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Article

Thomas O. Fox and Jocelyn Spragg

scientist and educator, was born in Pennsauken, New Jersey, the second of nine children, to Howard R. Amos Sr., a Philadelphia postman, and Iola Johnson, who had been adopted by and worked for a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family who schooled her with their own children at home. This family remained lifelong friends of Iola and kept the young Amos family well supplied with books, including a biography of Louis Pasteur, which piqued Harold's interest in science in the fourth grade. Both Howard and Iola expected their children to be serious about their education and to excel academically. Harold, along with his siblings, took piano lessons and remained a competent amateur pianist. He also gained a reputation as an excellent tennis player.

Harold received his early education in a segregated school in Pennsauken then graduated first in his class from Camden High School in New Jersey He ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer, poet, and performer, was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second of two children of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and a naval dietician, and Vivian Baxter Johnson, a card dealer who later became a registered nurse. Her parents called her “Rita,” but her brother, Bailey, who was only a year older, called her “My Sister,” which was eventually contracted to “Maya.” When Maya was three years old, she and Bailey were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, whom Maya often referred to as “Mother.”Mrs. Henderson was a strong independent black woman who owned a country store in which Maya lived and worked Maya was a bright student and an avid reader she absorbed the contradictory messages of love emanating from the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and of hatred revealed in the pervasive mistreatment of ...

Article

Gloria Chuku

journalist and president of Nigeria, was born into the family of Obededan Chukwuemeka Azikiwe, a clerk with the Nigerian Regiment of the West African Frontier Force in the northern Nigerian Hausa town of Zungeru. Later known affectionately as Zik, as a child, Nnamdi learned Hausa before his parents sent him to Onitsha, their Igbo hometown, for his primary education in 1912. In 1918, he graduated from Christ Church School, Onitsha, and he briefly taught there as a pupil teacher (1918–1920).

His education also took him to the Efik town of Calabar where he enrolled in the prestigious Hope Waddell Training Institute Following his father s transfer to Lagos Nnamdi moved with the family and enrolled at the Wesleyan Boys High School Lagos a predominant Yoruba town By the time he graduated from high school Nnamdi had acquired three major Nigerian languages Hausa Igbo and Yoruba and ...

Article

Richard M. Mizelle and Keith Wailoo

mathematician and professor, was born David Harold Blackwell in Centralia, Illinois, the oldest of four children, to Grover Blackwell, a locomotive mechanic for the Illinois Central Railroad, and Mabel Johnson. Although much of Blackwell's hometown was segregated, he attended an integrated elementary school. He first became interested in mathematics in high school where, although not particularly interested in algebra or trigonometry, he immediately took an interest in geometry—the scientific study of the properties and relations of lines, surfaces, and solids in space. Later in his life Blackwell credited his high school geometry instructor for showing him the beauty and the usefulness of mathematics. He joined his high school's mathematics club where his instructor pushed students to submit solutions to the School Science and Mathematics Journal which published one of Blackwell s solutions It was with geometry that Blackwell first began to apply mathematical methods and formulas to ...

Article

Wayne J. Urban

college professor and administrator, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of James Bond, a Congregationalist minister, and Jane Alice Browne, a graduate of Oberlin College and a schoolteacher. Horace Bond's paternal grandmother, Jane Arthur Bond, was a slave who raised two sons by herself. These two sons, Bond's father and his uncle, Henry, both earned college degrees and embarked on professional careers. Three of Bond's four siblings earned college degrees, and his cousins on his father's side also distinguished themselves academically. This family achievement was important to Horace Bond, because it exemplified the way in which numerous scholars of his generation were nurtured within the African American community. He published a book on the family origins of African American scholars near the end of his life, Black American Scholars: A Study of Their Beginnings (1972).

Bond was an intellectually precocious child He was ...

Article

Regina Harris Baiocchi

Margaret Bonds was a perfectionist whose meticulous manuscript preparation rivaled that of most printing presses, and she left a legacy of mesmerizing music.

Margaret Allison Bonds was born in Chicago, Illinois. She was the only child of Monroe A. Majors, MD, and Estella C. Bonds, although Monroe Majors had an older daughter, Grace Boswell. Estella Bonds played organ for Berean Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side and taught her daughter piano, organ, and music theory. Estella Bonds was a close friend of the composers Florence S. Price, Will Marion Cook, William Dawson, and Langston Hughes, all of whom mentored young Margaret. Bonds composed her first work, “Marquette Street Blues,” at the age of five. When Price moved into the Bonds home at 6652 South Wabash to escape racism in Little Rock, Arkansas, she taught Bonds piano and composition.

Bonds earned bachelor of ...

Article

Katya Leney-Hall

Egyptian diplomat, jurist and scholar who, during 1992–1996, served as the sixth Secretary-General (SG) of the United Nations (UN), the first African and Arab to hold the position, was born in Cairo on 14 November 1922 into a distinguished Coptic Christian family. His grandfather, Boutros-Ghali Pasha, was the Egyptian minister for finance and, from 1894, foreign affairs. He was prime minister from 1908 to 1910 when he was assassinated by a nationalist angered with his advocacy of the extension of the Suez Canal Company s concession Boutros Boutros Ghali pointed out in an interview that the reality was that the population was happy to get rid of a Christian and his grandfather s assassination set off a wave of Coptic Muslim clashes Although not overtly religious himself his family s history status and influence on the Coptic Church were to form Boutros Ghali who would later perceive ...

Article

educator, was born Lottie Hawkins in Henderson, North Carolina, the daughter of Edmund H. Hight, a brick mason, and Caroline Frances Hawkins. Accounts vary as to whether her father and mother separated before or after her birth, and it is also unclear whether her parents ever married. After her mother married Nelson Willis, Lottie (as she was called until she changed her name to Charlotte Eugenia in high school) relocated with nineteen members of her extended family to Massachusetts in 1888. By joining the widespread migration of African Americans, the family hoped to enjoy greater economic opportunities and a better life. After settling in Cambridge, her stepfather worked odd jobs to support the family, while her mother boarded African American Harvard students, operated a laundry, and babysat. Hawkins began her elementary education at the Allston School in Cambridge, where she befriended two of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ...

Article

Valinda Littlefield

Born Lottie Hawkins in Henderson, North Carolina, Charlotte Eugenia Hawkins Brown was the daughter of Carolina Frances Hawkins and Edmund H. Hight. Her mother and stepfather, Nelson Willis, along with nineteen extended family members, moved from Henderson to Cambridge, Massachusetts, when Lottie was seven years old. After graduating from high school and changing her name to Charlotte Eugenia, Brown attended the State Normal School in Salem, Massachusetts, for two years.

In 1901 Brown accepted a position with the American Missionary Association AMA to teach at a one room school housed in a run down church in Sedalia North Carolina The AMA a nondenominational society worked to develop educational opportunities for African Americans during and after the Civil War and founded more than five hundred schools for blacks in the South Brown s school consisted of fifty children from the surrounding poor area of Guilford County North ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

educator. Born in Henderson, North Carolina, to Caroline Frances Hawkins, an unwed mother of sixteen, at age six “Lottie” moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her mother, with her mother's new husband, Nelson Willis, with her brother Mingo, and with several cousins and aunts. Brown excelled at the Allston Grammar School and Cambridge English High School. The whole family worked, from doing laundry to taking in boarders. Pushing a baby carriage with one hand and reading her Latin book in the other, Brown encountered Alice Freeman Palmer, president of Wellesley College, and with Palmer's assistance she ended up attending the State Normal School in Salem. Another chance encounter led to a job offer from the American Missionary Association (AMA); she accepted a teaching position at Bethany Institute, a small school in Sedalia, outside Greensboro, North Carolina.

Within a year the AMA closed the school and the ...

Article

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham

As a national leader in education at age twenty-one, Nannie Helen Burroughs was catapulted to fame after presenting the speech “How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping” at the annual conference of the National Baptist Convention (NBC) in Richmond, Virginia, in 1900. Her outspoken eloquence articulated the righteous discontent of women in the black Baptist church and served as a catalyst for the formation of the largest black women’s organization in America—the Woman’s Convention Auxiliary to the NBC. Some called her an upstart because she led the organization in the struggle for women’s rights, antilynching laws, desegregation, and industrial education for black women and girls. Most people, however, considered her an organizational genius. At the helm of the National Baptist Woman’s Convention for more than six decades, Burroughs remained a tireless and intrepid champion of black pride and women’s rights.

Burroughs was born in Orange, Virginia to John ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

sculptor, printmaker, and teacher, was born Alice Elizabeth Catlett to Mary Carson, a truant officer, and John Catlett, a math teacher and amateur musician who died shortly before Elizabeth's birth. Elizabeth and her two older siblings were raised by their mother and paternal grandmother in a middle-class neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Encouraged by her mother and her teachers at Dunbar High School to pursue a career as an artist, she entered Howard University in 1931, where she studied with the African American artists James Lesesne Wells, Loïs Mailou Jones, and James A. Porter. After graduating cum laude with a BS in Art in 1935, Catlett taught art in the Durham, North Carolina, public schools before beginning graduate training at the University of Iowa in 1938 Under the tutelage of the artist Grant Wood Catlett switched her concentration from painting to sculpture and ...

Article

Freida High (Wasikhongo Tesfagiorgis)

I don’t have anything against men but, since I am a woman, I know more about women and I know how they feel. Many artists are always doing men. I think that somebody ought to do women. Artists do work with women, with the beauty of their bodies and the refinement of middle-class women, but I think there is a need to express something about the working-class Black woman and that’s what I do.

(Gladstone, p. 33)

As a reputed sculptor and printmaker whose career began in the 1940s, Elizabeth Catlett is a major figure in modern American and Mexican art. Catlett’s work embraces the human condition, revealing a deep passion for dignifying humanity, especially working-class women and, in particular, African American and Mexican women. Titles of her sculpture suggest this interest: Black Woman Speaks (1970), Mother and Child (1940, 1993), Mujer (1964 ...

Article

Daniel A. Dalrymple

Chisholm made a career out of breaking down barriers. She was both the first black woman to be elected to United States Congress and the first woman or African American to mount a serious run at a major party’s nomination for president. Chisholm forged a strong reputation for doing things her own way, spurning both the New York Democratic political machine and political decorum. Despite the obstacles that came with bucking the system, Chisholm always held her ground on important issues such as abortion, women’s rights, and civil rights.

Chisholm was born the eldest of three sisters to West Indian parents, Charles St. Hill and Ruby Seale in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn New York Shirley s father worked as a baker s helper and later a factory hand and her mother found employment as a seamstress However Hill and Seale quickly realized that their wages were insufficient ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Born in the Panama Canal Zone, Kenneth Bancroft Clark grew up with his mother in Harlem, New York. His childhood heroes included poet Countee Cullen, who taught at his junior high school, and book collector Arthur Schomburg, who served as curator at the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library. After attending integrated elementary and junior high schools, Clark graduated from New York's George Washington High School in 1931.

Clark distinguished himself as an undergraduate at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he led demonstrations against segregation. While at Howard he met Mamie Phipps, who became his wife and closest intellectual collaborator. The Clarks then went to Columbia University in New York City to study psychology, and in 1940 Kenneth Clark became Columbia s first black recipient of a Ph D degree in psychology Clark joined the faculty of City College ...

Article

Abha Sood Patel

educator and humanitarian. Cooper was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley Haywood and purportedly her master, George Washington Haywood. Cooper was a noted scholar at a young age. In 1868 she received a scholarship to attend Saint Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute, founded to provide education to former slaves and their families. Cooper spent fourteen years at the institute, both as a pupil and as a teacher. She excelled at the humanities, as well as at math and science, and she fought for her right to take “men's” courses, such as Greek. On 21 June 1877 she married the Reverend George A. C. Cooper, her teacher in the Greek theological class. Her marriage barred her from teaching at Saint Augustine's. Her husband died two years later, and she never married again.

In 1880 Cooper won a scholarship to Oberlin College ...

Article

Charles Lemert

Anna Julia Cooper is best known for her book A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892), a classic in the tradition known today as the woman of color standpoint in social theory. No one before, except perhaps Sojourner Truth, had so clearly defined what Cooper called “the colored woman’s office” in the moral politics of late-nineteenth-century America.

Anna Julia Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Hannah Stanley, a slave. Her white biological father, George Washington Haywood, was her mother’s owner. Of her biological father, Cooper once wrote: “I owe him not a sou and she [her mother] was always too shamefaced ever to mention him.” The child grew to carry herself with the mother’s sense of dignity and propriety.

Anna Julia s life began just before the outbreak of the American Civil War and ...

Article

Roland Barksdale-Hall

civil engineer, educator, and inventor, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fifth of eight children of Edward Dammond, a sailor and porter, and Lucy Dorsey. Edward Dammond served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. The fastidious Lucy Dammond was a dedicated deaconess at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the first AME church west of the Allegheny Mountains. William Dammond likewise benefited from the AME church connections and an exacting nature.

Dammond was recognized for mathematical skill, enrolled in the Park Institute, a preparatory school, and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in June 1893 He was the first African American graduate from the University of Pittsburgh and one of few African American civil engineers in America During the late nineteenth century civil engineers were at the forefront of innovative technology and structural advancements such ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Aaron Douglas was born in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, he taught art at Lincoln High School in Topeka from 1923 to 1925. He moved to Harlem, New York in 1925, the year cultural critic and philosopher Alain Leroy Locke launched the New Negro movement. This movement expressed African Americans' new pride in their African heritage, which manifested itself in literature, song, dance, and most significantly for Douglas, art.

Douglas soon made the acquaintance of German American portrait artist Winold Reiss, who illustrated the March 1925 issue of Survey Graphic an issue devoted to the New Negro movement and edited by Locke Both Reiss and Locke encouraged Douglas to develop his own aesthetic from design motifs in African art Douglas followed their suggestions and sought examples of African art which in the 1920s were beginning to be purchased by American museums ...

Article

Amy M. Hay

Edwards’s service was also recognized in 1967 when she received the Poverello Medal, awarded to individuals whose lives followed the ideals of Saint Francis of Assisi. Blessed with financial and familial support, her ministry to poor European immigrants and Mexican migrants, her own life of voluntary poverty, and her service to the African American community all made her a worthy recipient of such honors. She spent a lifetime addressing the needs of the poor, women, students, and the aged.

Edwards was born in Washington, DC. Her parents, Thomas Edwards, a professor of dentistry at Howard University, and Marie Coakley Edwards, had three other children. Edwards grew up in a middle-class family, part of the capital’s elite society at the time. At an early age she decided she wanted to become a doctor. She attended Washington’s Dunbar High School, graduating in 1917 as valedictorian She attended Howard ...