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Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

Article

Born William Alexander Clarke, of an Irish immigrant father and a Jamaican mother of indigenous and African descent, Bustamante grew up in Blenheim, Jamaica, but ventured out into the world at the age of twenty-one. As a young man he served in the Spanish army, then worked in various capacities in Cuba, Panama, and New York City. He returned to Jamaica in 1932 as a wealthy entrepreneur. Although shrewd investments had made him rich, Bustamante's concern for Jamaican Sugar plantation workers led him to participate in protest marches, organize strikes, and become the treasurer of the Jamaican Workers and Tradesmen's Union (JWTU), which he helped found in 1937. His political activism continued alongside the social upheaval occurring in the 1930s throughout the West Indies. After he was jailed and released in May 1938 he became a symbolic leader of the workers movement ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave, tailor, and politician, was born in Washington, in Wilkes County, Georgia, to Frances, a slave, and a white man whose surname was Finch. When William was twelve he was sent to live with another Wilkes County native, Judge Garnett Andrews, and in 1847, when he was fifteen, he apprenticed as a tailor. The following year Joseph H. Lumpkin, the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, purchased William and brought him to his home in Athens, where Finch learned to read and write and also began a lifelong commitment to Christianity. Although he later joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, it is likely that Finch first converted to the faith of his master, a devout Presbyterian. In 1854 Finch married Laura Wright, with whom he had five children.

Although still legally enslaved the Finch family enjoyed a fairly high degree of ...

Article

Mohamed Adhikari

South African trade unionist and political activist, was the only son of David Gomas and Elizabeth Erasmus. John Stephen Gomas was raised in Abbotsdale near Cape Town. After his father abandoned the family, Elizabeth moved with her son to Kimberley in 1911. Here Gomas entered an apprenticeship at a tailor’s workshop in 1915, where his employer, Myer Gordon, a Russian immigrant, introduced him to socialist ideas. In 1919 Gomas joined the International Socialist League, the African National Congress (ANC), and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). Toward the end of that year his participation in a successful clothing workers’ strike transformed the quiet, bookish youth into a vociferous champion for workers’ rights.

In 1920 Gomas moved to Cape Town where he worked privately from home as a tailor He was active in the ICU the ANC and the Tailors Industrial Union Attracted by its militancy and ...

Article

Ahmed Jdey

Tunisian union and political leader, lecturer, political activist, founder of l’Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT; Tunisian General Labor Union), was born on 2 February 1914 in AlʾAbbassiya, a village in the Kerkennah Islands, off the east coast of Tunisia. His father, Mohamed Hached, was a laborer and a sailor, like most people of that region. His mother was Hana Ben Romdhane. Hached attended primary school in the village of Al Kallabine. In 1922, when he was eight years old, he had learned the basics of Arabic, French, arithmetic, drawing, and writing.

In 1928 Hached finished primary school at the head of his class However because of his family s poverty he was unable to pursue his studies particularly after his father died in the 1930s At that time Hached now an orphan was obliged to work He was only sixteen years old at a time when Tunisia ...

Article

Ahmed Jdey

Tunisian union leader, journalist, writer, poet, militant nationalist, reformer, and social thinker, was a contemporary of Mohamed Ali al-Hammi, Aboulkacem Chebbi, Habib Bourguiba, ʿAbd al-ʿAziz Thaʿalbi, and other figures of the colonial period in Tunisia. He was born in Tunis. His father, Ali   Belhaj   Belgacem Ben Farhat El Hammi al-Fatnassi, was a native of Fatnassa, a quarter of the city of Gabès, in the south of Tunisia, and worked in a small family-owned business in Tunis. Little is known of Haddad’s mother. From 1905 to 1911 Haddad attended a qurʾanic school, where he memorized the Qurʾan and studied Arabic. He continued his studies at Zitouna University, where in 1920 he received the Attatwi diploma, having been trained in Muslim jurisprudence, language, literature, grammar, and theology. One of his professors was the Algerian shaykh ʿAbd al-Hamid ben Badis.

Haddad began working in 1921 as an administrative secretary Soon he left ...

Article

Ahmed Jdey

Tunisian union leader, social militant, founder of the Confédération Générale des Travailleurs Tunisiens (CGTT; General Confederation of Tunisian Workers), was born on 15 October 1890 in El Hamma, a village in the region of Gabès, in southern Tunisia. The names of his parents are not known. When he was six years old, his mother died and he moved with his father to Tunis. Al-Hammi was able to attend the quranic school of Tunis. Their life became increasingly difficult in the absence of stable income and shelter. They moved frequently and worked at any paying jobs they could find. Al-Hammi, frail and gifted with a rare intelligence, began his working life in the central market of Tunis. He worked to obtain a driver’s license and became the chauffeur of the Hungarian consul at Tunis.

The period 1911–1920 was essential in al Hammi s political social labor union and intellectual life ...

Article

Laura M. Calkins

football player, was born in Mansfield, Louisiana, to Paul C. and Mary Howell. Little is known of their early lives, but in the late 1880s Howell's parents decided to leave Louisiana, seeking a new life in the American West. In 1888 the Howell family and their six children (Abner was the only boy) reached Dodge City, Kansas, and then traveled together to Trinidad, Colorado. Under unknown circumstances, the family split up; Paul Howell went ahead by train, reaching Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1888. Mary and the children remained in Colorado until 1890 when they were able to join Paul in Salt Lake City where he had been hired as the city s first black policeman Although Paul and Mary Howell did not join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints LDS which was based in Salt Lake City and commonly known as the ...

Article

David Perfect

Gambian trade unionist, was born in Georgetown, the capital of MacCarthy Island Province (now Central River Region), on 15 January 1928. His father, Ebrima Momodou (“John”) Jallow, was a Fula, who is thought to have worked as an interpreter for the colonial government, while his mother, Amie Njie, was probably a Wolof. He was educated in Bathurst (Banjul), the Gambian capital, attending St. Augustine’s School.

After leaving school, Jallow worked as a clerk in the Education Department (1949–1954) before winning a short-term scholarship to the Cooperative College at Ibadan, Nigeria. In August 1954, he was appointed as a second-grade inspector in the Cooperative Department but was convicted of the theft of £30 from a cooperative society in August 1955 and dismissed. He formed the Gambia Construction Employees’ Society, which became the nucleus of the Gambia Workers’ Union (GWU) in December 1956 and became its general secretary a ...

Article

Timothy Scarnecchia

trade union leader in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), was born and raised in the Murewa area, where he attended school. Later, he moved to Salisbury, Rhodesia, and attended the Dombashawa School, a well-known training center for African teachers and artisans. Jamela started out as a furniture maker and then became a skilled builder in the late 1940s and early 1950s Working as an entrepreneur during a housing boom in the greater Salisbury area following World War II Jamela became acutely aware of the racial color bar that kept African skilled builders from working on their own Strict regulations prohibited the employment of African builders in the segregated European areas of Salisbury and wages were extremely discriminatory with a European journeyman making much more an hour or day than an African skilled worker In the early 1950s Jamela managed to negotiate with the Southern Rhodesian government for recognition of African ...

Article

Noor Nieftagodien

South African founder of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), was born in April 1896 in Nyasaland (present-day Malawi), the grandson of the Tonga chief, Chiweyu. As a member of the elite, he was educated by missionaries of the Church of Scotland. He completed his teacher training in 1912, when he was only in his mid-teens, and taught at primary schools for a brief period. Clearly talented and ambitious, the young Kadalie would have found the local prospects for upward mobility limited and left the country in 1915 to make a new life in the southern colonies The decades from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century were characterized by great mobility and migration of people laborers and the petty bourgeoisie alike in southern Africa especially to the relatively prosperous South Africa where opportunities for employment and social advancement seemed greater Kadalie s journey saw ...

Article

Born in Nyasaland (in what is now Malawi), Clements Kadalie emigrated to Cape Town, South Africa, where he became the most important black trade union leader of his day. In 1919 he assisted a strike of black dockers and later that year formed the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU), originally consisting of twenty-four black and mixed race dockworkers. Kadalie became the national secretary of the ICU, which he reorganized in 1921 as he consolidated his influence in Cape Province. He tried to present the ICU as no more than a trade union and did not attempt to compete in political terms with the African National Congress (ANC). He opposed the harsh handling by Prime Minister Jan Smuts of the 1922 miners’ strike on the Witwatersrand, and he threw the support of the ICU behind the Nationalist-Labour Party of James Hertzog in the 1924 elections.

The Nationalist Labour Party ...

Article

Ethan R. Sanders

Kenyan trade union leader, Mau Mau organizer, and politician, was born in Nairobi, British East Africa (later Kenya), in 1917. His father was Gideon Kubai, a Kikuyu clerk who was involved with the Anglican Church Missionary Society. Kubai began his schooling in Nairobi but later attended Buxton High School in Mombasa. After finishing his education in 1931 he took a job as a telegrapher with East African Posts and Telecommunications, with whom he was employed for the next fifteen years. During this period he worked at several stations throughout Kenya, including a two-year post in Lodwar with the signal battalion of the British Army during World War II.

Kubai resigned from his telegraphing job in 1946 and immediately joined the African Workers Federation. Over the next several years he became a key player in the Kenyan trade union movement. In 1947 he founded the Kenya African Road Transport ...

Article

The Editors

, South African writer and political activist, was born Justin Alexander La Guma in District Six ghetto, a “Coloured” informal South African settlement in Cape Town, on 20 February 1925 to mixed-race parents: Wilhelmina Alexander La Guma, a worker at a cigarette factory, and Jimmy La Guma, a trade unionist and member of the Communist Party of South Africa who regularly wrote poetry. La Guma attended Upper Ashley Primary School and proceeded to Trafalgar High School. He dropped out of high school without graduating in 1942 but completed his matriculation examinations as a night student at Cape Technical College in 1945. At the time, La Guma was a member of the Plant Workers Union and Metal Box Company, where he worked as a factory hand. He was dismissed for organizing a strike to demand higher wages.

La Guma joined the Young Communists League in 1947 and the South ...

Article

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Justin Alexander La Guma was educated at the Cape Technical College and later, through correspondence courses, at the London School of Journalism. Influenced by the political principles and activities of his family, La Guma participated in the union movement in South Africa, helping to organize a strike in the mid-1940s while employed as a factory worker. He also joined the Young Communist League, and in 1950 he was listed as a known Communist under the Suppression of Communism Act, a law used by the South African government to punish its critics. From 1955 to the early 1960s he worked as a staff journalist for the South African newspaper New Age. In 1960, during a state of emergency declared after the killing of sixty-nine black South African protesters at a demonstration in Sharpeville, La Guma was imprisoned for his political activities. In 1966 ...

Article

Mohamed Adhikari

South African trade unionist and political activist, was the elder of two children born to an itinerant cobbler, Arnold, and his wife, Jemima. Orphaned at the age of five, La Guma had an unsettled and deprived childhood in Cape Town. He had only three years of schooling and started working at the age of eight. The young James was nevertheless an avid reader and in this way advanced his education throughout his life. At the age of sixteen, he responded to an advertisement for “Cape boy” labor in German South West Africa (now Namibia), where he spent the next eleven years. Here he drifted through a series of menial, highly exploitative jobs and became involved in the fledgling trade union movement by helping organize a strike on the Luderitz diamond fields in 1918 He was also instrumental in setting up a branch of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union ...

Article

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Poet, essayist, publisher, film‐maker, trade unionist, and cultural and political activist. La Rose was born in Arima, Trinidad, where his father was a cocoa trader and his mother a teacher. At 9 he won a scholarship to St Mary's College, Port of Spain, where he later taught before becoming an insurance executive. He later also taught in Venezuela. Culture, politics, and trade unionism were central to his vision of change. He was an executive member of the Youth Council in Trinidad and produced their fortnightly radio programme Noise of Youth for Radio Trinidad. In the mid‐1950s he co‐authored, with the calypsonian Raymond Quevedo (‘Atilla the Hun’), a pioneering study of calypso entitled Kaiso: A Review (republished in 1983 as Atilla's Kaiso).

One of La Rose s favourite sayings was We didn t come alive in Britain an allusion to the struggles that had been waged by Caribbean peoples in ...

Article

Frank N. Schubert

Rienzi Brock Lemus was born in Richmond, Virginia, on January 8, 1881. His parents were Charles H. and Mamie L. (Brock) Lemus. Lemus attended Richmond's public schools prior to his enlistment in the United States Army at the age of eighteen. He served briefly in the Eighth United States Infantry Volunteer Regiment, shortly after the Cuban Campaign of the Spanish-American War (1898). When the regiment was disbanded, he enlisted in the Twenty-fifth Infantry, a regular regiment manned by African American enlisted personnel. Lemus served with K Company through the active years of the Philippines Insurrection (1899–1902), an armed struggle by indigenous Filipinos against U.S. occupation. He saw action at several stations on Luzon, the Philippines, and was honorably discharged on March 18, 1902 Lemus then worked for about two and a half years as a Pullman railroad porter and the next twenty ...

Article

Aissata Sidikou

Nigerien poet, novelist, and trade unionist, was born in Goudoumaria, Diffa, in eastern Niger. Right after primary school, he started to work as a commercial agent at the Societe Generale Anonyme (SGA) in Zinder, which was then the colonial capital of Niger. Soon after joining the company, he noticed the blatant mistreatment and exploitation of black workers by colonial administrators and decided to create a labor union to defend them. In 1952 he was elected general secretary of the SECEP section of Zinder at age 20. Because of his determination to change the exploitative and demeaning environment, and because of his personal dynamism, he was later identified by the French colonial administration as “an extremely dangerous element to be closely monitored.”

Mamani became a committed political activist and joined the Union Démocratique Nigerien UDN Nigerien Democratic Union led by Djibo Bakari another well known leader of the time who was ...

Article

Tina C. Jones

decorated World War II veteran, born in Chicago, Illinois, was the son of William Marion, a World War I veteran, and Ola Mae Bostick Marion, a homemaker and entrepreneur. Shortly after his birth, his family returned back to Atlanta, Georgia, where he became a lifetime resident. Johnny, as he was fondly called by his family, was an extraordinary young man. He was educated in the Atlanta Public School system and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. Having a strong aptitude and interest in math and science, Johnny had dreams of becoming a medical doctor. However, after the death of both parents by the time he was eighteen, his responsibilities to his family caused him to amend his plans.

A few years later he was drafted in the U S Army and became a decorated World War II veteran Marion served in combat in both the European and Pacific ...