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Robert Fikes

writer, was born Jervis Beresford Anderson in the rural village of Chatham, Jamaica, in the British West Indies, to Peter Anderson, a building contractor, and Ethlyn Allen, a homemaker. Peter Anderson enforced a strict Baptist upbringing on his son. Having passed a series of rigorous qualifying exams, within days after graduating from Kingston Technical School, a high school affiliated with the University of the West Indies, Jervis was hired as a trainee journalist at the Daily Gleaner, the most revered and influential newspaper on the island. He left its employ after a year—uncomfortable with the newspaper's conservatism and acquiescence to the colonial regime—and joined the writers' staff at Public Opinion a weekly that advocated self rule and was closely allied with the People s National Party Having rejected the stern religion of his father and the unquestioning allegiance to the British Crown manifested by his ...

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McKay Jenkins

tennis player, author, and political activist, was born Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Arthur Ashe Sr., a police officer, and Mattie Cunningham. Tall and slim as a young boy, Ashe was forbidden by his father to play football; he took up tennis instead on the segregated playground courts at Brookfield Park, near his home. By the time he was ten years old he came under the tutelage of a local tennis fan and physician from Lynchburg, R. Walter Johnson. Johnson had previously nurtured the talents of Althea Gibson, who became the first African American to win Wimbledon, in 1957 and 1958, and his second protégé would prove no less successful. Johnson was an exacting coach he had his charges practice hitting tennis balls with broom handles to develop their hand eye coordination But his lessons extended beyond tennis he also ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Arthur Ashe was born July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Mattie and Arthur Robert Ashe Sr. He began playing Tennis at the age of ten under the guidance of Dr. Walter Johnson, a prominent coach of African American youth from Lynchburg, Virginia. With Johnson's coaching, Ashe won three American Tennis Association (ATA) boy's championships, becoming the first African American junior to be ranked by the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA).

Between 1960 and 1963 Ashe won three ATA men's singles titles, became the first African American on the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team, and the first African American to win a USLTA national title in the South. His achievements earned him a full scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he attended from 1961 to 1966 earning a bachelor s degree in business administration While in college Ashe won the U ...

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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 ...

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Miguel Barnet is the author of Biografía de un cimarrón (Autobiography of a Runaway Slave, 1966), which recounts Esteban Motejo's life as a runaway slave in Cuba and as a soldier in the Spanish-American War (1895–1898). Other works by Barnet include Canción de Raquel Rachel ...

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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 ...

Article

Charlotte Crawford Watkins

Charles Eaton Burch was born on July 14, 1891, in Bermuda. His early education was in the elementary and secondary schools of Bermuda, and his advanced training was in the United States, at Wilberforce University (B.A., 1914), Columbia University (M.A., 1918), and Ohio State University (Ph.D., 1933). He taught in the academic department of Tuskegee Institute in 1916 and 1917, and from 1918 to 1921 he taught at Wilberforce as an instructor in English. In 1921 he was appointed to the faculty of Howard University, where he served, successively, as assistant professor (1921–1924), associate professor (1924–1936), and professor of English, and as acting head and (from 1933) head of the Department of English until his death on March 23, 1948 In addition to his work as a scholar Burch made two major contributions to Howard University In ...

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Jennifer Jensen Wallach

author, composer, and activist. When Shirley Graham Du Bois was thirteen years old she met the prominent scholar and activist W. E. B. Du Bois. The meeting had a profound impact on her political and personal development, for she eventually married Du Bois in 1951. She became well known as W. E. B. Du Bois's second wife, causing some to overlook her tremendous personal accomplishments.

Shirley Graham was born near Evansville, Indiana, to David Graham and Etta Graham. Her father was an African Methodist Episcopal minister, a career that caused him to move his family to various locations in the United States, including Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and Nashville. At his churches Shirley first discovered a love for music, learning to play the organ and piano. She completed high school in Spokane, Washington, and then moved to Seattle, where she married Shadrack T. McCants ...

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Mary Krane Derr

community activist, social service worker, and history conserver, was born Alfreda Marguerita Barnett in Chicago, Illinois. She was the youngest child of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the journalist, suffragist, and anti-lynching crusader, and Ferdinand Barnett, the attorney, civil rights activist, and founder of Chicago's first black newspaper. Along with her three full siblings—Ida, Herman, and Charles Aked—Alfreda had two half-brothers, Albert and Ferdinand Jr., from her father's first marriage. Duster recalled her childhood as happy and both her parents as kind, dedicated people of integrity. She described her father as gentle and quiet, her mother as outspoken and firm. Other activists like Carter G. Woodson, William Monroe Trotter, and Hallie Quinn Brown regularly visited the Barnett home.

The Barnetts lived in a largely middle class interracial sometimes racially tense area on Chicago s South Side A bright student who handled herself confidently among ...

Article

Ula Y. Taylor

Garvey, Amy Euphemia Jacques (31 December 1896–25 July 1973), journalist, Pan-Africanist, and the second wife of black nationalist Marcus Garvey, journalist, Pan-Africanist, and the second wife of black nationalist Marcus Garvey was born in Kingston Jamaica the daughter of George Samuel Jacques a property owner and Charlotte maiden name unknown Amy Jacques s family was rooted in the Jamaican middle class thus she was formally educated at Wolmer s Girls School an elite institution in Jamaica As a young woman she suffered from ailing health due to recurring bouts with malaria In need of a cooler climate she emigrated to the United States in 1917 and settled in New York City where she had relatives After hearing contradictory reports about the Universal Negro Improvement Association UNIA recently founded by Garvey she attended a meeting in Harlem She was intrigued by the organization and in 1918 became ...

Article

Bobby Donaldson

One of the chief advocates of the Black Aesthetic, Addison Gayle, Jr., was born in Newport News, Virginia, on 2 June 1932. Inspired by the growing example of Richard Wright, young Gayle became a fastidious reader and hoped that a writing career would enable him to over come the strictures of poverty and racism. By the time he graduated from high school in 1950, Gayle had completed a three-hundred-page novel.

Unable to attend college or secure profitable employment, Gayle joined the air force. During his short stint, he wrote copious drafts of his novel, short stories, and poetry and submitted them for publication. After an honorable discharge and several rejection letters from publishers, Gayle reluctantly returned to Virginia.

In 1960, Gayle enrolled in the City College of New York and received his BA in 1965. The following year he earned an MA in English ...

Article

Jennifer Curry

New Yorker columnist and author of popular nonfiction, was born in Fareham, England, the youngest of three sons born to Graham M. L. Gladwell, a British mathematician, and Joyce (Nation) Gladwell, a Jamaican-born family therapist. His parents met while attending university in England in the 1950s; during that time interracial couples were not common, and Joyce Gladwell later wrote of the couple's struggle for acceptance, as well as of her own experiences growing up a “brown face” in Jamaica, in her book Brown Face, Big Master, which was published in 1969. That same year the Gladwell family relocated to Elmira, Canada, which is just outside Toronto, after Graham Gladwell—who has authored numerous mathematical texts—accepted a teaching position at the University of Waterloo.

In “Black Like Them,” a 1996 article written for the New Yorker Gladwell described Elmira as a close knit sleepy town in which ...

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Robert L. Gale

Graham, Shirley (11 November 1896–27 March 1977), musical composer and director, author, and political activist also known as Shirley Graham Du Bois was born Lola Bell Graham in Indianapolis Indiana the daughter of the Reverend David A Graham an African Methodist Episcopal minister and Etta Bell She accompanied them when her father held pastorates in New Orleans Colorado Springs and Spokane He delighted her with stories about important blacks in American history In his churches she learned to play the piano and the pipe organ and to conduct choirs In 1914 she graduated from high school in Spokane took business school courses and worked in government offices in Spokane and Seattle After she married Shadrach T McCanns in 1921 she gave private music lessons and played the organ in white movie theaters hidden backstage She had two sons Robert and David and was either widowed in 1924 ...

Article

Ralph E. Luker

writer, was born Alexander Palmer Haley in Ithaca, New York, the son of Simon Alexander Haley, a graduate student in agriculture at Cornell University, and Bertha George Palmer, a music student at the Ithaca Conservatory of Music. Young Alex Haley grew up in the family home in Henning, Tennessee, where his grandfather Will Palmer owned a lumber business. When the business was sold in 1929, Simon Haley moved his family to southern black college communities, including Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal (near Huntsville), Alabama, where he had his longest tenure teaching agriculture. The three sons of Bertha and Simon Haley, Alex, George, and Julius, spent their summers in Henning, where, in the mid-1930s, their grandmother Cynthia Murray Palmer recounted for her grandsons the stories of their family's history.

After graduating from high school in Normal Alex Haley studied to become a teacher at ...

Article

Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, and grew up in Henning, Tennessee, with maternal relatives who spent many hours telling family stories, some of which extended back to Africa. This exposure directed the course of much of Haley's work as an adult. Haley completed high school at the age of fifteen and attended two years of college, but was uninspired by his studies and left school to join the U.S. Coast Guard. He began writing to counteract the tedium of life at sea. When Haley retired from the service in 1959, he was a mature, self-taught writer.

Haley settled in Greenwich Village in New York City, determined to make his name as a journalist. After a period of hard work and obscurity, he broke into mainstream publications such as Readers' Digest, Harper's, and the New York Times Magazine. In 1962 he ...

Article

Robert Fikes

Born into a large family in a racially segregated middle-class section of Demopolis, Alabama, where he was not allowed to visit the town's public library, James S. Haskins was deeply affected by the swirl of events related to the mid century civil rights movement He received his bachelor s degree in history at Alabama State College but limited career opportunities in the South in the early 1960s led him to seek employment in New York City Two years of selling newspaper advertisements and working as a Wall Street stockbroker brought him to the realization that he was better suited for a career in education and thus he applied for a position in the New York City public school system After teaching music at several locations he found a job teaching a special education class at P S 92 Obsessed with the plight of his inner city pupils he was ...

Article

Jennifer Wood

historian and biographer, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, to John Henry Lewis and Alice Ernestine Bell, both originally from Atlanta. When John Henry Lewis sacrificed his job as principal of Little Rock's black high school to protest inequities in teachers' salaries based on race, the family moved to Wilberforce, Ohio. Lewis spent ages seven to nine in the community of Wilberforce University, where his father was the dean of theology. Named after the British abolitionist William Wilberforce, the university is the oldest African American institution of higher education. At the age of twelve, Lewis met W. E. B. Du Bois a fraternity brother of his father s and one of his mother s teachers at Atlanta University The famous scholar and activist asked the young Lewis what he intended to do with his life In a historical twist the young boy who was left speechless ...

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Lois J. Einhorn

writer and activist, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the ninth of ten children of William Patterson Allen, a lawyer, and Mary Magdalene Rice Hayes Allen, a college professor. Across the street from the home where Carrie McCray was born is the campus of Virginia Seminary. McCray's mother served as interim president of this black Baptist seminary from 1906 to 1908. When she was almost seven years old McCray's family moved from Lynchburg to Montclair, New Jersey. Except for the first two years in New Jersey her family spent every summer back in Lynchburg. Throughout her childhood McCray's parents instilled in her a love of poetry, an appreciation for her ancestors, and an understanding of how education provided a path to freedom. In childhood McCray also learned how to remain optimistic even in dark times and how to treat all people with respect, kindness, and compassion.McCray ...

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Theodore O. Mason

Born in 1941 in Trinidad, Arnold Rampersad received a BA and MA from Bowling Green State University and an MA and PhD from Harvard. He has held teaching positions at Stanford, Rutgers, and Columbia. Rampersad was Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature at Princeton and is Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at Stanford University. From 1991 to 1996, he held a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Rampersad was a 2010 recipient of the National Humanities Medal.

Although he began his career specializing in Herman Melville, Rampersad is best known for biographies of W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes. In The Art and Imagination of W. E. B. Du Bois (1976 Rampersad sought to trace the intellectual development of one of this century s preeminent black political and social ...

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Paul A. Frisch

sportswriter, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of John Henry Smith, a chef for the industrialist Henry Ford, and Gertrude (Thompson) Smith. He was the only African American student enrolled in Detroit's Southeastern High School and was a member of the school's baseball team. He earned a BS in Education from West Virginia State College, where he played basketball and served as sports editor of the newspaper.

Upon graduation in 1937 he accepted a position at the Pittsburgh Courier, a prominent black weekly newspaper. After only a year he became the sports editor. In addition to covering the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays, baseball teams in the Negro Leagues, he also reported on the National League's Pittsburgh Pirates, the local white baseball team. Smith used his position to campaign for racial integration, particularly the integration of baseball, which had been segregated since 1884 ...