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Article

S. L. Gardner

coal miner who wrote the first published memoir of an African American coal miner, was born Robert Lee Armstead in Watson, West Virginia, to Queen Esther Armstead and James Henry Armstead. James worked in Alabama and West Virginia coal mines for fifty years. Bob received his formal education in all‐black schools. The eighth of eleven children born and reared in coal camps, he learned early on that the family's well‐being depended on his parents' extraordinary ability to feed and clothe so many on his father's meager income. His religious mother and authoritarian father instilled in their children a strong sense of responsibility, dedication to the family, and solid work ethic.

In 1929 when Bob was two years old the family moved to Grays Flats a segregated coal camp on the edge of Grant Town West Virginia In the late 1920s the Grant Town mine employed 2 200 men ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

record executive, producer, and activist, was born Alvertis Isbell in Brinkley, Arkansas, in 1940 or 1941. In 1945 his family moved to Little Rock, where Bell later graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the city's Philander Smith College, following this with uncompleted ministerial training; he worked as a disc jockey throughout high school and college. In 1959 Bell began working at workshops run by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His SCLC involvement was short-lived, which Bell attributed to a difference in philosophy, explaining that King's strategy of nonviolent confrontation differed from his belief in the power of black capitalist entrepreneurship in effecting social change.

Bell then worked full time at several radio stations first at WLOK in Memphis where his laid back style helped boost ratings and then at WUST in Washington D C where he introduced ...

Article

Stephen Bourne

Black Londoner whose life as a working‐class seamstress was documented in Aunt Esther's Story (1991), published by Hammersmith and Fulham's Ethnic Communities Oral History Project, and co‐authored with Stephen Bourne. Aunt Esther's Story provides a first‐hand account of Bruce's life as a black Briton in the pre‐Empire Windrush years. Her father, Joseph (1880–1941), arrived in London from British Guiana (now Guyana) in the early 1900s and settled in a tight‐knit working‐class community in Fulham. He worked as a builder's labourer. When Bruce was a young child, Joseph instilled in his daughter a sense of pride in being black. After leaving school, she worked as a seamstress, and in the 1930s she made dresses for the popular African‐American stage star Elisabeth Welch. She also befriended another black citizen of Fulham: the Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey She told Bourne he was a nice chap ...

Article

Larvester Gaither

businessman, author, and presidential candidate, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the elder son of Lenora (Davis) Cain and Luther Cain Jr. His mother, from Georgia, worked as a domestic, while his father, from Arlington, Tennessee, worked mainly as a private chauffeur for Robert Woodruff, president of the Coca-Cola Company. Cain's parents were both raised by poor subsistence farmers (sharecroppers) in the South. In 1943, at the age of eighteen, Cain's father migrated to Mansfield, Ohio, and landed a job working for a tire factory. While there he met Lenora Davis, who had also come there in search of better opportunities. The two moved to Memphis in 1945 for a brief stay and then settled in Atlanta, Georgia, shortly after Herman Cain was born. Thus, while born in Memphis, Cain, along with his younger brother, Thurman (who died in 1999 was raised in Atlanta ...

Article

Steven Leikin

diplomat, preacher, and author, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Sallie Montgomery. Nothing is known of his biological father. His mother, however, was an African American, and Dennis was of mixed race parentage. In 1897 he was adopted by Green Dennis, a contractor, and Cornelia Walker. During his youth Dennis was known as the “mulatto child evangelist,” and he preached to church congregations in the African American community of Atlanta before he was five years old. By the age of fifteen he had toured churches throughout the United States and England and addressed hundreds of thousands of people.

Despite his success as an evangelist Dennis had ambitions to move beyond this evangelical milieu. In 1913, unschooled but unquestionably bright, he applied to Phillips Exeter Academy and gained admission. He graduated within two years and in 1915 entered Harvard.

Dennis s decisions to ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

White House chief butler, was born in Lyles Station, Indiana, an all-black community founded by freed slaves in the 1850s, where his father ran a general store and his mother kept a boarding house. Fields's early love of music was influenced by his father, who directed the only African American brass band in southern Indiana. In 1920 the family moved to Indianapolis, where Fields and his father played together in a YMCA military brass band; Alonzo trained the choir, studied voice, and learned Irish ballads. His dream of becoming a professional singer had to be balanced, however, with his need to make a living, and he again followed in his father's footsteps by running a grocery store. When his business began to decline in 1925 Fields left Indianapolis for Boston where he enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music There he trained at first to be a ...

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 ...

Article

Efraim Barak

Egyptian economist and banker, was born in the al-Jamaliya quarter of Cairo to a family of Bedouin origin that migrated to Cairo several years earlier from a village in the vicinity of the Delta. His family belonged to the middle class and his father Hasan Muhammad Harb worked at the government railroad administration. In 1885 Harb completed his studies at the al Tawfiqiya high school in Cairo and began studying at the Khedival Law College Kuliyyat al Huquq which was at the end of the nineteenth century an incubator for many of the Egyptian nationalists and modernists such as Mustafa Kamil Muhamad Farid and Ahmad Lutfi al Sayyid In the college Harb obtained in depth knowledge in Western culture as well as in French culture and law which was the basis for the study of law in Egypt at the time Following his graduation he worked as a translator ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

Johnson, Edward Austin (23 November 1860–24 July 1944), educator, lawyer, and politician was born near Raleigh North Carolina the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A Smith slaves He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton a free African American and later attended the Washington School an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh There he was introduced to the Congregational church and became a lifelong member Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia graduating in 1883 To pay his way through college he worked as a barber and taught in the summers After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School 1883 1885 and then in Raleigh at the Washington School 1885 1891 While teaching in Raleigh he studied at Shaw University obtaining a law degree in 1891 He joined the faculty shortly ...

Article

One of the most powerful, well-connected lawyers in the United States, Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. has had a long, sometimes contradictory career. Few civil rights spokespeople of his generation have attained the kind of corporate and political influence Jordan has, an achievement that was enhanced by his position as a top adviser to and close friend of President Bill Clinton. Yet some critics charged that the former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) field secretary and Urban League president lost touch with his original goals: to improve the economic lives of African Americans.

Jordan was born in Atlanta, Georgia The middle son of a postal clerk and his wife a caterer he was deeply influenced by his mother s drive and business sense As a child he sometimes accompanied her to catering jobs where he observed Atlanta s white establishment especially the Lawyer s Club ...

Article

Lisa K. Thompson

writer, educator, professional speaker. Marilyn Willingham was born in Toledo, Ohio, but moved to Kosciusko, Mississippi, in 1955 with Jimmie Kern, a housepainter, and Manella Kern, a schoolteacher, who adopted her six years later. The couple had raised ten children of their own (their youngest child was a junior in high school) when they began caring for Marilyn. A very ambitious and high achieving student at Tipton Street High School, Kern hosted a radio program and served as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Tipton Gazette. In 1971, Kern and a white student delivered valedictory addresses, after her senior class was forced by a Supreme Court order to integrate the city's white school.

Kern enrolled at Jackson State University (JSU) in August 1971 after receiving a four year scholarship Her mother feared for her daughter s safety after the Mississippi State Guard ...

Article

SaFiya D. Hoskins

author, educator, and poet, was born Don Luther Lee, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Maxine Lee and an unknown father. In 1943 his family migrated to Detroit, Michigan. Lee's father deserted the family before his baby sister was born. His mother began working as a janitor and barmaid to support her two children. Lee's mother introduced him to the Detroit Public Library, where he spent hours at a time reading. His mother, the person he credits with his interest in black arts, died of a drug overdose when he was sixteen. Upon her death he moved to Chicago, Illinois, and attended Dunbar Vocational High School. His love for reading continued to flourish as he explored works by authors such as Chester Himes, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Jean Toomer. Lee graduated in 1960 and began selling magazines when he could not ...

Article

John Herschel Barnhill

sailor, was born on Union Island, St. Vincent, British West Indies, the son of a shipbuilder. As a child he attended St. Vincent Grammar School because his father wanted him to be an engineer. Mulzac himself wanted to be a sailor, a desire that became a passion when his father took him to visit HMS Good Hope in Kingston, Jamaica.

On completing grammar school Mulzac sailed as a seaman on the schooner Sunbeam, captained by his brother John. He subsequently sailed on a Norwegian ship from Barbados through the Caribbean and the Atlantic, again as a seaman. When the ship's captain invited Mulzac to church with him in Wilmington, North Carolina, Mulzac encountered his first taste of segregation when the sexton directed him to the black church some blocks away.

Mulzac received his training at Swansea Nautical College in South Wales and in New York City He ...

Article

Martin J. Manning

Parks, Lillian Rogers (01 February 1897–06 November 1997), White House seamstress and author, was born Lillian Adele Rogers, the daughter of Emmett E. Rogers, Sr., a waiter, and Margaret “Maggie” Williams Rogers. Source information is sketchy regarding her early years, but her godchild, Peggy Holly, believes that Lillian Parks was born in the District of Columbia and as a child spent summers with relatives in Virginia. Her father—by Parks's account an alcoholic unable to hold a job—left his family when she was a child; in 1909 her mother took a job at the White House at the beginning of William Howard Taft s presidency and often found it necessary to take her daughter along with her when she went to work A victim of polio at the age of six Parks used crutches for the rest of her life She attended St Ann s Catholic School ...

Article

Martin J. Manning

White House seamstress and author, was born Lillian Adele Rogers, the daughter of Emmett E. Rogers Sr., a waiter, and Margaret “Maggie” Williams. Source information is sketchy regarding her early years, but her godchild, Peggy Holly, believed that Lillian Parks was born in the District of Columbia and as a child spent summers with relatives in Virginia. Her father—by Parks's account an alcoholic unable to hold a job—left his family when she was a child. In 1909 her mother took a job at the White House at the beginning of William Howard Taft's presidency and often found it necessary to take her daughter along with her when she went to work A victim of polio at the age of six Parks used crutches for the rest of her life She attended St Ann s Catholic School and Stephens Elementary School in the District of ...

Article

Phillip A Cantrell

Rwandan writer and the subject of the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, was born in 1954 in Gitarama, Rwanda, to a Tutsi mother and a Hutu father, although Rusesabagina himself claims to be a Hutu. Rusesabagina separated from his first wife, Ester, in 1981 following the birth of three children. He remarried in 1987 to Tatiana, a Tutsi, and fathered two children, a son and a daughter who died in infancy. Rusesabagina graduated from Utalii College in Nairobi, Kenya, with a degree in hotel management and worked as an assistant to the general manager at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, Rwanda, from 1984 to 1992. In 1992, he was promoted to general manager of the Diplomate Hotel in Kigali. Rusesabagina gained international acclaim as the subject of the film Hotel Rwanda, which was released in 2004 and nominated for an Academy Award Rusesabagina s ...

Article

Lisa C. Lakes

author, businessman, and inspirational speaker, was born Clifton LeMoure Taulbert in Glen Allan, Mississippi, the eldest child of Mary Esther Taulbert, a schoolteacher who later became a Head Start Center director, and Willie Jones, a Baptist preacher. Because his mother was unmarried at the time of his birth, Taulbert's great-grandparents, Joe and Pearl Young, raised him so his mother could continue her education. When his great-grandmother became too ill to care for him, Taulbert moved to live with his great-aunt, Mrs. Elna Peters Boose, or “Ma Ponk.”

Taulbert s childhood memories included patronizing the black minstrel show working with his uncle in an icehouse and being the first black hired to work in the white owned Hilton Food Store Before graduating from high school Taulbert worked the cash register in addition to his duties of stocking cleaning and delivering groceries A bright and ...

Article

Sarah L. Trembanis

professional Negro League catcher and major league baseball talent scout, was born in Dublin, Georgia, to Mary and Charles, a sharecropper. Troupe was the youngest of ten children. The Troupe family joined the Great Migration of African Americans fleeing the South for greater opportunities in urban centers in the North. Following a difficult encounter with a white overseer, Troupe's father and two of his older brothers moved to St. Louis in order to find work and secure enough money to bring the rest of the family to Missouri. Troupe stayed behind with his mother and other siblings, and when Troupe was ten years old, his father sent money for train fare, and the family was reunited in St. Louis. The family soon settled in Compton Hill where Troupe attended Touissaint L'Overture Elementary School and Vashon High School in the 1920s.

Troupe competed on both his high school and ...

Article

Douglas H. Johnson

Sudanese slave who reversed the missionary process by becoming an African evangelist in England. Born Atobhil Macar Kathiec among the Gok Dinka of Sudan, he was captured by slavers, freed by the Egyptian army, and subsequently employed by the missionary Charles Wilson. Educated, baptized, and confirmed in England, Wilson joined abortive missions to the Congo and Tripoli in 1887–8 and 1893, but most of his missionary efforts were undertaken with the Methodists in England, where he become known as ‘the Black Evangelist of the North’. Settling in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, he married his landlady in 1913, an event filmed by the local cinema. He was a popular figure in the town, where he lived until his death.

Wilson produced three books about his life and the Dinka He wrote positively about Dinka religiosity and traced his own awareness of God to the beliefs and prayers of his people ...