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Tennessee

Fort Pillow Massacre (1864)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History

 

Illustration from Kurz & Allison
Image Courtesy of Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division

On April 12, 1864, some 3,000 rebels under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest overran Fort Pillow, a former Confederate stronghold situated on a bluff on the Tennessee bank of the Mississippi, some 40 miles north of Memphis. The garrison consisted of about 600 Union soldiers, roughly evenly divided between runaway slaves-turned-artillerists from nearby Tennessee communities and white Southern Unionist cavalry mostly from East Tennessee. Under a flag of truce which his men violated by creeping up on the fort, Forrest demanded the garrison’s surrender, threatening that if it refused he would not be responsible for the actions of his men. Believing Forrest was bluffing, Bradford refused, whereupon the Confederates swarmed over the parapet.

Sources: 
Andrew Ward, River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War (New York: Viking Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Fisk Jubilee Singers

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

In 1866 the Fisk Free Colored School was established in Nashville, Tennessee by the American Missionary Association. Housed in abandoned Union hospital barracks, Fisk set out to educate former slaves with the support of donations from former abolitionists. As those donations declined over the next five years, Fisk fell on hard times.

To save the institution, Fisk’s treasurer, George Leonard White, decided to gamble on the extraordinary voices of the young black singers who had begun to share with him the songs of their ancestors. Over the objections of his colleagues and sponsors, White and his assistant, a frail young African American pianist named Ella Sheppard, led a choir of nine young former slaves (now called the Fisk Jubilee Singers) up from Nashville to perform for congregations in the North along the route of the Underground Railway.

The Jubilees, as they were eventually called, struggled through a schizophrenic world of liberal ministers and adoring audiences, but also poor receipts, and segregated hotels, restaurants and trains. They made their way to New York, where they chose for their debut Steal Away, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and  Deep River, the secret hymns their ancestors sang in fields and cabins and brush arbor churches, the spirituals they were about to introduce into the universal canon of Christian worship,.

Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The story of the Fisk Jubilee Singers who introduced the world to the music of black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Singleton, Benjamin "Pap" (1809-1892)

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

 

Sources: 
Nell Irvine Painter, Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1976); Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West 1528-1900 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998); "The "Exodusters" Movement" in The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide to the Study of Black History & Culture,  http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam009.html; Lin Frederickson, "He Was Once a Slave" on the Kansas Memory Blog of the Kansas Historical Society, http://www.kansasmemory.org/blog/post/73490075
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bontemps, Arna (1902-1973)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hoping for a much better life outside the racially oppressive South and Alexandria, Louisiana where Arnaud Wendell Bontemps was born, the middle class Bontemps family moved to the Watts community just south of Los Angeles.  They soon abandoned Catholicism and became devout Seventh Day Adventists.  Bontemps’ mother was a schoolteacher and his father, a bricklayer, was determined to have the family assimilate into the dominant white culture.  In 1923, Bontemps graduated from Pacific Union College, an Adventist school in California, and found work in the US Post Office.  He next used his church connections to secure a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in New York City in 1924.
Sources: 
Kirkland C. Jones, Renaissance Man from Louisiana: A Biography of Arna Wendell Bontemps (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992); Robert E. Fleming,“ Arna Wendell Bontemps (1902-1973): http://www.blacksdahistory.org/arna-bontemps.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Jordan, George (1849?-1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
George Jordan, buffalo soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, hailed from rural Williamson County in central Tennessee.  Enlisting in the 38th Infantry Regiment on 25 December 1866, the short and illiterate Jordan proved a good soldier.  In January 1870, he transferred to the 9th Cavalry’s K Troop, his home for the next twenty-six years.  Earning the trust of his troop commander, Captain Charles Parker, Jordan was promoted to corporal in 1874; by 1879, he wore the chevrons of a sergeant.  It was during these years that Jordan learned how to read and write, an accomplishment that certainly facilitated his advancement in the Army.

On 14 May 1880, following a difficult forced march at night, a twenty-five man detachment under Jordan successfully repulsed a determined attack on old Fort Tularosa, New Mexico, by more numerous Apaches.  The next year on 12 August, still campaigning against the Apaches, Jordan’s actions contributed to the survival of a detachment under Captain Parker when they were ambushed in Carrizo Canyon, New Mexico.  Although neither engagement received much attention initially, in 1890 Jordan was awarded a Medal of Honor for Tularosa and a Certificate of Merit for Carrizo Canyon.

By the time of his retirement in 1896 at Fort Robinson, Jordan had served ten years as first sergeant of a veteran troop renowned for its performance against the Apache and Sioux.  Jordan joined other buffalo soldier veterans in nearby Crawford, Nebraska, and became a successful land owner, although his efforts to vote bore little fruit.
Sources: 
Charles L. Kenner, Buffalo Soldiers and Officers of the Ninth Cavalry, 1867-1898: Black and White TogetherBlack Valor: Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898 (Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources Incorporated, 1997); Frank Schubert, On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldiers II: New and Revised Biographies of African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866-1917 (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004).
(Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barnett, Ida Wells (1862-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Linda O. McMurry, To Keep the Waters Troubled: the Life of Ida B. Wells, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); John Hope Franklin and August Meier, Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Egypt, Ophelia Settle (1903-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

In the late 1920s, Ophelia Settle Egypt conducted some of the first and finest interviews with former slaves, setting the stage for the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) massive project ten years later. Born Ophelia Settle in 1903, she was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher for the black sociologist Charles Johnson at Fisk University in Nashville.

Over the course of her career Settle helped expose the infamous Tuskegee study of syphilis among black sharecroppers, and played a leading role in Charles Johnson’s "Shadow of the Plantation" study of the sharecropper system. As the Depression wore on, she left Fisk to assist with relief efforts in St. Louis. She accepted a scholarship from the National Association for the Prevention of Blindness to study medicine and sociology at Washington University, where, as a black woman, she was required to receive all her lessons from a tutor. She also became head of social services at a hospital in New Orleans, and five years later conducted research for James Weldon Johnson, about whom she wrote a children's book. Egypt was a social worker in southeast Washington, D.C., and for eleven years was the director of the community’s first Planned Parenthood clinic, which was named for her in 1981.

Ophelia Settle Egypt died in Washington, D.C. in 1984.She was 81.

 

Sources: 
Ann Allen Shockley Interview with Mrs. Ophelia Settle Egypt conducted December 12, 1972 at Mrs. Egypt’s home in Washington, D.C., Fisk University Oral History Program, 1972; www.naswfoundation.org/pioneers/e/egypt.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wright, Richard (1908-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Michel Fabre, The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright (New York:  William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1973); James Gregory, The Southern Diaspora (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); “Richard Wright,” Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 5 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Research, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

McElwee, Samuel Allen (1857– 1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
During the first twenty-five years following the American Civil War and the emancipation, many African American men in the South were elected to state legislatures and local government posts. Among those in Tennessee was Samuel Allen McElwee from Haywood County, one of the two western counties with a majority black population. McElwee, a lawyer, became the most powerful Republican Party leader in Haywood County in the late 19th Century. He served in the Tennessee legislature from 1882 to the rigged election of 1888. As a legislator he earned a reputation as a skilled orator and was a presenter at the National Convention of the Republican Party in 1884 in Chicago.

McElwee was born in Madison County, Tennessee and grew up in neighboring Haywood County. He was educated at local freedmen’s schools and Oberlin College in Ohio before starting a teaching career in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. McElwee also attended Fisk University, graduating in 1883 and the following year at the age of 26 he was elected to the Tennessee Legislature, representing Haywood County. While serving in the Legislature McElwee obtained a law degree from Central Tennessee Law School in Nashville in 1886. McElwee was the first and only African American to practice law in Brownsville, Tennessee until the 1960s.
Sources: 
Richard A. Couto, Lifting the Veil: A Political History of Struggles for Emancipation (Knoxville: 1993); Dorothy Granberry, “When the Rabbit Foot Was Worked and Republican Votes Became Democratic Votes: Black Disfranchisement in Haywood County, Tennessee,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Spring 2004: 35 – 47.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Taylor, Alrutheus Ambush (1893-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Fisk University Franklin Library's
Special Collections
A[lrutheus] A[mbush] Taylor, historian, was born in Washington D.C. where he also went through the public school system. He earned a B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1916 and taught at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama and at the West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now West Virginia State College) in Institute, West Virginia. In 1922, Carter G. Woodson brought this able young historian back to Washington D.C. to serve as a research associate with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Supported by a grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund, Taylor began researching the role of African Americans in the South during Reconstruction.
Sources: 
W.A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America and Journal of Negro History as well as prefaces and introductions to the three Taylor monographs cited above.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Caliver, Ambrose (1894-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Ambrose Caliver was born in 1894 in Saltsville, Virginia and graduated from Knoxville College in Tennessee, earning his B.A. in 1915. One year later he married Everly Rosalie Rucker. After serving as a high school teacher and a principal, he was hired in 1917 by the historically black college of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee to implement its vocational education program. Caliver rose through various positions at Fisk, finally being named dean in 1927. In the meantime, Caliver had earned his M.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1920 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College in 1930.
Sources: 
“Ambrose Caliver,” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, ed., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1983); http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/opinion_columnists/article/0,1406,KNS_364_4735988,00.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bond, Horace Mann (1904–1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Horace Mann Bond served as the first president of Fort Valley State College from 1939 to 1945 and president of Lincoln University from 1945 to 1957. He was a notable educator and scholar holding degrees from Lincoln University (B.A. in 1923 and a LL.D. in 1941), University of Chicago (M.A. in 1926 and a Ph.D. in 1936), and Temple University (LL.D. in 1952). Over his long career in education, his passion for teaching took him to Lincoln University, Langston University, Alabama State Teachers College, Fisk University, and Dillard University.

Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and knew the South well. In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, anti-integrationists embarked on a program of massive resistance to orders to desegregate the South. In response to the efforts to claim an I.Q. gap between racial groups, Bond issued a number of stinging critiques of the racial claims about the intelligence of blacks. His most well known essay on the subject is "Racially Stuffed Shirts and Other Enemies of Mankind": Horace Mann Bond’s parody of Segregationist Psychology in the 1950s.

It is noteworthy that the papers of Horace Mann Bond have been archived at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Much of his research emphasized the social, economic, and geographic factors influencing academic achievement as well as demonstrating that Bond was at the forefront of not only black education but also the movement for civil rights.
Sources: 
W.A. Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981). http://www.lexisnexis.com/academic/2upa/Aaas/HoraceMannBondPapers.asp
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Walker, A'Lelia (1885–1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
A’Lelia Bundles, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker (New York: Scribner, 2001); Nancy Kuhl, Intimate Circles:  American Women in the Arts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003; http://www.madamcjwalker.com/bios/alelia-walker/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Dean, Mark (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Three of the nine patents on the original personal computer (PC) by International Business Machines (IBM) are registered to Dr. Mark Dean, making him a key contributor in the development of the PC.  

Dean was born in 1957 to Barbara and James Dean in Jefferson City, Tennessee.  He attended an integrated school, Jefferson City High School, where white teachers and classmates were amazed by his intellect and straight-A grades.  Dean earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and an M.S. from Florida Atlantic University in 1982.  
Sources: 
Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser, “Mark Dean” in African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bldean_moeller.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rudolph, Wilma (1940-1994)

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

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

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

King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Martin Luther King, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Clayborne Carson, ed. (New York: Intellectual Properties Management in association with Warner Books, 1998); Lerone Bennett, What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1989); Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years (New York: Touchstone, 1989); Christine King Farris, My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003). For additional information on Dr. Martin Luther King please see The Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute. http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stanford University

Herenton, Willie W. (1941- )

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

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

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

Ford, Harold Sr. (1945- )

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

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

Hervey, Gilford P. (1836-1920)

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Black Genealogy Research Group

Ford, Harold Jr. (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Harold Eugene Ford, Jr. was born in Memphis, Tennessee on May 11, 1970. He currently serves as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and is a former member of the United States House of Representatives from Tennessee.  During his tenure in congress Ford represented the state’s 9th congressional district from 1997 until 2007. This district included most of Memphis.  Bucking tradition, Ford did not seek reelection to his House seat in 2006 and instead unsuccessfully sought the Senate seat that was being vacated by the retiring senator Bill Frist.  Ford was the only African American member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats.

After the 2002 mid term elections resulted in Democrats losing Congressional seats, Ford announced his desire to be House Minority Whip based on Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s charge that the democratic leadership was less than competent.  Ford was unsuccessful in his election bid, but surprised many politicians and pundits on both sides of the political aisle with the amount of support he garnered. A few observers suggested that he might become the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004.  However, given the fact that he was only thirty-four years old, he was ineligible for the office. Ford would be four months shy of thirty-five on Inauguration Day (January 20, 2005).
Sources: 
Harold Ford Jr.  (http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=F000262).  Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.  Retrieved on 2007-05-18; Theo Emery, “Family ties could bind a political advancement” http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/03/10/famliey_ties_could_bind_a_political_advancement/?page=1), Boston Globe, March 10, 2006.  Retrieved on 2007-04-25; Jonathan Darman, “The Path to Power” Newsweek, October 30, 2006; William Addams Reitwiesner,  Ancestry of Harold Ford (http://www.wargs.com/political/ fordh.html).  Retrieved on 2007-05-18; http://www.house.gov/ford/about/index.shtml
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Looby, Z. Alexander (1899-1972)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Z. Alexander Looby was among the small cadre of African American lawyers who began practicing in the southern United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Often considered the “second generation of black attorneys,” these lawyers followed the first cadre of African Americans who began practicing in the 1880s.  They also provided much of the legal work that led to the dismantling of segregation in the late 20th Century.

Zephaniah Alexander Looby was born in Antigua, British West Indies in 1899 and immigrated to the United States in 1914 after the death of his father.  He earned a B.A. degree from Howard University and a law degree from Columbia University.  Looby came to Nashville, Tennessee in 1926 to work as an assistant professor of economics at Fisk University. Three years later he was admitted to the Tennessee bar and practiced in Memphis for three years.  In 1934 he married Grafta Mosby, a Memphis schoolteacher.  Around 1935 Looby returned to Nashville and helped found the Kent College for Law for African Americans.  

Looby entered politics in 1940 when he was narrowly defeated for a position on the Nashville City Council.  Eleven years later in 1951, Looby was elected to the council along with fellow lawyer, Robert E. Lillard.  They were the first African Americans to serve on the council since 1911.
Sources: 
Linda T. Wynn, “Zephaniah Alexander Looby” in The Encyclopedia of Tennessee History and Culture edited by Carroll Van West (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998); John Egerton, Oral history interview with Adolpho A. Birch, June 22, 2005, housed at the Nashville Public Library, Nashville, Tennessee.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Bridges Research

Williams, Paul R. (1894-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Architect Paul Williams in Front of His Most Famous
Project, the Theme Building, Los Angeles Airport
Paul R. Williams was one of the most well known 20th Century African American architects. Early in his career, Williams designed mostly houses, but in the 1950s and 1960s he designed some of the most distinctive public buildings in Los Angeles. Williams’s best-known building is probably the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport, which he designed with William Pereira.

Paul Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1894, a few years after his parents had moved to Southern California from Tennessee. Williams’s father died in 1896, and his mother died two years later. Williams grew up in the home of C.D. and Emily Clarkson. He graduated from Polytechnic High School and studied at the Los Angeles School of Art, the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, and the engineering school at the University of Southern California. While he pursued his studies in the 1910s, Williams also worked in the offices of several different Los Angeles architects. In 1917 he married Della Mae Givens. They had two daughters, Marilyn and Norma.
Sources: 

Karen E. Hudson, Paul R. Williams, Architect: A Legacy of Style (New York: Rizzoli, 1993); “Architect Paul R. Williams,”    http://www.paulrwilliamsproject.org/about/paul-revere-williams-architect/


Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

Henson, Josiah (1789-1883)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Josiah Henson was born into slavery on June 15, 1789 in Charles County, Maryland.  As a young boy he witnessed slavery’s cruelties inflicted on his immediate family.  Young Henson watched his father receive fifty lashes for standing up to a slave owner and then witnessed his father’s ear being severed as part of the punishment.   Shortly afterwards he watched his father sold off to an Alabama slaveholder.  Upon the death of his owner, Henson was separated from his mother and siblings in an estate sale.  Although he was reunited with his mother, he never saw his siblings again.

Henson remained on his new owner’s farm in Montgomery County, Maryland, until he was an adult.  As he aged he rose to become a trusted slave and supervised other enslaved people on the farm.  However, he used his new position to make his escape from slavery.  Following the Underground Railroad, Henson escaped from Maryland to the Province of Upper Canada (present-day Ontario), Canada with his wife and four children by way of the Niagara River in 1830.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Emancipation Proclamation (1863)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Following the Union Army victory at Antietam, Maryland on September 17, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation proclamation.  This document gave the states of the Confederacy until January 1, 1863 to lay down their arms and peaceably reenter the Union; if these states continued their rebellion all slaves in those seceding states were declared free.

Fearing the secession of neutral border slaveholding states such as Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation excluded those states, which left almost one fifth of the four million slaves in bondage. Their freedom would come with the 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865.

The Emancipation Proclamation also allowed freedmen to enlist into the Union Army.  This provision struck a series blow to the economic structure of the seceding states as many black slaves labored for the Confederate Army or were engaged in vital agricultural or industrial production for the Confederacy.
Sources: 
James West Davidson, Nation of Nation: A Concise Narrative of the American Republic.  Volume I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2006); Pauline Maier, Inventing America: A History of the United States Vol. I, 2nd edition (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Hayden, Earl Robert (1913-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The son of Asa and Ruth Sheffey who named him Asa Bundy at birth, poet Robert Hayden was born in Detroit, Michigan and reared in “Paradise Valley,” an inner city ghetto.  Adoptive parents, William and Sue Ellen Westerfield Hayden, gave him the name by which he is known.  A graduate of Detroit City College (now Wayne State University), Hayden earned a M.A. degree in English from the University of Michigan, where on two occasions (1938 and 1942), he received the Avery Hopkins awards for poetry

During the Great Depression Hayden worked as a researcher for the Federal Writers’ Project, an experience that exposed him to writers such as Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and Margaret Walker, and gave him a great appreciation for African history and folk culture.  In 1940 Hayden married Erma Inez Morris and converted to the Baha’i faith. After teaching at Fisk University for twenty-three years, Hayden returned to the University of Michigan, to end his teaching career where he began it.    
Sources: 

Mark A. Sanders, “Robert Hayden,” in The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, William L. Andrews, et al., eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Darwin T. Turner, ed., Black American Literature: Poetry (Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, 1969).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Utah

Clark, Septima Poinsette (1898-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Septima Clark and Rosa Parks
Image Courtesy of Highlander Research and Education Center
Sources: 
Septima Poinsette Clark and Le Gette Blythe, Echo in My Soul (New York: Dutton, 1962); Septima Clark, Ready from Within (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1990); http://www.usca.edu/aasc/clark.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Central University (Oklahoma)

Holmes, Benjamin M. (1846-1875)

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

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

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

Jackson, Jennie (1852 –1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Andrew Ward
Jennie Jackson, Fisk Jubilee Singer, folklorist & impresario, was the granddaughter of President Andrew Jackson’s almost lifelong body servant. Jackson’s mother had been born a slave, and her father, George, also enslaved, had died before Jennie was born. But because her mother was the beneficiary of a slave holder’s deathbed manumission, Jennie was born free. The status of Nashville’s freedmen was always precarious, however. When the trustee appointed by her mother’s late mistress tried to destroy the family’s “free papers” so he could re-enslave them, Jennie’s destitute mother fled into the city with her three year-old daughter.

During the Civil War, mother and daughter returned to Union-occupied Nashville, where Jennie was among the first students admitted to the Fisk Free Colored School. Working at her mother’s washboard, Jackson learned many of the spirituals the Jubilees would popularize.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Rutling, Thomas (1854—1915)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Andrew Ward
Born a slave, Thomas Rutling was one of only four Fisk Jubilee Singers who remained with the company through all three of their pioneering tours between 1872 and 1877. After completing a tour of Europe he refused to return to racist America, he lived the rest of his life in Great Britain as a performer and teacher.

Rutling’s mother spent so much time hiding from her master in the wilds of Wilson County, Tennessee that he often wondered if he had been born in the woods. She was always dragged back and savagely whipped, until her owners decided to sell her. “The very earliest thing I remember was this selling of my mother,” he recalled when he was a Jubilee Singer. In middle age, Rutling could still recall the feel of the lash licking his infant arm as they struck her for clinging to him.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Evans, Greene (1848-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University Special Collections
Greene Evans, Fisk Jubilee Singer, Memphis City Councilman and Tennessee State Assemblyman, was born somewhere in Tennessee and emancipated after the Civil War.  Evans attended night school at a Memphis freedmen’s school until it was burned down in the Memphis Riot in 1866. After working briefly as a hotel porter, Evans proceeded to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he paid his way through school working as a groundskeeper. Dignified, fastidious and enterprising, Evans taught at a small school in the summer near the Tennessee-Mississippi border. Scrounging timber from the surrounding woods, he built his own desks, benches and a schoolhouse which at least “did not lack for ventilation, for a bird could fly through anywhere.” Evans joined the first Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1872 and he proudly participated in the first tour that took them to eight states and Great Britain.  
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000); United States Freedman Records, 1865-1874: Record 4836; Tennessee State Library and Archives,  http://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/exhibits/blackhistory/bios/evans.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Robinson, America W. (ca 1855-post 1920)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Fisk University
Special Collections
Fisk Jubilee Singer and educator America W. Robinson was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1855. Though America’s father was his master’s half brother, he enjoyed no special privileges; when his white relations ran into financial difficulty, they sold him to a Virginian named Elliott. An accomplished carpenter, her father married a slave woman who was also half white, and they produced children so pale that their mistress once considered adopting their son as her own.

As a little girl she remembered seeing her master’s parlor fill with soldiers wounded in the Civil War Battle of Stone River. Taking advantage of the ensuing chaos, her father spirited her off in a Union army wagon to nearby Nashville, where, like Thomas Rutling and Maggie Porter, she attended the Fisk Colored School from its opening day in 1866.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000); U.S. Censuses of 1900, 1910, 1920.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dickerson, Isaac (1852-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Fisk University Franklin Library's
Special Collections
Fisk Jubilee Singer and preacher Isaac Dickerson was born enslaved in Wytheville, Virginia in 1852 and orphaned by the age of five. His earliest memory was his father’s sale to a slave trader in Richmond, Virginia. Young Isaac was treated kindly by his master, a colonel of Confederate Home Guards. When Union troops overran Wytheville in December 1864, his master escaped on horseback. But Dickerson was captured, marched 75 miles and paroled. He promised to serve as valet to a Union officer, but when he saw his master’s Home Guard straggle by, he ran after and eventually rejoined them. Two weeks after the close of the war, his master released him, and Dickerson eventually ended up working in Chattanooga, Tennessee for a Jewish shopkeeper, whose son taught Dickerson to read and write.

Dickerson moved to Memphis and was among the students burned out of a mission school in the Memphis Riot of 1866. Before coming to the Fisk Free Colored School, he taught for a time in Wauhatchie, Tennessee, where he was greeted many mornings by racist slogans and threats of violence daubed on the trees in his school yard. Promised twenty-five dollars a month, he was never paid. He quit his teaching job and proceeded to Fisk. While there he proved an ardent student of the Bible with an extraordinary gift for extemporaneous speaking.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Porter, Maggie (1853-1942)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Fisk University Franklin Library's Special Collections
Maggie Porter was born in Lebanon, Tennessee around 1853.  At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Henry Frazier, a wealthy planter from Lebanon, took refuge in Nashville with his family and house slaves, among them a Mrs. Porter, his chief domestic servant, her husband, and three daughters, including her little girl Maggie. When Union troops reached the outskirts of the city, Frazier left the household under Mrs. Porter’s care, taking her husband and two of her daughters along with him, possibly as insurance against her absconding with Maggie behind Union lines. Frazier returned to Nashville, now under Federal control and freed the Porters upon the publication of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Mrs. Porter agreed to remain in his service. But when Frazier refused to pay her wages, she promptly hired herself out to another family.
Sources: 
Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Sheppard, Ella (1851-1915)

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

 

Image Courtesy of Fisk University Special Collections

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

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

Bland, Bobby “Blue” (1930-2013)

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

Blues singer Robert Calvin "Bobby" Bland also known as Bobby "Blue" Bland, was born on January 27, 1930 in Rosemark, Tennessee.  He then moved to Memphis, Tennessee with his mother where he started getting involved with local gospel groups.   In addition to joining the gospel groups Bland started befriending other local aspiring musicians known collectively as the Beale Streeters.   During this time Bland started recording songs but none were successful.   

In 1952 Bland joined the U.S. Army.   Upon completing his service in 1954, he returned to Memphis to continue to pursue his music career.  Back in the Beale Street music scene he began touring with Little Junior Parker, a regionally known blues singer.  Although he started as Parker’s chauffeur, eventually his performing abilities were recognized and he again was allowed to record songs.    

Bland’s first commercially successful release, “Farther up the Road” came in 1957 when the song reached the top 10 on the Rhythm and Blues charts.  The following year he released “Little Boy Blue” which also became a top ten recording and established Bland as a major artist in both the blues and rhythm and blues categories.  A string of hits in the 1960s including “Cry Cry Cry,” “Turn on Your Love Light,” and “I Pity the Fool” made Bland, along with B.B. King, the most commercially successful of the blues artists of that decade.

Sources: 
Peter Guralnick, Lost Highway: Journeys & Arrivals of American Musicians (Boston: D.R. Godine, 1979); Dan Aykroyd, and Ben Manilla, Elwood's Blues: Interviews with the Blues Legends & Stars (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2004); Gavin Petrie, Black Music (London: Hamlyn, 1974).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

King, B.B. (1925 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of B.B. King

Legendary blues singer B.B. King was born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925 in Itta Bena, Mississippi.  King spent his childhood in the Mississippi Delta, but in 1946 left to pursue a music career in Memphis Tennessee.  While in Memphis, King was employed as a singer and disc jockey at radio station WDIA where he was given the radio name “Beale Street Blues Boy” which he shortened to B.B.  In 1949 while at WDIA he recorded many of his early singles for RPM records in Los Angeles.

King began to have significant success as a blues artist in the 1950s with a string of recordings such as “Please Love Me,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Every Day I Have the Blues,” and “Ten Long Years.”  His hits brought him to the attention of Paramount Records which signed the blues performer in 1962.  In November 1964 he recorded Live at the Regal at the Regal Theater in Chicago, at that point one of the most successful blues albums ever produced.

Despite his exposure on a leading record label and his Live album, King’s first national hit came only in 1969 when he released “The Thrill Is Gone” a song that rose on the blues, rhythm and blues and pop charts.  That same year King became the Rolling Stone’s opening act, a development that exposed him to a much wider audience.

Sources: 
B.B. King and David Ritz, Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B.B. King (New York: Avon Books, 1996); Sebastian Danchin, Blues Boy: The Life and Music of B.B. King (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998; B.B. King Website, www.bbking.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barry, Marion Jr. (1936-2014)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marion Barry Jr., a civil rights activist and later three term mayor of Washington D.C., was born on March 6, 1936, in Itta Bena, Mississippi. His parents, Marion Barry and Mattie Barry, were sharecroppers; the family lived in relative poverty. When Marion was eight years old, his mother took the family to live in Memphis, Tennessee.

Barry graduated from high school in Memphis and then in 1958 earned his bachelor’s degree at Le Moyne College, a small black college in the city. He received a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Le Moyne College in Nashville in 1960.  Barry then completed three years of a doctoral program in chemistry at the University of Tennessee.

Sources: 

Jonetta Rose Barras, The Last of the Black Emperor: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in the New Age of Black Leaders (Baltimore: Bancroft Press, 1998); Councilmember Ward 8, http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/BARRY/about/default.htm; The Washington Post, “Marion Barry: The Making of a Mayor,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dc/barry/barry.htm. "Marion Berry 4-Time Mayor of D.C., dies at 78," The Washington Post, Nov 23, 2014.

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Napier, James Carroll (1845-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Carroll Napier, a 19th century Nashville businessman and civil rights leader, was born near Nashville, Tennessee on June 9, 1845 to William C. and Jane E. Napier who were both free blacks.  Napier attended a private school for free black children in Nashville and then in 1859 enrolled in predominately black Wilberforce College before transferring to integrated Oberlin College.   

Napier left Oberlin College in 1867 without a degree and returned to Nashville, Tennessee.   Drawn to opportunities available to him in the emerging Reconstruction era, he served as the commissioner of refugees and abandoned lands in Davidson County under the Freedmen’s bureau for a year.  He then moved to Washington, D.C. to become the first African American to hold the position of State Department Clerk.  Encouraged by John Mercer Langston, the Dean of the Howard University Law School, Napier enrolled in Howard where he received a Bachelor in Law (LL.B) in 1872.  He moved back to Nashville to start his own practice.  There he married Nettie Langston, the only daughter of John Mercer Langston, in 1878.  They had one adopted daughter, Carrie Langston Napier.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Ed.  Black Women in America: The Early Years, 1619-1899.  (New York: Facts on File, Inc, 1997); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Haynes, George Edmund (1880-1960)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Author, educator and organizer George Edmund Haynes was a social scientist, religious leader and pioneer in social work education for African Americans. Born in 1880 to Louis and Mattie Haynes in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, George Haynes was the oldest of two children of a domestic worker mother and day laborer father. He was educated in the segregated and unequal school system of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  Eventually his family moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas to pursue greater educational opportunities for the Haynes children.  
Sources: 
Nancy J. Weiss, The National Urban League, 1910-1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Hayes, Isaac (1942-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Stax Museum
of American Soul Music

Academy Award-winning composer and musician Isaac Hayes, Jr. was born to Isaac Sr. and Eula Hayes on August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee. Hayes began his career at the age of 20 when he joined Stax Records as a studio musician. By the late 1960s he was a songwriter/producer, crafting hit singles for Sam and Dave and other Stax acts.

A year after emerging as a solo artist, Hayes’s debut album Hot Buttered Soul (1969) took soul music in a new direction – incorporating spoken segments (he called raps), fewer, longer songs accompanied by orchestras, and eccentric album covers that featured what was to become Hayes’s signature shaved head and gold chains upon his bare chest.

Although his success in the music industry continued with his follow up album Black Moses, Hayes simultaneously pursued a film and television career. In 1971, Hayes created the score for the film Shaft. Recording the sound track in just four days, Shaft rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Chart and garnered a Grammy and an Academy Award for Best Song and Best Score in 1972, making Hayes the first African American composer to win an Oscar. He also appeared in films such as Shaft (1971); Truck Turner (1974), his only starring role.

Sources: 

Isaac Hayes Biography, http://www.filmreference.com/film/84/Isaac-Hayes.html; “Isaac Puts Chef Behind Him,” New York Post, January 24, 2007; The Vancouver Sun (12 August 2008); http://www.isaachayes.com/myframes.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wilson, James Finley (1881--1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

Sources: 

“James Finley Wilson,” Journal of Negro History 37 (1952): 356-358; “ Wilson Re-Elected Grand Exalted Ruler,” California Eagle, September 13, 1929; Rayford Logan, “James Finley Wilson,” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rowan, Carl T. (1925–2000)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Randolph, Lillian (1915-1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Lillian Randolph and Daughter,
Barbara Sanders, 1952
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Lillian Randolph was a 20th Century actress who routinely, yet proudly, presented the role of the black domestic in film and radio and defended her right to maintain such characters in an intelligent fashion for much of her career.  Randolph was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1915. She first entered the world of entertainment as a singer at WJR Radio in Detroit in the early 1930s.

In 1936, Randolph migrated to Los Angeles and made her debut as a singer at the Club Alabam. Five years later, she landed the role of the maid, Birdie, on the radio and TV series The Great Gildersleeve, and soon became one of the most sought after black actresses of the period.  Randolph portrayed Birdie until 1957. She simultaneously played the role of Daisy, the housekeeper on The Billie Burke (radio) situation comedy from 1943 to 1946, and title role of the radio show, Beulah, in the early 1950s when Hattie McDaniel became ill. Also in the early 1950s she performed on the Amos n’ Andy show, recreating the role of Madame Queen, which she first played on the radio version of the series.

Sources: 

Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Encyclopedia, (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988); Christopher P. Lehman, The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008); Anonymous, Lillian Randolph, Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Press Release, nd; Lillian Randolph, Letters and Pictures to the Editor, Ebony, April 1946, vol.1, p. 51.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Pace, Harry (1884-1943)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Harry Herbert Pace was the founder of the first black record company, Pace Phonograph Corporation which sold recordings under the Black Swan Records label. He was born on January 6, 1884 in Covington, Georgia the son of Charles Pace and Nancy Ferris Pace. His father, a blacksmith by trade, died while Harry was still an infant leaving him to be raised by his mother. Pace graduated from elementary school when he was twelve and finished at Atlanta University seven years later as valedictorian.  W.E.B. Du Bois was one of his instructors.  After graduation he worked in a printing company.  He also worked for banking and insurance companies first in Atlanta and later in Memphis.   

In 1912, after moving to Memphis, Pace met W.C. Handy. The two men became friends, writing songs together. During this period Pace met and later married Ethlynde Bibb. Pace and Handy formed the Pace and Handy Music Company together and work with composers such as William Grant Sill and Fletcher Henderson. Pace moved to New York to manage the sheet music business but later decided to form a record company.

Pace Phonograph Corporation Inc. was founded in March, 1921 with $30,000 in borrowed capital. The label Black Swan Records was named after Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield a famous 19th Century entertainer known as the “Black Swan” for her singing.

Sources: 

Jitu K. Weusi, The Rise and Fall of Black Swan Records, http://www.redhotjazz.com/blackswan.html; Joan Potter, African American Firsts, (New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Group, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Charles S. (1893-1956)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Mason, Charles Harrison (1866–1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Charles H. Mason &
(COGIC Museum)

Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, the founder of the Church of God In Christ, was born September 8, 1866 near Memphis, Tennessee.  His parents Jerry and Eliza Mason were ex-slaves.  When Charles was twelve years old his family moved to Plumerville, Arkansas due to a Yellow-Fever epidemic that struck the Memphis area.  While in Arkansas, the Masons lived and worked as tenant farmers on the John Watson Plantation. Jerry, incapacitated with Yellow-Fever, passed in 1879.  The following year Charles, at the age of fourteen, was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  He recovered from the disease some months later.  

Sources: 

Jerry Ramsey, The Late Apostle of C.H. Mason Speaks (Memphis: COGIC Inc., 1984); http://www.cogic.com/history.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Church Of God In Christ, Memphis (1907- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
1938 Old Holy Convocation
Image Courtesy of Charles H. Mason & Mother Lizzie Robinson Museum

The Church of God In Christ (COGIC) with over six million members worldwide is one the largest Pentecostal churches in the world.  It was founded by Bishop Charles Harrison Mason in 1907.

Charles Harrison Mason began his religious life in the 1890s as an ordained Baptist minister in Arkansas.  However he traveled to Los Angeles, California in 1906 to participate in the Azusa Street Revival led by black evangelist Rev. William Seymour.  Inspired by what he heard in Los Angeles,  Mason returned to Arkansas ready to challenge many Baptist doctrines.     

Sources: 

Charles Edwin Jones, Black Holiness: A Guide to the Study of Black
Participation in Wesleyan perfectionist and Glossolalic Pentecostal
Movements
(Metuchen N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1987).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Reed, Ishmael (1938 - )

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

Ishmael Reed is an African American novelist, essayist, playwright, satirist, editor, publisher, and poet. He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on February 22, 1938 to Henry Lenoir and Thelma Coleman. Lenoir and Coleman moved to Buffalo, New York where Reed grew up.  When his mother divorced Lenoir and married Bennie Reed, Ishmael took his stepfather's last name.  

Reed enrolled in Millard Fillmore College in New York in 1956, taking night courses.  Eventually he transferred to day classes at University of Buffalo with the encouragement of his English instructor.  He attended the University of Buffalo between 1956 and 1960. Unfortunately due to financial reasons Reed withdrew and did not receive a degree. Although later, in 1995, the University of Buffalo (now the State University of New York at Buffalo) awarded him an honorary Doctorate in Letters.  In 1962 Reed moved to New York's Lower East Side and started a career as a journalist. In 1967, after he published his first novel, The Freelance Pallbearers, Reed moved to San Francisco, California.

Sources: 

Caroline Bokinsky, “Ishmael Reed.” Dictionary of Literary Biography:
American Poets Since WWII. Vol. 5 Part 2
, Donald J. Greiner, Editor,
(Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1980); Joyce Pettis, “Ishmael Reed.”
African American Poets: Lives, Works, and Sources. Westport,
Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002); Robert Elliot Fox, Modern American
Poetry: About Ishmael Reed's Life and Career
. University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign.
<http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/reed/about.htm>
retrieved on 2009-03-04;

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Phyllis Wheatley Women's Clubs (1895- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Phyllis Wheatley YWCA Girls Reserve, Seattle, ca. 1940
Black Heritage Society of Washington (Seattle)
The Phyllis Wheatley Women’s Clubs were named after Phyllis Wheatley, a slave poet who lived from 1753 to 1784. The first Phyllis Wheatley Women’s Club was established in 1895 in Nashville, Tennessee. The founders sought to improve the status of African American women in American society by promoting a proper Victorian image for the African American societal elite and by work on behalf of the poor to improve their condition. Services provided by the clubs included lodging for women, homes for the elderly and infirmed, educational and recreational programs for youth, and a forum for discussing political issues.
Sources: 
Nina Mjagkij, Organizing Black America (New York, NY: Garland Publishing Inc., 2001); Nina Mjagkij, Portraits of African-American Life Since 1895 (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 2003); Deborah Gray White, Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves 1894-1994 (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

Bailey, DeFord (1899-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
David C. Morton and Charles K. Wolfe, DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991); Rick Petreycik, "The Harmonica Wizard," American Legacy Magazine (Summer 2007), pp. 15-21; http://www.tnstate.edu/library/digital/bailey.htm; http://www.pbs.org/deford/biography/index.html

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Turner, Tina (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: 
Public Domain
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee  and eight-time Grammy Award-winning singer Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939 in Nutbush, Tennessee. The youngest daughter of a family of sharecroppers, Turner's father, Floyd Richard Bullock, was an African American Baptist deacon and her mother, Zelma Currie, was a farmer of part-Cherokee and Navajo descent.

At the age of 10, Turner and her older sister were sent to live with their grandparents who also lived in Nutbush. In 1956, they moved to St. Louis, Missouri to live with their estranged mother. During the same year, Turner was introduced to guitarist Ike Turner and his band Kings of Rhythm in an East St. Louis nightclub after spontaneously performing a song with them. She joined the group the next year, and adopted the stage name "Tina" in 1960. The band became The Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

Sources: 
Mark Bego, Tina Turner: Break Every Rule (Lanham: Taylor Trade Pub., 2003); Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); The Biography Channel Website, http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/home.html;
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Patton, Georgia E.L. (1864-1900)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Georgia E. L. Patton, "Brief Autobiography of a Colored Woman Who Has Recently Emigrated to Liberia," Liberia 3 (Nov. 1893); Mary Krane Derr, "Georgia E.L. Patton," in African American National Biography: Volume Six, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, ed. Alfreda M. Duster (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Le Moyne-Owen College (1862- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Le Moyne-Owen College is a private, historically black, four year, co-educational, liberal arts institution located in Memphis, Tennessee. It is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.  The institution can trace its roots back to 1862, when the American Missionary Association (AMA) sent Lucinda Humphrey to Camp Shiloh to open an elementary school for freedmen and runaway slaves shortly after federal troops, commanded by Ulysses S. Grant, occupied West Tennessee.  In 1863, the school then known as Lincoln Chapel, was moved to Memphis, but was destroyed by fire in 1866 during the anti-black race riots following the withdrawal of federal troops.  

Sources: 
Addie Louise Joyce Butler, The Distinctive Black College: Talladega, Tuskegee and Morehouse  (Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1977); Toni Hodge-Wright, The Handbook of Historically Black Colleges and Universities  (Seattle: Jireh and Associates, 1992); LeMoyne-Owen College Webpage, http://www.loc.edu/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Tennessee State University (1912- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
First Faculty at Tennessee A. & I. Normal School, 1912
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Tennessee State University (TSU) is a historically black, comprehensive, four-year co-educational university located on a 500 acre campus in Nashville, Tennessee.  With over 10,000 students, including nearly 1,900 graduate students, it is one of the largest historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the nation.  It is the only state funded HBCU in Tennessee.

TSU’s history began when the Tennessee State General Assembly passed an act creating the Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School in 1909.  The school began serving a student body of 247 in June of 1912.  In 1922 the school was raised to the status of a four-year teachers college and empowered to grant bachelor’s degrees.  The first bachelor’s degrees were awarded in 1924, the same year that the school changed its name to the Agricultural and Industrial State Normal College.  Three years later the word “Normal” was dropped from the name.

Sources: 
Tennessee State University Webpage, http://www.tnstate.edu/; Toni Hodge-Wright, The Handbook of Historically Black Colleges and Universities  (Seattle: Jireh and Associates, 1992);  Faustine C. Jones-Wilson, Charles A. Asbury, Margo Okazawa-Rey, D. Kamili Anderson, Sylvia M. Jacobs & Michael Fultz, Encyclopedia of African-American Education (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996). 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lane College (1882- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Student and Teacher at Lane College
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lane College is a co-ed, liberal arts college located in Jackson, Tennessee.  The college was founded in 1882 by Bishop Isaac Lane, a former slave and bishop of the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church.  Lane College is the first institution established by the Methodist Episcopal Church and one of the oldest historically black colleges.

The idea of Lane College came in 1878 when Reverend J.K. Daniels presented a resolution to establish a school at the Tennessee Annual Conference of the CME Church held in the Capers Chapel C.M.E. Church in Nashville.  The school originally opened in November 1882 as the C.M.E. High School with Jennifer Lane, daughter of Bishop Lane, as its first teacher.  On June 22, 1884, the school changed its name to the Lane Institute after it was chartered under the laws of the State of Tennessee, and expanded its curriculum to focus on preparing ministers and teachers. In 1887, the first class graduated from Lane Institute.  That year also saw the appointment of Reverend T.F. Saunders as the school’s first president.  
Sources: 
Lane College History, http://www.lanecollege.edu/lanepages.asp?V_menu=01&p_num=04 (Official site); Kimberly Davis, “Traditional Values and the Power of Potential in the New South,” Ebony, 60:11 (September 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Meharry Medical College (1876- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Meharry Medical College, ca. 1945
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Meharry Medical College, founded in 1876 in Nashville, Tennessee, is the second oldest medical school for African Americans in the nation.   The college was established by the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Freedman’s Aid Society in 1876 when Samuel Meharry, a Scots-Irish immigrant salt trader who had been helped by a former slave family, gave a $15,000 donation in their honor.  The Church and the Society used the donation to establish a program to provide medical training for former slaves.     

Meharry originally functioned as the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College in Nashville.  The department had its first graduate in 1877 and the following year there were three graduates.  In 1886 the Dental Department was founded followed in 1889 by the Pharmacy Department.  In 1915 the Medical Department received a state charger and Meharry became an independent institution.  Hubbard Hospital, named after George W. Hubbard, one of the first faculty members, was built in 1917.
Sources: 
Meharry Medical College, http://www.mmc.edu/ (official website); Reavis L Mitchell, Jr., Meharry Medical College (1876-), http://www.tnstate.edu/library/digital/meharry.htm; StateUniversity: Meharry Medical College, http://www.stateuniversity.com/universities/TN/Meharry_Medical_College.html; BrainTrack College & University Directory: Meharry Medical College, http://www.braintrack.com/college/u/meharry-medical-college; CityTownInfo: Meharry Medical College, http://www.citytowninfo.com/school-profiles/meharry-medical-college.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Settle

Fisk University (1866- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Fisk University Students (including W.E.B. DuBois) and Faculty
in Front of Jubilee Hall, 1887
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Toni P. Anderson, Tell Them We Are Singing for Jesus: The Original Fisk Jubilee Singers and Christian Reconstruction, 1871-1878 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2009); Eyes on The Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965, DVD, directed by Judith Vecchione (PBS, 2010); Fisk University Official Website -  http://www.fisk.edu
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Knoxville College (1875- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Knoxville College, ca. 1900
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Knoxville College was founded in 1875 as a missionary effort of the United Presbyterian Church of North America in order to promote religious, moral, and educational leadership among freed men and women. Located north of downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, in the city’s Mechanicsville community, the college is situated on 39 acres and houses 17 buildings on its campus. A historically black college (HBCU), Knoxville College is currently a private, church-related, four-year, coeducational, liberal arts institution, and is a United Negro College Fund member school.
Sources: 
Knoxville College website, http://www.knoxvillecollege.edu; Toni Hodge-Wright, The Handbook of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Seattle: Jireh and Associates, 1992); The Tennessean Newspaper Website, http://www.Tennessean.com.
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

Stax Records (1957- )

Vignette Type: 
Misc
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Stax Records is an American record company known for its talented, and often integrated, rhythm and blues (R&B) musicians. Founded by Estelle Axton and her brother Jim Stewart in 1957 as Satellite Records, in 1960 the company moved into the Capitol Theater in Memphis, Tennessee. Later that year, a recording made in the new studio of Rufus and Carla Thomas's song “Cause I Love You” gained popularity in the Memphis area which led to a series of deals giving Atlantic Records the distribution rights to future Satellite releases.  The deal provided the young company with a national audience. With national distribution came the revelation that another “Satellite Records” predated the one in Memphis and Stewart and Axton changed their company’s name to Stax, a combination of the first letters of their last names.

Sources: 
Rob Bowman, Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records (New York: Schirmer Books, 1997); Tremolo Productions, Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story (Beverly Hills: Concord, 2007).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Hooks, Benjamin L. (1925-2010)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Benjamin L. Hooks is most notably known for serving as leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1977 to 1992.  Born on January 31, 1925 in Memphis, Tennessee to Robert and Bessie White Hooks, he was the fifth of seven children.

Hooks grew up in racially segregated Tennessee. He attended LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis from 1941 to 1943 but graduated from Howard University in 1944.  He then joined the U.S. Army and recalled watching Italian prisoners he guarded eat at restaurants that excluded him and other black soldiers.  He left the army in 1945 as a staff sergeant and soon afterwards enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago to study law because no Tennessee university would accept him because of his race.  Graduating in 1948 with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) , Hooks returned to Memphis.  Four years later he married schoolteacher Frances Dancy in Memphis.  

In 1956 Hooks became a Baptist minister and one year later joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) then headed by Dr. Martin Luther King.   By the early 1960s Hooks, now a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), helped organize sit-ins in Memphis.  By the late 1960s Hooks was pastor at Great Middle Baptist Church in Memphis and at Greater Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Detroit.

Sources: 
Steven A. Holmes, “Benjamin L. Hooks, Leader of N.A.A.C.P. for 15 Eventful Years, Is Dead at 85,” New York Times (April 16, 2010);  http://benhooks.memphis.edu/biography.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wortham, Anne (1941 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Anne Wortham
Anne Wortham, a prolific academic who has opposed aspects of the traditional civil rights movement, was born on November 26th 1941 in Jackson, Tennessee. The first of five children, she was raised in the segregated South where her parents instilled in her religious beliefs and the importance of education, self-reliance and self-improvement. As a youngster Wortham took piano lessons and developed a life-long interest in classical music and opera as a result of listening to radio broadcasts of performances of the Metropolitan Opera.  Her mother died when she was ten years old, and Wortham adopted the homemaker role and cared for her family while attending school and graduating high school as an honor student.

In 1959 Wortham began studying at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) with the goal of becoming a secondary school teacher. While in college she participated in Operations Crossroads Africa in Ethiopia during summer 1962.  Following graduation, from 1963-1965, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania. Seeing the lack of economic development in Africa, Wortham began to question the rhetoric of the U.S. civil rights movement and forged her own ideas about freedom. Through her exploration of the writings of philosopher Ayn Rand and economist Ludwig von Mises Wortham grappled with the alienation she felt from those around her who wished to see any black person as an embodiment of the race, without considering the possibility of diverse backgrounds and views among blacks. 
Sources: 
Anne Wortham, The Other Side of Racism: A Philosophical Study of Black Race Consciousness (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1981); Karen Reedstrom, “Interview with Anne Wortham” Full Context Magazine, March 1994; Patrick Cox, “I’m not Supposed to Exist,” Reason Magazine August 1984; Clarence Thomas, “With Liberty…for all,” Lincoln Review, Winter-Spring, 1982.
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

Haley, Alex (1921-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Alex Haley, Alex Haley: The Man Who Traced America’s Roots (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, 2007); Alan McConagha, “Alex Haley, Author of ‘Roots,’ is Dead,” The Washington Times (February 11, 1992, pg A1); “Alex Haley Biography,” Biography.com, accessed 17 September 2010, http://www.biography.com/articles/Alex-Haley-39420.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Highlander Research and Education Center (1932- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Martin Luther King Speaking at the 25th Anniversary
Celebration of the Highlander Folk School, 1957
Image Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society, WHi 52822
The Highlander Research and Education Center formerly known as Highlander Folk School is a leadership school and cultural training center located in New Market, Tennessee. It was primarily known as a training center for labor and civil rights activists from across the United States from the 1930s to the 1960s.  The center which, was  originally located in the town of Monteagle, Tennessee, was founded in 1932 by Miles Horton, a political activist, Don West, an educator, and James A. Dombrowski, a Methodist minister.  Its most famous students include Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, James Bevel, Ralph Abernathy, and current Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

The residential workshops at the center's two-hundred-acre campus provided training for generations of activists.  These workshops lasted anywhere from two days to two months and attracted up to three dozen organizational leaders from various cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds. The workshops focused on concrete, detailed issues and tactics in an effort to address specific social, racial, and economic problems that were facing various communities.
Sources: 
John M.Glen, Highlander: No Ordinary School (Knoxville,University of Tennessee Press, 1996); Myles Horton and Paulo Friere, We Make The Road by Walking (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Smith, Bessie (1894-1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Along with Ma Rainey and Mamie Smith, singer Bessie Smith helped pioneer the genre of blues music and propel it into popular culture. Her early death at the age of 43 cut short a career that influenced the direction of American music and contributed to the success of African Americans in the performing arts.

Smith was born into poverty most likely on April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to William Smith, a preacher, and Laura Smith. Both parents died when Bessie was young. To help support her orphaned siblings, Bessie began her career as a Chattanooga street musician, singing in a duo with her brother Andrew to earn money to support their indigent family.

In 1912 at the age of 18 she joined the traveling Moses Stokes Company, where she met and became friends with Georgia blues performer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey. Smith traveled with the show as a singer and dancer and then as a performer with the Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA), the leading vaudeville circuit for black American performers during the 1920s and 1930s. With TOBA, Smith gradually built up a regional and eventually a national following. In 1921 she was ready to record, but early auditions with recording companies like Okeh were unsuccessful.
Sources: 
Chris Albertson, Bessie (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003); Angela Y. Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (New York: Random House, 1998); Nanette de Jong, “Smith, Bessie (15 Apr. 1894-26 Sept. 1937),” American National Biography Online (New York: Oxford University Press, February 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Distant Whistles, Muted Flutes: Ada Wright in Glasgow, 1932

Ada Wright Welcomed By Glasgow Workers, July 4, 1932
Image Courtesy of Irene Brown

In the following account writer Irene Brown recalls through her father's photo the visit of Ada Wright, mother to Roy and Andy Wright, two of the nine Scottsboro Boys accused of rape in 1931.  Her account appears below.

Memories.  That’s all that’s left when someone dies.  I am lucky.  My parents left me good memories and they also left me hundreds of photographs.  One day, I came across a photo of my Dad’s that I must have seen before but somehow its significance had failed to register.  It was a press photo with the stamp ‘copyright The Bulletin,’ which was a sister paper of the Glasgow Herald, one of Scotland’s national newspapers.  It looked like the start of a demonstration which I assumed was in Glasgow as the photo had been taken by a Glasgow newspaper.  The crowd was made up of flat-capped working class men and bareheaded boys.  Two young men near the front were playing flutes.   One of these young men was my father, Duncan Brown.

Summary: 
In the following account writer Irene Brown recalls through her father's photo the visit of Ada Wright, mother to Roy and Andy Wright, two of the nine Scottsboro Boys accused of rape in 1931.  Her account appears below.
Sources: 
Susan D. Pennybacker, From Scottsboro to Munich : Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009); Glasgow Herald, July 5, 1932, p. 3, Daily Worker, July 7, 1932, pp. 1-2.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tate, Mary Magdalena Lewis (1871-1930)

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

Yardley, William Francis (1844-1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Francis Yardley was a politician, businessman, lawyer, and civil rights advocate in post-Civil War Tennessee. Born free on January 8, 1844 to an Irish mother and a black father in Knoxville, Tennessee, he was abandoned at the doorstep of the Yardley family, a prominent white family who took him in, named, and raised him. The Yardleys apprenticed young William out to learn to read and write until he turned 21.  He was also mentored by Thomas Humes, the rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Sources: 
Jack Neely, “The Singular Career of William Francis Yardley,” MetroPulse, Vol. 12, No. 8 (Knoxville, Tennessee: Feb 21, 2002); Jack Neely, “A Progressive Age,” MetroPulse (Knoxville, Tennessee: Sept 3, 2008); West Tennessee Historical Society, The West Tennessee Historical Society Papers Issue 49 (Memphis: West Tennessee Historical Society, 1995);   http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entry.php?rec=1544
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Berry, Mary Frances (1938- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Mary Frances Berry
Mary Frances Berry is a scholar, professor, author, and civil rights activist who served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Berry was born in Nashville, Tennessee on February 17, 1938 to parents Frances Southall Berry and George Ford Berry.  Due to her mother’s poverty and the desertion of her father, she and her brothers spent time in an orphanage. She attended the segregated public schools in Nashville but in the 10th grade she found a mentor in her teacher, Minerva Hawkins, who challenged Berry to excel in academics.

Berry graduated with honors from Pearl High School in Nashville in 1956 and began college at Fisk University. After transferring to Howard University she earned her B.A. in history in 1961.  She earned a history Ph.D. in 1966 from the University of Michigan. In 1968 Berry became a faculty member at the University of Maryland and supervised the establishment of an African American Studies Program at that institution.

Berry earned her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1970 and became the acting director of the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Maryland.  From 1974 to 1976 she served as University Provost, becoming the first African American woman to hold that position.
Sources: 
David De Leon, Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994); Catherine Ellis and Stephen Drury Smith, Say it Loud!: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African American Identity (New York: New Press, 2010); Mary Frances Berry, And Justice for All: The United States Commission on Civil Rights and the Continuing Struggle for Freedom in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Elbert (1908-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Elbert Williams is the first known member of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to be murdered for his civil rights activities.  Williams was born on October 15, 1908 in rural Haywood County, Tennessee, the son of farmer Albert Williams and wife Mary Green Williams.

In 1929 Williams married Annie Mitchell. After trying farming, the couple moved in the early 1930s to Brownsville, the county seat, where they worked for a laundry until Williams’ murder in 1940.

In 1939 the Williamses became charter members of Brownsville’s NAACP Branch.

On May 6, 1940, five members of Brownsville’s NAACP Branch unsuccessfully attempted to register to vote. No African American had been allowed to register to vote in Haywood County during the 20th Century. The next day, the threats began.
Sources: 
Patricia Sullivan, Lift Every Voice, The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: The New Press, 2009); Richard A. Couto, Lifting the Veil, A Political History of Struggles for Emancipation (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1993); Raye Springfield, The Legacy of Tamar, Courage and Faith in an African American Family (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gloucester, John (1776-1821)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
00
Image Ownership, Public Domain
John Gloucester, founder of the first black Presbyterian Church in the United States, was born enslaved in 1776 in Tennessee.  Despite that enslavement, Rev. Gideon Blackburn, a young evangelical Presbyterian minister with abolitionist sympathies, noticed that young Gloucester—before his 21st birthday, and without formal religious training—had already converted a number of black and white people to the Christian faith.

Blackburn was impressed and purchased Gloucester in the hope of freeing him.  When Blackburn petitioned the state of Tennessee for Gloucester’s freedom, his petition was denied.  The Legislature took note that Reverend Blackburn planned to train him to become a Presbyterian minister.  While the legislature had long accepted the practice of enslaved preachers giving sermons to other enslaved people and of white preachers ministering to slaves, a free black man preaching to slaves, in their view, represented a challenge to the slave system since those who were listening might hear and interpret freedom in Christ to mean freedom in life as well.
Sources: 
Shelton B. Waters, We Have This Ministry: A History of the First African Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia: Gloucester Memorial and Historical Society, 1994); http://westminstersermons.blogspot.com/2010/02/john-gloucester-and-first-african.html; http://www.nationalabolitionhalloffameandmuseum.org/african-american-attendee.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Wheeler, Emma Rochelle (1882-1957)

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

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

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

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

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

From Memphis and Mogadishu: The History of African Americans in Martin Luther King County, Washington, 1858-2014

In the extended article that appears below historians Daudi Abe and Quintard Taylor explore the history of African Americans in Martin Luther King County from 1858 to 2014.  They analyze the forces which encouraged people of African ancestry to settle in the county and discuss the rapid political, social, and economic changes that its black residents have faced since the first arrival, Manuel Lopes, came to the county in 1858.

With 119,801 people of African ancestry in a total population of 1,931,249 people, Martin Luther King, Jr. County is the most populous county in the state of Washington and is home to 29% of the state’s inhabitants and half of Washington’s black population.  It is also the only county in the United States named after the 20th Century civil rights icon.  

First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, Nashville, Tennessee (1835- )

Vignette Type: 
Churches
History Type: 
African American History
Sanctuary, First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill lays claim to the designation as the oldest continuously operating African American church in Tennessee because it traces its origin back to First Baptist Colored Mission which first met to hold prayer services in 1835.  Up to that point Nashville’s black Baptists, both enslaved and free, worshipped at First Baptist Church which was founded in 1824 as the first Baptist Church in the city.  In fact ten years after its founding, African Americans comprised half the congregation.

The following year, 1835, black congregants received permission to hold separate prayer services. In October 1847 black members of First Baptist were allowed to rent an old school building where they conducted services three Sundays each month.  

Sources: 
Bobby L. Lovett, The African American History of Nashville, Tennessee, 1780-1930 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1999); Mechal Sobal, “They Can Never Both Prosper Together:  Black and White Baptist in Antebellum Nashville, Tennessee,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol. 38 (3), Fall 1979, pp. 296-307; http://ww2.tnstate.edu/library/digital/FIRSTCB.HTM; http://www.sprucestreetbaptist.org/page1/page1.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Eastern Kentucky University

Spruce Street Baptist Church (1835- )

Vignette Type: 
Churches
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Spruce Street Baptist Church is one of the oldest black churches in Nashville, Tennessee. It is also one of three churches to evolve out of Nashville’s First Colored Baptist Church (1865-1891).  In 1835 First Colored Baptist Church (FCBC) began with separate prayer services for the black members of First Baptist Church.  By 1848 it became a church mission when the white congregation of First Baptist Church, Nashville permitted its black members to hold separate religious services and conduct church business autonomously from the white congregation.  Nelson G. Merry, a manumitted slave who served as a church sexton at First Baptist Church and who was ordained a minister in November 1853, became the first African American to lead the mission.
Sources: 
Mechal Sobal, “They Can Never Both Prosper Together:  Black and White Baptists in Antebellum Nashville, Tennessee,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol. 38:3 (Fall 1979), pp. 296-307; http://ww2.tnstate.edu/library/digital/FIRSTCB.HTM; http://www.sprucestreetbaptist.org/page1/page1.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Eastern Kentucky University

1864

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
The Fort Pillow Massacre takes place in West Tennessee on April 12. Approximately 300 of the 585 soldiers of the Union garrison at Fort Pillow are killed including many after the Union forces surrender. Only 14 Confederate soldiers die in the battle.

1865

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
The Ku Klux Klan is formed on December 24th in Pulaski, Tennessee by six educated, middle class former Confederate veterans.  The Klan soon adopts terror tactics to thwart the aspirations of the formerly enslaved and their supporters.

1866

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
Fisk University is founded in Nashville, Tennessee on January 9.

1866

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
On May 1-3, white civilians and police in Memphis, Tennessee kill forty-six African Americans and injure many more, burning ninety houses, twelve schools, and four churches in what will be known as the Memphis Massacre.

1871

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
On October 6, Fisk University's Jubilee Singers begin their first national tour. The Jubilee Singers become world-famous singers of black spirituals, performing before the Queen of England and the Emperor of Japan. The money they earn finances the construction of Jubilee Hall on the Fisk University campus.

1875

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
On February 23rd Jim Crow laws are enacted in Tennessee. Similar statutes had existed in the North before the Civil War.

1876

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
On October 13 Meharry Medical College is founded in Nashville by the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Church.

1881

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
In January the Tennessee State Legislature votes to segregate railroad passenger cars. Tennessee's action is followed by Florida (1887), Mississippi (1888), Texas (1889), Louisiana (1890), Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Georgia (1891), South Carolina (1898), North Carolina (1899), Virginia (1900), Maryland (1904), and Oklahoma (1907).

1905

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Nashville African Americans boycott streetcars to protest racial segregation.

1946

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Dr. Charles S. Johnson becomes the first African American president of Fisk University in Nashville.

1968

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4. In the wake of the assassination 125 cities in 29 states experience uprisings. By April 11, 46 people are killed and 35,000 are injured in these confrontations.

1992

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
In March Willie W. Herenton was elected the first African American mayor of Memphis, Tennessee.

1894

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 

1912

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
W.C. Handy published "Memphis Blues" sheet music in Memphis

1946

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Charles Spurgeon Johnson, President of Fisk University in Nashville, becomes the first African American President of the Southern Sociological Society.
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