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pianist, educator, and philanthropist, was born a slave in Trenton, Kentucky, to Mary Dickinson, also a slave, and Mr. Leavell, likely a scion of the white Benjamin Leavell family, pioneers of Trenton. According to family history, Josephine's father wanted to send her and her sister to Canada on the Underground Railroad, but their mother objected because of the danger and distance. Sometime between 1868 and 1875 Josephine attended the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute (also known as the Baptist Institute), a college for African Americans that was later renamed Roger Williams University. Daniel W. Phillips, a white Baptist minister, had started the school in 1864, teaching Bible classes to freed people in his home. The school was later acquired by Vanderbilt University and incorporated into its George Peabody campus, a teachers' college.

While at the Baptist Institute Josephine studied music particularly piano and ...


LaRose M. Davis

was born Leslie Ann Peterson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest daughter of Helen L. Peterson, a homemaker, artist, and community activist, and William T. Peterson, a non-profit administrator. From early on, Banks was an accomplished student. She attended Conwell Middle Magnet School and graduated with honors from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1977. She was accepted into the Wharton School undergraduate business program at the University of Pennsylvania. Three years later, in 1980, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a dual degree in Marketing and Management.

Immediately after graduation, Banks embarked on the first stage of a promising career in corporate sales. Over the next decade, she won positions as a Major Account Sales Representative and at Xerox Corporation (1980–1983), Hewlett Packard Corporation (1983–1986), and Sales Executive at Digital Equipment Corporation (1986–1991). In 1984 ...


Frank R. Levstik

Edwin C. Berry was born in Oberlin, Ohio, on December 10, 1854, the son of free parents who were born in Gallia County, Ohio. In 1856 his family moved to Athens County, where Berry remained for the rest of his life. In Athens County Berry attended Albany Enterprise Academy, one of the earliest educational institutions in the United States that was conceived, owned, and operated by blacks. The Berry family took in boarders, two of whom were to gain fame in their own right: Medal of Honor winner Milton M. Holland and his brother, William H. Holland, Texas legislator and educator.

Berry first found employment in Athens manufacturing bricks for the state mental hospital that was being constructed in town. In 1868 he secured work in a local restaurant as an apprentice cook for five years. On October 18, 1877 Berry married Mattie Madra of Pomeroy ...


Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

historian of African Americans in South Dakota, civic leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, the youngest of eleven children of Henry and Mary (Fristoe) Blakey. The large, extended Blakey clan began migrating from Missouri to South Dakota in 1904, where they acquired land and built a profitable and respected truck gardening business. Young Blakey completed eighth grade in country school and worked in the family business. Beginning in the mid‐1960s Blakey returned to school at Springfield State College (which later closed), where he obtained his GED and completed advanced training in building maintenance and pest control. On 22 October 1948 he married Dorothy Edwards in Athabaska, Alberta, Canada; the couple had three children.

Blakey was an ambitious, self‐taught businessman with a keen interest in civic activities and public service. Of his three successful businesses, Blakey's Janitorial Services, established in 1956 provided jobs for both ...


Jamal Donaldson Briggs

economist, philanthropist, and educator was born to William H. Brown, a government employee, and Julia Brown (maiden name unknown), a homemaker, in Chicago, Illinois. He was the youngest of three children. William's employment with the City of Chicago afforded Browne a middle-class upbringing on the city's Southside, which was home to a large African American community. His family lived just a few blocks south of Washington Park, an area where the well-off, but not the most elite, residents lived.

Browne became fascinated with economics while attending the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in the early 1940s. He was the only African American economics major at that university to graduate with honors in 1944 Despite his own relatively comfortable middle class background his research focused on those less privileged than himself particularly on the lack of economic opportunity among African Americans during the Great Depression After graduating ...


Shennette Garrett-Scott

insurance entrepreneur, was born Robert Alexander Cole in the small Tennessee town of Mount Carmel to former slaves Robert and Narcissa Cole. Cole grew up in a community of poor cotton sharecroppers, but his childhood was a happy one. Cole worked on the farm with his seven brothers and sisters. He was only able to complete four years of formal education. Around 1899 Cole moved to Kentucky and quickly advanced as a foreman in a machine shop. However, he chafed under southern racial proscriptions and migrated to Chicago in 1905. He eventually secured employment with the Pullman Company as a sleeping car porter. In his twenty years as a porter Cole listened closely to traveling businessmen and often asked questions. He also formed valuable professional and social relationships with prominent blacks, such as the successful undertaker and policy king Daniel McKee Jackson He gained an invaluable business ...


Eric Bennett

Born in a poor Germantown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bill Cosby left home for a stint in the United States Navy that lasted from 1956 to 1960. He studied at Temple University in Philadelphia but dropped out to devote his time to stand-up comedy. After establishing his name on the nightclub circuit in 1963, Cosby auditioned successfully to fill a guest spot on American television entertainer Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. An instant success, Cosby became the first African American to host the program regularly. In 1965 he became the first black person to have a starring role on a predominantly white television drama, appearing alongside Robert Culp on the program I Spy. Because of Cosby's Emmy Award–winning success on I Spy, many fans paralleled his success with that of African American professional baseball player Jackie Robinson.

As a rising television celebrity Cosby ...


Jason King

actor and comedian, was born William Henry Cosby Jr. in Germantown, Philadelphia, the son of William Henry Cosby Sr., a U.S. Navy mess steward, and Anna Pearl Cosby. Many of the vicissitudes of Cosby's childhood in the poverty-stricken Richard Allen housing projects would be transformed later into fodder for his hilarious comedy routines and television shows. As a youngster, Cosby worked many hours shining shoes and performing menial tasks at a local grocery. He attended the Germantown High School for Gifted Students, where he was elected captain of the track and football teams.

At age nineteen, Cosby dropped out of school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, in which he served for four years (1956–1960). During his stint in the navy, he managed to earn his high school equivalency diploma through correspondence and studied physical therapy. In 1960 with four years of military service under his ...


Donald Roe

comedian, actor, philanthropist. When Bill Cosby, the wealthy, well-educated, mild-mannered comedian, goes on stage and begins a monologue of funny stories relating to his poverty-stricken background, the stories are most likely true. William Henry Cosby Jr. was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to William Henry Cosby Sr. and Anna Cosby in 1937. Known by its inhabitants as the “Jungle,” the Richard Allen housing projects, where Cosby grew up, were depressing, stylized, beige-colored, concrete housing, seemingly designed to prevent poor people from “contaminating” the rest of society.

When an IQ test confirmed that Cosby was highly intelligent his mother enrolled him in Central High School a school for gifted children However Cosby found it difficult to adjust there and transferred to Germantown High School There athletics provided a positive outlet for Cosby but his academic performance declined When school officials required him to repeat the tenth grade he ...


Shirley C. Moody

educator, author, and philanthropist, was born Camille Olivia Hanks in Washington, D.C., to Guy Hanks, a chemist who earned an MA from Fisk University, and Catherine Hanks, a nursery school owner and Howard University graduate. Camille, the eldest of four siblings, attended a series of parochial schools, starting with St. Cyprian's Elementary School in Washington, D.C. She then attended St. Cecilia Academy, also in Washington, and completed her secondary education at Ursuline Academy in Bethesda, Maryland.

Although Camille Hanks had displayed an earlier interest in biology, Latin, and algebra, when she entered the University of Maryland at the age of eighteen she decided to major in psychology. During her sophomore year she was introduced to a twenty-six year old up-and-coming comedian named Bill Cosby. On their second date the young comedian proposed, and the couple was married ten months later, on 25 January 1964 About this same time ...


Shennette Garrett-Scott

philanthropist and auto worker, was born the fifth of seven children to Bessie Hall and Matel Dawson, Sr. in Shreveport, Louisiana, on 3 January 1921. Like tens of thousands of other black men and women, Dawson left the South and moved to Detroit for better paying jobs created by the demands of the World War II economy.

He began working for the Ford Motor Company in 1940 initially earning about $1 15 an hour He became a forklift operator Known for consistently working twelve hour shifts and weekends and for seldom taking time off he diligently saved as much of his salary as he could He also invested in the company s employee stock program At one time he owned a large home and well appointed automobiles but after his divorce in the late 1970s he sought a simpler lifestyle and lived frugally In the early ...


Kathleen F. Esmiol

entrepreneur, philanthropist, community activist, and businesswoman, was the fourth of seven children born to Herbert and Mattie Brinson Bragg, tenant farmers in Luther, Oklahoma. Duncan's parents were hard working role models, and she learned the basics of business by watching her father manage a sprawling farm. She also gained organizational skills by helping her mother maintain an active family of nine.

Sadly, Herbert Bragg's untimely death at Thanksgiving in 1926 eventually forced the family to leave Depression-era Oklahoma, and in 1933 they sought opportunity in Colorado Springs Colorado where Duncan attended desegregated schools A focused but gregarious student she participated in extracurricular school activities but to support the family she also waitressed and worked as a housekeeper for a real estate developer Russian Count Benjamin Lefkowsky who recognized her potential and became a mentor Financially unable to pursue her goal of attending Langston College upon ...


Dianne Dentice

businesswoman, philanthropist, and humanitarian, was born Anna Johnson in Carthage, Texas. She was the first of Lee and Eliza Johnson's six children. Her great-grandfather, a slave owner, was German. Her maternal grandmother, Jane Sims, was part Native American and came to Texas from Kentucky. The family lived in poverty and Anna's grandmother helped pay the bills by working as a cook in a local hotel. The rest of the family, Anna included, worked in the cotton fields of East Texas. When she was thirteen, the family moved from Carthage to Galveston hoping for a better life. Her mother found work as a maid for several prominent Galveston families and Anna assisted her. With a natural creative talent and an eye for pretty things, Anna made her own clothes. Mrs. Zula Kay a prominent resident of Galveston noticed her and invited Anna to move to Houston ...


Jason Philip Miller

basketball player, was born Julius Winfield Erving III in Hempstead, New York, and raised by a single mother, his father having abandoned the family when Julius was only three years old. Since his family life was difficult to cope with, Julius spent a great deal of time on the streets and playing basketball at the local community courts. Julius received his familiar “Dr. J” moniker during a childhood pickup game; it was a nickname that would stick with him throughout his long and astonishing basketball career. By the time Julius was ten years old, he was playing with a local Salvation Army basketball team. He had already learned how to dunk—albeit on Prospect Elementary's lower baskets—and in just a few short years he was able to dunk the ball on regulation posts.

When Erving was thirteen, his mother remarried, and in 1963 the family relocated to nearby Roosevelt ...


Wall Street financier, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in New London, Connecticut, the oldest of three sons of Alphonse Fletcher Sr., a technician at General Dynamics and an entrepreneur, and Bettye Fletcher Comer, an elementary school principal and doctor of education. In interviews, Fletcher frequently credited his parents' emphasis on education and discipline as the keys to his success in school and business. In 1987 Fletcher graduated as First Marshal of his class from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics. Having cross-enrolled in the Aerospace Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, he was commissioned in 1987, and served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Ready Reserve until his honorable discharge in 1997.

The firm of Bear Stearns Co Inc recruited Fletcher directly out of college ...


Diana Kristine Durham

physician, political activist, teacher, and reformer, was born in Charles City County, Virginia, to Alexander and Anna Franklin in a community known as Mattie Hunt near the banks of the Chickahominy River. Charles's father, Alexander Quincy Franklin, earned his living as a schoolteacher and a farmer and served as a representative in the Virginia legislature during the 1889–1890 session and as commissioner of revenue for Charles City County. Charles's mother, Anna Marion Brown, a housewife, was born into one of the oldest free, landowning African American families in Virginia. Charles was the second of nine children in a family of six boys and three girls.

From an early age Charles Sumner Franklin aspired to a career other than farming. He received his early education at Bullfield Academy, a one-room school in the Ruthville community. His maternal uncle, Daniel Webster Brown was his teacher ...


Amber Moulton-Wiseman

minister, congressman, businessman, philanthropist, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the son of William H. Gray Jr., a minister and university president, and Hazel Yates Gray, a university dean. During Gray's early childhood, his father was president of both Florida Memorial College and Florida A&M University, and his mother was dean of students at Southern University in Baton Rouge. However, the family then moved to Philadelphia in 1949. There, Gray's father took a position as pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church. William H. Gray Jr.'s own father had held that post since 1925.

Gray was educated in the public school system and graduated from Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High School in 1959. Upon graduation, Gray enrolled at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and pursued his joint interest in religion and politics, even taking an internship with Democratic Congressman Robert ...


Olivia A. Scriven

was a public school teacher, college professor, community civic leader, philanthropist, and the first known African American woman in the United States to earn a PhD in Mathematics. She was the elder of two children born in Washington, D.C., to William S. Lofton, a prominent middle-class dentist and civil rights activist, and Lavinia Dey Lofton, a kindergarten public school teacher. Haynes's parents divorced when she was seven, and she and her younger brother Joseph were raised by their mother, whose devout Catholicism would shape Haynes's nearly fifty-year career as an educator and activist.

Haynes's educational promise was revealed early. She graduated as class valedictorian from the M Street High School in 1907 and the Miner Normal School in 1909. She earned a bachelor of arts in Psychology (with course work in mathematics) from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1914 She married ...


Noah D. Drezner

educator, activist, administrator, and philanthropist, was born Ruth Wright in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of Richard Robert Wright Jr., the editor of the Christian Recorder and president of Wilberforce College, and Charlotte Crogman Wright. Hayre's grandparents strongly influenced her life's interest in education. Her paternal grandfather, Richard Robert Wright Sr., who was born a slave, founded and served as president of Georgia State College (formerly Georgia State Agricultural and Industrial College) as well as Citizens and Southern Bank, a black-owned bank in Philadelphia. Hayre's maternal grandfather, William H. Crogman, was the principal of Edmund Asa Ware High in Augusta, Georgia, the first high school for blacks in the state. Hayre's grandmothers each received education degrees from normal schools.

When she was fifteen Hayre graduated two years early with honors at the top of her class from West Philadelphia High School for Girls ...


Shennette Garrett-Scott

insurance executive, was born Norris Bumstead Herndon in Atlanta, Georgia, the only child of the actress and educator Elizabeth Adrienne Stephens McNeil and the entrepreneur and philanthropist Alonzo Franklin Herndon. Herndon's father, born a slave in nearby Walton County, Georgia, in 1858, was one of the most successful and respected black businessmen in the United States. In the 1880s Alonzo opened the Crystal Palace, an upscale barbershop on Peachtree Street that was reputed to be one of the largest and most elegant barbershops in the world. In 1905 Alonzo organized the Atlanta Mutual Insurance Association, which became one of the richest and most respected black-owned insurance companies in the United States. In 1922 the company changed its name to the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

Alonzo hoped his son would take the reins of his business empire but Herndon who was close to his mother instead shared her ...