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John F. Marzalek

Alexander was born in Helena, Arkansas, the son of slave parents. Details of his early life are unknown, but in 1882 he enrolled as a freshman at Ohio's Oberlin College. He did well academically and was described by one of his professors as having “very rare ability as a student.” In May 1883 he was offered an appointment as alternate to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, from the 14th Congressional District of Ohio. He made the highest score on the academic part of the examination but was made an alternate because another candidate—the son of Chief Justice Morrison Waite scored better on the physical Friends who were skeptical of the military medical evaluation felt that Alexander was pigeon breasted they held parties in Oberlin and Cleveland raising enough money to send him to West Point anyway When the young Waite failed his entrance examination ...

Article

Charles Vincent

Antoine was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1836. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812; he had fought the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Antoine's mother was a native of the West Indies and the daughter of an African chief; her parents were taken as slaves from the shores of Africa. On his father's side (so the story goes), Antoine's grandmother Rose Antoine was a remarkable woman who purchased her freedom and acquired a small fortune through her work as a midwife.

Caesar C. Antoine spent his childhood in New Orleans and attended private schools. He was fluent in both French and English. After graduating, he entered one of the few occupations open to African Americans in the antebellum South: the barber trade. After federal troops captured Baton Rouge in 1862 Antoine organized a black company known subsequently as Company ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, a predominantly black community, one of twelve children of Tecora and Alexander Arbor. He had two sisters and nine brothers, and his ancestors had received land in the area when slavery ended. Outgoing, humorous, and loquacious by nature, Arbor possessed a typically rural southern sense of place. During an oral history interview in the mid‐1980s, he described Cotton Plant as, “A little place that only me and the Good Lord knows [with a population of] 1,661 up until the day I left, and there's never been that many since.” Like his siblings, Arbor received a private school education. During his years in Arkansas he attended Arkadelphia–Cotton Plant Academy. Around 1930 the family left the farm area and moved to Chicago as part of a northerly migration of blacks seeking employment opportunities Arbor s father worked as a carpenter ...

Article

Jeffery Othele Mahan

soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Manuel Caldera and Beulah Baker. After the deaths of his parents, Vernon and his sisters, Irma and Katherine, were raised by their maternal grandparents, Joseph Samuel Baker, a retired brakeman for the Union Pacific Railroad, and Dora Lucas. Although his grandparents never officially adopted him, Vernon took the surname Baker and did not know his original surname until later in life. Baker was educated at various elementary and secondary schools, including two years at Father Flanagan's Boys Home in Omaha, Nebraska. Baker finally earned his high school diploma at Clarinda, Iowa, in 1939.

After graduation, Baker returned to Cheyenne, where he found work at the army depot at night doing maintenance, repair, and cleaning jobs. Baker was rejected on his first attempt to join the army. Finally in June 1942 he enlisted and was ...

Article

Kerry Dexter

singer and actor, was born Charles Leon Arthello Bibb in Louisville, Kentucky. His father, also Leon Bibb, worked as a mail carrier and his mother, Elizabeth (McCloskey) Bibb, was a homemaker, although she sometimes assisted her mother, a domestic servant. Bibb's grandparents were born in slavery, and his forbears worked as slaves on vegetable plantations in western Kentucky. When he was a young child Bibb's aunt taught him spirituals, some of which he continued to sing throughout his career. His aunt recognized his vocal talent early, and she gave him a vision beyond the heavily segregated world of the South of the 1920s and 1930s by telling the young Bibb about Roland Hayes a black concert singer who moved to Europe when he could not find career opportunities in the United States because of his race and later returned to perform at Carnegie Hall Bibb continued to ...

Article

Charles Johnson

Born on September 12, 1840, in Troy, New York, Frazier Augustus Boutelle was the son of James Boutelle from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and Emeline Lamb Boutelle. He began his army career in 1861, the year the Civil War began, as a member of the Ira Harris Cavalry, subsequently designated the 5th New York Cavalry Regiment. After serving as quartermaster sergeant, he was commissioned a second lieutenant on November 5, 1862. Participating in the Gettysburg campaign, Boutelle was injured on June 30, 1863, when he fell from his horse during a charge at Hanover, Pennsylvania. Consequently, he was assigned to First Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division, on January 17, 1864, as an ambulance officer. Boutelle did not return to his regiment until he reenlisted in the army in 1864 and he remained with the regiment until he was discharged with the rank of captain on ...

Article

Charles Edward Wiles

first black marine officer and distinguished educator, was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, the son of a Methodist minister. Little is known of his parents or his early education, but he was educated in New York state public schools and attended Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until he was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 Branch completed basic training at the segregated Marine Corp Recruit Depot for black recruits known as Montford Point located on a desolate portion of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina Following basic training Branch served overseas as part of the Fifty first Defense Battalion a supply unit stationed on a Pacific island near the International Dateline While in the Pacific Branch applied to the navy s V 12 commissioning program for college draftees and was accepted After participating in the V 12 program he attended the Sixteenth Platoon Leaders Class at the Marine ...

Article

Charles Johnson

Born on November 25, 1861, in Port Royal, Virginia, to William and Elizabeth Hall Brooks, Arthur Brooks arrived in the District of Columbia at an early age. He was later employed as a laborer until he applied for employment in the federal government. Brooks served in several positions, but the most significant was as the custodian for the White House. Simultaneously, he was actively involved in military activities.

Enlisting in the National Guard, Brooks began his military career his in the Washington Cadet Corps under Captain Christian A. Fleetwood. Serving as a first lieutenant in Company A, he was promoted to captain when his company was reorganized into the Sixth Battalion of the District of Columbia Militia on July 2, 1887. This battalion was redesignated as the Seventh Battalion on April 22, 1889, and again as the First Separate Battalion in 1891 Brooks ...

Article

Frank N. Schubert

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, C. Thomas Butler studied for the priesthood at a Jesuit college in Annapolis but went to sea before completing his preparation. After an 1887 shipwreck off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, he enlisted in the Ninth Cavalry and served with that unit at Fort McKinney, Wyoming, and Fort Robinson, Nebraska. During the federal campaign against the Sioux in 1890 and 1891, Butler participated in the rescue of the Seventh Cavalry from the Sioux at Drexel Mission on the Pine Ridge reservation. In 1895 he transferred to the Twenty-fifth Infantry, then in Montana, and remained in that regiment through the Cuban campaign of the Spanish-American War in 1898.

During the battle for Santiago, Cuba, on July 1, 1898 the Twenty fifth Infantry attacked the Spanish garrison on El Caney a key hill northeast of the city After a hard fight the black infantrymen ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the eighth of eleven children of Edward L. Cooper, a sheet metal worker, and Laura J. Cooper a homemaker One of the eleven siblings died in infancy the remaining ten became college graduates During his upbringing in North Carolina Cooper often faced the tribulations of southern racism He went to segregated schools and learned from his parents that he had to go out of his way to avoid conflict with whites Once when Cooper was eight or nine years old he got into a fight with a white boy As he put it It was the wrong day for him to call me a nigger and we had it out Stillwell 76 Cooper s father had to smooth things over with the boy s father to avoid the incident s escalation When he worked as a bellhop in ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

World War II coastguardsman and medal winner, was born and raised in New York, possibly in the borough of Manhattan. Nothing is known of David's early life.

While it is uncertain whether Charles David Jr. joined the coast guard prior to the war, or after the attack on Pearl Harbor, his rating at the time of his death suggests that he voluntarily enlisted late in 1941 or early 1942. By late 1942 David had joined the crew of the coast guard cutter Comanche a 165 foot long vessel that carried a crew of about six officers and sixty enlisted men As an African American David was assigned the only rating that blacks were allowed to hold at the time that of steward s mate with promotion available to steward It was the job of the stewards and stewards mates to serve the ship s officers help to prepare ...

Article

Tanu T. Henry

was born Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. in Washington, D.C., the son of the U.S. army's first black general, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., and his wife, Elnora Dickerson. Davis spent most of his childhood living on different military bases. By the time he entered high school, his family had settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended a predominantly white school. At his high school, he began to prove his leadership ability, winning elections for class president. After high school, he enrolled in Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University and later the University of Chicago, before he was accepted in 1932, through the influence of the congressman Oscar DePriest, into the United States Military Academy at West Point.

At West Point, which discouraged black cadets from applying at the time, Davis faced a hostile environment and routine exclusion by his peers His classmates shunned him and only talked ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

U.S.Army officer, was born Benjamin Oliver Davis in Washington, D.C., the youngest of three children of Louis Patrick Henry Davis, a messenger for the U.S. Department of the Interior, and Henrietta Stewart, a nurse. Benjamin attended the Lucretia Mott School, one of Washington's few integrated schools, and then the segregated M Street High School. Impressed in his interactions with Civil War veterans and black cavalrymen, Benjamin joined the M Street Cadet Corps, earning a commission in the all-black unit of the National Guard for his senior year.

Although he had taken courses at Howard University during his senior year of high school, and despite his parent's objections, Davis chose a military career over college. He enlisted during the Spanish-American War in 1898 and joined the all black Eighth U S Volunteer Infantry in Chickamauga Georgia A year later Davis reenlisted in the regular army He served ...

Article

Joann Buckley and W. Douglas Fisher

National Guard Brigadier General, regimental surgeon, and US Army Captain,was one of seven children born to Levi and Rebecca Gill Dawson in Athens, Georgia.

Dawson's father was a barber and his mother a seamstress, hardworking people who believed in the value of education. Julian and his siblings attended the local public school. He was not the only child to star in his chosen field. His brother William graduated from Fisk University in Nashville and then law school at Northwestern University. William Dawson practiced law in Chicago before ultimately serving in the US House of Representatives from 1943 until his death in 1970.

After his own graduation from Fisk about 1910, Julian graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1914. He then entered general practice in Illinois at Jacksonville and then Galesburg.

Dawson joined the Medical Officers Reserve Corps, US Army, in 1916 and ...

Article

Steven Leikin

diplomat, preacher, and author, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Sallie Montgomery. Nothing is known of his biological father. His mother, however, was an African American, and Dennis was of mixed race parentage. In 1897 he was adopted by Green Dennis, a contractor, and Cornelia Walker. During his youth Dennis was known as the “mulatto child evangelist,” and he preached to church congregations in the African American community of Atlanta before he was five years old. By the age of fifteen he had toured churches throughout the United States and England and addressed hundreds of thousands of people.

Despite his success as an evangelist Dennis had ambitions to move beyond this evangelical milieu. In 1913, unschooled but unquestionably bright, he applied to Phillips Exeter Academy and gained admission. He graduated within two years and in 1915 entered Harvard.

Dennis s decisions to ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

World War II coastguardsman and medal award winner, is a man about whom little personal information is known. A native of Attalla, Alabama, he entered the coast guard at Baltimore, Maryland, on 12 July 1941. Like all African Americans who joined the coast guard at this time DeYampert was assigned the rating of mess attendant (a designation changed during the early war years to steward's mate and steward), which meant that his job was to serve a ship's officers their meals and to take care of their quarters and other personal chores. Demeaning as such work might be, the steward's rating was at the time DeYampert's only available option. By the end of World War II things would change, but only to a small degree; of the just over five thousand African Americans who served in the coast guard during the war years, 63 percent served as stewards.

DeYampert ...

Article

J. Todd Moye

member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, was born in the Bronx, New York City, the son of Charles Levy Tucker Dryden, a World War I veteran and teacher, and Violet Adina Buckley, also a teacher. Dryden was raised in a loving, disciplined home among a large extended family. He was taught, he wrote in his 1997 autobiography, to “love and serve God, obey your parents, be loyal to your family, and get a good education”—in that order (7). But what Dryden most wanted to do, from a very early age, was fly.

As a two-year-old, Dryden tore strips of paper, threw them in the air, and shouted “Air'pwane! Air'pwane!” He built meticulously detailed model airplanes and read aviation pulp magazines as a youth. Like others of his generation he idolized Charles Lindbergh and the other aviation heroes of the 1920s and 1930s Everyone on the block ...

Article

J. Deborah Johnson Sterrett

painter and sculptor, was born on a small farm just outside Kansas City, Kansas, the second of five children of Ed Dwight Sr., a professional baseball player with the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs, and Georgia Baker, a devout Catholic, who took on the primary care of the children. The family moved into Kansas City when Dwight was ten years old and his mother opened a restaurant. The children worked alongside her. Dwight was a precocious child who displayed his artistic talent from age two, drawing cartoon characters and painting throughout his childhood. He began making signs for his mother's restaurant. When he was fourteen years old, he opened his first lucrative business, a sign shop that served retail establishments and area churches.

Dwight attended Catholic schools and graduated from Bishop Ward High School in 1951, and he joined the air force in 1953. In 1955 ...

Article

Maureen Honey

commander of the only African American unit of the Women's Army Corps stationed in Europe during World War II, was born Charity Edna Adams, the eldest of four children. She was raised in Columbia, South Carolina, where her father was a minister in the African Episcopal Methodist Church. Her mother was a former teacher.

Adams graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia as valedictorian of her senior class and then from Wilberforce University in Ohio, one of the top three black colleges in the nation in the 1930s. She majored in Math and Physics and graduated in 1938. After returning to Columbia, where she taught junior high school mathematics for four years, Adams enrolled in the MA program for vocational psychology at Ohio State University, pursuing her degree during the summers.

As a member of the military's Advisory Council to the Women's Interests Section (ACWIS), Mary ...

Article

Pamala S. Deane

radio, stage, and screen actor, was born in Muncie, Indiana, and raised in Hammond and, later, Anderson, Indiana. He was the eldest of nine children born to James Valley Edwards, a laborer, and Anna M. Johnson, a domestic (she would earn a degree in theology in 1949). He graduated from Anderson High School, and after a brief career as a prizefighter, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Knoxville College in Tennessee in 1938. He was employed for a time in the department of industrial personnel at the Calumet Steel Mill and also worked for two years as a district representative for the War Production Board.

Edwards either enlisted or was drafted (his service records were later lost in a fire) in the U.S. Army sometime around 1944 starting as a private in the all black 92nd Infantry Division of the 370th ...