BlackPast.org Facebook BlackPast.org Twitter

Donate to BlackPast.org Donate to BlackPast.org

Shop Amazon and help BlackPast.org

Blackpast.org in the Classroom/ border=

Washington, DC

Williams, Daniel Hale (1856-1931)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Daniel Hale Williams III was a pioneering surgeon best known for performing in 1893 one of the world’s first successful open heart surgeries.  Williams was born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania to Sarah Price Williams and Daniel Hale Williams II.  Following the death of his father, Williams lived with family friends in Baltimore, Maryland, and with family in Illinois, from 1866 to 1878 where he was a shoemaker’s apprentice and barber until he decided to pursue his education.  In 1878, Williams’s interest in medicine began when he worked in the office of Henry Palmer, a Wisconsin surgeon.
Sources: 
http://www.biography.com/people/daniel-hale-williams-9532269?page=2; http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/danielwilliams.html; http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-chicagodays-heartoperation-story,0,4001788.story; http://www.providentfoundation.org/history/index.html; http://www.providentfoundation.org/history/williams.html; Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (eds.), Africana: Encyclopedia of The African and African American Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Darlene Clark Hine (ed.), The African-American Odyssey (New York: Prentice Hall, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Grimké, Charlotte Forten (1837-1914)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charlotte Forten Grimké grew up in a rich intellectual and activist environment.  Born into a wealthy Black abolitionist family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charlotte Louise Forten became famous in her own right as a writer and poet.  Her grandparents, James, Sr. and Charlotte Forten, hosted leading black and white abolitionists into their home on a regular basis.  James Forten was one of the wealthiest blacks in Philadelphia, having amassed a fortune in the sail making business. Her parents, Robert Bridges Forten and Mary Woods Forten, continued the family’s activist tradition as had her uncles and aunts, including Sarah, Harriet, and Margaretta Forten, who helped establish the bi-racial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. 
Sources: 
Janice Sumler-Edmond, “Charlotte Forten Grimké,” in Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, vol. I (New York: Carlson, 1993): 505-507; Julie Winch, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); and Brenda Stevenson, ed., The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Locke, Alain (1886-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Alain Locke, The New Negro: An Interpretation (New York: New York, Albert and Charles Boni Press, 1925); Leonard Harris, ed., The Philosophy of Alain Locke: Harlem Renaissance and Beyond (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989); Jeffrey Stewart C., “Alain Leroy Locke at Oxford: The First African-American Rhodes Scholar,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 31:1 (2001):12-117.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Freeman, Robert Tanner (1846-1873)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Robert Tanner Freeman is the first professionally trained black dentist in the United States.  A child of slaves, he eventually entered Harvard University and graduated only four years after the end of the Civil War on May 18, 1869.

Robert Tanner Freeman was born in Washington, D.C. in 1846.   His formerly enslaved parents took the surname “Freeman” as did countless other people after gaining their freedom from bondage.  As a child, Robert befriended Henry Bliss Noble, a local white dentist in the District of Columbia.   Freeman began working as an apprentice to Dr. Noble and continued until he was a young adult. Dr. Noble encouraged young Robert to apply to dental colleges. 

Two medical schools rejected Freeman’s application but with the encouragement of Dr. Nobel who had contacts at Harvard Medical School, Freeman applied there.  Initially rejected, he was accepted into Harvard Medical School in 1867 at the age of 21, after a petition by Dean Nathan Cooley Keep to end the school’s historical exclusion of African Americans and other racial minorities.

Sources: 
C.O. Dummett, “Courage and Grace in Dentistry: the Noble, Freeman Connection,” Journal of the Massachusetts Dental Society, 44:3 (January 1995) , 23-26; Donald Altschiller, "National Dental Association," in Nina Mjagkij, ed., Organizing Black America: an encyclopedia of African American Organizations (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Houston, Charles Hamilton (1895-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Charles Hamilton Houston, a renowned civil rights attorney, was widely recognized as the architect of the civil rights strategy that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education.  He was also a mentor to Thurgood Marshall who successfully litigated the pivotal Brown case.

Houston was born on September 3, 1895 in Washington, DC to parents William Houston, an attorney, and Mary Houston, a hairdresser and seamstress. He attended M Street High School (later Dunbar High School) in Washington, DC. Following graduation, he enrolled at Amherst College in Massachusetts where he was the only black student in his class. Houston was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society there. Upon graduating in 1915, he was selected to deliver that year’s valedictory address.

After graduating from Amherst, Houston returned to Washington.  He joined the U.S. Army in 1917 and was trained in the all-black officers training camp in Fort Des Moines, Iowa in 1917. Houston was later deployed to France. While there, Houston and his fellow black soldiers experienced racial discrimination which deepened his resolve to study law.
Sources: 
William M. Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life (New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996); Rawn James, Jr., Root and Branch: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation (New York, Berlin, London: Bloomsbury Press, 2010); Carole Boston Weatherford, Great African-American Lawyers: Raising the Bar of Freedom (Berkeley Heights: Enslow Publishers, 2003).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent historian

Frazier, E. Franklin (1894-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Edward Franklin Frazier, the most prominent African American sociologist of the 20th Century, was born on September 24, 1894 and died on May 17, 1962. Best known for his critical work on the black middle class, Black Bourgeoisie (1957), Frazier was also a harsh critic of Jim Crow as the great inhibitor of the American Dream for the “American Negro.”

Frazier was born to James H. and Mary Clark Frazier. His father worked as a bank messenger and his mother was a housewife. Both parents stressed the worth of education as a path to freedom and as an instrument to fight for social justice.  

Sources: 
Anthony M. Platt, E. Franklin Frazier (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991); August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black Historians and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana/Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Scott, Emmett J. (1873-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Emmett J. Scott and Booker T. Washington
Image Ownership: Public Domain

A native of Houston, Texas, Emmett J. Scott garnered a reputation as Booker T. Washington’s chief aide.  He was also the highest ranking African American in the Woodrow Wilson’s Administration.  The son of ex-slaves, Scott was born in 1873.  In 1887, he entered Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, eventually leaving school in his third year.  Soon he worked at the Houston Post, first as a sexton, and later as a copyboy and journalist. In 1893 Scott, along with Charles N. Love and Jack Tibbit, formed the Texas Freeman, Houston’s first African American newspaper.  Scott also worked for Galveston, Texas, politician and labor leader, Norris W. Cuney. 

Sources: 
Thelma Scott Bryant, Pioneering Families of Houston (Early 1900s) as Remembered by Thelma Scott Bryant (Houston: n. p., 1991); Maceo Crenshaw Dailey, Jr., “The Business Life of Emmett Jay Scott,” Business History Review, 77 (Winter 2003), 57-68; Barbara L. Green, “Emmett Jay Scott,” in The New Handbook of Texas, Vol.. 5 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996), 935.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Sam Houston State University

Raines, Franklin (1949- )

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

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

Miller, Kelly (1863-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Dr. Scott W. Williams, “Kelly Miller,” Mathematics of the African Diaspora, http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/special/miller_kelley.html (Accessed September 7, 2010); Carter G. Woodson, “Kelly Miller,” Journal of Negro History 25 (January, 1940): 126-138; August Meier, "The Racial and Educational Philosophy of Kelly Miller, 1895-1915," Journal of Negro Education 29 (July, 1960): 121-27; William M. Banks, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life (New York: W.W. Norton & Company), 71-72, 96, 283-284.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Stanford University

Terrell, Mary Church (1863-1954)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Mary Church Terrell, A Colored Woman in a White World (Humanity Books, 2005); Cynthia Neverdon-Morton, “Mary Church Terrell,” in African American Lives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Egypt, Ophelia Settle (1903-1984)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

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

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

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

 

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

Logan, Rayford W. (1897-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Leading 20th Century black historian Rayford Whittingham Logan was born on January 7, 1897 in Washington, D.C.  to working class parents,  Arthur C. and Martha Whittingham Logan.   Rayford Logan spent his formative years in Washington, D.C.  While in high school, he was taught by Carter G. Woodson.  A bright student, Logan was honored with a scholarship to Williams College where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1917.  Immediately, he joined the U.S. Army in World War I and like many black veterans of that era, was disillusioned as he witnessed the racism perpetrated against black troops by white officers.  

Sources: 
Kenneth Janken, Rayford W. Logan and the Dilemma of the African-American Intellectual (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press 1993); August Meir and Elliott Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Rayford Logan, What the Negro Wants (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press 1944); Rayford Logan, The Betrayal of the Negro (Cambridge: De Capo 1965), Rayford Logan, “Nat Turner: Fiend or Martyr?” Opportunity 9 (November  1931): 337-39.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Fresno

Wilkins, Roy (1901-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Roy Wilkins, one of the leading US civil rights activists of the twentieth century, was born in St. Louis, Missouri.  Wilkins’ mother died of tuberculosis when he was four; he and his siblings were then raised by an aunt and uncle in a poor but racially integrated neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Sources: 
Sondra Kathryn Wilson, In Search of Democracy: The NAACP Writings of James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and Roy Wilkins (1920-1977), (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “NAACP History: Roy Wilkins,” http://www.naacp.org/pages/naacp-history-Roy-Wilkins, accessed January 1, 2014; Tim Brady, “Remembering Roy Wilkins,” University of Minnesota Alumni Association Newsletter (November-December, 2005), http://www.minnesotaalumni.org/s/1118/content.aspx?sid=1118&gid=1&pgid=1528, accessed January 1, 2014; Roy Wilkins, Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1994).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Arizona State University

Marshall, Thurgood (1908-1993)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Thurgood Marshall was an American civil rights activist with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.  He is remembered as a lawyer who had one of the highest rates of success before the Supreme Court and the principal counsel in a number of landmark court cases.  Marshall won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the high court. 

Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland, the great-grandson of a slave.  His father, William Marshall, a railroad porter, instilled in him an appreciation of the Constitution at an early age. When young Marshall got in trouble at school he was required to memorize sections of the US Constitution.   His mother, Norma Arica Williams, an elementary school teacher for 25 years, placed great emphasis on his overall scholarship. 

Sources: 
Mary L. Dudziak, Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey ( New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Carl T. Rowan, Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Thurgood Marshall ( New York:  Welcome Rain Publishers, 2002);  Mark Tushnet, Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1956-1961 ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1994);  Mark Tushnet, Making Constitutional Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1961-1991 ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Juan Williams, American Revolutionary (Broadway, VA: Broadway Publishers: 2000).  
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Seattle University

Williams, Chancellor J. (1898-1992)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Prominent in the pantheon of Afrocentric scholars is Chancellor James Williams, the son of a former slave, born on December 22, 1898 in Bennettsville, South Carolina.  Williams earned both his bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in history at Howard University where he began teaching in 1946.  He completed his Ph.D. in sociology at American University in 1949 and did research at Oxford University, the University of London, the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa and, in 1956, University College in Ghana.  

Williams is best known for his book The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race From 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1971) in which he attempted to repair the reputation of sub-Saharan Africans prior to the conquests of Europeans by pointing out the achievements of African people and the bias of white academics who would distort knowledge of their great past. What is less known about Williams is that long before he penned his history texts he asserted himself as an American writer unfettered by the burden of race.  His “flirtation with universality” resulted in what he called a “562-page white life novel,” The Raven which was published in 1943.  The novel, based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe, was praised in the New York Times as a work of “extraordinary quality.”  
Sources: 
Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Writers, 1940-1955 (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1988); Contemporary Authors. Vol. 142, (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994); Robert Fikes, Jr. “The Persistent Allure of Universality African American Authors of White Life Novels,” Western Journal of Black Studies, 20 (Winter 1996), 221-226; http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/williams.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Applegate, Joseph R. (1925-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
It is believed that linguist Joseph Roye Applegate spoke as at least 13 languages and had reading knowledge of several others.  He was born to parents who operated a boarding house in Wildwood, New Jersey on December 4, 1925.  When his family moved to Philadelphia he interacted with Yiddish and Italian schoolmates and thus developed a fascination with languages. Applegate entered Temple University in 1941 where he made the varsity fencing team and did well in modern dance.  Work interrupted his studies but he persisted and earned a Ph.D. in linguistics at Temple in 1955.  Between 1946 and 1955 Applegate taught Spanish and English in vocational schools and high schools in Philadelphia and was active in teacher unionization.  

Upon completing his doctorate he was hired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to assist in its modern languages department’s efforts to adapt electronic methods of language translation.  In 1956 he was appointed assistant professor in the department teaching German, English to foreign students, and in 1959 was appointed director of MIT’s new language laboratory.  
Sources: 
Obituary. The Washington Post (22 October 2003); Directory of American Scholars (New York: Bowker, 1982); http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/1997/applegate-0205.html ; http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0504/0504obits.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
San Diego State University

Weaver, Robert Clifton (1907-1997)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Robert C. Weaver Standing Next to
President Lyndon B. Johnson as he is Introduced as the
First African American Nominee for a Cabinet Post
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"

Robert C. Weaver was a noted economist and administrator. From 1966 through 1968, he was the first African American cabinet official, serving as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Weaver was born and raised in Washington D.C. From 1929 through 1934, he attended Harvard University, earning economic degrees at the Bachelor of Science, Masters’, and Ph.D. levels. As an administrator, Weaver worked as an adviser to the Secretary of the Interior (1933-37), special assistant for the Housing Authority (1937-40), and an administrative assistant with the National Defense Advisory Commission (1940). During the Second World War, he worked in several capacities concerned with mobilizing black labor into industrial employment contracted by the federal government.

Sources: 
The Columbia Encyclopedia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005); http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-weaver-r1.html ; http://search.eb.com/blackhistory/article-9076375
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Syracuse University

Cooper, Anna Julia Haywood (1858-1964)

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

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was a writer, teacher, and activist who championed education for African Americans and women. Born into bondage in 1858 in Raleigh, North Carolina, she was the daughter of an enslaved woman, Hannah Stanley, and her owner, George Washington Haywood.

In 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War, Anna began her formal education at Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, a coeducational facility built for former slaves. There she received the equivalent of a high school education.

Sources: 
Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Paula J. Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: HarperCollins, 2001); Kimberly Springer, “Anna Julia Haywood Cooper,” in African American Lives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Mordecai Wyatt (1890-1976)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Mordecai Wyatt Johnson was born in Paris, Tennessee in 1890, the son of a former slave. He graduated from what is now Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1911 where he became an accomplished orator and debater.  Johnson was also a student athlete who played football and tennis. Johnson was hired by Morehouse soon after his graduation to teach history, English and economics. Later Johnson served as dean of the college for two years.

Mordecai Johnson later enrolled in the Rochester Divinity School in upstate New York while serving as pastor at a nearby church. In 1922, when he graduated from Harvard Divinity School, Johnson was chosen to give the commencement address which he titled: "The Faith of the American Negro.” Four years later Mordecai Johnson was appointed the thirteenth and first permanent African American president of Howard University, a position he held for the next thirty-four years.

Under Johnson, Howard became one of the nation’s leading universities and, certainly, the leading African American university. He was responsible for raising substantial sums from both Congress and private donors. The number of faculty tripled, the salaries doubled, academic and admission requirements were toughened, and Johnson insisted on devoting resources to accreditation of Howard’s graduate and professional schools.

Sources: 
Richard I. McKinney, Mordecai, The Man and His Message: The Story of Mordecai Wyatt Johnson (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1997);
http://howard.edu/library/Reference/Cybercamps/camp2001/studentwebs/Shayna/default.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Ronald H. (1941-1996)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

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

Hansberry, William Leo (1894-1965)

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

Historian and anthropologist, William Leo Hansberry began his college education at Atlanta University, but (at the urging of W.E.B. DuBois) he transferred to Harvard in 1917. Based on his reading of classical texts and his study of archeological evidence, Hansberry became convinced as an undergraduate that sophisticated civilizations had existed in Africa–especially in Ethiopia–for centuries prior to the rise of the Greeks and Romans in Europe. He pursued that premise for the rest of his life.

A circular letter announcing his desire to develop courses in African civilization landed him a temporary job at Howard University in Washington D.C., following his graduation from Harvard in 1921. There he quickly built his new program into one of the most popular undergraduate majors on the campus, and he hosted international conferences to stimulate the study of ancient and medieval African societies. By the mid-1920s, however, he ran afoul not only of the wider white academic community, which was extremely skeptical of Hansberry’s ambitious claims, but also of senior colleagues at Howard, who believed he was giving the university a bad name by teaching assertions for which there was little or no compelling evidence. The Howard board settled the dispute by retaining the popular African program, while relegating Hansberry himself to a secondary position without tenure.

Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America; L. Mpho Mabunda, ed., The African Almanac; “The Global African Community” at http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry.html (6-20-06) and http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/hansberry2.html (6-20-06); “Mississippi Writers Page” at http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/hansberry_william_leo/index.html; and “Africa Within” at http://www.africawithin.com/hansberry_profile.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Oregon

Caliver, Ambrose (1894-1962)

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

Cobb, W. Montague (1904–1990)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
William Montague Cobb was born in Washington, D.C. in 1904. He earned his B.A. from Amherst College in 1925 and continued his research in embryology at Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory. Cobb then went to Howard University, and earned his medical degree in 1929. Cobb was given an offer by Howard to “name a position” he wanted to teach. He chose the newly emerging discipline of physical anthropology (human evolutionary biology, physical variation). Before setting up his own lab, Cobb went to Western Reserve University in Cleveland to study under T. Wingate Todd, a progressive leader in the new field.

In 1932 Cobb returned to Howard as a professor of physical anatomy, where he continued to teach until his death in 1990. A prolific writer, he authored 1,100 articles on a variety of physical anatomy topics and issues relating to African American health. Cobb is considered to be one of the most influential scholars in physical anatomy. To Howard, he left a considerable collection of more than 700 skeletons and the complete anatomical data for nearly 1,000 individuals.
Sources: 
Lesley M. Rankin-Hill and Michael L. Blakey, “W. Montague Cobb (1904-1990): Physical Anthropologist, Anatomist, and Activist,” American Anthropologist (March 1994): 74-96; Kyle Melvilee, “W. Montague Cobb.” Anthropology Biography Web. 2001. University of Minnesota, Mankato. 15 June 2006. http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/abcde/cobb_w.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Davis, Benjamin O., Jr. (1918-2002)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. followed in the footsteps of his trail blazing father as the first black general in the U.S. Air Force. He was born in Washington, D.C. on December 18, 1912, fully committed to a military career. He entered West Point Military Academy in 1932 and graduated thirty-fifth out of a class of 276 in 1936. At as time when there were serious doubts that blacks had the mental capacity to fly airplanes, he joined a small number of African Americans in the first flying training program for black at Tuskegee, Alabama. His pace setting achievements led him to command the famed 99th Pursuit Squadron and later the 332nd Fighter Group in World War II. Beginning as an unwelcome addition to the Air Force, black pilots under the leadership of Colonel Davis established an enviable record of flying 15,000 sorties, shooting down 111 enemy planes and destroying or damaging 273 aircraft on the ground. White bomber pilots who once shunned the black fighter group as escorts quickly had a change of heart. The 332nd Fighter Group never lost a single escorted bomber in the group’s 200 missions.
Sources: 
Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., American: An Autobiography (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Press, 1991).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Henson, Matthew (1866-1955)

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

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

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

Flipper, Henry Ossian (1856-1940)

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

Born near Thomasville, Georgia on March 21, 1856, Henry O. Flipper rose to prominence as the first African American graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1877. Despite being born into slavery to Festus, a shoemaker, and Isabella Flipper, Henry was reared in a family that emphasized excellence, and he and his younger brothers all became respected members of their communities as a military officer, AME bishop (Joseph), physician (E.H.), college professor (Carl), and farmer (Festus, Jr.).

Sources: 
Henry O. Flipper, The Colored Cadet at West Point: Autobiography of Lieut. Henry Ossian Flipper, U.S.A. First Graduate of Color from the U.S. Military Academy  (New York: H. Lee & Company, 1878); Henry O. Flipper, Negro Frontiersman: The Western Memoirs of Henry O. Flipper, First Negro graduate of West Point, Theodore D. Harris, ed., (El Paso: Texas Western College Press, 1963); Charles M. Robinson, III, The Court Martial of Lieutenant Henry Flipper (Texas Western Press: El Paso, Texas, 1994); The Online Handbook of Texas.
Affiliation: 
University of Texas, El Paso

Grimké, Francis (1850–1937)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Francis Grimké was a Presbyterian minister and a leading advocate of civil rights. He was born to a wealthy landowner, Henry Grimké and his slave mistress Nancy Weston. After his father’s death in 1852, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he lived as a free person until 1860 when his white half-brother, Montague, brought him into his household as a servant. After a severe beating he ran away, and for two years became a valet in the Confederate Army. He was discovered and returned to Montague who, after sending him to the workhouse as punishment, sold him to a Confederate officer.

After the fall of Charleston Grimke attended Morris Street School, a school for free blacks in the city. At age sixteen he moved north to attend Lincoln College, in Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1870 as class valedictorian whereupon he taught mathematics, served as the school's financial agent and studied law. Francis entered Howard Law School in 1874, but the following year enrolled in the Princeton Theological Seminary. Upon graduation in 1878 he became a Presbyterian minister at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and remained at that church as pastor for the next half century.  
Sources: 
Dickson D. Bruce, Jr., Archibald Grimké, Portrait of a Black Independent (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993); “Francis Grimke,” American National Biography, Volume 9 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 627;
http://www.westminster-stl.org/Sermons/050220.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brown, Wesley (1927-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Navel
Historical Center

Wesley Brown earned distinction in 1949 as the first African American to graduate from the United States Naval Academy.  Wesley Brown grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Dunbar High School.  A “voracious reader,” Brown joined the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to study his history and heritage.  At Dunbar, Brown was a member of the Cadet Corps and worked evenings as a youth mailman at the Navy Department.  Brown was nominated by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a New York Congressman, for appointment into the Naval Academy and was accepted.

Wesley Brown began classes in 1945 and voluntarily decided to room alone.  “I wasn’t sure I wanted them to share my burden,” he said.  He faced racism in the first year, picking up 140 out of a possible 150 demerits, but as his education continued found that many were “supportive and protective” of him.  

Sources: 
Gerald Astor, The Right to Fight: A History of African Americans in the Military (Novato, Ca.: Presidio Press, 1998);  Kai Wright, Soldiers of Freedom (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2002); “This week in Black History,” Jet Magazine (June 9, 2003); http://www.navysports.com; The Seattle Times, May 27, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Wormley, James (1819-1884)

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

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

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

Chase, William Calvin (1854-1921)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
William Chase was born in 1854 to a free black family in Washington, D.C.  Chase was raised in integrated neighborhoods and attended local area schools including Howard University Law School.  Chase combined the practice of law with journalism for most of his career and was also active in Republican politics, serving as District of Columbia delegate to the party's national convention in 1900 and again in 1912.

William Chase is most well known for his nearly forty years of service as editor of the Washington Bee, a weekly publication that, during its run, was the oldest secular newspaper in continuous publication in the country.  As one of the great 19th-century editors, Chase served as a formidable “race man” and used his newspaper to voice a variety of opinions about all issues relating to African Americans and American race relations. William Chase’s Washington Bee was published weekly from 1882 through 1922 and documented extensive opposition to segregation and discrimination throughout the United States.  His newspaper fought for equal rights at a time when only a handful of black publications existed at all.  
Sources: 

Appiah, Kwame and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Vols. 1-5 (New York: Basic  Civitas Books 2004); http://www.exploredc.org/index.php?id=381

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Davis, Benjamin O., Sr. (1877-1970)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. has the distinction of being the first black general in the American military. He was born in Washington, D.C. on July 1, 1877, into a middle class family and dedicated his life to the military. He entered the Spanish American War as a temporary first lieutenant of the 8th United States Volunteer Infantry. After the war he enlisted as a private with the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) and rose to the rank of sergeant major. He then was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1901 and over the next thirty years received promotions to the rank of brigadier general in 1941.

In his fifty year military career, Davis served as an officer with the 10th Cavalry, Adjutant, Professor of Military Science at Wilberforce University in Ohio and Tuskegee Institute (University), Military Attaché to Monrovia, Liberia, Supply Officer, Commanding Officer, Brigade Commander, Advisor on Negro Problems, and Assistant to the Inspector General in Washington, D.C. Benjamin Davis gained a reputation as a man of determination and diplomacy. His quiet resolve and competence overcame the prejudice and segregation of military life before its integration during the Korean War. He retired on July 14, 1948, died on November 26, 1970, and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. He also was the father of Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the second African American to gain the rank of general.

Sources: 

Marvin E. Fletcher, America’s First Black General: Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., 1880-1970 (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas, 1989.); www.army.mil/cmh/topics/afam/davis.htm

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Healy, Patrick (1834-1910)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Patrick Healy was one of the successful Healy siblings of the early 19th century who openly acknowledged being of part African or black ancestry. Known as the first American of acknowledged African descent to earn a doctorate, Patrick Healy was also the first African American to become a Jesuit priest and the first to become president of a major university in the United States.

Patrick Healy was born on February 2, 1834 in Macon, Georgia to an Irish American father and a mother who was a mulatto domestic slave. These loving parents wanted their children to receive a good education, which they could not receive in their home state due to laws restricting illegitimate children and slaves by birth from attending school. They were sent north to a Quaker school to be educated.

Patrick Healy and his two brothers, James and Sherwood, eventually enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Here the brothers would follow their Catholic faith and later join the priesthood.

In 1850, Patrick Healy graduated and entered a Jesuit order. He was sent to Europe to study in 1858.  Healy attended the University of Louvain in Belgium and earned his doctorate. At the same time, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 3, 1866. After he returned to the United States, Healy taught philosophy at Georgetown University. Eight years later, in 1874, Patrick Healy became the schools 29th president.
Sources: 
Albert S. Foley, Bishop Healy: Beloved Outcaste: The Story of a Great Priest Whose Life has Become a Legend (New York: Strauss and Young, 1954); God’s Men of Color: The Colored Catholic Priests of the United States, 1854-1954 (New York: Strauss and Young, 1955); http://www.library.georgetown.edu
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Williams, Marguerite Thomas (1895-1991?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Marguerite Thomas Williams, born in 1895, was the first African American (male or female) to earn a Ph.D. in geology.  Like Roger Arliner Young, Williams was mentored by African American biologist Ernest Everett Just.  
Sources: 
Wini Warren, “Marguerite Thomas Williams: Geologist,” in Black Women Scientists in the United States (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999); https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/marguerite_williams.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moore, Ruth Ella (1903–1994)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Born in 1903 in Columbus Ohio, Ruth Ella Moore was the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in the natural sciences.  Her doctorate was in the field of bacteriology.  Moore earned a B.S. in 1926 and a M.S. in 1927 from Ohio State University.  

Moore supported herself during graduate school by teaching English and hygiene at Tennessee State College (now Tennessee State University) in Nashville.   Her dissertation on tuberculosis earned her a doctorate in bacteriology in 1933, also from Ohio State University.  Dr. Moore was hired as an assistant professor at Howard University Medical College in 1940.  From 1952 to 1957 she chaired the bacteriology department.  During that period she was promoted to associate professor.  In 1957 Moore stepped down from her leadership position.  Though there are gaps in Howard’s personnel records, it is generally believed that Moore continued to teach and conduct research on bacteriology at Howard until she retired in 1973.  Her research at Howard focused on blood groups and enterobacteriaceae, a family of bacteria which includes salmonella and E. coli. 
Sources: 
Wini Warren, “Ruth Ella Moore: First Black Woman to Hold an Earned Natural Science Ph.D.,” in Black Women Scientists in the United States (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999); https://webfiles.uci.edu/mcbrown/display/ruth_moore.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Grimke, Archibald (1849-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center, Howard University
Archibald Grimke was a leading intellectual, activist, and author on racial equality in early 20th Century America. Grimke was born into slavery, the son of Nancy Weston, a slave, and Henry Grimke, her owner. After his father's death, he and his brother Francis spent eight years living as freemen before his half-brother, Montague, took them as servants into his home in 1860. After suffering beatings at Montague's hand Archibald fled and hid with relatives until Charleston fell to Union forces in 1865.

Archibald Grimke attended Lincoln College in Pennsylvania, and in 1872 became one of the first African American students at Harvard Law School. Upon graduation he established a law practice in Boston, where he became an ardent supporter of suffrage for women and African Americans. From 1894 to 1898 he was consul to Santo Domingo (The Dominican Republic). In 1903 Grimke became president of the American Negro Academy, the nation's preeminent black intellectual society, a role he held until 1919.
Sources: 
Dickson D. Bruce, Jr., Archibald Grimke, Portrait of a Black Independent (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Haynes, Martha Euphemia Lofton (1890-1980)

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

Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. Her dissertation, Determination of Sets of Independent Conditions Characterizing Certain Special Cases of Symmetric Correspondence was advised by Aubrey Landry, a professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Haynes was born to parents Dr. William Lofton and Mrs. Lavina Day Lofton in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 1890.  William Lofton was a prominent dentist and a financial supporter of black institutions and charities. Her mother was active in the Catholic Church. Later Haynes would also become active in the Catholic Church, earning a Papal medal, “Pro Ecclesia and Pontifex,” in 1959, for her service to the church and to her community.

Haynes started her educational journey at Miner Normal School, Washington D.C. where she graduated with distinction in 1909. She then attended Smith College in Massachusetts and earned her Bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in psychology in 1914. Later, she earned her Master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago in 1930. Finally, at the age of 53, she earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from Catholic University of America in 1943.

Sources: 
http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/PEEPS/haynes.euphemia.lofton.html; http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/haynes-euphemia.html; Patricia Kenschaft, Change is Possible: Stories of Minorities and Women in Mathematics (Providence, Rhode Island: American Mathematics Society, 2005).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Brimmer, Andrew F. (1926-2012)

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

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

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

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

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

Norton, Eleanor Holmes (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House
of Representatives Photography Office
Eleanor Holmes Norton was born on June 13, 1937 in Washington, D.C. to parents Coleman and Vela Holmes.  Both her parents were government employees.  Growing up in a well educated and politically conscious household caused Eleanor Holmes to be very aware of the surrounding struggles for African Americans.  At the age of 12, she recalled watching protests against a Washington, D.C. department store which allowed black shoppers but refused them entry into its bathrooms.

In 1955, Eleanor entered Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where she became heavily involved with civil rights work.  While in college she headed the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter and became a local activist working to desegregate public facilities in Ohio.  The emerging civil rights movement influenced her decision to enter Yale University in 1960 with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.  In 1963 Holmes worked in Mississippi for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  She graduated from Yale in 1963 with a Master’s in American Studies and a law degree in 1964.  
Sources: 
Joan Steinau Lester, Eleanor Holmes Norton: Fire in My Soul (New York: Atrai Books, 2003); Jessie Carney Smith, Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Women Who Made a Difference (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993); http://www.norton.house.gov/; http://www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/resources/legends_in_the_law/norton.cfm; http://www.discoverthenetwork.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1955.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

O’Leary, Hazel Rollins Reid (1937- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S.
Department of Energy
The first and only woman to hold the position of U.S. Secretary of Energy, Hazel Rollins Reid was born May 17, 1937 in Newport News, Virginia.  During this time of public school segregation, Reid’s parents, hoping for better schooling opportunities, sent their daughter to live with an aunt in New Jersey. There Reid attended a school for artistically gifted students.

Reid entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1955 and graduated with honors four years later. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society at Fisk.  Seven years later she received a law degree from Rutgers University and soon became an attorney in the New Jersey State Attorney General’s Office.

By the early 1970s Reid moved to Washington, D.C., where she became a partner at Coopers and Lybrand, an accounting firm. Soon she joined the Gerald Ford Administration as general counsel to the Community Services Administration which administered most of the federal government’s anti-poverty programs.  President Ford later appointed Reid director of the Federal Energy Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs. In this position she became well known as a representative of the concerns of consumers who challenged the power and influence of the major energy producers.
Sources: 
United States, Congress, Senate, Committee of Energy and Natural Resource Hazel R. O’Leary nomination: hearing before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Unites States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, on the nomination of Hazel R. O’Leary, to be Secretary, Department of Energy, January 19,1993 (Washington: U.S. G.P.O, Supt. Of Docs., Congressional Sales Office, 1993); Mary Anne Borrelli, The President’s Cabinet: Gender, Power, and Representation (Boulder, Colorado: L. Rienner Publishers, 2002); http://www.dom.com.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Harris, Patricia Roberts (1924-1985)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Patricia Roberts Harris was born on May 31, 1924 in Mattoon, Illinois. She excelled academically and received a scholarship to Howard University. During her time at Howard, Roberts was elected Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1945. While she was in college Roberts participated in civil rights protests in Washington, D.C. In 1943, she took part in one of the earliest student sit-ins at a whites-only cafeteria.  While at Howard, Roberts served as Assistant Director for the American Council of Human Rights.  In 1955 she married William Harris, a Howard University law professor.

Patricia Roberts Harris received a law degree from George Washington University in 1960.  She graduated number one in her class and was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Harris worked briefly for the U.S. Department of Justice and was appointed co-chair of the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights by President John F. Kennedy. A year later, she returned to Howard as an associate dean of students while lecturing occasionally at the university’s law school.
Sources: 
W. Augustus Low and Virgil A. Clift, eds., Encyclopedia of Black America (New York, Da Capo Press Inc., 1981); http://www.huarchivesnet.howard.edu/0005huarnet/harris1.htm; http://www.greatwomen.org/component/fabrik/details/2/199.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Burroughs, Nannie Helen (1883-1961)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Nannie Helen Burroughs was born in Orange, Virginia on May 2, 1879 to parents John and Jennie Burroughs.  Young Burroughs attended school in Washington, D.C. and then moved to Kentucky where she attended Eckstein-Norton University and eventually received an honorary M.A. degree in 1907.

Despite the absence of a college degree, Burroughs sought a teaching position in Washington, D.C.  When she did not receive it, she moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and became associate editor of The Christian Banner, a Baptist newspaper.  Burroughs returned to Washington, D.C. where, despite receiving a high rating on the civil service exam, she was refused a position in the public school system.  Burroughs took a series of temporary jobs including office building janitor and bookkeeper for a small manufacturing firm, hoping to eventually become a teacher in Washington, D.C.  She then accepted a position in Louisville as secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention.
Sources: 
Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Black Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia (University of Michigan: Carlson Publishing Company, 1993); Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, Inc., 2005); http://www.toptags.com/aama/bio/women/nburroughs.htm
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Crummell, Alexander (1819-1898)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alexander Crummell, an Episcopalian priest, missionary, scholar and teacher, was born in New York City in 1819 to free black parents.  He spent much of his life addressing the conditions of African Americans while urging an educated black elite to aspire to the highest intellectual attainments as a refutation of the theory of black inferiority.

Crummell began his education at an integrated school in New Hampshire. He later transferred to an abolitionist institute in Whitesboro, New York where he learned both the classics and manual labor skills. However, after being denied admittance to the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church because of his race, Crummell was forced to study privately.  Nonetheless at the age of 25 he became an Episcopalian minister. 

From 1848 to 1853 Crummell lectured and studied in England.  He also graduated from Queens’ College, Cambridge University in 1853.  Crummell left England to become an educator in Liberia, accepting a faculty position at Liberia College in Monrovia.  From his new post, Crummell urged African Americans to emigrate to Liberia.
Sources: 
Jeremiah Moses, Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent (Oxford University Press, 1989);
Pbs.org/wnet/aaword/reference/articles/Alexander_crummell.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

American Negro Academy (1897-1924)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
American Negro Academy Members
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Founded on March 5, 1897 in Washington, D.C. by 78-year-old Reverend Alexander Crummell, the American Negro Academy (ANA) was an organization of black intellectuals who through their scholarship and writing were dedicated to the promotion of higher education, arts, and science for African Americans as part of the overall struggle for racial equality. The American Negro Academy brought together persons of African ancestry from around the world and was the first society of blacks that would specifically promote the “Talented Tenth” ideas later articulated by founding member W.E.B. DuBois. An all-male organization, the ANA consisted of those with backgrounds in law, medicine, literature, religion, and community activism.  Their collective goal, however, was to “lead and protect their people” and to be a “weapon to secure equality and destroy racism.”
Sources: 
John F. Marszalek, Encyclopedia of African-American Civil Rights: From Emancipation to the Present (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Kelly, Sharon Pratt Dixon (1944- )

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

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

Rice, Condoleezza (1954- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Condoleezza Rice has earned distinction as a scholar, expert on international politics, and with her appointments as the first African American woman National Security Advisor and Secretary of State of the United States.

Rice was born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama to John Wesley Rice, Jr., a Presbyterian minister and school counselor and Angelena (Ray) Rice, a public school teacher.  Influenced heavily by her parents, Rice, their only child, showed an exceptional intelligence and scholastic focus at a very early age.  Despite growing up in the black middle-class neighborhood of Titusville in Birmingham, Condoleezza and her family could not escape the “Jim Crow” policies of that city.  Denise McNair, one of four young girls who died in the 16th St. Baptist Church Bombing in September 1963, was Rice’s childhood friend and playmate.  
Sources: 
Antonio Felix, Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story (New Market Press, New York, NY 2002); http://www.whitehouse.gov; http://www.hoover.org/bios/rice.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Alexander, Clifford L., Jr. (1933-)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission
 
Clifford L. Alexander Jr. was born in New York City on September 21, 1933, the son of Clifford L. and Edith (McAllister) Alexander.  Alexander received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from Harvard University (1955) and a L.L.B. degree from the Yale University Law School in 1958.  In 1959, Alexander became Assistant District Attorney for New York County.  From 1961 to 1962, he became the Executive Director of the Manhattanville Hamilton Grange Neighborhood Conservation Project (1961-62).

Alexander left the private practice of law in New York City in 1963 to become a Foreign Affairs Officer in the National Security Council (NCS) in Washington D.C.  The next year, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him as a Special Assistant to the President; then, in succession, Associate Special Counsel and Deputy Special Counsel to the President.  From 1967 to 1969, Alexander served as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).  In 1968, he was also named a special representative of the President, with the rank of ambassador.  In this capacity, he led the U.S. delegation to ceremonies marking the independence of Swaziland.  After Alexander left the EEOC, he returned to the private practice of law.  
Sources: 
Alton Hornsby, Jr., Angela M. Hornsby, “From the Grassroots” Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery, Alabama: E-Book Time LLC, 2007), pp. 6-7.
Affiliation: 
Morehouse College and University of Mississippi

Ferebee, Dorothy Celeste Boulding (1898–1980)

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Bruce, John Edward (1856-1924)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
John Edward Bruce was born into slavery in Piscataway, Maryland in 1856.  When Bruce was three years old his father was sold away to Georgia prompting young Bruce and his mother to escape to Washington, D.C. in fear of losing each other.  Bruce and his mother Martha resided with Martha's cousin Busie Patterson who was a body servant to Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton. This relationship with a powerful white congressman provided the Bruce family with opportunities and access to jobs in white upper-class communities. Martha Bruce, for example, obtained a job in Connecticut working closely with a white family. While in Connecticut, John Edward Bruce enrolled in an integrated school and received his first formal education. Traveling back to Washington, he received a private education and attended Howard University.
Sources: 
Ralph L. Crowder, John Edward Bruce: Politician, Journalist, and Self-trained Historian of the African Diaspora (New York: New York University Press, 2004);
http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/bruce.html; http://www.historicaldocuments.com/BloodRedRecord.htm
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Tanner, Benjamin Tucker (1835-1923)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin Tucker Tanner was born on Christmas day of 1835 to Hugh and Isabella Tanner of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  As one of twelve children he brought income into the Tanner household by delivering newspapers at age nine.  In 1852 Tanner was accepted into Avery College, a training school for black youth in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania.  At Avery, Tanner met and in 1858 married fellow student Sarah Elizabeth Miller. They had four children including Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first African American artist to achieve national acclaim, and Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson, one of the first black women physicians in the United States. Benjamin Tucker Tanner continued his own education at Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny City from 1857 to 1860.  He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Wilberforce College in 1878.

Benjamin Tanner joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in 1856.  Two years later, while at Western Theological Seminary, Tanner was given a license to preach.  In 1860 he received his pastoral certificate and two years later founded an AME Church in Washington, D.C.  Always an advocate of education, he established the nation’s first school for freedmen in the United States Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. and later managed freedman’s schools in Frederick County, Maryland.
Sources: 
William Seraile, Fire in His Heart Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner and the A.M.E. Church (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1998); Kwame A. Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, eds., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2004).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bruce, Josephine Beall Willson (1853-1923)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A clubwoman, teacher, society leader, and race activist, Josephine Beall Willson Bruce was born in Philadelphia on October 29, 1853, to Dr. Joseph Willson, a prominent dentist, and Elizabeth Harnett Willson, a singer and musician. In 1854 the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio where Josephine Willson received her education. An accomplished linguist, she enjoyed literature and classical music.

On June 24, 1878, she married Republican senator Blanche K. Bruce, a political leader and plantation owner from Mississippi and the only black United States senator. After touring Europe they established residence in Washington, D.C. With Josephine Bruce a cultured and charming hostess, the Bruce home became a center of Washington social life. Though Blanche Bruce's term ended in 1880 he received political appointments in Washington enabling the couple to remain active in social and community life.

Sources: 
Bruce A. Glasrud, "Josephine Beall (Willson) Bruce," in African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Dorothy C. Salem, 75-77 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993); Willard B. Gatewood, “Josephine Beall Willson Bruce,” in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, vol. I, 187-188 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Brown, Sterling A. (1901-1989)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The last of six children and the only boy born to the Rev. Sterling Nelson and Adelaide (Allen) Brown, Sterling Allen Brown graduated as the top student from Washington’s renowned Dunbar High School (1918).  His success enabled him to accept the token gesture of an academic scholarship Williams College annually extended to Dunbar’s valedictorian.  At this prestigious small, liberal arts school in Massachusetts, from 1918–1922, Brown set aside his own feelings of isolation and performed with distinction: election to Phi Beta Kappa his junior year, winning the Graves Prize for his essay “The Comic Spirit in Shakespeare and Moliere,” and receipt of highest honors from the English Department his senior year.  These accolades won for him a scholarship to study at Harvard University, where he graduated with an MA degree in English in 1923.
Sources: 
Sterling A. Brown, The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1980); Sterling A. Brown,  A Negro Looks at the South, eds. John Edgar Tidwell and Mark A. Sanders (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Joanne Gabbin, Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985); and Mark A. Sanders, Afro-Modernist Aesthetics and the Poetry of Sterling A. Brown (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Kansas

Taylor, Hobart Jr. (1920-1981)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

March on Washington Movement (1941–1947)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The March on Washington Movement (MOWM) was the most militant and important force in African American politics in the early 1940s, formed in order to protest segregation in the armed forces. The hypocrisy behind calls to “defending democracy” from Hitler was clear to African Americans living in a Jim Crow society, of which the segregated quota system and training camps of the United States military were only the most obvious examples.

Early lobbying efforts to desegregate the military had not persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to take action. On January 25, A. Philip Randolph, the President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, proposed the idea of a national, black-led march on the capitol in Washington, D.C. to highlight the issue.
Sources: 
Herbert Garfinkel, When Negroes March: The March on Washington Movement in the Organizational Politics for FEPC (New York: Atheneum, 1969).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hill, Anita Faye (1956– )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of ©Bettmann-Corbis
Anita Hill is a professor of law, social policy and management and women’s studies at Brandeis University. She was born in Lone Tree, Oklahoma on July 30, 1956. A bright student, she graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class and then earned a bachelor of arts degree from Oklahoma State University in 1977. In 1980, she earned her Juris doctorate from Yale Law School.  Immediately after law school Hill worked at the Law Firm of Wald, Harkader and Ross in Washington, D.C.  By 1981, Hill served as counsel for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The following year she was at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). From 1983 to 1986, Hill taught at Oral Roberts University. In the fall of 1986, she joined the law faculty of the University of Oklahoma.  
Sources: 
Anita Hill, Speaking Truth to Power (New York: Doubleday, 1997); Elwood Watson, Outsiders Within: Black Women in the Legal Academy After Brown v. Board (New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2008).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (August 28, 1963)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
CCharlton Heston, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin and Marlon
Brando at the March on Washington
Image Ownership: Public Domain 

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, held on August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C., was a landmark event for the early civil rights movement and is partly credited with winning the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Over 250,000 demonstrators converged on Washington, D.C., in what was to that point the largest public protest in the history of the nation.
Sources: 
Clayborne Carson, et al, eds., Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle (New York: Penguin, 1991); Manning Marable and Leith Mullings, Freedom: A Photographic History of the African American Struggle (New York: Phaidon, 2002); Original text of John Lewis’ Speech.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cheatham, Henry Plummer (1857-1935)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn Research
Center, Howard University
Born into slavery in Henderson, North Carolina, Henry Cheatham was the child of an enslaved domestic worker about who little is known.  An adolescent after the American Civil War, Cheatham benefited from country’s short lived commitment to provide educational opportunities to all children.  He attended public school where he excelled in his studies.  After high school Cheatham was admitted to Shaw University, founded for the children of freedmen, graduating with honors in 1882.  He earned a masters degree from the same institution in 1887.

During his senior year of college, Cheatham helped to found a home for African American orphans.  In 1883, Cheatham was hired as the Principal of the State Normal School for African Americans, at Plymouth, North Carolina.  He held the position for a year when his career as an educator gave way to his desire to enter state politics.  
Cheatham ran a successful campaign for the office of Registrar of Deeds at Vance County, North Carolina in 1884, and he served the county for four years.   He also studied law during his first term in office, with an eye toward national politics.  In 1888 Henry Cheatham ran for Congress as a Republican in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District.  He defeated his white Democratic opponent, Furnifold M. Simmons.

Sources: 
George W. Reid, “Four in Black: North Carolina’s Black Congressmen, 1874-1901.” Journal of Negro History 64 (Summer 1979): 229-43; “Henry Plummer Cheatham,” Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989, (Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representations, Washington D.C.: Gov. Printing Office, 1991); Leonard Schlup, “Cheatham, Henry Plummer,” American National Biography Online (Oxford University Press, 2000); http://www.anb.org/articles/05/05-00138.html .
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Johnson C. Smith University

Thomas, Clarence (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of the U.S. 
Supreme Court

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

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

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

Million Man March, 1995

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
African American Men on the Mall in Washington D.C.
During the Million Man March
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Michael Janofsky, “The March on Washington: Debate on March and Farrakhan, Persists as Black Men Converge on the Capital” (New York Times, October 16, 1995).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Murray, Daniel A. P. (1852-1925)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Daniel A. P. Murray was born on March 3, 1852 in Baltimore, Maryland.  At the age of nine he left Baltimore to live in Washington, D.C., where his brother managed the U.S. Senate restaurant.  In 1871 Murray acquired a job as a personal assistant to the librarian of Congress, Ainsworth R. Spofford.  Under Spofford's tutelage Murray gathered invaluable research skills and learned several languages. In 1879 he married Anna Evans, an Oberlin College graduate whose uncle and cousin had taken part in John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry.  Two years later, in 1881, he advanced to assistant librarian of the Library of Congress, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1923.

Sources: 
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection (1818-1907): Library of Congress
http://rs6.loc.gov/ammem/aap/aaphome.html; Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Congressional Black Caucus (1971-- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Congressional Black Caucus, 2007
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was established in 1971, although its roots go back to the Democratic Select Committee (DSC).  The DSC was started in 1969 by Representative Charles Diggs of Michigan, who was looking for a way the nine Black members of the House of Representatives could meet and talk about their common political concerns.  The DSC addressed a number of issues of concern to African Americans, including investigating the killings of certain members of the Black Panther Party and boycotting President Richard Nixon’s 1970 State of the Union Address.  This boycott pressured Nixon into meeting with the DSC and discussing topics such as civil rights, Vietnam, anti-drug legislation, and welfare reform.

In 1971 the group was formally organized as the CBC and Diggs was nominated as its first chairman.  In 1972 the group set out to make sure that all Democrats became more attentive to black concerns.  At the 1972 Democratic National Convention the CBC drafted the Black Declaration of Independence and the Black Bill of Rights.  The Black Declaration of Independence demanded that the Democratic Party and its nominee commit themselves to full racial equality.  The Black Bill of Rights on the other hand made more specific demands, which failed to gain the support of the Party or its nominee, George McGovern.  
Sources: 
Colin A. Palmer, ed., Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2006); Nina Mjagkij, ed., Organizing Black America (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2001); Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc: http://www.cbcfinc.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Carter, Robert L. (1917-2012)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Robert L. Carter, the youngest child in a family of eight children, was born in Careyville, Florida in 1917.  His family moved north to Newark, New Jersey shortly after his birth.  Carter’s father died soon after arriving in Newark and his mother supported eight children while working as a domestic servant.  


Robert Carter enrolled at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania at the age of 16 and completed his degree four years later.  In 1937 he entered Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C.  After completing his law degree at Howard Carter earned his LLM (Master of Laws) degree at Columbia University after writing a thesis that would later define the legal strategy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on the right to freedom of association under the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  

Carter was drafted into the Army in 1941 and first encountered racism.  After serving in the Army Air Corps, he was discharged from the service in 1944.  Carter was then offered a job with the NAACP’s legal staff headed by chief counsel Thurgood Marshall.  Carter accepted and became Marshall’s chief legal assistant in the fight against Jim Crow laws across the South.   Carter served for example as the lead attorney of the Sweatt v. Painter Texas desegregation case in 1950.

Sources: 
http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2004feb/sullivan.html; Justin Driver and Robert L. Carter, “Books & the Arts-the Lawyer’s Revolution-A Matter of Law: A Memoir of Struggle in the Cause of Equal Rights,” The New Republic (New York: The Republic Publishing Co., 2006); Robert L. Carter, “The Long Road to Equality,” The Nation (New York: J.H. Richards, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fauntroy, Walter E. (1933- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Reverend Walter E. Fauntroy, pastor, Congressional representative, and civil rights activist, was born in Washington, D.C., on February, 6, 1933. The son of Ethel Vines Fauntroy and William Thomas Fauntroy, who worked in the U.S. Patent Office, Walter Fauntroy graduated from Dunbar High School in 1952. He earned a B.A. degree in History from Virginia Union University in 1955 and then a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School in 1958. While at Yale, Fauntroy married Dorothy Simms on August 3, 1957. They have two children, Marvin Keith and Melissa Alice. Also during this time, Fauntroy met fellow theological students Martin Luther King Jr. and Wyatt Tee Walker. 

In 1959, Fauntroy became pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., succeeding his mentor, Reverend Charles David Foster, who had just passed away. The following year Martin Luther King and Wyatt Tee Walker asked him to become the District of Columbia (DC) branch director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  Fauntroy accepted and became the civil rights organization’s lobbyist in Congress until 1970.
Sources: 

Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese, Black Americans In Congress 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Walter Fauntroy Home Page, http://www.walterfauntroy.com/curriculumvitae.html; Raymond Pierre Hylton,  "Fauntroy, Walter Edward" in African American National Biography edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/article/opr/t0001/e1070
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Cromwell, John Wesley (1846-1927)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Wesley Cromwell was a historian, editor, educator and lawyer who was born into slavery on September 5th, 1846 in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was the youngest child of Willis Hodges Cromwell and Elizabeth Carney Cromwell, who had twelve children. In 1851 Willis Cromwell obtained his family’s freedom and they moved to West Philadelphia. John attended Bird’s Grammar School at the age of ten and the Institute for Colored Youth in 1856. He graduated in 1864 and taught briefly in Colombia, Pennsylvania.

Cromwell returned to Virginia in 1865 at the age of eighteen and opened a private school for freedmen in Portsmouth, which was eventually taken over by the American Missionary Association. He returned to Philadelphia and worked with the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People. In December of 1865, the principal of the Association recommended Cromwell to teach in the American Missionary Association’s freedman’s schools being formed across the South. Cromwell taught briefly in Maryland and Virginia through 1867.

John Wesley Cromwell soon got involved with local politics in Virginia. In 1867 he was named a delegate to the first Republican convention in Richmond. He was also named clerk in the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1868.

Sources: 
Adelaide M. Cromwell, Unveiled Voices, Unvarnished Memories: The Cromwell Family in Slavery and Segregation, 1692-1972 (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2007); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Evans, Annie/Evanti, Lillian (1891-1967)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Source/Moorland-Spingarn Research
Center, Howard University
Lillian (Evans) Evanti, one of the first African American women to become an internationally prominent opera performer, was born in Washington D.C. in 1891.  Evanti was born into a prominent Washington, D.C. family.  Her father, Wilson Evans, was a medical doctor and teacher in the city.  He was the founder of Armstrong Technical High School and served many years as its principal.  Anne Brooks, Evanti’s mother, taught music in the public school system of Washington D.C.

Evanti received her education from Armstrong Technical High School and graduated from Howard University in 1917 with her bachelor’s degree in music.  A gifted student and performer, she was able to speak and sing in five different languages.  The following year she and Roy W. Tibbs, her Howard University music professor, married and had a son, Thurlow Tibbs. 
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); Carl Van Vechten, "Lillian Evanti." Extravagant Crowd, http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/cvvpw/gallery/evanti.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brown, Solomon G. (1829-1906)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Solomon G. Brown, poet, lecturer, and scientific technician, became the first African American employee at the Smithsonian Institution.  He also played a significant role in the implementation of the first electric telegraph and was well versed in the study of natural history.  

Born on February 14, 1829 in Washington D.C., Brown was the fourth of six children born to Isaac and Rachel Brown, both ex-slaves.  When his father died in 1832, the Brown family was left homeless and heavily in debt. Due to this enormous setback, Solomon was unable to attain a formal education.  

At the age of fifteen he began working at the Washington, D.C. post office where he was assigned to assist Joseph Henry and Samuel F.B. Morse in the installation of the first Morse telegraph line in the nation.  Despite his young age, Brown was one of the technicians who helped set up the telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.  Brown continued to work for Samuel F.B. Morse for the next seven years.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982); The Smithsonian Institute Archives: http://siarchives.si.edu.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Brawley, Benjamin Griffith (1882-1939)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Benjamin Griffith Brawley was a college professor, author and the first dean of Morehouse College. Born in 1882 in Columbia, South Carolina to a middle class family, Brawley was the second son of Edward McKnight Brawley and Margaret Dickerson Brawley. His father was a clergyman and taught at Benedict College. The Brawley family moved several times throughout Brawley’s childhood and he attended several different schools in Tennessee and Virginia, though he credited his parents as his first teachers.

Brawley enrolled at Atlanta Baptist College’s (renamed Morehouse College) preparatory department when he was 13 years of age. He excelled in his classes, especially English, and he often tutored other students. In addition to his studies, he was captain of the football team and helped another student found the journal, the Athenaeum (in 1925 it became the Maroon Tiger).  

In 1901 Brawley received his baccalaureate degree from Morehouse College and began teaching in a rural school in Georgetown, Florida. After a year in Florida, he was appointed instructor of English and Latin at Atlanta Baptist. In 1907 he received another baccalaureate degree from the University of Chicago and the following year received a master’s degree from Harvard. He was then given the position of professor at Morehouse College where he stayed until 1910, when he moved to Howard University.
Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982); John W. Parker, “Phylon Profile XIX: Benjamin Brawley—Scholar and Teacher,” Phylon (1940-1956), Vol. 10, No. 1 (1st Qtr. 1949).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Edelman, Marian Wright (1939- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, was born June 6, 1939 in Bennetsville, South Carolina. She was the youngest of five children born to Rev. Arthur Jerome Wright and Maggie Leola Wright.  Rev. Wright, a Baptist minister, died when she was fourteen.  He proved, however, an important influence on her life by teaching that Christianity required public service.  

Marian Wright attended racially segregated public schools, but excelled academically despite the inadequate opportunities offered to her in those institutions. After graduation Wright attended Spelman College, a prominent institution for black women in Atlanta, Georgia. While at Spelman Wright received scholarships to study abroad that took her to Paris, Switzerland, and the Soviet Union.  With that experience she planned to pursue a career in Foreign Service, but as the 1960s civil rights movement unfolded, she found herself involved in its activities. Wright participated in and was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia sit-ins in 1960.  These experiences made her realize that she could contribute to social progress through the study of law. She entered Yale Law School in 1960 on a scholarship and received her law degree in 1963.
Sources: 
“Marian Wright Edelman,” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); Edelman biography, Children’s Defense Fund, http://www.childrensdefense.org
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Hunt, Ida Alexander Gibbs (1862-1957)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Ida Alexander Gibbs Hunt, teacher, Pan-Africanist and civil rights leader, was born on November 16, 1862 in Victoria, British Columbia.  Her parents were Mifflin Wistar Gibbs and Maria Alexander.  Ida Gibbs studied in the Oberlin Conservatory of Music from 1872 to 1876.  She then went to local public schools from 1876 to 1879.  For her senior year of high school, Gibbs attended the Oberlin College’s Preparatory Department and stayed on as a college student.  She completed her college education at Oberlin College in 1884, receiving both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Eng

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Minority Student Records, Oberlin College Archives (2008), http://www.oberlin.edu/archive/holdings/finding/RG5/SG4/S3/graduates.html; Joy A. Palmer, Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey (London, New York: Routledge, 2001); Oberlin High School Alumni: In Memoriam, Oberlin High School Alumni Association, http://www.oberlin-high.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cassell, Albert I. (1895-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Albert Irving Cassell, a prominent African American architect, planner, engineer, educator, and entrepreneur, was born on June 25, 1895 in Towson, Maryland.  His parents were Albert and Charlotte Cassell.  Albert’s father was a coal truck driver and trumpet player and his mother washed laundry to help with the family finances.  Albert himself had three wives and children by each of them for a total of six children and two step-children.  Cassell’s education began in a Baltimore public elementary and high school.  He later moved to Ithaca, New York and enrolled in a city high school there.  He was admitted into Cornell University for college, where he worked on campus to pay for his tuition.

Before Cassell could complete his college education, he served in the United States Army during World War I from 1917-1918.  Commissioned a second lieutenant in the heavy field artillery, he served as a training officer in France.  After his brief stint in the military, he returned to Cornell University and completed his bachelor architectural degree in 1919.  His first project included the design of five buildings at the Tuskegee Institute with fellow architect William A. Hazel. In 1920 he designed silk mills and other industrial plants in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Later that year Cassell joined the Architecture Department of Howard University as an assistant professor.

Sources: 
“Albert I. Cassell & The Founders Library: A Brief History,” Howard University Website, http://www.howard.edu/library/Development/Cassell/Founders.htm; Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Terrell, Robert H. (1857-1925)

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

Robert Herberton Terrell, the first African American judge in Washington, D.C., was born in Charlottesville, Virginia on November 27, 1857 to Harris and Louisa Ann Terrell.  The Terrells, an upper-middle class American family, sent their son to public schools in the District of Columbia and then to Groton Academy in Groton, Massachusetts.  In 1884, Robert Terrell graduated cum laude from Harvard University.  Five years later he graduated from the Howard University Law School with an LL.B.  In 1893 he attained his LL.M from Howard University Law School.  Because of the difficulty in getting a job as a black attorney in Washington, D.C., Terrell taught in the District’s public schools between 1884 and 18. He then worked as chief clerk in the office of the auditor of the U.S. Treasury. 

Robert Terrell met Mary Church when she accepted a teaching post at the Preparatory School for Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., where he was principal.  They married in October 1891 and had two daughters.  Mary Church Terrell, the daughter of Robert R. Church, a prominent Republican politician and businessman in Memphis, would soon be noted in her own right as a civil rights leader and instrumental in the organization of the Colored Women’s League of Washington.  She was also an early president of the National Association for Colored Women. 

Sources: 
Leon Litwack and August Meier, eds.,  Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century  (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988); M. Sammy Miller and C.B. Purvis, “An Unpublished Letter from Dr. Charles B. Purvis to Judge Robert Herberton Terrell, The Journal of Negro History, 63:3 (July 1978); George C. Osborn “Woodrow Wilson Appoints a Negro Judge,” The Journal of Southern History, 4:4 (Nov. 1958); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982); Kathryn I. Bel Monte, African-American Heroes and Heroines: 150 True Stories of African American Heroism (Hollywood, Florida: Lifetime Books, Inc., 1998).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Bland, James A. (1854-1911)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
James A. Bland was an entertainer and a prolific composer who wrote sentimental songs about the American South for use in minstrel shows. Bland was born in Flushing, New York on October 22, 1854 to educated, free parents. He briefly studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C., but inspired by the spirituals and folk songs he heard performed by ex-slaves working on the Howard campus, he soon abandoned academics in favor of a profession in music. A self-taught banjo player, Bland initially sought work at clubs and hotels and then turned his attention to composition and minstrel entertainment.

In the late 1870s, Bland began his professional career as a member of the first successful all-black minstrel company, the Georgia Minstrels. Following the style of traditional all-white minstrel companies, such as the Virginia Minstrels, Bland’s company blackened their faces, painted on red lips, and used stereotypical exaggerated movements and dances in their shows.
Sources: 
David Ewen, Great Men of American Popular Song (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Marshall, Harriet Gibbs (1868-1941)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
A pioneer in the world of African American music education, Harriet Gibbs Marshall was born in Victoria, British Columbia on February 18, 1868 to Mifflin Wistar Gibbs and Maria Ann (Alexander) Gibbs. In 1869 her family moved to Oberlin, Ohio. Marshall began her study of music at the age of nine and continued the pursuit at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where she studied piano, pipe organ, and voice culture. Graduating in 1889, she was the first African American to complete the program and earn a Mus.B. degree, which at the time was Oberlin’s equivalent of a Bachelor of Music degree.

Marshall trained in Europe after graduating and in 1890 returned to the United States to found a music conservatory at the Eckstein-Norton University, an industrial school in Cane Springs, Kentucky. At the beginning of the 20th century, Marshall held the position of supervisor for the District of Columbia’s African American public schools, Divisions X-XIII, and served as the divisions’ director of music.

To provide African American students with advanced musical training within the conservatory structure, she founded the Washington Conservatory of Music in 1903. It was later renamed the Washington Conservatory of Music and School of Expression when the school expanded to include drama and speech. In establishing a school exclusively operated by African American musicians for the advancement of African American education, Marshall realized a lifelong goal.
Sources: 
Alice Allison Dunnigan, The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians: Their Heritage and Traditions (Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1982); Doris E. McGinty, “Gifted Minds and Pure Hearts: Mary L. Europe and Estelle Pinckney Webster,” The Journal of Negro Education 51:3 (Summer 1982);  Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Cardozo, William Warrick (1905-1962)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

William Warrick Cardozo, physician and pediatrician, was a pioneer investigator of sickle cell anemia and a leader in medical research of problems affecting people of African descent.

Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Barry, Marion Jr. (1936- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Marion Barry Jr., an activist and politician, was born on March 6, 1936, in Itta Bena, Mississippi. His parents, Marion Barry and Mattie Barry, were sharecroppers; the family lived in relative poverty. When Marion was eight years old, his mother took the family to live in Memphis, Tennessee.

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

Barry’s studies were abandoned as he became immersed in the civil rights struggle. In 1960, at age of 24, Marion Barry became the first chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Berry worked with SNCC in the South until 1965 when he moved to Washington, D.C. to open that’s city’s SNCC office.  Berry soon became a well-known local activist, leading civil rights demonstrations.  In 1967 Berry cofounded with Mary Treadwell (who would become his first wife) Pride, Inc., a federally funded job training program for unemployed black men. 

Sources: 
Jonetta Rose Barras, The Last of the Black Emperor: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in the New Age of Black Leaders (Baltimore: Bancroft Press, 1998); Councilmember Ward 8, http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/BARRY/about/default.htm; The Washington Post, “Marion Barry: The Making of a Mayor,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dc/barry/barry.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Ulysses Grant Lee, Jr. (1913-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

Ulysses Grant Lee, Jr. was a historian, author, professor, editor and army officer. Born on December 4th, 1913 in Washington D.C. to Ulysses Grant, a business owner, and Maggie Lee Grant, he was the oldest of seven children. Lee graduated from Dunbar High School in 1931. He then attended Howard University where he earned his B.A. and graduated summa cum laude in 1935.  He then received his M.A. from Howard in 1936 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago where he again graduated with honors.

Lee began his career as a graduate assistant at Howard. He became an instructor and eventually assistant professor at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he taught from 1936 to 1948. In 1940 he was a visiting professor at Virginia Union University. Lee eventually joined the English faculty at Lincoln University in Missouri where he stayed until 1956. That same year he began teaching at Morgan State College in Baltimore and the University of Pennsylvania. Known as an excellent, well respected teacher, Lee was voted the Distinguished Teacher Award in 1963 by his students at Morgan State.

In 1941 Ulysses Lee edited The Negro Caravan with Sterling A. Brown and Arthur P. Davis.  This widely used anthology was one of the first to bring together all of the major writing by African American authors of the era.

From 1936 to 1939 Lee worked as a research assistant, editor, and consultant for the Federal Writers Project which sponsored publications such as Washington: City and Capital (1937) and The Negro in Virginia (1940).

Sources: 
Rayford Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Jones, Lois Mailou (1905-1998)

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

Visual artist Lois Mailou Jones was born in 1905 in Boston, Massachusetts to Thomas Vreeland and Carolyn Dorinda Jones. Her father was a superintendent of a building and later became a lawyer, her mother was a cosmetologist. Early in life Jones displayed a passion for drawing, and her parents encouraged this interest by enrolling her in the High School of Practical Arts in Boston where she majored in art. In 1927, Jones graduated with honors from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and continued her education at the Boston Normal School of Arts and the Designers Art School in Boston.

Sources: 

Charles H. Rowell, “An Interview with Lois Mailou Jones.” Callaloo. 12:2 (Spring, 1989): 357 -378); Fern Gillespie, “The Legacy of Lois Mailou Jones,” Howard Magazine (Winter 1999): 8-13; Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998), http://www.phillipscollection.org/research/american_art/bios/jones-bio.htm.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jones, Elaine R. (1944- )

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

Elaine Jones, the first woman to administer the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Education Fund (NAACP-LDF), was born in Norfolk, Virginia on March 2, 1944, the daughter of a railroad porter and a school teacher. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1965 and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1970, becoming the first African American to graduate from that school.

After graduation Jones turned down a job offer with a Wall Street (New York) law firm to join the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, earning thirty percent less than she had been offered by the other firm. The LDF was founded in 1940 by Jones’s mentor and former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to provide legal assistance to the nation’s Civil Rights Movement. It became independent of the NAACP in 1957.

Sources: 

Alton Hornsby, Jr. and Angela M. Hornsby-Gutting, From the Grassroots: Profiles of Contemporary African American Leaders (Montgomery: E-BookTime LLC, 2006).

Contributor: 

National Negro Business League (1900 - )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
National Negro Business League Executive Committee
Image Ownership: Public Domain

The National Negro Business League (NNBL) was founded by Booker T. Washington in Boston, Massachusetts in 1900.  The league, which predated the United States Chamber of Commerce by 12 years, strives to enhance the commercial and economic prosperity of the African American community. The NNBL was formally incorporated in 1901 in New York, and established hundreds of chapters across the United States.  In 1966, the National Negro Business League was reincorporated in Washington, D.C. and renamed the National Business League.

Sources: 

Cary D. Wintz, ed.  African American Political Thought, 1890-1930: Washington, DuBois, Garvey, and Randolph (New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1996); http://nblgw.org/; http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/coolhtml/coolennr.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Rowan, Carl T. (1925–2000)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

President's Committee on Fair Employment Practice (FEPC)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Fair Employment Practices Committee Meeting, 1942
Image Ownership: Public Domain

On June 25, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, creating a Committee on Fair Employment Practices (FEPC) to investigate complaints of discrimination and take action against valid complaints in any defense industry receiving government contracts. President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 only after A. Phillip Randolph, working with other civil rights activists, organized the 1941 March on Washington Movement, which threatened to bring 100,000 African Americans to the nation’s capitol to protest racial discrimination. President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 one week before the proposed March, and in return, Randolph called off the demonstration. However, Randolph continued to fight against discrimination and formed the March on Washington Movement (MOWM) to hold the FEPC accountable.

Sources: 

Merl Elwyn Reed, Seedtime for the Modern Civil Rights Movement: the
President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice, 1941-1946
, (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991); Louis Ruchames, Race,
Jobs & Politics: The Story of FEPC
, (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1953); Herbert Garfinkel, When Negroes March: The March on
Washington Movement in the Organizational Politics for FEPC
(New York:
Athenaeum, 1969).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Tacoma

Drew, Charles R. (1904-1950)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Charles R. Drew, a renowned physician and medical researcher and the first black surgeon examiner of the American Board of Surgery, revolutionized medicine by creating a system that allowed the immediate and safe transfusion of blood plasma.

Born on June 3, 1904 in Washington, D.C. to Richard T. Drew and Nora Burrell, Drew grew up in the city. He attended Dunbar High School, where his excellence in academics and athletics earned him an athletic scholarship to Amherst College in Massachusetts.

After graduating from Amherst in 1926, he worked as Director of Athletics at Morgan College. In 1929, he attended medical school at McGill University in Canada, where he studied with Dr. Beattie and developed his interest in blood storage just before he graduated in 1933. In 1935, Drew returned to Washington D.C. to become a professor at Howard University’s medical school.

Sources: 

Spencie Love, One Blood: The Death and Resurrection of Charles R. Drew (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Chrisanne Becker, 100 African Americans who Shaped American History: Charles R. Drew (San Francisco: Blue Wood Books, 1995).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Gregory, Frederick Drew (1941--)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of NASA

Frederick Drew Gregory was a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut, administrator, and the first black man to command a space shuttle mission.

Born January 7, 1941 to Francis A. and Nora Drew Gregory, he grew up in Washington, D.C. where he was an active member of the Boy Scouts and graduated from Anacostia High School. Gregory received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Air Force Academy and later his master’s degree in information systems from George Washington University.

Soon after receiving his master’s degree, Gregory joined NASA and in 1977 was selected for his first mission. As a pilot aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1985, he first proved himself a capable astronaut. He was next given leadership of the Discovery mission in 1989 and made history as the first black man to command a space shuttle. The Discovery crew orbited the earth 79 times during their 120 hour flight.

Gregory's final mission was on the shuttle Atlantis. The crew preformed medical tests and experiments. They also successfully launched the defense support program satellite.

Sources: 

NASA Biographies, http://www.nasa.gov/about/highlights/gregory_bio.html and http:////www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/gregory-fd.html; Betty Kaplan Gubert, Miriam Sawyer and Caroline M. Fannin, Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science, (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 2001).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Holder, Eric H. (1951- )

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

Eric H. Holder, Jr., U.S. Attorney General since 2009, was born on January 21, 1951 in the Bronx, New York to parents of Barbadian descent, Eric, a real estate agent and Miriam Holder, a telephone operator.  Holder was raised in East Elmhurst, Queens, a community which included a number of famous African Americans such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier. Civil rights activist Malcolm X lived two blocks from young Holder and on one occasion in 1964, then recently crowned heavy weight champion Muhammad Ali entertained him and other community children on the steps of the Malcolm’s house. 

Holder graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War protests and Black Power movement, he entered Columbia University where he participated in sit-ins by African American students. Holder also played collegiate basketball and became co-captain of his team.  In 1973, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in U.S. history from Columbia and then entered Columbia University Law School, earning a J.D. in 1976.  While in law school Holder served as a law clerk for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP-LDF).   

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company (1865-1874)

Vignette Type: 
Misc
History Type: 
African American History
The Freedman's Bank
Image Ownership: Public Domain

The Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company, commonly referred to as The Freedmen’s Bank, was incorporated on March 3, 1865.  It was created by the United States Congress along with the Freedmen’s Bureau to aid the freedmen in their transition from slavery to freedom.  

By late 1861, many black Americans along the border-states experienced a de facto freedom in the presence of occupying Union troops.  Some found employment in Union garrisons where they were monetarily compensated for their work.  At this time, northern abolitionists called for the creation of a freedmen’s bank to assist the ex-slaves in developing habits of financial responsibility.  

During the Civil War, small banks were established across the South to receive deposits from black soldiers and runaway slaves working at Union garrisons. Many of the records of these deposits were lost, however, and many of the freedmen were prevented from recovering their  deposits.  Also, when black troops were killed in combat and did not list next-of-kin, their deposits often went unclaimed.  Even when relatives were listed, locating them proved difficult since the Civil War disrupted black residential patterns.   

Sources: 

Walter L. Fleming, The Freedmen’s Saving Bank: A Chapter in the Economic History of the Negro Race (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1927); Claude F. Oubre, Forty Acres and a Mule: The Freedmen’s Bureau and Black Land Ownership (Baton Rouge: The Louisiana State University Press, 1978), pp. 43, 68, 159-60; http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/summer/freedmans-savings-and-trust.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Whipper, Ionia Rollin (1872-1953)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis

Paste over your article text here

Dr. Ionia Rollin Whipper, physician and social reformer, was born September 8, 1872 in Beaufort, South Carolina. She was one of three surviving children born to author and diarist Frances Anne Rollin and Judge William James Whipper.  

By 1878, as the Reconstruction period was ending in South Carolina, the Ku Klux Klan, and white supremacist “Rifle Clubs” were gathering forces.   Amid an escalating climate of violence, Frances Rollin Whipper took Winifred, Ionia, and Leigh to Washington, D.C.  The family established a home on 6th Street NW, and Whipper saw the children through early education and graduation from Howard University.   Ionia, after teaching for ten years in the Washington, D.C. public school system, entered Howard Medical School, one of the few schools in the country to accept women.     

In 1903, Ionia graduated from Howard University Medical School with a major in Obstetrics, one of four women in her class.  That year, she became a resident physician at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, and on her return to Washington, D.C, set up private practice at 511 Florida Avenue NW, where she accepted only women patients.

Sources: 

Ionia Rollin Whipper; Perpetual Diary 1920-‘29; Ionia Rollin Whipper, Diary: What It Means To Be God Guided ,1939, Property of Carole Ione Lewis; R.J. Abram, ed., Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920 (New York: Norton, 1985); Carole Ione, Pride of Family; Four Generations of American Women of Color (New York: Harlem Moon Classics, 2004); Lelia Frances Whipper, The Pretty Way Home (New York: iUniverse, 2003).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Walton, James L. (1939- )

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

James L. Walton is Tacoma, Washington's first black city manager.  Born in Dallas, the youngest of five children, he grew up in the small Texas town of Mineola.  After high school graduation in 1959, he followed his brother, Willie Brown, who would become a prominent California politician, in moving to California.  He lived in San Diego, where he attended community college, then served two tours of duty in the Army during the Vietnam War, concluding his military service at Fort Lewis, Washington.  The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., redirected his resolve.  In 1968 he enrolled at Tacoma Community College, where he became president of the Obi Society, the black student union, whose members fought an entrenched status quo for an education equal to that offered white students.  

Sources: 

Jason Hagey, “Walton’s Legacy of Quiet Activism,” The News Tribune (Tacoma), June 3, 2005; Ron Mills, “TCC alumnus speaks out about racism, The Challenge, Tacoma Community College, June 6, 2002, http://www.tacoma-challenge.com/news1.htm.
The Safe Streets Campaign: Tacoma and Pierce County Respond to Youth Violence, interviews by Janice M. Foster, University of Washington Tacoma Community History Project, UWT Library, 1994 #1.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Jordan, Vernon E. (1935 - )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Courtesy of DePauw University
Publications Office

Vernon Eulion Jordan, civil rights leader, lawyer, and presidential advisor, was born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 15, 1935.  Growing up in the segregated American South, Jordan attended David T. Howard High School, where he graduated with honors in 1953. 

Upon graduation Jordan entered DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he was the only African American in his class.  A gifted athlete, Jordan excelled at basketball until his graduation in 1957.

Jordan went on to law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he obtained his J. D. degree in 1960.  Jordan quickly began civil rights work, joining the firm of John Hollowell in Atlanta.  In 1961, the firm won a lawsuit on behalf of Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter who became the first black students admitted to the University of Georgia.  

In 1961, Jordan was appointed Field Secretary for the Georgia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Here Jordan organized boycotts of local businesses that refused to hire African Americans, engaged in fundraising campaigns, and led massive voter registration drives throughout the South.

Sources: 

Vernon E. Jordan, Vernon Can Read: A Memoir (New York: Public Affairs, 2001); NAACP, NAACP Administration 1956-65.  General office file.  Register and Vote –Taconic Foundation Voter Education Project, 1961-1964 (Bethesda: University Publications of America, 1995); Pat Rediger, Great African Americans in Civil Rights (New York: Crabtree Publication, Co., 1996); http://www.akingump.com/vjordan/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Moryck, Brenda Ray (1894-1949)

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

Brenda Ray Moryck was a Washington, D.C.-based black writer and social activist often associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.  While Moryck and her female peers did not receive as much mainstream public attention as did many black male artists, she published short stories, essays, and book reviews in important journals such as the Urban League’s Opportunity and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Crisis.  

Brenda Moryck was born in 1894 in Newark, New Jersey.  The great-granddaughter of Reverend Charles Ray, editor of the important antebellum black newspaper, the Colored American, Moryck noted that “writing is a tradition in our family.”  In 1916, she graduated from Wellesley College and returned to New Jersey to do volunteer work with the Newark Bureau of Charities.  Married to Lucius Lee Jordan in 1917, Moryck was widowed within a year and later remarried Robert B. Francke in 1930.  During this interim, she taught English at Armstrong Technical School, one of two segregated high schools for African American youth in Washington, D.C.  

Sources: 

“A Point of View (An Opportunity Dinner Reaction),” Opportunity 3 (August 1925); “Our Prize Winners and What They Say of Themselves,” Opportunity 4 (June 1926), 188-189;  Brenda Ray Moryck, “Days,” The Crisis 35 (June 1928): 187-188; and Lorraine Elena Roses and Ruth Elizabeth Randolph, “Moryck (Francke), Brenda Ray,” in Harlem Renaissance and Beyond:  Literary Biographies of 100 Black Women Writers, 1900-1945 (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1990), 243-246.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Georgia Southwestern State University.

Smith, Damu (1952–2006)

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ferguson, Lloyd (1918- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Lloyd Ferguson, the first African American to receive a Ph.D in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, was born February 9, 1918 in Oakland, California. Growing up in Oakland, Ferguson was always passionate about school, particularly science. In the eighth grade, he brought a chemistry set which allowed him to do experiments and create substances such as gunpowder. Raised by his parents and grandparents, Ferguson was forced to get a job while in high school because his father lost his job during the Great Depression. At first Ferguson became a paper boy and then after high school he worked as a laborer for the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) to save money for college.

Ferguson attended the University of California, Berkeley earning a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1940 and a Ph.D in chemistry in 1943. One of his main contributions at Berkeley was developing a compound that could lose and gain oxygen rapidly. This compound was a type hemoglobin and was later used as a source of oxygen for submarines. He later went on to study the sense of taste through chemistry.

Sources: 

Gabrielle S. Morris, Head of the Class: An Oral history of
African-American Achievement in Higher Education and Beyond
(New York,
Twayne Publishers, 1995);
http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/JCEWWW/Features/eChemists/Bios/Ferguson.htm....

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Johnson, Hazel W. (1927-2011 )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of the U.S. Army

Hazel Johnson was the first African American woman to become a general in the U.S. Army. She was appointed the Chief of the Army Nurse Corps in 1979. Johnson held a doctorate in education administration from Catholic University (1978) and had honorary degrees from Morgan State University, Villanova University, and the University of Maryland.  

Johnson first became interested in nursing while growing up on a farm in Westchester, Pennsylvania.  Her career began when we she received her nursing degree from the Harlem Hospital in New York City, New York in 1950.  She then attended Villanova University where she received her bachelor’s and soon afterwards joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1955.  

Johnson served in Japan at a U.S. Army Evacuation Hospital.  She served at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1960 where she was a staff and operating room nurse.  Between 1963 and 1967, she was an operating room instructor and supervisor while on a tour of three different hospitals.  Johnson reached the rank of major in 1967.  

Sources: 

Henry E. Dabbs, Black Brass: Black Generals and Admirals in the Armed Forces of the United States (Charlottesville, Virginia: Howell P, 1997); http://www.womensmemorial.org/Education/BBH1998.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bath, Patricia (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Patricia Bath

Patricia Bath, a prominent ophthalmologist, was born in Harlem, New York in 1942.  Her parents, Rupert and Gladys Bath were both very supportive of her love for science and encouraged her to peruse a career in science.  Bath's teachers throughout her early education were also supportive. Bath attended New York’s Charles Evans Hughes High School in Harlem.  During her time there she excelled as a student earning herself a position after high school on a cancer research team at Yeshiva University and Harlem Hospital.

In 1960 she entered Hunter College in New York City obtaining a B.A in chemistry with honors four years later.  Bath then enrolled in the Howard University Medical School receiving an M.D. degree in 1968.  While in medical school Bath participated in a research project centered on children’s health in Yugoslavia.  This experience persuaded her to make her life's work the treatment of impoverished populations around the globe through international medicine.

Ophthalmology became Bath's specialty after medical school.  After working for a few years as a surgical assistant in New York hospitals, Bath went to Nigeria where she became the Chief of Ophthalmology at Mercy Hospital in Lagos, then the capital city.  Bath became intrigued by the numerous cases of blindness she encountered in Nigeria and upon her return to the United States in 1978, founded the American Institute for Prevention of Blindness.  

Sources: 

Otha Richard Sullivan, ed., Black Stars African American Women
Scientists & Inventors
(San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass A Wiley
Imprint, 2002); http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/bath.html;
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/aframsurgeons/images/bath.gif

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Augusta, Alexander T. (1825-1890)

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. (1920- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. (Zeta), one of four college sororities for African American women, was founded on January 16, 1920, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. by five women, now known as the “Five Pearls.” Zeta is a historically black sorority founded during a tense political climate of race riots and lynchings at the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance and just as all American women received the right to vote. Zeta formed to be a socially conscious service based organization, aware of the cultural and political changes taking place in society.

Zeta is a non-profit service organization whose members now number more than 125,000 worldwide.  Its principles are Finer Womanhood, Scholarship, Service, and Sisterly love.  Upholding these standards, Zeta has established many national programs in neighborhoods across the nation. Storks Nest is a strong example of a service based project which developed out of a partnership between Zeta and the March of Dimes in 1972. The program supports prenatal health through education and incentive programs. Zeta’s Helping Other People Excel (Z-HOPE) is an outreach service program which builds community partnerships, and offers informational activities to the community.
Sources: 
Daniel Soyer, "Fraternities and Sororities," Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996); Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, 2005, www.zphib1920.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc. (1930 - )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc. (NPHC), also referred to as the Divine Nine, is the umbrella organization housing nine black Greek-letter organizations. The NPHC was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on May 10, 1930, and incorporated under laws in Illinois in 1937. Its member organizations include Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. All together the Council’s membership exceeds 1.5 million individuals around the world.  In 1995 the first international chapter was formed in Nassau, Bahamas.
Sources: 
National Pan Hellenic Council, Incorporated, www.nphchq.org; Daniel Soyer, "Fraternities and Sororities," Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (1908- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
  "Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA), the oldest Greek-letter organization established for African American women, was founded on January 15, 1908, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. The principles are Sisterhood, Scholarship, and Service to All Humankind. This organization was founded on two key themes. The first is the importance of the individual. The second is the strength of an organization of women of ability and courage. The sorority formed to serve an African American community that faced the growing challenge of racial discrimination and injustice in the early 20th Century United States.   

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority has over 200,000 members in over 950 chapters located in the United States, Caribbean, Germany, Korea, and Japan. Graduate members make up the largest percent of membership at 77%. Undergraduate membership follows at 13%. Its members continue to uphold the same scholastic achievements as its founders; 63% if its members have a bachelor’s degree, 57% have a master’s degree, 9% have a doctorate degree, and 7% have professional certifications.
Sources: 
Sources: Daniel Soyer, "Fraternities and Sororities," Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996); Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, 2009, http://www.aka1908.com/events/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (1913- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Delta), one of four college sororities for African American women, was founded on January 13, 1913 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. by 22 colligate women. Delta is a nonprofit organization whose principles are Sisterhood, Leadership, and Service. It is the largest black Greek-letter sorority in the world with over 900 chapters and more than 350,000 members in the United States, England, Japan (Tokyo and Okinawa), Germany, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Republic of (South) Korea.

Delta members include among others, Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun, Lena Horne, Leontyne Price, Cicely Tyson, Ruby Dee, Nikki Giovanni, Wilma Rudolph, and two Miss America winners, Kimberley Aiken-Cockerham (1994) and Erika Dunlap (2004).
Sources: 
Sources: Paul Giddings, In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement (New York: Morrow, 1988); Daniel Soyer, "Fraternities and Sororities," Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996); Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. 2008-2009, http://www.deltasigmatheta.org/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Rice, Susan Elizabeth (1964- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Susan Rice is the current National Security Advisor for the Barack Obama Administration.  She is the first African American, the third woman, and the second youngest person to hold the position.  Prior to being selected by President Obama for the post, Rice served as a key foreign policy advisor for the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential race.

Born in Washington, D.C. on November 17, 1964 to Emmett J. Rice, a Cornell University economics professor and former governor of the Federal Reserve System, and Lois Dickson Fitt, an education policy scholar, Rice was raised in the Shepherd Park community, where she attended Washington’s National Cathedral School, an elite preparatory academy.  An active participant in student government, Rice was elected president of her school’s student council.  In addition to excelling at basketball, Rice was a dedicated student and upon  her graduation was named class valedictorian.  

Rice attended Stanford University on a Truman Scholarship, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in History in 1986.  Rice was elected to Phi Beta Kappa while at Stanford.  She then attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving a Master’s of Philosophy Degree in 1988, and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in International Relations in 1990.  In 1988 while working on her doctorate, Rice took a position as a foreign policy aide with the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign.  

Sources: 
Morton H. Halperin, Power and Superpower: Global Leadership and Exceptionalism in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Century Foundation Press, 2007); http://www.brookings.edu/experts/rices.aspx; http://www.stanfordalumni.org/erc/reunions/black_alumni_hall.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Fenty, Adrian M. (1970- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Carroll's Municipal Directory (Carroll Publishing, 2006); Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2007); New York Times, September 14, 2006, p. A24; Washington Post, August 31, 2006, p. C1, January 12, 2007, April 4, 2007, October 25, 2008, September 14, 2010, and Adrian M. Fenty, Biography.  October, 27, 2008, http://dc.gov/mayor/bios/fenty.shtm><http://dc.gov/mayor/bios/fenty.shtm>
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Lewis, Hylan Garnet (1911-2000)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of Carole Ione Lewis"
Hylan Garnett Lewis was a distinguished sociologist and pioneer in the field of community studies whose work helped guide the study of American race relations for more than half a century. Throughout his life, Lewis analyzed, and sought remedies for, the problems of the poor and unemployed. He also studied discrimination against people of color in corporate employment, foster care, and schools.

Hylan Lewis was born on April 4, 1911 in Washington, DC, one of five children of Ella Wells and high school principal Harry Whythe Lewis. His early years were spent in Washington and Hampton, Virginia; and in1932 he received a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Union University.

He was an Instructor of economics at Howard University, switching to sociology after meeting E. Franklin Frazier there in 1935. That year, he married Leighla Frances Whipper, a writer and Graduate Student at Howard. The couple had one child, Carole Ione. The marriage ended in divorce, and a second marriage to Audrey Carter produced a son, Guy Edward.

Lewis earned his masters in 1936 at University of Chicago and was a Rosenwald Fellow from 1939-1941. He subsequently worked for the Office of War Information and had appointments at Talladega University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Hampton University.
Sources: 
Hylan Lewis; Blackways of Kent (University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, S.C., 2008); Carole Ione; Pride of Family; Four Generations of American Women of Color (New York: Harlem Moon Classics, 2004).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

New Negro Alliance, The (1933-1940's)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 

"New Negro Alliance" in Nina Mjagkij, ed., Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2001); Jonathan Scott Holloway, Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr, E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919-1941 (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (1914- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Sources: 
Lawrence C. Ross, Jr., The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities in America (New York: Kensington, 2000); Daniel Soyer, "Fraternities and Sororities," Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996); Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated, www.pbs1914.org.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. (1911- )

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 

Lawrence C. Ross, Jr., The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities in America (New York: Kensington, 2000); Daniel Soyer, "Fraternities and Sororities," Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996); Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, 2007, http://www.omegapsiphifraternity.org/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Bonner, Marita Odette (1899-1971)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Marita Odette Bonner (Occomy) was an African American writer, essayist, and playwright associated with the Harlem Renaissance Era.  Born on June 16, 1899 to Joseph Andrew and Anne Noel Bonner in Boston, Massachusetts, she and her three siblings grew up in Brookline, a suburb of Boston.  Bonner attended Brookline High School where she first began to write when she became involved in a magazine organized by the student body called the Sagamor.
Sources: 
Joyce Flynn and Joyce O. Stricklin, eds., Frye Street and Environs: The Collected Works of Marita Bonner (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987); Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Women, Book II (Detroit-London: Gale Research Inc, 1996) http://voices.cla.umn.edu/vg/Bios/entries/bonner_marita_odette.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Washington, Walter Edward (1915-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Walter Washington Sworn in as Mayor of
Washington D.C., 1967
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Walter Edward Washington, attorney and politician, was born in Dawson, Georgia, on April 15, 1915 to Willie Mae and William L. Washington.  After his mother’s death in 1921, Washington moved with his father to Jamestown, New York.  Washington excelled academically and athletically in the public school. His trumpeting skills in school also earned him the nickname Duke II.   In 1934, he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Washington earned his B.A. degree in 1938 and his law degree from the same institution in 1948.  While attending law school, Washington met and married Benetta Bullock.

Following law school, Washington was employed as a supervisor for the District of Columbia’s Alley Dwelling Project.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy named Washington the executive director the National Capitol Housing Authority, becoming the first African American to hold that position.

Sources: 
Michael W. Williams, ed., The African-American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 1993, 1st edition): 1667; R. Kent Rasmussen, ed., The African-American Encyclopedia (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 2001, 2nd edition): 1625; Donna M. Wells, Washington History, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2004), 4-15.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

West, Togo D., Jr. (1942- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Togo D. West Jr., attorney and government official, was born on June 21, 1942 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Togo D. West, Sr. and Evelyn Carter West. In 1959 he graduated as valedictorian from Atkins High School in that same city.   In 1965, West enrolled at Howard University, earning his B.S. degree in electrical engineering.  He switched to law and earned a J.D. degree from Howard University Law School in 1968, graduating first in his class.  After he completed law school, West clerked for a federal judge in the Southern district of New York.  

During the early 1970s, West served in the United States Army as a judge in the Judge Advocate General Corps.  For his outstanding military service, West earned both the Legion of Merit award and the Meritorious Service Medal.  Government officials recognized West’s distinguished military service and in 1973, he was appointed by President Gerald Ford as Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice.  In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed West as general counsel to the Navy and in 1979, West served as Deputy Secretary to the Secretary of Defense and general counsel to the Department of Defense from 1980 to 1981.

In 1981, West retired from government to become managing partner of the Washington, D.C. law firm, Patterson, Belknap, Webb, and Tyler.  In 1990, West became the senior vice president for the Arlington, Virginia-based Northrop Corporation, a military aircraft manufacturer.

Sources: 
Mary Kalfatovic, “West, Togo D. Jr.” Contemporary Black Biography (Detroit: Gale Research, 1998); Washington Post, November 22, 1996, p. l; November 23, 1996, p.9; http://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/11/us/va-secretary-resigning.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Menard, John Willis (1838-1893)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Willis Menard, abolitionist, author, journalist and politician, was born in 1838 in Kaskaskia, Illinois, to French Creole parents. He was the first African American elected to Congress, but was not seated after a dispute over the election results. Menard attended Iberia College, an abolitionist school in Iberia, Ohio.  

Twenty-two year old Menard expressed his abolitionist views in his widely read 1860 publication, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois. During the Civil War, he became the first African American to serve as a clerk in the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.  While there, President Abraham Lincoln dispatched him to research British Honduras (now Belize) as a possible colony for the African American population. 

Sources: 
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008); "John Willis Menard," Notable Black American Men Book II (Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2006); John Willis Menard, Lays in Summer Lands, edited by Larry Eugene Rivers, Richard Matthews, & Canter Brown, Jr. (Tampa, FL: University of Tampa Press, 2002); John Willis Menard, Black and White. No Party—No Creed: A Lecture. (Philadelphia, no date); John Willis Menard, An Address to the Free Colored People of Illinois (no city, ca. 1860).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Poor People's Campaign (December 4, 1967 – June 19, 1968)

Vignette Type: 
Events
History Type: 
African American History
Rev.
Sources: 
Nina Mjagkij, Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2001);http://poorpeoplescampaignppc.org/HISTORY.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

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

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

Williams, Eric Eustace (1911-1981)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Historian, educator, and politician Eric Eustace Williams was born in 1911 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to working class parents.  His family's struggles to survive economically introduced Williams to the brutal social and racial hierarchy of the British colony.  As an adult, he gave up a faculty position at Howard University to return to his homeland, eventually becoming its prime minister.
Sources: 
Colin A. Palmer, Eric Williams & the Making of the Modern Caribbean (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006); Selwyn D. Ryan, Eric Williams: The Myth and the Man (Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2009); Barbara L. Solow and Stanley L. Engerman, British Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery: The Legacy of Eric Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Frazer, Victor O. (1943- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Victor O. Frazer, attorney and politician, was born May 24, 1943 in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands to Albert Frazer and Amanda Blyden.   He graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1960.  In 1964, he earned a B.A. degree from Fisk University. In 1971, he received his J.D. from Howard University Law School and subsequently was admitted to legal bars of New York, Maryland, District of Columbia, and Virgin Islands.

In 1974 Frazer began his law career in Washington, D.C. at the Office of the Corporation Counsel (later known as the Office of the Attorney General of D.C.).  He later served as a lawyer for the Interstate Commerce Commission and the U.S. Patent Office.

In 1987 he served as general counsel for the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority.  Frazer’s congressional interest developed while working as an administrative assistant for California Representative Mervyn Dymally and as a special assistant for Michigan Representative John Conyers.

Sources: 
“Victor O. Frazer,” Who’s Who Among African Americans; Politics in America, 1996 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1995): 1476; Black Americans in Congress website, http://baic.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=72; Almanac of American Politics, 1996 (Washington, D.C.: National Journal Inc., 1995), 1483.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Berea College

Porter Wesley, Dorothy (1905-1995)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Constance
Porter Uzelac
Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995), a scholar-librarian and bibliographer was born in Warrenton, Virginia in 1905, to her father, Hayes Joseph Burnett, a physician, and her mother, Bertha Ball Burnett, a tennis champion.  After receiving her A.B., from Howard University in 1928, she became the first African American woman to complete her graduate studies at Columbia University receiving a Bachelors (1931) and a Masters (1932) of Science in Library Science.  

Dorothy Bennett joined the library staff at Howard University in 1928, and on December 29, 1929 married James Amos Porter. In 1930 University President W. Mordecai Johnson appointed her to organize and administer a Library of Negro Life and History incorporating the 3,000 titles presented in 1914 by Jesse Moorland.  The library opened in 1933 as the Moorland Foundation.  In 1946 Howard University purchased the Arthur Spingarn Collection.  By the time Porter retired in 1973 the library, which was now called the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, had over 180,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts and other primary sources.  Over 43 years, Porter had successfully created a leading modern research library that served an international community of scholars.  
Sources: 
Helen H. Britton, "Dorothy Porter Wesley; a bio-bibliographic profile" In American Black Women in the Arts and Social Sciences; a Bibliographic Survey. 3rd ed. (Metuchen, New Jersey: Greenwood Press, 1996); Dorothy Porter, “Fifty Years of Collecting.”  Introduction to: Black Access: A Bibliography of Afro-American Bibliographies by Richard Newman, Comp.  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1984)  pp. xvii-xxviii; "Dorothy Louise Burnett Porter Wesley (1905-1995)." http://www.dpw-archives.org, Thomas C. Battle, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. http://www.founders.howard.edu/moorland-spingarn/hist.htm
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Howard University (1867– )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Howard University Faculty, 1950:
Left to Right, James Nabrit, Charles Drew, Sterling Brown,
E. Franklin Frazier, Rayford Logan and Alain Locke.
Courtesy of the Howard University Archives,
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
Howard University has been labeled “the capstone of Negro education,” because of its central role in the African American educational experience.  Among historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) Howard has produced the greatest number of graduates with advanced degrees.  Originally conceived as a theological school in 1866, Howard University was chartered as a university by an act of the United States Congress in 1867.  It is the only HBCU to hold that distinction.  Named after Oliver Otis Howard, a Civil War general who became commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the institution was from its inception committed to graduate and professional education in sharp contrast to most other black postsecondary institutions of that era.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years (New York: New York University Press, 1968); Raymond Wolters, The New Negro on Campus: Black College Rebellions of the 1920s  (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975); http://www.howard.edu/explore/history.htm; http://www.howard.edu/library/Reference/Guides/Retrospective/default.htm; http://www.law.howard.edu/1234.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montgomery College (Maryland)

University of District of Columbia (1851- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
David A. Clarke School of Law,
University of the District of Columbia
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The University of District of Columbia was founded as a school for African American girls in 1851. The school was established by Myrtilla Miner and was initially called the Miner Normal School.  In 1879 it became part of the District of Columbia public school system. In 1873 the Washington Normal School was established for white girls in the District.  In 1913 it became known as the Wilson Normal School.  Both schools were turned into four year teacher colleges by a 1929 act of Congress.  The Miner Normal School became Miner Teachers College and the Wilson Normal School was called Wilson Teachers College. In 1955, one year after the Brown v. Board of Education Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the two colleges were combined to become the District of Columbia Teachers College.
Sources: 
“University of District of Columbia” Available at: http://www.udc.edu/welcome/history.htm. 27 May 2010, “Historically Black American Colleges and Universities: University of District of Columbia” Available at: http://www.petersons.com/blackcolleges. 27 May 2010, United States. Congress. House. Committee on the District of Columbia. Subcommittee on Judiciary and Education, Congressional oversight: a report on the University of the District of Columbia (Washington: U.S. G.P.O, 1984).
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Dykes, Eva Beatrice (1893-1986)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn
Research Center Howard University

In 1921 Eva Beatrice Dykes became the first black woman in the United States to complete the required coursework for a Ph.D. and the third African American woman to receive a doctoral degree. Two other black women, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander and Georgiana Simpson, receive their Ph.D.s, in the same year as Dykes but because their respective commencement ceremonies took place earlier, Dykes is considered the third woman to receive the advanced degree. 

Eva Dykes was born in Washington, D.C. in 1893, and attended M Street High School which was later renamed Paul Dunbar High School. In 1914, twenty-one year old Dykes graduated Summa Cum Laude from Howard University with a B.A. in English. After spending one year teaching at Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, she decided to seek a Master’s Degree at Radcliffe College, an all women’s college which is now a part of Harvard University. Radcliffe, however, would not accept her degree from Howard, forcing Dykes to earn a second B.A. in English from the Massachusetts institution in 1917.  Nonetheless she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and the following year earned an M.A. from Radcliffe.  While at Radcliffe Dykes was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  She returned to Howard University in 1917 to complete her doctoral studies, earning the Ph.D. in 1921.  Her dissertation focused on Alexander Pope’s views on slavery and his influence on American writers.

Sources: 
Werner Sollors, Caldwell Titcomb, Thomas Underwood, and Randall Kennedy, Blacks at Harvard: A Documentary History of African-American Experience At Harvard and Radcliffe (New York: New York University Press, 1993); http://www.oakwood.edu/academics/library/about-the-library/698-who-was-eva-b-dykes; http://www.sistermentors.org/dcmarch05.htm.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Catlett, Elizabeth (1915-2012)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Elizabeth Catlett and Husband Francisco Mora,
ca. 1950
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Elizabeth Catlett Mora was a prominent black political expressionist sculptor and printmaker in the 1960s and 1970s. Catlett was born to John and Mary Catlett who were public school teachers in Washington, D.C.  She was the youngest of three children. After graduating from Dunbar High School in the District of Columbia in 1933, she studied design and drawing at Howard University, also in Washington, D.C. She graduated cum laude in 1935, after changing her major to painting and studying with Lois Mailou Jones among other art professors. In 1940, Catlett became the first student to receive a master’s of fine arts in sculpting from the University of Iowa.

Sources: 
Melanie Herzog, Elizabeth Catlett; Elizabeth Catlett: in the image of the people (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2005); http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aaworld/arts/catlett.html; http://www.sculpture.org/documents/catlett/cat_special.shtml.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Duncan, Todd (1903-1998)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records,
Archives Center,
National Museum of American History,
Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution
Born Robert Todd Duncan in Danville, Kentucky in 1903, Todd Duncan was the first African American to perform in an otherwise all-white cast in the New York City Opera’s production of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

He began his professional stage career in 1933 in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana at the Mecca Temple in New York City with the Aeolian Opera, a black opera company.  Duncan’s resounding baritone and commanding stage presence won him the role of “Porgy” in Gershwin’s 1935 Porgy and Bess. He was the personal choice of Gershwin for the role.  Following this premiere, Duncan performed his role of “Porgy” in two subsequent revivals in 1937 and 1942. Throughout his tenure as “Porgy” Duncan played the role in over 1,600 performances. His portrayal of “Porgy” is recognized as a classic, serving as the model for subsequent singers cast in the role. During one performance of Porgy and Bess at the National Theater in 1936, however, Duncan led the cast in a protest of the theater's policy of segregated seating.   Duncan vowed to never again perform before a segregated audience.   The National Theater eventually gave in to the cast's demands and ended its segregation policy.
Sources: 
M. Evans, “Todd Duncan: Trailblazer of the Concert Stage,” American Visions, 5.5 (1990); Allan Kozinn, "Todd Duncan, 95, Sang Porgy and Helped Desegregate Opera," New York Times, March 2, 1998; Elizabeth Nash, Autobiographical Reminiscences of African American Classical Singers, 1853-Present (Lewiston, New York: Edward Mellen Press, 2007); James A. Standifer, “Reminiscences of Black Musicians,” Annals of American Music, 4.2: 194-205 (1986).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Morrow, Everett Frederic (1909-1994)

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

Everett Frederic Morrow, the son of John Eugene Morrow, a library custodian who became an ordained Methodist minister in 1912 and Mary Ann Hayes, a former farm worker and maid, was born on April 9, 1909 in Hackensack, New Jersey.  He graduated from Hackensack High School in 1925, where he not only served on the debate team for three years, but was their president his senior year.  

Morrow attended Bowdoin College between 1926 and 1930 and at the time was one of only two African American students enrolled there.   Morrow did well academically, but was forced to withdraw his senior year to help his family.  He worked as a bank messenger on Wall Street and then secured a social work job. In 1935, Morrow joined the National Urban League as a business manager of Opportunity Magazine, and two years later became field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), traveling across the nation to promote membership and fundraising.

Sources: 
E. Frederic Morrow, Black Man in the White House: A Diary of the Eisenhower Years by the Administrative Officer for Special Projects, The White House, 1955-1961 (New York: Coward-McCann, 1963): Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Lives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Wolfgang Saxon, "E. Frederic Morrow," The New York Times, July 21, 1994; http://veterans.hackensackschools.org
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Freedmen’s Hospital/Howard University Hospital (1862-- )

Vignette Type: 
Institutions
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The Freedmen’s Hospital was founded in 1862 in Washington, DC. It was the first hospital of its kind to aid in the medical treatment of former slaves.  Later it became the major hospital for the African American community in Washington, D.C.  The hospital was founded on the grounds of Camp Barker at 13th and R Streets in Northwest Washington.  It remained in that location until a new building was completed in 1909 at Bryant and 6th Street.   Through much of its history the hospital was managed by the U.S. government.   

In 1868, six years after its founding, Freedmen’s Hospital became a teaching hospital for the Howard University Medical School.  One of the first members of the school’s faculty was Lieutenant Colonel Alexander T. Augusta, M.D.   Augusta had been placed in charge of the hospital in 1863 and thus was the first black hospital administrator in U.S. history.  He was also on the faculty for the Howard University medical school along with six  other faculty members,  including Anderson Ruffin Anderson,  another African American.  Augusta remained on the faculty from 1868 to 1877.
Sources: 
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/medtour/howard.html ; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/aframsurgeons/pioneers.html#freedmen ;
Bracey , John H. Jr., and Sharon Harley. "Records of the Freedman's Hospital 1872-1910." LexisNexis. LexisNexis Academic & Library Solutions, 2004. Web. 15 Mar 2011. <http://www.lexisnexis.com/documents/academic/upa_cis/100435_freedmenshospital.pdf>.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Wesley, Charles H. (1891-1987)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Noted historian Charles Harris Wesley was born in Louisville, Kentucky on December 2, 1891, and attended local schools as a boy. He graduated from Fisk University in 1911 and, in 1913, earned a Master’s degree from Yale University. In 1925, Wesley became the third African American to receive a doctorate degree from Harvard University.  He served as the 14th General President and National Historian for seven decades of the African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and wrote The History of Alpha Phi Alpha which was first published in 1929.  Wesley was also a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the oldest African American Greek Letter Fraternity.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years (New York: New York University Press, 1968); Earle E. Thorpe, Black Historians: A Critique (New York: Morrow, 1971); August Meir and Elliott Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession, 1915-1980 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Charles H. Wesley biography, http://www.dpw-archives.org/chw.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Hull, England

Reed, George Warren, Jr. (1920- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
George W. Reed Examining Lunar Rocks in 1970 at the
Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne National Laboratory)
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Although he was one of many scientists recruited for the Manhattan Project, which produced the atom bomb during World War II, there is a clear paucity of literature on George W. Reed Jr.  Like his fellow scientists, Reed was not at liberty to discuss, with any detail, his involvement in the project.  

Born in Washington D.C on September 25, 1920, Reed spent his entire career as a chemist specializing in a variety of fields within the discipline. In 1942 he received a BS degree from Howard University and two years later an M.S. Both degrees were in chemistry.   He then completed his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1952, after his work with the Manhattan Project.
Sources: 
William C. Matney, (ed.), Who’s Who Among Black Americans 1980-81 (Northbrook, Illinois: Who’s Who Among Black Americans Inc. Publishing Company, 1981); Charles W. Carey, Jr., African Americans In Science: An Encyclopedia of People and Progress (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Inc., 2008); Vivian Ovelton Sammons, Blacks in Science and Medicine (New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation, 1990).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Michigan State University

Alexander, Archer (ca. 1810-1879)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
The Lincoln Emancipation Statue in
Washington,D.C. Archer Alexander is the
Model for the Slave Here
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Archer Alexander was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation around the year 1810.  His likeness, in face and figure, immortalizes all American slaves on a monument to emancipation that stands in Lincoln Park in Washington, D. C. The bronze monument "Emancipation," also known as the "Freedmen's Memorial," depicts Abraham Lincoln reaching out to a crouching figure who is working to free himself from his chains. Financed mainly by donations from former slaves, it was dedicated on April 14, 1876 by Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave.

Alexander was born to slave parents Aleck and Chloe on a farm outside of Richmond.  When Archer was in his teens, his father was sold in order to settle a plantation debt. Two years later when the plantation owner died, Alexander Archer was willed to the eldest son Thomas Delaney, with whom he had been raised. When Thomas Delaney moved to Missouri, Archer went with him. Settling in St. Louis, Archer met and married a slave named Louisa and started a family. When Thomas Delaney moved to Louisiana he sold Alexander to Louisa's owner, a farmer named Hollman.
Sources: 
William G. Eliot, The Story of Archer Alexander: From Slavery to Freedom (Boston: Cupples, Upham and Company, 1885; reprinted in Westport, Connecticut by Negro Universities Press, 1970); Candace O'Connor, “The Image of Freedom,” St. Louis Post Dispatch (February 23, 1989).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Browne, Hugh Mason (1851-1923)

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

Hugh M. Browne was a civil rights activist and educator.  Born June 12, 1851, in Washington D.C. to John and Elizabeth (Wormley) Browne, he is known for his work as the principal of the Institute for Colored Youth and his advocacy for vocational education.

After graduating from a segregated public school in Washington D.C., he studied at Howard University and graduated in 1875. That year he enrolled in the Theological Seminary of Princeton, graduating three years later and licensed as a Presbyterian minister.

After further education in Scotland, he became a professor at Liberia College in the Republic of Liberia, serving there from 1883 to 1886.  He introduced a course on Industrial Education there, and attempted to reform Liberian higher education. This culminated in an essay he was invited to write, “The Higher Education of the Colored People of the South,” in which he advocated elementary and industrial education over abstract higher education, espousing the opinion that Liberians and blacks in the south currently need practical education and are not ready for a more literary education. His cultural and educational criticisms of Liberia created tension with the principal of Liberia College, leading to his restriction from teaching.

Sources: 
The Crisis, Vol. 27, No. 4, (New York: The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc., Feb 1924); Princeton Theological Seminary, Necrological reports and annual proceedings of the Alumni Association ... : 1875-1932 (Princeton, New Jersey: C.S. Robinson, 1891); Faustine C. Jones-Wilson, Encyclopedia of African American Education (Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Company, 1996); http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4144/Browne-Hugh-M-1851-1923.html#ixzz0bzcyIaRl
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

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

Jackson, Samuel L. (1948- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Actor Samuel Leroy Jackson was born on December 21, 1948 in Washington, D.C. to factory worker Elizabeth Jackson. His father abandoned his mother shortly after Jackson’s birth and then died of alcoholism. Jackson and his mother moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they lived with her family. Jackson attended Riverside High School and played the trumpet and the French horn until graduating.

Jackson attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, majoring in dramatic arts. He founded the Just Us Theater while attending Morehouse, and in 1968 he was an usher at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.  In 1969 Jackson and several other students held the members of the Morehouse Board of Trustees hostage on campus until they agreed to administrative and curriculum changes. An agreement was made but Jackson was forced to leave Morehouse for two years. He returned and graduated in 1972.

While in Atlanta Jackson was involved with the Black Power movement and worked with Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and movement leaders.  He also joined the Black Image Theater Company which performed plays illustrating racial injustice and discrimination. Jackson met his future wife, Latanya Richardson, at the Company, and the two were married in 1980. The two had a daughter (Zoe) in 1982.
Sources: 
Daniel Donaghy, Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century, Paul Finkelman, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Henry Louis Gates and Samuel L. Jackson, "In Character," America behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans (New York: Warner, 2004); "Samuel Leroy Jackson," 2012, The Biography Channel website. http://www.biography.com/people/samuel-l-jackson-9542182.
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

White, Joseph Silvestre (1835–1918)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Jose Silvestre de Los Dolores
White y Lafitte in 1857
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Composer and violinist Jose Silvestre White was born in Matansas, Cuba in 1835 to Don Carlos White and an Afro-Cuban mother. His father gave White his first instruction in violin, and he later studied with Jose Miguel Roman and Pedro Lecerff. In 1854, at eighteen, he gave his first concert performing themes from Rossini’s William Tell, and two of his own compositions, accompanied by Louis Moreau Gottschalk.  Gottschalk enabled White to go to France and attend the prestigious Paris Conservatory.  There he studied with the eminent violinists and composers, Jean-Delphin Alard, Henri Reber, and Ferdinand Taite. In 1856, after only a year of study, he won the Grand Prize in violin from the Conservatory. By 1858 he began a tour of Europe, the Caribbean, South America, and Mexico.

Sources: 
Robert Fikes, Jr., “’They Made the Violin Sing: Three Black virtuosos,” Crisis 89 (May 1982); Josephine Wright, “Violinist Jose White in Paris, 1855-1875,” Black Music Research Journal 10, no. 2 (1990), 213-232; http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/white.html.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Walker, George Theophilus (1922- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, George T. Walker

Winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music is one of the multitude of richly deserved tributes to composer, pianist, and educator George Theophilus Walker. His prolific career continues into his 90s with his commissioned Sinfonia No. 4 (Strands), premiered in 2012 by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

George Theophilus Walker was born June 27, 1922 in Washington, D.C. to George T. and Rosa Walker. His father emigrated from Jamaica and became a prominent physician. His mother began his obligatory piano lessons at five years old. He grew to love music and entered Oberlin School of Music at 14, receiving a B.M. degree with class honors in 1941.

Sources: 
George Walker, Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2009); Interviews by mosaicclassics, “George Walker, Composer,” State of the Arts, 2012.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

McDonald, Norris (1958- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of The African American
Environmentalist Association

Norris McDonald, a leading black environmentalist, is the founder and president of the African American Environmental Association (AAEA), an organization dedicated to protecting the environment, enhancing human, animal and plant ecologies, and increasing African American participation in the environmental movement.

Norris McDonald was born to parents Sandy Norris McDonald Sr. and Katie Louvina Best in 1958 in Thomasville, North Carolina.  Norris McDonald Sr. was a high school principal and Katie Louvina Best worked for the local public school system. She died of breast cancer at the age of 26.

McDonald attended Wake Forest University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1977. After college, McDonald moved to Washington, D.C. hoping to find a job as a Congressional staffer.  Instead, he was hired as a staffer at the Environmental Policy Institute in 1979 (now called Friends of the Earth) where he worked for the next seven years. McDonald’s primary duties included media relations, public education, researching, lobbying, and fund raising. During this time, McDonald was introduced to environmental issues across the nation.  He also noticed that there were no black professionals working for environmental groups in the Washington, D.C. area. The absence of black professionals in those organizations inspired him to create the AAEA in 1985.

Sources: 
http://grist.org/article/norris/; http://meldi.snre.umich.edu/node/12335; Norris McDonald, Norris McDonald: Diary of an Environmentalist (Washington, D.C.: Privately Published, 2010).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Doug (1955-- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
When Doug Williams took the field for the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII, it marked the first time in National Football League (NFL) history that an African American quarterback played in a Super Bowl. Douglas Lee “Doug” Williams was born August 9, 1955 in Zachary, Louisiana to parents Robert and Laura Williams. After high school, he played for legendary coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State University. Williams led Grambling to three Southwestern Athletic Conference championships in four years between 1974 and 1977. He was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press in 1977 and finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. Along with his athletic achievements, Williams earned a Bachelor of Science degree in health and physical education from Grambling.
Sources: 
Jill Lieber, “Well-Armed Pioneer,” Sports Illustrated, February 1 1988; Michael Richman, The Redskins Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007); Dave Scheiber, “So Who’s Laughing Now?” St. Petersburg Times, January 26, 2003.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Reid, Philip (1820-1892)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Statue of Freedom on the U.S. Capitol Dome
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Craftsman Philip Reid is best known as the enslaved African who worked on the casting of the Statue of Freedom which sits atop the Capitol building housing the United States Congress.  Reid is the most famous of the enslaved workers who comprised 50% of the workforce which built the structure that currently houses the United States Senate and House of Representatives.  
Sources: 
Ernest B. Furgurson, Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War (New York: Vintage, 2005); Jesse J. Holland, Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C. (Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot, 2007); Wevonneda Minis, “Magazine Highlights Charleston Connection to Bronze Cast,” The Charleston Post and Courier, March 24, 2009, http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20090324/PC1205/303249915 ; Peter Zavodnyik, The Rise of the Federal Colossus: The Growth of Federal Power from Lincoln to F.D.R. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2011).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Johnson, William Henry (ca. 1835-1864)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
William Henry Johnson served as the personal valet to Abraham Lincoln.  Johnson was born around 1835; however, his exact date of birth, parentage, and birthplace remain unknown.  He began working for the Lincoln family in Springfield, Illinois as a barber and valet in 1860 and accompanied Lincoln to Washington, D.C.
Sources: 
Roy P. Basler, "Did President Lincoln Give the Smallpox to William H. Johnson?"  Huntington Library Quarterly, 1972, 35:3 (1972); Tim Dennee, “African-American Civilians Interred in Section 27 of Arlington National Cemetery, 1864-1867,” www.freedmenscemetery.org
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Bolden, Abraham (1935- )

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

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

Gittens, Charles LeRoy (1928–2011)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Charles L. Gittens was an American Secret Service agent.  He joined the Secret Service in 1956, becoming the agency's first African American agent.  An Army veteran, Gittens began his career at the agency's office in Charlotte, North Carolina.  However, he was soon posted to its New York field office, where he was part of an elite “special detail” that targeted counterfeiters and other criminals across the country.
Sources: 
Jenée Desmond-Harris, “First Black Secret Service Special Agent Dies,” The Root, posted August 10, 2011, 4:15 p.m.; Abraham Bolden, The Echo from Dealey Plaza (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008); Del Quentin Wilber, “Charles L. Gittens, First Black Secret Service Agent, Dies at 82,” Washington Post, August 10, 2011.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

COINTELPRO [Counterintelligence Program] (1956-1976)

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

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

Herring, James V. (1887-1969)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Oil Painting of James V. Herring
by James Porter, 1923
(Image Courtesy of Howard University)
James Vernon Herring was an influential American artist and teacher in the early twentieth century.  He played an integral role in devising new ways by which art would be viewed from both academic and commercial standpoints.  He was also an important figure in the promotion of works of little known African American artists.
Sources: 
Janet Gail Abbott, “The Barnett Aden Gallery: A home for diversity in a segregated city” (2013), retrieved from Udini: http://udini.proquest.com/view/the-barnett-aden-gallery-a-home-for-goid:304495536/; University of Maryland, “Artist Biographies” (2002), retrieved from Narratives of African American Art and Identity: http://www.driskellcenter.umd.edu/narratives/exhibition/artists/bio.htm#herr.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 2007-2011 - BlackPast.org v2.0 | blackpast@blackpast.org | Your donations help us to grow. | We welcome your suggestions. | Mission Statement

BlackPast.org is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. BlackPast.org is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.