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Nell Irvin Painter

Born into slavery in Georgia in 1843 and taken to Louisiana in 1850, Henry Adams exhibited special talents at an early age. He began faith healing as a child, and that gift, together with his enterprising independence, assured him economic self-sufficiency even before his emancipation in 1865.

Immediately after the Civil War (1861–1865), Adams earned money peddling along the roads of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, but he joined the United States Army to escape the slaughter of freedpeople by local whites. Adams served in the 80th Volunteers, the 39th Infantry, and the 25th Infantry. He learned to read and write in the army. Returning to Shreveport, Louisiana, after his discharge in 1869 he found that Southern whites considered Adams and other former soldiers to be corrupting influences black soldiers threatened the uncertain and abusive social order by reading contracts to freedpeople and explaining their new civil ...

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Steven J. Niven

emigrationist leader, was born Henry Houston in Newton County, Georgia, to enslaved parents whose names are not now known. Most of what is known of Henry Adams's personal life is derived from testimony he offered in 1880 to the United States Senate during a government investigation of the causes of mass African American emigration from the former states of the Confederacy.

Henry was given the surname Adams when a planter of that name brought him and his family to Desoto Parish, Louisiana, in 1850. He used that surname for the rest of his life. Upon the planter's death eight years later ownership of Henry and his family was transferred to a teenage girl, Nancy Emily Adams who hired the family out to various plantations near the Texas Louisiana border Laboring alongside his father on the plantation of a man named Ferguson in Logansport Louisiana Henry Adams was ...

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Wilbert H. Ahern

John Quincy Adams was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas in the Reconstruction. By 1874 he had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the racial repression that followed led Adams to return ...

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Wilbert H. Ahern

newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican Party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both of his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas during Reconstruction. By 1874 Adams had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the ...

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James G. Spady

One of thirteen children, Robert Mara Adger was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Robert Adger, was black, and his mother, Mary Ann Morong, was Native American. In 1848 the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Adger's father first found a job as a waiter in the Old Merchant's Hotel. Later, while working as a nurse, he industriously saved enough funds to open a furniture business. He was involved in many activities and was a founder of the Benjamin Banneker Institute.

Robert Mara Adger received his early training at the Bird School, an early black educational institution in the United States. During his teenage years, he worked in his father's furniture stores, which had expanded from one in 1850 to three by 1858 Serving as a manager provided him with the business experience that he later found valuable as director of the Philadelphia Building and ...

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Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptian social activist and writer, was born in Alexandria on 1 December 1863 to an Ottoman-Kurdish father, who served as an administrator in Kurdistan before working in the Egyptian army, and an Upper Egyptian mother, the daughter of Ahmed Bek Khattab, who belonged to a prestigious family in Egypt. Amin attended Raʾas Al Tin primary school in Alexandria and high school in Cairo, after which he studied at the School of Law and Administration in Cairo and was there granted his BA degree in 1881. Four years later, he received another degree in Law from the University of Montpellier in France. He worked as a lawyer shortly after his graduation and then traveled on a scholarship to France, where he enrolled in the University of Montpellier. In 1885 he completed his four year study in law with distinction upon returning to Egypt he worked in the judiciary He ...

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Patrick G. Williams

politician and public official, was born in Oxford, Ohio, the son of Charles W. Anderson and Serena (maiden name unknown). After a public school education in his hometown and in Middletown, Ohio, Charles studied at Spencerian Business College in Cleveland and at the Berlitz School of Languages in Worcester, Massachusetts. Anderson's schooling continued informally as he matured into an intellectually accomplished and engaging man. His friend James Weldon Johnson noted Anderson's versatility, which included acute powers of observation and an ability to converse on many subjects, including “the English poets, the Irish patriots, [and] the contemporary leaders of the British Parliament” (Johnson, 219).

Anderson put these talents to good use after moving to New York City in 1886. He grabbed whatever opportunities that Republican Party politics offered ambitious black men, and he developed a ward heeler's capacity for keeping close track of voters, loaves, and fishes. By 1890 ...

Article

Stephen D. Glazier

African American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Benjamin Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, Eighty‐seven Years, 79). He was educated in a one‐room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and worked briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly in 1858 when a cancerous tumor necessitated the amputation of his left leg. He turned to teaching and was granted a certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time he was the only African American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887 ...

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Benjamin William Arnett, Jr., was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. He was entirely self-taught. After working as a waiter and a dockworker, he became certified as a teacher in Brownsville in 1864, but he moved to Washington, D.C., and decided to become a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). After receiving his license to preach in 1865, he was assigned his first pastorate in 1867 in Walnut Hills, Ohio, near Cincinnati; Arnett also taught school there. First ordained as a deacon in the AME church in 1868, he became an elder in 1870. He served the AME General Conference as its secretary in 1876 and its financial secretary in 1880. In addition, he established close connections to the AME church's center for learning, Wilberforce University in Ohio.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865 Arnett had worked with Frederick Douglass s National ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

four-time mayor of Washington, D.C., was born on a cotton plantation near the Delta hamlet of Itta Bena in northwestern Mississippi to sharecroppers Marion Barry Sr. and Mattie Barry. In 1940 Barry Sr. died, and in 1944 Barry, his mother, and his sister moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Mattie worked as a maid and married Dave Cummings a butcher The combined family which eventually included nine members lived in a narrow wooden shotgun house in South Memphis one of four black enclaves in the city Barry slept on the couch and rose early each morning to chop wood for the stove He stuffed cardboard in his shoes to fill the holes and sold his sandwiches to other kids at school for pocket money A bright industrious child he eventually became one of the first African American Eagle Scouts in Memphis In the summer he traveled with his mother ...

Article

Veront Milton Satchell

also known as Prophet Bedward, Lord and Master, and Lord Bedward, was born sometime around 1858, probably on the Mona sugar estate in the parish of St. Andrew, Jamaica. He came from a poor family and had little by way of formal education. He was married with a family. During his early adult life he worked on the Mona sugar estate as a cooper. He migrated to Panama in 1883, returning to Jamaica in 1885. Within a few days of returning to the island he sailed back to Panama reputedly to improve his economic position.

During his second trip to Panama he allegedly received the call to ministry in a series of visions in which he was ordered to return to Jamaica go to August Town a small rural village located in St Andrew about 6 miles north of Kingston inhabited predominantly by lower class black and ...

Article

John R. Howard

scholar and civil rights advocate, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to George Berry, a laborer, and Frances Southall, a beautician. She was the middle child between two brothers. After attending public schools in Nashville, she entered Howard University where she received her bachelor of arts degree in 1961 and her master of arts degree in 1962. During the 1962–1963 academic year she was a teaching fellow at Howard University, after which she moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to pursue a doctorate in history at the University of Michigan. She served as a teaching assistant during the 1965–1966 academic year and, after completing work on her PhD in 1966, was appointed assistant professor in the Department of History. In 1968 she was promoted to associate professor. Simultaneously she pursued the study of law and in 1970 received her JD degree from the University of Michigan Law ...

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J. D. Jackson

civil rights attorney and political activist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. One of three sons, he attended Birmingham public schools, including the city's first and oldest, and, at one time, the South's largest African American high school, Industrial (A. H. Parker) High.

After graduating from high school Billingsley attended two highly respected, historically black institutions of higher learning. The first was Talladega College, a private liberal arts college located in Alabama, fifty miles east of Birmingham. He graduated with high honors in 1946 and headed for Washington, D.C., where he attended Howard University School of Law. He earned his law degree there in 1950. Afterward, he returned to Alabama, where he was admitted to the Alabama state bar in 1951, one of the first ten African Americans to do so.

Instantly Billingsley threw himself behind the post World War II fight for full black citizenship in America Always ...

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Christopher Phelps

autoworker, Black Power militant, and community activist, was born in Marion Junction, Alabama, a small town near Selma in the highly segregated Dallas County. James was the youngest of four children born to Ernest Boggs, a blacksmith and iron ore worker who died when James was eight, and Leila Boggs, a domestic worker and cook. He attended elementary school in Marion Junction and throughout his life proudly retained his “Alabamese” diction. After graduating in 1937 from Dunbar High School in Bessemer, near Birmingham, he hopped a freight train to Detroit, pursuing his brothers William and Jesse, and hoping to find a job like his uncle's at Budd Wheel. When no work materialized, Boggs rode the rails to the Pacific Northwest before returning South in 1938 to marry his childhood sweetheart Annie McKinley with whom he fathered seven children That year he returned permanently to Detroit securing ...

Article

Swithin Wilmot

the main leader of the Morant Bay Rebellion in October 1865, in which hundreds of men and women protested against oppressive social and economic conditions in the parish of St. Thomas in the East (present-day St. Thomas), was born into slavery in Jamaica around 1820. According to family lore, the Bogle family was originally from Mount James District in the parish of St. Andrew and relocated to St. Thomas Parish in the East, though the time of their move is not known. It may have been very soon after full freedom was granted in 1838 for by the mid 1840s Paul Bogle and his brother Moses were residing at Stony Gut a hilly settlement of black artisans and small farmers bordering the Spring Garden Middleton and York sugar estates and which was about 3 miles from Morant Bay the chief town in St Thomas in the East ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Paul Bogle is a beloved figure in Jamaica. Although his legal status at the time of his birth is unclear, most scholars believe that he was born free in Stony Gut, Jamaica, in 1822. He operated a small independent farm there and became a lay preacher in the Native Baptist Church. His affiliation with this antislavery branch of the Baptist Church brought him into contact with British and Jamaican abolitionists, including activist George Gordon. Methodist and Baptist leaders, as well as leaders of other religious denominations, were active participants in the antislavery struggle. As a result, members of local black congregations like Bogle's were often exposed to antislavery debates, pamphlets, and sermons.

When slavery was abolished in 1834 blacks in Jamaica were promised freedom at the end of what turned out to be a four year period known as apprenticeship The apprenticeship policy forced slaves ...

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Amber Moulton-Wiseman

journalist and activist, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, the son of Marian M. Huggins, a woman of color, a plantation worker and Louis E. Briggs, a white native of Trinidad and plantation overseer. From childhood Briggs had a stutter that made verbal communication difficult, but he more than compensated through the power of his pen. Butting heads with colonial school administrators, he was dismissed from two primary schools before settling at Ebenezer Wesleyan on the island of St. Kitts; he graduated from this school in 1904. In his autobiographical writings Briggs indicated that despite its challenges, colonial education shaped his later career by introducing him to radical thinkers like the freethinking agnostic Robert Green Ingersoll. After his graduation Briggs embarked on his lifelong career in journalism by becoming a reporter for the St. Kitts Daily Express and the St. Christopher Advertiser.

Briggs ...

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Bärbel R. Brouwers

writer, musician, journalist, and civil rights activist, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Myra Myrtle and Frank London Brown Sr., the eldest of their three children. In 1939, when Brown was twelve years old, the family relocated to the South Side of Chicago in hopes of better economic opportunities. Brown attended Colman Elementary School and went on to DuSable High School. His adolescence in Chicago's “Black Belt” during the 1940s, which Sterling Stuckey referred to as a “dark nether-world of crime” and “shattered idealism,” deeply influenced his artistic and writing career. In the streets of the South Side's slums he learned how to sing and soon discovered a deep passion for music, especially for jazz and blues. Brown is credited with being the first person to recite short stories (as opposed to poetry) to a jazz music accompaniment.

After graduating from high school in 1945 Brown ...

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Michelle M. Strazer

community leader and child-welfare activist, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the daughter of Winnie Williams, a woman of African and American Indian descent, and William Sloan, a white man who reportedly supported Selena and her older sister but lived apart from the family. Even after her mother died, presumably when Selena was fairly young, Selena kept quiet about her father's identity. Communication between them was minimal. At age ten, having been schooled by missionaries in Thomas County, she was admitted on scholarship to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary (now Spelman College) in Atlanta and received her high school diploma in 1888 as a member of the school's second graduating class. After graduation she taught English and elocution in the public schools in Atlanta until around 1891, when she took a position at the State Normal School in Tallahassee, Florida (now Florida Agricultural and Mechanical State University).

In ...

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Donald Yacovone

physician, political activist, and civil rights advocate, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Mary J. Cromwell, one of the first black teachers in Baltimore, and John Heyward Camper, principal of an elementary school in Sparrows Point, Maryland. Camper had two brothers and several sisters. The Campers lived in Sparrows Point from about 1896 until 1900, when John's father's death forced a move to Towson and then to Baltimore. John attended eighth grade in Baltimore and graduated in 1913 from what would become the city's Douglass High School. He worked as a longshoreman and steelworker before receiving a bachelor of science degree in 1917 and a medical degree in 1920 from Howard University. A strong and gifted athlete, he was named several times to the All-American Colored Football Team, became the assistant coach for the Howard football team in 1920, and from 1921 to 1922 was ...