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Frances Smith Foster

author and activist, was born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, the daughter of slaves. Details of her life are sketchy. Little is known of her parents or her childhood beyond the date and place of her birth and the fact that she was born into bondage; thus, it is particularly intriguing that in 1870, only five years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and one year after Atlanta University opened, seventeen-year-old Octavia was among the 170 students enrolled at that institution. Most of the little we know of her life comes from The House of Bondage (1890), the book that made her famous. From that source we learn that in 1873 she was teaching in Montezuma, Georgia, when she met her fellow teacher A. E. P. Albert. They married in 1874 and had one daughter.Sometime around 1877 Albert s husband was ordained as a Methodist ...

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Vickey Kalambakal

Susan Brownell Anthony was born in Adams, Massachusetts, to an unusual family. Her father was a Quaker; at the religious meetings she attended as a child, women were allowed to speak and were on an equal footing with men. The family was prosperous, and her parents encouraged freethinking and activism in their children. Anthony became an abolitionist and participant in the Underground Railroad. She is best remembered as one of the leaders and organizers of the women's suffrage movement.

Anthony's family moved from Massachusetts to Rochester, New York, in 1845. Over the next few years, the abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass also a resident of Rochester became a frequent visitor and speaker at Sunday meetings at the Anthony farm where abolition was discussed Like many reform minded people of the day Anthony also joined the local temperance society After being denied the chance to speak at ...

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Steven J. Niven

the first woman executed by electric chair in Georgia, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia, to Queenie Baker, a sharecropper, and a father whose name is unknown. Little is known about her early life. If typical of the African American experience in southwestern Georgia in the early 1900s Baker's childhood was probably one of long working hours and low expectations. Indeed, it was in the debt-ridden and desperate Georgia black belt of the early 1900s that W. E. B. Du Bois discovered the Negro problem in its naked dirt and penury Litwack 114 In an attempt to escape from that world of debt and desperation Baker began working at an early age at first helping her mother chop cotton for a neighboring white family the Coxes Like other black women in the community she also worked as a laundress and occasional domestic for white families in town Despite the legacy ...

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Cynthia Neverdon-Morton

educator, school founder, and social welfare advocate, was born in Athens, Georgia, the daughter of Julia Porter. Various biographical accounts indicate that Barrett's parents were former slaves, while others speculate that her father was white. Little is known about either parent. During her early childhood, Barrett resided in the home of the Skinners, a white family whom her mother served as housekeeper. After her mother's marriage to a railway worker, Barrett remained with the Skinners, who encouraged her to further her education.

Though the Skinners suggested that she move north, Barrett, at her mother's urging, attended Hampton Institute in Virginia, graduating in 1884. While at Hampton she became convinced that it was her duty as an educated black woman to work assiduously for the betterment of all African Americans. That belief led her to teach in Dawson, Georgia, and at Lucy Craft Laney s Haines Normal ...

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Luca Prono

lyric coloratura soprano, was the youngest of seven children born in Portsmouth, Ohio, to Grady Battle, a steelworker from Alabama who belonged to a gospel quartet, and Ollie Layne Battle. Together with her six older siblings, Kathleen Deanna Battle experienced the gospel music of her African Methodist Episcopal Church from a very early age. Battle studied at Portsmouth High School with Charles Varney and began piano lessons at the age of twelve.

She considered using her National Achievement Scholarship, which she was awarded in 1966, to study mathematics at the University of Cincinnati, but she graduated instead from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music with a degree in music education in 1970 The following year Battle received a master s degree from the same institution After graduation Battle worked as a music teacher for fifth and sixth graders in a Cincinnati inner city school for two ...

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Linda K. Fuller

actress, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of William Beavers. Her mother's identity is not known. As a child Louise moved with her musically inclined family to California, where in 1918 she graduated from Pasadena High School. She then joined the Ladies' Minstrel Troupe for a year before being recognized by talent scouts.

Beavers, who would appear in more than one hundred motion pictures, began her Hollywood career by playing a maid to leading lady Lilyan Tashman in Gold Diggers (1923). Early on, maid was a role that Beavers had to play offscreen as well as on. From 1920 to 1926 she worked first as a dressing room attendant and then as the personal maid of the actress Leatrice Joy. In 1927 Beavers landed a major role in Uncle Tom's Cabin, followed in 1929 by roles in Coquette and Nix on Dames In the ...

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Brett Gadsden

teacher, civil rights activist, plaintiff in Belton v. Gebhart (1952), a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), was born in Hazelhurse, Georgia, the daughter of Glover and Ida Hall.

Around 1948, almost a decade after her husband Louis passed away, Ethel Belton moved with her seven children to Claymont, Delaware, a suburban community northwest of Wilmington, Delaware, to join her extended family. There she taught general education in a one-room school. Her daughter, Ethel Louise Belton was eleven years old at the time of the move and was later assigned to Howard High School the only free public school for blacks in the entire state at the time Located in Wilmington it was a fifty minute nine mile commute for Ethel Louise who had a congenital heart condition Although Claymont High School the school for white children in ...

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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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Barbara Garvey Jackson

composer, pianist, and teacher, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Dr. Monroe Alpheus Majors, a pioneering black physician, medical researcher, and author, and Estelle C. Bonds, a music teacher and organist. Although legally born Majors, she used her mother's maiden name (Bonds) in her youth and throughout her professional life. She grew up in intellectually stimulating surroundings; her mother held Sunday afternoon salons at which young black Chicago musicians, writers, and artists gathered and where visiting musicians and artists were always welcomed.Bonds first displayed musical talent in her piano composition “Marquette Street Blues,” written at the age of five. She then began studying piano with local teachers, and by the time she was in high school she was taking lessons in piano and composition with Florence B. Price and William Levi Dawson two of the first black American symphonic composers both of whom were ...

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Maria Elena Raymond

former slave, western pioneer, church founder, businesswoman, and philanthropist, was born in Gallatin, Tennessee—some sources offer a birth date of 1800—and at the age of three was sold with her mother to a planter in Virginia. There, at the age of eighteen, she married a slave named Richard and had several children. When her owner, Ambrose Smith, died in 1835Clara and her children were auctioned off to different slaveholders. Her daughter Margaret was sold to a slaveholder in Kentucky and reportedly died a few years later. Clara lost contact with her son Richard, who was sold repeatedly. Another daughter, Eliza Jane, was sold to a James Covington, also in Kentucky.Clara was sold again at auction, this time to a Kentucky slaveholder named George Brown a merchant and for the next two decades served the Brown family as a house slave During this ...

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Monika R. Alston

U.S. congresswoman, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where she lived from childhood through her high school years. Brown has not made much information about her early years, her parents, or her personal life known. In 1965 she gave birth to her only daughter, Shantrel, the same year she began college. Brown received a BS in 1969 and a master's degree in Education in 1971 from Florida A&M University. She earned an education specialist degree from the University of Florida in 1974. From 1977 to 1982 Brown worked as a faculty member and guidance counselor at Florida Community College in Jacksonville.As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. at Florida A&M, Brown became close friends with her sorority sister Gwendolyn Sawyer-Cherry, who was the first African American woman to serve in the Florida state legislature. Sawyer-Cherry influenced Brown to enter politics and after Brown lost her ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

surgeon and Tennessee legislator, was born to a single mother, Edna Brown, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When she was five months old, her mother placed her in the Troy Orphanage. In 1932Brown's mother reclaimed her daughter, but the two clashed and Brown ran away from home. She was subsequently taken in by Samuel Wesley and Lola Redmon. Brown obtained a job as a mother's helper in the W. F. Jarrett home and graduated from high school, possibly Troy High School, about 1937.

Several factors inspired Brown to become a surgeon. As a child, she entered the hospital for the removal of her tonsils and adenoids. She loved the special attention that she received and wanted to duplicate that experience for other patients. Later, in her teens, she attended a performance by the African American opera star Marian Anderson. Impressed by Anderson's greatness and graciousness, Brown ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

elocutionist, educator, women's and civil rights leader, and writer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Arthur Brown, a riverboat steward and express agent, and Frances Jane Scroggins, an educated woman who served as an unofficial adviser to the students of Wilberforce University. Thomas Brown was born into slavery in Frederick County, Maryland, the son of a Scottish woman plantation owner and her black overseer. Brown purchased his freedom and that of his sister, brother, and father. By the time of the Civil War, he had amassed a sizable amount of real estate. Hallie's mother, Frances, was also born a slave, the child of her white owner. She was eventually freed by her white grandfather, a former officer in the American Revolution.

Both of Hallie's parents became active in the Underground Railroad. Around 1864 the Browns and their six children moved to Chatham Ontario where ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

rhythm and blues performer and actress, was born Ruth Alston Weston, in Portsmouth, Virginia, the eldest of Leonard and Martha Jane (Alston) Weston's seven children. Her father, a skillful athlete who had hoped to become a professional baseball player, found work as a laborer on the Portsmouth docks and worked odd jobs at nights. His weekly wages rarely exceeded $35 per week and barely covered the needs of his growing family. Ruth's mother worked as a domestic. In 1934, when she was six years old, Ruth entered Portsmouth's George Peabody Elementary School and later attended I. C. Norcom High School. Her early years were decidedly urban. She was a weekend regular at Portsmouth's Capitol movie theater, where she cheered on the black action heroes Herb Jeffries and Ralph Cooper, and idolized the young Lena Horne.

Ruth Weston belonged however to that generation of urban ...

Article

Shennette Garrett-Scott

carnival performer, snake handler, and blues musician was born in Augusta Georgia Her parents names and occupations are not recorded Her mother passed away when she was eleven years old By age fourteen she had run away from home and was performing in the chorus lines of traveling minstrel shows and carnivals She changed her last name to Brown to escape notice by her family and went on to do other types of entertainment in carnivals from lying on beds of nails to swallowing swords At age twenty one she learned to play the piano she took up the guitar in her mid thirties After singing and playing the piano in a band at carnivals she sometimes performed striptease dances in after hours racially segregated shows on Fridays and Saturdays known as the Midnight Ramble because they took place after midnight in the show tent long after ...

Article

Marcia G. Synnott

school founder, was born Nannie Helen Burroughs in Orange, Virginia, the daughter of John Burroughs, a farmer and itinerant Baptist preacher, and Jennie Poindexter, a cook and former slave. After moving to Washington, D.C., with her mother in 1883, Burroughs graduated in 1896 with honors in business and domestic science from the Colored High School on M Street. When racial discrimination barred her from obtaining a position either in the Washington, D.C., public schools or the federal civil service, Burroughs worked as a secretary, first for the Baptist Christian Banner in Philadelphia and then for the National Baptist Convention's Foreign Mission Board. She moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1900, when the Board's headquarters relocated there, and she stayed in Louisville until 1909. Studying business education, she organized a Women's Industrial Club for black women, which evolved into a vocational school.

In 1900 Burroughs helped found ...

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Casey McKittrick

singer and actress, was born Carol Diahann Johnson in the Bronx, New York, the elder daughter of John Johnson, a subway conductor, and Mable, a nurse. Carroll, who had a younger sister Lydia, began performing at an early age in school plays and as a “tiny tot” in the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir of Harlem. At age ten she won a scholarship for voice lessons at the Metropolitan Opera and later attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan alongside Billy Dee Williams.

At the age of 15, Carroll began modeling clothes for Ebony magazine. Although she enrolled at New York University to study sociology, her passion for vocal performance won out. In her early college years she won a weekly televised talent competition called Chance of a Lifetime for three consecutive weeks This national recognition spurred her bookings in New York venues beginning in ...

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Shirley J. Yee

educator, journalist, editor, and lawyer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Parnell. Although she was the eldest of thirteen children, Mary Ann Shadd grew up in comfortable economic circumstances. Little is known about her mother except that she was born in North Carolina in 1806 and was of mixed black and white heritage; whether she was born free or a slave is unknown. Shadd's father was also of mixed-race heritage. His paternal grandfather, Jeremiah Schad, was a German soldier who had fought in the American Revolution and later married Elizabeth Jackson a free black woman from Pennsylvania Abraham Shadd had amassed his wealth as a shoemaker and his property by the 1830s was valued at five thousand dollars He was a respected member of the free black community in Wilmington and in West Chester Pennsylvania where the family had moved ...

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Carolyn Calloway-Thomas

In the winter of 1856, upon receiving the news that antislavery agents were roaming through Canada, Mary Ann Shadd Cary began to write. She objected to those who, begging on behalf of the fugitive slaves who had fled to Canada, took advantage of antislavery sentiment. Believing in a moral right and duty, she became single-minded in her efforts to expose them. She charged that “begging agents” were “wending their way from Canada to the States in unprecedented numbers.” “Bees gather honey in the summer,” she wrote, “but beggars harvest in the winter.” In typically blunt language, Cary preached integration, self-reliance, and independence among black Canadians during the 1850s. A pillar of zeal, she helped found the newspaper known as the Provincial Freeman as an instrument for transforming black refugees into model citizens What she wrote as the first black North American female editor publisher and investigative reporter marked ...

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Stephanie A. Tingley

Lydia Maria Child's name was a household word in America for nearly fifty years, beginning in 1824 with the publication of her best-selling and controversial novel about interracial marriage, Hobomok: A Tale of Early Times. Child's pioneering work in many realms combined her passions for literary excellence and for social justice. In the literary arena she worked as a novelist, short-story writer, essayist, women's-advice book writer, children's writer, and magazine editor. As an activist and reformer she became a prominent advocate for both Native American and women's rights. Her path and passions crossed with those of Frederick Douglass through her work as an antislavery activist and as the editor of Harriet Jacobs's slave narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1860), the work for which she is probably best known today.

Child's writing about abolition began in 1833, when she published An Appeal ...