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Monika R. Alston

U.S. congresswoman, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where she lived from childhood through her high school years. Brown has not made much information about her early years, her parents, or her personal life known. In 1965 she gave birth to her only daughter, Shantrel, the same year she began college. Brown received a BS in 1969 and a master's degree in Education in 1971 from Florida A&M University. She earned an education specialist degree from the University of Florida in 1974. From 1977 to 1982 Brown worked as a faculty member and guidance counselor at Florida Community College in Jacksonville.As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. at Florida A&M, Brown became close friends with her sorority sister Gwendolyn Sawyer-Cherry, who was the first African American woman to serve in the Florida state legislature. Sawyer-Cherry influenced Brown to enter politics and after Brown lost her ...


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 ...


Patricia E. Canson

U.S. congresswoman, was born Shirley St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest daughter of Charles St. Hill, a laborer born in British Guiana (now Guyana), and Ruby Seale, a seamstress born in Barbados. Shirley's first three years were spent in Brownsville, a predominantly Jewish area of Brooklyn. Finding the wages for unskilled factory work insufficient to care for three children properly, the St. Hills sent their three daughters to Barbados, where they lived with their maternal grandparents on the family farm. Shirley credits her grandmother Emily Seale with instilling in her a strong character and determination.

The girls returned to Brownsville in 1934 after their mother gave birth to another daughter Despite the social and financial hardships of the Depression Ruby encouraged her children to respect the values of civility thrift poise humility education and spirituality though the sisters endured a substantial amount of teasing in the ...


Daniel A. Dalrymple

Democratic Congresswoman Collins was a mainstay in the United States House of Representatives for more than twenty years. She was the first woman and African American to serve as the Democratic whip-at-large and the first African American to chair a subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Collins’s career was defined by her strong congressional record on a wide variety of issues, focusing on African Americans, women, and the environment. She was a congresswoman who refused to be pigeonholed as a single-issue representative and spoke up whenever she saw injustice.

Cardiss was born to the laborer Finley Robertson and the nurse Rosia Mae Robertson in St. Louis, Missouri. Her family relocated to Detroit in 1941 when she was ten years old. While in Detroit she attended Bishop and Lincoln Elementary Schools before graduating from the Detroit High School of Commerce. In 1958 Cardiss married George W. Collins before ...


Fred Lindsey

U.S. congressman, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the first of five children of John Conyers Sr., a factory auto painter who became an international representative for the United Automobile Workers, and Lucille Simpson. John Conyers Sr.'s progressive politics proved a major influence on his son's life and career. Conyers grew up in a predominantly Italian American neighborhood in East Detroit and graduated from the city's Samson Elementary School in 1943, the year of a major race riot in the city. The riot and his father's political activism shaped Conyers's political consciousness, but his primary interest as a teenager was jazz. An accomplished trumpet player, he included among his friends in high school Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson, and Betty Carter who all pursued careers in music Unchallenged by his school work Conyers spent much of his time in pool halls when not playing music He ...


Thaddeus Russell

congressman, was born in Albany, Georgia, the son of Levi Dawson, a barber, and Rebecca Kendrick. Dawson received his early education in Albany, then attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and received a bachelor's degree in 1909.

In 1912 Dawson joined thousands of other African Americans migrating to Chicago. Hoping to become one of the few black professionals in the city, he enrolled at the Kent School of Law. In 1917 he interrupted his law studies to volunteer for military service in World War I. He served as a first lieutenant with the 365th Infantry in France, where he was wounded in the shoulder and gassed during the Meuse-Argonne campaign.

After the war Dawson resumed his legal studies at Northwestern Law School and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1920. Two years later he married Nellie Brown with whom he had two children He ...


Richard T. IV Middleton

secretary of agriculture in the cabinet of President Bill Clinton; U.S. congressman, and attorney, was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the son of Henry Espy and Willie Jean Espy, prominent owners of a chain of funeral homes. A member of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, Espy was married to Portia Denise Ballard on 17 April 1999. The couple had three children: Jamillla Morgan, Michael William, and Ian Michael Espy. Upon graduating from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with his BA in Law, in 1975 he matriculated at the University of Santa Clara School of Law in Santa Clara, California, where he received his juris doctorate degree in 1978. Espy went on to teach at the prestigious Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Stanford Law School, as well as many other institutions of higher education across the country.

In Mississippi Espy ...


Ryan J. Davis

U.S. Representative, politician, and entrepreneur, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the youngest of six children of Richard and Jenary Franks. Richard was a former North Carolina sharecropper with no education beyond the sixth grade. Jenary was a dietary specialist at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut.

Franks was raised Baptist, but attended Sacred Heart High School, a Catholic school located in the heart of Waterbury. Franks was involved in many extracurricular activities at Sacred Heart. He was an all-New England basketball player and president of his senior class. In 1971 Franks completed high school and then attended Yale University Uncertain about his political views at the time Franks registered as a Democrat like many black Americans in the 1970s Franks continued his involvement in extracurricular activities by joining the Yale basketball team Although he did not receive much playing time until his senior year Franks high score ...


Jeff Bloodworth

congressman, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of Nyanza Hawkins, a pharmacist who moved his family to Los Angeles in 1918 when Hawkins was eleven years old, and Hattie Freeman. Thereafter Los Angeles remained Augustus Hawkins's home. He graduated from Jefferson High School and from the University of Southern California with a degree in Economics in 1931. Only five feet four inches tall and so light-skinned that he was often mistaken for white, Hawkins entered electoral politics at an early age.In 1935, after leaving a job selling real estate, Hawkins was elected to the California State Assembly. Running as a Democrat and a proponent of Upton Sinclair's End Poverty in California (EPIC) program, he defeated a longtime incumbent. Once in office Hawkins became a committed New Deal liberal, supporting Franklin Roosevelt and eschewing socialism and other radical prescriptions to end the Great ...


Donna A. Patterson

lawyer, politician, state senator, and U.S. congressman, was born one of nine children in Lake Providence, Louisiana, to Mose and Angelina Jefferson. His father worked for the Army Corps of Engineers and managed a sharecropping plot. After graduating from high school, Jefferson majored in political science and English at Southern University in Baton Rouge where he met his future wife, Andrea Green. There he became involved in campus politics. His activities included organizing a protest about campus living conditions; he was also elected student body president. In 1969 he received his BA, and in 1972 he was awarded a JD degree from Harvard University. In 1996 he returned to school to complete a master of laws in Taxation from Georgetown University.

He married Green in 1970. Their union produced five daughters: Jamila, Jalila, Jelani, Nailah, and Akilah His ...


Heather Marie Stur

the thirty-sixth president of the United States, coming into office in November 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A Democrat, Lyndon Baines Johnson was born and raised in rural Texas, and his experiences growing up shaped both his personality and his political outlook. He earned a teaching degree and worked as a teacher before embarking on a long political career, which included many terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in addition to the vice presidency and the presidency. Throughout his life Johnson was known for his persuasive skills and his ability to build coalitions and make strategic political friends. Although he was committed to addressing domestic problems, authorizing several pieces of civil rights legislation and making what he called the War on Poverty the focus of his domestic policy, he often is associated primarily with the escalation of the Vietnam War.

Johnson was born ...


Ann T. Keene

lawyer, politician, and professor, was born Barbara Charline Jordan in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Benjamin M. Jordan and Arlyne Patten Jordan. Her father, a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute, was a warehouse employee until 1949 when he became a minister at Houston s Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in which his father s family had long been active Arlyne Jordan also became a frequent speaker at the church The Jordans were always poor and for many years Barbara and her two older sisters shared a bed but their lives improved somewhat after their father became a minister Jordan attended local segregated public schools and received good grades with little effort She gave scant thought to her future beyond forming a vague desire to become a pharmacist until her senior year at Phillis Wheatley High School when a black female lawyer spoke at the school ...


Niambi Lee-Kong

lawyer, politician, and educator. Barbara Jordan, a woman of many political firsts, is best known as the first African American woman from a southern state to serve in the United States House of Representatives; she served as a representative from Texas from 1973 to 1979.

The youngest of three girls, Barbara Charline Jordan was born 21 February 1936 in Houston, Texas, to Benjamin Jordan and Arlyne Patten Jordan. Her childhood was centered on church life: her father was a Baptist preacher, and her mother was also a teacher in the church. She attended local public schools throughout her primary and secondary education and graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School with honors. A speech given by Edith Sampson a black lawyer at a career day event at her high school inspired Jordan to become a lawyer herself She attended Texas Southern University and graduated magna ...


Merline Pitre

Barbara Charline Jordan was the first black woman to sit in the Texas Senate (1967-1973) and the first from the South to be elected to the United States House of Representatives (1973-1979). She was born in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, to a Baptist minister, Benjamin Jordan, and a domestic worker, Arlyne (Patten) Jordan. Her early childhood was spent with her parents, her two older sisters, Bennie and Rose Mary, and her grandfathers, Charles Jordan and John Ed Patten.

Jordan’s outlook on life and politics, as well as her strength and determination, can be attributed to the influence of her maternal grandfather, John Ed Patten, the son of Edward A. Patten one of the forty two African Americans who sat in the Texas legislature during Reconstruction As a child Jordan spent most of her free time with Patten While ...


Robert C. Smith

civil rights leader and member of Congress, was born John Robert Lewis near Troy, Alabama, the third of seven children. Lewis’s father, Eddie, was a sharecropper and small farmer, and his mother, Willie Mae, occasionally did laundry. Both his parents were deeply religious, which may have helped shape Lewis’s lifelong commitment to Christianity. As a young man, Lewis recalls, he heard Martin Luther King, Jr. preach on the radio and was inspired to make the ministry his vocation. Starting by preaching in the woods near his home and to chickens in his yard, eventually he was allowed to preach at local churches. In 1957 he became the first of his family to graduate from high school. After graduating, Lewis enrolled in the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1958, at the age of eighteen, he met Dr. King and his life was changed forever ...


Michaeljulius Idani

political activist, New York legislator, and congressman, was born in New York City, the oldest of four children. The Meeks family lived in public housing in East Harlem, but his parents were hard working and kept the family tight-knit. Meeks's father, James worked several jobs to help cover household expenses and his mother focused on raising the children tutoring and encouraging them to excel in school When Meeks and his siblings were older his mother would return to school to earn her college diploma When he was a young man Meeks s parents tried to instill in him a sense of pride and duty to his community His mother was active in the neighborhood watch and his father worked with neighborhood youths He was also exposed to many different cultures One of his father s many jobs was porter at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway where ...


David L. Porter

track-and-field athlete and U.S. congressman, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Clarence Metcalfe, a stockyard worker, and Marie Attaway, a seamstress. He moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1917, grew up in a slum area on the South Side, and attended Tilden Technical High School. Metcalfe won the 1929 interscholastic track-and-field sprint championship and, as a member of the Chase Athletic Club, captured the 1930 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) junior 100-yard title in 9.7 seconds.

A 5-foot 11-inch, 180-pound speedster, Metcalfe attended Marquette University, breezing through the 1932 track-and-field season undefeated in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes and taking both events at the NCAA and AAU championships. That same year Metcalfe dethroned Eddie Tolan as the dominant American sprinter. On 11 June he tied Tolan s world mark in the 100 yard dash and shattered the world record in the 220 yard dash ...


Prudence D. Cumberbatch

television and radio host, U.S. congressman, and president and chief executive officer of the NAACP, was born Frizzell Gray, the first of four children of Mary Elizabeth Willis in Turners Station, Maryland. His mother worked at several occupations, including as an elevator operator and as a domestic, while Clifton Gray his stepfather was employed as a truck driver Gray was raised believing that he shared the father of his three sisters only later did he learn that he was not Clifton Gray s biological son Gray spent his early childhood in Turners Station a small rural black community thirteen miles south of Baltimore City wedged between predominantly white Dundalk and Sparrows Point home to Bethlehem Steel the largest employer in the area Founded in the late 1880s by an African American doctor Turners Station was isolated on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay In ...


George Derek Musgrove

U.S. congressman, was born Parren James Mitchell, the ninth child of Clarence Maurice Mitchell, a waiter, and Elsie Davis in Baltimore, Maryland. The Mitchells lived in a cramped, two-story row house on one of the “alley” streets of Old West Baltimore, and the family could be considered poor. Parren attended segregated Garnet Elementary School, Booker T. Washington Junior High School, and Frederick Douglass High School, from which he graduated in 1940. In 1942 he joined the army and was immediately shipped overseas where he served in the Ninety-Second Infantry Division as a commissioned officer and company commander. Mitchell was awarded the Purple Heart in 1944 after being wounded during fighting in Italy.

After being honorably discharged from the army in 1946, Mitchell returned to Baltimore to attend Morgan State College. There he earned a BA in Sociology and graduated with honors in 1950 Immediately ...


Kennetta Hammond Perry

Eleanor Holmes Norton has established a stellar career as one of the most influential black women in politics in the United States. A tenured professor of law at Georgetown University, she serves in the U.S. House of Representatives as the congressional representative for the District of Columbia. Combining a quest for social justice with a belief in the principles of American democracy, Norton has actively worked to further the struggle for freedom and equality for all Americans.

Born in Washington, DC, to Vela Lynch, a schoolteacher, and Coleman Holmes, a government worker, Eleanor Holmes Norton could never have imagined as a child that one day she would represent her birthplace in national politics. During Norton’s early years, Washington was one of the most vibrant centers of the early civil rights legal campaign, which was led by Howard University-trained lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall Growing up there shaped ...