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Sadie Mossell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a prominent black Philadelphia family. Her father, Aaron Mossell, was the first African American to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Her grandfather, Benjamin Tucker Tanner Tanner, edited the first black scholarly journal in the United States, the A.M.E. Church Review.

Mossell received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1921. She worked as an actuary in North Carolina, then left to marry Raymond Pace Alexander, a graduate of Harvard Law School. With her husband's encouragement, she returned to the University of Pennsylvania, earning her law degree in 1927. The two entered law practice together. Their civil rights work began in 1935 when husband and wife fought to end racial segregation in Philadelphia The Alexanders visited segregated city theaters hotels and restaurants to demand rightful admittance under law and agitated for ...

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Nancy Elizabeth Fitch

Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell (03 January 1898–01 November 1989), economist and lawyer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Aaron Mossell, an attorney and the first black graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Mary Tanner. While a young girl her father abandoned the family, and she was raised by her mother with the assistance of relatives.

Alexander received her degrees from the University of Pennsylvania With her Ph D in economics awarded in 1921 she became the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in economics and among the first three African American women to receive a doctorate in any field in the United States Her doctoral dissertation The Standard of Living among One Hundred Negro Migrant Families in Philadelphia was a thorough social survey investigating spending patterns from 1916 to 1918 of African American migrant families newly arrived from the South ...

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Lia B. Epperson

attorney and civil rights activist, was born Sadie Tanner Mossell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three children of Aaron Albert Mossell Jr., an attorney, and Mary Louise Tanner. In 1899 Mossell's father deserted the family and fled to Wales. During elementary school Sadie and her mother divided their time between Mossell's grandparents' home in Philadelphia and an aunt and uncle's home on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. When her mother returned to Pennsylvania, Mossell remained under the care of her aunt and uncle in Washington until she graduated from M Street High School.

Mossell entered the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1915 and majored in education Her years as a student in an institution with so few women students and even fewer African Americans were extremely challenging Yet with her family s financial and emotional support she prospered academically and graduated ...

Article

Alexander, the first black woman to earn a PhD in Economics, in a 1981 interview provided this advice for young black men and women: “Don’t let anything stop you. There will be times when you’ll be disappointed, but you can’t stop. Make yourself the best that you can make out of what you are. The very best.”

Sadie Tanner Mossell was born into a prominent Philadelphia family. Her father, Aaron Albert Mossell, had been the first African American to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Her grandfather, Benjamin Tucker Tanner, was a well-known author, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the editor of the country’s first African American scholarly journal, the African Methodist Episcopal Review. The famous painter Henry Ossawa Tanner was her uncle At the turn of the century the Tanner home was a gathering place and intellectual center ...

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Mary Hughes Brookhart

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Allen (also known as Paul Vesey) studied creative writing under James Weldon Johnson at Fisk where he graduated magna cum laude in 1938. He received his JD from Harvard in 1941. Until 1968 when he formally left law for literature, he was active in both fields.

He was drafted into the U.S. Armed Services in 1942 and served as an officer, though under the constraints of the segregated system, until 1946. From 1946 to 1947 he was deputy assistant district attorney in New York City. The following year he studied humanities at the New School for Social Research. In 1948 he went to Paris on the GI Bill, and after studying French, studied at the Sorbonne. He was employed variously with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1951 to 1955 as historian claims officer and civilian attorney in Wiesbaden Germany and in ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Ralph Johnson Bunche spent his early years with his parents in Detroit and in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He attributed his achievements to the influence of his maternal grandmother, Lucy Johnson, with whom he lived in Los Angeles, California, after he was orphaned at age thirteen. Johnson not only insisted that her grandson be self-reliant and proud of his race, but also that he, a high school valedictorian, go to college.

Bunche enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles, and after graduating summa cum laude in 1927, he entered graduate school at Harvard University in Massachusetts. He was the first black American to earn a Ph.D. degree in political science from an American university. Bunche won the prize for the outstanding doctoral thesis in the social sciences in 1934 He conducted his postdoctoral research on African colonialism He did his research ...

Article

Eric Young

Amílcar Cabral was born in Bafatá, Portuguese Guinea (today Guinea-Bissau). Because both of his parents were from the Cape Verde Islands, he automatically received Portuguese citizenship. After earning high marks in elementary school, Cabral attended secondary school in the Cape Verde Islands and then, at the age of twenty-one, the University of Lisbon in Portugal. He graduated with honors, and in 1950 Cabral entered the Portuguese colonial agriculture service and became increasingly active in revolutionary intellectual circles.

Between 1952 and 1954 Cabral conducted the first agricultural survey of Portuguese Guinea. As he gained an extensive knowledge of the land and popular grievances, he helped increase political awareness among his friends, mainly of Cape Verdean descent. Increasingly involved in anti-Portuguese activities, Cabral helped establish a recreation association and other quickly banned organizations before his return to Portugal. In Lisbon, and later in Angola he met revolutionary leaders from Angola ...

Article

Stephen Gilroy Hall

John Wesley Cromwell was born a slave in Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of Willis Hodges Cromwell, a ferry operator, and Elizabeth Carney. In 1851 Cromwell's father purchased the family's freedom and moved to West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Cromwell entered the public schools. In 1856 he was admitted to the Preparatory Department of the Institute of Colored Youth. Graduating in 1864, he embarked on a teaching career. He taught in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and in 1865 opened a private school in Portsmouth Virginia Cromwell left teaching temporarily after an assault in which he was shot at and his school burned down He returned to Philadelphia and was employed by the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People Then he served as an agent for the American Missionary Association and went back to Virginia He became active in local politics serving as a ...

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Rayford W. Logan

William H. Dean, Jr. was born on July 6, 1910, in Lynchburg, Virginia, the only son and the third of four children of the Rev. and Mrs. William Henry Dean, Sr. He spent his early years in Lynchburg, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his father was a pastor in Methodist churches. In 1926 Dean graduated as valedictorian of his class from Douglass High School, Baltimore. Recipient of a scholarship from the Baltimore chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year at Bowdoin College in Maine and received his B.A. degree, graduating summa cum laude, in 1930. He earned his M.A. degree in 1932 and Ph.D. degree from Harvard University in Massachusetts in 1938; both degrees were in economics.

From 1933 to 1942 Dean taught economics and business administration at Atlanta ...

Article

John E. Fleming and Rayford W. Logan

Born in Weston, Platte County, Missouri, George Washington Ellis was the son of George and Amanda Jane (Drace) Ellis. He studied in the Weston elementary schools and the high school in Atchison, Kansas. He received his bachelor of law degree from the University of Kansas in 1893 and was admitted to the Kansas bar. From 1893 to 1897 he practiced law in Kansas to defray the expenses of four years in the university's collegiate department, and received his bachelor of arts degree in 1897. In that same year, he moved to New York City, where he took a two-year course in the Gunton Institute of Economics and Sociology.

After passing the examination of the United States Census Board in 1899, Ellis received an appointment in the Census Division of the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. where he remained two years Here his spare ...

Article

William Henry Hastie's father, a pension clerk, and his mother, a teacher, taught him to oppose racial discrimination. The family moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Hastie was born, to Washington, D.C., in 1916. Hastie was valedictorian at Dunbar High School, one of the leading African American secondary schools in the country. He was senior class president at Amherst College in 1925, and graduated as valedictorian again. After teaching for two years, he returned to school and earned a law degree from Harvard University in 1930.

Hastie practiced law in Washington with his father, fighting university segregation. At night, he taught at Howard University Law School. Among his students, many of whom played important roles in the Civil Rights Movement, was Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African American justice on the United States Supreme Court. From 1933 to 1937 Hastie was assistant ...

Article

Peter Wallenstein

civil rights attorney, law school professor, and federal judge, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Roberta Childs, a teacher, and William Henry Hastie, a clerk in the U.S. Pension Office (now the Veterans Administration). He was a superb student and athlete. His father's transfer to Washington, D.C., in 1916 permitted Hastie to attend the nation's best black secondary school, the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, from which he graduated as valedictorian in 1921. He attended Amherst College, where he majored in mathematics and graduated in 1925, valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, and magna cum laude. After teaching for two years in Bordentown, New Jersey, he studied law at Harvard University, where one instructor adopted the custom of saying after asking a question of the class, “Mr. Hastie, give them the answer” (Ware, 30). He worked on the Law Review and earned an ...

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Carolyn Wedin

legal educator, civil rights advocate, judge, and governor. William Henry Hastie was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the only child of a middle-class, college-educated black couple, Roberta Childs and William Henry Hastie, who moved to Washington, D.C., to give their son a better education. There the young Hastie graduated from Dunbar High School in 1921 and entered Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he ran track and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude in 1925.

Giving up opportunities to study at Oxford University or the University of Paris, Hastie instead taught for two years at the New Jersey Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth. In 1927 he continued his education at Harvard Law School, studying under the future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter and earning his bachelor of laws (LLB) degree in 1930 Hastie moved to Washington D C and both worked ...

Article

Genna Rae McNeil

lawyer and professor, was born in the District of Columbia, the son of William LePre Houston, a lawyer, and Mary Ethel Hamilton, a hairdresser and former schoolteacher. Houston graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1915. After a year of teaching English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., he served during World War I as a second lieutenant in the 351st Field Artillery of the American Expeditionary Forces. Having experienced racial discrimination while serving his country, Houston “made up [his] mind that [he] would never get caught … without knowing … [his] rights, that [he] would study law and use [his] time fighting for men who could not strike back.” He entered Harvard Law School in 1919, where he became the first African American elected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and in 1922 he earned an LLB cum laude ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

At Charles Hamilton Houston's 1950 memorial service, his cousin, federal judge William H. Hastie, eulogized him as “the Moses of our journey.” Referring to the hard-won victory against segregation, Houston's protégé and successor as National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall, described him as “the engineer of it all.” In his work at both the NAACP and at Howard University Law School, which, according to historian Richard Kluger, Houston made into “a living laboratory where civil-rights law was invented,” Houston was one of the most influential American lawyers of the twentieth century.

Houston was born in Washington, D.C., the only child of William and Mary Houston, and was raised in an atmosphere of racial and family pride. He graduated from the M Street School, the most academically rigorous black high school in the nation, and in 1911 entered ...

Article

Thomas E. Carney

attorney and civil rights activist. Born in Washington, D.C., Charles Hamilton Houston was the son of Mary Hamilton Houston and William LePre Houston, an attorney in Washington. The young Houston graduated from M Street High School and received his bachelor's degree in 1915 from Amherst College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. For two years after graduating he taught English at Howard University, and in 1917 he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was sent to Europe but arrived just months before the armistice that ended World War I.

Houston left the military in 1918 and thereafter applied and was admitted to Harvard Law School. Houston was an outstanding student. He studied under Professor (later U.S. Supreme Court Justice) Felix Frankfurter and became the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review. He received his bachelor of law degree in 1922 and ...

Article

William Arthur Lewis was the first black person to receive the Nobel Prize in a category other than peace. He once described his intellectual career as consisting of three phases: the history of world economics and development, industrial economics, and the economic problems of underdeveloped nations. In his Nobel lecture, he suggested that the least developed countries should concentrate on increasing their regional trade rather than being heavily dependent on the continued growth of the most developed countries. He believed that in this way, underdeveloped nations could eventually accelerate their own economies even as growth in the more technologically advantaged nations slackened.

Lewis wanted to study engineering but decided it would be pointless since, at that time, neither the government nor white firms would hire a black engineer. A brilliant student, he received a bachelor of commerce degree with honors from Saint Mary's College in Saint Lucia (1929 ...

Article

Born a slave in Louisiana and freed at the end of the Civil War, John Roy Lynch became active in Republican Party politics in 1867. His prominent career began with his election to the Mississippi legislature in 1869. Lynch became its Speaker in 1872.

As a U.S. Congressman in 1873, Lynch supported the Civil Rights Bill of 1875. He lost his seat in 1876, but regained it in 1882 after a contested election; Lynch was defeated in the following election later that year, but two years later, he gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. He went on to practice law and write The Facts of Reconstruction (1913).

See also Congress, African Americans in; United States House of Representatives, African Americans in.

Article

Haggai Erlich

Egyptian politician, lawyer, economist, cabinet minister, and prime minister, was born in May 1888 to an urban landowning family long involved in politics. His father was Muhammad Mahir, former undersecretary of state for war, and his older brother was Ali Mahir, also a politician. Ahmad Mahir graduated from the Khedivial Law School and then went to France to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Montpellier. Back home, he taught at the law school and the Higher School of Commerce before quitting his academic career during the 1919 Revolution to become one of the closest and most loyal aides of Saʿd Zaghlul. As such, he was one of the founders of the Wafd Party and responsible for organizing its “secret apparatus,” the body tasked with applying violent measures against the British occupiers and the party’s rivals. When the Wafd won the first constitutional elections in January 1924 Mahir was ...

Article

Marveta Ryan

Although poverty prevented Ramón Marrero Aristy from attending school regularly, he studied on his own. As a young man, he wrote stories while he worked as the storeroom clerk of a Sugar plantation. Some of his early stories were published in a newspaper in the capital city of Santo Domingo, and the newspaper soon hired him as a writer. During his career, he worked as an editor of three newspapers, La Opinión, Listín Diario, and La Nación. He also directed the illustrated review Babeque.

Marrero worked for the government of Rafael Trujillo, who dominated the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. Despite his lack of support for the Trujillo dictatorship, Marrero served twice as the state secretary of labor. He also held diplomatic posts in France and the United States.

Marrero wrote two collections of short stories, Perfiles agrestes (1933 and ...