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Adderley, Julian Edwin “Cannonball” (1928-1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jazz Saxophonist
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Combining styles of earlier influences with his own unique twists secured Julian "Cannonball" Adderley’s place in history as an experienced alto saxophonist who was fearless in exploring fresh musical styles.  Born in Tampa, Florida on September 15, 1928, Adderley was welcomed into a musical family that would play a key part in his success as a performer.  His father, already a jazz cornetist, introduced him to music, contributing to Adderley’s familiarity with band performance by the age of 14.  In high school he continued to study reed and brass instruments and formed his first jazz group with his band director as his advisor.  Upon graduation from high school, Adderley became band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale where he taught music for several years while also playing with his own jazz group on the side from 1948 to 1950.  After enlisting in the Army in 1950, he led the 36th Army Dance Band and later a second Army band from 1952 to 1953.  During this time he also studied at the U.S. Naval School of Music.
Sources: 
Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, & Brian Priestly, Jazz: The Essential Companion (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1987); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Leonard Feather, The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Horizon Press, 1955).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

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

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

Ferbos, Lionel Charles (1911-2014)

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

Brooks, Cornell William (1961- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Cornell William Brooks, currently the President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1961. His family moved to Georgetown, South Carolina, just before he began junior high school. After graduating from Winyah High School in Georgetown, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi in 1983. The following year, Brooks entered Boston (Massachusetts) University School of Theology. He was awarded the Oxnam-Leibman Fellowship for outstanding scholarship and received a Master of Divinity degree in 1987.
Sources: 
“Cornell William Brooks, https://www.linkedin.com/; U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Cornell William Brooks, Esq., Executive Director, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice,” July 26, 2011, http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/7-26-11/brooks_bio.cfm; Krissah Thompson, “Who is the NAACP’s new president, Cornell William Brooks,” Washington Post, July 16, 2014; “National Social Justice Advocate Cornell William Brooks Selected President,” http://www.naacp.org/press/entry/national-social-justice-advocate-cornell-william-brooks-selected-president.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Gray, Freddie Jr. (1989–2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The death of Freddie Gray in 2015 while in police custody brought increased attention to the national debate on interactions between law enforcement and African Americans and inspired the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. Freddie Gray Jr. was born on August 16, 1989, in Baltimore, Maryland, to Gloria Darden and Freddie Gray Sr. Along with his older sister, Carolina and twin sister Fredericka, Gray grew up in poverty with their mother. During his childhood, the family moved frequently. Darden battled drug abuse, and Gray, diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, struggled in school. A 2008 lawsuit filed against the landlord of a home the family lived in during the 1990s found damaging levels of lead from paint in all three Gray children. The suit, settled in 2010 before going to trial, alleged the lead caused Freddie Gray multiple medical, behavioral, and educational problems. As an adult, Gray had multiple run-ins with the law and served time in prison for destruction of property, assault, and drug offenses.
Sources: 
Sarah Almukhtar, Larry Buchanan, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Haeyoun Park, Tim Wallace & Karen Yourish, “Freddie Gray case ends with no convictions of any police officers,” The New York Times, July 27, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/04/30/us/what-happened-freddie-gray-arrested-by-baltimore-police-department-map-timeline.html?_r=0; Jean Marbella, “Beginning of Freddie Gray’s life as sad as its end, court case shows,” The Baltimore Sun, April 23, 2015, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-freddie-gray-lead-paint-20150423-story.html#page=1; Faith Karimi, Kim Berryman & Dana Ford, “ Who was Freddie Gray, whose death has reignited protests against police?” CNN.com, May 2, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/01/us/freddie-gray-who-is-he/; Alan Blinder & Richard Perez-Pena, “6 Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray death,” The New York Times, May 1, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/02/us/freddie-gray-autopsy-report-given-to-baltimore-prosecutors.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle Central College

Stewarts, McCants (1877-1919)

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

Graves, Letitia A. (1863-1952)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gant, Joe “Gans” (1874–1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Joe Gans and Oscar Nelson Before the
“Fight of the Century” at Goldfield, Nevada, Labor Day, 1906
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Joe Gant, who was given the name Gans by the press, became the first American and African American to hold a world boxing title when he defeated Frank Erne in Fort Erie, Canada, in 1902 to take the World Lightweight Boxing Championship. Gant was born Joseph Saifus Butts on November 25, 1874, in Baltimore, Maryland. The names of his parents are unknown, and he was orphaned at age four and raised by his foster mother, Maria Gant. Gant later married and divorced Mary Beulah Gant. The couple had two children before he began competing in amateur fights.

Gant's professional boxing career began in 1891 when he was seventeen. He was a self-taught fighter, learning his craft by studying other boxers’ moves and competing in the then-popular Battle Royal contests where he and a dozen other fighters boxed blindfolded until only one contestant was left standing. These contests helped him develop strong boxing fundamentals and strategic ways to endure long bouts in the ring. His scientific approach to boxing and his famous left jab eventually earned him the title “The Old Master.”

Sources: 
Colleen Alcock, Joe Gans: A Biography of the First African American World Boxing Champion (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2008); Phillips I. Earl, “Tex Richard: The Most Dynamic Fight Promoter in History,” Boxing Insider, October 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cleage, Pearl (1948- )

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

Born on December 7, 1948 in Springfield, Massachusetts to well known black nationalist minister Albert Buford Cleage (later Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) and school teacher Doris Graham Cleage, Pearl Cleage grew up in Detroit, Michigan and entered Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1966 to study playwriting. She transferred to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia where she earned a B.A. in 1971.  Prior to finishing her education at Spelman, Pearl Cleage married Atlanta politician Michael Lomax in 1969.  She and Lomax later divorced in 1979.  Cleage served as the press secretary and speechwriter to Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson between 1974 and 1976.  

Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Ed., Notable Black American Women (New York: Gale Research, 1976); website: http://www.pearlcleage.net/.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Motley, Constance Baker (1921-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

James Meredith and Constance Baker Motley, 1962

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Sources: 

Dorothy C. Salem, ed., African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1993); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); National Women’s History Project: http://www.nwhp.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bryan, Andrew (1737-1812)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

First named First Colored Baptist Church and located in Savannah, Georgia, First African Baptist Church traces its roots to December 1777, and is officially designated the oldest African American church in the United States.  George Liele, the Church’s founder, continued to evangelize and baptize both the free and enslaved black populations of the Savannah area during the rest of the Revolutionary War period.  One of those enslaved people was Andrew Bryan.  Liele baptized Andrew Bryan, who was born in 1737, and his wife Hannah in 1782.

When David George and George Liele, along with hundreds of blacks, evacuated Savannah with the British in July 1782, Bryan remained and retained spiritual leadership of the First Colored Baptist Church.  Andrew Bryan was allowed to preach by his master, Jonathan Bryan of Brampton Plantation, and became an ordained minister on January 20, 1788.  The First Colored Baptist Church became certified by the Georgia Baptist Association in May 1790 and pre-dated the establishment of the white Baptist Church in the city by five years.  Andrew Bryan remained the church’s pastor until his death in 1812.

Sources: 
Africans in America, PBS Online, July 22, 2006; Walter H. Brooks, D. D., A History of Negro Baptist Churches in America (Washington, D.C.: Press of R. L. Pendelton, 1910) © 2004 University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Online July 22, 2005, http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/brooks/brooks.html.  New York Public Library Digital Library Collections Records, First African Baptist Church Records, 1873-1977, http://digilib.nypl.org/dynaweb/ead/scm/scmgfabc/@Generic__BookTextView/136;pt=114
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Miller, Kelly (1863-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Dr. Scott W. Williams, “Kelly Miller,” Mathematics of the African Diaspora, http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/special/miller_kelley.html (Accessed September 7, 2010); Carter G. Woodson, “Kelly Miller,” Journal of Negro History 25 (January, 1940): 126-138; August Meier, "The Racial and Educational Philosophy of Kelly Miller, 1895-1915," Journal of Negro Education 29 (July, 1960): 121-27; William M. Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life (New York: W.W. Norton & Company), 71-72, 96, 283-284.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stanford University

Albert, Octavia Victoria Rogers (1853-1890)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Octavia V. Rogers Albert, The House of Bondage or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: The Early Years, 1619-1899 (New York: Facts on File, Inc, 1997); Frances Smith Foster. "Albert, Octavia Victoria Rogers" American National Biography Online (Feb. 2000); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rowan, Carl T. (1925–2000)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Constantine, Learie (1901-1971)

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

Tubman, Harriet Ross (c. 1821-1913)

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

Dubbed “The Moses of Her People,” escaped slave Harriet Tubman assisted hundreds of slaves on the Underground Railroad, leading them from Maryland to safety in Pennsylvania.  Born enslaved and raised in Dorchester County, Maryland to Benjamin and Harriett Greene Ross, Harriett was both a field hand and a domestic servant.  As a young girl, she suffered a lifelong injury after her master threw a piece of iron at her, which struck her in the head.  Throughout her life, Harriett suffered bouts of narcoleptic seizures.  In 1844, she married a free black man, John Tubman.  She escaped in 1849 in order to avoid being sold into the Deep South. Her husband refused to go with her.  Several months later, when she returned to get him, she learned he had taken another wife.  He died shortly after the end of the Civil War. Harriett later married Nelson Davis.

Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992) and Darlene Clark Hine, “Harriet Tubman” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. II (New York: Carlson, 1993): 1176-1180.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Norton, Eleanor Holmes (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House
of Representatives Photography Office
Eleanor Holmes Norton was born on June 13, 1937 in Washington, D.C. to parents Coleman and Vela Holmes.  Both her parents were government employees.  Growing up in a well educated and politically conscious household caused Eleanor Holmes to be very aware of the surrounding struggles for African Americans.  At the age of 12, she recalled watching protests against a Washington, D.C. department store which allowed black shoppers but refused them entry into its bathrooms.

In 1955, Eleanor entered Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where she became heavily involved with civil rights work.  While in college she headed the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter and became a local activist working to desegregate public facilities in Ohio.  The emerging civil rights movement influenced her decision to enter Yale University in 1960 with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.  In 1963 Holmes worked in Mississippi for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  She graduated from Yale in 1963 with a Master’s in American Studies and a law degree in 1964.  
Sources: 
Joan Steinau Lester, Eleanor Holmes Norton: Fire in My Soul (New York: Atrai Books, 2003); Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.norton.house.gov/; http://www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/resources/legends_in_the_law/norton.cfm; http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1955.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Payton, Walter Jerry (1954-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Jane Mersky Leder and Howard Schroeder, Walter Payton (Mankato, Minn.: Crestwood House, 1986); Walter Payton and Don Yaeger, Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton (New York: Villard, 2000); http://www.bearshistory.com/lore/walterpayton.aspx

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Tyson, Neil de Grasse (1958- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Bob Darden, People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music (New York: Continuum, 2004); Akin Euba, Bode Omojola, and George Dor, Multiple Interpretations of Dynamics of Creativity and Knowledge in African Music Traditions: A Festschrift in Honor of Akin Euba on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday (Point Richmond, CA: MRI Press, 2005); Shirley Caesar, Walter Hawkins, James Cleveland, David Leivick, and Frederick Ritzenberg, Gospel [United States]: Monterey Home Video, 1983.

Contributor: 

McGee, Henry Wadsworth, Sr. (1910-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Henry W. McGee, Sr.
Image Courtesy of Henry W. McGee, Jr.
The first African American Postmaster of a major postal facility, Henry W. McGee, Sr. was born in Hillsboro, Texas, in 1910, and moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1927.  McGee was the first person to rise from the ranks of letter carriers to achieve the status of Postmaster, a post to which he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 5, 1966.  McGee had begun postal work in 1929 as a temporary substitute letter carrier, and became a regular postal clerk in 1937, advancing rapidly through a succession of Post Office jobs.
Sources: 
Henry W. McGee, Autobiography and Dissertation: The Negro in the Chicago Post Office (Chicago: VolumeOne Press, 1999); Christopher Robert Reed, The Chicago NAACP and the Rise of Black Professional Leadership, 1910-1966 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Clarke, Hansen Hashem (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the
U.S. House of Representatives
Hansen Clarke is a Democratic politician, lawyer, and artist who represented the 13th District of Michigan in the U.S. Congress between 2011 and 2013.  Born March 2, 1957 in Detroit, his father, Mozaffar Ali Hashem, was an undocumented Bangladeshi immigrant, and his mother Thelma Clarke was African American.

Clarke grew up on Detroit’s lower east side where, in1964, his father showed him a picture of Dalip Saund (the first Indian congressman) a year before the representative passed away. Clarke who was eight became interested in politics.  His mother, a crossing guard, raised him with the assistance of food stamps, and encouraged his interest in oil painting. He attended Cass Technical High School and then graduated from Governor Dummer Academy in 1975.  The following year he was admitted to Cornell University on an academic scholarship. During his freshman year, his mother passed away.

While at Cornell Clarke successfully ran for the student seat on the University’s Board of Trustees to defend need-based scholarships to disadvantaged students. He graduated with a B.F.A. with a focus on painting in 1984, and acquired a Juris Doctor degree at Georgetown University in 1987.
Sources: 
Jennie L. Ilustre, “Hansen Clarke, 1st U.S. Congressman from Bangladesh,” Asian Fortune News (April 1, 2011); Ronald H. Bayor, Multicultural America: An Encyclopedia of the newest Americans (Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Publishing, 2011); http://web.archive.org/web/20070205183412/http://www.senate.mi.gov/clarke/about.htm ; http://www.washingtontimes.com/campaign-2012/candidates/hansen-clarke-55113/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, James Albert “Billboard” (1878–1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
James Albert “Billboard” Jackson was a critic, reporter, editor, spokesman, actor, and booster of black entertainment. Jackson, the eldest of 14 children of Abraham V. Jackson and Nancy Lee Jackson, was born on June 20, 1878 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He attended public schools in Bellefonte, but left home at a young age to pursue a career in entertainment. He married Gabrielle Hill in 1916 and they raised a son, Albert Jackson, Jr.

By the end of the second decade of the 20th century Jackson had become one of the first African Americans to recognize the importance of entertainment in the African American consumer market.  In 1920 he was named the first African American editor of the Negro Department of Billboard magazine, hence, his nickname. Billboard magazine, located in New York City, New York, was then the largest theatrical paper in the world. Nonetheless they wanted to increase their circulation by reaching the new consumer market of African Americans who were part of the Great Migration to Northern cities.
Sources: 

"Billboard Jackson Historical Marker," Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Eastern Region, http://www.pbseast.org/billboard-jackson-historical-marker/; Anthony D. Hill, Pages from The Harlem Renaissance, A Chronicle Of Performance (New York: Peter Lang International Academic Publisher, 2006); Jason Chambers, Madison Avenue and the Color Line, African Americans in the Advertising Industry (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bridgeman, Ulysses “Junior” (1953– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Entrepreneur businessman Ulysses Bridgeman, better known by his nickname, “Junior,” was born on September 17, 1953, in East Chicago, Indiana. His father, Ulysses Sr., worked in a steel mill, and his mother was a homemaker.

Bridgeman attended East Washington High School where he maintained a high GPA while playing on the school’s basketball team. Although he was considered a solid basketball player, Bridgeman did not anticipate playing the sport beyond high school. In his senior year (1971), however, he realized his full potential as a basketball player. The East Washington team went undefeated that year and won the Indiana state high school championships.

The University of Louisville in Kentucky offered the young basketball star a scholarship, and with his help the Louisville team went on to play in 1975’s Final Four. After graduating with his bachelor's degree in psychology, Bridgeman contemplated attending law school but was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. Soon after the draft, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul-Jabber.

The now-pro basketball player spent ten years playing for the Bucks, and two years with the L.A Clippers. At the time, Bridgeman, in his highest earning year, received a comparatively modest $350,000. He also served as the head of the National Basketball Players Association—the player’s union—and used his position to learn all he could about business and finance.
Sources: 
Andrew Lawrence, “Junior Bridgeman: A Different Kind of Franchise Player,” http://fortune.com/2014/07/07/junior-bridgeman-wendys/; Andrew Lawrence, “Former NBA Player Junior Bridgeman Trades Baskets For a Large Portfolio of Restaurants” http://www.si.com/nba/2014/08/01/junior-bridgeman-profiles; Caitlin Bowling, “In a Word, Humble: Junior Bridgeman Has Quietly Built a Restaurant Franchise Empire,” http://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/print-edition/2014/09/05/in-a-word-humble-junior-bridgeman-has-quietly.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles Pierce College

Washington, Hercules (Enslaved Cook of George Washington) (1755?- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hercules Washington by Gilbert Sullivan
Image Ownership: Public domain

Hercules Washington was the enslaved head cook at George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation home where he prepared meals for decades for the Washington family and the guests who visit the mansion. Hercules was most likely born in 1755 somewhere in Virginia although the exact place of birth and names of his parents are all unknown. What is known that until 1789 he lived almost all of his life on the Mount Vernon plantation. Hercules did marry.  He had a wife named Alice and the couple had three children, Richmond, Evey, and Delia. Hercules Washington, his wife, and three children were listed in the February 1786 Mount Vernon Slave Census. His wife, Alice, died the following year in 1787.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Anderson, Lucy Hicks [Tobias Lawson] (1886-1954)

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

 

Sources: 

Frank P. Barajas, “Work and Leisure in La Colonia: Class, Generation, and Interethnic Alliances among Mexicanos in Oxnard, California, 189-1945,” Ph.D. diss., Claremont Graduate University, 2001. 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

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

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

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

Cruz Escalante, Ericka Yadira (1981- )

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

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

Roach, Maxwell Lemuel "Max" (1924–2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Drummer, composer, and percussionist Max Roach was noted for his innovative contrapuntal polyrhythms, and was one of the founders of the bebop movement in jazz. He is widely considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, able to keep separate simultaneous rhythms going with each hand, revolutionizing jazz drumming. He played on many of the most famous jazz recordings, including “Jazz at Massey Hall” with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Bud Powell, and “Birth of the Cool” with Miles Davis. He worked with other icons of jazz including Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown, Thelonious Monk, singer Dinah Washington, and free jazz saxophonist Anthony Braxton.  His work spanned a remarkable six decades.

Roach was born in Newland, North Carolina on January 10, 1924, and moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York when he was four. His mother was a gospel singer, and he played in orchestras and bands while in school, studying at the Manhattan School of Music. He was still a student when he played for three nights with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, filling in for an ill Sonny Greer. By 1944 Roach was performing at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Coleman Hawkins, and was the drummer on one of the first bebop recordings.

Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); David Rosenthal, Hard Bop and Black Music, 1955-1965 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Scott DeVeaux, The Birth of BeBop: A Social and Musical History (Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1997); http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/ .
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ailey, Alvin (1931-1989)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Alvin Ailey, Photo by Eric N. Hong

Alvin Ailey was born in Rodgers, Texas during the Great Depression. He overcame racism, poverty, and homophobia to become one of the most celebrated choreographers in American history. His single teenage mother Lula Ailey washed clothes, picked cotton, and worked in domestic service in various Texas towns. In Milano, Texas, Ailey attended Mount Olive Baptist Church, spending joy-filled hours that would shape his signature masterpiece, Revelations, 24 years later.

Sources: 
Thomas De Frantz, Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey’s Embodiment of African American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press. 2004); Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater webpage: http://www.alvinailey.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Tillmon, Johnnie (1926-1995)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
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Johnnie Tillmon was born in Scott, Arkansas, in 1926. A migrant sharecropper’s daughter, she moved to California in 1959 to join her brothers and worked as a union shop steward in a Compton laundry. Tillmon organized workers and became involved in a community association called the Nickerson Garden Planning Organization which was established to improve living conditions in the housing project.

Tillmon became ill in 1963, and was advised to seek welfare. She was hesitant at first, but decided to apply for assistance to take care of her children. She immediately learned how welfare recipients were harassed by caseworkers who went to their apartments looking for evidence of extra support and who designated how they should spend money. In order to fight against this dehumanized treatment, Tillmon organized people on welfare in the housing project and founded one of the first grassroots welfare mothers’ organizations called ANC (Aid to Needy Children) Mothers Anonymous, in 1963. When a former CORE activist, George Wiley, brought together local welfare recipients’ groups and transformed them into a national movement, ANC Mothers joined the movement and became a part of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). Tillmon quickly emerged as a leader and became a chairperson of the NWRO. Together with other welfare mothers, she struggled for adequate income, dignity, justice, and democratic participation.
Sources: 
Johnnie Tillmon, “Welfare is a Women’s Issue,” Ms Magazine (Spring, 1972): 111-16; 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).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Kanagawa University, Japan

Sheppard, Ella (1851-1915)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West

 

Image Courtesy of Fisk University Special Collections

Ella Sheppard, soprano, pianist and reformer, was the matriarch of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a social reformer, confidante of Frederick Douglass, and one of the most distinguished African American women of her generation. Sheppard was born a slave in 1851 on Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage plantation. A biracial relation of Jackson’s family, her father Simon Sheppard had purchased his freedom by hiring himself out as a Nashville, Tennessee liveryman and hack driver. When Sheppard was a little girl, her slave mother Sarah threatened to drown Ella and herself if their owners refused to permit her Simon to purchase Ella’s freedom. But an elderly slave prevented her, predicting that “the Lord would have need of that child.” Her owners refused to release Sarah, but allowed Ella to go with her father, who soon remarried and, fearful he and his daughter might be reenslaved, fled penniless to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Morgan, Clement Garnett (1859-1929)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Clement Garnett Morgan, a lawyer and civil rights leader, was born in 1859 to slave parents, Clement and Elizabeth Garnett Morgan in Stafford County, Virginia. Shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the family moved to Washington D.C., where Morgan went to Preparatory High School for Colored Youth. With no way to use his diploma, Morgan became a barber. Unsatisfied with this work, Morgan moved to St. Louis, Missouri where he taught school for four years. Still unsatisfied, he decided to return to school.
Sources: 
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, Seattle

Rawlings, Jerry (1947- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Sources: 

"Jerry J. Rawlings," Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009; Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 07 Jun. 2009 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/492337/Jerry-J-Rawlings; Kevin Shillington, Ghana and the Rawlings Factor (New York: St Martin's Press, 1992).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Coleridge-Taylor, Samuel (1875-1912)

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People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the National
Museum of American History
Born on August 15, 1875 to a physician from Sierra Leone and an Englishwoman, musical composer and conductor Samuel Coleridge-Taylor grew-up in Holborn, England.  He revealed his musical talents at the age of five, began studying the violin at the age of seven, and entered the Royal College of Music in London at the age of fifteen.  By the mid-1890s, due largely to his association with the African American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar and inspired by the London performance of the visiting Fisk Jubilee Singers from the United States, Coleridge-Taylor begin reflecting the African American experience in his music.

By 1898 when only 23 years of age, Coleridge-Taylor was commissioned to write his Ballade in A Minor for Britain’s Three Choirs Festival.  He is perhaps best remembered for Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, the first of three parts based on poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.  Coleridge-Taylor’s overture to this particular piece was drawn from the black American spiritual: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”  
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).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Alexander, Clifford L., Jr. (1933-)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission
 
Clifford L. Alexander Jr. was born in New York City on September 21, 1933, the son of Clifford L. and Edith (McAllister) Alexander.  Alexander received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from Harvard University (1955) and a L.L.B. degree from the Yale University Law School in 1958.  In 1959, Alexander became Assistant District Attorney for New York County.  From 1961 to 1962, he became the Executive Director of the Manhattanville Hamilton Grange Neighborhood Conservation Project (1961-62).

Alexander left the private practice of law in New York City in 1963 to become a Foreign Affairs Officer in the National Security Council (NCS) in Washington D.C.  The next year, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him as a Special Assistant to the President; then, in succession, Associate Special Counsel and Deputy Special Counsel to the President.  From 1967 to 1969, Alexander served as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).  In 1968, he was also named a special representative of the President, with the rank of ambassador.  In this capacity, he led the U.S. delegation to ceremonies marking the independence of Swaziland.  After Alexander left the EEOC, he returned to the private practice of law.  
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr., Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), pp. 6-7.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Carlos, John (1945-- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Tommie Smith and John Carlos,
Mexico City, 1968
Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Carlos is best known for his black-gloved fist salute on the winner’s podium (with Tommie Smith) at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Carlos was born and raised in Harlem, New York.  He was a promising student-athlete in high school who, following graduation, attended East Texas State University (ETSU) on a track and field scholarship. After a year at ETSU, Carlos transferred to San Jose State University (SJS).

Carlos attended SJS during the late 1960s at the time of the “revolt of the Black athlete” which was symbolized by the University canceling its opening day football with University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) on September 18, 1967 due to a boycott of black student athletes.  At the time, Carlos was a world-class sprinter and student-member of the SJS United Black Students for Action (UBSA).

As a track and field athlete Carlos was not directly affected by the student boycott of the football game.  He continued to successfully compete and was chosen for the American Olympic team that would participate in the Mexico City Games in 1968.

Sources: 

Harry Edwards, The Revolt of the Black Athlete (New York: the Free Press, 1970); HBO, Fists of Freedom: The Story of the '68 Summer Games (1999); Herbert G. Ruffin II, Uninvited Neighbors: Black Life and the Racial Quest for Freedom in the Santa Clara Valley, 1777-1968 (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertation Publishing, 2007); USA Track & Field, Inc (URL: http://www.usatf.org/halloffame/TF/showBio.asp?HOFIDs=195).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Carson, Julia May Porter (1938–2007)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Julia May Porter Carson, one of the first African American women to represent Indiana in Congress, was born Julia May Porter on July 8, 1938. She was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but in her early childhood she moved with her mother to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Carson would spend the remainder of her life.  Porter's single mother, Velma, worked as a domestic and Julia as a child worked part-time waiting tables, delivering newspapers, and harvesting crops to supplement the family income.

In Indianapolis, Carson attended Crispus Attucks High School, at the time a segregated school, along with future basketball star Oscar Robertson. She later studied at Martin’s University in Indiana, and attended Indiana University in Bloomington.   

Married early in life, Carson and her husband divorced leaving her to raise two children as a single mother.  In 1965 Carson left college to work as a secretary for the United Auto Workers but switched career paths in the 1960s when newly elected Indiana Representative Andrew Jacobs, Jr., hired her to work in his office. This would prove a fateful career move as in 1972 Jacobs encouraged Carson to run for the Indiana legislature. She won the campaign and held her first elective office.  
Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=400067, Civic Impulse, LLC; http://www.nndb.com/people/101/000035993/, Soylent Communications (2009); http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/c000191/, Washington Post Company, (2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Sessions, Lucy Stanton Day (1831-1910)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Educator and abolitionist Lucy Stanton Day Sessions is believed to be the first African American woman to graduate from college, completing a Ladies Literary Course from Oberlin College in 1850. For over a century the Ohio college has recognized its early Literary Course program as equivalent to a degreed program even though it did not award graduates with a bachelor’s degree. In 1862 Oberlin College formally awarded the first bachelor’s degree to an African American woman when Mary Jane Patterson graduated with a B.A.
Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women: Book II (Detroit: Gale Research, 1996); Allison Keller, “Sessions, Lucy Stanton Day," Oxford African American Studies Center (Oxford University Press: 2006); Ellen N. Lawson,: "Lucy Stanton: Life on the Cutting Edge,” Western Reserve Magazine 10(1983): 9-10.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Berry, Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” (1926-2017)

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

Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry was considered a pioneer of rock and roll and a major influence on 20th century popular music. His songs such as “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven” are rock and roll standards.

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

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

Shortly after he was released Berry married Themetta Suggs. The couple had two children and Berry settled into family life while working at an automobile assembly plant in St. Louis and taking jobs as a carpenter with his father. In his free time Berry finally pursued an early fascination with guitar, taking lessons from Ira Harris, a local jazz guitarist.

Sources: 
Chuck Berry, Chuck Berry: The Autobiography (New York: Harmony Books, 1987); Robert Santelli, The Big Book of the Blues (New York: Penguin Group, 2001).  Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001946/;  "Chuck Berry dead: Read Carl Sagan's letter to Berry on his 60th birthday," Independent, 03/19/2017:  http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/chuck-berry-dead-johnny-b-goode-carl-sagan-music-space-voyager-golden-records-a7637631.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Robinson, Eddie (1919-2007)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
With 408 career victories at Grambling State University, Eddie Robinson is the most successful football coach in Division I history. In 1985 he surpassed Paul William “Bear” Bryant’s record set at Alabama with 324 wins.  Under Robinson, the Grambling Tigers posted three undefeated seasons, seven single-loss seasons, and set an all-time NCAA Division I-AA record 27 consecutive winning seasons from 1960 to 1986.  Robinson’s teams won 17 championships in Southwestern Atlantic Conference and 9 Black College National Championships. Under his tenure, more than 80 players joined the National Football League (NFL) including Charlie Joiner, Willie Brown, and Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to lead a National Football League (NFL) team to a Superbowl victory (the Washington (D.C.) Redskins over the Denver (Colorado) Broncos in 1988).
Sources: 
Michael Hurd, Black College Football, 1892-1992: One Hundred Years of History, Education, and Pride (Virginia Beach, Va.: The Donning Co. Pub., 1993); James Haskins, "Eddie Robinson" in James Haskins, ed., One More River to Cross: The Stories of Twelve Black Americans (New York: Scholastic, 1992); "National Football Foundation, “College Football Hall of Fame,” http://www.footballfoundation.org/Programs/CollegeFootballHallofFame/SearchDetail.aspx?id=70042; David L. Porter, "Eddie Robinson,” in James D. Whalen, ed., African American Sports Greats: A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

James, Makila (1957- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Makila James is currently serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland.  James was nominated by President Barack Obama early in 2012.  Following confirmation by the U.S. Senate on July 31, 2012, James arrived in Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland and presented her credentials to the King of Swaziland on September 20, 2012.  

Makila James, one of ten children born to Albert and Eddie Mae James, was born in July 1957 in New York.  She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Cornell University in 1979, double majoring in Africana Studies and American History. She was one of the few African Americans inducted into Cornell’s Quill and Dagger Honor Society at the University.  Three years later James received a Juris Doctor (law degree) from Colombia Law School and in 2010 she received a Master’s Degree in National Security from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
Sources: 
“Ambassador to Swaziland: Who is Makila James?” Embassy of the United States, Mbabane, Swaziland, http://swaziland.usembassy.gov/ambassador.html; Matt Bewig, “Ambassador Makila James, AllGov.com, March 24, 2012, http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassadors.html; “Diplomatic Fallout: U.S. Ambassador crosses the line,” Swazi Observer, June 7, 2014, http://www.observer.org.sz/news/63663-diplomatic-fallout-us-ambassador.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lunceford, Jimmie M. (1902-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra
Image Ownership: Public domain

James Melvin “Jimmie” Lunceford, a popular band leader during the swing era, was born near Fulton, Mississippi, in Itawamba County to James Leonard and Beulah Idella Tucker Lunceford in June, 1902. His grandparents, Daniel and Gracie Lunceford, had arrived in Mississippi as slaves from North Carolina in 1860.

The Lunceford family moved to Oklahoma around 1910 and then to Denver, Colorado, where they maintained a home for many years. There, Lunceford studied music under Wilberforce Whiteman, the father of Paul Whiteman, a prominent white musician and band leader of the 1920s and 1930s.

Sources: 
Eddy Determeyer, Rhythm Is Our Business: Jimmie Lunceford and the Harlem Express (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006); Leo Walker, The Big Band Almanac (Pasadena: Ward Ritchie Press, 1978); http://itawambahistory.blogspot.com/2007/06/orchestra-leader-jimmie-luncefords.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Strode, Woodrow Wilson Woolwine ["Woody"] (1914-1994)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born July 28, 1914, in Los Angeles, California, Woody Strode (Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode) was first of the star football athletes to become a successful film actor.   He and Kenny Washington integrated the National Football League (NFL), and Strode played for the Los Angeles Rams in 1946 before moving to the Canadian Football League in 1948.   He also did professional wrestling and reportedly tussled with the renowned Gorgeous George.

Strode made a successful transition from sports hero to the movie screen, though Hollywood seemed more predisposed to his magnificent physique and gallant stride than his acting ability. Strode gave the Hollywood establishment what they demanded and appeared in some of the best and the worst of what they offered him. In director John Ford’s Sergeant Rutledge (1960), a western where he depicted a soldier on trial for two murders and the rape of a white woman, when Strode bared his chest to a white woman (actress Constance Towers), even the movie audiences gasped. 

Sources: 
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks (New York: Continuum, 1992);  Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) title search by key word; “Woody Strode,”; The Timeout Film Guide, edited by Tom Milne, Penguin Books, 3rd Edition, 1992.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hopkins, Sam “Lightnin’” (1912-1982)

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People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins, blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter, was born in Centerville, Texas in 1912 to sharecropping parents whose exact identities are unknown. At eight, Hopkins met legendary bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson at a social function in Buffalo, Texas. An accomplished guitarist for his age, Hopkins started to play along with Jefferson’s set, unbeknownst to the blind bluesman. Jefferson stopped the set and called for the intruding guitar player to reveal himself, which Hopkins promptly did. Astonished by Hopkins’ age, Jefferson encouraged him to continue accompanying him, as long as he could “play it right.”

After his meeting with Jefferson, Hopkins felt the blues to be his calling. He continued playing at informal gatherings and social functions throughout Texas. In the early 1930s, Hopkins settled in Houston's primarily black Third Ward and played on the road across Texas, often accompanied by his older cousin, Alger “Texas” Alexander. Despite rumors of Hopkins having been at Huntsville, the state penitentiary, which enhanced his credibility as a blues musician, there is no record of his ever having served time in the Texas prison system.
Sources: 

Alan Govenar, Lightnin’ Hopkins: His Life and Blues (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2010); Jason Rewald, “Lightnin’ Hopkins: New Facts Emerge,” http://www.tdblues.com/?p=842; Bill Dahl, “Lightnin’ Hopkins: AllMusic Biography,” http://www.allmusic.com/artist/lightnin-hopkins-p87808/biography
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Florida

Grant, Oscar Juliuss III (1986–2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Oscar Juliuss Grant III was a resident of Oakland, California, and unfortunately is best known for being killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer in the early hours of New Year's Day in 2009.

Grant was born to Oscar Grant Jr. and Wanda Johnson on February 27, 1986, in Oakland, California. At the time of his birth, Grant’s father was serving a life sentence for murder, thus making his mother a single parent. During his early years, Grant was active in his local church congregation and also enjoyed fishing, basketball, and baseball.

A combination of bad choices eventually led him to him drop out of Mount Eden High School in the tenth grade. Following this, Grant began escalation into trouble with the law and was arrested five times. At first, his offenses were for driving with broken lights, but then they morphed into drug dealing for which he was convicted and jailed. However, through all of this, his family life remained stable. He and his girlfriend, Sophina Mesa, welcomed a baby daughter, Tatiana, into the world in 2005.
Sources: 
“The Fruitvale Station Shooting.” Absolute Crime, http://www.absolutecrime.com/the-fruitvale-station-shooting.html; Demian Bulwa, “Mehserle Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter,” Wayback Machine, http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Mehserle-convicted-of-involuntary-manslaughter-3181861.php; Jill Tucker, Kelly Zito, and Heather Knight, “Deadly BART Brawl - Officer Shoots Rider, 22,” SFGate http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Deadly-BART-brawl-officer-shoots-rider-22-3178373.php; Pancho Stierle, "A Gift for Tatiana, Oscar Grant’s Daughter," Earthling Opinion https://earthlingopinion.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/a-gift-for-tatiana-oscar-grants-daughter/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Brace, Jeffrey (1742?-1827)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Jeffrey Brace Descendants: Ronald Jeffrey Brace, Sr.;
Rhonda Marie Brace; and Jeffrey Sylvester Brace, Jr.
Image courtesy of Rhonda Marie Brace
Born in West Africa Jeffrey Brace (born Boyrereau Brinch) was enslaved at the age of sixteen and transported to Barbados, where he was sold to a ship captain from Connecticut who used him as an enslaved sailor-soldier during the Seven Years War.  At the war’s end he was transported to Connecticut and sold to a Yankee Puritan. In 1777, after enduring several sadistic masters, Brace enlisted the Continental Army. Six years later he was honorably discharged with a badge of merit.  In 1784, after persuading his master to manumit him, Brace headed for Vermont, the first state to make slavery illegal.  In Poultney, Vermont, he married, bought a farm, and raised a family.

Through hard work and persistence Jeffrey and his wife Susan achieved a modicum of stability but also suffered profound injustice.  Susan had two children from a previous marriage who were forced by powerful white people to work in their households as indentured servants. Around 1802, when neighbors attempted to force the children that Jeffrey and Susan had together into indentured servitude, the family decided to sell their farm and move to northern Vermont.

Sources: 
Jeffrey Brace as told to Benjamin F. Prentiss, The Blind African Slave; or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace Ed. Kari J. Winter.  (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Loury, Glenn C. (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Glenn C. Loury was the first African American Professor to earn tenure at Harvard.  He also achieved prominence as a public intellectual, first as a conservative and then as a more liberal commentator.  Born in 1948, Loury grew up on Chicago, Illinois’ South Side.  His father was a lawyer and his mother worked as a secretary, although the two divorced when Loury was young.  He characterized his childhood circumstances as lower-middle-class.

As a teenager Loury fathered two children, and worked in a printing plant while attending community college.  A scholarship allowed him to graduate from Northwestern University in 1972.  During his last two years in college, he abandoned plans to go to law school, and decided to earn a doctorate in economics.  He moved to Massachusetts to pursue a PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, finishing a dissertation on the concept of social capital in 1976.  Loury returned to Chicago that year to teach at his alma mater.  He later moved to University of Michigan.  
Sources: 
Adam Shatz, “About Face,” The New York Times Magazine, 20 January 2002; Booknotes, “The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, by Glenn Loury,” interviewed by Brian Lamb (4 August 2002); “Glenn C. Loury,” Boston University, http://www.bu.edu/irsd/loury/lourybio.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Savage, Augustus Alexander, “Gus” (1925 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Augustus Alexander Savage, later better known as “Gus”, was born in Detroit, Michigan, on October 30 1925. Savage attended public schools in Chicago and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in 1943 before joining the United States Army. He served until 1946 before earning a B.A. degree in philosophy from Roosevelt University in 1951 and attending Chicago-Kent college of Law from 1952 to 1953. In the 1940s, Savage was a fulltime organizer for the Progressive Party of former Vice President Henry A. Wallace and also a promoter of programs for Paul Robeson, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Hon. Elijah Muhammad.  Savage began a career as a journalist in 1954 and became the editor of The America Negro Magazine, the assistant editor of the Illinois Beverage Booster, and finally in 1965 he began to edit and publish the Chicago Weekend and Citizen Newspapers.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990; www.bioguide.congress.gov ; Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots”: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-BookTime LLC, 2006)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Coston, Julia Ringwood (?- ?)

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.
 

The date of birth for Julia Ringwood Coston, one of the first black women to edit a magazine, is unknown. We do know that she was named after Ringwood farm in Warrenton, Virginia, where she was born. While she was still an infant, Ringwood moved to Washington D.C. with her family and attended public schools there. She had almost completed school when her mother died and she was forced to withdraw.

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

Blucke, Stephen ( --1792)

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

Colonel Stephen Blucke led an all-black Regiment that fought for the British during the American Revolution. He settled in Birchtown, Nova Scotia in 1783 and became a leader in the Black Loyalist community.

During the Revolutionary War, the most famous of the Black Loyalist Military units were called the Black Pioneers, which contained a small elite band of guerrillas known as the Black Brigade. The Black Brigade fought independently and later with the all-white unit Queen’s Rangers. The supplies they seized were vital to the survival of the Loyalists in New York. In a raid on a patriot militia leader, the Brigade and leader Colonel Tye were caught in a long battle. Their target was burned after Tye’s death and Blucke – a literate, free black from Barbados and officer in the Black Pioneers – succeeded Tye as Colonel of the Brigade.

Sources: 

Joseph Mensah, Black Canadians: History, Experiences, Social Conditions (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2002); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution (Toronto: Penguin Group, 2006); http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/023001-2125-e.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Thomas, Vivien (1910-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Described as the “most untalked about, unappreciated, unknown giant in the African American community,” by Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., Vivien Thomas received an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1976, and while this was undoubtedly memorable, the decades which preceded this moment were equally unforgettable. In Nashville, Tennessee, this high school honors graduate dreamed of becoming a physician. Thomas, a skilled carpenter, saved for seven years to pay for his education. However, he lost his savings during the Great Depression.  Beginning in 1930, he worked at Vanderbilt University's Medical School as a laboratory assistant to Alfred Blalock, a white physician who became a pioneer in cardiac surgery. Blalock mentored Thomas and taught him to conduct experiments.
Sources: 
Vivien Thomas, Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985); http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/partners/today/t_views.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Van Der Zee, James (1886-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James VanDerZee was an African American photographer during the Harlem Renaissance who was best known for his pictures that captured the lives of African Americans in New York City, New York. He had a gift for capturing the most influential individuals and riveting artistic moments of the era.  Early 20th century black activist Marcus Garvey, black entertainer/ dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and renowned black poet Countee Cullen were among his more prominent subjects.

VanDerZee was born in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1886.  He demonstrated a gift for music and initially aspired to a career as a professional violinist.  
Sources: 
James VanDerZee, Drop Me Off in Harlem (Washington D.C., The Kennedy Center, 1922: Photographs).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Allen, Macon Bolling (1816-1894)

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

Macon Bolling Allen is believed to be the first black man in the United States who was licensed to practice law. Born Allen Macon Bolling in 1816 in Indiana, he grew up a free man.  Bolling learned to read and write on his on his own and eventually landed his first a job as a schoolteacher where he further refined his skills.

In the early 1840s Bolling moved from Indiana to Portland, Maine. There he changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen and became friends with local anti-slavery leader General Samuel Fessenden, who had recently begun a law practice.  Fessenden took on Allen as an apprentice/law clerk. By 1844 Allen had acquired enough proficiency that Fessenden introduced him to the Portland District court and stated that he thought Allen should be able to practice as a lawyer. He was refused on the grounds that he was not a citizen, though according to Maine law anyone “of good moral character” could be admitted to the bar. He then decided to apply for admission by examination. After passing the exam and earning his recommendation he was declared a citizen of Maine and given his license to practice law on July 3, 1844.

Sources: 

J. Clay Smith, Jr. Emancipation, (University of Pennsylvania Press: 1993); Allen, Macon Bolling(1816–1894) http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4102/Allen-Macon-Bolling-1816-1894.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Vanessa (1963- )

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

Vanessa Lynn Williams was born in Tarrytown, New York on March 18, 1963. She is the daughter of Helen and the late Milton Williams who were music teachers. She has a younger brother, Christopher, who is also an actor.  Williams was the first African American woman to win the Miss America title on September 17, 1983. Interestingly, her parents put “Here she is: Miss America” on her birth announcement that they sent out to friends, twenty years earlier.

During her childhood, Williams took music lessons, learning to play the piano and French horn.  Singing, however, was her first love. After graduating from Horace Greeley High School in Tarrytown in 1981, she attended Syracuse University where she majored in theater arts. It was also at this time that Williams began to compete in a number of beauty pageants. In 1983, she won the Miss Greater Syracuse pageant, followed by the title of Miss New York and eventually the title of Miss America 1984.

Sources: 
Suzanne Freedman, Vanessa Williams (Philadelphia:  Chelsea House Press, 2000); 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).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Tamano-Shata, Pnina (1981- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Pnina Tamano-Shata, a lawyer and journalist, is the first woman of sub-Saharan African ancestry elected to the Knesset or Israeli National Parliament. Tamano-Shata was born in the Gondar region of Ethiopia to a Beta Israel (Jewish) family, the granddaughter of Kais Shato-Maharata, one of the foremost spiritual leaders within the Ethiopian Jewish community.  At the age of three, she immigrated with her family to Israel as part of Operation Moses.  Tamano-Shata was educated in high-school boarding schools, like many other youth of Ethiopian families in the 1980s and 1990s, and studied in a program for gifted students.  After a two-year service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), she studied law at Ono Academic College.  Following an internship at a law firm, Tamano-Shata worked from 2007 to 2012 for the Israeli Channel 1 TV news as a reporter and as a host of a current-affairs talk show, the first Ethiopian woman to do so.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Hadassah Academic College

Blige, Mary J. (1971- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
When Mary J. Blige was born on January 11, 1971 in Bronx, New York, few observers would have imagined her becoming one of the most successful rhythm and blues (R&B) artists within a musical world increasingly dominated by hip-hop. Blige's father abandoned the family when she was four.  She and her mother and sister moved to the Schlobam Housing Project in the Bronx and became one of thousands of impoverished single-parent families in New York’s public housing system. Blige was sexually assaulted as a child and later dropped out of high school.

In 1988 Blige recorded a demo in a shopping mall self-recording booth. The demo made its way to Uptown Records in Harlem and she signed a recording contract a year later. For her first album, Blige was guided by then little-known producer Sean Combs. Her debut album What's the 411? changed the sound of both hip-hop and soul for artists in both of the genres. The album integrated soul and rap music. Blige's raw singing and rugged image reflected her project-raised youth.  Her song would also be sampled by other rap artists including The Notorious B.I.G., which added to her streetwise credibility.

Mary J. Blige would record another six albums, all of which achieved spectacular success, reaching platinum (over one million albums sold) status. Along with commercial success Blige has also earned a number of awards including two NAACP image awards, and six Grammys.
Sources: 
Terrell Brown, Mary J. Blige (New York: Mason Crest, 2006); Joan Morgan, "What You Never Knew About Mary," Essence Magazine Online, November, 2001. 15 Mar. 2007, http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1264/is_7_32/ai_79547861; Stacia Proefrock, "Mary J. Blige" Allmusic.com 15 Mar. 2007, http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:8u66mpp39f7o~T1
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Banks, Ernest “Ernie” (1931-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Dave's Dougout, Inc.
Ernest “Ernie” Banks was the first African American baseball player for the Chicago (Illinois) Cubs and the first African American manager in Major League Baseball (MLB). Banks earned the nickname “Mr. Cub” while playing shortstop and first base from 1953-1971 for the team.
Sources: 

Lew Freedman, African American Pioneers of Baseball (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007); Alan Ross, Cubs Pride: For the Love of Ernie, Fergie & Wrigley (Nashville, TV: Cumberland House, 2005); "'Mr Cub' Ernie Banks Dies at 83,"  CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/23/us/ernie-banks-obit/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Scott, Benjamin Franklin (1922-2000)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fox, Richard K. (1925- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Richard Kenneth Fox served as U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago during the Jimmy Carter Administration.  Fox was born on October 22, 1925 in Cincinnati, Ohio. After a stint in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946, he enrolled at Indiana University and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from that institution in 1950. Two years later, in 1952, he earned his graduate degree in social psychology from Indiana University.

Fox had hoped to pursue a career as a reporter at a major newspaper but given the racial discrimination in the early 1950s he changed his career path and worked instead with civil rights groups such as Minnesota Fair Employment League and the Urban League in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Sources: 
“Ambassador Richard Fox,” The American Academy of Diplomacy, August 17, 2009, http://www.academyofdiplomacy.org/; Frank Thompson, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Cameron, Jr., James Herbert (1914–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
James Cameron in the Black Holocaust Museum,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
James Herbert Cameron Jr. was a civil rights activist responsible for founding three chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He later established America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cameron is also the only known person to have survived a lynching.

Cameron was born on February 24, 1914, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His father, James Herbert Cameron, was a barber, and his mother, Vera Carter, washed clothes to help support the family’s three children. Cameron’s father left the family when he was young, and his mother moved them to Marion, Indiana.
Sources: 
James Cameron, A Time Of Terror: A Survivor's Story ( James Cameron, 1982, Black Classic Press, Baltimore, Maryland reprint 1994); E. Stewart Tolnay and E. M. Beck, A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930 (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1992); Syretta McFaden, “He Lived,” Buzzfeed.com, June 23, 2016, https://www.buzzfeed.com/syreetamcfadden/how-to-survive-a-lynching.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Streeter, Mel (1931-2006)

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

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

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

Marchbanks, Lucretia (1832–1911)

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

Lucretia Marchbanks, well-documented in western lore for her upright character and superb culinary talents, was one of the first African American women to venture into the Black Hills of South Dakota. Marchbanks was born enslaved on March 25, 1832 near Turkey Creek in Putnam County, Tennessee, the eldest of 13 children born to Edmund and Mary Marchbanks.

Courtesy Adams Museum, Deadwood, South Dakota

When Lucretia was 17, she and her younger brother William accompanied her new owners, Robert and Anne Marchbanks Martin, to Siskiyou County in California where Lucretia cared for the Martins’ growing family and William assisted with a livestock venture. She stayed on with the family after gaining her freedom in 1865 but in 1870 moved to Colorado to join her brothers Finley and Burr and sister Martha Ann “Mattie” Marchbanks.                      

Sources: 
Todd Guenther, “Lucretia Marchbanks: A Black Woman in the Black Hills,” South Dakota History 31 (Spring 2001): 1–25; Lilah Morton Pengra, Corporals, Cooks and Cowboys: African Americans in the Black Hills and Surrounding Areas (Buffalo Gap, South Dakota: Self-published, 2000).
Contributor: 

Smith, Robert F. (1962– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Robert F. Smith is best known as the founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a multi-billion-dollar private equity and wealth management company that employs over thirty thousand people around the world and focuses on the growth of firms that develop enterprise software. Forbes ranked him as the 268th richest person in the United States in 2015 and the second richest black person behind Oprah Winfrey.

Smith was born in Denver, Colorado, on December 1, 1962, to educators Dr. William Robert Smith and Dr. Sylvia Myrna Smith. When Smith was a toddler, his mother took him to the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Smith attended Carson Elementary School and Gove Jr. High School in Denver before graduating from Denver’s East High School. In high school, he applied for a summer internship at Bell Labs but was told the position was for college students. After much persistence, however, he got the position and that summer he developed a reliability test for semiconductors.
Sources: 
“Robert Smith,” Entrepreneur Profile. https://www.blackentrepreneurprofile.com/profile-full/article/robert-smith; David Gelles, “A Private Equity Titan with a Narrow Focus and Broad Aims,” DealBook A Private Equity Titan with a Narrow Focus and Broad Aims. New York Times, http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/a-private-equity-titan-with-a-narrow-focus-and-broad-aims/; “Robert F. Smith,” The History Makers, http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/robert-f-smith; Smith, Robert F., James P. Herrick, and Mete Bruncaj. Coffee Brewer Filtration Device. Kraft General Foods, Inc., assignee. Patent US 5190653 A. 2 Mar. 1993; Smith, Robert F., James P. Herrick, and Timothy J. Strelevitz. Coffee Brewing Method. Kraft General Foods, Inc., assignee. Patent US5403605 A. 4 Apr. 1995 http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/robert-f-smith.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Craft, William and Ellen (1824-1900; 1826-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownershp: Public Domain
William and Ellen Craft were born into slavery.  William was born in Macon, Georgia to a master who sold off his family to pay his gambling debts.  William’s new owner apprenticed him as a carpenter in order to earn money from his labor.  Ellen was born in Clinton, Georgia and was the daughter of an African American slave and her white owner.  Ellen had a very light complexion and was frequently mistaken for a member of her white family.  At the age of 11, she was given away as a wedding gift to the Collins Family in Macon, Georgia.  It was in Macon, Georgia where William and Ellen met.

In 1846 Ellen and William were allowed to marry, but they could not live together since they had different owners.  The separation took its toll and they started to save money and plan an escape.  In December of 1848, the Crafts escaped enslavement.  Ellen’s light complexion allowed her to dress as a white man.  She then claimed William was her slave.  This plan worked and they settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where they became famous because of their remarkable and romantic escape.  Their story briefly generated a sizeable income. 
Sources: 
William and Ellen Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery [originally published in 1860] Miami, Florida: Mnemosyne Pub. Company, 1969); Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson, William and Ellen Craft (Alexandria, Va.: Alexander Street Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Marshall, Paule (1929--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Valenza Pauline Burke, later known as Paule Marshall, was born on April 9, 1929 in Brooklyn, New York.  She is the daughter of Ada and Samuel Burke, both emigrants from Barbados, and she grew up in a neighborhood with a significant number of other families from the West Indies.  Although she went through a period of rejecting her West Indian heritage as a child, her writing would ultimately be inspired by the conversations between her mother and other Bajan (Barbadian) women.  In her essay From the Poets in the Kitchen she explains how the women would use the English language as an instrument for narrative art, changing around the rhythm and accent to create a distinctive dialect.  

When Marshall completed high school she enrolled in Hunter College with plans of becoming a social worker.  After a one year absence from college due to illness, she decided, with the influence of some of her friends, to become an English Literature major instead.  She enrolled in Brooklyn College and by 1954 had graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.  
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); Dorothy C. Salem, ed., African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1993); The Heath Anthology of American Literature:  http://college.hmco.com/english/lauter/heath/4e/students/author_pages/contemporary/marshall_pa.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Foster, Andrew "Rube" (1879-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Clark, Kenneth (1914- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kenneth and Mamie Clark
Image Ownership: Public domain
In the late 1930s sociologist Kenneth Clark and his wife and collaborator, Mamie Phipps Clark, began to study the self-image of black children. The Clarks were among the first to describe the “harm and benefit” thesis in the area of civil rights and desegregation law.  Attorney Thurgood Marshall and the National association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) legal team used the Clark’s social science studies known as the “doll tests” in numerous legal challenges to the Jim Crow system of segregation. 
Sources: 
David J. Amor, Americana: Forced Justice: School Desegregation and the Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); The African American Almanac, 9th ed. (Detroit: Thomson-Gale, 2003); The Encyclopedia of the African American Experience, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Judson Knight, Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2001.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles Community College

Moore, Frederick Randolph (1857-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Frederick Randolph Moore, a political activist and journalist, was born in 1857 to his slave mother and white father in Virginia. While Moore was still very young, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Moore attended public schools and to make money, sold newspapers on street corners.

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

King, Horace (1807-1885)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Desmond, Viola Davis (1914-1965)

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

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

Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins (1825-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A poet and essayist, Frances Ellen Watkins was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1825.  Orphaned at the age of three, Watkins went to live with her aunt and uncle, Harriet and William Watkins.  Unlike most free blacks, Frances grew up in comfortable surroundings; her uncle juggled several occupations in order to support the family, including preaching, shoemaking, and medicine. He was also a teacher and administrator at Watkins Academy, a school he had established in 1820.  Like other young women, Frances learned the female “trades” of sewing and domestic work in addition to learning academic subjects at her uncle’s school.  
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Frances Smith Foster, “Frances Ellen Watkins Harper,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cochran, Johnnie, Jr. (1937-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Johnnie Cochran Jr. was born on October 2, 1937 in Shreveport, Louisiana into a family descended from slaves.  His father was an insurance salesman and his mother sold Avon products. When he was a young boy, his family moved to Los Angeles, California where he grew up in an affluent and stable household with parents who stressed education and a color-blind attitude towards the world.  Cochran attended public schools where he excelled.  While his family was well-off, he always managed to find friends who had more than he did and seeing this pushed him even harder.

Cochran attended the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree.  From there he went to the Loyola Marymount University School of Law where he graduated in 1962 with a law degree.  After passing the California Bar exam in 1963 Cochran began working as a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles.  In 1965 he formed his own law firm, Cochran, Atkins & Evans where he dealt with criminal and civil cases.  In 1966, he fought a case on behalf of a young black man who was shot by Los Angeles police officers while trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital.  Cochran argued unsuccessfully that the police had used unnecessary violence.
Sources: 
Johnnie Cochran, A Lawyer’s Life (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002); http://authors.aalbc.com/johnnie_cochran.htm; http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9542444.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson, Reginald Martinez (1946- )

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

Marshall Burchard, Sports Hero, Reggie Jackson (New York: Putnam, 1975); Reggie Jackson and Mike Lupica,  Reggie: The Autobiography (New York: Villard Books, 1984): Edward J. Rielly, Baseball: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2000); http://www.nndb.com/people/404/000022338/

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Faith Ringgold (1930-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Grace Matthews
Faith Ringgold ©
Visual artist, storyteller and feminist activist, Faith Ringgold was born on October 8, 1930 in Harlem Hospital, New York City to Andrew Louis Jones, Sr. and Willie Edell Jones (Willi Posey), a fashion designer and dressmaker.  An arts graduate from City College in New York City, Ringgold was Professor of Art at the University of San Diego until retirement in 2003. She divided her residence between New York and New Jersey home/studios and Southern California.  Her international reputation reflects a broad art world appreciation initiated primarily through extensive traveling shows and appearances on university campuses.  Faith Ringgold’s versatile expression includes paintings, Tibetan-style tankas, performance art, masks, freestanding sculptures and painted quilts.  All are represented in museums nationwide and international collections.  Her publications, primarily storybooks for children, complete this impressive catalogue.  Tar Beach, which won the Caldecott Award for 1992, is acknowledged by many as a children’s classic.
Sources: 
Dan Cameron, ed., Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold’s French Collection and Other Story Quilts (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999); Donnette Hatch, “Faith Ringgold.” Encyclopedia of African American Literature, Wilfred D. Samuels, ed., New York: Facts on File, 2007): 437-438.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bruce, Josephine Beall Willson (1853-1923)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A clubwoman, teacher, society leader, and race activist, Josephine Beall Willson Bruce was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 29, 1853, to Dr. Joseph Willson, a prominent dentist, and Elizabeth Harnett Willson, a singer and musician. In 1854 the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio where Josephine Willson received her education. An accomplished linguist, she enjoyed literature and classical music.

On June 24, 1878, she married Republican senator Blanche K. Bruce, a political leader and plantation owner from Mississippi and the only black United States senator.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Glasrud, "Josephine Beall (Willson) Bruce," in African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem, 75-77 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993); Willard B. Gatewood, “Josephine Beall Willson Bruce,” in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, vol. I, 187-188 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Powell, C. B. (1894-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clilan (C.B.) Powell, longtime owner of the Amsterdam News, was born in 1894 to former Virginia slaves.  Very little is known about his childhood.  He received his medical degree in 1920 from Howard University School of Medicine and began his career specializing in x-ray technology.   Powell was the first African American x-ray specialist and owned a laboratory in Harlem.  It was at his lab where he met Dr. Philip H.M. Savory, his future business partner.  The two physicians collaborated to create the Powell-Savory Corporation in 1935.

With this new corporation, they switched their focus from medicine to business, and became two of the leading African American entrepreneurs in the 1930s.  They first purchased the failing Victory Life Insurance Company in 1933 in Chicago, Illinois and revived it to a thriving business.  In 1935 they purchased the Amsterdam News, the largest newspaper in Harlem, for $5,000.  Powell became publisher of the New York paper and retained that post until its sale in 1971.  Powell studied other successful newspapers including the New York Times and patterned the Amsterdam News after them.   He also made the Amsterdam News home for numerous African American journalists such as Earl Brown, Thomas Watkins, James L. Hicks, and Jesse H. Walker.  Powell expanded the paper's coverage to include national and international news.   
Sources: 
The Amsterdam News ,(Our Newspaper-About Us), http://www.amserdamnews.com/our_newspaper/about_us/; Jet Magazine, June 29, 1978; Ebony Magazine, September 1978; Kiera Hope Foster, "The Amsterdam News," in Molefei  K. Asante,  ed., The Encyclopedia of Black Studies (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, inc., 2005); www.unityfuneralchapels.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Francis, Jacob (1754-1836)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jacob Francis Revolutionary War Pension Claim, 1834
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jacob Francis, Revolutionary War veteran, was born on January 15, 1754 in Amwell, New Jersey. His mother was African American and his father’s race was unknown. What is known of Francis’ childhood is found in the personal testimony included on his military pension application.

It is unknown if Francis was born free or into slavery, but as a child he was bound out to no fewer than five men before coming of age. His first indenture was with Henry Wambaugh, who then sold Francis’ time to Michael Hatt, who in turn sold the boy’s time to farmer Minner Gulick (1731-1804). When Francis was 13, Gulick sold his time to Joseph Saxton who, in May 1768, took the young man as his servant to New York, Long Island and then to the Island of St. John. In about November 1769, the two sailed to Salem, Massachusetts where Saxton sold the fifteen-year-old’s time to Salem resident Benjamin Deacon, with whom Francis remained until he turned 21 in January 1775.

Within a matter of weeks, the Revolutionary War erupted nearby. By October, Jacob Francis had enlisted as a private in the 8th Massachusetts Regiment, which became the 16th Continental Regiment under the command of Colonel Paul D. Sergeant. Jacob took the surname of one of his previous custodians upon enlistment, but later changed it after learning his surname from his mother.
Sources: 
Jacob Francis, Pension Application. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (Pension Number W459). (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1832); James P. Snell, History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey (Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1881); http://www.historyiscentral.org/HSI/case1C/JacobFrancis.pdf; http://goodspeedhistories.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mercer, Mabel Alice Wadham (1900-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Mabel Mercer was one of the most important jazz cabaret singers of the 20th Century. Her personal singing style emphasizing interpretation, diction, lyrics, and projection over vocal proficiency influenced numerous leading singers including Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, and Barbra Streisand. Mabel Alice Wadham was born on February 3, 1900 in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.  Her unmarried teenage Anglo-Welsh mother, Emily Mame Wadham, was a music hall actress and singer, and her father, Benjamin Mercer, was reported to have been an itinerant black American musician.  
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); John S. Wilson, “Mabel Mercer, Phraser of Songs, Dies,” New York Times, April 21, 1984; Terry Teachout, “Music; Mabel Mercer: The Subtle Truth,” New York Times, January 6, 2002; Stephen Bourne, Black Poppies: Britain's Black Community and the Great War (Stroud, England: The History Press, 2014).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gates, Sylvester James (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The theoretical physicist Sylvester James Gates, known for his work in supersymmetry, string theory, superconformal algebra, Adinkra symbols, and bihermitian manifolds, was born on December 15, 1950 in Tampa, Florida. Dr. Gates has three siblings: two younger brothers, and one younger sister. Sylvester James Gates Sr., Dr. Gates’ father, worked as a career military man for the United States Army for 24 years.  Following this, Gates Sr. worked for the postal service and as a union organizer. Consequently, due to Dr. Gates’ father’s job, his family was forced to move often, resulting in Gates having lived in six different cities by the time he had reached the 6th grade.

At the age of 11, Gates’ mother, Charlie Engels Gates, died of cancer. Later when his father remarried, Gates’ new stepmother, a teacher, helped provide books for Gates to read and thus supplement the education he received in public schools.

Sources: 
Emily J. McMurray, Notable Twentieth Century Scientists (Gale Research, 1995); Boyce Rensberger “Superstrings,” The Washington Post, December 11, 1996.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, E. Russell "Noodles" (? - 1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
E. Russell "Noodles" Smith, so named because he always kept enough money for a bowl of noodles after a night of gambling, is considered to be "the father – or perhaps the midwife - of Seattle jazz." He arrived in Seattle during the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exhibition in 1909 with $17,000 that he claimed was won during a three night gambling spree. With a mind for business and a keen eye on the purse strings, he amassed a fortune from gambling, real estate, and bootlegging and he dominated the nightclub scene that formed the backdrop for Seattle jazz from the 1920s to the 1940s. The list of people who stayed and played in "Noodles"-owned establishments include some of the greatest names in jazz—Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Louis Jordan and Eubie Blake, to name a few.
Sources: 
Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours, The Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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

Moses Harris’ reputation as both a mountain man and his knowledge of wilderness gave him employment as a wagon train guide.  While still fur trapping, he began working as a trail guide, leading trains of supplies to other fur traders.
Sources: 
Elizabeth McLagan, A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940. (Portland: Georgian Press Company, 1980); Jerome Peltier, Black Harris (Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1996)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Carter, Randolph Warren (1913-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Courtesy of the Randolph Carter Family"
Civil rights leader and political activist Randolph Warren “Randy” Carter of Seattle, Washington, was born November 15, 1913 in Riverside, California to Charles and Hettie Carter, the youngest son of four boys. Carter was a track star in Riverside, receiving national recognition as the All Conference Track Champion in the National College competitions at San Diego State University in 1937.
Sources: 
"Randolph Warren Carter: Winning, Serving, Loving," (Seattle: The Randolph Carter Industrial Workshop Association, 1988); Sixty-Ninth Annual Commencement, University of Southern California, June 14, 1962; “Randolph Warren “Randy” Carter, ’38,” Plaque of the Whittier College Athletic Hall of Fame, 1981, Whittier College, Whittier, California.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lyons, John Ralph (1888-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Ralph Lyons, Daughter Claire and
granddaughters in Winooski, Vermont,
ca. 1939 (Rose Mary Graveline)
John Ralph Lyons was born February 22, 1888 in Lewistown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania to James Levi and Harriet (Baptist) Lyons.  His father was a barber and musician.  He had 4 brothers and two sisters and his mother died in childbirth when he was a teenager.  His great-grandfather, Benjamin Lyons (ca 1780-1859) was a runaway slave who settled in Salemville, Bedford County, Pennsylvania around 1825.

John Ralph Lyons served in the U.S. Army, 10th Cavalry, Troop D, for six years, the last four at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester, Vermont.  He was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal on July 6, 1911 “for bravely rescuing a companion” at Mallets Bay in Colchester, Vermont.  After discharge from the 10th Cavalry in 1914, he rejoined the Army in 1917, enlisting in Company F, 807th Pioneer Infantry which served overseas during World War I.  After the war he worked as a civilian barber at Fort Ethan Allen.

Sources: 
John Ralph Lyons Personal Papers and Memorabilia; Herbert T. Johnson, Vermont in the World War, 1917-1919: Roster of Vermont Men and Women in the Military & Naval Service of the U.S. Allies (Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle Company, 1927); Frank N. Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier II: Biographies of African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866-1817 (Lanham, Maryland: Scholarly Resources Books, 2004)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Vermont

Sitati, Joseph W. (1952– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Elder Joseph W. Sitati Speaking in Salt Lake City, 2015

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Joseph Wafula Sitati, petroleum manager and the first man of black African descent to become a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was born in Bungoma, Kenya, on May 16, 1952. His parents were Nathan Barasa and Lenah Naliaka Mwasame Sitati, both peasant farmers. Joseph Sitati grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, and was raised Quaker. He found that faith to be overtly political, however, and not focused on spirituality. This sentiment changed when he heard his first Mormon sermon from a visiting LDS general authority in 1985. The sermon moved Sitati, and he was baptized in the LDS Church in March of 1986.
Sources: 
JaNae Francis, “First African LDS General Authority Reacts to Calling,” Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT), April 10, 2009, Newsbank, Aug. 30, 2016; Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Africa’s ‘Mormon Superstar’ is First Black African LDS General Authority,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 16, 2009, Newsbank, Aug. 28, 2016; Tad Walch, “Major LDS Growth in Africa Unaffected by Priesthood Restriction, Elder Sitati Says,” Deseret News, Oct. 9, 2015, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865638671/Major-LDS-growth-in-Africa-unaffected-by-priesthood-restriction-Elder-Sitati-says.html?pg=all.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Frazier, E. Franklin (1894-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Basie, Count (William Allen “Count” Basie) (1904-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A jazz pianist and bandleader, Count Basie was one of the leading musicians of the Big Band “Swing” era. His Count Basie Orchestra was formed in 1936, and featured singers such as Billie Holliday, and notable musicians including Lester Young, Jo Jones, and Walter Page. The band lasted for many decades, outliving Basie himself.  
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage (New York: Facts on File, 1997); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music (San Diego, California: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/jazz/home/.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Poitier, Sidney (1927 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Sidney Poitier from
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
Image ©Bob Adelman/Bettmann/Corbis
Award winning actor, director, and author, Sidney Poitier broke racial barriers and stereotyping in the film industry to become the leading African American male actor of the 20th Century.  In a career that spanned 57 years, Poitier was a featured performer or starred in 48 films and directed six.  
Sources: 
Aram Goudsouzian, Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004; Sidney Poitier, The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000); Henry Louis Gates and Cornel West, The African-American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country (New York: Free Press, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, James H., Jr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
An award–winning expert in applied mechanics and materials---specifically earthquake isolation research, shell theory, and nondestructive evaluation and composite materials---and a passionate advocate of African American representation in the academy, James Henry Williams, Jr. was born in Newport News, Virginia on April 4, 1941.  First employed as an apprentice machinist at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, he climbed to senior design engineer while studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  By 1968 Williams had completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree at MIT and in 1970 he finished his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Cambridge University, England.

As a professor of engineering at MIT in the early 1970s Williams won research grants from the National Science Foundation.  Since then he has been a consultant for numerous governmental and corporate projects involving aircraft, rockets, automobiles, hydroelectric power stations, and offshore oil platforms.  Among the honors he has received are the Teetor Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Den Hartog Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  Williams has published numerous technical papers, popular newspaper and magazine articles, and has been interviewed on network television.  In 1996 he published the 854-page book Fundamentals of Applied Dynamics (New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.).
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 22nd Ed. Vol. (New York: Bowker, 2005);
http://web.mit.edu/jhwill/www/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Green, Ernest G. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1941, Ernest Gideon Green was no stranger to the Civil Rights Movement as his mother was a NAACP member and took part in protests against unequal pay between whites and blacks. Partly inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Green’s family decided to become plaintiffs in the lawsuit that desegregated Little Rock’s Central High School.  Green and eight other African American high schoolers became known as the Little Rock Nine.  They would be the first test of the 1945 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education which officially desegregated the nation’s public schools.
Sources: 
Thomas D. Jakes, Who’s Who Among African Americans (New York: Thomson & Gale, 2003); http://www.answers.com; http://www.oldstatehouse.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jordan, John Henry (1870-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
John Henry Jordan, wife, Mollie and son, Edward
“Image Courtesy of Karen Jordan”
Sources: 

History of American Negro; History of Coweta County, Georgia; Bill Banks, “Sharing Untold Stories,” The Atlanta Journal Constitution (February 1, 2001); Karen Jordan, “From a Dream to a Legacy,” The Tennessean (November 16, 2003); Karen Jordan, “Meharry Legacy Continues,” Interpreter Magazine (February-March 2004); W. Winston Skinner, “Descendant Plans Book about Pioneer Local Black Doctor,” Newnan Times-Herald (July 10, 2006); www.karenjordanwrites.com.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barkley, Charles Wade (1963 - )

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

Charles Wade Barkley, born on February 20, 1963 in Leeds, Alabama will always be known for his excellent performance on the basketball court, but he is also trying to become known as a politician.  In 2014, Barkley will run as the Independent candidate for Governor of the state of Alabama.

Charles Barkley played college basketball at Auburn University between 1982 and 1984.  In 1984 he joined the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.  Barkley played sixteen years in the NBA, mostly for the Phoenix Suns.  He retired in 2000 from the Houston Rockets.

Barkley has always been very well aware of political issues and has decided to address them by holding office.  Since he was born and raised in Alabama and attended college at Auburn University, he believes his political future is in that state.

Barkley first seriously considered running for Governor in 1995 in anticipation of the 1998 gubernatorial election.  He learned however that he needed to be a resident of Alabama for seven years before running for the top office in the state.  Barkley returned permanently to Alabama in 2006 to start planning his run for Governor in 2014.

Sources: 

Charles Barkley and Michael Wilbon, I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It (New
York: Random House, 2002); Campbell Brown, "Transcript: Charles Barkley
tells Brown 'racism is a cancer' - CNN.com." CNN.com - Breaking News,
U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News.
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/27/brown.barkley/index.html; "Gov.
Barkley? Sir Charles eyeing office in Alabama," ESPN: The Worldwide
Leader In Sports, http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2531022.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Boateng, Paul Yaw (1951- )

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

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

Asante, Molefi Kete/Arthur Lee Smith Jr. (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Molefi Kete Asante (Arthur Lee Smith, Jr.), an educator, was born in Valdosta, Georgia, the son of Arthur Lee and Lillie B. (Wilson) Smith. In 1964 he received a B.A. degree (cum laude) from Oklahoma Christian College.  He was awarded an M.A. degree the following year from Pepperdine College.  In 1968 he earned a Ph.D. degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.  

While at Southwestern Christian College, Asante met Essien Essien, a Nigerian scholar, who inspired Asante to learn more about Africa.  After completing his undergraduate degree, Smith undertook studies of African languages and literature. He began to visit Africa frequently and spent a year on the continent in 1982, while serving as director of the English language journalism curriculum at the Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communications.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), p. 12-14.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College

Preston, William Everett "Billy" (1946-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Billy Preston, Billy Preston in Concert (That's the Way God Planned It) (Los Angeles: Robert Ellis & Associates, 1973); John Daniel Saillant, "William Everett "Billy" Preston," in African American National Biography: Volume Six, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Jon Pareles, "Billy Preston, 59, Soul Musician, Is Dead; Renowned Keyboardist and Collaborator," New York Times, 7 June 2006.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

James, LeBron (1984-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain

National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar LeBron James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio to Gloria James who was sixteen and unwed .  Gloria, the sole provider for her only son, worked various jobs and lived in numerous apartments with young LeBron throughout Akron.

LeBron James’s athleticism was revealed early when at age 14 he stood six feet tall and dominated his age group in football and basketball.  During this period he became close friends with Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee, and Romeo Travis.  The five adolescents dominated basketball leagues in various community centers and became known locally as the “Shooting Stars.”  All five chose to attend Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary (SVSM) Catholic High School.

The Shooting Stars saga at the SVSM became storied.  Under LeBron James’s leadership the team won three Division III state titles.  The team's popularity required SVSM to move their games from their high school area to the fifteen thousand seat Rhodes Arena at the University of Akron.  James's fame also attracted the attention of ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated in the late 1990s and he was given the nickname "King James" by the sports press.  The team was chronicled in the 2009 documentary More Than a Game.

Sources: 
LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger, “LeBron’s Band of Brothers,” Vanity Fair (October 2009), 164-179; LeBron James, Buzz Bissinger, H.G. Bissinger, Shooting Stars (New York: Penguin Books, 2009); Sarah Tieck,  LeBron James, Basketball Superstar (Edina, Minnesota: ABDO Publishers,  2009); “LeBron James ‘Decision’ Ratings: ESPN Gets 9.5 Million Viewers for Special,” Huffington Post, January 30, 2011, Seattle Times, June 22, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Williams, Camilla (1919-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Indiana University
Professional opera singer Camilla Williams was born October 18, 1919 in Danville, Virginia to Fannie Carey Williams and Cornelius Booker Williams. The youngest of four siblings, Williams began singing at a young age and was performing at her local church by age eight. At age 12, she began taking lessons from a Welsh singing teacher, Raymond Aubrey, but because of Jim Crow laws the lessons had to be conducted in private in Aubrey’s home.

After high school, Williams attended Virginia State College for Negroes, now Virginia State University, in Petersburg, Virginia. She graduated in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. After graduation, Williams taught 3rd grade and music at a black public school in Danville. In 1943, fellow Virginia State College alumni paid for the gifted singer to move to Philadelphia and study under influential voice coach Marion Szekely-Freschl. Williams began touring in 1944 and during one concert in Stamford, Connecticut she met Geraldine Farrar, a respected soprano opera singer and the original star of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s Madame Butterfly. Farrar was so impressed with Williams’ voice that she soon took her under her wing and became her mentor. Farrar even helped Williams to sign a recording contract with RCA Victor and to break into the highest levels of American opera.  
Sources: 
Veronica A. Davis, Inspiring African American Women of Virginia (New York: IUniverse, 2005); http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/03/arts/music/camilla-williams-opera-singer-dies-at-92.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McHenry, Donald Franchot (1936 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador Donald McHenry at the United Nations, ca. 1980
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Donald McHenry is a diplomat, scholar, corporate governor and educator who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN).  Because the hospitals of his home town, East St. Louis, Illinois, where he would grow up, were segregated, McHenry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on October 13, 1936. After his parents divorced he and his two siblings were raised by their mother.

McHenry received his bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University in 1957, and his master’s degree from Southern Illinois University in 1959. He found his niche in diplomacy and international affairs between 1963 and 1971, while working at the U.S. Department of State in its Office of Dependent Area Affairs. While there, he received its Superior Honor Award in 1966.
Sources: 
Partnership for a Secure America http://www.psaonline.org/userdata_display.php?modin=51&uid=21; J. S. Morris and J. G. Cook, Africa Policy in the Clinton Years: Critical Choices for the Bush Administration (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Affairs, 2001); and Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project. Interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy, March 23, 1993 and October 1, 1998.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Massiah, Frederick McDonald (1886–1975)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Frederick McDonald Massiah was one of the first African Americans to receive a civil engineering degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was also one of the first successful African American contracting engineers in the country.

Massiah was born in Barbados, West Indies, on December 12, 1886. He immigrated to the United States in 1909 where he started his career as a laborer, working during the day and studying at night. He studied architecture at the Pennsylvania School of the Fine Arts and earned a degree in civil engineering at Drexel Institute around 1915 (now Drexel University). By the early 1920s, he had established his own business. Massiah became a U.S. citizen on April 29, 1931.

Massiah was among the first successful black contracting engineers in the country. He established a construction business during a time when it was almost impossible for black Americans to obtain financing, insurance, and acceptance by trade unions.

Sources: 
Jacob U. Gordon, The Black Male in White America (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2004); Joseph-James Ahern, Frederick and Edith L. Massiah Papers, 1913-1990, http://www.archives.upenn.edu/faids/upt/upt50/massiah_f_e.html (March 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Horne, Lutrelle (193?- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Lutrelle Horne on the Sesame Street Set
Image Ownership: Public domain

Lutrelle Horne is a producer who worked for Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Shop). He was one-time Executive Vice-President of Children’s Television Workshop and Executive Producer and Director of its International Division.

Horne was born in Newport News, Virginia in the late 1930s.  He attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Hampton, Virginia where he earned a B.A. in English. Horne continued his education earning an M.A. degree in Communications at New York University in 1963. He then earned an Ed.D. in Education and Television from the University of Massachusetts.

In 1963, Horne started his television career with CBS in New York when he became Associate Director of the Captain Kangaroo program, a children’s television series that aired from 1955 to 1984. After working with the Captain Kangaroo show for a decade, he returned to Hampton Institute in 1967 to become an instructor in their new Mass Media Department.

Sources: 
Michael Davis, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street (New York City, New York: Viking Press, 2008); “Lutrelle Horne,” International Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3650975/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Neal, William “Curly” (1849 –1936)

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

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

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McHenry, Jr., Gordon (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Seattle University
Gordon McHenry is a contemporary community leader in Seattle’s non-profit social services institutions. McHenry’s father, Gordon McHenry, was the first in his family to graduate from college and the first African American engineer promoted into management at the Boeing Company.  His mother, Mildred McHenry, grew up and was educated in a segregated community in Texas.  McHenry credits his parents for inspiring his deep respect for education and strong belief in community solidarity and action.

McHenry graduated with a B.S. in Political Science from Seattle University and earned his Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law School.

After graduating with his law degree, McHenry began his career as an attorney at Perkins Coie, a prestigious law firm in Seattle, Washington.  In 1988, McHenry joined Boeing, where he served for 21 years as a lawyer and then in a variety of executive leadership roles, eventually becoming director of Global Corporate Citizenship for Boeing’s Northwest region.  While at Boeing, he completed the Executive Education Program for Management Development at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business.
Sources: 
Mac Buchman, “Solid Ground Names New Leadership Team,” Solid Ground Blog, 15 August 2012, available at: http://solidgroundblog.wordpress.com/tag/gordon-mchenry-jr/;  “Gordon McHenry Jr. Named CEO, President at Solid Ground,” Seattle Times,  2 Oct. 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Beaver, Fitzgerald Redd (Fitz) (1922–1991)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership:Public Domain"
Fitzgerald Redd Beaver was a mid-and late 20th century media entrepreneur in the Pacific Northwest. He was the founder and publisher of The Facts, one of the two major black newspapers in Seattle, Washington since the 1960s. Building on a long tradition of African American journalism and newspaper ownership dating back to the 1890s in Seattle, he became through his newspaper an influential voice in the city and the region.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Norman, Jessye (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Best known as an opera singer, Jessye Norman has also lent her rich, dramatic, and powerful voice to recordings and recitals of spirituals and hymns– including a particularly compelling version of “Amazing Grace” and Christmas carols, in addition to recording jazz. She has never limited herself to any one musical genre, and her voice can widely range from contralto to high soprano.

Norman was born on September 15, 1945 in Augusta, Georgia, the child of Silas Norman, an insurance broker, and Janie Norman, a schoolteacher. She began singing in church choirs as a young child, and was taking piano lessons by age eight. Her singing enabled her to attend Howard University on a full scholarship, where she studied with voice teacher Carolyn Grant, and she graduated in 1967. Winning first prize at an international music competition in Germany in 1968 propelled her into international recognition, and by 1972 she had performed her triumphal debut in the title role of Verdi’s Aida at the legendary La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy.

Sources: 
Jessie Carney Smith, “Jessye Norman,” Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale, 1992); http://www.notablebiographies.com/ .
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smith, Amanda Berry (1837-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Amanda Smith, An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, The Colored Evangelist (1921); Adrienne M. Israel, Amanda Berry Smith: From Washerwoman to Evangelist (1998); Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004.)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian, Seattle Pacific University

McNeil, Joseph Alfred (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
One of the four North Carolina Agricultural & Technical freshmen who initiated the Sit-In Movement at Greensboro, North Carolina. A native of North Carolina, Joseph McNeil saw Greensboro’s race relations as a mirror image of the social structure of most southern cities. McNeil recalls having discussed the issue of segregation with community members like local businessman, Ralph Johns, in the weeks before the initial protest.

McNeil -- along with Franklin McCain, Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair, Jr.), and David Richmond --  had grown frustrated with the idea that patience and long suffering alone would allow Blacks to prosper. In their Scott Hall Dormitory rooms the young men read books about Gandhi, studied the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, and debated the merits of direct action. On January 31st 1960, they agreed to stage a public act of non-compliance with segregation. The following afternoon the four met at the A & T campus library and walked together to Woolworth drug store where they broke the law by sitting at a segregated lunch counter. A national chain, Woolworth stores would feel the effects of the protest beyond Greensboro. McNeil later recalled feeling a deep sense of relief during the first day of the Sit-In campaign.
Sources: 
Frye Gaillard, The Greensboro Four: Civil Rights Pioneers (Charlotte, NC: 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

Paul, Nathaniel (1793?-1839)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Early 19th Century abolitionist minister Nathaniel Paul was born into a free black family in Exeter, New Hampshire and was one of six Paul sons to enter the Baptist ministry.  His elder brother, Thomas Paul, Sr., was the first pastor of the First African Baptist Church in Boston in 1806.  Shadrach Paul was an itinerant preacher who rode throughout New Hampshire for the Domestic Mission Society.  Benjamin Paul worked alongside Nathaniel as an antislavery agent and minister.  Nathaniel Paul moved to Albany, New York, a way station on the Underground Railroad to Canada, where he served as the first pastor of the Union Street Baptist Church.  

A leader in the city’s black community, Rev. Paul participated in a variety of projects designed to improve educational opportunities for blacks in Albany. He was an organizer of the Wilberforce School in Canada, the only school for black youth until 1873, although some blamed him for the financial failure of Wilberforce.  Paul was also a founder and leader of the Union Society of Albany for the Improvement of the Colored People in Morals, Education, and Mechanic Arts.  Paul was also an active abolitionist and a vocal opponent of the colonization movement.  One of his speeches, delivered in New York City in 1829, appeared in the abolitionist journal, The Rights of All.  
Sources: 
J. Marcus Mitchell, “The Paul Family,” Old Time New England, LXIII (Winter, 1973): 74-76; Lorenzo Greene, The Negro in the Colonial Period (New York: Atheneum, 1969); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982), 481-2; William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease, Black Utopia: Negro Communal Experiments in America (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1964), and Milton C. Sernett, Afro-American Religious History: A Documentary Witness (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1985); New York Genealogical Records, 1675-1920 in www.ancestry.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ulysses Grant Lee, Jr. (1913-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

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

Bongo, Omar/ Albert-Bernard Bongo (1935-2009)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Omar Bongo (in Brown Suit)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Omar Bongo was President of Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009, over 42 years, and thus ruled longer than any other African leader.  Bongo was born in the Beteke region of Gabon on December 10, 1935.  He was the youngest of twelve children and was a member of the Bateke people.  Named Albert-Bernard Bongo at birth, he later converted to Islam in 1973, changing his name to El Hajj Omar Bongo.  In 2003 he added Ondimba, his father’s name.

Bongo’s first wife was Marie Josephine Kama and they had two children together, but they divorced in 1986.  In 1990, Bongo married Edith Lucie Sassou-Nguesso, daughter of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), and together they had nine children.  
Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005); http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article6458071.ece.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Garvey, Amy Ashwood (1897-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Amy Ashwood Garvey was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, but spent most of her childhood in Panama where her father supported the family as a businessman. She returned to Jamaica as a teen and attended Westwood High School in Trelawney, where she met her future husband, Marcus Garvey, in 1914.

Ashwood and Garvey both held strong beliefs in African American activism and were involved in political activities and soon they began to collaborate on ideas and strategies for the liberation of Jamaica, then a British colony.  In 1916 they became secretly engaged. Ashwood’s parents did not approve and arranged for her to return to Panama that year. Garvey headed for the United States in the spring of that year.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia Volumes 1 and 2 (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); http://www.theunia-acl.com/; http://marcusgarvey.com/; http://www.pbs.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dove, Rita (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photo by Fred Viebahn
American poet laureate Rita Frances Dove was born August 28, 1952 in Akron, Ohio. Rita’s father, Ray Dove, was the first African American chemist in the tire industry. Rita Dove excelled in school and in 1970 she received the Presidential Scholar Award.  Dove completed a B.A. in English in three years at Miami University in Ohio, graduating summa cum laude. In 1974-75 she was a Fulbright scholar at Eberhard Karls University in Tubingen, Germany Rita continued her education at the University of Iowa where she received her Master of Fine Arts in 1977.

In 1977 Dove met her husband, Fred Viebahn, a German poet/novelist.  She was asked to translate his writings while he was a participant in Iowa University’s International Writing Program. They married in 1979, and had a daughter, Aviva, in 1983.

In 1981 Dove became a member of the Arizona State University faculty and except for  one year when she was a writer-in-residence at Tuskegee Institute, she held that position until 1989.  Dove served on a number of literary panels while at Arizona State including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Associate Writing Programs. She held editorial positions in the Callaloo, TriQuarterly, and Gettysburg Review journals.  .
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004); http://voices.cla.umn.edu; http://people.virginia.edu.
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

Menard, John Willis (1838-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Johnson, Francis (1792-1844)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Francis Johnson, musician, composer, and bandmaster, was born in 1792 in Martinique in the West Indies and emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1809 at the age of 17.  By that point he had already mastered the keyed bugle and the violin.  By his early 20s he was building a reputation as a bandleader in Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania.

Johnson gained greater popularity after music publisher George Willig published his Collection of New Cotillions in 1817. This was the first instance of a black band leader having his musical compositions published. By 1818, 26-year-old Johnson had become a leading dance band conductor for Philadelphia’s high society.  During the 1820s, Johnson's band performed at the city’s most popular dance venues at schools, private parties, and balls.  Prominent military regiments like the Washington Guards Company Three Band and the State and the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry also hired Johnson’s ensemble.  He personalized his performances by experimenting with different instrumentations, strings, and winds.

Sources: 
http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/johnsonf.html; http://www.library.upenn.edu/collections/rbm/keffer/johnson.html; Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History, 3 ed. (New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, 1997); Roland L. Davis, A History of Music in American Life (Malabar, Fl.: Robert Krieger Publishing Co., 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Tate, Mary Magdalena Lewis (1871-1930)

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

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

Moose, George E. (1944 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador George E. Moose’s career in international diplomacy resulted from his spending a college summer in the 1960s building a three-room schoolhouse in Tanzania.  The high point of that career came in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be U.S. Ambassador to Benin and later Ambassador to Senegal.

George Moose was born in New York City, New York on June 23, 1944, to Robert and Ellen Amanda Lane.  Moose attended public schools in the city and then graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa in 1966.

Sources: 
Jim Fisher Thompson, "A Schoolhouse in Tanzania Led to Top U.S. Africa Post," United States Information Agency (1993), http://fas.org/irp/news/1993/13018834-13022837.htm; Linda Heywood, Allison Blakely, Charles Stith, and Joshua C. Yesnowitz, "African Americans in U.S. Foreign Policy: From the Era of Frederick Douglass to the Age of Obama" (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Crosswaith, Frank R. (1892-1965)

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

Frank R. Crosswaith was born on July 16, 1892, in La Croix, Virgin Islands, to William Ignatius and Anne Elizabeth Crosswaith. He immigrated to the United States in 1910 and became a socialist labor leader. He settled in New York City, New York where he worked as an elevator operator and married Alma E. Besard. He attended and graduated from Rand University in 1918.

Crosswaith encountered socialist writings and ideas while at Rand. In Harlem, he gravitated to a group called the New Negroes, inspired by Alain Locke’s writings. They advocated for a new way of expressing the individual Black experience, within a context of community. Beyond looking for a “race leader,” the movement called for a more inclusive, collaborative means to achieve racial uplift. Crosswaith gained recognition and respect in the Harlem Socialist party, having been called a great orator and the “Negro [Eugene V.] Debs.”

Sources: 
Jervis, Anderson. A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York. 1972); Opdycke, Sandra. “Frank R. Crosswaith.” American National Biography Online. (Oxford University Press, 2000  http://www.anb.org.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/articles/15/15-00156.html?a=1&n=crosswaith&d=10&ss=0&q=1 (requires login); “Locke and the New Negro” Renaissance Collage (University of Virginia, 2017, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA03/faturoti/harlem/collage/locke.html).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

York (1770-1832)

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

York was an African American slave best known for his participation in the (Meriwether) Lewis and (William) Clark Expedition of 1804-1806. York was born in Caroline County, Virginia in 1770.  York, his father, mother (Rose), and younger sister and brother (Nancy and Juba) were all owned by the Clark family of Caroline County. York at 14 became William Clark’s slave, passed down by a will from Clark’s father.  When the Clark family moved to Kentucky in 1784 York was Clark’s “manservant,” a position he held into adulthood. When Clark and Meriwether Lewis selected men to go on what would be known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Clark selected York to accompany him.  

Sources: 
Robert Betts, In Search of York: The Slave Who Went West to the Pacific With Lewis and Clark (Niwot, Colorado: Colorado Associated University Press, 1985); “York,” Online Encyclopedia Britannica, http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4530/York-c-1772.html; “York,” Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/living/idx_5.html; Walter Hazen, Hidden History: Profiles of Black Americans (Dayton, Ohio: Milliken Publishing Company, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Caldwell, Elvin R., Sr. (1919-2004)

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

Politician Elvin R. Caldwell Sr. was born on April 11, 1919 in Denver, Colorado. Raised in Five Points, Denver’s predominantly black community, Caldwell was one of 12 children in his family. After graduating from Eastside High School in 1937, Caldwell earned a track scholarship to the University of Colorado and then transferred to the University of Denver, graduating in 1941.

During World War II Caldwell worked as a Chief Statistician for the Remington Arms Company.  This munitions manufacturer had 19,500 employees and produced 6.5 million rounds a day during the height of the conflict. After the end of the war, many Denver blacks who had been employed in the war economy were displaced and faced issues of racial discrimination from the larger community.  This discriminatory environment led Caldwell into local politics.

Sources: 
Diana DeGette, “Tribute to Elvin R. Caldwell, Sr.,” 150 Cong. Record, E768 (May 6, 2004).; Monica Pirolo, "Elvin R. Caldwell," Colorado Encyclopedia, https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/elvin-r-caldwell; “Legislator Record,” http://www.leg.state.co.us/lcs/leghist.nsf/5e6acf1f4ca35ab9872573830079a7bf/e34c422128aa66b3872578e2005d53ff.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

Nix, Robert Nelson Cornelius, Sr. (1898-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix, Sr. was born on August 9, 1905 in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where his father, Nelson, was dean of South Carolina State College. Nix graduated from Townsend Harris High School in New York City, and then from Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1921. In 1924, he received his law degree from University of Pennsylvania and began practice in Philadelphia the following year. Nix became active in Democratic politics and was elected a committeeman from the Forty-fourth Ward in 1932. From 1934 to 1938 he held a series of positions in a private law firm, in the Pennsylvania State Department of Revenue as special deputy attorney general, and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as special assistant deputy attorney general.  In 1956 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

After Representative Earl Chudoff resigned his Fourth Congressional District seat to become a Philadelphia judge, Nix defeated two opponents in a special election to fill the vacancy and was sworn on May 20, 1958.  Nix was the first African American to represent Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives.
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, Seattle

Morton, Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe “Jelly Roll” (1885-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe Morton, more popularly known as “Jelly Roll” Morton, was an influential early 20th Century composer and pianist. Jelly Roll, the son of Creole parents, E.P. La Menthe and Louise Monette, was born in Gulfport, Mississippi in 1885. His father, E.P. Morton, was a trombonist who encouraged his son’s musical abilities. Morton’s early childhood was somewhat turbulent as he spent much of his time with his wandering father, who had deserted Louise Monette.

Morton showed fairly prodigious musical talent, gaining proficiency in many instruments quickly. He learned the harmonica at age 5, and his repertoire grew to include the violin, drums, trombone, and his claim to fame, the piano. Jelly Roll’s bohemian lifestyle under his father’s influence continued until his father’s disappearance. Jelly Roll returned to Gulfport to live with his mother and step-father, Willie Morton, until his mother’s death when he was 14. At that time, he and his two sisters were in the care of his godmother, Eulalie Echo, and his Aunt Lallie. Like many poor youth, he quickly found menial employment for 3 dollars a week. \
Sources: 
Alan Lomax, Mister Jelly Roll: The Fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans Creole and Inventor of Jazz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Peter Hanley, “Jelly Roll Morton: An Essay in Genealogy,” http://www.doctorjazz.co.uk/genealogy.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jarvis, Yvette M. (1957-- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Thurman, Wallace (1902-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Langston Hughes, The Big Sea (New York: Hill and Wang, 1940); Eleonore van Notten, Wallace Thurman’s Harlem Renaissance (Atlanta: Rodopi, 1994); Lawrence T. Potter, Jr., “Wallace Thurman,” in Encyclopedia on African American Writers, Wilfred D. Samuels, ed. (New York: Facts on File, 2007).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Yerby, Frank G. (1916-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frank Garvin Yerby was born in Augusta, Georgia on September 5, 1916. His parents were Wilhelmina and Rufus Yerby.  Frank Yerby was the product of an interracial marriage. His father was African American and his mother was of European origin.  Yerby grew up in Augusta and attended two local institutions.  He graduated from Haines Institute in 1933. Four years later he earned a second degree from Paine College.  The following year Yerby entered Fisk University in Nashville where he earned a masters degree.  Yerby began studies toward a doctorate in education from the University of Chicago but dropped out before obtaining a degree.

Frank Yerby taught briefly at Florida A&M College and later at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He later migrated north, to Dearborn, Michigan where he worked as a technician at the Ford Motor Company and then to Jamaica, New York, where he worked in the aviation industry.

Eventually Yerby gained success as an author. His story “Health Card” won the 1944 O. Henry Memorial Award for best first published short story of the year.  Two years later his first novel, The Foxes of Harrow, received critical acclaim. Yerby would write more than thirty novels over his career.  His best known novel, The Dahomean, appeared in 1971. His publications sold more than fifty-five million hardback and paperback books worldwide, making him one of the most commercially successful writers of the 20th Century.  
Sources: 
Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors (Detroit: Gale, 1989), s.v. “Frank Yerby.”; James L. Hill, “The Anti-Heroic Hero in Frank Yerby’s Historical Novels,” Perspectives of Black Popular Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio: Popular Press, 1990);., The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), s.v. “Frank Yerby.”
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Gregory, Frederick Drew (1941--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of NASA

Frederick Drew Gregory was a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut, administrator, and the first black man to command a space shuttle mission.

Born January 7, 1941 to Francis A. and Nora Drew Gregory, he grew up in Washington, D.C. where he was an active member of the Boy Scouts and graduated from Anacostia High School. Gregory received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Air Force Academy and later his master’s degree in information systems from George Washington University.

Soon after receiving his master’s degree, Gregory joined NASA and in 1977 was selected for his first mission. As a pilot aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1985, he first proved himself a capable astronaut. He was next given leadership of the Discovery mission in 1989 and made history as the first black man to command a space shuttle. The Discovery crew orbited the earth 79 times during their 120 hour flight.

Gregory's final mission was on the shuttle Atlantis. The crew preformed medical tests and experiments. They also successfully launched the defense support program satellite.

Sources: 

NASA Biographies, http://www.nasa.gov/about/highlights/gregory_bio.html and http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/gregory-fd.html; Betty Kaplan Gubert, Miriam Sawyer and Caroline M. Fannin, Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science, (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 2001).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mulzac, Hugh (1886-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Robert A. Hill, Emory J. Tolbert, and Deborah Forczek, The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Vol. III, Vol. IV (University of California Press 1984); http://www.marad.dot.gov/education_landing_page/k_12/k_12_salute/k12_hugh_mulzak/Hugh_Mulzac_detail_page.htm; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/garvey/index.html; http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/harmon/mulzharm.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Noble, Ronald (1956 -)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ronald Kenneth Noble is the first African American to serve as Secretary General of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) headquartered in Lyon, France.  Born in 1956 at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Noble is the son of an African American soldier and a German mother.  He is a 1979 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, earning a baccalaureate degree in economics and business administration and a 1982 graduate of Stanford Law School in California where he was the president of his graduating class and served as articles editor of the Stanford Law Review.
Sources: 
Maggie Paine, “The World’s Top Cop,” UNH Magazine Online, Winter 2002 http://unhmagazine.unh.edu/w02/noble1w02.html; "Ronald K. Noble" http://www.interpol.int/About-INTERPOL/Structure-and-governance/Ronald-K.-Noble; New York University, “Ronald K. Noble - Biography,” https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/profile.cfm?section=bio&personID=20172; “PUBLIC LIVES; The Long Days of Interpol's New Top Sleuth,” New York Times, July 13, 1999, http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/13/nyregion/public-lives-the-long-days-of-interpol-s-new-top-sleuth.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Travis, Dempsey Jerome (1920- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dempsey Jerome Travis is a civil rights activist, business leader, military veteran, and author. From the inception of his first realty company to his time serving three presidential administrations, Travis has served in both local and national theaters of private and civic life.

Born 1920 in Chicago, Illinois, Dempsey Travis attended Roosevelt University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. He then applied and was accepted into the School of Mortgage Banking at Northwestern University where he pursued an M.B.A. and graduated two decades later in 1969. Between 1949 and 1953, Travis founded Travis Realty Company, Travis Insurance Company, and Sivart Mortgage Company all in Chicago. He also created Urban Research Press in 1969 which published books on African American history and politics including Chicago Sun Times: An Autobiography of Black Chicago, An Autobiography of Black Jazz, and An Autobiography of Black Politics.
Sources: 
Alston Hornsby Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2006); www.dempseytravis.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Broonzy, William Lee Conley “Big Bill” (1893-1958)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although he struggled throughout his life to produce a sufficient income, Big Bill Broonzy played an integral role in launching the global popularity of Southern blues.  Born to sharecropper parents on June 26, 1893 in Scott, Mississippi, Broonzy grew up in Mississippi and Arkansas.  As a child he experimented with homemade guitars and fiddles and by the age of 15 proved he was skilled enough to play at special occasions.  During the next five years he mastered his unique vocal techniques and guitar skills that would assist him in his career which began after a stint in the U.S. Army in World War I.  

In 1920 Broonzy moved to Chicago to work as a professional musician. He had some luck landing live performances for mostly black crowds at Chicago nightclubs.  In 1926 he made his first recording with Paramount Records, playing backup guitar for local blues artists Cripple Clarence Lofton and Bumble Bee Slim.  By the early 1930s Broonzy was finally given the opportunity to record under his own name for the Melotone, Oriole, and Champion labels.  By the end of the decade he was the top selling male blues vocalist on the Perfect and Vocalion labels and established the widely known Bluebird Beat Chicago Blues sound while recording with the Bluebird label.  By this time Broonzy was no longer a solo performer.  He began to play with small groups that incorporated the piano, trumpet, saxophone, and sometimes a rhythm section.
Sources: 
Charles Alexander, Masters of Jazz Guitar (London: Balafon Books, 1999); Kwame Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Leonard Feather, The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York: Horizon Press, 1955); Yannick Bruynoghe, Big Bill Blues (New York: Grove Press, 1957).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Knox, Lawrence Howland (1906-1966)

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

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

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

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

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

O’Neal, Adrienne S. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sources: 
AllGov, Ambassador to Cape Verde: Who Is Adrienne O’Neal? (http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/ambassador-to-cape-verde-who-is-adrienne-oneal?news=843671); LinkedIn, “Adrienne S. O'Neal: Ambassador to the Republic of Cape Verde at U.S. Department of State” (https://www.linkedin.com/in/asoneal); Michigan.com, “Death Notices: O'Neal Vernese Boulware” (http://deathnotices.michigan.com/view-single.php?id=159170&token=); The Network Journal, Ambassador Adrienne O’Neal: Building Bridges Between U.S. and Cape Verde (http://www.tnj.com/news/african-and-caribbean/ambassador-adrienne-o%E2%80%99neal-building-bridges-between-us-and-cape-verde); The Politic, “An Interview with Adrienne S. O’Neal, U.S. Ambassador to Cape Verde” (http://thepolitic.org/an-interview-with-adrienne-s-oneal-u-s-ambassador-to-cape-verde/); U.S. Department of State, “Adrienne S. O'Neal” (http://m.state.gov/md179315.htm).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Esposito, Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro (1958– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro Esposito is a Danish-American actor and director best known for his portrayal of Gustavo “Gus” Fring on the AMC TV series Breaking Bad, for which he won the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama award and was nominated for an outstanding Supporting Actor in Drama Series award at the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards. He is also well known for his roles in Spike Lee films:  School Daze, Do the Right Thing, and Mo' Better Blues.

Esposito was born on April 26, 1958, in Copenhagen, Denmark, to an Italian father, Giovanni Esposito, and African-American mother, Elizabeth Foster. His mother was an opera and nightclub singer from Alabama; his father was a stagehand and carpenter from Naples, Italy. Esposito was raised in Europe until the age of six when his family relocated to Manhattan, New York. He attended Elizabeth Seton College in New York and received a two-year degree in radio and television communications.

Sources: 
“Giancarlo Esposito,” Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002064/; “Giancarlo Esposito,” All Movie, http://www.allmovie.com/artist/p22133; “Giancarlo Esposito,” Encyclopedia, http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/film-and-television-biographies/giancarlo-esposito.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mathews, Meredith (1919-1992)

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

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

Campbell, Sarah A. (1823-1888)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Sarah Campbe<div class=
Sources: 
Herbert Krause and Gary D. Olson, Prelude to Glory: A newspaper accounting of Custer's 1874 Expedition to the Black Hills (Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Brevet Press, 1974); Lilah Morton Pengra, Sarah Campbell: The First White Woman in the Black Hills was African American (Buffalo Gap, South Dakota: Lune House Publishing, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gebre, Tefere (1968–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
American Federation of Labor-Congress
of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Labor leader Tefere Gebre fled Ethiopia at fourteen years of age, moved to the United States, and was elected years later, in 2013, executive vice president of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The third highest-ranking member of the largest labor federation in the United States, he is also the first immigrant (or political refugee) to serve as a national officer in the organization.

Born October 15, 1968, in Gondar, Ethiopia, Gebre’s father was a retired judge and his mother’s family had political connections to Emperor Haile Selassie. In 1974 a military coup deposed Selassie, resulting in a military dictatorship in which tens of thousands were tortured and murdered, now called the Red Terror. Consequently, Gebre and his relatives were forced to flee Ethiopia.

Sources: 
Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Top Officers, http://www.aflcio.org/About/Leadership/AFL-CIO-Top-Officers/Tefere-Gebre (January 13, 2016); Dave Jamieson, “What A Refugee-Turned-Labor Leader Thinks Of Our Backlash Against Refugees,” Huffington Post, November 20, 2015: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tefere-gebre-refugees_us_564e5a0de4b0258edb30d414 (January 13, 2016); Stan Sinberg, “The Three Lives of Tefere Gebre,” Orange Coast, May 6, 2014: http://www.orangecoast.com/features/the-three-lives-of-tefere-gebre/ (January 13, 2016); John Wojcik, “Ethiopian immigrant Tefere Gebre shakes up labor organizing,” People’s World, September 10, 2013: http://peoplesworld.org/ethiopian-immigrant-tefere-gebre-shakes-up-labor-organizing/  (January 13, 2016)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Chenault, Kenneth Irvine (1951- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Kellogg School of
Management, Northwestern University
Hand-picked by his American Express predecessor, CEO Harvey Golub, to lead the company upon Golub’s retirement, Kenneth Chenault is an attorney and the CEO and chairman of American Express.  Named one of the fifty most powerful African American executives by Fortune magazine in 2001, Chenault is one of only a handful of African-American CEO’s of a Fortune 500 company.

Chenault’s solid middle-class upbringing in the mostly white neighborhood of Hempstead, Long Island may have predicted his future.  Born in Mineola, New York on June 2, 1951 to Hortenius Chenault, a dentist, and Anne N. Quick, a dental hygienist, Chenault was the second born of four children.  Both of Chenault’s parents attended Howard University and Chenault likewise enjoyed the advantages of a good education, attending the private, innovative Waldorf School in Garden City through the twelfth grade.  Chenault was captain of the track and basketball teams.  His athletic ability earned him an athletic scholarship to Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Leaving Springfield before completing his degree, Chenault transferred to Bowdoin College in Maine, earning a B.A. in history, magna cum laude, in 1973.  Chenault next attended Harvard Law School, receiving his J.D. in 1976.  Chenault’s 1977 marriage to Kathryn Cassell, an attorney with the United Negro College Fund, produced two sons, Kenneth Jr. and Kevin.  
Sources: 
Richard Sobel, “Chenault, Kenneth Irvine” African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham; Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com; “Kenneth Chenault: Corporate CEO” Cnn.com In-depth, Black History Month (February 2002), http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2002/black.history/stories/08.chenault/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Paterson, David A. (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
David Paterson Sworn in as Lt. Governor
of New York, January 2007
Image Ownership: Public Domain

David A. Paterson, sworn in as Governor on March 17, 2008, is the first legally blind American Governor, the first black Governor of New York State, and only the fourth black Governor of any state.

Sources: 
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/david_a_paterson; http://www.ny.gov/governor/indes-ltgov.html; http://www.sipa.columbia.edu/academics/directory/dp417-fac.html; www.news24.com.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bertonneau, E. Arnold (1834-1912)

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

Smith, Kirke (1865-1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Plessy, Homer (1863-1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Homer Plessy Memorial, New Orleans
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Plaintiff for a landmark Supreme Court case, Homer A. Plessy was born on March 17, 1863 in New Orleans. He was a light-skinned Creole of Color during the post-reconstruction years. With the aid of the Comité des Citoyens, a black organization in New Orleans, Homer Plessy became the plaintiff in the famous Plessy v. Ferguson case decided by the US Supreme Court in May 1896. The decision established the “separate but equal” policy that made racial segregation constitutional for the next six decades.  

In order to challenge the 1890 Louisiana statute requiring separate accommodations for whites and blacks, Homer Plessy and the Comité des Citoyens used Plessy’s light skin to their advantage. On June 7, 1892 Plessy bought a first class ticket on the East Louisiana Railway. He took a vacant seat in a coach reserved for white passengers. When Plessy was ordered to leave, he disobeyed. Policemen arrived and threw Plessy off the train and arrested him and threw him into jail. He was charged with violating the Louisiana segregation statute of 1890.

Sources: 
Otto H. Olsen, ed., The Thin Disguise: Turning Point in Negro History, Plessy v. Ferguson (New York: Humanities Press Inc., 1967); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Evergreen State College

Ritchey, John Franklin (1923-2003)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Sommersett, James (c1741-c1772)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
18th Century British Slave
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Sommersett was the subject of a landmark legal case in Great Britain, which was the first major step in imposing limits on Trans-Atlantic African slavery. Sommersett entered the pages of history when in 1771, he fled his North American owner, Charles Stewart, while both were living in London, England.  Sommersett was originally purchased in Virginia and had been bought to Britain by Stewart from Boston, Massachusetts in 1769.  He fled two years later and was apprehended on the Ann and Mary, a ship bound for Jamaica.  
Sources: 
Francis Hargrave, An Argument in the Case of James Sommersett, a Negro, Lately Determined by the Court of King’s Bench:  wherein it is attempted to demonstrate the present unlawfulness of Domestic slavery in England. To Which is Prefixed, a State of the Case. By Mr. Hargrave, one of the counsel for the Negro (London and Boston, reprinted by E. Russell, 1774; William M, Wiecek, “"Somerset: Lord Mansfield and the Legitimacy of Slavery in the Anglo-American World," University of Chicago Law Review 42 (1974), 86-146; Steven Wise, Though the Heavens May Fail: The Landmark Case that Led to the End of Human Slavery (Cambridge: Perseus/Da Capo Press, 2005)
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Cruz

Paul, Susan (1809–1841)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The youngest daughter of Baptist minister Rev. Thomas Paul and Catherine Waterhouse Paul, Susan Paul was a primary school teacher and an active member of the bi-racial Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.  The Pauls were a highly regarded family in the free black abolitionist community in Boston.  Thomas Paul’s brother, Rev. Nathaniel Paul, was also an outspoken opponent of slavery.
Sources: 
Shirley J. Yee, Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992) and Lois Brown, “Out of the Mouths of Babes: the Abolitionist Campaign of Susan Paul and the Boston Juvenile Choir,” New England Quarterly, 75 (March 2002): 52-79.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Richardson, Gloria (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Gloria Richardson and Protestors facing
National Guard Troops
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gloria Hayes Richardson was born on May 6, 1922 in Baltimore, Maryland to parents John and Mabel Hayes.  During the Great Depression her parents moved the family to Cambridge, Maryland, the home of Mabel Hayes.  Young Gloria grew up in a privileged environment.  Her grandfather, Herbert M. St. Clair, was one of the town’s wealthiest citizens.  He owned numerous properties in the city’s Second Ward which included a funeral parlor, grocery store and butcher shop.  He was also the sole African American member of the Cambridge City Council through most of the early 20th Century.  

Gloria attended Howard University in Washington at the age of 16 and graduated in 1942 with a degree in sociology.  After Howard, she worked as a civil servant for the federal government in World War II-era Washington, D.C. but returned to Cambridge after the war.  Despite her grandfather’s political and economic influence, the Maryland Department of Social Services, for example, refused to hire Gloria or any other black social workers.  Gloria Hayes married local school teacher Harry Richardson in 1948 and raised a family for the next thirteen years.  
Sources: 
Peter Levy, Civil War on Race Street: The Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2003); Jeff Kisseloff, Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s: An Oral History (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2007); http://www.abbeville.com/civilrights/washington.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fisher, Rudolph (1897–1934)

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

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie McKay, Norton Anthology of African America Literature (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002); http://dclibrarylabs.org/blkren/bios/fisherr.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Leighla Frances Whipper (1913-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis
Leighla Frances Whipper, author, songwriter, and restaurateur, was born on September 22, 1913 in Athens, Georgia into a prestigious family that encompassed the wide ranging areas of literature, theater, medicine, and social activism.  Leighla was the daughter of the noted Hollywood actor Leigh Whipper and Virginia Eva Wheeler, a talented dancer in the chorus lines of Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s. She was the niece of Dr. Ionia Rollin Whipper, founder of the Ionia Rollin Whipper Home in Washington, DC.

Her grandmother, author Frances Anne Rollin, was the author of the earliest published diary by a black southern woman, and the author of the first full-length biography –  The Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delaney which appeared (1868) – by an African American.   

Leighla was a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a member of the prestigious social and literary organization, the Stylus Club there. In 1942 she moved to New York City where she worked as a journalist and literary editor for The People's Voice and other periodicals. Subjects among her memorable interviews in Washington, D.C. and New York City were actors Mary Pickford and Lon Chaney, dancer Josephine Baker and spiritual leader Father Divine.
Sources: 
Lelia Frances Whipper, The Pretty Way Home (New York: iUniverse, 2003), Carole Ione, Pride of Family; Four Generations of American Women of Color (New York: Random House Books: 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wesley, Charles H. (1891-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Noted historian Charles Harris Wesley was born in Louisville, Kentucky on December 2, 1891, and attended local schools as a boy. He graduated from Fisk University in 1911 and, in 1913, earned a Master’s degree from Yale University. In 1925, Wesley became the third African American to receive a doctorate degree from Harvard University.  He served as the 14th General President and National Historian for seven decades of the African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and wrote The History of Alpha Phi Alpha which was first published in 1929.  Wesley was also a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the oldest African American Greek Letter Fraternity.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years (New York: New York University Press, 1968); Earle E. Thorpe, Black Historians: A Critique (New York: Morrow, 1971); August Meir and Elliott Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Charles H. Wesley biography, http://www.dpw-archives.org/chw.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hull, England

Lucas, Ruth Alice (1920-2013)

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

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

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

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

Carson, Johnnie (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Johnnie Carson is a retired diplomat who served as United States Ambassador to Uganda (1991-1994), U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe (1995-1997), and U.S. Ambassador to Kenya (1999-2003). Carson was born on April 7, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois. After attending public schools in Chicago, Carson received a bachelor of history and political science from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa in 1965 followed by a master’s degree in international relations from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London (UK) in 1975.  
Sources: 
Gabriel I. H. Williams, “ECOWAS Ambassadors in Washington Honor Outgoing U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnny Carson,” http://www.liberianembassyus.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=89&cntnt01origid=15; Steven Ruder, “Ambassador Johnnie Carson Joins USIP, Will Continue Work on African Issues,” The United States Institute of Peace, May 24, 2013, http://www.usip.org/publications/ambassador-johnnie-carson-joins-usip-will-continue-work-african-issues; Jeffrey Gettleman, “Leader of Vote Count in Kenya Faces U.S. With Tough Choices,” New York Times, March 7, 2013; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/world/africa/kenyatta.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Jackson, A.L. (1891–1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Alexander Louis Jackson II was born on March 1, 1891, in Englewood, New Jersey. He attended Phillips Andover Academy and was elected to be the commencement speaker for his class of 1910.  Jackson graduated from Harvard University in 1914 with degrees in English, sociology, and education. After graduation, he served as the secretary and then director for the Wabash branch of the Chicago, Illinois YMCA.
Sources: 
W.E.B. DuBois, ed. “Horizon,” The Crisis, Vol. 18 No.5, 1919. https://books.google.com/books?id=Y4ETAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA3-PA254&lpg=RA3-PA254&dq=%22a.l.+jackson%22+ymca&source=bl&ots=zjvqYQH4df&sig=zB-RgWUZCkcaS-RtBPXOlc47rPw&hl=ensa=X&ved=0ahUKEwje3OfpwsXLAhUY8WMKHUTQAXEQ6AEIOjAI#v=onepage&q=%22a.l.%20jackson%22%20ymca; “Jackson, Alexander L.,” Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, 2010, http://amistadresearchcenter.tulane.edu/archon/?p=creators/creator&id=366; William M. Tuttle, Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Esteban (? - 1539)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the David Weber Collection
Esteban, an enslaved North African, made the first contact with the native peoples of what is now the American Southwest.  Fraught with misunderstandings, that encounter led to Esteban’s untimely demise in 1539 and prefigured the violence that would characterize the Spanish conquest and subsequent colonization of the region.
Sources: 
George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, eds.  Narratives of the Coronado Expedition , 1540-1542 (1940). Dedra S. McDonald, “Intimacy and Empire:  Indian-African Interaction in Spanish Colonial New Mexico, 1500-1800” in James F. Brooks, ed., Confounding the Color Line:  The Indian-Black Experience in North America (2002).
Affiliation: 
Hillsdale College (Michigan)

Waters, Maxine (1938- )

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

 

Image Courtesy of CHOSENphotography.com

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

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

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

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

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

Barnett, Ferdinand Lee (1858-1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ferdinand Barnett, Ida B. Wells and Their Family, 1917 
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Tennessee and educated at the law school later affiliated with Northwestern University, Ferdinand Lee Barnett was an attorney, writer, lecturer, and the editor and founder of Chicago’s first black newspaper, the Chicago Conservator.  Although he is often remembered today as the husband of anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), Barnett was at the time a widely known advocate of racial equality and justice.  His speech, “Race Unity,” given in May of 1879 to a national convention of African American men in Nashville, Tennessee, for example, illustrates his commitment to racial justice as does his work for the Conservator.
Sources: 
Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1970); The Black Press in the Middle West, 1865-1985, ed. Henry Lewis Suggs (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Elba, Idrissa Akuna “Idris” (1972– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Idrissa Akuna “Idris” Elba is a British actor best known for his roles in The Wire and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. He has been nominated four times for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in miniseries or Television Film which he won one and was nominated five times for a Primetime Emmy Award.

Elba was born in London, England, on September 6, 1972. His father, Winston, was a Sierra Leonean who worked in the Ford Motor Factory at Dagenham, and his mother, Eve, was Ghanaian who worked in various clerical jobs. Elba was raised in East Ham, a suburb of London. In 1986 he began to help in his uncle’s disk jockey (DJ) business, but within a year Elba started his own DJ company. In 1988 after graduating from school, Elba won a place in the National Youth Music Theatre after receiving a £1,500 Prince Trust grant.

Sources: 
“Idris Elba,” Biography, https://www.biography.com/people/idris-elba-21429871#luther-and-mandela; “Idris Elba,” Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0252961/bio; Nadia Cohen, Idris Elba: Actor, DJ, Legend (London: John Blake Books, 2014)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Miles, Elijah Walter (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

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

Coleman, Ornette (1930-2015)

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

It may be impossible today to understand fully the shock and outrage which alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman's 1959 arrival in New York caused within the jazz community.  Coleman's innovations freed his quartet from traditional structures of form, chordal harmony, tonality, and rhythm, and though his work has sharply divided opinion, he is widely acknowledged as having transformed the way in which jazz is heard and performed.

Born in 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas, Coleman began playing tenor saxophone in rhythm and blues (R&B) bands, his own style rooted in the bebop idiom.  Though undocumented, his early development suggests something unique – Coleman was assaulted and his tenor saxophone destroyed after a particularly off-putting dance solo in Baton Rouge.  In 1949 Coleman settled in Los Angeles where he worked as an elevator operator and independently studied music theory.  On the alto saxophone, which remains his primary voice, Coleman developed a plaintively raw and vocalized tone, exploring micro-tonalities and speech-like cries.  In Los Angeles Coleman befriended drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, as well as trumpeter Don Cherry, all of whom would later become mainstays in Coleman’s ground-breaking Atlantic quartets.  In 1958 Coleman found a willing partner in pianist Paul Bley, and with Higgins, Cherry, and bassist Charlie Haden the quintet recorded a live performance at the Hillcrest Club, The Fabulous Paul Bley Quintet.  

Sources: 
Valerie Wilmer, As Serious as Your Life (London: Serpent's Tail, 1992); Peter Niklas Wilson, Ornette Coleman: His Life and Music (Berkeley: Berkeley Hills Books, 1999); Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Eighth Edition) (London: Penguin Books, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Connerly, Ward (1939 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Ward Connerly, Creating Equal: My Fight Against Racial Preferences (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2000); Michael E. Dyson, Debating Race (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2007); Francis Beckwith and Todd E. Jones, Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination? (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1997); Michael W. Lynch, “Racial Preferences Are Dead,” interview in Reason http://www.reason.com/news/show/30527.html; Barry Bearak, “Questions of Race Run Deep for Foe of Preferences.” The New York Times.  July 27, 1997,  http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.htmlres=9C07E0DD153AF934A15754C0A961958260&sec.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Toomer, Jean (1894-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jean Toomer was born into an elite black family in Washington, D.C. in 1894. Abandoned by his father as a newborn and losing his mother to appendicitis as a teenager, Toomer spent his formative years in the home of his grandparents, P.B.S. and Nina Pinchback. P.B.S. Pinchback served as a state senator and governor of Louisiana during Reconstruction and nearly represented Louisiana in the United States Senate. After Redemption, Pinchback moved his family to Washington, D.C. where he opened a law firm.

After graduating from Dunbar High School, Toomer enrolled in the agriculture program at the University of Wisconsin but he remained there for less than a year. Between 1916 and 1919, Toomer attended the University of Chicago and took courses at various colleges including New York University, City College, and the Rand School of Social Science. He also sold cars in Chicago, taught physical education in Milwaukee, and worked as a New Jersey ship fitter.
Sources: 
Cynthia Earl Kerman and Richard Eldridge, The Lives of Jean Toomer: A Hunger for Wholeness (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987); David Levering Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981); Nellie McKay, Jean Toomer, Artist: A Study of His Literary Life and Work, 1894-1936 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Texas

Clark, Marie Maynard Daly (1921-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marie Maynard Daly, born in Queens, New York to Helen and Ivan Daly, was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry.  Her father, an immigrant from the West Indies, had hoped to earn a degree in Chemistry at Cornell University but was unable to continue because of financial constraints.  Marie Daly’s parents were committed to her education and encouraged her interest in science.  She attended Hunter College High School where her teachers persuaded her that she could do well in chemistry.  

Daly enrolled in Queens College so that she could live at home. She earned her B.S. in 1942 with honors.  A fellowship and part-time job at Queens College allowed her to work on her master’s degree at New York University, which she completed in 1943.  Because of the shortage of male scientists during World War Two, Daly was awarded funding for her Ph.D. program at Columbia University where she studied under a white female chemist, Mary L. Caldwell.  She completed her dissertation in 1947.
Sources: 
Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser. “Roger Arliner Young,” in African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); James H. Kessler. “Marie Maynard Daly,” in Distinguished African American Scientists of the Twentieth Century (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1996); https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/daly.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wertz, Irma Jackson Cayton (1911-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Irma Cayton Wertz on right, 1942
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Irma Jackson Cayton Wertz was a member of the first Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAACS) Officer training class commissioned at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, during World War II.  Born in Brunswick, Georgia, on May 8, 1911, Jackson was the product of a military household.  Her family was stationed in Des Moines while her father, who served as a captain in the segregated army during World War I, attended officer’s training camp.  

After graduating from Fisk University and Atlanta University, Jackson moved to Chicago, Illinois where she gained employment as a social worker in the South Parkway Community Center. There she married her first husband, Horace Cayton, a noted University of Chicago sociologist. The couple divorced in 1942.

The same year, Jackson applied for entrance into the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.  After successfully passing a battery of examinations, completing a six-week training course, and taking the oath to become an officer in August of that year, Jackson was briefly assigned to the WAAC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. as a recruiter. Shortly thereafter, she relocated to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where she met and married William Wertz and joined the Thirty-second WAAC Post Headquarters Company.

Sources: 

Robert F. Jefferson, Fighting for Hope:  African American Troops of the 93rd Infantry Division in World War II and Postwar America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008); Brenda L. Moore, To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race:  The Story of the Only African American WACs Stationed Overseas during World War II (New York: New York University Press, 1996).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Xavier University

Bridges, Ruby (1954 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ruby Bridges with U.S. Marshals
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ruby Bridges became famous in 1960 as the six-year-old who, escorted by Federal marshals, integrated a formerly all-white school in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Bridges was born on September 8, 1954 in Tylertown, Mississippi, to Lucille and Abon Bridges. She was the firstborn of eight children. Her parents worked as sharecroppers then when she was four they moved to New Orleans in 1958. One year later Ruby began kindergarten at Johnson Lockett Elementary, a segregated school.

Two years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that called for integration of public schools, Federal District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered that the New Orleans School Board formulate an integration plan for public schools. After four years of opposition, the school board chose to integrate two formerly all-white schools in the fall of 1960. Both schools, William Frantz and McDonough 19, were located in New Orleans's Ninth Ward. Bridges was one of a handful of African American children chosen to attend William Frantz Public School.
Sources: 

Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes (New York: Scholastic, 1999): Jessie
Carney Smith, Black Firsts (Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003);
http://crdl.usg.edu.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Arrington, Richard (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Richard Arrington, the first African American mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, was born in Livingston, Alabama on October 19, 1934 to sharecroppers.  He received a Bachelor's degree from Miles College (Alabama), a M.A. in Biology from the University of Detroit in Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Zoology and Biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma

Before becoming mayor of Birmingham in 1979, Arrington taught at his alma mater, Miles College, the University of Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma.  He also served for nine years as the Executive Director of the Alabama Center of Higher Education, a consortium of eight black colleges in the state of Alabama. From 1971 to 1979, he was a member of Birmingham's city council.
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), p. 11-12.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College/University of Mississippi

Powell, Earl "Bud" (1924-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Francis Paudras, Dance of the Infidels: A Portrait of Bud Powell (New York: Da Capo Press, 1998); Alan Groves and Alyn Shipton, The Glass Enclosure: The Life of Bud Powell (New York: Continuum, 2001); Ira Gitler, Jazz Masters of the Forties (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1974).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Davis, Angela (1944--)

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

Angela Davis, activist, educator, scholar, and politician, was born on January 26, 1944, in the “Dynamite Hill” area of Birmingham, Alabama.  The area received that name because so many African American homes in this middle class neighborhood had been bombed over the years by the Ku Klux Klan.  Her father, Frank Davis, was a service station owner and her mother, Sallye Davis, was an elementary school teacher.  Davis’s mother was also active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), when it was dangerous to be openly associated with the organization because of its civil rights activities.  As a teenager Davis moved to New York City with her mother, who was pursuing a Master’s degree at New York University.  While there she attended Elizabeth Irwin High School, a school considered leftist because a number of its teachers were blacklisted during the McCarthy era for their earlier alleged Communist activities.

Sources: 
Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006); Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Dett, R. Nathaniel (1882-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
From precocious five-year-old piano player in the 1890s to internationally known choral director, composer, concert pianist, and poet, R. Nathaniel Dett became champion for preservation of the black spiritual which he called authentic American folk music: He dedicated his life to finding a musical form to bridge the gap between the music’s simple origins and its concert performance.

Robert Nathaniel Dett was born October 11, 1882 in Drummondville, Ontario, Canada, a town founded prior to the American Civil War by fugitive slaves from the U.S.  His early experience included absorbing spirituals his grandmother sang, playing piano in church, and studying piano locally. He then majored in piano and composition at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio.  In 1908 Dett was its first African American to graduate from Oberlin after winning Phi Beta Kappa honors. His formal education continued throughout his life including studies at Harvard University where his 1920 essay “Negro Music” won a prize. In 1932 he received a Master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music (1932).

In 1911 Dett published his only book of poetry, The Album of the Heart.  Three years later he began touring as a concert pianist and soon after was widely acclaimed by critics.  In 1916 he married Helen Elise Smith, a pianist and the first black graduate of the Damrosch Institute of Musical Art (later Juilliard School of Music.)
Sources: 
Anne Key Simpson, Follow Me: The Life and Music of R. Nathaniel Dett (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1933); Dominique-Rene de Lerma, The Collected Piano Works of R. Nathaniel Dett (Miami: Summy-Birchard, 1973); “Biography R. Nathaniel Dett,” Performing Arts Encyclopedia, Library of Congress, August 26, 2011; Jon Michael Spencer, “R. Nathaniel Dett’s Views on the Preservation of Black Music,” The Black Perspective in Music (Autumn 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Staples, George McDade (1947-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownershp: Public Domain"
George McDade Staples was appointed by President Bill Clinton to be ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda, where he served from 1998 to 2001.  He was later appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as ambassador to Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea.  He served in that post between 2001 and 2004.

Staples was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1947.  He received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Southern California and an M.A. in Business from Central Michigan University. He and his wife, Jo Ann Fuson Staples, have one daughter, Catherine.  The couple have a permanent home in Pineville, Kentucky.
Sources: 
The American Academy of Diplomacy, http://www.academyofdiplomacy.org/members/bios/Staples.html; U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/staples-george-mcdade.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Woodson, Robert L., Sr. (1937– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Born into poverty on April 8, 1937, in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Robert L. Woodson Sr. is often described as the “godfather” of the movement to empower community-based organizations to help themselves. Widely known today as a leading black conservative, Woodson rose from liberal-oriented neighborhood civil rights activism in the 1960s to coordinating national community development programs in the 1970s.

From 1971 to 1973, Woodson headed the National Urban League’s Administration of Justice Division, followed by the Neighborhood Revitalization Project from 1973 to 1976, and a fellowship with the American Enterprise Institute (1976–1981). Along the way, he gradually embraced conservative approaches to combating crime and poverty.

Sources: 
Jason L. Riley, “A Black Conservative's War on Poverty,” The Wall Street Journal (April 2014); Robert Woodson, The Triumphs of Joseph: How Today’s Community Healers Are Reviving Our Streets and Neighborhoods (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998); https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/02/25/the-missed-opportunity-of-robert-woodson.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dawkins, Darryl (1957-2015)

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

Darryl Dawkins (also known as Chocolate Thunder—a name music legend Stevie Wonder gave him), was born in Orlando, Florida, on January 11, 1957. Born to Harriet James and Frank Dawkins, he was raised by his grandmother, Amanda Celestine Jones, in Orlando where he attended Maynard Evans High School. In 1975, he became the first player ever drafted out of high school directly into the National Basketball Association (NBA). Dawkins was drafted in the first round, going fifth overall in the NBA draft.

During his high school career, as a 6-foot-10-inch senior, Dawkins averaged thirty-two points and twenty-one rebounds per game, making him one of the most heavily recruited players in the country. University basketball powerhouses such as the University of Kentucky, University of Florida, and Kansas University all wanted him, but he decided to forgo college and go straight into the draft, where he was selected by the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) 76ers. When he was drafted, Dawkins signed what was then a record-setting seven-year contract worth $1 million.

Sources: 
Darryl Dawkins and Charley Rosen, Chocolate Thunder: The Uncensored Life and Times of Darryl Dawkins (New York: Sports Media Publishing, 2003); Andre Williams, "Dawkins Does Not Regret Heading to NBA 25 Years Ago He Left Maynard Evans High School in 1975 to Help His Family Make It through Financial Difficulties," Morning Call, June 25 2000, http://articles.mcall.com/2000-06-25/sports/3302093_1_54th-nba-draft-draft-day-high-school; and Ohm Youngmisuk, "Legendary Dunker Darryl Dawkins Dies," ESPN, August 27, 2015, http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/13526002/darryl-dawkins-dies-age-58.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, George Marion (1900-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. George Marion Johnson had a distinguished public and professional career that included high administrative positions at universities on two continents as well as governmental positions in agencies which protected the civil rights of all Americans.  Throughout his career, he fought for racial justice and taught students about human rights and the law.

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico to parents William and Ella Johnson, he grew up in San Bernardino, California. Johnson graduated from UC Berkeley with an A.B. in 1923 and obtained his law degree and LLD from UC Berkeley in 1929.  After graduation, Johnson began his legal career in 1929 as a tax attorney and was the first African Americans hired as California State Assistant Tax Counsel. He returned to UC Berkeley in 1938 to obtain a J.S.D., a doctorate in law degree and became one of the first African Americans in the nation to hold this advanced degree.  He later was recruited as a law professor at Howard University where he taught Contracts, Equity and Personal Property course.

Sources: 
George Marion Johnson, The Making of a Liberal: The Autobiography of George M. Johnson (Unpublished Manuscript, University of Hawaii Library,1989); Peter J. Levinson, “George Marion Johnson and the Irrelevance of Race,” University of Hawaii Law Review, Vol. 15 (1993); Gerald Keir, George M. Johnson, Jurist and Educator, FORMAT, Michigan State University (September-October 1966), Daphne Barbee-Wooten, African American Attorneys in Hawaii, (Maui: Hawaii: Pacific Raven Press, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kenia Martinez (1988– )

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

Williams, George Washington (1849-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

George Washington Williams was a 19th century American historian most famous for his volumes, History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880; as Negroes, as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens (1882), and A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion (1887).Williams was born in 1849 in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania and lived there until 1864, when at the age of 14 and lacking virtually any education he left home to join the Union Army. Engaged by the soldier’s lifestyle, he followed this by fighting in Mexico in the overthrow of Maximilian.

Sources: 
John Hope Franklin, George Washington Williams (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); Clyde N. Wilson, ed., American Historians, 1866-1912 (Detroit: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1986), Linda Heywood, Allison Blakely, Charles Stith, and Joshua C.Yesnowitz, eds., African Americans in U.S. Foreign Policy: From the Era of Frederick Douglass to the Age of Barack Obama (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Baraka, Amiri (1934-2014)

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

Everett Leroi Jones, poet, playwright, activist, and educator, was born on October 7, 1934, in Newark, New Jersey to Coyt Leverrette Jones and Anna Lois Jones.  He attended primary and secondary schools in Newark and in 1954 he earned a B.A. in English from Howard University.  Jones joined the military that same year, serving three years in the Air Force as a gunner. 

Following his honorable discharge, Jones he settled in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan where he socialized with Beatnik artists, musicians, and writers.  While living in the Village, he also met and married Hettie Cohen, a Jewish writer.  The couple co-edited the progressive literary magazine Yugen.  They also founded Totem Press, which published the works of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and other political activists.

Sources: 

Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006); Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999), 181; http://www.amiribaraka.com/

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Applegate, Joseph R. (1925-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
It is believed that linguist Joseph Roye Applegate spoke as at least 13 languages and had reading knowledge of several others.  He was born to parents who operated a boarding house in Wildwood, New Jersey on December 4, 1925.  When his family moved to Philadelphia he interacted with Yiddish and Italian schoolmates and thus developed a fascination with languages. Applegate entered Temple University in 1941 where he made the varsity fencing team and did well in modern dance.  Work interrupted his studies but he persisted and earned a Ph.D. in linguistics at Temple in 1955.  Between 1946 and 1955 Applegate taught Spanish and English in vocational schools and high schools in Philadelphia and was active in teacher unionization.  

Upon completing his doctorate he was hired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to assist in its modern languages department’s efforts to adapt electronic methods of language translation.  In 1956 he was appointed assistant professor in the department teaching German, English to foreign students, and in 1959 was appointed director of MIT’s new language laboratory.  
Sources: 
Obituary. The Washington Post (22 October 2003); Directory of American Scholars (New York: Bowker, 1982); http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/1997/applegate-0205.html ; http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0504/0504obits.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Paul, Thomas, Sr. (1773-1831)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Home of Thomas Paul, Boston
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Paul was the eldest of six sons born into a free Black family in Exeter, New Hampshire.   Educated at a Baptist school in Hollis, NH, Paul pursued a career in the ministry as did three of his brothers.  He enjoyed a reputation as an eloquent speaker and traveled throughout New England as a guest preacher.  In 1804, he received his ordination.  The following year, he married Catherine Waterhouse and had three children, Ann Catherine, Susan, and Thomas, Jr.

Shortly after moving his family to Boston, Thomas Paul, Sr. was installed as the first pastor of the First African Baptist Church in December in 1806.  He served this congregation until 1829, two years before his death.  

Paul was a leader in the movement to establish independent Black churches in the United States.  He assisted the Black Baptists in New York City in the establishment of the African Baptist Society, which later evolved into the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  Paul’s church took on several names between 1806 and the early 1830s, including the Independence Baptist Church, the Abolition Church, and, finally, St. Paul’s.  

During his ministerial career, the Rev. Paul also pursued foreign missionary work. In 1815, he traveled to Haiti under the auspices of the Massachusetts Baptist Society, where he stayed for six months.  Unable to communicate in French, Paul met with limited success in his ability to convert Haitians.
Sources: 
J. Marcus Mitchell, “The Paul Family,” Old Time New England, LXIII(Winter, 1973): 74-76, Rayford W. Logan and Winston, Michael R., eds. Dictionary of American Negro Biography (NY: Norton, 1982), 482-3, James Oliver Horton & Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Downing, Henry Francis (1846-1928)

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

Doe, Samuel Kanyon (1951-1990)

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

Samuel Kanyon Doe, army officer and Master Sergeant, was the unelected President of Liberia from 1980 to 1990.  Notorious for his human rights violations, Doe seized control of Liberia in April of 1980 through a bloody coup.  A polarizing figure throughout his tenure, Doe was both loved and hated within his own country.  Prolonging his power by brutally stifling all forms of opposition, by 1989 Doe’s actions created a resistance movement that eventually toppled his government.

An ethnic Krahn, Samuel Doe was born on May 6, 1951 in Tuzon, Grand Gedeh County, in southeastern Liberia.  Having come from humble origins, at age eighteen he enlisted in the Liberian army, completing his military training at the Communications School in the Ministry of Defense in Monrovia in 1971.  Exhibiting remarkable leadership capabilities, Doe in 1979 was selected to be trained by United States (US) Special Forces in Liberia, and within a year was promoted to Master Sergeant. 

Sources: 
Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African History (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004); A. O. Asibey, “Liberia: Political Economy of Underdevelopment and Military ‘Revolution Continuity of Change.’” Canadian Journal of Development Studies 2, no. 2 (1981): 386-407; L. Barret, “The Siege of Monrovia.” West Africa (23-29 November 1992): 816-818.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Garvey, Amy Jacques (1896-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Amy Jacques Garvey became the second wife of famous United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) leader Marcus Garvey in July 1922, only a few months after his divorce from his first wife, Amy Ashwood. Ironically Jacques was not only a friend but the maid of honor at the Garvey-Ashwood wedding on Dec. 25, 1919. In 1920, Jacques became Garvey’s companion and personal secretary.

Jacques was a pioneer of Pan-African emancipation who was born in Kingston, Jamaica on Dec. 31, 1885. Challenged intellectually by her father and growing up privileged gave Jacques the opportunity to go to the finest schools in Jamaica. Jacques’ lineage was deeply rooted in an upper-class British heritage. Her great-great grandfather, John Jacques, was the first mayor of Kingston. Coming from such a background, her father, George, like Amy, had the opportunity to receive a formal education.
Sources: 
Ula Yvette Taylor, The Veiled Garvey; The Life and Times of Amy Jacques Garvey (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); http://www.unia-acl.org; http://www.marcusgarvey.com; http://pbs.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hyman, John Adams (1840-1891)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Adams Hyman was born into slavery on July 23, 1840 in Warren County, North Carolina. Hyman's thirst for knowledge resulted in him being sold away from his family for attempting to read a spelling book that was given to him by a sympathetic white jeweler. He continued to seek knowledge at his new residence in Alabama and was sold again for fear that he would influence other slaves. Hyman was sold eight more times for his attempts to educate himself.  

At the age of 25 Hyman was freed by the Thirteenth Amendment and returned to his family in North Carolina. He quickly enrolled in school where he received an elementary education. Hyman also became a landowner and merchant.  Hyman, a Mason, soon emerged as a leader of the post-Civil War North Carolina black community.  
Sources: 
Stephen Middleton, ed. Black Congressmen During Reconstruction (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002); George W. Reid, “Four in Black: North Carolina’s Black Congressmen, 1874-1901” Journal of Negro History 64 (Summer 1979): 229-43; http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=H001025.
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, Illinois 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. 

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

Gantt, Harvey Bernard (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Browne, Hugh Mason (1851-1923)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robinson, Todd D. (1963- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Todd D. Robinson is a career U.S. Foreign Service Officer, currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala.  Robinson, a Minister Counselor who speaks Spanish, Italian, and Albanian, has had a wide range of postings with the Foreign Service.  Since his confirmation as Ambassador to Guatemala in September 2014, Robinson has focused on limiting human trafficking and promoting human rights in the region.  
Sources: 
Official Biography (State Department): Steve Straehley, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala: Who is Todd Robinson? http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/us-ambassador-to-guatemala-who-is-todd-robinson-140817?news=853989; Todd, D. Robinson, Ambassador-Designate to Guatemala Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 10 July 2014,  http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Robinson_Testimony.pdf;  “SFS Alumni Cross Paths at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala,”http://sfs.georgetown.edu/alumni-profiles-us-embassy-guatemala.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University

Jackson, Milton/ Milt or Bags (1923-1999)

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

Milton Jackson, also known as Milt or Bags because of the bags under his eyes, the leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet, was born on January 1, 1923, in Detroit, Michigan, to Manley Jackson and Lillie Beaty Jackson. He started playing the guitar at the young age of seven and then picked up the piano at age eleven. During his teenage years, he began playing the xylophone and vibraphone.

In his first public performance, he sang tenor as a member of a touring gospel quartet, and in 1945 he played at a concert in Detroit as a part of a local jazz group where Dizzy Gillespie also played. Gillespie liked Jackson and wanted to record with him, which helped Jackson become better known. Jackson then worked with artists like Charlie Parker, Howard McGhee, Thelonious Monk, and The Woody Herman Orchestra from 1948–1949 and played in Gillespie’s sextet from 1950–1952.

Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Francis, Abner Hunt (1812?–1872)

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

Abner Hunt Francis was an abolitionist and activist whose life and work spanned both U.S. coasts and Canada. He was born on a farm near Flemington, New Jersey. His father, Jacob, was a Revolutionary War veteran. His mother, Mary, was enslaved when she married Jacob, who was able to purchase his wife’s freedom. While still in New Jersey, Abner opposed the American Colonization Society and attended national black conventions in 1833 and 1834. He was also a subscription agent for the Liberator.  

Sources: 
Ena L. Farley, “The African American presence in the History of Western New York,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 14:1 (1990); Arthur O. White, “The Black Movement against Jim Crow Education in Buffalo, New York, 1800-1900,”  Phylon 30:4 (1969): Lillian Serece Williams, Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, NY, 1900–1940 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999); Elizabeth McLagan, A Peculiar Paradise a History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940 (Portland: The Georgian Press, 1980).
Affiliation: 
Indepenent Historian and Portland 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

Leslie, Lisa Deshaun (1972- )

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

Lisa Deshaun Leslie is an American former professional basketball player who played for the Los Angeles Sparks in the Women’s Basketball Association (WNBA) for her twelve-year career from 1997 to 2009. She is a two-time WNBA champion, three-time WNBA MVP, and a four-time Olympic gold medal winner. Leslie was the first player to dunk in a WNBA game and was considered a pioneer and cornerstone of the league during her NBA career.

Lisa Leslie was born on July 7, 1972, in Gardena, California, to Christine Lauren Leslie and Walter Leslie, a semi-professional basketball player. Leslie’s mother started her own trucking business to support her three children, while her father left the family when her mother was four months pregnant with her. Leslie has two sisters, Dionne and Tiffany, along with a brother, Elgin. By the time, Leslie was in middle school she had grown to over 6’1. In the eighth grade, she transferred to a junior high school without a girls’ basketball team and joined a boys’ basketball team. Leslie entered Morningside High School in Inglewood, California, in 1986 and while there led the girl basketball team to two state championships.

Sources: 
“Lisa Deshaun Leslie,” Biography, https://www.biography.com/people/lisa-leslie-12816766; “Lisa Deshaun Leslie,” JackBio, http://jockbio.com/Bios/Leslie/Leslie_bio.html; “Lisa Deshaun Leslie,” Basketball Reference, http://www.basketball-reference.com/wnba/players/l/leslili01w.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Diggs, Charles (1922–1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center, Howard University

Charles Diggs was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1922. His father was Charles Coles Diggs and his mother was Mayme Jones Diggs.  Young Diggs had an upper middle class background; his father, a prominent mortician and real estate developer, served in the Michigan State Senate.  Diggs eventually took over the family business and followed his father into politics.

Sources: 
Maurine Christopher. America’s Black Congressmen. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1971); Carolyn DuBose, The Untold Story of Charles Diggs: The Public Figure, the Private Man (Arlington, Virginia: Barton Publishing House, Inc., 1988); “Charles Diggs” in The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000344
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hendrix, Jimi (1942-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Dagmar Dagmar

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

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

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

Mfume, Kweisi (Frizzel Gray) (1948 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Kweisi Mfume was born as Frizzel Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on October 24, 1948, the eldest of four children.  Gray experienced a troubled childhood with the abandonment of his father and death of his mother as well as economic instability, but made a successful return to his academic studies in 1971.

Gray legally changed his name to Kweisi Mfume, “conquering son of kings”, in the early 1970s.  He obtained his GED, and began his studies at the Community College of Baltimore, where he served as the head of its Black Student Union and the editor of the school newspaper. He attended Morgan State University in Baltimore where he graduated magna cum laude in 1976 with a Bachelor of Urban Planning degree. Mfume then received an M.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1984.

In 1979 Mfume was elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1979.  While on the city council, Mfume helped enact legislation which divested Baltimore of investments in companies doing business in South Africa.

In 1985 when Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District Representative Parren J. Mitchell announced his retirement from Congress, Kweisi Mfume ran for the seat the following year and was successful in both the primary and general election.  
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990); www.bioguide.congress.gov; M. Elizabeth Paterra, Kweisi Mfume: Congressman and NAACP Leader (Berkeley Heights, N.J: Enslow, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cardozo, William Warrick (1905-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Lewis, Sir William Arthur Lewis (1915-1991)

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

William Arthur Lewis was a public intellectual in the field of development economics, who in 1971 became the first African American to receive a Nobel Prize in category other than peace.  Lewis was honored for his work in economics.  Lewis was the author of 12 books and more than 80 technical works in developmental economics

William Arthur Lewis was born in St. Lucia in the British West Indies in 1915, the fourth of five children, to schoolteacher parents George and Ida Lewis. He finished high school at the age of fourteen, enabling him to win a government scholarship to study in Great Britain.  At 18 he entered the London School of Economics to work for a degree in commerce.

Sources: 

Colin A Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: the Black Experience in the Americas. 2nd Edition (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006) Michael W. Williams, The African American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp. 1993).

Contributor: 
Affiliation:&n