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Darshell Silva

oral historian and centenarian, was born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to parents who were slaves brought to the United States from Barbados. She was moved to Dunk's Ferry in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when she was ten years old to be with her master, of whom no information is available. There Alice lived as a slave, collecting ferry fares for forty years of her life.

Alice was a spirited and intelligent woman. She loved to hear the Bible read to her, but like most other enslaved people she could not read or write. She also held the truth in high esteem and was considered trustworthy. Her reliable memory served her well throughout her long life.

Many notable people of the time are said to have made her acquaintance like Thomas Story founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane which was the precursor to ...


Marinelle Ringer

journalist, author, and public speaker, was born Melba Joy Pattillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, the daughter of Howell “Will” Pattillo, a hostler's helper for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and Dr. Lois Marie Peyton Pattillo, a junior high school English teacher who was among the first African Americans to attend the University of Arkansas (graduating in 1954). In 1957, spurred by the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, mandating public school desegregation, Beals, at the age of fifteen, became one of the first African American students—later known as the “Little Rock Nine”—to enroll in Central High School, then Arkansas' finest high school.

Prior to 1957 Beals s deepest anguish had been her parents divorce when she was seven She found solace in the hours she spent with her cherished grandmother India Anette Peyton while her mother worked and studied and ...


Roanne Edwards

Known for her integrity and her powerful oratory skills, Shirley Chisholm is widely considered one of the foremost female speakers in the United States. With a character that she has described as “unbought and unbossed,” Chisholm became known as a politician who refused to allow fellow politicians, including the male-dominated Congressional Black Caucus, to deter her from her goals. In 1969 her first statement as a congressperson before the United States House of Representatives reflected her commitment to prioritizing the needs of the disadvantaged especially children She proclaimed her intent to vote No on every money bill that comes to the floor of this House that provides any funds for the Department of Defense While Chisholm advocated for civil rights for African Americans she regularly took up issues that concerned other people of color such as Native Americans and Spanish speaking migrants She also delivered important speeches on ...


Daniel A. Dalrymple

Chisholm made a career out of breaking down barriers. She was both the first black woman to be elected to United States Congress and the first woman or African American to mount a serious run at a major party’s nomination for president. Chisholm forged a strong reputation for doing things her own way, spurning both the New York Democratic political machine and political decorum. Despite the obstacles that came with bucking the system, Chisholm always held her ground on important issues such as abortion, women’s rights, and civil rights.

Chisholm was born the eldest of three sisters to West Indian parents, Charles St. Hill and Ruby Seale in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn New York Shirley s father worked as a baker s helper and later a factory hand and her mother found employment as a seamstress However Hill and Seale quickly realized that their wages were insufficient ...


Julie Gallagher

politician, women's rights advocate, and educator. Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, to Charles St. Hill and Ruby Seale, immigrants from the Caribbean island of Barbados. During the Depression, Chisholm and her two younger sisters were sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados. They stayed there for seven years. Chisholm claimed that her sense of pride in herself and her race came largely from her father, an ardent follower of Marcus Garvey.

Chisholm attended Brooklyn College from 1942 to 1946, where she developed her oratorical skills in the Debate Society. At the same time, her membership in the Harriet Tubman Society and the Political Science Society stimulated her racial and political consciousness. Her leadership skills attracted attention, and one of her professors suggested that she consider entering politics.

Chisholm's career in early childhood education spanned nearly two decades. Between 1946 ...


Patricia E. Canson

U.S. congresswoman, was born Shirley St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest daughter of Charles St. Hill, a laborer born in British Guiana (now Guyana), and Ruby Seale, a seamstress born in Barbados. Shirley's first three years were spent in Brownsville, a predominantly Jewish area of Brooklyn. Finding the wages for unskilled factory work insufficient to care for three children properly, the St. Hills sent their three daughters to Barbados, where they lived with their maternal grandparents on the family farm. Shirley credits her grandmother Emily Seale with instilling in her a strong character and determination.

The girls returned to Brownsville in 1934 after their mother gave birth to another daughter Despite the social and financial hardships of the Depression Ruby encouraged her children to respect the values of civility thrift poise humility education and spirituality though the sisters endured a substantial amount of teasing in the ...


Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Philadelphia, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson was the youngest of five children of the devoted Quakers John and Mary Edmondson Dickinson. When Anna was two years old, her father died shortly after giving an antislavery speech. Although it is unlikely that Dickinson remembered her father, she may have been inspired by his legacy.

After John's death the family struggled financially, but Anna still received a quality education, attending the Friends' Select School in Philadelphia and the Greenwood Institute in New Brighton, Pennsylvania; at the latter she was known as an avid reader and questioner. She showed early promise, publishing her first article at age fourteen in the Liberator, the newspaper that served as a platform for the radical reformer and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.

Following her 1860 address to the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society and her 1861 speech entitled Women s Rights and Wrongs Dickinson began receiving ...


Eugenie P. Almeida

elocutionist, journalist, and civic leader, was born in Chicago to the Reverend Byrd Parker, pastor of the Quinn African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and Jane Janette Thomas. Her mother was one of the first black teachers in the Indianapolis public school system; she and Lillian's younger brother Charles T. Thomas died of tuberculosis in 1894.

In her youth Lillian worked at various jobs, including as a stenographer in Louisville, Kentucky. She moved to Indianapolis in 1886 and studied with Madame Hattie Prunk at the Indiana-Boston School of Elocution and at the Indianapolis Institute for Young Ladies. It was during this time that she developed her skills in dramatic reading and dialect. In 1888 she supported herself as a seamstress in her home. In 1891 she was one of the first Indianapolis blacks to take the civil service exam for a clerkship.

Also in 1891 ...


Sibyl Collins Wilson

minister and youngest daughter of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., was born Bernice Albertine King in Atlanta, Georgia. The youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, she was named after both her maternal and paternal grandmothers, Alberta Williams King and Bernice McMurray. One of the most memorable images of young King was a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of her as a sad girl leaning on her mother during her father's funeral taken by Moneta Sleet Jr. and published in Ebony magazine In the shadow of her father s murder their mother covered King and her siblings protectively as she promoted her husband s legacy Every attempt was made to provide a normal upbringing for her and the other three King children The strength of her family history propelled her desire to chart her professional course in life so ...


Louis J. Parascandola and Camille Beazer

poet and lecturer, was born in Rossmoyne, Ohio, the daughter of John Henry Thompson and Clara Jane Gray, former slaves from Virginia. She was the sister of the poets Clara Ann Thompson and Aaron Belford Thompson. Priscilla attended school in Rossmoyne, near Cincinnati, and was tutored privately. She considered a career in teaching, and her love of learning is evident in her poem “Lines to an Old School-House.” However, ill health, perhaps tuberculosis, prevented her from pursuing this vocation. Instead Thompson devoted her energies to writing, publishing, and giving readings of her poetry. She also worked for her church, Zion Baptist, where she was a Sunday school teacher for many years. She never married but lived in Rossmoyne with her sister Clara and her brother Garland Yancey Thompson, who was a sculptor.

Thompson's first book of poems, Ethiope Lays (1900 is dedicated to Garland ...


Eric Gardner

dramatic reader, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Her parents' names and specific details of her youth remain unknown, though nineteenth-century accounts spin rich tales of her parentage and childhood. According to her husband Frank Webb, her father was “a Spanish gentleman of wealth” and her mother “a woman of full African blood” who escaped from slavery while pregnant with Mary and later died from anxiety produced by the Fugitive Slave Act. Other sources claim she was the child of a Cuban official, and a letter of introduction written by Harriet Beecher Stowe claims she was sent to Cuba as a child and was educated in a convent. There was even speculation that she was the daughter of the Spanish general and statesman Baldomero Espartero.

In 1845Mary married Frank Johnson Webb and the couple settled in Philadelphia Pennsylvania where they worked in the clothing trade until ...


Tracey M. Lewis-Giggetts

social worker and educator, was born Henrietta Pauline Bell near the banks outside Houston, Texas, known as the Buffalo Bayou. She was the daughter of Octavia Bell from the West Indies. Her father's name is not recorded.

Growing up in a single parent home in the Fifth Ward section of Houston, Wells knew the hardship and trials that came with being an African American woman in the post-slavery south. As a child, her home was ransacked during the 1917 riots over the treatment of black soldiers in World War I She also endured Jim Crow era segregation unable to eat in certain areas or try on clothes in some stores Yet in spite of the inhospitable racial climate Wells was determined to succeed beyond what the conventions of the day would see as possible In fact she began her journey of participating in the making of history even ...


Michael Flug

union organizer and human rights activist, was born Sarah Claree White in Inverness, Mississippi, the daughter of Willie White, a farm laborer, and Annie Bell White, a worker at a dry-cleaning store. She was the fifth child in an impoverished family with eleven children. When Sarah was two years old, her mother was severely injured in an automobile accident. Her father left the family shortly after the accident, and Clara Grayson, her maternal grandmother, raised the children through much of White's childhood in a three-room shotgun house at the edge of a cotton field. In 1971, when she was twelve years old, a tornado struck Inverness, killing dozens and destroying much of the town, including their home. They were forced to move to Moorhead, another small town in Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta.

During the 1960s Sunflower County became a special focus of the ...