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People

Catlett, Elizabeth (1915-2012)

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

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

Catlett then briefly studied ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1941, followed by the study of lithography at the Arts Students League in New York City between 1942 and 1943, during which time she was briefly married to fellow artist Charles White. She also studied individually with Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine in 1943.

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

Calvin, Floyd Joseph (1902-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Floyd Calvin was a journalist who also launched a newswire service and hosted the first black radio show during the Harlem Renaissance.

Calvin was born in 1902 to a school teacher and a farmer in Washington, Arkansas.  He graduated from Shover State Teacher Training College in Hope, Arkansas in 1920 and attended the City College of New York for another year after migrating to Harlem.

In 1922, after college, Calvin began working briefly as an associate editor of the Messenger, the political and literary magazine which many historians claim was at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance. There he worked with A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen, the founders of the magazine. In 1924 Calvin began working at the Pittsburgh Courier, which at the time was one of the two most widely circulated black newspapers in the country (the Chicago Defender was the other).  There, he was a writer and special features editor from 1924 to 1935 working in the New York office of the Courier.

In 1927, Calvin hosted a periodic radio talk show sponsored by the Courier.  It was broadcast on radio station WGBS, and it covered African-American-focused topics.  The show, the Courier Hour, was the first radio program ever sponsored by a black newspaper and the first radio talk program targeting an African American audience.
Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981); Ryan Ellett, Uncovering Black Radio’s Roots: 1927 – 1929 (http://otrr.org).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ferbos, Lionel Charles (1911- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
New Orleans, Louisiana trumpeter Lionel Charles Ferbos was born in in the city’s Creole 7th Ward on July 17, 1911.  His father was Louis Ferbos, a tinsmith, and his mother was Rosita Ferbos. Lionel had two siblings.  As a child, he had asthma and was advised not to play any wind instrument.  However, in 1926 he saw Russian orchestra leader Phil Spitalny’s all-girl orchestra and decided to become a musician.  Ferbos studied with Professor Paul Chaligny, who taught him to read music, and he subsequently continued to study with trumpeter Albert Snaer.  Ferbos was enumerated as a musician in the 1930 census and like most musicians of that time he always kept a manual job.  At Haspel’s Clothing Factory he met seamstress Marguerite Gilyot, who became his wife in 1934.  They had two children, actor Lionel Jr, (1939–2006) and Sylvia Schexnayder (b. 1941).  He later joined his father’s business and became a master tinsmith.
Sources: 
Al Rose & Edmond Souchon, A Family Album (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967); Lionel Ferbos: 100 Years Young, http://www.myneworleans.com/My-New-Orleans/April-2011/Lionel-Ferbos-100-Years-Young/; Ancestry.com, 1930 United States Federal Census about Lionel Ferbos.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Briggs, Cyril (1888-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Cyrill Briggs and Charlene Mitchell, 1960
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Cyril Briggs was a pioneering civil rights activist, journalist, black nationalist, and member of the American Communist Party. Born in 1888 on the Eastern Caribbean island of Nevis, Briggs immigrated to New York City in 1905 and joined a burgeoning community of radical West Indian intellectuals in Harlem. In 1912 be was hired at the New York Amsterdam News where he voiced support for World War I and Woodrow Wilson's anti colonial doctrine of self-determination, which he saw as validating his own radical vision of African American self-rule. Further radicalized in the wake of World War I and the Russian Revolution, Briggs started publishing his own periodical, the Crusader, in September 1918 and one month later founded the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB).  Incorporating Marxist class-consciousness under the banner of "Africa for Africans," the Crusader and the ABB became vehicles for Briggs' distinctive merger of interracial revolutionary socialism with black nationalism and anti colonialism. 

Sources: 
Mark Solomon, The Cry Was Unity: Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936 (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

McCain, Franklin Eugene (1941-2014)

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

Franklin McCain grew up in Washington, D.C. but returned to his native North Carolina to attend college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. McCain and his roommate, David Richmond, had followed the progress of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama and felt that they should do something to contribute to the movement for social change. On Monday February 1, 1960 McCain joined the rest of the “A & T Four” (Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr. and Richmond) in sitting-in at a segregated F.W. Woolworth lunch counter. The following day, two dozen students from North Carolina A & T and Bennett College joined the protest. By the end of the week 3,000 students were picketing in downtown Greensboro. The movement rapidly spread to fifty-four cities in nine other southern states.

Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, N.C.: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Johnson C. Smith University, respectively

Spivey, Victoria (1906-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Victoria Spivey grew up in a musical family where her father, Grant, played in a string band while sisters, Addie and Elton, sang the blues. But it was Victoria who became the star with a beginning that took her moaning style of singing into honky tonks, bordellos, men’s clubs and gin mills all over Texas. In 1926, she left for St. Louis and acquired a recording contract with OKeh records but found her stride in New York where she continued to record but performed in all the elite nightclubs, appeared in the musical, Hellzapoppin’ Revue, took a lead role in Hallelujah, the first musical feature film with an all black cast, and sang with the big bands in the 1940s. The crossover into the big band jazz genre allowed her to join Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman on stages across the country. As the country’s musical tastes changed in the 1950s, she became an organist and choir master in her church and then in the 1960s she enjoyed a revival of her blues career.
Sources: 
David Dicaire, Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century (Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999); Anna Stong Bourgeois, Blueswomen: Profiles of 37 Early Performers, with an Anthology of Lyrics, 1920-1945 (Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1996); http:/www.geocities.com/theblueslady.geo/Victoria.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Pickens, William (1881-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The History Cooperative
William Pickens was born January 15, 1881 in Anderson County, South Carolina. His parents were liberated slaves who migrated to Arkansas when he was a young boy.  Young Pickens worked in cotton fields and in sawmills while attending the local segregated public school.  Pickens entered Talladega College in Alabama in 1898 and left four years later as the school’s most illustrious graduate in its history. In 1902 he entered Yale University and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa where he won the Henry James Ten Eyek Prize over thirty seven competitors in 1903.  Pickens became an expert linguist and graduated from Yale with a second B.A. degree in classics in 1904.  In 1905 Pickens married Minnie Cooper McAlpine. The couple had three children.  

William Pickens returned to Talladega and taught foreign languages there for the next decade.  Beginning in 1914 he spent two years at Wiley College in Texas and then became Dean of Academics at Morgan State College in Baltimore in 1916.

William Pickens wrote his first autobiography, The Heir of Slaves, in 1911. In the book he stressed the importance of education.  He also credited much of his success to his family, different teachers who guided him and the techniques he used to produce his accomplishments.
Sources: 
William Pickens, Bursting Bonds (Boston: Jordan & More Press, 1923); William M. Brewer, The Journal of Negro History 39:3 (July 1954): 242-244: Sheldon Avery, Up from Washington: William Pickens and the Negro Struggle for Equality (Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Yates, John Henry "Jack" (1828-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Henry "Jack" Yates, minister and educator, was born a slave to Robert and Rachael Yates in Gloucester County, Virginia, on July 11, 1828. As a slave, Yates learned to read and write, and acquired the skills of carpentry. During his bondage, he married Harriet Willis of a neighboring plantation and together they had eleven children. Unable to stand the pain of being separated from his family, when Harriet's master moved to Matagorda County, Texas, Jack Yates begged to go along and was granted permission.

When African American enslaved people were set free on June 19, 1865, The Yates family moved to Houston where he became drayman and Baptist preacher. As a minister, Yates did missionary work among the freedmen and women who were rapidly moving into Houston immediately after the Civil War. When the first black Baptist church (Antioch Missionary Baptist Church) was organized in Houston in January, 1866, he became its founding pastor. By 1875, the Antioch congregation, almost all of whom were former slaves, had erected a brick church edifice. With Yates at the helm of Antioch, the church had become influential in the political, social and cultural life of black Houston.

Sources: 
Rutherford B. H. Yates, Sr., and Paul L. Yates, The Life and Effort of Jack Yates (Houston:  Texas Southern University Press, 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Johnson, Willard, Sr. (1901-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
(Image Courtesy Willard Johnson, Jr.)
Willard Johnson, bacteriologist, science educator, business proprietor, was born in Leavenworth Kansas, the third of the eleven children of Joseph Johnson and Hattie McClanahan. Taught by his high school’s founder, Blanche Kelso Bruce, nephew of the Reconstruction era Senator of the same name, he was the first in his family to go to college. Johnson attended Kansas University (KU), where he joined the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. In 1922, he was admitted to the Kansas University Medical School. Probably the second African American ever admitted, Willard struggled through nearly three years of medical course work but did not transfer to a black medical school to finish as KU required at the time.

Willard Johnson was awarded his Bachelor’s at KU in 1924 and then taught biological science courses at Rust College in Mississippi. In 1928 he completed a year of graduate work in bacteriology at the University of Chicago. In 1929, he joined the faculty of Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College in Nashville where he and his bride, Dorothy N. Stovall, of Humboldt, Kansas, had their first son, Richard E. He headed the Biology Department and taught zoology, comparative vertebrate anatomy, physiology, botany, hygiene and bacteriology. In 1932 he did further graduate study at Emporia State College in Kansas.

Sources: 
Willard Johnson Family Papers in the possession of the author; The Kansas Collection of The Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas; Kansas City Call, May 7, 1937, October 28, 1938; Amber Reagan-Kendrick, “Ninety Years of Struggle and Success: African American History at the University of Kansas, 1870-1960,” (doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Barbadoes, James G. (1796-1841)

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

Vann, Robert Lee (1879-1940)

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

Talbert, Mary B.(1866–1923)

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

Mary Burnett Talbert, clubwoman and civil rights leader, was originally born Mary Burnett on September 18, 1866 in Oberlin, Ohio, to Cornelius and Caroline Nicholls Burnett.  Mary Burnett graduated from Oberlin High School at the age of sixteen and in 1886 graduated from Oberlin College with a literary degree at nineteen.  Shortly afterwards, Burnett accepted a teaching position at Bethel University in Little Rock, Arkansas and quickly rose in the segregated educational bureaucracy of the city.  In 1887, after only a year at Bethel University, Burnett became the first African American woman to be selected Assistant Principal of Little Rock High School. Four years later in 1891, however, Burnett married William H. Talbert, an affluent business man for Buffalo, New York and resigned her position at Little Rock High School and moved to her husbands hometown. One year later Mary B. and William Talbert gave birth to their only child, a daughter, Sarah May Talbert.

Sources: 

Hallie Q. Brown, Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction (Xenia, Ohio: Aldine Publishing Company, 1926); Rayford Logan, ed., Dictionary of American Negro Biography, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982); Lillian Serece Williams, Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Tademy, Lalita (1948- )

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

In 1995, author Lalita Tademy left her prestigious and well-paid position of vice-president and general manager at Sun Microsystems and began to search for a new direction for her life. Her long corporate climb, including stints at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Memorex, led her in her 40s to a life of 12-hour days, a long commute to Silicon Valley, and little time to herself. Although she loved the challenges of her corporate rise, she quit her job and with a three-year financial cushion began researching her family history.

After several years of extensive genealogical research that included gathering approximately 1,000 documents – photographs, census records, diaries, letters, birth certificates, newspaper articles, wills, land deeds, and also the bill of sale for her great-great-great-great-grandmother – she began to write. Tademy wove these historical materials into a novel that blends fact and fiction and tells the story of her maternal Louisiana ancestors over the turbulent years from 1834 to 1936, from slavery to freedom to Reconstruction to Jim Crow.
Sources: 
Lalita Tademy, Cane River (Warner Books: New York, 2001); Jean Hanff Korelitz, “She Ditched the Corner Office,” More magazine, May 2008, 73-76; http://www.lalitatademy.com/bio.html; http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/tademyLalita.php; http://www.Oprah.com/obc/pastbooks/lalita_tademy/;
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dart, Isom (1849-1900)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Ned Huddleston (also known as Isom Dart) was born into slavery in Arkansas in 1849. His reputation as a rider, roper and bronco-buster earned him the nicknames of the “Black Fox” and the “Calico Cowboy.”  He was also a notorious Wyoming Territory outlaw.

In 1861 twelve-year-old Huddleston accompanied his owner, a Confederate officer, into Texas during the Civil War. After being freed at the end of the war Huddleston headed for the southern Texas-Mexico border region where he found work at a rodeo, became a stunt rider and honed his skills as a master horseman.

Huddleston straddled both sides of the law. For a time he and a young Mexican bandit named Terresa survived as rustlers stealing horses in Mexico and selling them in Texas. Huddleston later joined a cattle drive heading northwest to Brown’s Hole in the Colorado-Wyoming area around 1871. The 6’2” Huddleston briefly found success mining gold and silver then claimed his partner cheated him out of his earnings.

After a tumultuous love affair with a Shoshone Indian woman in 1875, Huddleston joined the infamous Tip Gault Gang, a cattle and horse rustling outfit of southeastern Wyoming. After narrowly escaping death he went further west and started a new life as a hard-working man. He changed his name to Isom Dart and made a living as a bronco buster.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, Black Cowboys of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2011); Dean F. Krakel, The Saga of Tom Horn: The Story of the Cattleman’s War, with Personal Narratives, Newspaper Accounts and Official Documents and Testimonies (Laramie, WY: Powder River Publishers, 1954); Arthur Cromwell, The Black Frontier (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Television, 1970).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lincoln, Charles Eric (1924-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Educator and Sociologist C. Eric Lincoln was born June 23, 1924 in Athens, Alabama.  After he was abandoned by his parents, Lincoln was raised by his maternal grandparents.  He attended the Trinity School in Athens, an institution created by the New England-based Congregational Church to meet the secondary education needs of African Americans in that community. While there Lincoln picked cotton to earn money to purchase his books and pay the three dollar per year tuition for his studies.  

Lincoln edited the Campus Chronicle, the Trinity school newspaper.  He also graduated as the valedictorian of his class in 1939.  After high school he moved to Chicago to continue his studies, working during the day and taking night classes at the University of Chicago.  In 1943 Lincoln was drafted into the United States Navy and served until the end of World War II.

In 1945 Lincoln moved to Memphis, Tennessee to enroll in Lemoyne College.  He received a BA in philosophy and sociology from the institution in 1947.  In 1954 he received his master’s degree in philosophy from Fisk University and a bachelor of divinity degree from the Chicago Divinity School two years later.  In 1957 Lincoln became an ordained minister.  Three years later, in 1960 received a Ph.D. in sociology and social ethics from Boston University.
Sources: 
C. Eric Lincoln, Coming Through the Fire: Surviving Race and Place in America (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996): “C. Eric Lincoln, Race Scholar, is dead at 75,” New York Times May 17, 2000, p. 26; “ C(harles) Eric Lincoln 1924-2000 Educator, sociologist, author, cleric,” Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 38 (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale Group Inc., 2000), pp. 113-116; “Race, religion expert who taught at Duke dies at 75,” (Raleigh, N.C.) News and Observer May 15, 2000, p. A1    
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Central University

Pandit, Korla (1921-1998) (aka Redd, John Roland, aka Rolando, Juan)

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

Korla Pandit, the first African American to have his own television show, was a composer, organist and pianist who starred in TV’s first all-music series.  He was known as the godfather of “Exotica,” a musical genre that became popular in the 1950s.  In order to garner the kind of success which would have been inaccessible had he simply played himself, in 1939 he became Juan Rolando, a man of Mexican heritage, and in 1948 he became Korla Pandit, a Brahmin Indian.

Pandit, one of seven children, was born John Roland Redd on September 16, 1921 in St. Louis, Missouri, to Doshia O’Nina Johnson Redd and Rev. Ernest S. Redd, Sr., a Baptist minister.  The Redd family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, before John Roland was a year old, and by the time he was two his musical skills were evident.  From 1931 the Redd family lived in Columbia, Missouri.  Shortly after high school in 1938 John Roland got his first job in radio with Central Broadcasting Company in Des Moines, Iowa.

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

Domingo, Wilfred A. (1889-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The Jamaican born Wilfred A. Domingo was part of an influential community of West Indian radicals active in Harlem's New Negro movement in the early 20th century. A member of the Socialist Party and a journalist by trade, Domingo contributed to Cyril Briggs' Crusader and A. Philip Randolph's Messenger, along with a host of other community publications. He became the first editor of Marcus Garvey's New World and played a key role in shaping Garvey's race-conscious, nationalist ideology. However, as a class-conscious member of the Socialist Party, Domingo clashed with Garvey's capitalist orientation and ultimately broke with the UNIA. At the same time, Domingo was frustrated with the Socialist Party's failure to make African American rights a priority and drifted toward Briggs' more militant African Blood Brotherhood, which was closely aligned with the Communist Party in the early 1920s.

In the 1930s Domingo became increasingly focused on his homeland and the issue of Jamaican independence. In 1936 he cofounded the Jamaica Progressive League in Harlem, which agitated for Jamaican self-rule, universal suffrage, unionization, and the organization of consumer cooperatives. Domingo returned to Jamaica in 1938 to join Norman Manley's People's National Party and served as vice-chair of the Trades Union Advisory Council. After returning to New York in 1947, Domingo broke with the PNP. Wilfred A. Domingo died in Harlem in 1968.

Sources: 
Mary Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, Dan Georgakas, eds., Encyclopedia of the American Left (New York:  Garland Publishing, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Waters, Ethel (1896-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1950, Ethel Waters was the first black American performer to star in her own regular television show, Beulah, but it was the 1961 role in the “Good Night, Sweet Blues” episode of the television series Route 66 that earned her an Emmy award.  She was the first black so honored.  Acting was a second career after singing in four different genres – jazz, blues, pop, and gospel.  She performed on Broadway stages, the first black to receive top billing with white stars.  And finally, she claimed leading roles in Hollywood films, earning an Academy Award nomination for the film Pinky.

Born on October 31, 1896, Waters won a talent contest as a teenager and began to sing around the Philadelphia area after growing up in Chester, Pennsylvania, where she sang in the church choir, and worked as a domestic.  Her first professional tour, with the Black Swan Troubadours, taught her to incorporate excitement and versatility in her vaudeville act.  Her divine discontent with just jazz and the blues propelled her into acting.  In 1938, she gave a recital at Carnegie Hall and then began to appear in dramatic roles.  She performed in Cabin in the Sky in 1943 and followed that film with more than ten others along with a treasure trove of classic songs including Am I Blue?, Memories of You, Stormy Weather, Porgy, Georgia on My Mind, and I Can’t Give You Anything but Love.
Sources: 
“Ethel Waters,” in W. Augustus, Low and Virgil A. Cliff, eds., The Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: De Capo, 1981); David Dicaire, ed., Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century (October 1999);
http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/W/htmlW/watersethel/watersethel.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Loguen, Jermain Wesley (1813-1872)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jermain Wesley Loguen was born on February 5, 1813 into slavery in Tennessee.  His mother was owned by Loguen’s father and master.  In 1834, Loguen escaped from bondage and fled to St. Catherine’s, Ontario where he stayed briefly before finding his way to Rochester, New York where, in 1837, he enrolled in Beriah Green’s Oneida Institute.  By 1840, Loguen, now an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) minister, had married and moved to Syracuse to lead a church.  Loguen stayed only briefly in Syracuse, New York before he spent three of the next few years at Bath, Maine and another two in Ithaca, New York serving as an AME Zion minister

Loguen was also an active school teacher and a “conductor” in the Underground Railroad.  Settling permanently in Syracuse, Loguen built apartments on his privately owned property to serve as hiding posts and lodging for freedom seekers or runaway slaves.  Many historians agree that Loguen’s own home was a widely known station on the Underground Railroad and his basement was fitted with bunks and other equipment for fugitive slaves.

In 1869 Loguen’s daughter, Amelia, married Lewis Douglass, the son of orator, author and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  Another daughter, Marinda S. Loguen, later known as Sarah Loguen, graduated from the Syracuse University College of Medicine in 1876, becoming one of the first African American women in the country to practice medicine.  
Sources: 
Carol Hunter, To Set the Captives Free: Reverend Jermain Wesley Loguen and the Struggle for Freedom in Central New York, 1835-1872 (New York: Garland, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Herenton, Willie W. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Willie W. Herenton was born on April 23, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee and is currently the mayor of that city. Dr. Herenton is a graduate of LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis and the University of Memphis.

At a young age, Herenton demonstrated athletic prowess. When he was 11 years old, Herenton entered a boxing program at the local YMCA. During his first year, he made it to the semifinals and in 1953, he captured the flyweight title. By the time he graduated from high school in 1958, Herenton had won a number of southern AAU championships. He also won the Kentucky Golden Gloves competition and had been Tri-State Boxing Champion several times.

Because of his boxing prowess, Herenton was offered a full athletic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He refused the scholarship and instead moved to Chicago with the hopes of becoming a professional boxer. Realizing the limitations of a high school education, Herenton soon regretted his decision. He returned to Memphis and enrolled at LeMoyne College, a small black liberal arts school in the city. He met fellow student, Ida, and they were soon married.
Sources: 
Adam Faircloth, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality 1890-2000 (New York: Penguin, 2002); Lawrence Otis Graham, Inside America’s Black Upper Class (New York: Harper Perennial, 2000); The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
http://www.horatioalger.com/members/member_info.cgm?memberid=her88; John Branston, “Letter from Memphis,” Nashville Scene, June 21, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Meek, Carrie (1926- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Carrie Meek was born on April 29, 1926, in Tallahassee, Florida. Her parents were sharecroppers and her childhood neighborhood was racially segregated.  Meek attended and graduated from Florida A&M University. Graduate schools in Florida were still segregated at this time so she was forced to move to Michigan to pursue her Masters in Science at University of Michigan where she graduated from in 1948.

Meek worked as an educator at Bethune Cookman College, Florida A&M University, and Miami-Dade Community College until 1979 when she was elected to serve in the Florida State House of Representatives. In 1982 Meek became the first African American woman to be elected to the Florida State Senate. During her time in the State Senate, Meek focused on issues of Education and affordable housing, including supporting a bill that led to the construction of thousands of affordable housing units.
Sources: 
Charles Christian, Black Saga: The African American Experience: A Chronology (Chicago: Basic Books Publishing, 1998);
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M000628
http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioi
ndex=132&category=politicalMakers

Wright, Jeremiah A. (1941-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 22, 1941 to Jeremiah A. Wright, Sr., a Baptist minister who served as pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Germantown, and Mary Henderson Wright.  Wright completed primary and secondary school in that city and in 1959 enrolled in Virginia Union University in Richmond.  After seven semesters, Wright left VUU and joined the United States Marine Corps in 1961.  He served as a private first class in the 2nd Marine Division before receiving a transfer from the USMC into the United States Navy to become a cardiopulmonary technician.  Wright’s most famous patient was President Lyndon Baines Johnson who underwent gall bladder surgery in 1966 at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington.

After a six year highly decorated military career, Wright returned to college, enrolling in Howard University.  At Howard he earned a B.A. in 1968 and an M.A. degree in English in 1969.  He earned another M.A. from the University of Chicago Divinity School.  In 1990, while under the direction of theologian Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, Wright earned a Doctorate of Ministry.  Besides Wright’s four college degrees, he received several honorary doctorates from such institutions as Colgate University, Chicago Theological Seminary, Valparaiso University, and United Theological Seminary.
Sources: 
Dayo Olopade, “Far Wright: Why Obama’s Preacher Problem isn’t Going Away,” The New Republic, April 9, 2008, 25; E.J. Dionne, Jr., “Full Faith: Despite Jeremiah Wright, Obama Gets Religion,” The New Republic, April 9, 2008; Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. and Colleen Birchett, Africans Who Shaped Our Faith (Chicago: Urban Ministries, Inc., May 1995); William J. Key, Robert Johnson Smith, Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., and Robert Johnson-Smith, From One Brother to Another: Voices of African American Men (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, 1996); Frank Madison Reid, III, Jeremiah Wright Jr., and Colleen Birchett, When Black Men Stand Up for God: Reflections on the Million Man March, African American Images (Sauk Village, Illinois: Privately Published, 1997); Ernest R. Flores and Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Tempted to Leave the Cross: Renewing the Call to Discipleship (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, November 2007); http://www.tucc.org/pastor.htm;http://www.corinthianbaptistchurch.org/jeremiah_a_wright_jr.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Mossell, Gertrude E.H. Bustill (1855-1948)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Gertrude E.H. Bustill Mossell was a teacher, author and journalist born on July 3, 1855 in Philadelphia. The daughter of Charles and Emily Bustill, she came from a prominent family. She attended public schools in Philadelphia and eventually the Institute for Colored Youth and the Robert Vaux Grammar School. Upon graduation, Bustill delivered the class oration entitled, “Influence.”

“Influence” so impressed African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, editor of the denomination’s newspaper, The Christian Recorder, that he published the oration there and invited Bustill to contribute poetry and essays to the newspaper.

During the 1870’s Bustill taught for seven years at public schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. She also simultaneously maintained her career in journalism; Bustill was a contributor to the Philadelphia Press, Philadelphia Independent and Philadelphia Echo on issues related to African American women.  Eventually she contributed to the New York Age, the Indianapolis World as well as the A.M.E. Church Review.

Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Roger Streitmatter, Raising Her Voice: African-American Women Journalists Who Changed History (Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky: 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harris, Theresa (1911-1985)

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

Actress Theresa Harris once shared with a reporter that her “greatest ambition was to be known someday as a great Negro actress.” Harris was born in 1911 in Houston, Texas to Anthony and Ina Harris. Her father was a construction worker and her mother was a well-known dramatic reader and school teacher. In the late 1920s, her family relocated to Southern California, where Harris graduated from Jefferson High School with scholastic honors and then studied music at the University of Southern California Conservatory of Music and Zoellner’s Conservatory of Music. She briefly pursued a career in theatre, gaining her most acclaimed role as the title character in the Lafayette Player’s musical production of Irene.

Sources: 

Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994);
Earl J. Morris, “Wrath of Fans Hits ‘Grapes of Wrath Type of Publicity
on Actress Theresa Harris,” Pittsburgh Courier, January 27, 1940;
Madison Harry, "Madison Harry Digs Out the Story of the Rocky Success
Which Has Led to Theresa Harris' Success,” Pittsburgh Courier, October
19, 1940.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

House, Edward James (“Son”), Jr. (1902-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Daniel Beaumont, Preachin' the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Robert Palmer, Deep Blues (New York: Penguin Group, 1981); Gayle Dean Wardlow, Chasin’ That Devil Music (San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dunlap, Ericka (1981- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ericka Dunlap, Miss America, 2004,
Crowned by Erika Harold, Miss America,
2003
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ericka Dunlap, Miss America, 2004, is the seventh black woman to win the Miss America crown. She was born on December 29, 1981 in Orlando, Florida, the daughter of James and Fannie Dunlap. She is also the first black woman to win the Miss Florida title.

Dunlap was 21 years old when she won the title of Miss America. In contrast to two of her other fellow black titleholders, Vanessa Williams and Kimberly Aiken, who fell into pageants by happenstance, becoming Miss America was a goal that Dunlap had had since the age of six. The daughter of a roofing contractor and a nurse, she entered her first pageant in first grade.

An avid dancer, Dunlap became involved in clogging, ballet, and other forms of contemporary dance and joined a number of dance troupes in her youth. Oftentimes, she would find herself as the only African American student in these groups. As a result, Dunlap was the object of jokes from some blacks and resistance from whites who thought that such activities were the sole province of EuroAmericans.   
Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Melissa Harris and Kellie Brewington, "Miss America Begins Hectic Schedule with Permanent Grin," Orlando Sentinel, September 21, 2003; http://www.missamerica.org; www.erickadunlap.net
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Nobles, John (c. 1880s-c. 1940s)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Map of the Coachella Valley
Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Nobles was a black pioneer who mysteriously came to own a large swath of land in the 1930s in the Coachella Valley, California. This happened at a time when the sale of land to blacks was prohibited by land deed restrictions.

The story of Nobles’ life, where he was from and why he came to Indio, California, has been lost, disappearing with family members and friends who have died or moved away. What documented history that has been found indicates he was considered an Indio pioneer who helped fellow black Americans settle in the area. He owned a ranch at a time when it was unheard of for blacks to own land, then he sold or rented parts of his property to other blacks so they could build homes and establish roots in the area.

The present site of the Coachella Valley Historic Museum was the former home of  Dr. Reynaldo Carreon, the area’s first doctor who opened a hospital in 1933. In the late 1930s the Carreon ranch was given to John Nobles and his wife Miranda. Thus began the creation of the John Nobles Ranch neighborhood. Along with white families, many blacks came to the Coachella Valley from Texas and Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl years.

Sources: 
Xochiti Pena, “Black pioneer's legacy faded, but not forgotten,” Desert Sun, February 25, 2011; Xochiti Pena, “Neighborhood faces extinction,” Desert Sun, September 13, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Strayhorn, Billy Thomas (1915-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Billy Thomas Strayhorn was a black gay composer and arranger who influenced the American jazz movement with his pioneering efforts. While largely unknown in his lifetime, his complex arrangements and classical components continue to inspire generations of jazz musicians. His work has been translated into French and Swedish.

Born on November 29, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio, Strayhorn joined his four older living siblings (four others died). His parents were Lillian Young Strayhorn and James Nathaniel Strayhorn. The family struggled financially. After living in several cities in Strayhorn’s early life, they settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1924. Strayhorn attended Westinghouse High School there as well as the Pittsburgh Musical Institute for piano lessons and classical music study. To help him escape his abusive father and to nurture Strayhorn’s budding musical talent, his mother sent him on extended visits to his grandparents’ home in Hillsborough, North Carolina.
Sources: 
David Hajdu, Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn (New York: North Point Press, 1996);
http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/billystrayhorn/film.html; http://www.billystrayhorn.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Salem, Peter (ca.1750 -1816)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, 
Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture,
The New York Public Library

Peter Salem was born a slave to Jeremiah Belknap at Framingham, Massachusetts about 1750.  Belknap sold Salem to Lawson Buckminister some time before the Revolutionary War.  Buckminister allowed Salem to enlist in the Massachusetts Minutemen.  According to one story, his master freed him upon his enlistment.  Another account states that Peter changed his name to Salem when he was freed.  Some have attempted to link Peter’s last name with the Arabic “Saleem” (one who is peaceful); however there is no concrete evidence that this is the case.

Salem served at Concord, Saratoga and Stony Point.  He is traditionally given credit for the slaying of British Major Pitcairn at Bunker Hill.  Pitcairn had ordered the colonists to surrender.  Salem shot him in answer.  In the ensuing confusion, the Americans were able to take the field.  Pitcairn died of his wounds.  The gun attributed to Salem’s deed is part of the museum collection at Bunker Hill.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
National Park Service

Warren M. Washington (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Meteorologist Warren Morton Washington was born in Portland, Oregon on August 28, 1936.  He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees at Oregon State University, and his Ph.D. in meteorology at Pennsylvania State University in 1964.  He began his professional career as a research assistant at Penn State.  From 1968 to 1971 he was an adjunct professor of meteorology and oceanography at the University of Michigan.  In 1972 he began long-term employment at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado where in 1987 he became Director of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of NCAR.  When Washington was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering in 2002 he was praised as a scientist of international renown who pioneered “the development of coupled climate models, their use on parallel supercomputing architectures, and their interpretation.”  Most significant has been his work in climate modeling that helps measure increasing greenhouse gas emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere.  
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 19th Ed. Vol. 7 (New York: Bowker, 1995);
www.ucar.edu/.../staffnotes/0203/washington.html ; www.ucar.edu/.../staffnotes/0206/washington.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Cole, Nat “King” (1919–1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
African American Museum of Philadelphia
Jazz pianist and popular singer Nathaniel Adams Coles was born into a musical family in Montgomery, Alabama on March 17, 1919.  His mother Perlina was a choir director in his father Edward’s Baptist church.  His three brothers, Edward, Ike, and Freddy, became professional musicians.  Cole also had a half-sister, Joyce.  The family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1923 where Cole started playing the piano at age four; he organized his first jazz group, The Musical Dukes, in his teens.
Sources: 
Eileen Southern, Biographical Dictionary of Afro American and African Musicians (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982); Nicolas Slonimsky, Bokers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (London: Schirmer Books, 1984); Jim Irwin and Colin McLear, The Mojo Collection (NY: Cananongate, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Neal, Annie Box (1870–1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Annie Box Neal was the proprietor and manager of the Mountain View Hotel in Oracle, Arizona, a western mining town in the Catalina Mountains. Her secluded grand resort was recognized as the “epitome of western opulence” in its day and received distinguished guests from Russia, Australia, China and other places around the world. Neal had a flair for entertainment and was renowned for her gracious hostess skills, which brought her unprecedented success.

Anna Magdalena Box, of African American and Native American descent, was born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, in 1870. Her grandmother had come to the Territory on the Trail of Tears.  In 1876, Neal accompanied her parents and other Cherokee Freedpeople to Tucson, Arizona Territory. Annie was enrolled in St. Joseph’s Academy next to San Augustine’s Mission for Indians while her parents supported themselves through gambling and mining investments.

Annie grew up into a six-foot tall beautiful confident woman. In 1892 when she was twenty-two years old she married teamster William “Curly” Neal, who shared her African-Indian heritage. An excellent sharp-shooter, Annie “ran shotgun” with her husband as they delivered gold bullion from the mines to a local bank. Annie and William Neal never had children, but they raised her younger sister after her mother’s death.
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).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hawkins, Coleman (1904-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Coleman Hawkins with Miles Davis
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Coleman Randolph Hawkins was born November 21, 1904, in Saint Joseph, Missouri.  He began his musical education early with lessons on both the piano and cello.  Despite parental encouragement towards more classic instruments, Hawkins focused on the saxophone after he received a “C melody” tenor saxophone for his ninth birthday.  This gift was the start of a career that would establish Hawkins as a premier jazz saxophonist.    

By age twelve, Coleman was already being asked to play his sax at school dances and local events.  At 17 Hawkins became a professional musician when he joined pianist Jesse Stone’s group, the Blues Serenaders, in 1921 to play tenor sax.  Two years later he joined Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hound but quickly left to freelance with musical groups in the New York area.  It was during one of these engagements in 1923, where band leader Fletcher Henderson took note of Hawkins and asked him to join his band.
Sources: 
John Chilton, The Song of the Hawk: The Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990);  PBS, http://www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_hawkins_coleman.htm; Len Weinstock, Coleman Hawkins, Father of the Tenor Sax (http://www.redhotjazz.com/hawkinsaticle.html); Parabrisas Biography, http://www.parabrisas.com/d_hawkinsc.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Woodard, Charlayne (1955--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Lynn Redgrave and Charlayne Woodard
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Actor and playwright Charlayne Woodard was born on December 29, 1955 in Albany, New York. She graduated from the Goodman School of Theatre of DePaul University in Chicago with an MFA in 1977, and promptly set off for New York City. Within two weeks she won a role in the Broadway production of the Fats Waller musical Ain’t Misbehavin with Nell Carter. She won a Drama Desk Award and received a nomination for her performance. The musical was a huge success and ran on Broadway for three years.

After she appeared in the 1982 film of the same name, Woodard was cast into the real world of fledgling actors trying to make a living. She was marginally successful, appearing in films like Hair, One Good Cop, and the TV drama Days of Our Lives.

Woodard also wrote three one-woman plays. The first two, Pretty Fire (1995) and Neat (1997), mirror her real-life childhood experiences of growing up in Albany, New York. In Real Life (2000) she tells her story of trying to become an actor in New York. All these pieces were done in collaboration with and directed by Dan Sullivan, a veteran Broadway director and former artistic director of the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Sullivan started the New Playwrights Program at the theatre where Woodard first applied, and the two have worked together to realize the full potential in her plays.
Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Berry, Halle (1968- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Halle Berry, who was born Maria Halle Berry, is a multiracial model, actress, and former beauty queen who was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1968.  Her mother Judith Hawkins Berry, who is white, worked as a psychiatric nurse in a Cleveland hospital.  Berry’s African American father, Jerome Berry, was an attendant at the same hospital.  Berry’s parents divorced when she was four and she was subsequently raised by her mother.    

Halle Berry grew up in an African American neighborhood in her younger years, but then her mother Judith relocated the family to a white neighborhood.  Berry attended Bedford High in Cleveland and quickly became involved in cheerleading and the school newspaper.  She was also class president, a member of the honor society, and Prom Queen of her class.  Berry became Miss Teen Ohio in 1985 which led her to winning the Miss Teen All-American title the same year and then Miss Ohio in 1986.  Berry came in second place in Miss USA in 1986 and was the first African American to compete for the Miss World competition in 1986.  
Sources: 
"Celebrity Central Halle Berry." Halle Berry: People.com. 2008, http://www.people.com/people/halle_berry; Dominick Wills, "Halle Berry Biography," Tiscali Film & TV., http://www.tiscali.co.uk/entertainment/film/biographies/halle_berry_biog.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chole, Eshetu (1945-1998)

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

Chole was born in Negele Borena in southern Ethiopia where he obtained his elementary education. He completed his education at the General Wingate Secondary School in Addis Ababa. He then attended University College Addis Ababa (later Haile Sellassie I University and now Addis Ababa University) where he earned his first degree in economics in 1966 and simultaneously won the Chancellor’s Gold Medal of the Arts Faculty.

After his employment as a graduate assistant in the Economics Department at University College, Chole obtained his M.A. from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign in 1968, and his Ph.D. from the University of Syracuse in 1973. Dr. Eshetu Chole returned to teach economics at Addis Ababa University where he would remain for the rest of his career, with the exception of a year of teaching at Princeton University in 1995-1996.  Chole wrote a number of books including two that were published posthumously, Democratisation Processes in Africa: Problems and Prospects (2000) and Underdevelopment in Ethiopia (2004).
Sources: 
Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Stewart, John (1786-1823)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Stewart (also sometimes spelled Steward) was a missionary to the Wyandotte Indians of Ohio and founder of what is often considered the first Methodist mission in America. Stewart was born in Powhatan County, Virginia to free Negro parents who were of mixed ancestry; a mix of white, black, and Indian. Due to his parents’ freedom, John was able to obtain a modest public education. His brother was a Baptist minister which possibly indicates that he received religious training at home. Stewart was a frail and sickly child.
Sources: 
Joseph Mitchell, The Missionary Pioneer: Or, A Brief Memoir of the Life, Labours, and Death of John Stewart (Man of Colour), Founder, Under God, of the Mission Among the Wyandotts, at Upper Sandusky, Ohio ( New York: J.C. Totten, 1827); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moses, Lucia Lynn (c. 1906- )

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

Lauded for her masterful performance in her only film, Lucia Lynn Moses began her show business career as a chorus girl at New York’s legendary Cotton Club in the early 1920s and went on to perform in the theater. She made her film debut when David Starkman, the Caucasian owner and founder of the Philadelphia-based Colored Player’s Film Corporation (a largely white-owned and operated company that initially had a predominately white clientele but chose to cater to the growing population of African American theater goers rather than relocate) teamed up with black vaudevillian Sherman Dudley to recruit a group of black actors to appear in the company’s silent race films. Because Oscar Micheaux, leader of race films, was also producing all-black cast, silent films with themes examining intra-racial conflict, The Scar of Shame is widely mistaken as being a Micheaux film.

Lucia Lynn Moses was the daughter of Minister W.H. Moses of the New York National Baptist Church. Against her father’s wishes, Lucia and her two sisters Ethel (later a leading lady and sex symbol in Micheaux’s films) and Julia (later a Broadway performer), pursued show business careers and became part of the Cotton Club Girls lineup.

Sources: 

Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies introduction to Scar of Shame,
2004; Anonymous, “Cotton Club Girls,” Ebony, April 1949, Vo. 4, No. 6,
Bret Wood, "The Scar of Shame,"
http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article.jsp?cid=74413&mainArticleId=176227.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Flowers, Vonetta (1973- )

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

The first person of African descent, male or female, to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics was Vonetta Flowers when she won gold in the women's bobsled event in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

Sources: 

http://www.vonettaflowers.com; Vonetta Flowers with W. Terry Whalin, Running on Ice: The Overcoming Faith of Vonetta Flowers (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2005).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Lucy, William "Bill" (1933- )

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

Labor union organizer and leader Bill Lucy was born on November 26, 1933 to Joseph and Susie Lucy in Memphis, Tennessee.  Raised in Richmond, California, Lucy studied civil engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1950s.  He then joined the U.S. Navy in 1951.

Sources: 
William Lucy, Interview by Everett J. Freeman, 1986, Michigan State University; Michael Honey, Going Down Jericho Road:  The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign (New York:  W.W. Norton and Company, 2007).

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Queen Nanny of the Maroons (? - 1733)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Queen Nanny as Pictured on a Jamaican Bank Note
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Nanny, known as Granny Nanny, Grandy Nanny, and Queen Nanny was a Maroon leader and Obeah woman in Jamaica during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Maroons were a cultural mix of African slaves and the native Arawak Indian tribes that predated European colonisation. Nanny herself was an escaped slave who had been shipped from Western Africa. It has been widely accepted that she came from the Ashanti tribe of present-day Ghana.

Nanny and her four brothers (all of whom became Maroon leaders) were sold into slavery and later escaped from their plantations into the mountains and jungles that still make up a large proportion of Jamaica. Nanny and one brother, Quao, founded a village in the Blue Mountains, on the Eastern (or Windward) side of Jamaica, which became known as Nanny Town. Nanny has been described as a practitioner of Obeah, a term used in the Caribbean to describe folk magic and religion based on West African influences.
Sources: 
Mavis Campbell, The Maroons of Jamaica, 1655-1796 (Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1990); Edward Long, The History of Jamaica, Volume II (T. Lowndes, Fleet Street, London 1774); Karla Gottlieb, The mother of us all: A history of Queen Nanny, leader of the Windward Jamaican Maroons (Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lewis, Charles (ca. 1760-1833)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
1780 Document Indicating Wills' Service in the U.S. Army
During the American Revolution 
Image Courtesy of Anita Wills

Charles Lewis was a sailor and soldier during the American Revolutionary War.  Lewis was born sometime around 1760 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia on Bel Aire, the Lewis Family Plantation owned by John Lewis. John and a free mulatto woman, Josephine Lewis, were the parents of Charles and his younger brother, Ambrose.  Lewis and his brother were born free but their mother was indentured to John Lewis. 

On April 15, 1776, Charles Lewis and his brother entered into the naval service of Virginia when they served on board the Galley Page, a warship commanded by Captain James Markham.  On March 20, 1778, they entered the Naval Service of the United States when they joined the crew of the USS Dragon commanded by Captain Eleazor Callender.

Sources: 
Michael L. Cook, Pioneer Lewis Families (Evansville, Indiana: Cook Publications, 1984); Anita L. Wills, Notes and Documents of Free Persons of Color, Some Free Persons of Color: Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania County (Virginia) 1750-1850 (Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu Press: 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Bryant, Ira B., Jr. (1904-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ira Babington (I.B.) Bryant, Jr., Ed.D., was an educator, author, researcher, and administrator from the Houston, Texas area.  Bryant was born October 18, 1904, in Crockett, Texas, to Ira B. Bryant, Sr., and Ellen Starks Bryant, both educators. In 1905, the family relocated to Caldwell, Texas, before settling in Houston in 1920. Ira, Jr., attended Colored High School in the city. While at Colored High School, Ellen Starks Bryant passed away and Ira, Sr., remarried and moved to Alabama, leaving Bryant and his two brothers, Cecil and Eugene, to finish their educations in Houston.

After graduating in 1924, Bryant worked on a ship based out of New Orleans, Louisiana in order to save money for college and to travel. The same year, he entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, completing a B.A. degree in 1928. In 1929, he moved back to Houston and gained a job teaching social science at Phillis Wheatley High School. During summers, he continued his education, earning an M.A. degree at the University of Kansas in 1932.  Bryant returned to Houston and married Thelma Scott, another teacher at Wheatley.  The couple moved into a newly-built house in Houston’s Third Ward.
Sources: 
Willie Lee Gay, "BRYANT, IRA BABINGTON, JR.," Handbook of Texas Online http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbrdt; Teresa Tompkins-Walsh, “Thelma Scott Bryant: Memories of a Century in Houston’s Third Ward,” The Houston Review (Fall 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Armstrong, Henry (1912-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Henry Jackson Jr., better known as Henry Armstrong, was born on December 12, 1912, in Columbus, Mississippi to a sharecropper of black, Indian and Irish descent, and a mother who was a full-blooded Iroquois Indian. At age four his family moved to St. Louis, where he was raised by his grandmother and father after his mother died. It was on the streets of St. Louis that young Henry learned to defend himself from gangs and first displayed a natural affinity for fighting.

While Henry dreamed of going to college to become a doctor he was forced to become the head of the household at the young age of 18 when his father’s health deteriorated and he was no longer able to work. Turning to boxing, Henry failed to qualify for the upcoming Olympics, and began his professional boxing career in 1931 under the name of Melody Jackson. He later adopted the last name of a friend, and changed his last name to Armstrong.

Sources: 
www.henryarmstrong.net; www.hbhof.com/armstrong.htm; http://coxscorner.tripod.com/armstrong.html; Bert Sugar, 1982 ‘100 Years of Boxing’, 2002 Ring Magazine Annual (Vol. 2).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Richmond, David Leinail (1941-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

One of the original Greensboro four who took part in the Woolworth sit-ins, David Leinail Richmond is often described by those who were closest to him as “gentle, intelligent, generous to a fault, and able to take a stand.” He was born in Greensboro and graduated from Dudley High School. At North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (now University) he majored in business administration and accounting. He got married while still at “A&T” and was immediately faced with the demands of his classes and the needs of his family, as well as the curious celebrity that went with the movement.

David Richmond began to fall behind in his class work, cutting back on his course load, and as time went by he left A&T before receiving his degree. After leaving A&T, he became a counselor-coordinator for the CETA program in Greensboro. He lived in the mountain community of Franklin for nine years, then returned to Greensboro to take care of his parents and work as a housekeeping porter for Greensboro Health Care Center. In 1980, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce awarded him the Levi Coffin Award for “leadership in human rights, human relations, and human resources development in Greensboro.” He was married and divorced twice and has two children with Yvonne Bryson.

Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, N.C.: Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2001); William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Johnson C. Smith University

Newton, Huey P. (1942–1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Monroe, Louisiana, the youngest and seventh son, Newton was named after the populist governor Huey Long.  His parents moved to Oakland during World War II seeking economic opportunities.  Newton attended Merritt College, where he met Bobby Seale. At Merritt, Newton fought to diversify the curriculum and hire more black instructors.  He also was exposed to a rising tide of Black Nationalism and briefly joined the Afro-American Association.  Within this group and on his own, he studied a broad range of thinkers, including Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, E. Franklin Frazier, and James Baldwin.

Newton eventually developed a Marxist Leninist perspective, where he viewed the black community as an internal colony controlled by external forces such as white businessmen, the police, and city hall.  He believed the black working class needed to seize the control of the institutions that most affected their community and formed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense with Bobby Seale in October of 1966 to pursue that goal.

Newton became the Minister of Defense and main leader of the Party.  Writing in the Ten-Point Program, the founding document of the Party, Newton demanded that blacks need the “power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.”  That power would allow blacks to gain “land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.”
Sources: 
Huey P. Newton, To Die For The People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton (New York, Random House, 1972); Newton, War against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (New York: Harlem River Press, 1996); and Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ‘til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Belton, Sharon Sayles (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image courtesy of Sharon Sayles Belton
An activist, politician, and leader of her community, Sharon Sayles Belton was the first African American and first woman mayor of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A St. Paul native, Belton was born on May 13, 1951.  For most of her life she fought for racial equality, women, family and child care issues, youth development and neighborhood development.

Belton, one of four daughters of Bill and Marian Sayles, moved to Minneapolis to live with her father after her parents’ separation. In Minneapolis, Belton attended Central High School and volunteered at Mt. Sinai Hospital in her spare time but eventually accepted a paid position at the hospital as a nurse’s aide.  Belton received her Bachelor of Science in biology from Macalester College in 1973 and developed plans to become a pediatrician.

Those plans were jettisoned when she began working as a parole officer for sexual assault offenders. Her work prompted her to call for tougher penalties for sexual predators. In 1978 Belton co-founded the Harriett Tubman Shelter for Battered Women in Minneapolis. She also got involved in community crime prevention programs and worked to reduce community-police tensions.  
Sources: 
Jesse Carney Smith and Joseph M. Palmisano, eds., Reference Library of Black America (African American Publications, Proteus Enterprises; University of Michigan, 2000); Doris Weatherford, A History of Women in the United States: State-by-State Reference (University of Michigan, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Holstein, Casper (1876-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Genevieve Fabre and Michel Feith, Temples for Tomorrow: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); Crime Library, Black Gangs of Harlem: 1920-1939, http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/gang/harlem_gangs/4.html
“Holstein Set Free By Abductors,” The New York Times, September 24, 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Davis, Sammy, Jr. (1925-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Sammy Davis Jr. was born on December 8, 1925 in Harlem, New York. His parents, Sammy Davis Sr., an African American, and Elvera Sanchez, a Cuban American, were both vaudeville dancers.  They separated when young Davis was three years old and his father took him on tour with a dance troupe led by Will Mastin. Davis joined the act at a young age and they became known as the Will Mastin Trio. It was with this trio that Davis began a lucrative career as a dancer, singer, comedian, actor, and a multi-instrumentalist.

During World War II Davis joined the army, where he for the first time confronted racial prejudice. In the service he joined an integrated entertainment Special Services unit, and found that while performing the crowd often forgot the color of the man on stage.

Sources: 
Sammy Davis Jr., Jane Boyar, and Burt Boyar, Yes I Can (Toronto: Ambassador Books, Ltd, 1965); Gary Fishgall, Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. (New York: A Lisa Drew Book, 2003); Will Haygood, In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Butterfield, George Kenneth, Jr. (1947– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

North Carolina Congressman George Kenneth Butterfield Jr. was born in Wilson, North Carolina on April 27, 1947 to a father who was a dentist and civic leader as well as the first black elected official in eastern North Carolina in the 20th century; and a mother who was a classroom teacher for 48 years.

Butterfield attended Charles H. Darden High School and graduated in 1967 before going to North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. He graduated with a sociology and political science degree in 1971. In 1974, he received his J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law. After serving in the United States Army for two years, Butterfield became a successful lawyer known for helping the poor people who had extraordinary legal problems. In 1988, Butterfield was appointed Superior Court Judge in Wilson County.  In 2001 he was appointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bass, Karen (1953--)

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

On May 13, 2008, Assemblywoman Karen Bass was elected the 67th Speaker of the California State Assembly. Bass is the first African American woman in U.S. History to earn this prestigious position in any government branch and is the first black woman elected speaker in California.

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

Bass’s daily encounters with disadvantaged patients prompted her to found the Community Coalition after the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. This non-profit organization is dedicated to improving the lives of South Los Angeles residents by eliminating liquor stores and low-rent motels from the neighborhoods, removing cigarette and alcohol billboards near public schools, and increasing the number of Laundromats and grocery stores available to residents.

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mankarious, Jewel Stradford Rogers Lafontant (1922-1997)

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

Jewel Stradford Rogers Lafontant Mankarious, civil rights leader, high-ranking U.S. Presidential appointee, and lawyer was born on April 28, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents, Aida Arabella Cartera and attorney C. Francis Stradford, helped to influence Mankarious's decision to become a lawyer.

In 1942 Jewel Stradford graduated from Oberlin College, receiving her bachelor’s degree in political science. That same year she became a founding member of the Congress of Racial Equality. Stradford attended the University of Chicago Law School and in 1946 became the first woman of any race to receive a J.D. from that institution.  

In 1946 Stradford married John W. Rogers, a juvenile court judge.  The couple had a son, John W. Rogers Jr., who later became the founder of Ariel Capital Management, the largest black-owned investment firm in the nation.   Jewel and John Rogers divorced in 1961.  Later that year she married H. Ernest Lafontant who died in 1976. She remarried in 1989, this time to Naguib S. Mankarious.

Sources: 

BNET. Jewel Lafontant Mankarious, prominent attorney and civil rights
crusader dies at age 75. <
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n5_v92/ai_19543518.>;
Betty Gabrielli, Oberlin College online: Press Releases. Oberlin
College Archive Opens Jewel Lafontant Mankarious papers. <
http://www.oberlin.edu/newserv/01jul/mankariou s
_press_release.html.>; Eric Pace, Jewel Lafontant-Mankarious, Lawyer
and U.S. Official, Dies. The New York Times. <
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=
9907EED9153DF930A35755C0A961958260.>; Jewel Stradford LaFontant
Biography. <a href="http://biography.jrank.org/
pages/2625/LaFontant-Jewel-Stradford.html">Jewel Stradford LaFontant
Biography</a>

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Sankara, Thomas (1949-1987)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Thomas Sankara, political leader of Burkina Faso in the 1980s, was born on December 21, 1949 in Yako, a northern town in the Upper Volta (today Burkina Faso) of French West Africa. He was the son of a Mossi mother and a Peul father, and personified the diversity of the Burkinabè people of the area. In his adolescence, Sankara witnessed the country’s independence from France in 1960 and the repressive and volatile nature of the regimes that ruled throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

From 1970 to 1973, Sankara attended the military academy of Antsirabe in Madagascar where he trained to be an army officer. In 1974, as a young lieutenant in the Upper Volta army, he fought in a border war with Mali and returned home a hero. Sankara then studied in France and later in Morocco, where he met Blaise Compaoré and other civilian students from Upper Volta who later organized leftist organizations in the country. While commanding the Commando Training Center in the city of Pô in 1976, Thomas Sankara grew in popularity by urging his soldiers to help civilians with their work tasks.  He additionally played guitar at community gatherings with a local band, Pô Missiles.

Throughout the 1970s, Sankara increasingly adopted leftist politics.  He organized the Communist Officers Group in the army and attended meetings of various leftist parties, unions, and student groups, usually in civilian clothes.
Sources: 

Pierre Englebert, Burkina Faso: Unsteady Statehood in West Africa (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996); Thomas Sankara, Thomas Sankara Speaks: The Burkina Faso Revolution, 1983-87 (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1988); Victoria Brittain, “Introduction to Sankara and Burkina Faso,” Review of African Political Economy, No. 32 (April 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, Beverly (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Beverly Johnson is a model, actress, singer, and businesswoman who in 1971 became the first African American woman to appear on the cover of a major magazine.  Johnson was born on October 13, 1952, in Buffalo, New York to middle class parents.   Her father was a machine operator and her mother was a surgical technician.

Ambitious and successful even as a child, she was a competitive swimmer who nearly qualified for the 1968 Olympics in the 100-meter freestyle.  She grew up wanting to be an attorney.  She attended Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts on a full scholarship where she studied criminal justice in preparation for law school.

Johnson had never considered modeling until her friends at Northeastern suggested she explore possibilities in the industry.  While on summer break in 1971, at the age of 19, Johnson and her mother visited Madison Avenue in New York to interview at various modeling agencies.  After she was turned down by a number of prestigious agencies, she was hired on the spot to model for Glamour Magazine.  Her initial success with Glamour persuaded Johnson to leave Northeastern to focus on her modeling career.
Sources: 
Beverly Johnson, Guide to a Life of Beauty (New York: Times Books, 1981); http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2005-Fo-La/Johnson-Beverly; http://www.mademan.com/chickipedia/beverly-johnson/.
Contributor: 

Harris, Bernard A., Jr. (1956- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA)

Bernard Anthony Harris Jr. is a scientist, surgeon, astronaut, entrepreneur, and leader.  He is best known for having been the first African American to walk in space, and developing the non-profit known as the Harris Foundation.

Sources: 
J. Alfred Phelps, They Had A Dream: The Story of African-American Astronauts (Novato: Presidio Press, 1994); http://www.jsc.nasa.gov; http://www.theharrisfoundation.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, William Henry (ca. 1835-1864)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
William Henry Johnson served as the personal valet to Abraham Lincoln.  Johnson was born around 1835; however, his exact date of birth, parentage, and birthplace remain unknown.  He began working for the Lincoln family in Springfield, Illinois as a barber and valet in 1860 and accompanied Lincoln to Washington, D.C.
Sources: 
Roy P. Basler, "Did President Lincoln Give the Smallpox to William H. Johnson?"  Huntington Library Quarterly, 1972, 35:3 (1972); Tim Dennee, “African-American Civilians Interred in Section 27 of Arlington National Cemetery, 1864-1867,” www.freedmenscemetery.org
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Miller, Doris [“Dorie”] (1919-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership, Public Domain
World War II war hero Doris “Dorie” Miller was born in Waco, Texas on October 12, 1919 to Conery and Henrietta Miller who were farmers just outside the city.  Miller grew to 6 feet 3 inches, weighed over 200 pounds, and played football at Waco’s A.J. Moore Academy.  He dropped out of school at the age of 17 and enlisted in the US Navy in 1939 at the age of 20.  He was made a mess attendant, one the few positions available to African Americans at the time.  Miller was eventually elevated to Cook, Third Class and assigned to the USS West Virginia stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Miller was doing laundry as a mess attendant aboard the West Virginia on December 7, 1941, when it was subjected to a surprise attack by Japanese forces.  After hearing a loud and urgent summons to battle, Miller, who made his way from below deck to the ship’s bridge, saw Japanese fighter planes attacking US Naval forces, and the harbor already engulfed in flames.  He ran to an antiaircraft station, only to find it shattered by a Japanese torpedo.  Miller then pulled a captain and several of his crewmates to safety under heavy enemy fire.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Clark and Stanley Harrold, The African American Odyssey, Combined Volume  (New York: Prentice Hall, 2003); Matthew C. Whitaker, Peace Be Still: Modern Black America from World War II to Barack Obama (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Vaughan, George L. (1885-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George L. Vaughn was a black lawyer and civic leader in St. Louis, Missouri best known for representing J.D. Shelley and Herman Willer in the landmark civil rights case Shelley v. Kraemer (1948). Born to former slaves and raised in Kentucky, Vaughn graduated from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, and earned a law degree from Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee. After serving in the Army as first lieutenant in World War I, he practiced law in St. Louis. Vaughn was a prominent member of the Democratic Party in the 1930s and 1940s and a Justice of the Peace in St.
Sources: 
“George L. Vaughn,” Legal Encyclopedia: Legal Biographies, http://www.answers.com/topic/george-l-vaughn-2 ; Shelley v. Kramer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948), http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=334&invol=1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Claremont Graduate University

Wallace, Sippie (1898–1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 Beulah “Sippie” Thomas Wallace sang and recorded her best work for Okeh Records between 1923 and 1927 when she was the most frequently recorded female blues singer in the country. Not only did she have a unique style and sound, Wallace wrote many of her songs, sometimes collaborating with her musical partners and brothers George and Hersal. Additionally, she played the piano.
Sources: 
David Dicaire, Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century (Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999); http:/www.redhotjazz.com/wallace.html; http:/www.southernmusic.net/sippiewallace.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Greenfield, Elizabeth Taylor (1819-1876)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Manuscripts,
Archives and Rare Books Division,
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture,
The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and
Tilden Foundations

Born a slave in 1819 in Natchez, Mississippi, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield had little reason to dream of the life that would eventually become her own.  Because of a series of unlikely circumstances and her own relentless efforts she would eventually become known as the first African American singer to gain recognition in both Europe and the United States.
Sources: 
No Author Given, The Black Swan at Home and Abroad; or A Biographical Sketch of Miss Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield (Philadelphia: W.S. Young, Printer, 1855); Edward T. and Janet W. James, eds., Notable American Women: 1607-1950; A Biographical Dictionary Vol. II (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), pp. 87-89.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Vermont

Nabrit, Samuel Milton (1905-2003)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

A marine biologist, academic, and administrator, Samuel Milton Nabrit was born in Macon, Georgia, to James Madison Nabrit and Gertrude West in 1905.  Upon completing his elementary and high school education, he entered Morehouse College in 1921.  There he earned the B.S. degree in Biology in May 1925 and spent the summer teaching at his alma mater.  His stay at Morehouse was short lived because in September, 1925, he entered the University of Chicago where he pursued a master’s degree.  Five years after completing his M.A. in 1927, Nabrit became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences when he graduated from Brown University in 1932.

Sources: 
Samuel M. Nabrit Files, Heartman Collection, Texas Southern University.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Elders, Joycelyn Minnie (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Joycelyn Elders, the former U.S. Surgeon General, was born Minnie Lee Jones in Schaal, Arkansas on August 13, 1933 to Curtis and Hailer Jones; she added the name Joycelyn when she was in college. As the eldest of eight children of sharecroppers, Joycelyn Elders experienced extreme poverty in segregated rural Arkansas. At age fifteen, Elders earned a scholarship to Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1952, she received a Bachelor of Science degree and a medical degree in 1960 from Philander Smith and the University of Arkansas Medical School, respectively.

Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College / University of Mississippi

Turner, Jack (circa 1840-1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jack Turner, political activist and martyr, was born a slave in Choctaw County, Alabama around 1840. Choctaw County was situated in Alabama’s “Black Belt,” a large swath of cotton growing land in the central part of the state historically known for its dark, mineral-rich soil, and large population of black slaves to cultivate it. Turner worked part of this land as a slave until the end of the Civil War. Although he received no formal education, he independently learned to read and to write.
Sources: 
William Warren Rogers and Robert David Ward, August Reckoning, Jack Turner and Racism in Post-Civil War Alabama (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); William Warren Rogers and Robert David Ward, “ ‘Jack Turnerism:’ A Political Phenomenon of the Deep South,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Oct., 1972), pp. 313-332.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Johnson, Charles S. (1893-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the Fisk University
Franklin Library's Special Collections

Charles Spurgeon Johnson, one of the leading 20th Century black sociologists, was born in Bristol, Virginia on July 24, 1893. After receiving his B.A. from Virginia Union University in Richmond, he studied sociology with the noted sociologist Robert E. Park at the University of Chicago where he earned a Ph.D.  in 1917.  Initially a friend of historian Carter G. Woodson, he did collaborative work with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History until his relationship with Woodson deteriorated. 

Johnson, however, was able to attract research funding from white philanthropic organizations such as the General Education Board, Phelps-Stokes Fund, Rosenwald Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation which allowed him to study the social condition of Black communities suffering under Jim Crow.  That research ensured that Johnson would emerge by the 1920s as the nation's foremost scholar in the field of Black Sociology.

Sources: 

August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black Historians and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Earnest W. Burgess, Elmer A. Carter, and Clarence Faust, “Charles S. Johnson, “Social Scientist, Editor, and Educational Statesman,” Phylon, 17 (Winter, 1956); Joe M. Richardson, A History of Fisk University-1865-1946 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1980) ; Patrick J. Gilpin, “Charles S. Johnson, An Intellectual Biography” (Ph.D.  Dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1973)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Taliaferro, Raphael “Ray” ( 1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
Raphael Taliaferro
Ray Taliaferro, the first black talk show host on a major American radio station, was born on February 7, 1939 and grew up in the Hunters Point district of San Francisco. His talk radio career began in 1967 at San Francisco’s KNEW station and shortly thereafter he also began his career in television, hosting a show on KHJ-TV.

Taliaferro was to become successful in both forms of media, his career progressing as he became news anchor at San Francisco’s KRON-TV. When he joined KGO radio in 1977 he was also asked to co-host KGO-TV’s AM weekend program. However it was through talk radio, and particularly his daily program, “The Early Show” on KGO radio which began in 1986, that Taliaferro made his name. Discussing topics ranging from contemporary politics, culture, and current events, Taliaferro often airs his liberal views. Through his strong criticisms of President George W Bush and consistent endorsement of Barack Obama during the 2009 Presidential election, Taliaferro has also earned a reputation as one of the most prominent left wing radio talk show hosts in America. Taliaferro has received high commendation from the media and journalist community and was awarded the Black Chamber Life Award in 1994 by the San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce.
Sources: 
KGO Radio official website: http://www.kgoradio.com/showdj.asp?DJID=3450; Absoluteastronomy.com:http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Ray_Taliaferro#encyclopedia.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex

Lemmons, Robert (1848–1947)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Texas cowboy Robert Lemmons was one of the greatest mustangers of all time. He became a legend in his day by perfecting his unique method of catching wild mustang horses.

Robert Lemmons was born a slave in Lockport, Caldwell County, Texas in 1848. He moved to Dimmit County, Texas; then a sparsely uninhabited land overrun by wild horses. Lemmons gained his freedom at the end of the Civil War at age seventeen. He found employment with Duncan Lammons, a man who taught him about horses and gave Robert the surname “Lemmons,” (a variant spelling that evolved over the years). Robert Lemmons farmed, hauled supplies, and went on cattle drives for Duncan Lammons.

No other cowboy equaled Lemmons in capturing mustangs, which were in high demand for roundups during the cattle drive era of the 1870s and 1880s. Lemmons usually worked alone totally isolating himself from humans to gain a mustang herd's trust and thereby infiltrate the heard.  He then uprooted the herd hierarchy by mounting the lead stallion and then taking control of the herd, which followed him into a pen on a nearby ranch.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, Black Cowboys of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot press, 2011); Florence Fenley, Oldtimers: Frontier Days in the Uvalde Section of Southwest Texas (Uvalde, TX: Hornby, 1939); J. Frank Dobie, The Mustangs (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1934).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Reed, George Warren, Jr. (1920- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George W. Reed Examining Lunar Rocks in 1970 at the
Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne National Laboratory)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although he was one of many scientists recruited for the Manhattan Project, which produced the atom bomb during World War II, there is a clear paucity of literature on George W. Reed Jr.  Like his fellow scientists, Reed was not at liberty to discuss, with any detail, his involvement in the project.  

Born in Washington D.C on September 25, 1920, Reed spent his entire career as a chemist specializing in a variety of fields within the discipline. In 1942 he received a BS degree from Howard University and two years later an M.S. Both degrees were in chemistry.   He then completed his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1952, after his work with the Manhattan Project.
Sources: 
William C. Matney, (ed.), Who’s Who Among Black Americans 1980-81 (Northbrook, Illinois: Who’s Who Among Black Americans Inc. Publishing Company, 1981); Charles W. Carey, Jr., African Americans In Science: An Encyclopedia of People and Progress (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Inc., 2008); Vivian Ovelton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Powell, William James “Bill” (1916-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bill Powell was the first African American to design, construct, and own a professional golf course in the United States. In 1946, Bill and his wife Marcella did most of the landscaping by hand when they transformed a 78-acre dairy farm to a nine-hole golf course located near East Canton, Ohio.

William James “Bill” Powell was born on November 16, 1922, in Greenville, Alabama, but grew up in Minerva, Ohio. Powell worked as a caddy as a youth. Then, after high school, he played golf on the Wilberforce University team before serving in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Forces.

In 1946, after Powell returned home from the war, the segregationist policies of the time prevented him from golfing on a public golf course in Ohio, so he decided to build his own course. He was denied a G.I. loan but was able to get financial support from his brother and two African American physicians and bought a dairy farm outside East Canton so he could open a golf course that would welcome players of all races.
Sources: 
Larry Dorman, “After Battling Racism, Veteran Found Peace on His Golf Course,” The New York Times, August 8, 2009; Richard Goldstein, “African-American Golf Pioneer Bill Powell Dies at 93,” The New York Times, January 1, 2010.
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

Still, William Grant (1895-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Considered by many as the dean of African American composers, William Grant Still, the son of educators, was born in Woodville, Mississippi on May 11, 1895.  His father, a musician who once taught music at Alabama A&M College, died when he was an infant; his mother, a schoolteacher, moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.  Those nearest to him encouraged his early fascination with music and musical instruments, particularly the violin.  At age 17 his stepfather, a railway office worker, introduced him to opera via a record and phonograph, which for him was a transformative experience.  At M.W.
Sources: 
Catherine P. Smith, William Grant Still: A Study in Contradictions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Verna Avery, In One Lifetime (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1984); “William Grant Still (1895-1978),” on AfriClassical.com website at: http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Still.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Tandy, Charleton (1836-1919)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charleton Tandy was born in Kentucky in 1836 to parents who were free only because his grandparents had purchased the family’s freedom three years before his birth.  Throughout his childhood, Tandy’s family worked to free slaves through the Underground Railroad, and as a young man, Tandy often led slaves on the route from Covington, Kentucky, to freedom in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Tandy moved to St. Louis in 1857 and worked a series of jobs until the Civil War began, when he became post messenger at Jefferson Barracks.  The war proved good for Tandy’s standing, as he rose from state militia volunteer to captain of “Tandy’s St. Louis Guard,” an African American state militia that he recruited; he carried the honorific “Captain” for the rest of his life.  
His service earned Tandy the notice of several political leaders, and Tandy was able to turn his connections into patronage jobs.  His positions ranged from U.S. land agent and deputy U.S. Marshal in New Mexico and Oklahoma to Custodian of Records at the St. Louis courthouse.  At heart, Tandy was a civil rights activist.  Throughout his life he worked on local issues of interest to Missouri African Americans, including fighting school and transportation segregation.    
Sources: 
Bryan M. Jack, “Bridging the Red Sea:  The Saint Louis African American Community and the Exodusters of 1879” (Ph.D. diss., Saint Louis University, 2004); The Charleton Tandy Papers at the Western Manuscript Historical Collection (University of Missouri at St. Louis); John A. Wright, No Crystal Stair: The Story of Thirteen Afro-Americans Who Once Called St. Louis Home (Florissant, MO:  Ferguson-Florissant School District, 1988).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Winston-Salem State University

Reagon, Bernice Johnson (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bernice Johnson Reagon, singer/composer, cultural historian, author, and producer, was born on October 4, 1942 in Dougherty County, Georgia, to Reverend Jessie Johnson and Beatrice Johnson. The third child of eight, she began singing at the age of five in her father’s church. As a high school senior in 1959 she served as secretary to the youth chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 1959 Johnson entered Albany State College in Georgia, where she majored in music. While there, she became one of the student leaders in the Albany Movement, serving as student representative on the Executive Committee. In December 1961 Johnson and 600 other African Americans were arrested for demonstrating against segregated facilities. As a result of their activism, Johnson and 38 fellow students were suspended by the college.

In 1962 Johnson became a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Field Secretary, joining SNCC’s Freedom Singers on their first national tour. After her marriage in 1963 to fellow SNCC member, Cordell H. Reagon, and the birth of their children, Toshi and Kwan, Reagon resumed her studies at Spelman College, graduating in 1970.  She then went on to do graduate work in history at Howard University, completing her doctoral dissertation on the songs of the Civil Rights Movement.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.bernicejohnsonreagon.com/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ford, Harold Sr. (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Harold Eugene Ford, Sr., a United States Representative from Tennessee from 1975 to 1997, was born on May 20, 1945 in Memphis, Tennessee to Vera Davis and Newton Jackson Ford, a funeral home director.  Ford’s family was part of the local black elite dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century.  Ford graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville in 1967 and later earned an M.B.A. degree from Howard University in 1982.

In 1974, Ford won the Democratic nomination for the Memphis-based 8th Congressional District and the right to oppose four-term Republican incumbent Dan Kuykendall. Kuykendall had first been elected to Congress in 1964, the first of the “Goldwater Republicans” to be elected from the South.  Despite Kuykendall’s most recent reelection in 1972, the district was becoming more African American as many Memphis whites left the city for the suburbs.  Ford also took advantage of an unprecedented voter registration drive campaign in African American Memphis.  The campaign between the white conservative Republican and black liberal Democrat was hotly contested and quickly took on racial overtones.
Sources: 
Paula D. McClain and Joseph Stewart, Jr., Can We All Get Along: Racial and Ethnic Minorities in American Politics (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2006); Lawrence Graham, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class (New York: Harper Collins, 1999); http://www.wargs.com/political/fordh.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Pinchback, Pinckney Benton Stewart (1837-1921)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was born on May 10, 1837 to parents William Pinchback, a successful Virginia planter, and Eliza Stewart, his former slave. The younger Pinchback was born in Macon, Georgia during the family’s move from Virginia to their new home in Holmes County, Mississippi.  In Mississippi, young Pinchback grew up in comfortable surroundings on a large plantation.  At the age of nine, he and his older brother, Napoleon, were sent by his parents to Ohio to receive a formal education at Cincinnati’s Gilmore School. Pinchback’s education was cut short, however, when he returned to Mississippi in 1848 because his father had become seriously ill.  When his father died shortly after his return, his mother fled to Cincinnati with her children for fear of being re-enslaved in Mississippi.  Shortly thereafter, Napoleon became mentally ill, leaving 12 year old Pinckney as sole-provider for his mother and four siblings.  
Sources: 
James Haskins, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1973); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mandela, Nelson Rolihlahla (1918-2013)

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

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

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

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

Williams, Peter Jr. (1780-1840)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Hunter, Jane Edna (1882 –1971)

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

Jane Edna Hunter is most famous for founding the Phillis Wheatley Association (PWA) in 1913.   Hunter was born on December 13, 1882 in Pendleton, South Carolina to Harriet Millner, a free-born daughter of freed slaves, and Edward Harris, the son of a slave woman and a plantation overseer.  Edward Harris died when Jane was ten years old, and her mother urged her into a loveless marriage with Edward Hunter, a man 40 years older than she was. The arrangement collapsed fourteen months after the wedding, and Jane Edna Hunter never married again.

Hunter migrated to Cleveland Ohio, arriving in 1905 as a 23 year old single African American woman. Hunter founded the PWA to aid and assist other single, newly arriving African American women.  She led the Association until her retirement in 1946. The PWA was the first institution designed to meet the needs of African American migrants and became, by 1927, the single largest private African American social service agency in Cleveland. The Cleveland PWA also became the largest residence for single African American women in the nation and served as the model for similar projects throughout the urban North.  

Sources: 

Jane Edna Hunter, A Nickel and a Prayer (Nashville: Parthenon Press,
1940); Virginia R. Boynton, "Jane Edna Harris and Black Institution
Building in Ohio" in Warren R. Van Tine and Michael Dale Pierce,
Builders of Ohio: A Biographical History, (Columbus: Ohio State
University Press, 2003); Women in History, Jane Edna Hunter biography
Last Updated: 1/25/2008, Lakewood Public Library, Date accessed
12/12/2008, http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/hunt-jan.htm;

Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hurt, “Mississippi” John Smith (c. 1892-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Mary Hurt-Wright,
Mississippi Hurt Museum/Foundation
Born in Teoc, Mississippi in 1892 but raised in Avalon, Mississippi, "Mississippi" John Hurt spent the majority of his life employed as a farm hand. Though he briefly recorded in the 1920s, it was not until the 1960s that his music was widely distributed and recognized. Hurt was known for his humble nature and his unique, soft style of blues.
Sources: 
Stefan Grossman, ed., Mississippi John Hurt (Los Angeles: Alfred Publishing, 2007); http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:wifuxq95ldke~T1; http://www.nps.gov/history/DELTA/BLUes/people/msjohn_hurt.htm

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Aiken, Kimberly (1975- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of Miss America Organization

 

Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Millicent Reid, “Miss America Kimberly Aiken Talks About Coveted Crown,” People Magazine, May 9, 1994 , Vol.. 41, No. 17; Karima Haynes, “Miss America: From Vanessa Williams to Kimberly Aiken,” Ebony Magazine, January 1994; http://www.missamerica.org 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Naylor, Gloria (1950 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Gloria Naylor, a major 20th century writer of African American literature, was born on January 25, 1950 in New York City to Roosevelt and Alberta Naylor. She was born just six weeks after her parents moved to the city from Robinsville, Mississippi, to escape the racially segregated South.  It is that combination of her family's Southern roots and her on upbringing in the urban North that influenced her writing.

Naylor, an avid reader and writer in her teenage years, graduated with honors from Andrew Jackson High School in the Bronx, New York in 1968.  She immediately went on a mission to North Carolina and Florida as required by her Jehovah's Witness faith.  Returning to New York City in 1975, Naylor enrolled in Medgar Evers College where she studied nursing. Soon later transferred to Brooklyn College where she studied English.

Sources: 
Charles E. Wilson Jr. "Gloria Naylor: A Critical Companion" in Kathleen Klein, ed., Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers (New York: Greenwood Press, 2001);  "Gloria Naylor" in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Volumes 1 &2, (Brooklyn, New York: Carlson Publishing ,1993); aalbc.com <http://authors.aalbc.com/gloria.htm>.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lemon, Don (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Don Carlton Lemon is a prominent, award-winning black television anchor in the United States. In 2011, he publicly came out as a gay man. In so doing, he became the most prominent African American journalist to announce his sexual orientation and was immediately considered a major role model for other gay men of color.

Lemon was born on March 1, 1966 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to a single working mother. His father, known only as Mr. Richardson, played a positive role in Lemon’s young life. He and his sisters, Yma and Leisa, grew up in west Baton Rouge and Port Allen. They lived there with their mother and grandmother until 1976 when his mother married Lemon’s step-father. As an adult, Lemon reported that at the age of five he was sexually abused by a teenage male neighbor.

Lemon enrolled at Louisiana State University in 1984 but did not complete his studies. He moved to New York City in 1990 and entered the broadcasting field. His first job there was as a reporter for the Fox Affiliate, WNYW. Lemon graduated from Brooklyn College in Broadcast Journalism in 1996. He then moved to Birmingham, Alabama to anchor the news at Fox’s WBRC. St. Louis, Missouri was his next stop where he anchored and reported for KTVI.
Sources: 
David Taffet, “Don Lemon: Gay rights are civil rights,” Dallas Voice (January 25, 2013), http://www.dallasvoice.com/don-lemon%E2%80%88gay-rights-civil-rights-10137593.html; http://www.lgbthistorymonth.com/don-lemon.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Ellison, Ralph (1913-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on March 1, 1913 in Oklahoma City, Ralph Waldo Ellison entered the world with a name that almost presumed for him a literary career. But his road to and in literature would be torturous. Many of the initial comforts enjoyed by Ellison vanished when his father died in 1916. His mother worked long and hard to insure that Ralph Ellison had an education, but the family existed in precarious economic circumstances. When an opportunity arose for Ralph to escape from home, he jumped at it, enrolling in 1933 as a music student at Tuskegee Institute. While Ellison learned much about music at the school, he also spent an immense amount of time and energy devouring modern literature at the school library.

Like many young black men with literary aspirations, Ellison headed to Harlem in 1936, to make it as a writer. Possessed with tremendous confidence, Ellison quickly made friends with some of the leading lights in the African American literary constellation. During the period of the 1930s, Ellison was associated with the Communist Party, when that organization appeared for many African Americans as a natural ally in the fight for civil rights and as supportive of black writers. Like his friend and initial mentor Richard Wright, Ellison came to chafe at the political discipline imposed by the party, and he had by the 1940s separated himself from it.
Sources: 
Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007); George Cotkin, Existential America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); Kenneth W. Warren, So Black and So Blue: Ralph Ellison and the Occasion of Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); Jerry Gafio Watts, Heroism and the Black Intellectual: Ralph Ellison, Politics, and Afro-American Intellectual Life (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Cal Poly

Kochiyama, Yuri (1921-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Yuri Kochiyama was born Mary Yuriko Nakahara in 1921 and raised in San Pedro, California, in a small working-class neighborhood.  When Pearl Harbor was bombed, the life of Yuri’s family took a turn for the worse.  Her father, a first-generation Japanese immigrant, was arrested by the FBI. When President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066 ordering the removal of persons of Japanese descent from “strategic areas,” Yuri and her family were sent to an internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas.  Due to these events, Yuri started seeing the parallels between the treatment of African Americans in Jim Crow South and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in remote internment camps during World War II. Subsequently she decided to devote her life to struggles against racial injustice.  

Sources: 
Yuri Kochiyama, Passing It On – A Memoir, ed. Marjorie Lee, Akemi Kochiyama-Sardinha, and Audee Kochiyama-Holman (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 2004); “Yuri Kochiyama: With Justice in Her Heart” (an interview transcript) http://www.revcom.us/a/v20/980-89/986/yuri.htm; William Yardley, "Yori Kochiyama, Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 93," New York Times, June 4, 2014.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Kanagawa University, Japan

Brown, Charlotte Eugenia Hawkins (1883-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born Lottie Hawkins in Henderson, North Carolina, in 1883, her family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, early in her childhood to avoid racial discrimination in their home state. In Cambridge, she attended Allston Grammar School, Cambridge English High School and Salem State Normal School in Salem, Massachusetts.

During her senior year at Cambridge High School Hawkins met Alice Freeman Palmer, who in 1882 was named the first woman president of Wellesley College. Palmer would become a role-model, mentor and influence in Hawkins’s life. Hawkins became Palmer’s protégé as the two women developed a life long bond.  Palmer assisted Hawkins financially in attending Salem State Normal School, a teachers college.

In 1901 eighteen year old Hawkins accepted a teaching position in North Carolina offered by the American Missionary Association. Although she did not graduate from Salem State, she decided to take the post anyway knowing that since there were few educational opportunities for black children she would do what she could to address the problem.  
Sources: 
Charles W. Wadelington and Richard F. Knapp, Charlotte Hawkins Brown and Palmer Memorial Institute; What One Young African American Woman Could Do  (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); Lorraine Roses and Ruth E. Randolph, Harlem Renaissance and Beyond: Literary Biographies of One Hundred Black Women Writers, 1900-1945 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997); http://www.wellesley.edu; http://www.chbfoundation.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smith, Charles Z. (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On July 18, 1988, Charles Z. Smith became the first African American to serve on the Washington Supreme Court.  He was appointed to the court by Washington’s then Governor Booth Gardner and was subsequently elected to his position on the court for a two-year term in 1988.  Justice Smith was elected thereafter to full six-year terms in 1990 and 1996.  Justice Smith was never opposed in any of his elections.  He retired from the court on December 31, 2002.

When Governor Gardner appointed Charles Smith to the Washington Supreme Court, he hoped that the new justice, who was noted for his “mediator-conciliator type of personality,” could bring the often sharply divided court closer together.  Justice Smith’s voting record on the court indicated that he met the governor’s expectations.  In his first two years on the court, Justice Smith wrote twenty-five opinions and of that number, eighteen were unanimous opinions, a percentage that far exceeded that of the full court.  During his entire career on the court, Justice Smith showed a tendency to be the swing vote in many cases and he rarely dissented.
Sources: 
Charles H. Sheldon, The Washington High Bench: A Biographical History of the State Supreme Court, 1889-1991 (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1992).
Affiliation: 
Supreme Court of the State of Washington

Vaughan, Sarah (1924-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sarah Louise Vaughan was born in 1924 in Newark, New Jersey.  Both of her parents were amateur musicians and they provided their daughter piano lessons as a child as well as a solid background in vocals, as a member of her mother’s church choir.  By 1943, 19-year- old Sarah was ready to make music her career.  Despite her natural shyness and lack of stage polish, she won an amateur contest at Harlem’s renowned Apollo Theatre.  That performance led to Sarah’s “discovery” by Billy Eckstine who helped her become a vocalist and musician with the Earl Hines Band.  Vaughn left Hines’s band to join Eckstine’s new orchestra and make her recording debut.  

By 1946 Sarah Vaughn was a solo artist who was rapidly becoming well known as one of the first jazz artists to use “bop” phrasing in her singing.  During the 1950s, she adopted a new style which allowed her to record numerous “pop” tunes that were commercially successful.  While her embrace of pop music scandalized jazz purists, it greatly widened Sarah’s fan base and demonstrated her business acumen, which many of her colleagues eventually grew to admire.
Sources: 
Leslie Gourse, Sassy: The Life of Sarah Vaughan (New York: Da Capo Press, 1993); Joyce West Stevens, Smart and Sassy: The Strengths of Inner City Black Girls (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/vaughan_s.html; Rutgers Women’s History Project, http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/njwomenshistory/Period_5/vaughan.htm; Soulwalking, http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Sarah%20Vaughn.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mason, Bridget “Biddy” (1818–1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Bridget “Biddy” Mason, born a slave in Mississippi in 1818, achieved financial success that enabled her to support her extended family for generations despite the fact that she was illiterate. In a landmark case she sued her master for their freedom, saved her earnings, invested in real estate, and became a well-known philanthropist in Los Angeles, California.

Although born in Mississippi, Mason was owned by slaveholders in Georgia and South Carolina before she was returned to Mississippi.  Her last owner, Robert Marion Smith, a Mississippi Mormon convert, followed the call of church leaders to settle in the West.  Mason and her children joined other slaves on Smith’s religious pilgrimage to establish a new Mormon community in Utah. In 1848 30-year-old Mason walked 1,700 miles behind a 300-wagon caravan that eventually arrived in the Holladay-Cottonwood area of the Salt Lake Valley. Along the route west Mason’s responsibilities included setting up and breaking camp, cooking the meals, herding the cattle, and serving as a midwife as well as taking care of her three young daughters aged ten, four, and an infant.
Sources: 

Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier African Americans in the American West 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998; Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1995); Jessie Carney Smith, (editor). Epic Lives One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993).

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Shange, Ntozake \ Williams, Paulette (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The author, poet, and playwright, Paulette Williams (right), was born in 1948 in Trenton, New Jersey.  Until she was eight, she lived in a racially diverse community among well educated upper middle class black and white families.  She socialized with prominent musicians and performers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Chuck Berry, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Josephine Baker, all of whom were friends of her parents.  

In 1956, the Williams family moved to racially segregated St. Louis where they remained for five years.  In St. Louis, Paulette was exposed to music, dance, art, literature, and opera but also to overt racism at her elementary school, which was one of the first in the nation to become embroiled in the tension over desegregation following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.  At thirteen, Paulette returned to New Jersey where she was now much more observant of the inequities that were customarily faced by black American women.
Sources: 

Philip U. Effiong, In Search of a Stylistic Model for Modern African-American Drama: The example of Lorraine Hansberry, Ntozake Shange (Paulette Williams), and Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993); Sandra L. Richards, Conflicting Impulses in the Plays of Ntozake Shange (St. Louis: St. Louis University Press, 1983); Arlene Elder, “Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo: Ntozake Shange’s Neo-Slave/Blues Narrative,” African American Review (1992);  Rutgers University “Women of Color, Women of Words.” http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~cybers/shange2.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wynn, Albert R. (1951- )

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

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

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

Hunt, Ida Alexander Gibbs (1862-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Ida Alexander Gibbs Hunt, teacher, Pan-Africanist and civil rights leader, was born on November 16, 1862 in Victoria, British Columbia.  Her parents were Mifflin Wistar Gibbs and Maria Alexander.  Ida Gibbs studied in the Oberlin Conservatory of Music from 1872 to 1876.  She then went to local public schools from 1876 to 1879.  For her senior year of high school, Gibbs attended the Oberlin College’s Preparatory Department and stayed on as a college student.  She completed her college education at Oberlin College in 1884, receiving both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Eng

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Minority Student Records, Oberlin College Archives (2008), http://www.oberlin.edu/archive/holdings/finding/RG5/SG4/S3/graduates.html; Joy A. Palmer, Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey (London, New York: Routledge, 2001); Oberlin High School Alumni: In Memoriam, Oberlin High School Alumni Association, http://www.oberlin-high.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gray, Fred D. (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Attorney, civil rights and human rights activist, Fred D. Gray, was born on December 14, 1930 in Montgomery, Alabama to Nancy and Abraham Gray.  The youngest of five children, he and his siblings were raised in a shotgun house in a segregated black section of the city.  

In 1947, Gray attended the Nashville Christian Institute.  After completing seminary, he enrolled at Alabama State College, where he paid for his education by working as a district manager of the Alabama Journal.  In 1951, Gray entered law school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his degree in 1954 and opened a law office in his hometown of Montgomery. 

Sources: 

Fred Gray, Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System (Montgomery, Alabama: Black Belt Press, 1995).  Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); http://www.fredgray.net/background.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Rogers, John W. (1958- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

BNET, The activists: John W. Rogers Jr. <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m 1365/is_7_38/ai_n24360086>; John W. Rogers Jr. Biography. 1958- Investor, business executive. <a href="http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2767/Rogers-John-W-Jr.html">John W. Rogers Jr. Biography; Who Runs GOV. John W. Rogers Jr. <http://www.whorunsgov.com /Profiles/John_W._Rogers_Jr.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Walrond, Eric (1898-1966)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Eric Walrond was an Afro-Caribbean-American fiction writer and journalist of the Harlem Renaissance era.  Born December 18, 1898, in Georgetown, British Guyana, Walrond would write short stories with the interwoven themes of immigration, racial pride, and discrimination as he captured the early urban experience of Caribbean-born immigrants in America during the 1920s.  Although Walrond’s work has been largely overlooked, his book, Tropic Death (1926) is considered a major contribution to the cultural and literary style of the Harlem Renaissance.

Walrond lived in Guyana until 1905, when his mother, Ruth, moved the family to Barbados in 1906. Walrond began his formal education at St. Stephen's Boys' School near Bridgetown, Barbados.  The disruptive impact that European colonialism had on the lives of many Afro-Caribbean people can be seen early on in Walrond’s life, as his father deserted the family and went to Panama to find work on the building of the Canal.  After being forced to sell their property in Barbados, the Walrond family joined twenty thousand West Indians who went to Panama looking for work.  They moved into the U.S. controlled Panama Canal Zone in 1911 to find jobs and their missing father and husband.  Ruth located Walrond's father but they were unable to reconcile.  The family remained in the Canal Zone struggling to earn a living in the impoverished and racially segregated city of Colon, Panama.

Sources: 
Louis J. Parascandola, ed., “Winds Can Wake up the Dead” (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998); David L. Lewis, The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader (New York: Viking, 1994); David L. Lewis, Harlem was in Vogue (New York: Penguin Books, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gibson, Truman (1912-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Truman Gibson Testifying Before a U.S. Senate Committee,
1948
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 
Truman Gibson was an African American businessman, attorney, government advisor, and boxing promoter. Gibson, the son of an insurance executive, was born on January 22, 1912 in Atlanta, Georgia. A few years after he was born, Gibson’s family moved to Columbus, Ohio. Gibson graduated high school in Columbus in 1928 and the University of Chicago four years later.  He then decided to attend law school at University of Chicago, graduating from there in 1935.

Gibson remained in Chicago and began a law practice.  By 1936 he represented the boxer Joe Louis in negotiations with other fighters and fight promoters and because of Louis's success, soon became wealthy and prominent.  In 1940, Gibson became an assistant to William Hastie, who was then an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt. Gibson assisted Hastie in investigating issues of discrimination against black soldiers and sailors during the early part of World War II.   
Sources: 
Steve Huntley, Knocking Down Barriers: My Fight for Black America (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 2005);
http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=288&category=Lawmakers
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/02/national/02gibson.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Watkins, Perry Robert (1907-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Perry Watkins was the first African American set designer on Broadway. He was also a stage painter, makeup and costume artist, producer, and film art director.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island on April 13, 1907, Watkins attended Hope High School where he and a friend hand wrote and decorated a daily newspaper called “The Foolscape.” Awarded a scholarship to study art at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1926, he studied figure drawing under Vincent Bernasconi and still life under Asa G. Randall, the school’s most prominent artists.

Despite having his paintings displayed at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Museum and the Providence Art Club, he struggled financially and worked as a waiter, chauffeur, insurance salesman, reporter, draftsmen, and commercial illustrator. By 1936, unemployed and broke, he applied to the Federal Theatre Project with a sample production, and was quickly employed.

Starting as a stagehand and becoming assistant technical director at Lafayette Theatre in New York City, he began a flurry of work, painting drops, dying costumes, and operating the lighting for Macbeth (1936), designing sets for George McEntee’s The Case of Philip Lawrence (1937), William Du Bois’ Haiti (1938), Eugene O’Neill’s [Four] Plays of the Sea (1938) and the Negro Youth Theatre’s production of Horse Play (1938), as well as designing the costumes for George Bernard Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion (1938). He created sets for Mississippi Rainbow (1938) for the Chicago Negro Unit of the FTP, and for the Los Angeles Negro Unit’s revival of Hall Johnson’s Run Little Chillun! (1938).
Sources: 
Vanessa G. Turner, “Blacks in Technical Theatre” (M.A. Thesis, Indiana University, 1992); Bernard L Peterson, Profiles of African American Stage Performers and Theatre People 1816-1960 (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2001); “He Crashed the Color Line,” Opportunity Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 2 (February 1939).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Washington, Booker T. (1856-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Booker T. Washington is one of the most controversial and dominant figures in African American history.  According to his autobiography Up From Slavery (1901), he did not know the exact year, date, and place of his birth or his father’s name. Yet, it is widely understood that he was born enslaved on April 5, 1856 in Hale's Ford, Virginia. His mother’s name was Jane and his father was a white man from a nearby plantation. At the age of 9, Washington was freed from slavery and moved to West Virginia.  He had always been known as simply “Booker” until he decided to add the name “Washington” after feeling the pressure to have two names when he started grammar school.

Sources: 
William L. Andrews, ed. Booker T. Washington: Up From Slavery (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996); Louis R. Harlan, The Booker T. Washington Papers: The Making of a Black Leader New, 1856-1901 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Lambert, William (1817-1890)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Abolitionist and civil rights activist William Lambert was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1817, the son of a manumitted father and a freeborn mother. As a young man Lambert was educated by abolitionist Quakers.

Twenty-three year old Lambert arrived in Detroit, Michigan in 1840 as a cabin boy on a steamboat, and eventually started a profitable tailoring and dry cleaning business.  Upon his death Lambert left behind an estate estimated at $100,000.  Lambert was also a founder of the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and served as one of its wardens.

In Detroit Lambert soon became active in the movement to secure suffrage for the black men of Michigan. He founded the Colored Vigilant Committee, Detroit’s first civil rights organization. In 1843 Lambert helped to organize the first State Convention of Colored Citizens in Michigan. He was subsequently elected chair of the convention and gave an address regarding the right to vote that was directed not only towards black people, but also to the white male citizens of the state. Lambert also worked to bring public education to the black children of Detroit.
Sources: 
Katherine DuPre Lumpkin, “The General Plan Was Freedom”: A Negro Secret Order on the Underground Railroad," Phylon, 28:1 (1st Qtr., 1967); “William Lambert," Detroit African-American History Project, Wayne.edu website; Historic Elmwood Cemetery & Foundation, http://www.elmwoodhistoriccemetery.org/biographies/william-lambert/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Julian, Hubert Fauntleroy (1897-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Hubert Fauntleroy Julian, nicknamed the Black Eagle, was born in Trinidad on January 5th, 1897. In 1922, when he was 25 years old, he flew over parades in support of Marcus Garvey. He subsequently took flying lessons from Air Service, Inc., and purchased a plane to fly to Africa. After flying to Roosevelt airfield, when he attempted to depart in July 1924, the plane crashed and burned. He survived and spent the next month in a Long Island hospital. In 1929, he did succeed in a Trans-Atlantic flight two years later than Charles Lindberg.

Sources: 
Elliot Bastien and Sandra Bernard-Bastien, World Class Trinidad & Tobago: An Area of Abundance—Profiles of Performance (Sekani Publications: Port of Spain, 2006); www.worldclasstnt.com [under construction].
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historians

Brown, James (1933-2006)

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

Born May 3, 1933, into poverty in racially segregated Barnwell, South Carolina, James Brown became the most assertively black rhythm and blues singer ever accorded mainstream acceptance before audiences throughout the world.  

Arrested for breaking and entering at age 15, Brown’s early run-ins with the authorities served as his initiation into the rough edges of the black experience that were eventually reflected in both his pleading ballads and aggressive in-your-face funk.  Brown’s rough musical style and sensual, suggestive lyrics are even credited with ushering in the age of Hip-Hop. His almost primal renditions of “Please, Please, Please,” his first hit in 1956, and later “Bewildered” and “Prisoner of Love” contrasted vividly with the serene and controlled deliveries of artists such as Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Dionne Warwick.

Sources: 
Peter Shapiro, Rough Guide to Soul and R&B (London, England: Penguin Books, 2006).  Also read Michael Haralambos, Soul Music: Birth of a Sound in Black America (DaCapo Press, 1985)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Seale, Bobby (1936--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
As cofounder and Chairman of the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale was an important leader of the Black Power movement.  Born in Texas, Seale joined thousands of African Americans when his family migrated to Oakland, California during World War II.  At the age of 18, Seale joined the Air Force, where he was given a bad conduct discharge after three years of service.  He returned to Oakland and began attending Merritt College, intending to become an engineer.  At Merritt he was exposed to an emerging Black Nationalist discourse and first met Huey P. Newton.  Inspired by Malcolm X, independence movements in Africa, and anti-colonialist intellectuals such as Frantz Fanon, he founded with Newton in 1966 the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.  
Sources: 
Bobby Seale, A Lonely Rage: The Autobiography of Bobby Seale (New York, Times Books, 1978); Seale, Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton (New York, Random House, 1970); and Robert O. Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Batts, Deborah (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Deborah Batts, U.S. District Court Judge in New York City, received degrees from Radcliffe College and the Harvard University Law School.  Batts began her legal career with the firm of Cravath, Swaine, and Moore in New York City.  Later she was appointed assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan.  In 1984, she became the first African American appointed to the faculty at Fordham University School of Law (New York).  After serving as an associate professor of law at Fordham for ten years, Batts was nominated for the federal bench by President Bill Clinton.

The Clinton nomination was the second time that Batts’s name had been put forward for a judicial appointment.  Her previous nomination in 1991, by President George Bush, was unsuccessful.  But her mentor, Senator Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat, persisted and she was re-nominated by President Clinton in January 1993.  Batts was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 5, 1994.  When she took her seat on the bench in Manhattan on June 23, 1994, she became the nation’s first openly lesbian African American federal judge.
Sources: 
Source: Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), p. 21.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

James, General Daniel “Chappie”, Jr. (1920-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. was born February 11, 1920 to parents Daniel and Lilly Anna James of Pensacola, Florida.  As a young man growing up in the Deep South during the era of Jim Crow, he experienced racism first hand and resolved to overcome discrimination and to excel.  James graduated from Pensacola’s Washington High School in 1937.  In September 1937 he enrolled in Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  James graduated from Tuskegee with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education in 1942. He learned to fly at Tuskegee as well and completed Civilian Pilot Training during his senior year.  It was also in Tuskegee that James met his wife Dorothy Watkins. They were married on the Tuskegee campus on November 3, 1942.  

Having shown great skill as a pilot, James obtained a job at Tuskegee as a civilian instructor for the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet program.  He trained other pilots until January 1943 when he entered the cadet program himself.  James was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps in July 1943.  During the next six years he completed fighter pilot combat training as well as bomber pilot combat training and was stationed at various bases in the United States.
Sources: 
J. Alfred Phelps, CHAPPIE: America’s First Black Four-Star General: The Life and Times of Daniel James, Jr. (Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1991); James R. McGovern, Black Eagle: General Daniel ‘Chappie’ James, Jr. (Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1985);
Air Force Link http://www.af.mil/history/person.asp?dec=&pid=123006480
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

King, Coretta Scott (1927-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

The widow of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King became a forceful public figure and important leader in the civil rights movement. She made numerous contributions to the struggle for social justice and human rights throughout her life.

Coretta Scott was born the second of three children to Obadiah Scott and Bernice McMurray Scott in Heiberger, Alabama on April 27, 1927.  She spent her childhood nearby on a farm owned by her family since the Civil War.  During the Depression, Coretta and her siblings picked cotton in order to help support the family. This appeared to be the beginning of her determination to further her education.

Sources: 

“Coretta Scott King, 78, Widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dies” The New York Times (31 January 2006); Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King Jr. (New York: Holt, 1969; rev.ed., Henry Holt, 1993); http://www.civilrightsleader.com/coretta_scott_king.htm.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bishop, Sanford Dixon, Jr. (1947--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Georgia Congressman Sanford Dixon Bishop Jr. was born on February 4, 1947, in Mobile, Alabama to Minnie B. Slade, who was a librarian and Sanford Dixon Bishop, who was the first president of the Bishop State Community College. Bishop attended public schools until his entrance into Morehouse College in Alabama. He received a B.A. in 1968 in political science and then attended Emory University Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1971. Bishop also served the United States Army in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. After receiving his J.D., Bishop started a private practice in Columbus, Georgia and in 1977 was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives where he served until 1990.  That year he entered the Georgia Senate. In 1992 Bishop won election to the U.S. House of Representatives.  He still serves in that body.

Bishop, a Democrat, represents the 2nd District of Georgia.  He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and is also a part of the Blue Dog Democrats, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats in Congress whose goal is to move the Democratic Party further to the right. Since 2003 he has served on the House Committee on Appropriations, sitting on the Subcommittee for Defense, the Subcommittee on Military Construction / Veterans Affairs and the Subcommittee on Agriculture.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mills, Florence (1896-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

The 1927 Times of London obituary noted of Florence Mills, “There is no doubt that she was a real artist full of individuality and intelligence, and her premature death is a sad loss to the profession.”  Florence Mills was an internationally-recognized and multifaceted performer who paved the way for other black female stars during the Harlem Renaissance.

Born Florence Winfrey in 1896, in Washington, D.C. to former slaves Nellie and John Winfrey, Mills moved with her parents to New York City in 1905. To help her financially struggling family, Mills and her two older sisters created “The Mills Sisters,” a dance and singing troupe that performed in theatres in Harlem, New York.

The year 1921 marked a triumphant period for Mills. She married Ulysses “Slow Kid” Thompson (a member of a jazz band known as the Tennessee Ten) and made her debut in the hit musical Shuffle Along – a victorious, all-black cast, musical comedy created by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake.  

Sources: 

Bill Egan, Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004); http://www.florencemills.com/biography.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Copeland, John Anthony, Jr. (1836-1859)

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

John Anthony Copeland was a mulatto, born free in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 15, 1834 to John Anthony Copeland, a slave, and Delilah Evans, a free woman.  Copeland spent much of his early life in Ohio and attended Oberlin College.  While residing in Oberlin, Ohio, Copeland became an advocate for black rights and an abolitionist.  In 1858 he participated in assisting John Price, a runaway slave seeking his freedom.  This act became famous as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, where abolitionists boldly aided slaves in violation of the federal Fugitive Slave Law.  

Once released from jail, Copeland joined John Brown’s group that planned to attack the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.  Copeland was recruited to join Brown's group by Lewis Sheridan Leary.  He and Leary, along with three other African Americans, Osborn P. Anderson, Dangerfield Newby, and Shields Green took part in what they hoped would be Brown's slave manumitting army.  Like Brown and the other followers, Copeland believed that if the group seized weapons at Harpers Ferry and then marched south, they would created a massive slave uprising that would free all of the nearly four million African Americans in bondage.  

Sources: 

Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer  Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism (New York: The New Press, 2006;  Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Doubleday, 2000); Peggy A. Russo, and Paul Finkelman, Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005); http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/main/index.php?q=node/5478

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Chilembwe, John (c. 1871-1915)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
John Chilembwe and Family
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Chilembwe was a Baptist educator and political leader who organized an uprising against British colonial rule in Nyasaland (today Malawi). Though details about Chilembwe’s early life are largely undocumented, it is believed that he was born in the Chiradzulu region of Nyasaland sometime around 1871 to a Yao father and a Mang’anja slave. The Mang’anja were the traditional ethnic group of the area but fell victim to enslavement by Arab and Yao slave traders; the Yao, originally from northern Mozambique, fled famine in their native country and served as middlemen for the Arab slave-raiders. Chilembwe, a mix of the two ethnic groups, embodied the plight of both. He grew up under the prevailing atmosphere of insecurity of the southern Nyasa regions. When the British colonized the area in 1891, naming it Nyasaland, they established newly organized governance and missions, and sought to control the indigenous people of the region.
Sources: 
Thomas Price, Independent African: John Chilembwe and the Origins, Setting and Significance of the Nyasaland Native Uprising of 1915 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1969); http://harvardmagazine.com/2005/03/john-chilembwe.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Taylor, Ruth Carol (1931- )

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

Journalist and nurse Ruth Carol Taylor became the first African American airline flight attendant in the United States when she joined Mohawk Airlines in 1958. While she is most commonly known for her achievement in the airline industry, she spent much of her career as an activist for minority and women’s rights.

Taylor was born in Boston, Massachusetts on December 27, 1031 to Ruth Irene Powell Taylor, a nurse, and William Edison Taylor, a barber. When Ruth was young, her family moved to a farm in upstate New York. She attended Elmira College in New York and in 1955 graduated from the Bellevue School of Nursing in New York City as a registered nurse. After working for several years as a nurse, Taylor decided to break the color barrier that existed in the career of airline stewardesses.

Sources: 
Kathleen Barry, Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants (Duke University Press Books, 2007); Betty Kaplan Gubert, et al, Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science (Westport, CT: Oryx Press, 2002); "First Black Flight Attendant Is Still Fighting Racism," Jet Magazine, May 1997: 40; Carol Taylor, The Little Black Book: Black Male Survival in America, or Staying Alive & Well in an Institutionally Racist Society (New York: Little Black Book, 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Reed, Ellis (Eli) (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ellis (Eli) Reed is a professor, author, and photographer.  He is the first African American selected as a full member into the Magnum Photos agency, the elite international photojournalist collective.  Having been published in close to 30 magazines, Reed is best known for his three decades of photojournalism that reflect his profound interest in the effects of war on society and social justice, particularly the lives of African Americans.  

Reed was born on August 4, 1946 in Linden, New Jersey.  He grew up in the town of Perth Amboy, New Jersey and graduated from high school there in 1965.  He then enrolled in the Visual Illustration program at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts in Newark, New Jersey, graduating in 1969.

Reed began his photography career as a freelance photographer in 1970.  During that time, from 1970 to 1976, he also worked as a full-time hospital orderly at night.  He credits his time spent in the hospital with providing the intensive study of the human character that informed his documentary photography career.  

By 1977 Reed worked as a full time photographer at the Middletown Times Herald Record in upstate New York.  In 1978 he was hired by the Detroit News and in 1980 he began working for the Examiner in San Francisco, California.  His work at the Examiner would lead to his receiving runner-up designation for a Pulitzer Prize in 1981, at the age of 35.
Sources: 
Reuel Golden, Photojournalism 1855 to the Present: Editor’s Choice (New York: Abbeville Press, 2006); William Manchester, In Our Time: The World as Seen by Magnum Photographers (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1989); http://www.utexas.edu; http://www.magnumphotos.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Anderson, Violette Neatley (1882-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
In 1926 Violette Neatley Anderson became the first African American female attorney admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.  Anderson was born on July 16, 1882 in London, England to Richard and Marie Neatley.  The family immigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago, Illinois when Anderson was a young child.  She graduated from a Chicago high school in 1899, furthering her education at the Chicago Athenaeum and the Chicago Seminar of Sciences.  Violette Neatley married Albert Johnson in 1903; however, the marriage quickly ended in divorce.  In December 1906, she married Dr. Daniel H. Anderson, an African American general practitioner, and she took his last name.
Sources: 
Virginia G. Drachman, Sisters in Law: Women Lawyers in Modern American History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); Women’s Law History, Stanford University, http://wlh.law.stanford.edu/biography_search/biopage/?woman_lawyer_id=11329; “Violette Neatley: Trailblazer for Women”, Los Angeles Sentinel, 14 May 2009, http://www.lasentinel.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6110:violette-neatley-trailblazer-for-women.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Scott, Dred (1795-1858)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dred Scott, was an enslaved person noted mainly for the unsuccessful lawsuit brought to free him from bondage. The decision rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857 in the Dred Scott case, said that no blacks slave or free were U.S. citizens and allowed slavery in all U.S. territories.  The decision helped propel the United States toward the Civil War.

Sources: 
Paul Finkleman, Dred Scott v. Sanford: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Bedford/St.Martin's, 1997); Thomas & Gale Online (http://www.gale.com/policy.htm#terms )
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Wiley, George Alvin (1931-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Wiley was born in New Jersey in 1931 and raised in Warwick, Rhode Island.  Wiley earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Rhode Island in 1953 and his Ph.D. in chemistry at Cornell in 1957. Afterwards he accepted a post-doctoral position at the University of California, Los Angeles. Wiley taught at the University of California, Berkeley and at Syracuse University. At Syracuse, he founded the local Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter, fighting for the integration of public schools and equal opportunities in housing and employment.  

In 1964 Wiley left academia to work full time with CORE as the associate national director, second in command to national director James Farmer. After an unsuccessful attempt to become the national director after Farmer, he left CORE and created his own group called the Poverty/Rights Action Center (P/RAC) in Washington, D.C. Under the influence of two Columbia University School of Social Work professors, Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, Wiley sought to promote racial justice by providing economic opportunities for the poor. In June 1966, he organized several demonstrations that led to the formation of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO).
Sources: 
Nick Kotz and Mary Lynn Kotz, A Passion for Equality: George Wiley and the Movement (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977); Guida West, The National Welfare Rights Movement: The Social Protest of Poor Women (New York: Praeger, 1981); Premilla Nadasen, Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2005); “George Alvin Wiley,” Discoverthenetworks.org, http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1769
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Kanagawa University, Japan

Dunjee, Roscoe (1883-1965)

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

Roscoe Dunjee was a prolific journalist and civil rights activist. He was the son of Rev. John William Dunjee, a Baptist minister, and Lydia Ann Dunjee. Although his father was born in Jefferson County, West Virginia, Roscoe worked for various African American newspapers in Oklahoma while attending Langston University.

In 1915, Dunjee founded his own newspaper in Oklahoma City entitled the Black Dispatch which became one of the most prominent black newspapers in America. Throughout his life, in the Black Dispatch Dunjee wrote confrontational editorials attacking the institution of Jim Crow, encouraged African Americans to vote and fight for their Civil Rights, and named his paper the Black Dispatch because whites had degraded the term to refer to African Americans as gossipers and liars. Dunjee chose to invert the term “black dispatch” as something honorable concerning the image of African Americans.

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

Clayton, Eva (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Charles Christian, Black Sage: The African American Experience (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995); Alston Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); bioguide.congress.gov; www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, Ernestine (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
The career of Seattle-based jazz vocalist Ernestine Anderson is noteworthy both for its prolific output of more than 30 albums, and the more than 60-year span of her career. Born in Houston, Texas on November 11, 1928, as a child she joined her father and grandmother in the gospel choir of her local church. At 12 she won a regional talent competition. In 1943, her first gig was with the band of trumpeter Russell Jacquet.

With her family she moved to Seattle, Washington in 1944. At 18, she toured with the Johnny Otis big band; at 20, she married and began her own family. Throughout her career, she alternated returning to Seattle to be with children and family, with periods of going out of town or country to focus on her career.

In 1952, famed big band leader Lionel Hampton had an opening for a new singer. With the encouragement of her husband, Anderson auditioned, backed up by the Ray Charles trio, then in Seattle. She was hired, and toured with the band for 15 months; fellow Seattle native Quincy Jones was in the trumpet section. When the band began a European tour, she returned to Seattle and spent time raising her children. Returning to her career, she performed at the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958. During a successful tour in Sweden, she recorded her first solo album, later released by Mercury Records under the title “Hot Cargo.” An August 4, 1958 cover of Time magazine followed, and she was named the “Best New Vocal Star” by Down Beat magazine in 1959.
Sources: 
Paul De Barros, Jackson Street after Hours: the Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle, Washington: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://www.ernestineanderson.com; http://www.npr.org/programs/jazz.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lynch, John Roy (1847-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

John Roy Lynch, congressman, soldier and author was born in Concordia Parish, Louisiana on September 10, 1847 to Patrick Lynch, an Irish immigrant and Catherine White, a slave.  Lynch’s father died soon after his birth.   Lynch and his mother were then traded to a plantation in Natchez, Mississippi.  During the Civil War, Lynch  became free when he fled the plantation and to serve as a cook for the 49th Illinois Volunteer Regiment.

During Reconstruction, Lynch joined the Republican Party in Mississippi.  After working as assistant secretary for the Republican State Convention, Lynch became the Justice of the Peace in Natchez County, Mississippi.  In November 1869 at the age of 22, Lynch was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives.   Three years later, in 1872 he was named Speaker of the House.

Sources: 
Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007.  Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008); John Hope Franklin, ed., Reminiscences of an Active Life: The Autobiography of John Roy Lynch (Chicago, 1970); Website on Black Americans in Congress: John Roy Lynch http://basic.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=8
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Cooper, John W. (1873-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John W. Cooper and Sam Jackson
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John W. Cooper was an African American ventriloquist, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1873.  After losing both of his parents at a very young age, Cooper received his education at Professor Dorsey’s Institute in Brooklyn.  There he developed into a budding entertainer and took a special interest in ventriloquism, a craft he learned from an unidentified white man whom he met at a Sheepshead Bay racetrack.  

Cooper, who was also a singer, joined “The Southern Jubilee Singers.”  While touring with the group he also developed his ventriloquism act, writing and performing his own material before mostly white audiences.  “Fun in a Barber Shop” became one of his most famous acts.  Cooper portrayed six different puppet characters, each with his own voice performed by Cooper himself.

In 1902, when he was twenty-nine, Cooper had his first big break in ventriloquism while traveling with Richards and Pringles Minstrels.  In that year he was recognized by the Daily Nonpariel, a leading entertainment magazine, as the best ventriloquist of that era.    Cooper went on to create another act with a black ventriloquist puppet named Sam Jackson.  Cooper and Sam traveled all over the United States during the next two decades.  By the start of World War I he began performing at veteran hospitals, service clubs, and military camps.  
Sources: 
C. B. Davis, “Reading the Ventriloquists’ Lips: The Performance Genre behind the Metaphor” (TDR 1988-), 42: 4 (Winter 1998); Dan Willinger, “Ventriloquists Vaudeville Years,” Ventriloquist Central: A Tribute to Ventriloquism,” http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com/tribute/vaudeville/vaudeville.htm; Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Harding, Vincent Gordon (1931-2014)

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

Vincent G. Harding, civil rights leader, teacher, scholar, engaged citizen, and seeker was especially noted for his close association with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his decades of social justice work. Harding was born on July 25, 1931 in Harlem. His mother Mabel Harding was one of the most influential people in his life. In 1960, he married Rosemarie Freeney Harding (1930-2004) in Chicago, Illinois. The couple had two children, Rachel and Jonathan.

Sources: 
Rose Marie Berger, “I’ve Known Rivers: The Story of Freedom Movement Leaders Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Vincent Harding,” Sojourners, online archive (www.sojo.net). Vincent Harding, interview with Tisa M. Anders, Denver, Colorado, April 19, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Spencer, Kenneth (1913-1964)

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

Compared at the time to his more famous colleague, Paul Robeson, and heralded by major publicity outlets of his day as one of black America’s most exceptional baritone vocalists, singer-actor Kenneth Spencer was one of the most prominent black artists of the early 20th Century. Spencer was born in Los Angeles, California in 1913. He studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1938.

Early in his career, Spencer performed as a baritone singer on a variety of network radio stations while working odd jobs to supplement his income. Determined to advance his career, Spencer traveled and performed with the St. Louis Opera Company and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Eventually he became a soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.  

Sources: 

Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts (Metuchen,
N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1978); Thomas Cripps, Making Movies Black (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fudge, Marcia (1952 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Democrat Marcia Fudge is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 11th Congressional District of Ohio since November 2008. She was the first female African American mayor of Warrensville Heights, a predominantly middle-class black suburban city outside of Cleveland.  She served as its mayor from January 2000 to November 2008.  

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1952, Fudge earned a BS in business administration from Ohio State University in 1975.  After working as a law clerk immediately after college, she earned a JD from Cleveland State University in 1983.  Fudge then served as an attorney in the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office where she also held the position of director of Budget and Finance.  She was also an auditor for the estate tax department and has occasionally served as a visiting judge and a chief referee for arbitration.  Prior to her election, Fudge was chief of staff to 11th District Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones during Jones’ first term.  

After Jones’ passing on August 20, 2008, a committee of local Democratic leaders selected Mayor Fudge as Jones’ replacement on the November ballot.  She easily won the general election in the heavily Democratic, black-majority district with 85 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Thomas Pekarek.  She was sworn in on November 19, 2008.  
Sources: 
Damon Sims, " Marcia Fudge, with Style of Her Own, Takes Congressional Seat," The Plain Dealer (November 19, 2008); Rep. Marcia Fudge official website: http://fudge.house.gov/index.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Erving, Julius Winfield II (1950 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Julius Erving with the New York Nets
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Professional basketball player Julius Winfield Erving II, respected by teammates and the fans alike, is best known for his on-court flair and inventive movements, introducing the slam dunk into the game of professional basketball.  Erving, nicknamed “Dr. J,” was born on February 22, 1950 in Roosevelt, New York.  He began his professional career in the American Basketball Association (ABA) for the Virginia Squires (1971-1973) and later the New York Nets (1973-1976).  From 1976 to 1987 he played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Philadelphia 76ers.

While playing basketball at Roosevelt High School, Erving's teammates nicknamed him “The Doctor”, which later was changed to “Dr. J”.  Erving attended the University of Massachusetts for his college career under Coach Jack Leaman. After two years of NCAA College Basketball, Erving averaged 26.3 points and 20.2 rebounds per game.

In 1971, he left college and joined the Virginia Squires in the ABA. After two seasons with the Squires, Erving entered the NBA Draft where he was picked 12th by the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Erving tried to sign with the Atlanta Hawks but due to legal issues Erving was required to play another season in the ABA. The Virginia Squires sold Erving's contract to the New York Nets before the 1973 season.

Sources: 
Vincent Mallozzi, Doc: The Rise and Rise of Julius Erving (New York: Wiley, 2009); http://www.nba.com/history/players/erving_summary.html; http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/erv0bio-1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Anderson, Charles A. "Chief" (1907-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles Anderson, April 1941
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Alfred Anderson, often called the "Father of Black Aviation," because of his training and mentoring of hundreds of African American pilots, was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb, on February 9, 1907.  His parents were Janie and Iverson Anderson. Charles Anderson earned the name “Chief” because he was the most ranked and experienced African American pilot before coming to Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) in 1940.  By that point he had amassed 3,500 hours of flight prompting most of his contemporaries, and students to call him by that name as a sign of their respect for his accomplishments.  Anderson was also the Chief flight Instructor for all cadets and flight instructors at Tuskegee during World War II.   

While growing up in Bryn Mawr, Anderson developed an interest in aviation.  In August 1929, at the age of 22, he borrowed $2,500 from friends and relatives, bought a used airplane, and taught himself to fly.  Later that year he received License, No. 7638.  In 1932, Anderson received a commercial pilot’s license and air-transport pilot license becoming the first African-American to hold both certificates. In the same year he wed his childhood sweetheart, Gertrude Elizabeth Nelson. The couple had two sons.
Sources: 
Milton Pitts Crenchaw Interview, Little Rock, Arkansas July 28, 2011; George L. Washington, The History of the Military and Civilian Pilot Training of the Negroes at Tuskegee, Alabama, 1939-1945 (Washington D.C: George L. Washington, 1972); http://www.bjmjr.net/tuskegee/chief.htm; Tuskegee Institute, National Historic Site, 1212 West
Montgomery Rd. Tuskegee Institute, Alabama 36088
http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/tuskegee/airanderson.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock

West, Cornel Ronald (1953-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Cornel West is one of the most recognizable and preeminent intellectuals of his generation.  West has authored 19 books and edited another 13.  He is best known for his book Race Matters (1994) and in his role as a public intellectual.  West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard with an A.B., Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, (1973) and obtained his M.A. (1975) and Ph.D. in Philosophy (1980) at Princeton.  West has received more than 20 honorary degrees and an American Book Award. Professor West is currently the Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary of New York City.

Cornel Ronald West was born on July 2, 1953 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The West family moved to Sacramento, California in 1958.  West’s father, Clifton L. West, Jr., graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas and worked as a civil servant.   His mother, Irene West, an elementary school teacher and principal, was so admired that the City of Sacramento named the Irene B. West Elementary School in her honor.
Sources: 
Cornel West, and David Ritz, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud: A Memoir (Carlsbad: Smiley Books, 2009); Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African American Experience (Basic Civitas Books: New York, 1999); http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Cornel_West;
http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cornel-west-obama-a-republican-in-blackface-black-msnbc-hosts-are-selling-their-souls/
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Greener, Richard T. (1844-1922)

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

Richard Theodore Greener, a native of Philadelphia, became the first African American to graduate from Harvard College.  He later served the United States in diplomatic posts in India and Russia.  Greener lived in Boston and Cambridge as a child and entered Harvard in 1865 and received an A.B. degree from the institution in 1870.  After graduation he was appointed principal of the Male Department at Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth which later became Cheyney University.  Three years later Greener became professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy at the University of South Carolina where he also served as librarian and taught Greek, Mathematics and Constitutional Law.  While there Greener entered the Law School and received an LL.B degree in 1876.

Sources: 
Allison Blakely, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1986); “Figures in Black History: Richard Greener: Harvard’s First African American Graduate” http://dede.essortment.com/richardgreener_pws.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
U.S. Department of State

Steele, Jr., Percy H. (1920--2002)

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

 

Born in 1920 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Percy Steele was one of eight children. Steele graduated from North Carolina Central College in Durham, North Carolina, after which he attended Atlanta University, where he completed a Master’s degree. From 1945 to 1946, he was a staff member and organization secretary for the Washington, D.C. Urban League.

Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, Percy Steele,  Jr., and the Urban League: Race Relations and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Post-World War II San Diego,  California History (Fall, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Douglass, Anna Murray (c. 1813-1882)

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

Howard, Perry Wilbon (1877-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Perry Wilbon Howard was one of the shrewdest and most enduring Southern black politicians of the early 20th Century.  Howard was a dominant figure in Mississippi Republican politics for half of the twentieth century.  For thirty-five years between 1924 until shortly before his death in 1961 at the age of eighty-four, Howard served as Republican national committeeman from Mississippi.  
Sources: 
Sources: McMillen, Neil, “Perry W. Howard, Boss of Black-and-Tan Republicanism in Mississippi, 1924-1960,” The Journal of Southern History 80:2 (May 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hervey, Gilford P. (1836-1920)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Gilford P. Hervey was born enslaved, the third of 14 children of Cary M. and Rose Hervey in Halifax County, North Carolina, both of whom were owned by Gideon T. Hervey.

Hervey served with Company F of the 59th United States Infantry (USCI) formerly 1st Tennessee Colored Infantry, volunteering from his home in Water Valley, Mississippi, at La Grande, Tennessee June 1863. While in military service, Gilford was involved in a number of battles including the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads on June 10, 1864 near Tupelo, Mississippi and the repulse of Nathan Bedford’s attack on Memphis on August 21, 1864. Hervey was injured during the war which prompted his claim for a pension. He was discharged from military service on January 31, 1866 in Memphis, Tennessee.

After his discharge Hervey became a minister and resided in several states including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, and California before migrating to Seattle in 1915. During those years he married three times and had one child, a son named Carey, by his first wife, Annie Rankin. Hervey maintained his Seattle residence for five years. He died, however, in a hospital in Sedro Woolley, Washington on September 8, 1920. As a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), Hervey was eligible for burial in Seattle’s GAR Cemetery located on Capital Hill. Hervey is one of three known African American Civil War soldiers buried there.

Sources: 
Civil War Pension File (542345); 59th Regimental History, online http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/template.cfm

Contributor: 
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Kitt, Eartha Mae (1928-2008)

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

Eartha Mae Kitt was born on January 26, 1928, in North, South Carolina.  Her sharecropper parents abandoned Kitt and her half-sister as young children, forcing them to live with a foster family until they moved to New York City to live with their aunt in 1938.

Until the age of fourteen, Kitt attended Metropolitan High School in New York City where she was recognized for her talents in singing, dancing, baseball, and pole-vaulting.  She met Katherine Dunham when she was sixteen, and toured Mexico, South America, and Europe as a dancer in Dunham’s troupe.  Kitt remained in Paris after the tour, entertaining audiences across the world with her provocative dancing and singing.  

Kitt was offered her first role in the theater in 1951 when Orson Wells cast her as Helen of Troy in his stage production Faust.  Kitt won critical reviews for her performance, which led to her role in Leonard Stillman’s New Faces Broadway revue.  She released a best-selling Broadway album after the show to kick off her record career.  

Sources: 
Lisa E. Rivo, “Eartha Mae Kitt,” Africana: Encyclopedia of The African and African American Experience, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0001/e0338?hi=1&highlight=1&from=quick&pos=1
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Holmes, Benjamin M. (1846-1875)

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

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

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

McClendon, Rose (1884-1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

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

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

Townsend, Robert (1957 - )

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

Robert Townsend, writer, producer, director, and actor, was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 6, 1957, the second oldest of four children to Shirley and Robert Townsend.  Growing up on the Westside of Chicago, Townsend was raised by his mother in a single parent home.  As a child Townsend watched TV where he learned to do impersonations of his favorite actors such as Jimmy Stewart and Bill Cosby for his family and classmates. Eventually his abilities caught the attention of Chicago’s Experimental Black Actors Guild X-Bag Theatre in Chicago and then moved him out to The Improvisation, a premiere comedy club in New York City.  Townsend also had a brief uncredited role in the 1975 movie, Cooley High.

Townsend's comedy career began to take off at the Improvisation and he soon headed to Hollywood where he performed on comedy specials such as Rodney Dangerfield: It’s Not Easy Being Me.  Townsend also landed minor role in films such as A Soldier’s Story (1984) with Denzel Washington, Streets of Fire (1984) with Diane Lane, and American Flyers, a 1985 movie staring Kevin Costner.  

Sources: 

Robert Townsend.com, December 5, 2008,
http://www.roberttownsend.com/bio.html; Jennifer M. York, ed. Who’s Who
Among African Americans
, 16th ed., (San Francisco: Thomson Gale, 2003)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Manly, Alex (1866-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Daniel R. Miller, "Manly, Alex" in Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 4 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991); North Carolina Wilmington Race Riot Commission "Final Report, May 31, 2006" (North Carolina Office of Archives & History, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Charles, Suzette (1963- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Suzette Charles (born Suzette De Gaetano), the second African American woman to hold the crown of Miss America, was born in Mays Landing, New Jersey on March 2, 1963. She is the daughter of Charles Gaetano, a businessman, and Suzette (Burroughs) Gaetano, a music teacher. Charles represented New Jersey in the September 1983 Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the time. Charles performed very well during the pageant competition. She won her preliminary competition in the talent division and finished first runner up to Vanessa Williams, Miss New York, who became the first black Woman to win the Miss America title on September 17, 1983.

When Williams was forced to relinquish the crown due to a scandal involving nude photographs, on July 24, 1984, Charles became the second black woman to wear the Miss America crown and fulfilled her duties for the remaining seven weeks of William's reign. This was the shortest time period served by any Miss America.
Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Susan Chira, “To First Black Miss America, Victory is a Means to an End,” New York Times, September 19, 1983, F10, A1.; http://www.missamerica.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Smith, Tommie (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Tommie Smith (middle) and
John Carlos (right)
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Tommie Smith is best known as a world class sprinter and for protesting (along with John Carlos) U.S. racism and human oppression on the winner’s podium at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.  Smith was born in Clarksville, Texas, and raised in Lemoore, California. His family worked as field laborers.  In 1963, Smith became a student-athlete at San Jose State University (SJS) to escape picking cotton and grapes for a living. While there he emerged as a world-class sprinter and concurrent record holder in eleven track and field events.  Smith also became politically active, beginning with a sixty mile sympathy march from San Jose to San Francisco for the southern civil rights movement on March 13 and 14, 1965.

Sources: 
Tommie Smith, Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007); “Silent Gesture" Still Speaks Volumes” (URL: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/08/earlyshow/leisure/books/main2446168.shtml).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

McMillian, Marco (1979-2013)

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

Marco McMillian was known primarily as the first openly-gay African American male to seek mayoral office as a Democrat in his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi. On February 26, 2013, McMillian was found dead the age of 34, having been beaten, dragged, and burned.

Little is known about his family history.  McMillian was born to Patricia Unger in Clarksdale in 1979.  He graduated from Clarksdale High School in 1997 and went on to graduate magna cum laude from the W.E.B. DuBois Honors College at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. McMillian also earned a graduate degree from Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota in the area of philanthropy and development.

While living in Washington, D.C., McMillian served as an international executive director of the historically black Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. where he was responsible for securing the first federal contract to raise the awareness of the adverse impact of HIV/AIDS on communities of color. He also served as executive assistant to the President of Alabama A&M University and as assistant to the vice president at Jackson State University.

Sources: 
http://newsone.com/2254245/marco-mcmillian-dead-clarksdale-mississippi/ http://marcomcmillian.com/about.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/marco-mcmillian-dead_n_2780698.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Langston, John Mercer (1829-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
William Cheek and Aimee Lee Cheek, John Mercer Langston and the Fight for Black Freedom, 1829-65 (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1989), and www.oberlin.edu.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lawrence, Jacob & Gwendolyn Knight

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jacob Lawrence, born in 1917 in Atlantic City, N.J., moved to New York City at age thirteen.  Gwendolyn Knight, born in 1913, in Barbados, West Indies, arrived in the U.S. at age seven, and spent her first years in St. Louis.  She arrived in New York City on the threshold of her teens.  Knight and Lawrence met in the mid 1930s in Charles Alston’s Harlem Community Art Center, a place where young artists found mentors and a compatible working space.  During the late 1930s Jacob and Gwen worked with artist/sculptor Augusta Savage. The sculptor played a key role in bringing Jacob Lawrence and Gwen into the WPA program which established their lives as professional artists.  In 1940 Jacob Lawrence was awarded a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship to complete his Migration of the Negro Series.  Gwen continued to work with Augusta Savage but she also devoted time to help Jacob prepare the boards (for the Migration Series) in his studio at 33 West 125th street, an unheated space he shared with a number of artists including painter Romare Beardon and writer Claude McKay.
Sources: 
Michelle DuBois and Peter T. Nesbett, Jacob Lawrence Catalogue Raisonne (University of Washington Press, 2000);  Conkelton/Thomas, Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight Lawrence, 2003, www.Jacobandgwenlawrence.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Artist and Art Historian

Elaw, Zilpa (1790? - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in Pennsylvania to free parents, who raised her in the Christian faith, she was sent around the age of twelve, after her mother died, to live with a Quaker couple. At the age of fourteen, she began attending Methodist meetings, where she was converted. In 1810, she and Joseph Elaw were married; they settled in Burlington, New Jersey, because of his job as a fuller. They had a daughter, who was eleven years old when Joseph died of consumption in 1823.
Sources: 
Zilpha Elaw, Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels and Labours of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw, An American Female of Color: Together with Some Account of the Great Religious Revivals in America (1846); William L. Andrews, ed., Sisters of the Spirit: Three Black Women’s Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century (1986).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Young, Roger Arliner (1889-1964)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Roger Arliner Young, born in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania in 1889, was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in zoology and to conduct research at the prestigious Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Young conducted research on the anatomy of paramecium and the effects of radiation on sea urchin eggs.

Young enrolled at Howard University at the age of twenty-seven, intending to major in music.  After struggling through a biology course with African American biologist Ernest Everett Just, she changed her major to that subject, earning a B.S. in 1923.  Just hired her as an assistant professor at Howard while she attended graduate school.  The next year, Young enrolled at the University of Chicago part-time and published her first article on paramecium which achieved international recognition. She received her M.S in Zoology in 1926 and was elected to the honor society Sigma Xi.
Sources: 
Wini Warren, “Roger Arliner Young: A Cautionary Tale,” in Black Women Scientists in the United States (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1999); Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser, Roger Arliner Young,” in African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/young.html;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hudson, Hosea (1898-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Nell Irvin Painter
Hosea Hudson was a Communist Party (CP) activist and industrial union organizer in Alabama and Georgia during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. He embodied the CP's turn toward black civil rights in the early 1930s and the attraction many working-class southern blacks felt toward the Party during and, in Hudson's case, well after the Depression decade.

Hudson was born in rural Wilkes County, Georgia in 1898.The son of sharecroppers and the grandson of a former slave, he endured poverty and hunger as a child and received little formal education. He married in 1917, had his first and only child a year later, and worked for several years as a sharecropper and common laborer in Wilkes County and Atlanta. In 1924 Hudson moved his family to Birmingham where he found work as an iron molder.
Sources: 
Nell Irvin Painter, The Narative of Hosea Hudson: His Life as a Negro Communist in the South (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979); Hosea Hudson, Black Worker in the Deep South: A Personal Record (New York: International Publishers, 1972); Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe:  Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

White, V. Ethel Willis (1920-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
The endowment named in honor of V Ethel Willis White is unusual in that the person honored was not a wealthy woman in the usual sense of the word.  Instead V Ethel Willis White’s wealth derived from her inspiration to others.
Sources: 
“Honoring Dignity: V Ethel Willis White Endowed Book Series,” Excerpts:  Newsletter of the University of Washington Press (Summer 2004); Susan T. Herring, “Willis & Wyman’s, Match Made in Heaven,” The Guardian-Journal, 23 June 2005; Jack Hamann, “Endowed Book Series Selects On American Soil,” Jack Hamann, Author/Journalist, http://www.jackhamann.com/news/v_ethel_willis_white.html (6 July 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Muse, Clarence (1889-1979)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of
SHADES  OF L.A. COLLECTION/
Los Angeles Public Library 
On October 14th, 1889 Clarence Edouard Muse was born to Alexander and Mary Muse in Baltimore, Maryland.  Muse had intended to become an attorney and earned a degree in International Law from The Dickerson School of Law in Pennsylvania in 1911.  Because of poor opportunities for African Americans in the legal profession, Muse became a performer.    

Clarence Muse toured the vaudeville circuit, composed songs, directed both theater and film, entertained as a minstrel performer, sang opera, wrote screenplays, and appeared in over 150 films.  In 1914, Muse helped pioneer the black theater movement by co-founding the all black theatre troupe, the Lafayette Theater Stock Company.  He frequently appeared with the Lincoln Players, another famous troupe from the “Harlem Renaissance.”  
Sources: 

James P. Murray, Black Movies/Black Theatre. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1972); Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). “Clarence Muse” in “The Black Perspective in Music,” (Foundation for Research in the Afro-American Creative Arts, 1980)

Contributor: 

Washington, Craig Anthony (1941 - )

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

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

Nail, John E. (1883-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

John E. (Jack) Nail, a successful Harlem realtor, was born in New London, Connecticut in 1883.  His parents, Elizabeth and John B. Nail, moved to New York City where the senior Nail bought a hotel, restaurant, and billiard parlor after working for a time in a gambling house.  His entrepreneurial endeavors made an early impression on John as he was growing up. 

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Cary D. Wintz and Paul Finkelman, eds., The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance v.2 (New York: Routledge, 2004); John N. Ingram, African-American Business Leaders; A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Kidd, Mae Street (1909-1999)

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

Businesswoman, politician, and civil rights activist, Mae Street Kidd, was born February 8, 1904 in Millersburg, Kentucky to a black mother and white father.  Kidd’s biological father refused to acknowledge her as his daughter.  She attended a segregated black primary school in her community.  As a teenager, Kidd enrolled at Lincoln Institute in Simpsonville, Kentucky, a boarding school for African Americans.

After completing school, Kidd moved to Louisville.  She became a successful life insurance agent at the black owned Mammoth Life Insurance Company.  During World War II, Kidd served with the American Red Cross in England.  Following the war, she became an entrepreneur, opening a cosmetic and an insurance company in the Midwest.

Sources: 

Wade Hall, Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae
Street Kidd
(Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1997); George
C. Wright, A History of Blacks in Kentucky: In Pursuit of Equality,
1890-1989, Vol. 2
(Frankfort: Kentucky Historical Society, 1992);
http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_kidd.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Bennett, Chris H. (1943- )

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Samuel (1846-1901)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Cover, The History of the Yorubas
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Rev. Samuel Johnson was a nineteenth-century Anglican priest and historian of the Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria. Samuel Johnson is most noted for his manuscript, The History of the Yorubas, which was posthumously published in 1921.  

Born to Henry and Sarah Johnson, in Hasting, Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1846, Samuel Johnson’s father was originally from the nation of Oyo in what is now southwestern Nigeria.  Henry Johnson claimed to be a descendent of Abiodun, the last great king of Oyo.  Captured by slavers, he was later liberated by the British Royal Navy and brought to Freetown, Sierra Leone. There he joined other "recaptives" who had grown large enough in number to dominate the politics and culture of the British Colony by the 1850s.

In 1857 Henry and Sarah Johnson moved with their four sons to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) Mission in Ibadan in what is now southeastern Nigeria.  The Society believed that by training recaptives in Christianity and Western values and then dispatching them across West Africa as ministers and teachers, it would undermine the ongoing slave trade and check the spread of Islam in the region.  

Sources: 
Paul Jenkins, ed., Recovery of the West African Past: African Pastors and African History in the Nineteenth Century (Basel: Basel Afrika Bibliographien, 2000); Elijah Olu Akinwumi, “Samuel Johnson,” Dictionary of African Christian Biography (2002); http://www.dacb.org/stories/nigeria/johnson_1samuel.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mossell, Nathan Francis (1856-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Rayford Whittingham Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., "Nathan Francis Mossell," in The Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982);
http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4389/Mossell-Nathan-1856-1946.html
Penn University Archives & Records Center, http://www.archives.upenn.edu/people/1800s/mossell_nathan_f.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brawley, Otis Webb (1959- )

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

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

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

Tucker, C. DeLores (1927-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1927 to Reverend Whitfield and Captilda Nottage, C. DeLores Tucker attended the highly competitive Philadelphia High School for Girls and then matriculated to Temple University where she studied finance and real estate. In 1951 she married businessman William Tucker and became an activist who at the time was counted among the 100 most influential black Americans. 

A successful realtor during the 1950s, Tucker became involved in civil rights activities.  In the 1960s she served as an officer in the Philadelphia NAACP and worked closely with the local branch president and activist Cecil Moore to end racist practices in the city’s post offices and construction trades.  Tucker gained national prominence when she led a Philadelphia delegation on the celebrated Selma to Montgomery march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  By the decade’s end, Tucker’s expertise as a fund raiser for the NAACP, coupled with her Democratic Party affiliation, enabled her to be appointed chair of the Pennsylvania Black Democratic Committee.  

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (eds.) Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1993); Notable Black American Women, Thompson/Gale, 1993; New York Times, November 7, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Gorden, General Fred (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
General Fred A. Gorden was the first black Commandant of Cadets, the officer in charge of the training, discipline, and physical condition of the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  The Commandant of Cadets position is second only to the position of Superintendent of the Academy.   

Born in Anniston, Alabama in 1940, Gorden’s family moved shortly afterward to Atlanta, Georgia.  Gorden was the fourth of five children and was raised by his childless aunt, who lived around the corner from his family.  When she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan to marry, he went with her.  There he attended the local high school and excelled in both academics and athletics.  He was in the National Honor Society and played on an all-city basketball team.

Gorden had been attending a local junior college in 1958 when he was notified about his appointment to West Point as a cadet.  He received the call from a lawyer from his hometown who in turn had been contacted by the area’s Congressman about the appointment.  Gorden was to be the only black cadet in his class.

Sources: 
Catherine Reef, African Americans in the Military (New York: Facts on File, 2010); Gail Lumet Buckley, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm (New York: Random House, 2002); James Feron, “At West Point, Symbol of Change for Army,” The New York Times, October 28, 1987, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/28/nyregion/at-west-point-symbol-of-change-for-army.html; Angie Thorne, “One Man, One Family Makes a Difference,” March 4, 2009, retrieved from http://www.army.mil/article/17752/One_man__one_family_makes_difference/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gloster, Hugh (1911-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hugh Gloster (left) with Student Frank T. Bozeman at Morehouse Graduation, 1986
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Dorothy Granberry, Dr. Hugh Gloster Interview, Atlanta, GA 1990; William Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life  (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Crogman, William H. (1841-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William H. Crogman was born on the West Indian island of St. Martin’s in 1841.  At age 12 he was orphaned; by age 14, he took to the sea with B.L. Bommer where he received an informal but international education as he traveled to such places as Europe, Asia, and South America. After the urging of Mr. Bommer, in 1868 he entered Pierce Academy in Massachusetts.  Throughout his schooling experience he was an exceptional and advanced student.  At Pierce he was considered the top student as he mastered in one quarter what usually took students two quarters to complete. Later as a student of Latin at Atlanta University, he completed the four-year curriculum in three years.

Sources: 
William H. Crogman Talks for the Times (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Equiano, Olaudah (1745-1797)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Olaudah Equiano, whose father was an Ibo chief, was born in 1745 in what is now Southern Nigeria. At the age of 11 years, Olaudah was captured by African slave traders and sold into bondage in the New World.  Equiano, given the name Gustavus Vassa by one of his many owners, was forced to serve several masters, among them a Virginia plantation owner, a British Naval officer, and a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania merchant.  While a slave to the naval officer Equiano traveled between four continents. These global experiences within the Atlantic Slave Trade allowed Equiano to produce the most popular and vivid slave narrative of his era.

By 1777 at the age of 32, Equiano, after having mastered reading, writing and arithmetic, purchased his freedom.  He settled in England, befriended Granville Sharp, the first prominent British abolitionist, and soon became a leader of the emerging anti-slavery movement.  Equiano presented one of the first petitions to the British Parliament calling for the abolition of slavery.  
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); see also African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Group, 1994); http://www.brycchancarey.com/equiano/biog.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blackwell, Lucien E. (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lucien E. Blackwell, U.S. Congressman and labor official, was born in Whitset, Pennsylvania.  He attended West Philadelphia High School, but left before obtaining his diploma.  Blackwell also served in the United States Armed Forces during the Korean War, and received the National Defense Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and the Good Conduct Medal.  

Lucien Blackwell lacked formal higher education, but he persevered through the “school of hard knocks.”  He first found employment working on the waterfront of Philadelphia.  Beginning as an unskilled laborer, he gradually moved up to foreman, and then vice president, business agent and eventually, in 1973, president of Local 1332, International Longshoreman’s Association of the AFL-CIO.  Blackwell served in this capacity until 1991.      Blackwell also served as Chairman of the Philadelphia Gas Commission.  He made history by rejecting three requests by the Philadelphia Gas Works to increase gas rates.  These rejections prompted Philadelphia Gas to reorganize and reduce its management operations for the first time in the history of the Philadelphia utility.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), pp. 26-28.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Murphy, Isaac Burns (1861-1896)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Isaac Murphy was born on April 16, 1861 as Isaac Burns near Frankfort, Kentucky on a farm to parents James Burns and a mother whose name is unknown.  Murphy was the first American jockey elected to Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York and only one of two black jockeys (Willie Simms is the other) to have received this honor.

Burns’s father, a free black man, was a bricklayer and his mother was a laundrywoman.  During the civil war his father joined the Union Army and died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp.  After his father’s death, Burns and his mother moved to live with her father, Green Murphy, a bell ringer and auction crier, in Lexington, Kentucky.  Isaac Burns changed his last name to Murphy once he started racing horses as a tribute to his grandfather.

Sources: 
David Reed, “High Tributes Paid To Murphy,” The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), May 5, 1967, p. 13;  Stephen P. Savage, “Isaac Murphy: Black Hero in Nineteenth Century American Sport, 1861-1896,” Canadian Journal of History and Physical Education 10 (1979):15-32; Robert Fikes, Jr, “Issac Murphy”  Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Patsi B. Trollinger, Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World's Greatest Jockeys (New York: Viking Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rainey, Joseph Hayne (1832-1887)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
In 1870 Republican Joseph Hayne Rainey became the first African American to be elected to the United States House of Representatives and take his seat.  Others were elected earlier but were not seated.  Rainey was born in Georgetown, South Carolina, on June 21, 1832. His parents had been slaves but his father purchased his family’s freedom and taught him to be a barber. The family moved to Charleston in 1846.  Rainey, however, traveled frequently outside the South and married in Philadelphia in 1859.

In 1861 Joseph Rainey was drafted to work on a Confederate blockade runner during the Civil War. In 1862 he escaped to Bermuda with his wife and worked there as a barber before returning to South Carolina in 1866.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Christensen, Donna Marie (1945–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Donna Marie Christian-Christensen, the non-voting delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the United States House of Representatives, was born in Teaneck, Monmouth Country, New Jersey on September 19, 1945 to the late Judge Almeric Christian and Virginia Sterling Christian. Christensen attended St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she received her Bachelor of Science in 1966. She then earned her M.D. degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. in 1970. Christensen began her medical career in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1975 as an emergency room physician at St. Croix Hospital. Between 1987 and 1988 she was medical director of the St. Croix Hospital and from 1988 to 1994 she was Commissioner of Health for the Virgin Island.  During the entire period from 1977 to l996 Christensen maintained a private practice in family medicine.  From 1992 to 1996 she was also a television journalist.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University Of Washington

Weah, George (1966- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

George Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah, born in the slums of Monrovia, Liberia on October 1, 1966, is considered one of the best soccer players on the African continent.  For much of his youth, he was raised by his grandmother, Emma Klonjlaleh Brown, who provided for Weah while allowing him to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.

Weah played for Monrovia teams including the Young Survivors, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barolle, and Invincible Eleven before leaving Africa for Europe.  In 1987, at the age of 21, Weah signed for the French Ligue 1 giants, AS Monaco.  Throughout his career at the club Weah scored 55 goals in 155 appearances from 1987 to 1992.  From Monaco he played on a series of other European teams including Paris St. Germain (1992-1995), AC Milan (1995-1999), Chelsea (1999-2000), Manchester City (2001) and Olympic Marseille (2001-2002).  Over his 15-year career in Europe, Weah amassed an astonishing 172 goals.

Sources: 

Henry Winter, “On The Spot: George Weah,” London (?) Daily Telegraph, January 22, 2000; Michael Lewis, “Guiding light: player, coach, and financier, George Weah means everything to Liberian soccer--and Liberia means everything to Weah,” Soccer Digest Magazine, January 2002.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bath, Patricia (1942- )

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

Patricia Bath, a prominent ophthalmologist, was born in Harlem, New York in 1942.  Her parents, Rupert and Gladys Bath were both very supportive of her love for science and encouraged her to peruse a career in science.  Bath's teachers throughout her early education were also supportive. Bath attended New York’s Charles Evans Hughes High School in Harlem.  During her time there she excelled as a student earning herself a position after high school on a cancer research team at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital.

In 1960 she entered Hunter College in New York City obtaining a B.A in chemistry with honors four years later.  Bath then enrolled in the Howard University Medical School receiving an M.D. degree in 1968.  While in medical school Bath participated in a research project centered on children’s health in Yugoslavia.  This experience persuaded her to make her life's work the treatment of impoverished populations around the globe through international medicine.

Ophthalmology became Bath's specialty after medical school.  After working for a few years as a surgical assistant in New York hospitals, Bath went to Nigeria where she became the Chief of Ophthalmology at Mercy Hospital in Lagos, then the capital city.  Bath became intrigued by the numerous cases of blindness she encountered in Nigeria and upon her return to the United States in 1978, founded the American Institute for Prevention of Blindness.  

Sources: 

Otha Richard Sullivan, ed., Black Stars African American Women
Scientists & Inventors
(San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass A Wiley
Imprint, 2002); http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/bath.html;
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/aframsurgeons/images/bath.gif

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Muhammed Toure / Askia Muhammad I (c. 1442-1538)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Tomb of Askia Muhammad Toure at Gao, Mali
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Thomas A. Hale, Scribe, Griot, and Novelist: Narrative Interpreters of the Songhay Empire (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1990); John O. Hunwick, Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Baker, Vernon (1919-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Vernon Baker with President Bill Clinton, 1997
Image Courtesy of Wordpress.com
Vernon Baker, belated recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, was born on December 17, 1919 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His father, Manuel Caldera, was a carpenter from New Mexico. His mother was named Beulah. At the age of four, Baker lost his parents in a car accident and he and his two sisters, Irma and Cass, were raised by his grandparents in Cheyenne and Clarinda, Iowa.  Baker graduated from high school in Clarinda, Iowa in 1937 and found the only available work for blacks locally at that time.  He was a shoe shine boy and later a railroad porter.

On July 26, 1941, five months before Pearl Harbor, Baker joined the U.S. Army as a private and trained as an infantryman at Camp Wolters, Texas.  When officers recognized his leadership capabilities he was allowed to attend Officer Candidate School. On January 11, 1943, Baker was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and assigned to the segregated 370th Regiment of the 92nd Infantry Division, one of two all-black divisions.  

In June 1944, the 92nd Infantry Division landed in Naples and initially experienced heavy fighting on its way to central Italy.  In October, Baker, while on night patrol, was wounded in an encounter with a German soldier.  Treated in a hospital near Pisa, Italy, he was reunited with his unit in December 1944.  
Sources: 
Vernon J. Baker, 1st ed., Lasting Valor (Jackson, Mississippi: Genesis Press, Inc., 1997); A&E Television Networks, “Vernon J. Baker” Biography.com, 2010, Accessed Dec 6, 2010; http://www.biography.com/articles/Vernon-J.-Baker-403080
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Flournoy, Corey D. (1974- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
  Image Courtesy of Mr. Corey D. Flournoy, M.Ed.
Corey Flournoy is an educator, diversity advocate, and entrepreneur. Flournoy went from an early life in Chicago’s crime-ridden projects to a career in agricultural sciences, becoming the first African American to be named president of the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization.  He was also the organization’s first president to come from an urban area.

Corey D. Flournoy was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1974. His single mother, Barbara, raised Corey along with a brother and foster sister. Rather than attend his neighborhood high school, Flournoy applied to Chicago’s magnet school system of specialized studies. The only school to accept him was the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, which had recently opened its doors with a curriculum to prepare urban students for professions and careers in agriculture.

Flournoy reluctantly enrolled and entered the school’s FFA chapter, a requirement for all students. He soon found himself tasting milk samples and evaluating beef carcasses. He also spent six weeks working on a farm in central Illinois where he discovered his leadership skills. He won the election for vice president of the Illinois FFA. While his entry into agriculture was unplanned, Flournoy later said that it changed his life.   
Sources: 
“Corey Flournoy,” http://coreyflournoy.com/; “Corey D. Flournoy,” University of Illinois College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, http://aged.illinois.edu/faculty.php; Colin Hall and Ron Lieber, Taking Time Off: Inspiring Stories of Students Who Enjoyed Successful Breaks from College and How You Can Plan Your Own (New York: Princeton Review Publishing, 2003); “Future Farmers Chief Breaks New Ground: Agriculture: Corey Flournoy is the FFA's First Black President and Its First Leader to Come From an Urban Area. But Rural Life is Not in His Plans,” Los Angeles Times (December 12, 1994)
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-12-04/news/mn-4616_1_corey-flournoy.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Scott, Harriet Robinson (ca. 1820-1876)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Harriet Robinson Scott was an enslaved person who is best remembered for being the second wife of Dred Scott.  Harriet was born a slave on a Virginia plantation around 1820.  From a young age she was a servant to Lawrence Taliaferro, a US Indian Agent.  In 1834 Taliaferro left his home in Pennsylvania for a post as agent to the Sioux Nation at St. Peter’s Agency in the Wisconsin Territory.  He took Harriet with him to his new post.
Sources: 
Lea VanderVelde, Mrs. Dred Scott (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2009); "Famous Dred Scott Case," The New York Times, December 22, 1895; http://shs.umsystem.edu/historicmissourians/name/s/scotth/index.html; Paul Finkelman, Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Frazier, E. Franklin (1894-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Saddler, Joseph/Grandmaster Flash (1958 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although he will more than likely be remembered best for releasing “The Message,” the first rap song to delve into social commentary about the plight of African Americans in the inner-city, Grandmaster Flash was also the original technological virtuoso of the early hip-hop movement to emerge from the Bronx borough of New York in the 1970s. A child of Barbadian immigrants, Flash was driven by the mechanical imperfections of his immediate predecessors’ equipment to create new, home-made mixing tools. Along with his technological savvy, an obsessive drive for rhythmic perfection led him to essentially create the art form of ‘turntablism,’ the use of the record player as a musical instrument.

Beginning in 1977, Grandmaster Flash began to make his name in the Bronx for the wide range of technological tricks he used to electrify the party. Though DJ Kool Herc was the first to loop the percussive break-beat of a record, his technique was, in Sadler’s mind, sloppy and lacked precision in terms of keeping time with the rhythm of the beat. Flash created a cross-fader to improve upon Herc’s innovations, dubbing his style the “Quick Mix Theory,” which also incorporated a virtuoso 13-year-old named Grand Wizard Theodore’s technique of scratching a record back and forth for musical effect. As well, Flash’s routine also utilized a new electronic percussion machine called the beatbox to great effect.
Sources: 
Jeff Chang, Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (New York: Picador Press, 2005); Steven Hager, “Afrika Bambaataa’s Hip-Hop,” in Raquel Cepeda, ed., And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years (New York: Faber and Faber Inc., 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ringold, Millie (1845-1906)

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

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

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

Burroughs, Nannie Helen (1883-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Nannie Helen Burroughs was born in Orange, Virginia on May 2, 1879 to parents John and Jennie Burroughs.  Young Burroughs attended school in Washington, D.C. and then moved to Kentucky where she attended Eckstein-Norton University and eventually received an honorary M.A. degree in 1907.

Despite the absence of a college degree, Burroughs sought a teaching position in Washington, D.C.  When she did not receive it, she moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and became associate editor of The Christian Banner, a Baptist newspaper.  Burroughs returned to Washington, D.C. where, despite receiving a high rating on the civil service exam, she was refused a position in the public school system.  Burroughs took a series of temporary jobs including office building janitor and bookkeeper for a small manufacturing firm, hoping to eventually become a teacher in Washington, D.C.  She then accepted a position in Louisville as secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Black Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia (University of Michigan: Carlson Publishing Company, 1993); Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, Inc., 2005); http://www.toptags.com/aama/bio/women/nburroughs.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, Garland (1886-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A pioneer playwright and moralistic philosopher of constructive thinking, Garland Anderson was the first African American known to have a serious full-length drama produced on Broadway. Active in the theatre for over 10 years during the 1920s and 1930s, he achieved national prominence as “the San Francisco Bellhop Playwright.”

Garland Anderson was born in Wichita, Kansas.  He completed only four years of formal schooling before the family moved to California. Working as a bellhop in a San Francisco hotel, he often shared his optimistic philosophy of life with guests who encouraged him to write about his ideas. Anderson believed an individual might achieve anything in life through faith.

Anderson became a playwright after viewing a production of Channing Pollock’s moralistic drama The Fool.  Anderson wrote his first play, Appearances (1924), in only three weeks, with no training in playwriting style or technique. Failing to find a producer, he personally raised $15,000 towards the production. Despite numerous obstacles, his play opened on Broadway in 1925 with the help and support of the actor, Al Jolson and the President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge. The play, Appearances was a courtroom drama about a bellboy on trial who was falsely accused of raping a white woman. Owing to the central character’s strong moral convictions, he was eventually exonerated.
Sources: 
Garland Anderson, Uncommon Sense: The Law of Life in Action (London: L.N Fowler & Company 1933); Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Lynch, James D. (1838-1872)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

James D. Lynch, a Reconstruction era politician, is best known for his position as Secretary of the State of Mississippi from 1869 to 1872. Lynch was the first African American to hold a major political office in that state. Born in 1838 in Baltimore, Maryland, his father was white merchant and minister and his mother was a slave.

Lynch received an early education at an elementary school taught by the Reverend Daniel Payne of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, and was then send to Meriden, New Hampshire to attend the Kimball Union Academy. After studying for only two years he moved to Indianapolis and began preaching at a small church in the town of Galena, Indiana.

After the Civil War, Lynch joined other religious missionaries in South Carolina. As an official of the Methodist Episcopal Church, North, he helped establish churches and schools for African American adults and children between 1865 and 1866.  

Lynch eventually turned to politics believing that the freedmen’s political rights equally important as the development of their religious faith. In 1867 he was elected the Vice President of the first Republican State Party Convention in Mississippi. By 1869 he had become the most prominent African American politician in Mississippi and, after his nomination by the Republican Party and an exhaustive campaign; Lynch was elected Secretary of State.

Sources: 
George Alexander Sewell, Mississippi Black History Makers (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977); http://library.msstate.edu/content/templates/?a=137&z=129 ; http://www.galenahistorymuseum.org/lynch.htm .
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Carroll, Diahann (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Diahann Carroll in Julia
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Actress Diahann Carroll was born July 17, 1935 in the Bronx, New York but grew up in Harlem.  She received her education and her theatre training at Manhattan’s School of Performing Arts.

At the age of 19, Carroll received her first film role when she was cast as a supporting actress in the 1954 film Carmen Jones which starred Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte.  After her film debut Carroll starred in the Broadway musical House of Flowers.  In 1959 she returned to film in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess where she performed with an all-star cast that included Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., and Pearl Mae Bailey. 

In 1962 Carroll made history when she became the first African American woman to receive a Tony Award for best actress.  She was recognized for her role as Barbara Woodruff in the musical No Strings.  Another historical moment occurred when Carroll won the lead role for Julia in 1968, becoming the first African American actress to star in her own television series as someone other than a domestic worker.  The show also broke ground by portraying Carroll as a single parent.  She played a recently widowed nurse who raised her son alone.  In 1968 Carroll won a Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress in a Television Series” for her work in Julia.  One year later she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role in the series. 

Sources: 
Carroll, Diahann, "Ebony's 60th Anniversary - From Julia To Cosby To Oprah Tuning In To The Best Of TV," Ebony 61:1(2005); "Keeping Up The Good Fight—Winning the Crusade Against Cancer, Diahann Carroll, Vocalist and Actress, "Vital Speeches of the Day” 67: 11 (2001); Diahann Carroll’s official website:  http://www.diahanncarroll.net/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Morris, Robert, Sr. (1823–1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert Morris became one of the first black lawyers in United States after being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1847. Morris was born in Salem, Massachusetts on June 8, 1823.   At an early age, Morris had some formal education at Master Dodge’s School in Salem.  With the agreement of his family, he became the student of Ellis Gray Loring, a well known abolitionist and lawyer. 

Shortly after starting his practice in Boston, Morris became the first black lawyer to file a lawsuit on behalf of a client in the history of the nation.  A jury ruled in favor of Morris’s client, though the details of the trial are unknown.  Morris, however, recorded his feelings and observations about his first jury trial:

"There was something in the courtroom that made me feel like a giant.  The courtroom was filled with colored people, and I could see, expressed on the faces of every one of them, a wish that I might win the first case that had ever been tried before a jury by a colored attorney in this county…"

Vehemently opposed to slavery, he worked with William Lloyd Garrison, Ellis Loring and Wendell Philips and others to oppose the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  On February 15, 1851 with the help of Lewis Hayden, Robert Morris managed to remove from the court house, newly arrested fugitive slave Shadrack and helped him to get to Canada and freedom. Arrests were made but Morris and the others were acquitted of the charges. 

Sources: 

Clay J. Smith, Jr., Emancipation: Making of the Black Lawyer 1844 -1944 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995); Rayford W. Logan and Michael Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography; (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Bradley, Benjamin (1830- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
USS Dale, Sloop-of-War, ca. 1860
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Benjamin Bradley was the first person to develop a working model of a steam engine for a war ship.  Born in Maryland around 1830 Bradley was owned by an unidentified slaveholder in Annapolis, Maryland.  While living in Annapolis Bradley worked for a printing company at a young age.  At the age of 16 he demonstrated his great skill in mechanical engineering.  He constructed a model of a steam engine out of two pieces of steel, a gun barrel, and pewter.  Impressed by this feat, his master arranged for Bradley to work at the Department of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Bradley became the first African American to hold any but menial posts at the Naval Academy.  

Bradley learned to read and write at the Academy.  In time he became an assistant who set up experiments for the Academy's faculty.  While working at the Naval Academy he sold his first small steam engine to a Midshipman living in Annapolis. This engine was powerful enough to run a small boat.  Bradley used this money to expand on his findings and create an even larger model.

Sources: 

Michael Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993); Jim Haskins, Outward Dreams: Black Inventors and Their Inventions (New York: Walker Publishing Company, Inc., 1991).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Edwards, Donna (1958 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Donna Edwards is a Democratic member of U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 4th Congressional District of Maryland since 2008. Early in 2009 she was among a group of U.S. Congress members who were handcuffed and arrested while protesting the expulsion of aid groups from Darfur in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.  

Edwards earned her BA from Wake Forest University where she was one of six African American women in her class. She later earned a JD from Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire.  Prior to her political career, she worked as a systems engineer with the Spacelab program at Lockheed Corporation’s Goddard Space Flight Center. During the 1980s, Edwards worked as a clerk for then district judge Albert Wynn when he served in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Sources: 
Paul Courson, "U.S. lawmakers arrested in Darfur protest at Sudan embassy," CNN.com April 27, 2009; Rep. Donna Edwards’ official website: http://donnaedwards.house.gov
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robertson, Oscar Palmer (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 

Professional basketball player Oscar Palmer Robertson, nicknamed the “Big O,” was known as the most complete basketball player, with an excellent combination of scoring, passing, and rebounding skills. He still owns the record for most triple-doubles in a career with 181. Robertson played with the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks in the National Basketball Association (NBA) most of his professional career.

Robertson was born on November 24, 1938 in Charlotte, Tennessee. He grew up in poverty in Indianapolis and attended Crispus Attucks High School, then a segregated all-black school.  As a high school basketball player he led Crispus Attucks to two Indiana State Championships (1955-1956) during his junior and senior years and was named Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball.”

After high school he enrolled at the University of Cincinnati and made a major impact in college basketball, winning the scoring title and being named an All-American and College Player of the Year in each of his three seasons (1957-1959). After college, Robertson played for the 1960 United States Olympic basketball team.  He was named the co-captain of the USA team along with Jerry West and led them to an Olympic gold medal.  

Sources: 
Oscar Robertson, The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game (New York: Bison Books, 2010); Randy Roberts, “But They Can’t Beat Us!”: Oscar Robertson and the Crispus Attucks Tigers  (Urbana, IL: Sagamore Publishing, 1999); http://www.nba.com/history/players/robertson_summary.html; http://www.thebigo.com/AboutOscarRobertson/biography.php
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Will (1968-- )

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

Willard Christopher Smith, Jr., better known as Will Smith, actor, rap and recording artist, was born in Wynnefield, Pennsylvania on September 25, 1968.  His father, Willard Christopher Smith, is an entrepreneur and engineer, and his mother, Caroline Bright Smith, is a public school administrator.  Raised in a middle-class “Baptist” home, his parents sent Will to Overbrook High School, a Catholic school, where they felt he would get the best education.  In high school, his precociousness sometimes got him in trouble, but his charm, good-natured personality, quick-wittedness, good looks, and award-winning smile easily got him off the hook, and he soon won the nickname, “Prince.”  As a senior with high SAT scores, Smith had an offer to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after high school, but he opted out of college to pursue what had already become a successful career in entertainment.

Sources: 
http://www.biography.com/articles/Will-Smith-9542165; Patrick Healy, “Celebrity Schedules Could Delay ‘Fela!’ Opening,” Arts Beat, New York Times,  October 30, 2009; http://www.aceshowbiz.com/celebrity/will_smith; Lisa Iannucci, Will Smith: A Biography, (New York: Greenwood Press, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Paine College

Woodard, Isaac (1919-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Isaac Woodard, Jr. Escorted by Joe Louis
and Unidentified Man, 1946
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1946, U.S. Army Sergeant Isaac Woodard challenged a Greyhound Bus driver while traveling from Georgia to North Carolina after being discharged from service in World War II.  Police officers who met him at the next stop brutally attacked him and left him permanently blinded. The attack on Woodard and similar stories of mistreatment of other black servicemen returning from the war let to new national pressures on racial segregation and discrimination and to the integration of the Armed Services in 1948.
Sources: 
“The Isaac Woodard Case,” The Crisis 53 (September 1946);  Lynda G. Dodd, “Presidential Leadership and Civil Rights Lawyering in the Era Before Brown,” Indiana Law Journal 85 (Fall 2010): John Egerton, Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994);  Andrew H. Myers, “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond:  The Blinding of Isaac Woodard,” available at:  http://faculty.uscupstate.edu/amyers/conference.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Freeman, Robert Tanner (1846-1873)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Robert Tanner Freeman is the first professionally trained black dentist in the United States.  A child of slaves, he eventually entered Harvard University and graduated only four years after the end of the Civil War on May 18, 1869.

Robert Tanner Freeman was born in Washington, D.C. in 1846.   His formerly enslaved parents took the surname “Freeman” as did countless other people after gaining their freedom from bondage.  As a child, Robert befriended Henry Bliss Noble, a local white dentist in the District of Columbia.   Freeman began working as an apprentice to Dr. Noble and continued until he was a young adult. Dr. Noble encouraged young Robert to apply to dental colleges. 

Two medical schools rejected Freeman’s application but with the encouragement of Dr. Nobel who had contacts at Harvard Medical School, Freeman applied there.  Initially rejected, he was accepted into Harvard Medical School in 1867 at the age of 21, after a petition by Dean Nathan Cooley Keep to end the school’s historical exclusion of African Americans and other racial minorities.

Sources: 
C.O. Dummett, “Courage and Grace in Dentistry: the Noble, Freeman Connection,” Journal of the Massachusetts Dental Society, 44:3 (January 1995) , 23-26; Donald Altschiller, "National Dental Association," in Nina Mjagkij, ed., Organizing Black America: an encyclopedia of African American Organizations (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lester, Peter (1814- ? )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Peter Lester moved with his wife Nancy and five children to San Francisco from Philadelphia in 1850, where he was appalled to find that slavery was still a fact of life in the free state of California. In an attempt to do something about this, he invited black slaves and domestic workers into his home to lecture about their rights and to teach them anti-slavery songs.

Mr. Lester was making his living as a bootblack and boot maker in San Francisco when he met Mifflin W. Gibbs in the early California gold rush days. They became partners in the firm Lester & Gibbs, and opened up a successful shoe store in 1851 bearing the name (according to Mr. Gibbs) “Emporium for Fine Boots and Shoes, imported from Philadelphia, London and Paris.” This business saw wide success in both wholesale and retail, and the pair became very wealthy.
Sources: 
Rudolph M. Lapp, Blacks in Gold Rush California (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977).
 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hill, Charles Leander (1906-1956)

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

Rudolph, Wilma (1940-1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Wilma Rudolph with Her Olympic Gold Medals
Image Courtesy of The Library of Congress
Wilma Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940 in Bethlehem, Tennessee, one of eight children to parents Ed and Blanche Rudolph.  Wilma weighed only four-and-a-half pounds at birth and was born with polio and left for a time with only the use of her right leg because of it.  She suffered from double pneumonia twice and scarlet fever once before she was four years of age.  For two years, her mother brought her weekly to Meharry Medical College in Nashville for treatment.  Her family also massaged her leg at least four times daily.  From age five to nine, she wore a metal brace to correct her polio condition.  During that time she noticed the trips were always made on segregated buses that required African Americans sit in the back.

Rudolph entered Cobb Elementary School in Clarksville in 1947 and it was here that she discovered her passion for sports.  In eighth grade, she joined the track team even though basketball was her first love, and ran in five different events in high school.  By the age of 16, she was a bronze medalist in the 1956 Olympics.  In September of 1958, she entered Tennessee State University majoring in elementary education and psychology.  
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=131.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brisby, William H. (1831-1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
William BrisbyWilliam Henry Brisby was born free in New Kent County, Virginia in 1831 and lived on 32 acres of land that he inherited from his father.  He later bought additional land and eventually had a 179 acre farm.  Brisby worked mostly as a blacksmith and wheelwright but raised sheep, and engaged in commercial fishing.
Sources: 
Luther Porter Jackson, Negro Office Holders in Virginia, 1865-1895 (Norfolk: Guide Quality Press, 1945); John T. Kneebone, ed., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Massaquoi, Hans-Jürgen (1926–2013)

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

Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi was born on January 19, 1926 in the city of Hamburg, Germany. The son of the German nurse Bertha Baetz and the Liberian businessman Al-Hajj Massaquoi, Hans-Jürgen spent the first years of his life with the family of his paternal grandfather, Momolu Massaquoi, the Consul General of Liberia in Germany. When political turmoil broke out in the ambassador's homeland in 1929, he and his son Al-Hajj returned to Liberia, leaving Bertha Baetz and her son Hans-Jürgen in Germany.

Accustomed to the luxurious lifestyle of their African protector, Massaquoi and his mother soon had to face the harsh reality of their new lower-class daily existence.  Things got worse when Hitler and his Nazi Party came into power in January 1933. Facing increasing racial hostility, Massaquoi tried to blend into Nazi society but was doomed to failure because of his dark complexion. As a non-Aryan he was refused entry into the Hitler Youth and a higher education. Instead, he served an apprenticeship as a machinist and pursued his hobby, boxing, which later made him good friends with boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Massaquoi survived the war in Hamburg, despite facing both racial hatred from the Germans and the Allied bombing raids of 1943 that reduced vast parts of the city to rubble.

Sources: 
Hans J. Massaquoi, Destined to Witness: Growing up in Nazi Germany (New York: HarperCollins, 1999); Audrey Fischer, “Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin 59:3 (March 2000); http://www.answers.com/topic/hans-massaquoi; Obituary, Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2013. 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Loudin, Frederick J. (1840-1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University Franklin
Library's Special Collections
Frederick J. Loudin, teacher, impresario, manufacturer and Fisk Jubilee Singer, had a bass voice the likes of which no one would hear again until the emergence of Roland Hayes and Paul Robeson. At thirty-four, he would become the oldest member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ third troupe: a towering, self-assured printer and music teacher from Portage County, Ohio.

Though born a free man in Ohio in 1840, Loudin’s encounters with racism had been searing. His father’s farm was taxed for public education, but his children had to fight to enter school. Loudin proved to be a gifted scholar, but when his teacher rewarded him for his achievements, whites pulled their children out of school. Though his father had donated money to nearby Hiram College, when Frederick applied the college refused to admit him on account of his race. The same held true for the local Methodist Church; though he tithed a ninth of his sparse wages as a printer’s apprentice, the white congregation refused to permit him to sing in their choir.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Murray, George Washington (1853–1926)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

South Carolina Congressman George Washington Murray was born near Rembert, Sumter County, South Carolina, on September 22, 1853 to slave parents. He attended public schools, the University of South Carolina, and the State Normal Institute at Columbia, where he graduated in 1876. After graduating, Murray taught school and worked as a lecturer for the Colored Farmers’ Alliance for 15 years. In 1890 he became an inspector of customs at the port of Charleston.  Two years later in 1892, Murray, a Republican, was elected to represent South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District which included Charleston. 

Murray took his seat in the Fifty-third Congress on March 4, 1893.  He immediately focused his efforts on protecting black voting rights in the South at a time when growing numbers of black voters were being excluded from the polls.  Murray was also a member of the Committee on Education.   He also took a seat on the Committee on Expenditures in the Treasury Department.

George W. Murray fought Jim Crow laws which undermined the efforts of black people to improve their status.  As a member of Congress he urged funding for the Cotton States and International Exhibition in Atlanta in 1895 to make the white South and the wider nation aware of black achievements. Ironically Booker T. Washington would become famous at that Exposition by criticizing the efforts of African American politicians like Murray to concentrate on voting rights. 

Sources: 
Bruce Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990);  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=M001106; Biographical Directory of the George Washington Murray.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lee, Spike (1957 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Model Christie Brinkley and Director Spike Lee Attending a Charity
Event in New York

Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee, producer, actor, director, was born on March 20, 1957 in Atlanta Georgia.  His parents are William Lee, a jazz musician and composer, and Jacqueline Shelton Lee, a teacher of art and literature. Lee, the oldest of five children in a relatively well off African American family, moved to Brooklyn when he was a child and began making amateur films by the age of twenty.  His first film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn, was completed while he was an undergraduate at Morehouse College. After receiving his B.A. he enrolled in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he received an M.F.A. in film production.

While at New York University Lee produced several student films and was awarded a Student Academy Award for his M.F.A. thesis film Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop, a project that was broadcast by some public television stations and received notice from critics.  Lee's production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983.  Lee has also produced commercials for a number of companies including Nike, Jaguar, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry's.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, Ed., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Publisher Simon &
Schuster Macmillan, 1996); A & E, December 2, 2008,
http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542361

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gaston, A. G. (1892-1996)

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

A. G. Gaston, Green Power: The Successful Way of A. G. Gaston (Birmingham: Southern University Press, 1968); Carol Jenkins and Elizabeth Gardner Hines, Black Titan, A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire (New York: One World/Ballantine, 2003). 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Vincent, Marjorie (1964- )

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

Marjorie Judith Vincent, the fourth African American to be crowned Miss America, was born on November 12, 1964 in Oak Park, Illinois. She was Miss America 1991. Vincent is the daughter of Lucien and Florence Vincent of Cap Haitien, Haiti. Vincent’s parents migrated to the United States in the early 1960s and Marjorie was the first of their children to be born on American soil. During her youth, Vincent attended Chicago catholic schools and took piano and ballet lessons. In the mid 1980s she entered DePaul University as a music major, eventually switching to business in her third year and graduating in 1988. The money she earned from beauty pageants enabled her to fund her education.

After failing to win twice at the state level, once as Miss North Carolina and as Miss Illinois, the third time was the charm as she became Miss Illinois 1990.  Winning at the state level allowed her to move on to the national competition in Atlantic City. During the September 1990 pageant she performed the Fantaisie-Impromptu (Op.66) by Chopin. Vincent wowed the audience with her proficiency and went on to win the crown of Miss America 1991. She succeeded another black woman, Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990. Her victory marked the first time there were back-to-back black Miss Americas.

Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Valerie Helmbreck, “Miss America’s Changing Face,” Wilmington News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) September 18, 1990; Lynn Norment, “Back- to- Back Black Miss America’s,” Ebony, December 1990, 46-49, http://www.missamerica.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Simmons, Russell (1957– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Russell Simmons, a multimillionaire who is estimated to be the third wealthiest man in the Hip-Hop industry, just behind Jay-Z and Sean “Diddy” Combs, was born on October 4, 1957 in Queens, New York City.  His parents were Damian Simmons, a public school administrator, and Evelyn Simmons, a New York City park administrator.  Simmons is one of four brothers.  While growing up he lived a life of poverty as his block in Queens was known at that time as the area’s drug capitol. Even Simmons himself became involved with dealing marijuana in his early youth.

Simmons first became involved with hip hop music at the age of 20 when in 1977 he attended a party in a small club where an MC (Master of Ceremonies) was shouting call-and-response rhymes. Inspired by that experience, Simmons began promoting MCs, like the one from the former party, and booking them for shows.  Although he lacked musical talent, Simmons felt his promotions were a way to become involved in the industry.  Simmons often lost money on these early promotions but he continued to work on building successful acts and his own career.

Sources: 
Lemonade Stories, “Russell Simmons,” http://www.lemonadestories.com/defjam.html; Salon.com, “Russell Simmons: The Founder of Def Jam Records Brought Hip-Hop Culture into the American Mainstream, and His Empire is Growing," Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/people/bc/1999/07/06/simmons/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Amazons (Ahosi) of Dahomey

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Amazons of Dahomey were a military corps of women appointed to serve in battles under the direction of the Fon king, who ruled over a nation that included much of present-day southern Togo and southern Benin.  They emerged during the Eighteenth Century and were finally suppressed during the 1890s. The Amazons were chosen from among the nominal wives of the king, called “Ahosi.”  Estimates of the number of women soldiers vary by accounts, yet some scholars believe the numbers to have ranged over time from several hundred to a few thousand women soldiers.

The Fon women’s army had three main wings: the right and left wings, and the elite center wing or Fanti.  Each of these wings had five subgroups: the artillery women, the elephant huntresses, the musket-bearing frontline group, the razor women, and the archers.  They served in battles in conjunction with male troops.

These women soldiers had extensive training and drilling. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Amazons used flintlock muskets.  They also used cannon, and later modern artillery and machine guns.  Subject to celibacy under pain of death, they could not marry once they became Amazons nor could they have children.  In addition to their military duties, the Amazons also had daily occupations within the royal household.  These occupations included indigo dyeing, weaving and selling mats, palm oil production and distribution, as well as sewing and embroidering cotton cloth.
Sources: 
Stanley B. Alpern, Amazons of Black Sparta: the Women Warriors of Dahomey (New York: New York University Press, 1998); David E. Jones, Women Warriors: a History  (Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1997); Robert B. Edgerton, Warrior Women: The Amazons of Dahomey and the Nature of War (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Russwurm, John (1799-1851)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Russwurm was a man ahead of his time. Centuries before scholars began debating such issues as “hegemony” and “the social construction of race,” Russwurm understood how the powerful used media to create and perpetuate destructive stereotypes of the powerless. He set out to challenge this practice, via a brand new form of media: African American journalism.

Although he helped to change the terms of debate on race in America, Russwurm was not a native of America. Born in Jamaica on October 1, 1799, he moved to Quebec as a child and then to Maine, where he attended Bowdoin College and wrote term papers on Toussaint L‘Ouverture, fiery leader of the Haitian Revolution. In 1826 Russwurm became only the second African American in the U.S. to earn a college degree. His graduation speech focused on the Haitian revolution.

The next year he moved to New York, where he met Samuel Cornish, an African American Presbyterian minister and editor. On March 16, 1827, Cornish and Russwurm published the first issue of Freedom’s Journal. White publishers -- specifically Mordecai Noah of the New York Enquirer – had long denigrated and attacked free blacks. Freedom’s Journal took direct aim at them.

Sources: 
Michael Emery, Edwin Emery and Nancy Roberts, The Press and America, An Interpretive History of the Mass Media (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988; The World Book Encyclopedia (1996); “Africans in America, Part 3” (PBS), Julius Scott on John Brown Russworm and the Haitian Revolution.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Somerville, John Alexander (1882-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Alexander Somerville emigrated to the United States from Jamaica around 1900.  He and his wife, Vada Watson Somerville, were both graduates of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry.  Graduating with honors in 1907, he was the first black graduate, and his wife was later the first black woman graduate.  In 1914, only three years after its founding in New York City, New York, the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP was created at the home of John and Vada Somerville.  His first major business venture, the Somerville Hotel, was a principal African American enterprise on Central Avenue, in the heart of the Los Angeles African American community.  When it opened in 1928 it was one of the most upscale black hotels in the United States, and counted a number of African American celebrities among its guests.
Sources: 
John A. Somerville Biographical Sketch: http://www.jamaicaculture.org/; Douglas Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Hurston, Zora Neale (1891-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Zora Neale Hurston, known for her audacious spirit and sharp wit, was a talented and prolific writer and a skilled anthropologist from the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights Era. Born on January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama, she grew up in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida.  Her idyllic life in this provincial rural town was shattered with the death of her mother when Hurston was fourteen and her father’s unexpected remarriage.  In a few years Hurston was on her own working as a maid.  She settled in Baltimore and completed her education at Morgan Academy and Howard University.

Hurston’s talent was readily apparent to her professors including Alain Locke and Montgomery Gregory.  With Locke’s and Gregory’s support her short story “John Redding Goes to Sea” was published in Howard’s literary magazine Stylus in 1921. Locke recommended Hurston’s work to Charles S. Johnson, who in 1924 published her second short story, “Drenched in Light” in Opportunity magazine.  
Sources: 
Tiffany Ruby Patterson, Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005).
Affiliation: 
Vanderbilt University

Pegg, John Grant (1869-1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Owneship: Public Domain
John Grant Pegg was born around 1869 in Virginia.  He began his career in about 1890 as a Pullman porter, working out of Chicago. It was there that he met Mary Charlotte Page of Kansas, a seamstress. After their marriage they moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1898.  Pegg became involved in Omaha politics as a Republican committeeman who became known informally as the “councilman for the Black community.”  In 1910 Pegg became the first African American appointed Inspector of Weights & Measures for the City of Omaha.  His work in the black community led him to be known as a “race man” dedicated to improving the African American section of Omaha’s population. Pegg, for example, was a Shriner and a member of the local Masonic Lodge.

The Kincaid Homestead Act of 1904 opened up thousands of acres of northern Nebraska for homesteaders.  In 1911, John Pegg sponsored a number of black settlers who went by wagon out to Cherry County, Nebraska to homestead.  Among them were his brother Charlie Pegg and his nephew James. They homesteaded land in John Pegg’s name in Cherry County although John Pegg never lived on the homestead. His brother and nephew operated a cattle ranch that supplied beef to the South Omaha packing plants.  John Grant Pegg died in 1916 in Omaha.
Sources: 
Personal letters and journal entries of William Gaitha Pegg, son of John Grant Pegg, 1982.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Maxey, Carl (1924-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Carl Maxey grew up in an orphanage and became a leading attorney, civil rights activist, and champion of the underdog.  He was adopted by a Spokane, Washington, couple immediately following his birth in Tacoma but ended up in the Spokane Children's Home after his adoptive father disappeared and his mother died.  When Maxey was twelve the Home's Board decided it would no longer care for African American children and he was placed in the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center. Years later, he said "So if you wonder where some of my fire comes from, it comes from a memory that includes this event."
Sources: 
Bill Morlin, “Spokane Loses a Champion: Carl Maxey ? 1924?1997: He Defended Civil Rights and Controversial Clients,” The Spokesman?Review, July 18, 1997, p. A1; Marsha King, “Maxey Was An Inspiration: Black Attorney’s Example of Activism Cherished,” The Seattle Times, July 18, 1997; "Carl Maxey (1924-1997)," Equal Justice Newsletter, April 1999 (http://www.courts.wa.gov/programs_orgs/pos_mjc/?fa=pos_mjc.display&fileID=new9904#A4);HistoryLink.orghttp://www.historylink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Maxey, Carl (1924-1997)" (by Jim Kershner) and "Senator Henry Jackson overwhelmingly defeats peace candidate Carl Maxey in the Democratic primary on September 15, 1970." .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
HistoryLink.org

Carmichael, Stokely (Kwame Ture) (1941-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
A civil rights leader, antiwar activist, and Pan-African revolutionary, Stokely Carmichael is best known for popularizing the slogan "Black Power," which in the mid 1960s galvanized a movement toward more militant and separatist assertions of black identity, nationalism, and empowerment and away from the liberal, interracial pacifism of Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference  (SCLC).
Sources: 
Stokely Carmichael with Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Ready for Revolution:  The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) (New York:  Scribner, 2003); James Haskins, Profiles in Black Power (New York:  Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972), 185-201; Clayborne Carson, In Struggle:  SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 1981).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jordan Hatcher Case (1852)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Jordan Hatcher was a seventeen-year-old enslaved tobacco worker in Richmond, Virginia, who in 1852 rose from obscurity to notoriety when charged with assaulting and killing white overseer William Jackson.  According to newspaper accounts and trial records, Hatcher was working at the Walker & Harris tobacco factory when Jackson began flogging him with a cowhide for performing poorly.  Hatcher initially warded off the blows, but Jackson continued to beat him.  In response Hatcher grabbed an iron poker, struck Jackson unconscious, and immediately fled the factory.  When Jackson later awok
Sources: 
Midori Takagi, “Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction” Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782-1865 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999); William A. Link, “The Jordan Hatcher Case: Politics and “A Spirit of Insubordination” in Antebellum Virginia,” Journal of Southern History 64:4 (Nov 1998); Harrison M. Ethridge, “The Jordan Hatcher Affair of 1852,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 84 (1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

Simone, Nina (1933-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tyron, North Carolina in 1933, Nina Simone began playing the family piano at the age of three.  Her mother Mary Kate Waymon, a minister and choir director at a Methodist church in Tyron, interpreted her daughter’s gift as a God-given talent.  Waymon began to study piano at age six with Muriel Massinovitch, an English pianist and Bach devotee married to a Russian painter husband. Waymon credited “Miss Mazzy” for teaching her to understand Bach; she credited Bach for dedicating her life to music. The lessons were paid for by family friends including a white couple in the town.  Eunice’s father, John Divine Waymon, had been an entertainer before he chose to move his family to Tyron, a North Carolina resort town, and set up a barbershop and dry cleaners to support his family. In her autobiography – I Put a Spell on You, the Autobiography of Nina Simone – Waymon describes her relationship with her father as loving and supportive and Tyron as “uncommon” for a southern town because blacks and whites lived together in a series of circles around the center of town, which allowed them to mingle and form friendships.

Sources: 
Nina Simone, I Put a Spell on You, the Autobiography of Nina Simone (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press,1993); Sylvia Hampton, David Nathan, and Lisa Simone Kelly, Nina Simone: Breakdown and Let it All Out (London: Sanctuary Publishing Limited, 2004); Jody Kolodzey, “Remembering Nina Simone,” Culture, May 5, 2003; Adam Shatz, “Nina Simone Obituary,” The Nation, May 19, 2003; Roger Nupie, Dr. Nina Simone Biography: http://www.ninasimone.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hickman, Robert T. (1831-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
Robert Thomas Hickman, born enslaved in Missouri in 1831, is most noted for the group of slaves including his wife and young son, whom he led to freedom in Minnesota in 1863, and helping to establish the first African American church in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Hickman was born and reared near Boone, Missouri.  At a young adult Hickman worked near Boone as a rail splitter.  He was, however, allowed by his owner to learn to read and write.  Hickman also became a slave preacher for the people held in bondage in the area.  

In 1863 Hickman led a group of Boone County slaves to their freedom.  Hickman and other fugitive slaves constructed a crude raft which they hoped would take them to freedom.  When Hickman and 75 black men, women and children were discovered adrift near Jefferson, Missouri, they were rescued and towed up river to St. Paul, Minnesota by the steamboat “Northerner.”  The “contrabands” arrived in St. Paul on May 5, 1863.  

A second group of Missouri fugitive slaves reached St. Paul ten days later under the protective custody of Chaplain J.D. White and escorted by Company C of the 27th Iowa Regiment.  Although both groups were initially harassed by Irish dock workers in St. Paul, the men quickly found work as teamsters and laborers.
Sources: 
Pilgrim Baptist Church Website, http://www.pilgrimbaptistchurch.or/history.htm; David Vassar Taylor, “The Blacks” in June D. Holmquest, They Chose Minnesota: a Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups (St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical Society Press 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Adams, Henry [Louisiana] (1843 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Henry Adams was a Louisiana leader who advocated the emigration of southern freed blacks to Liberia after emancipation. Born a slave in Newton County, Georgia on March 16, 1843, Henry Adams was originally born as Henry Houston but changed his name at the age of seven.  His enslaved family was relocated to Louisiana in 1850 and lived there until 1861. 

Adams married a woman named Malinda during his enslavement and the couple had four children. Unlike most enslaved people, Adams and his wife were able to acquire property during the Civil War. 

Sources: 
Henry Adams Testimony, Senate Report 693, 46th Cong., 2nd Sess., part 2, pp. 101-111; Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South, from Slavery to the Great Migration (Harvard University Press, 2003); Neil Irvin Painter, Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction (New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Manley, Effa (1900-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Abe and Effa Manley
Image Courtesy of Negro Leagues
Baseball  Museum

Born in 1900, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Effa Brooks began her life in controversy. Her mother, Bertha Brooks, a white woman married to Benjamin Brooks, a black man, claimed Effa resulted from an affair with her white employer, John Bishop. There is no other evidence to corroborate Effa’s paternity, however, Benjamin Brooks filed and prevailed in a lawsuit against John Bishop for alienation of his wife’s affections. Effa, believed her mother’s claim and noted Bishop as her father throughout the duration of her life.

Growing up with her biracial siblings and a black stepfather, Effa Manley continually walked the line between black and white. Sometimes defined by others as black, sometimes as white, Effa used her ambiguous status to her advantage. As a young adult she worked, as a white woman, in a department store in New York City, though she lived in predominantly black neighborhoods and married black men.

Her second marriage of four was the lengthiest. Abraham Manley, whom she met at the 1932 World Series, was a “numbers banker” and at least fifteen years her senior. They remained married until Abraham’s death in 1952.

Sources: 

Amy Essington, “‘She Loved Baseball’: Effa Manley and the Negro Leagues,” Chap. in Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001), 275-295; James Overmyer, Queen of the Negro Leagues: Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles, (Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, 1998).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

James, Etta (1938-2012)

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

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

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

Coleman, Michael B. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
 
Michael B. Coleman is the first African American Mayor of Columbus, Ohio.  Coleman was born on November 18, 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana to John Coleman, a medical doctor, and Joan Coleman, a local civil rights activist.  His family relocated to Toledo when Michael turned three.

Growing up in Toledo's middle-class black community helped to foster the importance of a strong community to ensure socially, culturally, and economically healthy cities.   Coleman attended St. John's Jesuit High School, graduating in 1973.  He then studied political science at the University of Cincinnati, graduating with a B.S. degree in 1977.  Coleman received a law degree from the University of Dayton in 1980.  He married his wife Frankie in 1985.  The couple has three children.

Coleman moved to Columbus in 1980 to work as an attorney in the Attorney General's office and in 1982 was hired as a legislative aide for Columbus City Council member Ben Espy.  Later he joined the law firm of Schottenstein, Zox, and Dunn before beginning his career in politics.  
Sources: 
J. Philip Thompson, Double Trouble: Black mayors, Black Communities, and the Call for a Deep Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); www.mayors.columbus.gov; Lester K. Spence, “Revisiting black participation and local participation,” Urban Affairs Review, 45 (June 2009); www.answers.com/topic/michael-b-coleman
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Light, Allen B. (1805- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Allen Light's Sailor's Papers, 1827
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The African American experience in California in the years just prior to the Gold Rush included more than just overland immigrants. Allen B. Light, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arrived in Santa Barbara, California in 1835 as a crew-member of the American ship Pilgrim. After his arrival in California, Light would bear the titles of mercenary, hunter, Mexican citizen, and even “comisario general” during his time in the West.

Upon arriving in Santa Barbara, Light signed on with a sea-going hunting party led by George Nidever to hunt sea otter off the Californian and Mexican coast. The shortage of otters from over-hunting caused intense competition in the pelt market; otter pelts could be had for as much as $37 each that decade. This competition would escalate to the level of naval skirmishing between Mexico-based parties and with “contrabandistas” - Native Americans (often from present-day Alaska) supported by American brigs. Allen Light became a skirmisher himself when attacked by contrabandistas from the Convoy off Santa Rosa Island. He, Nidever, and two other hunters killed three men with gunfire in order to escape.
Sources: 
Marivi S. Blanco, "Allen Light," San Diego History Center, http://www.sandiegohistory.org/education/light8/biolight.htm; “African Americans in the Far West,” The New Encyclopedia of the American West (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, Samuel L. (1948- )

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

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

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

Tobias, Channing H. (1882-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Channing H. Tobias acquired fame through his work with the YMCA.  Born in Augusta, Georgia on February 1, 1882 to Fair and Bell Robinson Tobias, young Channing received his bachelor’s degree from Paine College in 1902.  Tobias left Georgia to study religion at Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey.  After spending time at the University of Pennsylvania, Tobias returned to Paine and served as a professor of Biblical Literature.  Meanwhile, Tobias received a doctorate in Divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary. 

As early as 1905 Tobias joined the YMCA and eventually became Secretary of the National Council.  He also served the organization as the student secretary for the International Committee.  In 1923 Tobias was appointed Senior Secretary in the Department of Interracial Services within the Colored Work Department, a position he held for twenty-three years.  As head of the Interracial Services Division, Tobias strenuously endeavored to enhance race relations in the United States and abroad.  As a member of the Executive Committee of the National Interracial Conference and as the associate director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, Tobias campaigned to promote interracial cooperation and redress racial grievances.  His crowning public achievement in interracial affairs occurred when he became a delegate and speaker at the 1926 World Conference in Finland.

Sources: 
“Channing H. Tobias: An Inventory of His Papers;” “YMCA Colored Work Department;” and “Phelps-Stokes Fund Names Southerner President and Negro Director,” Journal of Negro Education, November 21, 1945, 255-256.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Herring, James V. (1887-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Oil Painting of James V. Herring
by James Porter, 1923
(Image Courtesy of Howard University)
James Vernon Herring was an influential American artist and teacher in the early twentieth century.  He played an integral role in devising new ways by which art would be viewed from both academic and commercial standpoints.  He was also an important figure in the promotion of works of little known African American artists.
Sources: 
Janet Gail Abbott, “The Barnett Aden Gallery: A home for diversity in a segregated city” (2013), retrieved from Udini: http://udini.proquest.com/view/the-barnett-aden-gallery-a-home-for-goid:304495536/; University of Maryland, “Artist Biographies” (2002), retrieved from Narratives of African American Art and Identity: http://www.driskellcenter.umd.edu/narratives/exhibition/artists/bio.htm#herr.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Robinson, Ida Bell (1891-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Ida Bell Robinson grew up in Pensacola, Florida, the seventh of twelve children born to Robert and Annie Bell. After her conversion as a teenager at an evangelistic street meeting, she led prayer services in homes. In 1909 she married Oliver Robinson, and they soon relocated to Philadelphia for better employment opportunities. She did street evangelism in Philadelphia under the auspices of The United Holy Church of America. In 1919, the church ordained her and appointed her to a small mission church, where she was successful in pastoral ministry and itinerant evangelism.

Sources: 
Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004).
Affiliation: 
Seattle Pacific University

Dawson, William Levi (1886-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Levi Dawson was a well-known Chicago, Illinois lawyer who became one of the city’s most influential politicians.  His career paralleled the rising significance of African Americans in the Democratic Party.  Dawson was born in Albany, Georgia on April 26, 1886.  Little is known of his formative years.  In 1912, Dawson graduated magna cum laude from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Shortly afterwards he migrated to Chicago where he studied law at Northwestern University.  Once the United States entered World War I in 1917, Dawson joined the US Army and was soon commissioned a second lieutenant with the 365th Infantry when it served in France.  Dawson returned to the United States in 1919, passed the Illinois Bar Exam, and the following year began the practice of law in Chicago.
Sources: 

Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Tresse, Black Americans in Congress 1870-1989 (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1990); James Q. Wilson, “Two Negro Politicians: An Interpretation.”  Midwest Journal of Political Science 4, November 1960: 346-69.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Cooke, Sam (1931–1964)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sam Cooke has been described as one of the most influential rhythm and blues singers to emerge in the 20th Century.  Cooke could exude soul stirring sensuality that went from the sacred to the profane in the same breath.  

The son of a Baptist minister, Sam Cooke was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on January 22, 1931 but grew up in Chicago.  He joined a Chicago gospel group called the Highway QC’s and became their lead singer at the age of 15.  He later became the lead singer for the Soul Stirrers.  

Influenced by Ray Charles, Cooke was the pioneer cross-over artist from gospel to rhythm and blues.  Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and others would eventually follow.  With the support of record producer Bumps Blackwell, Cooke left the Soul Stirrers to record rhythm and blues.  He was also the first African American popular singer to manage his own record label (SAR).  Cooke’s label, which he formed while still in his twenties, produced other R&B artists such as Bobby Womack, Billy Preston, and Johnny Taylor.
Sources: 
Peter Shapiro, Rough Guide to Soul and R&B (London: Penguin Press, 2006); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); Kwame A. Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Group, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Austin, Richard Henry (1913-2001)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Michigan Department
of Transportation

Richard Henry Austin was born on May 6, 1913 in Stouts Mountain, Alabama, the son of Richard H. and Leila (Hill) Austin.  Austin shined and sold shoes while studying at the Detroit Institute of Technology at night.  After graduating from the Institute in 1937, he became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in 1941 (the first African American to do so in Michigan), and founded his own accounting firm.  Austin then helped other blacks in the Detroit area form businesses, foundations, and civic groups.

Richard Austin also became very active in political and civil rights groups in Detroit.  In 1969, he was almost elected the city’s first black mayor.  He led in the primary but was defeated by a margin of 51 to 49 percent in the general election.  Two years later, however, Austin garnered a 300,000 vote majority over his opponent to become Michigan’s first African American Secretary of State.  He was subsequently reelected four times.

Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007).
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Amo, Anton Wilhelm (1703? -1753)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Anton Wilhelm Amo Statue at the
University of Halle, Germany
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Anton Wilhelm Amo, also known as Antonius Guilielmus Amo Afer ab Aximo in Guinea, was the first intellectual of African ancestry to study in Germany. He obtained a doctorate degree in philosophy and held lectures at the universities of Halle and Jena. Having spent forty years of his life in Germany, Amo returned to his place of birth where he died after 1753.

Amo was born around 1700 on the African Gold Coast in the town of Axim in present-day Ghana. Aged seven, he was brought to Amsterdam by the Dutch West India Company who gave him as a present to the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in Saxony. The Duke Ulrich Anton and his son Augustus Wilhelm adopted Amo, baptized him in 1707 and gave him his Christian name Anton Wilhelm. His protectors also allowed him to be educated to a point where he was able to enter the University of Halle.

When Amo started his studies in Halle in 1727, the newly founded University had already acquired a brilliant reputation and was one of the centers of German Enlightenment. The young African soon became skilled in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French and Dutch and obtained his degree of Master of Arts in Philosophy in 1730.
Sources: 
Burchard Brentjes, Anton Wilhelm Amo: Der Schwarze Philosoph in Halle (Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1976); Paulin J. Hountondji, African Philosophy: Myth and Reality (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996); http://amo.blogsport.de/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Rangel, Charles Bernard (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hillary Clinton and Charles Rangel
Image Courtesy of the US Congress
Democratic representative of New York City, Charles Bernard Rangel, first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1970, is now one of the longest serving members of Congress. Rangel was born in Brooklyn, New York City in 1930. He attended De Witt Clinton High School but dropped out in 1948 and entered the U.S. Army.  Two years later he served in the second infantry division in Korea where he earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his actions in combat.

In 1952 Rangel was discharged and returned to New York, graduated from high school, earned a B.S. degree from New York University in 1957 and a J.D degree from St. Johns University in 1960.  Upon admittance to the bar Rangel began practicing law in New York City.

In 1964 Charles Rangel spent the year as assistant U.S. attorney for the south district of New York working under U.S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau.  In 1965 he was counsel to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly.  He also served as counsel to the President’s Commission to Revise the Draft Laws.  Throughout the late 1960s Rangel was legal advisor to many civil rights activists in New York and the South.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.; U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); http://www.timeout.com/newyork/articles/hot-seat/3445/charles-rangel
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Clarke, Yvette Diane (1964– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Yvette Diane Clarke Website

Yvette Diane Clarke won her first political office when she was elected a member of the New York City Council representing part of Brooklyn in 2001. Clarke succeeded her mother, former City Councilmember, Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, making them the first mother-daughter succession in the history of the New York City Council.  

Clarke was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 21, 1964. She attended New York’s public schools and then entered Oberlin College in Ohio, graduating in 1986.

Clarke served as the first Director of Business Development for the Bronx Empowerment Zone where she administered the $51 million budget that resulted in the revitalization and economic development of the South Bronx.  Clarke also chaired the powerful Contracts Committee and co-chaired the New York City Council Women's Caucus.

In 2006 Clarke was elected to the United States Congress to represent New York’s 11th Congressional District.  She holds the seat first won by Shirley Chisholm in 1970.  Chisholm was the first African American woman and the first Caribbean American elected to Congress.

Clarke is currently a member of three House committees and two subcommittees within each committee. Her House committee assignments are as follows: Education and Labor Committee, Homeland Security Committee, and the Small Business Committee.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington