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James G. Spady

One of thirteen children, Robert Mara Adger was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Robert Adger, was black, and his mother, Mary Ann Morong, was Native American. In 1848 the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Adger's father first found a job as a waiter in the Old Merchant's Hotel. Later, while working as a nurse, he industriously saved enough funds to open a furniture business. He was involved in many activities and was a founder of the Benjamin Banneker Institute.

Robert Mara Adger received his early training at the Bird School, an early black educational institution in the United States. During his teenage years, he worked in his father's furniture stores, which had expanded from one in 1850 to three by 1858 Serving as a manager provided him with the business experience that he later found valuable as director of the Philadelphia Building and ...


Lahcen Ezzaher

Moroccan anticolonialist leader, was born in Rabat. Although he was raised in a family of modest income, he managed to attend a French elementary school for children of notable families at the age of nine. In 1938, he graduated from Moulay Youssef High School in Rabat. He attended Algiers University in Algeria, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1942. He returned to Morocco and taught mathematics at Gouraud High School and then joined the teaching faculty at the Royal College. In La mémoire d’un roi: Entretiens avec Eric Laurent, the late King Hassan II, who was one of Ben Barka’s students, described him as a man with “a vast knowledge, a charming personality, and a passionate nature” (p. 108).

The year 1935 marked the beginning of Ben Barka s involvement in the national movement for independence He was the youngest member of ...


Ingrid Y. Castañeda

born to Creole (English-speaking) parents in British Honduras in 1897. Betson attended primary school at a Methodist institution and in 1916 volunteered to fight in World War I as part of the British West Indies Regiment. Upon return to Belize from the Middle East in 1919, black former servicemen rioted over poor conditions at home and abroad. While he apparently did not participate in the riots, the radicalism of the period, combined with the appeal of Marcus Garvey’s ideas, had a lasting impact on Betson. After his military service, he returned to work as a master shipwright, repairing ships on the waterfront.

British Honduras was again gripped by social upheaval in 1934 as the Great Depression battered the colony s economy Sparked by the government s lack of response to a disastrous hurricane the colony saw strikes and street protests demanding jobs higher wages and better living ...


Rashauna R. Johnson

banker, real estate magnate, activist, and philanthropist, considered the first southern African American millionaire. Robert Reed “Bob” Church was born in 1839 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, to an enslaved mother, Emmeline, and a white steamboat captain, Charles B. Church. His mother, a seamstress, died when Robert was twelve years old, and he spent much of his childhood on the Mississippi River with his father. Because of his closeness to his father, Robert enjoyed privileges not generally associated with slavery. While working on a steamboat during the Civil War, however, Union troops captured him, and he soon settled as a freedman in Memphis, Tennessee.

Church entered into business in postwar Memphis, but success did not shield him from the violence of Reconstruction. During the 1866 Memphis riot in which white mobs attacked freedmen vigilantes ransacked Church s saloon and shot him Church survived and ...


Alonford James Robinson

Robert Reed Church, Jr., was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Robert Church, who is believed to be the first African American millionaire, and Anna Wright Church. He was the youngest child of the wealthy businessman, and after graduating from Oberlin College in 1904, took a job with a Wall Street bank in New York City. Three years later, he returned to Memphis to work as a cashier in his father's Solvent Savings Bank and Trust, where he was named president in 1909. After his father's death in 1912, Church resigned as president, choosing instead to monitor his father's extensive property holdings throughout Memphis.

Turning to politics, Church founded the Lincoln League in 1916. He became a major contributor and director of the Tennessee Republican Party He was a delegate to eight Republican National Conventions an official on the National Advisory ...


Thomas N. Boschert

politician and businessman, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Robert Reed Church Sr., a banker and businessman, and Anna Sue Wright, a school principal. The wealth and prestige of his father afforded young Church opportunities not available to most African American children of his day. After attending a parochial school in Memphis and Oberlin Academy in Oberlin, Ohio, Church studied at Morgan Park Military Academy in Chicago, Illinois, and then enrolled in the Packard School of Business in New York City. He completed the business course and worked on Wall Street for several years before returning to Memphis in 1909 to help his father in the management of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company and other family enterprises. In 1911 he married Sara Paroda Johnson, a schoolteacher; they had one child.

Church's rise to political power began in 1911 when as a leader ...


Juluette Bartlett Pack

Republican political activist and businessman, was born Wardell Anthony Connerly in Leesville, Louisiana, the son of Roy Connerly and Grace Soniea. Roy Connerly left the family when Ward was two years old, and Ward's mother died when he was four. After the death of his mother, Connerly was sent to live with Bertha Soniea, his maternal aunt and her husband James Louis in Sacramento, California. Later, at the age of twelve, his grandmother, Mary Soniea relocated to Sacramento and gained custody of Ward.

After graduating from Grant Union High School in 1957, Ward Connerly entered American River Junior College that same year. He transferred to Sacramento State College in 1959, one of fifty blacks out of a total of two thousand students. In 1962 he earned a BA degree with honors in Political Science At Sacramento State Connerly became the first black student to pledge ...


La TaSha B. Levy

successful entrepreneur and political activist. Connerly is nationally known for his controversial campaign to prohibit the use of affirmative action in state agencies, employment, and public education.

Wardell Connerly was born in Leesville, Louisiana, and was primarily raised by his grandmother after his mother died when he was five. Connerly describes his racial ancestry as one-quarter French Canadian, three-eighths Irish, one-quarter African, and one-eighth Choctaw. However, he rejects racial categories and prefers to identify himself as simply American.

Connerly graduated from Sacramento State College with a BA in political science in 1962. He was the first black student to become the student body president and the first and only black member of Delta Phi Omega fraternity. Upon graduating from college Connerly worked for the Redevelopment Agency of the City and County of Sacramento, which spawned his interest in housing and real estate. In 1966 Connerly became the ...


Frank Rudolph Crosswaith was born in Fredericksted, Saint Croix, in the Danish West Indies (now the Virgin Islands of the United States), to William I. and Anne Eliza Crosswaith. He was educated at the University Preparatory School in Fredericksted and the Rand School of Social Science in New York. After graduating, he began his career in African American labor relations, becoming known as the “Negro Debs,” because of his similarity to American labor leader Eugene V. Debs.

Crosswaith, a Socialist, sought to ally African American workers with white workers under the banner of class. Thus, he opposed African American leaders who believed in racial alliance alone. In 1934 he helped found and then chaired the Harlem Labor Committee HLC He attempted to align the HLC with the American Federation of Labor AFL which was then seeking African American members This enabled African Americans to integrate ...


Sandra Opdycke

labor leader, was born in Frederiksted, Saint Croix, Virgin Islands, the son of William Ignatius Crosswaith, a painter, and Anne Eliza (maiden name unknown). He left school at thirteen and immigrated in 1910 to the United States, where he joined the U.S. Navy as a mess boy. In 1915 he married Alma E. Besard; they had four children. Settling in New York City, Crosswaith worked as an elevator operator during the day and at night attended the Rand School of Social Science, a socialist educational center.

While at the Rand School, Crosswaith encountered two influences that changed his life: the teachings of the socialist leader Eugene V. Debs and the radical politics of the New Negroes, a group of young African Americans in Harlem who had begun speaking out against the accommodating policies of their elders. Upon his graduation in 1918 Crosswaith began a long career of socialist ...


David Dabydeen

Journeymantailor and prominent leader of the Chartist movement. Cuffay was born in Chatham, Kent. His father, originally from St Kitts, had come to Britain as a roots on a British Warship. Cuffay became a journeyman tailor in his teens, but involvement in the strike by the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1834 resulted in the loss of his job. Angered by this, he joined the movement in support of the People's Charter, advocating universal suffrage. He was militant in his left‐wing views, and in 1839 contributed to the founding of the Metropolitan Tailors' Charter Association. He also became a member of the Masters and Servants Bill Demonstration Committee, which opposed the power given to magistrates to imprison employees for two months based solely on the employer's statements. His involvement in the Chartist movement grew, and in 1842 he was elected the president of the London Chartists He ...


Karen N. Salt

was born in Jamaica to a local black or mixed-race woman, whose name is not recorded, and her white lover. Published records identify the father as the island’s then English attorney general, although this has not been verified by the historical record. Davidson also purportedly claimed to have a Scottish grandfather.

Davidson grew up in Jamaica, but was sent to Scotland at 14 (possibly by his father) to study law. He spent time in Edinburgh before journeying to Liverpool to apprentice with a lawyer. Fleeing this situation, he joined the British Navy. Once discharged, he studied mathematics at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. A few years later, he traveled south to England, staying briefly in Birmingham (and beginning a cabinet-making trade) before traveling to London.

Davidson experienced three major shifts in his life while in London marriage to widower Sarah Lane with whom he would have two sons in ...


Paul A. Frisch

, activist, inventor, and entrepreneur, was born in Virginia. It is unknown whether he was born free or enslaved. Little information about his early life and education is available. He moved to New York City and in 1873 married Henrietta (maiden name unknown), a New Yorker. The couple had no children. Ferrell reported his occupation as engineer, a term commonly used in this era for machinist, stationary engineer, or boiler tender.

During the 1880s Ferrell joined the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, the largest labor union in nineteenth-century America. After a major growth spurt in 1885–1886 the organization counted over 600 000 members The Knights were an inclusive labor organization that enrolled employers and workers excluding only lawyers bankers and liquor peddlers and unlike most such organizations of the period the Knights accepted African American members Ferrell belonged to District Assembly 49 a large politicized union that ...


Eric R. Jackson

was born in 1821 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Isom and Elizabeth Gaines. Neither of his parents had any formal education, but both of them instilled in young John the value and importance of acquiring a formal education as a child. As a result, during the early 1830s young John quickly began his academic career as a student at Lane Theological Seminary, located in the Walnut Hills community of Cincinnati. Mostly founded on the principle of academic freedom, Lane Seminary became a hotbed of antislavery and abolitionist teaching during these years. While at Lane Seminary Gaines also learned much about the system of enslavement, its impact on both African Americans and non–African Americans, as well as mastering his skills as an outstanding orator, which became most important when he moved into the political arena during the late 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s.

Unlike many prominent African American leaders during this time period ...


Mohamed Adhikari

South African trade unionist and political activist, was the only son of David Gomas and Elizabeth Erasmus. John Stephen Gomas was raised in Abbotsdale near Cape Town. After his father abandoned the family, Elizabeth moved with her son to Kimberley in 1911. Here Gomas entered an apprenticeship at a tailor’s workshop in 1915, where his employer, Myer Gordon, a Russian immigrant, introduced him to socialist ideas. In 1919 Gomas joined the International Socialist League, the African National Congress (ANC), and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). Toward the end of that year his participation in a successful clothing workers’ strike transformed the quiet, bookish youth into a vociferous champion for workers’ rights.

In 1920 Gomas moved to Cape Town where he worked privately from home as a tailor He was active in the ICU the ANC and the Tailors Industrial Union Attracted by its militancy and ...


Jennifer Curry

president and CEO of the NAACP and telecommunications executive, was born in Camden, New Jersey, one of five children of Walter Gordon, a school administrator, and Violet, a teacher. His father cofounded and served as secretary-treasurer of the Camden chapter of the NAACP, and starting at the age of eight, Gordon accompanied his father to meetings. Because both of his parents were educators, he aspired to enter the field as well. Gordon attended Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, where he majored in anthropology and sociology (liberal arts and sociology according to some sources), earning his bachelor's degree in 1968.

After meeting with an on-campus recruiter, Gordon accepted a management-trainee post with the local phone company, Bell of Pennsylvania. Completing the training program in 1970, he signed on as a business office manager and stayed with the company until his retirement. On 20 February 1970 Gordon married Genie Alston ...


Ahmed Jdey

Tunisian union and political leader, lecturer, political activist, founder of l’Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT; Tunisian General Labor Union), was born on 2 February 1914 in AlʾAbbassiya, a village in the Kerkennah Islands, off the east coast of Tunisia. His father, Mohamed Hached, was a laborer and a sailor, like most people of that region. His mother was Hana Ben Romdhane. Hached attended primary school in the village of Al Kallabine. In 1922, when he was eight years old, he had learned the basics of Arabic, French, arithmetic, drawing, and writing.

In 1928 Hached finished primary school at the head of his class However because of his family s poverty he was unable to pursue his studies particularly after his father died in the 1930s At that time Hached now an orphan was obliged to work He was only sixteen years old at a time when Tunisia ...


Ahmed Jdey

Tunisian union leader, social militant, founder of the Confédération Générale des Travailleurs Tunisiens (CGTT; General Confederation of Tunisian Workers), was born on 15 October 1890 in El Hamma, a village in the region of Gabès, in southern Tunisia. The names of his parents are not known. When he was six years old, his mother died and he moved with his father to Tunis. Al-Hammi was able to attend the quranic school of Tunis. Their life became increasingly difficult in the absence of stable income and shelter. They moved frequently and worked at any paying jobs they could find. Al-Hammi, frail and gifted with a rare intelligence, began his working life in the central market of Tunis. He worked to obtain a driver’s license and became the chauffeur of the Hungarian consul at Tunis.

The period 1911–1920 was essential in al Hammi s political social labor union and intellectual life ...


Linda Przybyszewski

businessman and politician, was born a slave in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, the son of a slave woman of mixed race. His father was reputedly his owner, James Harlan (1800–1863), a white lawyer, Kentucky politician, and the father of the first justice John Marshall Harlan (1833–1911). However, modern DNA analysis of male descendants from both families revealed no match. While still young, Robert Harlan arrived in Kentucky, where he began attending the public schools that were closed to black children. It seems that the boy's mixed-race heritage was not readily apparent, but he was expelled when the authorities learned of it. He continued his education at home, where James Harlan's older sons tutored him in their lessons despite his status as one of several slaves owned by James Harlan.

Robert Harlan began his business career as either a barber or a shopkeeper in Harrodsburg Kentucky He ...


Kerry Pimblott

politician and trade unionist, was born in Cairo, Illinois, the eldest son of Nevada Bell and Charles Hayes Sr., the latter a farm laborer. Charles Arthur Hayes spent his formative years in Cairo, graduating from that city's Sumner High School in 1935.

After high school, Hayes took a job stacking lumber at E. L. Bruce Company, a leading manufacturer of hardwood flooring. Hayes quickly rose to the more skilled position of machine operator and became active in efforts to organize a union. In 1939, these efforts resulted in the founding of Local 1424 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. A few months later, Hayes was elected president, marking the beginning of a long career as a labor organizer.

During World War II, Hayes, like thousands of African Americans, migrated north to Chicago in search of better employment opportunities. In 1942 Hayes ...