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William S. McFeely

“Anna Murray-Douglass” was how Rosetta Douglass Sprague referred to her mother in a reminiscence that tells almost all that is known about her. Determined to give the woman an identity separate from that of her husband, Sprague did not have an easy task. Of all the American women eclipsed by famous, articulate husbands, few have been subsumed more totally than Anna Douglass. Like Deborah Franklin, the wife of Benjamin Franklin, Anna was married to a successful, self-taught man who announced himself to the world with a famous autobiography that says virtually nothing about his wife.

Murray was born near the town of Denton in remote, interior Caroline County on Maryland’s eastern shore. Her parents, Mary and Bambarra Murray were manumitted a month before she was born so she was born free the eighth of twelve children At seventeen she like many free black people and former slaves ...

Article

Mark G. Emerson

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Charles Remond Douglass was the third and youngest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. Named for his father's friend and fellow black antislavery speaker Charles Lenox Remond, Charles attended the public schools in Rochester, New York, where the family moved in late 1847. As a boy, he delivered copies of his father's newspaper, North Star.

As a young man, Charles became the first black from New York to enlist for military service in the Civil War, volunteering for the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Unlike his brother Lewis, who also served in the Fifty-fourth and became a sergeant major in that regiment, Charles was unable to deploy with his fellow troops owing to illness. As late as November 1863 Charles remained at the training camp in Readville Massachusetts He ultimately joined another black regiment the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry rising to ...

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Mark G. Emerson

As the second son and namesake of his father, Frederick Douglass Jr. was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He attended public schools in Rochester, New York, where he also helped his brothers, Lewis and Charles, to aid runaway slaves who were escaping to Canada on the Underground Railroad. While he did not serve in the Civil War as his brothers did, Frederick acted as a recruiting agent for the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry regiments, as did his father. Following the war, Frederick attempted to enter the typographical workers' union. When that plan failed, he went with his brother Lewis in 1866 to Colorado, where Henry O. Wagoner, a longtime family friend, taught him the trade of typography. While he was in Colorado, Frederick worked with his brother Lewis in the printing office of the Red, White, and Blue Mining Company. In the fall of 1868 Frederick returned ...

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Lysius Felicité Salomon Jeune, Ida Salomon's father, had been finance minister and one of the most important advisors of the president and self-proclaimed emperor of Haiti, Faustin Elie Soulouque. When Soulouque was overthrown by General Fabre-Nicolas Geffrard, in 1857, Lysius Salomon fled to France, attracted by the similarity of language, manners, and culture. Salomon, who was a widower, married Florentine Potiez, a much younger French woman from a wealthy family.

Called to the presidency in 1879, Salomon returned to Haiti with his new wife. Ida was born to the presidential couple in 1882. Ida Salomon inherited her mother s beauty and her father s fortune When she was only six years old her father was overthrown and she was sent to France to be raised by her mother s family Ida Salomon occasionally visited Haiti where the properties left to her ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

clarinetist, was born Edmond Blainey Hall in New Orleans, Louisiana, son of Edward Blainey Hall, a plantation and railroad worker, and Caroline Duhé. His father had played clarinet with a brass band in Reserve, Louisiana. Edmond's four brothers all became professional musicians. His brother Herb Hall had a distinguished career in jazz.

Edmond taught himself to play guitar and then one of his father's clarinets. He worked occasionally with such New Orleans trumpeters and cornetists as Kid Thomas Valentine, Lee Collins, and Chris Kelly around 1919–1920. From 1921 to 1923, while with Buddy Petit's band in New Orleans and around the Gulf Coast, he began playing alto saxophone as well. He traveled to Pensacola, Florida, with the trumpeter Mack Thomas then joined the pianist Eagle Eye Shields in Jacksonville in 1924 and brought the trumpeter Cootie Williams into the band. In 1926 ...

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Eleanor D. Branch

gospel singer, was born in Chicago, the daughter of Roebuck “Pops” Staples, who held a variety of blue collar jobs including work in construction and meatpacking, and Oceola Staples, at one point a laundry supervisor at a Chicago hotel. Born after her parents migrated to Chicago from Mississippi, Staples grew up in an environment marked by a strong sense of faith and family. She was a child in kindergarten when her parents discovered the power in her voice. That power was subsequently honed by her exposure to a wide variety of music including the blues and soul, but especially to gospel.As a youngster, Staples and her sister, Yvonne often spent part of the year in Mound Bayou Mississippi visiting their grandmother In this small town Mavis gained a deep appreciation for the link between music and spirituality Yet it wasn t until she was eight ...

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Diane Epstein

Mavis Staples spoke affectionately about her dad, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, as her first and major source of inspiration. Roebuck Staples moved to Chicago from Mississippi in 1935 with his wife, Oceola, their daughter, Cleotha, and son, Pervis. Three more children were born in Chicago, including Mavis in 1940. Chicago became home base for the family. It was not just music that tied the family together but their strong religious beliefs and their commitment to the church.

Staples had two other strong influences in her life. The person who affected her in her formative years was another extraordinary gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson Staples loved to tell the story of how they met and became longtime personal and professional friends Roebuck Staples introduced his daughter to Jackson s singing by way of her radio performances Staples was only about eight but she knew when she listened that this was ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

gained fame in 2003 when she revealed that she was the illegitimate, biracial daughter of the late Strom Thurmond, U.S. senator from South Carolina. America knew Thurmond as a staunch segregationist, and he was the longest-serving and oldest senator in U.S. history, dying at age one hundred in June 2003. Her mother was Carrie Butler, who had a love affair with Thurmond when she was fifteen and employed as a domestic servant in his family home. At the time of their relationship, Thurmond was a single, twenty-two-year-old schoolteacher and football coach at Edgefield High School.

Born in Aiken, South Carolina, Washington-Williams was raised by her maternal aunt, Mary Butler Washington, in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. She met her real mother in 1938, when “Aunt” Carrie came to visit and revealed their true relationship. At age sixteen, in 1941 while in Edgefield South Carolina for a family ...