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Peter Valenti

baseball player and executive, was born Henry Aaron in the Down the Bay section of Mobile, Alabama, the third of eight children of Herbert Aaron and Estella (maiden name unknown). His parents had left the Selma, Alabama, area during the Depression for greater opportunity in Mobile's shipbuilding industries. In 1942, as the family grew and Down the Bay became more crowded with wartime job seekers, the Aarons moved to a rural suburb of Toulminville. Working as a boilermaker's apprentice, Herbert Aaron suffered through the frequent layoffs that plagued black shipyard workers before wartime demand dictated full employment. Ever resourceful, Herbert Aaron bought two lots in Toulminville, hired carpenters to frame out the roof and walls of a house, and set about with his family to find materials to finish the property. The Aarons continued to live in the house even as Henry achieved superstardom.

Making balls from such scavenged ...

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Paul Finkelman

baseball player, baseball executive, civil rights advocate, and businessman. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Herbert and Estella Aaron. He was a member of the second generation of black baseball players to enter the major leagues following Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color line in professional baseball in 1947. Aaron began playing for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954; at about the same time Willie Mays joined the New York Giants and Ernie Banks joined the Chicago Cubs. They were among the last black players who began their careers in the Negro Leagues. In 1974 Aaron broke Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record of 714. When he retired from baseball in 1976 after twenty three seasons Aaron held the career records for most home runs 755 most runs batted in 2 297 most total bases ...

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Cajetan N. Iheka

Nigerian entrepreneur, philanthropist, politician, and publisher, was born on 24 August 1937 in the southwestern town of Egba, Abeokuta, in the present-day Ogun State, to Alhaji Salawu Adelekan Akanni Abiola and Zeliat Wuraola Ayinke Abiola (née Kassim). Although Abiola was the twenty-third child of his parents, he was their first surviving child as his older siblings had died at infancy or were stillborn. Because of several deaths that had plagued the family, Abiola was named “Kashimawo,” meaning “Let us wait and see.” It was not until his fifteenth birthday that his parents gave him a regular name, Moshood, having been convinced that the young Abiola had come to stay.

Although he was born and raised in a poor family the young Abiola exhibited some entrepreneurial tendencies when he started gathering and selling firewood at the tender age of nine With the proceeds from his business he was able to support ...

Article

Ayesha Kanji

entrepreneur, author, and inspirational speaker, was born Wallace Amos Jr. in Tallahassee, Florida, to Ruby (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker, and Wallace Amos a laborer at the local gasoline plant Hard work discipline and religion were the cornerstones of Wally s strict childhood The Christian faith was important to his parents and they took him to church regularly By the age of eight Wally had learned all the books of the Bible In their tight knit black community Friday nights were reserved for community dinners where hearty southern fare was served fried chicken potato salad black eyed peas and collard greens Schooling options for black children were less abundant however so Ruby and several of her Methodist church members started a school which Wally began attending at age ten Wally s entrepreneurial spirit surfaced in his childhood when he started a roving shoeshine stand and ...

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Oluwatoyin Babatunde Oduntan

Nigerian trade unionist, nationalist, and political leader, was born in Ikenne, Western Nigeria on 6 March 1909. He survived a difficult childhood following the death of his father in 1920 and the breakup of his family and completed schooling by fending for himself. Awolowo worked as a house-help, fetched firewood for sale, apprenticed as a letter writer, and worked as a typist and clerk, teacher, news reporter, contractor, transporter, and produce buyer on the way to studying for a law degree at the University of London between 1944 and 1946. Through this harsh experience, he developed self-reliance and confidence, a fearless and defiant attitude to authority, as well as skills as a community and labor organizer, qualities that were to serve him in good stead as he thrust into the stormy politics of colonial Nigeria.

The 1930s mark the high point of colonial rule in Nigeria British ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

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Monica Berger

singer, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Barnwell, South Carolina, to Joe Brown (né Gardner), a turpentine worker, and Susan Behlings, James Brown experienced extreme poverty in early childhood. His mother left the family when Brown was four. When he was six, he was sent to Augusta, Georgia, to live with an aunt who ran a brothel. In addition to picking cotton and shining shoes, the young Brown earned money by tap-dancing for World War II troops and by singing in talent contests.

As a teenager Brown broke into a car to steal a coat and was sentenced to eight to sixteen years in prison. He served three years and was released in 1953. He then sang in a doo-wop and gospel ensemble headed by Bobby Byrd Brown soon emerged as the lead singer and the band the Fabulous Flames wowed audiences with their dancing ...

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Julian C. Madison

athlete, actor, civic activist. Jim Brown is generally recognized as the greatest football player and the greatest lacrosse player of all time. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 228 pounds, and with a 32-inch waist, Brown combined great speed with a powerful running style and fearsome stiff-arm to terrorize National Football League (NFL) defenders for nine years. The only person in history voted into three halls of fame (college football, college lacrosse, and the NFL), Brown is arguably the greatest athlete of the twentieth century.

James Nathaniel Brown was born on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Swinton “Sweet Sue” and Theresa Brown Swinton Brown left his family barely two weeks after his son was born and they rarely heard from him afterward When Jim was two his mother left him in the care of his great grandmother and moved to Great Neck Long Island where ...

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Ronald Walters

Democratic Party activist and cabinet secretary, was born Ronald Harmon Brown at Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., the son of William Brown, who worked for the Federal Housing and Home Finance Agency, and Gloria Elexine Carter. The Browns moved to Harlem, New York, in 1947, and Ron grew up in the famed Theresa Hotel, where his father was manager. Joe Louis was a frequent guest, and gave young Ron the nickname “Little Brown.” Ron showed his entrepreneurial skills at an early age by getting autographs of Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and other celebrity guests at the Theresa and selling them for five dollars each to his friends His parents both graduates of Howard University set Ron on a solid path to join the black middle class which became in many ways the social network that would make possible many of his achievements As a child he ...

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Michele Valerie Ronnick

Latinphilologist, school administrator, and educational reformer, was born in Greenville, South Carolina, to Vincent Henry Bulkley and his wife Madora, freeborn African Americans. He was the couple's firstborn son, and as a child he saw his father make important contributions to the establishment of Claflin University in 1869 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He matriculated at Claflin in 1878 and graduated four years later on 6 June 1882. The school's catalog for the academic year 1881–1882 lists him as the only member of the senior class, and he and Nathaniel Middleton were among the first students that Claflin's college program produced. Prior to graduation he taught Greek, Latin, and German at his alma mater, and from 1886 to 1899 he held the title of professor. He served as secretary of Claflin's faculty in 1895, and from 1896 to 1899 was the school's vice president.

In ...

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Ulrich Adelt

rap artist and entrepreneur, was born in Miami Beach, Florida. His father, Stanley Campbell, who emigrated from Jamaica, was a janitor, and his mother, Yvonne Campbell, worked as a beautician. Campbell grew up in the impoverished Liberty City area of Miami and had to share a bedroom with his four brothers. Although his family was relatively stable and able to send his three older brothers to college, Campbell had to learn to survive in a dangerous environment. In a gang-related incident in Campbell's neighborhood, for instance, a fourteen-year-old male shot to death his best friend in 1986. Campbell developed his entrepreneurial skills early on by selling ice cream and lemonade from his mother's kitchen to children from the neighborhood. He went to predominantly white schools on football scholarships and started disc-jockeying for school dances.

Before Campbell became a member of the rap group 2 Live Crew in ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

naturalist, agricultural chemurgist, and educator. With arguably the most recognized name among black people in American history, George Washington Carver's image is due in part to his exceptional character, mission, and achievements; in part to the story he wanted told; and in part to the innumerable books, articles, hagiographies, exhibits, trade fairs, memorials, plays, and musicals that have made him a symbol of rags-to-riches American enterprise. His image has been used for postage stamps, his name has been inscribed on bridges and a nuclear submarine, and he even has his own day (5 January), designated by the United States Congress in 1946.

Thanks in large part to Linda O. McMurry's 1981 book, George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol it is now possible to separate legend from fact and discover the remarkable child youth and man behind the peanut McMurry concludes that Carver ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

singer, songwriter, producer, and leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the eldest of Julia Keaton's nine children. His father's name is unknown, but Clinton had moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, by the time he was a teenager. While straightening hair at a local barbershop, Clinton began singing doo-wop in the back room with a group called the Parliaments. Formed in 1955, they modeled themselves after the hit makers Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and they spent the next decade on the competitive R&B circuit. Although they recorded sparingly during this period, the group's repeated trips to Detroit helped Clinton establish himself as a producer and songwriter with the Motown Records subsidiary Jobete. In 1964 the Parliaments themselves signed with Motown, but it was for Revilot Records that the group scored an R&B hit in 1967 with the gospel-drenched “(I Wanna) Testify,” sung by Clinton.In the ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

businessman, was born a slave in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, the son of Rufus C. Barringer, a white lawyer and politician, and Roxanna Coleman. Little is known about his parents, but as a youngster he learned the shoemaker's trade and also barbering. After the Civil War he briefly attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., hawking jewelry to pay for his board and room. He also worked as an itinerant salesman in North Carolina. Coleman saved his earnings and in 1869 he purchased a 130-acre farm in Cabarrus County, paying $600 for the well-timbered land. In 1870 he was listed in the census as the proprietor of a small grocery store in the town of Concord North Carolina with a total estate of $800 in real and personal property During the same period he also began purchasing low priced rental houses in and around Concord paying between $125 ...

Article

Robert Fay

At his death on September 9, 1817 Paul Cuffe had a rich life upon which to reflect He and his wife Alice had seven children His several family run businesses had earned assets worth an estimated $20 000 making him the wealthiest man in Westport Massachusetts and the wealthiest black man in the United States News of his death reached the other side of the Atlantic illustrating how far his fame and influence had spread Yet his life of accomplishment had not eliminated the racial discrimination that was built into American society ironically following his funeral at the South Friends Meeting House which his financial support had helped to build Cuffe was buried in a remote cemetery corner far away from the white Quakers Despite the material successes of his life he had not attained the goal that came to dominate his life the mass emigration of American blacks ...

Article

Donald R. Wright

Atlantic trader and early African colonizationist, was born on Cuttyhunk Island off southern Massachusetts, one of ten children of Kofi (later Cuffe) Slocum, a freed slave originally from West Africa's Gold Coast, and Ruth Moses Slocum, a Wampanoag Native American, both farmers. Kofi Slocum's Quaker master freed him in the mid-1740s and, although he was excluded by race from membership in the Society of Friends, Kofi and Ruth Slocum lived by Quaker principles—hard work, frugality, and honesty. This diligence paid off in the 1766 purchase of a 116-acre farm in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on Buzzard's Bay. At his death in 1772 Kofi bequeathed the farm to his sons Paul and John.

Taking his father s African name Cuffe and respecting his dual Native American and African American identity the self educated Cuffe sought his fortune at sea Whaling was open to men of any race so Paul worked on Atlantic ...

Article

Scott A. Miltenberger

Paul Cuffe was born as Paul Slocum on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, the seventh child of the freed African slave Kofi and the Wampanoag Indian woman Ruth Moses. A member of the West African Ashanti tribe, Kofi had been a slave for fifteen years before the wealthy and influential Quaker John Slocum freed him. In the 1740s, spurred by the preaching of the Quaker prophet John Woolman, the Society of Friends began to question the institution of slavery. Many Quakers throughout the Eastern Seaboard started freeing their slaves and organizing in opposition to the institution. Paul Cuffe's African heritage and his experiences with Friends would decisively shape his life.

In 1746 the freed Kofi took the name Cuffe Slocum and married Moses. They moved to Cuttyhunk, where Slocum became quite prosperous. By 1766 he had earned enough money to purchase 116 acres of farmland on the continent at Dartmouth ...

Article

Dr. Dre  

Daniel Douglas

pioneering rap artist and producer and successful entrepreneur. Born Andréé Romell Young, Dr. Dre became prominent with the rap group The World Class Wreckin Cru, working shows and parties in Los Angeles. In 1986 he teamed with Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson) and Eazy-E (Eric Lynn Wright) to form the groundbreaking group NWA (Niggaz with Attitude), releasing their first album in 1987 and subsequent records in 1990 and 1991 Dr Dre was the producer on all three albums his unique style of G funk beats became a trademark that outlasted the group All of NWA s albums went on to achieve platinum status denoting 2 million unit sales despite a lack of support from MTV and most mainstream radio stations The group was one of the first of a new genre that came to be known as gangsta rap This particular style of rap came ...

Article

Richard C. Lindberg

explorer and merchant, was born in San Marc, Haiti, the son of a slave woman (name unknown) and Dandonneau (first name unknown), scion of a prominent French Canadian family active in the North American fur trade. Surviving historical journals record the name of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (Pointe au Sable by some accounts), a Haitian of mixed-race ancestry, as the first permanent settler of Chicago. In her 1856 memoir of frontier life in the emerging Northwest Territory, Juliette Kinzie, the wife of the fur trader John Kinzie makes note of the fact that the first white man who settled here was a Negro Several of the voyageurs and commercial men who regularly traversed the shores of southern Lake Michigan in the last decade of the eighteenth century kept accurate records of their encounters in journals and ledger books One such entry describes du Sable as a ...

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Reid Badger

music administrator, conductor, and composer, was born in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Henry J. Europe, an Internal Revenue Service employee and Baptist minister, and Lorraine Saxon. Following the loss of his position with the Port of Mobile at the end of the Reconstruction, Europe's father moved his family to Washington, D.C., in 1890 to accept a position with the U.S. Postal Service. Both of Europe's parents were musical, as were some of his siblings. Europe attended the elite M Street High School for blacks and studied violin, piano, and composition with Enrico Hurlei of the U.S. Marine Corps band and with Joseph Douglass, the grandson of Frederick Douglass.

Following the death of his father in 1900 Europe moved to New York City There he became associated with many of the leading figures in black musical theater which was then emerging from the ...