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George White

psychiatrist, educational reformer, and author. Born to working-class parents during the Great Depression, James Pierpont Comer became a world-renowned child psychiatrist. He spent his childhood in East Chicago, Indiana, but then traveled to the East Coast and did work at some of America's most prestigious academic institutions. By the early twenty-first century he stood as an intellectual pioneer and an advocate for disadvantaged children.

Comer's parents lacked extensive formal education, and both worked outside the home—his father as a laborer at a steel mill and his mother as a domestic. Yet they created an environment that cultivated self-esteem, confidence, and high academic achievement for James and his siblings. After completing high school in 1952, Comer attended and graduated from Indiana University, but his negative experiences in Bloomington encouraged him to attend medical school elsewhere. He earned his MD in 1960 from Howard University and a ...

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Beverly Lanier Skinner

scholar, professor, and cultural critic, was born in Hampton, Virginia, the youngest of nine siblings in one of Hampton's most socially prominent black families. His father, Andrew Davis, born a slave, was an 1872 graduate of Hampton Institute and was the “leading plasterer and plastering contractor in Hampton” (Negro History Bulletin, Jan. 1950). He and his wife, Frances S. Nash, were strict disciplinarians who taught their children to refuse any form of charity during the difficult Depression era and to refuse menial job offers from whites. Davis's parents also taught him high standards of decorum, including not eating watermelon, not shelling peas on the front porch, and avoiding “emotional excesses” (for example, “shouting” in church and talking loudly), he recalled in a 1944 essay called “When I Was in Knee Pants” (47).

Davis s parents sent him to the ...

Article

Anthony A. Lee

Badi Foster was born in Chicago to an interracial Baha'i family. His father (William) was black, and his mother (Ruth) was white. When Badi (which means “wonderful” in Arabic and is the name of a celebrated Baha'i martyr) was eleven, his parents moved to Morocco as pioneers (missionaries) for the Baha'i religion. He spent his adolescence in that country, learning French and Arabic. He attended the American School in Casablanca to the eighth grade, and then transferred to the American School of Tangiers where he completed his high school education in 1960.

As a consequence of learning new languages and negotiating new cultures Foster discovered that although Morocco had its own structures of inequality and oppression American notions of race were unknown there He explains that as a boy therefore he was vaccinated against racism never internalizing ideas or racial inferiority and gaining important insights even as a teenager ...

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Olivia A. Scriven

mathematician, college professor, and public school reformer, was born Evelyn Boyd, the second of two girls of William Boyd, a blue-collar worker who held various jobs as a custodian, chauffeur, and messenger, and Julia Walker Boyd, a civil servant who worked for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing during the Depression. Granville received her early education in the pre–Brown v. Board of Education era of separate but equal public schools for blacks and whites Despite the dual system Boyd would later insist that she received a quality education in elementary and middle school and later at Dunbar High School one of three public high schools in the Washington D C area designated for black students Dunbar had a reputation for high academic standards and for emphasizing the importance of racial pride and personal excellence Recalling that period Granville writes My generation benefited ...