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Mississippi

Davis Bend, Mississippi (1865-1887)

Vignette Type: 
Places
History Type: 
African American History

Davis Bend, Mississippi was an all-black town near Vicksburg, sometimes referred to as Davis Bend colony. It was a 4,000-acre cooperative community made up of former enslaved African Americans seeking equality, justice, and race pride in a society they called their own. In 1865, this community was one of the first black towns to develop after the Civil War. The architect of Davis Bend was African American Benjamin Montgomery. Prior to 1865, when Davis Bend was simply referred to as the “Joseph Davis plantation,” an enslaved Montgomery functioned as its overseer and owned the plantation store. After the war, Davis sold the land that his plantations rested on to Montgomery for $300,000 in gold at a 6 percent interest rate.

The largest plantation at Davis Bend was Hurricane. In 1872, Benjamin Montgomery’s son, Isaiah, ran Hurricane as its property manager, informal counsel, and diplomat to white neighbors, agents, and suppliers from Vicksburg, Cincinnati (Ohio), New Orleans (Louisiana), and St. Louis (Missouri).

Sources: 
Leon Litwack and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991); and David H. Jackson, A Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine: Charles Banks of Mississippi (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Montgomery, Isaiah T. (1847-1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Isaiah Thornton Montgomery was an African American leader best known for founding the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi and for his public endorsement of black disenfranchisement.  Montgomery was born enslaved on May 21, 1847 to Benjamin Thornton and Mary Lewis Montgomery on the Hurricane Plantation at Davis Bend, an area along the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Hurricane Plantation was owned by Joseph E.
Sources: 
http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/55/isaiah-t-montgomery-1847-1924-part-I; Leon Litwack and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991); David H. Jackson, A Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine: Charles Banks of Mississippi (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Bell, James ["Cool Papa"] (1903-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Thomas Bell was born May 17, 1903, in Starkville, Mississippi. Playing baseball as a 19 year-old rookie Bell earned the nickname “Cool Papa” after proving to his older teammates that he was not intimidated by playing professionally in front of large crowds. Signing with the St. Louis Stars in 1922, Bell entered professional baseball as a pitcher, reportedly throwing a wicked curveball and fade-away knuckleball.

The speed of Bell would become apparent when he beat the Chicago American Giants Jimmy Lyons in a race for the title of “fastest man in the league.” He immediately switched to center field, where he would play shallow and always manage to run down long hits. Bell stayed with the Stars until 1930 when the league disbanded, and led them to league titles in 1928 and 1930.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mound Bayou (1887- )

Vignette Type: 
Places
History Type: 
African American History
Mound Bayou Residents in Front of Store, Late 1930s
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Mound Bayou was an all black town in the Yazoo Delta in Northwest Mississippi. It was founded during the spring of 1887 by twelve pioneers from Davis Bend, a fledgling black colony impacted by falling agricultural prices, natural disasters, and hostile race relations. This migration movement was led by Isaiah Montgomery, former patriarch of Davis Bend. Purchased from the Louisville, New Orleans, and Texas Railroad (L, NO & T), Mound Bayou bordered a new rail line between Memphis, Tennessee and Vicksburg. From 1890 to 1915, Mound Bayou was a land of promise for African Americans. Encapsulated in this “promise” were self-help, race pride, economic opportunity, and social justice, in a self-segregated community designed for blacks to have minimum contact with whites until integration was a viable option to black freedom.

Sources: 
Leon Litwack and August Meier (eds.), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991); and David H. Jackson, A Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine: Charles Banks of Mississippi (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Moore, Archie (1913-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Tracy Callis

One of the great light heavyweights of all time, Archie Moore, a.k.a., the “Old Mongoose,” was born under the name of Archibald Wright on December 13, 1913 in Benoit, Mississippi. Archie turned professional in 1936, originally operating in the middleweight ranks, but ultimately moving up into the light heavyweight class by 1945. He fought a total of 222 recorded bouts over more than 27 years in the ring. He campaigned against most of the toughest men in the business during his long career, posting 187 wins, including 132 knockouts, against only 23 losses and 11 draws.

Moore campaigned for 16 years before gaining an opportunity to fight for a world championship. On December 15, 1952 he became the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World at age 39, defeating Joe Maxim by a decision in fifteen rounds, thereby becoming the oldest light heavyweight champion in history. He defeated Maxim twice in rematches and was nearly unbeatable as a light heavyweight, successfully defending the title nine times, and holding it for almost a decade before finally being stripped of it in February of 1962 for failing to defend the title within the required period of time.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Holland, Endesha Ida Mae (1944-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland was born into abject poverty in Greenwood, Mississippi. She experienced extreme racism, lack of options, and little support to change her life. As a teenager she quit school, turned to prostitution and theft as a way to make it in the world she knew – a world that included being raped by a neighbor, multiple “fathers” and broken dreams.

Her first time in jail was as a teenager having dropped out of school and turned towards a life of prostitution and theft. She was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail – but this wouldn’t be the last time. She went to prison on assault and battery charges after having married, given birth, and found her husband cheating. When she was released from prison, her options were narrow and she returned to “streetwalking” – the life she knew.

This time, the man she pursued was active in SNCC. Holland pursued him all the way back to SNCC offices where she was introduced to the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Holland would go to jail many times in her future, not for streetwalking but for protesting with the Movement. One these trips included the state penitentiary with other Civil Rights activists. After thirty-three days, she was released and shortly thereafter met Dr. Jackson and Dr. King.

Contributor2: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University, Antioch McGregor University

Gong Lum v. Rice (1927)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History

In this constitutional case, the U.S. Supreme Court, composed entirely of Bok Guey (whites), adjudged Hon Yen (Chinese) to be in the same social classification as Lo Mok (blacks).  The Supreme Court’s decision permitted the state of Mississippi to define Martha Lum as a member of the “colored races” so that “white schools” could remain segregated.  The origins of “Lotuses among the Magnolias” involved southern planters’ fears that emancipation had spoiled their newly freed slaves.  The question posed by planters was whether the freed people would work without the sting of the lash. Planters answered by recruiting Chinese labor and by 1900 the majority of coolie labor came from the “Sze Yap” or Four Counties district southwest of Canton in South China. 

Sources: 
Malik Simba, “Gong Lum v. Rice: The Convergence of Law, Race, and Ethnicity,” in American Mosaic: Selected Readings on America’s Multicultural Heritage, eds. Young I. Song and Eugene C. Kim; James Loewen, Lotus among the Magnolias: The Mississippi Chinese, Jackson, MI; Mississippi University Press, 1960.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

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

McAllister, Jane Ellen (1899-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Dr. Jane McAllister was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on October 24, 1899. Born into a time of overt racism that severely limited black opportunity, McAllister’s family managed to escape poverty’s grip and join the small percentage of middle-class African American families in early 20th century Mississippi. Her father’s work as a mail carrier, and her mother’s position as a school teacher, enabled the McAllister family to avoid the cyclic economic problems of the occupations that most African Americans were forced to pursue like sharecropping and domestic service.

Dr. McAllister flourished in school, graduating from high school at age 15 and from Talladega College in Alabama in 1919 where she became the youngest Talladega graduate by earning her degree at the age of 19. This groundbreaking pattern continued into 1929 when Jane Ellen McAllister became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from Columbia University. From there, Dr. McAllister chose to share her wealth of knowledge with others, teaching psychology and education at Southern University, Grambling State, Fisk College, Virginia State and Dillard among others until her retirement in 1970. Dr. McAllister died in January 1996, at the age of 96.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Drake, John Gibbs St. Clair (1911-1990)

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

John Gibbs St. Clair Drake was an American anthropologist and sociologist and the founding Director of Stanford University’s African and African American Studies Department in 1968.  Drake was born in Suffolk County, Virginia on January 2, 1911.   Drake’s father immigrated to the United States from the Barbados in 1904, and studied at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, and upon graduation became a Baptist Preacher. Drake’s mother, Bessie, was a devout churchwoman born in Virginia. When his parents divorced Drake moved to live with his father in Staunton, Virginia.  A few years later Drake accompanied his father to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1916 when the Rev. Drake continued ministering to his African American congregants who migrated north.  Drake later returned to Staunton, Virginia to live with his mother, who had separated and later divorced his father in 1924.

Sources: 
George Clement Bond, "A Social Portrait of John Gibbs St. Clair Drake: An American Anthropologist," American Ethnologist (November 1988); Fourteenth Census of the United States, Schedule No. 1.; Kwame Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Affiliation: 
Los Angeles City College

Still, William Grant (1895-1978)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Considered by many as the dean of African American composers, William Grant Still, the son of educators, was born in Woodville, Mississippi on May 11, 1895.  His father, a musician who once taught music at Alabama A&M College, died when he was an infant; his mother, a schoolteacher, moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.  Those nearest to him encouraged his early fascination with music and musical instruments, particularly the violin.  At age 17 his stepfather, a railway office worker, introduced him to opera via a record and phonograph, which for him was a transformative experience.  At M.W.
Sources: 
Catherine P. Smith, William Grant Still: A Study in Contradictions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Verna Avery, In One Lifetime (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1984); “William Grant Still (1895-1978),” on AfriClassical.com website at: http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Still.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Till, Emmett (1941-1955)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Fourteen year old Emmett Till was born in Chicago, Illinois, and lived there with his mother until his atrocious murder in Money, Mississippi, during the summer of 1955, just one year after the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education.  Emmett was a fun-loving and free-spirited teenager who left his home in the north to visit his great-uncle’s family in Mississippi. Although his mother warned him to be careful, Emmett was clearly unaware of the etiquette of race relations in the south and the legacy of lynching, for after buying goodies at a local grocery store with his cousins, Emmett left the store flippantly saying, “Bye baby,” to the white female clerk.

Soon after the incident, Roy Bryant, the clerk’s husband and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, appeared at Mose Wright’s home. Wright, Emmett’s 64-year-old great-uncle, and his wife pleaded with the armed men.  Still, they kidnapped Emmett and later lynched him. They slashed out one of Emmett’s eyes and tied a 75-pound cotton gin fan around his neck. Emmett was beaten, shot in the head, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. The men were acquitted. Emmett’s remains were returned to Chicago and displayed in an open casket funeral. The lynching became international news with approximately 50,000 people attending the funeral services. Three months later, the Montgomery Bus Boycotts began.  Four months later, the culprits admitted to the lynching in a Look magazine article and received $4,000 for their story.
Sources: 

Christopher Metress, The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative
(Virginia: The University of Virginia Press, 2002); www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/earlycivilrights/emmett.html

Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Adams, Victoria Jackson Gray (1926-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Hattiesburg, Virginia on November 5, 1926, Victoria Jackson Gray Adams became one of the most important Mississipians in the Civil Rights Movement.  Her activities included teaching voter registration courses to domestics and sharecroppers, opening of the Freedom Schools during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964, and serving as a National Board Member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Ms. Gray began service as the field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1962.  

After graduation from high school, Ms. Gray began her education at Wilberforce University but was unable to finish due to lack of tuition funds. She later completed her education and became qualified as a teacher through her studies at the Tuskegee Institute and Jackson State College.  In addition to being a teacher, she traveled the country as a lecturer and served as campus minister to Virginia State University.  Gray called herself a “spiritual and social activist.”
Sources: 
The Victoria Jackson Gray Adams Papers in the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archives; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic.html
http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8001
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Antioch McGregor University

Winfrey, Oprah (1954 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Repeatedly on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, Oprah Winfrey is a television host, media mogul – in television, radio, film, and print – and philanthropist.  Forbes magazine included her in its 2003 list of America’s billionaires, the first African American woman to become one.

The “Oprah Winfrey Show” is in its 22nd season, and is syndicated to 214 United States stations, and 139 countries. Launched in April 2000, O, The Oprah Magazine, has a current circulation of 2.3 million monthly readers, and is considered one of the most successful magazine launches in publishing history. In 2004, a companion publication, O at Home, made its debut.  
Sources: 
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, Facts on File, Inc., p. 277 (New York, 1997); William Andrews, et al., The Concise Oxford Guide to African American Literature, Oxford University Press, pp. 31, 209-12, 389, 444 (New York, 2001); www.oprah.com; www.biography.com; www.achievement.org; www.freshthinkingbusiness.com/oprah-winfrey 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Hamer, Fannie Lou (1917-1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Fannie Lou Hamer was a grass-roots civil rights activist whose life exemplified resistance in rural Mississippi to oppressive conditions. Born on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi, to a family of sharecroppers, she was the youngest of Lou Ella and Jim Townsend’s twenty children.  Her family moved to Sunflower County, Mississippi in 1919 to work on the E. W. Brandon plantation.

Hamer’s activism began in the 1950s when she attended several annual conferences of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership organized by Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a wealthy businessman and civil rights leader in the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi.  There, Hamer encountered prominent civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Michigan Congressman Charles Diggs.
Sources: 
Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999); Kay Mills, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (New York, New York: Dutton, 1993); http://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/fannie-lou-hamer/.
Affiliation: 
Tuskeegee University

Evers, Medgar (1925-1963)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
 Medgar Evers, at the time of his assassination in 1963, was the Field Secretary for the Mississippi NAACP and thus one of the leaders of the civil rights movement in that state. Evers was born on July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. Evers was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in Normandy in the following year. After his discharge from the service, Evers enrolled at Alcorn College.
Sources: 
Medgar Wiley Evers, The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: a Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005); http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms-writers/dir/evers_medgar/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Meredith, James (1933 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
James Meredith withU.S. Marshals,
University of Mississippi, 1962
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 

James Meredith, Three Years in Mississippi (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966); http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/meredith_james/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Young, Willis Lester ("Pres") (1909-1959)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Lester (Willis) Young, known as "Pres," was born in Woodville, Mississippi and died in New York City. Named Willis Lester at birth, he dropped "Willis" at an early age. Young developed a light tone and swinging style as a member of "territory bands," such as the Oklahoma City Blue Devils, whose members gave him the nickname "Pres" short for President of the Tenor Saxophone -- around 1932. By 1936 he played in Count Basie's Kansas City band and became one of the leading tenor saxophonists of the swing era. Basie's orchestra moved to New York City and Young performed and recorded not only with Basie, but also with most of the leading jazz musicians for three decades. Known mainly for his velocity and swinging style with Basie, in 1937 he recorded several ballads with singer Billie Holiday and pianist Teddy Wilson.
Sources: 
Douglas Henry Daniels, Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester "Pres" Young (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002); Lewis Porter, Lester Young (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985)
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Barbara

Cooke, Sam (1931–1964)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sam Cooke has been described as one of the most influential rhythm and blues singers to emerge in the 20th Century.  Cooke could exude soul stirring sensuality that went from the sacred to the profane in the same breath.  

The son of a Baptist minister, Sam Cooke was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on January 22, 1931 but grew up in Chicago.  He joined a Chicago gospel group called the Highway QC’s and became their lead singer at the age of 15.  He later became the lead singer for the Soul Stirrers.  

Influenced by Ray Charles, Cooke was the pioneer cross-over artist from gospel to rhythm and blues.  Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and others would eventually follow.  With the support of record producer Bumps Blackwell, Cooke left the Soul Stirrers to record rhythm and blues.  He was also the first African American popular singer to manage his own record label (SAR).  Cooke’s label, which he formed while still in his twenties, produced other R&B artists such as Bobby Womack, Billy Preston, and Johnny Taylor.
Sources: 
Peter Shapiro, Rough Guide to Soul and R&B (London: Penguin Press, 2006); Charlotte Greig, Icons of Black Music (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1999); Kwame A. Appiah & Henry Louis Gates, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999); African American Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research Group, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Forman, James (1928-2005)

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

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

Shockley, Dolores Cooper (1930- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Dolores Cooper was the first African American woman in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in pharmacology.   She was also the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Purdue University.  Cooper was born in 1930 in Clarksdale, Mississippi to a successful family of professionals.  Her parents responded to her expressed interest in science at a young age by purchasing chemistry sets. Later she was inspired to become a pharmacist because the segregated Clarksdale black community lacked a pharmacy. 

Cooper attended an out-of-town private Presbyterian school in order to take the chemistry classes she needed to earn an advanced degree in science.  After high school she earned a B.S. in pharmacy in 1951 from Xavier University in New Orleans.  Having been accepted into eight graduate schools, Cooper chose to continue her studies at Purdue University.  After earning her Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1955, Cooper received a Fulbright Fellowship to the Pharmacology Institute in Copenhagen which allowed her to hone her research skills.
Sources: 
Diann Jordan, Sisters in Science: Conversations with Black Women Scientists on Race, Gender and Their Passion for Science (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2006); http://www.student-orgs.purdue.edu/bga/banquet/history/presidential.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Howard, Perry Wilbon (1877-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Perry Wilbon Howard was one of the shrewdest and most enduring Southern black politicians of the early 20th Century.  Howard was a dominant figure in Mississippi Republican politics for half of the twentieth century.  For thirty-five years between 1924 until shortly before his death in 1961 at the age of eighty-four, Howard served as Republican national committeeman from Mississippi.  
Sources: 
Sources: McMillen, Neil, “Perry W. Howard, Boss of Black-and-Tan Republicanism in Mississippi, 1924-1960,” The Journal of Southern History 80:2 (May 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Miss. Freedom Democratic Party State Convention,
Jackson, Mississippi, July 1964
Image Courtesy of David Walters, Holt Labor Library,
Labor Studies and Radical History
The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was founded on April 26, 1964 as part of a voter registration project for African Americans in the state.  For over half a century Mississippi blacks had attempted to attend regular Democratic Party meetings and conventions but were continually denied entry.  They formed the MFDP, which welcomed both whites and blacks, to run several candidates for the Senate and Congressional elections on June 2, 1964.  
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981); http://www.ibiblio.org/sncc/mfdp.html; http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/civilrights-55-65/missippi.html; http://www.jofreeman.com/photos/mfdp64.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Espy, Mike (1953- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Alphonso Michael Espy in 1986 became the first black Congressman elected from Mississippi since John R. Lynch, who served during Reconstruction.  He was also the first African American to hold the post of Secretary of Agriculture.  Mike Espy was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. He received a B.A. from Howard University in 1975 and then attended law school at the University of Santa Clara where he received his J.D. degree in 1978. Espy returned to Mississippi after law school and worked as an attorney for Central Mississippi Legal Services from 1978 to 1980.  Between 1980 and 1984 Espy served as assistant secretary of the Public Lands Division for the State of Mississippi and then took the post of assistant State Attorney General for Consumer Protection, a position he held until 1985.
Sources: 
Charles Christian, Black Saga: The African American Experience (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995); bioguide.congress.gov; www.answers.com
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Blackwell, Unita (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Washington University Libraries,
Film and Media Archive
Unita Blackwell, a civil rights activist and the first black female mayor in the state of Mississippi, was born the daughter of sharecropping parents in Coahoma County, Mississippi on March 18, 1933. She worked throughout the civil rights era urging and recruiting blacks to register to vote, while holding positions in numerous organizations to fight for black civil rights in the United States.

Blackwell began her education by attending a school in West Helena, Arkansas, because of the lack of educational opportunities for African Americans in Mississippi.  She received an eighth grade education and then joined her parents as sharecroppers. In the early 1960s, with determination and willfulness, she chopped cotton for $3 per day while she patiently began her work in civil rights.

By 1964, Blackwell was teaching Sunday School at a church. When the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) visited her hometown of Mayersville, Mississippi, Blackwell signed up to be a field worker.  Her assignment was to persuade her neighbors to register and vote.  
Sources: 
Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: Civil Rights: an A-Z Reference of the Movement that Changed America (New York: Running Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ferebee, Dorothy Celeste Boulding (1898–1980)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Physician, educator and social activist Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee led efforts to improve the health care of African Americans.  As a member of several civic organizations, she fought to lower the mortality rate among African Americans in southern rural communities.  She also used these organizations as a vehicle to promote civil rights.

Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to Benjamin and Florence Boulding on October 10, 1898. When her mother became ill, Dorothy’s parents sent her to live with her great aunt in Boston.  Between 1904 and 1908, Dorothy attended school in Boston.  In 1915 Boulding graduated at the top of her class from English High School in Boston.  Five years later she graduated from Simmons College in Boston and then immediately entered Tufts University School of Medicine, graduating with top honors in 1924.  

Despite her impressive educational credentials, Boulding was not allowed to intern at white hospitals in the Boston area.  Instead, she did her internship at the black-owned and staffed Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.  Upon completion of her internship in 1925, she started her own medical clinic in an impoverished section of the city.        
Sources: 

Ruth Edmonds Hill, ed., The Black Women Oral History Project (Westport, Connecticut: Meckler, 1991); Rayford W. Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years, 1867-1967 (New York: New York University Press, 1967); http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_109.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Reed, George Robert (1939- )

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

Born on October 2, 1939 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, George Robert Reed is a former American College football and Canadian Football League (CFL) player. Reed is considered one of the premier fullbacks to play in the CFL. Reed played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 13 seasons, from 1963 until his retirement in June of 1975.

Reed, whose family moved to Renton, Washington, played football at Washington State University both as fullback and linebacker between 1959 and 1963.  After his graduation in 1963 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education, he came to Canada to play professional football with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina, Saskatchewan. As a professional football player George Reed amassed numerous awards such as the Schenley Award for the Most Outstanding Player and set records including most rushing yards (16,116) for all of professional football.  His jersey, # 34, is permanently retired in the Canadian Hall of Fame and Museum in Hamilton, Ontario.

Sources: 
CFL.ca Network: Official site of the Canadian Football League; Graham Kelly, The Grey Cup (Red Deer, Alberta: Johnson Gorman, 1999); Graham Kelly, Green Grit: The Story of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2001) Canadian Football League facts, figures and records (Toronto: Canadian Football League, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Barthé, Richmond (1901-1988)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi in 1901, Richmond Barthé moved to New Orleans at an early age. Little is known about his early youth, except that he grew up in a devoutly Roman Catholic household, he enjoyed drawing and painting, and his formal schooling did not go beyond grade school. From the age of sixteen until his early twenties, Barthé supported himself with a number of service and unskilled jobs, including house servant, porter, and cannery worker. His artistic talent was noticed by his parish priest when Barthé contributed two of his paintings to a fundraising event for his church. The priest was so impressed with his art that he encouraged Barthé to apply to the Art Institute of Chicago and raised enough money to pay for his travel and tuition. From 1924 to 1928, Barthé studied painting at the Art Institute, while continuing to engage in unskilled and service employment to support himself.
Sources: 
Mary Ann Calo, Distinction and Denial: Race, Nation, and the Critical Construction of the African American Artist, 1920-1940 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007); A. D. Macklin, A Biographical History of African-American Artists, A-Z (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001); Margaret Rose Vendryes, “The Lives of Richmond Barthé,” in The Greatest Taboo: Homosexuality in Black Communities, ed. Delroy Constantine-Simms (Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Texas at Austin

Freedom Summer (June–August 1964)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Mississippi Freedom Summer Volunteers singing
We Shall Overcome, 1964
Image Courtesy of Herbert Randall Freedom Summer Photographs,
McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi
By 1964, the civil rights movement had scored numerous victories through boycotts, student sit-ins, and mass marches. The state of Mississippi, seen as the “stronghold of segregation,” was the next testing ground. In Mississippi, activists faced an entrenched system of segregation and white supremacy upheld by both vigilante violence and state-sanctioned repression.
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson et al, eds., The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle (New York: Penguin, 1991); Doug McAdam, Freedom Summer (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); The online curriculum of the Freedom Schools and primary source documents from Freedom Summer: http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/ED_FSC.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Johnson, Robert (1911-1938)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert Johnson was the eleventh child of Julia Major Dodds.  Born out of wedlock, Johnson did not take the Dodds name. He grew up with his mother in Hazlehurst, Mississippi but soon moved up to live with his father, Charles Dodds, in Memphis. Charles Dodds changed his last name to Spencer and so Robert was known in his younger years as Robert Spencer. Around 1918, Johnson moved to an area around Robinsonville and Tunica, Mississippi to rejoin his mother who had remarried. Not much is known about Johnson’s childhood other than he was always interested in music. People in the Delta who knew Johnson claimed played the diddley bow when he was younger. A diddley bow is wire attached to nails sticking out of houses. A person could then hit the wire with a stick and use an empty bottle that slides along the wire to change the pitch.
Sources: 
Peter Guralnick, Searching for Robert Johnson (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1989); Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch, Robert Johnson: Lost and Found (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Patricia R. Schroeder, Robert Johnson: Mythmaking and Contemporary American Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Evers, James Charles (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Charles Evers was born on September 11, 1922 in Decatur, Mississippi to parents Jesse Wright and James Evers.  Growing up in Mississippi during the era of Jim Crow, Evers witnessed the effects of racial discrimination and prejudice firsthand.   At the age of ten, he witnessed a horrific lynching of a black man who had been accused of insulting a white woman.  This lynching left a lasting impression on Evers, who vowed, along with his younger brother, Medgar, to exact change for the blacks of Mississippi.  
Sources: 
Charles Evers, Evers (New York: World Publishing Company, 1971); Charles Evers and Andrew Szanton, Have No Fear: The Charles Evers Story (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997); http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_people_evers.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lynch, John Roy (1847-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

John Roy Lynch, congressman, soldier and author was born in Concordia Parish, Louisiana on September 10, 1847 to Patrick Lynch, an Irish immigrant and Catherine White, a slave.  Lynch’s father died soon after his birth.   Lynch and his mother were then traded to a plantation in Natchez, Mississippi.  During the Civil War, Lynch  became free when he fled the plantation and to serve as a cook for the 49th Illinois Volunteer Regiment.

During Reconstruction, Lynch joined the Republican Party in Mississippi.  After working as assistant secretary for the Republican State Convention, Lynch became the Justice of the Peace in Natchez County, Mississippi.  In November 1869 at the age of 22, Lynch was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives.   Three years later, in 1872 he was named Speaker of the House.

Sources: 
Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007.  Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008); John Hope Franklin, ed., Reminiscences of an Active Life: The Autobiography of John Roy Lynch (Chicago, 1970); Website on Black Americans in Congress: John Roy Lynch http://basic.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=8
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Lynch, James D. (1838-1872)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

James D. Lynch, a Reconstruction era politician, is best known for his position as Secretary of the State of Mississippi from 1869 to 1872. Lynch was the first African American to hold a major political office in that state. Born in 1838 in Baltimore, Maryland, his father was white merchant and minister and his mother was a slave.

Lynch received an early education at an elementary school taught by the Reverend Daniel Payne of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, and was then send to Meriden, New Hampshire to attend the Kimball Union Academy. After studying for only two years he moved to Indianapolis and began preaching at a small church in the town of Galena, Indiana.

After the Civil War, Lynch joined other religious missionaries in South Carolina. As an official of the Methodist Episcopal Church, North, he helped establish churches and schools for African American adults and children between 1865 and 1866.  

Lynch eventually turned to politics believing that the freedmen’s political rights equally important as the development of their religious faith. In 1867 he was elected the Vice President of the first Republican State Party Convention in Mississippi. By 1869 he had become the most prominent African American politician in Mississippi and, after his nomination by the Republican Party and an exhaustive campaign; Lynch was elected Secretary of State.

Sources: 
George Alexander Sewell, Mississippi Black History Makers (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977); http://library.msstate.edu/content/templates/?a=137&z=129 ; http://www.galenahistorymuseum.org/lynch.htm .
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Revels, Hiram Rhoades (1827?–1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hiram Rhoades Revels was the first African American United States Senator, filling the seat left vacant by Jefferson Davis in 1861 when Mississippi seceded from the Union.

Born in the 1820s in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Hiram Revels was the son of free parents of mixed African American and Native American ancestry. Revels moved with his family to Lincolnton, North Carolina in 1842, where he became a barber. Two years later he left the South and enrolled at Beech Grove Seminary, a Quaker institution near Liberty, Indiana. In 1845 he entered Darke County (Ohio) Seminary for Negroes.  The same year Revels was ordained a minister in a Baltimore African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In the early 1850s he married Phoebe A. Bass of Zanesville, Ohio, and together they had six children.
Sources: 
“Hiram Rhoades Revels,” in Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982);
“Hiram Rhoades Revels,” in Encyclopedia: The State Library of North Carolina, http://statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us/nc/bio/afro/revels.htm; Kenneth H. Williams, "Revels, Hiram Rhoades" in Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds.,  African American National Biography Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0001/e0482.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Price, Mary Violet Leontyne (1927- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Born to James and Kate Price on February 10, 1927, in Laurel, Mississippi, Leontyne Price became one of the world’s leading opera sopranos and among the first African Americans to gain prominence in major performance halls in that musical genre. Her parents were amateur musicians and instilled in their daughter a love of music from an early age. In 1944 she attended the College of Education and Industrial Arts (now Central State College) in Wilberforce, Ohio with the intention of becoming a music teacher. Her teachers soon encouraged her to pursue voice instead.  In 1949 Price moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School of Music on a four year, full-tuition scholarship. Her performance as Mistress Ford in the school’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Falstaff caught the eye of composer Virgil Thomson. He offered her the role of Cecilia in the 1952 revival of his 1934 opera Four Saints in Three Acts and her professional career took off.
Sources: 
Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds., African American Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Jeffrey Lehman, ed., The African American Almanac (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003); Colin A. Palmer, ed., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

Diddley, Bo (1928-2008)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Boxer and singer Bo Diddley (birth name Ellas Bates McDaniel), was born on December 30, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi. He was adopted by his mother’s cousin when the mother’s husband died in the mid 1930s.  McDaniel moved her family to Chicago where young Ellas took violin lessons from Professor O.W. Frederick at the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. He studied the violin for twelve years and composed two concertos. In 1940 his sister bought McDaniel an acoustic guitar for Christmas. He soon started to play the guitar, largely duplicating his actions on the violin.  Soon afterward he formed his first group of three named The Hipsters and later known as The Langley Avenue Jive Cats. It was during this time that band leaders gave him the nickname, Bo Diddley.

Diddley recorded his first single “Bo Diddley”/”I’m A Man on March 2, 1955 on Checkers Records. It topped the R&B chart for two weeks.  Soon afterwards Diddley began to tour, performing in schools, colleges, and churches across the United States.  Regardless of the venue he taught people the importance “of respect and education and of the dangers of drugs and gang culture.”

Bo Diddley was known for many new musical styles and innovations. He was one of the first musicians of the 1950s to incorporate woman musicians including Lady Bo. He hired her full-time to play all of his stage performances whereupon she became the first female lead guitarist in history to be employed by a major act.
Sources: 
“Bo Diddley- The Originator.” David Blakey. 1998-2008, http://members.tripod.com/~Originator_2/history.html; “Bo Diddley” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum, http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/bo-diddley; Ben Ratliff. “Bo Diddley, Who Gave Rock His Beat, Dies at 79,” New York Times,
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/03/arts/music/03diddley.html?scp=1&sq=Bo+Diddley+dies&st=nyt
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Preer, Evelyn (1896-1932)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Evelyn Preer, one of the first African American silent screen actresses to transition into sound Hollywood films, was born on July 21, 1896 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After her father’s death, Preer and her mother relocated to Chicago, Illinois where she completed high school before pursuing acting.

Preer’s big break came when she landed a role in Oscar Micheaux’s first film, The Homesteader (1919), in which she played a tragically unhappy woman abandoned by her husband for a mulatto woman whom he believed to be white. Impressed with her talent, Micheaux cast Preer in several roles in which she generally played dramatic characters, challenging many of the prevailing black film stereotypes. Preer expanded her acting abilities into the area of theater, frequently alternating between the screen and stage as she became a staple for Micheaux’s dramatic films and an esteemed actress for the Lafayette Players.

Preer met and married stage actor Edward Thompson while traveling with the players and the duo headlined productions for the traveling section of the Lafayette Players throughout the early 1920s. Preer’s impressive theatricality led her to Broadway where she recorded with the legendary musical composer Duke Ellington, performed with Ethel Waters, and won acclaim for her role as Sadie Thompson in the revival of Somerset Maugham’s classic melodrama Rain.

Sources: 

Pearl Bowser, Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films and His Circle: African-American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2001); Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black. The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977); Francesca Sr. Thompson, Drop me off in Harlem, http://www.artedge.kennedy-center.org/exploring/harlem/themes/lafayette.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Henry, Aaron (1922-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Wood, Robert (1844 - ?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Payton, Walter Jerry (1954-1999)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

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

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

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Thompson, Bennie G. (1948- )

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

Bennie G. Thompson, United States Representative from Mississippi's Second Congressional District, is the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and as such is one of the most influential African American members of Congress.

Thompson was born in Bolton, Mississippi on January 28, 1948 to Will Thompson, an auto mechanic, and Annie Lauris Thompson, a teacher.   He earned a BA in political science from Tougaloo College in 1968, and then earned MS and MA degrees from Jackson State University in 1972.  He worked for one year as a school teacher in Madison, Mississippi after graduating from Tougaloo.

Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008); Dave Oblender, ed., Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 26, “Bennie G. Thompson,” (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2005); “Bennie Thompson, Representing the Second District of Mississippi,” http://benniethompson.house.gov/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Tougaloo College (1869-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Tougaloo College is one of the United States' premier historically black colleges and universities. The American Missionary Association (AMA) founded Tougaloo in 1869. Early in that year the AMA had commissioned Allen P. Huggins, a former Union officer, to look for land for a normal-agricultural school. He found the former plantation of John Boddie about seven miles north of Jackson, Mississippi and negotiated to buy it from its owner, George McKee, for $10,500.
Sources: 
Clarice T. Campbell and Oscar Allan Rogers, Jr., Mississippi: The View From Tougaloo (Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1979); Tougaloo College (official website), https://www.tougaloo.edu/about-tougaloo-college/our-history; Soul of America: Tougaloo College, http://www.soulofamerica.com/tougaloo-college.phtml; US NEWS Best Colleges 2010: Tougaloo College, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/tougaloo-college-2439.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Alcorn State University [Lorman] (1871-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Oakland Chapel, Alcorn State University
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Founded in 1871, Alcorn State University is the oldest historically black land-grant institution in the United States and the second oldest state supported institution in the state of Mississippi.  The college is located outside of Lorman in Claiborne County.  Alcorn was founded in vacated Oakland College, a school for white students that was closed during the Civil War.  The campus was purchased by the state of Mississippi in 1871 and opened as Alcorn University after then-governor of Mississippi, James L. Alcorn (1816-1894).  It was the first black land-grant institution to receive federal funding under the 1862 Morrill Act.
Sources: 
A Brief History, http://www.alcorn.edu/about/default.aspx?id=559 (Official Site);
Josephine McCann Posey, Against Great Odds: The History of Alcorn State University (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994); Joy Ann Williamson, Radicalizing the Ebony Tower: Black Colleges and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi (New York: Teachers College Press, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Mississippi Valley State University [Itta Bena] (1950- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) is a public institution located in Itta Bena, Mississippi.  MVSU is the nation’s youngest historically black public university.  In 1946 the Mississippi legislature passed an act authorizing the establishment of a new institution to be named Mississippi Vocational College.  The purpose of the school was to educate teachers for rural and elementary schools and to provide vocational training.  

Ground was broken for the new school in February of 1950, and the first classes were held that summer when 250 teachers came to campus to attend in-service classes.  The first academic year began in the fall of 1950 with 14 students and seven faculty members.  That year the college offered bachelor’s of science degrees in 14 areas and provided extension services.  In 1964 the college was authorized to offer liberal arts, education, and science degrees, and changed its name to Mississippi Valley State College.  Mississippi governor William Waller signed a bill granting university status to the school in 1974.  At that time the institution became known as Mississippi Valley State University.  MVSU offered its first master’s degrees two years later.

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);  Mississippi Valley State University Webpage, http://www.mvsu.edu/index.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jackson State University (1877- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

A historically black college located in on a 125-acre campus near downtown Jackson, the capital city of the state of Mississippi, Jackson State University (JSU) has been the designated urban university of the state’s higher education system since 1979.  The school was founded in 1877 by the American Baptist Home Mission Society as Natchez Seminary “for the moral, religious, and intellectual improvement of Christian leaders of the colored people of Mississippi and the neighboring states.”  

The institution was originally located in Natchez, Mississippi, but was moved to Jackson in 1882.  In 1899 the curriculum was expanded and the school’s name was changed to Jackson College.  The American Baptist Home Mission Society withdrew its support for the College in the 1930s, prompting the administration to seek state support to continue its operation.  The State of Mississippi assumed support of the college in 1940, and mandated that the school’s primary purpose should be the training of teachers.  In 1942 the Board of Trustees instituted a four year teacher education program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Education degree.  Between 1953 and 1956 the curriculum was again expanded to include a graduate program and bachelor’s programs in the arts and sciences.  In 1956 the institution became known as Jackson State College.  Jackson State achieved university status in 1974.

Sources: 
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); Jackson State University Webpage, http://www.jsums.edu/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Massey, Walter E. (1938 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Prominent educator Walter Eugene Massey was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 5, 1938.  His father, Almar, was a steelworker and his mother, Essie, a teacher.  Massey had an exceptional mind, even at an early age.  By the time he finished 10th grade, his skills in mathematics were strong enough to earn him a college scholarship.  Massey enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated with a BS in math and physics in 1958.

While working on his master’s and doctorate degrees at Washington University in St. Louis, Massey conducted research on the quantum of liquids and solids.  He received a PhD in 1966.  Massey began his teaching career as an associate professor at the University of Illinois then moved to Brown University in 1970, becoming a full professor five years later.  

Sources: 
Douglas Lyons, “Pathfinders” Ebony (August 1989); Stephen Richards Graubard, The American Academic Profession (New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997);  http://www.morehouse.edu/about/bio-wmassey.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Rust College [Holly Springs] (1866- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Rust College website, http://www.rustcollege.edu; Toni Hodge-Wright, The Handbook of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Seattle: Jireh and Associates, 1992); U.S. News and World Report website, http://www.usnews.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Freeman, Morgan (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Porterfield Freeman, Jr. was born June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Morgan Porterfield, Sr. a barber, and Mayme Edna Morgan.  Throughout his childhood the Freeman family moved often, living in Mississippi, Indiana and Chicago.  Freeman showed early promise as an actor but turned down a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University to enter the United States Air Force in 1955.

Throughout the early 1960s, after leaving the Air Force, Freeman studied acting and dance in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.  It was in New York that Freeman made his professional theater debut with The Nigger Lovers, a 1967 off-Broadway play about the Civil Rights Era Freedom Riders.  In 1971 Freeman broke into television, becoming widely known on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s show The Electric Company, where he worked from 1971 to 1976.

Sources: 
Sabrina Fuchs, “Morgan Freeman,” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Volume II., Colin A. Palmer, ed. (New York: Thompson Gale, 2006); "Morgan Freeman," Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 62 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2008); Eleanor Clift, "Freeman, Obama and Hollywood Immortality,” Newsweek, April 2, 2008; "Freeman Replaces Cronkite on CBS," Boston Globe, January 5, 2010; Revelations Entertainment official website: http://www.revelationsent.com/index.php.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Knight, Etheridge (1931-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Etheridge Knight took a very unconventional path on his way to becoming one of the most popular poets during the Black Arts Movement.  America’s first introduction to Knight’s literary skills came with his first book publication, Poems from Prison in 1968.  Mr. Knight’s troubled past and time in prison led to an unorthodox style of “street” language, drug culture vocabulary, and black slang that immediately separated him from other poets of the era.

Sources: 
Linda Cullum, Contemporary American Ethnic Poets (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2004); Joyce Pettis, African American Poets (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2002).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Robert Louis (1946 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Robert Louis Johnson, founder, chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Black Entertainment Television (BET), is also the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the first African American billionaire. He was born in Hickory, Mississippi in 1946 as the ninth of 10 children.  After his family relocated to Freeport, Illinois, Johnson earned a Bachelor of Arts in History at the University of Illinois in 1968. He also received a Masters in Public Administration from Princeton University in 1972.

Johnson then moved to Washington D.C. where he worked for both the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Urban League. In 1976, Johnson became the vice president of governmental relations for the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), an organization comprised of various cable television companies.

Johnson’s work with NCTA inspired him to develop television programming that was dedicated to African American viewers who at that time were unrecognized as a target audience group. He initially borrowed $15,000 from the president of the NCTA, Tom Wheeler, to fund his plan of gaining a black viewership in television. Later, he persuaded John Malone, the president of Telecommunications, Inc., to invest $500,000 in the project.

Sources: 
David Hatchett, “The Crisis Interview: Robert Johnson,” The Crisis (New York: October 1, 1985): vol. 92, no. 7, p. 32-37; http://www.biography.com/articles/Robert-L.-Johnson-41036; http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/F-L/Johnson-Robert-L-1946.html; http://www.zeromillion.com/entrepreneurship/stories/robert-johnson.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bevel, James (1936-2008)

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

James Bevel was one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most trusted advisors during the American Civil Rights campaigns of the mid-20th century.  Bevel was born on October 19, 1936 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. During his childhood years, he resided in both Itta Bena and in Cleveland, Ohio working as a plantation laborer in the Mississippi town and as a steel mill worker in the Ohio metropolis.

In 1957 Bevel attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee. Bevel dropped out of the seminary in 1961 to work in the civil rights movement. He also attended Highlander Folk School during this time where he met several other prominent civil rights leaders including his future wife, Diane Nash.
Bevel’s civil rights activism began in 1960 when he joined the student sit ins in Nashville. One year later he participated in the Freedom Rides across the Deep South.  In 1962 Bevel met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and joined King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as Director of Direct Action Campaigns and Director of Nonviolent Education.

Sources: 
Randy Kryn, "James L. Bevel, The Strategist of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement," in David Garrow, We Shall Overcome, Vol. 2 (Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing Company, 1989); Frederic O. Sargent,  The Civil Rights Revolution: Events and Leaders, 1955-1968 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Publishing, 2004); The New York Amsterdam News December 2008, pg 33 & 39; New York Times December 23, 2008, pg 10; USA Today April 30, 2008.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Naylor, Gloria (1950 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Gloria Naylor, a major 20th century writer of African American literature, was born on January 25, 1950 in New York City to Roosevelt and Alberta Naylor. She was born just six weeks after her parents moved to the city from Robinsville, Mississippi, to escape the racially segregated South.  It is that combination of her family's Southern roots and her on upbringing in the urban North that influenced her writing.

Naylor, an avid reader and writer in her teenage years, graduated with honors from Andrew Jackson High School in the Bronx, New York in 1968.  She immediately went on a mission to North Carolina and Florida as required by her Jehovah's Witness faith.  Returning to New York City in 1975, Naylor enrolled in Medgar Evers College where she studied nursing. Soon later transferred to Brooklyn College where she studied English.

Sources: 
Charles E. Wilson Jr. "Gloria Naylor: A Critical Companion" in Kathleen Klein, ed., Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers (New York: Greenwood Press, 2001);  "Gloria Naylor" in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Volumes 1 &2, (Brooklyn, New York: Carlson Publishing ,1993); aalbc.com <http://authors.aalbc.com/gloria.htm>.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Burnett, Chester Arthur/Howlin' Wolf (1910-1976)

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

Chester Arthur Burnett, better known by his stage name Howlin’ Wolf, was a blues performer and bandleader born in White Station, Mississippi to Leon "Dock" and Gertrude Young Burnett. He was married to Lillie Burnett and is survived by two stepchildren, Barbra Marks and Bettye Kelly.

After hearing and meeting Charlie Patton (sometimes spelled Charley), the most popular Delta blues performer at the time, Burnett decided to take up guitar and became a student of Patton. Burnett studied Patton’s music as well as his showmanship, and later traveled throughout the Delta performing with Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, Willie Brown and other well-known Delta blues performers of the period. He was also influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, Tommy Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson, among other performers.

Sources: 
Robert Palmer, Deep Blues (New York: Penguin Group, 1981); Gayle Dean Wardlow, Chasin’ That Devil Music (San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1998); Don McGlynn, Dir., The Howlin' Wolf Story – The Secret History of Rock & Roll (RCA/Historic Films Inc, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Case Western Reserve University

McMillian, Marco (1979-2013)

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

Marco McMillian was known primarily as the first openly-gay African American male to seek mayoral office as a Democrat in his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi. On February 26, 2013, McMillian was found dead the age of 34, having been beaten, dragged, and burned.

Little is known about his family history.  McMillian was born to Patricia Unger in Clarksdale in 1979.  He graduated from Clarksdale High School in 1997 and went on to graduate magna cum laude from the W.E.B. DuBois Honors College at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. McMillian also earned a graduate degree from Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota in the area of philanthropy and development.

While living in Washington, D.C., McMillian served as an international executive director of the historically black Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. where he was responsible for securing the first federal contract to raise the awareness of the adverse impact of HIV/AIDS on communities of color. He also served as executive assistant to the President of Alabama A&M University and as assistant to the vice president at Jackson State University.

Sources: 
http://newsone.com/2254245/marco-mcmillian-dead-clarksdale-mississippi/ http://marcomcmillian.com/about.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/marco-mcmillian-dead_n_2780698.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Dixon, William James ["Willie"] (1915-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Willie Dixon was a pioneering Chicago blues musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, producer, and philanthropist.  He was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1915 to Anderson Bell and Daisy Dixon, was married to Marie Booker, and had 12 children (five with wife Marie, and seven with Eleanora Franklin).  His grandchildren include blues musician Alex Dixon.
Sources: 
Robert Palmer, Deep Blues (New York: Penguin Group, 1981); Gayle Dean Wardlow, Chasin’ That Devil Music (San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian
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