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Joshunda Sanders

activist and sole adult survivor of a deadly bombing of a home of the MOVE organization, in one of Philadelphia's black neighborhoods, that killed 11 people and left over 250 people homeless. Africa was born Ramona Johnson in West Philadelphia, where she was raised by her mother, Eleanor Jones, and attended Catholic school from first through twelfth grade. She then attended Temple University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in Political Science and an associate's degree in Criminal Justice. In 1976, her last year at Temple, she was hired by Community Legal Services, the state-sponsored legal aid in Philadelphia. There she worked helping tenants with legal issues they had with their landlords, an experience that set the foundation for activism later in her life. “Prior to that I was not active in anything,” Africa said I had a general idea about injustice by police brutality and ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

a pioneer member of the Socialist Party of America and the American Communist Party and a founding member of the African Blood Brotherhood, was born in Georgia to William Campbell, from the British West Indies, and Emma Dyson Campbell, from Washington, D.C. Her family moved to Texas by 1892, then to Washington, and she moved to New York City about 1905. Many sources continue to state in passing that she was born in the Caribbean and studied at Tuskegee, though this is more likely a different woman named Grace Campbell. The important role of Caribbean immigrants in New York's progressive movements may have contributed to this confusion. The historian Winston James offers a more detailed and compelling case that she was born in Georgia, which is consistent with the information Campbell apparently provided to the 1920 and 1930 census.

Campbell became active in Socialist Party ...

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Jocelyn L. Womack

activist, educator, and lawyer, was born Kathleen Neal in Dallas, Texas, to Ernest Neal and Juette Johnson, educators. Activism and scholarship were staples of the Neal family home, as both of her parents held advanced degrees. Ernest and Juette met while attending the University of Michigan in the 1940s. Juette held a master's degree in mathematics, and Ernest earned a PhD in Sociology. Ernest was working as a Wiley College sociology professor in Marshall, Texas, at the time of Kathleen's birth.

Shortly after Kathleen s birth Ernest accepted a job at Tuskegee Institute relocating the family to Alabama In addition to Kathleen s early exposure to academia her father s work in foreign aid promoted a family environment in which social progress was frequently discussed At the age of nine Kathleen had already embarked upon a life of global travel and had an appreciation of diverse cultures Her father ...

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Candace Cardwell

attorney and political activist. Born in Dallas, Texas, Kathleen Neal Cleaver was the first child of Ernest Neal and Juette Johnson Neal. Her father was in the foreign service and the family lived in India, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Philippines. When Cleaver returned to the United States, she enrolled in a boarding school near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She attended Oberlin College in Ohio and later transferred to Barnard College in New York.

In 1966 Cleaver left college to work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At a SNCC conference at Fisk University in Tennessee, she met Eldridge Cleaver, the minister of information for the Black Panther Party (BPP). Attracted by the party's radical approach to social change, she left SNCC and joined the Black Panthers. She married Eldridge Cleaver on 27 December 1967.

As the national communications secretary for the BPP, Kathleen Cleaver ...

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LaVerne Gyant

actress, activist, and elocutionist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Mansfield Vinton Davis, a musician, and Mary Ann (Johnson) Davis. Davis's talents as an actress and elocutionist were apparently inherited from her father, while her inclination toward activism came from her stepfather, George A. Hackett, who was a recognized leader within the African American community in Baltimore. Both Mansfield Davis and George Hackett died while she was still young After her stepfather s death Davis and her mother moved to Washington D C where she had the advantage of attending the best schools and with her fondness for books made rapid progress in her studies At the age of fifteen she passed the necessary exams to become a teacher and began teaching in the Maryland school district During this time she was recruited by the Louisiana State Board of Education who tendered her ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

journalist and Pan-Africanist, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the daughter of George Samuel Jacques, a cigar manufacturer and landlord, and Charlotte Henrietta, a member of the Jamaican aristocracy. Amy's family traced their ancestry on the island back to John Jacques, a white property owner and the first mayor of Kingston. She grew up as part of the “brown elite,” who were considered socially and economically superior to the black majority. After completing her secondary education at the exclusive Wolmer's Girls School, Amy worked in the law office of T. R. MacMillian for four years and had thoughts of becoming a lawyer. However, in April 1917 she left Jamaica for New York, arguing that the cooler climate would mitigate her recurring bouts of malaria.

Amy Jacques arrived in Harlem, the Mecca for ambitious Caribbean immigrants—particularly those animated by the new black nationalist philosophy of Marcus Garvey In the summer ...

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S. Sherrie Tartt

educator, human rights and community activist, was born Ericka Jenkins in Washington, D.C., to Cozette Jenkins, a secretary for the State Department, and Gervazae Jenkins, a clerk at the Pentagon. In high school Ericka was conscious of the inequality and discrimination African Americans experienced and participated in community service projects. Her first opportunity to partake in the excitement of the civil rights movement was with the 1963 March on Washington, which her parents did not want her to attend. Yet at age fifteen her rebel spirit was awakening as she defied her parents and stood among the multitude of marchers. She recalled that the powerful voice of Lena Horne singing the word “freedom” inspired her. The historic march cemented her determination to serve people for the rest of her life.

After high school Ericka was one of the first women to attend Lincoln University after transferring ...

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Pamela E. Brooks

veteran activist in the Black Freedom movement, was born Gwendolyn M. Patton in Inkster, Michigan, the elder of two children of C. Robert Patton Sr., a longtime autoworker, and Jeanetta Bolden Patton, a homemaker. Her parents migrated from Alabama to the industrial North in order to increase their employment opportunities and raise their children in a freer environment. As a child, Patton looked forward to her annual summer vacations spent with her brother Robert at the home of her paternal grandparents, Sam and Mary Jane Patton, in Montgomery. Following her mother's early death in 1958, she went to live permanently with her grandparents in 1960. She graduated from Carver High School in Montgomery in 1961.

It was during her childhood visits to Montgomery that she first became aware of the system of segregation which she resisted even as a young person Although she ...

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Kyra E. Hicks

First Lady of Liberia and one of the original African American emigrants to Liberia, was born Jane Rose Waring in Virginia to Colston M. Waring, a minister, and Harriet Graves. The Waring family, including their children Susannah, Thomas, Annetta, William, Jane, and John, emigrated to Liberia aboard the Cyrus in 1824. Other children were born in Liberia to the Warings, including Christinana, Ann, Harriet, and Colston. Elder Colston Waring served as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Monrovia. He was also a successful coffee planter and wealthy merchant. He served as vice agent for the American Colonization Society in Liberia and other administrative positions before his death in 1834. Jane learned to read and write in Liberia. She spoke French fluently and was “in all respects was well-bred and refined,” according to Hallie Q. Brown who met ...

Article

William E. Bankston

nationalist, activist, author, poet, and member of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Black Liberation Army (BLA), was born Joanne Deborah Bryon in New York, New York, the oldest of two children, daughter of an accountant for the federal government and Doris Johnson, an elementary school teacher. Little is known about her father. Bryon was convicted on several felony charges in 1977 in connection to the 1973 murders of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster and activist Zayd Malik Shakur. In 1979 she escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, where she lived with political asylum beginning in 1984.

Bryon spent the early part of her life with her mother aunt grandmother and grandfather in the Bricktown area of Jamaica New York When she was three years old her family moved to Wilmington North Carolina By the time she was eight years old ...

Article

Donald Roe

student activist and revolutionary black nationalist. The 1970s were trying years for African American radicals and revolutionaries in the United States. The FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) succeeded in infiltrating, disrupting, and collecting information on moderate, liberal, and radical black organizations. The bureau's covert and overt activities along with internecine confrontation within the Black Panther Party (BPP) over policy proved disastrous for black militants. Disgruntled BPP members loyal to Eldridge Cleaver, a key leader of the party, went underground in the early 1970s to form the Black Liberation Army (BLA), whose goal was armed struggle for the liberation and self-determination of African Americans. It was in this volatile environment that Shakur, a student activist, first became a BPP member and then a member of the BLA.

Shakur was born JoAnne Deborah Byron in the Jamaica, Queens, section of New York City. She married Louis Chesimard in 1967 ...

Article

Born JoAnne Deborah Byron in the New York City borough of Queens, Assata Shakur spent her early years alternating between living with her mother in New York and with her grandparents in Wilmington, North Carolina. As an adolescent, she ran away from home and lived among strangers until she was taken in by her aunt, Evelyn Williams, a lawyer who later represented Shakur in court. With her aunt's help, Shakur earned her general equivalency diploma (GED) and attended college, first at Manhattan Community College and then at the City College of New York.

In college Shakur became active in student politics, participating in protests and Sit-Ins. She was married briefly, becoming JoAnne Chesimard, then changed her name to reflect her African heritage: Assata (meaning “she who struggles”) Olugbala (“love for the people”) Shakur (“the thankful”). During a stay in Oakland, California, around 1970 she met ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Born to a free family but orphaned at the age of five, Maria Stewart lived with the family of a clergyman until the age of fifteen. She acquired literacy and a religious education at Sabbath schools. Stewart married James Stewart on August 10, 1826, in Boston, Massachusetts. After her husband's death in 1829, Stewart worked through the 1860s as a teacher in the public school systems of New York City, Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. In Washington she established a Sunday school for children in 1871 and worked and lived at the Howard University–affiliated Freedmen's Hospital for the last nine years of her life.

Stewart's two-year speaking career began in 1832 and included four lectures, all published in William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, the Liberator. Her lecture to the New England Anti-Slavery Society on September 21, 1832 was the first public lecture ...

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Marilyn Richardson

Maria Stewart was the earliest known American woman to lecture in public on political themes and leave extant copies of her texts. Her first publication, a twelve-page pamphlet entitled Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality (1831), revealed her distinctive style, a mix of political analysis and religious exhortation. Her message, highly controversial coming from the pen of a woman, called upon African Americans to organize against slavery in the South and to resist racist restrictions in the North. She invoked both the Bible and the Constitution of the United States as documents proclaiming a universal birthright to freedom and justice.

Influenced by the militant abolitionist David Walker, Stewart raised the specter of armed rebellion by African Americans. In a lecture at Boston's African Masonic Hall in 1833 she declared M any powerful sons and daughters of Africa will shortly arise and declare by Him that ...

Article

Martha L. Wharton

political activist, lecturer, evangelical writer, and autobiographer, was born Maria Miller in Hartford, Connecticut, where she was orphaned by age five. Nothing is known about her parents. As a five-year-old girl, she was “bound out,” or indentured, to a clergy family for ten years. She then moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where she supported herself as a domestic for the next ten years. Maria enjoyed no formal education but struggled through her youth and young adulthood to become literate and to gain an education. Until she was twenty years old, she attended Sabbath school classes, where she learned to read the Bible, and this served as a staple in her pursuit of learning.

Miller married James W. Stewart on 10 August 1826 in the Reverend Thomas Paul s African Baptist Church in Boston In addition to taking his last name Maria adopted Stewart s middle initial ...

Article

Harry A. Reed

“What if I am a woman?” intoned Maria W. Stewart during a speech in Boston on 21 September 1833. Throughout her brief oration, she reminded her mixed audience of women and men that women, even in the ancient world, had been honored for their wisdom, prudence, religiosity, and achievements. Yet her own people of color, she noted, had failed to accord her similar recognition.

Maria W. Stewart, born in Hartford, Connecticut, took up public speaking as a means of supporting herself following her husband James’s death. Her marriage in 1826 at the Reverend Thomas Paul’s African Baptist Church marked her as a member of Boston’s small black middle class, but she had been cheated of a comfortable inheritance by unscrupulous white Boston merchants and lawyers. Before her public speaking tour (1832-1833), she had published a small pamphlet, Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality the Sure Foundation ...