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Wesley Borucki

journalist. Born in Lansing, Michigan, Ray Stannard Baker was the son of Joseph and Alice Stannard Baker. Joseph moved the family to Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin, in 1875 where he worked as a real estate and utility agent. Ray dabbled in literary, agricultural, and scientific studies at Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) before turning his attention to the law. He studied at the University of Michigan Law School for only one semester, however, before becoming interested in prose writing. In 1893 he became a reporter for the Chicago Record newspaper. When the Panic of 1893 gripped Chicago, Baker saw levels of poverty, unemployment, and unrest beyond what he had ever seen before, and he was drawn to the experiences of the poor whom he found in soup kitchens, jails, and flophouses. Baker gained further sympathy for the common man when he covered the labor leader Jacob ...


Theresa Leininger-Miller

writer and artist, was born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on an Indian reservation. In 1906 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Gwendolyn's father studied law and her mother worked as a manicurist and hairdresser. When her parents divorced, her mother won custody, but her father kidnapped the seven-year-old Gwendolyn. The two, with Gwendolyn's stepmother, lived in hiding in various towns along the East Coast and in Pennsylvania before finally settling in New York.

At Brooklyn's Girls' High (1918–1921) Bennett participated in the drama and literary societies—the first African American to do so—and won first place in an art contest. She attended fine arts classes at Columbia University (1921) and the Pratt Institute, from which she graduated in 1924 While she was still an undergraduate her poems Nocturne and Heritage were published in ...


Frank A. Salamone

author, editor at Ebony magazine for more than fifty years, and popular historian of African American history. Lerone Bennett Jr. was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on 17 October 1928 to Lerone Bennett Sr. and Alma Reed. He grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and graduated from Morehouse College in Georgia in 1949. He became a journalist for the Atlanta Daily World that same year. Four years later he joined Jet in Chicago as associate editor, and the next year he moved to Ebony as associate editor. He moved up the editorial ranks at Ebony, becoming senior editor in 1958. In 1987 he became executive editor. While at Ebony, Bennett also continued to write, and the magazine published his articles on African American history.

Bennett collected his early articles for his first book, Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America, 1619–1962 (1962 ...


Christopher Williams

scholar and activist, was born John Henry Clark in Union Springs, Alabama, the first of five children to John Clark and Willella (Willie) Mays, sharecroppers. Later Clarke changed the spelling of his name, dropping the “y” in Henry and replacing it with “ik” after the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. He also added an “e” at the end of Clarke.

Clarke s great grandmother Mary who lived to be 108 inspired him to study history The young Clarke sat on her lap listening to stories and it was through her he later said that he first became aware of the word Africa Clarke grew up in the Baptist church and wanted to satisfy his intellectual curiosity regarding the Bible and its relationship to African people Like a detective he searched the Bible looking for an image of God that looked like him His dissatisfaction with what he found later ...


educator, literary and cultural critic, and leading scholar in African and African American studies, was born Louis Smith Gates in Keyser, West Virginia. Gates, nicknamed “Skip” by his mother at birth, grew up in nearby Piedmont, the son of Henry Louis Gates Sr., a mill worker and janitor, and Pauline Coleman Gates, a homemaker and seamstress. Born four years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and encouraged by his parents, he excelled in Piedmont's integrated schools, including the Davis Free School and Piedmont High School, as did his older brother Paul, known as “Rocky,” who would become Chief of Oral Surgery at Bronx Lebanon Hospital.

At age fourteen Gates experienced two cataclysmic events in his young life the first a misdiagnosed slipped epithesis a hip injury that led to three surgeries in a year and the second his joining the Episcopal ...


Christopher Phelps

revolutionary socialist writer, was born Cyril Lionel Robert James in the village of Caroni on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, a British colony, to Robert Alexander James, a schoolteacher and principal of modest means, and Ida Elizabeth (“Bessie”) James, a devout Anglican and avid reader of English literature. His parents nicknamed him “Nello,” a name later used among friends. His earliest education took place under his strict father in a tiny schoolhouse in North Trace. At age nine James won a scholarship to Queen's Royal College (QRC), the island's best school, in the capital, Port of Spain. At QRC between 1911 and 1918 James indulged his love for the game of cricket and English novels (Thackeray'sVanity Fair was a particular favorite to the detriment of his grades His teachers as had his family impressed upon him the importance of proper manners and fair play ...


Robert Fikes

surgeon and medical educator, was born Claude Harold Organ Jr. in Marshall, Texas, the second of three children born to Claude Harold Organ Sr., a postal worker, and Ottolena Pemberton, a schoolteacher. At age sixteen Claude Jr. graduated as valedictorian from Terrell High School in Denison, Texas, and followed his sister to Xavier University, a historically black Catholic school in New Orleans, from which he graduated cum laude in 1948.

Inspired by the achievements of the celebrated physician-inventor Charles Richard Drew and encouraged by two maternal uncles Organ chose to study medicine He was not allowed to enroll at the University of Texas because of his race His application to Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska however was accepted and he became only the second African American to be admitted into its medical school A focused hard driven student with a gift for public speaking Organ ...


Michael A. Antonucci

concert pianist and musicologist, was born Eileen Jackson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Walter Jackson, a musician and chemistry teacher, and Lilla Gibson. She grew up in the Midwest, primarily Chicago, with her mother and two sisters. Her parents divorced when Jackson was eight, but she remained close to her father. Her interest in music was sustained in her mother's South Side home, which was a meeting place for African American musicians and entertainers, most notably Louis Armstrong. Despite her contact with popular and jazz musicians, Jackson's musical training and orientation remained rooted in the traditions of classical European music. A student of works by Bach, Beethoven, and Debussy she played her first piano recital at the age of twelve and performed at Orchestra Hall in Chicago at the age of eighteen She graduated from Lindblom High School in Chicago and at ...


Janet M. Roberts

Born 10 August 1906 in Des Moines, Iowa, Era Bell Thompson grew up in Driscoll, North Dakota, on her family's farm. Her contact with African Americans limited by regional population composition, she became fully aware of African American life, culture, and problems only after reaching adulthood.

Thompson attended North Dakota State University in Grand Forks, where she wrote for the university paper. Ill, Thompson left the university, and after recovering went to Chicago, working at a magazine, proofreading, writing advertising copy, and reviewing African Americans' books-exposing herself to the artistic outpourings of African Americans for the first time. She was particularly moved by W. E. B. Du Bois's The Dark Princess (1928), which exalted “Negroes” and “blackness.” Thompson later moved to Minneapolis, where she wrote features, advertising copy, and straight news for the Bugle, a weekly.

Encouraged and subsidized by Dr. Riley a white minister ...


Gerald G. Newborg

author and editor, was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Stewart C. Thompson and Mary Logan. In 1914 she moved with her family to Driscoll, North Dakota, where her father was a farmer and, from 1917 to 1921, a private messenger for Governor Lynn Frazier during legislative sessions. After moving to Bismarck in 1920, her father operated a secondhand store, and when he died in 1928, Era Thompson briefly operated the store to pay off his debts.

Thompson attended the University of North Dakota from 1925 until she was forced to drop out of college in 1927, owing to illness. She wrote for the campus newspaper and excelled in athletics, establishing five state and tying two national intercollegiate women's track records. In 1930 having won twenty five dollars in a contest to name a bedspring King Koil she used the money ...


Jody Benjamin

poet, journalist, educator, and author of seventeen books, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Dorothy Smith, a homemaker and Quincy Thomas Troupe (later changed to Trouppe), a star catcher and manager in professional baseball's Negro Leagues. Troupe and his younger brother, Timothy, born a year after him, spent their earliest years in a home in which both parents loved poetry, music, and travel. Negro League stars such as Satchel Paige, Monte Irvin, and Roy Campanella, all friends of his father's, visited the family home. As a young boy, Troupe spent the winter months with his family in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico where his father earned money playing baseball.

When he was about eight years old Troupe s parents divorced He and Timothy moved with their mother to a much poorer section of St Louis where they lived in a ...


Born in Philippolis, Jan van der Post was raised on a working ranch and educated at Grey College in Bloemfontein, South Africa. In 1925, with two other South African writers, Roy Campbell and William Plomer, he helped start the magazine Voorslag, which was strongly opposed to the South African Apartheid government. Due to his involvement with the periodical, van der Post was forced to leave South Africa and so traveled to Japan, where he wrote his first novel, In a Province (1934), an early indictment of South African racism. Van der Post served with the British Army during World War II and spent three years (1943–1946) in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. He based his books The Seed and the Sower (1963; filmed as Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence in 1983), The Night of the New Moon (1970), and Portrait of ...


Adele N. Nichols

journalist, commentator on gender and health issues, and novelist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Andres Villarosa and Clara Villarosa. Her mother was later the founder and co-owner of Hue-Man Experience Bookstore, a specialist in African American titles. Linda had one sibling, a younger sister, Alicia. In 1969 the Villarosas moved from the predominantly black South Side of Chicago to a white neighborhood in suburban Denver Colorado where some neighbors wrote derogatory messages on their garage door and driveway despite her husband s concerns about the racist welcome Clara Villarosa and her neighbors persuaded her husband to remain in the neighborhood Villarosa has written about her experiences with school integration noting that the principal of her new school in Colorado held an assembly informing the school that she would be its first black student As a result she recalled that no one spoke to her during ...


Sandy Dwayne Martin

African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) bishop, civic leader, and author, was born in Chimney Rock, Rutherford County, North Carolina, the son of Hattie Edgerton and Edward Walls. His father died when Walls was only eight years old, leaving Hattie Walls, with the help of relatives and friends, to support and provide sufficient education for Walls and his three younger sisters. In 1899, at age fourteen, he entered the ministry. He was licensed to preach at the Hopkins Chapel AMEZ Church in Asheville, North Carolina, and began as an evangelist. He was ordained as a deacon in 1903 and received full ministerial, or elder, orders in 1905. After attending Allen Industrial School in Asheville, he transferred to the AMEZ-supported Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, where he received a BA in 1908 Five years later he received a bachelor of divinity degree from the denomination s ...