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Virginia

Langston, Charles Henry (1817-1892)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Charles Henry Langston
(Ohio Historical Society)

Charles Henry Langston, the grandfather of poet Langston Hughes, was born a free man on a Virginia plantation in 1817 to Captain Ralph Quarles and Lucy Jane Langston, Quarles’ mulatto slave. He had two brothers, John Mercer (who would become a Virginia Congressman in 1888) and Gideon. After the death of his father in 1834, Charles inherited a large part of his father’s estate, and he went to be educated at Oberlin College in 1842 and 1843.

Sources: 
Richard B. Sheridan, “Charles Henry Langston and the African American Struggle in Kansas,” Kansas History 22 (Winter 1999/2000); Eugene H. Berwanger, “Hardin and Langston: Western Black Spokesmen of the Reconstruction Era,” Journal of Negro History 64 (Spring 1979).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

95th Engineer Regiment

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

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

The African American-manned 95th Engineer Battalion (General Service) was formed in April 1941 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia as part of the U.S. Army buildup preceding World War II.  Unlike many construction units, the 95th received considerable training, participating in the Carolina Maneuvers and receiving practical experience at Camp AP Hill, Virginia, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Expanded to regimental size following Pearl Harbor, it was sent to Canada in June 1942 to assist in building the Alaska-Canada (Alcan) Highway.

Sources: 
Ulysses Lee, The Employment of Negro Troops (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1966); Lael Morgan, “Writing Minorities out of History: Black Builders of the Alcan Highway,” Alaska History, 7:2 (Fall, 1992); Heath Twichell, Northwest Epic: the Building of the Alaska Highway (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992).

 

Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ashe, Arthur (1943-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Arthur Robert Ashe Jr., legendary tennis player, human rights activist, and educator, was born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Arthur Sr. and Mattie Cunningham Ashe.  At the age of four, he began playing tennis at Brook Field, a black-only park where his father worked as caretaker.
Sources: 
ArthurAshe.org, http://www.arthurashe.org/; Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersand, Days of Grace: A Memoir (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993); Herbert G. Ruffin, “Arthur Ashe” in Matthew Whitaker, Icons of Black America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2011); Richard Steins, Arthur Ashe: A Biography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Woodson, Carter G. (1875-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Ancella Bickley Collection,
West Virginia State Archives
Historian Carter G. Woodson was born to poor, yet land-owning, former slaves in New Canton, Virginia on December 19, 1875.  During the 1890s, he hired himself out as a farm and manual laborer, drove a garbage truck, worked in coalmines, and attended high school and college in Berea College, Kentucky—from which he earned a B.L. degree in 1903.  In the early 1900s, he taught black youth in West Virginia.  From late 1903 until early 1907, Woodson worked in the Philippines under the auspices of the US War Department.  Woodson then traveled to Africa, Asia, and Europe and briefly attended the Sorbonne in Paris, France.  In 1908, he received an M.A. degree in History, Romance languages, and Literature from the University of Chicago.  In 1912, while teaching in Washington, D.C., he earned his doctorate in history from Harvard University. 
Sources: 
Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, The Early Black History Movement, Carter G. Woodson, and Lorenzo Johnston Greene (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007); Jacqueline Goggin, Carter G. Woodson:  A Life in Black History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); and Pero Gaglo Dagbovie, “Willing to Sacrifice”:  Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, and the Carter G. Woodson Home (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Scott, Nathan A. (1925-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
It would be difficult to find a more formidable and respected African American scholar who has had so little visibility among African American intellectuals as Nathan Alexander Scott, Jr. Born in Cleveland, Ohio on April 24, 1925, Scott finished his B.A. at the University of Michigan in 1944 and his Ph.D. in religion from Columbia University in 1953. In 1946 he was hired as dean of the chapel at Virginia Union University. From 1948 to 1955 he taught humanities at Howard University. An ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, from 1955 to 1977 Scott taught at the University of Chicago where in 1972 he was elevated to Shailer Mathews Professor of Theology and Literature. In 1976 he and his wife, Charlotte H. Scott, a business professor, simultaneously were hired as the first black tenured professors at the University of Virginia. There Scott was William R. Kenan Professor of Religious Studies and became chairman of the religious studies department in 1980.  He retired in 1990.  
Sources: 
William D. Buhrman. “A Reexamination of Nathan Scott’s Literary Criticism in the Context of David Tracy’s Fundamental Theology” Unpublished dissertation, Marquette University, 2004; Who’s Who in America (Marquis Who’s Who, 1992); Contemporary Authors (Gale Research, 1987). Vol. 20 and Directory of American Scholars  (The Gale Group, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Bharucha-Reid, Albert T. (1927-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Born Albert Turner Reid in Hampton, Virginia, November 13, 1927, this world-renowned mathematician earned his bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University in 1949 but never completed a graduate degree in his chosen field.  Despite this, he immediately found work as a research assistant and statistician at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of California at Berkeley. Early in his career Reid published papers on mathematical biology. 

Sources: 
R. Garcia-Johnson, “Albert Turner Bharucha-Reid” in Notable Black American Scientists (Detroit: Gale, 1999); Ray Sprangenburg and Kit Moser, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003). http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/PEEPS/bharucha-reid_a_t.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Williams, James H., Jr. (1941- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
An award–winning expert in applied mechanics and materials---specifically earthquake isolation research, shell theory, and nondestructive evaluation and composite materials---and a passionate advocate of African American representation in the academy, James Henry Williams, Jr. was born in Newport News, Virginia on April 4, 1941.  First employed as an apprentice machinist at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, he climbed to senior design engineer while studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  By 1968 Williams had completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree at MIT and in 1970 he finished his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Cambridge University, England.

As a professor of engineering at MIT in the early 1970s Williams won research grants from the National Science Foundation.  Since then he has been a consultant for numerous governmental and corporate projects involving aircraft, rockets, automobiles, hydroelectric power stations, and offshore oil platforms.  Among the honors he has received are the Teetor Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Den Hartog Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  Williams has published numerous technical papers, popular newspaper and magazine articles, and has been interviewed on network television.  In 1996 he published the 854-page book Fundamentals of Applied Dynamics (New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.).
Sources: 
American Men & Women of Science. 22nd Ed. Vol. (New York: Bowker, 2005);
http://web.mit.edu/jhwill/www/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1814-1904)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Mary Ellen Pleasant was born on Aug. 19, 1814 in Virginia and spent her early years in Nantucket.  She worked as a bond servant to the Hussey family, an abolitionist family.  She later married James Smith, a wealthy former plantation owner and an abolitionist.  Mary Ellen and James worked on the Underground Railroad.  After Smith’s death four years later, Mary Ellen continued her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Mary Ellen married John James Pleasant around 1848.  To avoid trouble with slavers for their abolitionist work, the couple moved to San Francisco in April 1852.  Mrs. Pleasant established several restaurants for California miners, the first named the Case and Heiser.  With the help of clerk Thomas Bell, Mrs. Pleasant amassed a fortune by 1875 through her investments and various businesses by 1875.  She also helped to establish the Bank of California.

Pleasant earned her title as the “Mother” of California’s early civil rights movement, establishing the local Underground Railroad.  She financially supported John Brown from 1857 to 1859.   In the 1860s and 1870s, Mrs. Pleasant brought several civil rights lawsuits in California, especially against the trolley companies, most of which she won.
Sources: 
Lynne Hudson, The Making of Mammy Pleasant: A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth Century San Francisco (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hampton University (1868-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Hampton University, located on the shore of Chesapeake Bay in Hampton, Virginia, was founded in 1868 by Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the son of a prominent missionary family that settled in Hawaii in the early 1800s. Armstrong was enrolled at Williams College in Massachusetts when the Civil War began.  He volunteered for the Union Army, rose quickly in rank and was given command of an African American military unit.  By the end of the Civil War Armstrong had obtained the rank of Brevet General.
Sources: 
E. A. Talbot and F. G. Peabody, Peabody Education for Life: A History of Hampton Institute (New York: Doubleday 1969); Donald Lindsey, Indians at Hampton Institute, 1877-1923 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1944); Keith Schall, ed., Stony the Road: Chapters in the History of Hampton Institute (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1977).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Prosser, Gabriel (1775-1800)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Gabriel Prosser was the leader of an unsuccessful slave revolt in Richmond, Virginia in 1800. Born into slavery around 1775, Gabriel Prosser was owned by Thomas H. Prosser of Henrico County, Virginia. Little is known of Prosser’s life before the revolt that catapulted him into notoriety. Prosser’s two brothers, Solomon and Martin and his wife, Nanny, were all owned by Thomas Prosser and all participated in the insurrection.

Gabriel Prosser at the time of the insurrection was twenty-four years old, six feet two inches, literate, and a blacksmith by trade. He was described by a contemporary as “a fellow of courage and intellect above his rank in life.” With the help of other slaves including Jack Bowler and George Smith, Prosser devised a plan to seize control of Richmond by killing all of the whites (except the Methodists, Quakers and Frenchmen) and then establishing a Kingdom of Virginia with himself as monarch.
Sources: 
Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts (New York: International Publishers, 1974); http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3p1576.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Turner, Nat (1800-1831)

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

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

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

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

Jacobs, Harriet (c.1815-1897)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina, Harriet Ann Jacobs was the daughter of slaves, Delilah and Daniel Jacobs.  Harriet Jacobs is best known for her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, edited by white abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, and published in 1852.   Using the pseudonym “Linda Brent,” Jacobs tells the story of her life as a slave of a “Dr. Flint,” to whom she was willed as a young girl after her mistress died.  At this point in her young life, Harriet encountered unceasing sexual advances from Flint.  She escaped Flint’s household in 1835, but remained nearby, living in an attic for several years in order to stay near her son.  She made her final escape in 1842 and was able to reunite with her children. She settled in Rochester, New York, where she joined the network of abolitionists.  At the urging of white abolitionist Amy Post, Jacobs wrote her autobiography.  Still pursued by slave catchers, Jacobs fled to Massachusetts.
Sources: 
Jean Fagan Yellin, “Harriet Ann Jacobs,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993), 627-29; Harriet Brent Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861); and Dorothy Sterling, ed., We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Walker, Maggie Lena (1867-1934)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Maggie Lena Mitchell was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1867 to parents who were former slaves.  Walker’s mother, Elizabeth Draper Mitchell, was an assistant cook and father William Mitchell a butler in a mansion own by the Van Lew family. As a young girl she was forced to take on a number of responsibilities after the tragic death of her father. Mitchell worked as a delivery woman and babysitter while attending segregated public schools in Richmond. Nonetheless Mitchell graduated at the very top of her class in 1883. She then taught grade school for three years at the Lancaster School, at the same time she took classes in accounting and business.

In 1886, Maggie Mitchell married Armistead Walker, Jr., a wealthy black contractor and member of her church. They had two sons, Russell and Melvin, whom she took care while her husband worked.
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://www.nps.gov/malw/details.htm.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wilder, Lawrence Douglas (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born in Richmond, Virginia on January 17, 1931, Lawrence Douglas Wilder was the first African American to be elected governor in the United States of America. For four years Wilder served as the governor of Virginia (1990-1994).  Currently he is serving as the mayor of Richmond, Virginia.

Wilder began his education in a racially segregated elementary school, George Mason Elementary, and attended all-black Armstrong High School in Richmond.  In 1951 he received a degree in chemistry from Virginia Union University in his hometown.  After college, Wilder joined the United States Army and served in the Korean War, where he earned a Bronze Star for heroism. After the war, Wilder worked in the Virginia state medical examiner’s office as a chemist. Using the G.I. Bill, Wilder graduated from Howard University Law School in 1959 and soon afterwards established Wilder, Gregory and Associates.
Sources: 
Donald P. Baker, Wilder: Hold Fast to Dreams: A Biography of L. Douglas Wilder (University of Michigan, Seven Locks Press, 1989);
Judson L. Jeffries, Virginia’s Native Son: the election and administration of Governor L. Douglas Wilder (Purdue University Press, 2000); http://www.vahistorical.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/l-douglas-wilder.
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

Dove, Rita (1952- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photo by Fred Viebahn
American poet laureate Rita Frances Dove was born August 28, 1952 in Akron, Ohio. Rita’s father, Ray Dove, was the first African American chemist in the tire industry. Rita Dove excelled in school and in 1970 she received the Presidential Scholar Award.  Dove completed a B.A. in English in three years at Miami University in Ohio, graduating summa cum laude. In 1974-75 she was a Fulbright scholar at Eberhard Karls University in Tubingen, Germany Rita continued her education at the University of Iowa where she received her Master of Fine Arts in 1977.

In 1977 Dove met her husband, Fred Viebahn, a German poet/novelist.  She was asked to translate his writings while he was a participant in Iowa University’s International Writing Program. They married in 1979, and had a daughter, Aviva, in 1983.

In 1981 Dove became a member of the Arizona State University faculty and except for  one year when she was a writer-in-residence at Tuskegee Institute, she held that position until 1989.  Dove served on a number of literary panels while at Arizona State including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Associate Writing Programs. She held editorial positions in the Callaloo, TriQuarterly, and Gettysburg Review journals.  .
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; http://people.virginia.edu.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation (1775)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
This historic proclamation, dated November 7, 1775 and issued from on board a British warship lying off Norfolk, Virginia, by royal governor and Scottish aristocrat John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, offered the first large-scale emancipation of slave and servant labor in the history of colonial British America. It grew out of Dunmore’s efforts to counter an impending attack on his capital of Williamsburg by patriot militia in the spring of 1775, when he several times threatened to free and arm slaves to defend the cause of royal government.  By the time he retreated offshore he was already gathering slaves seeking refuge; his November proclamation commanding Virginians to support the crown or be judged traitors now formally offered freedom to all slaves and indentured servants belonging to rebels and able to bear arms for the crown. Within weeks, several hundred slaves, many with their families, had joined him. They enlisted in what Dunmore christened his “Ethiopian Regiment” and formed the bulk of the royal troops that first defeated patriot forces but then fell victim to disease and attack, evacuating the Chesapeake Region for New York by August 1776.
Sources: 
Benjamin Quarles, The Negro and the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961); Woody Holton, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, and the Making of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); Sylvia R. Frey, Water From the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, formed what he termed “Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment” in the fall of 1775 from the several hundred slaves who escaped their servitude to join him, as he fled Williamsburg to organize a small army of loyalists and British soldiers on the coast near Norfolk.  In November, Dunmore published a proclamation promising freedom to servants and slaves able to bear arms, and enough joined him to make up half of the force that first routed the Virginia militia at Kemp’s Landing and then, in December, suffered a devastating defeat at Great Bridge on the Elizabeth River.  By then, Dunmore reported to London, that nearly three hundred men of the Ethiopian Regiment were clad in uniforms embroidered with the provocative words “liberty to slaves.” Patriot writers reacted with fear and fury to the threat posed by this first systematic freeing and arming of the South’s black labor force.
Sources: 
The Negro and the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution (New York: HarperCollins, 2006); Christopher Leslie Brown and Philip D. Morgan, eds., Arming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age (University Press: New Haven, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jordan Hatcher Case (1852)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Jordan Hatcher was a seventeen-year-old enslaved tobacco worker in Richmond, Virginia, who in 1852 rose from obscurity to notoriety when charged with assaulting and killing white overseer William Jackson.  According to newspaper accounts and trial records, Hatcher was working at the Walker & Harris tobacco factory when Jackson began flogging him with a cowhide for performing poorly.  Hatcher initially warded off the blows, but Jackson continued to beat him.  In response Hatcher grabbed an iron poker, struck Jackson unconscious, and immediately fled the factory.  When Jackson later awok
Sources: 
Midori Takagi, “Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction” Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782-1865 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999); William A. Link, “The Jordan Hatcher Case: Politics and “A Spirit of Insubordination” in Antebellum Virginia,” Journal of Southern History 64:4 (Nov 1998); Harrison M. Ethridge, “The Jordan Hatcher Affair of 1852,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 84 (1976).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

Jasper, John J. (1812-1901)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Reverend John Jasper is arguably one of the most famous black ministers of nineteenth-century Richmond, Virginia, who gained popularity for his electrifying preaching style and his ability to spiritually move both black and white Baptists.  He began his career in the early 1840s, preaching at funerals of slave and free black parishioners and giving occasional sermons at the First African Baptist Church.  His popularity grew quickly and not only among Richmonders; after giving a guest sermon to the Third African Baptist Church in the nearby city of Petersburg, Jasper was invited by that congregation to preach every Sunday.  Jasper’s accomplishments are even more remarkable given the fact that he was a slave in the tobacco factories and iron mills of Richmond during the first 25 years of his ministry work during a time when Virginia law expressly prohibited blacks from preaching.
Sources: 
Mary J. Bratton, “John Jasper of Richmond: From Slave Preacher to Community Leader,” Virginia Cavalcade 29 (Summer 1979); William E. Hatcher, John Jasper: The Unmatched Negro Philosopher and Preacher (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969); John Jasper, “De Sun Do Move,” http://www.library.vcu.edu/jbc/speccoll/vbha/6th5.html

 

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

Remembering Brown: Silence, Loss, Rage, and Hope

Segregated School in West Memphis, Arkansas, 1949
Image Ownership: Public Domain
In the following article, James A. Banks, the Kerry and Linda Killinger Professor and Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington, Seattle, describes his Arkansas community's reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision when it was announced in 1954.

I was in the seventh grade at the Newsome Training School in Aubrey, Arkansas when the United States Supreme Court handed down Brown vs. Board of Education on May 17, 1954. My most powerful memory of the Brown decision is that I have no memory of it being rendered or mentioned by my parents, teachers, or preachers. In my rural southern black community, there was a conspiracy of silence about Brown. It was completely invisible.

A conspiracy of silence

Summary: 
In the following article, James A. Banks, the Kerry and Linda Killinger Professor and Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington, Seattle, describes his Arkansas community's reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision when it was announced in 1954.
Sources: 
James A. Banks, Race, Culture, and Education: The Selected Works of James A. Banks (New York & London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 37-41. Reprinted with Permission.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hemings, Sally (1773-1835)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Hemings-Jefferson Descendants, 2001
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sally Hemings was born into slavery in Virginia, probably at Guinea Plantation in Cumberland County, the youngest of six children of Elizabeth Hemings allegedly fathered by her white master John Wayles. Her mother was herself the child of an enslaved African woman and an English sea-captain, making Sally three-fourths white in ancestry.

On Wayles’ death in 1773, the Hemings family was inherited by Martha, his eldest legitimate child, and brought to the Monticello plantation of Thomas Jefferson whom Martha had married the previous year.  There the children grew up as house slaves staffing Monticello during the years that encompassed Martha Jefferson’s death in September 1782 and Jefferson’s departure to Paris, France on diplomatic service in 1784.  Three years later, Sally Hemings traveled to France as companion and maid to Jefferson’s eight-year-old daughter Maria, staying until 1789.  
Sources: 
Fawn Brodie, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (New York: Norton, 1974); Annette Gordon-Read, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1997); Jan Ellen Lewis and Peter S. Onuf, eds., Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

First Baptist Church, Richmond (1780-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Old First Baptist Church
of Richmond 
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The First Baptist Church, founded in 1780 by Joshua Morris, emerged in the aftermath of the Great Awakening religious revival movement (1730s-1770s) that spread across the South.  In contrast to the other churches in Richmond organized during the same time, the First Baptist attracted both black and white congregants in the hundreds, while neighboring houses of worship could only count a handful of followers.

First Baptist greatly appealed to slave and free-born blacks because of its liturgical message of egalitarianism by stressing the individual’s efforts for rebirth and conversion, rather than infant baptism.  Furthermore, the sermons and messages were accessible to even those who could not read.  Baptist ministers expressed sin and salvation in physical terms: the weight of sin, the burning fires of hell, and the cleanliness and purity of conversion.  
Sources: 
Midori Takagi, “Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction” Slavery in Richmond Virginia, 1780-1865 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999); Blanche Sydnor White, First Baptist Church, Richmond, 1780-1955: One Hundred and Seventy-Five Years of Service to God and Man (Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, 1955); Walter H. Brooks, “The Evolution of the Negro Baptist Church,” The Journal of Negro History 7:1(January 1922).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Western Washington University

Brisby, William H. (1831-1916)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
William BrisbyWilliam Henry Brisby was born free in New Kent County, Virginia in 1831 and lived on 32 acres of land that he inherited from his father.  He later bought additional land and eventually had a 179 acre farm.  Brisby worked mostly as a blacksmith and wheelwright but raised sheep, and engaged in commercial fishing.
Sources: 
Luther Porter Jackson, Negro Office Holders in Virginia, 1865-1895 (Norfolk: Guide Quality Press, 1945); John T. Kneebone, ed., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Hill, Oliver White (1907-2007)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, attorney Oliver W. Hill spent more than 60 years in a practice devoted to civil rights causes. He was in the forefront of the legal effort to desegregate public schools, participating in the series of lawsuits that were consolidated to become the landmark 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down segregated schools.

Oliver White Hill was born Oliver White on May 1, 1907 in Richmond, Virginia. When he was a baby, his father left; later his mother Olivia remarried and he took the last name of his stepfather, Joseph C. Hill. The family moved to Roanoke, Virginia, and then to Washington, D.C. where he graduated from Dunbar High School. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree at Howard University, he graduated in 1933 from Howard University Law School, second in his class only to his friend Thurgood Marshall. In Richmond, Hill founded his first law firm, Hill, Martin and Robinson, and joined with Charles Hamilton Houston on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) legal team.
Sources: 
Oliver W. Hill, The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education and Beyond, the Autobiography of Oliver W. Hill, Sr. (Winter Park, Florida: Four-G Publishers, 2000); Alan Govenar, Untold Glory, African Americans in the Pursuit of Freedom, Opportunity, and Achievement (New York: Harlem Moon, 2007); http://www.pbs.org/beyondbrown/history/oliverhill; http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/06/washington/06hill; http://www.brownat50.org/Brown/Bios/BioOliverhill.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Gilpin, Charles Sidney (1878-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Sidney Gilpin, an actor, singer, and vaudevillian dancer, was the most successful African American stage performer in the early 20th Century.  He is best known for his portrayal of Brutus Jones in Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones. A Richmond, Virginia, native, Gilpin attended St. Francis School, a Catholic institution for colored children, until age 12, and served as a printer’s assistant at the Richmond Planet (c. 1890-1893). Gilpin married three times. His first wife was Florence Howard (married c. 1897). He met his second wife, Lillian Wood, when he was with the Lafayette Players. His third wife was Alma Benjamin Gilpin.

Gilpin showed great promise early on as a singer appearing in amateur theatricals in Richmond. He went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the early 1890s, where he worked briefly for the Philadelphia Standard, but was let go after some employees complained about working with a Negro.
Sources: 
Anthony Duane Hill, ed., An Historical Dictionary of African American Theatre (Prevessin, France: Scarecrow Press, 2008); John T. Kneebone, “’It Wasn’t All Velvet’: The Life and Hard Times of Charles S. Gilpin, Actor,” Virginia Cavalcade 38 (Summer 1988)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio State University

Clemons, Michael “Pinball” (1965- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born on January 15, 1965 in Dunedin, Florida, Michael Clemons is the current head coach of the Toronto (Ontario) Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Clemons began his career in the CFL in 1989 as a player for the Toronto Argonauts and remained with them until his retirement in September of 2000, when he moved directly into the position of head coach.

Clemons attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he played running back and return specialist on the football team as well as soccer for a year. At only 5’6” and 170 pounds Clemons overcame obstacles and persevered through an impressive four-year college football career in which he compiled 4,778 all purpose yards and was named a Division 1-AA All American.
Sources: 

CFL.ca Network: Official site of the Canadian Football League; Michael Pinball Clemons, All Heart: My Story (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999) Perry Lefko, The Making of a Canadian Hero ( New York: Wiley Publishers, 2006) Canadian Football League facts, figures and records (Toronto: Canadian Football League, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Holstein, Casper (1876-1944)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Genevieve Fabre and Michel Feith, Temples for Tomorrow: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); Crime Library, Black Gangs of Harlem: 1920-1939, http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/gang/harlem_gangs/4.html
“Holstein Set Free By Abductors,” The New York Times, September 24, 1928.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Moton, Robert R. (1867-1940)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: 
Public Domain

Robert Russa Moton was born on the William Vaughan Plantation in 1867 in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Moton attended the local freedman’s school and eventually went on to college at the Hampton Institute (now called Hampton University).

At Hampton Institute Moton distinguished himself academically and after graduation was appointed the school’s Commandant in charge of military discipline, a post he held for 25 years.  Moton also became a Hampton fundraiser, traveling north to lecture on the school’s programs. 

In 1915, Moton left the Hampton Institute to accept a post as Tuskegee Institute as its second president after the death of founder Booker T. Washington.  Soon after his arrival Moton began to expand the Institute’s academic programs, adding a new department to educate future black school teachers.  He also initiated the construction of what would become the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital which would treat African American World War I veterans.  Despite local white opposition, Moton insisted that the federal hospital be staffed by black doctors, nurses, and administrators.

Sources: 
Robert Russa Moton, Finding a Way Out: An Autobiography (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1920); William Hardin Hughes and Frederick D. Patterson, Robert Russa Moton of Hampton and Tuskegee (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956); Lerone Bennett, “Chronicles of Black Courage: Robert R. Moton Risked Life in Fight for Black Doctors at Tuskegee Veterans Hospital,” Ebony, July 2002; www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/flood/peopleevents/p_moton.html;
www.hamptonu.edu, www.gloucesterva.info/moton1.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Southern Negro Youth Congress (1937-1949)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Members of the Southern Negro Youth Congress
Meet with Idaho Senator Glen Taylor, 1947
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC) was formed in 1937 by young people who had attended the National Negro Congress (NNC) in Chicago, Illinois in 1936 and wanted to implement its call for action. These young leaders, including veteran activists James Jackson, Helen Gray, Esther Cooper, and Edward Strong, gathered in Richmond, Virginia in 1937 and formed the SNYC.  They initially established their headquarters in Richmond before moving it to Birmingham, Alabama in 1939.  SNYC had the support of prominent black adult leaders including Mary McCloud Bethune, Paul Robeson, Charlotte Hawkins Brown, A. Philip Randolph, and W.E.B. DuBois.

The first SNYC conference was held in Richmond, Virginia on February 13 and 14, 1937 at the Fifth Baptist Church.  Five hundred thirty-four delegates from across the South attended the meeting including individuals from almost every historically black college as well as delegates representing YMCA branches and chapters of the Girl and Boy Scouts across the region. One international delegate, a young woman from China, also attended.  Like its parent organization, the National Negro Congress, SNYC also included Communists among its members.

Sources: 
W.E.B. DuBois, “Behold The Land,” Freedomways 4 (Winter 1964); Patricia Sullivan, “Five Decades of Activism,” Journal of the Southern Regional Council 12:1(1990); Johnetta Gladys Richards, “The Southern Negro Youth Congress; A History, 1937-1949” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Cincinnati, 1987).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Francisco State University

Grandfather Clause, The (1898–1915)

Vignette Type: 
Misc
History Type: 
African American History
Harper's Weekly Editorial on 
The Grandfather Clause
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Grandfather Clause was a statute enacted by many American southern states in the wake of Reconstruction (1865-1877) that allowed potential white voters to circumvent literacy tests, poll taxes, and other tactics designed to disfranchise southern blacks. Following the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), which extended citizenship to blacks, the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) was ratified, providing a mandate that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged…on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” But after a brief period of relatively open voting, southern states and, especially, Democratic legislators began enacting poll taxes, literacy and property tests, and understanding clauses, which they claimed would exclude the poor and uneducated, in a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate the black vote. Many Southern states, however, had to rely on the cunning of voter registrars to ensure that poor and uneducated whites were not disfranchised by these tests.
Sources: 
R. Volney Riser, Defying Disfranchisement: Black Voting Rights Activism in the Jim Crow South, 1890-1908 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2010); Michael J. Klarman, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Economic Equality (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/10/21/239081586/the-racial-history-of-the-grandfather-clause.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Chavis, John (1763-1838)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Chavis, early 19th Century minister and teacher, was born on October 18, 1763.  His place of birth is debated by historians.  Some scholars think that Chavis hailed from the West Indies.  Others believe that he was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, or that he was born in North Carolina.  Available records document that Chavis was a free African American who probably worked for Halifax, Virginia attorney James Milner beginning in 1773.   It is likely that Chavis utilized the books in Milner’s extensive law library to educate himself.  

In 1778, while still a teenager, Chavis entered the Virginia Fifth Regiment and fought in the Revolutionary War.  He served in the Fifth Regiment for three years.  In the 1780s Chavis earned his living as a tutor and while working in this capacity he married Sarah Frances Anderson.  Although an excellent teacher, Chavis’ own intellectual capacity was not satisfied.  He soon moved his family to New Jersey to enter a tutorial program with John Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  In 1792, at the age of 29, Chavis was accepted into the College of New Jerseys’ Theological School; later renamed Princeton University.   
Sources: 
Helen Chavis Othow, John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor 1783-1838, Mentor (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2001); William S. Powell, Ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 1, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), John Chavis Letters, #2014, 1889-1892; Wilson Library Manuscripts Department , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; John Chavis Biography, North Carolina State University Division of Archives and History, http://www.ncsu.edu/ligon/about/history/Chavis.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Johnson C. Smith University

Robinson, Bill “Bojangles” (1878-1949)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Bill Robinson was born in Richmond, Virginia on May 25, 1878 to Maxwell and Maria Robinson.  Due to the death of both of his parents when he was an infant, Bill and his younger brother Percy were brought up by his grandmother.  As a young child, Bill was given the nickname of “Bojangles” although Robinson himself was unsure of the origin of the name. 

Sources: 
Susie Box, “National Tap Dance Day: Resonating Far and Wide” The International Tap Association Newsletter 4:1 (May-June, 1993), James Haskins and N.R. Mitgang, Mr. Bojangles: The Biography of Bill Robinson (New York: W. Morrow, 1988); Henry Louis Gates and Cornel West, eds., The African-American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country (New York: Free Press, 2000); http://www.tapdance.org/tap/people/bojangle.htm.  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lafayette, James Armistead (1760-1832)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Armistead [Lafayette] was an African American spy during the American Revolution. Born in Virginia as a slave to William Armistead in 1760, he volunteered to join the Army in 1781. After gaining the consent of his owner, Armistead was stationed to serve under the Marquis de Lafayette, the commander of French forces allied with the American Continental Army.  Lafayette employed Armistead as a spy.  While working for Lafayette he successfully infiltrated British General Charles Cornwallis's headquarters posing as a runaway slave hired by the British to spy on the Americans.

While pretending to be a British spy, Armistead gained the confidence of General Benedict Arnold and General Cornwallis. Arnold was so convinced of Armistead's pose as a runaway slave that he used him to guide British troops through local roads. Armistead often traveled between camps, spying on British officers, who spoke openly about their strategies in front of him. Armistead documented this information in written reports, delivered them to other American spies, and then return to General Cornwallis's camp.
Sources: 
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Alan Steinberg, Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African American Achievement (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc, 1996); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Molyneux, Thomas (1784–1818)

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

Bailey, Pearl Mae (1918–1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Pearl Bailey, Between You and Me: A Heartfelt Memoir on Learning, Loving and Living (New York: Doubleday, 1989); Morgan Monceaux, Jazz: My Music, My People (New York: Knopf, 1994); Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women (New York: Gramercy Books, 2000).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Michaux, Solomon Lightfoot "Elder" (c.1885-1968)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Elder Michaux Baptisting Followers at Griffith Stadium,
Washington,D.C. n.d.
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio,
photographers, Scurlock Studio Records,
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Solomon Michaux was a radio evangelist, entrepreneur, and founder of the Church of God Movement; he was also known as the “Happy Am I Preacher.” Michaux was born around 1885 in Buckroe Beach, Virginia into a devout family of Baptists. He grew up in Newport News, Virginia where he spent his childhood in local public schools and helping his family’s seafood business by peddling fish to local military men in nearby Camp Lee. Michaux married Eliza Pauline in 1906. They had no children.
Sources: 
Marcus H. Boulware, The Oratory of Negro Leaders: 1900-1968 (Westport: Negro Universities Press, 1969); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Stephen D. Glazier ed., Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions (New York: Routledge, 2001)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Jackson, Luther Porter (1892-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Luther Porter Jackson was a leading teacher, historian, and active voice of the history of African Americans in the South. Jackson was born in Lexington, Kentucky of former slave parents, Edward and Delilah Jackson, the ninth of twelve children. He attended Fisk University where he obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees in history in 1914 and 1916 respectively. In 1937 he completed the Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago.

Jackson began his teaching career in 1913 at the Topeka Industrial Institute in Kansas.  By 1915 he had moved to Voorhees Industrial School in South Carolina where he remained until 1918.  While teaching in South Carolina Jackson researched his first two articles that eventually appeared in the Journal of Negro History.  In 1922, Jackson joined the faculty of the Virginia Normal and Technical Institute (now Virginia State University).  Also in 1922 he married music teacher and fellow Fisk graduate Johnella Fraser. The couple had four children.
Sources: 
J.H. Johnston, "Luther P. Jackson," Journal of Negro History 35:3 (July 1950); Michael Dennis, Luther P. Jackson and a Life for Civil Rights (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hawaii

Scott, Robert “Bobby” (1947- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of 
Representatives Photography Office
Congressman Robert Cortez “Bobby” Scott was born on April 30, 1947 in Washington, D.C. but later resided in Newport News, Virginia.  Scott attended Harvard University and later graduated from the Boston College School of Law.

Scott, a Democrat, entered politics in 1978, running a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates representing Newport News.  In 1983 he was elected to the Virginia State Senate.  During his years in the Virginia Assembly, Scott sponsored legislation related to healthcare, education, crime prevention, economic development, consumer protection and social services.  One of his measures increased the Virginia minimum wage and another produced improvements in healthcare benefits for women, infants, and children.  Scott also sponsored legislation that created the Governor’s Employment and Training Council.  His sponsorship of the Neighborhood Assistance Act led to granting tax credits to businesses for donations made to approved social service and crime prevention programs
Sources: 
www.house.gov/scott/bio.shtml;                www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id.=400364
MIX Magazine, January 2006; Portfolio Weekly, December 23, 2003
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Norfolk State University

Harpers Ferry Raid, 1859

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
U.S. Marines Attacking John Brown and His Men at Harper's Ferry, 1859
Image Ownership: Public Domain
On October 16, 1859 in the town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) John Brown, an ardent abolitionist, and 21 other men raided a West Virginia armory to seize weapons for a planned slavery insurrection. Civilians in the town were alerted when gunshots were heard and news spread that the armory had been captured, they assembled militia to counterattack the building.  Later the United States government sent in marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee to quash the insurgent takeover.  Escape routes were cut off and the military recaptured the armory.  In the course of the raid ten of Brown's men were killed; seven, including Brown himself, were captured, and five escaped.
Sources: 
Joseph Edgar Chamberlain, John Brown (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1899); Benjamin Quarles, Allies for Freedom: Blacks and John Brown (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974); Paul Finkelman, His Soul Goes Marching On: Responses to John Brown and the Harper’s Ferry Raid (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995); http://www.wvculture.org/History/
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jefferson, Isaac (1775-1853)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Isaac Jefferson, a slave of the third President of the United States, was born in December 1775 in Monticello, on the Thomas Jefferson plantation in Virginia. His family was an important part of the Monticello labor force. His father, Great George, was the only enslaved person on the Jefferson plantation to rise from foreman to overseer. His mother, Ursula, was requested by Thomas Jefferson’s wife Martha because of her trustworthiness. Young Isaac Jefferson helped his mother and father by carrying wood and making fires. As he got older he was trained as a blacksmith.

In 1779 four year old Isaac Jefferson and other Jefferson slaves were captured by British forces while Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia government fled to Richmond.  Issac Jefferson and his family remained under the control of the British until the surrender of General Charles (Lord) Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.  The Jefferson slaves were then brought back to Monticello and Isaac, now six, was returned to his life as a slave.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); “Isaac Jefferson,” http://www.monticello.org/gettingword/isaac.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Agrippa Hull: Revolutionary Patriot

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

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

Gravely, Samuel Lee (1922-2004)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. Takes Command of 3rd
Fleet, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1976
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

Samuel Lee Gravely Jr. was a highly decorated Navy Officer who pioneered the way with a multitude of firsts for African Americans in the military. Some of his most notable achievements included, being the first African American Navy Vice Admiral, the first African American to command a Navy warship, the first African American to command a warship during combat, the first African American to command a Navy Fleet, and the first African American to obtain Flag Rank in the military. His decorations include the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Navy Commendation Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal.

Samuel Gravely was born in Richmond, Virginia on June 4, 1922. He attended Virginia Union University for three years, where he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate fraternity established for African Americans in 1906. Postponing his education, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1942 where he trained as a fireman apprentice.

Sources: 

Henry E. Dabbs, Black Brass: Black Generals and Admirals in the Armed Forces of the United States (Charlottesville, Virginia: Howell Press, 1997); http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/samuel-gravely.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Blucke, Stephen ( --1792)

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

Colonel Stephen Blucke led an all-black Regiment that fought for the British during the American Revolution. He settled in Birchtown, Nova Scotia in 1783 and became a leader in the Black Loyalist community.

During the Revolutionary War, the most famous of the Black Loyalist Military units were called the Black Pioneers, which contained a small elite band of guerrillas known as the Black Brigade. The Black Brigade fought independently and later with the all-white unit Queen’s Rangers. The supplies they seized were vital to the survival of the Loyalists in New York. In a raid on a patriot militia leader, the Brigade and leader Colonel Tye were caught in a long battle. Their target was burned after Tye’s death and Blucke – a literate, free black from Barbados and officer in the Black Pioneers – succeeded Tye as Colonel of the Brigade.

Sources: 

Joseph Mensah, Black Canadians: History, Experiences, Social Conditions (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2002); Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution (Toronto: Penguin Group, 2006); http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/023001-2125-e.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Mitchell, John, Jr. (1863–1929) and the Richmond Planet (1883 -1996)

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

John Mitchell, Jr. edited and published the Richmond Planet newspaper from one year after its founding in 1883, until his death in 1929.  He was known as the “fighting editor” for his writing against racism.

In 1863, John Mitchell, Sr. and his wife Rebecca were living on the Lyons family estate in Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond.  The Mitchells were slaves; John was a coachman and Rebecca was a seamstress.  On July 11, 1863, they had John, Jr., the first of two sons.  After the Civil War, the Mitchell family moved to Richmond, where Rebecca and John, Jr. continued to work for the Lyons family.

Mitchell graduated high school at the top of his class in 1881.  He taught in Virginia Public Schools until state politics led to the firing of many black teachers, including him.

In 1883 the black lawyer Edwin Archer Randolph founded the Richmond Planet.  After just a year, the newspaper was in the red and on the verge of collapse.  Mitchell led a group of former teachers who resurrected it.

Sources: 

Ann Field Alexander, Race Man: The Rise and Fall of the “Fighting
Editor,”
John Mitchell Jr., Charlottesville: University of Virginia
Press (2002); Richmond Planet, Richmond, Virginia (1884 – 1929);
William J. Simmons, Men of Mark, Cleveland: George M. Rewell & Co
(1887).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Follis, Charles W. (1879-1910)

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

The first African American professional football player, Charles W. Follis, was born February 3, 1879, in Cloverdale, Virginia. The Follis family moved to Wooster, Ohio, where he attended Wooster High School and participated in organizing and establishing the first varsity football team. He played right halfback and served as team captain on a squad that had no losses that year.

In1901, Follis entered the College of Wooster. Rather than playing football for the college, he played for the town’s amateur football team – the Wooster Athletic Association, where he earned the nickname of the “Black Cyclone from Wooster.”

In 1902, Frank C. Schieffer, manager of the Shelby Athletic Club secured employment for Follis at Howard Seltzer and Sons Hardware Store in rural Shelby, Ohio. The six-foot, 200-pound Follis played for Shelby in 1902 and 1903.

Sources: 

Milton Roberts, “Charles Follis: First Black Pro Gridder Labored in
Obscurity,” Black Sports 4 (November 1975); Charles K. Ross, Outside
the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National
Football League
(New York: New York University Press, 1999); Edna and
Art Rust, Jr., Art Rust’s illustrated History of the Black Athlete
(Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1985).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Morris, Effie Lee (1921-2009)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library

In choosing librarianship over teaching or social work, Effie Lee Morris combined her desire to help people with a personal passion for education.  In doing so she became one of America’s leading advocates for services to children, minorities, and the visually-impaired.  Born in Richmond, Virginia on April 20, 1921, Morris spent her youth in Cleveland, Ohio.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1945, Bachelor of Library Science in 1946, and Master's in Library Science in 1956 all from Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University).  

Morris began work in 1946 at the Cleveland Public Library and established the first Negro History Week celebration for children there.  In 1955, she moved to New York as a children’s branch librarian in the Bronx.  Three years later, in 1958, she pioneered the development of library services for blind children.  She later served as president of the National Braille Club from 1961 to 1963.  

Sources: 

“ALA Names Three Honorary Members,” American Library Association, http://www.ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pressreleases2008/february20... Effie Lee Morris Collection, San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.lib.ca.us/librarylocations/main/elm/elm.htm; Jennifer M. York, editor, Who’s Who Among African Americans, 16th edition (Detroit: Thomson-Gale, 2003); Violet Harris, “An Interview with Effie Lee Morris,” The New Advocate, 14:3, 277-284 (Summer 2001).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Anderson, Osborne P. (1830-1872)

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

Osborne Perry Anderson was one of the five African American men to accompany John Brown in the raid on the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) in October 1859.  Anderson was a free-born black abolitionist, born in West Fallow Field, Pennsylvania on July 27, 1830.  Along with John Anthony Copeland Jr., another member of the Brown raiding party, Anderson attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.  He later moved to Chatham, Canada, where he worked as a printer for Mary Ann Shadd's newspaper, The Provincial Freeman.   In 1858 Anderson met John Brown and eventually became persuaded to join his band of men determined to attack Harpers Ferry.

One year after meeting John Brown, on October 16, 1859 Anderson took part in Brown’s radical scheme to free the United States of slavery.  Like Brown and the other followers, Anderson believed that if the group seized weapons at Harpers Ferry and then marched south, they would create a massive slave uprising that would liberate all of the nearly four million African Americans in bondage.  

Sources: 

Osborne Perry Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry: A Narrative of
Events at Harper's Ferry with incidents Prior and Subsequent to its
Capture by Captain John Brown and His Men
(Boston: Privately Printed,
1861); Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer, Prophets of Protest:
Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism
(New York: The New
Press, 2006);  Herb Boyd, Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of
African American History Told by Those Who Lived It
(New York:
Doubleday, 2000); Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman, Terrible Swift
Sword: The Legacy of John Brown
(Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005);
http://www.iath.virginia.edu/jbrown/men.html#opa

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Marsh, Henry L., III (1933- )

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

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

Virginia State University (1882 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Virginia State University First Class, 1886
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Virginia State University is a public, historically black college located in Petersburg, Virginia.  The university is the first fully supported, four year institution for African Americans in the United States and is one of two land-grant colleges in the State of Virginia.

The university was founded on March 6, 1882 as the Virginia Normal and College Institute after the state legislature passed a bill sponsored by Delegate Alfred W. Harris, a black attorney, which chartered the university.  The state established the university to serve the needs of a population that was at the time excluded from other public institutions in Virginia.  Virginia Normal and College Institute opened as a teacher training college for both male and female black students but it also included a modest liberal arts curriculum. 

Sources: 

Virginia State University History, http://www.vsu.edu/about/history/history-vsu.php; (Official site); Trudy Harrington Becker, "Broadening Access to a Classical Education: State Universities in Virginia in the Nineteenth Century," Classical Journal, 96:3 (March 2001).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Virginia Union University (1865- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Virginia Union University, a historically black university located in Richmond, Virginia, traces its roots back to the Wayland Seminary, founded in 1865 by the American Baptist Home Missionary Society (ABHMS).
Sources: 
Virginia Union University History, http://www.vuu.edu/about_vuu/history.aspx (official website); Adolph H. Grundman, "Northern Baptist and the Founding of Virginia Union University: The Perils of Paternalism," The Journal of Negro History, 63:1 (January 1978).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Saint Paul’s College of Virginia (1888-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Bricklaying Class, St. Paul's College, 1958
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Saint Paul’s College of Virginia is a private college located in Lawrenceville, Virginia.  The college was founded on September 24, 1888, by James Solomon Russell, a newly-ordained deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church. He became the first principal of the institution, which in 1890 was incorporated as the Saint Paul’s Normal and Industrial School by the Virginia Assembly.  On the first day of class in 1888, the school had fewer than a dozen students in attendance.  Russell remained principal of Saint Paul’s Normal until his retirement forty years later in 1928.

Russell argued that a school was needed to train African American teachers in Virginia and across the South.  Although a number of other black colleges had been founded with the same mission, Russell believed that more institutions were needed to carry on this work and that the Episcopal Church should support this endeavor.  
Sources: 
“History of Saint Paul’s College”, http://saintpaulsnet.com/?page_id=478.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bivins, Horace W. (1862-1937)

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

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

Abbott, Anderson Ruffin (1837-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Sources: 
M. Dalyce Newby, Anderson Ruffin Abbott: First Afro-Canadian Doctor (Markam, Ontario: Fitzhenny and Whiteside, 1998); Daniel Hill, The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1981); Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/abbott_anderson_ruffin_14E.html.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bullock, Charles H., Sr. (1875-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Harmon Bullock was a prominent leader in the early 20th Century Colored Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) movement.  Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, on March 2, 1875, the son of former slaves Burkley and Mary Washington Bullock, Charles Bullock later graduated as salutorian of his class at Jefferson Normal School on June 27, 1892.  He became a teacher in the segregated Charlottesville public schools and simultaneously worked as a correspondent for The Daily Progress, a local African American newspaper.

In 1890 the national office of the YMCA decided to create a "Colored Men's Department" which would sponsor individual Colored YMCA's across the nation.  The national office envisioned these facilities as providing temporary housing, lending libraries, swimming pools and gyms for black men along with spiritual and educational training.  In an era when black public school facilities were often inadequate and cultural and civic facilities non-existent, these Colored YMCAs provided additional educational and cultural outlets in racially-segregated communities throughout the country.  Although endorsing segregated YMCAs in the North was often controversial with many civil rights groups, Bullock and others supported segregation, which brought a degree of autonomy that many in the African American community welcomed.
Sources: 
Nina Mjagkij, Light in the Darkness: African Americans and the YMCA, 1852-1946 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994); “ A Brief History of the YMCA and African American Communities," Kautz Family YMCA Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries, http://special.lib.umn.edu/ymca/guides/afam/afam-history.phtml; "Y Head Retires after 33 Years," Baltimore Afro-American, April 6, 1935.
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Sommersett, James (c1741-c1772)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
18th Century British Slave
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James Sommersett was the subject of a landmark legal case in Great Britain, which was the first major step in imposing limits on Trans-Atlantic African slavery. Sommersett entered the pages of history when in 1771, he fled his North American owner, Charles Stewart, while both were living in London, England.  Sommersett was originally purchased in Virginia and had been bought to Britain by Stewart from Boston, Massachusetts in 1769.  He fled two years later and was apprehended on the Ann and Mary, a ship bound for Jamaica.  
Sources: 
Francis Hargrave, An Argument in the Case of James Sommersett, a Negro, Lately Determined by the Court of King’s Bench:  wherein it is attempted to demonstrate the present unlawfulness of Domestic slavery in England. To Which is Prefixed, a State of the Case. By Mr. Hargrave, one of the counsel for the Negro (London and Boston, reprinted by E. Russell, 1774; William M, Wiecek, “"Somerset: Lord Mansfield and the Legitimacy of Slavery in the Anglo-American World," University of Chicago Law Review 42 (1974), 86-146; Steven Wise, Though the Heavens May Fail: The Landmark Case that Led to the End of Human Slavery (Cambridge: Perseus/Da Capo Press, 2005)
Affiliation: 
University of California, Santa Cruz

Baker, Thomas Nelson, Jr. (1906–1977)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Oberlin College Archives,
Oberlin, Ohio
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1906, Thomas Nelson Baker was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from The Ohio State University. The third child of Rev. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker, Sr. and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Baytop Baker, Thomas had one brother, Harry and two sisters, Edith and Ruth. Rev. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker, Sr., was born a slave and earned a Ph.D. from Yale in 1903.

Baker studied chemistry at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio and earned his B.A. degree in 1929. He began postgraduate studies at Oberlin and earned his M.A. degree in 1930. He then taught at many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to support himself and his family. Baker was as an instructor of chemistry at Tougaloo College from 1930 to 1931, and at Talladega College from 1931 to 1932. Baker spent the majority of his academic career serving as professor of chemistry and department chair at Virginia State College (now Virginia State University). He taught there from 1932 to 1972 when he retired. Baker was listed in the American Men of Science (1957), and was a member of several organizations including Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and the American Chemical Society.
Sources: 
The Ohio State University Archives; T.N. Baker, “The Molecular Size of Glycogen and of Mannan A by the Mercaptalation Method,” Ph.D. diss., The Ohio State University, 1941; Collins, S.N. “Celebrating Our Diversity: The Education of Some Pioneering African American Chemists in Ohio,” Bull. Hist. Chem., 2011, 36, pg 82-84; H.W. Greene, Holders of Doctorates Among American Negroes (Meador, Boston, 1946); G. Yancy, “Thomas Nelson Baker: The First African American to Receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy,” Western Journal of  Black Studies, 1997, 21, 253-260; “Deaths: Thomas N. Baker,” Advance, April 1, 1941. [Oberlin College Archives]
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
College of Wooster

Fighting for Freedom on Both Sides of the American Revolution

 

Fighting for Emancipation in the War
of Independence
Image Courtesy of University of Chicago
Press

Alan Gilbert, University of Denver political scientist and anti-racist activist, is the author of Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence, one of the few works that examines the free and enslaved blacks who joined the American Patriots and the British during the American Revolution and the anti-racist whites who supported them.  In the account below he describes the book and why he wrote it.

Summary: 
<i>Alan Gilbert, University of Denver political scientist and anti-racist activist, is the author of  <u>Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence</u>, one of the few works that examines the free and enslaved blacks who joined the American Patriots and the British during the American Revolution and the anti-racist whites who supported them.  In the account below he describes the book and why he wrote it.</i>
Sources: 
Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation2: 
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Black-Patriots-and-Loyalists-by-Alan-Gilbert/284675318252714
Affiliation: 
University of Denver

Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1818-1907)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley is best known as Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker and confidant and as the author of Behind the Scenes By Elizabeth Keckley, Formerly a Slave, But More Recently Modiste, and Friend to Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868).  

Elizabeth Hobbs was born into slavery on the Col. Armistead Burwell farm in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, in 1818 to Agnes and George Pleasant Hobbs (although her biographer Jennifer Fleischner asserts that Col. Burwell was in fact Hobbs’s father).  Agnes and George had an “abroad” marriage meaning that except for one brief period of time when George resided on the Burwell property, the family lived apart.  George Hobbs was parted from his family permanently when his master relocated west.  
Sources: 
Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes By Elizabeth Keckley, Formerly a Slave, But More Recently Modiste, and Friend to Mrs. Abraham Lincoln,  Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868), available electronically at:  http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/keckley/keckley.html;  Jennifer Fleischner, Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly (New York: Broadway Books, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Lewis, Charles (ca. 1760-1833)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
1780 Document Indicating Wills' Service in the U.S. Army
During the American Revolution 
Image Courtesy of Anita Wills

Charles Lewis was a sailor and soldier during the American Revolutionary War.  Lewis was born sometime around 1760 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia on Bel Aire, the Lewis Family Plantation owned by John Lewis. John and a free mulatto woman, Josephine Lewis, were the parents of Charles and his younger brother, Ambrose.  Lewis and his brother were born free but their mother was indentured to John Lewis. 

On April 15, 1776, Charles Lewis and his brother entered into the naval service of Virginia when they served on board the Galley Page, a warship commanded by Captain James Markham.  On March 20, 1778, they entered the Naval Service of the United States when they joined the crew of the USS Dragon commanded by Captain Eleazor Callender.

Sources: 
Michael L. Cook, Pioneer Lewis Families (Evansville, Indiana: Cook Publications, 1984); Anita L. Wills, Notes and Documents of Free Persons of Color, Some Free Persons of Color: Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania County (Virginia) 1750-1850 (Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu Press: 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Walker, Thomas Calhoun (1862-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Thomas Calhoun Walker, teacher, lawyer, and government official, was born into slavery on June 16, 1862 in a small cabin at Spring Hill in Gloucester County, Virginia. On January 1, 1863, when Walker was just a few months old, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves. Walker’s parents, despite their new liberty, chose to stay and work on plantations around Spring Hill.

Walker’s former owner and master died, and his son Lieutenant William J. Baytop took over the plantation.  Lieutenant Baytop and his wife had no children of their own and convinced Walker’s parents to let them keep him while he was young. The Baytops treated young Walker well. They named him Thomas after his biological father and Calhoun after South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun. When he was a few years older, Walker’s father sent for him, and the Baytops returned him to his family.

Walker and his family lived near Edge Hill where they rented a two-room shed and a kitchen. The boy’s childhood ended at the age of 10 when he began working odd jobs to help support his family. Walker desperately wanted an education, but his father said that at age 10 he was too old to learn.  At 13 he could neither read nor write. But young Walker persisted and finally learned to read when a Sunday School teacher gave him a spelling book called “John Common’s Book.”
Sources: 
J. Clay Smith, Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993); Thomas Calhoun Walker, The Honey-Pod Tree; the Life Story of Thomas Calhoun Walker (New York: J. Day, 1958).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Camilla (1919-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Indiana University
Professional opera singer Camilla Williams was born October 18, 1919 in Danville, Virginia to Fannie Carey Williams and Cornelius Booker Williams. The youngest of four siblings, Williams began singing at a young age and was performing at her local church by age eight. At age 12, she began taking lessons from a Welsh singing teacher, Raymond Aubrey, but because of Jim Crow laws the lessons had to be conducted in private in Aubrey’s home.

After high school, Williams attended Virginia State College for Negroes, now Virginia State University, in Petersburg, Virginia. She graduated in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. After graduation, Williams taught 3rd grade and music at a black public school in Danville. In 1943, fellow Virginia State College alumni paid for the gifted singer to move to Philadelphia and study under influential voice coach Marion Szekely-Freschl. Williams began touring in 1944 and during one concert in Stamford, Connecticut she met Geraldine Farrar, a respected soprano opera singer and the original star of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s Madame Butterfly. Farrar was so impressed with Williams’ voice that she soon took her under her wing and became her mentor. Farrar even helped Williams to sign a recording contract with RCA Victor and to break into the highest levels of American opera.  
Sources: 
Veronica A. Davis, Inspiring African American Women of Virginia (New York: IUniverse, 2005); http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/03/arts/music/camilla-williams-opera-singer-dies-at-92.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Henry "Box" (1816-1889)

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Baptist Church, Petersburg, Virginia (1756- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of Solange Cole"
First Baptist Church of Petersburg, Virginia, originally known as the First African Baptist Church, is the oldest continuolsly operating black church in the United States. It is also the mother church of numerous Baptist congregations in Virginia.  The evangelical anti-slavery message of the equality of all men who were made in God’s image preached by Baptist missionaries after the Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s led to the conversion of large numbers of African slaves and freepersons who then began worshipping together in the Baptist tradition in Prince Georges County, Virginia by 1756. 

It was these energetic young black members of the New Lights, as they were called, who assumed leadership roles and formally established First African Baptist Church in 1774 near Lunenburg, Virginia, on the William Byrd III plantation.  Free members of the congregation later moved to Petersburg and changed the name to the First Baptist Church when the Byrd plantation meetinghouse succumbed to flames.

Sources: 
Albert Raboteau, Slave Religion: The 'Invisible Institution' in the Antebellum South (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Leonard Black, The Life and Sufferings of Leonard Black, a Fugitive from Slavery. Written by Himself (New Bedford: Benjamin Lindsey Publishing, 1847); The Virginia Heritage Collections, Library of Virginia at http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=lva/vi04023.xml accessed March 1, 2014; First Baptist’s official website:  http://www.firstbaptistpetersburg.org/ .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Alabama State University

Buckroe Beach, Hampton, Virginia (1890- )

Vignette Type: 
Places
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Hampton University Archives"

Buckroe Beach is one of the oldest recreational regions in Virginia. In 1619, the “Buck Roe” plantation was designated for public use for the newly arrived English settlers sent by the Virginia Company of London. By 1637, however, the plantation was converted into a commercial tobacco farm.  After the Civil War, Buckroe became a fishing camp used by both black and white fishermen. In 1890 a group of Hampton Institute administrators purchased eight acres of beachfront on Chesapeake Bay to provide a place for student exercise and the location of a hotel which could host out-of-town guests.  Led by Frank D. Banks, the administrators pooled their funds to build a four-room cottage they ambitiously named the Bay Shore Hotel.

Sources: 
Buckroe Beach Virginia, available at http://www.best-beaches.com/us/virginia/hampton/buckroe-beach; Buckroe Beach Pier, available at http://www.destination360.com/north-america/us/virginia/buckroe-beach; and http://www.hampton.gov; Andrew W. Kahrl, The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Ohio University

The Three-Fifths Clause of the United States Constitution (1787)

Vignette Type: 
Misc
History Type: 
African American History
The Practical Impact of the Three Fifths Clause
to the U.S. Constitution
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Often misinterpreted to mean that African Americans as individuals are considered three-fifths of a person or that they are three-fifths of a citizen of the U.S., the three-fifths clause (Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution of 1787) in fact declared that for purposes of representation in Congress, enslaved blacks in a state would be counted as three-fifths of the number of white inhabitants of that state.

The three-fifths clause was part of a series of compromises enacted by the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The most notable other clauses prohibited slavery in the Northwest Territories and ended U.S. participation in the international slave trade in 1807. These compromises reflected Virginia Constitutional Convention delegate (and future U.S. President) James Madison’s observation that “…the States were divided into different interests not by their…size…but principally from their having or not having slaves.”

Sources: 
David Waldstreicher, Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007); Paul Finkelman, “Slavery and the Constitutional Convention: Making a Covenant with Death,” in Paul Finkelman, Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2001); Garry Wills, Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power (New York: First Mariner Books, 2005); Hanes Walton, Jr. and Robert C. Smith, American Politics and the African American Quest for Universal Freedom (New York: Pearson Longman, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University-Fresno

09/18-20/2009: Umoja Festival (Portsmouth, VA)

09/18/2009 - 10:00
09/21/2009 - 10:59
Etc/GMT

Umoja Festival

1607

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Jamestown is founded in Virginia.

1619

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Approximately 20 blacks from a Dutch slaver are purchased as indentured workers for the English settlement of Jamestown. These are the first Africans in the English North American colonies.

1624

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
The first African American child born free in the English colonies, William Tucker, is baptized in Virginia.

1642

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Virginia passes a fugitive slave law. Offenders helping runaway slaves are fined in pounds of tobacco. An enslaved person is to be branded with a large R after a second escape attempt.

1651

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Anthony Johnson, a free African American, imports several enslaved Africans and is given a grant of land on Virginia's Puwgoteague River Other free African Americans follow this pattern.

1655

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Anthony Johnson successfully sues for the return of his slave John Casor, whom the court had earlier treated as an indentured servant.

1662

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Virginia reverses the presumption of English law that the child follows the status of his father, and enacts a law that makes the free or enslaved status of children dependent on the status of the mother.

1663

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Black and white indentured servants plan a rebellion in Gloucester County, Virginia. Their plans are discovered and the leaders are executed.

1663

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
A planned revolt of enslaved Africans and indentured servants is uncovered in Gloucester County, Virginia.

1664

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
In Virginia, the enslaved African's status is clearly differentiated from the indentured servant's when colonial laws decree that enslavement is for life and is transferred to the children through the mother. Black and slave become synonymous, and enslaved Africans are subject to harsher and more brutal control than other laborers.

1667

Timeline Type: 
AA
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1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Virginia declares that baptism does not free a slave from bondage, thereby abandoning the Christian tradition of not enslaving other Christians.

1676

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AA
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1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Nathaniel Bacon leads an unsuccessful rebellion of whites and blacks against the English colonial government in Virginia.

1682

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AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
A new slave code in Virginia prohibits weapons for slaves, requires passes beyond the limits of the plantation and forbids self-defense by any African Americans against any European American.

1727

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1701-1800
Timeline Entry Description: 
Enslaved Africans and Native Americans revolt in Middlesex and Gloucester Counties in Virginia.

1758

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1701-1800
Timeline Entry Description: 
The African Baptist or Bluestone Church is founded on the William Byrd plantation near the Bluestone River, in Mecklenburg, Virginia, becoming the first known black church in North America

1762

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1701-1800
Timeline Entry Description: 
Virginia restricts voting rights to white men.

1775

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1701-1800
Timeline Entry Description: 
On Nov. 7, Lord Dunmore, British Governor of Virginia declares all slaves free who come to the defense of the British Crown against the Patriot forces. Dunmore eventually organizes the first regiment of black soldiers to fight under the British flag.

1800

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1701-1800
Timeline Entry Description: 
On August 30, Gabriel Prosser attempts a slave rebellion in Richmond, Virginia.

1802

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AA
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1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
James Callender claims that Thomas Jefferson has for many years past kept, as his concubine, one of his own slaves, Sally Hemings. His charge is published in the Richmond Recorder that month, and the story is soon picked up by the Federalist press around the country.

1831

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Southampton, Virginia, killing at least 57 whites.

1865

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War.

1883

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
On November 3, white conservatives in Danville, Virginia, seize control of the local racially integrated and popularly elected government, killing four African Americans in the process.

1888

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
Two of America's first black-owned banks, the Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of the Reformers, in Richmond, Virginia, and Capital Savings Bank of Washington, D.C, open their doors.

1900

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
In September Nannie Helen Burroughs leads the founding of the Women's' Convention of the National Baptist Convention at its meeting in Richmond, Virginia.

1903

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Maggie Lena Walker founds St. Lukes Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia.

1977

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
On March 8, Henry L. Marsh III became the first African American mayor of Richmond, Virginia

1989

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
On November 7, L. Douglas Wilder wins the governorship of Virginia, making him the first African American to be popularly elected to that office. On the same day David Dinkins and Norm Rice are the first African Americans elected as mayors of New York and Seattle respectively.

1619

Timeline Type: 
AAW
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Approximately 20 blacks from a Dutch slaver are purchased as indentured workers for the English settlement of Jamestown. These are the first Africans in the English North American colonies.

1705

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1701-1800
Timeline Entry Description: 
The Colonial Virginia Assembly defined as slaves all servants brought into the colony who were not Christians in their original countries as well as Indians sold to the colonists by other Native Americans.

1774

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1701-1800
Timeline Entry Description: 
First African Baptist Church, one of the earliest black churches in the United States, is founded in Petersburg, Virginia.

1882

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1801-1900
Timeline Entry Description: 
The Virginia State Assembly established the first state mental hospital for African Americans and locates it near Petersburg.

1670

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
The Virginia Assembly enact law that allows all non-Christians who arrive by ship to be enslaved.

1672

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Virginia law now bans prosecution for the killing of a slave if the death comes during the course of his his or her apprehension.

1657

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Virginia amends its fugitive slave law to include the fining of people who harbor runaway slaves. They are fined 30 pounds of tobacco for every night they provide shelter to a runaway slave.

1680

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Virginia enacts a law that forbids all blacks from carrying arms and requires enslaved blacks to carry certificates at all times when leaving the slaveowner's plantation.

1691

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1601-1700
Timeline Entry Description: 
Virginia enacts a new law which punishes white men and women for marrying black or Indians. Children of such interracial liaisons become the property of the church for 30 years.

1990

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Marcelite Jordan Harris is the first black woman brigadier general in the U.S. Army and the first woman to command a mostly male battalion.

2000

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Lillian Elaine Fishbourne is the first black woman admiral in the U.S. Navy.

1963

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Wendell Oliver Scott became the first black driver to win a major NASCAR race, the Grand National (now Winston Cup) race.

1997

Timeline Type: 
AA
Timeline Era: 
1901-2000
Timeline Entry Description: 
Lois Jean White is the first African American to be elected president of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
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