Independent Historian

Carla W. Garner is an independent researcher in Barrington, Illinois.  She has a BA in English from Northwestern University and an MLIS from San Jose State University.  The Racine, Wisconsin native has worked in the private sector for Bose Corporation, Heritage Wisconsin Corporation, and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.  Her research has looked at information exchange among farm women, librarianship during the Depression, and library development in the rural Midwest.

Alma S. Jacobs (1916-1997)

Librarian Alma Smith Jacobs was the first African American to serve as the Montana State Librarian. She was a lifelong advocate of free access to library resources and was active in local and state civil rights causes. Alma Victoria Smith Jacobs was born in Lewistown, Montana on November 21, 1916. … Read MoreAlma S. Jacobs (1916-1997)

DeWitty/Audacious, Nebraska (1908- )

Located in the Sandhills of Cherry County, Nebraska, the settlement of DeWitty was established in 1908 by black homesteaders who constructed housing made of stacked sod.  These settlers farmed some of the least hospitable land in the state.  The families were spurred to the area by the 1904 … Read MoreDeWitty/Audacious, Nebraska (1908- )

Eddie Bernice Johnson (1935-2023)

An early career in health care led to political aspirations for Eddie Bernice Johnson, culminating in her position representing Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives.  She was an advocate for women, children, and human rights. Born in Waco, Texas, in 1935 to parents Lee Edward Johnson and Lillie Mae … Read MoreEddie Bernice Johnson (1935-2023)

Dewey Gatson (AKA Rajo Jack DeSoto) (1905-1956)

Automobile racer Rajo Jack DeSoto was born Dewey Gatson on July 28, 1905 in Tyler, Texas. (Previously published biographies have incorrectly listed his racing name as Rojo Jack.) Rajo Jack was barred from racing in many organized venues because of his African American heritage, but … Read MoreDewey Gatson (AKA Rajo Jack DeSoto) (1905-1956)

Gary D. Gayton (1933- )

Attorney and businessman Gary D. Gayton has spent most of his adult life as a civil rights advocate for those without a representative voice, including African Americans, Native Americans, and women. He was the country’s first black Assistant U.S. Attorney, appointed to the position by … Read MoreGary D. Gayton (1933- )

Franklin A. Thomas (1934- )

Attorney and philanthropist Franklin A. Thomas was the first African American president of the Ford Foundation, the trust endowed by automobile manufacturer Henry Ford. The organization currently is the second-largest philanthropic foundation in the U.S., distributing funds for initiatives relating to democracy, poverty, and cultural … Read MoreFranklin A. Thomas (1934- )

Augustine (Augustus) Tolton (1854-1897)

Born into slavery in 1854, Fr. Augustine (nicknamed Augustus) Tolton was one of the country’s first African American Roman Catholic priests. Tolton shares early black Catholic history with three brothers of Irish-African American ancestry: James, Sherwood, and Patrick Healy. The Healy brothers were ordained two … Read MoreAugustine (Augustus) Tolton (1854-1897)