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André Willis

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1920 and Harvard Law School in 1923, a time when very few African Americans gained admittance to Ivy League schools. Alexander enjoyed a successful career in private practice, directly challenging racism and discrimination and helping end segregation in a number of Philadelphia institutions, before becoming counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Between 1933 and 1935 Alexander served as president of the National Bar Association and sought a federal appointment. Although the prevailing racial climate made it difficult for him to break into national politics, Alexander was appointed honorary consul to the Republic of Haiti in 1938. He was considered for an ambassadorship to Ethiopia in 1951, but although he had President Truman's support, he was not confirmed. From 1951 to 1958 Alexander committed himself to ...

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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

first African American member of the Oklahoma City Council, family physician, and civic leader, was born in Trinidad, West Indies, to Gertrude St. John, a domestic worker, and John Atkins. He had one younger sister. Charles Atkins immigrated to the United States, arriving at Ellis Island in March 1929. He was required to attend Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York City, because the United States did not accept his education credentials from Trinidad. One of the first black students at DeWitt, he graduated in 1933. Aided by the Urban League, he worked as a summer counselor to earn money for college. Although he took some classes at City College of New York, he moved to North Carolina to attend St. Augustine's, an Episcopalian historically black college in Raleigh. He graduated in 1941 with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry. On 27 March 1943Atkins ...

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Julian Houston

civil rights leader, lawyer, and Boston city councilman, was born in Elkhart, Indiana, the son of Lillie Curry, a domestic, and Norse Pierce Atkins, a Pentecostal minister. At the age of five, he contracted polio. Despite a doctor's insistence that he would require crutches for the rest of his life, three years later he was walking unassisted. He attended a segregated school for the first and second grades until the derelict building collapsed. The City of Elkhart could not afford to replace it. As a result, the city's schools were integrated by default. Despite his infirmity, Atkins was elected student body president at Elkhart High School, played saxophone in the school band, and was chosen for the all-state orchestra. There he met Sharon Soash, whom he married in December 1960 As a result of Indiana s anti miscegenation laws they traveled to Michigan ...

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Charles F. Casey-Leninger

first black mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, was born in Maysville, Kentucky, to a white farmer whom he never knew and Cora Berry. When he was a toddler, Berry's mother brought him to Cincinnati, where they settled in the emerging African American community in the city's West End. Severely hearing impaired and with difficulty speaking, his mother earned little as a domestic, and Berry's sister Anna, fifteen years his senior, eventually assembled the family in her own household.

Berry attended the segregated Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School and graduated from the racially mixed Woodward High School in 1924 as valedictorian, the first black student in Cincinnati to achieve that honor in an integrated high school. Berry received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1928 and his juris doctorate from the UC College of Law in 1931 He worked his way through school by selling ...

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politician, was born on Cincinnati's segregated west side, the older of two brothers born to George Blackwell, a meatpacker, and Dana Blackwell, a part-time nurse. Until he was six years old, the family lived in the Laurel Homes housing project. Blackwell would later attribute his character to his father's work ethic, his mother's reading and lessons from the Bible, and the parents' strong promotion of education. He graduated from Hughes High School in 1966, and attended Cincinnati's Xavier University on a football scholarship. A well-regarded and physically imposing athlete—he stood at 6 feet 4 inches, 220 pounds—Blackwell was also seen by his peers as a radical black campus leader, donning daishikis and wearing his hair in an Afro, serving as president of the black students association, and lobbying the administration in civil rights issues.

In his sophomore year, Blackwell married his childhood girlfriend, Rosa whom ...

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Aaron L. Day

recreation commissioner, PTA president, and community advocate, was born Mary Dell Byrd in Greenville, Texas, to Eliza Henderson and George Byrd, who worked as a porter for the railroad. Mary had a twin sister named Adele—the only children in the family—and attended grade school and high school in Greenville. After high school, Byrd married Charlie Joe Christian and had two daughters, Georgia and Beverly. The marriage lasted only a few years, and at age twenty-one, she moved to Long Beach, California, with her two daughters. There she met Richard Butler, and the two were married in 1948. The couple had six sons: Anthony, Reginald, Douglas, Stanley, Timothy, and Eric. It was because of her children that Butler became engaged in school and civil rights activism.

The 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional and that ...

Article

labor leader and human rights activist, was the fourth of five children born in Seattle, Washington, to Susie Sumner Revels Cayton, a newspaper editor and community activist, and Horace Roscoe Cayton Sr., a journalist and publisher of the Seattle Republican. He was named after his grandfather, Hiram Revels (1827–1901), the first U.S. senator of African descent (1870–1871). Revels's brother Horace Cayton Jr. became a prominent sociologist.

Unlike his father who detested and distrusted labor unions because of their record of racially discriminatory practices Revels became involved with the labor movement early in his life in the belief that unions offered all workers the best chance to better their condition He rose through the union ranks and was at one time secretary treasurer of the Bay Area District Council of the Maritime Union of the Pacific He also joined the Communist Party and wrote ...

Article

politician, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the fourth of seven children born to Irving Clay, a welder, and Luella (Hyatt) Clay, a homemaker. Growing up in a run-down tenement house with no indoor toilet, Clay would later note that a severe lack of basic facilities were afforded to the disenfranchised in the heavily black city, where thousands of residents lived in abject squalor, “just blocks from the downtown business district” (Clay, A Political Voice, p. 11).

While Clay attended St. Nicholas Catholic School, a black parochial school near his house, he worked as well, delivering newspapers at eight years old and selling scrap metal during World War II. By the time he was twelve, he was working at the Good Luck Store, a downtown retail men's clothing store, full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year.

Clay attributed his political awakening and activism to ...

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Kenneth J. Hreha

activist, attorney, community organizer, police reformer, and Detroit City Councilman, was born Kenneth Vern Cockrel in predominantly black Royal Oak Township, Michigan, to Sye Cockrel, an automobile assembly worker, and Cynthia, (maiden name unknown). Sye Cockrel left school after the sixth grade, while his wife was the first African American female to graduate from Lincoln High School, in the suburban Detroit community of Ferndale, Michigan.

Kenneth was the second eldest of five siblings (along with Sye, Jesse, Novella, and Shirley) and after the children lost both of their parents in late 1950—within one month of each other—his siblings were then separated as a family unit and each sent to live with different relatives. Ken was sent off to live with his uncle and aunt, Golden and Beatrice Kennedy in Detroit s Jefferies Housing Projects his early teenage years ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the eighth of eleven children of Edward L. Cooper, a sheet metal worker, and Laura J. Cooper a homemaker One of the eleven siblings died in infancy the remaining ten became college graduates During his upbringing in North Carolina Cooper often faced the tribulations of southern racism He went to segregated schools and learned from his parents that he had to go out of his way to avoid conflict with whites Once when Cooper was eight or nine years old he got into a fight with a white boy As he put it It was the wrong day for him to call me a nigger and we had it out Stillwell 76 Cooper s father had to smooth things over with the boy s father to avoid the incident s escalation When he worked as a bellhop in ...

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Marcus Shepard

lawyer, businessman, civil rights leader, and Chicago alderman, was born in Canton, Mississippi, to Edward Dickerson and Emma Garrett Fielding. Earl Dickerson's maternal grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Garrett, bought his freedom in the 1850s and owned a livery stable as well as several other properties in Canton. His business was destroyed during the Civil War, however, and by the time Earl was born the family lived in relative poverty. Edward Dickerson, who worked away from home as an upholsterer, died when Earl was five and he was raised by his mother, who did laundry for local whites, his paternal half-sister, and his maternal grandmother, who ran a small boarding house in Canton.

In 1906 Dickerson was sent to live with relatives in New Orleans where he attended the preparatory school of New Orleans University Unfortunately family finances forced him to return to Canton ...

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Sandra Kelman

community activist, city councilwoman, and ordained minister, was born Beatrice Frankie Fowler in Wake Forest, North Carolina, to Maude Fowler, a domestic worker, and to a father who left when she was a toddler. In a 1989Baltimore Sun Magazine article, Gaddy recalled “many days” that she and her four siblings (Mottie Fowler, Pete Young, Tony Fowler, and Mabel Beasly) “didn't eat because when my mother didn't work and couldn't bring home leftover food, there was nothing to eat. And, even when there was food, if my stepfather had been drinking, he'd come home and throw our plates out in the back yard or through the window.” A high school dropout, Gaddy was divorced twice by her early twenties. As a single mother, she struggled for years to make a living for herself and her children (Cynthia, Sandra, John, Michael, and Pamela ...

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Sherri J. Norris

chief of police and security director, was born Beverly Joyce Bailey in Macon, Georgia, the youngest of seven children. She attended school in Macon, where she was an excellent student. In 1972 Harvard earned a BA in Sociology with a minor in psychology from Morris Brown College in Atlanta. In 1973 she married Jim Harvard, whom she had met while they were both students at Morris Brown. They would have one daughter, Christa. Harvard graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) National Executive Institute. She held two honorary doctor of law degrees from Morris Brown and University of South Carolina.

After graduation from college Harvard worked in communications Out of this work she developed a genuine interest in law enforcement but her career as a police officer was the result of a bet she made with her husband According to Harvard her husband agreed with a friend ...

Article

Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

chemist, patent attorney, and legislator, was born Esther Arvilla Harrison in Stamford, Connecticut, the only daughter of George Burgess Harrison and Esther Smalls Harrison Her father was a chauffeur and custodian at a church and her mother worked in domestic service Neither of her parents had an advanced education her father had some high school education and her mother attended only primary school She started school at the same time as her older brother having tested into kindergarten at the age of three and a half She and her brother continued to go to school together through elementary school In high school Esther was on the pre college track taking all the science courses available to her She had determined to become a brain surgeon after meeting a female brain surgeon in one of the offices her father cleaned She was impressed by this woman and ...

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Richard L. Aynes

World War II veteran, city councilman, and judge, was born in Lake City, Florida, the youngest of fifteen children of William and Hattie (Howard) Jackson. He spent his early years in Orlando, Florida. Courage was his touchstone for life. When he was seven, an armed mob with torches came to his home looking for one of his older brothers on trumped-up charges. His mother sent him out the back door into the darkness to call together armed family members while she led the mob by a circuitous route to the brother's home. The family members Jackson brought escorted the brother to jail and successfully prevented the brother's lynching.

Jackson earned a BA from Morehouse College in 1943 and an MA in Business Administration from Atlanta University in 1946. On 7 September 1945 he married his college sweetheart Gilberta Jackson in Atlanta Georgia They had ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

attorney, Detroit area civic leader, and nominee for the sixth circuit federal court of appeals, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Wade Hampton McCree Jr. and Dores B. McCrary McCree, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan.

Her father served as a Michigan circuit judge for Wayne County, 1954–1961, and as a federal U.S. district judge 1961–1966, and U.S. sixth circuit court of appeals judge from 1966 to 1977, when he was appointed solicitor general of the United States by President Jimmy Carter. He was the first African American to serve on the sixth circuit court, and the second (after Thurgood Marshall) as solicitor general. Kathleen Lewis attended Detroit public schools, graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1965, then entered Fisk University (Jet, 24 Mar. 1966, 39), where Judge McCree was an alumnus and later a ...

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Nick J. Sciullo

realtor, prominent citizen, and bureaucrat. Whitefield McKinlay was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of George and Mary E. Weston McKinlay. He studied at the Avery Institute, Charleston's first free secondary school for African Americans. He continued his education at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the University of South Carolina, and Iowa College in Grinnell, Iowa. At West Point he suffered continued hardship from classmates and staff and was finally physically disqualified from the school. When conservatives took over South Carolina in 1876, black students were forced to leave the University of South Carolina. McKinlay was a member of the Brown Fellowship Society, which was founded in 1790 to provide education, insurance, and a cemetery to its elite membership roster.

In 1887 McKinlay married Kate Wheeler The family moved to Washington D C when conditions in South Carolina deteriorated McKinlay and Wheeler had two ...

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David Killingray

Labour activist and Plymouth city councillor, among those early black representatives elected to local government bodies in England. The son of a Sierra Leonean father and a white British mother, Miller was born in Stonehouse, Devon. He attended local schools, worked in the building industry, and during the First World War served in the Royal Flying Corps. Working as an electrician in Devonport dockyard, he was an active trade unionist and also a member of the Labour Party. In 1925 he was elected to Plymouth City Council, a position in which he served with various interruptions for most of his life. In 1938, concerned about the safety of people in the city in event of war, Miller became a civil defence warden. When the city was heavily bombed in 1941 he unofficially organized the evacuation of many women and children For this he was arrested and reprimanded However ...

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Christopher Phelps

outspoken Philadelphia civil rights leader, attorney, and city councilman, was born in Yukon, West Virginia, to Alexander Moore, a physician, and Beulah Moore, a teacher whose maiden name is now unknown. A student during the Great Depression, he attended West Virginia State College from 1933 to 1934 and Bluefield State College from 1935 to 1939. He failed the final literature class needed to graduate from Bluefield State, but considered himself its alumnus ever after and took part in its alumni association.

After working in Athens, Georgia, as an insurance salesman, Moore enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942. He saw combat against the Japanese during World War II in the Pacific. His time in the Marines imbued Moore with discipline, toughness, and command experience, emboldening him to insist on his rights.

In 1946 Moore married Theresa Wyche Lee a Howard University graduate ...

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Francesco L. Nepa

Pelham, Benjamin B. (1862–07 October 1948), newspaper publisher, municipal official, and political leader, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Pelham, a plasterer and mason, and Frances Butcher. The Pelhams were a prosperous free black family who at one time owned a farm in Petersburg, Virginia. They were forced to sell, however, because of the harassment of townspeople, who were probably jealous of the family’s success. The need to leave Virginia became apparent when the Pelhams attempted to purchase a license for their pet dog but were turned down by local authorities, who claimed that only whites and slaves could purchase dog licenses. The family decided to head north, and around 1862, after brief stops in Columbus, Ohio, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Pelhams settled in Detroit shortly after Benjamin’s birth.

Pelham attended Detroit public schools and the fashionable Barstow private school While still a student ...