The Construction of the Alaska Highway, 1942: The Role of Race in the Far North

In the following article independent historians Christine and Dennis McClure describe the role race played in the construction of the Alaska-Canada (ALCAN) Highway during World War II. The highway, constructed in eight months, stretched 1,600 miles from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska. … Read MoreThe Construction of the Alaska Highway, 1942: The Role of Race in the Far North

Frederick McDonald Massiah (1886–1975)

“Image Ownership: Public Domain” Frederick McDonald Massiah was one of the first African Americans to receive a civil engineering degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was also one of the first successful African American contracting engineers in the country. Massiah was born in … Read MoreFrederick McDonald Massiah (1886–1975)

Thelma Beatrice Johnson Streat (1912-1959)

“Image Ownership: Public Domain” African American artist and dancer Thelma Johnson Streat was born in Yakima, Washington on August 29, 1912, the second of Gertrude Beatrice Carson and James A. Johnson’s five children.  Streat’s artistic ability was evident at a young age.  She graduated from … Read MoreThelma Beatrice Johnson Streat (1912-1959)

Jazz in Occupied China: Black Jazzmen at the Japanese Prison Camp in Weihsien, China during World War II

Earl Whaley Band, Shanghai, China, 1937/Weihsien Prisoner-of-War Camp During World War II Image Ownership: Public Domain/Image Courtesy of Palmer Johnson Desmond Power, a third generation British subject born in Tientsin (now Tianjin), China in 1923, was incarcerated along with 1,500 other foreign nationals in 1943 … Read MoreJazz in Occupied China: Black Jazzmen at the Japanese Prison Camp in Weihsien, China during World War II

Charles Mitchell, Slavery, and Washington Territory in 1860

Few people connect Washington Territory with slavery.  However one incident in 1860 was a reminder that the peculiar institution reached the pre-Civil War Pacific Northwest.  In the account below, historian Lorraine McConaghy describes the saga of Charles Mitchell whose attempted escape from slavery in a … Read MoreCharles Mitchell, Slavery, and Washington Territory in 1860

After the Underground Railroad: Finding the African North Americans who Returned from Canada

The Underground Railroad which fugitive slaves followed from the antebellum South to Canada is now a well-known story. But what of those who returned?  In his ongoing research, University of Texas at El Paso historian Adam Arenson explores this little-known aspect of nineteenth- century African … Read MoreAfter the Underground Railroad: Finding the African North Americans who Returned from Canada

Hunter Pitts “Jack” O’Dell (1924- )

Community organizer and Civil Rights activist Hunter Pitts O’Dell was born in Detroit, Michigan on August 11, 1924.  His father George Edwin O’Dell worked in hotels and restaurants in Detroit and his mother, Emily O’Dell, attended Howard University where she studied music and later taught … Read MoreHunter Pitts “Jack” O’Dell (1924- )