Scholar, playwright, journalist, and African nationalist, Duse Mohamad Ali was born in Alexandria, Egypt on November 24, 1866 to an Egyptian father, Ali Abdul Salam and a Sudanese mother, whose name is unknown. At a very young age Ali was sent to study in England under the tutelage of Captain Duse of the French Army, a classmate who his father had studied alongside at the French Military Academy. In April of 1882, at the age of fifteen, Ali discontinued his studies and returned to Egypt. Soon after his return both his brother and father were killed during the Urabi Uprising and the British Bombardment of Alexandria that took place later that year. Soon after the death of his father and brother, his family was evacuated to Sudan.
Fannie Jackson was born a slave in Washington D.C. on October 15, 1837. She gained her freedom when her aunt was able to purchase her at the age of twelve. Through her teen years Jackson worked as a servant for the author George Henry Calvert and in 1860 she enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio. Oberlin College was the first college in the United States to accepted both black and female students.
While attending Oberlin College Jackson enrolled and excelled in the men’s course of studies. She was elected to the highly respected Young Ladies Literary Society and was the first African American student to be appointed in the College’s preparatory department. As the Civil War came to an end she established a night school in Oberlin in order to educate freed slaves.
Winston Elliott Scott, a former Navy Captain and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut, was born on August 6, 1950 in Miami, Florida to Alston Scott and Rubye Scott. Winston Scott graduated from Coral Gables High School in 1968 and received a B.A. degree in music from Florida State University in 1972. Eight years later he received a Masters of Science degree in aeronautical engineering with avionics at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
In December 1972, Scott entered Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School after graduation from Florida State University. Two years later he was designated a Naval Aviator. After serving with the Navy for a decade where he flew the F-14 Tomcat, F/A-18 Hornet and the A-7 Corsair aircraft, Captain Scott was assigned as Deputy Director of the Tactical Aircraft System Department at the Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Scott accumulated over 5,000 hours of flight time and more than 200 aircraft carrier landings.
In March 1992 Winston Scott was selected to participate in the Space Program. Four years later he served as a mission specialist on the STS-72 Endeavour during its nine day flight from January 11 to 20, 1996. Scott conducted two space walks to demonstrate and evaluate techniques to be used in the assembly of the International Space Station including one of 6 hours and 53 minutes.
Jack Edward Tanner Papers, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma,
Washington; Portland Oregonian, November 1, 1908, ILWU, “The ILWU Story”
Peter Salem was born a slave to Jeremiah Belknap at Framingham, Massachusetts about 1750. Belknap sold Salem to Lawson Buckminister some time before the Revolutionary War. Buckminister allowed Salem to enlist in the Massachusetts Minutemen. According to one story, his master freed him upon his enlistment. Another account states that Peter changed his name to Salem when he was freed. Some have attempted to link Peter’s last name with the Arabic “Saleem” (one who is peaceful); however there is no concrete evidence that this is the case.
Salem served at Concord, Saratoga and Stony Point. He is traditionally given credit for the slaying of British Major Pitcairn at Bunker Hill. Pitcairn had ordered the colonists to surrender. Salem shot him in answer. In the ensuing confusion, the Americans were able to take the field. Pitcairn died of his wounds. The gun attributed to Salem’s deed is part of the museum collection at Bunker Hill.
Harry Edwards is an Emeritus Professor at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) best known for co-engineering the “Revolt of the Black Athlete” in the late 1960’s. Edwards, born in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1942, attended Fresno City College from 1959 to 1960 as a four sport student athlete. He transferred to San Jose State University (SJS) in 1960 on an athletic scholarship in track and field. While he had success on the track field, Edwards and other black student-athletes confronted housing and employment discrimination and a segregated campus social life. Moreover the university funneled black student-athletes into a physical education curriculum to keep them eligible to compete in intercollegiate sports. Few graduated during the years of their athletic eligibility. Determined to earn a social work degree, Edwards began challenging the system. In 1964, he became the first black student-athlete since the early 1950’s to graduate from SJS.
Harry Edwards, The Revolt of the Black Athlete (New York: the Free Press, 1970); The Struggle that Must Be: an Autobiography (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1980); and David Leonard, “What Happened to the Revolt Black Athlete?: A Look Back Thirty Year Later—An Interview with Harry Edwards,” Colorlines (Summer 1998) (URL: http://www.colorlines.com/articles/what-happened-revolt-black-athlete; HBO, Fists of Freedom: The Story of the '68 Summer Games (1999); Michael E. Lomax, Sports and the Racial Divide (Jackson, MS: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2008.
Abbott was the son of Elbert and Mollie Brown Abbott who moved to South Dakota from Alabama in 1890. He graduated from Watertown High School, Watertown, South Dakota, in 1912 and then from the South Dakota State University at Brookings in 1916. Abbott earned 14 varsity athletic awards during his collegiate career.
In 1916 Cleveland Abbott married Jessie Harriet Scott (1897–1982). They had one daughter, Jessie Ellen, who in 1943 became the first coach of the women’s track team at Tennessee State University in Nashville.
Abbott served as a First Lieutenant in the 366th Infantry, 92nd Division in World War I. He saw action at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918. Abbott was later a commissioned officer in the Army Reserve. (The US Army Reserve Center at Tuskegee is now named the Cleveland Leigh Abbott Center.)
“Obituary,” The Huronite (Huron, South Dakota, June 5, 1955, p. 1); A. Dunkle and V. Smith, The College on the Hills: A Sense of South Dakota State University History (Brookings, SD: SDSU Alumni Association, 2003); Ruth Hill, Black Women Oral History Project (Westport, CT: Meckler, 1990); Charles Johnson, African Americans and ROTC (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2002); Monroe Mason and Arthur Furr, The American Negro Soldier with the Red Hand of France (Boston: Cornhill Co., 1920).
James Still, medical doctor and herbalist, was born on April 9, 1812 in Burlington County, New Jersey. Still was born to Levin and Charity Still, two former slaves living in the Pine Barrens to avoid being captured and sold back into slavery. Although the Still family was poor, the children attended school periodically and had some of their own textbooks, such as the New Testament and a spelling book. When Still was three years old, a Dr. Fort, a Philadelphia physician, came to the Pines to vaccinate the children. His visit was the spark of inspiration that led to Still’s desire to be a doctor.
Just before Still turned 18 he was voluntarily hired out as an indentured servant by his father. During the three years of his servitude, Still read everything available about medicine and botany, and learned all he could from the Native Americans of the area. On his twenty-first birthday, he was released from his service, given $10.00 and a new suit. He left immediately for Philadelphia. Still’s racial and financial status prevented him from attending medical school. Nonetheless, he continued to gain medical knowledge, reading everything he could find while working menial jobs to support himself.
"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).
The fiery-militant David Walker was born on September 28, 1785, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His father was an enslaved African who died a few months before his son’s birth, and his mother was a free woman of African ancestry. Walker grew up to despise the system of slavery that the U.S. government allowed in America. He knew the cruelties of slavery were not for him and said, “As true as God reigns, I will be avenged for the sorrow which my people have suffered.” He eventually moved to Boston during the 1820s and became very active within the free black community. Walker’s intense hatred for slavery culminated in him publishing his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World in September 1829. The Appeal was smuggled into the southern states, and was considered subversive, seditious, and incendiary by most white men in both northern and southern states. It was, without a doubt, one of the most controversial documents published in the antebellum period.
Walker was concerned about many social issues affecting free and enslaved Africans in America during the time. He also expressed many beliefs that would become commonly promoted by later black nationalists such as: unified struggle for resistance of oppression (slavery), land reparations, self-government for people of African descent in America, racial pride, and a critique of American capitalism. His radical views prompted southern planters to offer a $3000 bounty for anyone who killed Walker and $10,000 reward for anyone who returned him alive back to the South. Walker was found dead in the doorway of his Boston home in 1830. Some people believed he was poisoned and others believed that he died of tuberculosis.
Johnson Chesnutt Whittaker, the second black cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, was born a slave in 1858 in South Carolina to an enslaved mother, Maria J. Whitaker and her free husband, James Whitaker. (Later in life he added a second “t” to his name). By October 1869, Whitaker attended a freedmen’s school in Camden, where he received lessons for five years. In the fall of 1874 he became one of the first African American students to enter the University of South Carolina. Whittaker was an exceptional student, academically ahead of most of his classmates; he averaged 94 percent in all his courses at the University. After befriending Richard T. Greener, his professor, Whitaker was nominated to attend West Point. He arrived there on his birthday, August 23, 1876.
Hazel Scott was born on June 11, 1920, in Port of Spain, Trinidad. In 1924, Scott and her parents migrated to Harlem, New York, where Hazel, a musical prodigy, studied classical piano with Paul Wagner, a Juilliard professor. In the late 1930s and early 1940s her career blossomed, as she became a regular performer earning a weekly salary of $4,000 at New York’s elegant dinner club Café Society. Her husband Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. once fondly referred to her as the “darling of Café Society.”
In 1938 her talent brought her to Broadway, where she performed in the musicals Singing Out the News and, four years later, Priorities of 1942. The 1940s were thrilling years for Scott, with appearances in major Hollywood productions like Something to Shout About, I Dood It, and The Heat’s On in 1943, Broadway Rhythm in 1944, and Rhapsody in Blue in 1945. Scott distinguished herself from other black actors by refusing to play the traditional roles, such as maids and prostitutes, offered by movie executives to black actresses. Instead, Scott made cameo appearances in movies playing the piano.
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.
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).
In 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first black woman to gain an international permit to fly. After learning French, she attended the famous flight school Ecole d’Aviation des Frères Caudron in Northern France. No schools in America would train a black person. She was inspired to fly by the stories of Frenchwomen flyers told by her brother John, who had served in France during World War I. Coleman performed acrobatics in air shows around the country and gave lectures inspiring audiences that included many children. She believed that there was freedom in the skies and would not perform in an air show with a segregated audience. On April 30, 1926, she was killed in an airplane piloted by William Wills, her mechanic and publicity agent, as he flew her over the field of the next day’s air show in Jacksonville, Florida where she was slated as the star. Coleman who was 34 at the time of her death, had just purchased a Curtiss JN-4 (Jenny) airplane in Dallas, which Willis flew to Jacksonville in preparation for the show.
In 1961, Fleming was the highest-drafted player into the National Football League from the Huskies.
Robert Herberton Terrell, the first African American judge in Washington, D.C., was born in Charlottesville, Virginia on November 27, 1857 to Harris and Louisa Ann Terrell. The Terrells, an upper-middle class American family, sent their son to public schools in the District of Columbia and then to Groton Academy in Groton, Massachusetts. In 1884, Robert Terrell graduated cum laude from Harvard University. Five years later he graduated from the Howard University Law School with an LL.B. In 1893 he attained his LL.M from Howard University Law School. Because of the difficulty in getting a job as a black attorney in Washington, D.C., Terrell taught in the District’s public schools between 1884 and 18. He then worked as chief clerk in the office of the auditor of the U.S. Treasury.
Robert Terrell met Mary Church when she accepted a teaching post at the Preparatory School for Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., where he was principal. They married in October 1891 and had two daughters. Mary Church Terrell, the daughter of Robert R. Church, a prominent Republican politician and businessman in Memphis, would soon be noted in her own right as a civil rights leader and instrumental in the organization of the Colored Women’s League of Washington. She was also an early president of the National Association for Colored Women.
Edward William Brooke III was the first African American to be elected by popular vote to the United States Senate. Brooke, an African American, Protestant Republican, won elective office in the overwhelmingly white, Catholic, Democratic state of Massachusetts and emerged as a leader in the US Senate. Edward Brooke III, the son of Helen (Seldon) Brooke and Edward W. Brooke, was born October 26, 1919 in Washington, D.C. Brook's father, Edward, earned a law degree at the Howard University School of Law and later served as an attorney with the US Veterans Administration.
Actress Edna Mae Harris made a name for herself as a lead in underground films of the 1930s and 1940s, which depicted the life of the black bourgeoisie. Harris was born in Harlem, New York, in 1914 to Sam and Mary Harris. Her father was a boxer and customs inspector and her mother worked as a maid for gay 90s pin-up Lillian Russell.
Martin Douglas, “Vivian Harris, Comedian, Chorus Girl and Longtime
‘Voice of the Apollo,’ Dies at 97,” New York Times, March 26, 2000;
Dance History Archives. http://www.streetswing/histmai2/d1h.htm.
Accessed 9/28/03; Edward Mapp, Directory of Blacks in the Performing
Arts, (NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1978).
Fredi Washington was an actress and founding member of the Negro Actors Guild of America as well as a journalist for People’s Voice. Born in Savannah, Georgia, Washington moved as a child to New York and began her professional career as a chorus dancer in the stage production of Shuffle Along in 1924. Fredi Washington appeared opposite Paul Robeson in the Frank Dazey’s 1926 play, Black Boy. Washington then left the United States with Al Moiret in 1927 and formed the dance duo, “Moiret and Fredi.” They toured clubs in Paris, Monte Carlo, London and Berlin for two years.
Blanche Kelso Bruce was born a slave in 1841 in Prince Edward County, Virginia but was raised in Missouri. Shortly after the beginning of the Civil War, Bruce fled to Kansas, becoming a free man before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
After the Civil War he returned to Missouri and founded the first school for African Americans in Hannibal. Bruce briefly attended Oberlin College, but out of funds, began working as a steamboat porter on the Mississippi River. Hearing Mississippi gubernatorial candidate James L. Alcorn speak, Bruce decided to move to the state in 1869 to enter politics.
Robert Lemmons was born a slave in Lockport, Caldwell County, Texas in 1848. He moved to Dimmit County, Texas; then a sparsely uninhabited land overrun by wild horses. Lemmons gained his freedom at the end of the Civil War at age seventeen. He found employment with Duncan Lammons, a man who taught him about horses and gave Robert the surname “Lemmons,” (a variant spelling that evolved over the years). Robert Lemmons farmed, hauled supplies, and went on cattle drives for Duncan Lammons.
No other cowboy equaled Lemmons in capturing mustangs, which were in high demand for roundups during the cattle drive era of the 1870s and 1880s. Lemmons usually worked alone totally isolating himself from humans to gain a mustang herd's trust and thereby infiltrate the heard. He then uprooted the herd hierarchy by mounting the lead stallion and then taking control of the herd, which followed him into a pen on a nearby ranch.
Civil rights activist Edwin C. “Bill” Berry was affiliated with the Urban League for over 30 years and served as executive director of the Chicago Urban League from 1956 to 1970. When he arrived in Chicago he denounced the city’s segregationist practices and drove anti-discrimination legislation in the city and state. He was a leader of the Chicago Freedom Movement.
Edwin Berry was born on November 11, 1910 in Oberlin, Ohio to John A. Berry, an attorney, and Kitty Berry, a homemaker. He was one of five children. At the age of six Berry’s father died. Kitty struggled to make ends meet, working as a boarder, seamstress and cook.
Edwin Berry grew up in Oberlin and attended Oberlin College on an academic scholarship. In 1935 he moved to Pittsburg and graduated from Duquesne University in 1938 with a degree in education. Berry began his career with the Pittsburgh Urban League as group work secretary.
Florence Beatrice Smith, the first black woman composer to garner an international reputation, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1887, to James H. Smith, a dentist, and Florence Gulliver Smith, a former school teacher and private lesson piano teacher who also managed several local businesses. Under her mother’s musical tutelage, Smith was quickly recognized as a prodigy. While attending Capitol Hill School in Little Rock, she published her first composition when she was eleven. At fourteen, she studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, graduating in 1907 with a Bachelor of Music degree. Smith taught at the Cotton Plant-Arkadelphia Academy and at Shorter College until 1910 when she accepted a position as Chair of the Music Department at Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time she was 23.
In 1912 Smith returned to Arkansas where she wed Thomas Jewell Price, a well-known Little Rock, Arkansas attorney. The couple had three children, a son, who died in infancy, and two daughters. Price started a music school and continued to compose piano pieces, but she was denied membership in the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association because of her race. When serious racial unrest erupted in Little Rock, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1927. It was here that Price was able to reach her full musical potential, but unfortunately, it came with the end of her marriage in 1935.
Florence V. Lucas, lawyer, politician, NAACP leader, and songwriter, was born in 1916 in New York City, New York. She graduated from John Adams High School, Hunter College, and Brooklyn Law School. After graduating from law school in 1940, she became the first black woman from Queens to be admitted to the bar and the first black woman assigned murder cases in the Queens Borough Prosecutor’s Office. In 1941, however, she became the enforcement attorney for the Office of Price Administration (OPA) in the President Franklin Roosevelt Administration in Washington, D.C.
In 1946 Lucas returned to New York, locating in the Jamaica section of Queens where she opened a private practice. In 1952 she became the secretary of the Queens Women’s Bar Association. By that point, she had decided as a courtesy to the community to represent young people accused of crimes on a pro bono basis. Lucas was elected president of the Jamaica, Queens NAACP in 1953. She later became director of the New York State Conference of the NAACP and state membership chair in 1957. During her tenure as membership chair, the Jamaica NAACP branch grew from 391 in 1953 to 3,600 members by 1959.
Teacher, author, clergyman, and civil rights leader, Thomas McCants Stewart was born in Charleston, South Carolina on December 28, 1853, to George Gilchrist and Anna Morris Stewart. Young Stewart attended the Avery Normal Institute before enrolling in Howard University in 1869. Although only fifteen when he arrived on Howard’s campus, Stewart, nonetheless, distinguished himself as a student and contributed occasional articles to the Washington, D.C. New National Era, an African American newspaper.
Yet Stewart grew increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of instruction at Howard and became one of the first black students to enroll in the University of South Carolina at Columbia in 1874. In December 1875, Stewart graduated with Bachelor of Arts and L.L.B. degrees.
Haile Gebre Selassie is regarded by many observers as the greatest Ethiopian long-distance runner of all time. He was born in the province of Arsi in central Ethiopia and was inspired by runners Abebe Bikila and Miruts Yifter. As a child he was said to have run 20 kilometers every day going to and from school. At age 16, without any formal training, he entered the Addis Ababa marathon and finished in 2:42.
Selassie rose to international prominence in 1992 when he won the 5K and 10K world junior championships. In 1993, at the Stuttgart (Germany) world championships, he won gold in the 10K and silver in the 5K competition. Haile set his first world record in 1994 by breaking the six-year-old world record of Said Aouita.
Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2007).
Born into a preacher’s family in rural Georgia, Thomas Dorsey began playing the family organ at age six. At eight he started writing his own music, and by 13, was playing piano in Atlanta, accompanying some of the famous jazz artists of the day. In 1916, Dorsey moved to Chicago to study at the Chicago School of Composition and Arranging. Although his beginnings were in the jazz and blues tradition, he was also influenced by music he heard through his religious affiliations. His first attempts to combine the two styles, which he called the “gospel song,” were met with resistance, however, because of their heavy blues influence. “Several times I have been thrown out of some of the best churches,” Dorsey remembered in a 1980 interview. “But they just didn’t understand.”
Lloyd Ferguson, the first African American to receive a Ph.D in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, was born February 9, 1918 in Oakland, California. Growing up in Oakland, Ferguson was always passionate about school, particularly science. In the eighth grade, he brought a chemistry set which allowed him to do experiments and create substances such as gunpowder. Raised by his parents and grandparents, Ferguson was forced to get a job while in high school because his father lost his job during the Great Depression. At first Ferguson became a paper boy and then after high school he worked as a laborer for the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) to save money for college.
Ferguson attended the University of California, Berkeley earning a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1940 and a Ph.D in chemistry in 1943. One of his main contributions at Berkeley was developing a compound that could lose and gain oxygen rapidly. This compound was a type hemoglobin and was later used as a source of oxygen for submarines. He later went on to study the sense of taste through chemistry.
Gabrielle S. Morris, Head of the Class: An Oral history of
African-American Achievement in Higher Education and Beyond (New York,
Twayne Publishers, 1995);
Gloster B. Current, former NAACP Director of Branch and Field Services, and member of the “old guard” of NAACP Civil Rights activists, was born in 1913 and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He received his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia State University and his Master’s Degree in public administration from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and shortly thereafter would begin his involvement with the NAACP that would continue for the rest of his life.
Muammar al-Qaddafi has been Libyan head of state since 1969 and one of the most controversial and divisive leaders in the Middle East and Africa in the twentieth century. Qaddafi was born in the spring of 1942 to an Arabized Berber family near the Sirt desert on Libya’s northern coast. He was sent to a local primary school in central Sirt, where he was taunted for being of impoverished Bedouin background. At nights, he slept in the neighborhood mosque and returned home to the city’s outskirts on weekends and holidays.
The life of the Revered C.T. Vivian is practically the story of the modern black freedom struggle. Vivian actively participated in the Nashville desegregation movement, Freedom Rides, Birmingham, Selma, Chicago, and other chapters of the fight for equal rights.
Born Boonville, Missouri on July 28, 1924, Vivian moved with his mother to Macomb in rural west-central Illinois a few years later. Vivian spent his formative years there, in a tiny black community, graduating from high school in 1942. He soon enrolled at Western Illinois University, also in Macomb, though he moved to Peoria before finishing his degree.
In 1947 Vivian participated in his first civil rights protest, successfully desegregating Peoria’s lunch counters. Also while in Peoria, Vivian met and married Octavia Geans of Pontiac, Michigan. They are still married and had six children together; Vivian also has a child from an earlier relationship.
Will Mercer Cook was born on March 30, 1903, in Washington, D.C., to Will Marion Cook, a composer and Abbie Mitchell Cook, an actress and classical singer. Cook had one sibling, Abigail, an older sister. During his childhood, he frequently traveled with his family as they performed at various venues throughout the United States and abroad. Jazz superstar Duke Ellington lived on the same block in Cook’s middle class Washington, D.C. neighborhood.
Harry Clay Smith was a newspaper editor and politician, born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, on January 28, 1863. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio at an early age and stayed in the area for the remainder of his life. After graduating from Cleveland’s Central High School in 1882, he established the Cleveland Gazette, and became the publisher and editor of the newspaper for nearly sixty years. The Gazette was a popular eight-page weekly that published local black activities and events in the greater Cleveland area, as well as many other cities in Ohio. Readership was at a steady 10,000 before World War I and circulated within the state of Ohio and parts of the Midwest.
Smith used the Cleveland Gazette to promote civil rights issues and engage in politics. Smith lobbied the state government of Ohio to do more to preserve the civil rights of African Americans. Using the Gazette as a medium to communicate to the masses, Smith attacked segregation and racial discrimination. He advocated three strategies to challenge racial discrimination: political pressure, legal action and boycotts. He was in particular, an ardent supporter of the campaign to desegregate Ohio schools in 1887.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on January 6, 1914, Chester’s mother’s maiden name was Fuller. Chester, an only child, moved with his parents to Kansas City, Missouri when he was a year old and spent his entire childhood there. His father, a railroad worker, died when he was 11. Chester graduated from high school in 1932 and spent two years at Western College in Quindaro, Kansas.
Haynes was born in West Hartford, Connecticut on July 18, 1753. His mother was a Scottish immigrant indentured servant and his father was an enslaved African American who lived and served on the plantation of John Haynes. When both his parents abandoned him, Haynes, an unwanted infant was assigned as an indentured servant to the household of Deacon David Rose of Granville, Massachusetts until his 21st birthday. He spent his days working the farm, and his nights attending the plantation schools. A household Saturday evening custom was to read sermons from the local church, and on one such evening Haynes read a rousing sermon. When he was asked whom was the author, he acknowledged that it was his own work. From that point Haynes was frequently called upon to write, proofread, and preach sermons.
Educator Ruth Braswell Jones was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on November 21, 1914, the seventh daughter, of William and Arkaanna (Sanders) Braswell. Her education includes a diploma with distinction from Brick Junior College, Brick, North Carolina, in 1933 and a B.S. degree in Education with distinction from Elizabeth City State Teachers College, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, in 1948. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, awarded her the M.S. degree in Education in 1960.
Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).
Francis Shober earned his law degree at the University of North Carolina in 1851 and was a co-founder of the first Sunday school in the state. Meanwhile James Shober’s mother, Betsy Ann Waugh, was a mulatto slave who was only eighteen years old when Shober was born. Betsy Ann, who lived in Salem, passed away in 1859 when Shober was between the age of six and seven. He was sent back to the Waugh Plantation near Waughtown, North Carolina, where his grandmother lived with other family relatives.
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.
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).
Born on January 22, 1948 as Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. in the city of Oxford, North Carolina, Benjamin Chavis Muhammad was a member of one of the most prominent African American families in North Carolina. His parents were well known educators and his ancestors included John Chavis, a Revolutionary War soldier with George Washington’s Army who became one of the first African Americans to attend Princeton University. John Chavis later operated a private school in antebellum North Carolina that accepted both black and white students.
By age 13, Ben Chavis had established his civil rights activist credentials when he successfully integrated the all-white libraries in Oxford. Chavis became the first African American to receive a library card.
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.
Edward Alexander Bouchet was born on September 15, 1852 in New Haven, Connecticut to William Francis and Susan Cooley Bouchet. Edward attended the segregated primary school in New Haven and later finished his secondary education at Hopkins Grammar School in 1870. An outstanding student, Edward’s academic accomplishments included serving as the valedictorian of his high school class.
The Bouchet family was quite prominent in New Haven’s small African American community. In addition to holding the position of deacon in the church, William Francis Bouchet was also employed at Yale College as a janitor and Susan did the laundry of Yale students. Well aware of Edward’s talent and scholarly ability, William and Susan had hoped their son would one day join the ranks of the Yale College student body. The fulfillment of this aspiration would be no small feat given the fact that no African American had ever attended Yale.
Henry Jackson Jr., better known as Henry Armstrong, was born on December 12, 1912, in Columbus, Mississippi to a sharecropper of black, Indian and Irish descent, and a mother who was a full-blooded Iroquois Indian. At age four his family moved to St. Louis, where he was raised by his grandmother and father after his mother died. It was on the streets of St. Louis that young Henry learned to defend himself from gangs and first displayed a natural affinity for fighting.
While Henry dreamed of going to college to become a doctor he was forced to become the head of the household at the young age of 18 when his father’s health deteriorated and he was no longer able to work. Turning to boxing, Henry failed to qualify for the upcoming Olympics, and began his professional boxing career in 1931 under the name of Melody Jackson. He later adopted the last name of a friend, and changed his last name to Armstrong.
Actress Theresa Harris once shared with a reporter that her “greatest ambition was to be known someday as a great Negro actress.” Harris was born in 1911 in Houston, Texas to Anthony and Ina Harris. Her father was a construction worker and her mother was a well-known dramatic reader and school teacher. In the late 1920s, her family relocated to Southern California, where Harris graduated from Jefferson High School with scholastic honors and then studied music at the University of Southern California Conservatory of Music and Zoellner’s Conservatory of Music. She briefly pursued a career in theatre, gaining her most acclaimed role as the title character in the Lafayette Player’s musical production of Irene.
Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994);
Earl J. Morris, “Wrath of Fans Hits ‘Grapes of Wrath Type of Publicity
on Actress Theresa Harris,” Pittsburgh Courier, January 27, 1940;
Madison Harry, "Madison Harry Digs Out the Story of the Rocky Success
Which Has Led to Theresa Harris' Success,” Pittsburgh Courier, October
Robert C. Weaver was a noted economist and administrator. From 1966 through 1968, he was the first African American cabinet official, serving as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Weaver was born and raised in Washington D.C. From 1929 through 1934, he attended Harvard University, earning economic degrees at the Bachelor of Science, Masters’, and Ph.D. levels. As an administrator, Weaver worked as an adviser to the Secretary of the Interior (1933-37), special assistant for the Housing Authority (1937-40), and an administrative assistant with the National Defense Advisory Commission (1940). During the Second World War, he worked in several capacities concerned with mobilizing black labor into industrial employment contracted by the federal government.
Christopher Fyfe, Africanus Horton 1835-1883: West African Scientist and Patriot, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972); James Africanus Beale Horton, Davidson Nicol, ed., Black Nationalism in Africa 1867: Extracts From Political, Educational, Scientific and Medical Writings of Africanus Horton,(New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1969).
At the age of 10, Turner and her older sister were sent to live with their grandparents who also lived in Nutbush. In 1956, they moved to St. Louis, Missouri to live with their estranged mother. During the same year, Turner was introduced to guitarist Ike Turner and his band Kings of Rhythm in an East St. Louis nightclub after spontaneously performing a song with them. She joined the group the next year, and adopted the stage name "Tina" in 1960. The band became The Ike and Tina Turner Revue.
Willard Christopher Smith, Jr., better known as Will Smith, actor, rap and recording artist, was born in Wynnefield, Pennsylvania on September 25, 1968. His father, Willard Christopher Smith, is an entrepreneur and engineer, and his mother, Caroline Bright Smith, is a public school administrator. Raised in a middle-class “Baptist” home, his parents sent Will to Overbrook High School, a Catholic school, where they felt he would get the best education. In high school, his precociousness sometimes got him in trouble, but his charm, good-natured personality, quick-wittedness, good looks, and award-winning smile easily got him off the hook, and he soon won the nickname, “Prince.” As a senior with high SAT scores, Smith had an offer to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after high school, but he opted out of college to pursue what had already become a successful career in entertainment.
Shonda Rhimes is the first African American woman to write and produce a top-10-rated show on network television. She is most known for her work writing and producing the shows Grey’s Anatomy (2005- ), Private Practice (2007- ), and Scandal (2012- ).
Rhimes was born January 13, 1970 in Chicago, Illinois as the youngest of six children. Her mother was a college professor and her father a university public information officer. She has two adopted daughters, Harper Rhimes, born in 2002, and Emerson Rhimes, born in 2012.
Rhimes graduated from Dartmouth College in 1991, earning a B.A. degree in English literature. She then attended the University of Southern California, where she earned an MFA in filmmaking in 1994. She acquired an agent based on the strength of her final film school project and was asked to write a spec script, which promptly got sold, although the movie was never filmed. One of her first jobs in film making came when she was hired to write the script for the 1998 movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy.
During the third Council of Trent in 1564 Pope Pius IV decided to disband the hermit societies, whereupon he encouraged their communities to join the Franciscan orders. When Benedict became a member of the Order of Friars Minor he was sent to Palermo, to the Franciscan Friary of St. Mary of Jesus.
Corrine Brown, now in her eighth term in office, is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She represents Florida’s Third Congressional District which includes Jacksonville and the surrounding area. Brown was born on November 11, 1946 in Jacksonville, Florida and grew up there. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University and an M.A. from the University of Florida in 1971. Before entering Congress, Brown owned a travel agency, taught at several Florida colleges, and worked as a counselor at Florida Community College (1977-1992).
In 1983 Brown was elected to the Florida State House of Representatives. She held this position until 1992, when she ran and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
James P. Thomas, a noted African American barber and businessman, was born in 1827 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the mulatto son of a famous antebellum judge, John Catron (one of the justices in the Dred Scott case), and a slave mother, Sally Thomas, who purchased James’s freedom when he was six years old. However, under Tennessee law, he remained a slave as long as he resided in the state. Therefore, he was not legally freed until March 6, 1851.
In the early twentieth century Progressive era reformers largely ignored the needs of African American women. Lacking settlement houses and other resources African American reformers such as Elizabeth Ross Haynes turned to one of the few institutions available to them, the YWCA. Ross Haynes was at the forefront of developing institutional resources for young African American women seeking better employment and living conditions. Born in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1883, Elizabeth Ross obtained a sterling education culminating with an A.B. from Fisk University in 1903. She later moved north to New York City where she served as the YWCA’s student secretary for work among black women from 1908 to 1910. In that capacity she met and married the prominent sociologist George E. Haynes, who co-founded the National Urban League.
Like many African American women Ross Haynes continued her reform work after the birth of her son, George Jr., in 1912. She continued working with the YWCA, promoting the establishment of new branches to help female migrants find employment and job training. Recognizing her activism, in 1922 the Y.W.C.A. appointed Haynes to its new Council on Colored Work. The following year she earned an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University and became the first African American women appointed to the YWCA’s national board.
Lauded for her masterful performance in her only film, Lucia Lynn Moses began her show business career as a chorus girl at New York’s legendary Cotton Club in the early 1920s and went on to perform in the theater. She made her film debut when David Starkman, the Caucasian owner and founder of the Philadelphia-based Colored Player’s Film Corporation (a largely white-owned and operated company that initially had a predominately white clientele but chose to cater to the growing population of African American theater goers rather than relocate) teamed up with black vaudevillian Sherman Dudley to recruit a group of black actors to appear in the company’s silent race films. Because Oscar Micheaux, leader of race films, was also producing all-black cast, silent films with themes examining intra-racial conflict, The Scar of Shame is widely mistaken as being a Micheaux film.
Lucia Lynn Moses was the daughter of Minister W.H. Moses of the New York National Baptist Church. Against her father’s wishes, Lucia and her two sisters Ethel (later a leading lady and sex symbol in Micheaux’s films) and Julia (later a Broadway performer), pursued show business careers and became part of the Cotton Club Girls lineup.
Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies introduction to Scar of Shame,
2004; Anonymous, “Cotton Club Girls,” Ebony, April 1949, Vo. 4, No. 6,
Bret Wood, "The Scar of Shame,"
“Few Employers Permit Racism, Bureau Decides,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 1, 1957; “Discrimination Rating Denied by Negro Leader,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 2, 1957; “Reverend Sims is Elected Action Council Chief,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 20, 1969; http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=8007 ; ttp://www.metrokc.gov/exec/backgrnd.htm ; ttp://www.metrokc.gov/exec/news/2000/0627001.htm, On the death of Lydia Sims see Spokesman Review, June __, 2012.
Walter Rodney, one of the most important Guyanese intellectual and political figures of the 20th Century, was born on March 23, 1942 in Georgetown, Guyana. Because of his working-class background, the period in which he lived, and his parents' political awareness, Rodney was introduced to issues of race, class, and empire at an early age. He lived in a West Indian society in transition and experienced violence, racism, decolonization, and the rise of local elites in this former European colony who propagated the old colonial systems and structures.
Professional basketball player Julius Winfield Erving II, respected by teammates and the fans alike, is best known for his on-court flair and inventive movements, introducing the slam dunk into the game of professional basketball. Erving, nicknamed “Dr. J,” was born on February 22, 1950 in Roosevelt, New York. He began his professional career in the American Basketball Association (ABA) for the Virginia Squires (1971-1973) and later the New York Nets (1973-1976). From 1976 to 1987 he played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Philadelphia 76ers.
While playing basketball at Roosevelt High School, Erving's teammates nicknamed him “The Doctor”, which later was changed to “Dr. J”. Erving attended the University of Massachusetts for his college career under Coach Jack Leaman. After two years of NCAA College Basketball, Erving averaged 26.3 points and 20.2 rebounds per game.
In 1971, he left college and joined the Virginia Squires in the ABA. After two seasons with the Squires, Erving entered the NBA Draft where he was picked 12th by the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Erving tried to sign with the Atlanta Hawks but due to legal issues Erving was required to play another season in the ABA. The Virginia Squires sold Erving's contract to the New York Nets before the 1973 season.
Afro-Cuban writer Nicolás Guillén used his poetry as a form of social protest in pre-Castro Cuba. Guillén was born in Camagüey, Cuba on July 10, 1902 and by the mid 1920s had emerged as a leader of the Afro-Cuban movement. He was committed to social justice and through his loyalty to the Communist party he became a prominent voice of revolutionary Cuba.
Guillén was a student of law at the University of Havana until 1921 when he decided to drop out and focus on writing poetry. He utilized his Spanish and African background of speech, legends, songs, and dances to influence his message and style of writing. His first volume of poetry Motivos de son (“Motifs of son”) published in 1930 quickly gained popularity and recognition.
Caterina Jarboro was born one of three children in Wilmington, North Carolina, to an American Indian mother and a black father who was a local barber. She was christened Katherine Lee Yarborough at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Wilmington. She received elementary school education at St. Thomas, and later attended Gregory Normal School. Her parents died when she was thirteen years old, and in 1916, she traveled to Brooklyn, New York, to live with an aunt.
Jarboro studied music in New York where her exceptional ability soon became apparent. By 1921 she appeared in popular theater musicals, such as Sissle and Blake’s “Shuffle Along,” and later in James P. Johnson’s, “Running Wild.” Like many black musicians and performers, she sought more opportunity for study and experience in Europe. Under contract to the San Carlo Opera Company, Jarboro debuted in Verdi’s Aida in 1930 at the Puccini Theater in Milan, Italy. She continued to study in France and to perform in small productions in Europe until 1932 when she returned to the United States.
U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters has dedicated over thirty years of her life to local and national politics. Born Maxine Moore Carr in St. Louis, Missouri on August 15, 1938, Waters moved to Los Angeles in 1961. While working in a garment factory and for a local telephone company, she enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles. After earning a B.A. in Sociology in 1966, Waters worked as a teacher and as Coordinator of Head Start Programs in Watts.
Maxine Waters developed a keen interest in Los Angeles politics when she began working for city councilman David Cunningham in the 1970s. Waters ran for California State Assembly in 1976, winning the election and serving seven two-year terms in Sacramento. In 1990 Waters won a seat as Democratic representative of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. As Representative of the 35th district, which encompasses South Central Los Angeles, Playa Del Ray, Inglewood, and several other Los Angeles communities, Waters has spearheaded health care, child care, education, and welfare reform.
While in New Orleans, Dr. Lavizzo developed a national reputation as a medical innovator. He coauthored “Observations on the General Adaptation of Syndrome: Surgery as Measured by the Eosinophil Response.” This prized paper was delivered at the first annual Charles Drew Memorial Forum in August 1951.
Paste over your article text hereGene Upshaw was a Hall of Fame professional football player for the Oakland Raiders and Executive Director of the National Football League (NFL) Players’ Association.
Upshaw was born in Robstown, Texas in 1945 where he picked cotton as a child and played high school football. He later played football at mostly Latino Texas College of Arts and Industries (now Texas A&M University, Kingsville), before being drafted as a guard for the Oakland Raiders in 1967.
Upshaw’s professional football career as a guard with the Oakland Raiders lasted from 1967 until 1981. He was considered one of the best offensive linemen in the history of the sport. During his illustrative career he was voted top lineman in 1977 and runner-up for that honor in 1980. Upshaw was the only player in the NFL history to play in three Super Bowls in three different decades for the same team. In 1987 Upshaw became the first guard to be voted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
In 1983 Upshaw became the first African American to serve as executive director of the NFL players union. Assuming the leadership at a time when the union was in dire financial straits, he rebuilt the organization, led the players through a strike in 1987 and afterwards helped build the NFL into the most prosperous professional sports league in the country.
Samuel Decalo, Psychosis of Power: African Personal Dictatorships (London: Westview Press, 1989); Thomas and Margaret Melady, Idi Amin Dada: Hitler in Africa (Kansas City: Universal Press Syndicate, 1977); David Martin, General Amin (London: Faber and Faber, 1974).
James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens is best known for his remarkable athletic performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics where he won four gold medals. Owens was born near Oakville, Alabama, on September 12, 1913, the twelfth child of sharecroppers Henry Cleveland and Mary Emma Owens. Owens, the youngest child, was spared much of the difficult farm work because of his persistent pneumonia which nearly killed him twice in his young life.
In 1922 Henry and Emma Owens moved north to Cleveland, Ohio. The move immediately exposed young Owens to regular schooling and participation in athletics. During his senior year at East Technical High School Owens ran the 100-yard sprint in 9.4 seconds, tying the national record at the time and garnering his first national attention.
After completing high school in 1933 Owens attended Ohio State University at a time when the institution offered no athletic scholarships. He worked part-time to support himself through college as he continued to set records on the track field. On May 25, 1935 during the National Intercollegiate Championship at Ann Arbor, Michigan Owens set four new world records in the 100 yard sprint, the long jump, the 220 yard sprint, and the 220 yard low hurdles.
Evelyn Preer, one of the first African American silent screen actresses to transition into sound Hollywood films, was born on July 21, 1896 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After her father’s death, Preer and her mother relocated to Chicago, Illinois where she completed high school before pursuing acting.
Preer’s big break came when she landed a role in Oscar Micheaux’s first film, The Homesteader (1919), in which she played a tragically unhappy woman abandoned by her husband for a mulatto woman whom he believed to be white. Impressed with her talent, Micheaux cast Preer in several roles in which she generally played dramatic characters, challenging many of the prevailing black film stereotypes. Preer expanded her acting abilities into the area of theater, frequently alternating between the screen and stage as she became a staple for Micheaux’s dramatic films and an esteemed actress for the Lafayette Players.
Preer met and married stage actor Edward Thompson while traveling with the players and the duo headlined productions for the traveling section of the Lafayette Players throughout the early 1920s. Preer’s impressive theatricality led her to Broadway where she recorded with the legendary musical composer Duke Ellington, performed with Ethel Waters, and won acclaim for her role as Sadie Thompson in the revival of Somerset Maugham’s classic melodrama Rain.
Pearl Bowser, Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films and His Circle: African-American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2001); Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black. The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977); Francesca Sr. Thompson, Drop me off in Harlem, http://www.artedge.kennedy-center.org/exploring/harlem/themes/lafayette.html.
Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland, the great-grandson of a slave. His father, William Marshall, a railroad porter, instilled in him an appreciation of the Constitution at an early age. When young Marshall got in trouble at school he was required to memorize sections of the US Constitution. His mother, Norma Arica Williams, an elementary school teacher for 25 years, placed great emphasis on his overall scholarship.
In 1935, Charles W. Anderson became the first black legislator in Kentucky and in the South since the Reconstruction. He championed the cause of civil rights in Kentucky including greatly improving the access of African Americans to education during six terms as a legislator.
Anderson was born in 1907 in Louisville, Kentucky to Dr. Charles W. and Tabetha Murphy Anderson. He attended Kentucky State College and Wilberforce University (B.A. 1927) and received a J.D. degree from Howard University in 1931. In 1933 he passed the bar exam and started his own practice in Louisville.
In 1935 Anderson ran as a Republican for the Kentucky House of Representatives and won. He served in the Kentucky Legislature until 1958. One of his most important legislative accomplishments was the Anderson-Mayer State Aid Act which provided $7,500 annually to African American students to attend out of state colleges because Kentucky's segregated college system could not accommodate all the blacks at the one all-black state school, Kentucky State College, in Frankfort. He also passed bills improving public school facilities and legislated for a $100 education and travel fund for each black student who was forced to travel outside of his or her county to attend segregated schools. Combating lynching in Kentucky, Anderson was credited with the repeal of the state’s public hanging law.
John Benjamin Horton, Not Without a Struggle: An Account of the Most Significant Political and Social-Action Changes That Have Occurred in the Lives of Black Kentuckians in the Twentieth Century, (New York: Vantage Press, 1979); http://kchr.ky.gov/gallergreatblack.htm?&pageOrder=0&selectedPic=1; http://www.kyenc.org/entry/a/ANDER01.html;
Marjorie Judith Vincent, the fourth African American to be crowned Miss America, was born on November 12, 1964 in Oak Park, Illinois. She was Miss America 1991. Vincent is the daughter of Lucien and Florence Vincent of Cap Haitien, Haiti. Vincent’s parents migrated to the United States in the early 1960s and Marjorie was the first of their children to be born on American soil. During her youth, Vincent attended Chicago catholic schools and took piano and ballet lessons. In the mid 1980s she entered DePaul University as a music major, eventually switching to business in her third year and graduating in 1988. The money she earned from beauty pageants enabled her to fund her education.
After failing to win twice at the state level, once as Miss North Carolina and as Miss Illinois, the third time was the charm as she became Miss Illinois 1990. Winning at the state level allowed her to move on to the national competition in Atlantic City. During the September 1990 pageant she performed the Fantaisie-Impromptu (Op.66) by Chopin. Vincent wowed the audience with her proficiency and went on to win the crown of Miss America 1991. She succeeded another black woman, Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990. Her victory marked the first time there were back-to-back black Miss Americas.
Everett Frederic Morrow, the son of John Eugene Morrow, a library custodian who became an ordained Methodist minister in 1912 and Mary Ann Hayes, a former farm worker and maid, was born on April 9, 1909 in Hackensack, New Jersey. He graduated from Hackensack High School in 1925, where he not only served on the debate team for three years, but was their president his senior year.
Morrow attended Bowdoin College between 1926 and 1930 and at the time was one of only two African American students enrolled there. Morrow did well academically, but was forced to withdraw his senior year to help his family. He worked as a bank messenger on Wall Street and then secured a social work job. In 1935, Morrow joined the National Urban League as a business manager of Opportunity Magazine, and two years later became field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), traveling across the nation to promote membership and fundraising.
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.
On August 10, 1898, Winkfield rode his first race. Aboard Jockey Joe at Chicago's Hawthorne Racetrack, he raced his horse out of the gate and rode across the path of the three inside horses, in an effort to get to the rail. This aggressive behavior did not go over well with racetrack officials and he earned a one year suspension. Winkfield learned from his mistake and on September 18, 1899, won his first race. Six months later he rode for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.
In 1901, at 19, Winkfield captured his first Kentucky Derby title astride a horse named Eminence. He went on to win 161 races that year, including key victories in the Latonia Derby on Hernando and Tennessee Derby where he rode Royal Victor. While these were spectacular accomplishments, he returned to the Kentucky Derby in 1902 and won again in the most important race of his career.
Born Betsy Leonora Ellis on February 9, 1911, in Kingston, Jamaica, she was the daughter of Maria Ellis, a domestic servant, and James Ferguson, her employer. Betsy and her parents migrated to Boston, Massachusetts but both died of smallpox. Orphaned when Betsy was five years old, she was adopted by a wealthy Irish woman who raised her as a Catholic. It is unclear when and why Bessie rather than Betsy became her given name. On Bessie’s sixteenth birthday, her mother gave her a motorcycle, “even though good girls didn’t ride motorcycles.”
Leigh Whipper, the first black member of the Actors’ Equity Association (1913), was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1876. His father, William James Whipper, was a Civil War Veteran from Connecticut who settled in South Carolina during the Reconstruction period and became an attorney in Charleston. His mother, Frances Rollin Whipper, was a writer. Whipper attended public school in Washington, D.C. After leaving Howard University Law School in 1895, he immediately joined the theater.
Never a drama student, Whipper honed his acting abilities by observing the techniques of some of the most established actors of his day and interpreting the voices of some of his favorite writers, including Paul Laurence Dunbar. By the turn of the century, he had made his first Broadway appearance in Georgia Minstrels and went on to appear in classical Broadway productions of Stevedore, Of Mice and Men, and Porgy. Whipper achieved national fame for his characterization of the Crabman of the Catfish Row in Porgy, interposing into his part the Crabman’s Song. It was later incorporated into the film version.
Leigh Whipper Papers, 1861–1963, Schomburg Collection, New York Public Library; “Leigh Whipper, 98, Character Actor,” The New York Times, Sunday, July 27, 1975, p. 35.
James Apostle was born into slavery in Hanover County, Virginia, in 1844. Although both his parents, Washington Fields and Martha Ann Fields, were slaves, they lived on separate plantations. His mother’s maiden name is historically recorded as Berkley and Thornton.
Fields first became interested in law during his early years as a slave in Hanover County where he took care of white lawyers’ horses as they arrived for work. While tending to the horses, Fields observed courtroom proceedings and other work conducted at the Hanover courthouse.
Donald W. Gunter, “James A. Fields (1844–1903),” http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Fields_James_A_1844-1903#start_entry; Donald W. Gunther, “James A. Fields,” Library of Virginia, http://mlkcommission.dls.virginia.gov/lincoln/pdfs/bios/fields_james_apostles.pdf.
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.
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).
While only in his teens Barrow began boxing at Brewster's East Side Gymnasium in Detroit. At 19, he entered the Golden Gloves finals in 1933 as a light heavyweight and eventually became the champion in his weight class. Louis turned professional heavyweight boxer in 1934, dropping the name Barrow. Louis won a remarkable 12 bouts in his first year as a professional. By 1935 his career had ascended quickly, earning him over $350,000 in purses when the average yearly salary in the United States during the Great Depression was about $1,200. He gave generously to charities and friends. Louis soon became an icon for African Americans and a hero to many white Americans, as well.
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.
Simone Payment, Queen Latifah (New York: Rosen Publishing, 2006); Eleanora E. Tate, African American Musicians (New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2000).
Yosef Ben-Jochannan is an Afrocentric historian whose work is focused mainly on black presence in ancient Egypt. He contends in his writings that the pharaohs came out of the heart of Africa and that the original Jews were from Ethiopia and were black Africans, and the white Jews adopted the faith and customs later. He has been accused of distorting history, and, since his work contradicts the prevailing view of Egyptian and African history, it is, therefore, controversial.
Ben-Jochannan was born an only child to an Ethiopian father and an Afro-Puerto Rican Jewish mother in a Falasha community in Ethiopia. He attended schools in Brazil, Spain, Puerto Rico, and Cuba and earned degrees in engineering and anthropology. He continued his education at the University of Havana, Cuba, where he earned a Master’s degree in architectural engineering. He earned a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology from the same school, and finally, he attended the University of Barcelona, where he earned another doctoral degree, this time in Moorish history.
Mary Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History (New York: Basic Books, 1997); Tanangachi Mfuni, ”Dr. Yosef Alfredo Antiono ben-Jochannan in his own words,” New York Amsterdam News 97:6 (February 2006); http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=1369&category=Educationmakers; "Dr. Ben Joins the Ancestors," New York Amsterdam News, March 19, 2015.
Elizabeth Freeman was born into slavery in Claverack, New York in 1742. During the 1770s, she lived in the household of Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, a prominent citizen who at that time also served as a judge of the Berkshire Court of Common Pleas. Colonel Ashley purchased Freeman from a Mr. Hogeboom when she was six months of age. Upon suffering physical abuse from Ashley’s wife, Freeman escaped her home and refused to return. She found a sympathetic ear with attorney Theodore Sedgwick, the father of the writer Catherine Sedgwick. Apparently, as she served dinner to her masters, she had heard them speaking of freedom—in this case freedom from England—and she applied the concepts of equality and freedom for all to herself.
In 1930 after flying to Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie granted him Ethiopian citizenship and made him a Colonel. One year later, in 1931, he became the first black man to fly coast to coast over the American continent and also broke the world record for endurance flying with a non-stop non-refueling flight of 84 hours and 33 minutes.
Jane Edna Hunter is most famous for founding the Phillis Wheatley Association (PWA) in 1913. Hunter was born on December 13, 1882 in Pendleton, South Carolina to Harriet Millner, a free-born daughter of freed slaves, and Edward Harris, the son of a slave woman and a plantation overseer. Edward Harris died when Jane was ten years old, and her mother urged her into a loveless marriage with Edward Hunter, a man 40 years older than she was. The arrangement collapsed fourteen months after the wedding, and Jane Edna Hunter never married again.
Hunter migrated to Cleveland Ohio, arriving in 1905 as a 23 year old single African American woman. Hunter founded the PWA to aid and assist other single, newly arriving African American women. She led the Association until her retirement in 1946. The PWA was the first institution designed to meet the needs of African American migrants and became, by 1927, the single largest private African American social service agency in Cleveland. The Cleveland PWA also became the largest residence for single African American women in the nation and served as the model for similar projects throughout the urban North.
Jane Edna Hunter, A Nickel and a Prayer (Nashville: Parthenon Press,
1940); Virginia R. Boynton, "Jane Edna Harris and Black Institution
Building in Ohio" in Warren R. Van Tine and Michael Dale Pierce,
Builders of Ohio: A Biographical History, (Columbus: Ohio State
University Press, 2003); Women in History, Jane Edna Hunter biography
Last Updated: 1/25/2008, Lakewood Public Library, Date accessed
Jesse Page, Samuel Crowther: The Slave Boy Who Became Bishop of the Niger, (S.W. Partridge & Co. London, 1889.); James. F. Schon and Samuel A. Crowther, Journals of the Rev .James Frederick Schon and Mr Samuel Crowther who, With the Sanction of Her Majesty’s Government, accompanied the Expedition Up The Niger in 1841 on behalf of the Church Missionary Society, 2nd Ed. ( Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1970)
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.
Ambassador Jendayi E. Frazer is currently on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. She has been there since 2009 as the university’s Distinguished Public service Professor in the Heinz College School of Public Policy and Management. Frazer is also the Director of Center for International Policy and Innovation. Along with her prominent positions at Carnegie Mellon, Frazer serves as an Adjunct Senior Fellow for African Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Frazer is a native of Virginia who was born in 1961. She is the daughter of Ida Frazer. Frazier attended Stanford University in California receiving a B.A. in Political Science and African/Afro-American Studies and an MA in International Policy Studies in 1985. In 1989, she received another master’s in International Development Education before earning her PhD in Political Science in 1994 both at Stanford University. Later that year she served as a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford.
Legendary basketball star William Felton (Bill) Russell was a five-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player and twelve-time All-Star. He was also the centerpiece of the Boston (Massachusetts) Celtics basketball dynasty when his team won eleven NBA championships during his thirteen seasons with the team. Russell is one of only seven basketball players to win an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship, and an Olympic Gold Medal.
A native of Houston, Texas, Emmett J. Scott garnered a reputation as Booker T. Washington’s chief aide. He was also the highest ranking African American in the Woodrow Wilson’s Administration. The son of ex-slaves, Scott was born in 1873. In 1887, he entered Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, eventually leaving school in his third year. Soon he worked at the Houston Post, first as a sexton, and later as a copyboy and journalist. In 1893 Scott, along with Charles N. Love and Jack Tibbit, formed the Texas Freeman, Houston’s first African American newspaper. Scott also worked for Galveston, Texas, politician and labor leader, Norris W. Cuney.
Attorney, civil rights and human rights activist, Fred D. Gray, was born on December 14, 1930 in Montgomery, Alabama to Nancy and Abraham Gray. The youngest of five children, he and his siblings were raised in a shotgun house in a segregated black section of the city.
In 1947, Gray attended the Nashville Christian Institute. After completing seminary, he enrolled at Alabama State College, where he paid for his education by working as a district manager of the Alabama Journal. In 1951, Gray entered law school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his degree in 1954 and opened a law office in his hometown of Montgomery.
Fred Gray, Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System (Montgomery, Alabama: Black Belt Press, 1995). Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); http://www.fredgray.net/background.html.
Professional basketball player Oscar Palmer Robertson, nicknamed the “Big O,” was known as the most complete basketball player, with an excellent combination of scoring, passing, and rebounding skills. He still owns the record for most triple-doubles in a career with 181. Robertson played with the Cincinnati (Ohio) Royals and Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Bucks in the National Basketball Association (NBA) most of his professional career.
Robertson was born on November 24, 1938 in Charlotte, Tennessee. He grew up in poverty in Indianapolis, Indiana and attended Crispus Attucks High School, then a segregated all-black school. As a high school basketball player he led Crispus Attucks to two Indiana State Championships (1955-1956) during his junior and senior years and was named Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball.”
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles, one of the most successful African American women artists in today’s music industry, was born on September 4, 1981 in Houston, Texas, to Mathew and Célestine Ann Knowles. Her father was a salesman and her mother owned a hair salon. Beyoncé began performing when she was seven years old when her dance teacher insisted that she participate in her school’s talent show. Beyoncé's surprisingly poised performance before this audience, despite her shyness, persuaded her parents to begin preparing her for a music career.
In 1990, at the age of nine, Beyoncé successfully auditioned to become the lead singer for the music group Girl’s Tyme which two years later performed on the national television show Star Search. The group, which also included Támar Davis, Kelly Rowland, LaTavia Roberson, Nikki Taylor, and Nina Taylor, did not win, which prompted the girls to work intensely to improve their dancing and singing skills. They also performed once a week during the school year and twice a week during the summer. In 1995, Silent Partner Productions/Elektra offered Girl’s Tyme its first contract when most of the girls were 14 years old.
Contralto singer Carol Brice was born in Sedalia, North Carolina on April 16, 1918 into a musical family. Eventually she became one of the first African American classical singers with an extensive recording repertoire. Brice trained at Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia and then enrolled in Talladega College in Alabama, where she received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1939. She later attended Julliard School of Music between 1939 and 1943 where she trained with Francis Rogers. In 1943 Brice became the first African American musician to win the prestigious Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Award.
Carol Brice first attracted public acclaim at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 when she performed in the opera, “The Hot Mikado.” Her next major public performance came in 1941, when she sang at a Washington concert honoring the third inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her brother, the pianist Jonathan Brice, was frequently her accompanist at concerts and competitions.