 1870, Factor enlisted in the Army and was assigned the rank of private with the Detachment of Seminole Negro Indian Scouts who worked with the Twenty-fourth Infantry, an all-black regiment. As a scout, he performed reconnaissance duties in Texas for the Army, tracking the movements of Comanches, Apaches, Kiowa and other Native Americans who refused to go to reservations.
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.
Spencer Williams is widely known for his portrayal of the character Andy in the controversial 1950s television comedy series Amos ‘n Andy. His contributions to the world of film and television, however, far surpassed the limitations of the popular but widely criticized Amos ‘n Andy sitcom. Born July 14, 1893 in Vidalia, Louisiana, Williams moved to New York City during his teens and studied comedy under vaudeville comedian Bert Williams.
He attended the University of Minnesota, but interrupted his studies to serve several years in the United States Army during and after World War I. After being honorably discharged from the service in 1923, Williams returned to New York City and concentrated on a career in show business. He eventually landed a job with Christie Studios in Hollywood, where he co-wrote and appeared in Paramount Pictures’ first all-black talking film, Melancholy Dame (1928). He was subsequently retained as a consultant, continuity writer, and performer for the Christie Comedies – a comedy series that focused on black life in urban Alabama.
Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia
(New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Thomas Cripps, Black Film as
Genre (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Wheeler Dixon, The
“B” Directors: A Biographical Directory (Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1985); Phyllis Klotman, Frame By Frame: A Black Filmography
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Henry T. Sampson, Blacks
in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films (Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1977); Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon &
Upon graduating in 1951, Mboya was given sanitary inspection duties in Nairobi. Around the same time, the anticolonial Mau Mau rebellion was erupting and much of Kenya’s trade union and political leadership were detained by British authorities. Mboya resigned from his inspector position in 1953 and began a series of full-time commitments to the growing union movement.
Jere L. Jackson, "James Leonard Farmer" http://www.cets.sfasu.edu/Harrison/Farmer/farmhome.htm; "Texas State Historical Marker" http://www.cets.sfasu.edu/harrison/farmer/marker.htm; James Farmer (Jr.), Lay Bare The Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Arbor House, 1985).
First named First Colored Baptist Church and located in Savannah, Georgia, First African Baptist Church traces its roots to December 1777, and is officially designated the oldest African American church in the United States. George Liele, the Church’s founder, continued to evangelize and baptize both the free and enslaved black populations of the Savannah area during the rest of the Revolutionary War period. One of those enslaved people was Andrew Bryan. Liele baptized Andrew Bryan, who was born in 1737, and his wife Hannah in 1782.
When David George and George Liele, along with hundreds of blacks, evacuated Savannah with the British in July 1782, Bryan remained and retained spiritual leadership of the First Colored Baptist Church. Andrew Bryan was allowed to preach by his master, Jonathan Bryan of Brampton Plantation, and became an ordained minister on January 20, 1788. The First Colored Baptist Church became certified by the Georgia Baptist Association in May 1790 and pre-dated the establishment of the white Baptist Church in the city by five years. Andrew Bryan remained the church’s pastor until his death in 1812.
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.
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.
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.
Leroy Wesley Smith was born in St. Louis Missouri on December 6, 1951, and became a late 20th Century social activist for justice. Son of a fireman and a licensed practical nurse, Smith spent his childhood growing up in a St. Louis housing project. He participated in an after school program for disadvantaged male youth which gave him the opportunity to travel to Cairo, Illinois where he heard other activists and community organizers for the first time. Impressed by their passion and their organizing skills, Smith was influenced to follow a similar path.
After graduating high school in 1970, Smith entered St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota where he became the leader of The Organization of Afro-American Students. Through this organization, Smith fought for a Black Studies program that would hire more black professors.
Sharon Melson Fletcher, “Damu Smith Biography” African American Biographies. (Net Industries, 2009) http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2880/Smith-Damu.html Retrieved 2009-03-06; Sara Powell, “In Memoriam: Damu Smith 1951-2006” Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. (Jul 2006). http://www.wrmea.com/archives/July_2006/0607080.html Retrieved 2009-03-04.
Marxist intellectual Stuart Hall was born on February 3, 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica to a middle class family. He attended primary school in Jamaica and was exposed to a variety of thinkers in the Western canon as well as Caribbean writers. Hall moved to England in 1951 with his mother as part of the large-scale postwar migration to England of people from the former colonies in the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent. As a person of color in postwar England, Hall experienced racial discrimination, but he also won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where he was introduced to British left-wing thought, European philosophy, and Socialism. Hall wrote his PhD dissertation on Henry James before becoming the editor of the New Left Review.
Aynaw lived in the hardscrabble immigrant town of Netanya. Despite having no knowledge of spoken or written Hebrew, she was transported to a Hebrew boarding school in Haifa that catered to newly arrived immigrants. Over time her competency in Hebrew steadily increased and she eventually became fluent in Yiddish as well. Aynaw was a standout student in high school who distinguished herself from the outset. She was student council president, excelled in track and field, and won first place in a national film competition that was loosely based on her own life experiences.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884, Saint Elmo Brady became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in the field of chemistry when he completed his graduate studies at the University of Illinois in 1916. The eldest child of Thomas and Celesta Brady, Saint Elmo had two younger sisters, Fedora and Buszeder.
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.
Jesse B. Blayton, Sr., was a pioneer African American radio station entrepreneur. Blayton founded WERD-AM in Atlanta, Georgia on October 3, 1949 making him the first African American to own and operate a radio station in the United States.
Jesse Blayton was born in Fallis, Oklahoma, on December 6, 1879. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1922 and then moved to Atlanta, Georgia to establish a private practice as an accountant. Blayton passed the Georgia accounting examination in 1928, becoming the state's first black Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and only the fourth African American nationwide to hold the certification.
Blayton also taught accounting at Atlanta University where he encouraged younger blacks to enter the profession. He had little success. Blayton later recalled that much of his recruiting difficulty came from the students' knowledge that no white-owned accounting firms would hire them and his, the only black-owned firm in the South, was small and had few openings. A decade after Blayton became a CPA there were still only seven other blacks in the U.S. who had achieved that status.
William Barlow, Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio (Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 1999); Theresa A. Hammond, A White-Collar
Profession: African American Public Accountants since 1921 (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); "WERD" in the New
Georgia Encyclopedia (online), http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org.
James Edwards was one of the most successful African American homesteaders in the state of Wyoming. Born in Ohio on February 14, 1871, local tradition in Wyoming suggests that prior to venturing west, Edwards had served in an African American cavalry unit in Cuba, though no documentation has been found to substantiate the claim.
In 1900, Edwards accompanied his father and a group of Italian miners westward in response to eastern newspaper advertisements of work at the Cambria coal mine in Newcastle, Wyoming. After being driven away from the mine, Edwards walked south to the area near Lusk, finding work on March 31, 1903 on Eugene Bigelow Wilson and George Luther Wilson's Running Water Ranch on the Niobrara River in present day Niobrara County, Wyoming. He was regarded by the owners of the ranch as a good and trustworthy worker, sheepman, and horse trainer. Edwards worked on the Wilson Brothers’ ranch until December of 1914. By the end of his employment on the ranch he had been promoted to foreman, putting him in a supervisory role over white employees.
Everett Leroi Jones, poet, playwright, activist, and educator, was born on October 7, 1934, in Newark, New Jersey to Coyt Leverrette Jones and Anna Lois Jones. He attended primary and secondary schools in Newark and in 1954 he earned a B.A. in English from Howard University. Jones joined the military that same year, serving three years in the Air Force as a gunner.
Following his honorable discharge, Jones he settled in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan where he socialized with Beatnik artists, musicians, and writers. While living in the Village, he also met and married Hettie Cohen, a Jewish writer. The couple co-edited the progressive literary magazine Yugen. They also founded Totem Press, which published the works of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and other political activists.
Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006); Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999), 181; http://www.amiribaraka.com/
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.
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.
Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, California, was born in California's capital city in 1966. He graduated from Sacramento High School, where he led the state in basketball scoring during his senior year, with a point average of 32.5 points. Johnson then played college basketball at the University of California at Berkeley. While there he became the all-time leader in scoring for that varsity team. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1987, Johnson was drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA).
As the seventh round draft pick, Johnson was chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was quickly traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1988, where he remained for the duration of his career in the NBA. Johnson played point guard, and with his high point-scoring, was considered by many teams as a threat. The Phoenix Suns' overall record improved with his selection and so did Johnson's performance.
During his first year with Phoenix (1988-1989), Johnson was named the NBA's most improved player. He also competed in all-star games in 1990, 1991, and 1994 and played on the U.S. Olympic Basketball team (Dream Team II) which won a gold medal in Toronto, Canada in the 1994 World Championship of Basketball. Kevin Johnson officially retired from the NBA on August 8, 2000 after 13 years in the league.
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.
Bill Robinson was born in Richmond, Virginia on May 25, 1878 to Maxwell and Maria Robinson. Due to the death of both of his parents when he was an infant, Bill and his younger brother Percy were brought up by his grandmother. As a young child, Bill was given the nickname of “Bojangles” although Robinson himself was unsure of the origin of the name.
John Mitchell, Jr. edited and published the Richmond Planet newspaper from one year after its founding in 1883, until his death in 1929. He was known as the “fighting editor” for his writing against racism.
In 1863, John Mitchell, Sr. and his wife Rebecca were living on the Lyons family estate in Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond. The Mitchells were slaves; John was a coachman and Rebecca was a seamstress. On July 11, 1863, they had John, Jr., the first of two sons. After the Civil War, the Mitchell family moved to Richmond, where Rebecca and John, Jr. continued to work for the Lyons family.
Mitchell graduated high school at the top of his class in 1881. He taught in Virginia Public Schools until state politics led to the firing of many black teachers, including him.
In 1883 the black lawyer Edwin Archer Randolph founded the Richmond Planet. After just a year, the newspaper was in the red and on the verge of collapse. Mitchell led a group of former teachers who resurrected it.
Ann Field Alexander, Race Man: The Rise and Fall of the “Fighting
Editor,” John Mitchell Jr., Charlottesville: University of Virginia
Press (2002); Richmond Planet, Richmond, Virginia (1884 – 1929);
William J. Simmons, Men of Mark, Cleveland: George M. Rewell & Co
Charles Lucièn Lambert, Sr., also known as Lucièn Lambert, Sr., was an internationally prominent classical musician and composer, and part of the middle generation of acclaimed Lambert musical artists. Both his father, Charles-Richard Lambert, and his son, Lucièn-Léon Guillaume Lambert, had distinguished careers in classical music.
Charles Lucièn Lambert was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1828 to Charles-Richard, a native of New York, and an unidentified free Creole woman of color. After Charles Lucièn’s mother’s death, Charles-Richard married Coralie Suzanne Orzy, another free woman of color. They had a son, Sidney, who was born in 1838. Charles Lucièn and Sidney received their first piano lessons from their father who was by then a prominent early 19th Century New Orleans musician and composer.
Charles Lucièn Lambert was a contemporary of the soon to be famous white Creole composer and musician, Louis Moreau Gottschalk. In fact the two enjoyed a friendly artistic rivalry as aspiring virtuoso pianists and composers in New Orleans in the late 1840s and early 1850s.
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.
History of American Negro; History of Coweta County, Georgia; Bill Banks, “Sharing Untold Stories,” The Atlanta Journal Constitution (February 1, 2001); Karen Jordan, “From a Dream to a Legacy,” The Tennessean (November 16, 2003); Karen Jordan, “Meharry Legacy Continues,” Interpreter Magazine (February-March 2004); W. Winston Skinner, “Descendant Plans Book about Pioneer Local Black Doctor,” Newnan Times-Herald (July 10, 2006); www.karenjordanwrites.com.
In 1921 Eva Beatrice Dykes became the first black woman in the United States to complete the required coursework for a Ph.D. and the third African American woman to receive a doctoral degree. Two other black women, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander and Georgiana Simpson, receive their Ph.D.s, in the same year as Dykes but because their respective commencement ceremonies took place earlier, Dykes is considered the third woman to receive the advanced degree.
Eva Dykes was born in Washington, D.C. in 1893, and attended M Street High School which was later renamed Paul Dunbar High School. In 1914, twenty-one year old Dykes graduated Summa Cum Laude from Howard University with a B.A. in English. After spending one year teaching at Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, she decided to seek a Master’s Degree at Radcliffe College, an all women’s college which is now a part of Harvard University. Radcliffe, however, would not accept her degree from Howard, forcing Dykes to earn a second B.A. in English from the Massachusetts institution in 1917. Nonetheless she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and the following year earned an M.A. from Radcliffe. While at Radcliffe Dykes was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She returned to Howard University in 1917 to complete her doctoral studies, earning the Ph.D. in 1921. Her dissertation focused on Alexander Pope’s views on slavery and his influence on American writers.
Howard Swanson was an African American composer best known for his art songs based on the poetry of Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Swanson was born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 18, 1907. Born in a middle class home, Swanson's family sent his two older brothers to college which was for the time unusual.
Swanson’s music career started after the family relocated to Cleveland, Ohio in 1916. As a young boy he often sang in his church, sometimes performing duets with his mother. In 1925 when he was 18, Swanson's father died which immediately and dramatically changed the family's circumstances. Howard Swanson now had to earn money to support the family. After high school graduation he worked in the Cleveland Post Office.
In 1927, as his circumstances improved, Swanson decided to continue his education. He attended the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied piano, eventually graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in music theory a decade later. In 1939 he received a Rosenwald Fellowship which allowed him to study in Paris, France with famed music instructor Nadia Boulanger. Swanson had planned to pursue graduate studies in Paris but in 1940 he was forced to evacuate Paris as the German Army overran France.
Samuel A. Floyd, International Dictionary of Black Composers (Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999}; http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com; http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2699.
Matthew Henson was an American explorer who accompanied Robert Peary, most famously on an expedition intended to reach the Geographic North Pole in 1909. Subsequent research and exploration has revealed that Peary and Henson did not reach the North Pole but their failed attempt is still recognized as an important contribution to scientific knowledge.
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.
In 2002, Kwame Malik Kilpatrick, at the age of 31, became the youngest person to be elected mayor of Detroit, Michigan. Six years later in 2008, Kilpatrick resigned his post as mayor after his conviction for obstruction of justice stemming from a sex scandal involving the mayor and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty. Kilpatrick, married and the father of three sons, had an affair with Beatty, a divorced single mother and then committed perjury in a 2007 trial when he denied the relationship under oath. Kilpatrick was forced to resign from his office and spent 120 days in jail as part of a guilty plea to the charges of obstructing justice.
Kilpatrick, the son of U.S. Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Bernard Kilpatrick, former Chief of Staff for Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara, was born in Detroit on June 6, 1970. Kilpatrick was the captain of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s football team. He earned a B.A. degree in political science there. He returned to Detroit and taught at the Marcus Garvey Academy.
Can Kwame Kilpatrick Grow Up, Steven Gray/Detroit Thursday, Sep. 20, 2007, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1663791,00.html; Kwame Kilpatrick, M.J. Stephey, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008, /www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1854335,00.html; Kwame Kilpatrick exits, with Barack Obama holding the door, Edward McClelland September 4, 2008, www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/09/04/detroit/; Resources for Elected Officials, DLC, Profile, May 15, 2003,100 To Watch :: 2003 The Next Generation of Leadership, www.ndol.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=251633&kaid=104&subid=210.
Edward Rudolph Bradley Jr., journalist, was born June 22, 1941, in Philadelphia. His father was a businessman and his mother a housewife. After Bradley’s parents divorced, he spent summers with his father in Detroit. He attended primary and secondary school in Philadelphia. In 1960 he attended Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and played defensive end and offensive tackle on the football team. After earning a degree in 1964 in education, Bradley taught sixth grade. He also worked nights at WDAS-FM radio in Philadelphia as a jazz disc jockey and basketball play-by-play announcer.
His first reporting assignment included the north Philadelphia riot in 1964. In 1967, WCBS Radio, an all-news station in New York City, hired Bradley. In 1971, Bradley moved to Paris and became a stringer (freelance reporter) for CBS News. Four years later he became a reporter at the CBS Washington bureau, covering Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign.
In 1976 Bradley was the first African American reporter at CBS to serve as a White House correspondent and anchor the station’s Sunday evening news program. In 1978 Bradley became a correspondent for “CBS Reports,” reporting from Cambodia, China, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.
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.
Langston Hughes, The Big Sea (New York: Hill and Wang, 1940); Eleonore van Notten, Wallace Thurman’s Harlem Renaissance (Atlanta: Rodopi, 1994); Lawrence T. Potter, Jr., “Wallace Thurman,” in Encyclopedia on African American Writers, Wilfred D. Samuels, ed. (New York: Facts on File, 2007).
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.
Alvin Childress is best remembered for his role as the philosophical easy-going character Amos on the Amos n’ Andy show, a popular all-black cast sitcom of the early 1950s that depicted the antics of three friends in Harlem. Childress was born on September 15, 1907 in Meridian, Mississippi.
Childress began his career on stage, appearing in such productions as Sweet Land (1931) and Savage Rhythm (1931). A year later, he embarked on a successful film career, appearing in such films as Out of the Crimson Fog and Harlem is Heaven and went on to appear in several minor film roles throughout the 1930s. In the 1940s, he concentrated on a career in theater and worked as an instructor for the American Negro Theater in Harlem.
In 1951, Childress returned to the screen when he landed the role of the leading character Amos on the short-lived Amos n’ Andy sitcom. The TV show was canceled after two years because the NAACP protested the series as fostering racial stereotypes, even though many of episodes showed blacks with professional and entrepreneurial backgrounds.
Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Illustrated
Encyclopedia, (New York: Fireside, 1988); Anonymous. Diabetes: Let's
make it history—Alvin Childress.
Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten , an American folk and blues musician, made her professional debut in 1959 at the age of 67. Discovered by the musically renowned Seeger family in the 1950s, Cotten was soon recognized for her unique self-taught guitar and banjo picking style and her songs "Freight Train," "Oh, Babe, It Ain't No Lie" and "Shake Sugaree."
Born in 1892 (though some sources state 1893 or 1895) near Chapel Hill, North Carolina to a
musically inclined family, Elizabeth Nevills started singing and performing
pre-blues, finger-picked music at a young age. Secretly borrowing her brother's
banjo, the left-handed Nevills taught herself to play the right-handed
instrument by turning it upside down and playing the bass with her fingers and
the treble with her thumb, inadvertently creating a unique picking style that
was later referred to as "Cotten Picking." She bought her first guitar when she
was 11 years old and continued to employ her upside-down picking technique.
Shirley Verrett was a distinguished mezzo-soprano and soprano opera singer. Born in New Orleans on May 31, 1931, one of five children to strict Seventh Day Adventists, her father was a successful building contractor. She came from a musical family, her mother often sang in the house and her father occasionally worked as a choir director. Her parents encouraged her talent, but they disapproved of opera and hoped that she would pursue other interests. The family moved to Los Angeles where Verrett grew up.
Verrett was passionate about music but after high school, with her father’s support, she became a real estate agent. After selling houses for few years, Verrett realized that her life could only be fulfilled by pursuing singing. With help from her vocal instructor, she appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s program Talent Scouts in 1955. From this appearance she was awarded a scholarship at The Julliard School, where she studied for five years with Anna Fitziu and Marion Szekely Freschl. Verrett made her operatic debut in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in 1957. The following year she made her New York City Opera debut as Irina in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars. Her European debut came in 1959 when she performed in Nabokov’s Rasputin’s Tod in Cologne, Germany.
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.
Henry Adams was a prominent black Baptist minister and advocate for African American education who worked in Georgia and later in Louisville, Kentucky. Adams was born in Franklin County, Georgia in 1802. He obtained a license to preach at the age of 18 and was ordained on October 29, 1825. Adams preached for four years in Georgia and South Carolina.
Blues, jazz, and folk musician Taj Mahal was born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem, New York on May 17, 1942. He was raised in Springfield, Massachusetts by musically gifted parents. Mahal's father was a jazz musician and his mother a gospel singer. As a child, Mahal learned how to play various instruments, such as the piano, harmonica, clarinet and guitar.
Mahal attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst during the early 1960s. He played in the institution's band, the Electras. Mahal became a blues performer who specializes in a variety of musical genres, including country blues, reggae, jazz, rhythm and blues, ragtime and folk music. As a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer, he plays the guitar, harmonica, and banjo. Mahal has traveled the globe, and has learned to fuse different nontraditional forms of music into blues.
After graduating in 1964, Mahal moved to Los Angeles, California and formed the Rising Sons, which consisted of Ry Cooder, Ed Cassidy, Jesse Lee Kinkaid, Gary Marker, and Kevin Kelly. After signing a contract with Columbia Records, the Rising Sons broke up before releasing their first album. Mahal still stayed with Columbia, releasing three records: Taj Mahal (1968), The Natch'l Blues (1969), and Giant Step/De Old Folks at Home (1969).
Robert Santelli, The Big Book of Blues (New York: Penguin Books, 1993); Taj Mahal and Stephen Foehr, Taj Mahal: Autobiography of a Bluesman (London: Sanctuary Publishing, 2002).
National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar LeBron James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio to Gloria James who was sixteen and unwed . Gloria, the sole provider for her only son, worked various jobs and lived in numerous apartments with young LeBron throughout Akron.
LeBron James’s athleticism was revealed early when at age 14 he stood six feet tall and dominated his age group in football and basketball. During this period he became close friends with Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee, and Romeo Travis. The five adolescents dominated basketball leagues in various community centers and became known locally as the “Shooting Stars.” All five chose to attend Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary (SVSM) Catholic High School.
The Shooting Stars saga at the SVSM became storied. Under LeBron James’s leadership the team won three Division III state titles. The team's popularity required SVSM to move their games from their high school area to the fifteen thousand seat Rhodes Arena at the University of Akron. James's fame also attracted the attention of ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated in the late 1990s and he was given the nickname "King James" by the sports press. The team was chronicled in the 2009 documentary More Than a Game.
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.
One of hip-hop culture's most influential pioneers, Afrika Bambaataa was the first to articulate an ideology for the emerging youth culture, using the music to illustrate hip-hop's expansive potential as a global movement. As a DJ and recording artist, Bambaataa embraced every musical genre to establish hip-hop as an aesthetic form based on juxtaposition and appropriation. As a leading spokesman for the hip-hop generation, Bambaataa delineated the four elements of hip-hop as rapping, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti-writing, giving the manifold trends of late seventies minority youth in New York City a definitive coherence.
From his childhood in the Bronx River Projects, Bambaataa was a natural leader and by his early teens he rose to command ranks in the neighborhood’s dominant youth gang. As his focus moved to throwing parties around the neighborhood, he was blessed with an instant following, which only grew as his recognition as the borough’s preeminent DJ became widespread. In 1982, along with his crew of MCs and DJs, the Soul Sonic Force, Bambaataa released “Planet Rock,” one of the most influential early hip-hop songs, which is also credited as one of the leading inspirations for the forthcoming electronic musical genres.
Fannie Jackson was born a slave in Washington D.C. on October 15, 1837. She gained her freedom when her aunt was able to purchase her at the age of twelve. Through her teen years Jackson worked as a servant for the author George Henry Calvert and in 1860 she enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio. Oberlin College was the first college in the United States to accepted both black and female students.
While attending Oberlin College Jackson enrolled and excelled in the men’s course of studies. She was elected to the highly respected Young Ladies Literary Society and was the first African American student to be appointed in the College’s preparatory department. As the Civil War came to an end she established a night school in Oberlin in order to educate freed slaves.
Irma Jackson Cayton Wertz was a member of the first Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAACS) Officer training class commissioned at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, during World War II. Born in Brunswick, Georgia, on May 8, 1911, Jackson was the product of a military household. Her family was stationed in Des Moines while her father, who served as a captain in the segregated army during World War I, attended officer’s training camp.
After graduating from Fisk University and Atlanta University, Jackson moved to Chicago, Illinois where she gained employment as a social worker in the South Parkway Community Center. There she married her first husband, Horace Cayton, a noted University of Chicago sociologist. The couple divorced in 1942.
The same year, Jackson applied for entrance into the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. After successfully passing a battery of examinations, completing a six-week training course, and taking the oath to become an officer in August of that year, Jackson was briefly assigned to the WAAC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. as a recruiter. Shortly thereafter, she relocated to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where she met and married William Wertz and joined the Thirty-second WAAC Post Headquarters Company.
Robert F. Jefferson, Fighting for Hope: African American Troops of the 93rd Infantry Division in World War II and Postwar America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008); Brenda L. Moore, To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race: The Story of the Only African American WACs Stationed Overseas during World War II (New York: New York University Press, 1996).
George W. Gibbs, Jr. was the first person of African descent to set foot on Antarctica (the South Pole). He was also a civil rights leader and World War II Navy gunner.
Gibbs was born in Jacksonville, Florida on November 7, 1916. He moved to Brooklyn, New York where he enrolled in Brooklyn Technical School and later received his GED. He also served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Gwendolyn Bennett a poet, author, educator, journalist and graphic artist, was born July 8, 1902 in Giddings, Texas, to Joshua and Maime Bennett. Her parents worked as teachers in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Gwendolyn’s family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1906 when she was four years old. Soon after, Bennett’s mother divorced her father and took custody of six year old Gwendolyn. Joshua eventually kidnapped Gwendolyn and they settled in with her stepmother in Brooklyn, New York.
Bennett attended Brooklyn’s Girls High from 1918 to 1921 where she became the first African American to join the Drama and Literary societies and where she was rewarded first place in a school-wide art contest. After graduating from high school, Bennett enrolled at Columbia University and Pratt Institute to pursue fine arts. She graduated in 1924.
Bennett began to write poetry in college and in November 1923, her poem “Nocturne” was published in The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The following month another poem, “Heritage” appeared in Opportunity, the magazine of the National Urban League. In 1924, Bennett became an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at Howard University. Continuing her education in fine arts, Bennett went to Academic Julian and Ecole de Pantheon in Paris in 1925.
Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women (Detroit-London: Gale
Research Inc. 1992).
James Still, medical doctor and herbalist, was born on April 9, 1812 in Burlington County, New Jersey. Still was born to Levin and Charity Still, two former slaves living in the Pine Barrens to avoid being captured and sold back into slavery. Although the Still family was poor, the children attended school periodically and had some of their own textbooks, such as the New Testament and a spelling book. When Still was three years old, a Dr. Fort, a Philadelphia physician, came to the Pines to vaccinate the children. His visit was the spark of inspiration that led to Still’s desire to be a doctor.
Just before Still turned 18 he was voluntarily hired out as an indentured servant by his father. During the three years of his servitude, Still read everything available about medicine and botany, and learned all he could from the Native Americans of the area. On his twenty-first birthday, he was released from his service, given $10.00 and a new suit. He left immediately for Philadelphia. Still’s racial and financial status prevented him from attending medical school. Nonetheless, he continued to gain medical knowledge, reading everything he could find while working menial jobs to support himself.
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.
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.
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.
Eldridge Cleaver, author and civil rights activist, was born on August 31, 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas. Cleaver, a child of six, lived in a household where his father abused his mother. The Cleavers moved to Phoenix and finally settled in Los Angeles where Cleaver spent much of his childhood in and out of reform schools for petty crimes. In 1957, at the age of 22, he was convicted of assault with intent to commit murder and sent first to California’s San Quentin Prison and then transferred to Folsom Prison. As an inmate, Cleaver spent most of his time reading works by Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Karl Marx, and Richard Wright. He was also inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X who was assassinated during his incarceration. Their writings influenced him to write, in prison, a collection of essays on race and the black revolution. Those essays were published as the book Soul on Ice in 1968, two years after his release from prison.
Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1968); Joseph Peniel E., Waiting ‘Til The Midnight Hour (New York: Henry Holt And Company, 2006).
In 2006 Sophia Danenberg became the first African American and first black woman from anywhere in the world to climb the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest in the Himalayas.
Sophia Marie Scott was born in 1972 in Homewood, Illinois (a southern suburb of Chicago) to a Japanese mother and black father. She attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School, graduating in 1990. Danenberg then studied environmental sciences and public policy at Harvard University, graduating in 1994, before going on to Keio University in Tokyo as a Fulbright Fellow. Danenberg then began her professional career with United Technologies in Japan and China, managing energy and indoor air quality projects, before moving to Hartford, Connecticut where she worked in green technology research programs at United Technologies.
Danenberg became involved in mountaineering in 1999 after a childhood friend encouraged her to try rock climbing. During this two year period, while doing technical climbs through her local Appalachian Mountain Club Chapter, she met her future husband David Danenberg.
Carly A. Mullady, "Never Underestimate Yourself, and Never Let Others
Underestimate You," Southtown Star Newspaper, Chicago (Sunday, February
3, 2008), p. 3; Teresa Pelham, "Glastonbury Woman Makes History With
Everest Climb," The Hartford Courant (Monday, November 13, 2006);
http://www.danenberg.org/; Jeffrey Felshman, "Up Everest, Quietly" Our
Town (2006), www.ChicagoReader.com http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/ourtown/060714/everest/
Born November 16, 1963 in Houston, Texas, tennis star Zina Garrison was the youngest of seven children and was raised by her widowed mother, Mary Garrison. She began playing tennis at the age of 10 through the MacGregar Park Tennis Program. The program was run by John Wilkerson who later became Garrison’s coach throughout her tennis career. She