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Mary Krane Derr

physician and community leader, was born Edith Mae Irby in Conway, Arkansas, to Mattie Irby, a domestic worker, and her husband Robert, a sharecropper. Several childhood experiences—some traumatic—shaped Edith's early choice of medicine as her profession and the relief of racial health disparities as her special focus. When she was only five, an illness rendered her unable to walk for eighteen months. At six she lost her thirteen-year-old sister and almost lost an older brother in a typhoid fever epidemic. She noticed that people who could afford more medical care fared better with the disease. When she was eight a horse-riding accident fatally injured her father.

The year of her father s death a white doctor and his family hired Edith to help care for their eighteen month old child They told Edith that she was highly intelligent and encouraged her to consider a medical career Members ...


Peter C. Murray

clergyman and civil rights leader, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, to LeRoy Lowery, a store owner, and Dora (Fackler) Lowery, a teacher. Born in the era of Jim Crow, Lowery early had to learn the harsh reality of discrimination against African Americans in Alabama. Lowery grew up with the nurturing influence of the black church, especially Methodism. One of his great grandfathers, Echols Lowery, had founded the local Huntsville Methodist Church and his mother's family included several African Methodist Episcopal Church ministers. In 1928 he began his schooling and in 1936 he enrolled in high school at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College's (A&M) laboratory school. After graduating from high school in 1939, Lowery attended Knoxville College and Alabama A&M before transferring to Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, and graduating in 1943 with a BA in Sociology His first job out of college was as ...


Noliwe Rooks

entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born Annie Minerva Turnbo on a farm in Metropolis, Illinois, the tenth of eleven children of Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook, both farmers. Robert and Isabella owned the land they farmed and were able to provide comfortably for themselves and their children. After her parents died of yellow fever in 1877, Turnbo went to live with an older sister in Peoria, Illinois.

As a young woman Turnbo grew dissatisfied with the hair grooming methods then in use by African American women which often involved the use of goose fat soap and harsh chemicals for straightening purposes Stronger products to straighten naturally curly hair generally damaged the hair follicles or scalp One of the methods recommended by such products advised users to wash their hair and lay it out flat while using a hot flatiron to apply the solutions Even washed and laid out ...


Marilyn Elizabeth Perry

labor activist and writer, was born in north-central Texas. Information about her parentage is inconclusive, though she may have been the daughter of Pedro Diáz González and Marie (maiden name unknown); her ancestry was in part African American. At the time she met her future husband in the early 1870s she was living with Oliver Gathings, a former slave. After using many maiden names, Lucy finally settled on González when she married in an attempt to establish a Mexican ancestry that would appear more acceptable to dominant whites in that part of Texas.

In the late nineteenth century the Ku Klux Klan rose to power in several southern states and successfully ended Reconstruction's all-too-brief experiment in biracial democracy. During the period in which the Klan and others violently reasserted “white supremacy,” Lucy witnessed atrocities that affected her deeply. Around 1870 she met Albert Parsons and reportedly they ...


Kathy Covert-Warnes

Wendell Phillips transformed his life when he heard William Lloyd Garrison speak at the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1835 and watched a white mob attempt to lynch Garrison. The courage of the abolitionist so impressed Phillips that he resolved to give up his law practice and devote himself to winning freedom for all slaves.

Until 1835 Phillips lived as a member of the elite group known as the Boston Brahmins. He was born in that city in 1811, the son of John Phillips and Sally Whalley. The Phillips family's roots in America dated to the early seventeenth century, and they had amassed a fortune before the Revolutionary War. John Phillips held public office as a prosecutor, a Massachusetts state senator, a judge in the Court of Common Pleas, and the first mayor of Boston after it was incorporated as a city in 1822 Sally Whalley was ...


William J. Cobb

labor organizer, editor, and activist, was born Asa Philip Randolph in Crescent City, Florida, to Elizabeth Robinson and James Randolph, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church preacher. In 1891 the Randolphs moved to Jacksonville, where James had been offered the pastorship of a small church. Both Asa Philip and his older brother, James Jr., were talented students who graduated from Cookman Institute (later Bethune-Cookman College), the first high school for African Americans in Florida.

Randolph left Florida in 1911, moving to New York to pursue a career as an actor. Between 1912 and 1917 he attended City College, where he was first exposed to the ideas of Karl Marx and political radicalism. He joined the Socialist Party in 1916, attracted to the party's economic analysis of black exploitation in America. Randolph, along with W. E. B. Du Bois, Hubert Henry Harrison ...


Amber Moulton-Wiseman

educator, was born Carlotta Stewart in Brooklyn, New York, to Thomas McCants Stewart, lawyer, minister, educator, and civil rights activist, and Charlotte Pearl Harris Stewart. In 1883 Stewart-Lai's father accepted a professorship at the College of Liberia and left his family in Brooklyn with no apparent means of support as he assessed liberal and industrial education models for the Liberian school. His absence and neglect led to a divorce from Charlotte, but by 1886 Stewart had resumed his legal practice in New York and he and his children would remain there throughout Stewart-Lai's childhood.

Stewart-Lai attended public school in New York before accompanying her father and stepmother Alice to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1898 Entering the racially and ethnically diverse Hawaiian community with virtually no existing African American presence the Stewarts were able to live unburdened by many of the racial prejudices they had known in the ...


Sherie Randolph

labor organizer, civil rights and feminist activist, and minister, was born Addie Cameron in Brookhaven, Mississippi, to Maggie Cameron and Ambrose Cameron. She was the second of their eight children. In 1930, at the age of six, Wyatt moved with her family to Chicago, Illinois. She would go on to graduate from DuSable High School with honors, and while a student at DuSable she met Claude Wyatt, whom she married shortly after her graduation. Within five years of their marriage the couple became parents of not only their own two children but Wyatt's six younger siblings as well. They were compelled to shoulder this responsibility after the unexpected death of Wyatt's mother.

With eight children to look after Wyatt had to work full time outside of the home in order to help support her family Her first job was at Armour Company packing meat into cans She was ...