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Political Activists

Bertonneau, E. Arnold (1834-1912)

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

Reason, Charles Lewis (1818-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Charles L. Reason was born on July 21, 1818 in New York City. His parents, Michiel and Elizabeth Reason, were immigrants from Haiti who arrived in the United States shortly after the Haitian Revolution of 1793. His parents emphasized the importance of education, and very early on the young Reason displayed an aptitude for mathematics when he was a student at the New York African Free School.  Reason began his teaching career when he was 14 years old. He saved what he could of his teacher’s $25 per year salary to continue his own education with tutors. A political activist and abolitionist, Reason played a prominent role in the Negro Convention Movement in New York. In 1837 Reason joined Henry Highland Garnet, among others, in an effort to gain voting rights for African American men and he was later one of the co-authors of the Call for the New York Negro Convention of 1840.

Sources: 
John E. Fleming (with the assistance of Julius Hobson Jr., John McClendon and Herschelle Reed), The Lengthening Shadow of Slavery (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974); Anthony R. Mayo, "Charles Lewis Reason," Negro History Bulletin 5 (June 1942):212-15;Scott W. Williams, “Charles L. Reason African American Mathematician,1818–1893,” http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/special/reason_charles_l.html;
John E. Fleming, “Home of McGraw Eagles: History” http://www.mcgrawschools.org/history.htm
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Walker, David (1785-1830)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

The fiery-militant David Walker was born on September 28, 1785, in Wilmington, North Carolina.  His father was an enslaved African who died a few months before his son’s birth, and his mother was a free woman of African ancestry. Walker grew up to despise the system of slavery that the U.S. government allowed in America.  He knew the cruelties of slavery were not for him and said, “As true as God reigns, I will be avenged for the sorrow which my people have suffered.”  He eventually moved to Boston during the 1820s and became very active within the free black community.  Walker’s intense hatred for slavery culminated in him publishing his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World in September 1829. The Appeal was smuggled into the southern states, and was considered subversive, seditious, and incendiary by most white men in both northern and southern states.  It was, without a doubt, one of the most controversial documents published in the antebellum period.

Walker was concerned about many social issues affecting free and enslaved Africans in America during the time.  He also expressed many beliefs that would become commonly promoted by later black nationalists such as: unified struggle for resistance of oppression (slavery), land reparations, self-government for people of African descent in America, racial pride, and a critique of American capitalism.  His radical views prompted southern planters to offer a $3000 bounty for anyone who killed Walker and $10,000 reward for anyone who returned him alive back to the South.  Walker was found dead in the doorway of his Boston home in 1830.  Some people believed he was poisoned and others believed that he died of tuberculosis.

Sources: 
Thabiti Asukile, "The All-Embracing Black Nationalist Theories of David Walker's Appeal," Black Scholar, 29 (Winter 1999), 16–24.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Cincinnati

Belafonte, Harry (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann/CORBIS

Born March 1, 1927 as Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. in Harlem, New York, to parents Melvine Love Bellanfanti, a Jamaican housekeepter, and Harold George Bellanfanti, Sr., of Martinique, who worked as a chef for the National Guard. Belafonte grew from being a troubled youth to an award-winning entertainer and world-renowned political activist and humanitarian.  From 1932 to 1940, he lived with his grandmother in Jamaica.  He returned to New York City and attended George Washington High School. In 1944 Belafonte joined the Navy in order to fight in World War II, and although Belafonte was never sent overseas, after the war ended he was able to use the G.I. Bill to pay for a drama workshop at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan alongside fellow students Marlon Brando and Sidney Poitier

Sources: 
James Robert Parish and Michael R. Pitts, Hollywood Songsters:  Singers Who Act and Actors Who Sing (New York: Routledge, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Farrakhan, Louis Abdul (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Louis Abdul Farrakhan was born on May 11, 1933 in Bronx, New York as Louis Eugene Walcott.  Walcott, who grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts, excelled as a musician, singer and track star.  He attended a Boston-area school for gifted children and was given national exposure at age 14 when, as one of the first African Americans to appear on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, he won the competition for that episode.  After high school Walcott attended Winston-Salem Teachers College for two years and then worked as a calypso guitarist-singer. Walcott joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1955 and changed his name to Louis X and later Louis Farrakhan.  Initially he was a follower of Malcolm X, but became a competitor in the period before Malcolm’s assassination in 1965.

Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999), 732, 33; Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua and Clarence Lang, “Providence, Patriarchy, Pathology: Louis Farrakhan's Rise & Decline,” New Politics, vol. 6, no. 2 (new series), whole no. 22, Winter 1997. http://www.wpunj.edu/~newpol/issue22/chajua22.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Prince, Lucy Terry (c. 1732-1821)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

The author of the first known work of African American literature (the poem “Bars Fight”), Lucy Terry Prince was kidnapped in Africa as an infant and sold into slavery in Rhode Island  At the age of five, she became the property of Captain Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, Massachusetts.  Around the age of sixteen Lucy Terry responded to a 1746 Indian ambush of two white families in a section of town known as “the Bars” by composing the ballad poem “Bars Fight,” which earned her local acclaim.  She remained enslaved until 1756, when Obijah Prince, a prosperous free black man, purchased her freedom and married her. 

In 1760 the Princes moved to Guilford, Vermont, where Lucy Terry Prince gained local renown as a storyteller and orator while educating her six children.  A courageous, eloquent activist, Prince worked hard not only to survive economically but also to protect her family from racist harassment and vandalism.  She agitated, unsuccessfully, for her oldest son to be admitted to Williams College.  Widowed in 1794, Lucy Terry Prince moved to Sunderland, Vermont, where she died in 1821.  Lemuel Haynes preached an antislavery sermon at her funeral in which he predicted that despots and racists, “tyrants and oppressors,” would “sink beneath” Terry’s “feet,” a witty reference to her poetry.

Sources: 
John Saillant, Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-1833 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

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

Hall, Prince (c. 1735-1807)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Prince Hall was an important social leader in Boston following the Revolutionary War and the founder of black freemasonry. His birth and childhood are unclear. There were several Prince Halls in Boston at this time. He is believed to have been the slave of a Boston leather worker who was granted freedom in 1770 after twenty-one years of service. He then opened a successful leather goods store, owned his house, was a taxpayer, and a voter. Hall supplied the Boston Regiment with leather goods and may have fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

In 1775, fifteen free blacks, including Hall, joined a freemason lodge of British soldiers. They formed their own lodge, African Lodge #1, when the British left. However, they were not granted full stature by the Grand Lodge of England until 1784. The actual charter arrived in 1787, at which time Hall became the Worshipful Master. Even though they had full stature, most white freemason lodges in America did not treat them equally. Hall helped other black Masonic lodges form. Upon his death in 1807, they became the Prince Hall Grand Lodges.  There are 46 lodges across the United States today.

Sources: 
“Prince Hall,” Africans in America. 1998. WGBH and PBS. 12 July 2006, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p37.html ; “Prince Hall,” Encyclopedia of Black America, Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981), p. 412; “Prince Hall,” Gale Bibliography Resource Center. 12 July 2006, http://www.gale.com/BiographyRC/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Baraka, Amiri (1934-2014)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Schomburg, Arturo Alfonso (1874-1938)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, writer, activist, collector, and important figure of the Harlem Renaissance was born in Saturce, Puerto Rico. His mother, a black woman, was originally from St. Croix, Danish Virgin Islands, and his father was a Puerto Rican of German ancestry. Schomburg migrated to New York City in 1891. Very active in the liberation movements of Puerto Rico and Cuba, he founded Las dos Antillas, a cultural and political group that worked for the islands’ independence. After the collapse of the Cuban revolutionary struggle, and the cession of Puerto-Rico to the U.S., Schomburg, disillusioned, turned his attention to the African American community. In 1911, as its Master, he renamed El Sol de Cuba #38, a lodge of Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants, as Prince Hall Lodge in honor of the first black freemason in the country. The same year, he also founded the Negro Society for Historical Research. In 1922 he was elected president of the American Negro Academy.

Sources: 
Jesse, Hoffnung-Garskof, “The Migrations of Arturo Schomburg: On Being Antillano, Negro, and Puerto Rican in New York, 1891-1938,” Journal of American Ethnic History, vol. 21, no 1 (November 2001): 3-49; Elinor Des Verney Sinnette, Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, Black Bibliophile and Collector: A Biography (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Barnes, Emery (1929-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Social worker, politician and professional football player Emery Barnes spent much of his life helping the disadvantaged in society and working for worldwide human rights and world peace.  Barnes was first elected to the British Columbia legislature in 1972 and was elected Speaker of the Legislature in 1994, serving in the provincial legislature until 1996. He was the first black person to hold the position of Speaker in any Canadian province.
Sources: 
The British Columbia Black History Society, A Resource Guide on Black Pioneers in British Columbia (Victoria: The British Columbia Black History Awareness Society, 1997); Lorraine Murray, "Reflections on Emery Barnes," http://www.darrenduncan.net/archived_web_work/voices/voices_v1_n3/emery_barnes.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dancy, John Campbell, Jr. (1888-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

John Campbell Dancy, Jr.

Sources: 
John C. Dancy, Sands Against the Wind: The Memories of John C. Dancy (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1966); Richard W. Thomas, Life for Us is What We Make It: Building Black Community in Detroit, 1915-1945 (Indiana UP, 1992); Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability: African-American Women in Interwar Detroit (University of North Carolina Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Rochester

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

Wright, Louis T. (1891-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
“Louis Tompkins Wright,” in W. Augustus Low & Virgin A. Cliff, Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981); “History of Medicine: The Wright Stuff,” American Legacy Magazine 10:3 (Fall 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bethune, Mary Jane McLeod (1875-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership:  Public Domain
Mary McLeod Bethune was a prominent educator, political leader, and social visionary whose early twentieth century activism for black women and civil rights laid the foundation for the modern civil rights era.  Inspired by leaders such as Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Josephine St. Pierre-Ruffin, Bethune mobilized African American women’s organizations to challenge racial injustice and demand first class citizenship.
Sources: 
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eleanor/peopleevents/pande05.html; http://www.nps.gov/mamc/historyculture/people_marymcleodbethune.htm; Mary McLeod Bethune, Mary McLeod Bethune: Building a Better World, Essays and Selected Documents (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); John Hope Franklin (ed.), Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982), 191-220; Darlene Clark Hine (ed.), The African-American Odyssey (New York: Prentice Hall, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Cox, Oliver Cromwell (1901-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to a middle-class family, Oliver Cromwell Cox was one of nine children of Virginia Blake and William Raphael Cox.  Influenced by his father, who was determined that his children further their education, Oliver traveled to the United States at the age of 18 with the aim of becoming either a doctor or a lawyer.   In 1929 he completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Law from Northwestern University.  He had planned to return to Trinidad to live but was stricken with poliomyelitis and would walk with crutches for the rest of his life, which he spent in the United States.   Undeterred by his physical condition, he earned a M.A. in economics and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago before holding professorships at Wiley College, the Tuskegee Institute, Lincoln University, and Wayne State University  where he amassed a prolific record of scholarship and a reputation as a  demanding and challenging pedagogue.

Sources: 
Herbert M. Hunter and Sameer Y. Abraham, Race, Class, and the World System: The Sociology of Oliver C. Cox (New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1987).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Los Angeles

Ellison, Ralph (1913-1994)

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

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

Abbott, Robert Sengstacke (1870-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Roi Ottley, The Lonely Warrior; The Life and Times of Robert S. Abbott (Chicago: Regnery Co., 1955);
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999);
http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/news_bios/defender.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Domingo, Wilfred A. (1889-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

Wiggins, Forrest Oran (1907-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Forrest Oran Wiggins was born in 1907 to Charles and Cora Cosby Wiggins. A native of Vincennes, Indiana, Wiggins attended public schools in Vincennes and Indianapolis. In 1928 Wiggins received his B.A. from Butler University and in the following year earned a certificate in French from the Sorbonne. Wiggins would go on to teach French and well as philosophy on various college campuses. He received his Master’s (1929) and Ph.D. (1931) in philosophy with both degrees earned from University of Wisconsin.

Wiggins became the first African American to teach at University of Minnesota. Wiggins was one of only four African American philosophers that by 1950 had regular faculty posts on predominantly white colleges. A long time member of the American Philosophical Association, Wiggins came to Minnesota highly recommended as a scholar and teacher. When Wiggins arrived in the Twin Cities, he had considerable teaching experience, having been an instructor for13 years at a number of black institutions including: Morehouse College, Howard University, Johnson C. Smith, North Carolina Central, and Louisville Municipal College. Despite his credentials and experience, Wiggins was hired at the rank of (untenured) instructor.
Sources: 
Dick Bruner, “Around the U.S.A., The Wiggins Case” The Nation (March 22, 1952) p. 2; Clark Johnson, “Biographical Sketch of Forrest Oran Wiggins” in the Forrest Oran Wiggins Papers, University of Minnesota Archives (November 2003).
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Malcolm X (1925-1965)

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

Malcolm X, one of the most influential African American leaders of the 20th Century, was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925 to Earl Little, a Georgia native and itinerant Baptist preacher, and Louise Norton Little who was born in the West Indian island of Grenada.  Shortly after Malcolm was born the family moved to Lansing, Michigan.  Earl Little joined Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) where he publicly advocated black nationalist beliefs, prompting the local white supremacist Black Legion to set fire to their home.  Little was killed by a streetcar in 1931. Authorities ruled it a suicide but the family believed he was killed by white supremacists.

Sources: 
Robert L. Jenkins and Mafanya Donald Tryman, The Malcolm X Encyclopedia (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002); Eugene V. Wolfenstein, The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Karl Evanzz, The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992); Malcolm X with Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Grove Press, 1965).   
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Rustin, Bayard (1910-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Walter Naegle
Bayard Rustin was one of the most important, and yet least known, Civil Rights advocates in the twentieth century. He was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania and raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandmother, Julia, was both a Quaker and an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Quakerism, and NAACP leaders W.E.B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson, who were frequent visitors, proved influential in Rustin's life.  

Rustin attended Wilberforce University (1932-1936) and Cheyney State Teachers College (1936), in each instance without graduating. After completing an activist training program conducted by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), he moved to Harlem, New York in 1937. In Harlem, he enrolled at the City College of New York, began singing in local clubs with black folksingers including John White and Huddie Ledbetter, became active in the efforts to free the Scottsboro Boys, and joined the Young Communist League, motivated by their advocacy of racial equality.
Sources: 
John D'Emilio, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004); Jervis Anderson, Bayard Rustin: Troubles I've Seen (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997); James Haskins, Bayard Rustin: Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Hyperion, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

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

Garvey, Marcus (1887-1940)

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

Tony Martin, Race First: The Ideological and Organization Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1976); Edward David Cronon, Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1955); Ula Taylor, The Veiled Garvey: The Life and Times of Amy Jacques Garvey (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); and Marcus Garvey, Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey (London: Cass, 1967).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Turner, Nat (1800-1831)

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

Nathaniel “Nat” Turner was born in Southampton County, Virginia on October 2, 1800, the son of slaves owned by Benjamin Turner, a prosperous farmer. Taught to read by the son of his owner, Turner studied Christianity which he interpreted as condemning slavery. Turner also began to believe that God had chosen him to free his people from slavery. He soon became known among fellow slaves as “The Prophet.”

Turner was sold to slaveholder Joseph Travis in 1830. Less than a year after the sale, Turner received what he assumed was a sign from God when he witnessed the eclipse of the sun. After sharing this experience with a few close friends, they began to plan an insurrection. While still planning the uprising, Turner saw that the color of the sun had changed to a bluish-green, which he believed was the final sign to initiate the uprising. With this confidence, Turner and seven other slaves moved forward with their plans. They first murdered the entire Travis family and eventually fifty whites in the futile effort to incite a general slave uprising. Only 75 slaves and free blacks joined the rebellion.

Sources: 
Kenneth S. Greenburg, ed., Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nat_Turner; http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASturner.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Whipper, William (1804-1885)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 William Whipper was born in Little Britain, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on February 22, 1804. Whipper was best known for his activities promoting the abolition of slavery, temperance and “moral suasion” which he defined as the power of non-violence as the most effective way to eradicate racism in America. Whipper’s philosophy of non-violence rested on two principles. “First, to be non-violent reflected humanity’s divine essence.
Sources: 
The Columbia Spy, August 4, 1866, Jan. 29, 1870, courtesy of Lancaster Historical Society; Donald Yacovone, “The Transformation of the Black Temperance Movement, 1807-1854: An Interpretation,” Journal of Early Republic, 8:3 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 281-297; and Tunde Adeleke, “Violence as an option for Free blacks in Nineteenth-Century America,” Canadian Review of American Studies, 35:1 (2005), pp.87-107.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Douglass, Frederick (1817-1895)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Frederick Douglass was born into Maryland slavery in 1817 to a slave mother and a slave master father. Young Douglass toiled on a rural plantation and later in Baltimore’s shipyards as a caulker. Douglass, however, learned to read and soon sought out abolitionist literature that alleviated what he termed the graveyard of his mind. He eventually escaped to New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1838, and took the surname Douglass, which he borrowed from the Scottish romance novel, Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott. Douglass’s wife, Anna, followed with their five children. She worked as a laborer in a New Bedford shoe factory while Douglass became a world renowned anti-slavery orator.
Sources: 
Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1855); William J. Moses, The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925 (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1978); Leon Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961); Benjamin Quarles, Frederick Douglass (New York: Athenaeum, 1968); and Philip S. Foner, Frederick Douglass: A Biography (New York: Citadel Press, 1964).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Nixon, Lawrence A. (1883-1966)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dr. Lawrence Aaron Nixon was born in Marshall, Texas and graduated from Wiley College (l902) and Meharry Medical College (l906). He began his medical practice in Cameron, Texas but moved to El Paso in l909. In l9l0, he was joined in El Paso by his first wife Esther (nee Calvin) and their infant son. While practicing as a physician in El Paso, Dr. Nixon became a founder, organizer and member of Myrtle Avenue Methodist Church as well as a charter member of the El Paso branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). A registered Democrat, Dr. Nixon challenged a 1923 state law that barred African Americans from participating in that party’s electoral primaries.

In Nixon v. Herndon in l927 and Nixon v. Condon in l932, the El Paso physician won two important United States Supreme Court rulings making unconstitutional the Democratic Party’s all white primaries. However, white state party leaders, through resistance and obfuscation, continued to prevent black Texans from participating in primary elections. Circumvention of the Court’s rulings continued until the decisive Smith v. Allwright case in l944 which effectively abolished the all-white primary. Dr. Nixon and his second wife, Drusilla Tandy (nee Porter) whom he married in l935, proudly voted that year.
Sources: 
Conrey Bryson, Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon and the White Primary (El Paso, Texas Western Press, l974); Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon Papers, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, University of Texas, Austin.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at El Paso

Wagoner, Henry O. (1816-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in 1816 in Maryland to a freed slave mother and a German father, Henry O. Wagoner (often spelled Waggoner) had the benefit of a brief exposure to education in Pennsylvania. This limited education gave him a base for further self-education and independent thought. In the 1850s Frederick Douglass employed Wagoner as the Chicago correspondent to his Rochester, New York newspaper, known as Frederick Douglass' Paper after 1851.

Wagoner's obituary notes that he owned a "small mill " in Chicago that burned in 1860, prompting him to move to Denver City, Colorado Territory. His friend Barney Ford may have influenced that decision as the two of them had worked together in Chicago supporting Douglass's abolition movement and his Underground Railroad activities.

In Denver, Wagoner opened various barbering and restaurant businesses and was among the most affluent of Denver's African American residents. While Ford moved from place to place, Wagoner stayed in Denver where he remained a political activist in league with black pioneers Edward Sanderlin and William Jefferson Hardin.
Sources: 
Henry O. Wagoner Obituary, Rocky Mountain News, January 28, 1901; Eugene Berwanger, The Frontier Against Slavery: Western Anti-Negro Prejudice and the Slavery Extension Controversy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1967).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Colorado Historical Society

Seale, Bobby (1936--)

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

Garvey, Amy Ashwood (1897-1969)

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

Ashwood and Garvey both held strong beliefs in African American activism and were involved in political activities and soon they began to collaborate on ideas and strategies for the liberation of Jamaica, then a British colony.  In 1916 they became secretly engaged. Ashwood’s parents did not approve and arranged for her to return to Panama that year. Garvey headed for the United States in the spring of that year.

However, Garvey and Ashwood were reunited in September of 1918 in New York City. This marked the beginning of Ashwood’s important role in the development of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) branches. She became Garvey’s chief aide and the general secretary of the UNIA in 1919.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia Volumes 1 and 2 (New York: Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993); http://www.unia-acl.org; http://marcusgarvey.com; http://www.pbs.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Garvey, Amy Jacques (1896-1973)

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

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

Wormley, James (1819-1884)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Washington D.C. on January 16, 1819, James Wormley was the son of free-born citizens Lynch and Mary Wormley. As a young boy, Wormley’s first job was working with his family’s hackney carriage business. This job would help Wormley gain skills and an appreciation for hard work involved in business ownership which he put to good use in post-Civil War Washington.

After owning a successful restaurant, Wormley decided to purchase a hotel in 1871 which he called the Wormley House. Located near the White House, at the southwest corner of 15th and H Streets Northwest, Wormley House soon became popular among the wealthy and politically prominent in the nation’s capital.  Wormley’s experience as caterer, club steward and traveler in Europe helped him to perfect his culinary skills while his keen eye for detail ensured that his hotel guests were satisfied during their stay. The hotel was most famous for its well-managed rooms, early telephone and the dining room where Wormley served European-style dishes.

Wormley also became active in Washington, D.C. community politics. On July 21, 1871, Wormley led a successful campaign to persuade Congress to fund the first public school for the city’s African Americans. The school, named after Wormley, was built in Georgetown at 34th and Prospect Streets.  Despite Congress’s allocation local politics delayed the opening of the school until 1885.
Sources: 
Sandra Fitzpatrick and Maria Goodwin, The Guide to Black Washington. (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1999); Nicholas E. Hollis, “A Hotel for the History Books” Washington Post, (March 18, 2001); http://www.culturaltourismdc.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Forman, James (1928-2005)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Civil rights leader and political activist James Forman was an instrumental leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), sending demonstrators to the South for the Freedom Ride protests. Forman, who was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 4th, 1928, lived with his grandmother in Mississippi until the age of six when he returned to live with his mother and stepfather in Chicago. Forman used his stepfather’s surname Rufus until, as a teen, he met his real father Jackson Forman, a cabdriver.

He graduated with honors from high school and entered the Air Force, stationed in Okinawa during the Korean War. In 1952, he enrolled in the University of Southern California. During his second semester, Forman was a victim of brutality: accused of a robbery he did not commit, he was taken to a police station and beaten by two Los Angeles police officers. The incident caused Forman to have a mental breakdown, and he returned to Chicago. After his recovery he enrolled in Roosevelt University received a bachelor’s of arts degree 1957.
Sources: 
James Forman, Making of Black Revolutionaries (Open Hand Publishing, Inc., 1985); Joe Holley, “Civil Rights Leader James Forman Dies,” The Washington Post (January 11, 2005);http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1621-2005Jan11.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lafon, Thomy (1810-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Alecia P. Long, The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1965-1920 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004); August Meier, Negro thought in America, 1880-1915: Racial Ideologies in the Age of Booker T. Washington (Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988); http://odyssey-house.com; http://realtytimes.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

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

Pennington, James W. C. (1807-1870)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born into slavery on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1807, James William Charles Pennington escaped from slavery in 1828 and settled for a time in Long Island, where he studied in night school.  Devoted to black education, he became an antislavery preacher, teacher, activist, and writer.  Pennington attended classes at Yale College in New Haven, although Yale forbade him to officially enroll or to use its library.  In 1838 he officiated at the wedding of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray.  During the 1840s and 1850s he pastored African Congregational churches in Newtown, Long Island; Hartford, Connecticut; and New York City, gaining international recognition as an antislavery orator and civil rights activist.  Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin praised him as an exemplary African American leader.  In addition to many sermons and speeches, Pennington authored one of the first history textbooks for African American teachers, A Text Book of the Origin and History . . . of Colored People (1841) and a memoir of slavery, The Fugitive Blacksmith, or Events in the History of James W.C. Pennington (1849).
Sources: 
Pennington, James W.C., The Fugitive Blacksmith; Charles E. Wilson, Jr., “Pennington, James W. C.” in William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris, eds., The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
State University of New York at Buffalo

Dellums, Ronald Vernie (1935- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Ronald Vernie Dellums was born on November 24, 1935 in Oakland, California to Willa Terry Dellums and Vernie Dellums. His father Vernie Dellums was a longshoreman, and his mother was a labor organizer.  As a child, Ron attended St. Patrick Catholic School in Oakland.  

After high school Ron Dellums served in the United States Marine Corps from 1954 to 1956 after he was denied the college scholarship he had sought.  After service in the Marines Dellums, with the help of the G.I Bill and an outside job, attended San Francisco State College where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1960.  This was followed by an M.A. in Social Welfare from the University of California at Berkeley in 1962.

In the same year Dellums began his career as a psychiatric social worker in the California Department of Mental Hygiene in Berkeley.  Dellums also taught at San Francisco State University and the University of California, Berkeley.  His work soon led him to become involved in community politics.  In 1967 at 32, Dellums was elected to the Berkeley City Council.  He quickly became known as the spokesperson for African American community affairs and for his radical political beliefs.  
Sources: 
Ronald Dellums, Lying Down with the Lions: A Public Life from the Streets of Oakland to the Halls of Power (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000); Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870- 1989 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,1990); Maurine Christopher, Black Americans in Congress (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1976); http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000222
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

DuBois, Shirley Graham (1896-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Shirley Graham DuBois and
her Husband, W.E.B. DuBois
Image Courtesy of David Graham DuBois
Musicologist, playwright, novelist and political activist Lola Shirley Graham, born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1896, became the second wife to W.E.B. DuBois in 1951.  Lola Shirley Graham was taught at a young age to stand up to injustice.  She wrote her first editorial to an Indianapolis paper protesting racial discrimination when she was 13, after she was denied access to a YWCA swimming pool.

Young Graham moved several times throughout her life as her family followed her father, African Methodist Episcopal minister, David A. Graham.  The family lived in Indianapolis, New Orleans, Nashville, Colorado Springs and Spokane, Washington where she graduated from Lewis and Clark High School.  Graham met and married her first husband, Shadrach McCants, when she was 21 and living in Seattle.  Her father, the minister at First AME Church in Seattle, presided over the ceremony.  Two sons, Robert and David, were born in 1923 and 1925 respectively.  In 1927 Graham and McCants divorced in Portland, Oregon.  
Sources: 
Gerald Horne, Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley G. DuBois (New York: New York University Press, 2002); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., Africana, Arts and Letters: An A-Z Reference of Writers, Musicians, and Artists of the African and African-American Experience (New York: Running Press, 2005);
http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/scripts/jimcrow/women.ogi
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Combs, Sean “Diddy” (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born November 4, 1970 in Harlem, New York, Sean “Diddy” Combs is a multi-platinum selling producer, rapper, and successful record company executive. Combs was raised in Harlem, where his father was killed when Combs was three.  His mother moved the family to suburban Mount Vernon, New York.  Combs attended Howard University for two years before dropping out to become an intern at Uptown Records in New York. Combs rose to Vice-President of Uptown Records after just a year.  Nonetheless he was fired in 1993.

Combs’s dismissal from Uptown prompted him to start his own label, Bad Boy Entertainment. The next year Bad Boy found success with two rap acts: Craig Mack, and The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher George Wallace) whose album Ready to Die, released in 1994 went double-platinum and solidified Bad Boy’s place in the rap community.

In March 1997 as Sean Combs -- who performed at the time as Puff Daddy -- was working on his first solo album, The Notorious B.I.G. was killed.  Combs first solo album No Way Out, which was released in the summer of 1997, included a track that was a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. and which relied heavily on a sample from the British rock group, The Police, called I’ll Be Missing You.  Combs performed the song live along with B.I.G.’s widow, Faith Evans, R&B group 112, and The Police lead singer Sting at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.
Sources: 
Nelson George, Hip-Hop America (New York: Penguin Books, 2005); James Haskins, One Nation Under a Groove: Rap Music and its Roots (New York: Hyperion Books, 2000); John Bush & Bradley Torreano, "Diddy."  Allmusic.com 14 Mar. 2007. < http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:9lc8b5p4nsqh~T1>.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lowndes County Freedom Organization

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Letter on Lowndes County Freedom
Organization Stationary, ca. 1966
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), also known as the Black Panther Party, was started in 1965 under the direction of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist Stokely Carmichael.  In 1965, Lowndes County in Alabama was 80% black but not a single black citizen was registered to vote.  Carmichael arrived in the county to organize a voter registration project and from this came the LCFO. Party members adopted the black panther as their symbol for their independent political organization.

More than half of the African American population in Lowndes County lived below the poverty line.  Moreover, white supremacists had a long history of extreme violence towards anyone who attempted to vote or otherwise challenge all-white rule.  Lowndes County Freedom Organization members didn’t simply want to vote to place other white candidates in office.  Instead they wanted to be able to vote for their own candidates. 
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981); Evans D. Hopkins, Life After Life: A Story of Rage and Redemption (New York: Free Press, 2005); http://dp.crlt.indiana.edu/demo/viewer/objectLeft.pl?annotate=&eventID=18; http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/473.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Nash, Diane Judith (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Diane Nash
Diane Judith Nash was born on May 15, 1938 in Chicago, Illinois to Leon Nash and Dorothy Bolton Nash.  Nash grew up a Roman Catholic and attended parochial and public schools in Chicago.  In 1956, she graduated from Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois and began her college career at Howard University in Washington, D.C. before transferring to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sources: 
Rosetta E. Ross, Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003); http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=N003.
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

Giovanni, Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis 
"There's no life in safety," said three-time National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award winner Nikki Giovanni who began her own life on June 7, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee. She moved with her mother and sister to a small black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, although she traveled back to Knoxville during the summers to live with her grandparents.

In 1960 seventeen-year-old Giovanni entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee at the beginning of the student protest movement. She was promptly dismissed from Fisk in her first semester for expressing "attitudes [which] did not fit those of a Fisk woman." Giovanni returned to Fisk in 1964 and helped restart their chapter of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1967 she graduated from the honors program with a Bachelor’s degree in history. She then attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia College.
Sources: 
Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004);  http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/giovanniNikki.php.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Belton, Sharon Sayles (1951- )

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

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

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

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.  

During his years at Alabama State College, he became involved in protest activities.  He led demonstrations protesting the lack of heat and hot water in his dormitory and the inferior food served by the college cafeteria.  Abernathy also became a Baptist minister in 1948 while still in college.  Abernathy attended Atlanta University, where he earned his M.A. degree in 1951.  That same year he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, the largest African American church in the city.  It was this pastoral post that eventually propelled him into the civil rights movement.  
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

Jackson, Lydia Flood (1862-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lydia Flood Jackson was a champion of women’s rights and suffrage in California for African American women and other people of color. The outspoken activist was the first black student to attend an integrated public school in Oakland, California.

Flood’s mother, Elizabeth Thorn Scott Flood, led the 19th Century campaign for desegregated education in California and founded the state’s first African American school in Sacramento in 1854.  Her father Isaac Flood, one of the first African American residents of Oakland, California, also fought for education and equality for blacks.

Sources: 
Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Delilah L. Beasley, The Negro Trailblazers of California (New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1919); “Elizabeth Flood’s School: Oakland’s First African American Institution” (Oakland Heritage Alliance News, Winter 1992-93); George F. Jackson, Black Women Makers of History (Sacramento: Fong & Fong, 1977).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jackson, Jessie Louis, Sr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Jessie Jackson speaking at the Democratic
National Convention, 1984 
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Long before he became a minister, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), and founder of the Rainbow Coalition, Jesse Louis Jackson impressed his family and close friends as a person destined for greatness.  Born Jesse Burns in Greenville, South Carolina on October 8, 1941 to Helen Burns, a 17 year old unwed high school student and Noah Robinson, her older married neighbor, young Jesse took the surname Jackson from his adopted father, Charles Jackson, who later married Burns.  Insecure owing to the circumstances of his birth, Jackson decided to make himself a father figure and leader of his people.  
Sources: 
Barbara A Reynolds, Jesse Jackson: America’s David (Washington, D.C.: JFJ Associates, 1985); Elizabeth O. Colton, The Jackson Phenomenon: The Man, the Power, the Message (New York: Doubleday, 1989); Marshall Frady, Jesse: The Life and Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson (New York: Random House, 1996); H. Viscount “Berky” Nelson, The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership: Chronicle of a Twentieth Century Tragedy (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of California, Los Angeles

Davis, Frank Marshall (1905–1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
(Image Courtesy of John Edgar Tidwell)

Frank Marshall Davis rose to prominence as a poet and journalist during the Depression and the Second World War.  Prior to his departure for the Territory of Hawaii in 1948, he found himself the subject of adulation by many readers but also the target of careful scrutiny by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Part of the reason for these diverging, oppositional interests was his social realist poetry.  Poetry for him became an alternative mode of expression, one that provided release from the “objectivity” demanded by the medium of journalism.  It enabled him to respond “subjectively” to a world of racial discrimination, labor inequity, differential politics, and so much more that burdened and stifled one’s very humanity.  As a result, manifested in his poetry is a profound celebration of the self, characteristically revealed in robust statements of urban themes, a fierce social consciousness, a strong declamatory voice, and an almost rabid race pride.  Given American racial dynamics during this period, Davis’s verse, in some ways, was appropriate for its day and

Sources: 
Frank Marshall Davis, Livin' the Blues: Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet, [John Edgar Tidwell, editor] (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Lampkin, Daisy (1884-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born August 9, 1884 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Daisy Lampkin became one of the most highly acclaimed African American women of her time. While Lampkin is best known for becoming the first women to be elected to the national board of the NAACP, she spent much of her life rallying for racial and gender equality.

Lampkin’s social and political activism began shortly after graduating from high school. After migrating to Pittsburgh, Lampkin worked as a motivational speaker for housewives and organized women into consumer protest groups. In addition, as an active member of the Lucy Stone Women’s Suffrage League and the National Suffrage League, Lampkin rallied for women’s right to vote. Understanding the challenges specific to African American women, she also became involved with the National Association for Colored Women (NACW), and was later named national organizer and chair of the executive board.

Due to Lampkins exceptional activism for African Americans, she was profiled in the Pittsburgh Courier in December of 1912. In response, Lampkin became a strong advocate of the Courier and even received a cash prize in 1913 for selling the most subscriptions. After several years of investing time and money to this newspaper, Lampkin was elected vice-president of the Courier Publishing Company in 1929.

Sources: 
Edna Chappell McKenzie, “Daisy Lampkin.” In Black Women in America: Social Activism, edited by Darlene Clark Hine. (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1997); Lisa Hill, “Daisy Lampkin” in African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stanford University

Thompson, Noah (1878-?)

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Accomplished journalist and activist Noah Thompson became one of the most influential leaders in Los Angeles, California during the early twentieth century. Born in Baltimore, Maryland on June 9, 1878, Thompson fled Baltimore as a young adult in search of success in the United States’ burgeoning urban centers. After rising to prominence in Los Angeles as a dedicated journalist and real estate investor, Thompson utilized his social, political, and economic gains to promote the improvement of black Angelenos.

Like many African Americans at the end of the nineteenth century, employment opportunities encouraged Thompson to migrate to Chicago, Illinois. While working in various industrial sectors, he took courses at Greg’s Business College. In 1909, Thompson accepted a position at Booker T. Washington’s Educational Institute and moved to Tuskegee, Alabama. After learning about the economic success of the emerging black community in Los Angeles, California, Thompson fled to Los Angeles in 1911.

Sources: 
Beasley, Delilah. The Negro Trail-Blazers of California. Los Angeles: Times Mirror Print and Binding House, 1919; Taylor, Quintard. In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998; Flamming, Douglas. Bound For Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gibbs, Jonathan (1827-1874)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born a freeman in Pennsylvania in 1827, Jonathan Gibbs was the son of Maria Jackson and the Methodist minister, Jonathan Gibbs.

Gibbs was originally trained as a carpenter until in 1848.  Then he became one of only two African Americans accepted at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  After graduating four years later he enrolled in the seminary at Princeton University.  In 1852 Gibbs became an ordained minister to black Presbyterian congregations in New York and Pennsylvania.  

During the 1850s Gibbs was a political activist who fought of the rights of African Americans.  He aided with the Underground Railroad, campaigned for the expansion of black male suffrage in New York, joined the freedmen’s relief efforts and fought segregation on New York City streetcars.  Gibbs also served as vice president of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League.  When the Civil War broke out Gibbs supported black enlistment into the union army.  On January 1st 1863 he gave a rousing speech “A Day to Celebrate Emancipation” to the audience of  First African Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia praising the efforts of African Americans through past heroes like Crispus Attucks up to the African American’s role during the Civil War.  He also praised the recently announced Emancipation Proclamation which took affect that day.  
Sources: 
James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America.  (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001); Josh Gottheimer, ed. Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches.  (New York: Civitas Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Church, Robert Reed, Jr. (1885-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of 
Tennessee State University
Robert Reed Church, Jr. was born on October 26, 1885 in Memphis, Tennessee.  He was the youngest son of Robert Church Sr., a prominent African American businessman in the city and his second wife, Anna Wright Church. Like his father, he became an important businessman, political activist, and politician during the 1920s.

Robert Church, Jr. was educated at Morgan Park Military Academy in Illinois. After high school he earned a B.A. from Oberlin College in Ohio and an M.B.A. from the Packard School of Business in New York. He also spent two years working on Wall Street. When he returned to Memphis he managed one of the family businesses, Church Park and Auditorium on Beale Street. Afterwards, he became cashier of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company, a bank founded by his father.  Church became its President upon his father's death in 1912.  Church also presided over the family’s extensive real estate holdings in Memphis.  On July 26, 1911, Robert Church, Jr., married Sara P. Johnson of Washington, D. C. They had one child, Sara Roberta.  
Sources: 
Annette E. Church and Roberta Church, The Robert R. Churches of Memphis: A Father and Son Who Achieved in Spite of Race (Memphis: A. E. Church, 1974); Gloria B. Melton, “Blacks in Memphis, Tennessee, 1920-1955: A Historical Study” (Ph.D. diss., Washington State University, 1982); Lester Lamon, Black Tennesseans, 1900-1930 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977); The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/; Shirelle Phelps, ed., Contemporary Black Biography, various volumes. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Church, Robert Reed, Sr. (1839-1912)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of
Tennessee State University
Robert Reed Church, Sr., was a millionaire business leader and philanthropist in Memphis, Tennessee.  Born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on June 18, 1839, he was the product of an interracial union. His father was a steamboat captain, Charles B. Church, and his mother, Emmeline, was an enslaved seamstress who died when Robert was twelve years old. His father employed Robert as a cabin boy and a steward.  Surviving a near fatal steamboat sinking in 1855, Robert in 1862 was forced to be a cabin steward on a Union steamer during the Civil War.  Church married Louisa Ayres, also a former slave, in 1862.  The couple had one child, Mary Eliza, who became a prominent civil rights and women’s rights advocate.  After his marriage to Louisa ended in divorce, Church married Anna Wright in 1885 and they had Robert, Jr. who eventually followed his father into business and politics.       
Sources: 
Annette E. Church and Roberta Church, The Robert R. Churches of Memphis: A Father and Son Who Achieved in Spite of Race (Memphis: A.E. Church, 1974); Mary C. Terrell, A Colored Woman in a White World (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2006; Lester Lamon, Black Tennesseans, 1900-1930 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977); Robert A. Sigafoos, Cotton Row to Beale Street: A Business History of Memphis (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1979); The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/;.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Bullins, Ed (1935- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ed Bullins was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1935. He was raised by his mother on Philadelphia’s North side, a community considered troubled and crime-ridden. Bullins has often recounted his near fatal death by stabbing while he was a youth. Many scholars note that this life-changing experience was the thematic basis for several of his early plays. Bullins joined the US Navy after dropping out of high school in 1952, and in 1958 (after returning to Philadelphia for a short time) he moved to southern California.

Bullins first exercised his love of writing and literature while a student at Los Angeles City College. In 1964 he moved to San Francisco. A year later while a creative writing student at San Francisco State College he wrote his first play, How Do You Do? In 1965 two other plays by Bullins appeared, Dialect Determinism (or The Rally), and Clara's Ole Man.
Sources: 
Nathan L. Grant, “Ed Bullins” The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, Ed. William Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Ed Bullins, “The Official Website of the Playwright and Producer,” http://www.edbullins.com/, accessed October 20, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Armstrong Atlantic State University

Coltrane, John William (1926-1968)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John William Coltrane emerged as one of the most innovative and influential jazz musicians of the 20th century. Born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926, the son of John Robert and Alice Blair Coltrane, he grew up in High Point, North Carolina where his grandfather, Rev. William W. Blair, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was one of the community leaders.  John Coltrane's childhood attendance at his family's black church shaped the spiritual dimensions of his musical orientation.  Following his father's death and the family’s sudden impoverishment, he and his mother moved to Philadelphia in 1943 to ensure he would have a proper education.  Coltrane’s mother, Alice, worked as a domestic servant while nurturing her son's musical interest and encouraged him to enroll at the Ornstein School of Music.  
Sources: 
Lewis Porter, John Coltrane: His Life and Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998); C.O. Simpkins, Coltrane: A Biography (Baltimore, Maryland: Black Classic Press, 1975).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Crouch, Stanley (1945- )

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People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Stanley Crouch is a tough-minded and controversial jazz critic, playwright, essayist, novelist, and percussionist.  After a personal intellectual transformation in the late 1970s, Crouch became the contemporary champion of traditionalist jazz – an identity which he has defined with both powerful cultural criticisms and outbursts of intellectual and physical combativeness.

Stanley Crouch was born in Los Angeles, California in 1945.  His mother, Emma Bea Crouch, supported his family financially and intellectually.  Asthma kept Crouch confined to his home for much of his childhood, a period which he spent reading and listening.  By the time of his high school graduation in 1963, Crouch had independently read the complete works of Hemingway, Twain, and Fitzgerald, while also founding a school jazz club which explored the works of artists Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Eric Dolphy, among others.  

Crouch attended two separate junior colleges for the next three years, receiving a degree from neither.  It was in this period, however, that Crouch became interested in poetry and drama, being particularly influenced by poet and playwright LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka).  After the eruption of the Watts riots of 1965, Crouch became informally involved in the Watts Writers Workshop, often performing at the Watts Happening Coffee House.  From 1965 until 1967 Crouch was a member of Studio Watts, a local repertory theater.
Sources: 
Robert Boynton, “The Professor of Connection: A Profile of Stanley Crouch,”  The New Yorker, November 6, 1995; Stanley Crouch, The All-American Skin Game, or, The Decoy of Race (New York City: Pantheon Books, 1995); Steven L. Isoardi, The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Loury, Glenn C. (1948- )

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

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

Cassey, Joseph (1789-1848)

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People
History Type: 
African American History
The Cassey House, Philadelphia
Image Courtesy of Janine Black
Joseph Cassey was born in the French West Indies in 1789.  He arrived in Philadelphia sometime before 1808.  Cassey prospered in the barber trade and as a perfumer, wig-maker, and money-lender.  His barbershop was located a block from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  Cassey amassed an estimated $75,000 fortune by the 1830s to become, after lumber merchant Stephen Smith, the second wealthiest African-American in Philadelphia.

Cassey bought and sold real estate, often with business partner, Robert Purvis, another notable African American Philadelphian.  A Bucks County farm outside Philadelphia jointly owned by Cassey and Purvis was visited frequently by abolitionists and women’s rights advocates including Lucretia Mott who described her stay there as an occasion where she was entertained handsomely. 

Joseph Cassey owned numerous Philadelphia rental properties including a small apartment in the rear courtyard of what would become the “Cassey House,” at 243 Delancey Street.  Joseph’s son, Francis eventually bought the Cassey House and the other houses facing the courtyard at a sheriff’s sale.  The Cassey House remained in the Cassey family for 84 years and was home to three generations of Casseys.
Sources: 
Joseph Cassey’s Will, W8-1948, will book #20, page 38, Register of Wills, Philadelphia City Hall; The Cassey Family Bible (1700s), in the care of Dianna Ruth Cassey, Warner, New Jersey; Charles H. Wesley, "The Negro in the Organization of Abolition," Phylon 2:3 (1941):223-235; George Washington Williams, History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880: Negroes as Slaves (New York and London: G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Knickerbocker Press, 1882); Joseph Willson, The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000); M. H. Bacon, But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2007); M. R. Small and E. W. Small, "Prudence Crandall, Champion of Negro Education," The New England Quarterly 17:4 (1944)506-529.  Philip Lapsansky, Chief of Reference, The Library Company of Philadelphia, Nov. 1, 2007; http://www.yale.edu/glc/crandall/01.htm , (9/25/07); http://negroartist.com/writings/jamesforten.htm (9/14/2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Temple University

Thomas, Clarence (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the U.S. 
Supreme Court

Clarence Thomas, the second African American to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in Pin Point, Georgia, a small community south of Savannah.  His mother, Leola Williams, a single parent, raised Thomas until he was seven.  He and his brother, Myers, were sent to Savannah where they were raised by their maternal grandfather, Myers Anderson. To help his grandsons to survive in the Jim Crow South, Anderson, a Democrat, local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) member, and recent convert to Catholicism, instilled in them a discipline and pride that would counterpoint the harshness of southern racism.  Thomas remembers that after purchasing a new truck, his grandfather removed the heater because he believed its use would make the boys lazy.

Thomas was educated in St. Benedict the Moor, an all-black Catholic school in Savannah and later became the only African American student at St. John Vianney Minor Seminary just outside Savannah.  In 1967 he entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in northwestern Missouri to prepare for the priesthood.  He withdrew after viewing one fellow student’s pleasure at the news that Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated.

Sources: 
Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007); Ken Goskett, Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas (New York: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2004); William Grimes, “The Justice Looks Back and Settles Old Scores,” New York Times, Wednesday, October 19, 2007, B1; David Savage, “In rulings, little hint of his meager start,” Los Angeles Times, Sunday, October 28, 2007, A22; Jeffrey Toobin, “Unforgiven: Why is Clarence Thomas so Angry?” New Yorker, November 12, 2007.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

McKinney, Cynthia Ann (1955- )

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

Cynthia Ann McKinney was born on March 17, 1955 in Atlanta, Georgia to parents Billy McKinney, who was a police officer and to a mother, Leola Christion McKinney, who was a nurse. Her father was a political activist who challenged his employer, the Atlanta Police Department, for its practice of racial discrimination.  This desire to use activism in the cause of racial justice was inherited by Cynthia McKinney who initiated her first petition against racism while still in school. In 1971 she challenged a teacher at the Catholic institution for using racist language.  Meanwhile, her father, Billy McKinney was elected to the Georgia State Legislature in 1973 as a Democrat.

After completing St. Joseph’s High School in Atlanta in 1973, McKinney in 1978 received a degree in international relations from the University of Southern California. This degree would serve her well in the future as became increasingly concerned about the role and impact of U.S. foreign around the world.  McKinney then entered the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.  There she met and Jamaican politician Coy Grandison and returned to Jamaica with him.

Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine. “Cynthia McKinney” Black Women in America. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scrpits/biodisplay.pl?index=m000523; Congresspedia, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Cynthia_Mckinney
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Dixon, Aaron (1949– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Aaron Dixon was born in Chicago on January 2, 1949.  He moved with his family to Seattle at a young age and grew up in the city’s historically black Central District. Influenced by his parents’ commitment to social justice, Dixon became one of the leading activists in the Seattle area and a founding member of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party.

While a student at the University of Washington, Dixon played a key role in the formation of the first Black Students’ Union (BSU), as well as the Seattle chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Through the BSU, Dixon worked to organize BSU chapters and protests at Garfield, Franklin and Rainier Beach High Schools.

In the spring of 1968, while attending the funeral of teenager Bobby Hutton in Oakland, California, Dixon met Bobby Seale who along with Huey P. Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP).  The Panther leadership was impressed by 19 year-old Dixon and he was given instructions to form the Seattle Chapter.   With his appointment as Captain of the Seattle Chapter, he formed the first branch of the BPP outside of California. 

Dixon and his fellow Panthers were able to turn their Panther chapter into a thriving center of militant Black activism and community service in Seattle’s Central District.
Sources: 
Interview with Dixon, focusing on his work in the Black Panther Party in Seattle:
University of Washington’s Seattle Civil Rights Project
http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/aaron_dixon.htm
Neil Modie, “Former Black Panther Aaron Dixon to Run for Senate,” Seattle Post Intelligencer http://seattlepi.nwsources.com/local/262119_senate08.html; James W. John son, “Oral Interview with Aaron Dixon,” July 11, 1970, University of Washington Special Collections.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Horne, Lena (1917-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lena Horne was a major 20th Century entertainer.  Born in Brooklyn, New York into an upper middle class black family on June 30, 1917, Horne battled racial injustice throughout her career. Despite her obstacles she became one of the most well known African American performers of the 20th Century, achieving fame as a singer and actor.
Horne’s legendary career began in 1933 when at 16 she was hired to perform in the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem. There she was surrounded by up in coming jazz legends including Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson and Duke Ellington.  For the next five years, Horne performed in several night clubs, on Broadway, and toured with the Charlie Barnett swing band as a singer.   Barnett’s band was white thus allowing Horne to become one of the first African American star performers who developed an appeal across American racial boundaries.    

In 1938, Horne moved to Hollywood where she was cast in several movies. Years later Horne recalled, "In every other film I just sang a song or two; the scenes could be cut out when they were sent to local distributors in the South. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of a chance to act."

Sources: 
James Haskins, A Personal and Professional Biography of Lena Horne, (Detroit: Scarborough House, 1991); AlJean Harmetz, "Lena Horne Obituary," New York Times, May 10, 2010; http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/horne_l.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

Chole, Eshetu (1945-1998)

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

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

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

Innis, Roy (1934- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Roy Emile Alfredo Innis is the current National Director of the Congress for Racial Equality. He is a controversial civil rights activist whose conservative stance on many issues continues to draw national attention.

Innis was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands on June 6, 1934. He attended public schools in New York before joining the army and fighting in the Korean War. Upon returning to the U.S. Innis attended the City College of New York majoring in chemistry. In 1963 Innis joined CORE's Harlem chapter. Innis rose quickly through the ranks and in 1964 he was elected chairman of the chapter's educational committee. Innis strongly advocated the Black Power movement, pushing for African-American control of their communities, economy, and educational systems. In 1965 he was elected chairman of CORE's Harlem chapter. As Chairman, Innis campaigned for the establishment of an independent board of education in Harlem.

In 1967 Innis and 9 other African-American men formed an investment corporation known as the Harlem Commonwealth Council (HCC). The HCC's long-term goal is to create stability and an economic uplift in Harlem. The HCC under the leadership of Innis is widely known as a highly successful model of economic development within an African-American community. Innis also founded and served as co-editor of the Manhattan Tribune Newspaper.
Sources: 
"Roy Innis." Congress Of Racial Equality. 2008. http://www.core-online.org/Staff/roy.htm; Harlem Commonwealth Council Incorporated History. Isaiah Robinson, Founding Member. 2008. http://harlemcommonwealth.org/history.htm; "Innis Passes on NY governor's run; mulls New York mayor race in 2001. LP News Archive. May 1998. http://www.lp.org/lpn/9805-Innis.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sharpton, Alfred Charles “Al” (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

 

Sources: 
Jay Mallin, Al Sharpton, Community Activist: Great Life Stories (New York: Franklin Watts, 2007), Al Sharpton with Anthony Walton, Go and Tell Pharaoh: the Autobiography of the Reverend Al Sharpton (New York: Doubleday, 1996); "Alfred Sharpton" in Anthony Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, eds. Africana : the Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York : Basic Civitas Books, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Wright, Jeremiah A. (1941-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

Grizzle, Stanley G. (1918- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Courtesy of Sandra Danilovic, TV documentary,
"Portrait of a Street: The Soul and Spirit of College"
(2001, Rodna Films Inc.)
Stanley G. Grizzle founded the Railway Porter’s Trade Union Council and served as president of the Toronto Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) Division of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) from 1946 to 1962.

Grizzle was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1918, to Jamaican parents who immigrated to Canada in 1911. He became a railway porter at the age of 22 to help support his family. In 1938 Grizzle helped form the Young Men’s Negro Association of Toronto, initiating a period of activity which would make him one of the leaders in the black Canadian campaign for civil rights.  
Sources: 
Stanley G. Grizzle and John Cooper, My Name’s Not George: The Story of Sleeping Car Porters (Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1997); Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997). http://www.answers.com/topic/stanley-g-grizzle.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hampton, Fred (1948-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Fred Hampton, deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, was born on August 30, 1948 and raised in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, Illinois. In high school he excelled in academics and athletics. After Hampton graduated from high school, he enrolled in a prelaw program at Triton Junior College in River Grove, Illinois. Hampton also became involved in the civil rights movement, joining his local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His dynamic leadership and organizational skills in the branch enabled him to rise to the position of Youth Council President. There Hampton mobilized a racially integrated group of five hundred young people who successfully lobbied city officials to create better academic services and recreational facilities for African American children.

In 1968, Hampton joined the Black Panther Party (BPP), headquartered in Oakland, California. Using his NAACP experience, he soon headed the Chicago chapter. During his brief BPP tenure, Hampton formed a “Rainbow Coalition” which included Students for a Democratic Society, the Blackstone Rangers, a street gang and the National Young Lords, a Puerto Rican organization. Hampton was also successful in negotiating a gang truce on local television.
Sources: 
Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006); Huey P. Newton, War against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (New York: Harlem River Press, 1996); John Kifner, “Police in Chicago Slay 2 Panthers,” New York Times, December 5, 1969; John Kifner, “Panthers Say an Autopsy Shows Party Official was Murdered,” New York Times, December 7, 1969.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Patterson, William L. (1891-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Steve Trussel
William L. Patterson, born in San Francisco on August 27th, 1891, was a Marxist lawyer, author, and civil rights activist. His mother had been born a slave on a Virginia plantation in 1850 and lived there until she was ten. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, Patterson’s mother was liberated and sent west to California, where she met James Edward Patterson, William’s father. Although his family was forced to move from home to home and often struggled with poverty, William L. Patterson managed to graduate from Tamalpais High School at the age of 20 in 1911. Patterson then attended the University of California on and off until he was forced to leave because of irregular attendance.

In 1915, Patterson enrolled at the Hastings College of Law of the University of California in San Francisco. While attending law school, Patterson began to read The Crisis, the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and became interested in various Marxist and Socialist publications such as The Masses, and The Messenger. After graduating from Hastings with a law degree in 1919, Patterson joined the NAACP.
Sources: 
William L. Patterson, The Man Who Cried Genocide (New York: International Publishers, 1991); Spartacus Educational, William L. Patterson Bio. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USApattersonW.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Whitfield, James Monroe (1822-1871)

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People
History Type: 
African American History

James Monroe Whitfield, a black abolitionist and colonizationist, was born on April 10, 1822 in New Hampshire. Little is known about his early life except that he was a descendant of Ann Paul, the sister of prominent black clergyman Thomas Paul.  Whitfield had little formal education. Nonetheless by the age of 16, he was publishing papers for Negro rights conventions.

Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); The Classroom Electric, http://www.classroomelectric.org/volume1/levine/bio.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Turner, Jack (circa 1840-1882)

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

Councill, William Hooper (1849-1909)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Hooper Councill, educator and race leader, was born into slavery in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on July 12, 1849. His parents were both slaves on the Councill plantation. When William was five, his father escaped to Canada and tried unsuccessfully to obtain freedom for his family.  In 1857, William, his mother, and his brother, Cicero, were sold at the Richmond slave market to a trader, who in turn sold them on to a planter in Alabama. His two other brothers were sold separately.  

When Union troops occupied Chattanooga during the Civil War, Councill and his family escaped through Union lines to the North.  He returned to Alabama in 1865 to attend a school for freedmen that had been started by Quakers. This would be Councill’s only formal schooling.  He worked and studied for three years before graduating in 1867.

For several years Councill worked as a teacher in the black public schools in Alabama while moonlighting as a porter in hotels and restaurants. In 1869, at the age of 22, he opened Lincoln School in Huntsville for black children in the region.  In addition to his teaching duties, he attended night school where he studied chemistry, mathematics, law and Latin.  Councill was admitted to the Alabama bar but he never practiced law in the state.  
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982); August Meier, Negro Thought in America 1880-1915, Racial Ideologies in the Age of Booker T. Washington, (University of Michigan Press, 1964); Vivian Gunn Morris, Curtis L. Morris and Asa G. Hilliard, III, The Price They Paid: Desegregation in an African American Community (New York: Teachers College Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Connerly, Ward (1939 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Bond, Horace Julian (1940- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Julian Bond at the Georgia State Legislature,
January 10, 1966
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Julian Bond is a scholar, poet, former legislator and activist in the American Civil Rights Movement.  Julian Bond as he came to be known, was born on January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee to Julia Washington Bond and Horace Mann Bond an educator who served as the first African American president of Lincoln University and as dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University.  Bond has been married twice, first to Alice Copland (1961) and to Pamela Horowitz (1990).  He has five children.
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); John Neary, Julian Bond: Black Rebel (New York: Morrow, 1971), Roger M. Williams, The Bonds: An American Family (New York: Atheneum, 1971).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Fanon, Frantz (1925-1961)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Psychiatrist and anti-colonial cultural theorist, Frantz Fanon was born in the French West Indies, in Fort-de-France, Martinique on July 20, 1925. His father, Félix Casimir Fanon was a black customs service inspector. His mother, Eléanore Médélice, was half French and owned a hardware and drapery shop.

Fanon studied at Lycée Schoelcher, the secondary school in Fort-de-France until it closed down due to Vichy rule. The heavy-handed command of Vichy formed the young Fanon’s perspective on race relations. When Lycée Schoelcher re-opened in 1941, Frantz Fanon studied under the great poet Aimé Césaire. Under Césaire, a man who asserted black dignity through his concept of Negritude, Fanon’s understanding of his identity dramatically shifted. His studies had previously favored European and French worldviews, but from Césaire, Fanon felt himself more and more linked to his African roots.
Sources: 
Paul Hansom, ed., Dictionary of Literary Biography: Twentieth-Century European Cultural Theorists, Second Series, vol. 296 (Detroit: Gale Group 2004); Frank N. Magill, ed., Cyclopedia of World Authors (Pasadena: Salem Press 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
The Evergreen State College

Adams, Henry [Louisiana] (1843 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

Nascimento, Abdias do (1914 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Abdias do Nascimento, famous Brazilian writer, scholar, and politician, was born on March 14, 1914, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. From a humble family, his mother, Josina, was a candy maker and his father, Bem-Bem, was a musician and shoemaker, Abdias do Nascimento joined the Brazilian Army at age 15, moving to the state capital, São Paulo, where he became politically active. In Rio de Janeiro, he founded, in 1944, the Teatro Nacional do Negro (Black National Theater). A member of Brazil’s Congress from 1983 to 1987 and a Senator in 1991, 1996-1999, Abdias do Nascimento dedicated his life to fighting racial prejudice.

Sources: 
Kimberly Jones-de-Oliveira, “The Politics of Culture or the Culture of Politics: Afro-Brazilian Mobilization, 1920-1968,” Journal of Third World Studies, v. 20, part I (2003), pp. 103-120; Elizabeth Marchant and Fernando Conceição, “An Interview with Fernando Conceição,” Callaloo, v.25, n.2 (Spring 2002), pp. 613-619; Abdias do Nascimento biografia, available at  http://www.abdias.com.br/biografia/biografia.htm; Itaú Cultural, Enciclopédia Itaú Cultural available at http://www.itaucultural.org.br/aplicexternas/enciclopedia_teatro/index.cfm?fuseaction=cias_biografia&cd_verbete=649.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Messenger (1917-1928)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Messenger, an independent magazine, was founded by labor activist A Philip Randolph and economist Chandler Owen in 1917 with the help of the Socialist party. The Messenger alarmed both the white and black establishments by supporting socialism as well as the arrival of the “New Crowd Negro,” black intellectuals and political leaders who challenged both “reactionaries” like Booker T. Washington and civil rights leaders like W. E. B. DuBois. Among other things, the magazine opposed United States participation in World War I, and encouraged armed self-defense by blacks against white mobs and lynchers.   It was for these reasons that the magazine was initially termed “radical” by the United States government. In 1919, for example, the U.S. Justice Department claimed The Messenger was, “the most able and the most dangerous” of all the publications it investigated.

In 1920, after the Socialist party had weakened significantly and the United States became more conservative, The Messenger began to distance itself from earlier radicalism and became more interested in promoting black worker unionization and opposing Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).  The magazine also shifted editorial control when Owen decided to leave in 1923, and Randolph founded and became the first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSPC).
Sources: 
Andrew E. Kersten, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (Lanham:  Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2007); Jervis Anderson, A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1972); Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (Oxford University Press, 2004)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Varick, James (1750-1827)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Varick was the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Varick was born to a slave mother near Newburgh, New York. His father was Richard Varick, a free black man who was originally from Hackensack, New Jersey. Varick grew up with his parents in New York City, where it is thought that he may have attended the Free School for Negroes. After this schooling, Varick was trained in the trade of shoemaking.

In 1766, Varick, now free, joined the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church, which had a predominately white congregation.  Eventually Varick became a minister and was licensed to preach at John Street Church.  Although he was not the main minister, his appointment to the pulpit as the Church’s first black preacher caused considerable racial tension and calls for racial segregation of the congregation.  Eventually black parishioners were forced to sit in the galleries or the back row seating. Incensed at this change in church policy Varick and thirty other black members withdrew from the church in 1796.

In 1790, Varick married Aurelia Jones. The couple had seven children, four of whom survived into adulthood. During this time Varick worked as a shoemaker and a tobacco cutter in order to support his family.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Anne H. Pinn and Anthony B. Fortress, Introduction to Black Church History (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hackley, Emma Azalia (1867-1922)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Emma Azalia Smith Hackley was an African American singer and Denver political activist born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1867.  Her parents, business owners Henry and Corilla Smith, moved to Detroit where she attended Washington Normal School, graduating in 1886.  Smith, a child prodigy learned to play the piano at three and later took private voice, violin and French lessons.

Emma Smith worked as an elementary school teacher for eighteen years.  During that period she met and married Edwin Henry Hackley a Denver attorney and editor of the city’s black newspaper, the Denver Statesman.  In 1900 Hackley received her music degree from Denver University.  In 1905-1906 she studied voice in Paris with former Metropolitan Opera star Jean de Reszke.

Hackley was active in black Denver’s civic and social life.  She founded the Colored Women’s League and served as executive director of its local branch.  She and her husband also founded the Imperial Order of Libyans which fought racial discrimination and promoted patriotism among African Americans.
Sources: 
M. Marguerite Davenport, Azalia: The Life of Madame E. Azalia Hackley (Boston: Chapman & Grimes, 1947); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982);  "Seven--As Large As She Can Make It": The Role of Black Women Activists in Music, 1880-1945” in Cultivating Music in America, http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft838nb58v&doc.view=content&chunk.id=d0e8684&toc.depth=1&anchor.id=0&brand=eschol
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Phillips, Homer G. (1880-1931)

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

Prominent St. Louis attorney Homer Gilliam Phillips was born in Sedalia, Missouri in 1880. He was the son of a Methodist minister, but he was orphaned in infancy and raised by an aunt. Phillips’s interest in law led him to Washington, D.C. where he lived with renowned African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar while attending Howard University Law School. He also briefly worked at the Justice Department.

Upon his return to Missouri, Phillips became an active attorney and political figure in St. Louis. In 1922, he was given the prominent role of securing approximately $1 million to construct a new hospital for African Americans on the city’s North Side.

While the bond issue to fund construction of a new facility to replace St. Louis’s Barnes Hospital was approved by the voters, city officials instead attempted to force black St. Louis residents to use outdated Deaconess Hospital. Phillips led the fight against the city's efforts and eventually persuaded leaders to create the new fully funded hospital as originally proposed in the 1922 bond measure, though construction was delayed for another decade.

Sources: 

Oral Introduction presented by Alderman Samuel L. Moore, 4th Ward, City
of St. Louis Board of Alderman, Resolution No. 19, April 27, 2007;
Ernest Calloway, “Why Was Homer G. Phillips Killed? St. Louis Argus
(June 5, 1975, p.16); Mary Stiritz and Carolyn Toft, "Landmarks
Association of St. Louis, Inc. for Missouri State Historical Survey,"
Park J. White, M.D. Papers, Washington University School of Medicine,
St. Louis, Missouri; Rob Powers, “Recalled to Life: Homer G. Phillips
Hospital.” http://www.builtstlouis.net/homerphillips.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Henry, Aaron (1922-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Aaron Henry and Constance Curry, Aaron Henry: The Fire Ever Burning (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000); Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1995).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Cleaver, Eldridge (1935-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Eldridge Cleaver, author and civil rights activist, was born on August 31, 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas.  Cleaver, a child of six, lived in a household where his father abused his mother.  The Cleavers moved to Phoenix and finally settled in Los Angeles where Cleaver spent much of his childhood in and out of reform schools for petty crimes.  In 1957, at the age of 22, he was convicted of assault with intent to commit murder and sent first to California’s San Quentin Prison and then transferred to Folsom Prison.  As an inmate, Cleaver spent most of his time reading works by Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Karl Marx, and Richard Wright.  He was also inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X who was assassinated during his incarceration. Their writings influenced him to write, in prison, a collection of essays on race and the black revolution.  Those essays were published as the book Soul on Ice in 1968, two years after his release from prison.  

Sources: 

Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1968); Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Fire (New York: Word Books, 1978); Joseph Peniel E., Waiting ‘Til The Midnight Hour (New York: Henry Holt And Company, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Edwards, Harry (1942--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Harry Edwards (right) with NFL Player
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Harry Edwards is an Emeritus Professor at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) best known for co-engineering the “Revolt of the Black Athlete” in the late 1960’s.  Edwards, born in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1942, attended Fresno City College from 1959 to 1960 as a four sport student athlete.  He transferred to San Jose State University (SJS) in 1960 on an athletic scholarship in track and field.  While he had success on the track field, Edwards and other black student-athletes confronted housing and employment discrimination and a segregated campus social life.  Moreover the university funneled black student-athletes into a physical education curriculum to keep them eligible to compete in intercollegiate sports.  Few graduated during the years of their athletic eligibility. Determined to earn a social work degree, Edwards began challenging the system.  In 1964, he became the first black student-athlete since the early 1950’s to graduate from SJS.

Sources: 

Harry Edwards, The Revolt of the Black Athlete (New York: the Free Press, 1970); The Struggle that Must Be: an Autobiography (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1980); and David Leonard, “What Happened to the Revolt Black Athlete?: A Look Back Thirty Year Later—An Interview with Harry Edwards,” Colorlines (Summer 1998) (URL: http://www.txstate.edu/ucollege/universityseminar/generalresources/downloads/contentParagraph/0/content_files/file4/2006-09-14-revolt.pdf; HBO, Fists of Freedom: The Story of the '68 Summer Games (1999); Michael E. Lomax, Sports and the Racial Divide (Jackson, MS: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2008)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Talbert, Mary B.(1866–1923)

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Sherrod, Charles (1937-)

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

Charles Sherrod was a key civil rights leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) whose leadership led to the Albany Movement in southwest Georgia. Born in extreme poverty to his fourteen-year old mother in 1937 in St. Petersburg, Virginia, he worked to help support six younger children.  Sherrod worked his way through Virginia Union College, receiving a B.A. in 1958 and a Bachelors of Divinity in 1961. He joined SNCC in 1960, participating in the organization's first demonstrations and voter registration drives.

Sources: 

Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the
1960s
(New York: Harvard UP, 1981); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry
Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African
American Experience
(New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999);
http://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/witnesses/charles_sherrod.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Smith, Damu (1952–2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Damu Smith at the United For Peace and
Justice Conference, Chicago, 2003
Image Courtesy of Diane Greene Lent, Photographer

Leroy Wesley Smith was born in St. Louis Missouri on December 6, 1951, and became a late 20th Century social activist for justice. Son of a fireman and a licensed practical nurse, Smith spent his childhood growing up in a St. Louis housing project.  He participated in an after school program for disadvantaged male youth which gave him the opportunity to travel to Cairo, Illinois where he heard other activists and community organizers for the first time.  Impressed by their passion and their organizing skills, Smith was influenced to follow a similar path.

After graduating high school in 1970, Smith entered St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota where he became the leader of The Organization of Afro-American Students.  Through this organization, Smith fought for a Black Studies program that would hire more black professors.

Sources: 

Sharon Melson Fletcher, “Damu Smith Biography” African American Biographies. (Net Industries, 2009) http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2880/Smith-Damu.html Retrieved 2009-03-06; Sara Powell, “In Memoriam: Damu Smith 1951-2006” Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. (Jul 2006). http://www.wrmea.com/archives/July_2006/0607080.html Retrieved 2009-03-04.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Maathai, Wangari Muta (1940-2011)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of The Nobel Foundation

Sixty-four year old Wangari Maathai, the most prominent environmental activist in Africa, was the 2004 recipient of the Alfred Nobel Peace Prize.  Wangari Muta was born on April 1, 1940 in Ihithe, Nyeri Province, Kenya during British colonial rule.  Her family was of Kikuyu origin and her father was polygamous.  As a child Muta was permitted a small plot of land to grown her own food, to learn how to cultivate the land.  Muta attended primary school at St.  Cecilia’s Intermediate Primary School near her home in Nyeri. While there she converted to Catholicism. 

In 1956 Muta entered Loreto Girl’s High School outside of Nairobi and then began college in 1960 at Mount St. Scholastica College (now Benedictine College) in Atchison, Kansas where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology four years later.  After graduation she earned a Master's Degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.  In April 1966, after returning to Kenya, Wangari Muta met her future husband, Mwangi Mathai; a politician.  The two married in May 1969.

From 1966 to 1982 Wangari Maathai taught at the University of Nairobi.  In 1971 Maathai received her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Nairobi, becoming the first woman in Eastern Africa to receive a Ph.D. 

Sources: 

Wangari Maathai, The Canopy of Hope: My Life Campaigning for Africa, Women and the Environment (Brooklyn, New York: Lantern Books, 2002); Wangari Maathai, Unbowed (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2006); Anita Price Davis and Marla J. Selvidge, Women Nobel Peace Prize Winners (London:  McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2006).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Marsh, Henry L., III (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Virginia
Senate Democratic Caucus
Henry Marsh is a prominent political figure, black activist, and lawyer in Richmond, Virginia.  He was born on December 10, 1933 in Richmond but when his mother died at age five, he was sent to live with relatives in rural Virginia.  Marsh, who attended Moonfield School, a racially segregated one room school with seven grades, one teacher and 78 students, knew first hand the consequences of school segregation.

Marsh eventually returned to Richmond and graduated with honors from Maggie L. Walker High School in 1952.   He then enrolled in Virginia Union University, a predominately black college in Richmond, where he received his bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences (BA.) in 1956. Marsh majored in sociology at Virginia Union. During his senior year Marsh testified before the Virginia General Assembly against the "massive resistance" campaign designed to circumvent the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.  While at the Assembly he met veteran civil rights attorney Oliver Hill who encouraged Marsh to go to law school.  Marsh followed his advice and in 1959 Marsh obtained a bachelor of law degree (L.L.B.) from Howard University.  Marsh served in the U.S. Army for the next two years.
Sources: 
Lewis A. Randolph, Rights for a Season: The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender in Richmond, Virginia (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2003); http://wayneorrell.com/id54.html; http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=656; http://www.virginia.edu/publichistory/biographies/hm.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Shabazz, Betty Sandlin (1934-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Bill Cosby and Jesse Ja
Sources: 

http://entertainer.billcosby.com/biography/images/biography/bill_cosby_biography.pdf; Henry Louis Gates, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Henry Louis Gates, African American National Biography, Vol. 2, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Linda K. Fuller, The Cosby Show: Audiences, Impact, and Implications (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992)

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Fletcher, Benjamin Harrison (1890-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Peter Cole, Ben Fletcher: The Life and Writings of a Black Wobbly (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 2007); Peter Cole, Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); William Seraile, "Ben Fletcher, I.W.W. Organizer." Pennsylvania History 46:3 (July 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Illinois University

Carey, Archibald J., Sr. (1868-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Rev.
Sources: 
Allan Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967); Christopher Robert Reed, Black Chicago's First Century (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005); http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4159/Carey-Archibald-J-Sr-1868-1931.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lawson, James (1928- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Rev. James Lawson Arrested in Nashville, 1960
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis
Sources: 
Henry Hampton, Steve Fayer, and Sarah Flynn, Voices of Freedom (New York: Bantam Books, 1990); Sanford Wexler, The Civil Rights Movement: An Eyewitness History (New York: Facts on File, 1993); "James Lawson Named 2005 Distinguished University Alumnus," Tennessee Tribune, December 22, 2005.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Afro-American Council (1898-1907)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Afro-American Council Annual Meeting,
Oakland, California, 1907
Online Archive of Ca., Bancroft Library
The Afro-American Council (AAC) was established in Rochester, New York, in September 1898 by newspaper editor T. Thomas Fortune and Bishop Alexander Walters of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.  They envisioned the organization as a revival of the earlier National Afro-American League (NAAL), which in 1890 became the first national black organization specifically created to challenge racial segregation and discrimination.  By the mid-1890s the NAAL dissolved as conditions facing Southern African Americans continued to worsen.  The AAC proposed to take up the goals of the defunct NAAL.  Like its predecessor, the AAC opposed lynching, disfranchisement of black voters, and racial discrimination against all African Americans.  

The immediate impetus for the AAC was the brutal murder of African American postmaster Frazier B. Baker in Lake City, South Carolina by a white mob.  In response to the incident, Fortune and Walters called for a number of black leaders to meet at Rochester to dedicate a statue of Frederick Douglass, the city's most prominent African American resident, and to remain there to create the Afro-American Council.
Sources: 
Cyrus Field Adams, The National Afro-American Council, Organized 1898, A History (Washington, D.C.: Cyrus F. Adams, 1902); Alexander Walters, My Life and Work (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1917); Emma Lou Thornbrough, "The National Afro-American League, 1887-1908," Journal of Southern History 27:4 (November 1961); Nina Mjagkij, Organizing Black America (New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 2001); Colin Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Thomson Gale, 2006).
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: 

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: 

O’Dell, Hunter Pitts "Jack" (1924- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jack O'Dell, John Munro, and Ian Rocksborough-Smith, Jack O'Dell: The Fierce Urgency of Now (Stony Brook, NY: Center for Study of Working Class Life, 2005); Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006); Jack O'Dell, "‘I Never Met a Black Person Who Was in the Communist Party Because of the Soviet Union:' Jack O'Dell on Fighting Racism in the 1940s," HistoryMatters http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6927/
Contributor: 

Chilembwe, John (c. 1871-1915)

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

Johnson, Nellie Stone (1905-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Social activist and black labor leader Nellie Stone Johnson was born Nellie Saunders Allen in Lakeville, Minnesota in 1905, the eldest daughter of an activist farmer, William R. Allen and a schoolteacher, Gladys Allen.  As a child, Nellie worked on her family’s farm near Hinckley, Minnesota.  On her way to and from school, she distributed flyers for the Non-Partisan League, a radical rural organization of which her father was a member.  

When she was 17, she left the farm for Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she finished high school through the GED program at the University of Minnesota in 1925.  She attended but did not graduate from the University of Wisconsin.  In 1931, Allen married Clyde Stone, an auto mechanic.  

During the Great Depression Stone worked for the Minneapolis Athletic Club.  Concerned about a pay cut food workers received in 1935, she helped found Local 665 of the Hotel and Restaurant International Union, of which she would become Vice-President.  While with the union Stone helped to start the first health and welfare program for food workers.  She was also the first woman to serve as vice-president of the Minnesota Culinary Council.  
Sources: 

Nellie Stone Johnson, Nellie Stone Johnson:  The Life of an Activist (St. Paul, MN:  Ruminator Books, 2000); Mary Christine Pruitt, “Women Unite! The Modern Women’s Movement in Minnesota” (Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1988); Monica Bauerlein, "Nellie Stone Johnson: 19005-2002: Minneapolis Loses a Legendary Figure," City Pages, April 10, 2002.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hunton, Addie Waites (1866-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Addie Hunton with Black Troops in
France in World War I
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Educator, race and gender activist, writer, suffragist, and political organizer, Addie Waites Hunton was born in Norfolk, Virginia on June 11, 1866, to Jesse and Adeline Waites.  After her mother died when she was very young, she moved to Boston, Massachusetts to live with her maternal aunt.  

Hunton earned her high school diploma at Boston Latin School and in 1889 became the first black woman to graduate from Spencerian College of Commerce in Philadelphia. In 1893, she married William Alphaeus Hunton, who had spearheaded the establishment of services for blacks in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in the city.  Soon after their marriage the couple moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Addie worked as a secretary at Clark College and helped her husband with his YMCA work.  In the wake of the Atlanta Race Riots (1906), the Huntons moved to Brooklyn, New York.  They had four children but only two survived infancy.
Sources: 
Christine Lutz, “Addie W. Hunton:  Crusader for Pan-Africanism and Peace,” in Portraits of African American Life Since 1865, ed. Nina Mjagkij (Wilmington, DE:  Scholarly Resources, Inc., 2003), 109-127; Darryl Lyman, Great African American Women (New York:  Random House, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jones, Anthony “Van” (1968- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Van Jones is a social-environmental activist and the Obama administration’s former “Green Czar.” He was born in 1968 in Jackson, Tennessee. His mother and father were a high school teacher and junior-high principal respectively. While growing up, Jones was a stereotypical “geek,” going so far as to pretend that his action figures were running public offices. Jones attended the University of Tennessee at Martin where he majored in communications and political science. It was during his freshman year in UT-Martin that Jones chose for himself the nickname “Van.” In 1990 Jones enrolled at Yale Law School.

After graduating in 1993, Jones moved to San Francisco. There he became a community organizer and set up the Bay Area organizations, PoliceWatch and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in 1996, both intended to combat police abuse. Jones also involved himself and his organization in the campaign to reform California’s juvenile detention system including the fight against the construction of a huge new juvenile detention facility in Dublin, California.

Sources: 
Elizabeth Kolbert, “Greening the Ghetto,” The New Yorker, 4 March 2009, retrieved from: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/01/12/090112fa_fact_kolbert?currentPage=all; Maura Judkis, “Obama Drafts Van Jones as Green Jobs Adviser,” US News and World Report, 10 March 2009, http://www.usnews.com/money/blogs/fresh-greens/2009/03/10/obama-drafts-van-jones-as-green-jobs-adviser.html; Michael Burnham, “Embattled Van Jones Quits, but ‘Czar’ Debate Rages On,” New York Times, September 9, 2010, retrieved: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/09/08/08greenwire-embattled-van-jones-quits-but-czar-debates-rage-9373.html; “Van Jones Rejoins CAP to Lead Green Opportunity Initiative,” Center for American Progress, February 24, 2010, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/02/van_jones.html; Benjamin Todd Jealous, "Van Jones Will Receive This Year’s NAACP President’s Award. Here’s Why,” NAACP Blog, 24 February 2010, http://naacpblogs.naacp.org/blog/?p=453; Erin Duffy, “Princeton U. Welcomes Former Obama Advisor,” Times of Trenton, 24 February 2010, retrieved: http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-19/126699394749660.xml&coll=5.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Zephaniah, Benjamin (1958 - )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, playwright, novelist and activist, was born on April 15, 1958, the first of eight children, in Birmingham, England. Zephaniah grew up in Wandsworth until the age of nine when his mother, a Jamaican nurse, fled his father, a postman from Barbados. Leaving behind his twin sister Velda and other siblings, Zephaniah felt isolated as a young black dyslexic boy who encountered racism at his new school in Birmingham. He turned to writing, choosing to describe local and global issues, inspired by his Jamaican heritage and “street politics” of Birmingham. He left formal education at age 14, but built a reputation in the city as a popular dub poet, an art form which involves mixing the spoken word with reggae rhythms. Zephaniah had a troubled adolescence, which was punctuated with periods in incarceration following convictions for petty theft.

Sources: 
Benjamin Zephaniah’s profile on “Contemporary Writers”: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth105; Benjamin Zephaniah’s official website: http://benjaminzephaniah.com/biography/; “The interview: Benjamin Zephaniah” by Lynn Barber, published in The Observer, January 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jan/18/benjamin-zephaniah-interview-poet.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

Johnson, Linton Kwesi (1952– )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Linton Kwesi Johnson, political activist, poet and reggae artist, was born in Chapelton, Jamaica in 1952. After his parents’ divorce, Johnson was raised by his grandmother. Johnson left his small parish in 1963 and moved to London, UK to be with his mother, where he attended Tulse Hill secondary school.
Sources: 
Linton Kwesi Johnson’s profile on “Contemporary Writers”: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth58; “I did my own thing” interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson by Nicholas Wroe, published in “The Guardian,” March 2008: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/mar/08/featuresreviews.guardianreview11.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Bath, England

House, Callie Guy (c. 1861-1928)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Callie House is most famous for her efforts to gain reparations for former slaves and is regarded as the early leader of the reparations movement among African American political activists.  Callie Guy was born a slave in Rutherford Country near Nashville, Tennessee.  Her date of birth is usually assumed to be 1861 but due to the lack of birth records for slaves, this date is not certain.  She was raised in a household that included her widowed mother, sister, and her sister’s husband.  House received some primary school education.

At the age of 22, she married William House and moved to Nashville, where she raised five children.  To support her family, House worked at home as a washerwoman and seamstress.  In 1891, a pamphlet entitled Freedmen’s Pension Bill: A Plea for American Freedmen began circulating around the black communities in central Tennessee.  This pamphlet, which espoused the idea of financial compensation as a means of rectifying past exploitation of slavery, persuaded House to become involved in the cause that would become her life’s work.  

With the help of Isaiah Dickerson, House chartered the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association in 1898, and was named the secretary of this new organization.  Eventually House became the leader of the organization. In this position she traveled across the South, spreading the idea of reparations in every former slave state with relentless zeal.  During her 1897-1899 lecture tour the Association's membership by 34,000 mainly through her efforts.  By 1900 its nationwide membership was estimated to be around 300,000.  

Sources: 
Mary Frances Berry, My  Face Is Black Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations (New York: Knopf, 2005); James Turner, “Callie House: The Pursuit of Reparations as a Means for Social Justice”, The Journal of African American History Vol. 91, No. 3 (Summer, 2006), pp. 305-310.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Kathryn Magnolia (1878-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Political activist Kathryn Magnolia Johnson was born on December 15th, 1878 in Darke County, Ohio. She was the daughter of Walter and Lucinda Jane McCown Johnson. Kathryn Johnson graduated at the top of her high school class in New Paris, Ohio in 1895 and worked as a teacher in both Ohio and Indiana between 1898 and 1901. In 1902 she graduated from Wilberforce University with a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate. She taught at the State Normal School for Negroes in Elizabeth City, North Carolina from 1904 to 1905 before spending a year as Dean of Women at Shorter College, a predominately black institution in Little Rock, Arkansas that was the site of bloody racial riots during Johnson’s tenure.

Working as a Kansas City high school teacher in 1910, Johnson became one of the first members of the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP, 1909- ). She left teaching to serve as sales representative for the NAACP’s journal, Crisis. After three years, Johnson became a branch organizer, helping to establish dozens of branches of the NAACP throughout the South. Johnson excelled, and the organization grew rapidly in the region that had the majority of African Americans. Despite her success, she began to openly criticize the fact that whites had virtually all of leadership roles within the NAACP.  Johnson was let go by the NAACP in 1916 although it is not clear whether the reason was for her criticism of whites’ roles within the organization.

Sources: 
Adriane Lentz-Smith, Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Facts on File Encyclopedia of Black Women in America: Social Activism (New York: Facts on File, 1997); Shari Dorantes Hatch, ed., Encyclopedia of African-American Writing: Five Centuries of Contribution: Trials and Triumphs of writers, poets, publications and organizations 2nd edition (New York : Grey House Publishing, 2009); Addie W. Hunton and Kathryn M. Johnson, Two Colored Women with the American Expeditionary Forces (Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn Eagle Press, 1920); Kathryn M. Johnson, The Dark Race in the Dawn: Proof of Black African Civilization in the America’s Before Columbus (New York: William-Frederick Press, 1948).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Mumia Abu-Jamal (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Mumia Abu-Jamal and Son
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Political activist and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 24, 1954. Born Wesley Cook, he took the name Mumia (“Prince”) in high school while taking a class on African cultures. In 1971, he added Abu-Jamal (“father of Jamal”) after the birth of his first son, Jamal. He has been married three times.

Abu-Jamal's first encounter with the police came when he was 14.  He was beaten by a white Philadelphia police officer for disrupting a “George Wallace for President” rally in 1968. Eventually he dropped out of high school and joined the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party. Jamal was appointed BPP’s “Lieutenant of Information,” putting him in charge of the organization’s media relations and placing him on the radar for surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He eventually earned his graduate equivalency high school degree (GED) and briefly attended Goddard College in Vermont.

In 1975 Abu-Jamal began working for a series of radio stations, using his commentary on issues of the day to advocate for social change.  Due to his growing popularity he was elected president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. Despite his popularity, Abu-Jamal was forced to take a second job as a taxi driver to supplement his income.  
Sources: 
Daniel R. Williams, Executing Justice: An Inside Account of the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001); Mumia Abu-Jamal and Noelle Hanrahan, All Things Censored (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2000), Mumi Abu-Jamal, We Want Freedom: A Life In The Black Panther Party (Cambridge, Massachusettes: South End Press, 2004); Mumia Abu-Jamal and John Edgar Wideman, Live from Death Row (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995); “Mumia Abu-Jamal”, Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 15 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Research, 1997).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ortuno, Edgardo (1970- )

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Edgardo Ortuno, Afro-Uruguayan professor, politician, and activist for human rights and equal opportunities, was born on June 10, 1970 in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Ortuno’s childhood experiences had a profound impact on his adult life. Growing up as an Afro-Uruguayan in a country where only four percent of the population were of African descent, Ortuno developed a keen sense of racial pride and a fierce opposition to discrimination of any kind. Moreover, his experience growing up under the military dictatorship of Juan M. Bordaberry, which crushed democracy and open political debate in Uruguay, instilled in Ortuno a belief in freedom of expression and equality.

As a young man Ortuno was initially drawn to academia and in the years 1990-1991 he held the position of research assistant at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Uruguay. Between the years 1990 and 1993 Ortuno also worked in the Center of Students of the Institute of Professors in Artigas, Uruguay (CEIP). Throughout this period he involved himself in studies of history, literature, education, and social sciences.
Sources: 
Edgardo Ortuno website: http://www.eortuno.depolitica.com.uy; UNHRC Refworld website: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country (UNHRC: UN Refugee Agency, 2010); Koichiro Matsuura, Address by Koichiro Matsuura: Afro-Uruguayan cultural traditions and history within the context of the Coalition of Latin American and Caribbean Cities against Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, April 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sussex (England)

Rice, Claudius William (1892?-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Claudius W. Rice was a political activist and labor leader in Houston, Texas from the 1920s through the 1940s.  He was the owner of Negro Labor News, president of the Texas Negro Business Association, and advocate of Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee philosophy of self help.

Rice was born in 1897 to Mary and Ezekiel Rice in Haywood County, Tennessee. Formally educated in the rural schools of Haywood County, in 1909 he moved to the city of  Jackson, Tennessee and worked as a domestic servant while enrolled in the Lane College high school department.

Rice then moved to Houston, Texas, and by 1914 was giving lectures to local blacks about their patriotic duty to support the United States if it entered World War I.  Rice's patriotic fervor lessened however after touring the Deep South and witnessing firsthand the racial discrimination African Americans faced.  He then began his quest to eliminate discrimination and racism.

While in Houston, Rice became an entrepreneur, using his position to rally local blacks into challenging discrimination and focusing attention on the unfair treatment of the region’s black workforce. He stirred controversy within the black and white Houston communities in his encouragement for blacks to “organize in a solid bloc” and use racial solidarity as an effective weapon to challenge their plight.
Sources: 
Ernest Obadele-Starks, Black Unionism in the Industrial South (College Station, TX: TAMU Publishing, 2001); Ernest Obadele-Starks, “Black Workers, the Black Middle Class, and Organized Protest along the Upper Texas Gulf Coast, 1883-1945,” in The African American Experience in Texas: An Anthology, Bruce A. Glasrud and James Smallwood, eds. (Lubbock, TX: 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Galamison, Milton A. (1923-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Milton Galamison (left) with Picketers in New York, Feb. 3, 1964
Image ©Bettmann/Corbis

Milton Arthur Galamison, minister and civil rights activist, was the leader of New York City’s school integration movement in the 1960s.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, where he experienced poverty and hostile racial relations that influenced his later activism, Galamison received a B.A. with honors at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1945. He began his activism in Brooklyn, where he was appointed minister to the Siloam Presbyterian Church in 1948. As a prestigious institution long associated with activist ministers, the church offered Galamison a platform for his future involvement in improving education for minority children in public schools.

In 1955, Galamison was elected chair of the education committee of the Brooklyn branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Under his  leadership, the branch became a noted advocate for working class black and Puerto Rican parents who fought for quality education for their children.

Sources: 
Clarence Taylor, “Robert Wagner, Milton Galamison, and the Challenge to New York City Liberalism,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 31:2 (July 2007); Alexander Urbiel, “City Schools as Mirrors of Modern Urban Life,” Journal of Urban History 27:511 (May 2001); Clarence Taylor, Knocking At Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wilcox, Preston (1923-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Preston Wilcox (left) with Unidentified Man
Image Courtesy of Harlem Heritage

Preston Wilcox, human rights activist and professor, was a proponent of black studies and advocated community control over education. He was born in 1923 and raised in Youngstown, Ohio along with his four siblings. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia,  but left to serve in the United States Army.  He later returned to school and completed his Bachelor of Science in Biology at City College in 1949. He later earned a Masters of Social Work from Columbia University where he taught for several years.

During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Wilcox became a prominent leader and activist for the decentralization of public schools in Central Harlem. He was a leader in the movement for community control, which placed power over education into the hands of community members. Wilcox spoke frequently at conferences sponsored by the African American Teachers Association where he helped disseminate ideas of community control to the larger public. His efforts assisted in the creation of new jobs for African American teachers, administrators, and supervisors in education.

Sources: 
Jitu Weusi, “Professor Preston Wilcox, We’ve Learned Some Lessons,” The New York Amsterdam News (Aug 24-30, 2006); “Preston Wilcox, Harlem Elder, Passes Away,” The New York Amsterdam News (Aug 17-23, 2006); Preston Wilcox, “School Community Control as a Social Movement” in Sheldon Marcus and Philip D. Varo, eds., Urban Education: Crisis or Opportunity? (New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press Inc., 1972); http://www.assatashakur.org/forum/afrikan-world-news/20889-harlem-legend-preston-wilcox-passes.html; http://www.nypl.org/archives/4078.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Churchville, John (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Elliott Churchville is a civil rights activist and black nationalist who founded Philadelphia's Freedom Library Community Project, which would become the Freedom Library Day School.

Born in Philadelphia in 1941, Churchville attended Simon Gratz High School, and, on graduation, began studying music education at Temple University. He dropped out in 1961 to become a jazz musician, and moved to New York, where he met Malcolm X at the Nation of Islam headquarters in Harlem.

Inspired by Malcolm’s black nationalism, Churchville attended the Inter-Collegiate Conference on Northern Civil Rights at Sarah Lawrence College in April 1962, where he was recruited to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Despite disagreeing with the Committee’s integrationist philosophy, Churchville joined its field staff and traveled south to Georgia and Mississippi to register voters. His experience in Freedom Schools, helping blacks in Greenwood, Mississippi pass the state’s literacy test, inspired him to see education as crucial to the civil rights movement.
Sources: 
Matthew Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); John Elliott Churchville, LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnelliottchurchvillephd; Paul M. Washington and David Gracie, Other Sheep I Have: The Autobiography of Father Paul M. Washington (Philadelphia: Temple University Press,1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Sydney, Australia

Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro (1934-2002)

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

Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, Angolan insurgent fighter and longtime leader of The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), was born in Munhango, Angola on August 3, 1934 to Helena Mbundu Savimbi and Loth Savimbi. Savimbi’s father was a railway stationmaster and part-time Protestant church worker. The local Catholic missions in then-Portuguese-occupied Angola were often in conflict with Loth Savimbi because of the effectiveness of his evangelizing.

Jonas Savimbi attended Protestant missionary schools where he thrived academically. In 1958, he was granted a scholarship from United Church of Christ to attend university in Lisbon, where he began his involvement in anti-colonial politics. The Portuguese secret police detained Savimbi thrice before he decided on finishing his schooling in Switzerland, first at Fribourg University, then Lausanne University, where in 1965 he completed his coursework with honors in political science and juridical sciences. Having begun his studies in medicine, Savimbi would refer to himself as “Doctor” thereafter.

Sources: 
“Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro,” in Norbert C. Brockman, ed., An African Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1994); “Jonas Malheiro Savimbi,” in Harvey Glickman, ed., Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara : a Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992); “Savimbi, Jonas Malheiro,” in W. Martin James, ed., Historical Dictionary of Angola (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mboya, Thomas (Joseph Odhiambo) (1930-1969)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Tom Mboya, born on August 15, 1930 in Kilimambogo, Kenya on a sisal plantation estate, was a Kenyan nationalist, trade union leader, and government minister. His parents were Luo agricultural workers who as recently converted Catholics, sent him to mission schools from an early age. By 1947, Mboya was en route to graduation, but because of his father's modest income he couldn’t afford to complete the final pre-examination course. He decided instead to attend the Royal Sanitary Institute’s medical school which paid for his training and allowed him to support his younger brother’s studies. Mboya began his involvement in labor organizing at the school, where he also became president of the student council and participated in the debating club.

Upon graduating in 1951, Mboya was given sanitary inspection duties in Nairobi. Around the same time, the anticolonial Mau Mau rebellion was erupting and much of Kenya’s trade union and political leadership were detained by British authorities. Mboya resigned from his inspector position in 1953 and began a series of full-time commitments to the growing union movement.

Sources: 
“Mboya, Tom (Thomas Joseph Odhiambo),” in Norbert C. Brockman, ed., An African Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1994); “Tom Mboya,” in Anne Commire, ed., Historic World Leaders, volume 1 (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994).; “Tom Mboya,” in Harvey Glickman, ed., Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara : A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Davis, Angela (1944--)

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

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

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

Mossell, Nathan Francis (1856-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Kadalie, Clements (1896-1951)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Clements Kadalie, an early South African trade unionist and political activist, was born in April 1896 in Nkhata Bay District in Nyasaland (now Malawi). His parents Musa Kadalie Muwamba had two sons with Clements the youngest. Kadalie graduated in 1913 at age seventeen from Livingstonia, a mission school administered by Church of Scotland missionaries. He was certified to teach elementary school and assigned to district schools in the region. Kadalie taught school for five years but like many of his contemporaries he was attracted by the much higher wages paid in South Africa and decided to move there.

In 1918 he settled in Cape Town, South Africa where he befriended Arthur F. Batty, a white trade unionist and political activist. Batty viewed the poorly paid African working class as a prime target for continued exploitation unless they unionized. He urged Kadalie to create such a union. Kadalie responded by founding the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU) in 1919, the first major black union in South Africa.

In December 1919 Kadalie led his first work stoppage, a dockworker’s strike. The strike involved over 2,000 workers and lasted fourteen days, stopping the export of all goods through Cape Town Harbor facilities. The strike catapulted Kadalie to national prominence in South Africa.  
Sources: 
Clements Kadalie, My Life and the I.C.U.: The Autobiography of a Black Trade Unionist in South Africa (London: Cass, 1970); D. D. Phiri, I See You: Life of Clements Kadalie, the Man South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Namibia Should Not Forget (Blantyre, Malawi: College Publishing Company, 2000);  Encyclopedia of World Biography (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2009); http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/people/bios/kadalie-c.htm; http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/people.php?id=122;
Contributor: 
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

Guinier, Ewart (1910-1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture

Ewart Guinier, labor activist and political candidate, was the first chairman of Harvard University’s Afro-American Studies Department. Born in Panama in 1910, Guinier migrated to the United States in 1925 and attended high school in Boston, Massachusetts. After his acceptance into the Harvard University Class of 1933, Guinier was denied a scholarship because he allegedly did not submit a photograph with his application and because of his race he was not permitted to reside in the all-white dormitories. Guinier nonetheless started classes at Harvard but dropped out in 1931 due to the high tuition costs.  He transferred to the City University of New York where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1935.  He later received his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1939 and his law degree from New York University in 1959.

Guinier served in Hawaii as a warrant officer in the segregated United States Army during World War Two. He met his future wife Genii Paprin, a young woman of Jewish descent, at a Labor Canteen in Honolulu in August 1945. Even though interracial marriages were illegal in most states at that time, the couple married in October of that year. They moved to Hollis, Queens in 1956 and were the first racially-mixed family in their neighborhood. Together they raised three daughters, Lani, Saury, and Marie Guinier.

Sources: 
Ewart Guinier, “Impact of Unionization on Blacks,” Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 30:2 (Dec. 1970): 173-181 ;http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/07/obituaries/ewart-guinier-79-who-headed-afro-american-studies-at-harvard.html; http://www.nypl.org/archives/3674; http://mvgazette.com/article.php?22763
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Williamson, Lisa AKA Sister Souljah (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lisa Williamson, also known as Sister Souljah, is an author, lecturer, rap singer, activist, community organizer and political commentator. Through her music, books, lectures and community work she advocates black power, personal responsibility and activism.  She proudly challenges black Americans to strengthen their communities and character by embracing spirituality and self-confidence. A New York Times best-selling author, Williamson now reaches the younger generation through her novels written in the popular style known as street-lit.

Lisa Williamson was born in New York City in 1964. When her parents divorced, her mother moved the family into a public housing project in the Bronx where Lisa lived until the age of 10. The family then moved to Englewood, New Jersey where Lisa attended high school. While there she won the American Legion's Constitutional Oratory Contest and was later enrolled in Cornell University's advanced placement summer program and Spain's Universidad de Salamanca study-abroad program.

In 1985 Williamson graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in American history and African studies. Soon after her graduation she took a job with the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice in Harlem where she founded the African Youth Survival Camp, a 6-week summer sleep away camp in Enfield, North Carolina serving children of homeless families.
Sources: 
Sister Souljah, No Disrespect (New York: Times Books Random House, 1994); Sister Souljah, The Coldest Winter Ever (New York: Pocket Books,  1999); Akoto Ofori-Atla, “Sister Souljah: More Than a Street-Lit Author,” The Root (Summer 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Pratt, Geronimo (1947-2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt was a high ranking Black Panther Party (BPP) leader in Los Angeles who was targeted by the United States federal government’s domestic surveillance COINTELPRO program. He was accused and convicted of a murder and spent twenty-seven years in prison but the conviction was later vacated and he was released.

Geronimo Pratt was born on September 13, 1947 in Morgan City, Louisiana and had six siblings. His parents, Jack and Eunice Pratt, earned a living by operating a small scrap metal salvaging business. Geronimo was an exceptional student and played quarterback for the high school football team. In 1965, Pratt joined the army and was sent to Vietnam. He served two tours in Vietnam with distinction, earning two Bronze Stars, a Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts. He was honorably discharged in 1968.
Sources: 
Jack Olsen, Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt (New York: Knopf, 2001);
http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-geronimo-pratt-20110603,0,6307630.story
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Combahee River Collective (1974-1980)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Combahee River Collective, founded by black feminists and lesbians in Boston, Massachusetts in 1974, was best known for its Combahee River Collective Statement. This document was one of the earliest explorations of the intersection of multiple oppressions, including racism and heterosexism. For the first time in history, black women openly and unapologetically communicated their sexual orientations in the midst of their social justice work, no longer trading their silence for permission to engage in political struggle.

The Collective’s name refers to a resistance action by Harriet Tubman in 1863 in South Carolina, the Combahee River Raid. Tubman freed more that 750 slaves in this unique military campaign, the only one in U.S. history conceived and directed by a woman. After attending the 1973 National Black Feminist Organization’s (NBFO) regional conference, the Collective’s founders began meeting on their own in Boston in 1974. They experienced much disillusionment with the second wave of American feminism from the 1960s along with the civil rights, black nationalism, and Black Panther movements. They thus knew from the beginning that their new platform would include struggles against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression.
Sources: 
The Combahee River Collective, The Combahee River Collective Statement: Black Feminist Organizing in the Seventies and Eighties (Albany, New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1986); Manning Marable and Leith Mullings, eds., Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices of Resistance, Reform, and Renewal (Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.,  2000); http://womenshistory.about.com/od/timelines19501999/a/combahee_river.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Spraggs, Venice Tipton (1905-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Chicago Defender Front Page, November 16, 1940
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Venice Tipton Spraggs served as the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Defender and was the first African American inducted into Theta Sigma Phi, a professional journalism fraternity.  Spraggs was born in 1905 in Birmingham, Alabama to Barbara Tipton.  She attended Spelman College and married William Spraggs, a presser from Birmingham, in 1924.  The couple had no children.
Sources: 
Helen W. Berthelot, Win Some, Lose Some: G. Mennen Williams and the New Democrats (Detroit: Wayne University Press, 1995); Cheryl Mullenbach, Double Victory: How African-American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013); United States of America, Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930, Census Place: Birmingham, Jefferson, Alabama (roll 30, page 17A, Enumeration District 0098, Image 35.0, FHL microfilm 2339765).
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Shakur, Assata Olugbala (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Assata Olugbala Shakur—political activist, author, fugitive, and step-aunt of the famed, slain hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur—was born JoAnne Deborah Bryon on July 16, 1947 in New York City, New York.  Following her parents’ divorce in 1950, she moved with her mother and maternal grandparents to Wilmington, North Carolina.  Shakur spent much of her adolescence alternating residences between her mother, who remarried and returned to New York, and relatives in Wilmington.

Shakur enrolled in Borough of Manhattan Community College before transferring to City College of New York, where her exposure to Black Nationalist organizations profoundly impacted her activism.  Shakur attended meetings held by the Golden Drums, where she met her husband, Louis Chesimard.  Members of the organization familiarized her with black historical figures that resisted racial oppression and social violence.  She also began interacting with other activist groups and subsequently participated in student rights, anti-Vietnam war, and black liberation movements.  In 1971, she adopted a new name: Assata (“she who struggles”) Olugbala (“love for the people”) Shakur (“the thankful”).
Sources: 
Shakur, Assata, Assata: An Autobiography (Chicago:  Zed Books Ltd., 1987); Mychal Denzel Smith, “Assata Shakur is Not a Terrorist,” The Nation (7 May 1913); Shakur, Assata, “An Open Letter from Assata” 1998; www.fbi.gov.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

COINTELPRO [Counterintelligence Program] (1956-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
COINTELPRO was a counterintelligence program run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from roughly 1956 to 1976. It combined the efforts of the Bureau and local police forces to track, harass, discredit, infiltrate, destroy, and destabilize dissident groups in the United States. COINTELPRO targeted the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the American Indian Movement, those considered part of the “New Left,” the KKK, and most acutely, black civil rights and militant black nationalist groups.

J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, considered militant black nationalist groups to be the most dangerous threat facing the United States at that time due to their perceived potential to cause civil unrest and violence. The FBI’s COINTELPRO focused on the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam, and others. COINTELPRO also sought to undermine, intimidate, and slander avowedly nonviolent black leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.
Sources: 
Jared Ball, "COINTELPRO," Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century, ed. Paul Finkelman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Darlene Clark Hine et al., The African American Odyssey (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Medina, Lazaro (1965 -2013)

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

Lazaro Medina was an Afro-Paraguayan who was best known as the founder and director of the Ballet Camba Cua, the only dance troupe of Paraguay based on the dances of former African slaves. Medina was also a political activist who assisted other Afro-Paraguayans who faced racial discrimination and the consequences of the confiscation of their lands by Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner in the 1980s. The ballet was named after Camba Cua, one of the few remaining Afro-Paraguayan settlements in the nation. 

Little is known about Medina’s background including his parents and date of birth.  Nor is there much information about his formal training.  Medina founded Ballet Camba Cua in 1991 basing it partly on the recalled stories of his father who described earlier festivals of people of African descent.  The Ballet was named after the Afro-Paraguayan community of Camba Cua which was founded by a group of 250 black lancers who were given land, a team of oxen, and seeds to plant aftrer they helped defeat a ruler who was sent into exile. The goal of the Ballet was to make Afro-Paraguayan culture visible and connected to the larger world of African culture.

Sources: 
Monica Bareiro, "Kamba Cua, Tapping of Pride and Culture," ABC Color, http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/suplementos/abc-revista/kamba-cua-tamborileo-de-orgullo-y-cultura-1200345.html; John M. Lipski, “Afro-Paraguayan Spanish: The Negation of Non-Existence," Journal of Pan African Studies 2.7, 2008; Kwekudee, "The Irresistible and Expert Drumming and Dancing African Descendants in South America, Trip Down Memory Lane, http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2014/06/afro-paraguayans-afro-poaraguayos.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle
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