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Ralph E. Luker

writer and anthropologist, was born Zora Lee Hurston in Notasulga, Alabama, the daughter of John Hurston, a Baptist minister and carpenter, and Lucy Ann Potts. John Hurston's family were Alabama tenant farmers until he moved to Eatonville, Florida, the first African American town incorporated in the United States. He served three terms as its mayor and is said to have written Eatonville's ordinances. Zora Neale Hurston studied at its Hungerford School, where followers of Booker T. Washington taught both elementary academic skills and self-reliance. Growing up in an exclusively black community gave her a unique background that informed and inspired much of her later work.Much of the chronological detail of Hurston's early life is obscured by the fact that she later claimed birth dates that varied from 1898 to 1903. Most often she cited 1901 as her birth year, but the census of 1900 lists ...


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 ...


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.


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 ...


Robbie Clark

Julianne Malveaux refers to herself as the “Mad Economist” because, she says, “you’ve got to be either angry or crazy…to interpret economic data and keep a level head. Some days I want to scream at the bifurcation and trifurcation in this country, the double standards and triple meanings, the way that the rich get richer, the poor, poorer and the rest of us more complacent.”

Recognized for her witty, insightful, and passionate commentary on economic and political issues, Malveaux is known as one of the nation’s most intellectually progressive economists, authors, lecturers, syndicated columnists, and civic leaders. Her voice demands attention as she argues some of America’s most complex social and economic issues with fierceness, conviction and humor. Cornel West described her as “the most provocative, progressive and iconoclastic public intellectual in the country.”

The oldest of five children, Malveaux was born in San Francisco, California, to Warren Malveaux ...


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 ...


David F. Smydra

writer, was born Ishmael Scott Reed in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Thelma Coleman, a saleswoman. Coleman never married Reed's natural father, Henry Lenoir, a fund-raiser for the YMCA, but before 1943 she married an-autoworker, Bennie Reed, whose surname Ishmael-received. (Ishmael has seven half siblings.) Coleman moved with her son Ishmael to Buffalo, New York, in 1942, where Reed attended two different high schools before graduating in 1956. His mother's memoir Black Girl From Tannery Flats detailed her life growing up in segregated Chattanooga Tennessee during the 1930s, and being part of the 1940s migration to the north.

Reed made his initial forays into journalism by writing a jazz column in a local black newspaper, the Empire Star while still a teenager He began his college studies in night school at the University of Buffalo called Millard Fillmore College but ascended to the more rigorous ...


Gary Kerley

conservative economist, political writer, and educator, was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, to Willie (maiden name unknown), a domestic, and Henry Sowell, who died before his son's birth. Because they already had four other children, Thomas's parents, even before he was born, asked for help in rearing the baby. Henry turned to his aunt, Molly Sowell, who was sixty; she and her husband named the baby Thomas Hancock Sowell, nicknamed “Buddy,” and raised him as their own. Willie Sowell died a few years later in childbirth and Sowell did not know until he was an adult that his aunt and uncle were not his real parents He was a fourth grader when in the 1930s the family moved to Harlem New York where Sowell grew up and attended the prestigious Stuyvesant High School He dropped out in the tenth grade to go to ...