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Adam W. Green

United Statescongressman, was the third child born to Frank Winston Ballance, a sharecropper, and Alice Eason Ballance, a homemaker and care worker. Ballance was born and raised on a farm in Windsor, eastern North Carolina, part of the rural tobacco farming communities of the impoverished and segregated Bertie County. Ballance learned at an early age the import of fighting for civil rights; his mother was heavily involved in black voter registration drives when he was a child. After graduating W.S. Etheridge High School in 1959, he moved to attend North Carolina Central University in Durham.

In college, Ballance became involved in marches and sit-ins in the city, including ones aimed at larger department stores like Woolworth's. After receiving his B.A. in 1963, he remained at the university to study law. In 1965 he taught law at South Carolina State College but the following ...

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Adam W. Green

politician, was born in Mobile, Alabama, to Sanford Dixon Bishop, an educational administrator and first president of Bishop State Community College, and Minnie Bethany Slade Bishop, a librarian. When he was seven years old, the family moved to Toulminville, a transitional neighborhood in Mobile for poor and working-class whites, where a black subdivision had been built. The Deep South's segregation and hostility were not foreign to Bishop growing up: The Ku Klux Klan had been active with cross-burnings in the district, and the new black community began a neighborhood watch. As a youth, Bishop was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, later becoming an Eagle Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow, the Scouts' honor society.

Bishop s schools Booker T Washington Junior High for blacks and Central High School for whites were segregated and the second hand textbooks and supplements were not ideal for the son ...

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Jason Philip Miller

politician, was born George Kenneth Butterfield in Wilson, North Carolina, to Addie Davis, a schoolteacher, and George Kenneth Butterfield Sr., a dentist. The family was prominent in the local African American community, and Butterfield's father was the first African American in the twentieth century to hold a seat on the Wilson city council.

Butterfield attended local schools, including Charles H. Darden High School, from which he graduated in 1967. He matriculated to North Carolina Central University in Durham, pursuing bachelors degrees in sociology and political science, in the meantime serving in the U.S. Army for two years. Butterfield graduated from N.C. Central in 1971. He remained at that institution to earn his JD in 1974, after which he embarked on a career in law.

Following graduation Butterfield returned to Wilson and there maintained a private law practice through which he gained a reputation for ...

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Dorsia Smith Silva

the son of Tanya Carson. He was raised by his maternal grandmother, Julia Carson, because his father did not want to be involved in his life and his mother suffered from schizophrenia. André grew up in a political household: his grandmother Julia served in the Indiana House of Representatives from 1972 to 1976 and the Indiana Senate from 1976 to 1990. She was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Indiana’s 10th District, covering Indianapolis, in 1997. After redistricting in 2003 she represented Indiana’s 7th district, which included much of her old seat.

While attending Arsenal Technical High School in his native city, André developed an interest in law enforcement. Carson continued studying this field by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice management from Concordia University Wisconsin in 2003 Two years later he obtained a Master s degree in Business Management from Indiana ...

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Leonard Schlup

Henry Plummer Cheatham was born near Henderson, Granville (now Vance) County, North Carolina, the son of a house slave about whom little is known. He attended local public schools and worked on farms during the 1860s and 1870s before graduating with honors from Shaw University in 1882. He became principal of the Plymouth Normal School for Negroes, a state-supported institution, and held this position from 1882 until 1884. He returned to Henderson and, after the retirement of the white Republican incumbent, won election as Vance County registrar of deeds, serving in this capacity from 1885 to 1888. During this time he also studied law, though he never established a practice.

Cheatham's career in national politics began in 1888. Unable to agree on a single candidate, delegates to the Republican convention for the Second Congressional District, the so-called “Black Second,” nominated both Cheatham and George A Mebane ...

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Leonard Schlup

congressman and public official, was born near Henderson, Granville (later Vance) County, North Carolina. All that is known of his parents is that one was a house slave. He attended local public schools and worked on farms during the 1860s and 1870s before graduating with honors from Shaw University in 1882. He became principal of the Plymouth Normal School for Negroes, a state-supported institution, and held this position from 1882 until 1884. He returned to Henderson and, after the retirement of the white Republican incumbent, won election as Vance County registrar of deeds, serving in this capacity from 1885 to 1888. During this time he also studied law, though he never established a practice.

Cheatham's career in national politics began in 1888 Unable to agree on a single candidate delegates to the Republican convention for the Second Congressional District the so called Black Second nominated both ...

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William Lacy Clay was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned a bachelor's degree from St. Louis University in 1953 before serving in the United States Army (1953–1955). During military training at Fort McClellan in Alabama, Clay displayed an interest in civil rights activism, leading an effort to give blacks equal access to the swimming pool, the barbershop, and the noncommissioned officers club.

Returning to St. Louis in 1955, Clay became active in the Civil Rights Movement. He participated in both the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1959 Clay was elected to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. He remained an alderman until 1964, when he became an official in the local Democratic Party.

In 1967 Missouri s voting districts were reorganized and most of St Louis s blacks were located ...

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politician, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the fourth of seven children born to Irving Clay, a welder, and Luella (Hyatt) Clay, a homemaker. Growing up in a run-down tenement house with no indoor toilet, Clay would later note that a severe lack of basic facilities were afforded to the disenfranchised in the heavily black city, where thousands of residents lived in abject squalor, “just blocks from the downtown business district” (Clay, A Political Voice, p. 11).

While Clay attended St. Nicholas Catholic School, a black parochial school near his house, he worked as well, delivering newspapers at eight years old and selling scrap metal during World War II. By the time he was twelve, he was working at the Good Luck Store, a downtown retail men's clothing store, full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year.

Clay attributed his political awakening and activism to ...

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Charles Orson Cook

politician, community activist, and sixteen-term United States congressman. William Clay Sr. was one of Missouri's most successful champions of civil rights in the twentieth century. Born one of seven children to Luella Hyatt and Irving Clay in Saint Louis, Missouri, young Clay attended Roman Catholic schools, where he was academically successful despite the disadvantages inherent in a segregated education. After high school, he enrolled in Saint Louis University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1953. Clay completed a two-year tour of duty with the U.S. Army in 1955 After a brief flirtation with a career in business he became a labor organizer a community activist and ultimately a congressman from Missouri s First Congressional District for thirty two years Clay has spoken of the racial injustices he encountered early in life He recalled initiating a movement of black servicemen to desegregate the base swimming ...

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Jason Philip Miller

mayor and U.S. Congressman, was born in tiny Waxahachie, Texas, into a family of preachers. He came of age in a public housing development near Wichita Falls, Texas, and attended the public schools there. For a time, he wished to pursue a life as a professional football player, but an injury prevented him from seeing that dream to fulfillment. Instead, he attended Texas A&M, from which he graduated in 1968. Falling back onto what was to some large degree the family business, Cleaver earned his Master of Divinity degree from St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. There, at the behest of Ralph Abernathy he established a chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference He was assigned to St James Church and under his guidance the tiny inner city congregation fewer than thirty regular attendees when Cleaver took over soon blossomed into the one of ...

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A civil rights activist since his youth, James Enos Clyburn became the first black since 1897 to represent South Carolina in Congress. He was born in Sumter, South Carolina, and received a B.A. degree from South Carolina State College (now South Carolina State University) in 1962. Over the next decade, he worked as a teacher, ran a neighborhood youth organization, and headed the South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers. In 1974 he took over as the state's human affairs commissioner, a position he held until 1992. After two unsuccessful attempts while commissioner to win the statewide Democratic nomination for secretary of state, Clyburn ran for South Carolina's redrawn Sixth Congressional District in 1992 Defending the strangely shaped Sixth District as a way of correcting past political discrimination against blacks he won handily after the white Democratic incumbent fearing a racially divisive campaign in the new black ...

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Benjamin T. Zeigler

Congressman from South Carolina's Sixth District, was born in Sumter County, South Carolina, the son of Enos Lloyd Clyburn and Almeta (Dizzley) Clyburn. Clyburn's parents met while his mother was attending Mather Academy, a private secondary school for African Americans in Camden, South Carolina. Clyburn's father was a minister in the Church of God, and, after marrying James's mother Almeta, he accepted the pastorate of a church in Sumter, South Carolina, which would allow both him and his wife to attend Morris College in Sumter. Clyburn would later describe both his parents as having a “tremendous thirst for education,” and he would credit their commitment to learning and their struggles to obtain college degrees as the inspiration behind his lifelong dedication to seeking equal opportunities for South Carolinians and Americans in general (interview with James Clyburn, 20 Nov. 2006).

Clyburn s mother finished Morris College in three years ...

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Adam W. Green

United States congressman, was born in the poor North Side Chicago neighborhood of what would later be known as Cabrini-Green to Washington and Leanna Collins. Collins graduated from Waller High School in 1943, and immediately entered the armed forces as a private. He served for three years in the army, stationed with the Engineer Corps in the South Pacific until he was discharged as a sergeant in 1946. Upon returning to the states, Collins entered Central Y.M.C.A. College in Chicago, and graduated in 1954, going on to receive his business law degree from Northwestern University three years later.

Collins began his career in civil service and involvement in the Chicago Democratic Party machine in the 1950s while still in graduate school. He was appointed precinct captain in 1954 for Chicago s 24th Ward on the West Side and later served as deputy sheriff of Cook ...

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Joseph Wilson

U.S. congressman since 1965 who has been distinguished during his long career as a leading advocate for human rights and civil rights in the United States. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, John Conyers Jr. graduated from Northwestern High School in Detroit and then served in the Michigan National Guard (1948–1950) and the U.S. Army (1950–1954). During his time in the army he served in Korea as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Back in Michigan he acquired his BA in 1957 and his law degree in 1958, both from Wayne State University in Detroit. Before winning office in 1964 as a representative from Michigan, Conyers, a Democrat, worked as an assistant for the Democratic Michigan congressman John Dingell. As of 2008 Conyers and Dingell were the two longest-serving members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

During his tenure Conyers rose ...

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Fred Lindsey

U.S. congressman, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the first of five children of John Conyers Sr., a factory auto painter who became an international representative for the United Automobile Workers, and Lucille Simpson. John Conyers Sr.'s progressive politics proved a major influence on his son's life and career. Conyers grew up in a predominantly Italian American neighborhood in East Detroit and graduated from the city's Samson Elementary School in 1943, the year of a major race riot in the city. The riot and his father's political activism shaped Conyers's political consciousness, but his primary interest as a teenager was jazz. An accomplished trumpet player, he included among his friends in high school Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson, and Betty Carter who all pursued careers in music Unchallenged by his school work Conyers spent much of his time in pool halls when not playing music He ...

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John F. Conyers, Jr., was born in Detroit, Michigan, and earned a bachelor's degree in 1957 and a law degree in 1958 from Wayne State University. He was a member of the Michigan National Guard from 1948 to 1952. In 1952 he joined the United States Army and fought in the Korean War. He was an assistant to U.S. Representative John Dingell from 1958 to 1961, and from 1961 to 1963 he worked for the Michigan Workmen's Compensation Department. In the 1964 Democratic primary for the newly created, black-majority 14th Congressional District in Michigan, Conyers won by only 108 votes on a platform of “Equality, Jobs and Peace.” When Conyers went to Congress, he was one of only six black representatives. He was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 2002 Conyers was elected to his nineteenth term in the House with ...

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Joseph Wilson

a leading African American attorney, judge, and congressman from Detroit, Michigan. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, George Crockett graduated from Morehouse College and the University of Michigan Law School. Subsequently he started a law practice and later was a cofounder of the National Lawyers Guild, the nation's first racially integrated lawyers' organization which he then served as vice president. In 1939, Crockett became the first African American attorney in the United States Department of Labor and, later, in the Federal Employment Practices Commission. In 1943, he directed the United Auto Workers' Fair Practices Commission, which sought to prevent white workers from engaging in “hate” strikes designed to bar black workers from working in auto plants.

In 1946 in Detroit, he helped form the country's first integrated law firm (Goodman, Eden, Crockett and Robb) and served as a partner until 1966. In 1949 Crockett was sentenced ...

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Ruth E. Martin

activist, attorney, judge, and United States congressman, was born in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, the son of Minnie Amelia Jenkins and George William Crockett Sr. The former was a licensed public school teacher, and the latter a railroad carpenter for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and Baptist church pastor.

George Crockett Jr. graduated from Morehouse College in 1931, and the University of Michigan Law School in 1934, before returning to Jacksonville. He was one of a small number of practicing African American attorneys in Florida at this time. In 1934 he married Ethelene Crockett, with whom he would have three children, Elizabeth Crockett Hicks, George W. Crockett III, and Ethelene Crockett Jones.

Initiating a lifetime at the forefront of the civil rights legal struggle, Crockett was the first African American lawyer employed by the U.S. Department of Labor, from 1939 ...

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Born in Jacksonville, Florida, George William Crockett, Jr. graduated with a B.A. degree from Morehouse College in 1931 and a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1934. After several years in private practice, in 1939 he became the first African American lawyer at the U.S. Department of Labor. Beginning in 1943 Crockett served as a hearing examiner for the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), a federal agency that attempted to secure more jobs for African Americans in wartime industries. His work with the FEPC led to a position as head of the United Auto Worker's Fair Practices Committee, which sought to eliminate racism in factories.

Throughout his long career Crockett acted according to his often-unpopular beliefs, which led to occasional controversy. In 1949, while once again in private practice (as a founding partner in the first law firm with an integrated partnership in Detroit Michigan ...

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Elijah Eugene Cummings was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He became a member of Phi Beta Kappa and earned a B.A. degree from Howard University in 1973. He graduated from the University of Maryland Law School in 1976. In 1982 Cummings was elected as a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly. In 1984, at age thirty-three, he became the youngest person ever to chair the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus. In January 1995 Cummings was elected by his colleagues to serve as speaker pro tem of the House of Delegates.

When Representative Kweisi Mfume announced in December 1995 that he would retire from the U.S. House to lead the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Cummings, along with twenty-six other Democratic candidates, prepared for the March 1996 special primary election Cummings won the primary with thirty seven percent of the vote an impressive margin ...