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Brenna Sanchez

classical singer, author, gay rights activist, and former literary assistant to writer Langston Hughes, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Abdul's father, Hamid Abdul, was from Calcutta, India, and his mother, Bernice (Shreve) Abdul, was able to trace her ancestry back to the pre-Revolutionary War era. Abdul got his start in theater at a young age, participating in children's theater by age six. He attended John Hay High School and, after graduation, worked as a journalist for the Cleveland Call and Post. He would later go on to earn a diploma from the Vienna Academy of Music in 1962. He also studied at Harvard University, the New School for Social Research, the Cleveland Institute of Music, New York College of Music, and the Mannes College of Music.

In 1951 at age twenty two Abdul relocated to New York City There he began studying music and was ...


Donna Battle Pierce

was born Freda Celeste Alexander to Frederick Alexander, a steward for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad Company and Eleanor Alexander, originally from Massachusetts, a nurse. She was the younger of two daughters. The much-traveled Alexander family considered Topeka home base at the time of DeKnight’s birth.

Because their mother performed traveling nurse duties at the time their father died, both sisters moved with their aunt to Mitchell, South Dakota, home to the state’s elaborate Corn Palace. They lived with their mother’s brother, Paul Scott, a regionally celebrated caterer, and his Mississippi-born wife, Mamie, whom the girls grew to call Mama Scott.

DeKnight credits growing up in Papa and Mama Scott’s hard-working, food-oriented household, where most ingredients were sourced from their farmland and smokehouse, as the prime inspiration for her recipe-centered future.

Due to the small population of Black students growing up in South Dakota during the early decades ...


Onita Estes-Hicks

secretary and administrative assistant, civil rights worker, researcher, and writer, was born Ethel Ray in Duluth, Minnesota, the youngest of four children of a racially mixed couple, William Henry Ray, a black man from North Carolina, and Inga Nordquist, a Swedish immigrant. Inga and William met and married in Minneapolis in the 1880s, settling in segregated Duluth in 1889 in an immigrant neighborhood In a city with less than two hundred African American residents the Rays faced hostility from their white neighbors prompting resistance from the defiant and proud William Henry Ray who kept his hunting rifle loaded for self defense William fortified Ethel and her siblings against racism with stark tales of racial oppression and heroic resistance he had witnessed in Raleigh where his parents and their neighbors took up guns to protect northern teachers who had come South to educate blacks ...


Andrew Sylvester

supercentenarian, was born Emmaline Fanchon May Faust in Sedalia, Guilford County, North Carolina. For a brief period before her death she was the oldest living person in the world. She was the youngest of twenty-three children born to former slaves Alphonso and Martha Faust. Her father worked as a laborer on a farm. In order to escape segregation and dwindling economic and political rights in the Jim Crow South, the Faust family moved to a farm on Hebron Avenue in Glastonbury, Connecticut, in 1900 When she was nine years old Emma s mother taught her how to cook Soon after learning how to cook Emma began working for the Williams family She would go to cook them breakfast before school and then walk the Williams children to school At the age of thirteen Emma was christened at the First Church of Christ Congregational on Main Street ...


Kelli Cardenas Walsh

military officer, was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Waddy was raised by her maternal grandmother after the death of her mother; her father raised her only sibling, a brother, separately. Waddy had no further contact with her father but did occasionally correspond with her brother. When she was fourteen years old, Waddy wrote a letter to her grandmother that read, “I intend to make something of myself.”

In 1920Waddy attended Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science in Manhattan, Kansas, for at least two years, earning a degree in secretarial skills. Waddy was married during this time, but it was quickly annulled for unknown reasons. In the 1930s she moved to Chicago and worked as a secretary to the director of medical services at Provident Hospital. It was there that she met orthopedic surgeon John Chenault; Waddy and Chenault were married on 4 November 1933 ...