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Frances Smith Foster

author and activist, was born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, the daughter of slaves. Details of her life are sketchy. Little is known of her parents or her childhood beyond the date and place of her birth and the fact that she was born into bondage; thus, it is particularly intriguing that in 1870, only five years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and one year after Atlanta University opened, seventeen-year-old Octavia was among the 170 students enrolled at that institution. Most of the little we know of her life comes from The House of Bondage (1890), the book that made her famous. From that source we learn that in 1873 she was teaching in Montezuma, Georgia, when she met her fellow teacher A. E. P. Albert. They married in 1874 and had one daughter.Sometime around 1877 Albert s husband was ordained as a Methodist ...

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Vickey Kalambakal

Susan Brownell Anthony was born in Adams, Massachusetts, to an unusual family. Her father was a Quaker; at the religious meetings she attended as a child, women were allowed to speak and were on an equal footing with men. The family was prosperous, and her parents encouraged freethinking and activism in their children. Anthony became an abolitionist and participant in the Underground Railroad. She is best remembered as one of the leaders and organizers of the women's suffrage movement.

Anthony's family moved from Massachusetts to Rochester, New York, in 1845. Over the next few years, the abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass also a resident of Rochester became a frequent visitor and speaker at Sunday meetings at the Anthony farm where abolition was discussed Like many reform minded people of the day Anthony also joined the local temperance society After being denied the chance to speak at ...

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Christina Greene

community activist, was born in Columbus County, North Carolina, the youngest of nine children of William Randolph George and Emma Jane Shaw, sharecroppers. While she was still quite young, Ann started working on the farm, where her parents taught her the values of hard work, discipline, and Christian compassion. When Ann was six, her mother died, but her father took on extra work at a nearby sawmill and managed to build an eight‐room house for the family.

Ann attended Farmers Union High School in Whiteville, North Carolina, until the tenth grade. When she was fourteen she became pregnant and married the baby's father, French Wilson, who disappeared a month after the wedding. He reappeared shortly before the birth, but Ann lost the child. In 1952 the couple had a baby girl named Lydia. In 1953 Wilson secured a job at Central Leaf Tobacco Company in Durham and ...

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Steven J. Niven

the first woman executed by electric chair in Georgia, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia, to Queenie Baker, a sharecropper, and a father whose name is unknown. Little is known about her early life. If typical of the African American experience in southwestern Georgia in the early 1900s Baker's childhood was probably one of long working hours and low expectations. Indeed, it was in the debt-ridden and desperate Georgia black belt of the early 1900s that W. E. B. Du Bois discovered the Negro problem in its naked dirt and penury Litwack 114 In an attempt to escape from that world of debt and desperation Baker began working at an early age at first helping her mother chop cotton for a neighboring white family the Coxes Like other black women in the community she also worked as a laundress and occasional domestic for white families in town Despite the legacy ...

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Karen Buhler-Wilkerson and Sarah A. Johnson

By any standard, Anna De Costa Banks was an exceptional nurse. Raised and educated in Charleston, South Carolina, Banks graduated from Hampton Institute in Virginia in 1891. She then attended the newly chartered Hampton Hospital and Training School for Nurses, graduating in its first class in 1893. She later recounted in letters to her mentors that the training she received at Hampton had shaped her whole life. Having received special funds to attend Hampton, Banks felt an obligation to work on behalf of the black community that had supported her.

Returning to Charleston, Banks became head nurse of the Hospital and Training School for Nurses when it opened in 1896 Committed to meeting the health care needs of the black community these institutions were also created in response to the denial of staff privileges to black physicians and the exclusion of black women from admission to the ...

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Cynthia Neverdon-Morton

educator, school founder, and social welfare advocate, was born in Athens, Georgia, the daughter of Julia Porter. Various biographical accounts indicate that Barrett's parents were former slaves, while others speculate that her father was white. Little is known about either parent. During her early childhood, Barrett resided in the home of the Skinners, a white family whom her mother served as housekeeper. After her mother's marriage to a railway worker, Barrett remained with the Skinners, who encouraged her to further her education.

Though the Skinners suggested that she move north, Barrett, at her mother's urging, attended Hampton Institute in Virginia, graduating in 1884. While at Hampton she became convinced that it was her duty as an educated black woman to work assiduously for the betterment of all African Americans. That belief led her to teach in Dawson, Georgia, and at Lucy Craft Laney s Haines Normal ...

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Linda Chavers

actress, was born Angela Evelyn Bassett in the Bronx, New York, to Betty Bassett, a social worker, and a father whose name and occupation are unknown. Soon after Angela's birth her parents divorced, and she moved with her mother and sister to St. Petersburg, Florida. Bassett first thought of a career in acting after a 1974 school trip to Washington, D.C., where she saw James Earl Jones perform in Of Mice and Men at the Kennedy Center.

After graduating from Boca Ciega High School in St. Petersburg in 1976, Bassett won a scholarship to study at Yale University. She earned her BA in African American Studies in 1980 and a master of fine arts from the Yale School of Drama in 1983. After Yale, Bassett did a stint as a photo researcher for U.S. News and World Report while also pursuing theater roles in New York and ...

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Luca Prono

lyric coloratura soprano, was the youngest of seven children born in Portsmouth, Ohio, to Grady Battle, a steelworker from Alabama who belonged to a gospel quartet, and Ollie Layne Battle. Together with her six older siblings, Kathleen Deanna Battle experienced the gospel music of her African Methodist Episcopal Church from a very early age. Battle studied at Portsmouth High School with Charles Varney and began piano lessons at the age of twelve.

She considered using her National Achievement Scholarship, which she was awarded in 1966, to study mathematics at the University of Cincinnati, but she graduated instead from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music with a degree in music education in 1970 The following year Battle received a master s degree from the same institution After graduation Battle worked as a music teacher for fifth and sixth graders in a Cincinnati inner city school for two ...

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Linda K. Fuller

actress, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of William Beavers. Her mother's identity is not known. As a child Louise moved with her musically inclined family to California, where in 1918 she graduated from Pasadena High School. She then joined the Ladies' Minstrel Troupe for a year before being recognized by talent scouts.

Beavers, who would appear in more than one hundred motion pictures, began her Hollywood career by playing a maid to leading lady Lilyan Tashman in Gold Diggers (1923). Early on, maid was a role that Beavers had to play offscreen as well as on. From 1920 to 1926 she worked first as a dressing room attendant and then as the personal maid of the actress Leatrice Joy. In 1927 Beavers landed a major role in Uncle Tom's Cabin, followed in 1929 by roles in Coquette and Nix on Dames In the ...

Article

Brett Gadsden

teacher, civil rights activist, plaintiff in Belton v. Gebhart (1952), a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), was born in Hazelhurse, Georgia, the daughter of Glover and Ida Hall.

Around 1948, almost a decade after her husband Louis passed away, Ethel Belton moved with her seven children to Claymont, Delaware, a suburban community northwest of Wilmington, Delaware, to join her extended family. There she taught general education in a one-room school. Her daughter, Ethel Louise Belton was eleven years old at the time of the move and was later assigned to Howard High School the only free public school for blacks in the entire state at the time Located in Wilmington it was a fifty minute nine mile commute for Ethel Louise who had a congenital heart condition Although Claymont High School the school for white children in ...

Article

John R. Howard

scholar and civil rights advocate, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to George Berry, a laborer, and Frances Southall, a beautician. She was the middle child between two brothers. After attending public schools in Nashville, she entered Howard University where she received her bachelor of arts degree in 1961 and her master of arts degree in 1962. During the 1962–1963 academic year she was a teaching fellow at Howard University, after which she moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to pursue a doctorate in history at the University of Michigan. She served as a teaching assistant during the 1965–1966 academic year and, after completing work on her PhD in 1966, was appointed assistant professor in the Department of History. In 1968 she was promoted to associate professor. Simultaneously she pursued the study of law and in 1970 received her JD degree from the University of Michigan Law ...

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Darlene Clark Hine

organizer of black women and advocate for social justice, was born Mary Jane McLeod in Mayesville, South Carolina, the child of the former slaves Samuel McLeod and Patsy McIntosh, farmers. After attending a school operated by the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen, she entered Scotia Seminary (later Barber‐Scotia College) in Concord, North Carolina, in 1888 and graduated in May 1894. She spent the next year at Dwight Moody's evangelical Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago, Illinois. In 1898 she married Albertus Bethune. They both taught briefly at Kindell Institute in Sumter, South Carolina. The marriage was not happy. They had one child and separated late in 1907. After teaching in a number of schools, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Training Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida, in 1904 Twenty years later the school merged with a boys school the ...

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Anja Schüler

educator, feminist, and civil rights leader. Born near Maysville, South Carolina, Mary McLeod was the fifteenth of seventeen children born to two former slaves, Sam McLeod and Patsy (McIntosh). Most of her brothers and sisters had been born into slavery. The family was poor, but the McLeods farmed their own land. Patsy McLeod continued to work for her former owner, while her husband grew cotton and rice with the help of their children. As a young girl, Mary was known as an expert cotton picker who at the age of nine could pick 250 pounds per day. She also helped her mother deliver laundry to white families.

McLeod recognized early in life that the ability to read and write was central to improving the lives of African Americans In the mid 1880s the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church opened a school in Maysville for the ...

Article

Barbara Garvey Jackson

composer, pianist, and teacher, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Dr. Monroe Alpheus Majors, a pioneering black physician, medical researcher, and author, and Estelle C. Bonds, a music teacher and organist. Although legally born Majors, she used her mother's maiden name (Bonds) in her youth and throughout her professional life. She grew up in intellectually stimulating surroundings; her mother held Sunday afternoon salons at which young black Chicago musicians, writers, and artists gathered and where visiting musicians and artists were always welcomed.Bonds first displayed musical talent in her piano composition “Marquette Street Blues,” written at the age of five. She then began studying piano with local teachers, and by the time she was in high school she was taking lessons in piano and composition with Florence B. Price and William Levi Dawson two of the first black American symphonic composers both of whom were ...

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Maria Elena Raymond

former slave, western pioneer, church founder, businesswoman, and philanthropist, was born in Gallatin, Tennessee—some sources offer a birth date of 1800—and at the age of three was sold with her mother to a planter in Virginia. There, at the age of eighteen, she married a slave named Richard and had several children. When her owner, Ambrose Smith, died in 1835Clara and her children were auctioned off to different slaveholders. Her daughter Margaret was sold to a slaveholder in Kentucky and reportedly died a few years later. Clara lost contact with her son Richard, who was sold repeatedly. Another daughter, Eliza Jane, was sold to a James Covington, also in Kentucky.Clara was sold again at auction, this time to a Kentucky slaveholder named George Brown a merchant and for the next two decades served the Brown family as a house slave During this ...

Article

Monika R. Alston

U.S. congresswoman, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where she lived from childhood through her high school years. Brown has not made much information about her early years, her parents, or her personal life known. In 1965 she gave birth to her only daughter, Shantrel, the same year she began college. Brown received a BS in 1969 and a master's degree in Education in 1971 from Florida A&M University. She earned an education specialist degree from the University of Florida in 1974. From 1977 to 1982 Brown worked as a faculty member and guidance counselor at Florida Community College in Jacksonville.As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. at Florida A&M, Brown became close friends with her sorority sister Gwendolyn Sawyer-Cherry, who was the first African American woman to serve in the Florida state legislature. Sawyer-Cherry influenced Brown to enter politics and after Brown lost her ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

elocutionist, educator, women's and civil rights leader, and writer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Arthur Brown, a riverboat steward and express agent, and Frances Jane Scroggins, an educated woman who served as an unofficial adviser to the students of Wilberforce University. Thomas Brown was born into slavery in Frederick County, Maryland, the son of a Scottish woman plantation owner and her black overseer. Brown purchased his freedom and that of his sister, brother, and father. By the time of the Civil War, he had amassed a sizable amount of real estate. Hallie's mother, Frances, was also born a slave, the child of her white owner. She was eventually freed by her white grandfather, a former officer in the American Revolution.

Both of Hallie's parents became active in the Underground Railroad. Around 1864 the Browns and their six children moved to Chatham Ontario where ...

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Steven J. Niven

rhythm and blues performer and actress, was born Ruth Alston Weston, in Portsmouth, Virginia, the eldest of Leonard and Martha Jane (Alston) Weston's seven children. Her father, a skillful athlete who had hoped to become a professional baseball player, found work as a laborer on the Portsmouth docks and worked odd jobs at nights. His weekly wages rarely exceeded $35 per week and barely covered the needs of his growing family. Ruth's mother worked as a domestic. In 1934, when she was six years old, Ruth entered Portsmouth's George Peabody Elementary School and later attended I. C. Norcom High School. Her early years were decidedly urban. She was a weekend regular at Portsmouth's Capitol movie theater, where she cheered on the black action heroes Herb Jeffries and Ralph Cooper, and idolized the young Lena Horne.

Ruth Weston belonged however to that generation of urban ...

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Shennette Garrett-Scott

carnival performer, snake handler, and blues musician was born in Augusta Georgia Her parents names and occupations are not recorded Her mother passed away when she was eleven years old By age fourteen she had run away from home and was performing in the chorus lines of traveling minstrel shows and carnivals She changed her last name to Brown to escape notice by her family and went on to do other types of entertainment in carnivals from lying on beds of nails to swallowing swords At age twenty one she learned to play the piano she took up the guitar in her mid thirties After singing and playing the piano in a band at carnivals she sometimes performed striptease dances in after hours racially segregated shows on Fridays and Saturdays known as the Midnight Ramble because they took place after midnight in the show tent long after ...

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Marcia G. Synnott

school founder, was born Nannie Helen Burroughs in Orange, Virginia, the daughter of John Burroughs, a farmer and itinerant Baptist preacher, and Jennie Poindexter, a cook and former slave. After moving to Washington, D.C., with her mother in 1883, Burroughs graduated in 1896 with honors in business and domestic science from the Colored High School on M Street. When racial discrimination barred her from obtaining a position either in the Washington, D.C., public schools or the federal civil service, Burroughs worked as a secretary, first for the Baptist Christian Banner in Philadelphia and then for the National Baptist Convention's Foreign Mission Board. She moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1900, when the Board's headquarters relocated there, and she stayed in Louisville until 1909. Studying business education, she organized a Women's Industrial Club for black women, which evolved into a vocational school.

In 1900 Burroughs helped found ...