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Article

Lia B. Epperson

attorney and civil rights activist, was born Sadie Tanner Mossell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three children of Aaron Albert Mossell Jr., an attorney, and Mary Louise Tanner. In 1899 Mossell's father deserted the family and fled to Wales. During elementary school Sadie and her mother divided their time between Mossell's grandparents' home in Philadelphia and an aunt and uncle's home on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. When her mother returned to Pennsylvania, Mossell remained under the care of her aunt and uncle in Washington until she graduated from M Street High School.

Mossell entered the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1915 and majored in education Her years as a student in an institution with so few women students and even fewer African Americans were extremely challenging Yet with her family s financial and emotional support she prospered academically and graduated ...

Article

Alexander, the first black woman to earn a PhD in Economics, in a 1981 interview provided this advice for young black men and women: “Don’t let anything stop you. There will be times when you’ll be disappointed, but you can’t stop. Make yourself the best that you can make out of what you are. The very best.”

Sadie Tanner Mossell was born into a prominent Philadelphia family. Her father, Aaron Albert Mossell, had been the first African American to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Her grandfather, Benjamin Tucker Tanner, was a well-known author, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the editor of the country’s first African American scholarly journal, the African Methodist Episcopal Review. The famous painter Henry Ossawa Tanner was her uncle At the turn of the century the Tanner home was a gathering place and intellectual center ...

Article

Jennifer Carolina Gómez Menjívar

was born on 7 February 1954 in Lima, Peru. She was raised by her maternal grandmother, who taught her to sing when she was 3 and nurtured her dreams of becoming an artist from an early age, encouraging her to perform at school events as well as on children’s programs on radio and television. Born María Angélica Ayllón Urbina, the artist adopted her grandmother’s name as her stage name upon launching her solo career. Cherished by fans on two continents, Ayllón has released over thirty albums and has become a successful artist with a solid foundation in Peruvian “Creole” and Afro-Peruvian musical styles.

Ayllón began performing in the early 1970s in commercial venues in Lima that had a reputation for showcasing Creole music. She began her career alongside notable artists, and in 1973 she became the lead singer of Los Kipus a musical trio They toured Peru performed for ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

anthropologist, educator, and college president, was born Johnnetta Betsch in Jacksonville, Florida, the second of three children to Mary Frances Lewis, an English teacher, and John Thomas Betsch Sr., an insurance executive. Johnnetta grew up in one of Florida's most prominent African American families; her great-grandfather, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, co-founded the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, Florida's first insurance company. An ambitious and civic-minded businessman, Lewis established several black institutions, including the colored branch of the public library, the Lincoln Golf and Country Club, and the seaside resort known as American Beach, the only beach allowing blacks in north Florida. Johnnetta's childhood was shaped by competing influences: her supportive family and community, and the racist attitudes and institutions of the Jim Crow South. Educated in segregated public and private schools, Johnnetta credits the influence of her teachers and her family friend Mary McLeod Bethune with encouraging her ...

Article

Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Johnnetta Betsch Cole was the seventh president of Spelman College (1987-1997), the oldest college for black women in the United States. Under her leadership, Spelman became the first historically black college or university to receive top ratings by U.S. News & World Report and Money magazine. During her presidency she raised over $113 million in the Capital Campaign Fund, which was the largest sum ever raised by a historically black college or university. After leaving the Spelman presidency in 1997, she joined the faculty at Emory University, where she was professor of anthropology, women’s studies, and African American studies for four years. She also has the distinction of being the only black woman to have been president of the only two historically black colleges for women. In July 2002 she was appointed president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, becoming its fourteenth president.

Cole ...

Article

Kathleen Gyssels

was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 6 November 1898, the eldest daughter of Eugénie Malebranche (1875–1931), writer, and Georges Sylvain (1866–1925), minister of culture. Her uncle was the pan-Africanist Benito Sylvain, and she inherited from her father a sense of pride in the first black republic’s rich culture and religion. In particular, she was fascinated with the numerous facets of Haitian cultural expression, especially Vodou.

Sylvain attended religious schools for girls in Kingston, Jamaica, Port-au-Prince, and Paris. These primary and secondary schools were institutions that prepared young girls from Haitian upper-class families to become accomplished housewives. However, Sylvain left Port-au-Prince to go to Paris for her higher education, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree and doctorate at the Sorbonne.

While at the Sorbonne she was invited by the Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski to attend his seminar at the London School of Economics Malinowski also found ...

Article

Along with Frederick Douglass and Booker Taliaferro Washington, historians consider W. E. B. Du Bois one of the most influential African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Born only six years after emancipation, he was active well into his nineties. Throughout his long life Du Bois remained black America's leading public intellectual, despite near-constant criticism for his often contradictory social and political opinions—he was accused, at various times, of elitism, Communism, and black separatism.

Born in the small western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington, Du Bois and his mother—his father had left the family when he was young—were among the few African American residents. Of his heritage, Du Bois wrote that it included “a flood of Negro blood, a strain of French, a bit of Dutch, but, Thank God! No ‘Anglo-Saxon.’” After an integrated grammar-school education, Du Bois attended the historically black Fisk University ...

Article

Gerald Horne

American social scientist, author, educator, civil rights leader, and Pan-Africanist, was born William Edward Burghardt Du Bois on 23 February 1868 to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois, in the predominantly white hamlet of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. William’s maternal great-great-grandfather, Tom Burghardt, born in West Africa in the early 1730s, was captured and brought to America by Dutch slavers. Du Bois would later recall hearing in his childhood a West African song that was perhaps of Senegambian Wolof origin.

Du Bois had a fondness for his New England birthplace and by his own account had a relatively charmed childhood An only child abandoned by his father whom he did not remember his doting mother and relatives and supportive teachers muted the pangs of racism sharpened by Reconstruction These heady years permeated the nation not just the South Hence his early years were shaped by genteel poverty Victorian ...

Article

Jon-Christian Suggs and Dale Edwyna Smith

[This article contains three subentries, on Du Bois's life, on his historical writing, and on his literary writing.]

Article

Joyce Aschenbrenner

An artist of many talents, Katherine Dunham is best known as a popular and widely acclaimed dancer who, with her dance company, performed on stages throughout the world in the 1940s and 1950s, choreographing Caribbean, African, and African American movement for diverse audiences. Her concerts were visually and kinesthetically exciting and appealing; they were also based on a profound understanding of the peoples and cultures represented as well as on a keen knowledge of social values and human psychology. Her achievements as anthropologist, teacher, and social activist are less well known.

By her own account, in her autobiography, A Touch of Innocence (1959), Dunham was born in Chicago. The family lived in Glen Ellyn, a predominantly white suburb of the city. Katherine’s mother, Fanny June Guillaume was an accomplished woman of French Canadian and Indian ancestry She died when Dunham was young Dunham s father Albert ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

dancer, anthropologist, and activist. Katherine Dunham, born in Joliet, Illinois, was an innovator in dance. She was the Queen Mother of Black Dance, basing her understanding of dance and her innovations in it on anthropological principles and fieldwork in Haiti. Her father, an African American dry cleaner, owned his own business. Her mother was French Canadian and American Indian. Dunham began her dance training in her late teens.

Dunham majored in social anthropology at the University of Chicago, where she earned her BA in 1936. The ideas of the anthropologists Melville Herskovits and Robert Redfield inspired her work in dance, and she applied these ideas to her work with young children in her dance company, Ballet Nègre, which she started in 1931. Her combination of dance and anthropology earned her a Rosenwald Travel Fellowship in 1936 Dunham traveled to the West Indies combining her ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

dancer, choreographer, school founder, and anthropologist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Albert Millard Dunham Sr., an African American tailor and amateur jazz musician, and Fanny June Guillaume Taylor, a school administrator of French Canadian, English, Native American, and possibly African ancestry. The Dunhams lived in the predominantly white suburb of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, until Fanny's death when Katherine was four. Forced to sell the family home, Albert Dunham became a traveling salesman and sent Katherine and her older brother, Albert Jr., to live with relatives on the South Side of Chicago, where she was exposed to black vaudeville and blues performances.

Although Albert Sr. reunited the family after he remarried and purchased a dry cleaning store in Joliet Illinois he became increasingly unpredictable and violent Katherine found an outlet in athletics and dance while attending public high school and junior ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

“I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

This quotation from her essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (1928 portrays Zora Neale Hurston s joyfully contrary view of herself in a world where being black was often perceived as a problem and portrayed that way even by black writers Hurston considered her own blackness a gift and an opportunity As an anthropologist and writer she savored the richness of black culture and made a career out of writing about that culture in ...

Article

Tiffany Ruby Patterson

Born in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida, Zora Neale Hurston was the fifth of eight children of John Hurston, a minister, and Lucy Potts Hurston. In her autobiography, Hurston described her childhood as a safe and secure world where her imagination was unencumbered by the restrictions of race or gender and where she had the opportunity to develop her own individuality. This idyllic childhood was shattered by the death of her mother around 1904 and the disintegration of her family. Hurston’s father sent her off to boarding school, and her sisters and brothers scattered into marriages, schools, and journeys of their own. Her father’s remarriage several months after her mother’s death catapulted Hurston out of the safe world of Eatonville.

Article

John Wess Grant

Joyce Ladner has been one of the leading proponents of the racial uplift tradition that bore close ties to the activities of black clubwomen at the turn of the twentieth century. Ladner’s many years of activism and academic pursuits have focused on advancing a tradition that adheres to the core values of self-help, self-respect, honesty, strong families, religious faith, and education as the means to social uplift. Her steadfast commitment to these values, reflected in her numerous books and articles on subjects such as black families, higher education, poverty, parenting, and children, was born out of her experiences in the segregated South and the civil rights movement. These experiences also played a key role in the making of Ladner the activist, scholar, and community leader.

Joyce A. Ladner was born in a hamlet on the outskirts of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Ladner credited her stepfather and especially her mother, Anne Ruth Perryman ...

Article

Crystal Marie Fleming

civil rights activist, sociologist, and university administrator, was born in Battles, Mississippi. She was the youngest of three children born to Annie Ruth Woullard and Eunice Stafford Ladner, a presser for a dry cleaner. After her divorce from Eunice, Annie Ruth married William Coty Perryman, an auto mechanic with whom she had six children. Ladner and her siblings were raised in Palmers Crossing, a segregated rural district outside of Hattiesburg. Ladner grew up in a working-class family surrounded by a tight-knit group of extended relatives and neighbors who provided positive role models. Although separated by distance, she always felt a kinship toward her biological father, whose family came from a long line of Creole farmers, artisans, and craftsmen.

Ladner's childhood experiences with Jim Crow segregation racial hostility and economic hardship were mitigated by a supportive black community and a nurturing home environment that bolstered ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

physical anthropologist and archaeologist who discovered evidence of early human life in the Rift Valley of East Africa, was born Mary Douglas Nicol on 6 February 1913 in London, England. Her father was the painter Erskine Edward Nicol and her mother was Cecilia Marion (née Frere) Nicol. During Mary’s childhood, her family moved around a great deal. Erskine Nicol painted various portraits and subjects in England, France, Italy, Egypt, and elsewhere. Mary’s prolonged sojourns in southern France provided her with the chance to develop a fluent command of French. While she enjoyed greatly her talks and walks with her father, she found her mother’s Catholic faith stultifying even as she developed some friendships with individual priests. Her childhood came to a sudden end in the spring of 1926 when her father passed away from cancer Mary s mother decided to place her daughter in a Catholic convent but ...

Article

was born in the Vere district of the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, on 28 September 1927 to the teachers Richard James Mahoney Lewin and Asanath Sylvia Lewin. The elder of two daughters, she grew up in the rural village of Hayes in South Clarendon, and was surrounded by music from an early age. Her father was headmaster, choirmaster, and music and history teacher at the village school she attended. Her mother was a staff member at the school, and also played the piano. Lewin was raised hearing a variety of musical styles, including Jamaican folk music and European classical music “from Handel and Mozart, Haydn and Elgar” (Lewin, 2000, p. 4).

Lewin learned to play both the piano and violin at an early age and she won one of the Vere Scholarships to attend Hampton High for Girls an elite grammar school in neighboring St Elizabeth From there ...

Article

Malinda Williams

writer, journalist, economist, and commentator, was born in San Francisco, California, to Proteone Alexandria Malveaux, a social worker. She received an AB in 1974, an MA in 1975 in economics from Boston College, and a PhD in Economics in 1980 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Malveaux served as a media intern for WFAA-TV in Dallas, Texas, in the summer of 1975 and as a junior staff economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers in Washington, D.C., from 1977 to 1978. She was a research fellow for the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City from 1978 to 1980 and an assistant professor of economics at the New School for Social Research in New York from 1980 to 1981.Malveaux's first book, Black Women in the Labor Force, appeared in 1980, a collaborative project with Phyllis A. Wallace and Linda ...

Article

Aili Tripp

, Kenyan politician, was born on 1 January 1952 in Mbooni, Makueni District, of Kamba lineage. She obtained management and secretarial training at Government Secretarial College, Kianda College, and the Kenya Institute of Administration for Business. She first worked as a secretary and eventually became a successful plastics and bakery businesswoman. Prior to going into politics, Ngilu had held the position of managing director of a food manufacturing company. She was elected a Member of Parliament for Kitui Central in 1992, 1997, 2002, and 2007.

In 1997 Ngilu became the first woman in Kenya to run for president Later in the race environmentalist and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai also announced her candidacy making her the second woman to join the presidential race During the race Ngilu earned the nickname Mama Masaa a term that plays on her party s symbol the clock suggesting that she is ...