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People

Owens, Major Robert (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. HOuse of
Representatives Photography Office
Former New York Congressman Major Robert Owens was born on June 28, 1936 in Collierville, Tennessee.  He graduated from Hamilton High School in Memphis in 1952 at the age of 16.  Owens received a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College in 1956, and an M.S. in Library Science from Atlanta University in 1957. He then moved to Brooklyn, New York where he worked as a librarian.

During this time Owens became active in the Brooklyn community. In 1964 he served as the chair of the Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality and vice president of the Metropolitan Council of Housing for New York City.  He was also the community coordinator of the Brooklyn Public Library from 1964 to 1966, served as the executive director of the Brownsville Community Council from 1966 to 1968.  From 1968 to 1973 Owens was commissioner of the Community Development Agency in New York City.  Between 1973 and 1975 he served as director of the community media library program at Columbia University, NY.

Major Owens was elected to the New York State Senate as a Democrat in 1974.  He remained in the State Senate until 1982 when he was elected to New York’s Eleventh Congressional District, replacing the retiring Shirley Chisholm.  With his election Owens became the only professional librarian ever elected to Congress.
Sources: 
“Major Owens – Congresspedia” http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Major_Owens; “Members of Congress: Major Owens (Biographical Information),” http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/o000159/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Vashon, George B. (1824-1878)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
George Boyer Vashon, attorney, scholar, essayist and poet, made noteworthy contributions to the fight for emancipation and education of blacks. He was born on July 25, 1824, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the third child and only son of an abolitionist, John Bethune Vashon. At the age of 16, Vashon enrolled in Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio.  On August 28, 1844, Vashon earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with valedictory honors, becoming the college’s first black graduate. Five years later, Vashon was awarded a Master of Arts degree in recognition of his scholarly pursuits and accomplishments.  

After returning to Pittsburgh, he studied law under Judge Walter Forward, a prominent figure in Pennsylvania politics. After two years of reading law, Vashon applied for admission to the Allegheny County bar. His application was denied on the grounds that colored people were not citizens.  This inequitable act led to Vashon’s decision to emigrate to Haiti. Before leaving the United States, Vashon went to New York to take the bar examination, which he successfully completed on January 10, 1848, thus becoming the first black lawyer in New York.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982); Benjamin Griffith Brawley, Early Negro American Writers (Salem: Ayer Publishing, 1968); Paul N. D. Thornell, “The Absent Ones and the Providers: A Biography of the Vashons,” Journal of Negro History, 83:4 (1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Moten, Etta (1901-2004)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ali, Ayaan Hirsi (1969- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel (New York: Free Press, 2007); Ida Lichter, Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2009); R. D. Grillo, The Family in Question: Immigrant and Ethnic Minorities in Multicultural Europe (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008).
Contributor: 

Silvera, Frank (1914–1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Frank Silvera as Don Sebastian Montoya in the High Chaparra
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Frank Silvera was an important 20th Century actor, director, producer, and teacher.  Born on July 24, 1914 in Kingston, Jamaica, he grew up in Boston, Massachusetts and went on to study law at Northeastern University Law School. He later attended Boston University, Old Vic School, and the Actors Studio before moving to New York City, New York to pursue acting.

Sources: 

Garland Thompson, “Who was Frank Silvera?” The Frank Silvera Writers'
Workshop Foundation, Inc
. http://www.fsww.org/whois.html; “Frank
Silvera” Internet Movie Database.  (Imdb.com Inc: 2009)
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0798826/; David Ragan, Who’s Who In
Hollywood
(New Rochelle, NY: Arlington Press, 1976); Edward Mapp,
Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts (Metuchen, NJ: 1978).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Perry, Jim (1858–1918)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jim Perry was an African American cowboy and top hand, the highest-ranked cowboy, on the three million-acre XIT Ranch near Dalhart, Texas. Perry established himself as an expert roper, rider, bronc buster, cook and musician.

Perry was born on February 2, 1858, in Texas. Very little is known about his early life. Since his teens in the 1870s he worked for the Horse Shoe T Cross Ranch before joining the XIT, which was up and running by 1885. Perry helped string over seven hundred miles of barbed wire fencing along the entire XIT Ranch property by 1887 making it the largest fenced ranch in the world.  

Jim Perry was regarded as such an accomplished steer roper. In his later years Perry was revered for his culinary skills as a ranch house and chuck wagon cook for the XIT. He was also quite renowned as a top fiddler, which added to his likeability for he was loved and revered by his peers.

Perry remained a loyal employee of the XIT Ranch for two decades despite the fact that his race precluded him from becoming of one of the ranch’s foremen, a position for which he was well qualified. On September 29, 1908 he married Emma Beaseley. The couple had no children.  In 1918 Jim Perry died in Oldham County, Texas from a brain tumor.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, Black Cowboys of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2011); Sara R. Massey, ed., Black Cowboys of Texas (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2000); Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Reddick, Lawrence Dunbar (1910-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Department of
Special Collections, W.E.B DuBois
Library, University of Massachusetts
Amherst
During his life historian Lawrence Dunbar Reddick used his scholarly expertise to fight for civil rights.  Born in Jacksonville, Florida, on March 3, 1910, Reddick received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in history from Fisk University in 1932 and 1933, respectively.  He went to the University of Chicago to earn his PhD in history, which he completed in 1939.  That same year he married Ella Ruth Thomas to whom he was married for 57 years.  

Before Reddick received his PhD, he had begun his career as a historian and activist.  In 1934 he led the Works Project Administration slave narratives project at Kentucky State College which collected 250 slave testimonies and interviews by other former slaves in Kentucky and Indiana.  By 1936 Reddick was hired at Dillard University in New Orleans.  
Sources: 
“Dr. Lawrence Dunbar Reddick, historian and biographer, 85, dies,” Jet, 52 (October 1995); August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession: 1915-1980 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986); David Christopher Brighouse, "Reddick, Lawrence Dunbar," African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0001/e2365.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McFerrin, Robert Keith, Sr. (1921–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1953 baritone Robert McFerrin Sr. made history as the first African American to win the Metropolitan Opera House’s Auditions of the Air radio contest.  On January 27, 1955, in the role of Ethiopian King Amonasro in Verdi’s Aida, McFerrin made history again by becoming the first African American male to perform as a member of the Met (and the second black American to do so, less than three weeks after contralto Marian Anderson broke the Met’s color barrier).  

Born on March 19, 1921 in Marianna, Arkansas, Robert McFerrin was the fourth of eight children of Melvin McFerrin and Mary McKinney McFerrin.  The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, when McFerrin was two years old.  McFerrin first sang as a boy soprano in a church gospel choir.  During his early teens McFerrin and two of his siblings travelled with their itinerant preacher father, singing hymns, spirituals, and gospel songs at churches in the area.

Wishing for him to get a better education, in 1936 McFerrin’s parents sent him to live with his uncle and aunt in St. Louis, Missouri.  It was when he was a student at Sumner High School in St. Louis during an audition for the school choir that McFerrin so impressed the choir director he was given private classical vocal training.
Sources: 
Adam Bernstein, “Robert McFerrin Sr.; Was First Black Man to Sing With the Met,” The Washington Post, November 29, 2006; The Associated Press, "Robert McFerrin Sr., 85, Operatic Baritone at Met, Dies,'" New York Times, November 28, 2006; <http://stlouiswalkoffame.org/inductees/robert-mcferrin-sr.html >
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Herring, James V. (1887-1969)

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

Silva, Tatiana (1985- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Tatiana Silva Braga Tavares is best known as the woman who was crowned Miss Belgium in 2005 and who represented Belgium in the Miss World competition in Sanya, China later that year.  Silva was born in the Brussels suburb of Uccle on February 5, 1985.   She was born into a middle class family.  Her mother is from Belgium and her father is Cape Verdean.  

Nineteen-year-old Silva was studying to be a personal assistant (secretary) and working as a shop attendant at the time of the contest.  Silva was crowned Miss Belgium because of her appearance, her talent in dance, and her knowledge of a number of languages including French (her native language), Dutch, English, Portuguese, and Cape Verdean.

Sources: 
Catherine Delvaux, “Stromae et Tatiana Silva ont rompu,” http://www.7sur7.be/7s7/fr/1527/People/aticle/detail/1622464/2013/04/26Stromae-et-Tatiana-Silva-ont-rompu.dhtml; Anaïs Lefebure, Miss France: l’histoire d’un mythe (Paris: JOL Press, 2014).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Emeritus Professor, University of Paris

Boone Sr., Raymond Harold/ “Ray” (1938–2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Prominent Virginia journalist Ray Boone Sr. was born February 2, 1938, in Suffolk, Virginia.  His parents, foreign-born Japanese father, Tsujiro Miyanski, and mother, Leathia M. Boone, of mixed African and Native American descent, were banned from marrying in Virginia because of their different races. Yet they remained together, running a successful Asian-Soul Food restaurant until 1943.

Inspired by his parents’ belief that education crushed barriers of bigotry, and by a teacher who told him he wrote well, Boone won a county-wide poetry contest. Soon afterward, he started East Suffolk High School’s first newspaper and while there also wrote human interest stories in the “colored section” of a white daily newspaper, his hometown Suffolk News-Herald.

Sources: 
“Heritage marred by racial injustice…” (2014, June 5-7) Richmond Free Press. p. A4; Carrington, Ronald E. (2003, March 21), Interview with Raymond H. Boone (video recording) - Voices of Freedom: videotaped oral histories of leaders of the Civil Rights movement in Virginia. Virginia Commonwealth University/ James Branch Cabell Library, Special Collections and Archives, Richmond, Virginia; http://copylinemagazine.com/2014/06/09/richmond-free-press-farewell-to-ray-boone-crusading-editor-champion-journalist-dead-at-76/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Charleston, Oscar (1896-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Oscar Charleston was born October 14, 1896, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Growing up as a batboy for the local Indianapolis ABC’s, Charleston was a runaway who joined the Army at age 15. Stationed in the Philippines, Charleston was given the opportunity to play baseball and run track for the Army, where he ran the 220-yard dash in 23 seconds. While there, Charleston was allowed to play in the usually all-white Manila League.

Returning home in 1915, Charleston played for his hometown ABC’s. In one of many public outbursts resulting from his infamously bad temper, Charleston was suspended during his rookie season for arguing with an umpire, and was held on a $1000 bond. The next season, Charleston had a crucial role in the ABC’s Black World Series win over the Chicago American Giants, batting .360 in seven of the ten games.

After short stints with various teams from 1918-1920, Charleston would return to the ABC’s after the forming of the Negro National Leagues. In 1921, Charleston led the League in hitting (.426), triples (10), home runs (14), and stolen bases (28). Often compared to greats like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, Charleston dominated the League with his combination of hitting for both power and accuracy, his tremendous speed both in the outfield and while base running, and for his trademark intensity.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bankhead, Lester Oliver (1912-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lester Oliver Bankhead was among a handful of pioneering black architects in Los Angeles in the 1950s.  Although he faced the racial prejudice of his time, he was able to obtain work from Hollywood celebrities, such as actor Lorne Greene of the television series Bonanza; Kelly Lang, a well-known Los Angeles, California news anchor; and H.B. Barnum, noted music producer and arranger for Frank Sinatra and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.

Lester Bankhead, the eldest of six children, was born on April 20, 1912, in Union, South Carolina.  His parents were John Hayes Bankhead and Pearl Eugenia Eskew.  Bankhead had hoped to attend Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but the lack of financial support forced him to seek training elsewhere.  He wrote to Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, and was later enrolled in 1937.  Bankhead stated that he graduated from Voorhees with a degree in agriculture and a certificate in carpentry in 1941.  
Sources: 
Interview with Lester Bankhead by Wesley Henderson, Los Angeles, California, 1992, University of California at Los Angeles Oral History Program; Wendel Eckford, “Lester O. Bankhead,” in African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary 1865-1945, Dreck Spurlock Wilson, Editor (New York, 2004).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Brown, Ronald H. (1941-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Alma Brown Interview:  http://www.idvl.org/thehistorymakers/Bio484.html; Stephen A. Holmes, Ron Brown:  An Uncommon Life (New York:  Wiley & Sons, 2001); Tracey L. Brown, The Life and Times of Ron Brown (Pittsburgh:  William Morrow, 1998); Godfrey Hodgson, “Obituary:  Ron Brown,”  The Independent (April 5, 1996); Cheryl McCullers, “A Natural Born Leader,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin (Nov. 2000) http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0011/rbrown.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Clemente, Roberto (Walker) (1934-1972)

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

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

Abernathy, Ralph (1926-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ralph David Abernathy was born on March 11, 1926 in Linden, Alabama.  His boyhood was spent on his father’s Alabama farm but he joined the U.S. Army and served in World War II from 1941 to 1945.  After his service Abernathy returned to his home state where he attended Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama, receiving a degree in Mathematics in 1950.  
Sources: 
Ralph David Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography (New York: Harper and Row, 1989); http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2736.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Rush, Bobby L. (1946- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Congress
Bobby Lee Rush was born in Albany, Georgia on November 23, 1946. He graduated from Marshall High School in that city at the age of seventeen and soon afterwards enlisted in the United States Army.  Rush served in the Army from 1963 to 1968 when he was honorably discharged.

Rush relocated in Chicago where he attended Roosevelt University.  He received a B.A. degree with honors in 1973. Twenty-one years later (1994) he received a master’s degree in political science from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 1998 Rush received a second master’s degree in theological studies from McCormick Seminary and soon afterwards became an ordained Baptist minister.

While in college Rush became a political activist and soon devoted himself to Chicago’s civil rights movement.  He first joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1968 but soon afterwards became a co-founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party.  Rush ran the Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for Children program and also organized a free medical clinic.  The clinic developed the nation’s first mass testing program for sickle cell anemia while simultaneously raising awareness of the disease’s impact on African Americans in Chicago.
Sources: 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Butterfield, George Kenneth, Jr. (1947– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Merrick, John Henry (1859-1919)

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

John Henry Merrick—insurance agent, entrepreneur, business owner—was born in Clinton, North Carolina on September 7, 1859. Merrick was born a slave; he lived with his mother Martha Merrick and a younger brother. With the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation his family was freed. When Merrick was twelve he and his family relocated to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He got a job as a helper in a brickyard which provided support for his family. At the age of eighteen Merrick moved to Raleigh, North Carolina where he began work as a hod carrier.  Merrick eventually became a brick mason and worked on the construction of Shaw University in Raleigh.  

Sources: 

Walter B. Weare, Black Business in the New South: A Social History of
the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company
(Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 1973); Andrews, R. McCants “John Merrick. A
Biographical Sketch: Electronic Edition”
http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/andrews/andrews.html;  "John Henry Merrick,"
in Jessie Carney Smith, Millicent Lownes Jackson and Linda T. Wynn,
eds., Encyclopedia of African American Business (Westport, Conn:
Greenwood Press, 2006)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Barton, Katie D. Morgan (1918-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
When thirty-year-old Katie Barton followed her husband to the small town of Pasco in Washington State in 1948, she did not foresee that she would embark on a life of fighting for black equality and serving her community, nor did she envision becoming the first black woman to serve on the Pasco City Council.

Barton was born Katie D. Morgan to parents Isam and Carrie Morgan in Gonzalez, Texas in 1918.  In 1948, Katie Barton joined her husband Marion Barton in Pasco, Washington.  He had left Texas several months earlier to work on the Hanford Engineering Works, part of the federal government’s top secret Manhattan Project. Marion Barton was one of 15,000 black workers who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.  Instead of acceptance, these black workers encountered hostile, racist attitudes from the white residents of the Tri-Cities, named for the three cities of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco. In fact Pasco was the only city that allowed black residents, and only under the condition that they live east of the railroad tracks. Living conditions were appalling.  The city did not provide water or regular garbage service for most of the black residents in east Pasco. Segregation was not only limited to housing, but also extended to transportation, and many businesses refused to serve blacks.
Sources: 
Interview of Mrs. Katie Barton by Shu-chen Lucas and Robert Bauman, Pasco, Washington, March 20, 2010; Robert Bauman, "Jim Crow in the Tri-Cities, 1943-1950," Pacific Northwest Quarterly 96: 3 (Summer 2005), 124-131.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Washington State University, Tri-Cities

Laroche, Joseph Phillipe Lemercier (1889-1912)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of W. Mae Kent
Joseph Phillipe Lemercier Laroche, the only passenger of known African ancestry who died on the Titanic, was born on May 26, 1889 in Cap Haiten, Haiti.  He was the son of a white French army captain and a Haitian woman who was a descendant of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first ruler of independent Haiti.  Laroche's uncle, Dessalines M. Cincinnatus, was president of Haiti from 1911 to 1912.

Joseph Laroche grew up among the privileged upper class in Haiti and received his early education from private tutors.

Sources: 
Judith B. Geller, Women and Children First (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1998); James B. Clary, The Last True Story of Titanic (New York: Domham Books, 1998); Sabrina L. Miller, "Untold Story Of The Titanic," Chicago Tribune, February 20, 2000; Zondra Hughes, "What Happened To the Only Black Family On The Titanic," Ebony, June, 2000; http://www.titanic1.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Chubby Checker (Ernest Evans) (1941-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Chubby Checker, the man credited with inventing “The Twist,” was born Ernest Evans in Spring Gully, South Carolina. He moved to Philadelphia with his parents and two brothers and attended South Philadelphia High School. Evans aspired to become a performer from a young age and eventually caught a small break after graduating from high school making novelty records that were impressions of singers like Elvis Presley and Fats Domino.

Evans' career took off when he met Barbara Clark, wife of American Bandstand host, Dick Clark. Barbara Clark is credited with giving young Evans his full stage name. He’d picked up the nickname ‘Chubby’ while working in a Philadelphia poultry market. When Barbara Clark met him he was working on his Fats Domino impression at the recording studio. She said “You’re Chubby Checker, like Fats Domino.” The name stuck.

With Barbara Clark's help, Evans got a job recording a Christmas greeting card for Dick Clark’s associates. This record spawned another called “The Class," which contained impressions of famous singers. It was a hit. Unfortunately, Chubby Checker fell into obscurity and his record label was ready to drop him.
Sources: 
John Jackson, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire (New York, Oxford University Press, 1997); http://www.chubbychecker.com/bio.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gabaldon, Nicolas Rolando ["Nick"] (1927-1951)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Surfing aficionados credit Nick Gabaldon as California’s first documented surfer of African and Mexican American descent. A skilled recreational surfer, his legacy has inspired many, including especially surfers of color, to consider him as a role model. Born Nicolas Rolando “Nick” Gabaldon, Jr. in Los Angeles, California to parents Cecilia and Nicolas Gabaldon Sr., he grew up in Santa Monica.

Graduating from Santa Monica (SAMO) High in 1945, Gabaldon was one of the few African American students matriculating at the school during this era. Gabaldon served in the United States Navy from 1945–1946. Upon returning home, he enrolled in Santa Monica College where he became an honor student and aspiring writer while he worked as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier and resumed surfing.

As a teenager, Gabaldon began surfing in the Pacific Ocean at the Bay Street beach.  This beach was derogatorily called the “Inkwell” by Anglos referencing the skin color of the beachgoers who visited the area.  Gabaldon and other African Americans in Southern California, however, transformed the hateful moniker into a badge of pride.  
Sources: 
Rick Blocker, “Black Surfer Nick Gabaldon,” Legendary Surfers, February 2005, Surfing Heritage Foundation, http://files.legendarysurfers.com/blog/2005/02/black-surfer-nick-gabaldon.html; Jeff Ducols, “Black Surfers of the Golden State,” Surfer Magazine, August 1983, Vol. 24, No. 8: 96-101; Rick Grigg, Big Surf, Deep Dives and the Islands: My Life in the Ocean (Honolulu: Editions Limited, 1998).
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Bolden, Abraham (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Abraham Bolden, often erroneously referred to as the first black Secret Service Agent, was in fact the first black agent assigned to the prestigious White House Detail.  Bolden was born to Daniel and Ophelia Bolden in East St. Louis, Illinois on January 19, 1935.  He graduated from East St. Louis’s Lincoln High School in 1952 and attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri on a music scholarship, graduating cum laude in 1956.  After graduation, Bolden married his longtime friend and schoolmate Barbara L. Hardy.  The marriage lasted 49 years until her death on December 27, 2005.  The couple had three children.

In 1956 Bolden became the first African American to be employed as a detective by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.  He then served as an Illinois State Highway Patrolman.  In October 1960, Bolden joined the US Secret Service, becoming their second black agent (after Charles L.
Sources: 
Abraham Bolden, The Echo from Dealey Plaza (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008); Del Quentin, “The First Black Secret Service Agent,” The Washington Post, August 10, 2011; interview with Abraham Bolden by the author, January 4, 2014; UNITED STATES v. BOLDEN 355 F.2d 453 (1965); “Admits Bolden Trial Perjury: Spagnoli Tells of Trying to Aid Self,” Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1965; “Blunders and Wonders of Nov. 22, 1963,” Flagpole Magazine, November 19, 2008.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ganaway, King Daniel (1882- 1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
King Daniel Ganaway, a 39-year-old butler on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois rose to fame in 1921 by winning the first place prize in national photographic contest sponsored by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Department Store Owner John Wanamaker. Titled “The Spirit of Transportation,” the photograph was one of 900 entries. Ganaway’s camera lens captured the two engines of the 20th Century Limited as they came to the end of their run at the La Salle Street Station in Chicago. His entry was chosen over others submitted by professional photographers. He also won an Honorable Mention for another photograph, titled “Children in the Country.”

Born October 22, 1882 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, King Daniel’s parents were King and Hattie Ganaway. He was named after his father King and his grandfather Daniel. His devout Christian faith led King in 1903 at the age of 21 to leave Tennessee to join the Christian Catholic Church, a religious community in Zion, Illinois under the leadership of John Alexander Dowie. After nine months of waiting tables there he decided to move to Chicago.  

Sources: 
Edith M. Lloyd, “This Negro Butler Has Become Famous,” American Magazine, March 1925; America To-Day Combined with Fort Dearborn Magazine Digital Scans https://books.google.com/books?id=cEstAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA101&lpg=PA101&dq=american+today+combined+with+fort+dear+born+magazine&source=bl&ots=f9CgSPTIzv&sig=wZdqX0-O7A_h4exLnD61oMQ_zxU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=F8LoVN6XKoKlyATy9ID4BA&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage q=american%20today%20combined%20with%20fort%20dear%20born%20magazine&f=false; The National Geographic Magazine, April 1923, May 1924; and September 1928; John Gruber, “Ganaway Captures Train’s Spirit,” Railroad Heritage 3, 2001.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

King, Betty Eileen (1957– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador Betty Eileen King Greeting Secretary
of State Hilary Clinton at the Geneva Airport, December 6, 2001.
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Betty Eileen King is a public servant, philanthropist, and diplomat who has spent her career working to improve the lives of people around the world. Born in 1957 on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, King attended Grenadine Girls High School in Kingstown, the island nation’s capital, before setting off to pursue her higher education in Canada and the United States.

Sources: 
Statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ambassador Betty King, Ambassador-designate to the US/UN Geneva, December 1, 2009; U.S. Department of State, Archived Official Bio: http://1997-2001.state.gov/www/picw/acwbio_king.html; Interview with S. Jerry George on “Up Next!” https://vimeo.com/20569303.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Healy, Michael Augustine (1839–1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Michael Augustine Healy was an American captain in the United States Revenue Cutter Service, which is commonly known now as the United States Coast Guard. As such, he was the first African American officer in the Coast Guard. Healy was known primarily for enforcing federal law along the Alaskan coastline in the late nineteenth century, as well as rescuing whalers, shipwrecked sailors, and others in need.

Michael A. Healy was born in Macon, Georgia, on September 22, 1839. His father, Michael Morris Healy, was an Irish immigrant planter who was born in 1795 and moved to Jones County, Georgia, in 1818 where he eventually acquired one thousand five hundred acres of land through a land lottery and purchase. Michael Healy became one of the more successful plantation owners in the county partly because of the forty-nine enslaved people who worked on his plantations. One of the enslaved was Mary Eliza Smith who became his wife and later the mother of Michael A. Healy. According to slave law at the time, Michael Augustine Healy was technically born into slavery, prompting his father to send him North for his education and future.

Sources: 
“Captain Michael A. Healy, USRCS,” http://www.uscg.mil/history/people/HealyMichaelindex.asp; James O’Dell, “Revenue Captain Michael A. Healy, USRCS,” http://www.uscg.mil/history/people/Healy_ODell_Article.asp.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bibb, Henry (1815-1854)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Henry Walton Bibb was the eldest of the seven male children of Mildred Jackson. Henry was told that his father, whom he never met, was a man named James Bibb. He grew up in bondage in the Deep South, and claims to have been owned by seven people including a Cherokee Indian. Bibb frequently attempted escape throughout his slavery years until he succeeded in emancipating himself in 1842 after the death of his owner. Once his freedom was assured, he assumed an active role in the abolitionist movement in Michigan and New England. In 1848 Henry Bibb married Mary Miles, a woman from Boston, Massachusetts whom he met at an anti-slavery convention in New York City, New York. Mr. Bibb is best known for his eloquent autobiography, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, which was published in New York in 1849.
Sources: 
Roger W. Hite, “Voice of a Fugitive: Henry Bibb and Ante-Bellum Black Separatism,” Journal of Black Studies, 4:3 (March 1974).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hope, John (1868-1936)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 John Hope, a native of Augusta, Georgia, began his illustrious career in 1894 as a faculty member at Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee where he taught natural science, Latin and Greek.  He also coached the school’s football team.  This future President of Morehouse College graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.  He was much loved and respected by his students as evidenced by at least one of them honoring him by nam
Sources: 
Ridgley Torrence, The Story of John Hope (New York: Macmillan Company, 1948); Dorothy Granberry, “John Hope” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1993); John Hope Archives, Morehouse University Library, Atlanta, Georgia.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Richmond, David Leinail (1941-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Reviled by Langston Hughes and many others for his film and stage portrayals of black characters as “lazy, shuffling, no-account Negroes,” Perry transformed himself from a minor-league minstrel clown into one of the most highly-paid black actors in Hollywood, California history at the expense of a legacy which many find revolting and others see as pioneering in times far different from our own.
Sources: 
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes & Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in American Films (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1988); Mel Watkins, Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry (New York: Pantheon Books, 2005)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Baker, Ella (1903-1986)

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

Taylor, Hobart Jr. (1920-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hobart Taylor, Jr, a government official and lawyer, was born to Charlotte and Hobart Taylor, Sr., on December 17, 1920 in Texarkana, Texas. Taylor graduated from Prairie View College in Texas with a B.A. degree in 1937. He received an M.A. degree from Howard University in 1939 and a J.D. degree from the University of Michigan in 1943. While at Michigan, Taylor served as editor of Michigan Law Review.

Taylor was admitted to Michigan Bar in 1944 and became Assistant to Raymond W. Starr, the Chief Justice of Michigan Supreme Court between 1944 and 1945. He later practiced law for four years before serving as prosecuting attorney for Wayne County (Detroit) Michigan from 1949 to 1950. Hobart Taylor, Jr. and his father, Hobart Taylor, Sr., of Houston, were early supporters of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s candidacy for the Presidency in 1960.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named Taylor special counsel to the President’s Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity where he is credited with coining the phrase, “affirmative action.” While on the Commission Taylor helped devise a volunteer program, Plans for Progress, which promoted equal employment opportunities for people of color among 300 firms.
Sources: 
John H. Johnson, The Ebony Success Library (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Co., 1973); Andrew Webster Jackson, A Sure Foundation and a Sketch of Negro Life in Texas (Houston: No Publisher Given, 1940); Richard L. Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff, Diversity in the Power Elite: How It Happened, Why It Matters (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Meriwether, Louise Jenkins (1923- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
  
Louise Jenkins Meriwether, a novelist, essayist, journalist and social activist, was the only daughter of Marion Lloyd Jenkins and his wife, Julia.  Meriwether was born May 8, 1923 in Haverstraw, New York to parents who were from South Carolina where her father worked as a painter and a bricklayer and her mother worked as a domestic. 

After the stock market crash of October 24, 1929, Louise’s family migrated from Haverstraw to New York City.  They moved to Brooklyn first, and later to Harlem.  The third of five children, Louise grew up in the decade of the Great Depression, a time that would deeply affect her young life and ultimately influence her as a writer.

Despite her family’s financial plight, Louise Jenkins attended Public School 81 in Harlem and graduated from Central Commercial High School in downtown Manhattan. In the 1950’s, she received a B.A. degree in English from New York University before meeting and marrying Angelo Meriwether, a Los Angeles teacher.  Although this marriage and a later marriage to Earle Howe ended in divorce, Louise continues to use the Meriwether name.  In 1965, Louise earned an M.A. degree in journalism from the University of California at Los Angeles. 
Sources: 
Louise Meriwether, Daddy Was a Number Runner (New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2002); Cheryl Lynn Greenberg, Or Does It Explode?:  Black Harlem in the Great Depression (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Cooper, John W. (1873-1966)

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

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

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

Agrippa Hull: Revolutionary Patriot

Image Ownership: Public Domain
In the following article, University of California at Los Angeles historian Gary B. Nash describes little-known Revolutionary War soldier who was attached by General George Washington to serve with Polish military engineer Tadeuz Kosciuszko. This account is part of a larger history of three individuals, Thomas Jefferson, Tadeuz Kosciuszko, and Agrippa Hull, who shaped the revolutionary struggle even as their own lives were transformed by it.

Agrippa Hull was one of the most remarkable and unnoticed African Americans of the revolutionary era.  He served for six years and two months in Washington’s Continental Army, which earned him a badge of honor for this extended service. But Hull’s influence on shaping the abolitionist thought of Tadeuz Kosciuszko, the Polish military engineer for whom he served as an orderly for the last 50 months of the war, is the hidden importance of the young black patriot.  
Summary: 
In the following article, University of California at Los Angeles historian Gary B. Nash describes a little-known Revolutionary War soldier who was attached by General George Washington to serve with Polish military engineer Tadeuz Kosciuszko. This account is part of a larger history of three individuals, Thomas Jefferson, Tadeuz Kosciuszko, and Agrippa Hull, who shaped the revolutionary struggle even as their own lives were transformed by it.
Sources: 
Gary B. Nash and Graham Russell Gao Hodges, Friends of Liberty: Thomas Jefferson, Tadeuz Kosciuszko, and Agrippa Hull; A Tale of Three Patriots, Two Revolutions, and a Tragic Betrayal of Freedom in the New Nation (New York: Basic Books, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Walker, Moses Fleetwood (1857-1924)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Johnson, Kevin Maurice (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Kevin Johnson Campaigning for Mayor of Sacramento, 2008
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, California, was born in California's capital city in 1966. He graduated from Sacramento High School, where he led the state in basketball scoring during his senior year, with a point average of 32.5 points. Johnson then played college basketball at the University of California at Berkeley.  While there he became the all-time leader in scoring for that varsity team.  After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1987, Johnson was drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA).

As the seventh round draft pick, Johnson was chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was quickly traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1988, where he remained for the duration of his career in the NBA. Johnson played point guard, and with his high point-scoring, was considered by many teams as a threat. The Phoenix Suns' overall record improved with his selection and so did Johnson's performance.

During his first year with Phoenix (1988-1989), Johnson was named the NBA's most improved player.  He also competed in all-star games in 1990, 1991, and 1994 and played on the U.S. Olympic Basketball team (Dream Team II) which won a gold medal in Toronto, Canada in the 1994 World Championship of Basketball.  Kevin Johnson officially retired from the NBA on August 8, 2000 after 13 years in the league.

Sources: 
Leanor Boulin Johnson and Robert Staples, Black Families at the Crossroads (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005); David L. Porter, Basketball: a Biographical Dictionary (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005); http://www.kevinjohnsonformayor.com/about/bio
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

McKenzie, Vashti Murphy (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On July 11, 2000, journalist and clergywoman Vashti Murphy McKenzie became the first female bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In 2005 she became the denomination’s first woman to serve as Titular Head. Her commitment to community development is evident in her work with urban American cities as well as in AIDS-stricken Africa.

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie was born on May 28, 1947 into a prominent Baltimore, Maryland family. Her great-grandfather John Henry Murphy, Sr. founded the Afro-American Newspaper in 1892, and her grandmother Vashti Turly Murphy was a founding member of Delta Sigma Theta, an African American college sorority. Bishop McKenzie graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland in 1978. She later earned a master’s of divinity from Howard University and a doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary.
Sources: 
Martha Simmons and Frank A. Thomas, eds., Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010); Vashti M. McKenzie, Journey to the Well (New York: Penguin, 2003); C. Stone Brown, “The Rev. Vashti Murphy McKenzie: A Bishop for the New Millennium,” The New Crisis, November/December, 2000, pp. 29-31; “Bishop Vashti McKenzie,” The 13th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, http://www.13thame.com/index.php?page_id=about_leadership (accessed January 12, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Desdunes, Rodolphe Lucien (1849-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes was a prominent editor, author, and civil rights activist from New Orleans, Louisiana.  He is best known for his work in Plessy v. Ferguson, the most important civil rights case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 19th Century, and a book he authored about the history and culture of Creoles in Louisiana. 

Desdunes was born November 15, 1849 in New Orleans.  His father was a Haitian exile, and his mother was Cuban.  Desdunes came from a family that owned a tobacco plantation and manufactured cigars.  He was a law student at Straight University in the early 1870s.  He also worked for the United States Customs House in New Orleans first as a messenger from 1879 to 1885, and as a clerk from 1891 to 1894, and again from 1899 to 1912.

Sources: 
Sharlene Sinegal DeCuir, Attacking Jim Crow: Black Activism in New Orleans 1925-1942 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2009); Rebecca J. Scott, “The Atlantic World and the Road to Plessy v. Ferguson,” The Journal of American History 94:3 (December 2007); Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes, Our People and Our History: Fifty Creole Portraits (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1973).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hrabowski, Freeman A., III (1950- )

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

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

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

Thompson, John Edward West (1855-1918)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Edward West Thompson was an African American non-career diplomat. He served as U.S. Minister Resident/Consul General to Haiti from June 30, 1885 to October 17, 1889. Thompson simultaneously served as U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) from 1885 to 1889.

John E. W. Thompson was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1855, but moved with his family to Providence, Rhode Island in 1865.  He received his early education in public schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  In 1883 Thompson graduated with “high honors” from Yale Medical School.  He married a woman from New Haven, Connecticut, known only as “Miss McLinn.” He and his new bride traveled to Paris, France where he pursued medical studies and became proficient in the French language. In 1884, Thompson returned to New York City and began his medical practice.
Sources: 
U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/thompson-john-e-w; Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Parker, Maurice S. (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador Maurice S. Parker is a career Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Minister-Counselor at the U.S. Department of State.  On April 30, 2007 Parker was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Swaziland.  After U.S. Senate confirmation, Parker arrived at Mbabane, the capital, and presented his credentials to the King of Swaziland on September 21, 2007.  He served as ambassador until June 12, 2009.

Parker was born in 1949 in California to parents Robert and Gertrude Parker. Parker received his Bachelors in Arts in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1972. In 1974 he earned his Master's degree in education administration at San Francisco State University. Parker is also a 1993 graduate of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He was also a participant in the Senior Seminar of the Department of State between 2000 and 2001.
Sources: 
U.S. Congress, "Maurice S. Parker," Congressional Record, Volume 153, Number 105 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office (2008); University of Illinois Chicago, "Previous Diplomat in Residence Biography Maurice S. Parker," Office of International Affairs, University of Illinois Chicago, https://oia.uic.edu/about/diplomat-in-residence/previous-diplomats-in-residence-at-uic/maurice-s-parker-biography; U.S. Department of State, "Maurice S. Parker," U.S. Department of State, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/parker-maurice-s.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bashen, Janet Emerson (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Pubic Domain"
Janet Emerson Bashen is the founder and CEO of the Bashen Corporation, a private consulting group that investigates Equal Employment Opportunity complaints under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She is the first African American woman in the United States to hold a software patent.

Born Janet Emerson in Mansfield, Ohio on February 12, 1957, Bashen grew up in a working class family. Early in her childhood, her family moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where her father worked as a garbage collector and her mother was the city’s first black woman emergency room nurse.

Bashen attended Alabama A&M until she married and relocated to Houston, Texas. She finished her degree in legal studies and government at the University of Houston and then continued her education at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Administration. She also attended Harvard University’s “Women and Power: Leadership in a New World.”
Sources: 
“Janet Emerson Bashen,” The Bashen Corporation, http://www.bashencorp.com/founder/; “Bashen Corporation: Corporation History and Accolades,” The Bashen Corporation, 2016, http://www.bashencorp.com/corporate-history-and-accolades/; Mary Bellis, “Janet Emerson Bashen,” About.com: Money, http://inventors.about.com/od/blackinventors/a/bashen.htm; Samara Lynn, “How Janet Bashen Became a Software Pioneer,” Black Enterprise, Feb. 9, 2016, http://www.blackenterprise.com/technology/how-janet-bashen-became-a-software-pioneer/.
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)

Wiley, George Alvin (1931-1973)

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

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

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

Young, Charles (1864-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Colonel Charles Young enjoyed a decorated military career after his graduation from West Point Military Academy in 1889.  A Buffalo Soldier serving with the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 25th Infantry, Young eventually became the first African American to achieve the rank of Colonel in the United States Army.

Charles Young was born to ex-slaves in Mays Lick, Kentucky in 1864.  His father, Gabriel, served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  At the age of 20 Charles Young was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point.  In 1889 he became the third African American to graduate from the Academy.
Sources: 
Abraham Chew, A Biography of Colonel Charles Young (Washington, D.C.: R. L. Pendelton, 1923); TaRessa Stovall, The Buffalo Soldier (Chelsea House Publishers, Philadelphia, 1997); T. G. Stewart, Buffalo Soldiers: The Colored Regulars in the United States Army (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2003); http://www.buffalosoldier.net; http://www.nps.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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

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

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

Harlan, Robert James (1816-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

Bechet, Sidney (1897-1959)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Soprano saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet was one of the most important soloists of early jazz.  Together with Louis Armstrong, he was the first to develop the loose, fluid rhythmic style that set jazz apart from ragtime and that came to be known as “swinging.”  

Sidney Joseph Bechet was born on May 14, 1897 to a middle-class Creole family in New Orleans.  He began playing clarinet at age six, and although he studied briefly with such legendary early New Orleans clarinetists as George Baquet and Lorenzo Tio, Jr., he was mostly self taught.  By the age of twenty, when he left New Orleans for Chicago, Bechet had played with nearly every major figure in early jazz, including Joseph “King” Oliver, Bunk Johnson, and Freddie Keppard.

In 1919, composer and conductor Will Marion Cook asked Bechet to join his Southern Syncopated Orchestra on a tour of Europe.  Upon hearing Bechet for the first time, Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet called him “an artist of genius.”  While in London with Cook’s group, Bechet purchased a soprano saxophone, which soon became his primary instrument, although he continued to play clarinet as well.
Sources: 
Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968); James Lincoln Collier, “Bechet, Sidney”, Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed 7 January 2008), http://www.grovemusic.com ; http://www.sidneybechet.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Carnegie Hall

Evans, Greene (1848-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University Special Collections
Greene Evans, Fisk Jubilee Singer, Memphis City Councilman and Tennessee State Assemblyman, was born somewhere in Tennessee and emancipated after the Civil War.  Evans attended night school at a Memphis freedmen’s school until it was burned down in the Memphis Riot in 1866. After working briefly as a hotel porter, Evans proceeded to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he paid his way through school working as a groundskeeper. Dignified, fastidious and enterprising, Evans taught at a small school in the summer near the Tennessee-Mississippi border. Scrounging timber from the surrounding woods, he built his own desks, benches and a schoolhouse which at least “did not lack for ventilation, for a bird could fly through anywhere.” Evans joined the first Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1872 and he proudly participated in the first tour that took them to eight states and Great Britain.  
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); United States Freedman Records, 1865-1874: Record 4836; Tennessee State Library and Archives,  http://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/exhibits/blackhistory/bios/evans.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Zulu, Shaka (1787-1828)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Shaka Zulu established the Zulu Empire and revolutionized warfare in Southern Africa in the early 19th Century.  Shaka was born in 1787. His father, Senzangakhona, was a minor chief of one of the Zulu-speaking clans and his mother, Nandi, was daughter of Chief Mbhengi of the rival clan.  Shaka’s birth was considered a sin because his parents were from different clans. Due to pressure from tribal leaders Shaka’s parents separated resulting in the exile of him and his mother from his father’s clan. Shaka’s mother returned to her Elangeni where she was shunned.  Consequently, her son Shaka was harassed, tormented, and neglected.

As Shaka grew older, he recalled with anger his tormenting by Elangeni members.  Upon reaching manhood he deserted the Elangeni and became affiliated with the Mthethwa clan. He served as a warrior for six years under the reign of Dingiswayo, the Mthethwa’s chief. Dingiswayo was impressed by Shaka’s courage and endurance and remained with the Mthethwa until he learned of the death of his father, Senzangakhona, in 1816.

Shaka claimed his father’s chieftaincy with military assistance from Dingiswayo.  With his experience learned from the Mthethwa, he transformed his clan’s military from a largely ceremonial force into a powerful army capable of both defense and aggression.
Sources: 
Carolyn Hampton, “Shaka Zulu,” in New Encyclopedia of Africa, John Middleton and Joseph C. Miller, eds., (New York: Scribner’s, 2008); Alonford James Robinson, “Shaka,” in Africana, the Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience. Ed. Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wood, Robert (1844 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Taylor, Robert Rochon (1899–1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
D. Bradford Hunt, Blueprints for Disaster (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009); Michelle Cottle, "The Woman to See," thenewrepublic.com, August 27, 2008; Clarence G. Williams, "From 'Tech' to Tuskegee: The Life of Robert Robinson Taylor, 1868-1942," libraries.mit.edu/archives/mithistory/blacks-at-mit/taylor.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mugabe, Robert Gabriel (1924- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Sources: 
Alan Rake, African Leaders (London:  The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2001); Steven Chan, Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence (Ann Arbor:  The University of Michigan Press, 2003); Andrew Norman, Robert Mugabe and the Betrayal of Zimbabwe (London:  McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Irving, Barrington (1983- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of National Aeronautics
and Space Administration
Barrington Irving is the first African American to fly solo around the world and, as of 2010, the youngest person to complete the feat. He made his flight at the age of 23. Irving was born in Kingston, Jamaica on November 11th, 1983. He was the oldest of three brothers. When Irving was six years old, his family relocated to inner-city Miami, Florida. Here his parents operated a Christian bookstore where Irving worked when he was not in school.

Around the age of 15, Irving began to develop a pronounced interest in aviation. A customer at his parents’ bookstore was a United Airlines pilot and invited Irving to visit the airport and tour the cockpit of a Boeing 777 airliner. The tour was a turning point in Irving’s life, which quickly became focused on learning to fly. Soon, Irving was working odd jobs at airports in order to earn flying time in light aircraft while practicing at home with a computer flight simulator.
Sources: 
Vincent M. Mallozzi, “At 23, the Youngest Pilot to Solo the Planet”, The New York Times, July 18, 2007; “Barrington Irving: Young Pilot Promotes Aviation Careers,” Avjobs Weekly (Vol. 43, October 18, 2010), http://www.avjobs.com/avjobsweekly/newsletters/Pilot-Promotes-Aviation-Careers.asp; Experience Aviation, http://www.experienceaviation.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Knox, William Jacob, Jr. (1904-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Harvard University Archives,
HUD 325.25
Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on January 5, 1904, William Knox is remembered for two achievements.  He was among a handful of black scientists to work on the top secret Manhattan Project, which produced the atom bomb during World War II, and following the war he held a key development position at the Kodak Corporation, a major manufacturer of camera equipment.

Knox was the oldest of three brothers born to William and Estelle Knox. The elder Knox was a clerk at the U.S. postal service in New Bedford.  All of the brothers attended Harvard University as undergraduates with William graduating from the institution in 1925.  All three Knox brothers would go on to earn Ph.D.s.  The middle son, Everett, studied history.  The youngest son, Lawrence, studied chemistry and, during World War II, joined his eldest brother on Manhattan Project research.    
Sources: 
Jessie Parkhurst Guzman, et al., Negro Year Book: A Review of Events Affecting Negro Life, 1941-1946 (Tuskegee Institute, Alabama: Dept. of Records and Research, 1947); Patricia Carter Sluby, The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2004); Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moster, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

Estes, Simon (1938- )

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

He was born to Simon Estes, Sr., a coal miner and the son of a slave, and Ruth Jeter Estes, a homemaker.  He grew up in the small south central Iowa town of Centerville.  His mother stimulated his interest in music and he began singing in church at an early age.
Sources: 
Simon Estes and Mary L. Swanson, Simon Estes: In His Own Voice, An Autobiography (Cumming, Iowa:  LMP, L.C., A. Landauer, Co., 1999);
http://wartburg.edu/estes/ (accessed 4/1/13).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Christie, Rachel (1988- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Rachel Sophia Adina Christie was crowned Miss England on July 20, 2009. She was the first women of African descent to hold the title.  Previously she was Miss London City 2009.  Christie’s reign as Miss England was brief; she was forced to relinquish her title in November 2009.   

Rachel Christie is biracial. Her mother Diana Christie is a white Irish Catholic. Her father, Afro-Briton Russel Christie, the brother of former British Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie, was stabbed to death when young Rachel was eight.  She has three siblings, James, Rhease, and Rebecca.
Sources: 
Frances Hardy, “I Won Miss England to Prove Being Black is Never an Excuse for Failure Says Linford Christie's Niece,” The (London) Daily Mail, July 25, 2009; Ruth Barnett, “Arrested Ms. England Hands Back The Crown,” Sky News, November 6, 2009; “Linford Christie's niece faces arrest after missing breathalyzer trial,” London Evening Standard, July 8, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

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

Atkins, Joseph Louis (1936–2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Joseph Louis (Joe) Atkins is best known for integrating Texas Western College (now the University of Texas, El Paso). In 1956 he became the first African American student to graduate from the institution.  

Joe Atkins was born in Jefferson, Texas, on March 6, 1936, to Willie and Mable Atkins. Willie Atkins supported the family as a farmer but later moved to Dallas in 1950 where he became a plumber while Mable sold insurance. Joe’s parents recognized his aptitude and encouraged his education. He graduated from Lincoln High School in Dallas in 1954 and then moved to Arkansas to attend Philander Smith College, but after only a semester, the homesick student decided to move back to Dallas.  

Sources: 
“Joe Louis Atkins Obituary, Dallas Post Tribune, July 7, 2015, http://dallasposttrib.com/2015/07/17/in-loving-memory-of-dr-joe-louis-atkins/ “Joe Louis Atkins,” Maurine F. Bailey Cultural Foundation, Dallas, Texas, http://www.mfbcenter.com/staff_trusted/joe-atkins/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stephen F. Austin State University

Young, Andrew (1932 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Andrew Young, Jr., came into prominence as a civil rights activist and close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the modern civil rights movement in the United States.  Young worked with various organizations early in the movement, but his civil rights work was largely done with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) where he served as an executive director and later executive vice president.  Young served on the Board of Directors until 1972.

Young was born into a prosperous upper-middle-class family on March 12, 1932 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Daisy Fuller, a school teacher, and Andrew Jackson Young, Sr., a Howard University-educated dentist.  Young, Sr. moved the family from Franklin, Louisiana to New Orleans.  Young, Sr., believed the move was necessary to take advantage of educational opportunities for Andrew and his younger brother Walter Young (b. 1934).
Sources: 
Andrew Young, Andrew Young: An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movements and the Transformation of America, (New York: Harper-Collins, 1996); Adam Fairclough, To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987); Elizabeth Heath, “Young, Andrew,” Africana: The Encyclopedia of African and African American Experience, Eds., Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (New York: Preseus, 1999);
www.andrewyoungfoundation.org.
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Hayes, Ralph (1922-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ralph Hayes grew up poor in rural, segregated Cairo, Illinois, the fourth of twelve children. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and then transferred to the University of Washington, where he earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in political science. In 1950 he married Elaine Ishikawa, who was his wife for 49 years. As a couple they embraced local activism and joined the Christian Friends for Racial Equality where, as Editor-in-Chief of the newsletter, Ralph wrote about national civil rights news and Japanese American issues stemming from WWII.

In 1956 Hayes became the second African American academic teacher hired by Seattle School District. He taught history and government classes in public high schools for thirty years at West Seattle, Garfield and Franklin (in Seattle) and Newport (in Bellevue).  He also taught evenings at Edison Technical College and Bellevue Community College.  For eight summers beginning in 1966, Hayes was a teacher and later director of the Upward Bound program at the University of Washington.
Sources: 
Obituary by Carole Beers, Seattle Times, 5/13/99; Obituary by Judd Slivka, Seattle Post Intelligencer, 5/21/99; “Historians Honored with 1990 Governor’s Ethnic Heritage Awards,” Mark Boyar, Northwest Ethnic News, June 1990; Elaine Ishikawa Hayes statement in Mary Willix, ed., Remembering Ralph Hayes (Creative Forces Publishing, 2007); Mary Willix, Ibid.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Purvis, Robert (1810-1898)

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

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

Rolle, Esther (1920-1998)

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

Despite the success of the series, Rolle clashed with the Hollywood producers because of their depiction of the oldest son, J.J. (played by Jimmie Walker) as a buffoon.  She and her co-star, John Amos, who played the father and shared her concerns, briefly quit the series.  Rolle returned during the final series to show the television family had reconciled.
Sources: 
Alvin Klein, ‘The River Niger’ in Scorching Style,” The New York Times, September 25, 1983; Eric Pace, “Chronicle,” The New York Times, August 14, 1990; James Sterngold, “Esther Rolle, 78, Who Played Feisty Maid and Matriarch,” New York Times, November 19, 1998.  B14.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Smiley, Tavis (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The third of ten children, Smiley was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on September 13, 1964, to Joyce Marie and Emory G. Smiley. At the age of two, he and his family moved to Indiana when his father, an Air Force non-commissioned officer, was transferred to Grissom Air Force Base in Bunker Hill, Indiana.  His mother is a Pentecostal minister. Upon graduation from Maconaquah High School, Smiley attended Indiana University, where he was involved in student government and became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. After reconsidering a decision to drop out of college at the end of his junior year, he interned as an aide to Tom Bradley, the first African-American mayor of Los Angeles. Smiley returned to Indiana University after the internship, receiving his bachelor’s degree in law and public policy in 1986. Upon graduation, he served as an aide to Mayor Bradley until 1990.
Sources: 
Tavis Smiley and David Ritz, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America (New York: Doubleday, 2006); Tavis Smiley, The Covenant with Black America (Third World Press, 2006); http://www.pri.org/smiley.html ; http://gale.cengage.com/free_resources/bhm/bio/smiley_t.htm ; http://www.answers.com/topic/tavis-smiley#top
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch University Seattle

Rillieux, Norbert (1806-1894)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
George Meade, “A Negro Scientist of Slavery Days,” Negro History Bulletin (April 1957, pp.159-164); James M. Brodie, Created Equal: The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators (New York: Bill Adler Books, Inc., 1993); http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/norbertrillieux.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fowler, John W. “Bud” (1858-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born John W. Jackson, in Fort Plain, New York, on March 16, 1858, Fowler spent much of his boyhood in Cooperstown, N.Y. where organized baseball maintains its Hall of Fame and museum. Coincidentally Fowler is argued to be one of the first professional black baseball players, when in 1872 he joined a white team in New Castle, Pennsylvania for a salary.  For the next two and a half decades, Fowler played across the country where black players were allowed to play, from Massachusetts to Colorado and briefly in Canada. He played in crossroad farm towns and in mining camps, in pioneer Western settlements and in larger Eastern cities.  Like many ball players of his day, Fowler could play most any position, but it was as a second baseman and pitcher where he excelled at best.  His habit of calling teammates and other players “Bud” led to his nickname.

Organized baseball was just being structured during the turn of the century and Fowler was one of sixty black players who played in white leagues across the country. In the early days of baseball there was no official color line, and he played in organized baseball with white ball clubs until the color line became entrenched around 1900. Until 1895 Fowler he was usually the only black player on an all-white team.
Sources: 
Ralph J. Christian, “Bud Fowler: The First African American Professional Baseball Payer and the 1885 Keokuks,” Iowa Heritage Illustrated 87:1 (2006); Robert Peterson, Only the Ball Was White (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McNeil, Claudia (1917-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

James, C.L.R. (1901-1989)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frank Rosengarten, Urbane Revolutionary: C. L. R. James and the Struggle for a New Society (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008); Selwyn Reginald Cudjoe and William E. Cain, C.L.R. James: His Intellectual Legacies (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994); Farrukh Dhondy, C.L.R. James: A Life (New York: Pantheon Books, 2001); Anna Grimshaw, The C.L.R. James Reader (Oxford, UK; Cambridge, USA: Blackwell, 1992).
Contributor: 

Said, Omar Ibn (1770-1864)

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

Omar Ibn Said, also known as "Uncle Moreau" was unusual among enslaved people in the antebellum United States in that before he was captured he was highly educated and could read and write fluently at a time when most African slaves were illiterate.  Said’s autobiography is unique because it is the only personal account of a slave written in his native language while he was in bondage in the United States.

Omar Ibn Said was born in 1770 along the Senegal River in Futa Tooro, West Africa to a wealthy Muslim family.  When his father died, Said at age five was sent to a nearby town to study Islam and become a teacher.  Religion was paramount in Said’s life and he was devout to the Muslim faith.  With extensive religious training Said became well educated and fluent in Arabic.  

Sources: 

“Autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, Slave in North Carolina, 1831,” The
American Historical Review
30:  4 (July, 1925); http://sites.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/omar-ibn-sayyid; Sylvaine A.
Diouf,   Servants of Allah:  African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas
(New York: New York University Press, 1998).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Willis, Charley (1847–1930)

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

 

Charley and Laura Willis
Image Ownership: Public Domain

African American cowboy Charley Willis was recognized as a singing cowboy who authored the popular trail song, “Goodbye Old Paint.” Willis was a skilled cowhand who not only sang songs from the trail but who contributed to preserving authentic cowboy music from the era.

Charley Willis was born in 1847 in Milam County, outside of Austin, Texas. Freed after the Civil War he headed to West Texas at age eighteen and found work breaking wild horses at the Morris Ranch in Bartlett, Texas. In 1871, at age twenty-four, he rode the Chisholm Trail one thousand miles north into Wyoming Territory as a drover. Charley was musically knowledgeable and talented. He became known for the songs he brought back from the trail.

In 1885 Willis taught his favorite song, “Good-bye Old Paint,” to Morris’s seven-year-old son, Jess.  As an adult Jess Morris became known as a talented fiddler, and though credited with authoring “Good-bye Old Paint,” he was quick to clarify that had he learned the song from Charley Willis as a child. In 1947 John Lomax, a pioneering musicologist and folklorist, recorded Morris singing and playing Willis’ song, “Good-bye Old Paint,” and later sent it to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress where it is preserved.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, Black Cowboys of the Old West (Guilford, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 2011); Sara R. Massey, ed., Black Cowboys of Texas (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2000); Jim Bob Tinsley, He Was Singin’ This Song: A Collection of Forty-Eight Traditional Songs of the American Cowboy, with Words, Music, Pictures, and Stories (Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida, 1982).
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

Davy, Gloria (1931-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gloria Davy, a rich-voiced (lirico-spinto) soprano who “sang for the sheer joy of singing” had a four decade career as a concert singer. Early in her career she replaced Leontyne Price as Bess in the 1954 international tour of Porgy and Bess. In 1958 she broke color barriers when she was chosen for the lead in Aida with the Metropolitan Opera. After moving to Europe she gained international recognition for singing, acting, and teaching.

Davy was born on March 29, 1931 in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents from St. Vincent in the Caribbean. After graduation from the High School of Music and Art, she received a degree from Juilliard School (1953). By that time she had already twice (1951, 1952) received the Marian Anderson Award for young singers, established in 1943 by Ms. Anderson, who was the first black singer to appear at the Metropolitan Opera House. Davy’s singing career soon became well established in New York City and included a Town Hall presentation of Benjamin Britten’s Les Illuminations, in 1953.
Sources: 
John Gray, Blacks in Classical Music: A Bibliographical Guide (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988); “New Voices on the Air,” Opera News, December 1, 1958; “Double Launching,” Time, February 2, 24, 1958; Margalit Fox, “Gloria Davy” obituary, New York Times, December 10, 2012; Herb Boyd, “Gloria Davy, opera pioneer, dead at 81,” New York Amsterdam News, January 9, 2013.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wheeler, Emma Rochelle (1882-1957)

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

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

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

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

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

Dudley, Edward Richard (1911-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Edward Dudley was the first black American to lead a U.S. Mission abroad with the rank of Ambassador. Dudley was born on March 11, 1911 in South Boston, Virginia to Edward Richard and Nellie (Johnson) Dudley. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith College in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1932, Dudley briefly taught in a one-room Virginia school. He later moved to Washington, D.C., and enrolled in Howard University’s dentistry program. After deciding dentistry was not for him, Dudley moved to New York City, New York, eventually enrolling at St. John’s University where he earned a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree in 1941.  While at St. John’s he served on its prestigious Law Review.
Sources: 
The New York Times, February 11, 2005; “Black Chiefs of Mission Oral History Project, Judge Edward Richard Dudley,” Phelps Stokes Fund, April 3, 1981; Pioneering African Americans in the Courts and the Legal Community Past and Present  (New York: Unified Court System of New York, February 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Robert Browning Flippin (1903–1963)

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

Robert Browning Flippin was an important community leader and racial activist in San Francisco beginning in the 1930s through the 1950s. He was also the first African American parole officer at the California State Prison at San Quentin. The son of the black physician George Albert Flippin, Robert attended Nebraska Central College and Washington State College prior to his arrival in San Francisco. In 1936 he also studied medical technology briefly at the Northwest Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In 1937 Flippin was appointed executive director of the Booker T. Washington Community Center in San Francisco, a recreation facility located in San Francisco’s Western Addition that catered to the city’s small African American population. Here, Flippin interacted with a broad array of San Francisco’s leaders and was regarded by the 1940s as one of the most respected African American leaders in the Bay Area.

Sources: 
Albert S. Broussard, African American Odyssey: The Stewarts, 1853-1963 (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas A&M University

Cuffe, Paul, Sr. (1759-1817)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Paul Cuffe is best known for his work in assisting free blacks who wanted to emigrate to Sierra Leone.  Cuffe was born free on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts (near New Bedford) sometime around 1759. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He was the youngest of ten children. His father, Kofi (also known as Cuffe Slocum), was from the Ashanti Empire in West Africa. Kofi was captured, enslaved and brought to New England at the age of 10. Paul's mother, Ruth Moses, was Native American. Kofi, a skilled tradesman who was able to earn his freedom, died when Paul Cuffe was a teenager. The younger Cuffe refused to use the name Slocum, which his father had been given by his owner, and instead took his father's first name.
Sources: 
Sheldon H. Harris, Paul Cuffe, Black America and the African Return (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Ragsdale, Lincoln J., Sr. (1926-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Lincoln J. Ragsdale, Sr. was a leading activist in the battle for civil rights in Arizona.  After graduating from Tuskegee flying school in Alabama in 1945, he relocated to Luke Air Field in Litchfield Park, Arizona, becoming one of the first black pilots to serve at that installation.  

Ragsdale believed that it was his “Tuskegee experience” that emboldened him and gave him direction.  “It gave me a whole new self-image,” he maintained.  He “remembered when we [Tuskegee Airmen] used to walk through black neighborhoods right after the war, and little kids would run up to us and touch our uniforms.  ‘Mister, can you really fly an airplane’ they’d ask.  The Tuskegee airmen gave blacks a reason to be proud.”  Their service also gave the 2.5 million black veterans of World War II incentive to believe that they could achieve much more in their communities and the nation.
Sources: 
Matthew C. Whitaker, Race Work: The Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West  (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005); Lincoln Ragsdale, Sr., interview by Mary Melcher, April 8, 1990, Phoenix.  Tape recording. Arizona Historical Foundation, Hayden Library, Arizona State University, Tempe; Lincoln Ragsdale, Sr. and Eleanor Ragsdale. Interview by Dean E. Smith, April 4 and November 3, 1990, Phoenix. Transcript. Arizona Collection, Hayden Library, Arizona State University, Tempe.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Warren M. Washington (1936- )

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

Micheaux, Oscar (1884–1951)

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

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

Washington, Henry (ca. 1740-post 1801)

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

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

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

Walker, Alice M. (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Steve Exum

The first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Alice Walker was born the eighth child of sharecroppers Willie Lee and Minnie Lou Grant Walker, on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. Walker became the valedictorian of her segregated high school class, despite an accident at age eight that impaired the vision in her left eye. Before transferring to Sarah Lawrence College, where she received a B.A. degree, she attended Atlanta’s Spelman College for two years, where she became a political activist, met Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., and participated in the 1963 March on Washington.

Also, during her undergraduate studies, Walker visited Africa as an exchange student. She later registered voters in Georgia and worked with the Head Start program in Mississippi, where she met and married civil rights attorney Melvyn Rosenthal (the marriage lasted ten years), became the mother of daughter Rebecca, and taught at historically black colleges Jackson State College and Tougaloo College. Walker has also taught at Wellesley College, University of Massachusetts at Boston, the University of California at Berkeley, and Brandeis University.  At Brandeis she is credited with teaching the first American course on African American women writers.

Sources: 
Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983); Henry L. Gates and Anthony Appiah, eds., Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives Past and Present (New York: Amistad, 1993); Lovalerie King, “Alice Walker” in Encyclopedia of African American Literature, Ed. Wilfred D. Samuels (New York: Facts on File, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

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

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Coachman, Alice Marie (1923-2014)

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

Alice Coachman became the first African American woman from any country to win an Olympic Gold Medal when she competed at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, UK. Born November 9, 1923, in Albany, Georgia, to Evelyn and Fred Coachman, Alice was the fifth of ten children. As an athletic child of the Jim Crow South, who was denied access to regular training facilities, Coachman trained by running on dirt roads and creating her own hurdles to practice jumping.

Even though Alice Coachman parents did not support her interest in athletics, she was encouraged by Cora Bailey, her fifth grade teacher at Monroe Street Elementary School, and her aunt, Carrie Spry, to develop her talents. After demonstrating her skills on the track at Madison High School, Tuskegee Institute offered sixteen-year-old Coachman a scholarship to attend its high school program. She competed on and against all-black teams throughout the segregated South.

Sources: 

http://www.alicecoachman.com; Jennifer H. Landsbury, “Alice Coachman: Quiet Champion of the 1940s,” Chap. in Out of the Shadows: A Biographical History of African American Athletes (Fayetteville, The University of Arkansas Press, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Turner, Debbye (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Debbye Turner (Bell), the third African American woman to win the Miss America crown, was born on September 19, 1965 in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is an American veterinarian, talk show host, and former beauty queen. She was Miss America 1990. Bell is the daughter of Frederick and the late Gussie Turner. Her father is a retired military lieutenant colonel and her late mother was a college counselor. Turner, who was raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas, was first runner up in the Miss Black Teenage World pageant in 1981. She participated in the Miss Arkansas state pageant three times placing first runner up twice.  Finally, she decided to try her luck at the Miss Missouri pageant. In 1989 she won the Miss Missouri title and competed in the September 1989 pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey where she won the Miss America crown.  
Sources: 
Elwood Watson and Darcy Martin, There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America’s Most Famous Pageant (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004); Karima Harris, “Miss America: From Vanessa Williams to Kimberly Aiken,” Ebony Magazine, January 1994; www.debbyeturner.com; Lynn Norment, “Back- to- Back Black Miss America’s,” Ebony, December 1990, 46-49; http://www.missamerica.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Richmond, Bill (1763 – 1829)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Henry Downes Miles, Pugilistica: The History of British Boxing (London: Weldon & Co., 1880); http://www.100greatblackbritons.com/bios/bill_richmond.htm; "The Rise of the Black," Boxing (December 4, 1909).

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hines, Earl “Fatha” (1903-1983)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Earl “Fatha” Hines was an African-American jazz musician who composed and played piano. Hines was born on December 28, 1903 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents and a number of his siblings were musicians as well. Hines started playing music when he was a young boy, taking trumpet lessons from his father. However, he felt the trumpet was too loud of an instrument, so he switched to piano after a few years. Hines attended Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where among other classes, he studied classical music.

In lieu of finishing high school, Hines moved to Pittsburgh at the age of 17 to take a job playing with Lois Deppe in a nightclub. Deppe was a well know musician around the area who took Hines to his first studio recordings in 1923.
Sources: 
http://www.jazz.com/encyclopedia/hines-earl-fatha-kenneth
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=7642
Terry Teachout, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson, Hal (1915-2012 )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Harold “Hal” Jackson, legendary broadcaster, radio station owner, and philanthropist was born November 3, 1915 in Charleston, South Carolina to Eugene and Laura Jackson. Eugene Jackson owned a successful tailor shop in Charleston allowing the family to live in a comfortable home in an affluent black neighborhood. When Hal Jackson was nine, both of his parents unexpectedly passed away within several months of one another. Jackson lived with relatives in New York and Washington, D.C. until he reached the age of 13 when he independently moved into a District of Columbia boarding house.

Jackson attended Dunbar High School in D.C. and supported himself by working as a shoeshine boy. While in school, he excelled in sports and during his free time worked as an usher for Washington Senators baseball games. After high school Jackson attended Howard University where he worked as a sports announcer for basketball games.
Sources: 
Ashyia Hendeson, "Hal Jackson" Contemporary Black Biography Vol. 41 (Farmington Hill: Thomson/Gale, 2004);  Hal Jackson and James Haskins, The House That Jack Built: My Life As a Trailblazer in Broadcasting and Entertainment (New York: Amistad, 2001); http://www.radiohof.org/discjockey/haljackson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rucker, Darius Carlos (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Jeter, Howard Franklin (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Howard Jeter, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana and later to Nigeria, was born in Maple Ridge, Union County, South Carolina on March 6, 1947 to James Walter Jeter, Jr. and Emma Mattocks Jeter. Howard Jeter first attended school in a one-room schoolhouse in Maple Ridge. The school had no electricity, heat, or indoor plumbing. In high school, Jeter played the clarinet and drums in the school band and was in the drama club. Howard Jeter graduated from Sims High School in 1964 as the class valedictorian.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fullerton

Billops, Camille (1933– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Camille J. Billops, artist, filmmaker, archivist, and professor, was born on August 12, 1933, in Los Angeles. Her parents were Alma Gilmore and Lucius Billops, and she has one sister, Billie. She married James V. Hatch, a professor of theater at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in October 1963. They have one daughter, Christa Victoria Billops Hatch Richards.

In 1954 Billops entered University of Southern California to study art and occupational therapy. She transferred to California State University, Los Angeles, and graduated from that institution in 1960. She then briefly studied sculpture with a Huntington Hartford Foundation Fellowship. Thirteen years later, in 1973, Billops earned a master’s of fine arts degree from City College of New York and then studied for her Ph.D. at the D’Université of Paris-Sorbonne, France.
Sources: 
Maria K. Mootry, “Camille Billops,” Notable Black American Women, Book I (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1992); “Bomb the Roots: The Camille Billops Interview,” by Ameena Meer, Bomb Magazine 40 (Summer 1992), http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2009/12/bomb_the_root_the_camille_billops_interview.html; Jennifer Warren, “Camille Billops: Lost and Found”  Los Angeles Times,  June 28, 1992). http://articles.latimes.com/1992-06-28/news/tv-2150_1_camille-billops; Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, “Camille Billops,” Women Filmmakers of the African and Asian Diaspora: Decolonizing the Gaze, Locating Subjectivity (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997); An Interview of Camille Billops and James Hatch by Brian Lehrer, October 29, 2009), The Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC Radio. http://www.wnyc.org/story/31746-peoples-hall-of-fame-james-hatch-and-camille-billops/; James Van Der Zee, Owen Dodson and Camille Billops, The Harlem Book of the Dead (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Morgan and Morgan, 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Crutcher, Ronald Andrew (1947– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Dr. Ronald Andrew Crutcher is a distinguished classical musician and a national leader in higher education. He served as the as the seventh president of Wheaton College from 2004 to 2014, and then became the first African American president of the University of Richmond on July 1, 2015, where he also teaches music.

Ronald Andrew Crutcher was born on February 27, 1947, in Richmond, Kentucky, to Andrew James Crutcher and Burdella Crutcher. Following his graduation from Woodward High School in Richmond in 1965, Crutcher attended and became a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the Miami University in Ohio where he studied music and graduated cum laude in 1969. He then pursued his graduate studies at Yale University in Connecticut as a Woodrow Wilson and Ford Foundation Fellow, and in 1979 he became the first cellist to receive a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Yale. Dr. Crutcher, who is fluent in German, studied music at the University of Bonn in Germany where he was supported by a Fulbright Fellowship.

Sources: 
“About Dr. Crutcher,” Office of the President, University of Richmond http://president.richmond.edu/crutcher/index.html; Jack Nicholsan, “A Musician and Mentor: An inside Look at Ronald Crutcher, Richmond's New President,” The Collegian, October 29, 2015.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Garnet, Henry Highland (1815-1882)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born into slavery near New Markey, Maryland on December 23, 1815, Henry Highland Garnet escaped from bondage via the Underground Railroad with his parents, George and Henrietta Trusty in 1824. After residing briefly in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the family settled in New York City, New York where George Trusty changed the family name to Garnet. George Garnet found work as a shoemaker and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Garnets lived among other working class families in what would later be called the Lower East Side.
Sources: 
Alexander Crummell, “Eulogium on Henry Highland Garnet, D.D.,” in Africa and America (Springfield, Ma.: Willey and Company, 1891); Martin B. Pasternak, Rise Now and Fly to Arms: The Life of Henry Highland Garnet (New York: Garland Publishing, 1995); www.ancestry.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cotter, Joseph Seamon, Sr. (1861-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr., the father of poet-playwright Joseph Seamon, Jr., distinguished himself as a playwright, poet, author, and educator. Cotter was born in Bardstown, Kentucky in 1861, but was reared in Louisville. He was one of the earliest African American playwrights to be published. His father, Michael J. Cotter, was of Scots-Irish ancestry, and his mother, Martha Vaughn, was an African American. Cotter, Sr. married Maria F.

Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theater (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Brown, James (1933-2006)

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

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

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

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

Hayden, Harriet (c.1820-1893)

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

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

Kelly, Sharon Pratt Dixon (1944- )

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Grace, Charles Manuel “Sweet Daddy” (1881-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center,
National Museum of American History,
Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution

Marcelino Manoel da Graca anglicized Charles Grace and best known as Sweet Daddy Grace was founder of the United House of Prayer for All People.  Born off the coast of West Africa on Brava, Cape Verde Islands, he was one of nine children born to Emmanuel and Delomba da Gracia.  In the early 1900s the family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts where Grace worked numerous jobs before founding the House of Prayer in 1921 in West Wareham, Massachusetts.  In 1923, the second House of Prayer was established in Egypt and three years later the United House of Prayer for All People, was founded in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Sources: 
John O. Hodges, “Charles Manuel ‘Sweet Daddy’ Grace,” in Charles Lippy, ed. Twentieth Century Shapers of American Popular Religion (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989) John W. Robinson, “A Song, a Shout, a Prayer,” in C. Eric Lincoln, ed., The Black Religious Experience (Garden City, NY:  Doubleday, 1974).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Carroll, Diahann (1935- )

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

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

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

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

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

Pippin, Horace (1888-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Horace Pippin, a soldier in World War I and later a painter, was born on February 22nd, 1888 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, but his family moved to Goshen, New York when he was three. His grandparents were slaves, and his parents worked as domestics. Pippin attended public schools and therefore segregated schools while living in New York.

By the age of 10, Pippin became disenchanted with school and left to work menial jobs. When World War I began, Pippin quickly enlisted with the all-black 15th New York National Guard Regiment which was renamed the 369th Infantry Regiment when it arrived in France in 1918. Pippin fought in the war with his unit, and was awarded the Purple Heart for the injury he received. He was shot and crippled in his right shoulder by German soldiers. Pippin later remarked that the war supplied him with the inspiration and imagery that allowed him to paint.

After returning to the United States, Pippin married a widow, Ora Jennie Featherstone Wade, and together they returned to West Chester, Pennsylvania. Pippin worked odd jobs including in an iron foundry and helping his wife deliver the laundry she did. He sometimes sang in a choir.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Meet Horace Pippin, http://www.nga.gov/education/classroom/counting_on_art/bio_pippin.shtm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cone, James Hal (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barrow, Dean Oliver (1951- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On February 7, 2008, Belize elected Dean Barrow as its first black Prime Minister. Born March 2, 1951, in Belize City, Barrow earned his LL.M. from the University of Miami in the United States and became partner at a Belizean law firm in 1977.  Two years later he established his own practice. Barrow married his long-term girlfriend, Kim Simpliss, in 2009, and they have one child together; he also has three children from a previous marriage with Lois Young.

The nation of Belize attained independence from the British in 1981, and Barrow entered politics two years later when he was elected to the Belize City council in 1983. Barrow broke into the national political scene in 1994 when he ran as a candidate under the United Democratic Party (UDP) banner during parliamentary elections.   Barrow won the election and the attention of Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel (1984-1989), who appointed the 33 year old attorney to his executive cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs on December 17, 1984. In June of 1986, Barrow, while still serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, received a second appointment to serve as Attorney General.
Sources: 
Centro de Estudios Internacionales de Barcelona, “Dean Barrow,” http://www.cidob.org/es/documentacio/biografias_lideres_politicos/america_central_y_caribe/belice/dean_barrow; Marti Parham, “Belize Elects First Black Prime Minister,” Jet, March 10, 2008; Catherine Bremer, “Belize Elects First Black Prime Minister, Ousts Incumbent,” Reuters, February 8, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

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

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

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bivins, Horace W. (1862-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Waymon Bivins, buffalo soldier, was born on May 8, 1862 in Accomack County, Virginia. His father Severn S. Bivins and his mother Elizabeth Bivins were free black farmers on Virginia's Eastern Shore. His parents taught Bivins to farm and at the age of 15 he was in charge of an 8-horse farm near Keller Station, Virginia.

Bivins, however, yearned for a life away from farming and at 17 he entered Hampton Institute in Virginia where he was first introduced to military training.  In 1887 Bivins joined the U.S. Army as a private. He was ordered to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and assigned to Troop E, 10th U.S. Cavalry. Bivins was eventually stationed with the regiment at Fort Grant in Arizona Territory. There he took part in the campaign against Geronimo during the final days of the Apache wars in the Southwest.  An expert marksman, Bivins won eight medals and badges given by the War Department in shooting competitions between 1892 and 1894
Sources: 
Irene Schubert and Frank N. Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldiers II (Baltimore: Scarecrow Press, Inc, 2004); Ed Kemmick, “Horace W. Bivins, Much-decorated soldier served many …Years of adventure,” 2003, Accessed Dec 7, 2010, http://www.mtstandard.com/news/state-and-regional/article_e3c02099-4d74-50ec-95f3-518bdcf2c240.html; Encyclopedia, Bivins, Horace W.(1862–1937) “Soldier, Joins the Tenth Calvary, Writes about Military Life,” 2010, Accessed Dec 7, 2010, http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4119/Bivins-Horace-W-1862-1937.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Myers, Stephen (1800-1870)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Stephen Myers held a variety of jobs over his lifetime but he is best known as a leader of the local Albany, New York Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Myers was also a prominent publisher who became an effective abolitionist lobbyist.

Myers was born into slavery in Hooksick, New York, a town just north of Albany. He was freed when he was 18 years old. In 1827 he married Harriet Johnson and together they had four children. Myers worked as a grocer and a steamboat steward on vessels sailing between New York City and Albany. Into the late 1830s, he began helping escaped slaves, and eventually began publishing.

In 1842 Myers began publishing the Elevator, a short-lived abolitionist sheet. Soon, he began working with the Northern Star Association, an abolitionist group, and founded its newspaper, the Northern Star and Freeman’s Advocate. This anti-slavery and reform newspaper was directed toward local free blacks and was published with the assistance of his wife, Harriet. The Northern Star office and the Myers home were used on occasion to provide comfort and support to fugitive slaves. As such Stephen and Harriet Myers helped hundreds of escaping slaves face the last leg of their northward journey to Canada. Because of their work, the Albany station developed the reputation for being the best organized section of the Underground Railroad in New York State.
Sources: 
Peter Williams, et al., “Letters from Negro Leaders to Gerrit Smith,” The Journal of Negro History 27:4 (October 1942); C. Peter Ripley, ed., The Black Abolitionist Papers, Vol. I, III, IV (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986); http://ugrworkshop.com/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Herman, Alexis Margaret (1947-- )

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

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

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

Bullen, Roland Wentworth Boniface (1944- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Roland Wentworth Bullen was born on Carriacou, one of the six islands that comprise the nation of Grenada. The product of a prominent family that owned several businesses, including the popular restaurant “Callaloo,” Bullen arrived in the United States in 1966. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in public administration at San Diego (California) State University in 1971, Bullen earned a master’s degree in city planning at Alliant International University (formerly United States International University) in 1973.
Sources: 
“West Indian Born Ambassadors in US Diplomatic Corp,” article at http://www.ecaroh.com/bmp/articles/wibornambassadors.htm; State Department release at  http://2001-2009.state.gov/outofdate/bios/b/22869.htm; Wikileaks article at https://saveguyana.wordpress.com/tag/dea/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Jordan, Mosina H. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Acting Deputy USAID Administrator James Kunder
Congratulates Agency Counselor Mosina H. Jordan
During her 2008 Retirement Ceremony
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
In 1995, career Foreign Service Officer Mosina H. Jordan was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as ambassador to the Central African Republic (CAR). After U.S. Senate confirmation she arrived in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic and presented her credentials on November 29, 1995.  
Sources: 
AllGov, “Central African Republic,” http://www.allgov.com/nations?nationID=3461; Craig W Larson, “From ‘Assured’ to ‘Quick’ Response 22D Meu Evacuates Americans from the Central African Republic,” pgs. 86-93, https://www.mca-marines.org/leatherneck/1996/07/assured-quick-response-22d-meu-evacuates-americans-central-african-republic#sthash.5jIOaOVX.dpuf; USAID, “Where in the World…: Jordan Steps Down,” http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADM584.pdf.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Price M. Cobbs (1926- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
William H. Grier (left) and Price Cobbs
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Price M. Cobbs is a psychiatrist, author, and management consultant best known for co-authoring the book Black Rage, regarded by the New York Times as “one of the most important books on blacks,” with fellow psychiatrist William H. Grier. Detailing the ambiguities in the psychological makeup of black people in America caused by racism and white supremacy, Black Rage was published in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and subsequent riots. These social events led to an intense interest in the book, opening national dialogue and leading to the ABC TV special in 1969 titled To Be Black.
Sources: 
"Price M. Cobbs, M.D," Diversity Collegium, http://diversitycollegium.org/profiles/price_cobbs.php; Price Cobbs, My American Life: From Rage to Entitlement (New York: Atria Books, 2005); "Dr. Price Cobbs," The HistoryMakers http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/dr-price-cobbs-40.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Albrier, Frances Mary (1898-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In 1938 Frances Mary Albrier became the first woman elected to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.  She also founded the East Bay Women’s Welfare Club whose goal was to get black teachers hired in the Berkeley schools.  This campaign saw success with the hiring of Ruth Acty in 1943.   Albrier’s political involvement was driven by the reality that African Americans were “taxpayers without any representation in the city government or the schools of Berkeley.  That was the message I wanted to get over to them.”   In 1942 Frances Mary Albrier challenged racial and gender barriers in wartime Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond.  She completed a welding course with twice the required hours because “I felt I had to be better because I was a black woman,” passed the welder’s test “with flying colors,” but her application was rejected by the Boilermakers Union in the shipyards because Kaiser “had not yet set up an auxiliary [union] for Negroes.”  Bowing to Albrier’s threat of a lawsuit and pressure from the African American community, the Richmond union agreed to accept her dues and transfer them to an auxiliary in an Oakland shipyard.  
Sources: 
Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, To Place Our Deeds: The African American Community in Richmond, California, 1910-1963, (Berkeley: University of California Press: 2000).
Affiliation: 
California State University, Sacramento

Saddler, Joseph/Grandmaster Flash (1958 - )

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

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

Raines, Franklin (1949- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Benjamin Mchie
Franklin Raines was born in Seattle on January 14, 1949, and graduated from Franklin High School in Seattle.  From here, he went to Harvard and graduated in 1971 with a B.A. in Government.  He was awarded the prestigious Rhodes scholarship and attended Oxford University for two years, returning to Harvard to earn a law degree in 1976.

Raines was hired into President Carter’s administration as the assistant director of the White House Domestic Policy Staff.  When Carter lost his reelection bid, Raines was hired as an investment banker by a Wall Street company.  He moved on to become the vice chairman at Fannie Mae.  After five years, President Clinton asked him to return to government work, and Raines accepted a decrease in salary of more than $300,000 to become the director of the Office of Management and Budget where he worked to find compromises in the budget process between the Democratic executive and the Republican Congress.
Sources: 
Charles Whitaker, “Franklin Raines: First Black Head of a Fortune 500 Corporation,” Ebony, April 2001, p. 106-112; Alton Hornsby, Jr. & Angela M. Hornsby, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders, p.175-176.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Debas, Haile T. (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Praised as one of the world’s most distinguished academic physicians, from 1993 to 2003 Dr. Haile Tesfaye Debas served as Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.  Prior to becoming dean, for six years he was chairman of the Department of Surgery at UCSF.  

Born in Asmara, Eritrea on February 24, 1937, he graduated from the University College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earned his medical doctorate at McGill University, and worked at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Washington before arriving at UCSF in 1987.  

Renowned as a researcher and credited with nearly 40 scientific papers, Debas was elected president of the International Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Association in 1991.  He was also a director of the American Board of Surgery, and a fellow of both the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  At UCSF he revamped the medical school’s curriculum to focus on training medical students and established the Academy of Medical Educators which was renamed in his honor.
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science, 21st Ed. Vol. 2. (New York: Bowker, 2003); http://www.cure.med.ucla.edu/PDF/Debas.pdf
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Henson, Matthew (1866-1955)

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

Matthew Henson was an American explorer who accompanied Robert Peary, most famously on an expedition intended to reach the Geographic North Pole in 1909. Subsequent research and exploration has revealed that Peary and Henson did not reach the North Pole but their failed attempt is still recognized as an important contribution to scientific knowledge. 

Sources: 
Matthew Henson, A Negro Explorer at the North Pole (New York: Copper Square Press, 2001); Robinson Bradley, Dark Companion (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Books, 1947); Floyd Miller, Ahdoolo! Ahdoolo! The Bigoraphy of Matthew A. Henson (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1963).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

DuBois, William Edward Burghardt (1868–1963)

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

Fleming, Thomas Courtney (1907-2006)

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

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

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

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

Peterson, Oscar Emmanuel (1925-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Oscar Peterson was born on August 15, 1925 in Montreal, Quebec. He grew up in Place St-Henri, a bustling Montreal district with a small but close knit black community. Considered by many to be one of the greatest jazz piano players of all time, Peterson performed at thousands of live concerts to audiences worldwide in a career that lasted more than sixty-five years.

Peterson’s dazzling technique combined with a unique style made him one of the most influential jazz pianists in the world. The Montreal native developed a following for his brilliant playing early in his life, and he credited many teachers including his sister, brother, and pianist and composer Paul de Marky, with giving him the inspiration and instruction needed to pursue a career that made him one of Canada’s national treasures.

The pianist’s international breakthrough came after he accepted an invitation from the American jazz impresario Norman Granz to be in the audience at Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) presentation at Carnegie Hall in September of 1949. Granz brought Peterson on stage as a surprise guest.  Peterson received critical acclaim for his performance, which launched his career.

Some of Peterson’s most legendary works include “Canadiana Suite” which features jazz themes inspired by various Canadian cities and regions, and his Hymn to Freedom.
Sources: 
The Regina Leader Post (24 December 2007); Oscar Peterson, A Jazz Odyssey: A Biography of Oscar Peterson (New York: Continuum-Bayou Press Ltd, 2002); Gene Lees, The Will to Swing (Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing & Communications, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Laney, Lucy Craft (1854-1933)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Georgia
Women of Achievement
Lucy Craft Laney, educator, school founder, and civil rights activist, was born in Georgia on April 13, 1854 in Macon, Georgia to free parents Louisa and David Laney.   David Laney, a Presbyterian minister and skilled carpenter, had purchased his freedom approximately twenty years before Lucy Laney’s birth.  He purchased Louisa’s freedom shortly after they were married. Lucy Laney learned to read and write by the age of four and by the time she was twelve, she was able to translate difficult passages in Latin including Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War.
Sources: 
Asa C. Griggs, “Notes: Lucy Craft Laney,” Journal of Negro History 19 (January 1934); Mary M. Marshall, “’Tell Them We Are Rising!’ Black Intellectuals and Lucy Craft Laney in Post Civil War Augusta, Georgia” (Ph.D., dissertation, Drew University, 1998); Gloria Taylor Williams-Way, “Lucy Craft Laney, ‘The Mother of the Children of the People’: Educator, Reformer, Social Activist” (Ph.D., dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1998): Barbra McCaskill, Post-Bellum, Pre-Harlem: African American Literature and Culture, 1877 (New York: New York University Press, 2006); http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9372857
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Nascimento, Milton (1942- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Milton Nascimento, famous Brazilian singer and composer, was born in October 26, 1942 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After the death of his biological mother, Maria do Carmo Nascimento, Milton Nascimento moved with his adoptive family, Lilia Silva Campos and Josino Brito Campos, to the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Milton Nascimento’s career included collaboration with the exponents of Brazilian popular, jazz, and reggae music. He also played with foremost musicians in Europe and the United States.
Sources: 
Marcos Napolitano, “A Invenção da Música Popular Brasileira: um Campo de Reflexão para a História Social,” in Latin America Music Review, v. 19, n.1 (Spring-Summer 1998), pp. 92-105; Gerad Buehage, “Rap, Reggae, Rock or Samba: the Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music (1985-1995),” in Latin America Music Review, v. 27, n.1 (2006), pp. 79-90;  Itaú Cultural, Dicionario Cravo Albin da Música Popular Brasileira (2002), available at http://www.dicionariompb.com.br/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Domino, Antoine "Fats" (1928- )

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cleveland, James (1931-1991)

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

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);  

www.theblackrenaissanceinwashingtondc/rudolphfisher.com

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Robinson, Jack (Jackie) Roosevelt (1919–1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
When Jackie Robinson took the field on April 15, 1947 wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, he became the first African American in over fifty years to play on a major league baseball team. In the process, he broke through baseball’s color line that had relegated African American players to the segregated Negro Leagues.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson, the youngest of five children, was born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919 to sharecroppers Jerry and Mallie Robinson. When Jack was a year old his father deserted the family, and Mallie Robinson relocated her family to Pasadena, California where Jack grew up. Robinson’s athletic ability was apparent from an early age. In high school he participated in five sports: basketball, football, baseball, tennis and track. He continued to play multiple sports at Pasadena Junior College, where he graduated in 1939, and then at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Sources: 
Jackie  Robinson and Alfred Duckett, I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson (New York: Harper, 2003); Arnold Rampersand, Jackie Robinson: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1997); Jackie Robinson: Baseball’s Barrier Breaker, http://www.jackierobinson.com/; John Vernon, “Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson: A 1944 Court-Martial,” Prologue Magazine, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring 2008); http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2008/spring/robinson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Gayton, Gary D. (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Siebert Brandford
Shank & Co., L.L.C

Attorney and businessman Gary D. Gayton has spent most of his adult life as a civil rights advocate for those without a representative voice, including African Americans, Native Americans, and women. He was the country’s first black Assistant U.S. Attorney, appointed to the position by Attorney General Robert Kennedy in 1962.  Later in private practice, his controversial clients included Black Panthers and activists opposing the Vietnam War.
Sources: 
Alyssa Burrows, Gayton, Gary David (b. 1933), HistoryLink.org; Gary D. Gayton, Who’s Who Among African Americans (Detroit: Gale, 2010), Dan Raley, Where Are They Now: Trish Bostrom, Seattle Post Intelligencer, March 9, 2004.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independant Historian

Henderson, Freddye Scarborough (1917-2007)

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

Freddye Scarborough Henderson, entrepreneur, columnist, and educator, was born on February 18, 1917 in Franklinton, Louisiana. She was educated in her hometown and graduated valedictorian from Booker T. Washington High School in Franklinton.  In 1937, Scarborough earned a B.S. in home economics from Southern University.  Four years later, on July 4, 1941, she married Jacob Robert Henderson in Atlanta, Georgia. Freddye Henderson continued her educational pursuits, becoming the first African American to earn a M.S. degree in fashion merchandising from New York University in 1950.

In 1944 Henderson opened a custom dress store in Atlanta. She operated the store until 1950 when she became an associate professor of applied art and clothing at Spelman College. She also held an adjunct position during the summer months at Atlanta University. Along with her teaching duties, Henderson became fashion editor for the Associated Negro Press where she reached a national audience with her syndicated column which appeared in black newspapers throughout the country.  

Sources: 
Kay Powell, “Freddye Henderson, 89, Let Blacks Travel En Vogue,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (January 22, 2007); Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women: Book II  (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc., 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Damas, Léon-Gontran (1912-1978)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Poet, editor, diplomat, and cultural theorist Léon Damas was born on March 28, 1912, in Cayenne, French Guiana. He was the youngest of five children born to parents Ernest and Marie Aline Damas. After his mother's death in 1913, young Léon and his siblings were placed in the care of his father's sister, Gabrielle Damas.
Sources: 
Keith Q. Warner, Critical Perspectives on Leon Gontran Damas (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1988);."Damas, Léon-Gontran" in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: Arts and Letters : an A-to-Z Reference of Writers, Musicians, and Artists of the African American Experience (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2005); Anthony E. Hurley, Through a Black Veil: Readings in French Caribbean Poetry (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2000); T. Denean Sharpley-Witing, Negritude Women (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002); Myra Sklarew, "Leon-Gontran Damas: Reclaiming Identity," Beltway Poetry Quarterly 9:3 (Summer 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Mills College

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

Furniss, Sumner Alexander (1874-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Private Office of Dr. Sumner Furniss
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Prominent physician and surgeon Sumner Alexander Furniss was the first African American to become a member of the staff at Indianapolis City Hospital in Indiana. He was also a founding member and president of the Indianapolis Young Men's Colored Association (YMCA).

Furniss was the second son born to William H. Furniss and Mary Elizabeth J. Williams, in Jackson, Mississippi, on January 30, 1874. His family moved to Indianapolis when he was young, and his father became the superintendent of the Special Delivery Department of the Indianapolis Post Office. Furniss received his early education in the local city schools and then enrolled in Lincoln University (formerly the Lincoln Institute). Just before his graduation in 1891, Furniss enrolled in the Medical College of Indiana and received his medical degree in 1894, ranking second in a class of fifty-two. Furniss was the only African American in his class. While in medical school, he worked as a clerk for Dr. E. S. Elder, a prominent Indianapolis physician, to pay for his education. On October 26, 1905, he married Lillian Morris, but no children were born to this union.

Sources: 
Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania including the Counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, And many of the Early Settled Families-Volume II (Indianapolis: J. H. Beers & Company, 1908); Michelle D. Hale, “Furniss, Sumner A.” The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994); Frank Lincoln Mather, Who’s Who of the Colored Race; A General Biographical Dictionary of Men and Women of African Descent (Chicago: 1915); 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 (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2015).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rose, Edward (c. 1780- c. 1833)

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

Edward Rose, also known by the names Five Scalps, Nez Coupe and “Cut Nose,” was the son of a white trader father and a Cherokee and African American mother.  Little else is known about his early life including where he was born. He may have spent some years working on the Mississippi River between southern Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana

Sources: 
Bruce E. Johansen and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997); Daniel F. Littlefield,   Cherokee Freedmen  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1978); Carl Waldman and Alan Wexler, "Rose, Edward," Encyclopedia of Exploration, Vol 1 (New York: Facts on File, Inc, 2004; LeRoy R. Hafen, ed., The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, Vol. IX (Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1966).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Blackwell, Robert “Bumps” (1918-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Bumps Blackwell with Quincy Jones
on Trumpet
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert "Bumps" Blackwell was a musician, producer and composer who worked with the top names in early jazz and rock and roll.  Blackwell was born in Seattle on May 23, 1918.  By the late 1940s his Seattle-based "Bumps Blackwell Junior Band" featured Ray Charles and Quincy Jones, and played with artists like Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway and Billy Eckstine. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s and hired on with Art Rupe's Specialty Records.

In 1955, Blackwell flew to New Orleans to record Little Richard (Richard Penniman), a singer who they hoped would become the next Nat King Cole. During a break in the tepid recording session everybody headed to a nearby bar where Mr. Penniman started banging out an obscene club song on the piano. "Daddy Bumps" knew he had a hit so he brought in a local songwriter to clean up the lyrics. "Tutti-Frutti, good booty" became "Tutti Frutti, all rootie," and Little Richard became a star. Bumps wrote or co-wrote other early rock hits including "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Long Tall Sally," and "Rip It Up."
Sources: 
Paul de Barros, Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1993); http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:cr5j8qmtbt04~T1
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Stewart, Maria W. Miller (1803-1879)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Maria W. Stewart's Publication "Meditations"
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Maria W. Stewart, best known as one of the earliest female public speakers, was born Maria Miller in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1803. Her parents’ first names and occupations are not known. Stewart was orphaned by age five and became an indentured servant, serving a clergyman until she was fifteen. She also attended Connecticut Sabbath schools and taught herself to read and write.

In 1826 Miller married James W. Stewart. Her husband, a shipping agent, had served in the War of 1812 and had spent some time in England as a prisoner of war. With her marriage, she became part of Boston’s small free black middle class and soon became involved in some of its institutions including the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which worked for immediate abolition of slavery.  When James W. Stewart died in 1829, the white executors of her husband’s will took her inheritance through legal actions, leaving her penniless.
Sources: 
Marilyn Richardson, Maria W. Stewart, America’s First Black Woman Political Writer: Essays and Speeches, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987); Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge Classics, 2008); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America: The Early Years, 1619-1899 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Moses, Robert P. (1935- )

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

Wilson, Flip (1933-1998)

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

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

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

DeLarge, Robert Carlos (1842-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Carlos DeLarge was born a slave in Aiken, South Carolina on March 15, 1842.  Rare for that period, DeLarge graduated from Wood High school in Charleston and worked as a tailor and farmer before becoming involved in politics.  He served as an agent for the Freedman’s Bureau and helped organize the Republican Party in South Carolina.  In 1867, at the age of 25, DeLarge chaired the platform committee at the Republican state convention which published a report calling for the following reforms: the abolition of capital punishment; tax reform; popular election for all offices; welfare assistance; the breakup of land monopolies; court reorganization; and liberal immigration laws.  

In 1868, DeLarge was a member of the South Carolina Constitutional Convention which revised the state’s existing constitution.  At this convention, DeLarge lobbied for a petition which asked the U.S. Congress for a one a million dollar grant to purchase lands to be sold to the state’s land-hungry poor.  After the constitutional convention, DeLarge moved quickly from one important position to another.  During the 1868 and 1869 sessions of the state legislature, DeLarge chaired the Ways and Means Committee.  In 1871, the state legislature chose DeLarge as land commissioner for the state.  As land commissioner, he was implicated, but then cleared of charges of land fraud.  
Sources: 
Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress (New York: Thomas Y Crowell Company, 1976); 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

Stokes, Louis (1925-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office

Ohio’s first African American Congressman, Louis Stokes was born to Charles and Louis Stokes on February 23, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended its public schools before joining the United States Army in 1943. Stokes served in the army for three years and then attended Western Reserve University from 1946 to 1948 where he earned a B.A.  In 1953 he received a Doctor of Law degree from Cleveland Marshall Law School of the Cleveland State University. Stokes was admitted to the Ohio bar the same year and began practicing law in Cleveland.

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

Meek, Kendrick (1966- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Kendrick Meek, former highway patrolman, Florida state representative, and state senator, has served in the United States House of Representatives as a Democratic representative from Florida’s 17th District since 2003. Meek was born on September 6, 1966 in Miami, Florida, and is the son of former U.S. Representative Carrie Meek, who also represented Florida’s 17th District before her son took over her position.

Meek’s childhood was influenced by his mother’s role as an elected official.  He remembers sleeping under his mother’s desk at the Florida House Office Building on days when she worked late. Carrie Meek, whose grandmother was a slave, was the first African American elected to Congress from Florida since the Reconstruction. Kendrick Meek as a teenager understood her important symbolic role to the entire African American population of the state.  

Despite dyslexia, Meek worked his way through high school and attend Florida A&M University on a football scholarship. He graduated in 1989 with a degree in science.

After graduating, Meek joined the Florida Highway Patrol and was assigned to the security detail for Democratic Lieutenant Governor Buddy MacKay. Meek used the opportunity to further his knowledge of state politics, often attending political meetings when he was off duty.  During his four year career with the Florida Highway Patrol, Meek became the first African American to reach the rank of captain.
Sources: 
Tristram Korten, “The Meek Shall Inherit the House,” Miami New Times, 7-18-2002; Richard C. Cohen, “The Buddy System,” National Journal 39:46/47 (Nov. 17, 2007); http://kendrickmeek.house.gov; http://www.votesmart.org/bio.php?can_id=BS026295;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, William (1917-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Screen Actors Guild Archives
William "Bill" Walker Collection

Best remembered for the role of Reverend Sykes in the film classic To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), William Walker was born in Pendleton, Indiana in 1917. The son of a freed slave, Walker was the first African American graduate of Pendleton High School. After graduating, Walker pursued an acting career and made his first film appearance as a bit player in The Killers. He went on to appear in more than 100 films and television shows although the industry limited him mainly to roles as a domestic servant.

As the racial climate in Hollywood began to improve in the 1940s, Walker graduated to portraying a wider variety of characters, including doctors and diplomats.  Eventually he moved on to directing and producing films. Determined to ensure other African American actors obtained roles that portrayed the race in a true light, Walker in the late 1940s became a civil rights activist.  

Sources: 

http://www/whenmoviesweremovies.com/hoosieractors4.html. Accessed
September 28, 2003; Affirmative Action: Through the Decades with SAG,
http://www.sag.org/diversity/diversehistory.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Ba, Mariama (1929-1981)

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

Writer and political activist Mariama Ba was born in 1929 in Dakar, Senegal to a well-to-do family.  Her father worked in the French colonial administration and in 1956 became the Minister of Health of Senegal.  Her mother died when she was young.  Ba was raised by her maternal grandparents who emphasized conservative Muslim values.  She attended a religious school, but was also educated in the French tradition.  Due to the intervention of her father, she was enrolled in 1943 in the Ecole Normale (Teacher Training School) at Rufisque, a town some 25 miles away from Dakar where she received her diploma in 1947.  Ba worked as a teacher from 1947 to 1959, before becoming an academic inspector.  During this period, Ba had nine children with her husband, Obeye Diop.  The couple separated and Ba was forced to raise her children as a single parent. 

Sources: 
Laura Charlotte Kempen, Mariama Ba?, Rigoberta Menchu?, and Postcolonial Feminism. Currents in comparative Romance languages and literatures, vol. 97 (New York: P. Lang, 2001); Ada Uzoamaka Azodo, Emerging Perspectives on Mariama Ba?: Postcolonialism, Feminism, and Postmodernism (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2003); Ire?ne Assiba d' Almeida, Francophone African Women Writers: Destroying the Emptiness of Silence (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1994).
Contributor: 

Augusta, Alexander T. (1825-1890)

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

Alexander Thomas Augusta was the highest-ranking black officer in the Union Army during the Civil War .  He was also the first African American head of a hospital (Freedmen’s Hospital) and the first black professor of medicine (Howard University).

Augusta was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1825 to free African American parents.  He moved to Baltimore as a youth to work as a barber while pursuing a medical education.  The University of Pennsylvania would not accept him but a faculty member took interest in him and taught him privately.  In 1847 he married Mary O. Burgoin, a Native American.  By 1850, Augusta and his wife moved to Toronto where he was accepted by the Medical College at the University of Toronto where he received an M.B. in 1856.  He was appointed head of the Toronto City Hospital and was also in charge of an industrial school.  

On April 14, 1863, Augusta was commissioned (the first out of eight other black officers in the Civil War) as a major in the Union army and appointed head surgeon in the 7th U.S. Colored Infantry.  His pay of $7 a month, however, was lower than that of white privates.  He wrote Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson who raised his pay to the appropriate level for commissioned officers.  

Sources: 

Joseph T. Glatthaar, Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black
Soldiers and White Officers
(New York: Free Press, 1990); Herbert M.
Morais, The History of the Negro in Medicine (New York: Publishers Co.,
1968);
http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2200/sc2221/000011/000018/p...

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dart, Isom (1849-1900)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

Durham, Richard (1917-1984)

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

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

Sources: 
Richard Durham and J. Fred Macdonald, Richard Durham's Destination Freedom: Scripts from Radio's Black Legacy, 1948-50 (New York: Praeger, 1989); “Richard Durham Papers, 1939-1999,” Chicago Public Library,  http://www.chipublib.org/cplbooksmovies/cplarchibve/archivalcoll/durham.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Locker, Jessie Dwight (1891-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Jessie Locker was an attorney, politician, and community leader who was also the second black American to be appointed as United States Ambassador when he was sent to Liberia (1953).

Jessie Dwight Locker was born in College Hill (Cincinnati), Ohio on May 31, 1891 to Laban and Sarah Elizabeth Locker. His father, a pastor, was the first black minister in Ohio to be ordained in the Christian Church. Jessie Locker graduated as class Valedictorian from College Hill High School, and then travelled to Washington, D.C., to attend Howard University. He received his law degree from Howard University in 1915. Shortly thereafter, in 1919, Locker returned to Cincinnati and began his law practice.  He also worked as a night janitor while he built up his clientele.
Sources: 
The Cincinnati Enquirer, Friday, February 28, 1997, “Black Leaders Became Foreign Ambassadors”; The New York Age, Saturday, September 19, 1953, “New Ambassador Holds Meeting with Dulles”; U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954,” Document 254, Locker Correspondence.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

Catto, Octavius Valentine (1839–1871)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Octavius Valentine Catto was a prominent Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, activist, scholar, athlete, and military officer in the National Guard during the Civil War.   

Catto was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 22, 1839. His mother, Sarah Isabella Cain, a free woman, was a descendant of one of Charleston’s most distinguished mulatto families, the DeReefs. His father, William Catto, was a slave millwright who gained his freedom and became a prominent Presbyterian minister. The elder Catto relocated his family north around 1850 and soon became the pastor at First African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  
Sources: 
Henry H. Griffin, The Trial of Frank Kelly for the Assassination and Murder of Octavius V. Catto, (Buffalo, NY: William S. Hein & Co., 2009); Daniel R. Biddle and Murray Dubin, Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and The Battle for Equality in Civil War America, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Temple University Press, 2010); The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, Aaron X. Smith, “Murder of Octavius Catto” (http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/murder-of-octavius-catto/)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Cuffe, Paul, Jr. (?-?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Paul Cuffe was born into a Pequot family that had intermarried with freed or escaped slaves in New England. His father, Paul Cuffe, Sr., became known for his attempt to begin an African American colony in Sierra Leone.  Paul Cuffe, Jr., made his living as a whaling harpooner and probably came to know Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick and other works.  It is probable that Melville modeled his character Queequeg, the aboriginal harpooner, after the younger Cuffe.
Sources: 
Bruce E. Johansen and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography (New York: Da Capo Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York, Buffalo

White, Lulu B.(1900-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lulu Belle Madison White, civil rights activist in the 1940s and 1950s, devoted most of her adult life to the struggle against Jim Crow in Texas.  She campaigned for the right to vote, for equal pay for equal work, and for desegregation of public facilities.  

Born in 1900 in Elmo, Texas to Henry Madison, a farmer, and Easter Madison, a domestic worker, Lulu Belle Madison White received her early education in the public schools of Elmo and Terrell, Texas.  She graduated from Prairie View College where she received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1928. After marrying Julius White and teaching school for nine years, White resigned her post to devote full time service to the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its campaign to eliminate the state’s all-white Democratic primary.
Sources: 
Merline Pitre, In Struggle against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP 1900-1957 (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Kochiyama, Yuri (1921-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Carson, Benjamin S. (1951- )

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

Benjamin S. Carson, neurosurgeon and Republican Presidential Candidate in 2016, was born on September 18, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan.  Carson was raised in a single parent home when his father deserted the family in 1959 when he was eight years old, leaving his mother, Sonya, and his older brother, Curtis.  Because of the turmoil in the family, Carson and his brother fell behind in school and he was labeled a “dummy” by his classmates in fifth grade.  Once his mother saw their failing grades, she stepped in to turn their lives around.  They were only allowed to watch two or three television programs a week and were required to read two books per week and write a book report for her despite her own limited reading skills. Carson developed a love for books and scholarship and eventually graduated third in his high school class.  He enrolled in and graduated from Yale University and from there completed medical school at the University of Michigan after training to become a neurosurgeon.

Sources: 
Laura Chang, Scientists at Work (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000); http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/car1bio-1; Aliyah Frumin, "Carson Admits He Never Applied to West Point," http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/carson-admits-lying-about-west-point-scholarship; Rebecca Kaplan, "Why Is Ben Carson Dropping in the Polls," CBS.com, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-is-ben-carson-dropping-in-the-polls/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Neal, William “Curly” (1849 –1936)

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

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

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

Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

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

Father Divine (1879-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Father Divine in Parade
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Father Divine, religious founder of the International Peace Missions Movement, businessman, and civil rights activist was born George Baker in Rockville, Maryland to George and Nancy Baker.  Viewed by many to be a cult leader, his doctrine was a compilation of optimistic thinking based on many widely accepted mainstream religions.  Father Divine and his followers believed that he was the second coming of Christ.  He required his followers to adhere to his International Modest Code which required strict commitment to a celibate lifestyle and abstinence from immoral actions.

Father Divine began receiving widespread public attention when in 1919, he and his first wife and several of his interracial religious followers moved to Sayville, New York and established a Peace Mission “heaven.”  Peace Missions heavens were interracial communal living facilities that fostered Father Divine’s belief in a desegregated society and represented heaven on earth to his followers.  In the 1930s Divine’s network of Peace Missions spread across the nation.  His mostly white followers in Los Angeles, California and other west coast cities contrasted with the overwhelmingly black missions east of the Mississippi River.  Around 1930 Father Divine moved his Peace Mission headquarters to Harlem, New York.  Since the late 1940s the organization has been based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sources: 
Jill Watts, God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Robert Wiesbrot, Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Brea College

Christensen, Donna Marie (1945–)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

Christensen also entered Virgin Island politics.  As a member of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, she has served as Democratic National Committeewoman, member of the Democratic Territorial Committee and Delegate to all the Democratic Conventions in 1984, 1988 and 1992.  Christensen was also elected to the Virgin Islands Board of Education in 1984 and served for two years.  She served as a member of the Virgin Islands Status Commission from 1988 to 1992. 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University Of Washington

Wilson, James Finley (1881--1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

James Finley Wilson was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1881 to Reverend James L. Wilson and Nancy Wiley Wilson. From 1922 to 1948, Wilson served consecutive terms as Grand Exalted Ruler of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World (I.B.P.O.E. of W.), one of the largest African American fraternal organizations in the nation. Wilson’s accomplishments as “Grand” established him as a revered leader among his fraternal brothers and sisters and a national figure in the African American culture.   

Sources: 

“James Finley Wilson,” Journal of Negro History 37 (1952): 356-358; “ Wilson Re-Elected Grand Exalted Ruler,” California Eagle, September 13, 1929; Rayford Logan, “James Finley Wilson,” in 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

Allen, William G. (1820- ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dunlap, Ericka (1981- )

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

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

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

Ali, Laila (1977- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Laila Ali, Reach, Finding Strength, Spirit, and Personal Power (New York: Hyperion, 2002);http://www.boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=14260&cat=boxer
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Smith, Ferdinand Christopher (1893-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ferdinand Smith, Chicago Alderman Earl B. Dickerson and
Donald M. Nelson, Chair of the War Production Board, 1943
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Jamaican-born Ferdinand Christopher Smith became a prominent twentieth century international labor activist and leader.  At an early age Smith left Jamaica’s poor economic conditions in search of work as a migrant laborer.  He spent five years in Panama, where he worked as a hotel steward and a salesman.  After WWI he moved to Cuba and by 1920 was working as a ship’s steward.

In the 1920s, impressed by their commitment to racial issues, Smith joined the Communist-led Marine Workers Industrial Union.  Although maritime workers faced oppressive working conditions including high rates of disease, low wages, poor rations, and unventilated quarters, they had virtually no union representation aboard ships.  This began to change as part of the New Deal’s support of labor unions. In 1936 Smith supported the strike against West Coast shippers.  When maritime strikes spread to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Smith became one of the nine members of the national strike Strategy Committee.

Sources: 

Gerald Horne, Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica (New York: New York University Press, 2005); “Ferdinand Smith, Labor Leader, 67,” New York Times, August 16, 1961, 31.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Metropolitan State University, Denver

Smith, William [Willie “the Lion”] (1897-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jazz pianist, Willie “the Lion” Smith was born William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff on November 25, 1897. Smith was born to parents Ida Oliver and Frank Bertholoff in Goshen, New York. Bertholoff passed away in 1901, and Oliver married mechanic John Smith. The two raised William Smith in Newark, New Jersey, where he attended public schools.  Smith lived with his mother, stepfather, maternal grandmother Ann Oliver, brothers George and Jerome, step-siblings Robert, Melvin, Norman, and Ralph, and 12 more of John Smith’s children all of whom died before the age of seven.

Smith claims to have had his first experience playing the piano at age six. He first learned to play from his mother, his uncle Rob, and teachers in school.  By age 12 he had mastered famous ragtime pieces which he performed in local saloons, dance halls, and theaters.  In his teenage years Smith made money by playing in Newark bars and saloons.  He often danced or played the piano as those who watched put money in his hat.
Sources: 
Willie Smith and George Hoefer, Music on My Mind: The Memoirs of an American Pianist (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964); “William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff (Willie-the-Lion) Smith,” The Black Perspective in Music, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn, 1973), p. 200, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1214489; "Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith," All About Jazz, N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012, http://musicians.allaboutjazz.com/musician.php?id=4460.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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

Johnson, Gregory Lee (1945- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On August 5, 1999 President William Clinton appointed Gregory Lee Johnson U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland.  He served in that post from November 16, 1999 to October 18, 2001. Johnson began his career in the Foreign Service in 1968 and has served in Vietnam (1968-1971).  His next posts were in Japan (1972-1976), Brazil (1976-1980), and the Soviet Union (1981-1983).  He has also served in Somalia, Canada, and as Interim Charge d’ Affaires in the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.  Ambassador Johnson speaks Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, and Vietnamese.
Sources: 
Gregory Lee Johnson, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Swaziland, Chief of Missions Index, African Affairs: Department of State: Secretary of State http://www.state.gov/1997-2001/about_state biography Johnson_Swaziland.html; correspondence between the contributor and Ambassador Johnson, January 14, 2001.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Leo Lythel Robinson (1937–2013)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Courtesy of David Bacon"
A rank-and-file activist in the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), Leo Robinson was best known for fighting apartheid by helping lead a massive boycott of South African cargo that galvanized anti-apartheid movement in California's San Francisco Bay Area in 1984.  

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on May 26, 1937, to Arthur and Pearl Lee Young, Robinson and his family moved to Oakland during World War II. Both parents worked at Moore Shipyard, one of numerous large shipbuilders in the area’s booming wartime economy. Along with his parents and four siblings, he lived in the Cypress Village housing projects in West Oakland, a segregated ghetto that gave birth to the Black Panther Party two decades later.  

Sources: 
David Bacon, “Leo Robinson: Soul of the Longshore,” In These Times, January 19, 2013, http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/14448/leo_robinson_soul_of_the_longshore; Peter Cole, “Leo Robinson: leader of the ILWU anti-apartheid struggle,” ILWU Dispatcher 71:1 (January 2013), http://www.ilwu.org/leo-robinson-ilwu-activist-led-anti-apartheid-struggle/; Leo Robinson, Interview by Peter Cole, Raymond, California, July 20, 2011; Leo Robinson, Interview in The Oakland Army Base: An Oral History, ed. by Martin Meeker, The Bancroft Library, University of California, City of Oakland, and Port of Oakland, 2010.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Cox, Odessa (1922–2001)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Students at Los Angeles Southwest College
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Odessa Cox is the principal founder of Los Angeles Southwest College, (LASC) which serves a predominantly black and brown community in South Central Los Angeles, California. Born Odessa Brown on June 8, 1922, in Whatley, Alabama, she was a second-generation community activist. Her father, Chester Lee Brown, was a union organizer for the International Worker’s Order (IWO) and later for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Along with Odessa’s mother, Alma Burroughs Brown, the couple imbued Odessa and her brothers, Lilton and Theodore, with a desire to help mankind and improve themselves through education.
Sources: 
Malca Chall, “Odessa Cox, Challenging the Status Quo: The Twenty-seven Year Campaign for Southwest Junior College,” Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley, 1978: The Los Angeles Southwest College Webpage, http://www.lasc.edu/about_lasc/History_Of_LASC.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Turner, Henry McNeal (1834-1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Stephen Ward Angell, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and African American Religion in the South (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Edwin S. Redkey, Black Exodus, Black Nationalist and Back-to-Africa Movements, 1890-1910 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969); The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, African American Desk Reference (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1999); Kenneth Estall, ed., The African American Almanac 6th edition (Detroit: Gale Research, Inc. 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Granger, Lester Blackwell (1896-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lester Blackwell Granger was a social worker and civil rights and labor rights activist best known for leading the National Urban League (NUL) from 1941 to 1961.  Granger was born on September 16, 1896, in Newport News, Virginia, to William “Ran” Randolph and Mary Louise Granger; William, a Barbadian immigrant, was a medical doctor.  Determined to live in a racially-tolerant community where educational opportunities were available to black people, the Grangers raised Lester and his five brothers in Newark, New Jersey.  Lester Granger earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1918 after serving in the US Army as artillery lieutenant during World War I.
Sources: 
http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/about/blogs/african-american-studies-beinecke-library/2010/09/01/lester-blackwell-granger-papers; http://ivy50.com/blackhistory/story.aspx?sid=2/5/2007; http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_granger_lester_blackwell/; Susan Altman and Joel Kemelhor, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage (New York: Checkmark Books, 2001); Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African American Experience (New York: Perseus, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Crogman, William H. (1841-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

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

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

Walcott, “Jersey” Joe (1914–1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Charles Hoff, Photographer
Born on January 31, 1914 in Merchantville, New Jersey, Arnold Raymond Cream was the son of immigrants from Barbados.  He took up boxing at age fourteen after his father died and debuted professionally at age 16 as a lightweight where on September 9, 1930 he defeated Cowboy Wallace in a first round knockout.  Walcott ultimately grew into a heavyweight. He was often compared to the great welterweight champion Joe Walcott who was also from Barbados, and he later decided to adopted the name “Jersey” Joe Walcott as a tribute to the older fighter.

Walcott fought Joe Louis for the heavyweight title for the first time on December 5, 1947, dropping the champion twice during a bout which resulted in a controversial split decision loss.  He lost again in a rematch with Louis on June 25, 1948 in an eleventh round knockout.  Walcott fought for the title three more times, before finally capturing the crown on his fifth try by knocking out Ezzard Charles in seven rounds on July 18, 1951. Walcott was 37 at the time, the oldest man ever to win the heavyweight crown up until that time. He retained that distinction until George Foreman won the title in 1994 at age 45.  
Sources: 
Peter Brooke-Ball, The Boxing Album, An Illustrated History (New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1995); www.ibhof.com/walcott.htm, www.boxrec.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Yates, Josephine Silone (1852-1912)

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

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

Cole, Rebecca J. (1846-1922)

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

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

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

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

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

Blanke, John (16th Century)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
John Blanke, Musician at the
Court of Henry VIII
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Historians have documented the arrival of black people in Britain as members of the Roman Army. The first reference to a black African in Britain in the historical record is at a Roman military settlement at Carlisle, in ca. 210 AD. Shortly after, in the years 253-58 AD, Hadrian's Wall on the Empire's northern frontier was guarded by a division raised in North Africa. Other Africans were brought to Britain at various times although the continuous presence of black people in Britain is traced to 1555, when Africans arrived in the company of a London merchant.

John Blanke, a black trumpeter, was a regular musician at the courts of both Henry VII and Henry VIII.  Musicians' payments were noted in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber, who was responsible for paying the wages. There are several payments recorded to a “John Blanke, the blacke trumpeter.” This trumpeter was paid 8d [8 pence] a day, first by Henry VII and then from 1509 by Henry VIII.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Molyneux, Thomas (1784–1818)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Fred Henning, Fights For The Championship, Volume II (London: Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette, 1899); Henry Miles, Pugilistica, Volume I (London: Weldon & Co., 1880); http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/tom-mol.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Trévigne, Paul (1825-1908)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Creole New Orleans newspaper editor Paul Trévigne, the biracial son of a Battle of New Orleans veteran, was born in New Orleans in 1825. Trévigne was part of the free people of color community in Louisiana that protested racial injustice before the Civil War and helped establish Republican politics in the state after 1865. 

Trévigne taught at the Catholic Indigent Orphan School in New Orleans, a school dedicated to providing free education to African American orphans.

Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/exhibits/creole/Institution/institution.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
The Evergreen State College

Hall, Adelaide (1901-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brewer, Carl (1957-- )

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Carl Brewer, mayor of Wichita, Kansas, is a native of that city. Brewer, who was born in 1957, is the first African American to be elected as the mayor of the largest city in Kansas.  He previously served on the Wichita City Council from 2001 to 2007. Brewer is the second African American to hold the post of Mayor.  A. Price Woodard served as mayor from April 14, 1970 to April 13, 1971.

Brewer was raised in Wichita, and attended North High, where he graduated in 1975. After high school, he attended Friends University, also located in Wichita. Prior to serving on the city council, Brewer was employed as a Spirit Operations Manager for Boeing aerospace manufacturing, a Manufacture Engineer for Cessna aviation, and as a Captain for the Kansas Army National Guard. Brewer is also a member of multiple organizations, including the Arkansas Valley Masonic Lodge, the African American Catholic Council, the National Guard Association, and the Boeing Management Association.

Carl Brewer began serving on the Wichita City Council in 2001, representing District 1. He is a member of many governmental associations: the National League of Cities Board of Directors, the National Black Caucus, the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to name a few. 

Sources: 
http://www.wichita.gov/Government/CityCouncil/Mayor/; Chris Moon, "Brewer Easily Defeats Mayans for Mayor," Wichita Business Journal, April 4, 2007, p. 1.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Manly, Alex (1866-1944)

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

Thompson, Theophilus (1855-?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Theophilus Augustus Thompson was one of the first notable African American chess players. Thompson was born into slavery in Frederick, Maryland on April 21, 1855. Freed after the Civil War, he worked as a house servant in Carroll County, Maryland from 1868 to 1870.

Returning to Frederick, Thompson soon became involved in the chess scene. He watched his first chess game in April 1872. One of the players in the game was John K. Hanshew, publisher of The Maryland Chess Review. Hanshew loaned the interested Thompson a chess board and gave him selected chess problems to solve.

Before long, Thompson was publishing his own chess problems in The Dubuque Chess Review. His new-found skills in the game also allowed him to compete against other talented players. Most records of his playing career are unclear, but it is known that he was invited to a tournament in Chicago at some point.

Thompson’s most famous legacy was his book, Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate, or Compel Self-mate in Four Moves. Published in 1873, the book was a compilation of chess endgame positions, puzzles which covered the final moves of chess games. Thompson’s book was reviewed favorably in The City of London Chess Magazine in July 1874.

Details about Thompson’s later life and his date of death are unknown.

Sources: 
http://www.thechessdrum.net/drummajors/T_Thompson.html; Theophilus Thompson, Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate, or Compel Self-Mate in Four Moves (Dubuque: John J. Brownson, 1873).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Lonnie E. (1901-1971)

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

Lonnie Smith was a well-known dentist in Houston, Texas, an officer in the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and a civil rights activist.  He is best known for his role in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case bearing his name, Smith v. Allwright.

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (Millwood, New York: KTO Press, 1979); Charles L. Zelden, The Battle for the Black Ballot: Smith v. Allwright and the Defeat of the Texas All-White Primary (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004); http://www.laits.utexas.edu; http://www.tshaonline.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Henry "Box" (1816-1889)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
To escape enslavement on a plantation near Richmond, Virginia, Henry “Box” Brown in 1849 exploited maritime elements of the Underground Railroad.  Brown’s moniker “Box” was a result of his squeezing himself into a box and having himself shipped 250 miles from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Henry Brown, born enslaved in 1816 to John Barret, a former mayor of Richmond, eventually married another slave named Nancy and the couple had three children.  Brown became an active member of Richmond’s First African Baptist Church where he was known for singing in the choir.  In 1848 Brown’s wife and children were abruptly sold to away to North Carolina.  Using “overwork” (overtime) money, Brown decided to arrange for his freedom.

He constructed a wooden crate three feet long and two feet six inches deep with two air holes. With help from Philadelphia abolitionists, he obtained a legal freight contract from Adams Express.  This freight company with both rail and steamboat capabilities arranged to ship his package labeled “Dry Goods” to Philadelphia.  The package was a heavy wooden box holding Brown’s 200 pounds.

Sources: 
Henry Brown, Narrative of the Life of Henry “Box” Brown (Manchester, England: Lee and Glynn Publisher, 1851); Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color, the Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); David Cecelski, The Waterman’s Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent, Spectacular Stories of Race and Freedom 1850-1910 (Duke University Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2008); Suzette Spencer, Online Encyclopedia of Virginia, August  23, 2013, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Brown_Henry_Box_ca_1815#start_entry.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Lewis, Delano Eugene (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
On November 16, 1999 President William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton nominated Delano Eugene Lewis to be the United States Ambassador to South Africa.  Lewis was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and served in that capacity from 1999 to 2001.  Having spent much of his adult life to that point as an attorney and businessman, Lewis was a non-career appointee.  Lewis had also held leadership roles with the U.S. Peace Corps and National Public Radio.

Delano Eugene Lewis was born on November 12, 1938 in Arkansas City, Kansas.  He was the only child of Raymond Ernest Lewis and Enna L. Lewis.  The family moved to Kansas City, Kansas where Lewis graduated from Sumner High School in 1956. He then earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History at the University of Kansas in 1960, and a law degree from Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1963. Lewis and his wife, the former Gayle Carolyn Jones, were married in 1960. They have four sons: Delano Jr., Geoffrey, Brian, and Phillip.
Sources: 
“Delano Eugene Lewis, “Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870900046.html; U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/lewis-delano-eugene; The University of Kansas Libraries, http://etext.ku.edu/view?docId=ksrlead/ksrl.kc.lewisdelanoe.xml;route=ksrlead;brand=ksrlead;query=; Kansapedia: The Encyclopedia of the Kansas Historical Society, http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/delano-lewis/12130.webloc.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wilkinson, Sharon P. (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sharon P. Wilkinson is an American diplomat. She served as United States Ambassador to Burkina Faso from 1996 to 1999 and United States Ambassador to Mozambique from 2000 to 2003. She has extensive experience in foreign affairs and has served all over the globe.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Wilkinson is one of three children of Frederick and Jeane Ann Wilkinson. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in 1968. In 1970, Wilkinson earned a double Master’s Degree in Social Science and in Education from the University of Chicago in Illinois. She also learned to speak Portuguese, Spanish, and French.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Foster, Marcus A. (1923–1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Marcus Foster was an educator who gained national prominence for educational excellence while serving as a principal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and as the first black superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District in California. Known as a titan in the areas of urban school reform, compensatory education, and community-shared responsibility in education, he is however best remembered by his death, having been ambushed and murdered by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army on November 6, 1973.
Sources: 
John P. Spencer, In the Crossfire: Marcus Foster and the Troubled History of American School Reform (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014); Michael Taylor, “FORGOTTEN FOOTNOTE / Before Hearst, SLA Killed Educator,” SFGate, November 14. 2002, http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/FORGOTTEN-FOOTNOTE-Before-Hearst-SLA-killed-2754621.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Metcalfe, Ralph Harold (1910-1978)

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

Ralph Metcalfe, was an outstanding U.S. sprinter, track coach, and politican born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in Chicago, Illinois. During Metcalfe’s years as a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1932 through 1934, he was arguably the world’s fastest human. His strong finishes earned him four Olympic medals (gold, 2 silver, and bronze), eight Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles, and six National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles from 1932 through 1936. Perhaps Metcalfe’s most interesting moments in track were not his wins but his virtual dead heat second place finishes in the 100 meter dash at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles, California and Berlin, Germany to rivals Eddie Tolan and Jesse Owens, respectively.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Day, Ava Speese (1912-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in 1912, Ava Speese (Day) traveled with her family in 1915 to homestead in Cherry County, Nebraska.  Taking advantage of the Kincaid Homestead Act of 1904, the Speese family, Charles and Rosetta Meehan Speese and their nine children, were among forty African American families who made land claims throughout the county. Some of the settlers founded a small town they named DeWitty after a local black store owner.  

Years later, Ava Speese wrote about her life in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, an account that would provide a rare glimpse into African Americans on the Nebraska frontier.  Ava’s narrative recalled a difficult life for African Americans in north central Nebraska but she also described a resourceful and vital community.  Like most homesteaders of the era, the Speeses lived in a sod home which originally consisted of one room but which grew as the family prospered.  She recalled many a night watching her mother bake bread and sew their clothing by hand.  Learning to be resourceful, Ava and her siblings made toothbrushes out of burnt corn cobs, and natural herbs were used to ward off colds and the flu. Ava Speese attended two one room, wood frame schools in Cherry County where she learned to value education.   
Sources: 
Sod House Memories, Vol. I-IV, ed. Frances Jacob Alberts (Hastings, Neb.: Sod House Society, 1972), Vol. 3:253-267; Forrest H. Stith, Sunrises & Sunsets For Freedom, p. 26-36; http://www.nebraskahistory.org/lib-arch/research/manuscripts/family/ava-day.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bush, George (1789?-1863)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Courtesy of Henderson House
As one of the earliest permanent American settlers on Puget Sound in 1845, George Bush played a vital role in the beginnings of Washington Territory. Bush’s story is even more remarkable because he was a man of mixed race who overcame prejudice and discrimination to succeed as one of the area’s most beloved figures.

Little is known of Bush’s early life.  It is believed that his father was Mathew Bush, a West Indian who married the Irish maid of a wealthy Quaker family in Pennsylvania. Goorge Bush married Isabella James, a white American of German ancestry, on July 4, 1831, in St. Louis, Missouri.  They became the parents of nine sons, six of whom survived to adulthood.
Sources: 
Darrell Millner, “George Bush of Tumwater: Founder of the First American Colony on Puget Sound,” Columbia Magazine, Winter1994/95, pp. 14-19. Paul Thomas, “George Bush” (M.A. Thesis, University of Washington, 1965).
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Thurston County Historical Commission

Baird, Harry (1931-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The physical presence that black British actor Harry Baird brought to the movie screen was largely a consequence of the United Kingdom going through the birthing pain of racism during the 1950s and 1960s.  Born in Guyana, this premier black actor was no Paul Robeson, but Harry Baird carried with him a presence that spoke to Britain’s patronizing advancement out of the stone-age of colonial imperialism.
Sources: 
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks (New York: Continuum, 1992); Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) title search by key word, “Harry Baird”; Tom Milne, ed., The Timeout Film Guide, Penguin Books, 3rd Edition, 1992.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bennett, Lerone (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Washington Interdependence Council
[Administrators of the Banneker Memorial]
Lerone Bennett Jr., historian of African America, has authored articles, poems, short stories, and over nine books on African American history.  Bennett was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi the son of Lerone Bennett Sr. and Alma Reed. He and his family moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he attended public schools. Bennett graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. The same year Bennett enrolled in Atlanta University for graduate studies. He also became a newspaper journalist for the Atlanta Daily World.  Bennett moved to Chicago in 1952 to become city editor for JET magazine, founded by John H. Johnson.

In 1954 Lerone Bennett became an associate editor at Ebony, also owned by Johnson.  By 1958 when Bennett had become the senior editor at Ebony, Johnson encouraged Bennett to write books on African American history for a popular audience. 

A series of history articles that Bennett had written over time for Ebony emerged in 1963 as his first book, Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 1619-1962. Bennett described the long history of black slavery and racial segregation while reminding his readers that African American roots in the American soil are deeper than those of the Puritans who arrived in 1620.
Sources: 
Lerone Bennett, Jr., Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America 1619-1966 (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1966); Lerone Bennett, Jr., The Negro Mood (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1964); http://www.nathanielturner.com/leronebennettbio.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rock, John S. (1825-1866)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John S. Rock was born to free black parents in Salem, New Jersey in 1825. He attended public schools in New Jersey until he was 19 and then worked as a teacher between 1844 and 1848.  During this period Rock began his medical studies with two white doctors. Although he was initially denied entry, Rock was finally accepted into the American Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He graduated in 1852 with a medical degree. While in medical school Rock practiced dentistry and taught classes at a night school for African Americans.  In 1851 he received a silver medal for the creation of an improved variety of artificial teeth and another for a prize essay on temperance.   
Sources: 
John A Garraty and Jerome Sternstein, eds., Encyclopedia of American Biography, 2nd edition (New York: Harper Collins, 1996); Carter, Purvis, “The Negro in Periodical Literature, Part III,” Journal of Negro History (July 1967) 92-102.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ball, Alice Augusta (1892-1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alice Augusta Ball, a pharmaceutical chemist, was born in Seattle, Washington in 1892 to Laura and James P. Ball, Jr. Her grandfather was J.P. Ball, the well known daguerreotype photographer and her father was a promising lawyer. James P. Ball, Sr. moved to Hawaii for health reasons in 1903 with his family and opened a studio.  He died less than a year later and the family returned to Seattle in 1905.  

Alice Ball entered the University of Washington and graduated with two degrees in pharmaceutical chemistry in 1912 and pharmacy in 1914. In the fall of 1914, she entered the College of Hawaii (later the University of Hawaii) as a graduate student in chemistry.  On June 1, 1915, she was the first African American and the first woman to graduate with a master of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Hawaii. In the 1914-1915 academic year she also became the first woman to teach chemistry at the institution.
Sources: 
Paul Wermager, “Healing the Sick” in They Followed the Trade Winds (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005) pp. 171-174.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Sowell, Thomas (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Thomas Sowell,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
An influential African American economist who is known for his controversial views on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, Thomas Sowell was born in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1930.  When he was eight, his family moved to Harlem, New York.  His father, a construction worker, did not encourage Sowell to pursue higher education even though he showed early signs of academic promise. Sowell dropped out of high school in the tenth grade, worked at various jobs, and obtained a high school degree in an evening program. After two years of service with the U.S. Marines receiving training as a photographer, Sowell entered Howard University in Washington, D.C. where he matriculated for three semesters before transferring to Harvard University. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and later earned Master's and Ph.D.
Sources: 
Thomas Sowell, A Personal Odyssey (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002);
Thomas Sowell website, http://www.tsowell.com/; Advocates for Self Government, "Thomas Sowell – Libertarian,"    https://www.theadvocates.org/libertarianism-101/libertarian-celebrities/thomas-sowell/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

Lewis, Edmonia (1845-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edmonia Lewis, the first woman of African American and Native American ancestry to gain notoriety as a sculptor, was born near Albany New York on July 4, 1845 to a Chippewa Indian woman and an African American man.  Her parents died when she was very young, so she was raised by her mother’s sister and the Chippewa people in Niagara Falls.  Edmonia also had an older brother, Samuel Lewis, who migrated west during the California Gold Rush.  Lewis made a small fortune in the gold fields, part of which he used to send Edmonia to Oberlin College in Ohio.  Although the college was one of the first to admit African American women and men as well as white women, Lewis encountered racial problems.  In 1862 she was accused of attempting to poison two white coeds.  She was cleared of the charges but continued to be subject to verbal attacks and a beating that left her bedridden for days. Oberlin's administration refused to allow her to enroll the next year to complete her graduation requirements.
Sources: 
Rinna Wolfe, Edmonia Lewis: Wildfire in Marble (Parsippany, New Jersey: Dillon Press, 1998); http://womenshistory.about.com/od/edmonialewis/p/edmonia_lewis.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ruggles, David (1810-1849)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

David Ruggles, abolitionist, businessman, journalist and hydrotherapist, was born in 1810 in Norwich, Connecticut. He attended the Sabbath School for the poor which admitted people of color starting in 1815. In 1827 he left Connecticut for New York City where he operated a grocery store for the next four years.  He then quit the grocery business to open his own bookshop in early 1834.  Ruggles is generally known as the first African American bookseller. While working at the bookstore he extended many publications and prints promoting the abolition of slavery and in opposition to the efforts of the American Colonization Society which promoted black settlement in Liberia.  Ruggles also took on job printing, letterpress work, picture framing, and bookbinding to augment his income.  In September 1835, a white anti-abolitionist mob burned his store. 

In 1833 Ruggles began to travel across the Northeast promoting the Emancipator and Journal of Public Morals, an abolitionist weekly. Ruggles, who wrote articles and pamphlets and gave lectures denouncing slavery and Liberian colonization, made him a figure of rising prominence in abolitionist circles in the late 1830s. 

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

Cornish, Samuel Eli (1795-1858)

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

Samuel Cornish, an abolitionist and editor, was born in Sussex County, Delaware and raised in Philadelphia and New York City.  Since both of his parents were free African Americans Cornish was born free.  After graduating from the Free African School in Philadelphia Cornish began training to become a Presbyterian minister and was ordained in 1822.  Shortly afterward he moved to New York City where he organized the first black Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.  

In addition to his duties as pastor, Cornish also became a journalist.  Working with fellow African American John B. Russwurm, he founded the first African American newspaper in the United States, Freedom’s Journal. Cornish was the senior editor of the paper while Russwurm served as junior editor. The first issue appeared in New York City on Friday, March 16, 1827.  After living in a world dominated by white media, Cornish and Russwurm stated in their first editorial, “We wish to plead our own cause.  Too long have others spoken for us.  Too long have the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things that concern us dearly…,” clearly showing their intentions of publishing the news without white bias against the African American news.

Sources: 

Jack Salzman, David Smith, and Cornel West, eds., Encyclopedia of
African-American Culture and History
(New York: Simon & Schuster
Macmillan, 1996); Lerone Bennett Jr., Pioneers in Protest (Chicago:
Johnson Publishing Company Inc., 1968).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Foxx, Redd (1922-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Redd Foxx and Norma Miller, The Redd Foxx Encyclopedia of Black Humor (Pasadena: W. Ritchie Press, 1977); "Foxx, Red," American National Biography , Volume 8 (1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Parsons, Richard D. (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Huffington Post,
www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/
20090121/citygroup-chairman/image
Richard Dean Parsons, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Time Warner Inc., is the current Chairman of Citigroup. Despite his working class origins, Parsons’ achievements have been recognized by the African American community and he has become an influential role model for racial uplift. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1948, he was one of five children. He was raised in South Ozone Park, Queens and attended New York City public schools. After graduating high school at the age of sixteen, he attended the University of Hawaii where he excelled academically and athletically. At the university, he was a varsity basketball player and the social chairman of Omega Psi Phi and he met his future wife Laura Ann Bush who he married in 1968.  
Sources: 
Thomas Hayden, "The Man Who Keeps the Peace: AOL Time-Warner's Richard Parsons," Newsweek (January 24, 2000): p. 36; http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1873165,00.html; http://www.notablebiographies.com/news/Ow-Sh/Parsons-Richard.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Baca, Susana (1944- )

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

Susana Baca, recording artist and the first Afro-Peruvian to sit as a Cabinet Minister, was born in 1944 in Chorrillos, a seaside district of Lima, Peru, to a working class family. Her father was a chauffeur and her mother worked as cook and laundress for upper class families. Baca began singing at home at a very young age, inspired by the large and festive weekly family gatherings and encouraged by her mom’s passion for various local musical genres. Her father also played the guitar. Baca grew up in a multicultural environment, not particularly aware of her “blackness,” but she clearly recalls the first moment when she felt discriminated against: while in high school, she and other non-white students were not chosen to participate on the school’s dance team because of their skin color.

Sources: 
Heidi Feldman, Black Rhythms of Peru. Reviving African Musical Heritage in the Black Pacific (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2006); “Music, Activism and the Peruvian Cabinet. A Word with Susana Baca” (New York Times, August 19, 2011)
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/arts/music/susana-baca-peruvian-musician-and-culture-minister.html; “Peru's First Black Minister Susana Baca: Barefoot Singer” (The Huffington Post, September 15, 2011)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/16/peru-black-minister-susana-baca_n_966895.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Wheaton, John Francis (1866-1922)

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

John Francis Wheaton was a late 19th Century and early 20th Century lawyer and a politician.  Wheaton ran for elective office in three states and was the first African American to serve in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

John Francis Wheaton was born on May 8, 1866 to Jacob and Emily Wheaton in Hagerstown, Maryland.  He graduated from the high school division of Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in 1882. During the decade after his graduation Wheaton worked as a public school teacher, then attended Dixon Business College in Illinois, and later moved to Washington D.C., where he worked as a clerk for the United States Congress until 1892.  In 1889, Wheaton married Ella Chambers and the couple had two sons, Layton J. and Frank P. Wheaton.

Wheaton graduated from Howard’s Law Department in May 1892 and set up a practice in Hagerstown.  He was only the fourth African American to pass the bar and practice law in Maryland and the first outside Baltimore.

In 1893, however, Wheaton moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where he worked as a clerk in the state legislature and also as a deputy clerk in the Minneapolis municipal courts.  The following year he became the first African American to graduate from the University of Minnesota Law School.

Sources: 
"It's a Fact! (John Francis Wheaton)," Session Weekly, (St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives Information Office, February 21, 1992), 14; Marion Daniel Shutter, "John Francis Wheaton," Progressive Men of Minnesota, Marion D. Shutter, D.D. and J.S. McLain, M.A. eds., (Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Journal, 1897), 350-351.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Kerigo, Iman (1992- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Iman Kerigo is a 22 year old black woman who at the age of 18 was crowned Miss Norway in 2010. She was the first woman of African descent to hold the title. Kerigo and her family are refugees from Kenya. She arrived initially in Great Britain in 2000.  Her family’s experiences during their time in Great Britain, although far better that the personal and political repression which drove them from Kenya, nonetheless were challenging enough to make Kerigo a staunch advocate in Europe in raising awareness about the endemic problems of poverty, war, violence, and domestic abuse as they affected refugees as well as their impact on the larger population.

Kerigo, the second child in a family with three brothers, was born in 1992 in Kenya.  She and her mother struggled with her father who was abusive to both of them.  In 2000 her mother took advantage of an opportunity to leave for Great Britain as political refugees.   
Sources: 
http://mwakilishi.com/, September 30, 2010; Noah Gilman and Nicola Henry, “First Black Miss Norway Visits the United States,” Black News.com, October 27, 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Haley, George (1925- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Ambassador and Mrs. George W.B. Haley
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Ambassador George Williford Boyce Haley served as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Gambia from 1998 until 2001. Haley was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He then traveled to Banjul, the capital of Gambia to assume his post as head of the U.S. Embassy.  
Sources: 
The History Makers, "George Haley," The History Makers http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/george-haley-38 ; Gillian Wolf, "Haley, George 1925–," Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2872300028.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Koné, Malamine (1971– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Clothing entrepreneur Malamine Koné, was born in Mali on December 21, 1971, but now lives near Paris, France. He is most famous for creating the sport-clothing brand Airness in 1999. Fifteen years later, the clothing line is one of the most popular in France.

While growing up in an impoverished village not far from Bamako, the capital city of Mali, Koné worked as a shepherd, responsible for searching for ponds and grass for cattle in the semi-arid Sahel region that covers most of Mali. Because of his parents’ poverty, he did not attend school and often relied on his grandparents for food. His mother and father decided to immigrate to France in the late 1970s, initially leaving young Koné behind. In 1981 at the age of 10, he was reunited with his parents in Seine Saint-Denis, a suburb north of Paris.   
When he arrived in France, he could not speak French, had never experienced a winter, and had never attended school. In his first two years in the country, he attended a special school designed for immigrants to France and then enrolled in a regular French academy. Over time, he became an excellent pupil and graduated from a university. His goal at that time was to enter the Paris Police Department and eventually become a police administrator.  
Sources: 
“Les 100 Personnalités de la diaspora africaine”, in Jeune Afrique, n° 2536-2537, August 16-29, 2009
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Paris

McCabe, Edward P. (1850-1920)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Edward P. McCabe was an African American politician and businessman most notable for his promotion of black settlement in Oklahoma and Kansas. Born in 1850 in Troy, New York, McCabe would attend school until his father’s death when he left school to support his family as a clerk on Wall Street. In 1872, he earned a job as a clerk in Chicago. Two years later, McCabe left Chicago for Kansas and arrived in the growing black community of Nicodemus in 1878.

In Nicodemus, McCabe established himself as an attorney and land agent. When Graham County was established in 1880, McCabe was appointed temporary clerk and officially elected as county clerk the next year. In 1882, he successfully stood as the Republican candidate for state auditor, a victory which made him the most important black office holder outside of the south. However, as Nicodemus’s fortunes reversed and the town began to hemorrhage residents, McCabe left first for Washington and then for Oklahoma.

Sources: 
Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West 1528-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1998); William Loren Katz, Black People Who Made the Old West (Trenton: Africa World Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Robert Lloyd Smith (1861-1942)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Lloyd Smith, politician and businessman, was born in 1861, to free black parents, one of whom was a schoolteacher.  Smith attended the public elementary schools in Charleston.  In 1875 he entered the University of South Carolina and remained there until 1877.  Leaving the University of South Carolina when it shut its doors to black students, Smith entered Atlanta University, where he graduated in 1880 with a Bachelor of Science degree in English and mathematics.   Smith moved to Oakland, Colorado County, Texas, where he became principal of the Oakland Normal School.  Later, he became a member of the County Board of School Examiners.  In order to help blacks economically, Smith founded the Oakland Village Improvement Society and the Farmer's Improvement Society.  In 1895 he became involved in politics and ran successfully for the legislature in predominantly white Colorado County.
Sources: 
Merline Pitre, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: The Black Leadership of Texas, 1868-1900 (Austin: Eakin, 1985).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Texas Southern University

Butler, Jerry (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jerry Butler was born to sharecropping farmers in Sunflower, Mississippi, but at the age of three his family joined the Great Migration and moved to Chicago, Illinois (to an area now known as the Cabrini-Green Housing Projects).  His initial introduction to music began as a choir boy in church in Chicago, where he met Curtis Mayfield, and the two joined a rhythm and blues (R&B) group called The Roosters in 1957.  Later in 1957 the group changed its name to Jerry Butler and the Impressions and released its only hit “For Your Precious Love,” which Jerry wrote, on the black-owned VeeJay label in 1958.
Sources: 
Jerry Butler and Earl Smith, Only the Strong Survive: Memoirs of a Soul Survivor (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000); http://www.vh1.com; http://www.onlinetalent.com; http://www.mtv.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brimmer, Andrew F. (1926-2012)

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

A writer, an economist and an advocate for affirmative action, Andrew Felton Brimmer is best known as the first African American to hold a governorship on the United States Federal Reserve Bank.

Born in Newellton, Louisiana, Brimmer moved to Bremerton, Washington in 1944 and enlisted in the U.S. Army.  He served in the Army two years, rising to the rank of staff sergeant.  Upon his return, he enrolled at the University of Washington where he received his B.A. in Economics in 1950 and M.A. shortly thereafter in 1951. Brimmer then studied at the University of Bombay for a year and completed a Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard University in 1957.

First and foremost an economist, Brimmer promoted a monetary policy that sought to alleviate unemployment and reduce the national deficit.  He also argued that racial discrimination hurt the U.S economy by marginalizing potentially productive workers.   

Sources: 
Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); Charles Christian, Black Saga: The African American Experience (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995); Colin Palmer, Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History (Missouri: Thomson Gale, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dessalines, Jean-Jacques (1758-1806)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African 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
Reviled for his brutality yet honored as one of the founding fathers of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines was second in command under Toussaint L’Overture during the Haitian Revolution and was the general who emerged after L’Overture’s capture to lead the insurgents in declaring Haitian independence on January 1, 1804.

Like L’Overture, Dessalines was born into slavery in the French colony of Saint Dominque.  Born to Congolese parents, Dessalines was originally given the name Duclos, after the plantation’s owner.  He later adopted the surname Dessalines after the free black landowner who purchased him and from whom he escaped. Unlike L’Overture, Dessalines was treated harshly as a slave and violence became a way of life that marked him throughout his military and brief political career contributing both to his success on the battlefield and to his eventual downfall.
Sources: 
Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004); Martin Ros, Night of Fire: The Black Napoleon and the Battle for Haiti (New York: Sarpedon, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Matthews, Victoria Earle (1861-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Victoria Earle Smith was an accomplished journalist, author, lecturer, clubwoman, social worker, and missionary.  She was born on May 27, 1861 in Fort Valley, Georgia, to Caroline Smith, a slave, and a man who was believed to be the family’s master.  Caroline fled the plantation at the start of the Civil War, but returned after emancipation and regained custody of Victoria and her sister.  The family eventually moved to New York City, where Victoria excelled in public school until financial and family conditions made it necessary for her to quit and go into domestic service.  Victoria continued her education by using the library of her employer, special studies and other opportunities to improve herself. When she was 18 years old she married William Matthews and they had one son, Lamartine.  
Sources: 
Hallie Q. Brown, Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction (Xenia, Ohio:  Aldine Publishing Company, 1926); Floris Barnett Cash, “Victoria Earle Matthews,” Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale Research, 1992); http://www.africanamericans.com/VictoriaMatthews.htm .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Payne, Donald Milford (1934-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Representative
Donald Milford Payne's Office
Donald Payne, a Democrat, was the first African American elected to Congress from the State of New Jersey.  Payne was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 16, 1934. He earned a B.A. degree in social studies from Seton Hall University in 1957 and also has honorary doctorates from Chicago State University, Drew University, Essex County College, and William Patterson University.

After graduating in 1957 Payne began working for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), traveling around the world as its representative.  In 1970 Payne became its first African American president. From 1973 to 1981 he chaired the YMCA Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee that was based in Geneva.  In 1972 he was elected to the Essex County (New Jersey) Board of Chosen Freeholders, and became its director in 1977.

Donald Payne challenged longtime Congressional incumbent Peter W. Rodino Jr. in the Democratic primary in both 1980 and 1986 but failed both times. In 1988 however, when Rodino said he would not seek a 21st term, Payne won nomination and was elected to Congress.
Sources: 
Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); http://www.house.gov/payne/biography/index.html.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Berry, Halle (1968- )

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

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

Williams, Spencer (1893-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Radio Characters from Amos 'N' Andy,
Spencer Williams (left)
and Alvin Tim Moore (right)
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis

Spencer Williams is widely known for his portrayal of the character Andy in the controversial 1950s television comedy series Amos ‘n Andy.  His contributions to the world of film and television, however, far surpassed the limitations of the popular but widely criticized Amos ‘n Andy sitcom. Born July 14, 1893 in Vidalia, Louisiana, Williams moved to New York City during his teens and studied comedy under vaudeville comedian Bert Williams.

He attended the University of Minnesota, but interrupted his studies to serve several years in the United States Army during and after World War I. After being honorably discharged from the service in 1923, Williams returned to New York City and concentrated on a career in show business. He eventually landed a job with Christie Studios in Hollywood, where he co-wrote and appeared in Paramount Pictures’ first all-black talking film, Melancholy Dame (1928). He was subsequently retained as a consultant, continuity writer, and performer for the Christie Comedies – a comedy series that focused on black life in urban Alabama.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia
(New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Thomas Cripps, Black Film as
Genre
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Wheeler Dixon, The
“B” Directors: A Biographical Directory
(Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1985); Phyllis Klotman, Frame By Frame: A Black Filmography
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Henry T. Sampson, Blacks
in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films
(Metuchen, New Jersey:
Scarecrow, 1977); Mel Watkins, On the Real Side (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1994).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bond, J. Max, Jr. (1935-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jack Travis, African American Architects in Current Practice (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1991); Thomas A. Dutton, Voices in Architectural Education: Cultural Politics and Pedagogy (New York: Bergin & Garvey, 1991); J. Max Bond, Jane Logan, Charles A. Spears, and Arthur L. Symes, Harlem News (New York, N.Y.: Architect's Renewal Committee in Harlem, 1967); David W. Dunlap, "J. Max Bond, Jr., Architect, Dies at 73," New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/19/arts/design/19bond.html
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